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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Streaming MOVIE OF THE DAY : THE BRIDE (2018)

THE BRIDE (2017)-This is the 2nd Russian film I’m seen by relatively new writer/director Svyatoslav Podgaevskiy, the first being QUEEN OF SPADES, and I have to say… this guy is the real deal. Showing a sense for storytelling, and pacing a scene, and building up a sense of earned dread and creepiness that few directors can equal.

I was and am a huge fan of QUEEN OF SPADES and THE BRIDE might even be better. It eschews (for the most part) the unlikeable, stupid characters, and moronic plots that make up most horror movies these days, instead offering simply baroque and hair raising film-making of the highest order.

That opening scene is how you start a movie. Look forward to more film from this filmaker. Grade: STRONGLY RECOMMENDED. Watch it for free courtesy of Amazon Prime, than buy a DVD/Blu-Ray to earn. It deserves to be the permanent part of any good DVD collection .

Podcast of the Day : The Best Doug Moench Interview!

THE BEST DOUG MOENCH INTERVIEW!

I just discovered this COMIC SHENANIGANS interview with Doug Moench.

From April 2017 this interview is FANTASTIC! Doug Moench (pronounced mensh) is a legendary comic writer, but arguably not as legendary as he should be. While names like Frank Miller, Alan Moore, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Chris Claremont and John Byrne are known to even peripheral fans of comics, the name Doug Moench  arguably doesn’t get the praise he deserves.

His work in the 70s and 80s brought a sophistication to comics, that tends to get attributed to the year 1986 and the one two punch of Frank Miller’s DARK KNIGHT and Alan Moore’ s WATCHMEN, but those iconic books didn’t get born in a vacuum.  It came in stages through creators, by fits and starts, progressing the medium.  Creators such as…

The phenomenal work of Stan Lee in the 1960s creating stories that talked to the audience, rather than at the audience. His stories, his dialog, was snappy and fun patter which sung for the first time to a college audience, rather than strictly to the kid audience, and really separated Marvel from everyone else.

Stan Lee gets credit, but I think too many people in a rush to praise the artists, and address any slights,  such as Jack Kirby and Ditko and Romita etc (men deserving of praise) , they stumble into a very trumpian conceit of feeling that in order to praise the artists they have to tear down the writer, namely Stan Lee.  And quite frankly that is just insipid. You can praise them both, and should praise them both.

Beacause all that beautiful FF art, if married to insipid dialog/writing you have underwhelming stories. Or if you have stories that don’t hype/excite the audience, all the art is not going to save it. The silver age series SHIELD (pre and even some of the early Steranko) is an example of this.  Interesting Kirby art, but pretty boring , uninteresting writing.

Stan was writing the whole Marvel Universe at the time, and I don’t think war and spy books was his strength, so this series is pretty poorly written/dialoged, and all Kirby’s art couldn’t save it. The same thing could have happened to FF, but for Stan’s love for those characters and stories. The FF stories are great because Stan is at the top of his game as ideaman/writer, and Kirby is at the top of his game as storyteller/artist.  It is the collaboration of words and images that make those early FF stories work.

Stan Lee as ideaman, as writer, as editor, as cheerleader, as salesman, as enthusiastic fount of energy is unequaled. He put Marvel Comics  on his back and he carried it with a smile, onto the road that it is on now. With his passion to identify his creators and sell them to his audience, something no other publisher was doing, he gave birth to a generation of future writers and artists. As well as his more experimental work, allowing the competition (DC) to likewise let their writers off the leash. You get some of the best late 60s /early 70s Kanigher, Giordano, ONeil, Haney stories as a reaction to Marvel’s inroads to the college audience.

So you get a bunch of writers in the wake of Stan, growing the medium.

Among them being Roy Thomas, Steve Englehart, Len Wein, Marv Wolfman, Steranko, David Kraft, Keith Giffen, ONeil, Claremont, and arguably one of the most innovative of them… Doug Moench.

Doug Moench is known to a younger generation mostly for his later Batman work, however thanks to a new bunch of collections coming out from Marvel; the work that put him on the map (to even other comicbook creators) THE MASTER OF KUNG FU and MOON KNIGHT is finally readily available. Its availability allowing old and new to revisit these groundbreaking works, and put in clearer perspective this pivotal creator.

