TV REVIEW : Netflix’s LUKE CAGE Season 1 Episode 1-13 by Cheo Hodari Coker




Well I’ve just finished watching the 13th episode of Netflix/Marvel Studios LUKE CAGE, and I have to say… I loved it. Full stop. Show runner Cheo Hodari Coker manages to in many ways do the impossible, and take a character already spotlighted in the JESSICA JONES series, and whose origins are the milieu of the Black Action or Black Agency film of the late 60s and 70s (mislabeled under the derogatory misnomer of Blaxploitation) and with him tell a rich, evocative, exciting, deeply layered cultural and historical and prescient love letter, to a place, Harlem, New York, and to an idea of local determination, and local agency, and self love, and colored love, and Black love in the age of Ferguson.



Or you can just look at it as a great action/drama series, set in the wonderfully expansive universe of Marvel shared superhero universe.🙂.



But what has exemplified the Netflix/Marvel collaborations to date is how grounded they are in a world not so dissimilar from our own. The gritty street level nature of DAREDEVIL’s 1st season, and ground breaking fight choreography, and fantastic writing made for a justifiably lauded 13 hours of television. (lost a bit in its less cohesive and interesting 2nd season)



LUKE CAGE takes that to another level, in being a show that is as much about cultural signposts and idioms that define us, as it is the ‘A’ story of conflict and resolution. The literary and historical and musical references are not just littered throughout the story, they help define the scope of the character and the scope of the neighborhood that this story takes place in. A man is the things he loves, the things he reads, the things he listens to, the heroes that inspired, the places that mattered, and immediately in one episode Coker defines LUKE CAGE the character and the series in broad strokes, that for me reverberate deeply.



The first two episodes floored me in how good and rich and beautiful, they are. Coker here hitting, for me, the conversations I have in my soul and my head, Chester Himes, Walter Mosley, Denis LeHane, George Pelecanos, Donald Goines??? Come’ on Son!!! Kenyatta??? Those few strokes and I knew this was a writer with a deep love and understanding of genre fiction, and those who make it.




But it’s more than name dropping, our influences define us, and define our world, and define who we care for, so immediately they make us part and parcel of this story that Coker and his team of writers tell. It’s a beautifully structured 13 hours of television, in that the first 6 episodes are very much their own chapter. You could bundle those 6 episodes up and have a great season.


Episode 7 feels like a swerve, very much like a start over, so if you rush into it, not recognizing that peak at the end of 6, that culmination, it’s going to feel stretched out. One of the possible dangers of binge TV… you have to pace yourself.


Take a break after episode 6, let that sink in. It is very much, in comic book terms, the end of the first trade paperback or story arc. Episode 7 begins the 2nd story arc, so you have to go into it not rushing to a conclusion, but gearing up for the start, because start it does. As everything from the first arc gets turned on its head, and new major players break on the scene. It’s a jarring ride, but once it hits episode 9 its has picked up steam and by 10 is on a full sprint to the finish. Episodes 11, 12 and 13 are Brilliant.


There is a saying out there that ‘it’s not how you begin, but how you end that matters’; that saying is wrong. All of it matters. It is about how you begin, how you endure, and how you end. Cheo Hodari Coker’s LUKE CAGE does the extremely unlikely, in doing all three exceptionally well.



I want a Blu-Ray of this show, complete with Director’s and cast commentary, like yesterday. It is that good, and replete with episodes you want to go back to and know more about.



And I have to say it’s wonderful to see here in 2016, that TV is making great strides to not be exploitative, and to have shows where you can have more than a token number of characters of color.


 luke-cage-poster-claire-temple luke-cage-poster-misty-knight


One thing I love about LUKE CAGE, particularly about the 2nd half (I love the first half as well) is it is so wonderful to see 6 beautiful women of color in major speaking parts, taking center stage in moments of strength and weakness, and owning the stage. It’s so rare to see a three shot of powerful, beautiful Black women in uplifting, exciting, dramatic, heroic material. It’s non-existent in Hollywood but thankfully, through great show-runners of color, and the success of shows such as BEING MARY JANE and EMPIRE is becoming finally available on the small screen. And the same love extends to being able to see multiple men of color in powerful, uplifting, heroic roles.



And the appearance of Method Man, and that song… Amazing. This series in addition to a DVD/Blu-Ray, must release a sound track, because in addition to the songs, the score for some of the episodes… is stunning.



I’ve recently become addicted to listening and purchasing scores, and LUKE CAGE has a world class score.



