TV Show of the Day : LUKE CAGE SEASON 2 by Cheo Hodari Coker

Cheo Hodari Coker’s 1st Season of Luke Cage was one of my favorite TV shows of 2016, right up there with the excellent Noah Hawley LEGION. They were each in their own way, game changing and ground breaking TV.

Mike Colter in Luke Cage (2016)

LEGION largely for its visuals and innovative storytelling, and Coker’s LUKE CAGE for in many ways being one of the few shows to offer a multitude of characters of colors in non-stereotypical ways, and with innovative roles, with unfettered storytelling. One of my favorite shots in the 1st season of LUKE CAGE, was four strong, upstanding women of color, captured in one great shot. Not as prostitutes, not as rappers, not as comedians,  but as heroes. Likewise their male counterparts were admirably done.

LUKE CAGE, the series, sings/rewards…  largely because of those conversation of books in the barbershop, those conversations on playwrights and writers. Those things, those conversations, that mostly uninformed people (who mainly know Blacks via the stereotypes they have consumed through mass media), would right off as preachy, or talky, or unrealistic, those are the conversations, that immediately sang for me, and clued me to the greatness of this show.

As someone who grew up in those Barbershops, those conversations are very true, to how many of us escaped the traps of the street, and found our way to something… better.

Always Forward.

If SEINFELD can be acclaimed for being, in places, a show about nothing, we should allow that same latitude to a serious show such as LUKE CAGE, that uses those seemingly frivolous nothings about the writers, and the artist, and the books, and the music; to say profound somethings.

Of All the Netflix shows, it is the only one that says something more profound, than the standard super-hero or for that matter action or drama tropes. It says something about the world outside our door, and how to meet it. Not preachy, not banal, and never losing the joy and beauty we can find, despite the dire days, and the dangerous nights.

It is the balance of crime and charm, violence and virtue, war and wit, that can sing, to those with ears. And it withstands repeated viewings better, because of all those layers you can view it on.

Cheo Hodari Coker’s LUKE CAGE is one of the best written and most innovative and ground breaking shows to come along in years for precisely this reason. It takes you the place all great writing should, beyond your prejudices, your assumptions, your comfort zone.

For my money it is one of the best of the Marvel/Netflix TV shows, right up there with the first season of DAREDEVIL. But edges it out, because I find the characters in LUKE CAGE, especially the protagonists, far more interesting and likable. DAREDEVIL’s main characters are various stages of unlikeable and annoying.

Add to that Coker’s plot has something valuable and timely and timeless to say about our world, that transcends bad guy fights good guy. There is a complexity to the storyline and the conflicts, that rewards repeated viewings.

Ten episodes in and that complexity remains for Season 2 of LUKE CAGE. It is not perfect, I can do with less Alfre Woodard, particularly her and the character of Shades getting intimate, I can really do without. I never really buy Shades attraction to Woodard’s character, and the more they try to sell it, the less it works for me. Also Alfre’s unhinged performance, while I get it.. she is Lady Macbething it up, for me it is too much. She is always in her twitches, and sputterings, always at eleven, always wildly and uncomfortably out of control, which for my own taste would have been better dialed back to 4 or 5. Also the poster for season 2 is absolute garbage, whoever came up with that poster should be fired. It is that inept of a poster. Right up there with the HANCOCK boxart and poster.

But those minor weakness aside, LUKE CAGE season 2, following strongly in the footsteps of Season 1 is crushing it; the story and performances shine, and like season 1 it has the best soundtrack of the year. Ten episodes in and I’m loving it… Grade: B+.

More to come as I watch the last few episodes.

 

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Currently Watching : 1976 Interview with Stan Lee interviewing Roy Thomas

Stan Lee and Roy Thomas, and their creations and stewardship of a small publishing house called MARVEL COMICS was very much a touchstone of my youth. So to see the two share this 1976 interview, on what is seemingly a local public access show, is just fantastic. And with current, sad talks of abuse against Stan, it is great to look back and see him in happier days. Also it is amazing how relevant the topics are and how prescient both men were of a future where comics sold outside of the monthly format, and instead in collected and hardcover formats.

A great way to spend about 28 minutes. And here is wishing improved fortune for Stan Lee, and continued great fortune for Roy Thomas.

