REVIEW: COMIC BOOK: THE MOVIE

CAST

Mark Hamill (Star wars)
Billy West (Futurama)
Donna D’Errico (Candyman 3)
Roger Rose (Happy Feet)
Jess Harnell (Taz-Mania)
Lori Alan (Family Guy)
Daran Norris (Veronica Mars)
Jim Cummings (Aladdin)
Jill Talley (Sky High)
Tara Strong (Batman: The Killing Joke)
Jeremy Bulloch (A Night To Remember)
James Arnold Taylor (Batman: TBATB)
Tom Kenny (Super Hero Squad)
Peter Mayhew (Star Wars)
Bruce Campbell (Ash vs Evil Dead)
Kevin Smith (Dogma)
Hugh Hefner (Hop)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble)
Lloyd Kaufman (Tales From The Crapper)
David Prowse (Star Wars)
Matt Groening (The Simpsons)
Arleen Sorkin (Batman: TAS)
Ray Harryhausen (20 Million Miles To Earth)
Phil Morris (Smallville)
Gary Owens (That 70s Show)
Chase Masterson (Star Trek: DS9)
J.J. Abrams (Alias)
Bill Mumy (Lost In Space)
Ron Perlman (Hellboy)
Maurice LaMarche (Futurama)
Gary Anthony Williams (TMNT: OOTS)
Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show)

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The story centers around Don Swan (Hamill), a middle-aged high school teacher and comics aficionado from Wisconsin who owns his own comic book store and even publishes a fanzine about the Golden Age of comics. He’s invited by a Hollywood film studio to be a technical consultant on a movie based on a comic, which in turn was based on a Golden Age comic he’s loved since childhood. It’s his insight Timely Studios wants to help make a good movie… or at least that’s what he thinks.
The fictional comic in question is “Commander Courage,” a WWII-era superhero who is a composite of every legendary, patriotic superhero ever (Superman, Captain America, the Lone Ranger, etc.). He’s got super powers, wears a mask, has a boy sidekick and fights the Nazis. This character eventually faded away but was resurrected as “Codename: Courage” after 9/11. The new version is updated for the times, but to Don’s chagrin, perhaps a little too modern. This new guy embodies every cliche of the mysterious loner/badass-to-the-extreme/tough-as-nails government assassin-type “superhero” to come out of comics in the last 15 years. Or, imagine every action movie character ever played by Stallone, Van Damme, Segal and Schwarzenegger all rolled into one. Now imagine what a movie company would like to do with a character like that!
Image result for comic book the moviePoor Don, he thinks he can actually persuade the studio execs to keep the Courage character close to his original conception and not ignore his 60-year history. Lori Alan and Roger Rose co-star as the vain, uptight, greedy movie moguls who are just using Don to endorse the film at the hugely popular San Diego Comic Con where over 60,000 other geeks are hoping for a sneak peek. After all, no word of mouth endorsements or condemnations travel faster than at the speed of geek. They even provide Don with a Tommy Chong-esque cameraman named Ricky (Jess Harnell) to document everything as a DVD bonus feature.
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As is the case with most mockumentaries, there isn’t really a plot to “Comic Book: The Movie,” it’s more of a meandering story of Don’s journey to Hollywood and then to the comic book convention and his feeble attempt to convince the world the original, wholesome character would make a better movie than the gritty one. Don is so committed to his quest he even has a Commander Courage costume professionally made and hires an actor to wear it at the convention CBTM2(Daran Norris is sublime as the clueless patsy). Don’s work on his fanzine manages to get him some pretty big contacts in Los Angeles too, most notably filmmaker Kevin Smith, Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner, and cult movie star Bruce Campbell. All three are genuinely interested in Don’s mission to keep the movie from becoming another lame potboiler. Voice actor extraordanaire Billy West (best known for Fry on Futurama) co-stars as Leo, the long-lost grandson of Commander Courage’s creator who has no idea of the royalties he’s entitled to. Leo’s very shy and not too bright, but over the course of a few days will be seduced by the Hollywood scene and the way he changes is hilarious.
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The film was shot entirely on video with hand held cameras to make it look as if you were watching a TV news magazine, or, dare I say it – MTV. It’s an original way to tell the story since the majority of the film takes place at the giant convention with thousands of people walking around. Shooting it this way makes it more believable when we see people standing around watching the main characters talk and even getting in on the action too. The only problem I had was that sometimes it’s difficult to tell where Comic Book: The Movie ends and the movie-within-the-movie begins. We occasionally see the “real” movie’s camera crew through Ricky’s camera, but unlike Ricky, these guys are never acknowledged. I didn’t feel this was a wink at the camera in-joke, but more of a sloppy filmming technique. It probably would have worked better had the actual movie been shot on film with Ricky’s video footage intercut when necessary instead of at random. The constant back and forth and the appearance of boom mikes is disorienting and confusing. Obviously, Comic Book: The Movie is targeted at a specific audience, and being part of that demographic I couldn’t help but enjoy it. To the non-comics fan it might come across as silly, but there’s really a lot of intelligent satire to be found here.

