TV Review: Justified (2010-2015)

Also known as: Lawman (working title)
Original Run: March 16th, 2010 – April 14th, 2015
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: Fire in the Hole by Elmore Leonard
Music by: Steve Porcaro, Gangstagrass (theme)
Cast: Timothy Olyphant, Nick Searcy, Joelle Carter, Jacob Pitts, Erica Tazel, Natalie Zea, Walton Goggins, Jere Burns, M.C. Gainey, Brent Sexton, William Ragsdale, Stephen Root, Margo Martindale, Brad William Henke, Neal McDonough, Stephen Tobolowsky, Scott Grimes, Jeff Fahey, Garret Dillahunt, Sam Elliott, Mary Steenburgen, Danielle Panabaker, Amy Smart, Alicia Witt, Michael Rapaport, Patton Oswalt, Gerald McRaney, Adam Arkin

Sony Pictures Television, Rooney McP Productions, Timberman-Beverly Productions, Nemo Films, Bluebush Productions, FX, 78 Episodes, 37-53 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*Written in 2015.

Justified was one of those shows that everyone told me to watch. I really loved Deadwood and was pissed that it ended when it did, only after three seasons and on a cliffhanger. Timothy Olyphant was fantastic in that show. When Justified came around, it seemed like the modern spiritual successor to the near perfect Deadwood. And many people went on to confirm that to me, before I even saw it.

Then I saw it.

I don’t know what it is about majority opinion and my own opinion but when it comes to television shows, they don’t seem to match up. The thing is, I hate this show. “Awful” isn’t a strong enough word to describe it.

Maybe there is just something about FX that is horrible because every single FX show I have ever watched, except for Always Sunny, has completely underwhelmed me and left me befuddled as to how so many people are in love with FX’s product. The network is perceived by many to be on par with the greats like HBO, Showtime and AMC. Justified is just one of a string of many shows that feels just as safe and generic as the episodic crime drama bullshit found on the big networks: CBS, ABC, NBC and Fox.

I also don’t know who the music director is at FX but Justified easily has the worst theme song in television history. It is eye rolling, stomach churning and just a horrendous attempt at trying to force together hip-hop and bluegrass. But FX shows have a history of having really shitty theme songs, except for Always Sunny. The Justified theme, actually makes the terrible Sons of Anarchy theme, sound like a masterpiece.

The worst part, is that I like Olyphant and even more than him, I love Walton Goggins. This show has great talent on the screen but the final product is still crap. Sure, the acting is better than average but the plot, the characters and everything else is so drab and cookie cutter.

I only made it about halfway through the third season before giving up. I rarely give up on a show. But nothing really grabbed me by that point and the consensus from the fans of the show is that the first three seasons are the best and then it falls off after that. Well, it was never really on for me to begin with so I certainly don’t want to invest another twenty-plus hours in it “falling off”.

I wish there were more westerns and even neo-westerns on TV. I just wish more were like Deadwood, Hell On Wheels and Longmire (once it went to Netflix) and less like this basic bag of bullshit.

And ultimately, it’s just made me go back and start re-watching the far superior Deadwood once again.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: Sons of AnarchyBreaking BadFear the Walking Dead and Deadwood.

Film Review: Star Trek: First Contact (1996)

Also known as: Star Trek VIII, Star Trek: Borg, Star Trek: Destinies, Star Trek: Future Generations, Star Trek: Generations II, Star Trek: Renaissance, Star Trek: Resurrection (working titles)
Release Date: November 18th, 1996 (Hollywood premiere)
Directed by: Jonathan Frakes
Written by: Ronald D. Moore, Brannon Braga, Rick Berman
Based on: Star Trek by Gene Roddenberry
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith, Joel Goldsmith
Cast: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis, Neal McDonough, Alfre Woodard, James Cromwell, Alice Krige, Robert Picardo (cameo), Adam Scott, Majel Barrett (voice)

Paramount Pictures, 111 Minutes

Review:

“[Quoting “Moby Dick”] And he piled upon the whale’s white hump, the sum of all the rage and hate felt by his whole race. If his chest had been a cannon, he would have shot his heart upon it.” – Captain Jean-Luc Picard

After the torch was passed from one generation’s crew to the next in the appropriately titled Star Trek: Generations, it was only a matter of time before The Next Generation‘s cast got their own film series. This is the first movie that is wholly theirs.

This is also the first and only movie to utilize the Borg as a threat on the big screen. Really, the next film should have probably followed this up with a bit more Borg stuff instead of whatever the hell Insurrection was supposed to be. However, the Borg would be used a lot on Star Trek: Voyager where things got more intense and the Borg mythology was greatly expanded.

I love that this film added in a bunch of talented actors other than just the standard crew. Alfre Woodard and James Cromwell are both great in this and are two of my favorite Trek characters because of this film. Cromwell would reprise his role again on television but Woodard sadly never returned for more. Also, you have a very young Neal McDonough in this. I wish he would have gone on to continue to appear in these films but he met a bad end. Then there is Alice Krige as the Borg Queen and while this is probably her most famous role, she’s had a great career in the horror and sci-fi genres. You also get to see Adam Scott and a cameo by Robert Picardo, which was a nod to his Star Trek: Voyager character.