Currently Watching : CW’s BLACK LIGHTNING Season 1 Episodes 1 -5

This is, despite some misfires, a golden age of TV. With just about every broadcast, cable or streaming channel producing quality shows.

CW after spearheading the SuperHero explosion on television, with its ARROW show, leading into a veritable universe of comic related shows, has unfortunately become a victim of its own success. Other channels buoyed by ARROW’s initial ground breaking success have followed suit, and quite frankly have surpassed what is coming out of CW. The action and fight choreography of DAREDEVIL making the once jaw dropping ARROW fight scenes, look gimmicky and sub-par by comparison.

Black Lightning Movie Poster

FLASH while filled with likable characters, gets increasingly less inspired stories each season. SUPER-GIRL after an initial strong first season, follows it up with a weak syrupy second season, that spent too much time on her Sister’s Lesbianism, which I really could not care any less about, and introducing other uninteresting characters. SUPERNATURAL jumped the shark over 5 seasons ago, and hasn’t had an engaging season since (as every season,simply plays out as watered down ou can definitely add BLACK LIGHTNING to the mix.. variations of that, And LEGENDS OF TOMORROW  is just bad on every level. Shows such as LEGION and RUNAWAYS making the CW shows look like the 60s BATMAN or GREATEST AMERICAN HERO show, by comparison.

Only IZOMBIE, currently on hiatus, has been consistently entertaining to date.

Now after five episodes you can add BLACK LIGHTNING to that list. It has the freshness and energy and charisma and captivating stories, that the other CW shows largely lack. With a great lead, excellent costars, vicious enemies, and mysteries abounding. It from top to bottom isn’t just an exciting and addictive and fun show, but also a needed one. If ARROW five years ago was the show we needed then, BLACK LIGHTNING very much, is the show we need now. Five episodes in I’m hooked, I love it. Grade: B+.

 And while the show can b e released and enjoyed anytime, I do appreciate it being released during Black History Month/Year. It touches with a deft hand on issues that still resound.

Richard Carpenter’s seminal 80’s ROBIN OF SHERWOOD may just be the best TV show of all Time

‘Nothing is forgotten. Nothing is ever forgotten.’ — Richard Carpenter’s ROBIN OF SHERWOOD

 

 

 

Richard Carpenter, no relation to John Carpenter, is largely unknown to modern audiences, however he shouldn’t be. In the 80s he created a TV show, ROBIN OF SHERWOOD, which became a surprising hit. Here in the states it was broadcast via PBS, and even watching it then, it felt mythic and larger than life. Revisiting it 35 years later, not only does the short lived series hold up as great television, those first two seasons remain the best version of Robin Hood ever conceived.

Richard Carpenter taking the traditional Robin Hood myth, and adding unheard of mystical and Moorish and pagan and Arthurian elements to it, created a show that was the crystallization of myth. Add the perfect confluence of young, hungry actors , a brilliant creator/writer at the peak of his powers, groundbreaking directors and cinematographers, led by Director Ian Sharp, that were rewriting the way action could be filmed, and a score done by Pol Brennan and hot new touring bad Clanad, and you had a show that was as mythic and forged by destiny, as the fiction it chronicled.

 

  • Michael Praed
  • Ray Winstone,
  • Nickolas Grace
  • Judi Trott
  • Clive Mantle
  • Robert Addie
  • Phil Rose
  • Mark Ryan
  • Peter Llewellyn Williams

 

The above actors were the perfect cast (thanks to Beth and Esta Charkham) to give life to Richard Carpenter’s groundbreaking mythic and mystic version of Robin of the Hood.

The writing, married to the performances, is at once eloquent and elegant; and like all great myths it is endlessly quotable and memorable. In the 35 years since, what Richard Carpenter invented for his series, the mystical elements, the addition of a Moor to Robin’s Merry Men, making Marion a vital part of the story, has been stolen by other tv shows and films, but none to any great effect. Because those were part of Carpenter’s vision, and 35 years ago he, with the exact right people, and the exact alignment of stars… gave birth to that vision.

Will someday someone make a Robin Hood series or film as good? Well they haven’t yet, but the good news is ROBIN OF SHERWOOD is available on DVD/Bluray and Streaming for a new generation to discover, and long term fans… revisit.