REVIEW: THE FLASH – SEASON 1

CAST

Grant Gustin (Glee)
Candice Patton (Heroes)
Danielle Panabaker (Sky High)
Rick Cosnett (The Vampire Diaries)
Carlos Valdes (Arrow)
Tom Cavanagh (Scrubs)
Jessie L. Martin (Injustice)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Michelle Harrison (Continuum)
Chad Rook (Timeless)
Patrick Sabongui (Power Rangers)
John Wesley Shipp (Dawson’s Creek)
Stephen Amell (Arrow)
Fulvio Cecere (Valentine)
William Sadler (Iron Man 3)
Robbie Amell (The Babysitter)
Wentworth Miller (Prison Break)
Emily Bett Rickards (Arrow)
Dominic Purcell (Blade: Trinity)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)
Kelly Frye (Teachers)
Greg Finley (Izombie)
Robert Knepper (Cult)
David Ramsey (Arrow)
Anna Hopkins (Bad Blood)
Amanda Pays (Max Headroom)
Tom Butler (Shooter)
Andy Mientus (Gone)
Britne Oldford (God Friended Me)
Malese Jow (The Vampire Diaries)
Victor Garber (The Orville)
Isabella Hofmann (Burlesque)
Chase Masterson (Star Trek: DS9)
Liam McIntyre (Spartacus)
Peyton List (Gotham)
Nicholas Gonzalez (Sleepy Hollow)
Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
Matt Letscher (Her)
Bre Blair (Life Sentence)
Vito D’Ambrosio (The Untouchables)
Devon Graye (13 Sins)
Brandon Routh (Superman Returns)
Emily Kinney (The Walking Dead)
Katie Cassidy (Black Xmas)
Danielle Nicolet (3rd Rock From The Sun)
Peter Bryant (Legends of Tomorrow)
Anthony Carrigan (Gotham)
Doug Jones (Star Trek: Discovery)
Ciara Renée (Legends of Tomorrow)

