The Narrows


This week I get jumped by a preacher, and will the Battlefront II controversy be an “A Christmas Carol” moment for EA… ok, even I am not that stupid. 

 

Opening theme is: Opportunity by Jamus Breed*
Closing Theme is: Bucket by Jamus Breed*

 

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*Licensed exclusively to G33kpod Network by Dennis Johnston

 

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Buffalo, NY. It’s a town known for hockey, chicken wings, and the side of Niagara Falls you can visit if you have a criminal record. I don’t recall ever coming here, or even having a particular desire to. Not for any specific reason. Only because it was like a ton of other cities and towns across the country today. Built by rail, canal, or the automobile industry, and left to die a slow death in the aftermath of economic downturn that has decimated so many places in this country.

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The hotel we arrived at this morning did not seem to be suffering any ill effects from this trend. For a city that is either second or third behind Detroit in percentage of residents who live below the poverty line, you would not be able to tell that walking around downtown. This seems to be a change that is moving outwards form the downtown area. A few years ago, a plan called the Buffalo Billion was introduced to try and bring the city back to it’s former glory. From all I have seen so far, it seems to working.

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With tons of beautiful old buildings being restored, and more construction than I could avoid, it seems like things might be improving here. Paul and I went out to lunch with a co-worker of his, and I noticed something very interesting during our walk through the city. Not about Tim mind you. He is an interesting guy and likes Batman so he is good in my book. About his attitude toward the place he lives.

 

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His first words as we went to cross Delaware street were “I remember when things were medieval…” That is pretty harsh sentiment for your hometown. I have called my hometown lots of things, but this makes Buffalo sound like it was a place to avoid. Every where we stopped, Tim would have some variation of “It was really bad, but they have done a ton of work and now this place is nice.” Whether it was the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center, or just the various streets we wandered down in search of mid-day sustenance, the common theme seemed pretty clear to me.

Things were really bad, but now they are getting better.

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I can’t really say I disagree. Clearly, a ton of money has been spent to revitalize this area. A quick walk down to the Canalside will show that some serious people with some serious money are serious about making Buffalo something to be proud of again.

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I only spent an hour walking around the water in the sweltering heat, and I was excited enough to want to bring my family here for the day. Full of eye catching architecture and plenty of vendors, the canal seems to be a town fair that doesn’t actually end. There were families, couples, even tourists taking full advantage of this wide open and beautiful space right next to the old Gold Medal Flour company.

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Battleships, boardwalks, and nifty little… cellar fort looking things… are just a few of the interesting spots all clustered around the main attraction. The canal.

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All of this positive change can be seen and felt in the event G33kpod is here to cover this weekend. Nickel City Comicon is Buffalo’s very first large scale comic convention. It is the kind of thing you cannot pull off if things aren’t getting better in your city. It has an impressive guest list, ranging from movie and TV stars, to some of the greatest and soon to be greatest artists out there. Sean Astin(from the Goonies and some other movie by that directer Peter Jackson who did some gory movie in the 80’s that was banned.), Ray Park, and The Nature Boy Ric Flair along with the cast of AMC’s Comicbook Men are going to be hanging out for the weekend. That’s a damn good guest list for your first time out. It is a damn good list for any city outside of SDCC or NYCC. For a city that was on the brink less than a decade ago, it seems to me that the residents should be damn proud of where they are and where they are heading.  Now if only we could get Fulton to follow their example…

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See you at Nickel City Comicon…

 

 

 

 

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That right there was all that mattered.  That picture above was the one thing in the new “The Force Awakens” traler that I gave a damn about.  Not because I am old or nostalgic.  Not because I have a collection of EU novels and I am pissed they never happened now.  First let’s all watch this together shall we.

 

Now that was thrilling wasn’t it kids?  And if that had been the trailer for episode 8 I would most likely been swooning with excitement!  Young pretty actors in danger, in vehicles, being shot at!  All soooo exciting if I had a single clue who the hell any of them were and why I should care whether or not they get fried like a womp rat!

That is the problem with “The Force Awakens” trailer.  Yes we get a voice over from Mark Hamill and some references to the other characters and those are nice, but not enough.  The point of bringing back the old cast was to hand the torch to a newer generation right?  Why would that not be evident in the trailer?  I saw a bunch of young people in an action packed trailer that was a soulless as the prequels. Because just like “The Phantom Menace”, I don’t care what happens to them.

