Thursday, June 23, 2011

REVIEW: Nikita (The CW)

Nikita: The Show You Should Be Watching...

Maggie Q - Nikita
Shane West - Michael
Lyndsy Fonseca - Alex
Aaron Stanford - Seymour Birkhoff
Melinda Clarke - Amanda
Xander Berkeley - Percy
Tiffany Hines - Jaden
Ashton Holmes - Thom
Rob Stewart - Roan

In retrospect, the CW may not be the network that boasts the most diverse shows, they all tend to be about spoiled rich kids “struggling” with life. However, this past tv season, the channel took what I think is a big gamble in picking up Nikita.

The show doesn’t fit the mold as in it doesn’t target the same audience that most of the shows on the CW do. And for that reason, the show thrives and makes the network more than what it has become. Nikita doesn’t even fit into the old WB days, but for the same reason that its excellent for being different, its also fitting to be on the CW.

The show is based on the movie and original series La Femme Nikita, and the premise is simple. There is a secret organization within the government called Division, Nikita escaped and is now hell bent on stopping Division.

Each episode deals with a central issue but also folds into the overlying goal, which is to destroy this organization. Nikita and new recruit/mole Alex have differing stories but with similar results. They both live to fight another day.

The storytelling is smart and every episode ties together almost perfectly. Nearly every question you find yourself asking is answered almost immediately. And while the show began as a mission of the week type situation, it quickly grew into a well thought out action series.

The turning point has to be the episode “Resistance,” which dealt with Nikita learning more about the entire operation of Division and Alex in a test of will that was both intense and disturbing. The flashbacks within this episode also revealed very important pieces to an already unraveling puzzle.

The acting on the show is top notch which is also something of a rarity in a CW show, I’m looking at you One Tree Hill. Maggie Q as Nikita and Lyndsy Fonseca as Alex are so well cast and so perfect for their roles, you’ll find yourself worrying for their characters from the Pilot. The supporting cast is also excellent, Melinda Clarke as Amanda makes anything Emma Frost ever did in the X-men comics look tame. She’s probably more of a terrifying villain than Xander Berkeley’s Percy, who is a calculating and smart villain, as only the best kinds are. Percy is a calm villain, he doesn’t scream and he rarely becomes unhinged, the same can be said for Amanda, except to a larger degree. She is always calm and she gets all the information she needs from you, whether you live through it or not.

There are multiple villains that were introduced throughout the season, such as alternate organizations to Division and a back story for Alex that leads into bigger things for her future. There are wins and there are losses and the heroes don’t always destroy the villains. Sometimes they settle for a grey area and sometimes that’s all that’s the only solution.

As stated earlier the fact that the show is such a break from the general format of the CW, barring Supernatural of course, is what makes it special. And for that very reason, being on the CW, makes me like it more. There is a certain style to it that makes Nikita, to put it bluntly, awesome.

The creators and the writing staff know what they want to do, they know where they want to take the story, and executives at the CW network should let them. It doesn’t need sappy romance, though there is some of that, and even the romance is handled smartly. Everything has a purpose, and each episode can take the viewer on a whirlwind of emotions. The endings on mid season episodes alone are shocking enough to bring you back for more. The stories are smart and the characters are smart, and overall I would rate the season an 8 out of 10. If only for the fact that CW execs, tried to input some of their usual format into the show, but it dissolved quickly and thank God it did.

Trust me on this, when season one comes out on dvd, buy it, don’t hesitate just get it. Watch this show, its well worth the time, and bring on season 2.

Written By: Ariel Schmiedhauser

REVIEW: The Black Dahlia Murder – Ritual

Trevor Strnad – Vocals
Ryan Knight – Guitar
Brian Eschbach – Guitar
Ryan Williams – Bass
Shannon Lucas – Drums
Mark Lewis – Producer

It has been 10 years since the formation of Detroit’s The Black Dahlia Murder(and 8 since the release of their first full length album) during which they released 2 demos and 4 albums. During this time they have seen highs(spot on Ozzfest, Billboard appearances for their last 3 cds) and lows(frequent replacements in the band especially at Bass and Drums) but that has yet to stop them as they forge on and try to cement their spot in Death Metal.

