Thursday, March 31, 2016

CrossFit Bruce and Frowny Clark, or Thoughts on Batman v Superman

Dude, what happened to Zack Snyder?  He showed so much potential in the Dawn of the Dead (2004) remake that I almost forgot it was a remake, struck gold in 300 (2007), went a little nuts with Watchmen (2009) and then completely off the rails with Sucker Punch (2011).  Since then Warner Brother’s been throwing Breaking Bad-sized pallets of cash at him and betting everything on his dark and humorless superhero vision. 
That’s my primary criticism of his directing style; nobody’s having any fun.  Are you telling me an alien with god-like powers who can fly or the world’s greatest detective who runs around in a big black cape isn’t having even a little fun?  Have you ever even worn a cape?  I defy you to put one on and not at least do the Dracula pose.  Capes are fun.  Flying is fun.  Superhero movies at their most basic level need to be fun.  That doesn’t mean light, or marketed to children, it means exciting and entertaining.  Star Wars and The Godfather are both fun movies, on very different levels.
And how many times do we need to see the broken pearls montage when Thomas and Martha die?  The fact that I can write that sentence and you know whose parents I’m talking about answers that question.  And full disclosure, you should know that I hate Ben Affleck; I hate his smug, entitled frat-boy face.  I realize this says more about me than him; he represents everything I hated about high school.  I should grow up and get over it, but like Batman, the old wounds run deep.  He was perfectly cast in Gone Girl (2014), a movie that you only need to see once, where you still have more fun than this movie.
It’s a hard PG-13, which means that people are killed, but you really don’t see the bodies drop.  Consequences are implied, but not shown.  When the big fight finally comes it has no emotional resonance or value because the audience knows there is only one possible ending; these guys will fight for a bit like a couple playground bullies before they decide they’re friends and team up.
Like Sucker Punch, the Batman v Superman is also heavy on the dream sequences, which I find is a cheap conceit that disrespects the audience and also a lazy excuse to shoehorn in even more CGI.  That doesn’t make for a better movie, it just adds unnecessary bloat to an already corpulent corpse.

It was nice to see Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman and Holly Hunter back on the big screen, but in the end Superman v Batman takes the same panic and frustration we have with contemporary issues like terrorism, school shootings and immigration and staples it over the superhero phenomena.  But we don’t need another metaphor on how crappy the world is right now, we need solutions on how to move forward and make it better.  Every incarnation of Superman from Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster to Christopher Reeve was about hope.  These movies are all about sequels.

my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The West Coast Zombie Apocalypse, or Thoughts on Fear The Walking Dead, Season One

First Seasons on AMC are always short, 6-episodes proof of concepts or market tests, which I find disrespectful from both an audience and a writer perspective.  It always appears as if the studio doesn't have enough confidence in the show to find an audience, and even less faith in the viewers actually enjoying it.  That’s no way to run a business.  But that’s how it is and even Breaking Bad started with a 6-episode run.
The inherent problem is you can’t tell much of a story in six episodes; you’re pretty much limited to introducing characters, setting up conflicts and preparing for the next season, which should be considered a proper Season One.  It’s best to consider these AMC First Seasons as a miniseries or an extra long TV movie where you have to wait a year to see what happens next.
Fortunately the wait is over for Season Two of Fear The Walking Dead.  I’ve made my opinion known on The Walking Dead, time and time again, and yet I still keep watching this franchise.  Why?  For you guys, of course.  This blog needs readers and views and the Internet is coco for zombie-puffs.  And why lie, I love zombies, what’s not to love?  It's the humans I have problems with.
Much has been written of the slow start of Season One, how long it takes to ramp up and get to the good parts, AKA The Zombie Apocalypse.  But upon second viewing, what the audience doesn’t realize is that this is the good parts, it will all go downhill from here.  While this series is a spin-off it should be viewed as a completely different show with new expectations.  This is the West Coast zombie apocalypse, it’s filmed in LA and the landscape and the people that inhabit it will inspire a different narrative than the East Coast.
The riot and LAPD protest is grounded in our present-day reality and the zombies mixed in with looters was a brilliant conceit.  Here’s a crowd of humans creating chaos in the city with a zombie minority, once the walkers take over that ratio will shift dramatically, but the chaos will if anything, increase.
There are hints on the Internet, conspiracy theories and an inherent trust of “the authorities” by the main characters, but the main theme of this franchise has always been how fast civilization falls apart and the tenuous threads that keep us following the rules and coloring within the lines.  There are strong leads with Kim Dickens, Cliff Curtis, Ruben Blades Barber with a dark past, and Colman Domingo (what a cool name) with an even darker past.  We see each character disbelieving the evidence in front of their eyes and coming to grips with the new reality in their own way.  The speed, or reluctance in which they accept the new paradigm becomes a hallmark for audience frustration and likeability.

