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  • Ms. Marvel (2022) s01e04 – Seeing Red

    Ms. Marvel (2022) s01e04 – Seeing Red

    Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy is not an action director but in an okay enough way. This episode’s mostly well-directed; Obaid-Chinoy just doesn’t know what to do with the first superhero fight or the chase scene. But, the chase scene works out. There’s the chaos aspect, and it being Iman Vellani’s first Bond movie chase scene through exotic locales, though pin in the locale. So it’s okay.

    The first superhero fight against Aramis Knight goes on too long. It passes through its awkwardness—Knight attacks tourist Vellani in a deserted train station—into comfortable banter but then drags on some more. Because Knight’s a good guy too. He just thought Vellani was an evil djinn.

    The episode begins with Vellani and mom Zenobia Shroff flying to Karachi almost immediately after the last episode. In between, Vellani’s grandmother, Samina Ahmed, has apparently told Shroff she’s sick and needs them to come over directly. It’s actually subterfuge; Ahmed knows something’s up with Vellani and the superhero business because they share visions. The previous episodes used Ahmed as a grandparent-on-FaceTime gag, but once they establish her, the character’s entirely different. In addition to Vellani finding out some of her superhero origin stuff, the episode’s a mothers and daughters piece contrasting Shroff and Ahmed’s relationship with Shroff and Vellani’s. Vellani gets to find out fun family secrets about Shroff for once.

    Okay, the locale stuff. The episode takes place in Karachi, where Vellani wants to confab with Ahmed about the djinn magic superhero stuff and then look around for the locations of her visions. Her cousins want to goof off, and mom Shroff wants to deep clean Ahmed’s apartment, but Vellani’s on a superhero mission. Her visions reference the 1947 split of India and Pakistan, which figures into Ahmed and Shroff’s joint (and separate) histories. It bundles superhero origin, historical event, and family event. It’s really good.

    And it shows how this thirty-to-forty-minute episode format is hurting “Ms. Marvel.” This episode’s got a cliffhanger, so it’s a two-parter amid the greater series, but it should’ve been its own thing. “Ms. Marvel” would’ve worked better as ninety-ish minute movies or two forty-five-minute two-parters. There’s just so much content.

    The episode didn’t film in Karachi; instead using Bangkok. Director Obaid-Chinoy does a fantastic job showing the visit from Vellani’s perspective; she’s a returning visitor who’s better able to appreciate it than the last time she was there. She’s older, she’s got agency, plus she’s a superhero. The city showcase isn’t about its colonial-minded exoticism; it’s about Vellani seeing the difference between here and home. I initially thought the trip to Karachi would be a layover in the series, but it’s a great character development arc for Vellani.

    And it lets Shroff do a whole bunch more than she gets to do at home.

    In addition to Ahmed, guest star Farhan Akhtar is also outstanding. He’s the leader of the anti-djinn secret society who mentors Vellani a little. Nimra Bucha and the bad djinns are back, too—the MCU Supermax is a joke (I forgot, that scene is another where Obaid-Chinoy’s action directing is a problem). They’re undistinguished villains but still very dangerous.

    Even with the unsteady action sequences—the finale action is an improvement—Seeing Red is probably the best “Ms. Marvel” episode so far. It’s not exactly a fair comparison to the others; it’s “Ms. Marvel Vacation” with all sorts of new stakes, and it’s excellent.


  • 709 Meridian – 4×5 – Swamp Thing (1982)

    709 Meridian – 4×5 – Swamp Thing (1982)

    4×5 – Swamp Thing (1982) 709 Meridian

    D and Andrew change up the schedule because they want to watch something good this week: 1982's SWAMP THING (for the 40th anniversary, natch), the PG-rated comic book adaptation directed by Wes Craven and released by Coca-Cola! Listen as they discuss changes from the comics, shooting on water, rubber suits, Adrienne Barbeau action hero, and Louis Jordan sex idol.

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  • Werewolf by Night (1972) #11

    Werewolf by Night (1972) #11

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    It took Marvel until Werewolf #11 to get Marv Wolfman writing the book. Just the credit alone is worth it, which they seem to get—the credit reads: “finally a Wolfman written by a Wolfman.” Wolfman does get to create a new villain—The Hangman; I’m pretty sure he goes on to more in Marvel. The Hangman’s a fascist vigilante who goes around with a noose and scythe, killing bad guys.