When it comes to the fifth album a lot of times bands in Metal(especially Death Metal) start to become stale and release albums that sound increasing like the album before it at best and at worst take a stunning fall in quality. And while their last album Deflorate was a really good album it didn’t exactly help in terms of showing any change in the band other than line-up. This in turn made Ritual an important album for the band as it would either make the band set the bar for themselves and the genre or it would continue the downward spiral most bands take at this point in their career.

After listening to Ritual I think it is safe to say Melodic Death Metal just had the bar raised yet again. Guitarist Ryan Knight(who joined the band right before the recording of Deflorate) makes a huge impact on this record in terms of song writing. This is also a very experimental record for the band which includes using strings to intro the first track of the album titled “A Shrine to Madness”. Now while they try to experiment with new elements they do not lose any of their strengths in the process(which is usually the case when the word “experimental” is thrown around)

The next track “Moonlight Equilibrium” is the sound of TBDM that you have come to know and love(if you are in fact a fan) showcasing Trevor Strnad’s excellent low Death Metal growl and his high pitch scream that has made his voice become frequently copied in the extreme metal scene and the great technical guitar work of Ryan Knight(formerly of Arsis). This creates a new dynamic for all the songs which helps to freshen a band up.

“Carbonized in Cruciform” is another standout track that is 30 seconds of piano and acoustic guitar work sandwiching 4 minutes of sheer brutality that TBDM is great at delivering with one of the most technically sound solos you will hear on record by Ryan Knight. Right after this is “Den of the Picquerist” that is an unrelenting 90 second punk tinged assault that showcases the ability of bassist Ryan Williams and drummer Shannon Lucas(formerly of All That Remains) best.

The final track of the cd titled “Blood in the Ink” is probably the most captivating of the record. It is an expansive track that takes the strings from the opening track and takes a deeper turn in this song helping to give it an orchestral texture that combined with the band’s sound makes it as beautiful as it is brutal and as harmonic as it is pulverizing.

Overall this is 12 tracks of absolutely no filler. If you are into this genre of music this will end up being put up there with albums like At The Gates’ “Slaughter of the Soul” and Carcass’ “Heartwork”. They do what very few bands have done in topping their previous album while at the same time setting the bar really high in their genre which is I am glad about due to the flack the band gets from some Death Metal fans due to utterly stupid factors like how they dress and the patterns on their merchandise. Hopefully this album gives this band the credit they have been fully due since the 2003 release of Unhallowed.

I will rate this album 5 out of 5 based on technical proficiency, Strnad’s vocals, and the fact that the experiments they do in this album work wonderfully with their sound.

Written By: Mike Falcone
Twitter: @BrainstuFalcone

REVIEW: Green Lantern - Rebirth

Reviewer’s note: This is part 3 of my series of Green Lantern Related reviews. While the first two covered the Movie and the Emerald Knights dvd this one will cover the story that led to the current revival in popularity of the character. I present my review of Green Lantern: Rebirth…..

Geoff Johns – Writer
Ethan Van Sciver – Pencils issues 1-6, Inker for issues 1 and 6
Prentis Rollins – Inker issues 2-5
Mick Gray – Inker issues 5-6
Marlo Alquizo – Inker issue 6
Moose Baumann – Colorist issues 1-6

In the early to mid-90s DC Comics decided they wanted to freshen things up for some of their titles one of which being Green Lantern. At the time the main Green Lantern was Hal Jordan. They decided it was time to put a new character in the spotlight as Green Lantern but there was a hard decision to make. How do you make this one most impactful? There have been Green Lanterns before who had taken over the title only to be quickly replaced by Hal Jordan once again.

