Archive for the ‘TV Series’ Category

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Man of Steel

March 1, 2014

I am a fan of Superman. I do enjoy watching the many versions of the character in live action and in animated form. So far though, I think the animated version Superman portrays him the best, with the television versions following very closely. I enjoy their takes on the character, making him unique to the series mythos and staying true to the origin story and other key points that make the character.

The films however have received a bad rap. While the actors portraying Clark Kent and his alter ego do not seem miscast, they do encounter terrible storytelling. It is hard to top Christopher Reeve and his portrayal of the Last Son of Krypton in the first two Superman movies. While the sequels to the movies suffered much in the same way as Batman did before Christopher Nolan bought in real worldliness to the films, Superman almost had a new start with “Superman Returns.” However, there were many missteps in the story that made the movie fall flat. While an enjoyable yarn, it rehashes some of the too familiar schemes of Lex Luthor and tried to tie it to the original Christopher Reeve movies.

This time around, Christopher Nolan lent his help with producing another attempt with reinvigorating interest in Superman and his cast of characters. Zach Snyder was chosen to direct, with a resume that has comic book movies “Watchmen” and “300,” he seemed an ideal choice to take on the character. In this version, he takes Superman on a personal odyssey of self discovery and given many of the background characters some depth and more story.

“Man of Steel” is more the story of a god that walks among men and this same god looking for his place in the world. It hints at the growing pains the young Clark spent as his alien physiology adapted to the world around him, and how it alienated him from others. It also gives the classic origin story more levity by giving Superman’s birth parents Jor-El and Lara more than being simple exposition.

The story is told in a non-linear fashion, with snippets of Clark’s life, past and present intertwining with events unfolding in his present. It can be a little disorienting and seem a little jumbled, but, it is done rather tastefully to match the tones of the scenes. They tell the origin story as if we haven’t seen it before.

The planet of Krypton is a terraformed world that is dying from its own devices. Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and his wife Lara (Antje Traue) plan to save their son using the meager resources he has to create and craft a ship to carry his son to Earth, a scouted planet that may be home to the next Krypton. Shortly after Kal-El’s birth, General Zod (Michael Shannon) stages a military coup to overthrow the current government. Jor-El manages to steal and encode into his son the codex of the Kryptonian species, a database of genetic information that someday would be used to revive the Kryptonian race via their process of reproduction through artificial means. General Zod catches up with Jor-El and kills him before he could stop the launch of the capsule with infant Kal-El.

General Zod and his followers are banished to the Phantom Zone, where they would be indefinitely incarcerated for their war crimes. Shortly afterwards, the planet Krypton explodes.

The ship crash lands in the town of Smallville, Kansas, near the family farm of Jonathan and Martha Kent (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane) who found the infant Kal-El and adopted him as their son.  His growth in our world was difficult, as his physiology took time to adapt to Earth’s atmosphere.  These changes isolate the young Clark from the rest of his classmates and childhood friends. Concealing his abilities proved difficult, as he saves his friends and classmates from a near fatal bus crash. Clark learns that he is not from the planet Earth, but in fact a survivor from another world that is alien to him.

Fast forward to the present, and you see Clark (Henry Cavill) wandering around doing odd jobs and traveling, helping others as it allows him. He save an oil rig crew from a fiery explosion, but in turn has to move on from his job as a fisherman on a trawler. He is making his way north.

Meanwhile, Lois Lane (Amy Adams) has been granted permission to see a mysterious alien structure that the military is trying to investigate. Clark has also managed to sneak onto the work site as a civilian member of the exploration team. The structure turns out to be a Kryptonian scout ship that had landed on Earth a long time ago, and was one of the scout ships that alerted Jor-El of Earth’s potential for colonization. Clark discovers his history through the avatar of his father Jor-El.

Due to the events at the alien ship, Lois decides to work on finding this mysterious person who has been performing superhuman feats to protect others. Her  investigation leads her back to Smallville, where she encounters him again.

Freed from the Phantom Zone incarceration, General Zod and his followers manage to cannibalize their prison into a ship. They searched for the remaining Kryptonian colonies that were scattered across  the galaxy, finding none that had survived. During this search, he learns of Earth and it being home to the last surviving Kryptonian, the infant son of Jor-El. Upon arriving at Earth, he threatens its citizenry unless Kal-El steps forward.