The plot of the film sees the Borg go back in time to prevent humanity from inventing warp drive and thus, attracting the first alien contact with Earth. The reason behind this was that the Borg would have an easier time assimilating Earth and its population. The Enterprise crew also goes back in time to prevent this from happening.

The story is pretty good and although this isn’t the first Star Trek movie to utilize time travel as its main plot device, this all still takes place in the future, so the “fish out of water” shtick that made Star Trek IV so friggin’ great, wasn’t rehashed. But that’s good because this wasn’t trying to be Star Trek IV, it was certainly its own thing and the film worked on its own merits.

While this is considered to be the best of The Next Generation set of films, I’m the weirdo that really likes Nemesis. But that’s probably because I had been yearning for a movie featuring Romulans since around the time of Star Trek IIIFirst Contact is still really damn good and my favorite after Nemesis.

I like that Jonathan Frakes got to direct this, which followed the path of the original cast’s films where Nimoy and Shatner both got chances to direct.

First Contact is in the upper echelon of Star Trek movies. It is much better than its followup, Insurrection, and it had an edge over Generations.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: The other Next Generation films: Star Trek: GenerationsStar Trek: Insurrectionand Star Trek: Nemesis.

Film Review: Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Release Date: July 19th, 2011 (El Capitan Theatre premiere)
Directed by: Joe Johnston
Written by: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Based on: Captain America by Joe Simon, Jack Kirby
Music by: Alan Silvestri
Cast: Chris Evans, Hayley Atwell, Sebastian Stan, Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving, Dominic Cooper, Neal McDonough, Derek Luke, Stanley Tucci, Kenneth Choi, Toby Jones, Natalie Dormer, Richard Armitage, Jenna Coleman, Samuel L. Jackson

Marvel Studios, Paramount Pictures, 124 Minutes

Review:

“Whatever happens tomorrow you must promise me one thing. That you will stay who you are. Not a perfect soldier, but a good man.” – Abraham Erskine

It was nice going back and revisiting this chapter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. To be honest, I really hadn’t seen this since about 2012 or so. They pump out Marvel movies so fast that sometimes you get caught up in all the new stuff that the older films get neglected. At the time that this came out, it wasn’t my favorite of the Phase One set of films. I think that’s changed, however.

Captain America: The First Avenger is, first and foremost, an origin story. The first half really has to deal with how Captain America comes to be. The second half has to deal with Cap saving the world from the evil Hydra commander and Nazi officer, Red Skull.

This also introduces us to the Tesseract, which would evolve into the first Infinity Stone to be seen in a Marvel movie. This MacGuffin would be center stage in this film, as well as in the first Avengers movie where its ownership would shift to Loki. This mystical item would carry a lot of narrative weight, as it still exists in the current crop of films and still hasn’t had its power fully unleashed. I’m assuming we’ll see all the Infinity Stones in all their glory when Avengers: Infinity War hits theaters in late April.

But back to this movie.

It is a solid World War II action film that just happens to have a superhero and some crazy sci-fi elements thrown in. Shift some things around and this almost feels like a live-action version of a Wolfenstein game.

The relationship between Captain America and Peggy Carter has helped to define both characters after this film. Both had to move on without the other and under very different circumstances. It was nice coming back to this movie and seeing how it all started. Chris Evans and Hayley Atwell and incredible chemistry and the weight of the scene where Cap crashes Red Skull’s ship is so much heavier now knowing the pain that both of these characters felt after losing one another.

I also liked going back and seeing the relationship between Steve and Bucky before they went to war. This is something else that didn’t have quite the weight that it has now, knowing where their journeys would go in future films.

One complaint however, is that I feel like the villains Red Skull and Zola were wasted. Red Skull could have offered so much more to the franchise and really, he should have come back by this point or another person should have taken over the mantle. Zola, who was a formidable Captain America villain would only return as a computer program.

I actually forgot that Tommy Lee Jones was even in this. It was cool seeing him though. It was also a delight to see the Howling Commandos in all their glory and to be honest, they deserve their own movie or at least a short season television show like Peggy Carter had.

This is the one Marvel film that is a true period piece. The different world this exists in was refreshing and did a lot to enrich the mythos and to expand the universe beyond the films before it.

Captain America: The First Avenger is a solid piece of tent pole, blockbuster filmmaking. It’s a popcorn flick that’s more fun than most and it just feels truer to the title character than even Iron Man did.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: Captain America: The Winter SoldierCaptain America: Civil War and The Avengers.

TV Review: Mob City (2013)

Original Run: December 4th, 2013 – December 18th, 2013
Created by: Frank Darabont
Directed by: Frank Darabont, Guy Ferland
Written by: Frank Darabont, Michael Sloane, David J. Schow, David Leslie Johnson
Based on: L.A. Noir by John Buntin
Music by: Mark Isham
Cast: Jon Bernthal, Milo Ventimiglia, Neal McDonough, Alexa Davalos, Jeffrey DeMunn, Robert Knepper, Jeremy Luke, Gregory Itzin, Edward Burns, Dana Gould, Simon Pegg, Ernie Hudson, Patrick Fischler

Darkwoods Productions, Swiftly Productions, Michael DeLuca Productions, TNT, 6 Episodes, 45 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

Frank Darabont was the man that brought The Walking Dead to the small screen back in 2010. Unfortunately, he was the showrunner for only a short time. AMC fired him after two seasons and it actually angered some of the cast members who were close to Darabont. He took two of those actors with him to this show, which became his big project after being let go by AMC.

