Supergirl Season 1 Review

  • Series Title:  Supergirl
  • Season: 1
  • Episodes: 20
  • Discs: 5
  • Network: CBS
  • Cast: Melissa Benoist, Chyler Leigh, Mehcad Brooks, Jeremy Jordan, David Harewood, Calista Flockhart

Do see my Supergirl Pilot Review for my initial impressions of this series. However, it got better – much better. Although the early episodes seemed very much to be “Supergirl verses monster/villain of the week”, the season developed and once it moved into a continued storyline it improved immensely. The entire cast did a good job – after the pilot, Supergirl, her sister, Alex, and Hank from the DEO all improved, and from the very beginning I liked Winn and James Olsen. Although the structure of the show is similar to the other DC shows (on the CW), especially The FlashSupergirl did find it’s footing rather quickly in it’s first season.

Cat Grant, played beautifully by Calista Flockhart, was the most inconsistently-written character on the show. Some of the series’ writers seemed to believe a powerful woman must be a complete bitch and not in a good way (“The Devil wears Prada” stereotype). Yet, Cat could also be very strong, remarkably sensible, and the arc of her relationship with Kara shows her to be a mentor and a tough teacher. The last scene between the two of them in the season was a complete surprise. It should have been predictable and it wasn’t – making that arc work. We also see the reasons for some of Cat’s actions – and even her inconsistency. And meeting her mother really explains a lot about Cat (in short not only does her mother have Cat’s occasional meanness – but she’s snobbish and pushy as well).

The remaining characters surrounding Supergirl/Kara have their ups and downs as well – and the season has that rollercoaster feel we know so well from the CW shows. But Supergirl has it’s own tone as well. The tone of the show is hope, and unity, and strength that comes from working together rather in constant competition. Cat holds up Supergirl as a symbol of hope to National City. Kara explains to Winn that the S on her chest isn’t an S – it’s the crest of the House of El, whose motto is “Stronger Together”. The finale of the series rests on hope to defeat Myriad and the Kryptonian criminals from Ft. Rozz – the Kryptonian prison that landed on Earth. The series sees positivity as important, and human, and a real American value. It therefore stands against snark, meanness, rudeness, and especially racism and hatred of the other. From a senator’s anti-alien rallies and anti-Supergirl rhetoric to an army general’s statement that James Olsen “isn’t good enough for his daughter” – this series subtly but consistently fights against racism, hatred, and the darkness. In these times that is a strong and brave message – especially in a series that is aimed at pre-teen and teen-aged girls. That isn’t to say that adults can’t enjoy the show – it’s very much all-ages, but at least the first half of the season seemed very much to pitching itself towards that demographic audience.

As a quick glance through my blog will show, I’m a long-time DC fan, so I also appreciated the references and characters that were brought into the first season of Supergirl. Red Tornado and his creator, Dr. T.O. Morrow, were perfect. And I really enjoyed seeing Martian Manhunter – one of my favorite lesser-known characters as a regular. Maxwell Lord is also a regular – and is correctly portrayed as a very gray character. Grant Gustin’s the Flash also makes an appearance in an excellent episode called, “World’s Finest”. I hope the second season brings in more DC characters.

Season 2 of Supergirl will air on the CW, which is where this show should have been from the beginning. Overall, I recommend this show. And if you have a pre-teen or teenaged daughter, or niece or friend’s daughter – by all means introduce them to the show.

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Remington Steele Season 4

  • Series Title: Remington Steele
  • Season: 4 (Packaged with Season 5)
  • Episodes: 21
  • Discs: 4 (Double-Sided)
  • Cast: Stephanie Zimbalist, Pierce Brosnan, Doris Roberts
  • Original Network: NBC
  • Original Production Company: MTM 

Before I start with my review of this season set – I really need to mention some technical issues. First, these are double-sided discs. I really hate double-sided discs – they are even more likely to be damaged than normal DVDs, even with careful handling. Second, my set is missing the final two episodes of Season 4. Disc four lists four episodes: “Steele in the Running”; “Beg, Borrow or Steele”; and “Steele Alive and Kicking”; and “Bonds of Steele”. “Steele Alive and Kicking” and “Bonds of Steele” are no where to be found. You put in the disc and a menu comes up for the first two episodes and that is it. When I pay for a full season, I expect a full season and this sort of shoddy workmanship is annoying and unfair. The next disc of the set starts the tele-movies that makes up Season 5.

