The Magic Of Disney: My top 5 Disney Movies

Disney

Disney. Just saying the word makes you feel good inside. Or at least me. Whenever I go to our nation’s fair capital, no matter what kind of time constraints I’m under, the Disney store is getting visited. And something’s going to be bought. I have jigsaws of the character’s on my wall, lot’s of homeware, figurines and soft toys. Yet until very recently, it was something of a miracle to meet other adults who shared my enthusiasm for Mickey Mouse and Co.

Heres’ the thing. I went to see Zootropolis(Zootopia for you American readers) last week, and the screen was full of adults. Like seriously. I walked in, fully expecting it to be parents and children for the most part. In my brief first glimpse and subsequent lookarounds, I did not see a single child in the place. And it was busy.

So what is it about these animated marvels that appeals to so wide an audience? It’s long been known that they sneak in the adult humour as a little nod of appreciation to those parents who are “forced” to go see these movies with their young ones. But that’s not enough to pull adults into a movie of their own volition. Is it then that they can veer into darker territory on occasion, even if the horror of what happens remains off scene? Think of Clayton’s hanging in Tarzan, Mufasa being trampled in The Lion King?

But these are all extremely dark. Nobody goes to see a Disney movie if they want something gritty. I go to Disney movies because they make me smile. It’s not nostalgia either, as their new properties appeal to me just as much.

You know what, I’m going to stop myself. I’m way the fuck off track here. I sat down to write what my favourite Disney movies are, but wanted to prelude it with some reason for why I love them so much. And they make me happy and good, and I haven’t quite figured out why. I am about to write about my favourite ones below though, so maybe a little reason will be uncovered along the way! Short note, for the sake of not spending all day at a whiteboard doing pros and cons lists, I’m limiting myself to the core Disney movies – no Pixar, no Star Wars, no Marvel, and no live action. Let’s go!

5. The Emperor’s New Groove

Emperors New Groove

Certainly the most shallow entry on the list, but deserving of it’s place here nonetheless. The Emperor’s New Groove doesn’t have some deep meaning. It doesn’t have a sympathetic hero who’s facing impossible odds or making hard decisions or working hard to achieve something. It has a selfish emperor turned llama by a disgruntled employee who wants the throne for herself, who makes the peasant he was about to evict bring him back home so that he can continue to be a selfish emperor. That’s it. That is the plot in it’s entireity. Pretty thin for Disney.

And yet, it’s absolutely bloody brilliant. And I think it’s for exactly this reason. The movie was more concerned with it’s running jokes and humor, using the plot and the setting as a playground for these devices. This is something I would usually rant about, condemning the state of modern storytelling. But it’s hard to do that when you’re short of breath from laughing, so it makes the cut.

4. Hercules

Hercules

This one is here for so many reasons! It’s amazing soundtrack(“One Last Hope” and “I won’t say I’m in Love” are the two best of an amazing lot), it’s very Disney-esqu take on Greek mythology(quite a far cry from Kratos’ foray into the same area), it’s awesome Pegausus sidekick. As rich as Greek mythology is, it’s the last place you’d expect Disney to go with it’s stories involving eating babies and being gored by minotaurs, but Disney really knocked it out of the park. It’s a movie where the villains kind of make it – Pain, Panic, and Hades are incredible here. It’s got a really uplifting message of striving to find yourself and stay true to yourself. And it’s got Danny DeVito as a personal trainer/satyr.

It’s also got a real emotional blow when Meg dies. Hercules is so heartbroken, arriving just after she dies as Phil turns and gives that little head shake as he lands, and a slow mournful version of Go The Distance plays in the background. True, she comes back, but it doesn’t lessen the impact when we see it happen.

This one’s a no brainer. It made a very complex and cool area of storytelling, and made it completely it’s own. Ask any Disney fan for their top five list, and I’d confidently say that you’ll see this one show up again and again.

3.Tarzan

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I mean this definitely has my favourite soundtrack of any Disney movie. Hands down. If this was a list of best soundtracks, this would be entries 1 through 5. But this movie also has what I personally think is one of the most outstanding morals of any Disney movie. That we must not be guided by what society and the world at large dictates we must behave like. Tarzan was pressured into going to England to be human, only finding out just how evil humans could be through Clayton. That scene is also definitely oe of the reasons this movie is on the list – scenes wherein a group of people come to each other’s aid like that are a huge Achilles heel with me, and almost guaranteed to have me punching the air.

Tarzan returns to his family, and does not try to repress himself any further. Jane realises that love and happiness are far more important than what we are supposed to do. Not to mention his goodnye scene with Kala being emotionally devestating (“No matter where I go, you will always be my mother”. “And you will always be in my heart.”)

The point is later reinforced when Jane and the Professor decide that they don’t want to return to so-called civilisation and find a much happier life among the trees with Tarzan.

It’s also on the darker side of the Disney spectrum, with a baby gorilla and Tarzan’s parents both being mauled to death early on, Tarzan killing Sabor with a pointed spear, and Clayton being hanged to death towards the climax.

I really can’t say enough good things about this movie. I absolutely adore Tarzan and will always be down for a rewatch of this Disney classic.

2. Treasure Planet

Treasure Planet

This has long been one of my favourite Disney movies. It’s spectacular. It seems to slip under the radar a lot, and performed very poorly at the box office, losing money for the studio. It did recevie generally good reviews though and with good reason.

