Category Archives: heroes

The Cape: Pilot

NBC has a lot invested in this mid-season replacement. A lot of the comic book community, the core target audience for NBC’s failed “Heroes,” laid the blame for its failure on the one missing element that makes superheroes superheroes – costumes. Almost in retaliation, along with the continuing successes of comics properties like “The Walking Dead,” “Human Target” and Marvel’s Avengers cartoon and movie franchise (so far at least), NBC wheeled out “The Cape,” a series whose very concept revolves around a superhero costume. The pilot first aired last night, along with the second episode, and both will re-air tonight. Here are my thoughts on the pilot.

We start in the hyper-reality of the fictional city of Palm City, part Miami Beach, part Los Angeles, but all comic book gimmick with a real world spin. Yep, it’s “Heroes” with costumes. Or rather at its start, super-villains with costumes – as a masked baddie, known as Chess, blows up the chief of police in a blast of special effects that our yet-to-be hero survives.

The title sequence is hardcore comics, paneled pages similar to the original “Wonder Woman” series with a darker edge. The music by Bear McCreary is very heroic, a close cousin to both Danny Elfman’s Batman and John Williams’ Star Wars, leaving no doubt as to what kind of television event we are watching – this is a superhero show.

Our hero, Vince Faraday, played by Australian actor David Lyons, seems to be the only honest cop in Palm City. With the death of the chief of police, the police force is taken over by the ARK Corporation – running into cliché number one. Evil corporations are so 1980s, especially in the comics. Cliché number two is not so bad, The Cape is actually the comic book hero idol of Faraday’s son. An inspired concept sprinkled into a set-up we can see coming a mile away. He’s going to take on this identity to impress his son, right?

As the secret origin story of our hero progresses, I found myself getting more involved despite my objections. There’s the mysterious and invasive blogger called Orwell. And a rogues gallery is being constructed, other than Chess, there is also the near-mutant Scales with reptilian skin. I don’t want to, but my fanboy groove is getting on.

My fanboy groove was so on that when the Carnival of Crime showed up, an old comic book gimmick that was old when Stan Lee drenched it up in the early days of Marvel Comics, and was ancient when it killed the last story arc of “Heroes,” I didn’t mind at all. Faraday is now believed dead, worse than that, the public believes him to be Chess, and he’s saved by this Carnival of Crime – led by Max Malini, played by Keith “I’m cooler than Samuel L. Jackson” David.

They are a little bit Circus of Crime in their prime, a little bit “Carnivale” and a whole lot of fun. I love these guys, and would watch the show just for them. It’s twenty minutes in, and I am hooked. When Faraday takes a cape and contrives to become The Cape, it’s a bit much, but I follow where I’m led. Then Malini gives him a ‘magic’ cape and trains him in the use of it, and I see Batman Begins flashbacks. Have I mentioned I’m hooked?

Faraday takes on Scales, sort of a Killer Croc light, played by Vinnie Jones, on his first mission, and runs into Orwell, played by genre favorite Summer Glau. With her addition to the cast, the team is complete, we have our players and Faraday becomes The Cape. The end of the show gives us a taste of how things will work to whet our appetite for the rest of the series.

I gotta say I was hesitant when I started watching, but now hope “The Cape” stays around for a while. Let’s hope the ratings are up and the quality only gets better. Check it out.

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Misfits

Here in the States, the concept of the super powered drama has been tried, it just hasn’t really caught on. “Heroes” has come and gone, with a downward spiral from success to epic fail. Sure, we’ve had “Smallville,” and “No Ordinary Family” is trying, and “The Cape” is coming, but it just hasn’t really clicked yet. Across the pond in the UK it’s not only been done well, it’s been source material for more than a few successful series. They’ve had sitcoms like “My Hero” and “No Heroics” and more recently they’ve gone for young, hot and steamy with “Misfits.”

Channeling the sexuality of “Torchwood” into young probates is the twist here – add in some pseudo retro punk music and a super-power-empowering thunderstorm and you have “Misfits.” Lady Sovereign wannabe Kelly, when you can understand her cockney accent, becomes a telepath, athlete Curtis can turn back time, hot Alisha makes people crazed with sexual desire for her with a touch, shy outcast Simon turns invisible, and smartass Nathan – well, that would be telling – his power or lack of power is one of the big secrets of the first season.

The youths have depth, are realistic, and the cast is top rate. I’d enjoy them even if this wasn’t a genre show. Series one follows them as they uncover others affected by the storm and also end up killing their probation officer. Even though it sounds a bit like meteor-freak-of-the-week from “Smallville,” it never really gets that obvious. “Misfits” is fun, and thrilling, and not like anything we have here in the States. If you get a chance to see it, definitely check it out.