The Flash was unique in its first season in the sense that it never really needed to find itself or grow into something better. It simply started strong and continually got better over the course of seven months. Much of the credit rests with the fact that the Flash was hardly starting from scratch. This show is the first spinoff of Arrow and its growing superhero universe. It features many of the same producers as Arrow and several writers responsible for Arrow’s stellar second season. Not only did The Flash not have to waste much time establishing its universe, it didn’t even have to introduce viewers to its protagonist. Grant Gustin debuted as a pre-speedster Barry Allen midway through Arrow’s second season, culminating with the accident that created the Flash. By the time this show came around, viewers already knew Barry, what made him tick and what fueled his particular quest.MV5BMTUwNTM0NjAyNV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDA3NjM5MjE@._V1_Gustin rapidly grew into the role of Barry Allen once the spotlight was placed on him. Gustin brought a winning blend of youthful energy, latent pathos and Peter Parker-esque awkwardness to the table. He gave us a Barry Allen that’s impossible not to connect with. Barry is immensely likable. He’s less intense than Stephen Amell’s Oliver Queen. He’s driven by tragedy but anchored by a small family unit. He’s faithful to the comic book Barry Allen. One of the main reasons for The Flash’s success, though, was its supporting cast. So much of the drama and the emotional core of the show centered around Barry’s ties to his core circle of friends, family and allies. There was his adoptive father, Joe West (Jesse L. Martin). There was his adoptive sister/unrequited love, Iris (Candice Patton), a dichotomy that never came across as creepy or incest-y as it could have. There was his newfound father figure/mentor in Dr. Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh). There were his new friends/partners in metahuman-busting, Dr. Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker) and Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes). And rounding out the core cast was Eddie Thawne (Rick Cosnett), Barry’s colleague and sometimes rival/sometimes ally.The show exploited these various relationships to great effect. Above all, the father/son relationships between Barry/Joe and Barry/Wells were the source of great drama. Martin and Cavanagh were the MVPs among the cast. Martin brought a crucial warmth to his role as a concerned father and a man simply baffled by the increasingly bizarre state of life in Central City. Cavanagh, meanwhile, helped mold Wells into the show’s most captivating figure. It quickly became apparent that Wells was far more than he seemed, eventually emerging as the primary antagonist of Season 1. But thanks to Cavanagh’s performance, it was always apparent that Wells cared for Barry even as he plotted and schemed and tormented the hero.Caitlin and Cisco became increasingly compelling characters in their own right as the season progressed. Caitlin, initially cold and a little haughty, grew as her relationship with Barry blossomed and her past relationship with Ronnie Raymond (Robbie Amell) came to light. Cisco was largely a comic relief character at first. And while he remained the show’s most reliable source of comedy, he too was fleshed out and developed a father/son connection to Wells of his own.Iris and Eddie were a little more uneven when it came to their respective roles within the show. At times it was easy to forget about Eddie given his tendency to drop out of view. However, he definitely became an integral player in the final couple months of the season. I appreciated how the writers never took a one-note approach with Eddie. He may have been Barry’s romantic rival, but he was never written as a bully or a jerk, just a guy with his own set of hopes and desires. As for Iris, there were some episodes where she filled what seemed to be a mandatory quota as far as superhero relationship drama. The Barry/Iris/Eddie love triangle definitely had its moments, but some weeks it came across as pointless filler. The big offender was “Out of Time,” which featured a terrifically epic climax but dull build-up. The premiere episode,  did a fine job of laying out the cast of characters and basic status quo for the show. The idea that the STAR Labs particle accelerator created a new wave of metahumans alongside the Flash offered an easy way to start building a roster of villains and put Barry’s growing speed powers to the test. Luckily, it wasn’t long before The Flash began moving away from the “villain of the week” approach and building larger, overarching storylines. Bigger villains like Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller) and Heat Wave (Dominic Purcell) were introduced, paving the way for the Flash Rogues.MV5BMjM1ODYwNzY1MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTA3NjM5MjE@._V1_The show played its part in expanding the CW’s superhero universe, introducing Firestorm and crossing paths with Arrow at several points. The mid-season finale, “The Man In the Yellow Suit,” offered the full introduction of the Reverse-Flash and set the stage for a conflict that would drive the show all the way until the season finale. As that conflict developed, the question of just who Dr. Wells was and what he had planned for Barry became paramount. Wells symbolized just how much the show was willing to play with expectations and shake up the traditional comic book mythology. I noted in my review of the premiere episode that the show was showing signs of being too predictable for seasoned comic book readers. It wasn’t long before that concern faded away.Looking back at these overarching conflicts and how they were developed over the course of the season, it’s clear that The Flash succeeded because it managed to adopt the serialized nature of superhero comics so well. Each new episode offered its fair share of twists and surprises, culminating in a dramatic cliffhanger that left viewers craving the next installment. It served as a reminder that, in many ways, TV is an inherently better medium for superheroes than film. A weekly series can do serialized storytelling in a way a couple superhero movies every year can’t. The show started out big with the premiere episode, pitting Barry against the first Weather Wizard and a massive tornado. Even that was chump change compared to later conflicts. Barry’s battle with the second Weather Wizard culminated with the hero stopping a tidal wave at supersonic speed. But the most impressive technical accomplishment was more subtle. The late-season episode “Grodd Lives” introduced viewers to Gorilla Grodd, a completely computer-animated villain who looked far more convincing than we had any right to hope.MV5BMjkwMDA1MTYyNV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTc0OTgzMzE@._V1_Perhaps one of the strongest episode of Season 1 was “Tricksters.” That episode paid terrific homage to the short-lived 1990 Flash series as Mark Hamill reprised the part of the prank-obsessed villain the Trickster and former Flash John Wesley Shipp was given his most in-depth role as Barry’s father, Henry. Not only was “Tricksters” a fun love letter to the old show, it proved that this series can venture into full-on camp territory without losing sight of itself.Ultimately, though, it’s the finale episode that stands out as the crowning moment of Season 1. The show bucked the usual trend by getting the physical confrontation with Reverse-Flash out of the way in the penultimate episode (via a team-up between Flash, Firestorm and the Arrow, no less). “Fast Enough” wasn’t concerned with the visceral element of the Flash/Reverse-Flash rivalry so much as the psychological one. The finale was intensely emotional, forcing Barry to decide just how much he was willing to sacrifice to save his mother. Just about every actor delivered their best work of the season. It was a tremendous payoff to a year’s worth of build-up.Grant Gustin in The Flash (2014)The finale ended the season with a big question mark of a cliffhanger. The great thing about the way the season wrapped is that now the door is open for practically anything. The finale touched on the idea of the multiverse – other worlds inhabited by other Flashes like Jay Garrick. The Flash didn’t suffer from the familiar freshman growing pains most new shows experience in their first season. This show built from the framework Arrow laid out and made use of an experienced writing and production team, a great cast, and a clear, focused plan for exploring Barry Allen’s first year on the job. The show was never afraid to delve into the weird and wild elements of DC lore, but it always stayed grounded thanks to a combination of humor and strong character relationships.