That isn’t an issue with what they showed or the actors themselves.  Like I said, if it was the trailer for the next one I would know them now and it would be plenty exciting.  I just don’t think this was the best approach to the trailer for what could be the biggest movie of the decade.  I mean, I’m glad you brought the Wookie and all, but what’s with Jedi Clairol and the young Stormtroopers brigade?  These faces will be generic CW cast offs until this December when we finally find out why the fate of the franchise is in their hands.

…. on second thought, the downed Star Destroyer redeemed the whole thing.  Forget I said anything…

First up, Z Nation finished it’s freshman season about they way you would expect it to.

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Oddly enough the final episode felt less campy and more serious drama.  They finally reveal some back story and we find the evil scientist that seems to have created the virus alive and well and still playing with dead things.

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There isn’t much to say about this show that hasn’t been said already.  It’s mindless fun and it is renewed so we get more of it next year.  If you can accept that every show about zombies does not have to be as good as The Walking Dead, then there is nothing wrong with this sillier take on the end of the world.

Overall Grade: B-

Good enough equals awesome on the SyFy network.  Can we call this dumb when the classic movies had zombies screaming for “BRAAAINNNSSSS!”?  That’s like Star Trek fans picking on Star Wars fans for being nerds.  This will never win an Emmy, and that is fine by me.

 

Which brings us to The Walking Dead

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Best season ever so far.  Although I feel like Rick has been lost this season.  Not lost sad Rick or lost crazy Rick, just lost in the overall story.  He is being quite bad ass and vicious this year.  I can’t tell if we are to think he is losing his humanity, or if he came to this place organically but we have seen him so infrequently this year  that it seems abrupt.

Scott Gimple has really found a great balance with this show.  Keeping it exciting but not sacrificing the action.  It will never be as action heavy and bloody as half the internet wants, but there was some great stuff this year.

In the finale they killed another one.

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Beth Greene is dead.  People like to applaud the show for killing off major characters.  I am going to say something now I have never seen any outlet say:

Yes this show is great, and they take risks… but not really.  I don’t want to see the major players die, but I tire of hearing how brave they are when really, they pick the character lowest on the totem pole so as not to cause riots, and kill them.  Beth dying was sad.  Herschel, Andrea, Dale, Lori, Sophia, T-Dogg… the only one of them that actually mattered was Shane.  I love this show but let’s not pretend like Beth was ever anything more than a supporting role.  This was not shocking, just sad as I will miss her.

There, I said it… now on to the best scene and gif since ever…

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Overall Grade: A

They aren’t hanging out in a farmhouse anymore.  They followed the comic.  They killed some stuff.  What more could you ask for?

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Arrow, like The Flash, had an excellent end to the first half of it’s season.  Punctuated by an epic fall finale that might be the best out of the whole crop of fall finales.  Without recapping the entire season, Oliver finds out that Thea not only came back with Merlyn and has contact with him, but she killed Sara.  She was under the influence of “mysterious druggy plot devicey thingy”, but still she ultimately fired the arrows into Black Canary.  Thea lies to Oliver about having contact with Merlyn and basically they have the most dysfunctional tree trimming in Starling City.

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To anyone wondering if Arrow would be as exciting as its big screen DC counterparts, man did the finale really make a case for the TV universe.  Not only did it really end in a way that you figured they wouldn’t, it has also unfortunately led to this websites highest quotient of shirtless men in a single post.  The battle with Ra’s al Ghul atop a snowy mountain.

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As good as anything in a motion picture, this battle was more than I think we expected.   Again I think they could have worn some clothes, but this is the CW network.  Shirtless guys are kind of their thing.  Lack of attire aside, it was an amazing fight sequence worthy of the big screen.

I wasn’t sold on the guy playing Ra’s until this episode.

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He may not look right or sound right, but he is Bad Ass.  Especially when he stabs Oliver in the chest with a sword, and kicks him off a mountain.  Yup, he kills Oliver Queen.  That means we must be making with the Lazarus Pits because there is no getting out of that no matter how in shape you are.  That is why this is my favorite mid season finale this year, because they killed their main character.  They had the balls to do it.  Not fake it or wuss out at the end.  This leads them more in to comic territory than ever before.  Not only was this shocking but it is a promise of an even better show coming.  That’s how you do a mid season finale.

Just to balance the all the shirtless guys, here is our first look at Ray Palmer’s Atom suit.

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Overall Grade: A-

Can’t really ask for much more than this.  Nothing is perfect and we still spent time this season moping a bit.  Also, can someone explain how they make Alex Kingston look fat every time she guest stars.  I thought she had gotten fat, and then I see her on Doctor Who and she looks the same.  So what is going on??!!

