Zack & Nick's Culture Cast

Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!

Tag Archives: DC Comics

ANCC: Green Lantern

Goin’ green!  Goin’ Solo!  This week, it is just Nick as he discusses the 2011 superhero film Green Lantern starring Ryan Reynolds!  He discusses all of the cons and manages to even find a pro!  Will this one-person episode work?  Download the episode to find out!

To listen to the episode, click here or on the image below.

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ANCC: C2E2 2017

It’s that time of year where we go to the Chicago area’s biggest pop-culture and comic convention, C2E2.  Come listen to the Gorehound, the Kiwi, and Nick as they discuss a weekend-long of complete and utter nonsense!  Also, Mike Colter is one sexy man.

Check out some of the local artists discussed in this podcast!

Of Mice and Madness
Rob Hogan

To listen to the episode, click here or on the image below!

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ANCC: The Killing Joke

Nick and the Gorehound chat about the classic and controversial comic Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland.  Now a direct-to-DVD animated movie, the original tale is back in the spotlight, so why not cash in on this craze?  Did this dynamic duo like this story or find it as bad as the controversy suggests?  Find out in this episode!

To listen to the episode, click here or on the image!

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The Flash’s Second Season was Awful

Talk about a sophomore slump.  The first season of The Flash was light, fun fluff.  It wasn’t game changing, but it was enjoyable with enough character beats to keep me invested.  The second season took a crap on all of it making it such a trying experience by the end.

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Where to begin?  The season starts out okay with an interesting premise introducing the concept parallel worlds (allowing for a creative way to keep Tom Cavanagh on the show), the classic comic book character Jay Garrick (Teddy Sears), a terrifying new villain known as Zoom, and a new love interest for Barry (Grant Gustin).  All good stuff that made for a promising season of ideas.

But the show’s writing slowly began going downhill at a steady pace.  First, they ditch Barry’s girlfriend in the most awkward and unconvincing way ever.  Then the team of supposed scientists continue to make awful decision after awful decision.  They are supposed to be smart, but they cannot concoct a scheme to take down this season’s villain when they have him directly at their mercy.  These people are stupid.  More on that later.

The biggest sin is in this season’s villain, Zoom.  We are never given a clear idea what exactly he wants.  Does he just want Barry’s speed because he wants to go faster?  Or because he’s dying?  Don’t know. It is later revealed that he wants to destroy the multiverse.  Why?  What does he gain from this?  Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  He kidnaps Caitlin (Danielle Panbaker) for “reasons” and then later lets her go for “reasons”.  His motivations and desires are all over the place.

Even more maddening is that the basic idea behind Zoom is exactly the same as the villain from last year.  A mentor figure to the team is really the villain who is helping Barry to get faster in order for him to ultimately steal his speed.  Did the writers and/or producers not see that they were already repeating themselves?

As mentioned above, these characters are stupid.  And Barry is incredibly selfish.  The season ended with Barry, feeling bad about himself because his father just died, goes back in time to save his mother from being killed.  For starters, this plotline was resolved a year ago.  Second, how dumb is Barry?!  He knows that if he saves his mom, he is destroying the future.  And, on top of that, he should know that changing the past like that has the potential to wipe out existence as it almost did at the end of last season (which subsequently set-up this season’s problems).  And even further, it goes completely against the lesson he learned a few episodes prior that Barry needs to work through and accept the tragedies in his life.   And finally, did he conveniently forget the time wraiths who go after speedsters for messing with time – the very thing that defeated Zoom?

And don’t get me started on the nonsense “time remnant” plot point or the over-the-top narrative gymnastics/fan service with the John Wesley Shipp reveal.

This show had turned into garbage.  There are some bright spots still with some fun interaction between the characters and some good additions to the case.  But, overall this show has fallen.  People love to give the Batman prequel Gotham a lot of crap, but at least that show is consistent.  The Flash’s producers really need to reconsider what they are wanting to do with this series.  I’m not going to give up on it yet.  I think it is recoverable.  Hopefully the third season will give the writers to iron out whatever issues they are having.

