TV Review: The Orville (2017- )

Original Run: September 10th, 2017 – current
Created by: Seth MacFarlane
Directed by: Seth MacFarlane, various
Written by: Seth MacFarlane, various
Music by: Bruce Broughton, Joel McNeely, John Debney, Andrew Cottee
Cast: Seth MacFarlane, Adrianne Palicki, Penny Johnson Jerald, Scott Grimes, Peter Macon, Halston Sage, J. Lee, Mark Jackson, Jessica Szohr, Victor Garber, Chad Coleman, Norm Macdonald, Jason Alexander, Patrick Warburton, Rob Lowe, Robert Picardo, Larry Joe Campbell, Kelly Hu, Rachael MacFarlane (voice)

Fuzzy Door Productions, 20th Century Fox Television, Fox, 12 Episodes (so far), 44 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I’ve heard nothing but good things about The Orville. I intended to watch it last year, after the first season wrapped up, but life throws curveballs and I didn’t get to it until the current, second season, started.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from a show that looked to be a parody of Star Trek from the man behind Family Guy. I’m not a big fan of that show but I also don’t really dig animated comedies, at least since the earliest days of South Park.

This doesn’t reflect the same sort of humor style or tone of Family Guy, however. It’s just really f’n clever and beyond the comedy, this show is written in a way that makes it very clear that Seth MacFarlane truly is a fan of Star Trek and most notably, Star Trek: The Next Generation.

It feels as if it most directly parodies TNG and some of Voyager. But I can’t really call it a parody, even if it seemed to start out that way.

Yes, there is a lot of humor but it is almost secondary and as the show progresses, it learns to balance itself better between comedy and real drama. In fact, the comedy is used perfectly in how it eases tension and emotions in the right moments.

As of now, having seen about 15 episodes of this show, I can say that it is the best version of Star Trek since Deep Space Nine left the air in 1999, twenty years ago. The Orville is more Star Trek than modern Star Trek. It understands the source material it borrows from better than any of the film or television writers that have tried to resurrect it over the last two decades.

Everything about The Orville just feels right. If it maintains its momentum, I’ll have to adjust the rating and make it higher. I’m skeptical that it can maintain this trajectory over the long haul but I also don’t think that it’ll ever devolve into something terrible.

Thus far, I love this show and I can’t thank Seth MacFarlane enough for plugging a large hole in my fanboy heart.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Voyager.

TV Review: Young Justice (2010- )

Also known as: Young Justice: Invasion (Season 2), Young Justice: Outsiders (Season 3)
Release Date: November 26th, 2010 – current
Created by: Brandon Vietti, Greg Weisman
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: characters from DC Comics
Music by: Kristopher Carter, Michael McCuistion, Lolita Ritmanis
Cast: Stephanie Lemelin, Jesse McCartney, Danica McKellar, Nolan North, Khary Payton, Jason Spisak, Kelly Hu

DC Entertainment, Warner Bros. Animation, 46 Episodes (so far), 22 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*Written in 2015.

I didn’t watch Young Justice while it was on. I only got into it once it was on Netflix and even then, it was clicked on mainly out of boredom. I wasn’t aware that it was a somewhat beloved show by many.

I was glad I discovered it on my own without a bunch of hype built around it. I was surprised with the quality and how adult the themes of the show were.

The animation is damn good, the story arcs are fantastic and the characters are all cool and likable.

The show follows the sidekicks of DC Comics’ most famous heroes and puts them together on a team where they are sort of a junior squad to the Justice League. It is sort of like Teen Titans but not as adolescent feeling, which is probably why it wasn’t a new Teen Titans show.

The first season is solid but the second season is excellent. The beginning of season two is slow and interest started to wane but after about four episodes, I was hooked. The season two story arc is one of the best sagas ever told in a DC animated series.

Young Justice is a quick watch. The episodes fly by at 22 minutes. There are also only twenty or so episodes per season.

The DC cinematic universe could learn a lot from the tone and style of this show. I hope that once they get into making the Aquaman film, they take their cue from how the Atlanteans are handled on this show.

Sadly, the show was cancelled after the second season but there are rumors that it could find new life on Netflix. I think that’s a stretch, being that they are in bed with Marvel, but you never know.

Update:

After fan support the show was resurrected and there will be more episodes in the future, even though there’s been a big gap in time by this point.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: Recent Teen Titans animated features, as well as other DC Comics animated films.