So it was decided to do a storyline that tied into the Reign of the Supermen story where Cyborg Superman and a villain named Mongul nuked Hal Jordan’s home city of Coast City killing everyone presently there. After establishing that key secondary characters in the GL series were out of town at the time they started a controversial story known as “Emerald Twilight” which involved a grief stricken Hal Jordan to have a mental breakdown which led to the killing of many Green Lanterns and most of the Guardians before he became the villain known as Parallax. Ganthet the lone surviving Guardian ended up making one last ring to give to artist Kyle Rayner. A few years later DC ended up killing off Hal Jordan altogether in the story “The Final Night” which was meant to be a final moment of redemption for the former Green Lantern.

Over the course of the next decade Kyle was leading the title and Hal Jordan’s spirit was bonded to the hero The Spectre. Finally in 2004 it was decided to bring Green Lantern back to it’s roots which included giving Guy Gardner his Green Lantern ring back and bringing back the Green Lantern Corps. The biggest part of this was that they would be bringing Hal Jordan back to life. How would this be possible though? And why would he be accepted as a hero after all the blood on his hands from his time as Parallax?

Thankfully for us the writer for this story was Geoff Johns. The first order of business was to make a reasonable explanation for what Hal did that would acknowledge that he did what he did but also clear his name from it. He did this with the revelation that Parallax was the name of an entity that was possessing him through his ring with the aid of the newly returned Sinestro(Parallax is the entity of fear and was why the ring couldn’t affect anything Yellow).

Sinestro decided he wanted to get back at Hal Jordan for exposing his abuse of power when Sinestro was part of the GLC. His way of doing so was having Parallax influence Hal through his ring to make him more prone to fear so when a big enough moment happened he would snap which is what ended up happening.

This leads to a fight between Hal and Sinestro that while not that long is a nice moment for fans of the Green Lantern mythos.

Also of note is Batman being overly suspicious of Hal which shouldn’t be considered much a shock after “Emerald Twilight” and “Zero Hour”. Even when Hal was resurrected in this he tried to apprehend Hal which led to one of the funniest moments of the whole mini-series…

It leads to a final battle that is well written and thanks to Geoff Johns’ MO of leaving hints for future storylines ends up setting up parts for a storyline as far as 6 years later. It involves all 4 earth lanterns Hal Jordan, Kyle Rayner, Guy Gardner(the one from Batman: The Brave and the Bold), and John Stewart(the black one from Justice League Unlimited), and alien GL Kilowog facing a Parallax possed Guardian…

The strongest part of this mini-series is the writing of Geoff Johns. While he already was starting to get a really good reputation in the industry for his work on The Avengers and Teen Titans it was Green Lantern: Rebirth and his subsequent run on Green Lantern that has made him a star in the industry. He writes captivating stories and does events and miniseries as if they were an epic summer blockbuster. He isn’t afraid to give the artist splash pages to showcase their ability. As a matter of fact Geoff Johns loves the use of the splash page which leads to some beautifully drawn moments in Rebirth. He also is not afraid to do retcons to help his storyline. While this ends up pissing off a good portion of fanboys I find no problem in this especially considering the amount of times continuity has been changed company-wide in comics. Another great aspect of the writing is the pacing here. It doesn’t feel like the story drags on at all and every big moment ends up being a huge payoff.

All in all not bad for a writer who originally considered comic writing as “something to do on the side” while writing TV and movie screenplays.

Ethan Van Sciver(also known for his work alongside Grant Morrison on New X-Men) did a really good job with the art here. Though at times the art looked odd those moments never got distracting.

Overall I will rate this story a 5 out of 5 based on spectacular writing and really good art. I strongly suggest you read this and Sinestro Corps War..

Written By: Mike Falcone
Twitter: @BrainstuFalcone

REVIEW: Green Lantern - Emerald Knights (DVD)

Reviewers note: this is part two of my three part series where I review a few things Green Lantern related since the movie came out. Part one was of course the movie, and part 3 will be of a Trade Paperback of my choosing. This part will be of the recently released Green Lantern: Emerald Knights dvd…..