Clark surrenders to the US government, hoping that his surrender would help render a truce or as an act of peace between the surviving Kryptonians. Zod has ulterior motives that lead to a knock down drag out fight with the fate of Earth at stake, as Zod activates a terraforming world engine to start work on turning Earth into a new Krypton.

I found this movie to be a bit of fresh air to the Superman series of films and his 75 plus years. It takes many of the elements from the comics, a few bits of lore from the various TV, serials, and animation and mixes them together to make a very modern take of the hero we know and love. It does go over the origin story again, only giving the characters of Jor-El and Lara, not to mention the other Kryptonians, more depth and levity to their characters. This was a utopian society that was suddenly collapsing, giving rise to the military coup led by General Zod. He  did what he thought was best to help wrest control from the seemingly ignorant government.

While Clark’s story continued on Earth, it was less of a happy experience as depicted in comics and animation, rather it was the worst imaginable as his body changed and having little control of it. It is far off from many of his television depictions, as is more closely resembling his growth in the TV series “Smallville.”

His growth into the role of Superman was well conceived, following many plotlines from the recent comics. This gives the character of Superman more human flaws and makes for a much more relatable character.

Henry Cavill fills this role nicely with a nobility that slowly grows from his humble beginnings. Michael Shannon  makes for a good General Zod, making him more of a realistic soldier trying to save what he believes is right and important. His actions don’t necessarily make him a complete villain, more of a man trying to save what he can the best way he knows how. It is a very interesting role for him. Russell Crowe is a scene stealer, giving the very important role of Jor-El much more definition. Amy Adams seemed well cast as a bit world weary yet still curious Lois Lane. She lacks a bit of the fiery charm that makes the character interesting.

Overall I thought this was a nice updated take on the greatest hero created. It modernizes him to fit in with the times, it fits a lot of classic stories into the movie, and delivers a lot of action and character. While it falls flat in some areas, there are some that breathes new life into the characters and makes for a more rounded story.

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Doctor Who- Day of the Doctor Review

January 8, 2014

Due to work commitments and scheduling, I won’t have as much time to writing blog entries celebrating the action adventure, science fiction, fantasy, anime, video game, nerdy, geeky stuff that I love. I am going to try and get as much adventure watching as I can and comment on all those fantastic things that we all come to love and enjoy. For now, I hope to write at least every other week on something that I have recently watched or am rewatching for the millionth time.

To start off this year, I watched two “Doctor Who” episodes. I did not want to venture outside as I was also a bit under the weather. So I watched these episodes with great interest and happiness.

“Doctor Who” has reached a milestone as one of the longest running TV shows ever broadcast. Sure there’s a long 16 year gap, where there wasn’t any live action shows, but like “Star Trek,” it remained popular through repeats and other media, like radio and books.

This passing year marked the 50th Anniversary of its debut. A time traveling fantasy showcasing history, science fiction, and drama, it was meant to be an entertaining children’s show. It has exceeded this and has become a world-wide phenomenon.

“Day of the Doctor” marks the time traveling Doctor worst day, and how he manages to change this with the help of the past, present, and future selves. It can be a little confusing, or ‘timey whimey’ to follow, but it is a satisfactory yarn that I wish was a little bit longer, more grand, and epic. Not that it wasn’t, I wanted it to be bigger than it was.

John Hurt plays the “War Doctor” during the time in the Doctor’s life where he fought for Gallifrey against the Daleks in the Time War. It was he who was responsible for the destruction of Gallifrey and all of its people, along with the Daleks. He carried this horrible responsibility and memory for a long time.

For the present incarnation of the Doctor as portrayed by Matt Smith, he reunites with his “Impossible Girl” companion Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) for another adventure, when they are suddenly taken by UNIT (Unified Intelligence Taskforce) led by Kate Lethbridge-Stewart (Jemma Redgrave), daughter of the Doctor’s friend Brigadier Allistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart. They are asked to investigate a strange issue at the National Gallery. The Doctor’s ship, the TARDIS, is air lifted by helicopter to Trafalgar Square, with him and Clara in it.