    Oh, he also kidnaps all the women he saves, taking them down to his sewer lair. Presumably, a different sewer liar than the last villain in Werewolf. Thank goodness L.A.’s so big.

    Gil Kane and Tom Sutton do the art; Kane penciling, Sutton inking. Wolfman Jack Russell is great. The rest varies from okay to good. Sutton inks Kane’s faces wrong. At their best, Sutton’s inks feel like they’re bundling and intensifying Kane’s pencils. At the inks’ worst… well, Sutton takes too much out of the faces. He flattens too much and leaves the eyes and mouth floating. It’d be okay a couple times, but it’s most times.

    The issue opens not with Jack or the werewolf but with Jack’s kidnapped step-father, Phillip Russell. It’s a torture scene. The shadowy group of evil white men—I think the Council but so many of these comics had them—is willing to forgive Russell’s still unrevealed transgressions if he’ll just give them his stepson. We found out last issue the bad guys know Jack’s a werewolf. Also, last time they wanted Jack’s younger sister, Lissa, who hasn’t become a werewolf yet.

    Russell won’t give Jack up, so they have to keep torturing him. It’s weird to have some dad getting tortured in a Bond villain lair but… fine. What’s weirder is how writer Wolfman does a bunch of work on the running subplots. The comic introduced them way back in its Marvel Spotlight days, then forgot about them until a few issues ago when original writer Gerry Conway returned. Conway lined some pieces up, and now Wolfman’s doing the finishing touches?

    I don’t know if Werewolf needed a more constant writer, but it definitely needed better plotting. There’s decompressed storytelling, then there’s taking two years to get to a basic reveal.

    Wolfman also gets to send Jack out on his own; he has a big scene telling Buck and Lissa he’s moving out on his own (he’s got his trust fund). Given we’ve seen Buck and Jack hanging out half a scene in ten issues, it’s not the last episode of “Friends.” Then there’s the on-the-nose moment where the Hangman sees Buck and Lissa together and is like, that old man better not be messing with that teenager.

    There are a few good plot points opened up for next issue; Buck finally sees the werewolf, there’s the big cliffhanger with Hangman, and Phillip’s still kidnapped. But waiting ten issues for anything whatsoever to happen with the character arcs is way too long.

    Even for the seventies.


  • Kill or Be Killed (2016) #14

    Kill or Be Killed (2016) #14

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    Despite finally giving full context for the bookend writer Ed Brubaker started in the first issue, the comic still can’t make it interesting. The bookending device is less interesting the more protagonist Dylan talks about it, and he talks a lot about it this issue. Well, he talks about the next part of the plan. We’ve been seeing part one over and over.

    Part two involves getting the Russian mob off his back through social manipulation. It’s a good enough plan, but it doesn’t translate to comics. They do it in montage, a series of panels showing the various wheels of the plan rotating. There’s nothing to the wheels, though, just Dylan telling us they exist. It’s boring.

    Though the final payoff is flat too. Even before the ending reveal changes everything we know about Kill or Be Killed (again), nothing before it can compare. Without the big surprise, it seems like the cliffhanger might center on Dylan and his roommate. The roommate’s barely been a character; he used to date Kira, and now she’s told him she’s with Dylan. Dylan and the roommate have a tense confrontation about Kira, and Dylan refuses to back down. There’s a little visual forecasting the situation’s not resolved, but the big reveal is entirely unrelated to everything else.

    Dylan’s got lots of narration in this issue. None of it particularly good, none of it particularly bad. He tells himself he wants to retire from being the vigilante, but then he tries to talk himself out of it.

    Sean Phillips’s art is incredibly loose. The stand-off with the roommate is probably the worst since the roommate gets a splash page, and the figure’s awkward. Then the actual panels with the conversation, both the roommate and Dylan have the oddly sized head thing going on.

    The comic seems to be promising it will be interesting soon for sure this time.

    Guess we’ll find out, though, if Brubaker took fourteen issues to catch up to the first one’s opening hook, who can say how long it’ll take for him to actually progress the story.

    It’s also peculiar because Dylan’s less likable than the roommate. In their stand-off scene, Dylan’s trying to assert his dominance and play alpha, whereas the other dude’s just trying to talk.

    But, again, Brubaker will sort it out later; I’m noncommittally sure.