Now, is the series perfect ? No. I thought episode 3, they had a real opportunity to do an action sequence as talked about as DAREDEVIL’s hallway fight, but the director/fight coordinator wasn’t up to it. You’ll know the scene when you see it, it’s perfectly fine, but never rises above fine, when it should have been spectacular. And it’s a different show from DAREDEVIL , so the action will be different, I get that, but you can still do different and STUNNING.


Also, my problem with a character like Luke Cage, is the same one I have with a character like Wolverine, just because you can stand there and take being shot by a hail of bullets, doesn’t mean you want to or have to.



Luke Cage’s character (minor spoiler ahead) is revealed as a former police officer, former Recon soldier, former Prison MMA Fighting champ, former Boxer, all this to say… HE CAN FIGHT. So speed the dude up! Rather than standing there and waiting for someone to unload a clip on you, he should be disarming them and wrapping the gun around their necks before they can get off a shot. Especially since ricochets can kill just as well as any other bullet. I understand visually it’s an exciting thing to depict, but it should be the exception for talented filmmakers, not the rule. When he is shielding people from gunfire, sure… let the bullets fly. But in combat mode he should be disarming these guys before they get a shot off. Particularly later in the season that attitude would have made for exciting sequences.



So that was another issue I had. However, the sequences do improve as the series progresses. Plus it’s not a show that is about fisticuffs like DAREDEVIL, as much as it is about the fight for a soul of a neighborhood. And that tale it tells expertly.



It is a superlative 13 hours of television, and all involved should take a bow. Cheo Hodari Coker has made not just a great Netflix series, but a great television show, and the one to beat as my favorite show of 2016.


Marvel's Luke Cage

Marvel’s Luke Cage

And among the Netflix shows so far where do I rank it? It’s much better than DAREDEVIL Season 2, which was good, but not great, it edges out JESSICA JONES, which was great, and it battles it out with DAREDEVIL Season 1 for the top spot. DAREDEVIL Season 1 which was clearly the best show of 2015, outdoes it in terms of action, a definite A of a show.



However I have minor quibbles with it, like I didn’t like the loss of Ben Urich, I found the character of Karen page annoying through most of it, the character of Matt Murdock was a bit unlikable, and the last episode it failed to stick the landing with an unimpressive looking costume, and just a bit of a dour ending. So those nitpicks, are the reason LUKE CAGE edges it out, and gets a big A+ grade from me. Its story and characters for I want to revisit… often.



Final Verdict: Seminal, Must Watch TV! Will appeal to fans of mystery novels, especially fans of Chester Himes or Walter Mosley, or fans of movies such as TROUBLE MAN.


If you are not a fan or are made uncomfortable or nervous or have unexamined issues with women of color, you probably will have an issue with the later episodes.


‘The fault lies not in our stars, but in ourselves.’ Brother, it always does.🙂.


But for the rest of us who watch the series, LUKE CAGE is phenomenal television at its best.


Netflix Series of the Month : LUKE CAGE by Cheo Hodari Coker! Report card on Episodes 1 to 8!

The long awaited third Netflix/Marvel series, LUKE CAGE, has launched, and helmed by relative unknown show runner, Cheo Hodari Coker, eight episodes in and I’m LOVING IT!!!

Here’s a minor recap of the eight episodes seen to date. It’s relatively innocuous comments, but to cover my bases I will say minor spoilers ahead, if you haven’t seen the episodes. But really I don’t think it spoils anything. But if in doubt, watch the episodes first.

Episode 1 and 2 written by Cheo Hodari Coker and directed by Paul McGuigan are exceptional. As strong, if not stronger of a start than the previous Netflix entries. It’s really some fantastic, rich, long overdue writing that touches on everything from Crispus Attucks to Walter Mosley to Dennis Lehane.

Episode 3 is good but I have minor quibbles with it. The first 2 episodes sets up Luke Cage as someone who doesn’t curse and doesn’t like profanity, so his going into a battle listening to a profanity laden rap song seems questionable.

Also the Director has the chance to make a pivotal action scene to match the wonderful episode 3 highlight of the DAREDEVIL season 1, and misses a mark with a pretty unremarkable action sequence. However the remaining episode, good dialogue, nice twists, and a literally explosive ending keeps this episode in the winner category.

Episode 4 is FANTASTIC. An excellent origin story. Superlative story

Episode 5 is FANTASTIC! Yes!

Episode 6 Wonderful wrap-up. If this was a 6 episode season it would rock! In many ways this is the end of the first story arc, if this was a comic trade-paperback. And episode 7 begins the 2nd arc.So you should really approach starting the 7th episode, after a small break, like you are starting a new story arc.

