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.

 

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Slims vs Comic Books! Diamond Preorders for books shipping July 2014!

The internet has made buying anything, a process far easier than I think we truly grasp. The technological leaps ahead that we have done in a few scant decades, taken for granted, underplayed and underacknowledged by a population seeking to numb itself from its horrors, by conversely meeting with jaded cynicism its wonders.

Reading is likewise much changed in the age of the atom.

This post particularly, concerns itself with reading slims (my name for the product hard-headedly referred to as a comic-book. Hardheadedly because it is neither typically humorous or a book).

The term ‘Slim’ poises it correctly as something periodic and sleek and a bit sexy and just as well suited for grownups as Dvds or books or paintings.

Today’s recommended Slims are:

Slims suffer from a bit of a distribution issue. For the most part you are not going to find them in the spinner racks of convenience stores any longer, nor in the big box superstores of say a Target or Walmart. So while Graphic Novels have never been more popular or influential in our society, the serialzed, periodic form of the Graphic Novel, the Slim, suffers from a visibity issue. They are hidden away for the most part in niche stores, called “direct market comic stores” that our misnomers that will not attract anyone but those already in the know, or nostalgia seekers.

It is an insular inbred model that does not shine its light beyond its own living room, and as such is not new reader friendly. Which is a shame, because as someone who has grown up with this oddest of hobbies and artforms, here in 2014 the width and breadth of story and art of the medium has never been better.

From scifi to mystery to historical drama to horror to humor to instructional to spy thriller, you name a genre and there is a writer, artist producing great work in this medium of Slims, of graphic literature.

That said there is, as in any medium, a lot of garbage out there, particularly in the most visible genre of Slims… the Superhero comic. A genre hampered by monopolistic collusion to the point the very term Super-hero has been jointly trademarked by the colluding companies of Marvel and DC. An idiotic trademark, attempting to own a term as much a part of the cultural venacular as God or myth or justice. But it is the choices of fawning to uncreative monopolistic interests that results in flooding the medium with a lot of noise, a lot of bad books.

The rising popularity of digital gives new options to find books, which is a great thing, however it also increases the odds that the books you come across will be bad, will be the noise rather than the signal.

And with Slims being $2.99 at best and $3.99 on the worse end, you can’t afford to experiment at this price point. This is no longer the day of 25cent comics, so each purchase of $2.99 or $3.99 has to justify itself. The $2.99 or $3.99 has to earn its value against a world rife with options from gaming to streaming to dvds to itunes to traditional books.

Which is why preordering is a pretty fantastic idea. Diamond is the monopoly that distributes Slims. Retailers order from them two months in advance. Customers like you and I preorder from Retailers. The benefit of preordering from your retailer… discounts of typically 35% to 40% off!!! WooHoo! Sign me up! :).

Now that said, that discount only means something if you’re ordering a great book. For a crappy book even getting 99% off is not reason enough to get the book.

So the following are books you can order by the end of May, at a discount, for July shipping. I’ve done the homework for you! 🙂