  • Frasier (1993) s07e08 – The Late Dr. Crane

    Frasier (1993) s07e08 – The Late Dr. Crane

    This episode has wonderful balance. It’s a “bigger” episode than usual, with a couple new big sets—a hospital waiting room, a doctor’s office—and it opens with Kelsey Grammer and David Hyde Pierce in a car. Everything’s going to mix barbed wit with sincerity, giving the episode a bittersweet quality.

    But first, Hyde Pierce needs to accidentally break Grammer’s nose during a car accident in a very funny banter and physical comedy combination for the opening. The episode gives each actor a subplot—the title Late Dr. Crane refers to Grammer, but Hyde Pierce actually slightly more time. Or at least, more impact. And definitely time to himself, while Grammer’s arc is a family arc.

    At the hospital, through an inspired series of events, Grammer is pronounced dead. Only he’s fine, and sitting around watching the evening news with his family for the obituary. This revelation comes after Hyde Pierce has already started his subplot, and brought it into the setting for Grammer’s arc to kick off. It’s exquisitely plotted; the script is credited to Rob Hanning and it’s a good script. It throws a number of mid-scene curves, too, which director Robert H. Egan handles beautifully.

    See, Hyde Pierce’s subplot involves plastic surgeon Jane Adams. Adams is Hyde Pierce’s ex-wife’s doctor and has been billing him by mistake. Going to sort it out while Grammer waits (and doesn’t) in the emergency room, Hyde Pierce becomes quickly enamored with Adams, who’s a fastidious snob. Lots of good physical comedy from both actors when Hyde Pierce starts observing her similar behaviors. It’s awesome.

    Except he’s too nervous to ask her out, which will eventually figure into Grammer’s mortality arc, and instead just starts getting procedures. The first one is Botox, which kicks off lengthy discussion—it’s 1999, Botox isn’t mainstream yet—and jokes from John Mahoney. Plus physical gags with a deaden forehead on Hyde Pierce.

    The episode relay sprints through the scenes, which often have the entire apartment cast. Then once the condolence baskets start arriving and Mahoney wants to keep them, there’s even more going on at once.

    Though not for Jane Leeves or Peri Gilpin. Gilpin gets to do a quick scene involving Grammer’s plot, and Leeves is just around for the apartment scenes. It’s Hyde Pierce’s episode, with Grammer and Mahoney essentially getting a very involved “sending off” support arc for him. Adams’s is clearly going to be back. (Or it’d be a surprise if she isn’t).

    Surprisingly mentioned but not actually back is Gigi Rice’s new neighbor character. She gets mentioned multiple times, even figuring into a plot point, but they manage to keep her offscreen.

    Smartly constructed stuff; it’s an excellent episode. Good performances, good laughs, good character development. Grammer’s obsessing over his mortality arc might end up being mostly for supporting Hyde Pierce, but it’s strong work on its own. Great balance here, just great.


  • Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown (1977, Phil Roman and Bill Melendez)

    Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown (1977, Phil Roman and Bill Melendez)

    There’s only one adult referenced in Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown. When the bus leaves Charlie Brown (voiced by Duncan Watson) stranded, they’ve established the driver’s silhouette. Not having any adults makes a lot of sense since, somehow, the Peanuts parents all decided to send their kids to a camp on the other side of a distant desert with no adult supervision. The camp’s name? Camp Remote.

    The desert bit gives Sally (Gail Davis) a scene to threaten some local kid, which doesn’t go as expected, but since the movie’s setting it up for Sally to back down… it’s a bit of a surprise. I think the local kid is from the comic strip somewhere. She and her little brother (the anti-Browns, in a way) seem familiar, and they’re only in the one gag.

    Sally prominently figures in the first act of Race for Your Life, right up until Peppermint Patty (Stuart Brotman) starts talking about running things as a democracy. The boys and girls have been split into their different tents, with Patty running for tent leader. She confuses the other girls with her version of fair voting (by secret ballot), which becomes a recurring gag, and from then on, Sally’s just got the occasional lovelorn wail for Linus.

    Both the boys and girls have a similar problem in the first act—the camp bullies. There are three of them with their mean cat, and none of them have names. Two of them have the letter “R” on their shirt; it never means anything. What’s so peculiar about them is Race never tries to humanize them, never tries to redeem or even provide context for them. They’re just assholes.

    Okay, now, I’m reading something into the “R.”

    Anyway.