The cast here are again top notch, with a very catchy song(“I’m Still Here”) as part of the soundtrack to boot. The visuals are spectacular, the characters were interesting. But the heart of the movie is the relationship between Jim and John Silver. Both characters are conflicted and uncertain about how they feel towards one another.

Jim, having had an absent father for his childhood and always resenting it. He finds a father figure in John, who though initially harsh, becomes a mentor and proud father-figure to Jim. We, like Jim, immediately suspect him as being the bad guy, but as time goes on and their relationship becomes solid, we come to let our guard down like Jim. And that’s when we find we never hsoudl have, as John is in fact the villain of the piece.

Though not to be a plot synopsis, that leads me to what has to be the most ambiguous Disney ending. Jim lets John away after his crimes, helping him to stage the escape. Mostly spurred on, I suspect, by the fact that John did choose Jim over the treasure at the climax of the movie. It’s hard to say whether this was the right decision or not. John undoubtedly cared about Jim, but he did fight him and his friends in favor of money, only making the right decision at the last second. And he’s not a good person. Yet he did help to make Jim the captain that he is at the end of the movie.

This ending will always leave me pondering, and I think that’s perhaps why it has always remined so high on my list. Not that it’s actually one of the studio’s better movies, but that it was one of the very few that made me leave the cinema thinking.

1. Zootropolis

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Yep. It’s only just out but it’s already made it to the list. This movie was awesome! It was so so so good!

Where to begin with this. I mean right off the bat, thisis worldbuilding as it is meant to be done. There’s no character to relate to the audience here, to ask the questions we might have. Yet the rules of the world are quickly established – there’s more prey than predators, prejudice exists between prey and predators, there are set roles based on the type of animal you are, the town is divided into various environments to accommodate the different animals. All of this is delivered indirently, through what we see or the characters mention in passing.

The gags are also plenty and inventive here – there is a nudist colony which disgusts Judy, a DMV run by sloths, and though I won’t spoil it here, a very scary mob boss by the name of Mr. Big.

There’s an incredible sequence where Judy gives chase to a weasel through a part of the town inhabited by mice, where the small rabbit gets to play the part of a giant.

The movie is full of charm as it is primarily about the relationship between rabbit Judy Hopps and fox Nick Wilde. This is familiar buddy cop territory, and it’s executed flawlessly here. There is a bit of extra depth here however, as to work together these two characters have to overcome their prejudices. The blossoming of their relationship feels organic and heartwarming to the extreme to get there. And prejudice is right at the heart of this movie – showing that people are not what they must be perceived as, sometimes in funny ways as with the effeminate and lovable cheetah Clawhauser, but more serious at times as we see Nick as a child wanting to join the scouts but being bullied and muzzled by the so-called “prey” inside.

When the two characters fall out in the middle of the movie it is entirely justified. But some of the moments between the two that show how far they’ve come are what really makes their relationship bloom – the most important one being the one wherein Judy is being forced to hand over her badge, and Nick, having got what he wanted at the start of their misadventures, immediately comes to her aid and saunters of with her suavely.

The movie completely drives home the message that we can be anything we want to be, no matter what the world tells us. That we have to pursue or dreams. And that it’s ok to fly. Which is only further reinforced by the ridiculously catchy and upbeat song “Try Everything” that was written for the movie.

And all of this is without even mentioning the stellar cast – Idris Elba, Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Alan Tudyk, and more.

If I have to make one complaint, it’s that the case itself was a little underwhelming. Once a clue was incovered about halfway through the movie it was blatantly obvious who the killer was. Though in fairness, I feel that if I go into a Disney move expecting a case with Sherlock level complexity, that’s on me.

Basically, if you haven’t seen this movie, get yourself to the cinema ASAP.

About the Author:

Rumored to have been born with a games controller in his hand, Noel Gleeson works as a Java Developer in Ireland and loves all things pop culture.

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The Compensatory Element of Storytelling – Charm

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This post comes off the back of my having finished rewatching BBC’s Robin Hood series. When we think of what makes a good story – which we here at WhatElseIsOn do a lot, it’s kind of our thing – regardless of whether it’s a book, movie or TV show, terms like character development, theme and story structure. There’s much more of course, but these will serve as examples. My favourite writer Chuck Wendig has said that a great story should do two things – make you think and make you feel. Optionally, make you laugh.

So why then do stories that do only one of these things entertain. Why do they gather massive followings? I’ll be honest, I don’t know the answer – I’m absolutely typing as I think here. But I have two shows that I have seen that seem to gain their followings almost entirely through charm – Chuck, and Robin Hood. And thinking about both these shows, what they lack in terms of making you think, they make up for with absolute bucketloads of charm.

Let’s take Robin Hood. Robin and his men(and woman), are all likeable. But they never change or develop much. If there is a hint of that happening in the show, the characters in question either immediately revert back to their old ways(as in, it generally takes about half an episode). Little to no development going on here. The action scenes are ridiculous to the point of them being farcical(for example, in the first episode, Robin saves Much from being thrown from the battlements by two guards by throwing a sword from the courtyard below lengthways into their helmets causing them to stumble back.) I shall avoid spoilers, but there is quite a drastic change in season two but it was really only implemented for a bit of drama. The villains in the show are about as two-dimensional as they can get – the sheriff is a full on moustache twirling guy one step away from doing an evil laugh atop the castle towers. The stories are basic, ninety per cent of the time revolving around Robin and the gang stealing a great deal of money that the sheriff has kept somewhere hard to get at in the castle.