Episode 7 – Fantastic score highlights this episode. Probably the best score of any of the episodes. A fantastic origin story, this time for the antagonists. What makes a great hero, is a great villain. And this episode shows you the roots of two of them. One of the best episodes!

Episode 8 – The machinations against Luke tighten as his life, and the lives of those around him come tumbling down. Another engrossing episode, that I was thoroughly entertained by from beginning to end.

3/4ths done and I think this series is a Home Run. I like it much better than Daredevil Season II, and have to wait to see if it sticks the landing… to see if I like it as much as DAREDEVIL Season 1 and JESSICA JONES.

The Marvel/Netflix juggernaut continues to be, like Luke Cage, bullet-proof.🙂


Best Singer of the Day (And beyond): Mary Afi Usuah

I was on a spaghetti western kick today, looking for recommendation of the best Western and Spaghetti Western soundtracks, and by fits and starts I found myself getting completely sidetracked. I followed one of those offshoots to an album called 20 BEST CLASSICS EVER : FEMALE VOICES IN ITALIAN SOUNDTRACKS.

It was okay, peppered with songs from a varied assortment, from Sophia Loren to Grace Jones. I found it largely unexceptional save for one song called COWARD by a singer I had never heard of before.

The arrangement was exciting and unconventional, and her voice, sultry, supple, and seminal. Full of power, and gradiations, and range, and the breadth of the human experience. I found the lyrics wanting, but her voice,… she sang like a star looking to tell you what beauty it had seen, before exploding.

This unknown singer’s name was Mary Afi Usuah, a Nigerian sonstress rising out of that tumultuous age of civil and colonial revolutions. Musicians of the age knew her, knew her power of voice and spirit, and she backed up some of the best of the period from Led Zeppelin to Duke Ellington, however larger public recognition eluded her as the Nigerian/London/Rome and Naples trained Usuah, released only two album’s during her 13 year touring career.

I’m listening to that 1975 debut Album now, EKPENYONG ABASI. Largely in Nigerian, there are also songs in English. The album, beyond her beautiful voice, has some masterful playing/rhythms.

The debut is followed up by her 1978 album AFRICAN WOMAN. Both have thankully finally been reissued in CD and Vinyl after having been forgotten for decades. The great Mary Afi Usuah died before seeing these re-releases, but thankfully her music and her name is out there for a new generation to love and be inspired by. Snap these up while available.

Highly Recommended!!

Ekpenyong Abasi CD

African Woman

Beyond these two albums Ms Usuah has some fantastic singles sung in italian. She is only listed as Mary Afi for these releases. Well worth hunting them up on Amazon Music or Spotify.

Surprise of the Day : TATE on Amazon Prime and DVD

The thing I like about Amazon Prime, and that sets it apart from Netflix is how deep its library of classic and obscure movies and tv shows goes.

It’s a wonderful Rabbit hole of films and TV shows that have been unseen in many cases, since their airing.




TATE I discovered this morning. Its episode HOMETOWN is the pilot of a series that, despite excellent casts and scripts, only lasted 13 episodes..

Filmed in 1960, the show is set almost a 100 years earlier to right after the civil war, and stars a one-armed vet, and an ornery but honest sheriff,  who must hold the line in a town set against them.
Amazon Prime only has the first episode, but what an episode. Watching it in 2016 for the first time, it is just gripping television
I liked it so much that I picked up the entire 1960 series on DVD!
If you are similarly moved, you can get it here:

Tate Entire Series DVD


Deputy:    I got a wife and family, Morty!

Sheriff:    You took your pay in the summer.

                     Now it’s winter.

                     You either in it, or crawl out of my sight!

                     I SAID CRAWL!

“Even with introspective, personal-story scripts from the always excellent Fink and good casts populated by James Coburn, Royal Dano, Robert Culp, Louise Fletcher, Robert Redford, Paul Richards, Martin Landau, Leonard Nimoy, Warren Oates, Peter Whitney, Chris Alcaide, Cathy O’Donnell, Pat Breslin, Mort Mills, Ted DeCorsia, Julie Adams and others, the 13 episodes of the surly gunfighter failed to catch-on with viewers, finding strong opposition from “I’ve Got a Secret” on CBS and “Wednesday Night Boxing” and “Hawaiian Eye” on ABC. Sponsored by Kraft, the series ended September 21 and Como returned to his time-slot in October ‘60.

Akin to the best of “Have Gun Will Travel”, “The Westerner”, “The Loner” and “The Rebel” scripts, “Tate” deserves a second viewing (if not a first if you missed it in ‘60) as an overlooked western gem.”