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No Ordinary Anniversary

A few weeks back I reviewed the new ABC TV series “No Ordinary Family,” and suggested it was on the brink of either being very good or very bad. Last night’s episode “No Ordinary Anniversary” showed marked improvement and possibly that the series was on the road to becoming something more than expected.

I had berated the new show for being an in-training superhero show rather than an out and out show about superheroes. Last night, despite the almost sitcom-like premise of the plot, it evolved. The aforementioned plot had the parents on a date celebrating their anniversary while leaving the kids at home alone, hilarity ensues. This could be the opening salvo of any 1970s or 80s sitcom, but it wasn’t.

The story very quickly became a superhero team-up while couched in the very comfortable trappings of light family drama. The Flash-like wife had to help the Thing-like husband stop a Human Torch-like villain, and even had their worlds collide as wifey got to see hubby’s superhero lair. And the battle between the ‘Flash’ and the ‘Human Torch’ was more like a real live comic book than anything we had ever seen on “Heroes.” This was indeed fanboy heaven.

I think the series has made the jump to something better, and I hope it stays this way. I wonder if costumes are the next step? Nah, that’s asking for too much…

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No Ordinary Family

This show has the unhealthy feel of a network executive deciding that ABC needs a family-style superhero series that would feed off the “Heroes” audience who were feeling betrayed by the powers that be who ruined “Heroes.” The feeling continues when it seems like they grabbed Marc Guggenheim off “Eli Stone” because someone mentioned he used to write comic books. And it doesn’t get any better when they cast veteran superhero actor Michael Chiklis in the lead, and gets even worse when he gets almost the same powers, if not the look of The Thing, his role in the Fantastic Four films.

All that said, “No Ordinary Family” is a likable, family friendly and genre friendly show. My problem with it is much the same problem I have with M. Night’s Unbreakable (a flick I love, I might add), it’s all origin and training, no superhero stuff. I want a superhero show, not a learner with training wheels, I want the hero, the guy (or gal) who can, I want to strong chin, starry eyes to root for against the bad guys. It’s what the genre is, or should be, about.

Speaking of bad guys, the villains of this piece, are one of the elements that does keep me coming back. I hate to bring it back to the failure of “Heroes,” but the bad guys being more charismatic than the good guys is not a good thing. Let’s hope “No Ordinary Family” can shake out of training phase and not submit to the “Heroes” curse.

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The Event

Seems like since the success (and fall) of “Lost,” the various television networks have been searching for the next quirky overly hyped blockbuster. There have been a lot of attempts. “Fringe” has been, at times, interesting. “Flash Forward,” also on the ABC network came the closest in my opinion, but unfortunately it was canceled before it could really start rolling.

The newest contender, and the one that wins hands down in the overly hyped category at least is “The Event.” A lot of folks tuned in for that first episode just because they had been hammered for months with constant advertising by NBC of “What is The Event?” with the weird stylized backwards ‘E.’ When the pilot aired, it was bad, except for the last two minutes.

As a matter of fact, I thought it was so bad that it was almost unintentionally funny. The flips back and forth between scenes and time frames got to be monotonous after a short while. It became a joke. If the producers were planning to do an outright parody of shows like “24” or other such one hour drama thrillers, they succeeded too well.

The hook, that last two minutes of the pilot, that dramatic special effect that comprised the cliffhanger rocked the house. It was reminiscent of the final moment of the first episode of “Heroes,” shock and awe. Two problems with that – following episodes got weaker and weaker with their cliffhangers, and much like “Heroes,” it could not top that moment. That NBC used that moment to hype the next episodes didn’t help either, especially in a world of Tivo and DVR, where that commercial spoiled it for most of the nation.

“The Event” in the weeks that followed lost much of its audience. It might be an interesting concept, but unless they keep our attention on a regular basis, I see it as the next “Heroes,” and not in a good way.

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Absolute Justice

Last night the CW aired one of the most anticipated episodes of “Smallville” ever, and it represents a turning point in the TV series. While it may be what many fans have been waiting for, the episode, “Absolute Justice,” might also be where “Smallville” finally jumps the shark.

The episode’s story has Clark, Chloe and Oliver (where is our Green Arrow spin-off already?) helping to solve the case of an assassin hunting down the forgotten and disbanded members of the Justice Society of America. It’s an Easter egg filled geekfest, and I’ll be the first to admit to a geekgasm while watching, but I wonder what regular viewers of “Smallville” thought of it. This was a solid break from the usual soap opera aspects of the show and full frontal dive into comic book land.