That said, though, I was genuinely surprised by how much I enjoyed Season 4 of Remington Steele. Not that I wasn’t sure I’d like this series – I loved it when I originally saw it in the 1980s, and when I re-watched it in the 1990s on some cheap cable station, I was surprised by how well it stood up. However, I remembered not really liking Season 4 – and really disliking Season 5. Yet, when re-watching Season 4 I liked it. I genuinely enjoyed each episode as I watched it. The first episode of Season 4 is a two-parter, set in London, England, which features Efrem Zimbalist Jr. (Stephanie’s real father, and a relatively frequent guest star throughout the series), Catherine Harris (Pierce Brosnan’s real wife, who passed away shortly thereafter from cancer), and Julian Glover (Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Magnum PI (guest),  Doctor Who, Game of Thrones) as a guest star. Steele attempts to find clues to his past and his real father, Laura is pushed to decide how much she trusts Steele, Mildred finally discovers the truth – that Laura runs the agency not Steele, and Laura and Steele’s relationship is taken to a new level. Plus the story is an excellent mystery with red herrings, side steps, and a very sweet ending. It’s a good start. The rest of the season features OK to good to excellent mysteries, but the characterization is excellent. Now that she knows the truth, Mildred is less the bumbling grandmotherly secretary and more of a real character. The episode where she quits because she feels both Steele and Laura are taking her for granted is really good. Mildred also gets promised the chance to earn her investigator’s license. Also, each episode of the Season 4 ends with Steele and Laura in a clench or even kissing. The romance the show had teased the audience with for four years is finally on the screen in a warm and wonderful way.

Remington Steele was an influential series for me as a young woman. Not only did I become a huge fan of Pierce Brosnan for life, but the show was one of the few that featured a woman as lead and as an equal partner with a man. Other programs at the time either had entirely male casts (Magnum PI, Riptide, The A-Team, etc.) or even if they had a woman in the cast she was often secondary or the show was entirely about the romance (Moonlighting, Scarecrow and Mrs. King). Remington Steele had romance as well, but the mysteries were at the core of the stories.

The second thing about Remington Steele that was very important to me is that it’s the reason I became a fan of classic film. The character of Remington Steele was a fan of the cinema – and had an encyclopedic knowledge of film. While working on a case, he’d mention a classic movie – “North by Northwest, Cary Grant, Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, MGM 1959,” which the case somehow reminded him of. But not only did Steele mention these films – he was enthusiastic about them. He gushed about them. In short, Steele talked like a fan about whatever it was he or she was a fan of – a television show, a movie, a book, a comic. Steele showed us, in a time when being a fan, being enthusiastic about media was decidedly not cool, that it was OK to be a fan. And his very enthusiasm about the films made me want to actually see them. Remington Steele made me the Classic Film fan and movie fan that I am. Season 4 has considerably less of the references to films and movies, which is too bad – but the characters of Steele, Laura, and Mildred have grown so that makes up for it in a way.

So, overall, recommended, though I’d really like to see MTM or NBC re-release the entire series in a box set that wasn’t on cheap double-sided discs. Season 5 to be reviewed later.

Son of Batman

  • Title: Son of Batman
  • Director: Ethan Spaulding
  • Voice Director: Andrea Romano
  • Date: 2014
  • Studio: Warner Brothers Animation
  • Genre: Animation, Action, Fantasy, Drama
  • Cast: Jason O’Mara, Stuart Allan, Thomas Gibson, Morena Baccarin, Sean Maher, David McCallum
  • Format: Widescreen, color, animation
  • DVD Format: Blu-Ray

“I’ll drive.” – Damain
“No.” – Batman
“I know how.” – Damain
“No.” – Batman

“Do you know what you were tonight?” You weren’t a warrior. You weren’t a soldier. You were a child.” – Batman
“If it hadn’t been for him [Nightwing, Dick Grayson], I…” – Damian
[breaking in] “If it hadn’t been for Dick, you’d have gone too far.” – Batman
“It’s easier my way!” – Damian
“It has nothing to do with easy. It’s about doing what’s right, because it’s right and that’s the only reason you need.” – Batman

“You’ve never felt vengeful?” – Damian
“Everyday. You have to keep your center, Damain. You can’t fight crime by becoming a criminal.” – Batman

Son of Batman is the first of a trilogy of films about Damian Wayne – the son of Talia al Ghul (daughter of Ra’s al Ghul) and Bruce Wayne. Damian will become the fourth Robin (after Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, and Tim Drake). The film opens with Ra’s al Ghul and Damian standing on a balcony in the secret temple of the League of Assassins. They watch the assassins exercising and training below, and Ra’s tells Damian it will be his birthright. But the temple is attacked. Talia protects Damian, but ultimately Ra’s is killed. Talia takes Damian to his father in Gotham City.