~N

ANCC: Favorite Superheroes

After a week off due to technical difficulties, Nick and the Gorehound are back!  Since we are in the midst of a superhero summer at the movies, they decided to talk about some of their favorite superheroes!  Join the fun and have a listen on who they like!  It might just surprise you!

To listen to the episode, click here or on the image.

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Enemies & Allies – A Superman/Batman Team-Up For Everyone

Looking for an alternate Batman/Superman team-up to Dawn of Justice?  Then look no further than the 2009 novel Enemies & Allies by Kevin J. Anderson.  The story centers itself with Superman meeting Batman for the first time.  But, it is with a twist: it takes place in the late 1950s amidst the Red Scare, the rise in interest of the UFO phenomena, and nuclear tension.  And because of that, the book is an incredibly fun read.

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I originally read Enemies & Allies when it first came out, but the recent release of Dawn of Justice (which I haven’t actually seen yet – nor do I have a dire desire to) made me want to revisit it.  In it, we find our heroes towards the beginning of their careers, trying to find their places in their costumed identities.  Batman is still considered a criminal by the Gotham Police Department, and people are openly skeptical if Superman really is an alien from another planet.

Meanwhile, evil businessman Lex Luthor is conspiring with rogue elements of Soviet Russia to push the world into an even heightened state of fear and paranoia where he will come out on top.  Not surprisingly, his plan indirectly involves Superman and Batman’s alter ego of Bruce Wayne – ultimately bringing the two heroes together for the first time.

What I liked about Enemies & Allies is that it really takes its time to develop the relationship between Batman and Superman.  The two are not the quickest of friends considering their different methods and the uncertainty they have about each other.  This is a common trope of the many retellings of the first Batman/Superman meeting, but it works well here.  Much of the book keeps these two characters apart from one another.  They weave in and out of each other’s story but are mostly doing their own thing (until the last third where all the plot threads start to converge).

The reason why this works is that it gives time for both Batman and Superman to consider the other and gradually develop an understanding and respect for one another.  It doesn’t go the easy knee-jerk route a writer might having of them teaming for the entire book without any development of them becoming a team.

What separates this story from the other Batman/Superman first-meetings is that it places it squarely during the height of the Cold War.  It gives it a certain flavor and style that makes it stand apart.  Placing it in and fully utilizing the 1950s setting is a brilliant move.  Using real world history in a Batman/Superman story kind of gives it a more naturalistic feel to it than one might get from a story set in the present day.  It is this novel’s retro setting is the “hook” and it works incredibly well.

Author Kevin J. Anderson has a very light, breezy feel to his writing.  It moves quickly and one can probably move through the book at a fast pace.  I don’t want to oversell the book.  Enemies & Allies is not a piece of “high art”, but it isn’t meant to be.  It is a real fun read – good for summertime.  I totally recommend it.

I saw Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

**Warning: Perhaps mild spoilers, but not really**

After three years (that felt more like thirty years to be honest), Warner Bros. latest DC disasterpiece, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, is finally in theaters. Well, at least it will be in a few days. I managed to get invited to a special sneak preview, and after seeing it I’m just kind of perplexed. I’m really not sure what I just watched. It was half awful, half amazing. It was full of some of the weirdest shit I’ve ever seen in a comic book movie. It is simultaneously over and under-written. One thing is for sure, however: Batman v Superman really doubles down on the doom and gloom – and I highly doubt this film is going to change anyone’s minds about the direction of the DC “cinematic universe.”

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I’m not one of these people who hates on DC for trying to accomplish what Marvel does with their films. I actually dislike most of the Marvel because they’re such generic pieces of shit. There’s barely an ounce of creativity in those sterile movies (save for Guardians of the Galaxy, which was such a weird concept I’m wagering Marvel didn’t attempt to reign it in because they assumed it would flop). I like living in a world where DC movies are significantly different from Marvel films. I just wish DC’s movies were better, particularly this one. It’s true that I liked Man of Steel (I actually think I like it significantly more than BvS at this point though that could change), but it is largely disliked and even hated by a significant portion of the Internet.