    The second act of Race is all about the best tent competition. The kids do various activities, with the bullies winning by cheating. Since there are no adults and presumably the teen counselors supervising the events are paying attention to the other two dozen campers we rarely see (at least two Peanuts supporting cast members, Violet and Frieda, end up amongst them). The most important race is the raft race.

    It’s more a wilderness survival race, with rafting involved. The kids have to camp at night, feed themselves, and get back on the river. It seems to be a three-day event. If it weren’t a cartoon with a dog and his best friend, a bird, riding around America on an Easy Rider chopper… it’d seem dangerous.

    Though there is danger. For a fairly long section of act two, Snoopy thinks Woodstock’s dead, the kids think Snoopy’s dead, and everyone’s lost in the woods trying to find one another. So it goes on for a while, with Snoopy mourning his presumably lost friend. Oh, and then the evil cat hunting Woodstock as he tries to survive on his own.

    It’s impressive how Charles M. Schulz’s script—the pacing and plotting—and then Melendez and Roman’s direction make it so intense. There’s objectively no danger to the characters, but the movie makes believe so strongly, the emotions come through. It’s a fascinating use of narrative empathy and sympathy.

    The raft race takes up most of the movie. The bullies have a speedboat with a wonky motor, so the Peanuts kids can get ahead often enough for tension. Snoopy and Woodstock add a sail to their inner tube, which leads to some pastoral scenes and disasters, though maybe if Snoopy didn’t sleep while at the wheel….

    The boys and girls each have a raft, with Charlie Brown’s arc for the movie involving him becoming more of a leader. Peppermint Patty’s would possibly be listening to others while leading. No one else gets a character arc. Linus (Liam Martin) gets to defend the kids from the bullies thanks to his blanket snapping, and there are some other recurring personality gags, but not arcs. The movie’s too busy and the race too severe to slow down for them.

    The original songs are strange but not bad; imagine a disco Cat Stevens, and then also more pop-folk. Ed Bogas’s score is good. The animation’s beautiful, with excellent editing from Roger Donley and Chuck McCann. Race has a somewhat peculiar vibe; while there’s a lot of action, including harrowing POV shots, there’s also the tranquil nature stuff, especially for Snoopy and Woodstock. It’s a fine mix. The end credits are a hallucinogenic Charlie Brown sequence, which provides the final synthesis. It’s weird and a perfect finish for the film.

    Acting-wise… Watson’s okay. He’s got some weaker moments, but the movie never leans on him too long or adjusts for it after doing so. Brotman’s good, Davis is good, Martin’s good. I was expecting a lot more from Lucy (Melanie Kohn), but she gets less than Marcie (Jimmy Ahrens), who doesn’t get much.

    The filmmakers know how to get the best out of the performances. Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown’s good.


  • Superman for All Seasons (1998) #2

    Superman for All Seasons (1998) #2

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    Writer Jeph Loeb pushes a little too hard with the soft cliffhanger setting up next issue; it’s two pages plus a panel, but it feels longer because it ties into the final action sequence. It’s Lex Luthor machinating against Superman stuff, which is inevitable but also one-note. Loeb doesn’t give Luthor any depth; he’s caricature.

    It’s also pretty much the only thing wrong with the comic. And when Superman’s around to treat Luthor like a dipstick, it works; the cliffhanger setup is the problem. There’s no Superman in it. Plus, Loeb takes the emphasis away from Lois Lane—who’s narrating—and instead gives it to Luthor. The only real misstep in the lovely comic.

    The issue opens with Lois’s narration; she’s talking about Perry White’s reporting advice, then talking about Superman. Accompanying the narration are visuals of Superman flying around the Art Deco future Metropolis on his way to his first adventure of the day, in this case, a missile headed directly towards the city. After saving the day and introducing Lois—in-person as opposed to her voice—to the comic and establishing the animosity between Superman and Luthor, Loeb downshifts and examines Clark Kent, big-city reporter. Lois’s narration continues, more sparingly, as she doesn’t know Clark’s Superman.

    When Clark goes home to Smallville for his first visit since leaving—presumably he’s seen Ma and Pa Kent, just not anyone else—he finds he’s no more at home there any more than in Metropolis. There’s a great visual callback to the first issue, juxtaposing Clark and Pa Kent and the proverbial stars in their eyes.

    The Smallville visit is very gentle, very sweet. Most of the comic’s sweet, with Superman charming everyone but Luthor, who’s jealous enough of the visitor from another world he’s maybe supplying terrorists and definitely endangering public safety with hastily designed drone heroes of his own.