Nathan Fillion – Hal Jordan
Elisabeth Moss – Arisia Raab
Jason Issacs – Sinestro
Arnold Vosloo – Abin Sur
Henry Rollins – Kilowog
Roddy Piper – Bolphunga The Unrelenting

A few years ago on the eve of the release of The Dark Knight DC released an animated anthology series about Batman that was similar in format to that of the Animatrix was for the movie The Matrix. Fast forward to this year and DC has now done the same for the recently released Green Lantern movie.

The first thing I should bring up is if you saw Green Lantern: First Flight then you will recognize the animation designs because they decided to use the same style from that movie with Emerald Knights. This in no means makes this a sequel which will clear up some confusion considering this had one Lantern who was a veteran in First Flight now being a rookie in this one. I like this style and think that should another GL animated movie be made that they stick with this style because it is a slick style.

There is a story in this that links the other stories together. Former Guardian Krona has been detected leaving the anti-matter universe through the sun near Green Lantern Corps home planet Oa. It is decided that all members of the Green Lantern Corps head to that sun to await the arrival of Krona.. During this Green Lantern Hal Jordan is explaining the Corps to new recruit Arisia Raab.

The first story he tells her is about the first Lantern. Not the first one to get a ring but the first one to make constructs and really learn the full use of the Rings themselves. This was an interesting story to watch because this was one I haven’t already read in comic form but it was a great and sensible way to kick off the series of stories.

The second story Hal tells Arisia is about GLC drill instructor Kilowog. It is about his time training with the Green Lantern Corps under previous drill instructor Sgt. Deegan who is basically the GLC equivilant to Gunnary Sgt. Hartman in Full Metal Jacket. This is the first case of where I already know how this story ends because I had already read it in comics. Doesn’t mean it wasn’t good just that I knew what was coming which took away from the surprise factor. There was one bad thing about it which I will touch on when I talk about the cast.

The next story is about the character Liara. For those of you unfamiliar with the Green Lantern mythos she is basically their equivilant to the character Psylocke in X-Men even down to her uniform in comics. This is a story that wasn’t fresh in my memory so I was able to look at this in a similar way that I looked at the first of the stories told here.

After this story we are told about the story of Mogo who is a Green Lantern that is a living planet and how warrior Bolphunga, who is trying to kill the mightiest warriors in the galaxy to prove he is unbeatable, wanted to fight this Green Lantern who at the time he was unaware was an actual planet. The story mostly involves Bolphunga trying to find this lantern but it is still effective in establishing the story of Mogo.

The last story Hal tells Arisia is about his predecessor Abin Sur. Well actually Sinestro tells her the story but this is a story that I was familiar with but it was told in a different way. It is based on the story originally written by Alan Moore and then re-done during the 2000s by Geoff Johns where Abin Sur is told of a prophecy about the end of the Green Lantern Corps. In the comics it involves “The Blackest Night”(just a foreshadowing of the future in Moore’s story and a lead in to an event in Johns’ version) but this time it involves Sinestro rising with his own corps against the GLC which imo kinda foreshadows a Sinestro Corps War. This ended up being one of my favorite stories of the anthology because they took a story that was told numerous times and made it different enough where it didn’t feel like same old same old.

The segment that links this ends with the corps battling Krona and this is a nice battle to watch unfold. I won’t spoil the ending but it is a funny ending. It was a great way to tie everything together though so it works wonderfully here.

As for the voice acting Nathan Fillion(from Firefly and Castle) does a top notch job as Hal Jordan. If he weren’t already 40 he’d have been an excellent choice to play the character in the movie. Elisabeth Moss(Mad Men and Get Him to the Greek) does an equally excellent job as Arisia. Another good voice acting example here is Jason Issacs(Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter movies) as Sinestro is very fitting for the character and Arnold Vosloo(The Mummy 1 and 2 and GI Joe) does a decent job as Abin Sur.. On the flip side Henry Rollins(should I even say what he has done?) is not good as Kilowog. Not saying he has a bad voice for this kinda work but his voice does not fit the character of Kilowog at all. He would do a better job voicing a jarhead marine than that of Kilowog. Roddy Piper(WWF and They Live) does an okay job as Bolphunga but nothing to really shout home about.