So why then is it so beloved? And it is beloved – go to youtube, type in robin hood – there are countless fan videos made in the show’s honour. In this case, the spirit of the tale almost certainly helps – it’s the reason that the story of Robin Hood has been around for the last millenium. It’s the story of people taking a stand against those who would trod on the hardworking people of the nation – and we all know they’re about today in nicely tailored suits.

Then there’s the characters – they may not change over three years, but that’s because they don’t need to. They’re extremely likeable as a group. Whether it’s Allan never being funny, John being the Yoda of Sherwood(“Him, I liked”), or Robin being the most noble goody two shoes we ever did see, the shows just fun. It doesn’t matter that Robin shot an arrow that ricocheted off of three different surfaces to land in the Sheriff’s sandals between two of his toes so that he could be yanked upside down – what matters is it was satisfying and fun to watch. And we got that cheey as hell freeze-frame of the gang at the end.

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Chuck is in the exact same boat. MAJOR SPOLER HERE – the series ends with Chuck trying to get Sarah’s memory back with a kiss because Morgan saw it in a Disney movie. That is in no way exxaggerated – that’s actually how the show ended. And you know what. It was absolutely epic. Again, zero character development here. The one time I can remember them actually changing a character was for comic effect.

It’s been a lot longer since I’ve seen Chuck, but much of the same elements were at play in that show. Ridiculous action sequences, cartoonish villains. It was all crazy. And, yet again, that show has a massive following, as evidenced by the fact that it still has enough momentum for there to be talks of a movie.

Guys, this was a bit of a directionless post. As I type now, I’m still considering whether or not to post it, but I think I’m going to. What really drove me to write this was the Robin Hood thing – I’d been talking with some colleagues about what we were watching, and I told them Robin Hood. I love Robin Hood. It’s a fantastic show. But everytime I find myself in the position of trying to sell it to someone, I find myself stalling. But you know what? It doesn’t need everything that great stories are supposed to have. Sometimes when you’r crafting a story, you’ve just got to let yourself, and your characters, have fun. You, dear writer, might never be able to shot an arrow into the air only to have it land between a guards fingers – but Robin Hood is not bound by the same rules you are.

Now go and be charmed by the outlaws of Sherwood.

About the Author:

Rumored to have been born with a games controller in his hand, Noel Gleeson works as a Java Developer in Ireland and loves all things pop culture.

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Flashpoints – Blood Ties (Legends of Tomorrow)

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Our heroes have lost one of their own, Vandal Savage is still at large and doing crazy crap and more than one member of the team goes AWOL! Blood Ties see our Legends of Tomorrow face Savage on a more financial front, with Rip and Sara targeting Savages vast fortunes that he amassed over the years. Meanwhile Ray and Professor Stein try to save Kendra’s life after her recovery takes an unexpected turn. Last but not least, Cap Cold, Heat Wave and Jefferson go for a joyride to Central City, mad for the sesh I’ll bet!

OK, so last time I said that I wasn’t sold on Vandal Savage as the powerful, commanding villain but rather as the creepy kind? Well our main storyline of this episode showed us creepy Savage and I have to say: I wasn’t impressed. Maybe it’s just the situations we find Savage in or something not shown yet, but I have yet to see or hear something that makes me think: ‘Wow, That guy means business!’

Aside from that we learn that Rip and Savage are actually old friends, with Hunter trying to kill Savage in Egypt before he was immortal, and Savage incorporated Rip into his cult as the monster who tried to slay him, so most of Vandals henchmen are aware of Rip.
Anyhoo, Rip and Sara try to destroy Vandals fortune to cripple his plan for world domination, but, tut-tut, they leave the rest of the team behind! We are shown that Savage has a cult of people dedicated to him and that’s how he’s able to maintain his influence through the centuries: by keeping them alive. How you ask? Oh just CARTERS BLOOD!
Well with the ickynes aside, we see Rip and Vandal come head to head for the first time really, and Rip ends their meeting by killing Savage…for the moment.

On an even more icky side The Atom decides to fly into Kendra’s bloodstream and blast bits of metal in her blood with lasers! Does that sounds like the premise for a fairly meh Video Game? Yes. Does something go horribly wrong? Yes. Does my summary fail to mention very important plot points? Undoubtedly.

See poor aul Kendra is still dying since she got stabbed. There are a few knife fragments in her blood and they can’t leave well enough alone, so she’s dying. And it’s up to Martin Stein and Ray Palmer to save her!

Buuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuut after destroying one shard and his suit getting pummelled by giant (from his perspective) pieces of metal Ray starts to feel doubt about himself (which he IS prone to doing every now and then) and through a rousing cliché Stein snaps him out of his self pity, Ray then returns to operating Firearms in a woman’s bloodstream. And the day hath been saved! Except Stein was lying about his motivational speech. But Ray forgives him so THE DAY HATH BEEN SAVED!

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Ah, and now for part III of our exciting journey! The Rogues want to steal something as per yoosh, and they bring along Jefferson Jackson as their getaway driver! Cold and Heat Wave travel to Central City to steal a very valuable emerald! It just so happens that Jefferson is pretty cool with stealing an escape pod and joyriding to Central City.