GRAPHIC NOVEL Corner : This Week’s 17 MUST OWN Graphic Novels or Collected Editions!!

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Shang-Chi: Master of Kung-Fu Omnibus Vol. 1 (Marvel Omnibus: Shang-Chi Master of Kung-Fu)

Shang-Chi: Master of Kung-Fu Omnibus Vol. 2

Deadly Hands of Kung Fu Omnibus Vol. 1

S.H.I.E.L.D.: The Complete Collection Omnibus

The Uncanny X-Men Omnibus Volume 1 (New Printing)

The Uncanny X-Men Omnibus Vol. 2 (New Printing)

The Uncanny X-Men Omnibus Vol. 3

Uncanny X-Men Omnibus Vol 3 Variant

X-Men – Volume 2 Omnibus (Marvel Omnibus)

The Fantastic Four Omnibus Volume 1 (New Printing)

The Fantastic Four Omnibus Volume 2 (New Printing)

The Fantastic Four Omnibus Volume 3

The Mighty Thor Omnibus   [MIGHTY THOR OMNIBUS] [Hardcover]

Fantastic Four by John Byrne Omnibus – Volume 1

Captain America by Jack Kirby Omnibus (Marvel Omnibus)

Werewolf by Night Omnibus

The Avengers Omnibus Volume 2


Averaging almost $100 a book, no one is going to confuse Marvel’s Omnibus line of high quality, oversized chronological reprints of their most popular and coveted books with cheap.

But for those with a fondness for these four color adventures of yesteryear these collections are a definite boon and a must have. Collecting between 20 and 40 issues of comics, including the letters pages for some, roughly 600 to 1200 pages of comic goodness, the cost is a deal compared to trying to get these issues individually, especially considering in some cases… original issues can run thousands of dollars.

And while these are reprints, they are reprints offered in a quality, oversized format signifigantly superior to the original cheaply produced issues.

From Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s game changing work on the FANTASTIC FOUR (collected in 3 Omnibuses) to Doug Moench and Paul Gulacy’s seminal work on MASTER OF KUNG FU (70s Kung Fu and Spy Goodness at its best! To be collected over 4 volumes) to the gold standard of comic craft with Chris Claremont and John Byrne and Paul Smith’s THE UNCANNY X-MEN , these are the books and runs… that are deserving of this top of the line production!

Any of the 17 books listed, sell themselves, as noted by how quickly and often these pricey books sellout. Don’t sleep on these 17 books. Get your issues before they become unavailable or prices go up!


Tell em HT sent ya!!


LUCIO FULCI : BEYOND THE BEYOND! A Critical Reassessment! His 7 Best Films!

The Roman born Director Lucio Fulci when remembered today is primarily remembered for his his schlock and gore filled horror films of the 80s such as THE BEYOND, HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY, ZOMBI 3, which is a crying shame, because these were the lowest common denominator films of a filmmaker reduced to making dreck to make a paycheck, rather than his films of the  late 60s and throughout the 70s that can be considered his artistic passion projects.

His film-making and use of the camera in this period was ground breaking and incredibly influential, and his best films remain among the best of their respective genre.

From 1966’s MASSACRE TIME (an early inspiration and precursor to the dove filled blood ballets of John Woo) to 1978s rarely seen SILVER SADDLE, was a twelve year period of unbridled creativity  and staggering experimentation, and contain not only Fulci’s best films, but some of the best films by anyone during the period, and films that stand the test of time.


Here without further ado our Fulci’s best films and essential films for any true lover of cinema:


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PERVERSION STORY AKA ONE ON TOP OF THE OTHER – Don’t let the salacious poster fool you this is a MAGNIFICENT film. It’s a reworking of a more well known film, a classic film by one of the world’s most respected directors, however I have to say… I prefer this Fulci film. It is an unjustly little seen masterpiece, beautifully shot, and deserves a great and feature rich Blu-ray disk. Fulci’s best film.


In second place I put PSYCHIC, just adore this film.


I follow that up with his LIZARD IN A WOMAN’S SKIN and DONT TORTURE A DUCKLING solidly in 3rd and 4th place.

SILVER SADDLE in 5th place, is the best of Fulci’s three westerns which says a lot. As it beats out the praised MASSACRE TIME in 6th place. (FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE does not make this best of list. It’s overlong, and I can do without its denigrated and stereotyped Black character. But its distasteful parts aside, it remains, like all of his wide-screen films… beautifully shot.)