At the National Gallery, they are presented artifacts belonging to Elizabeth I, who put the Doctor in charge of the Undergallery, a stash of relics that she deemed too dangerous for public consumption. This includes a three dimensional painting of Gallifrey’s  city of Arcadia. This depiction is of the last day of the Time War where the planet was destroyed by the Daleks.

Kate brings the Doctor to view other three dimensional paintings, where apparently something escaped from the painting. The Doctor was analyzing the mystery at hand when a time vortex appears in the room. The Doctor becomes frustrated at the sudden appearance of the vortex, recalling the events that lead to it, and tosses a reclaimed fez into the vortex, then following shortly after.

Meanwhile, back in time, the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) romanced Elizabeth I (Joanna Page), believing she was in fact a shapeshifting alien known as a Zygon. Instead it proved to be his horse that was the alien. While trying to elude the Zygon, the Doctor encounters a pair of Elizabeths.

While trying to figure out who the real Elizabeth is, a fez comes through the time vortex that appears before them. Shortly afterwards, the Eleventh Doctor appears. The two Doctors trade pleasantries as they come to realize who they both are. They dismiss the Elizabeths in order to solve the puzzle of why they are together in the same time period. The War Doctor appears, looking for the Doctor.

It turns out that the War Doctor had stolen one of Gallifrey’s most dangerous weapon, “The Moment,” a sentient weapon of mass destruction. The Moment takes on a familiar avatar, the “Bad Wolf Girl” (Billie Piper) who is molded after the Ninth and Tenth’s Doctor’s companion Rose Tyler. She takes the War Doctor on a journey into his future self to see what happens as a result of the decision that he was about to make.

The three Doctors are taken prisoner by the Zygon version of Elizabeth I and imprisoned in the Tower of London. While trying to figure out a way to escape, they bicker amongst themselves on the many issues of their lives. During an idle moment, they figure out a way to do a massive calculation that would deconstruct the prison door.

Meanwhile, Kate and Clara go to the Black Archive, a repository of all the alien technology that has been encountered  and collected that has an association with the Doctor. They hope to use a Vortex Manipulator to send someone back in time to rescue the stranded Doctors.  We also learn that the Zygons are the invading force that had burst out of the paintings through some sort of event. They are massing and are trying to force a takeover of the Black Archive.

Clara manages to escape from the Zygons and rescue the Doctors, noting that the door was unlocked all the time. Elizabeth I turns out to be the real one, manipulating the remaining Zygons to lock themselves away in the stasis cube created three dimensional paintings. After a brief marriage ceremony between Elizabeth I and the Tenth Doctor, the Doctors and Clara return to the future to stop the invading Zygon forces taking over the Black Archive and threatening humanity.

After seeing the results of his actions, the War Doctor travels back in time to The Moment, and plans to set off the device. The Tenth and Eleventh Doctors appear planning to help him shoulder the burden. Clara is disheartened by their planned action, noting that she could not imagine her dear Eleventh could hold the immense responsibility.

This sparks a defiant moment for the Doctors, noting that they still have a chance to change the future. They formulate an audacious plan that has little chance of success, the alternative being no better. The plan is to be carried out by all thirteen versions of the Doctor.

This is by far a fantastic story of redemption for the War Doctor. John Hurt is both fatherly and hilarious, scolding his younger selves as well as still being curious and thoughtful. David Tennant and Matt Smith are a perfect pairing, playing off of each other’s characterization of the Doctor. Smith portrays him as a wily animated sort, while Tennant is both laid back and fierce. They riff off each other’s lines like musicians, both raising each other’s performances.

The story can be a little confusing- it’s a time travel show- but if you pay attention to the story and follow along as the characters explain the events that are occurring, it won’t seem overwhelming. The show does succeed in bringing all thirteen versions of the Doctor into play, although only briefly, and the way it is done is truly exciting. I wish some of the other Doctors could have interacted together in some way, but that would have been very difficult.

Having been a newly anointed Doctor Who fan, I found this hotly anticipated anniversary episode to be everything it set out to do. I only wished there was even more to it. Something to make it more beefier. I wanted it to go on even longer. At the end I hoped it blossomed into even more adventures, and in a way it does. It makes you want to see all the different adventures. With fifty years worth of television, film, radio, and other media, it’ll leave you wanting more.