Nick, played with a sketchy junkie charisma by Frank Dillane, who you may remember as Tom Riddle, continues the Walking Dead’s tradition of casting Brits as Americans (Andrew Lincoln was born in London and starred in Love Actually 2003).  He sees the first zombie, and of course nobody believes him.  His heroin addiction can be seen as a metaphor for why we keep watching this franchise.  We know it’s no good for us and it brings us no joy, and yet we keep tuning in, hoping for something different.  Or maybe not different, maybe just more.  That’s also junkie behavior.  We’re addicted to zombies and misery, and AMC is happy to keep that train going until we jump off.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Walking Dead Politics and Lovecraftian Monsters in Frank Darabont’s The Mist

Frank Darabont has proven to be one of the best adaptor’s of Stephen King’s works with his back-to-back films The Shawshank Redemption (1994) and The Green Mile (1999).  He collaborated with Stephen King one last time before bringing The Walking Dead to the small screen with The Mist (2007), which contains familiar faces and explores similar themes.
The movie is both an affectionate homage and a modernization of the classic 50’s horror movies and the genre in general, opening with in an artist’s studio crammed full of Drew Struzan’s illustrations, including The Thing and The Dark Tower.  You may not know that name but you’ve seen his posters your whole life, from Blade Runner and ET to Indiana Jones and Harry Potter.  Thomas Jane plays David Drayton, the artist in that studio who has to go into town with his son after a storm to pick up supplies.
The movie is set in Stephen King’s beloved Maine, with a WZON reference (Stephen King’s radio station) and a really quick premise established; there’s no cell phone service and a secret military base down the road.  That’s really all the viewer needs to know to get the story rolling before Jeffrey DeMunn, who you know and love as Dale from The Walking Dead runs into a supermarket with a bloody nose yelling “there’s something in the mist!”
Civil services collapse quickly and with the group in the supermarket cut off, the lack of information quickly turns into paranoia.  Laurie Holden, who you loved and hated as Andrea, is one of those unlucky shoppers (I miss those days when my only complaint with The Walking Dead was her hooking up with the Governor).  And resident Walking Dead badass Melissa McBride appears with same haircut but no gray hair.  She’s one of the first to vanish into the mist, leaving Thomas Jane and Laurie Holden to somehow keep the group safe.
Society breaks down on class lines in the supermarket with white collar vs. blue collar, locals vs tourists, white collar vs blue and of course, religion vs. science.   Rule by committee is attempted but quickly breaks down in the face of an unexplainable threat.  A familiar theme emerges, as dangerous as the monsters in the mist appear they’ve got nothing compared to the way humans form groups and tear each other apart. 
The movie works better than The Walking Dead because it’s a smaller universe and a shorter time line.  All the viewer has to follow is this one group in the supermarket and their survival through the night.  But I don’t know if it’s fair to compare a movie to a TV series, it’s like comparing apples to an apple pie factory.  The Walking Dead takes this supermarket scenario and presents infinite variations of it at Dale’s Farm, in the jail, at Terminus, and Alexandria and beyond, with no clear ending in sight.  The Mist gives you a proper storyline and an emotionally satisfying ending because it only has 2 hours to tell a story.
The tentacled Lovecraftian monsters in the mist were designed by Greg Nicotero, Walking Dead director and makeup designer on basically every movie you’ve seen (seriously, check out his IMDB).

my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.