    There’s a lot of nice art from Tim Sale; lots of two-page spreads, some for action, some for mood. Both carry it; For All Seasons is a splendid, casually familiar comic book. Loeb’s Lois Lane narration is near perfect, with only a handful of iffy lines; given she’s narrating but not present, her lines have to at least minorly relate to the visualized action. Loeb does it well every time.

    It would be nice to see some of the Daily Planet cast; Lois talks about Jimmy Olsen and White in the narration, but there’s nothing to them besides their presence in her narration. They’re not characters yet.

    Some of Sale’s action art is breathtaking. All of it’s pretty darn good; great colors again from Bjarne Hansen.

    I vaguely, trepidatiously remember where For All Seasons is going now, but hopefully, it’ll maintain its current level of quality.


  • Evil (2019) s03e03 – The Demon of Sex

    Evil (2019) s03e03 – The Demon of Sex

    This episode ends with an odd, incomplete feeling. There’s no oomph to any of the storylines, and the resolutions are all put off until next time. There’s not even a cliffhanger, just Katja Herbers and Andrea Martin not being shitty to each other. It feels like a long episode cut up, but it also feels like the first really streaming episode of “Evil.” Whenever there’s an F-bomb, it’s a good F-bomb, onscreen, in scene, not tacked on later to flex.

    The investigation plot this episode involves a newly married couple—Freddy Miyares and Freddy Miyares—having troubles in the martial bed. They’re both virgins, and whenever they try getting busy, he gets nauseous and she breaks out in hives. Initially, now priest Mike Colter thinks they just need a couples’ counselor, but nun Martin convinces him there’s a demon. Because she can see and talk to the demon. I’m not sure if it’s a new demon costume, but it’s not a good one. It’s like “Evil” knows it’s got its audience; it doesn’t need to try anymore.

    Colter calls Herbers in to consult, then disappears for the episode, presumably off on secret Vatican secret service business like covering up more Indigenous Canadian child murders or something. Herbers and Martin don’t hit it off, but they agree to work together—there’s a weird “we’re being condescending to another woman” stand-off they do, but it’s well-acted weird, so it’s okay.

    Will Herbers figure out how to keep the demon out of the martial bed? Will Martin get in trouble for talking during the meetings? It’s high-stakes stuff.

    Aassif Mandvi’s got the other main plot. He’s suffering from depression thanks to his job; specifically, the mysteries of “Evil” leaves unresolved after the episode finishes. His sister, Sohina Sidhu, decides she’s going to help him out of his funk. It’s a good character episode for Mandvi, who gets to do more and different things than usual. His semi-breakdown starts when he can’t fix Herbers’s toilet; her husband flushed a shrunken blood sacrifice to Satan head down the toilet in the first episode of the season, and it’s been causing plumbing problems since. It gets to be too much for Mandvi.

    Then there’s some stuff with Herbers and her kids being mentally abusive to one another. It’s unsuccessful except for tying into Christine Lathi’s superior workplace subplot. Michael Emerson tasks her with selling demonic crypto, only he really puts her millennial drones in charge. Lathi’s not going to take their shit and has to figure out how to succeed selling nonsense. Crypto and religion. “Evil”’s got all the nothing for sale.

    Lathi’s great this episode, Mandvi’s great this episode. Martin’s only okay, which isn’t great. And Herbers is only okay, too; despite being around a bunch, she’s got nothing to herself.

    It’s a peculiar episode. If it’d had some kick, it’d be one of the better this season. But, instead, makes you wonder if they know what they’re doing. Like when Monsignor Boris McGiver comes off like a total rube and draws attention to him always being a total rube, which is a problem since he’s the patriarch.

    Nelson McCormick’s direction is fine; it’s the dramatically stalled script, credit to not new-to-“Evil” Aurin Squire.


  • Onesies – 3×5 – Automan (1983)

    Onesies – 3×5 – Automan (1983)

    3×5 – Automan (1983): Episode 5 Onesies

    Join Emily and Andrew as they discuss another episode of AUTOMAN! But one where Desi Arnez Jr. doesn't just whine the whole time, Automan falls in love (with a guest starring, not Southern Delta Burke), the villains are all unrecognizable and acting poorly, and the car chases are inept and tedious! Recorded June 24, 2022 so special thanks to Emily for the editing! 

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