Darabont went to TNT with the idea of adapting the book L.A. Noir for television. He cast Jon Bernthal (The Walking Dead‘s Shane) as the lead and also got Jeffrey DeMunn (Dale from The Walking Dead) to play a pivotal role. Sadly, this would not become the runaway success that TNT had hoped for after Darabont smashed cable records with The Walking Dead.

Mob City is much better than decent but it also didn’t exist long enough to truly find its footing. The way in which it was released also probably hurt it. It came out in the middle of the Christmas holiday television season with episodes played back-to-back like two hour movies over the course of three weeks. It was treated more like a miniseries than a show and this may have confused people and just got lost in the holiday shuffle.

The real problem with Mob City, however, is that six episodes just aren’t enough to really get invested in it. I didn’t feel invested in The Walking Dead after its very short first season, either. Imagine if all you ever knew was season one of The Walking Dead. It has evolved into a much different show over time. Even though a small sample size created a long lasting legacy for AMC, a small sample size is just a small sample size and it didn’t work the same way for TNT’s Mob City.

Mob City told a quick story over its six episodes but it was just enough to get you interested on what this show could be over the long haul. It even ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, as you know that there is a bigger story just on the horizon. Unfortunately, we’ll never get that.

It is hard to give a show a fair look with only six episodes. Mob City was intriguing and offered up some really cool bits in its short run. The shootout on the carousel in episode three was magnificent. The end of the season was also great. But ultimately, there just wasn’t enough time to really get to know these characters or to be able to sink your teeth into a show that felt like it had riches to bestow on its audience. But kudos to the writers, because these characters left you wanting to get to know them much more intimately.

Rating: 7/10

TV Review: Legends of Tomorrow (2016- )

Original Run: January 21st, 2016 – present
Created by: Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, Andrew Kreisberg, Phil Klemmer
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Blake Neely
Cast: Victor Garber, Brandon Routh, Arthur Darvill, Caity Lotz, Franz Drameh, Ciara Renée, Falk Hentschel, Amy Pemberton, Dominic Purcell, Wentworth Miller, Matt Letscher, Maisie Richardson-Sellers, Nick Zano, Neal McDonough, John Barrowman

Berlanti Productions, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros., 33 Episodes (so far), 42-45 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*originally written in 2016.

With the success of Arrow and The Flash, the CW had to put out another superhero show in that universe. Plus, those worlds were getting too big and they needed a place to ship off some of those characters. So why not make them into a team.

Add in time travel and we’ve essentially got a superhero version of Doctor Who. It also doesn’t hurt that they added a fan favorite actor from Doctor Who lore to lead this team through time and space.

The premise of the show is interesting but ultimately, we are left with the weakest of CW’s DC Comics television series. The show is enjoyable and it has some good moments but it all just feels like filler and the threat, as great as it is, just doesn’t seem that threatening overall.

Vandal Savage, who was introduced in a crossover event on The Flash and Arrow, is the main villain of the series. The problem with the show is that they either kill him or nearly kill him almost every episode but for some reason he keeps coming back or isn’t killed because the writers have to stretch him out over the whole twenty episode campaign. He just feels like a total pushover instead of the immortal evil bad ass he should be. And the characters’ motivation when they don’t finally just pull the trigger is laughable and some of the worst writing ever.

None of these people seem stable or even rational enough to pull off this very important mission. I also find it hard to believe that in all of space and time, this motley crew is the best that Rip Hunter could assemble for a mission that is sold as the most important mission in the entirety of this universe.

I enjoy Arthur Darvill as Rip Hunter and I have always been a fan of Brandon Routh’s Atom and Caity Lotz’s version of the Canary. Even the Prison Break reunion of Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell as Captain Cold and Heatwave is pretty enjoyable. Firestorm is okay and Hawkgirl is somewhat interesting but all in all, this crew just doesn’t hold it together as an ensemble.

It feels like a forced union, which it is in reality and in fiction, but there should still be more chemistry. It’s chemistry that has worked so well for The Flash and Arrow. That magic just isn’t recreated here. And maybe the writers, between three shows, are stretched too thin.

This isn’t a show that I plan to give up on. Depending upon what they do for the second season, this show could turn it around. I’d like to see more characters rotated in and out of this group as the show goes on. I think that would work at keeping it fresh. It may also solve the chemistry problem.

Some of these characters are great but after seeing them full-time, they may play better on a part-time basis.

Rating: 6/10

TV Review: Arrow (2012-2020)

Original Run: October 10th, 2012 – January 28th, 2020
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, Neal McDonough

Bonanza Productions, Berlanti Productions, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros., 170 Episodes, 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.

Rating: 7.25/10