Monday, March 28, 2016

The Air is Toxic and The Floor is Lava, or Thoughts on 10 Cloverfield Lane

I absolutely detested Cloverfield (2008), I didn’t buy the premise that Rob wouldn’t put the camera down (boy. did I hate Rob) and help, or run away.  I wasn’t impressed with the PG-13 monster or the PG-13 violence and I haven’t completely forgiven JJ Abrams or Bad Robot Productions, though I have to admit he redeemed himself with The Force Awakens.
10 Cloverfield Lane (2016) is a movie about paranoia and lack of information.  Three people are trapped in a surprisingly roomy and non-claustrophobic underground bunker.  John Goodman is Howard, the off-balance host, dungeon master, and possible kidnapper; he claims there’s been a disaster and the air is poisoned.  Mary Elizabeth Winsted plays Michelle, who wakes up after a car crash chained to a pipe, and John Gallagher Jr. Plays Emmet, who says he witnessed the attack but can she believe him?  I do like these single scene, minimal cast movies that are set up like a stage play, that can lead a lot of room for drama and clever story-telling.
When the actors (and the audience) have no idea what the threat is, although John Goodman says it is possibly extraterrestrial, imagination becomes the greatest threat.  In this sense the movie is more like an old timey radio drama, Orson Welles’ War of the World all over again.  It's a tightrope between tease and reveal to keep the audience interested and in their seats, and 10 Cloverfield Lane loses its balance towards the finale.  Night of the Living Dead (1968) explored a similar terrain with the upstairs group fighting the basement group in a power struggle, but at least the audience could see the actual threat outside the doors.  The same can be said for the group trapped in the grocery store in Frank Darabont’s The Mist (2007).
It’s hard to write about the ending without actually revealing it (you can check Wikipedia if you’re really desperate).  I can tell you that all your questions will be answered and you will still leave the theater feeling unsatisfied.  Sometimes mysteries are better left unexplained, like John Locke plugging in the numbers in the bunker in Lost (2004, JJ Abrams again).  The entire series suffered when the writers started desperately explaining things in the final seasons, and 10 Cloverfield Lane experiences a similar crash upon re-entry.
The movie has been compared to The Twilight Zone, and with the Cold War this theme has been explored in depth in episodes like The Shelter (1961) Time Enough at Last (1959) or The Monsters are Due on Maple Street (1960).  Doomsday paranoia is nothing new, and in many ways our post 9/11 world and fear of global terrorism is just as crippling as the old Iron Curtain and nuclear holocaust.  There are survival and prepper videos on YouTube that get millions of views, as more and more people question their politicians and look for grassroots solutions.  It can seem desperate, and our movies are reflecting that unfortunate zeitgeist
I’m not looking for happy endings, just clever ones.  10 Cloverfield Lane starts with a great premise and doesn’t commit to it, and by the end we’re hit with an entirely different mini-movie.  It’s been called a “spiritual sequel”, but what exactly does that mean?  Ordinary people are thrust into apocalyptic, world-ending scenarios and the name “Cloverfield” is somehow shoehorned into the plot? That will leave room for Son of Cloverfield, Bride of Cloverfield, Cloverfield Reloaded, The Search for Cloverfield and of course, The Wrath of Cloverfield.

my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Weekend Movie Recommendations, or Britpop Gangsters and Polite Mayhem in Layer Cake

Two years before Casino Royale and the role that would change his life, Daniel Craig played the anonymous narrator, a pragmatic drug dealer with a code, in Layer Cake (2004).   He’s more like a charismatic bootlegger than a proper villain, and he’s looking for one last score before he retires.  But of course you and I know you can never get out of this business.  He’s on a collision course with the Duke, a coke addled tracksuit wearing loudmouth who inadvertently steals a shipment of MDMA from Serbian war-criminal gangsters who like to take heads.
Directed by Matthew Vaughn Kingsman (2015), Layer Cake has a Guy Ritchie vibe, making London gangsters cool again with flashbacks, voiceovers and a nostalgic Britpop soundtrack ranging from Kylie Minogue and The Cult to Duran Duran.  Michael Gambon plays Eddie Temple, a mob boss who’s managed to go legit as a real estate developer, along with Sienna Miller, Colm Meaney Chief O’Brian, Ben “Q” Whishaw, Burn Gorman from Torchwood (2006) and Pacific Rim (2013) and Tom Hardy.

my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Baroque Splendor and Savage Cruelty, or Thoughts on The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover

 Michael Gambon plays an uncouth, gluttonous mob boss in Peter Greenaway’s visionary The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover (1989).  Barking, feral dogs roam around the back alleys of an unnamed city as his gang assaults an anonymous enemy.  It’s not enough to intimidate, Michael Gambon’s Albert Spica needs to humiliate him as well with a variety of bodily functions.  It’s a hard scene to watch and literally the first scene in the movie, but it is filmed with such symmetrical perfection that the viewer is drawn into the story.
Michael Gambon is the titular Thief, a gangster thug with gourmet pretensions, and Helen Mirren plays Georgina, chain-smoking gangster’s Wife who married far below her station.  Most of the movie takes place in the cavernous kitchen or the theatrical restaurant that he has taken over.
The film is composed of Renaissance still lifes come to life, with costumes by Jean-Paul Gaultier.  The wardrobe changes color along with the motif of the sets; a brilliant and visionary cinematic conceit that keeps the audience on their toes.
Artfully composed menus act as chapter headings, complimented by the splendidly baroque soundtrack by Michael Nyman.  It’s a modern fairy tale, a new circle of Hell filled with beauty and savagery in equal measures, an extraordinary film in a world where the sensual pleasures of fine dining and gourmet food preparation are juxtaposed against furtive, stolen love scenes.  It’s a visceral movie that does its best to assault the viewer’s senses with dog shit and rotting meat, but always set against the gorgeously baroque soundtrack and art direction.
Richard Bohringer from Diva (1980) portrays the Cook and Alan Howard plays the bookish lover who doesn’t speak a word for the first half of the movie, which is ironic as he was the voice of the Ring in The Lord of The Rings Trilogy (2001).  There’s also a very young Tim Roth who you just saw in The Hateful Eight(2015) and Ciarán Hinds from HBO’s Rome (2005) as members of Albert’s gang.
But it is Michael Gambon’s performance steals the show as the savage and violent brute, an uncouth bully, raging in the kitchen and the dining room like a homicidal King Lear.  It is reminiscent of Dennis Hopper’s Frank from Blue Velvet (1986) or Ben Kingsley in Sexy Beast (2000).  His fury is hard to watch and yet the viewer is compelled, carried along by the force of his performance and screen presence.  He gets his comeuppance in a particularly gruesome and ironic way, thanks to the Wife, and the audience leaves the theater beaten and bruised, but oddly satisfied.

my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Now That Downton Abbey is Over, Go Watch Gosford Park

A decade before the chauffer ran away with Lady Sibyl and the infamous scandal with Mr. Pamuk, Julian Fellowes wrote the screenplay for Robert Altman’s 2001 film, Gosford Park.  It’s proto-Downton Abbey with all the elements you want; the exquisite manners and table settings, the elegant evening gowns and bespoke suits, the furs and cigarettes, and of course the grand country manors and the interior design with the lovely furniture.
I originally watched this movie because of Robert Altman, legendary director of Mash (1970), Nashville (1975) and The Player (1992).  He employs a conversational technique of talking over in his films, layering dialogue on top of another like a symphony, a technique that demands multiple viewings to fully grasp all the nuanced levels and clever details of the plot.  I had no idea who Julian Fellowes was, but I remembered his name and this film when Downton Abbey rolled around and I knew exactly what I was in for.
Gosford Park is a 1930's locked room Murder Mystery straight out of an Agatha Christie novel featuring an all-star cast, and a very young (well, younger) Maggie Smith as the equally acerbic Constance, Countess of Trentham.  There are so many themes that would be elaborated (and beaten to death) in the series.  Fortunately there are no entails, though there are money problems upstairs, along with some servants crossing the class line and closeted gay couples.  The first half is devoted to the shooting weekend and the house party, and the second half is a murder mystery.
It’s a tighter plot of course, with the inherent time constraint of a movie but it explores familiar elements such as the servants living their lives through their employers, with their status and rank downstairs reflected in the seating arrangement at dinner.  The servants gossip just as much as their employers, but ironically have more to say about the events upstairs than their own lives. There’s a charming scene that sums up the film where Jeremy Northam as Ivor Novello plays the piano and sings after dinner.  The servants are star struck and the guests are for the most part bored and slightly embarrassed.
Kristen Scott Thomas plays the luminous Lady Sylvia and Kelly Macdonald from Trainspotting (1996) and HBO’s Boardwalk Empire (2010) portrays Maggie Smith’s maid Mary.  With Emily Watson as Elsie, and The Lion of Casterly Rock Charles Dance as Lord Stockbridge.  The film also features Clive Owen, Helen Mirren, Derek Jacobi, Richard E. Grant and UK National Treasure Stephen Fry as the Inspector Thompson.

