The Life & Times of an Auteur.

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

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

I won't watch that, it's live-action!

Growing up as a fan of various animated TV shows, I would often have people look down their noses at it because it was animated. "Oi, why should I watch a cartoon. Cartoons are for kids", and I always, always believed those people were being closed-minded and missing out on some damn good television.

Now, as a thirty-three year-old man, I am finding the same attitude from some animation fans towards live action. They won't watch a show because it's live action, just aren't interested. Which is their prerogative, but they are closing themselves off to some damn fine television. But what gets me is this, I know they've heard similar about animation while growing up, and one would think they would learn to not be so closed-minded.

Then I ask myself if I've become anti-animation. I do not think so, there just doesn't happen to be any animated shows currently on the air that appeal to me, aside from waiting for the sixth season of "The Venture Bros." I hated "Legend of Korra", was kinda lukewarm towards "Star Wars Rebels", and I think Marvel's current animation output is atrocious. I still don't understand "Adventure Time", nor do I care about "Gravity Falls". I'm sure another animated series that I care about will come along eventually, but aside from "The Venture Bros.", it just doesn't exist at this moment in time.

Meanwhile, I think "Better Call Saul" is turning out to be a masterpiece. I really enjoyed the third season of "House of Cards", I was very pleasantly surprised by "Agent Carter" and "Arrow". I await the fifth season of "Game of Thrones" with breathless anticipation, and I look forward to the Netflix "Daredevil" series. But gods knows there's a lot of crap on live action. My feelings for a certain show airing on ABC are a matter of public record now, and I thought "Gotham" turned out to be crap.

What's next for animation? There's really nothing in the pipe I'm looking forward to, except for when Greg Weisman's next series is announced. Aside from that, the number of shows that appeal to me are practically zero. Meanwhile I've recently re-visited "Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes", "Young Justice", "Avatar: The Last Airbender", and I re-visit "Spectacular Spider-Man" constantly for my podcast; and I'm planning a "Gargoyles" re-watch soon as well as one for "Batman: The Animated Series" and "Transformers Animated". All shows I really enjoyed and still enjoy.

I love animated shows and I love live action shows. I do not believe one medium is inherently superior to the other, but at the end of the day, mediums aside, "Breaking Bad" is superior to "Transformers" and "My Little Pony". It just is.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Agent Carter - Season One

What can I say, I loved it! I thought it was great! It left me wanting more. I wish I could write a longer review, but it's difficult when all you're saying is "I loved it", because I could find no fault in this series.

Marvel's greatest heroes are not and never have been about their powers or costumes. Spider-Man is about responsibility. The X-Men are about overcoming bigotry. Iron Man is about being a hero despite your personal flaws. The Fantastic Four are about family. Peggy Carter is about succeeding in a world that would rather patronize you. In the wrong hands, this could easily be heavy handed, but "Agent Carter" was woven by talented people both in front of and behind the camera, and I am glad they went in the direction they did, as we have sadly seen that this is a message that bears repeating.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the bromance between Peggy and Jarvis is the greatest platonic friendship between a woman and a man that I've ever seen on television. It's actually tragic how rare this sort of thing is, but never, not once, did I ever think about these two getting together while watching it. And what makes this even more amazing is that there is chemistry oozing between these two, but it's not romantic chemistry at all. Hell, Walter White and Jesse Pinkman have more erotic chemistry between them than Peggy and Jarvis. Well done.

Although her real name wasn't revealed, I still believe that Dottie Underwood is Yelena Belova. As an antagonist, she was great with a genuine sense of menace. As was her boss, Johann Fennhoff (Dr. Faustus in the comic books), a genuinely creepy villain seeking vengeance against Howard Stark... Dr. Faustus, now there's a character I didn't believe would ever appear outside the comics.

I know that, as a viewer and a critic, I've had a difficult relationship with Marvel's Television division. I do not need to reiterate my thoughts on their TV output over the last three years, and as I've previously said, I went into this show with a chip on my shoulder. And now, while it's not the greatest TV series I have ever seen, that doesn't mean I didn't think it was great television. It did more than alleviate my fears, they made a timeless classic... and in a day and age where very few of the TV shows I watch don't star a villain protagonist, it's nice to have the leading character be a genuine role model, someone to look up to. I give the series an A+ and I am sitting here, biting my nails, hoping for a second season.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Star Wars Rebels

And so that was season one... my feelings about this show are pretty mixed, I must admit.

The voice cast was fantastic. I'll start with my favorite character, and cast member. Vanessa Marshall is bringing a lot of passion to the character of Hera, passion that matches her own for this franchise. I've attended the "Star Wars Rebels" panel at New York Comic Con that she was on, and her passion and fandom for "Star Wars" and this show is infectious. It is always delightful to see someone who loves their work the way Ms. Marshall does. She brings her all to this show, and it more than pays off. Hera is a terrific character.

I raised an eyebrow when I heard that Freddie Prinze Jr. was cast as Kanan, mostly because I will admit that he's an actor I've always underestimated. But he did well, he brought a lot of humanity to a Jedi, after George Lucas spent the better part of the 2000's stripping them of any humanity they had. I rather liked the idea of this guy who never really finished his training being forced to take on an apprentice. We've seen the wise mentor a million times already, so a mentor with just as much to learn was a nice change of pace.

Tiya Sircar as Sabine and Steve Blum as Zeb bring a fun element to two characters who could have easily been annoying comic relief sidekicks, Zeb especially. They all round out a cast that feels like a Y7 "Firefly" cast, and I did enjoy them.

Unfortunately, most shows have a weak link, and this show's is Ezra. It's not voice actor, Taylor Gray's fault, he does well. But I don't think the character ever recovered from a very weak introduction, where he was a more annoying Aladdin, right down to being referred to more than once as "street rat". Ezra is the audience surrogate character, and a fine line needs to be walked, otherwise you end up with another Wesley Crusher, which this show, sadly, did. Before the season finale aired, a friend of mine speculated that Kanan was going to die, and I responded with "can't they kill Ezra instead?" He's not unsalvagable, but going forward, I think the wise move would be to downplay him, but as he is the lead, that's unlikely.

Finally, we have the Inquisitor. Jason Isaacs was terrific, he had a terrific visual, and there were moments where he was genuinely menacing, particularly in his first appearance and his last appearance. Unfortunately, somewhere in between, he began to feel very Saturday morning, as villain decay set in pretty quickly. Considering how powerful he seemed in his introduction, it began to strain credibility that he couldn't catch these rebels. More than that, I wanted to know more about him. Who was he? Where did he come from? How did he become so adept at the Dark Side of the Force? Was he an apprentice of Darth Vader? Did he have greater ambitions? What was his deal? Well, considering how the season ended, I doubt we'll find out now. All the ingredients were there, I just wish they were taken farther.

The show's last three episodes were probably its best, when Grand Moff Tarkin arrived and made the Empire formidable after many episodes of being, well, very Saturday Morning. There was an epic feel to it that felt like the original films. The way the season ends, it feels like it could lead in to "A New Hope" pretty seamlessly, both in learning about the existence of a larger Rebel Alliance, as well as the final scene with Grand Moff Tarkin bringing Darth Vader in to help him hunt down them all down.

Overall, it's a B-/C+ show. It's the most I've enjoyed "Star Wars" since the 1980's. I think the main protagonist is weak, and I do not care for 3-D animation, which I find much more limiting than traditional animation. But there is a lot of good in there, despite some big glaring flaws. It's one of the better entries in a franchise that broke my heart a very long time ago, in a theater that isn't so far away.