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January 22, 2016

Review: DC's Legends of Tomorrow 1x1 (US: The CW; UK: Sky 1)

Posted on January 22, 2016 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Legends Of Tomorrow

In the US: Thursdays, 8/7c, The CW
In the UK: Thursdays, 8pm, Sky 1. Starts March 3 (TBC)

Well, here it is. Finally. After months of cameos and dicking around with the storylines of both Arrow and The Flash, we finally have DC's Legends of Tomorrow. 

For years now, these two shows has been building up a guest roster of superheroes and villains. That's inevitable in TV programmes adapted from comic books that mass up a couple of dozen episodes a season, particularly since fans always want to see how their favourites shape up on screen. This process was initially organic. On Arrow, we had a whole season of former ninja assassin turned good, Sara Lance (Caity Lotz) aka 'The Black Canary', before her eventual and much lamented death at the start of season three. We similarly got a whole season with Superman Returns' Brandon Routh getting a second shot at superherodom as Ray Palmer aka The Atom, a man who wants to be a superhero so builds himself a shrinking, armoured exo-suit.

Meanwhile, over on The Flash, we got first Wentworth Miller as Flash nemesis Captain Cold (he has a gun that makes things cold) before, in a nifty bit of casting, his Prison Break brother Dominic Purcell turned up to play Captain Cold's partner in crime Heat Wave (he has a gun that makes things hot). And on the superhero front, we got Victor Garber (Alias, Legally Blonde, Justice, Eli Stone, Charlie's Angels, Deception) as one half of the nuclear-powered Firestorm, with Robbie Amell (The Tomorrow People) as his other half.

All of that worked pretty well. Then towards the end of the third season of Arrow and the first season of The Flash, suddenly someone had the cracking idea of assembling these popular supporting characters and a whole bunch of others into a spin-off TV show in which they'd fight a super-super-nemesis. And both Arrow and The Flash would be used to introduce - in just a few quick months - those extra characters and set the existing ones up to leave their current shows in favour of the new show.

That would naturally take some work and more than a bit of plot gymnastics. So on Arrow, we've seen the very dead and buried Black Canary dunked in Ra's Al Ghul's Lazarus Pit and brought back to life, then try to redeem herself (again) as White Canary. The Atom finds he's only small fry so decides to go off to do something more worthwhile with his life than be, erm, a charming scientific genius philanthropist billionaire restoring a city to its former greatness.

Over on The Flash, Captain Cold and Heat Wave have been getting a bit fluffier and better motivated - sufficent to wanting, or at least not being averse, to saving the world. And with Robbie Amell not wanting to go long-term for another fantasy series, he gets sucked into a wormhole and replaced by BBC1/BBC3's Franz Drameh.

That's not been quite enough for a proper superhero team-up, so we've also had an Arrow/The Flash crossover to introduce Hawkgirl (Ciara Renée) and Hawkman (Germany's own Falk Hentschel), a pair of repeatedly reincarnating lovers from Ancient Egypt who are repeatedly murdered throughout time by Vandal Savage, one of the DC Comic Universe's Big Bads, who sucks them of their life energy so he can be immortal. 

Why do they all get together? Well, in the future, that Vandal Savage, who's been organising wars throughout the centuries to distract attention away from himself as he slowly amasses power, finally gets what he wants and brutally takes over the world. A 'Time Master' from the East End of London, Rip Hunter, implores his fellow Time Masters to interfere and stop Savage's reign of terror from ever happening. They refuse, because they don't want to intervene in the timelines, so Hunter steals a time ship (amusingly, Arthur Darvil who played Rory on Doctor Who plays Hunter. How has there not been a copyright suit against this?) and goes back in time to the early 21st century to assemble our heroes (and villains) into a team who can take on Savage throughout the ages.

The big questions are:

  1. Will they succeed?
  2. What isn't Hunter telling the alleged 'legends of tomorrow'?
  3. Has all this effort actually been worth it?

Continue reading "Review: DC's Legends of Tomorrow 1x1 (US: The CW; UK: Sky 1)"

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January 21, 2016

Review: The Wizards of Aus 1x1 (Australia: SBS2)

Posted on January 21, 2016 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Wizards Of Aus

In Australia: Aired nightly, Tuesday 19 January-Thursday 21 January, 8.30pm, SBS 2

As we discovered quite recently with The Shannara Chronicles (although, truth be told, we've known it in our hearts for quite some time), fantasy is not only a genre that's very easy to parody, it's almost self-parodic. Even when it's being serious, there's an inevitable difficulty in suspending disbelief, particularly when it starts throwing in pompous dialogue, not bothering to develop characters much beyond their 'destinies' and their general unwillingness to embrace them, plots that are largely scavenger hunts but with better prizes, and so on.