Film Review: Batman: Under the Red Hood (2010)

Release Date: July 27th, 2010
Directed by: Brandon Vietti
Written by: Judd Winick
Based on: Batman: Under the Red Hood by Judd Winick, Doug Mahnke
Music by: Christopher Drake
Cast: Bruce Greenwood, Jensen Ackles, John DiMaggio, Neil Patrick Harris, Jason Isaacs, Wade Williams, Kelly Hu

Warner Premiere, DC Comics, The Answer Studio, Warner Bros., 75 Minutes

Review:

“I’m being forced into negotiating with a psychotic.” – Black Mask

This is one of the best DC Comics animated features that I have seen. But I was also a massive fan of this story in the comics and this film benefits from being written by Judd Winick, who also wrote that comic story.

I love that these feature length animated films by DC are not made for kids, they are made for those of us who grew up reading comics in the ’80s and ’90s and who are probably the same age as the people working on these films. It’s like some of us grew up, got jobs at DC and decided to high five the rest of us by making adult animated comic book films.

I liked the art in this, the tone was perfect and the story was well structured. Plus, I always like stories that feature Nightwing and Black Mask. I friggin’ love Black Mask and think he’s underutilized. So seeing him come to life in a feature length story was a lot of fun and just f’n cool.

Also, Nightwing was voiced by Neil Patrick Harris, which was kind of cool too.

My only real complaint was that Kevin Conroy wasn’t Batman and Mark Hamill wasn’t the Joker. I think this was made when they retired from the roles for fifteen minutes. Because they did eventually come back to do other animated features for DC, as well as the Arkham series of video games.

I still thought that Bruce Greenwood was good as Batman but I can’t not hear Kevin Conroy in my head whenever I read a Batman comic, so when it’s not Conroy’s voice in an animated feature, it throws me off. He just is the voice of Batman to me, as Hamill is the Joker.

Apart from that, there isn’t much to shake a stick at. This was well crafted and came off feeling just right.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: Other DC Comics animated films of the last decade.

TV Review: Arrow (2012- )

Original Run: October 10th, 2012 – present
Created by: Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, Andrew Kreisberg
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Blake Neely
Cast: Stephen Amell, Katie Cassidy, Colin Donnell, David Ramsey, Willa Holland, Susanna Thompson, Paul Blackthorne, Emily Bett Rickards, Colton Haynes, Manu Bennett, John Barrowman, Echo Kellum, Josh Segarra, Brandon Routh, Caity Lotz, Kelly Hu, Alex Kingston, Chad L. Coleman

Bonanza Productions, Berlanti Productions, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros., 115 Episodes (so far), 40 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*originally written in 2014.

Comic books have not historically been well-represented in television form. Some people will argue that Smallville was great and that The Incredible Hulk was awesome. Both had some good moments. Ultimately though, neither were amazing, The 1970s versions of Spider-Man and Captain America were pretty awful. The 1960s gave us Batman, which is one of my favorite shows of all-time but as a faithful adaptation, it falls in more ways than it succeeds. In 1990, we got The Flash, which I particularly liked even with the villains being pretty bad (excluding Mark Hamill’s role as the Trickster). However, that show didn’t make it more than a season, despite a great Danny Elfman score and popping up on the heels of the super successful 1989 Batman movie (the first one with Michael Keaton). We got other shows based on superheroes like Heroes and M.A.N.T.I.S. but neither were adapted from a comic book and both had promise but fizzled. There were other superhero shows but nothing that really captured the essence of a comic book.

Then there came Arrow.

This CW show followed up Smallville and its ten year run. While there was a Green Arrow on that show, with this show, they decided to start from scratch and I am glad they did. Green Arrow was one of the cool things about the later seasons of Smallville but for the character to have his own show, it needed to be darker and more real. The climate changed between the start of Smallville and the end of it, as Christopher Nolan’s Batman films completely changed the game. Arrow is a reflection of that and a pretty solid contrast from Smallville.

The acting on this series is pretty damn good. Stephen Amell is great as Oliver Queen a.k.a. the Arrow. In fact, he may be close to perfect. His sidekicks played by David Ramsey and Emily Bett Rickards are quite awesome. The other main cast members also hold their own. Doctor Who and Torchwood alum John Barrowman owns it as the sinister Merlyn. I would say that my favorite character on the show thus far though, is Slade Wilson a.k.a. Deathstroke, who is played by Manu Bennett.