His MOKF, while of its age was more sophisticated than anything else coming out in comics, and looking back on it, now nearly 4 decades later, those stories are still incredibly entertaining. Particularly the issues with his long time collaborator, Paul Gulacy, are a phenomenal marriage of words and pictures.

Arguably 4 decades later, their ‘CAT’ story from issue #38 of the MASTER OF KUNG FU SERIES (and now available in Volume II of the MASTER OF KUNG FU Omnibus) is one of the greatest single issues of a comic. And fellow collaborators Mike Zeck, and the late great Gene Day also brought wonderful life to the words of Moench.

Likewise his MOON KNIGHT series with Bill Sienkiewicz was month in and month out one of the most sophisticated and daring and heartfelt books being put out; and opened the door for the success of the comic shop, and the rise of the Independent publishers. It gave a generation of writers a broader perspective on what can be done in a comic book. Many talented writers and artists have tried their hands at the character of Moon Knight since Moench’s departure, a few have been good, Warren Ellis and Jeff Lemire come to mind, most have been awful, and none have been the equal of Moench and Sienkiewicz’s run. That is something, when 4 decades of writers, cannot equal or surpass what you did.

Add to that three of the most haunting Batman stories, a trilogy of one shot issues done with Pat Broderick, and phenomenal creator owned work SIX FROM SIRIUS with Paul Gulacy, as well as his work in the Black and White mags,  and you have some of what makes Doug Moench one of the best writers in the history of comics.

Now with my 2 cents out of the way, go listen to the interview from the man himself:

https://comicshenanigans.podbean.com/category/doug-moench/

Top FREE Roku Streaming VOD Channel of the Day : History Channel’s FORGED IN FIRE


Gold is for the mistress — silver for the maid —
Copper for the craftsman cunning at his trade.”
“Good!” said the Baron, sitting in his hall,
“But Iron — Cold Iron — is master of them all.”

Rudyard Kipling’s COLD IRON as wonderfully quoted on an episode of FORGED IN FIRE

forgedinfire


The HISTORY Roku Channel offers all this week a great selection of both season 1 and season 2 of a very enjoyable show called FORGED IN FIRE. FORGED IN FIRE brings bladesmiths from all walks to compete in this show, to forge iconic swords and blades from history.

Just an informative show that gives you a respect for this process of making things from idea to final product.

You can currently on the HISTORY Roku Channel see 5 episodes of the 1st season for free, and nine episodes of the 2nd season for free.

And when moved to buy all the episodes, you can get them at the link below:

FORGED IN FIRE Episodes

And here is the full poem:

Rudyard Kipling
Cold Iron

Gold is for the mistress — silver for the maid —
Copper for the craftsman cunning at his trade.”
“Good!” said the Baron, sitting in his hall,
“But Iron — Cold Iron — is master of them all.”

So he made rebellion ‘gainst the King his liege,
Camped before his citadel and summoned it to siege.
“Nay!” said the cannoneer on the castle wall,
“But Iron — Cold Iron — shall be master of you all!”

Woe for the Baron and his knights so strong,
When the cruel cannon-balls laid ’em all along;
He was taken prisoner, he was cast in thrall,
And Iron — Cold Iron — was master of it all!

Yet his King spake kindly (ah, how kind a Lord!)
“What if I release thee now and give thee back thy sword?”
“Nay!” said the Baron, “mock not at my fall,
For Iron — Cold Iron — is master of men all.”

“Tears are for the craven, prayers are for the clown —
Halters for the silly neck that cannot keep a crown.”
“As my loss is grievous, so my hope is small,
For Iron — Cold Iron — must be master of men all!”

Yet his King made answer (few such Kings there be!)
“Here is Bread and here is Wine — sit and sup with me.
Eat and drink in Mary’s Name, the whiles I do recall
How Iron — Cold Iron — can be master of men all!”