Yes, it was great seeing Doctor Fate in the flesh (although a taller actor would have been better) as well as seeing Stargirl, Sandman, Icicle, Star-Spangled Kid, Amanda Waller (yeah, Pam Grier!) and Hawkman come to live action life. That said I had problems with the rules to Fate’s helmet being reworked for TV. But the good far outweighed any quibbles.

We got to see Superman’s red cape (that series star Tom Welling has sworn he’ll never wear), and got two hours of spandex superhero action. We also got to see J’Onn J’Onzz not only back but repowered, green and almost in costume. And did I mention superhero action? Heck, the Stargirl/Icicle battle lasted longer than last season’s clash with Doomsday. But with this introduction of the spandex set to “Smallville” continuity, the game has changed, and there’s no going back now.

The show has gone from freak-of-the-week to an “X-Files” wannabe to a “90210” wannabe to what “Heroes” should be – but this, this just might be what makes the series jump the shark. Spandex and superpowers are conceits that comic book fans just accept, but the visual reality of said may be too much for television audiences. Time will tell.

As for me, even if this is the last season, all I have to say is bring on the superheroes!

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How to Save Heroes

The TV series “Heroes” has outlived its welcome for most of us. What started as a hopeful presentation of superheroes into mainstream dram television has now deteriorated into nonsense and derision from its own desired fanbase. In recent weeks however the series may have gotten a brief reprieve from cancellation thanks to Jay Leno forcing NBC to find five more hours of prime time programming every week. If it’s going to stay on the air however, there have to be changes. Here are my thoughts on how to save “Heroes.”

Let Hiro be Hiro. He works best as fun and powerful, not sick, not dead, not lost, not amnesiac. His exuberance with his powers, his joy at using them, and his determination to be a hero is one of the great charms of the character, and of the series.

In a similar vein, let Matt and Peter be the good guys they should be. We love them when they are on point and positive – and we want to change the channel when they are obsessive and self-doubting. We want heroes we can root for.

Enough Sylar already. A little goes a long way. The show isn’t and shouldn’t be about him. The show is called “Heroes” for a reason. And yes, I know that heroes are defined by their villains, but ease up on the guy, will you?

Enough with the carnival. Sorry, but it’s way too Circus of Crime/Brotherhood of Evil/Mutant Utopia for me. Robert Knepper is a hell of a great actor, but he’s no Magneto.

Speaking of bad guys, bring back HRG as a bad guy. He was always a better bad guy than he was a good guy. Want to give Claire some depth and edge? There you go, make Daddy back into the beast we feared in the first four or five episodes.

More Star Trek cameos would not be frowned upon. This is a good thing.

On the same subject, sort of, embrace the comic book and genre references. It’s what we love about Hiro, it’s what half of your audience is into, and look what it’s done for “Big Bang Theory.”

Get Jeph Loeb out and get Bryan Fuller back in. No, wait, they tried that…

Less season long continuity that not only feels like it was developed in the “Lost” writing sessions, but even we know they have no idea how it ends. Think like a Silver Age comic book and do single episode stories. Just a hint, single episode stories get Emmys, whole seasons don’t.

Let the good guys win every once in a while. As I said, we want someone to root for.

More superhero humanism and less superhero deconstructionism, and definitely no more emo characters. No one likes whiny metahumans.

This isn’t Watchmen. Everything doesn’t have to be so dark and dismal all the time. Be bright, be shiny, be positive – be “Heroes.”

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Get Smart 2008

Get Smart ~ It is really really difficult to screw up a “Get Smart” movie. Looking at the past attempts – The Nude Bomb in 1980 and Get Smart Again for TV in 1989 – two of the worst movies ever made, you would really have to try diligently to make something worse. Despite the shadow hanging over this film, the 2008 remake of “Get Smart” isn’t bad, it’s not bad at all.

The cast is fun. Steve Carel is a comedy genius, and has yet to fall into any of the traps Jim Carrey (who incidentally was originally cast) did when he was on top. Anne Hathaway is always a delight on screen, and her chemistry with Carel is delicious, inspiring positive comparison to the originals, Barbara Feldon and Don Adams. Always good to see Alan Arkin, and The Rock, Dwayne Johnson rules every scene he’s in. Bill Murray makes an embarrassing cameo while James Caan shows a real flair for comedy as the President. Terrence Stamp does an interesting impression as the typical Malcolm McDowell villain. Even Masi Oka of “Heroes” and Nate Torrence are fun. I wish however that Patrick Warburton as Hymie had been throughout the film rather than half a minute at the end. There is even a quick but great cameo by Bernie Kopell, who played the original Siegfried. But it’s not the cast I take issue with.