Overall I would give it a 4 out of a 5 because it was really good but not much I didn’t already know. This is more meant for people new to Green Lantern but I still enjoyed a lot about it.

Written By: Mike Falcone
Twitter: @BrainstuFalcone

Saturday, June 18, 2011

REVIEW: Green Lantern

Ryan Reynolds - Hal Jordan / Green Lantern
Blake Lively - Carol Ferris
Peter Sarsgaard - Hector Hammond
Mark Strong - Sinestro
Temuera Morrison - Abin Sur
Jon Tenney - Martin Jordan
Mike Doyle - Jack Jordan
Nick Jandl - Jim Jordan
Dylan James - Jason Jordan
Leanne Cochran - Janice Jordan

I decided over the course of the next week I would celebrate the debut of the Green Lantern movie by doing a 3 part review series. The first one will be for the movie itself, one for Emerald Knights, and one for one of the TPB's from Green Lantern. So without wasting much more time here is my interview for Green Lantern…..

This is going to be one of the most difficult reviews I will make and I knew this as soon as it was decided that I would do reviews on this site. Now that has no bearing on my thoughts on the movie but more on how the thoughts on the movie would be viewed. If I give a good review there will be people who consider me biased because I am a big fan of the character and the Green Lantern mythos. If I give an overly critical review then I am called a nitpicking fanboy who can’t realize that not everything can be exactly like it is in the comics.

It took me all day to think of if I could do a review without bias…..then I realized that every movie review has some form of bias in them some of which are more technical or personable and less about the source material. Now enough about me what did I think of this movie?

I personally liked it but I thought it could have been better.

Now time to explain that. First let me go into the bad of this movie. The writing is the biggest culprit. You could tell that there were problems with the fact that 4 people made the script. Now it wasn’t that 4 people wrote bits and pieces but more the way that one guy made a script, then they realized it was so bad that it took 3 people in different stages of development to make it not as bad. I will blame Greg Berlanti for the majority of it because he originally wrote the screenplay for it. I mean there was one scene that was so bad that I had douche chills when I was reading what it was. We have a lot of repetition of adjectives, no transition, and really it put more pressure on the actors.

The editing crew also didn’t do the movie any favors which can be a pace killer too. If not for the fact that the writing wasn’t the best this would have been more glaring.

Now with the cast I will say this Ryan Reynolds surprised me. I had my questions about if he could pull off playing Hal Jordan but while he didn’t hit a home run with the role he convinced me that he had the chops to play the character. While it feels like him being himself early on by the end of the movie he ends up being the closest to an exact duplicate of Hal Jordan you would hope to get. I went from hoping for a reboot to get a new guy in there to hoping for a sequel with a better script.

Blake Lively was kinda in the middle for me because I don’t know for sure if her acting was iffy or if it was her doing her best with what she had. There were moments where she was really good and moments where she was dull. I will just have to hope when Green Lantern 2 rolls around that we get a better script to answer this question.

Peter Sarsgaard, who is a good actor, started off with a really good embodiment of Hector Hammond. He had that creepy essence to him which felt just like the character as written by Geoff Johns in his run on Green Lantern. But then as the movie progressed he overacted and ended up getting a failing grade in my book. He was over the top and goofy. And his scream is probably the most annoying scream you will ever hear in a man.

As for the rest of the cast just as I expected Mark Strong nailed it as Sinestro. The character had a regal quality in the comics that is hard to translate to film but Strong did it and I couldn’t be happier with how he was. There was solid voice work from Michael Clarke Duncan as Kilowog and Geoffrey Rush as Tomar Re. Temuera Morrison, you might remember him as Jengo Fett in Star Wars episode 2, was also solid as Abin Sur the alien who died so Hal Jordan could get his Green Lantern ring.

As for the effects first you could tell there were people who worked on Lord of the Rings involved. There were aspects of the Green Lantern Corps’ planet Oa that made you think of LOTR. The character effects were good for some and just ok for others. The suit was well generated except for some certain spots but the constructs were amazingly done. The main villain Parallax was basically a cloudy monster but looked really cool.