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Doctor Who- Day of the Doctor

November 23, 2013

Spoilers.

As of this writing, in just a few hours, the BBC will be broadcasting the 50th Anniversary episode of this classic TV series. It is a huge milestone for any television series. I may not be able to watch it until it comes out on DVD.

Crap.

I quickly became a newly minted Whovian after watching a near marathon session of Doctor Who episodes to see what the fuss was all about. I found the stories to be charming, brilliant, mash-ups of science fiction, fantasy, history, and other bits of wibbly wobbly timey whimey stuff. The acting has been superb, with David Tennant and Matt Smith inhabiting the role of the Doctor. All the episodes that I have been able to watch shows great storytelling, and grand adventures.

The only other television show that I know of that has survived  nearly as long with such a huge following is ‘Star Trek.” They share several similarities in how the series survived and remains a tent pole in pop culture. “Star Trek” survived its initial cancellation thanks to syndicated television. It branched out into other media, movies, and spinoff TV series. “Doctor Who” also flourished in reruns and branched out into media like radio and animation. There were some spin off TV shows as well set in the same world as “Doctor Who.” There was a gap of time when the series was not being shown on TV, leaving fans disheartened that the series may never be revived. That gap lasted about 16 years until a new team bought the show into the new millennium, and with the success of the new series, it has led to this.

This hotly anticipated episode has been shrouded in secrecy, with little or no details being released until these last few weeks before the premiere. This includes the trailers for the episode, some shorts that leave several clues in the story, and some snippets of the episode itself. The trailers have been just as puzzling, showing a jumble of scenes explaining next to nothing about the overall story, only that it brings two of the incarnations of the Doctor together to render aid to the unknown one who was not worthy of the name of the Doctor.

This is a stellar event, having two of the most popular actors that have played the Doctor share the same episode. From the trailers and the bits of interviews that the two have shared, they have gotten along smashingly and had a grand time with this episode. I am a little disappointed that the other Doctors have not been announced as appearing in the episode.

Of course, that’s a big gray area.

Paul McGann, who played the Doctor in the 1996 movie, made an appearance in one of the short prequels for this episode, which shows him becoming the War Doctor. If this is any indication on what we can expect from this episode, many fans will be delighted with the story. I do hope it will be filled with surprises. I hope I am able to watch it.

Crap.

John Hurt plays the one who betrays the name of the Doctor. In Season 7’s cliffhanger of an ending, we see the Doctor enter his own timestream to rescue his companion, “The Impossible Girl” Clara Oswald. She had risked her life to save the Doctor from The Great Intelligence, a psychic entity that had a long grudge with the Doctor, and vowed to destroy him.

In leaping into his own timestream, the Doctor encounters many versions of himself, which Clara sees. There was one, who lurks like a shadow, which gave the Doctor pause. It was revealed to be one who seems to have committed atrocities that went against his principles. It was then revealed that it was the Doctor as played by John Hurt.

Whoa.

I’ve watched the episode repeatedly and am impressed with the story leading up to this. The Doctor must confront a part of his past that seems to be affecting other parts of his timeline, thus meeting the 10th and 11th versions of him. And what does his cherished companion Rose Tyler have to do with this episode? Will we see River Song show up? And will other versions of the Doctor appear? I can’t wait to see this episode! Are they going to stream it? Or do I have to subscribe to cable and get BBC America to tune in?

Crap.

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Ultimate Spider-Man

November 2, 2013
Spidey meets Thor the Frog of Thunder.

Spidey meets Thor the Frog of Thunder.

Who doesn’t like Spider-Man? In all of his incarnations, he is still a superhero who has a little bit of snark and drama to him. Taking on the responsibility that his powers bought him, he fights crime in the streets of New York City.

This take on Spider-man is a lot of fun to watch. The animation style is reminiscent of many versions of the comic book. It looks like an updated version of the 80’s “Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends.”

In this series, he is discovered by S.H.I.E.L.D (Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, Logistics Division) and recruited by Nick Fury to become a better superhero through special training. Since Spider-man leaves a wake of collateral damage in his fight with crime, Fury believes that Spidey could use his help to be a better hero.