So the plan goes off without a hitch only for Lenny to reveal his true motives: to give the emerald to his father! Turns out that Cap Cold wanted to give the jewel to his father so he wouldn’t go to jail, and he would then never turn into the abusive man he became. The only reason Lenny doesn’t kill his father is because his sister hasn’t been born yet. Despite the obvious, nearly universal risk this entails Cold, one of the most patient and calm characters acts fairly impulsively. At the same time it’s not hard to see why Cold does this, he still wants him and his sister to have a better life and childhood, even if it’s only better by a bit. Also, Cold has never been the type of guy to let an opportunity slip through his fingers so tis really not that unbelievable! Of course nothing changes for him, despite his hopes of feeling ‘different’. Turns out his father was a shite thief and got himself arrested anyway trying to pawn the emerald, as opposed to when he was arrested for stealing it! Oddly enough both crimes carried the same sentence!

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Ok enough is enough; this has been annoying me since I watched this episode: WHY?! WHY DID SAVAGE HAVE A BIG SUPER-SECRET CULT MEETING, INVOLVING BLOOD DRINKING IN. A. HOTEL?!

Considering the amount of people at the dance alone and the amount that were actually at the ceremony, surely there was about a hundred and fifty people who were just on holidays or something! Like until he showed up on The Flash, about 6 people in the world knew about Vandal Savage, so why not have a bit of discretion! Hell, surely at one of these (im gonna say 130 or so) meetings in history some Macaulay Culkin type kid snuck into the meeting hall and though; ‘Oh Jesus; better call the shades!’ Like I would love to hold a meeting with aspiring Super Villains and go over the Do’s and Don’ts.
One of my buttons: Sloppy Supervillany.

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What can one garner from the title of tonight’s episode? Well the most obvious link is the ties between Savage and Carter, that his blood is pretty snazzy and immortal-y. The more nuanced connection with the title is the connection to Kendra and Carter; she feels his pain through his blooooooooood! Not to mention the blood motif permeating this episode with Ray literally travelling into Kendra’s bloodstream and Lenny, his family ties to his sister and the blood debt he owed his father. It’s actually a great title, it’s a little bit of a pun, its a little ham fisted and it’s also quite nuanced! Bravo writer, Bravo!

 
STRAY THOUGHTS:

  • That’s right Heat Wave, you ARE thick!

 

  • Soooo Sara Lance is Sherlock? I’m guessing that’s why she’s such a good detective!

 

  • ‘Dude’s an expert swordsman, probably as good as me, not to mention a demi-immortal!’ He proceeds to be defeated, soundly, with like one kick and flip.

 

  • Aaaaaahh jaysus Rip don’t you know anything about women?! Don’t call them an ANIMAL!

 

  • Compared to how shrewd Lenny is as an adult, Kid Lenny is a dope!

 

About the Author:

The lovable slacker type, Colm Sheppard is into all things comic book. He enjoys good food, good stories and lengthy anecdotes.

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Flashpoints – Legends of Tomorrow (Pilot Part 2)

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HAWKWARD!

Yes. That’s how I want to begin. Shut up.

Anyhoo, so tonight’s episode of ‘Legends’ (Not named after what my friends call themselves) was enjoyable, sloppy, smooth, and a little ridiculous all at once! Legends of Tomorrow is still trying to find its feel and it shows, they have some solid ground to build on, and they have a strong cast, but tonight, we got to see that the show is still jumbled and cluttered. But still with enough action, jokes and Captain Cold I can sit through an hour and find myself thoroughly entertained!

The title of today’s episode refers to a single, sexy throwaway line from Captain Cold, and any further association with Russia and the colour white is a figment of your imagination!

Tonight our motley crew of super powered friends (Insert abbreviation here) must track Vandal Savage to Soviet Russia, where he has defected to; because that’s apparently something you can do as an immortal! Savage is in the midst of using a number of Soviet engineers and scientists to re-create Firestorm, after he first observed his power back in the 1970’s. Well while Savage is being General Eiling, the team attempt to break into his top secret lab and steal the prototype Firestorm matrix, but not before they break into the pentagon to extract some useful information on Savages operations!

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Things are getting heated between the two gals this week on top of it all! Kendra’s become possessed by the Hawk-goddess warrior-woman thingie and Sara has to teach her to control the dark part of her, which she does by training! But in a slapstick reversal of fortunes Sara gets a bump on the head and turns into a strangler! Ah but then using Sara’s training Kendra manages to reach out to her killer comrade and the two work on their inner anger together!

Yes, if it wasn’t obvious, I felt this plotline was utterly generic. Which is disappointing considering how much promise Sara Lance had been showing until now! The set up makes sense; the duo team-up makes sense on more than one level! I felt let down by the predictability showcased here, rather than giving the gals a chance to ‘spread their wings’ *wink!* they end up cooped in on the Waverider hitting each other with sticks while all the men just make a big mess.

Well, since the beginning of the series we have been given one undeniably consistently enjoyable thing: Captain Cold. Undoubtedly he is the writers favourite, I mean just look at him! Cold can pretty much do anything, nick wallets, charm an icy soviet femme fatale, win our hearts and even fill the role of team leader. (He is also the most competent member of the team so far, sorry Ray!)

