The weather has turned cold and many of us are preparing for the long winter – filled with hot cups of tea, ill-fated attempts to wear 6 sweaters at once, and spending snowy evenings with your dear friend, Netflix.
And that’s where I come in. I’m a firm believer that Netflix time should be quality time. Until their algorithm improves, I’m hoping to spare you some time searching through their catalog and point you right towards the good stuff. So in this edition of Netflix Hidden Gems, I present you with April and the Extraordinary World.
Warning: Possible spoilers
Welp, it’s been a long time coming. Back from when we all were like “Whoa” when the first Daredevil series came out, to when we were like “Ugh” at what went down with Danny Rand, the Defenders is now on Netflix.
Coming down off Iron Fist, I feel like Defenders could only go up. And it did, starting with the open credits, which remind us that the city is actually the main character here. And it’s more than Cap just calling back to being from Brooklyn every chance he gets, the boroughs of NY are more than a setting, they are the uniting factor for the team. As metaphors go it has the subtlety of a jack hammer, but that’s ok, I’m not really watching this for subtlety.
Defenders isn’t perfect, and I did wish there was more, but for the most part what Marvel does well is bringing together the huge cast of characters they have been building towards. It’s not just about the title characters, but also all those supporting folks. Almost all of them are there (though I do wish there was more Marci), even if some character appearances feel like checking a box. That said I’m not going to complain about one moment of Sigourney Weaver’s (and her outfits) screen time, so yes, sacrifices need to be made.
The main storyline focuses on The Hand, immortal clan leaders, and dragon skeletons, so this gives Matt Murdock and Danny Rand an easier entry into the main story line, while Luke and Jessica remain a bit more street level chasing down tendrils that show how larger schemes affect everyday people. This is really the heart of Defenders and having Jessica remain a 5-star general of snark gives you a touchstone back to what the regular folk might be thinking.
Some additional thoughts:
Claire Temple. She is the voice of reason and a pragmatist in a world with super strength, glowing fists, and bullet proof skin. She’s also the catalyst, the center spoke who brings everyone together. While her appearances in earlier episodes start strong, as the series continues she and Colleen are marginalized to emotional back-up for Luke and Danny. NOT COOL.
Luke Cage has the patience of a saint. He finally calls Danny out on his privilege, asking him what he did before he became the Iron Fist, has he really earned what he thinks he’s owed? And maybe that’s what will salvage this version of Iron Fist, giving him counterbalance. And remarkably, Danny seems to welcome this. Sometimes boundaries are good, so let’s hope Luke continues to play that role because when the series starts one of the biggest disappointments is that Danny Rand hasn’t grown at all. He still thinks everything is about him, and for some reason, Colleen is still with him. WHY??? And she even makes excuses for him when he finally does turn inward to examine what Luke says. WHAT???
By episode 3 we see the 4 heroes come together in what is now a ubiquitous hallway fight scene. I love this and I don’t care if they do one in every series. There are also some nice Power Man and Iron Fist feels.
Black Sky (or as I called it, Dark Afternoon) made Elektra more palatable for me. Previously I didn’t find her overly interesting, but this incarnation of her seemed to have more dimension.
Unlike Claire and Colleen, Misty Knight’s story progressed in some really big and important ways. She has a new look and will soon have a new arm. Will we see Control? God, I hope so.
Despite my earlier griping, this story is still about Danny Rand. He’s like the Key Master or something, and while the character is better in this series, he’s still the least compelling. Except for one moment…..that dumpling scene in the restaurant. Danny finally abandons all his super hero drama and just wants to stuff his face the instant some dumplings show up. I have never felt closer to the character than in that moment.
The next Netflix series is The Punisher, and while it’s in this universe, it’s not super closely tied to the Defenders. I think what I am looking the most forward to is right now is the next Jessica Jones season. David Tennant is still involved so what’s not to look forward to?
Hey all, I’m gonna review the Netflix show, GLOW. If you haven’t seen it yet, go watch it and then let’s chat. There be spoilers here and I don’t want to ruin the show for you, ok?
GLOW starts with an acting audition that is too real even by today’s standards. Main character Ruth (Alison Brie) is at an audition; she reads a meaty part with passion, and conviction….only to be told, no honey, that was the male part, can you try it again reading the other part? The other part is one line, letting the boss know he has a call on hold. This sets the stage for one of the more meta themes of this show. Yes, it’s 2017 now, but really, how much have things changed? Continue reading
Enough time has passed that if you were going to watch Iron Fist and care about spoilers, you have probably done that…but, you know, if you do care, maybe read this later.
Does Iron Fist really deserve the panning it’s getting? Ehhhhhh, maybe, maybe not. But with the bar set so high from the other Marvel Netflix series, Iron First comes off as a master class of missed opportunities and poor choices. Much has already been written about Danny Rand’s casting. Yes, Iron First is white in the comics. Could that have been changed? Absolutely. Would the show have been better served by having an actual martial artist as the title character? Heck yes, but that’s not the missed opportunity that I’ll be talking about. Rather, Marvel had a chance to turn the tables on a privileged white male protagonist, and they let that opportunity wane. Continue reading
All right, by now, you hopefully had a chance to watch the Netflix series Luke Cage and at least have some idea who Misty is. If you haven’t and you want to remain 100% spoiler-free, maybe go set up some binge watching time and come back to this later. Otherwise, read on and consider this a bit of a character primer on the comics version of Misty, which will hopefully give you some more background and get you even more interested in this kick-ass lady.
The Jessica Jones Netflix series is set to start on November 20. While Daredevil has shown us that you don’t need to be familiar with the source material to enjoy the show, it’s sometimes nice to get some background on a character. I guess it should be said, if you haven’t already read the comics, and you want to go into the show completely fresh, you may want to skip this post. But I am trying to keep things higher level so as not to unwittingly spoil.
Jessica Jones is a Marvel character who appears primarily in 2 comic series, Alias, and The Pulse. I read them both and hooo boy are they different.
Alias was a 28 issue series back in the early 2000’s. Written by Brian Michael Bendis, Alias was the title that launched Marvel’s Max comic line. The Max books are R-rated, darker, rougher, NOT ALL AGES and Alias jumps into that headfirst. Jessica Jones was a new character, created explicitly for this series. When we are introduced to her, right away we realize she’s far step away from other female characters we have seen in the comic world. Jessica is a super-powered human, but she’s is not a superhero. As the owner and only employee of PI firm Alias Investigations, Jessica is a hard drinker, a chain smoker, who curses like a sailor raised by a truck driver. She’s angry, and paranoid, and doesn’t suffer fools for a moment. You want to talk damaged characters? Jessica is a human train wreck. And that’s what’s so great about her. She’s not one of the bright eyed, impossibly coiffed, female characters who were (still are?) prevalent in comics. She’s how you feel on your darkest days when you have completely lost your way so badly that you can’t determine what’s good from what’s not.
So I debated talking about “that scene.” I will, but I am going to keep it very brief. Yes, in the first few pages there is a sex scene that implies Jessica is well, adventurous. Less than being character building, I took it as a way to show “hey, these aren’t comics code comics.” To my read it’s consensual so that’s all I’m going to say about it. We are all grown ups here.
Consent is actually a big theme in Jessica’s story. The big deal is less what she consents to, but rather how she loses free will and the effect it has on her. This is the real crux of her story. When we meet Jessica she is working as a private investigator in the superhero world, have firmly retired from costumed hero-ing. The first 4 story arc in the series have Jessica using what she learned in her hero days to work on cases that don’t necessitate Avengers-level attention, but do take someone with the specific knowledge, skills, and abilities that Jessica has. We don’t learn the specifics of why Jessica has retired until the last story arc where both her origin and why she got out of the superhero game is revealed.
The story line, “Purple,”give us a look at Jessica’s main foe, Zebediah Killgrave, The Purple Man. Admittedly, naming a villain The Purple Man is kinda doofy. But his powers of pheromone-based mind control make him one of the more frightening characters in the Marvel universe. Mind control powers are not new, but there is something particularly insidious about Killgrave, and how his powers work, that make him particularly damaging.
The Pulse is less about Jessica and more about The Daily Bugle newspaper. It’s the shiny, slick, and frankly, antiseptic follow-up to Alias that continues to follow Jessica’s story among other happenings at the Bugle. The Pulse is not a Max series and therefore the tone is completely different from Alias. Or at least that’s what I am going to blame it on since the writer is the same. Jessica is no longer a private eye, she’s sort of a roving lifestyle reporter for “The Pulse,” the superhero section of the Bugle. Also, Jessica is pregnant.
Yup, she’s pregnant. Did I mention she’s pregnant? Don’t worry, she mentions it on almost every page, so you know, you’ll figure it out eventually. Pregnancy has apparently changed Jessica from a well-developed character with nuances, into a woman with super abilities who is pregnant. And that seems to be about it, there is very little left of the Jessica we saw in Alias. I really really like damaged, paranoid, angry Jessica. She was real. This new version is so generic that I swear, when I picked up the book after a week-long reading break, I didn’t even realize the character on the page was supposed to be her (which is commentary on the art and the story)! Yeah, The Pulse is pretty disappointing.
So, if you feel like reading, I recommend you spend some time with Alias, and skip The Pulse. From the previews it looks like the Netflix series is going more along the Alias route anyway. Which is great since my hope for the show is that was get a nuanced female character who tries to battles her demons and maybe finds her way to the other side without losing everything she was.
Ok, let me stop you right now. If you don’t care for anime, you might want to stop here and check out any previous posts you might have missed or come back next week. I am not saying that I don’t want you here, because you know how I feel about you, but the truth is that anime and manga can kinda be a tough topic for the the Ladies of Comicazi (some of us are more for it than others), so I will understand if you would rather look at these cute pictures instead. No really, I get it. Anime isn’t for everyone. And this can be particularly true when we are talking about anime that involve underage girls running around in very short skirts.
So, everyone who wants to be here is still here? Wonderful, let’s do this thing.
WARNING: This post contains mild spoilers for the Netflix series Daredevil. While I won’t be revealing major plot points I will be talking about the series in terms of things I liked and or noticed about the look, feel and characters. If you wanted to stay 100% spoiler free, you might not want to read this until you have finished watching.
Netflix has figured out how to stay relevant in an ever-changing media landscape. If you have seen House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, or The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt you know that they have made some really good content that people want to see. They have also made it affordable (I think we pay $18 a month) and easy to do. If you are reading this post you are likely aware of the deal Netflix has made with Marvel to create various series featuring Marvel street level defenders Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage (Power Man), and Danny Rand (Iron Fist). With the first of these series now available for public consumption, fans have had the chance to see Marvel characters on the small screen outside of network television’s control. Continue reading
The internet is magic. Of course we all know that from our everyday lives of emailing, texts, and social networking, but I am also willing to bet that everyone has stumbled upon something that they would NEVER have found without the internet. Something special, something that maybe only your imaginary internet friends understand. Well, that something for me is Korean Dramas.
Back when I was in college, we had the International Channel and it was amazing. I don’t even remember what it was that made me watch the channel at first, but it wasn’t long before I was trying to time my study breaks around the anime, Asian cooking shows, music videos (so many colors) and DRAMAS! It’s funny because even back then I remember my friends rolling their eyes at me when I told them about my new discovery of Asian soap operas. In their eyes, American soap operas were so awful, they couldn’t understand why in the world a person would want to seek out more of them from other countries.
To be honest, they might have had a point. But I had subtitles and the habits of a night owl…so whatever.
At some point in school, our provider changed and the International Channel went away. I moved on, because well, college is hard work and didn’t think about Asian dramas again until I had graduated and was living with my sister. Then something happened – an anime fansite I was reading mentioned that they also provided fan-subs of Asian Dramas, more specifically Korean Dramas (or K-dramas). OPEN THE FLOODGATES. I spent the next month watching Full House in 7 mins increments on YouTube and I have never looked back since.
It is quite possible that this show is much more well known than I have been lead to believe. In the year or so since I have watched it, I’ve only run into two or three other people whose eyes have lit up with both recognition and glee at the mere mention of Moss’s Abracada-bra or Roy’s Kermit witness protection program t-shirt. So in my eyes, more people need to stop watching The Big Bang Theory and log on to Netflix to watch the vastly superior IT Crowd.
The premise of the show is pretty basic. Jen (played by the hilarious Katherine Parkinson), is a woman with much more ambition than smarts. During a rather bizarre job interview, she manages to talk her way into the position of IT Manager at a large company. She soons finds herself managing the two IT guys in the basement – Roy, a raggedy guy with a short temper (played by Chris O’Dowd, now of Bridesmaids and Girls fame) and Moss (played by Richard Ayoade, recently seen in The Watch), a guy who is both strangely literal and cluelessly naive.
The IT Crowd is strong on a number of levels other than it just being funny. The show truly excels at making fun of the worlds of dating and work, and there isn’t a single performer in the show that gets consistently overshadowed by the rest.
And just to give you a taste of the show’s funnier moments, I found this little ditty for you on youtube. Quick intro: Jen suddenly realizes there is a red door in the IT office that she has never noticed before. A quick exploration introduces her to the 4th and rather secret member of her office – Richmond, an executive whose discovery of death metal and goth music has resulted in a demotion to the bowels of the building:
You enjoy that cameo by Noel Fielding? I did.
Other gems include the boys convincing Jen that the entire internet is housed in a tiny black box they lend her as a visual aid for an upcoming speech, Moss enrolling in what he thinks is a German cooking class but finding out the “I want to cook with you” ad means something else entirely, and my favorite episode that involves an awkward dinner party at Jen’s house.
In the end, the IT Crowd is a cheeky and very funny show. Rather than just spending all its time pointing and laughing at the nerds, the focus turns to the members of the IT team eventually learning to support each other and work through all the crazy situations together. Of course, that doesn’t mean all their witty jabs at each other go away either. What you end up with is a sassy and slick show filled with pop-culture references, a few parodies, and over the top antics.
The nerd/geek love is certainly there in spades as well. A person could spend hours looking through all the goodies they’ve got in their IT office – vinyl toys, indie comics, old gaming systems, and every kind of poster and clever bumper sticker you could think of. I will admit to not getting a lot of the references myself, but that is proof in itself that the show is pretty accessible to those who might not necessarily identify themselves as a nerd/geek.
If you are still not convinced that this show is worth your time, those of you who watch a lot of British TV might be excited to learn that this was the third series from Graham Linehan, creator of both Father Ted and Black Books. Oh, and there are scores of people out there who want to get their hands on some of the t-shirts that Roy wears throughout the episodes.
Lastly, if you have already seen The IT crowd and was wondering what else might be worth your time in the scary sea of Netflix Instant watch, here are a few other shows/movies that I have watched recently.
Black Books: Bernard Black is a surly bookshop owner/expert drunk who would rather tell you off than actually sell you a book. After yet another one of his crazy drinking sprees, he discovers that he has hired the recently laid off and rather chipper Manny as his new clerk.
Todd and the Book of Pure Evil: Let’s imagine Kevin Smith wrote Buffy the Vampire Slayer and replaced Buffy with a sex obsessed, pot smoking Canadian boy. Yeah, it’s pretty much that.
The House – Korean animated film about a girl who moves into a declining neighborhood and suddenly finds that she can see and talk to the spirits of the old houses. Very slow moving, but the animation style is interesting.