 

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Since getting a bit off track with the holiday season, I decided it was time to get back in the saddle with the G33kpod Mid Season Report Card.  First up, The Flash.

The second quarter of The Flash’s first season continued the growth and promise shown previously.  The highlight of that was clearly the much hyped Flash/Arrow crossover.  First and foremost, this was not a publicity grab.  Both the Flash side of it and the Arrow side were well thought out and some of the most entertaining tv so far this season.  They were two partly separate stories, not just a part one and part two.  I was taken aback by that because I always assumed they would take the easy two parter road for these episodes, and was not expecting two mostly self contained stories geared toward the audience of that specific show.

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The episodes also showed a conflict, resolution, and growth in the relationship between Barry and Oliver.  Made me want to see the two team up every three or so episodes.

The other major development was The Reverse Flash

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We finally see Barry face off against the man who murdered his mother.  I was expecting this plot thread to last at least until the end of the season(and it might still), but it seems like they may be revealing things much sooner.  All signs point to Harrison Wells having a strong connection to the bad guy, if not being the Reverse Flash himself.  I didn’t feel like we actually know much more now than we did before, but I was not let down at all with the movement of the plot.  Could use a bit less pining over Iris but somehow I don’t think that is going to change any time soon.

And then the big news…

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They are really doing Firestorm!  Looks like a homeless man on fire right now, but I am guessing that might change in the latter half of the Season.

Overall Grade: B+

Paul will whine about it, but it’s better than a B-!  The show is great, but is still finding it’s voice.  I feel like if first quarter had let loose like the last quarter the grade would be higher.  Plenty of time left to bring that up to an A by the end of the season.

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I am not sure how I feel about this.  A long time ago a fantastic comic called Hellblazer was born from the pages of Swamp Thing and ran for forever.  It featured the only character in comics to age in real time EVER.  It built a rich and detailed world that was complex as it was adult.  Then it was canceled to make the way for a PG-13 version in the New 52 called Constantine.  I tried to love the new book.  The writers claimed they would honor the source material, but I am tired of seeing John Constantine teamed up with super heroes and being portrayed in a way that feels like a betrayal of those of us who bought enough copies of Hellblazer to warrant a mainstream version.

Then comes along this tv adaptation.  Don’t get me wrong, I like the show.  It is far more faithful to the original run than the new comics.  While Matt Ryan is not my first choice for the lead role, he is doing quite well in it.  The only problem I see is he is almost too likeable.  He is an anti-hero.  John Constantine is supposed to be a bastard.

Another problem has to do with the writing.  It is a two parter.  First of all they are building this world in a strange way.  If you recall the movie version, derided as it was, it explained things well.  The whole bit about water being a conduit to hell was shown after it had been introduced and partly explained.  In this past weeks episode, John uses water and an incantation to see a demon that was not visible to the naked eye.  No explanation prior, not even foreshadowing.  He dumps water over his head and chants and a demon appears.  Now I am not the kind of guy that needs my hand to be held.  I can connect the dots as good as the next guy.  This show however needs to get people who aren’t already interested to keep watching in order to stay on the air.  During this scene I was imagining my Mom sitting in front of the tv confused and choosing not to tune in next week because she felt like she must have missed something important.  It feels like this show is world building for the fans.  They stuck Doctor Fate’s helmet in the premiere but haven’t truly explained the rules of this world to the average viewer, and I fear they won’t stick around.

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The other thing about the writing is harder to put in to words.  You know how when a pivotal scene in a movie builds to a climax and the hero speaks with such force it’s like a rallying cry or a speech?  Every line out of John’s mouth is like that.  It doesn’t feel natural.  No matter what he is talking about there is a forced intensity that makes the whole thing feel contrived and over the top.  John does not do subtle, but this is a bit too much.

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Neither one of these things is me saying I don’t like the show.  I am enjoying it, but maybe I am being a bit more critical for another reason.  My beloved Hellblazer is dead, and it’s replacement pales in comparison.  This is the one and only shot for this particular narrative world to continue in any way.  I feel like a lot is riding on this and if it fails, then a door closes and John Constantine will forever be the ridiculous parody he is in the comics now.  That would make me sad.

We are not too far gone by any means and it is early days yet.  I am confused as to why they didn’t bring Harold Perrineau’s angel character back as it seems like some exposition from him would be the easiest was to address the world building problems.  A sit down with John about what is going on in the world to bring evil to the surface would make a lot of things more clear.

For this show to succeed for it’s fans, it needs to succeed in spite of them.   Even John could appreciate that irony.

 

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Oh dear lord it just won’t stop.

I am going to change things up a bit here and thought The Narrows would be a good place to address it.  As you all know, this is a new venture, and the G33kpod crew is just starting to find our way.  I gladly took on the TV duties but it is becoming abundantly clear I can’t keep going on this way.

The Walking Dead starts tonight.  I haven’t watched this weeks Sleepy Hollow yet.  I have only seen the first episode of Gotham and American Horror Story: Freak Show was great but I haven’t even found the time to write about it.  I just did a quick calculation based on genre shows we haven’t talked about(12 Monkeys, Bates Motel, etc) and the stuff I have already started, and found we are talking in all of genre TV around 300 reviews in the next few months.   I would love to have that kind of output.  But with 50 hours a week at my job, a family, and time needed to watch those shows plus showers and sleep… it just is not going to happen.

Especially as at this point I am not sure if anyone other than Paul and my wife have even read one of these columns, I can’t justify sacrificing time in one of those other areas to do a good job here.  I hope someday to reach a huge audience, but I feel I am so rushed that I am barely scratching the surface of these shows.

I also said from day one I was not going to do full recaps, and somehow find myself doing them anyway.  That is on me, most likely because I am always in a hurry.  I wrote this past weeks Z Nation review in the WordPress app while on the toilet!  I need a clone.

So before I turn in to a zombie, here is what is going to change.

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I will still do single reviews on my favorite shows and ones I think are important, and do a BETTER job with them.  Others I will do weekly columns focusing on several shows at a time.  AHS for instance.  I love the show, but it is such an intricate show I don’t feel I could spend the amount of time on it I would need to do it justice.  But we can still talk about the fucking creepy clown!clown

This way I feel I can spend more time on what I write, and just put some thoughts out there about the ones I don’t have time for.  Paul wants to handle Gotham and The Flash so that helps out a lot.  I am going to assume you have already watched the show.  I would never read a review before watching a show.  If that is you, I am sorry and I don’t think you actually like TV.  You should try books.

We at G33kpod want to turn this site in to something special.  I am sure this won’t be the last adjustment we make, and we appreciate anyone along for the ride.  If you have any ideas or thoughts on how to make this better, feel free to leave them in the comments.   I am going to spend the rest of the day excited about The Walking Dead, instead of worrying about when I wil have time to write the review.

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I woke up this morning to find a glowing review of the pilot episode of The Flash, written by our fearless G33kpod leader Paul. I agreed with almost everything he said, but one thing stood out and made me choke on my coffee.

“It has already surpassed Arrow”

Paul, did you take a fanboy pill last night? I have to know because I cannot agree with or let that comment go. Have you even seen Arrow? I am sure this new Flash series is going to be good, maybe even better someday than Arrow. Maybe we will even get to see this:

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Ok, maybe not. Here is the thing. I am not going to get in a row about which superhero is better, because we all have opinions and we are all right. To say in one episode The Flash has out done two years of world building is ridiculous. Arrow has proven again and again to be an incredibly well done show. In fact the only issues any one ever has is generally is the girl who plays Laurel, and Stephen Amell’s acting. I have heard he is wooden and not very good. What I see is one man playing three different parts, The Arrow, the public face of Oliver Queen, and his true self. The true self certainly is wooden because he is a damaged person who can’t quite bring himself back in to the world he left when he was marooned on the island. That’s three parts, all different from each other. That is pretty good for CW show.
But this is not a review of Arrow, this is a statement. SOMEDAY The Flash may be better than Arrow. SOMEDAY we might be talking about how The Flash is the high point of comic based television. But I believe it is wrong and premature to make that statement right now. This year we have Ra’s Al’Ghul and Firestorm and The Atom coming to Arrow. This year we will have The Flash having his powers sputter out on him due to his confidence. You watch, bet ya ten bucks we get that in the first season. That is because that happens on every super hero show in the first year. The Flash will be great I think and hope. Just not yet. But that’s okay because this is how you build a world. You want an example of how good The Flash can be? Check out the last few seasons of Arrow…

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As an aside, just so all the fanboys out there know, we will not be getting the Green Arrow and Flash team you all are expecting from the comics. This is the fault of both shows, but primarily Arrow because that is where the seeds were sown. In the comics they are good friends and ball busters. In these two shows I cannot see Grant Gustin’s Barry Allen ever having the confidence to riff on his mentor and all around scary guy Arrow. I also don’t see Stephen Amell’s Arrow ever being unbroody enough to make a joke or crack a real smile. Just the way they are written. It could be worse though, we could be getting this next week.