While he stole the show this week he was also given the emotional storyline last week, trying to fix his broken life. I’ll not deny that I love Captain Cold, but he does seem to be a glory hog, and that’s well and good for Cold, let’s not forget that this is an ensemble show! In summary: I love it, but Cold needs to take a back seat for the sake of the show, else it might just end in tears, poorly spread out and developed tears!

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Captain Cold has been enjoying the spotlight but his partner, poor Heat Wave has been sidelined for three episodes running, but that’s all about to change! Rip has to deal with a crashed Chronos, and who better to be back-up in Soviet Russia than a maniac with a flamethrower hmmm? Oh…wait… so Heat Wave… ah, ok. No, no I understand, yeah. *sigh*, that was the episodes storyline; they thought that Rip should have more to do in this episode than Mick Rory in his entirety.

I get it, Heat Wave is a very basic, nearly Two Dimensional character, but please, don’t try and then attempt to build on his character by including him in a not-so enjoyable and impactful story!

While Rip has to deal with the consequences of his technically treasonous actions he brings along Heat Wave as back up, When his Time Lord *ahem* Time Master, master, master Druce tries to convince him to stop fiddling with time, Rip considers the offer. Mick gets to say ‘Sorry gurl, it’s a trap!’ and that’s pretty much the best he does this week!
And yes it is a trap, a fire-fight ensues and well…it all just felt like set up for the actual impactful story of the week!

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Yes, Jefferson and Professor Stein are at it again, after the aforementioned fire-fight Jacks had a pretty serious abdominal wound, blood and being unconscious and all, but it wasn’t that serious, or else he wouldn’t have given out to Stein for being the annoying voice in his head who won’t shut up. To be fair, in that particular instance Stein was in the right, but that doesn’t excuse how much of a dickhead he was to Jackson! Anyway, so they have their little tiff and then during the mission Stein goes all crazy again and by risking himself kinda saves the day? I mean he is in soviet custody being forced to make an army of nuclear men for the Russians and Vandal Savage. Eh, he tried and that’s the main thing!

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So what do I think is going to happen in weeks to come? Well I see a big climactic fight between The Legends of tomorrow and Savages team of counterparts that he will inevitably collect/ create by the end of the show! Either that or The Flash travels back in time and fixes everything, I’m just spitballin’ here!

JOKES…TERRIBLE, TERRIBLE JOKES

  • Kendra and Sara can only survive on a ‘wing’ and a prayer!

 

  • ‘Gideon; Bone me!’

 

  • ‘Set the Druce loose aboot this hoose!’

 

  • Jaysus lads, Stein nearly dropped the ball! ZING!

 

  • I like to imagine that when Rip told Cold to run this went through his head: ‘So be it… So-vi-et!’

About the Author:

The lovable slacker type, Colm Sheppard is into all things comic book. He enjoys good food, good stories and lengthy anecdotes.

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Flashpoints – Legends of Tomorrow (Pilot Part 1)

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The year is 2166, and wouldn’t you know it, life is pretty shite! Vandal Savage, longstanding DC supervillain has taken over the world and does so through that oh-so reliable means: through force. The Time Masters, who protect the flow of time and the creator of the time sphere/ also Time Master Rip Hunter need to decide; what’s more important, keeping time safe or keeping humanity safe…

As I’s sure you can imagine, Rip Hunter just goes off and does his own thing, as lovable English rogues are known to do. To combat Savage throughout history, Hunter gathers together a group of extendible yet very skilled people from the year 2016, and no, I wasn’t one of them sadly. So, armed with his English accent, a time machine, Gideon, and a Men In Black device that lets him kidnap people (yeah he might have done that…) Rip travels 150 years into the past!

Great story right? Well as you might expect it’s a crossover special, with our Legends of Tomorrow trickling in from all over the DC TV universe, and hopefully we’ll be treated to even more in the epic crusade that has patched together B, C and D listers together and woven them into the Justice Leag- Legends of Tomorrow!

DC's Legends of Tomorrow -- "Pilot, Part 1" -- Image LGN101d_0406b -- Pictured (L-R): Franz Drameh as Jefferson "Jax" Jackson, Falk Hentschel as Carter Hall/Hawkman, Ciara Renee as Kendra Saunders/Hawkgirl, Caity Lotz as Sara Lance, Victor Garber as Professor Martin Stein, Wentworth Miller as Leonard Snart/Captain Cold, Dominic Purcell as Mick Rory/Heat Wave and Brandon Routh as Ray Palmer/Atom -- Photo: Jeff Weddell/The CW -- © 2015 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

So what do we learn just from cobbling together TV spots and trailers? Well it’s a patchwork really, the executives took the characters that work best in a team dynamic, gave them a heavy hitter to… hit, and all this time not calling it the Justice League. Hopefully Legends can shed some light on the mysteries of the DC timeline, and maybe straighten some things out (with regards to the Reverse-Flash) and give us a story that we haven’t seen before!

So does the two part Pilot do any of that? Well yes and no, because it’s a pilot it does get bogged down in getting its story told, and the assembly of the team left a little bit to be desired in terms of pacing and character exploration. That being said it was fun (and VERY inappropriate) to see Professor Stein get his way and get his partner on board (Get it?? Because he drugged Jefferson Jackson and brought him aboard the time ship!)

