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The Flash – Plastique (Review)

So, I’m considering reviewing this season of The Flash, because the pilot looks interesting and I’ve always had a soft spot for the Scarlet Speedster. I’m also considering taking a storyline-by-storyline trek through the 1987-2009 Flash on-going series as a companion piece. If you are interested in reading either of these, please let me know in the comments.

Plastique demonstrates that we are still in the early days of The Flash as a television show. We are still working through all the stock elements and trying to figure out what works, while also using fairly stock plot lines to help the show find its feet. Going Rogue was a massive step forwards for the show, but Plastique can’t quite maintain the forward momentum. It feels more like The Fastest Man Alive or Some Things You Can’t Outrun, episodes using a fairly episodic format with generic guest stars and familiar plots to help get things moving.

Plastique is a nice demonstration of what works and what doesn’t work about The Flash at this stage in its life-cycle. It is light and bubbly, and more than a little silly. It is very consciously a CW show, to the point where it seems to wryly winking at the audience. It is also endearingly earnest, embracing a lot of its core superhero tropes even as the characters within the narrative remain reluctant to latch on to “the Flash” as a superhero code name. The Flash is a show that is unashamed about its comic book roots; Plastique even teases the appearance of a psychic gorilla.

Boom!

Boom!

However, there are problems. The ensemble is uneven at best. The stand-out performers – whether part of the main cast or simply guest stars – skew older. The younger actors tend to be a bit more hit-and-miss. It is more exciting to watch actors like Jesse Martin, Clancy Brown and Tom Cavanagh interact than to spend any time with Kelly Frye or Carlos Valdes. While a lot of that is down to the quality of the casting, the writing is also to blame. The Flash is at its best when it seems to treat characters as adults, rather than young people doing young people stuff.

Plastique is a solid enough episode, but it is one that demonstrates where the strengths and weakness of the show lie. The Flash needs to start compensating and adjusting for that.

A flash of inspiration...

A flash of inspiration…

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Non-Review Review: John Dies at the End

This film was seen as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2013.

Don Coscarelli is that most frustrating of film-makers. He’s a remarkable talent able to produce a story with the zany off-kilter madness of Bubba Ho-tep, but can also produce something as disappointing and as frustrating as John Dies at the End. It isn’t that John Dies at the End is completely without charm. It can occasionally be a wittily subversive take on the staples of American horror, from the works of H.P. Lovecraft through to the gore of seventies and eighties schlock-fests.

The real problem with John Dies at the End is that, for all its charm and its wit, it feels terribly unoriginal.

Sauced...

Sauced…

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Justice League Unlimited – Destroyer! (Review)

This September marks the twentieth anniversary of Batman: The Animated Series, and the birth of the shared DC animated universe that would eventually expand to present one of the most comprehensive and thorough explorations of a comic book mythology in any medium. To celebrate, we’re going back into the past and looking at some classic episodes.

Destroyer is the last episode of Bruce Timm’s shared, massive DC animated universe to air. Beginning with On Leather Wings, two decades ago, the producer brought an animated version of the publisher’s pantheon to the small screen. It’s certainly an impressive accomplishment, and I think that Timm’s work provided the definitive versions of many of the company’s characters and concepts. That said, the entire final season of Justice League Unlimited seems like one giant epilogue. The first season of the show finished on a triumphant note, with a four-part story that would have provided a nice finalé for the shared universe, and a one-episode coda to the entire world that Timm and his staff had brought to life.

Destroyer, the actual final episode, isn’t nearly that good. At best, however, it serves as a fond farewell, conclusive proof that, as Wonder Woman promises, “The adventure continues.”

Talk about an unlikely team-up…

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Non-Review Review: Superman/Batman – Apocalypse

This post is part of the DCAU fortnight, a series of articles looking at the Warner Brothers animations featuring DC’s iconic selection of characters. This is one of the “stand-alone” animated movies produced by the creative team that gave us the television shows. 

Prompted by the massive success of Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, Superman/Batman: Apocalypse is the first direct sequel in this line of animated films. It adapts the second arc of Jeph Loeb’s Superman/Batman run, and contains several direct references to the first film (including a news report covering “President Luthor’s impeachment”). While the first film worked on the sheer fun of a super-powered buddy cop film, there’s admittedly less to endear this particular movie to an audience – most notably because this same production team had already animated it as Little Girl Lost, an episode of Superman: The Animated Series.

Some looks CAN kill…

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Superman: The Animated Series – Brave New Metropolis

This post is part of the DCAU fortnight, a series of articles looking at the Warner Brothers animations featuring DC’s iconic selection of characters. I’ll be looking at movies and episodes and even some of the related comic books. Since I looked at Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths earlier, I thought it might be worth a look at what a world run by a well-intentioned Superman might look like.

The interesting thing about Superman is that, as a character, he’s very frequently defined by what he isn’t – or what he shouldn’t be. It’s very hard to codify what Superman is, but easy to agree on what he shouldn’t be (for example, the suggestion that Superman should be light and fuzzy is more likely to spark an argument than the observation that he shouldn’t be dark; or the suggestion that he should be a “sci-fi” hero is bound to more controversial than the suggestion that he shouldn’t be a street-level vigilante). Stories like Mark Millar’s superb Red Son define the character by what he isn’t (a proactive political figure) – while interpretations seeking to define the character in more positive terms are frequently divisive (for example, the space hero of James Robinson’s New Krypton or the “down with the people” “wandering the earth” traveler in Grounded). Brave New Metropolis follows a similar structure, in defining Superman by what he isn’t or shouldn’t be: he shouldn’t be a ruler or people.  

Lex Luthor is bald because he got sick of people holding him like that...

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Non-Review Review: Superman/Batman – Public Enemies

This post is part of the DCAU fortnight, a series of articles looking at the Warner Brothers animations featuring DC’s iconic selection of characters. This is one of the “stand-alone” animated movies produced by the creative team that gave us the television shows. 

Explain our guy love, that’s all it is.
Guy love; he’s mine, I’m his.
There’s nothing gay about it in our eyes. 

You ask me ’bout this thing we share…
…and he tenderly replies:
It’s guy love…
…between two guys. 

– Turk & JD explain “guy love” 

Superman/Batman: Public Enemies is essentially a superhero bromance. It’s part buddy cop movie, part long-term married couple, but all action. It’s not really anything more, but would you want it to be? 

He ain't heavy, he's my superpowered bro'...

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Non-Review Review: The Shawshank Redemption

I have to admit, I’ve always found The Shawshank Redemption a tad overhyped. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a masterfully made film with a fantastic cast and a fantastic score from a director at the very top of his game. Still, the movie’s never entirely won me over – perhaps because I can’t entirely buy into the parable of hope and redemption that is being spun. It’s very powerful stuff, but I can’t help but feel a little cheated with the fact that the movie asks us to believe that something good came of the pit of human suffering at Shawshank.

You can easily get board in Shawshank...

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