Why does this have to be a “Get Smart” movie to begin with? Name recognition? Surely not. No one who was alive when the program first aired or even when it was in syndication is among the major movie-going demographic these days. Is it to make more money for poor Buck Henry, the creator of the series? Maybe. That’s really the only reason I can see. And let’s face it, unless we count “Quark,” Buck does deserve it.

The reason I question this is because really the only weak parts of this film are the “Get Smart” gimmicks and where Carel does his bad Don Adams impression. That’s where it falters, when it tries too hard to be “Get Smart.” If you removed all of those references this would be a fairly strong but simple spy comedy. Really, if you needed name recognition that didn’t make sense to the demographic anyway, why not make it a sequel or remake of Spies Like Us? It works just as well. Worth watching, but I don’t know if I would feel good about paying for it.

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NBC’s Short List

NBC announced today their surprising new schedule for the fall, one that includes not only the new nightly primetime Jay Leno show but also their Sunday Night Football. Here it is:

Monday

8 p.m. — “Heroes”
9 p.m. — “Trauma”
10 p.m. — “The Jay Leno Show”

Tuesday

8 p.m. — “The Biggest Loser”
10 p.m. — “The Jay Leno Show”

Wednesday

8 p.m. — “Parenthood”
9 p.m. — “Law & Order: SVU”
10 p.m. — “The Jay Leno Show”

Thursday

8 p.m. — “SNL Weekend Update Thursday”
8:30 p.m. — “Parks & Recreation”
9 p.m. — “The Office”
9:30 p.m. — “Community”
10 p.m. — “The Jay Leno Show”

Friday

8 p.m. — “Law & Order”
9 p.m. — “Southland”
10 p.m. — “The Jay Leno Show”

Saturday

8 p.m. — “Dateline NBC”
9 p.m. — “Trauma” rerun
10 p.m. — “Law & Order: SVU” rerun

Sunday

7 p.m. — “Football Night in America”
8:20 p.m. — “NBC Sunday Night Football”

This rather sparse schedule, pared down by one night of football and a hour every weeknight ruled over by Leno, also includes a half-hour of “Saturday Night Live” on primetime Thursday and only one version of “Law and Order.” Noticeably missing from the schedule are shows like “Medium,” “30 Rock” and “Chuck.” I know Twitter was able to save “Heroes,” but I thought we were also able to save “Chuck” as well…

Where’s Chuck???

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Halloween Quickies


Premonition ~ When I heard the plot to this one, I thought that surely Sandra Bollock must have lost her mind – another freaky anti-logical time travel story? With the bad headache of The Lake House fresh in my mind I tentatively watched this one, and was pleasantly surprised. While traveling backwards and forwards in time, a young housewife and mother attempts to right her life which has become a tragedy. This is a smart thriller and worth seeing.

Mystery of the Wax Museum ~ Fay Wray is just a delight as fast-talking spunky reporter Charlotte Duncan in this two-strip Technicolor horror classic from 1933. Lots of fun and spookier than any of its rip-offs and remakes. This is the real deal.

Angel Heart ~ This flick made quite a bit of press when it came out because of the nude scenes featuring Lisa Bonet, at the time a co-star of the top ten “The Cosby Show.” If memory serves, it lost her the gig. Beyond that, we have Mickey Rourke, back when he could act and wasn’t quite so sleazy – pre-Barfly in other words, along with a phoned-in performance from Robert DeNiro in a film written and directed by Alan Parker. The trick to enjoying this movie is to not pay too much attention. If you do pay attention, it becomes predictable and very transparent, and it’s a long way to the end. Worth seeing once, but that’s about it.

The Happening ~ I’m a huge M. Night Shyamalan fan, but this 2008 film is nothing but a disappointment. I still think he’s one of the best writer/directors working in the business, just he maybe got lazy or perhaps was knocked in the head or something. The Happening, while showing off M. Night’s direction and cinematic skills, is nothing but a derivative rip-off/homage of Hitchcock’s The Birds only with plants enraged at man rather than our feather friends. The similarities are shockingly unoriginal and I have to admit I’ve lost more than a bit of respect for M. Night. He’s better than this, or at least I thought he was.

Near Dark ~ A very young Adrian Pasdar, Nathan Petrelli from “Heroes,” is the naïve lead in this 1987 vampire flick written and directed by Kathryn Bigelow – the woman behind Blue Steel, a film solidly in my bottom ten. Near Dark must have been quite innovative when it came out, but now it feels dated, and yes, a bit cliché.