The pilot is ultimately testing the waters, both in terms of the show and the story itself; at no point does the show attempt to explain time travel in a very technical way, and its somewhat unbelievable that at no point one of the less *ahem* scientifically academic characters goes ‘But like…can you explain that in Leaving Cert physics terms please?’ There’s a lot of stuff to grasp there, just saying.

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Still the pilot does deliver a coherent story, there’s a beginning, middle and end, and because there needs to be some personal stakes in the matter somebody needs to die to motivate the team, y’know go all Phil Coulson! And even probably the coming back to life part too, so Horray on good narrative! Meh on who you killed off!

So, let’s talk about our Legends, their likes and interests, though crime/heroics is usually their preferred M.O. Last year we got a fairly lengthy introduction to our main brains: from Arrow, we got Ray Palmer aka The Atom! From The Flash we got Martin Stein aka Firestorm, and also his partner Jefferson Jackson!

Atom and Stein are actually a bit too similar for their own good, they both joined the team for the same reason; to make a mark on history, they’re both scientifically gifted and they both have like…projectile attacks! (Laser beams v. Flamethrowers) Though there are very enjoyable differences. Ray is excitable and puppy like in his innocence, while Stein seems to be becoming an adrenaline junkie.

In between the two is Jefferson, who is against the idea of putting himself in danger, but still has that little dab of hero in him! Jeff hasn’t really gotten to shine as much as the other characters, for now he is Arthur Dent to Steins Zaphod Beeblebrox.

On the more criminal end of the totem pole we have White Canary, a former assassin who came back to life after her sister Laurel (Ugh.) in typical Laurel fashion resurrected her with a half arsed idea of what to do. Sara Lance now don’s the white canary identity and kicks all kinds of ass! Sara seems much more the go with the flow type, and she even gets super high in 1975 for the craic like! I see her as the ‘Urverybody be cooooooooool’ person for the time being.

Speaking of cool (and also not) we also have Captain Cold and Heat Wave, who unlike the rest of the team, have each other’s backs but still insist of stealing stuff, there like the two bully’s or silent guys who remain on the sidelines for a good portion of the video game/ movie, and then kick serious arse when they are roused from their apathy! Though they actually dove into the action pretty quick! Poor Mick is taking a back seat to Lenny, who is working up a charming friendship with Sara and already butting heads with the would-be-leader The Atom!
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Lastly we have the hawks, repeatedly reincarnated lovers (ooooh saucy!) and the eternal prey of Vandal Savage Kendra Saunders and Carter Hall are winged warriors who are probably the warrior archetype of the team. I feel like Legends will go through their story more than anyone’s save Rip, though *Spoilers* one of the hawk heroes dies fighting Savage! Yes we lose Carter less than 3 episodes into the series, though as I said: ‘What a fecking cop out!’ I mean killing off the quasi immortal dude is just the easiest way you could have gone; there is quite literally a 100% chance he’ll come back. Buuuh.

Our Legends all come together under the guidance of Rip Hunter! An English time master and loving husband and father, Rip assembled the Legends to fight Savage after the devilish dictator killed his wife and child! A fairly standard motivation, but I can see it maybe conflicting a little bit with the hawks motive for killing him. I have to say that I quite like Rip, though the Doctor Who parallels drawn for him might be his characters undoing.

Arrow -- "Legends of Yesterday" -- Image AR408B_0005b.jpg -- Pictured: Casper Crump as Vandal Savage -- Photo: Katie Yu/ The CW -- © 2015 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Our big baddie of Legends of Tomorrow is Casper Crumps Vandal Savage who spend 5000 years trying to take over the world and succeeds in the year 2166, prompting Rip Hunter to defeat him before Savage rises to power. Savage spends most of the Pilot having his plots foiled by those meddling kids! I do feel like Vandal won’t be the powerful, intimidating villain like Damien Darhk judging on what I’ve seen so far, he’ll be more of the very creepy and ominously powerful type. While he does a good job of being a villain, Savage has yet to WOW! Me.

Another Baddie we faced was Chronos, one of The Atoms arch-enemies from the comics, re-imagined as a bounty hunter who looks suspiciously like the elves from Thor: The Dark World. All I can really say is that he had a cool lookin’ gun!

Well that’s that, Legends is off to a good start, though it suffers from typical problems you’d expect from an ensemble cast in a pilot, but I sure am excited to see where the show will take us!

 

STRAY THOUGHTS

  • Rip’s stealing of a time machine against his super-powered contemporise reminds me of another fictional time traveller who Arthur Davrill worked beside…

 

  • Is it me or is there a brooding super/anti-hero in every bar fight ever?

 

  • Drinking age in US: 21, Jefferson’s age: 20, STEIN DONT GIVE A MINOR ALCOHOL!

 

  • Hey guys, Guys, remember that bag guy from Arrow, he’s totally not in this!

 

About the Author:

The lovable slacker type, Colm Sheppard is into all things comic book. He enjoys good food, good stories and lengthy anecdotes.

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“Ready for another adventure, Miss Carter?” – Agent Carter Season 2

 Agent Carter’s back! Happy days!

Even as a part of the cinema-dominating Marvel Studios megabrand, being a female-led, not-particularly dark and gritty spy-drama set in the 1940s, the chances of Agent Carter lasting past it’s first year looked grim , so to see Peggy and co return for another season is an extremely welcome surprise.

It’s now 1947, and the story has moved from New York to Los Angeles. And coming with the change in location is a change in genre: while the first season of Agent Carter was a spy series, with all the double-agents, gadgets, alibis and infiltration you’d expect, the new season has more of an LA detective noir vibe, like Chinatown, LA Confidential or a Raymond Chandler novel.

And the noir-ish mystery our heroine will be gumshoeing around trying to solve? In the middle of summer, the body of a young woman has been found… encased in a giant block of ice.

All the classic California detective tropes soon come into play: seedy affairs, goons in suits and fedoras like the opening of a Batman cartoon, a conspiracy of businessmen and politicians running the show (though, because this is still a Marvel series, they’re also a HYDRA cult), a bought-off crooked police force…and there’s even a Norma Desmond from Sunset Boulevard aspect to the season’s big villain, Whitney Frost – an aging Hollywood actress who’s slowly being edged out of the business. (Well, I say aging but she’s like maybe 40 – the classic problem of pop culture and it’s lack of room for older women again…)

agent-carter

The series’ subtle transition away from being a straight-up spy story is smart writing: Peggy spent most of last season trying to hide away so many of her own secrets, but they had all been gradually revealed by the season finale.  So now, instead of risking repeating themselves by giving her a whole new set of secrets to hide this year, the writers have moved her into a more investigative role: now she’s trying to sniff out other people’s secrets rather than covering up her own.

Last season she was fighting for respect, to exonerate her friend, and to protect Captain America’s legacy – but this season, Peggy is just doing her job. Which is to protect people, investigate crimes and hit bad guys with heavy things (and sometimes sacks of money) – which is what she wanted from the start.

But because that arc has been wrapped up, her personal story this season moves from “Peggy needs to fight against institutionalised sexism to prove herself as an agent” to “Peggy’s love interest is getting married to another woman, and she’s starting to fall for a new man” – which is a plot with way more potential to feel like a reductive “female protagonist’s romance troubles” cliché.
Luckily Agent Carter the series  and Agent Carter the character are both better than that: when Peggy first meets Sousa’s new fiancé, Violet, rather than descending into jealous sniping, the two hit it off and quickly become warm and friendly to each other. And later, Peggy makes a point of telling Sousa how sincerely happy she is for him. Peggy Carter doesn’t let her private hurt ruin her friends’ happiness, and she damn sure doesn’t fight with other women over any man.

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Meanwhile, when she meets and feels an attraction to the newly introduced Doctor Wilkes (Reggie Austin), she keeps him at a distance both for professional reasons (he’s a major witness in her case) and personal ones (she knows she’s still processing the news of Sousa’s engagement).

But she’s eventually won around despite herself – both she and the audience are a lil’ bit charmed by the warm, funny and capable Doctor. As a black physicist who fought in WW2 and then had to face huge prejudice and barriers to find any work in a field that he’s clearly very gifted in, there are clear parallels between Wilkes and Peggy. He seems to be being established as a recurring character and love interest – which makes his (apparent) death at the end of episode 2 all the more impactful.

(It’s cool though, he comes back in the next episode as like a science-ghost, or something.)

Bringing Wilkes back as an intangible presence for the rest of the season gives him a reason to stay a part of the story and interact with the main characters even after the initial plot of the murder at his laboratory has been wrapped up. “How can we get him back to our world?” can now be an overarching plot that runs through the whole season, and connects the character to all the weird super-science stuff that Peggy investigates.

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As for the other supporting characters, Thompson (Peggy’s asshole perma-frowning colleague/new boss, aka that one guy from One Tree Hill) and Dottie (the Soviet super-assassin who used to be Peggy’s next door neighbour) are kept off in New York, away from the LA-based murder mystery plot.

It’s a nice little nod to/ holdover from the depiction of workplace sexism within the SSR last season that while Peggy is still in her same position as an agent, both Thompson and Sousa have been promoted to Office Chief positions.

Thompson stays in New York, separated from the main LA murder mystery plot, and is on his own separate-but-connected story path: After taking the credit for Peggy’s investigation at the end of last season, he’s started down  a slippery slope – and now the Dad from That Seventies Show is grooming him to be part of a HYDRA conspiracy that goes all the way to the top. (Which, incidentally, is my favourite place for conspiracies to go.)

So oh yeah, HYDRA are back, too. But as suggested in The Winter Soldier and the latest season of Agents of SHIELD, it’s the arm of HYDRA that’s secretly made up of 1% business executives and corrupt politicians.

The bad guys have also switched genres with the move to California: instead of Nazi superspies, they’re now a nice LA noir-style evil conspiracy of rich white guys for Peggy to take down (or maybe fail to take down, to extend the Chinatown reference – since we know that they’re still around as of 2014’s The Winter Soldier.)

Thompson being on the bad guy’s payroll is an interesting way to keep his character around, and I’m sure his story will intersect with the other’s later in the season. (I’m calling it now: around episode 7 or 8, he’s going to realise he’s “in too deep”, have a crisis of conscience brought on by Peggy’s good example, and become a mole on the inside for the good guys.)

Aside from Evil Businessmen HYDRA, our villain for the season is Wynn Everett’s Whitney Frost (aka Madame Masque). The original comics, she’s a female rip-off of Doctor Doom who eventually becomes Iron Man’s crazy, obsessive ex-girlfriend. Sooo… there’s room for improvement here.