The first two seasons (called Set 1) are essential television. The third season (Set 2) is fun, but is not essential.

Get your fix here:

http://amzn.to/2H8TSQI

http://amzn.to/2ElZrxo

 

If you would like to try before you buy, Season 1 is available right now via Amazon Prime. But the commentaries in the Bluray’s are a clinic on film-making and storytelling, and are a must listen. As well as the other features, and interviews with the cast, it is… in the age of streaming; a must own Blu-ray.

Best & Favorite of 2017!!!

This is a bit belated but I think you will find a nice overview to 2017 and pointers to 2018 in the ramblings below.

Favorite movies seen in the Theater in 2017:

KONG:SKULL ISLAND

LOGAN

 

I only saw two movies in the theater in 2017, so looking to improve on that in 2018. Nothing in January had me jazzed to pay theater prices for, however I am looking forward to the following in 2018:

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EQUALIZER 2

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FAVORITE TV SHOWS IN 2017:

  • LEGION
  • TAKEN
  • POWER
  • AMERICAN NINJA
  • CHOPPED
  • AMERICAN PICKERS
  • LOVE IT OR LIST IT
  • LETHAL WEAPON
  • THE GRAND TOUR
  • GODLESS
  • RUNAWAYS

FAVORITE STREAMING TV CHANNEL IN 2017

The one two punch of AMAZON PRIME and HULU gets this award. NETFLIX that was riding high in 2016 with LUKE CAGE and other shows, had a disappointing 2017. With a non user friendly interface compared to Amazon Prime and a selection of shows and movies that weren’t as interesting or well curated as either HULU or AMAZON PRIME, I cancelled my membership at the end of 2017. The last straw being the overhyped and ultimately lackluster PUNISHER series, as well as news of the studios pulling their content from Netflix.

In 2018 the TV shows that I am or will be watching are:

CASTLE ROCK

GRAND TOUR

TAKEN (I think the new showrunner made a mistake getting rid of most of the cast from season 1, but hopefully he can course correct and fix it)

STRIKE BACK and ELEMENTARY return after long hiatuses

LONGMEYER went out with a bit of a whimper, so looking forward to YELLOWSTONE

JACK RYAN

LETHAL WEAPON

CHOPPED

IZOMBIE

BLACK LIGHTNING

AMERICANS

And lastly looking forward to Season 2 of what, without question, was the best, most inventive TV show of 2017, Noah Hawley’s LEGION.

And for those keeping score… LUKE CAGE tied with FARGO Season 2 (Also by Noah Hawley) were the best TV shows of 2015, and DAREDEVIL Season 1 was the best TV show of 2014.

 

BEST MUSIC OF 2017

I loved everything binaural in 2017, adding many great CDs to my collection. THE HEAVY and GREGORY PORTER remained in heavy rotation. Gregory Porter being my favorite live performance of 2017. And I added new interests RAG N BONE MAN, Andra day and Brian Ferneyhough. With Spotify to allow me to try before I buy, I’m looking forward in 2018 to discovering more great music, both old and new.

BEST READS OF 2017

I didn’t read as many novels, or listen to as many audio books in 2017 as I did in previous years, so I definitely hope to turn that around in 2018.

I did do substantially better with Art Books, Graphic Novels, Reference Books, and comics in 2017. Some of the standouts:

 

MATT BAKER THE ART OF GLAMOUR

CREEPING DEATH FROM NEPTUNE

THE WOLVERTON BIBLE

ARTIST EDITION BASIL WOLVERTON (This and the other two previous books having to do with Basil Wolverton, I went all in on him in 2017. Still absorbing these three books here in 2018)

JACKIE ORMES

THE SIGNATURE ART OF BRIANSTELFREEZE

SEX AND HORROR THE ART OF ALESSANDRO BIFFIGNANDI

In 2018 writers I intend to go all in on are Percival Everett, Victor Lavalle, Colin Whitehead and Walter Mosley, as well as revisiting work by Ligotti, Lebbon, Ellison, Stephen King, Clive Barker and Bennett.