This encourages Spidey to become a student in S.H.I.E.L.D.’s training program. His own idols, The Avengers, inspire him to be better than he is now. He works hard to improve his crime fighting abilities while being pursued by many super villains- classic ones from Spider-man’s long history.

In a twist in the story, he is teamed up with other up and coming superheroes. (Another set of classic heroes from the 70’s era of Marvel Comics.) The team of Power Man, Iron Fist, Nova, and White Tiger fight alongside Spider-man in many episodes.

Many of Marvel’s popular characters make cameo appearances and become part of an episode. The Hulk, Thor, and Iron Man make a visit in different episodes, setting off different chains of events that Spidey and his team gets caught up in.

For example, when Iron Man appears, he is on the trail of the Living Laser, a former Stark Industries scientist who became a being consisting of photons (light to you and me). Iron Man is trying to stop him from his crime spree. He takes an interest in Spider-man due to his bad dress sense and provides him his own specialized “Iron Spider” suit. Problems ensue with Spidey not being able to effectively control the suit and the Living Laser able to control both the Iron Man and Iron Spider suits.

Another episode highlights the Hulk, in which Mary Jane Watson tries to win a contest by gaining a video interview with Spider-man. Peter/Spidey does it to improve his image and to hang out with is childhood friend and crush. The interview soon becomes a disaster film when the Hulk shows up and starts trashing the neighborhood. It is quite the inventive episode.

There is a lot of action and adventure spread throughout the series episodes that I have watched so far. One of the fun parts of the show is that Spidey constantly breaks the fourth wall and starts talking to the audience, mainly to explain the plot points and make light of a given situation. There are also little cutscenes that remind me of many episodes of “Looney Tunes,” “Animaniacs,” and “Teen Titans,” where they turn a scene into something quite humorous- it is a sight gag of sorts with all sorts of different tropes found in many funny cartoons.

I really like the lighthearted fun this series takes. While there is plenty of action and drama, it is almost balanced by the in-jokes and sight gags. The dialog the characters have are fast and smart. From the jabs that Spidey and Nova take at each other, to the Zen moments Iron Fist uses to input into a given situation, the stories are smart and well written.

Many veteran actors and well known voice actors are part of the cast. This includes Clark Gregg (Agent Coulson), J.K. Simmons (J. Jonah Jameson- the same one in the Sam Raimi movies!), Steven Weber (Norman Osborn), Tara Strong (Mary Jane Watson), Chi McBride (Nick Fury), and Drake Bell (as Spider-Man/ Peter Parker). They give great voiceovers and make the characters fun and interesting.

I find the series to be a lot of fun to watch. It is a perfect blend of action, humor, and some lighthearted drama. This show caters towards the fans of the fun-lovin’ crime fightin’ antics of Spider-Man.  It is quite entertaining.

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Get Smart

October 27, 2013

getsmart

Here is another gem of a movie from my weekly visit to the local library, which has become my venue of choice for renting movies. I was interested in seeing this movie when it came out, having watched the series as a kid and being a fan of the spy spoof genre. “Get Smart” was the comedy version of more dramatic TV series such as “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.,” “I-Spy,” and “Mission Impossible.”

A send-up of the James Bond formula, “Get Smart” was the brainchild of Mel Brooks and Buck Henry. The lead spy, Agent Maxwell Smart or Agent 86 (as played by the brilliant Don Adams) was a rather exceptional spy, despite being accident prone. He is partnered with Agent 99 (Barbara Feldon) a top agent of CONTROL, a CIA-like agency created to thwart the plans of KAOS, an underground spy network along the lines of “SPECTRE.”

The television series had Max and Agent 99 go stop KAOS agents’ evil machinations. Max being a rather rigid stickler for procedure, would use his skills, naiveté, and clumsiness to help stop the devious plots at hand. There would be adventures and laughs as Max and Agent 99 carry out their assignments.

Here in this feature film reboot, Max is played by Steve Carell. Here he is an Analyst with CONTROL who monitors communications for any threats to our nation’s security. He dreams of becoming a field agent, working very hard each year in the annual field agent exam. He even lost a significant amount of weight to achieve his dream.

His skills as an analyst are often ignored by the many active field agents, with the exception of Agent 23 (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) and the appreciative Chief (Alan Arkin). Agent 23 has sort of taken Max under his wing, helping with his continued training as a field agent.  After many failed attempts, the Chief had announced that Max had met his goal and was successful in passing his field agent exams. However, he is reluctant to put Max into the field as he is CONTROL’s best analyst.

While Max is consoling himself, CONTROL’s headquarters is attacked by an unknown organization, later identified as KAOS. Max tries to stop a reprisal with the help of Agent 99 (the charming Anne Hathaway) which turned out to be CONTROL agents. With their security breached and all active CONTROL agents’ identities compromised, the Chief reluctantly promotes Max to agent status as Agent 86. He partners with the veteran Agent 99 in trailing the suspected KAOS agents.

Through Max’s analysis of KAOS communications, Max and Agent 99 follow their lead, the Russian arms dealer and KAOS agent Ladislas Krstic. The pair are pursued by a giant of a man (think Jaws from James Bond) who attempts to kill them. They parachute into Russia, narrowly escaping their assassin. They find Krstic at his mansion, hosting an opulent party. Max and Agent 99 crash the party, trying to get the needed intel of what armament and where KAOS plans to use them.

They trail the arms to a bakery in Moscow, which are now identified as nuclear weapons. Max and 99 enter the bakery, only to have Max be captured by KAOS leader Siegfried (an underused Terence Stamp) and his right hand man Shtarker (Ken Davitian). Max engineers an escape while 99 aborts her attempt to infiltrate the bakery. They meet up inside the factory, with Max setting explosives to destroy the factory, burying the nuclear warheads and halting KAOS. The pair narrowly escape the destruction of the bakery’s building.

Max and 99 return to CONTROL only to learn that the bakery that was destroyed was in fact only a bakery. Agent 23 was sent in to observe the clean-up of the bakery but no nuclear weapons were found. Max is accused of being a double agent and is arrested.

Meanwhile, Siegfried has made a terrorist demand to the Vice President threatening the US with nuclear destruction if not paid $200 billion dollars. Largely ignored, they plan to destroy Los Angeles as an example, with the President of the United States (James Caan) in town.

While in holding, Max receives a message from the giant assassin Dalip (Dalip Singh), whom Max convinced not to kill him and Agent 99 while at the bakery. The coded message notes that Los Angeles is the site of KAOS’ nuclear demonstration. Determined to save the city and stop KAOS, Max engineers his escape and races to Los Angeles to stop Siegfried from turning it into a nuclear wasteland.

I found the movie to be quite a lot of fun. Steve Carell makes for a great Maxwell Smart. He does not try to imitate Don Adams, but brings his own take on the character. Although the bumbling that Carrell does seemed forced, it is still a fine performance. I think he and Anne Hathaway seemed a little mismatched, but that was really the point of the two characters. Terence Stamp is underused as a villain. Alan Arkin does steal some scenes and is not just a background character. Dwayne Johnson makes quite the interesting character, mixing his action hero persona with comedy.

What I find lacking in this movie is the subtle humor that the TV series had. A lot of the gags in this movie seemed forced. The sight gags weren’t that funny to me and were unoriginal. Still it had a good mix of action and humor. The humor could have been done a little better.

I do like the homage it pays to the original TV series with museum pieces from the TV series, the opening credits, and a lot of the fun gadgetry used in the TV show make both a guest appearance and get an update.

This movie is a lot of fun to watch with some scene stealing here and there by Arkin and Johnson. It is a great tribute to a great television comedy. It is a fine addition to the spy spoof genre.

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Person of Interest

September 21, 2013
JIm Caveizel stars as John Reese in "Person of Interest."

Jim Caviezel stars as John Reese in “Person of Interest.”

I don’t watch TV as regularly as one might think. Most of the time, I’m glued to the computer watching and reading things online. Most of the day is made up of me sitting in front of the computer, working, reading, and watching some downloadable content or video.

When I do get the chance to watch something on the TV, it’s usually something good or interesting. I get captivated by good TV. There’s a lot of it out there.