Michael Gambon plays Sir William, who you of course know and love as Albus Dumbledore, but you should check out his performances as a British mob boss in Layer Cake (2004) and Albert Spica, the brutish titular thief in Peter Greenaway’s The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover (1989, also starring Helen Mirren).

my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

She Turned Me Into A Newt (I Got Better) or Thoughts on The Witch

 The Witch: A New England Folktale (2016) is a quiet campfire tale told in anachronistic dialogue, lots of thees and thous and a quasi-Shakespearian script.  It’s a bold move that limits audience appeal; people want their stories spoon-fed and easily understood and this movie, much like a novel by Hawthorne or Melville, requires patience, thought and participation.  The movie throws you into the deep end and expects you to keep up, but in its defense after about 20 minutes you’ll become accustomed to the dialogue and will be able to follow along.
The scares come fast in clever and completely original ways in a film enhanced by authentic looking sets and costumes and scenes lit by candlelight like a Vermeer painting.  A 17th Century Pilgrim family lives on a failing farm on the edge of an oppressive, wild forest filled with mysterious sounds and unknown creatures.  Of course, the nearest neighbor is a witch living in a hovel in the woods straight out of Hansel and Gretel.
Anya Taylor-Joy plays Thomasin, the eldest daughter, working just as hard as her parents as she struggles to manage her farm chores and her younger siblings.  Like The Crucible (1996), this film features a teen Pilgrim girl with an overactive imagination, but this is no McCarthy allegory, this movie premise is what if the girls in the Salem Witch trials were actually guilty of witchcraft.  That world is depicted in stunning and visual detail as the family is torn apart from a worldview based on religious fundamentalism and the ensuing paranoia.
These aren’t Harry Potter witches with charmingly eccentric names like Hermione Granger or Minerva McGonagall.  Nor are they solitary misunderstood herbalist healers living peacefully in the woods.   These witches are in congress with the Dark Lord and seem almost feral and barely human.  They do classic witchy things like spoiling milk, stealing children and flying on broomsticks. 
The Witch is a pleasant throwback to the retro-horror of a Val Lewton or a Hammer movie, relying on writing and acting for scares and telling a simple, uncomplicated story.  In a world of CGI monsters where literally anything can be imagined and visualized on screen, it succeeds in bringing a sense of dread and terror in the simple filming of a black goat or an open grave.  Economical filmmaking always fosters creative solutions, by necessity.  And you get a far more accurate portrayal of witchcraft in North America than JK Rowling’s new movie promises.

my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Chocolate Milkshakes and Flying Cars, or Thoughts on Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday

There’s a quiet subversive quality that I enjoy about Pee-Wee Herman, he pulls you in with his nervous laugh and tired jokes and then offers you some red-hot gum or a stink bomb.  But it’s all in good fun and the audience can’t helped but to be charmed by the surreal, unexplained man-child in the grey glen plaid suit and iconic red bow tie.  It takes a certain type of comic genius to blow up a balloon onscreen and make it funny, and only a certain type of audience will appreciate it, but if you’re new to Pee-Wee’s world understand that you’ll only have fun if you give in.  He’s like a kiddie ride at a carnival, you can sit there with your arms folded and complain that you’re too serious and grown-up and intellectual to be amused or you can listen to the kids laughing around you and give in to your inner-child.
Maybe the future will be OK if we live in a world where Pee-Wee Herman can return in his third film, Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday (2016), almost 30 years after his last one, Big Top Pee-Wee (1988).  Paul Reubens is 62 and don’t get me wrong, he looks great, but it’s still a little scary to see the actor cruising down the street on a skateboard, and not in a good way.
Again, there are no references to his previous movies; each film exists independently as a Pee-Wee Herman reboot, and yet there are certain themes that are always present.  He lives in a mid-century town where everybody’s friendly and the most advanced piece of tech is a solar powered calculator the size of a business card.  The visual gags are so old and tired they circle around and become funny again, at least for the duration of the movie.  And the audience is always treated to a montage of Rube Goldberg cause and effect gadgets that serve to amuse Pee-Wee almost as much as the viewers.  I always think his bedtime routine consists of setting those things up for the next day.
Joe Manganiello stars as himself, a cool guy who rides into town on his motorcycle and shakes things up.  He bonds with Pee-Wee over chocolate milkshakes and they become instant best friends.  He’s another man-child, a more handsome and socially acceptable version of Pee-Wee, but with the exact same sensibilities and on a similar emotional level.  There’s a hero-worship aspect when Pee-Wee dreams of their friendship, it’s not quite homoerotic and more innocent, but certainly could be interpreted that way if you wish.  These are two grown men riding giant unicorn piñatas, after all.
Girls are a strange and confusing distraction for Pee-Wee, who finds more joy in his vintage toy collection, but that doesn’t stop him from running into a gang of lady bank robbers straight out of a Russ Meyer movie and a cameo from Diane Salinger, aka Simone from Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (1985), playing a society lady with a fancy flying car.
Although I am sentimental and happy to see him again, we have to compare this film to the gold standard, Tim Burton’s Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (1985).  In Big Adventure Pee-Wee has a quest, to find his stolen bike.  He has a heroic journey and a nemesis in Francis Buxton.  Along the way he meets regular people in the real world and wins them over, much like Paul Reubens did with his TV show. 
Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday was produced by Judd Apatow, but the film really needed the sensibilities of Seth MacFarlane.  There’s no journey in Big Holiday, apart from his road trip to New York, and no heroic quest, other than attending Joe Manganiello’s birthday party.  He’s going on vacation, and on this road trip finds other quirky weirdos, as if they’re called to him; a gag joke salesman, the aforementioned 50-s pin-up girl gang and lady with the flying car, and a variation on the classic farmer’s daughter routine.  There’s a big musical number in Manhattan doesn’t compare to the simple joys of dancing to Tequila in a biker bar and becoming an honorary full-patch member.

