Currently Listening: HOLY by Jamila Woods

Thanks to Kim Selling of Seattle’s THE STRANGER website for putting Chicago Native, Jamila Woods on my radar. In a decade where we have lost so many great voices, it is nice to know new great voices rise to fill the vacuum.

Jamila Woods is one of those voices. You can sample her singles, HOLY and BLK GIRL SOLDIER courtesy of Spotify; and if you like it as much as I do, listen to her whole 2016 album HEAVN (if you can find it).

‘Jamila Woods made one of my favorite albums of 2016, HEAVN.Intricately arranged and weeping with the weight of its own gifts, each track of that album ripped through topics like police brutalty and raising a community as a Black woman with grace and fury and light.’
-Kim Selling, THESTRANGER

Currently Watching : Richard Linklater’s BEFORE SUNRISE

‘The Answer must be in the attempt.’

I had no desire to see this film, but finally watched, it is quite a lovely film. Covering one day, one chance encounter between two people. There is something very relateable and universal about meeting someone in passing, and bridging that gap between is there or isn’t there something there.

It’s a wonderful film about those fleeting glances we have all had, followed and acted upon, and leading to something by chance begun. Here that unlikely and awkward and magical and inept circumstance of burgeoning love is told against the backdrop of one of the most beautiful of cities, Vienna, immortalized by Carol Reed’s and Orson Welles’ THIRD MAN.

It’s a wonderful way to pass an hour and a half. Watching a film about the moments that live… because of the attempt.

 

“I believe if there’s any kind of God it wouldn’t be in any of us, not you or me but just this little space in between. If there’s any kind of magic in this world it must be in the attempt of understanding someone, sharing something. I know, it’s almost impossible to succeed but who cares really? The answer must be in the attempt.” — Celine in BEFORE SUNRISE

 

Short Films of the Day : Jean-Yan Babois’ BEHIND and CHERI

BEHIND- This short does everything right initially but falls apart at the climax with a mediocre ending. Would anyone actually do what the protagonist did in that situation, and the reveal was just sub-par.

CHERI- Much better is this slow-burn 2016 short with an ending that nails the landing.

You can view both the shorts via the YOU TUBE streaming channel on either Roku or Amazon Fire. I prefer the streaming options to the YouTube website as this way you can avoid the idiotic comments that Youtube fails to moderate/cleanup. I would never recommend sending someone direct to the Youtube website.

Still don’t have a Roku or an Amazon Fire? Here are my links to the ones to get:

 

Roku Premiere+ Streaming Media Player

Amazon Fire TV | Streaming Media Player

Slim of the Day : THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN : FALL OF MAN

We have the technology.

We can rebuild him.

We can make the world’s first Bionic Man.

 

Four decades ago kids everywhere thrilled to that opening of one of their favorite TV shows, The Six Million Dollar Man starring Lee Majors as the titular hero… Steve Austin.

Well New jersey Publisher  Dynamite Entertainment since 2014 has been bringing us various slim revivals of everyone’s favorite slow motion super powered hero.

[Slim- A stapled publication, consisting of words and pictures telling a narrative in periodical format, typically monthly doses, told in scant pages in a highly portable format, with eye catching covers and interiors. Also known by the more widely used misnomer of comic books.]

Six Million Dollar Man Fall #1A

And 2016 mini-series THE FALL OF MAN written by Van Jensen with art by Ron Salas and Letters by Taylor Esposito and colors by Mike Atiyeh and Caitlin McCarthy, is the companies fourth time at bat with this property and is their most successful. As it takes place in the 80s, in a cold world, where the wall has not yet fallen. but the year is never implicitly stated; instead the time is set in inventive and satirical story beats and sight gags.

From 80s star references to a bit of lampooning of the high tech marvels of the day (Such as portable phones in the early 80s, truly monstrously sized things by today’s standards, but back then they were marvels. Same with the room sized computers that had less processing power than even your low-end laptop today); while all the while telling a crackerjack action story of betrayal, globe trotting espionage, and bionic feats of derring-do.

It’s just a fun series.

And while Ron Salas figure drawing at first strikes as merely serviceable, his use of layouts and panel composition and inventive storytelling is exceptional, as are his covers for this series. I’ve read all issues of the series to date, and they have all been exceptional and come highly recommended. 

If late to the party have no fear, as all issues are available at the link below.

Use the below link, get great books, and support this blog, as every purchase though the link, generates a couple pennies to keep this blog bringing you the best in Pop Culture finds!

Without further ado, get your issues of THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN : FALL OF MAN here:

 

Six Million Dollar Man Fall (2016 Dynamite) 1ASix Million Dollar Man Fall (2016 Dynamite) 2Six Million Dollar Man Fall (2016 Dynamite) 3Six Million Dollar Man Fall (2016 Dynamite) 4Six Million Dollar Man Fall (2016 Dynamite) 5

 

Holiday Gift Guide: The Essential Bernie Wrightson & Gustave Dore


In an America governed by those who would bury art and bury reason and bury beauty, I think the gift of Art, this holiday season, is more priceless than ever.

Here for your gift giving consideration are some of my favorite art books.

 

 

 

Doré’s Illustrations for Ariosto’s “Orlando Furioso”: A Selection of 208 Illustrations (Dover Fine Art, History of Art)

Creepy Presents Bernie Wrightson

Bernie Wrightson’s Frankenstein

The three Books have a common theme… linework. In DORE’S ILLUSTRATIONS FOR ARIOSTO’S ORLANDO FURIOSO it showcases the line work of Gustave Dore, the undisputed 19th century master of the medium.

In Dark Horse Book’s Illustrated FRANKENSTEIN, the 20th century master of line work, Bernie Wrightson provides jaw dropping quintessential illustrations to Mary Shelley’s seminal work of Horror and Science Fiction. And finally CREEPY PRESENTS BERNIE WRIGHTSON is likewise an indispensable overview of the master of pen and ink.

The three together are a welcome addition to any art lovers library!

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

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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)

 

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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. It possesses a story and characters that I want to revisit… often.

 

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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. 🙂

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED