Episode recap: Gotham S.1, Ep. 3 — The Balloonman


balloonmanGotham’s “The Balloonman” takes a much different tone than prior episodes—  You can almost see the visible growing pains as it flexes, to find its footing within the market of genres.  It is almost as-if the bloat of Gotham is weighing heavily upon the FOX’s executives’ and producers’ shoulders.  It is solidly placed, but they are still beginning to show signs of television fatigue.  That careful balance between cop show and comic book show still hasn’t been fleshed out properly by Gotham, but it stretches to get closer still with “The Balloonman.”

“The Balloonman” is the first episode to hit home on the episodic nature that Gotham needs to get into.  Like I’ve mentioned before, Gotham is struggling to appease comic book fans and television goers and—for granted—Batman is a force to reckoned with.  The iconic Caped Crusader has spawned countless successful media properties over the course of several decades and comic book-wise it continues to reach the top of the charts in terms of sales and accolades.  However, how do you make a series about Batman not be about Batman, and still keep fans coming back for more each and every week?  You make it a cop show centered-around the GCPD.

Gotham begins to hit its cop show stride with “The Balloonman.”  It begins to break away—albeit just for a moment—from the disjointed campiness of past installments, “The Balloonman” tries to shake its identity crisis by picking a formula and sticking to it.  Focusing on a criminal that is (you guessed it) attaching balloons to ‘legitimate’ criminals and sending them sky high to their deaths is more-interesting than past villains, merely because Jada Pinkett Smith’s overacted portrayal of Fish Mooney isn’t involved…anything without her is better.

However, even with the inclusion of a minor criminal that draw the attention of GCPD for just a moment is better than before, but it is still…well…Balloonman.  The episode tries to embrace a cop drama, but it is still executed rather poorly.  I praise the effort, but for Gotham to survive it needs to take a creative cue from similar supernatural cop dramas such as ABC’s ForeverForever takes a cliche premise, but back it up with a clever slant and an episodic quality that draws audience members for an hour-long, twisty and clever journey through the investigative process.

This is what Gotham needs to be.

The writing for “The Balloonman” is fairly straight-forward and there isn’t even an attempt at providing a feint or a ‘food for thought’ moment for the audience  The writing belittles fans in its simplicity, and if you are up to date on your actors and their respective appearances it will be quite easy for you to immediately spot the non sequitur…and thus the Balloonman.

Even though the writing is lackluster, I do appreciate the angle that they are trying to take, more-so than a superhero epic that is forced to exclude Batman due to the premise.  In my opinion, for Gotham to survive and be a multiple spanning series it desperately needs to become a ‘cop show.’  It needs to invest in providing in depth investigations with surprises and unusualness, all the while focusing on the character growth and camaraderie of Detective James Gordon and Harvey Bullock.

Unfortunately, at this juncture, television shows such as Arrow, The Flash, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. are doing it better.  If you’re inclined to catch a superhero show to fill in the time between the films, check out the aforementioned shows, because Gotham isn’t cutting it…yet.

(SOURCE: Episode recap: Gotham S.1, Ep. 3 — The Balloonman)

Episode recap: The Flash S.1, Ep. 1 — The Pilot


The Flash - PilotI have never been so excited to watch the pilot of a television series.  And, to be fair I don’t usually get caught up easily in the hype of television.  Network marketing campaigns try to pander to universality, but even with this in mind I never have been so anticipatory for a ‘fresh-out-the-gate,’ new series.

I am a comic book nerd, and like all hobbies…I have my favorites.  As much as I love the CW’s Arrow, I was a neophyte to the topic.  Till recently, I had not read many Green Arrow graphic novels.  He just wasn’t a character that I was interested in at first.

However, the Flash (specifically Barry Allen) has always been one of my favorite comic book characters.  I love the lore and I have read nearly every Flash comic since 1985’s Crisis on Infinite Earths, so when the CW announced a television series based on the Scarlett Speedster I was ecstatic beyond belief.  Once the mid-season finale of Arrow/Barry Allen crossover aired to audiences last December, the idea of a quality Flash series was proven and solidified…and I was hooked.

The Flash pilot begins with a brief introductory scene showing Barry Allen as a boy and the traumatic event that goes onto to shape the rest of his life (think Bruce Wayne expect more-hopeful in the end).  From there, the narrative springboards to the present— Starting before the conclusion of last season’s Arrow crossover.

Barry Allen has just returned to Central City and he is getting back into the groove of being back.  In stereotypical Allen form, he is late to an investigation as the acting crime scene investigator but one of the cops at the scene (and adoptive father played by the talented Jesse L. Martin) covers for him.  With only a set of tire treads and manure, Allen inevitably discovers the whereabouts of the criminals via his laboratory—  The very place in which he gets struck by lightning and doused in chemicals.

Essentially, the beginning serves as an introduction to Barry Allen, the supporting cast, and the overall aesthetic of Central City, just as any good pilot should.  The casting and writing are excellent.  Grant Gustin play a believable, young Barry Allen.  He portrays all of the little nuances of the character—  He’s clumsy, he’s perpetually late, but he has a good heart.  He tries to do good, even when he doesn’t always have the means.

The cast is rounded out by Law and Order alum, Jesse L. Martin, as Barry’s adoptive father and Central City Detective.  Tom Cavanagh plays Harrison Wells, the brilliant (but mysterious) scientist, mentor, and ultimate creator of metahumans within Central City.  The rest of the cast are primarily unknowns, but unlike FOX’s Gotham all parts are played with a sense of realization and believability.  This is especially impressive considering the nature of the show.

The writing is just as well-constructed as the casting.  It is surprising how much is packed into the pilot; the writing team took great lengths to respect the history of the character.

The pilot segues to the Flash’s origin and roughly depicts the same events that were shown at the end of the Arrow episode, Three Ghosts.  It then passes nine-months (throughout the term of his coma).  This is where the show gets interesting.  It is the first series to show metahumans— People with powers.  This is momentous for television, because in times past when they have tried to depict superheroes with powers it has come off incredibly cheesy and quite often bombed with audiences.  With the exception of Smallville, which carefully skirted Superman’s power set for years, television series’ have not dived headlong into CGI and in essence true superhero shows till CW’s The Flash.

The Flash has no qualms showing Barry running at high speeds, and the show pulls no punches by showcasing one of his primary villains right out of the gate—  An individual who also has fantastical powers.  The show does a wonderful job of introducing audiences to one of DC Comic’s greatest characters.  It holds true to the lore with only a little bit of a shake-up in terms of arrangement for television purposes, but nothing so far off the mark that it contradicts its origins.  The CGI and representation of the metahumans is superb.  Considering what the budget must-be and the risk it is to shoot a television series with a heavy reliance of individuals with superpowers the risk-reward nature is successful.

There are a ton of little Flash easter eggs and references to the Flash comics, so check out last Tuesday’s pilot episode and see if you can spot them.  Countless upon countless articles and posts could be written about all of the little facets and feats that The Flash pulled off last night, and as time permits, I will most-definitely be covering them throughout The Flash’s first season.

And, if you glean anything from this review…watch The Flash Tuesdays at 8/7c.

Stephen King’s “Revival” set to addiction, fanaticism, and the afterlife


Stephen KingStephen King has been quite prolific these past few years and if 2014 is any indication the sixty-six year old writer shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon. Besides “Mr. Mercedes” being published June of 2014, an announcement (via a “Under the Dome” video chat with the esteemed author last June) struck the Internet the detailing yet another release slated for November.

The release dubbed, “Revival,” hits upon such topics as addiction, religious fanaticism, and the possibilities of life after death. In the months proceeding King’s live chat, Scriber has released a brief abstract and rough release date for the novel:

In a small New England town more than half a century ago, a boy is playing with his new toy soldiers in the dirt in front of his house when a shadow falls over him. He looks up to see a striking man, the new minister, Jamie learns later, who with his beautiful wife, will transform the church and the town. The men and boys are a bit in love with Mrs. Jacobs; the women and girls, with the Reverend Jacobs — including Jamie’s sisters and mother. Then tragedy strikes, and this charismatic preacher curses God, and is banished from the shocked town.

Jamie has demons of his own. Wed to his guitar from age 13, he plays in bands across the country, running from his own family tragedies, losing one job after another when his addictions get the better of him. Decades later, sober and living a decent life, he and Reverend Charles Jacobs meet again in a pact beyond even the Devil’s devising, and the many terrifying meanings of Revival are revealed.

The book seems to harken to King’s roots, akin to the successful throwback novel “Doctor Sleep,” which released last year and was a direct sequel to “The Shining.” Nevertheless, these sorts of topics and particularly this style seem to be King’s bread and butter, and with age comes refinement.

“Revival” sounds more than promising, and hopefully horror fans will be delighted with King’s prose and pass it along to a friend, family member, or colleague because as everyone knows— Books should be shared. Don’t forget to check back here for more news on “Revival” as it releases.

And, speaking of sharing, share your favorite horror novels and/or your ‘must-read’ horror list of 2014 in the comments below.

(SOURCE: Stephen King’s “Revival” set to addiction, fanaticism, and the afterlife)

Stephen King’s “Doctor Sleep” Cover Revealed!


%22Doctor Sleep%22The hotly anticipated “Doctor Sleep” by Stephen King is the sequel to his immensely popular and famous novel, “The Shining.” The idea has apparently been toying around the horror master’s brain for several years now, but was not confirmed till the audiobook of “The Wind Through the Keyhole’ was released and a prologue to “Doctor Sleep” was included as a bonus. For those interested in a text version of the aforementioned “Doctor Sleep” prologue check out Stephen King and Joe Hill’s joint eBook endeavor, “In The Tall Grass” found on Amazon.com.

“Doctor Sleep” is set to release September of 2013, and until now the cover has been a closely guarded secret amongst the folks at Scribner. However, the cover has finally been released!  While you are gandering at the beautiful cover image up top, check out Cemetery Dance Publications special slipcase edition of “Doctor Sleep” by visiting their homepage and ordering now.