But sometimes you can go home again, and Pee-Wee will be there to serve you chocolate milkshakes and talking pancake smiley faces.  Just watch out for the inevitable whoopee cushion.

my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Well Now I Want a Punisher Series, or Thoughts on Daredevil Season 2

And suddenly, two of my favorite shows on TV are about lawyers, Better Call Saul and Daredevil.  Charlie Cox returns to play Matt Murdock, blind lawyer by day and the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen by night in Season Two of Marvel’s Daredevil on Netflix.  He’s finally in full Daredevil mode with a proper costume and the non-lethal billy clubs he throws around like batarangs.  And he’s bathed in red lights from brake lights or convenient neon crosses from a nearby church.  The religious iconography also returns, and Matt even has a conversation with Frank Castle about Catholicism in between trading fists.   We are also treated to another lovingly affectionate portrait of New York City, this time during a heat wave; a 100° Son of Sam Summer.
Villains always more interesting than heroes, especially ones like Daredevil who are locked into rigid moral codes.   Frank Castle also has a code; he just has a more Old Testament approach to justice.  Jon Bernthal, who you know and love as Shane from The Walking Dead (I could write a whole post about Shane entitled Shane Was Right) plays the Punisher, and the first glimpse you get is of him storming through a hospital in army field jacket like the T-800.  Frank isn’t exactly a villain; both of them share the same frustration with the judicial system and due process.  It comes down to redemption vs. abandonment; Matt wants believes everyone deserves a second chance and Frank thinks society would be better off without the nameless thugs he dispatches.
And those are the only villains you get in Season Two, nameless, anonymous Yakuza or Irish gangsters or bikers, like a videogame.  There’s no one with the gravitas or force of intent of Vincent D’Onofrio, and his presence is missed.  And speaking of videogames, there’s a single-take stairway fight variation on the now classic The Raid: Redemption (2011)/Oldboy (2003) hallway fight scene.  It’s a convenient way to have the hero fight multiple foes one on one instead of them waiting patiently in a circle like they did with Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon (1973).
Electra, part-time ninja assassin and bored socialite is now re-imagined as Matt’s psycho ex-girlfriend from college.  Portrayed by Élodie Yung, who you may remember as Miriam Wu in Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011), she’s a frustratingly perfect chaotic foil to Matt’s brooding and uptight lawyer personae.
The sub-plots with Foggy, thanklessly portrayed by Elden Henson and Karen unfortunately get lost  and overwhelmed because they’re not as glamorous or exciting as Daredevil vs Punisher.  They’re just hard working regular folks doing Internet research or locking horns with the District Attorney.  Additionally, Deborah Ann Woll’s a blonde now, which some might consider that an upgrade but redheads are a comic book tradition with the likes of Mary Jane Parker, Brenda Starr and Poison Ivy.  And besides, there are way too many blondes on TV.

The irony of Daredevil and shows like this in general is that Matt Murdock is a real-life hero, fighting for the rights of the downtrodden and neglected, working within the system, but that isn’t as interesting as fighting ninjas or biker gangs.  Superheroes have a clearly defined sense of justice; right or wrong, white hats and black hats.  That’s comforting to the audience.  And why do we even love masked vigilante and accept them as heroic archetypes as opposed to the historical or more traditional heroes like Hercules, or the Three Musketeers or even Superman?  The mask lends anonymity and plants the idea that you or I could be the hero.  Hercules was the son of a god; Superman is an alien, and the Three Musketeers?  Those guys are French…

my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.