As much as that shouldn’t matter, it does. Internet fanboys make up a significant portion of the noise online, unfortunately. Again, it pains me but this must be taken into consideration. BvS isn’t going to appeal to these people because BvS is essentially everything they hated about MoS amplified tenfold. There’s wanton destruction (this time with shoe-horned in lines about people getting to safety!), loud noises, explosions, half-developed plot ideas, crazy unrelated-able science stuff, and awful writing permeating through BvS. The film also manages to make Batman, the dourest of dour characters, somehow even more cynical, dour, and humorless. I’m not sure Batman has a single fun moment in this entire picture.

On the other hand, there’s Superman, and he’s handled significantly better in this movie than he was in MoS. Superman, now seen as a godlike figure to some and as a tyrant to others following the Metropolis disaster, is surprisingly the most interesting character in the film. The little moments where Superman saves people from floods and burning buildings are striking, beautiful, and moving. Hans Zimmer’s score swells in the background, Zack Snyder’s direction works well, and Henry Cavill nails Superman in these moments. He also looks fantastic as Superman. Unfortunately, he’s awful at being Clark Kent. He’s awkward in all the wrong ways. He looks like he’s never spoken to another human being in his entire life. His romance with Lois Lane is completely unbelievable.

Speaking of Lois, Adams is fine in the role once again. Other supporting characters, like Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, and newcomer to the film series Gal Godot are all fine in their roles. I expected Godot to shine a bit more as Diana Prince, but her role is really much more of an extended cameo. The weirdest bit of casting was in Jesse Eisenberg as Alexander “Lex” Luthor. I expected Eisenberg to essentially ramp up his Mark Zuckerberg shtick, but he doesn’t do this. What he does is actually ramp the crazy up to 11, almost to the point of being completely and utterly ridiculous. I was a huge fan of casting Eisenberg as Luthor and I championed it time and time again. But I don’t think it works. He looks like he’s in a completely different movie.

Batman v Superman is an almost humorless film. The script is awful, especially for the first half of the film. BvS doesn’t know what it wants to be entirely. It jumps back and forth between scenes of Superman or Batman doing random stuff with little rhyme or reason. It’s almost 45 minutes before any semblance of a plot starts to kick in. The film finds it necessary to go back to climax of Man of Steel in order to give Batman motivation, but it’s almost completely unnecessary. The film would have functioned without it. There’s also an unusual amount of random, unnecessary violence permeating the film, as well as totally incomprehensible flashbacks and dream sequences. Like I said, the script is kind of a mess.

Snyder is going to get blamed for the film’s faults, which isn’t really fair. He’s a fine action director. I know it’s as cool to bash on him as it is Michael Bay, but Snyder is a talented storyteller and I honestly think he does the best he can with such as garbage script. If anything, I appreciate just how much Snyder seems to love this universe, and his attention to detail is pretty good. There are little things, like Diana Prince investigating other “meta humans” that works. The film, however, is hyper-violent and filled with unnecessary death. I’m not certain that so many people needed to be either shot to death or killed in fiery explosions.

Even as a MoS apologist, I am sitting her finding it difficult to recommend Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. I like about half of the film, particularly the moments with Superman. But Batman is totally botched here. I don’t necessarily think it’s Affleck’s fault either. I can’t see Christian Bale, one of my favorite actors, turning this into Oscar winning material either. The main fault of the film is that it lacks identity. Does it want to be a team-up movie like The Avengers, a gritty crime drama like Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy of films, or a hyper-violent, Snyder-esque action film a la 300 or Watchmen? It tries to be all three, and thus doesn’t quite stick the landing. I can’t possibly see this film winning over the naysayers and I have no idea what’s going to happen to Warner Bros.’ long-term plans for a DC “film universe.”

-Z-

BvS: Can We Gain Some Perspective on R-Ratings?