 

In 2017 Marvel had a great POWER MAN AND IRON FIST series I was reading, the only thing I was buying monthly from Marvel Comics. And Marvel letting greed get in the way of common sense, killed a series everyone was loving, with a creative team everyone was loving, David Walker and Brian Stelfreeze, to instead both dilute audience attention and oversaturate the market with multiple books, almost all of which are ready to be canceled. So going into 2018, with Marvel sticking to their insane $3.99 price point per book, there are no titles I pick up from Marvel Comics.

 

In 2017 DEATHSTROKE by Christopher Priest was the only DC Comic I was getting on a monthly base. It’s arguably the one series that you can just pick up and enjoy without having to read any other title, or care about any other title. Priest has been able to just do… what he does best, create a fantastic read; month in and month out. So it is the only DC book I’m reading in 2018. However, greed rears its ugly heads and the idiots who get paid to make stupid decisions have decided to add DEATHSTROKE to their floundering team book… JLA,  basically gutting the standalone nature of the comic that allows Priest, to do his magic. Basically the same poor decision making that happened last year with POWER MAN AND IRON FIST.

 

I figure the conversation went like this… ‘man everyone is talking about this book, let’s put the characters in multiple other books, and then they will be talking about all those other books too.’ No, you EFFING morons! The reason people are enjoying POWER MAN AND INRON FIST or DEATHSTROKE is because it is well drawn and well written and not part of your insipid crossover infested universe. Your very attempts to duplicate that success, without understanding it, will kill the character in the new book, and kill interest in the character in the original book.

So yeah here’s hoping someone with brains over at DC, vetoes the horrible idea to put DEATHSTROKE in the JLA, because I’m not going to read the JLA, and you’re editorial interference will create a character that no longer works in his solo book. You have therefore killed the golden goose and have nothing to show for it.

 

The good news is when you get sick of the stupid decisions and overpriced ad laden product at DC and MARVEL, you have great content from other publishers to enjoy. Publishers that give you more for your money. Publishers such as IMAGE, AFTERSHOCK, DARK HORSE and many more.

As far as where to buy new comics from, a lot of people will steer you to DCBS. I personally in terms of pure customer service and ease or ordering prefer LONE STAR COMICS. You can order comics in advance from the at http://www.mycomicshop.com at a discount.

 

They are highly recommended, and I use them myself, and this is an unpaid recommendation. Tell them Heroic Times sent you.

 

And wrapping this up, favorite podcasts of 2017:

 

11OCLOCK COMICS

COMIC GEEK SPEAK

WTF with Marc Maron

BLACK TAPES

GEEK SYNDICATE

 

To name a few. Okay that is it for my 2017 Pop Culture overview. Thanks for bearing with it and if you enjoy, spread the word. Enjoy WEEK #6 of 2018!!!

 

 

 

 

 

Currently Watching : POWER Season One on HULU!

POWER The acclaimed Curtis ’50 CENT’ Jackson produced STARZ series finally makes itself available on HULU, and man was it well worth the wait. Showrunner/Creator Courtney Kemp Agboh’s POWER is the very definition of binge worthy television.

From opening credits to final fade to black, the show is FANTASTIC!! Omari Hardwick helms a powerhouse cast, in an exquistely photographed, compulsively paced stunner of a show.

Currently Listening and Addicted to : YOURS TRULY JOHNNY DOLLAR

I have these episodes of Johnny Dollar on CD, that I purchased off of Ebay many moons ago, and I’ve lately taken to listening to them in the morning when driving to work. They are such an enjoyable alternative to what usually is available on radio these days. And most of the CDs I never listened to (they would always take a backseat to other great, but more garish shows… such as THE SHADOW, SUSPENSE or ESCAPE). Reevaluating it now, in my more seasoned years, the show has a compelling modernity and universalness that transcends its 6+ Decades of age.

And I have to say, this show in particular, because of its still innovative format of using an Insurance Investigator’s expense account as the hook into these narratives, is surprisingly addictive. All adults to some extent are part and parcell of the Insurance world, either as an occupation or a customer, so the films slant is familiar and well worn.

A few talented actors played Johnny Dollar, but the episodes with Bob Bailey… read as the show at its best. Starting in 1955 around episode #185, those are the shows to start with.

And because the shows are public domain you can burn to CD or copy to your media player and listen to as you travel or work.

Listen to some here:

https://archive.org/details/OTRR_YoursTrulyJohnnyDollar_Singles

Highly Recommended!