BEATRICE CENCI, in 7th place, is the director’s own favorite film, his attempt to make a serious Fellini level film, and its poor critical and commercial response was a blow the Director never truly recovered from. The film is solidly good if not great. But definitely deserving of a watch. It’s a solid B/B-.

And those are Fulci’s seven best films, and are must watch films for anyone desirous of the best of Euro-cinema of the period.



1966’s Massacre Time – This film was the one to put Fulci on the genre/world map. One of the earliest of the Spaghetti Western craze, and one of the best. This is an ultra violent flick, that shows off Fulci’s adeptness and creativity in staging action scenes. You can definitely see in this film with its gravity defying blood laced shootouts and its prevalence with doves, a clear inspiration and precursor to the later ‘blood ballet’ films of John Woo. Made during the glory days of the spaghetti western genre (roughly 1966 to 1968) MASSACRE TIME stands out as being one of the most extreme of these extremist westerns.


More detailed reviews to come next installment!

Best current TV Show : BBC One’s and Hulu’s MUSKETEERS!!


MUSKETEERS courtesy OF BBC One and currently available on Hulu is far and away my current favorite show. From series creator and main-writer Adrian Hodges comes this wonderful reworking of Alexandre Dumas perennial classic, THE THREE MUSKETEERS. Perhaps outside of Shakespeare and the Bible, the work of Alexandre Dumas (the son of the Black Giant, The Black Devil, Napolean’s greatest general, Thomas Alexandre Dumas) has been the most adapted into film of any body of work.

Napolean’s Greatest General

–Olivier Pichat’s portrait of Alexandre the Elder

And with good reason, its themes of heroism and villainy, liberty and tyranny, corruption and honor, love and lust, are timeless, and its characters… iconic, and its swashbuckling action lends itself to the cinematic.

I’ve seen many of the films, and a few different TV shows, seeking to adapt the work of this most brilliant of France’s writers (a writer whose work was infused with a pride in his father, and his heroic exploits) and unfortunately none of the adaptions, none of them, ever refect the rich Haitian, and Black, and African, and Moorish nature not just of the writer, nor of the inspiration for these stories… his father, but of a France and Spain and an Europe that was teeming with a melting pot of a people… a rich vibrant stew of exslaves, freemen, and emissaries from distant lands.

So adaptions have always felt for me lacking, due to this sense of a fiction, less rich than the facts, this lack of any characters of color. Which is no great plot, it is infact an extension of Dumas himself writing for a mainstream audience, so the grestest mass of france could see themselves in his writing.

And so finally 172 years after Alexandre Dumas first wrote of his d” Artagnan and the Three Musketeers (serialized in the Parisian paper Le Siecle) in Adrian Hodges MUSKETEERS we finally get a Black Musketeer, played awesomely by Howard Charles. And on top of that you get a multicultural France, sprinkled with people of color.

In many ways I find the BBC One Adaption superior, because it takes risks in terms of ethnicity and politics that are, if not completely absent, dialed down, in at least the English translation of Dumas THREE MUSKETEERS. But the current adaption appeals to a 21st century audience, the original had to appeal to a 19th century audience, and be published.

“In those times panics were common, and few days passed without some city or other registering in its archives an event of this kind. There were nobles, who made war against each other; there was the king, who made war against the cardinal; there was Spain, which made war against the King. Then, in addition to these concealed or public, secret or open wars, there were robbers, mendicants, Huguenots, wolves, and scoundrels, who made war upon everybody.”
—THE THREE MUSKETEERS by Alexandre Dumas

I really think the series, wonderfully speaks to a little bit of the ‘truth is stranger than fiction’ lives of the Alexandres. The wonder of their lives, the height of their challenges, the magnificence of their victories. You get just a smidgen of this in the new series, but its enough… to finally allow me to completely embrace this show.

That and the fact the writing in the series is great, the direction is great, the performances are great, and the action is fun and swashbuckling. I love this show.

The third season has wrapped up, BBC says it is the last season. Hopefully Netflix will pick this up for a fourth season. But whether or not they do, for my money they have left us with the definitive version of Alexandre Dumas’ MUSKETEERS. (At least until Carl Franklin releases his version of the THREE MUSKETEERS, with multiple musketeers of color🙂 )

I am going to buy all three seasons, because this is a series, (much like the 80s ROBIN OF SHERWOOD that is also the definitive treatment of that property) that deserves to be always readily available; whether or not you have an internet connection.

Highly Recommended!




Musketeers, The (BD) [Blu-ray]

Musketeers, The: Season 2 (Blu-ray)

Musketeers, The: Season 3 [Blu-ray]