While the tone of the show is gritty, it often times doesn’t take itself entirely too seriously, as there are good lighthearted moments and some humor worked in. It also makes use of flashbacks very extensively, as each episode follows two stories – the story of the present and a story from five years earlier, when Oliver was trapped on an island.

Arrow is a unique show in that it feels like Batman Begins meets Lost. Two seasons in, it is off to a good start and I hope that the show keeps moving forward and improving as it goes. Its success has already led to a spin-off show for the Flash, which starts pretty soon. I hope Arrow and The Flash can maintain the quality I’ve now come to expect from this new era in DC Comics television shows.

Update:

Arrow lost some steam in the third and fourth seasons but in season five, it picks up steam again and gets closer to its roots. It becomes more of a flawed show as it progresses but cast changes and new threats keep it interesting enough to stick with it. At the end of season five, the game has seemingly completely changed going forward and I am still ready and willing to check out season six in the fall.

Film Review: The ‘Friday the 13th’ Film Series, Part III – The Kane Hodder Years (1988-2001)

Friday the 13th, Part VII – The New Blood (1988):

Release Date: May 13th, 1988
Directed by: John Carl Buechler
Written by: Manuel Fidello, Daryl Haney
Based on: characters by Victor Miller
Music by: Harry Manfredini, Fred Mollin
Cast: Lar Park Lincoln, Kevin Blair, Susan Blu, Terry Kiser, Susan Jennifer Sullivan, Elizabeth Kaitan, Jon Renfield, Jeff Bennett, Heidi Kozak, Diana Barrows, Larry Cox, Craig Thomas, Diane Almeida, Kane Hodder

Paramount Pictures, 88 Minutes

Review:

Hey, it’s Bernie from Weekend At Bernie’s and he’s alive! Well, not for long – it is a Jason movie.

This film also features Jason Voorhees going against Jean Grey from the X-Men. Actually, it is some girl named Tina but she has telekinetic and psychic powers and thus, spends a lot of time confusing Jason with cheap parlor tricks. I have a theory that she has no powers and was a con artist that rigged her house with lots of Hollywood strings. In any event, it gives this film an interesting dynamic that we haven’t seen in this series before.

The New Blood is important, in that it is the first film to feature Kane Hodder in the role of Jason. He is the only guy to play the role more than once. In fact, he played him over the course of four films and is the most recognized Jason actor and pretty much the overall fan favorite. I definitely think he had the best presence and mannerisms and brought the role to the next level, even though C.J. Graham did a pretty phenomenal job in Jason Lives (the installment before this one).

Jason also looks the absolute best in this film. He still looked pretty good in the next film but this is definitely my favorite Jason, as far as overall appearance. The fact that you can see his spine and ribs through the back of his tattered jumpsuit is pretty damned cool, as he was fish food in a lake for like ten years leading into being set free at the beginning of this movie.

The problem with this film, is that it was butchered by the censors and the MPAA. There is less gore, not because it was filmed that way but because it was edited down a lot. The fluidity of certain scenes and certain cuts are horrible.

Despite those issues, this is still a better-than-decent Friday the 13th chapter. It is also the best of the four Kane Hodder films.

 

Friday the 13th, Part VIII – Jason Takes Manhattan (1989):

Release Date: July 28th, 1989
Directed by: Rob Hedden
Written by: Rob Hedden
Based on: characters by Victor Miller
Music by: Fred Mollin
Cast: Jensen Daggett, Todd Caldecott, Peter Mark Richman, Kane Hodder, Kelly Hu

Paramount Pictures, 100 Minutes

Review:

Jason Takes Manhattan is a really misleading title. Jason is only in Manhattan for less than a third of the film and he’s pretty much just in the alleyways and the sewer other than a quick chase scene in Times Square. This film should really be called Jason On A Boat because it is primarily Jason on a boat, killing some teens.

There are a few good kills, like a sauna rock through a stomach and a boxer having his head knocked off by a Jason uppercut. That’s about it though. This takes Jason out of his normal element but it isn’t a wanted change and it is executed with absolutely no imagination. This is just a very boring film.

The ending is retarded level bizarre. It makes no sense and I’m not sure why the City of New York flushes their sewers with toxic waste every night at midnight and how hanging out on a ladder above the rampaging toxic river didn’t asphyxiate and cause severe brain damage in our heroes. And somehow, toxic waste melts Jason down to a crying little boy.