MAY140044
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1 @ $0.60 = $0.60*1 FOR $1 MIND MGMT #1 (O/A)*
MAY140047
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1 @ $0.60 = $0.60*1 FOR $1 STAR WARS (O/A) (C: 1-0-0)*
MAY140048
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1 @ $0.60 = $0.60*1 FOR $1 THE MASSIVE #1 (O/A)*
MAY140050
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1 @ $0.60 = $0.60*GOON OCCASION OF REVENGE #1 (OF 8) *Special Discount*
MAY140010
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1 @ $1.75 = $1.75*GHOST #6*
MAY140062
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1 @ $1.79 = $1.79*GREAT PACIFIC #18 (MR)*
MAY140707
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1 @ $1.79 = $1.79*MANIFEST DESTINY #8*
MAY140712
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1 @ $1.79 = $1.79*MERCENARY SEA #6*
MAY140713
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1 @ $1.79 = $1.79*OUTCAST BY KIRKMAN & AZACETA #2 (MR)*
MAY140719
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1 @ $1.79 = $1.79*REVIVAL #22 (MR)*
MAY140723
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1 @ $1.79 = $1.79*SAGA #21 (MR)*
MAY140726
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1 @ $1.79 = $1.79*STAR WARS #19 2013 ONGOING (C: 1-0-0)*
MAY140085
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1 @ $1.79 = $1.79*WALKING DEAD #129 (MR)*
MAY140744
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1 @ $1.79 = $1.79*SIMPSONS COMICS #213*
MAY141127
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1 @ $1.94 = $1.94*LOW #1 (MR) *Special Discount*
MAY140566
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1 @ $1.99 = $1.99*RAGNAROK #1 *Special Discount*
MAY140444
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1 @ $1.99 = $1.99*USAGI YOJIMBO COLOR SPECIAL ARTIST ONE-SHOT *Special
Discount*
MAY140055
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1 @ $1.99 = $1.99*TAROT WITCH OF THE BLACK ROSE #87 (MR)*
MAY141233
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1 @ $2.07 = $2.07*BLACK SCIENCE #7 (MR)*
MAY140696
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1 @ $2.10 = $2.10*LAZARUS #10 (MR)*
MAY140709
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1 @ $2.10 = $2.10*MANHATTAN PROJECTS #22*
MAY140711
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1 @ $2.10 = $2.10*MASSIVE #25*
MAY140071
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1 @ $2.10 = $2.10*SKULLKICKERS #29*
MAY140730
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1 @ $2.10 = $2.10*SOUTHERN BASTARDS #4 (MR)*
MAY140731
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1 @ $2.10 = $2.10*STRAY BULLETS THE KILLERS #5 (MR)*
MAY140734
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1 @ $2.10 = $2.10*HALLOWEEN EVE ONE SHOT CVR A (O/A)*
MAY140640
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1 @ $2.39 = $2.39*MIGHTY AVENGERS #12*
MAY140795
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1 @ $2.39 = $2.39*MIND MGMT #24*
MAY140070
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1 @ $2.39 = $2.39*BEAUTIFUL WAR #2*
MAY140447
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1 @ $2.59 = $2.59*CALIBAN #4 WRAP CVR (MR)*
MAY141073
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1 @ $2.59 = $2.59*SIMPSONS ILLUSTRATED #12*
MAY141129
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1 @ $2.59 = $2.59*WEIRD LOVE #2*
MAY140541
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1 @ $2.59 = $2.59*ENORMOUS #2 CVR A CHEGGOUR*
MAY141626
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1 @ $2.79 = $2.79*TUKI SAVE THE HUMANS #1*
MAY141240
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1 @ $2.79 = $2.79*BLACK KISS 2 XXXMAS IN JULY SPECIAL ONE SHOT (MR) (C:
1-0-0)*
MAY140601
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Go here to order : http://www.dcbservice.com/
Tell em HT sent ya!

Favorite Films discovered on Streaming On-Demand in 2013!

Favorite Films discovered on Streaming On-Demand in 2013!

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2013’s most interesting films for me weren’t found in the theater, or backed by major studios. They were small, even intimate, Independent films found courtesy of the new distribution opportunities that venues such as Amazon Prime and Netflix have opened up.

HALO 4 FORWARD ONTO DAWN, BOY WONDER, ANOTHER ZERO IN THE SYSTEM, and HOUSE OF THE RISING SUN are films seen in 2013, that here in 2014 still stand tall as memorable and commanding viewing experiences. The last three being some of the most haunting examples of existential angst meets neo noir meets anti-hero you are likely to find. And HALO 4 FORWARD ONTO DAWN on a shoestring budget, creates a scifi epic with more heart and style than any ten STARSHIP TROOPERS.

These are films so good that having seen them for free courtesy of streaming, I had to purchase them on DVD/Blu-Ray. After viewing them you may agree. You can price them at the links below.

Boy Wonder

Another Zero in the System

Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn [Blu-ray]

House of the Rising Sun

POSTER OF THE DAY!

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All Superheroes Must Die
Release Date: January 4, 2013
Director: Jason Trost
Writer: Jason Trost
Cast: Jason Trost, James Remar, Lucas Till, Lee Valmassy, Sophie Merkley
Plot: Four Super Heroes find themselves abducted by their Arch Nemesis and are forced to compete in a series of challenges in order to save an abandoned town full of kidnapped innocent civilians.
Genre: Thriller

Update: This was originally a 2011 shoestring film entitled VS, released on the After-Dark film circuit. A totally ignored film, and possibly justifiably so, it looks like it is getting a rename, and a new marketing push for a 2013 DVD release.

The premise of ALL SUPERHEROES MUST DIE sounds like a mashup of a bad SAW sequel and a really bad FOX super-hero movie. Which could have merit if done well, but figure the odds of that.:)

However I’m more than willing to be proven wrong. HANCOCK going by the trailers and premise looked awful, and turned out to actually be a very good flick with a great ending. It would be nice if this movie was more than a straight to VOD disaster.

But I’m not betting on it. :).

WEDNESDAYS WORDS Review: SUPERMAN ACTION COMICS Vol I by Grant Morrison

This is a special Wednesday Words Review as opposed to our normal coverage. Enjoy:

SUPERMAN ACTION COMICS by Grant Morrison- Starts off impressively, but true to just about everything I’ve tried by Grant Morrison it loses its way in the middle, and completely falls apart into uninteresting storytelling by the end. The first chapter is very strong. The second chapter is strong till the last few pages. The third chapter, again strong, but loses it in the last few pages as Morrison tries to build his overarching story, which I’ve come to the conclusion he’s not really good at. He’s a great idea guy, but going from imaginative idea to compelling and satisfying storyline/wrap-up is a leap Morrison has always, in my estimation, failed at doing. He’s the X-FILES of comics.

From issue #4 up is all the over-arching, high-idea storyline, and the problem with it is… it is incredibly uninteresting. And it stays uninteresting till it limps to what has come to be a norm for Grant Morrison, a poorly told, to the point of near incoherence ending. And it is not a point of not getting Grant Morrison, as his cult is quick to jump to, it’s a point of his writing stops being in anyway a compelling and fun story, and feels like a chore and dissertation that the writer himself has long lost any interest in. And the variable art quality doesn’t help. Another Morrison D-. The only real saving grace of the series is the enjoyable, exquisitely written and beautifully drawn backup strips by writer Sholly Fisch and artists Brad Walker and ChrisCross. The backup strips are an easy B+. I wish Sholly Fisch had written the main story rather than Grant Morrison.

Final Grade: D- for the main Grant Morrison storyline. B+ for the Sholly Fisch back up stories. So can’t recommend buying the book but if you can get it for free from a friend or the library, the backup strips are worth a look.

Superman – Action Comics Vol. 1: Superman and the Men of Steel (The New 52)

MOVIE OF THE DAY: SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW!

Kerry Conran’s SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW is one of the most sumptuous, imaginative and ground breaking films of all time.

That said I can see why it failed at the box office when released in 2004. The main issue is pacing. There is too much movie to comfortably sit through from beginning to end, and not feel the fat.

True to Conran’s initial impulse, the movie is very much a serial, and works better broken up in chunks, or perhaps enlivened by Chapter Breaks. Which makes it the perfect film for DVD, but not so much for the theatrical experience.

However in terms of visuals it very much deserves to be seen on the big screen. This is seemingly Conran’s first and only film, and what a film it is. One that shall only increase I think in import and prestige, much as the closing song says, ‘As time goes by’.

If you have never watched the film before, or watched it only once, I would say revisit it. I picked up the DVD for less than rental price, and around the third attempt I finally made it all the way through the film, including special features.

In a word… impressive. Try it for yourself!