Word on the street is that the upcoming Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, though rated PG-13 for theaters, will have a home video “Director’s Cut” release with a R-rating (for violence).  And people are losing their fucking minds over it.  I have seen nothing but overreactions with people thinking the film will somehow feature over-the-top gore, Batman dropping F-bombs, and hard-core nudity.  bvs.jpg

Are these people idiots?  Do they have no clue to how the MPAA rating system works?  .  The difference between a R and a PG-13 can be incredibly slim.  For example, Marvel’s The Avengers was originally rated R for the first couple of cuts.  Yes, the popcorn, family friendly, safe superhero film that was The Avengers was originally rated R due to Phil Coulson’s original death scene.  Once that got reworked, the film was cleared for a PG-13.

While BvS looks like a more somber film than The Avengers, I have little doubts that the changes for the Director’s Cut are ultimately minor and probably just feature a bit more violence like the aforementioned Coulson death scene.  The only difference is that Warner Bros. is open to releasing that cut to the public.

This is nothing new to the world of home video releases.  The 2000s, in particular, were home to many movies coming to DVD with a “unrated” version.  This is an extension of that trend and really shouldn’t surprised anyone.  Remember home media release of 2013’s The Wolverine or the extended versions of The Hobbit? Same thing.

Of course, logic and facts haven’t stopped anyone one from ignoring this and proceed with their own nonsensical beliefs.  The biggest one being that the reason BvS is getting a “R-rating” is because the recently-released Deadpool proved you can have a R-rated superhero movie (while forgetting such films as  Dredd, Kick-Ass, Watchmen, Blade, and Sin City among others).  Lets not forget that Deadpool‘s R-rating is for very, very different reasons that anything that would ever appear in a Batman/Superman movie.

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Deadpool‘s influence has been vastly overstated.

While I am sure Deadpool‘s success was a factor, it was likely a minor one at that.  Deadpool came out less than two weeks ago meaning that if Warner Bros. decided right then on February 15 to do a R-rated version of BvS, that means they would have to bring back director Zack Snyder and his editors to reedit the film to push it to the R-rating, reedit the thing, and resubmit the film.  Then, the MPAA would have to schedule a time to watch it.

While not impossible, the timeline isn’t practical.  A Director’s Cut was likely already in the works well before Deadpool.  The only thing that Deadpool might have done to influence this decision is to actually list it as “R” as opposed to “unrated”.

Again, I remind readers of The Avengers and how that was originally rated R.

This bullshit overreaction needs to stop, and I really wish the collective that is the internet would gain some perspective.  Batman v. Superman will be an all-audiences film no different than Man of Steel or any Marvel film before it.  If Warner Bros. want to put out a slightly more violent version for comic book fans in addition the the theatrical version, then so be it.  This is something that has been going on for years.  Doesn’t mean it’s going to be a hard-R with Ben Affleck shouting “Are you retarded?  I’m the Goddamn Batman!”

 

Although….

 

Arrow – Mishandled Ambition: Talkin’ Season 3

The first and second seasons of the CW superhero show Arrow were wildly entertaining with the second improving on the first. Going into a third season, anticipation was high, but hopes were dashed as this last year was a real let down and a bit of a narrative mess.arrow3

There were a lot of good, little things sprinkled throughout Arrow’s third year, Brandon Routh being a prime example. His addition to the cast really livened up what could really have been a dreary show (seriously, why does this guy not get more work – he’s great in almost everything he is in!). There were some nice character moments for most of the main cast with Laurel, Roy, and Thea coming into their own. And the show continued its push of not holding anything back or trying to stick to the status quo. I liked it for that.

However, the real problem with the season was the overall story arc. I can’t tell if it was too ambitious or if the showrunners just didn’t know what to do with the season and winged it as they went along. Let’s recap: Malcom uses an unknowing Thea to kill Sara (a death that I didn’t mind in the least as, I think, I am the only one who disliked Sara in season 2). Since Sara was a member of the League of Assassins, their mysterious leader, Ra’s al Ghul, descends upon Starling City to avenge her death, but Oliver challenges this so Thea won’t be killed in retaliation. After a duel, Ra’s is impressed with Oliver and wants him to become the next Ra’s (it’s a title, you see). Oliver rejects this, so Ra’s destroys Oliver’s reputation as Arrow and exposes him, prompting a switch-a-roo to clear Oliver. But Oliver decides to pretend join the League only to discover that Ra’s plans to launch a biological weapon against Starling City. Oliver and his crew stop him.