One particular show caught my attention, as it has a lot of elements grounded in reality, with one driving force that ties all the different pieces together. Created and produced by Jonathan Nolan with J.J. Abrams as Executive Producer, “Person of Interest” is a rather unique crime drama, mixing police procedurals with spywork, with a ‘Machine’ being at the center watching over everything.

The ‘Machine’ is a creation of Harold Finch (Michael Emerson), a reclusive billionaire who made his fortune developing software and hardware for the government and the private sector. After the events of 9/11, he was tasked to create a machine that would watch over the world looking for threats to national security. Nicknamed ‘The Machine,’ it watches over every bit of video surveillance, audio communications, and events online through our telecommunication systems. It then sorts out all the data and does a risk assessment of what might be considered a threat.

Finch is nearly killed after completing the project. The device he created has the chance of being used improperly or selfishly by others. Hiding in plain sight, he uses a back door access to The Machine to get information about people at potential risk- the ones that are in danger versus those who pose a national threat. To keep his activities going unnoticed, he only receives the Social Security Numbers of those who might be at risk or the source of trouble. There is no way for Finch to tell what this person is really up to.

Having been severely injured in the attempt on his life, he hires former CIA operative John Reese (Jim Caveizel). Homeless and destitute at the beginning of the series, we are introduced to him defending himself against gang members on the subway, easily prevailing over them using his Special Forces training. Finch tracks him down and offers him the job of being his field agent in his crusade to help that one person who may be in danger as deemed by the Machine.

Reese uses his skills in surveillance and espionage to follow and learn about the ‘Person of Interest.’ While the machine is unable to tell the duo what the probable cause for the alert may be, Finch and Reese deduce the issue and uncover the plot that the person may be involved in. Both of them at times step in to assist in some form. While Reese is able to respond with tact as well as violence, Finch is able to be an ordinary man who can steer the situation towards their plan of solving the problem.

Their activities are being investigated by several agencies. The primary investigator is Detective Joss Carter (Taraji P. Henson), a NYPD detective who first meets Reese as the homeless man who beat four gang members senseless. She later follows his trail, linking him to the sometimes violent crimes that he is trying to solve. She and the others are stymied by how the ‘well dressed man in a suit’ is able to skirt the law.

She is also helped by Detective Lionel Fusco (Kevin Chapman) in these investigations, not knowing that he was a corrupt cop whom Reese threatened to be an insider for himself and Finch. Fusco would provide information that can help the duo out, while keeping the law at arm’s length.

There are others who are interested in the machine and the potential it holds. It is ‘Big Brother’ come to realization, and anyone could get their hands on it could benefit from its use. As the series progresses, we are introduced to those people and groups who try to take control or access the ‘Machine.’

I really like this series, as it has a kind of ‘Batman’ and ‘Robin Hood’ vibe to it. The heroes or leads of the story, Reese and Finch are both world weary men, both exposed to some form of the seedy underbelly of crime and corruption in some form. While Reese was a soldier and later a CIA operative, Finch was creating a dangerous device that could watch over everyone. They found each other and made a pact to help those who may need them. Both are trying to redeem themselves in some way using the Machine as a guide. In a way, it is not that far off from shows where there is a lone hero trying to save someone using resources at his or her disposal. What makes this stand out is the mysteries behind the characters and the ‘Machine.’

The plots that intertwine in the series are rather intricate, but lead to conclusions that develop the characters’ backstory, or cover the conspiracies that are a part of the series’ mythology. Each episode centers around one situation, the number that comes up, but the ongoing storylines of the characters really carry over giving them real depth. Like many shows that have a web of conspiracies at the heart of the show, it has thrills and mysteries that make it interesting and fun to watch.

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Green Lantern- The Animated Series

September 17, 2013
Hal Jordan, the Green Lantern of Sector 2814.

Hal Jordan, the Green Lantern of Sector 2814.

I’m a big fan of Bruce Timm’s productions. He made “Batman” an art deco masterpiece, with influences stemming from comic book legend Jack Kirby and the animation of Max Fleischer. His take on “Superman” is underrated. “Justice League” and “Justice League Unlimited” is what I want in a live action  TV series/movie. Timm has steered the look and feel of most of the animation of the DC Comics characters for Warner Brothers.