With everything factored in it was a fun movie and is your typical summer popcorn flick. And while I liked it the one frustrating aspect is that the writing held it back from being DC’s Iron Man which I think this movie had potential to become. If not for the fact that there was a ton of promise in this movie the writing and editing would have been enough for me to blast this movie but there was just enough right to warrant another viewing and definitely a blu-ray buy. I just hope that Michael Goldenberg (who did minor re-writes for this movie as a favor to director Martin Campbell) gets to be the only writer and makes a script similar to that of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix(which he wrote the script for).

All in all I give it a 3 out of 5. Just enough to enjoy it but still acknowledging that there were factors holding it back from being great.

Written By: Mike Falcone
Twitter: @BrainstuFalcone

Thursday, June 9, 2011

REVIEW: X-Men - First Class

James McAvoy - Charles Xavier
Michael Fassbender - Erik Lehnsherr / Magneto
Kevin Bacon - Sebastian Shaw
Rose Byrne - Moira MacTaggert
Jennifer Lawrence - Raven / Mystique
January Jones - Emma Frost
Nicholas Hoult - Hank McCoy/Beast
Álex González - Janos Quested / Riptide
Jason Flemyng - Azazel

First class is x-hilarating! What I believed was going to be a huge let down showed me that crappy trailers don't mean the movie will bomb. First class is easily the best X-men movie to date. from the get go it's obvious this is a prequel to all previous X-men movies, but little did I know they would actually connect. the opening scene is the original opening to the 1st X-men movie but extended to reveal more of a young Magneto's past.

First class serves as the jumping point for all of the X-men movies. It tells the story of how it all began and how two great friends become mortal enemies. Strange enough there are a few gaps that were created that don't match up correctly with the original trilogy.

This movie is the perfect mixture of story, character development, action, and awesome CG effects. Unfortunately, not all of the characters are widely recognized and feel more like they are filling in roles more than they are holding their own. I will admit even I didn't know who were a few of the new mutants.

I truly enjoyed this film and I believe newcomers who are not familiar with X-Men can enjoy this movie. Since it's the telling of how everything was started, anyone can easily follow the plot and can understand what is going on at all times.

I give this film a 9/10.

Written By: Stalin Lopez

Thursday, June 2, 2011

I Should Be Doing Laundry: "EXCUSE ME!?!"

Today my daughter, who is almost 9 years old, came home from school, stating "We went to a seminar about bullying today and the lady told me that it is wrong of you to let me watch The Simpsons". My first reaction was "WHAT?!?" She told them that The Simpsons teaches kids to be bullies.

Are you kidding me? I explained to my daughter that she has nothing to worry about, and that its perfectly fine for her to watch it, because I have taught her 1. right from wrong and 2. reality vs fiction. Both my children know its NEVER OK to bully anyone. I've taught them to respect people's differences. That is what makes this world an interesting place.

Believe me, I understand that there are some parents out there that don't give their children the proper upbringing, but to make such a blanket statement to a bunch of impressionable 8-9 year old kids, in my opinion, is wrong. How does this woman know how I am raising my child and how dare she tell my child that I am allowing her to do something "wrong". Do I contact the school and be one of "those" parents, or do I leave it with what I already told my daughter? I think I'll go with the latter of the two.

This is what is wrong with this country. Parents aren't being parents. Parents can't be parents. You spank your child, its considered child abuse. Well, let me tell you, if that were the case when I was growing up, my parents would have got the electric chair. I don't mean to make light of child abuse. I take that subject very seriously. No one should beat their child. What I'm talking about is a whack on the butt. A spanking. Oh and God forbid you yell at your child, you have the school counselor calling you and DSS knocking on your door.

To all the parents out there: teach your children to love and be respectful, know right from wrong, to accept people the way they are, and there are consequences to every action. I'm sure I've missed a few so please feel free to share what you believe is important to teach your children in the comment section below.

Written By: Maryanne
Twitter: @BostonBombshell