Just typing that made my head hurt. Of course there were a lot of subplots weaving in and out, but the main arc was all over the place. By the time we get to the “real plot” of the season, we were about 2/3 through it. And when we got to the bioweapon element in the last handful of episodes, it really felt like the showrunners didn’t know how to end the season, so they dipped into the “destroy Starling City” well again.

Now, I don’t think I would have had a problem with the year’s story arc if it didn’t involve characters acting completely out of character or turn into complete idiots in order to facilitate it. Even more irritatingly, there were times when the characters would become total hypocrites. Namely, Diggle, Roy, and Felicity fake Roy’s death, but keep it from Oliver so they can “sell it” to the public at large. The following few episodes, Oliver joins the League of Assassins as a ruse, but keeps it from Diggle and the rest so he can “sell it” to Ra’s. When learning the truth, his team (especially Diggle) is unforgivingly upset with him. I wanted to yell at the screen, “You did the same thing!”

And then there is the romance between Felicity and Oliver. The online fandom loves this while I think it’s obnoxious. I have no problems with characters finding romance, but outside of working together and both being attractive, there is no reason why these two should have developed feelings for one another. I can maybe buy Felicity falling for Oliver given his selfless actions over the course of the series, but Oliver has never shown any interest in her whatsoever other than he values her as a member of Team Arrow. It also doesn’t help that the actors don’t really have romantic chemistry. I know the show is going forward with it, so I’ll just have to deal. To me, though, it didn’t work.

I still liked Arrow’s third season. I just wasn’t as into it as I was the previous years. The story was a bit of a mess and frustrating at times. There was some good stuff there just around the corner, but they just couldn’t tap into it. The new season, which started yesterday, promises a new beginning. Here is hoping the showrunners have learned lessons from season three and return the show to greatness.

~N

Speed Watching! – The Flash: Season One

Tonight was the premiere of The Flash’s second season, and the CW was really promoting it like no other. And I cannot blame them. The Flash was a runaway hit for the CW with critics and audiences last year. No wonder they are giving it all the pomp and circumstance they can muster.

flashBut why was this show so popular? Obviously, I watched it (I’m a fan of the Flash), and the leading reason why The Flash has caught on is that it is a lot of fun. It is a show with relatable characters that you actually like. It has the hook of a superhero (which, like it or not, are really popular nowadays), but it adds in healthy doses of humor, romance, adventure, and heart. The show is light and breezy making it good for families, but with just enough edge. It makes for a pleasurable viewing experience.

And, on a personal note, last season had an underlying them of father/son relationships. Seriously! Barry had three father figures on the show, and each brought something different to the table. While I have always appreciated of a father/son dynamic in storytelling, having lost my father just before the show premiered last October, this element of The Flash spoke to me.

Because all of the above worked within the show, The Flash was really able to embrace its comic book origins. The Flash and the extended elements of that character’s world are incredibly goofy, but the show managed to incorporate it onto the show. The writers and producers didn’t shy away from it at all. They were even able to pull off a giant, telepathic gorilla. While I find that other comic book based shows and movies tend to downplay the more fantastic elements so it can better connect to viewers easily, The Flash says “Pfft….more gorilla” to that.

The writers are smart. They knew they had to have characters that worked and storylines that resonated with viewers. They did. That’s how they can get away with the fantastical.

I know it sounds like I am fawning over it (and I suppose I am), but don’t mistake my tone. The show is good and a lot of fun, but it is far from perfect. Some of the plot points are suspect (illegally imprisoning the villains without any due process and none of our heroes care) and a couple of characters here and there can be trying at times or perplexing added at times (tell me, what was the point of character-actor Chase Masterson’s guest spot), but everything else really worked with the show, so that stuff really didn’t bother me.

The Flash isn’t going to win any non-technical awards. This isn’t Game of Thrones or Mad Men. But, it isn’t trying to be. And, unlike those shows which can be dour and depressing, The Flash is a ton of fun and a breath of fresh air. I am looking forward to the second season. Here’s hoping it maintains its momentum!

~N

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