He took the Wine and blessed it. He blessed and brake the Bread.
With His own Hands He served Them, and presently He said:
“See! These Hands they pierced with nails, outside My city wall,
Show Iron — Cold Iron — to be master of men all.”

“Wounds are for the desperate, blows are for the strong.
Balm and oil for weary hearts all cut and bruised with wrong.
I forgive thy treason — I redeem thy fall —
For Iron — Cold Iron — must be master of men all!”

“Crowns are for the valiant — sceptres for the bold!
Thrones and powers for mighty men who dare to take and hold!”
“Nay!” said the Baron, kneeling in his hall,
“But Iron — Cold Iron — is master of men all!
Iron out of Calvary is master of men all!”

Netflix Movie of the Day: BEYOND THE LIGHTS

beyondthelightslge

What we watch in cinema, if you ask a thousand people, you may get a thousand answers. But what we want from cinema? I think that answer is simpler.

We want cinema even at its most fantastic to tell us something true. To tell us something about ourself, and how we can aspire to be better than ourself. And that is what the best cinema does, for the fleeting time we share our attention with it, whether in a darkened theater or a light lit living room, we want to aspire to more than we are, to be better than we are.

Whether inspired to, if only in our dreams, be nicer, or more caring, or more concerned, or more heroic, or more… humane. That’s a rare gift, in a dire age, for cinema for a fleeting moment to have us believe in being better.

That is what BEYOND THE LIGHTS does. With a stellar cast of new faces and seasoned pros, Gina Prince-Bythewood of LOVE AND BASKETBALL and THE SECRET LIVES OF BEES here with her third feature film, creates inarguably her best film, and one that will become a perennial classic in households everywhere. But particularly households of color, in an America that increasingly is more ethnically diverse, our cinema and media is, doggedly and obstinately it would seem, ever more dismissive and marginalizing and denigrating, to characters of color or stories of color, that do not fit into narrow, nonthreatening, and tired stereotypes.

beyond_the_lights

That’s why Gina Prince-Bythewood as writer and director is so important, and BEYOND THE LIGHTS should be so heralded. In an America where Urban Love is often defined for young people in terms of players and hos, or in terms of its absence, it is so rewarding and refreshing to see a movie with intelligent Black Characters (ie more than one or two token characters) and healthy Black relationships, between Black Men and Black women, that does not fall into tired rhetoric, or bashing, or talk show idiocy.

 

Korean media and cinema is filled with such loving positive interplay, as is Japanese, or Thai, or Russian, or Dutch, or Indian, or Spanish. But somehow when it comes to the broad and diverse ethnic group called Black (African-American being a marginalizing appellation, misapplied and removed from the inclusive, unifying bridge it was meant, but failed to be. Defining an ethnic group, using a nationalistic descriptor being the height of stupidity), positive loving images are in drastic shortage.

As Black Men are increasingly invisible or the sexless , funny sidekick or cross dressing Enuchs in mass media, and Black women increasingly the hor, or the pining 2nd choice for the White Knight of American mass media. Or they are self-hating thugs, raised and bedded on ignorance.

With such a table, and such rotten food to feed young and old alike on, when someone brings to the table a fine steak or beautiful trout, you realize just how empty you had been, and for how long.

BEYOND THE LIGHTS is a great film, that makes you feel better for having seen it. Makes you feel better. What a concept.

Hopefully we can look forward to more such filmmakers and more such films. Highly Recommended!

Try it for free on Netflix, but only long enough to realize you really want to own this film in Blu-Ray. Get your copy here:

beyondthelights

Beyond the Lights [Blu-ray]

WEDNESDAYS WORDS

WEDNESDAYS WORDS is a new weekly installment that ranks the most interesting, intriguing books of the week (old, new, reissues, digital, etc). Contributors represent a variety of genres and sources. Each book includes Title and publisher blurb.