Although, “Doctor Sleep” is being published by Scribner, Cemetery Dance Publications has produced custom-made slipcovers for the past several King novels and has decided to included “Doctor Sleep” within this catalogue. These slipcovers add to an already great product by creating a wonderful talking point amongst friends, family, and bibliophiles.

Here is a synopsis of “Doctor Sleep”:

Stephen King returns to the characters and territory of one of his most popular novels ever, The Shining, in this instantly riveting novel about the now middle-aged Dan Torrance and the very special twelve-year-old girl he must save from a tribe of murderous paranormals.

Haunted by the inhabitants of the Overlook Hotel where he spent one horrific childhood winter, Dan has been drifting for decades, desperate to shed his father’s legacy of despair, alcoholism, and violence. Finally, he settles in a New Hampshire town, an AA community that sustains him, and a job at a nursing home where his remnant “shining” power provides the crucial final comfort to the dying. Aided by a prescient cat, he becomes “Doctor Sleep.”

Then Dan meets the evanescent Abra Stone, and it is her spectacular gift, the brightest shining ever seen, that reignites Dan’s own demons and summons him to a battle for Abra’s soul and survival.

On highways across America, a tribe of people called The True Knot travel in search of sustenance. They look harmless—mostly old, lots of polyester, and married to their RVs. But as Dan Torrance knows, and tween Abra Stone learns, The True Knot are quasi-immortal, living off the “steam” that children with the “shining” produce when they are slowly tortured to death.

This is an epic war between good and evil, a gory, glorious story that will thrill the millions of hyper-devoted readers of The Shining and wildly satisfy anyone new to the territory of this icon in the King canon.

(SOURCE: Stephen King’s “Doctor Sleep Cover Revealed!)

Review: Carte Blanche by Jeffrey Deaver


Carte Blanche (James Bond)Carte Blanche by Jeffery Deaver

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Since Ian Fleming’s death in 1964 numerous writers have taken up the task of penning James Bond novels in an effort to keep the Fleming and Bond legacy alive and well. Some of these authors have had lengthy runs that have allowed them to frame out their version of the titular character with years of careful growth, however, others have had only a mere moment to make their mark on the famous character. Suffice it to say, some of these authors have been more successful than others, because of their respective opportunities.

In particular, I enjoyed John Gardner’s James Bond series, which primarily spanned the 1980’s, as well as Raymond Benson’s more-American take on the most-British of spies.
Recently, the popular fiction author, Jeffrey Deaver, was plucked from the ranks to write the latest 007 novel and on the whole I think he does the series justice. He does not take any chances, but he does hold true to the character and the universe which I think will appease fans but in the end deny them poignancy and relevance.

Deaver begins by taking Bond and bumping him into the twenty-first Century. By doing this, Deaver effectively alters the rules and the environment to create a new stomping ground for Bond to partake in, and because of this drastic change small facets of Bond’s backstory were changed but nothing that compromises the character. Besides these few details Deaver doesn’t really change anything else about the James Bond universe. He stays fairly grounded in the lore, and merely uses the revised setting to make a contemporary tale. As far as research is concerned it probably relieved some potential stress for Deaver as well. All things considering, it is an intelligent decision.

Interestingly enough the plot takes places over the course of a single week. It is quick and seamless. Each scene transitions smoothly to the next and it rarely has slow points because of its rapidity. Also, like most (if not all) James Bond plots, it trots the globe. The introduction takes place in Serbia and finally ends in Sudan with stops in Dubai and of course the United Kingdom.

The first several chapters follow James Bond as he thwarts an Irish hit man from derailing a train and polluting the Danube. This seemingly secluded incident then traces back to the villainous Severan Hydt and a much deeper plot that Bond must unravel before the death toll mounts. Hydt has an affinity for death. He enjoys it so much that he photographs it in order to get off on it privately. Severan is truly a villainous character that fits in to Bond’s wheelhouse of world dominators to a ‘T.’

The plot takes countless twists and turns and introduces various faces; some are familiar, while others are fresh takes on espionage archetypes. In the end and in traditional Jeffrey Deaver fashion, the conclusion is not so neatly sewn up as it may seem. There are numerous twists in the last fifty pages or so, but all-in-all, the good guys win the day and Bond has something left to ponder.

Carte Blanche” is not the best James Bond book ever written, nor is it the worst. It fires on all necessary cylinders to function accordingly, but it does not go above and beyond. It doesn’t push the boundaries, and unfortunately I think it will be easily forgettable a couple years down the line. With this in mind “Carte Blanche” receives three-and-a-half stars out of five.

“Carte Blanche” is not as in depth as a John le Carré or Joseph Kanon’s novels, but it gets the job done. It is a quick read, and the characters (whether new or not) seem familiar to the reader. Deaver pays homage to Fleming, while simultaneously holding true to his own form.

(SOURCE: Review: Carte Blanche by Jeffrey Deaver)

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