Madame Masque really benefits from being re-imagined in the 1940’s and being pitted against Peggy instead of a male character: in this version, she’s a massively successful Hollywood actress (“We put our pearls on one string at a time, just like everybody else.”) who’s being slowly edged out the door because of her age. (She’s in around her late thirties, a comment on Hollywood’s lack of opportunity for older women that is just as true today as it was in, y’know, the nineteen-forties.)

As well as allowing some pointed commentary on the gender politics of Golden Age (and Modern Age) Hollywood, this new version of Whitney Frost is also heavily inspired by the story of Hedy Lamarr (the 1930’s Hollywood mega-idol who secretly invented the technology that’s the basis of Wifi and GPS in her spare time – a fascinating story I can’t recommend enough you google).

Like Lemarr, Frost was originally a scientist, who invented radio signalling systems that were vital to the Allies in the war, and became an expert in our superscience Maguffin for the season, the shadowy, blackhole-ish Zero Matter.

And also like Lamarr (whose story had a sad, Sunset Boulevard-esque end), it looks she will increasingly lose touch with reality, as Peggy sniffs around the murder of Frost’s husband’s mistress and as the production studio executives try to push her out of the film business.

Similarly to Doctor Wilkes and Peggy, Frost found meaning in doing what she did best to help the cause during World War 2, but unlike the other two – who were able to continue their meaningful work in some ways after the war – something apparently happened that pushed Whitney out of the lab and led her to become a Hollywood actress instead. Setting Madame Masque up as a woman like Peggy who hasn’t been able to hold on to the meaning the war brought to her life, creates a really interesting parallel

So, a lot of exposition in this first piece on Season 2, but these first three episodes are really are about introducing the new characters, the new personal dynamics, and the new LA noir-ish status quo for the season.

But now “The board is set, the pieces are moving”, as Gandalf always used to say, and we can dig into more of the thematic stuff in the coming weeks.

I’m so happy this series is back.

 

Stray Thoughts:

  • “Love the hat.”

 

  • This series has such a distinct and creative visual style, as opposed to so many of the other action series on television right now (cough)AgentsofSHIELD(cough). There are so many nice little touches that sell the 40’s setting and adventurous tone: the location shots of real footage from 40’s LA, complete with pillarbox screen and skipping “film stock” quality. The use of actual non-clichéd music from the time, and the Indiana Jones-style plane-travelling-over-a-map scene. See, other TV series? You can play around and have fun with your presentation a bit, and still not lose the drama of your serious moments. It’s possible…

 

  • And outside of just the period-establishing visuals, that slow-motion shot of Peggy just thwacking Dottie with the bag full of coins was soooooo satisfying, and comic-bookey in just the right way.

 

  • “Aside from danger, my middle name is charm.” – Aaaaaayyy, Jarvis is back! It’s Jarvis everybody!

 

  • “I have no desire to spend the rest of time as a disembodied voice.” – And he’s feeling meta this year!

 

  • Not sure about that Fatty Arbucle joke. On the one hand, I felt clever cos I got it, but on the other hand, I felt squeamish cos…I got it.

 

  • “Who’s that clown?” (Camera pans to a sad-looking clown in the waiting room)

 

  • This week in Peggy is the Best Spy: She knocks out Dottie with a bag o’ change! She runs the interrogation like a pro! She palms a keycard and sneaks into the lab! She beats up crowds of henchmen, not a bother! She disdains 40’s-era racism the same way she does sexism! She finds the hollow floorboard and realizes the evidence is fake! She sneaks into the bad guy’s boardroom and bugs ’em! She waltzes into Madame Masque’s dressing room and starts grilling her like it ain’t even nuthin’!

 

  • ” Even the great Eleanor Roosevelt was turned away at our threshold.” “Well, I’ve seen old Ellie’s threshold, I believe you’ve made the right choice.” – Oh yeah, and Howard Stark’s back! (Also, eww.)

 

  • As the series moves towards the 1950’s and the start of the Cold War proper, elements of America’s Communist panic and the Red Scare are starting to crop up – with the show now set in 40’s Hollywood, I wonder how and when it’ll engage with McCarthyism, the Hollywood “Communist” trials and the whole dawning era of “Are you now or have you ever been…?”

 

  • “Are you gonna punch all of LA?” “Maybe. I could do with a hobby.”

 

  • “It’s the flamingo isn’t it?” “It is indeed the flamingo.”

 

About the author: A lifelong TV addict since his first episode of Sesame Street, Cian Sheppard works as an English teacher in Poland and thinks you look very nice today.

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I Can See My House from Here!

Guys, this is a sad, yet also amazing day. Our co-blogger and friend has struck out solo. Having joined us after a New Years pub chat almost exactly a year ago, his Father Ted posts have kept you guys coming back for more and more over the last twelve months.

He’s gained a bit of the bug from these posts and has started his own blog over at https://theflaninthehighcastle.wordpress.com/ which you should all go and check out! He intends to write some posts about Doctor Who in the near future and if anything fresh and interesting strikes him from Father Ted that’ll get penned as well.

Ger, any post you want to write for whatelseisonblog in the future would be met with the warmest of receptions, and we wish you the best of luck at theflaninthehighcastle!

Here’s to you pal!

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