A one item, abbreviated WEDNESDAYS WORDS. Enjoy 🙂 :

Collected Stories of Ray Bradbury: A Critical Edition : 1938-1943

Book Description
Publication Date: February 21, 2011 | Series: Collected Stories of Ray Bradbury
Inaugurating a critical edition of one of America’s most popular storytellers

In the past, collections of Bradbury’s works have juxtaposed stories with no indication as to the different time periods in which they were written. Even the mid- and late-career collections that Bradbury himself compiled contained stories that were written much earlier–a situation that has given rise to misconceptions about the origins of the stories themselves. In this new edition, editors William F. Touponce and Jonathan R. Eller present for the first time the stories of Ray Bradbury in the order in which they were written. Moreover, they use texts that reflect Bradbury’s earliest settled intention for each tale. By examining his relationships with his agent, editor, and publisher, Touponce and Eller’s textual commentaries document the transformation of the stories–and Bradbury’s creative understanding of genre fiction–from their original forms to the versions known and loved today.

Volume 1 covers the years 1938 to 1943 and contains thirteen stories that have never appeared in a Bradbury collection. For those that were previously published, the original serial forms recovered in this volume differ in significant ways from the versions that Bradbury popularized over the ensuing years. By documenting the ways the stories evolved over time, Touponce and Eller unveil significant new information about Bradbury’s development as a master of short fiction.

Each volume in the proposed three-volume edition includes a general introduction, chronology, summary of unpublished stories, textual commentary for each story, textual apparatus, and chronological catalog. The Collected Stories of Ray Bradbury is edited to the highest scholarly standards by the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies and bears the Modern Language Association’s seal of approval for scholarly editions.

I have my doubts in regards to people dusting off early, arguably rough draft versions of Bradbury’s stories and compiling these as if they are offering something significantly new. However the statement that these stories, have not been collected before is intriguing.

Though perhaps the reason they have not been collected is because, they were the imperfect forms of stories that Ray Bradbury went on to perfect.

So beyond the obvious… he got better, I’m unsure what, of value, can be mined from this approach. And what critical analysis one can offer on Bradbury’s stories, that are not inherent in a/the stories themselves or b/ Bradbury’s discussion of his stories that thankfully the great man left us with, in multiple forms, from books, radio, television, and even film. Bradbury being perhaps one of the most consulted and interviewed writers of our time.

Rather than a best of compilation, or even a chronological compilation, the selling point of this book would seemingly be… this is the rough draft compilation.

I’m not sure if that’s the collection, that any writer wants of their work.

But this is all guesswork. I’ll withhold final judgment till I can get a reading copy. And the fact that I’m intrigued enough to give this a look means it is… WEDNESDAYS WORDS material.


The WEDNESDAYS WORDS column is a new blog feature, appearing (you guessed it!) every Wednesday. Come back next week to see which books make the list!

If you’re a publisher, writer, or other creative representative looking to submit items for WEDNESDAYS WORDS, just leave a comment on this post with your email/contact info, comments don’t get posted they come right to me, and I’ll reach out to you with the snail mail details.

And as far as readers, if you see items on WEDNESDAYS WORDS you’re considering purchasing then, if you are able and would like to support this blog, please utilize the attached links.

Your helpful purchases through those links, generates much appreciated pennies to keep this blog running. Your feedback and support… just way cool, and way appreciated. Thanks!

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RATING THE DOCTORS: The Best & Worst Doctor Who Companions Pt. 2 of 2!

While picking the companions I disliked was easy. Narrowing down my five favorite companions is a LOT more difficult, because in 30+ years there have been some great companions. On the whole the good companions far outweighing the ones I dislike.

So narrowing down all those great companions to my five favorite, very difficult, and very subjective. But as stated, having recently watched all 30+ seasons of the show, you can call my choices informed subjectivity.

So without further ado:

I have some issues with Russell T. Davies as discussed in my worst companions posting, but one thing you can’t fault him with is in building up the dynamic/relationship between the Doctor and his female Companion, and doing a great job of casting that companion role… well, and writing it… well.

I think one of the common complaints many actresses who played a companion to the Doctor had, was in the writing of their roles. Davies with the characters of Rose and Martha created companions who had it all, beauty, brains, guts, and adventuresome spirit, and a personality, an aura… magnetic. And roles that complemented the Doctor.