So you might ask what the point of The Wizards of Aus is, as it's a parody of the fantasy genre in which two powerful but rather petty wizards fight their plot-ordained conflict in powerful but rather petty ways. Do we need it? Fantasy is silly already.

It's a good question and I'm not sure there's a good answer, beyond "So that Michael Shanks can make some silly and occasionally funny jokes."

Michael Shanks?

Michael Shanks

No, he's Canadian. This Michael Shanks. 

Michael Shanks

He's Australian. Or maybe a New Zealander. Or maybe both.

The basic plot is this: Shanks is a wizard who lives in a world of magic and dragons and wizards and knights and warrior women. Except all they do all day is fight and do idiotic, heroic things. So Shanks decides to move somewhere where rationality rules: the suburbs of Melbourne, Australia. Unfortunately, so do a lot of the other magical beings from his world. Some get regular-type jobs, others continue with their malevolent activities.

Shanks is a sort of halfway point between the two worlds - too smart and rational for the fantasy world, too magical and lack in worldly wisdom for Australia - and the show basically divides the humour into three types:

  1. Flashbacks to the fantasy world
  2. A somewhat lame attempt to satirise Australian racism using magical beings as an obvious metaphor for immigrants
  3. The juxtaposition of the magic world with the real world, with wizards applying for recycling bins.

The first camp is actually quite funny, with Shanks smartly sending up the conventions of the genre. You really wish that was the whole show - a sort of Blackadder of the fantasy world.

The second camp is obvious and rarely makes a point beyond "Look! This is just like how we're treating the boat people and Asians! Do you see? Do you see?"

And the third camp, despite all kinds of shiny guest stars such as Guy Pearce (Iron Man 3, Memento), Liam McIntyre (Spartacus, The Flash) and Bruce Spence (Legend of the SeekerMad Max 2), really seems more like a big, long and possibly quite expensive advert for the Australian digital effects industry than anything actually funny.

Less is more, it seems, even in the fantasy realm.

If it weren't such a busy month, I'd probably stick with the remaining episodes as although it's a bit scattergun, there is at least reasonable promise in the show's mocking of fantasy conventions. Unfortunately, it is so I won't. YMMV.

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January 19, 2016

Preview: Angie Tribeca 1x1 (US: TBS)

Posted on January 19, 2016 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Angie Tribeca

In the US: Mondays, 9pm, TBS. Starts January 25th
In the UK: Not yet acquired

It's been a while since we've had a good US cop spoof. Back in the 80s, there were Police Squad and Sledge Hammer to make us laugh with pastiches of the then-conventions of the genre, as well as some plain old silliness.

Since then, it's been a desert, I tell you. A desert. But now from the brains of Steve and Nancy Carell comes Police Squad again. A little different, but still basically Police Squad.

Angie Tribeca stars Rashida Jones as the eponymous Tribeca, a lonewolf detective who works alone. Then along comes partner number 237 (Mr Ali Larter aka Hayes MacArthur from Perfect Couples and Really) and finally there's someone who might be able to accommodate her uniquely tough working methods.

And that's basically the plot. There's a tough gruff police captain (Jere Burns from Dear John USA and Help Me Help You). There's all manner of guest suspects (Lisa Kudrow and Gary Cole). But that's about it. 

But that's not what the show's really about it. It's about a series of scenes containing sight gags, stunts, jokes and whatever else it fancies, all of which are intended to make you laugh in more or less the same way Sledge Hammer and Police Squad did. Sometimes that's by undermining conventions, such as continuing conversations that would normally be ended by a scene cut or left implicit; sometimes it's by verbal jokes, such as having every line begin "with all due respect"; sometimes it's by visual fun, such as having the suspect jog off while an obvious stunt double does gymnastics to pursue him unnecessarily dramatically; and sometimes it's just by doing something odd, like having MacArthur plummet to his death and then pop back unharmed in the next episode.

All of this description kills the comedy, of course, so I'm going to stop with it now. I so am. Watch the trailer instead.

The show takes about 10 minutes for the first episode to transcend sixth form-review style comedy and to become actually funny, but after that it's frequently laugh out loud funny, so I'm definitely going to stick with it.

PS If you're quick, TBS is streaming the entire first season right now, so you can watch it all in one go, but only for another day or so. The show's already been renewed for a second season, too. 

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