His latest project is “Green Lantern- The Animated Series.” The character of Green Lantern seems to have gotten the short end of the stick no thanks to a terrible live action movie. If handled properly, it has the potential to stand out a galaxy spanning adventure. Here is it handled with deft gloves and nice computer animation.

Instead of an exposition of Hal Jordan’s origin, we are sort of given the ‘Cliff Notes’ of his story and are put into the adventure. Hal is no longer a ‘rookie’ Green Lantern, but a well known one who does his best to protect Earth and maintain a relationship with Carol Farris, his employer. He is summoned to Oa, home of the Guardians, the founders of the Green Lantern Corps, for an internal investigation issue regarding his conduct, when a Green Lantern ring returns home without its wearer.

The ring belongs to a Green Lantern who patrols the outer rim of Guardian territory.  Known as Frontier Space, the presence of the Green Lantern Corps is thin. Upon discovering the ring’s owner had perished by unknown means, and others out in the Frontier are in a similar situation, Hal becomes incensed by the Guardians delay in getting help to those Guardians.

Sayd and Appa Ali Apsa, two of the Guardians from "Green Lantern"

Sayd and Appa Ali Apsa, two of the Guardians from “Green Lantern”

Someone or something is threatening this area with the execution of Green Lanterns. The indifferent Guardians are more concerned over the sectors that do need protecting. A sympathetic Guardian Ganthet shows Hal and fellow Green Lantern Kilowog their new prototype ship Interceptor being developed to take a squadron of Green Lanterns to Frontier Space.

Hal and Kilowog commandeer the Interceptor and take it to Frontier Space, much to the dismay of the Guardians. Hal gives the name Aya to artificial intelligence that embodies the ship. ‘She’ accepts the name and performs an ultrawarp to their first destination. They come to the aid of Green Lantern Shyir Rev, who was being attacked by two ‘Red Lanterns’ Razer and Zillius Zox.

This kicks off the series as we learn of the Red Lantern threat led by Atrocitus. Enraged by the destruction of his home world at the hands of the Manhunters, the original peacekeepers created by the Guardians, he seeks to destroy them and everything else that gets in his way. Fueled by rage that powers his Red Lantern energy, he hopes to make his way to Oa and confront the Guardians and crush them.

As the series evolves, we find that Razer defects from the Red Lanterns. He has anger over the death of his wife and was recruited by Atrocitus for this, but started to have mixed feelings over his actions and Atrocitus’ plans. He tries to commit suicide by threatening the Green Lanterns, but they instead capture him. Being short on resources and knowledge of the area, Razer slowly becomes a valued member of the Interceptor crew.

The series delves into several main stories of Green Lantern, the newest being the Red Lanterns introduction. The Guardians’ history is also explored, as they cover the Manhunters, and some of the back story of some of the Green Lanterns. Sinestro even makes an appearance, before he went rogue and obtained the Yellow Lantern ring of Fear. Other popular ring bearers, Including the Blue Lanterns founded by an excommunicated Ganthet, the Star Sapphires, and Orange Lanterns, of which there was only one left, who behaves an awful lot like “The Hobbit’s” Gollum.

The most sophisticated part of the story involved the Anti-Monitor, an ancient creation of Krona, an ancestor of the Guardians, who wanted to create the perfect being. The all powerful Anti-Monitor was then banished to another universe, where the inhabitants there sent him back. This version of the Anti-Monitor, compared to the comics, is more like the Manhunters, programmed to subjugate those who did not fit in with their programmed commands of order.

The story has a game changer in the betrayal of one of the main characters to the rest of the group. This change was rather drastic, but shot a lot of drama into the series. The series has many dramatic points, showcasing the bravery and loyalty to the group that you belong to, and helping worlds to defend themselves from each other and from outside influences.

After watching almost all of the 26 episodes, I found myself wanting more. This series not only showcases Hal Jordan as he was meant to be, we also learn why he isn’t the Green Lantern of Earth (or Sector 2814). It also explains how some of the other Green Lanterns came to be. It’s got great  drama, humor, and overlapping stories that expand the mythos that weren’t covered in the other animated series like  “Justice League.” It’s a pity that this series was not renewed for another season; it has the potential to be a hit for DC Comics and Warner Brothers.