So while I really love a lot of the companions that have been in and out of the ship of time, the two I come back to the most, which is a way of saying the two who are great characters, brought to life by great actresses, and they have great stories under their belt, and a great complement to the doctor… in other words they have it all…

Martha Jones played by the stunning Freema Agyeman and Rose Tyler played by the effervescent Billie Piper. They get the one, two spot.

Sarah Jane- I don’t think any list of best companions would be complete without Sarah Jane, played by the fantastic Elisabeth Sladen, who brought such a caring, and humanity, and belief to her role, and whose tenure bridged both Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker.

Liz Shaw, played by Caroline John, acted opposite Jon Pertwee’s Doctor. And she brought beauty, brains, wit, sophistication to the role, and at the time they thought that was too much. She was too capable, and she was replaced in a single season, with a dumbed down companion Jo Grant(that’s not a kick against Kathy Manning, who played Jo Grant, she quite made that role her own, and made that dynamic work, and became a great, woman of action companion for the bulk of Pertwee’s run). However, it was still an unfortunate replacement because she was a fantastic companion. And you look back at the handful of stories she did and they all stand out as fantastic Doctor Who episodes.

The last spot is a tie between Leela and Ace.

Leela- I really liked the character of Leela, playing opposite Tom Baker’s Dr. Who. Played wonderfully by the beautiful Louise Jameson, I thought she was a very interesting character, but her relationship with Tom Baker’s Doctor, and seemingly Tom Baker himself, was seemingly frictious and dismissive. Possibly because she was such a strong and striking character, and a strong and striking actress, and Tom Baker at the time wanted no competition for the spotlight. But despite the less than stellar dynamic between them, they still were in 2 or 3 of the best story-lines in the history of the series.

And tying her for fifth place was Ace played by Sophie Aldred. Ace was just a fantastic companion, and had a great relationship/chemistry with Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor. And they were in some amazing stories together. Their REMEMBRANCE OF THE DALEKS being easily in the top ten of any list of best Doctor Who stories.

Honorable mentions are:

Ian Chesterton – played by William Russell from 1963 to 1965 with William Hartnell
Barbara Wright – played by Jacqueline Hill from 1963 to 1965 with William Hartnell
Susan – played by Carole Ann Ford from 1963 to 1964 with William Hartnell
The first companions, if they had failed, if their chemistry had failed, we wouldn’t still be talking about the show.

Jamie – played by Frazer Hines from 1966 to 1969 with Patrick Troughton
His chemistry with Patrick Troughton, was a great, almost vaudevillian dynamic.

Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart – played by Nicholas Courtney from 1968 to 1989 with all the “old” Doctors apart from Colin Baker.
While not a companion, Nicholas Courtney’s reoccurring role as Brigadier Stewart, head of the UNIT, was a great addition to the Who mythology, particularly during the earthbound Pertwee era. He’s just a fantastic straight man for the Doctor’s craziness.

Jo Grant – played by Katy Manning from 1971 to 1973 with Jon Pertwee. She took the ditzy role she was given, and made it into a courageous character who would risk anything for the Doctor.

Peri – played by Nicola Bryant from 1984 to 1986 with Peter Davison and Colin Baker.

Let’s be honest, Nicola Bryant was brought in, by hit-and-miss producer Nathan Turner, for T&A… to sex up the show in hopes of salvaging the lackluster Peter Davison years. She was brought in for her huge breasts, and they were paraded prominently.

(Oh come’on don’t get offended, we’re all adults here, and that’s absolutely the truth. They were real, and they were fabulous. :). Oh, I’m joking! )

With the exception of Davison’s last episode, the only thing that was watchable about his tenure, was Nicola Bryant. But surprisingly enough, she was more than just a pretty face and a stunning body, she was a solid actress, and she was exceptionally likable, and this became very obvious during the Colin Baker Doctor years.

Colin Baker off-putting pompous portrayal of the Doctor, only made somewhat palatable because of Nicola Bryant’s Peri. I quite liked her, and unfortunately she was saddled with questionable characterization by the writers of her and her Doctors. But despite that she does manage to be part of 2 or 3 stories that transcended those issues, to be quite entertaining.

So that’s it for this installment. Five favorite companions and the honorable mentions! Feel free to mention your favorite companions.