The film is also visually inconsistent with previous installments. The child Jason looks nothing like Jason has looked in the past at that age. The tone of the film is just strange and it feels more like an old Sci-Fi Channel slasher knockoff film than a chapter in a storied franchise.

I’ve always liked Jensen Daggett though and this is her first film. That is about the only positive I can give.

This was the last film of the original series to be released by Paramount.

Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993):

Release Date: August 13th, 1993
Directed by: Adam Marcus
Written by: Jay Huguely, Dean Lorey, Adam Marcus
Based on: characters by Victor Miller
Music by: Harry Manfredini
Cast: John D. LeMay, Kari Keegan, Erin Gray, Allison Smith, Steve Culp, Steven Williams, Kane Hodder

New Line Cinema, 88 Minutes

Review:

This is the worst film in the entire franchise. It is beyond horrible. Jason is barely in it and the monster is a demonic heart worm.

New Line Cinema acquired the rights to the Friday the 13th franchise and decided to reinvent it in their own way. Kane Hodder is back as Jason Voorhees but he is only in the opening sequence and the final battle, other than appearing in mirrors throughout the film when other people are possessed by his evil spirit.

By the way, that evil spirit travels from host to host via a worm crawling out of one mouth and into another. And Jason’s evil French kiss worm hatched from his heart. So I guess his heart is really some sort of egg. Well, the heart was eaten by a possessed guy in a morgue but that is how he got infected with the Jason worm and how this whole stupid process began.

The film also introduces a horrible concept that was abandoned after this film. Basically, now it is learned that Jason can only be killed with a magic knife wielded by a blood relative. So Jason is hunting down surviving family members because if he kills them, he can’t be killed. And somehow, all these people live around Crystal Lake and yet, he has never tried to hunt them down before, in any of the eight movies that predate this one!

The truth is, I completely ignore this film when it comes to the Friday the 13th mythos. The movie is absolute shit. It doesn’t exist except in some parallel universe. No, it doesn’t exist there either. Avoid it at all costs, unless you really want to torture yourself.

Jason also looks horrible. He looks like Krang from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cosplaying as Jason. Why does his noggin look like a big mutant brain with a hockey mask that is obviously too tight for his newly enormous head?

The only noteworthy thing about this movie, is that after Jason is dragged to Hell, the glove of Freddy Krueger (from the A Nightmare On Elm Street series) bursts out of the ground, grabs Jason’s hockey mask in the dirt and drags it down to Hell. This set up the eventual Freddy vs. Jason film that was in development hell for a decade.

Jason X (2001):

Release Date: July 24th, 2001 (Germany)
Directed by: James Issac
Written by: Todd Farmer
Based on: characters by Victor Miller
Music by: Harry Manfredini
Cast: Lexa Doig, Lisa Ryder, Chuck Campbell, Jonathan Potts, Melyssa Ade, Melody Johnson, David Cronenberg, Kane Hodder

New Line Cinema, 92 Minutes

Review:

This is the last film in the regular series of movies unless you count Freddy vs. Jason in 2003. It is also the last film to star Kane Hodder as Jason.

So when horror franchises jump the shark, they usually go to space. Where most horror franchises go to space by the fourth film (see Critters, Hellraiser and Leprechaun), at least Jason didn’t have to leave Earth until the tenth installment of his series.

Jason X is a bad movie. It is a really bad movie. But it is a bad movie that is great in its awfulness. It is fun, it is ridiculous and the film doesn’t, at any time, try to take itself seriously. It knows it is bad but it is doing a damned good job of creating a good time.

After nine films full of killing teens at (or around) a summer camp, the new direction was refreshing. At least the scenery changed and at least it wasn’t a boring ghetto cruise ship on the way to a boring Manhattan sewer.

Jason is cryogenically frozen, wakes up 500 years in the future on a spaceship conducting a high school field trip and goes on a sci-fi killing spree. At one point, he is rebuilt by nanomachines into what fans call Uber Jason. Basically, he looks like a much angrier and deadly version of a Mighty Morphin Power Rangers villain.

If you try to take this film seriously, you will hate it. If you take it for what it is, an intentionally bad but awesome time, you will most likely enjoy it.

*I will review Freddy vs. Jason and the 2009 Friday the 13th remake at a later date.