Once Talia makes introductions she leaves, and Batman returns to his mansion with his young son. Meanwhile a scientist, whom we learn later is Kirk Langstrom, is being forced to work on a formula or his wife and daughter will be harmed. Previously working for the League of Assassins, Langstrom is now working for Deathstroke – the leader of the attack on Ra’s temple. At Wayne Manor, Damian finds an antique sword and attacks the bushes. Bruce is impressed by the young man’s skill, while Alfred bemoans the destruction of the shrubbery.

Later that day or the next, Damian shows up at Wayne Enterprises – and proves himself an adept hacker. Bruce brings him home and grounds him. This will not go well.

Deathstroke’s henchman, Ubu, enters a hotel room with two hookers – but immediately gets suspicious. Damian arrives and fights Ubu – the fight spills out onto the street. Damain’s about to take Ubu’s head off with a sword, when Nightwing arrives. A few minutes later, Nightwing, looking the worse for wear, calls Bruce and tells him he has his son.

Back at the Batcave, Damian says just the wrong thing to Batman, and Dick who knows his mentor well, mutters, “uh-oh”, then Batman reads Damian the riot act. However, Damian is allowed to put on his own spin on the Robin suit and he and Batman travel on Gotham’s rooftops together. Batman introduces the new Robin to Commissioner Gordon with a nod and a “I’ll explain later”. Gordon gives Batman a clue, a scrap of paper from the investigation of Ubu. Batman and Damian follow it up, finding Langstrom. They find out Deathstroke has his family. There’s a massive fight against guards that ends-up in an old stadium that’s filled with giant man-bats.

Damian has Langstrom at knifepoint. He’s taken to the Batcave. There, finding out about his family, and that Ra’s wanted him to create a formula to create human/animal crossbreeds to create super-soldiers. Batman and Damian head off on a rescue mission, while Nightwing watches Langstrom as he makes a antidote to his man-bat formula. Damian had recognized the scientist’s daughter’s description of two mountain peaks like cat’s ears as Interlochen.

The rescue mission goes smoothly, and Batman finds the mother and daughter. But the daughter slips Damian a phone with a video message from Deathstroke and a location of Damian’s still-missing mother, Talia. Bruce calls Dick from a hotel room – then realizes Damian is missing. Batman, having heard from Mrs. Langstrom that Talia was also a prisoner but she was taken to another location. Dick quickly deduces the location, a nearby oil rig off the coast of Scotland.

The oil rig is at sunset and the animation is gorgeous. Damian takes an elevator to a sea base. Batman arrives and takes out the guards. Damian discovers a Lazarus Pit. Deathstroke threatens Talia. Damian threatens Deathstroke. But when pushed, Damian drops his gun. Talia gets shot trying to save Damian from Deathstroke. Batman arrives. Man-bats also attack. Batman uses sound signals on his batarangs to draw away the man-bats. Batman has the injured Talia.

Man-bats burst through the reinforced glass ceilings of the base, causing water to rush in and the system to overload. The man-bats burst above the base from the ocean and Nightwing and Langstrom fire antidotes at the man-bats from Nightwing’s plane.

Batman takes Talia into the Lazarus Pit. Damian and Deathstroke face off in a sword fight. Talia is cured by the Lazarus Pit.

The Sea-base starts to collapse as the sea rushes in. Water from the Lazarus Pit, which is being mined, also gets released. Deathstroke goads Damian into killing him – but Robin refuses – taking the name as his own for the first time. However, Deathstroke is caught by the explosion of the Lazarus pipelines. Batman, the new Robin, and Talia make it to an escape capsule and Nightwing rescues it from the ocean and the collapsing oil rig.

Talia and Bruce discuss who will have custody of Damian, but in the end he will stay with Bruce for now. Talia goes to rebuild the League of Assassins.

The animation in Son of Batman is excellent. This film looks gorgeous and the action sequences (of which there are many) are crisp and easy to follow. The sunset colors of the oil rig sequence are stunning. The film’s last shot of Batman and Robin, their capes blowing in the wind, the sunset behind them is beautiful. But this is also an extremely violent film with a high body count. The characterization is OK, but could have been better. Bruce Wayne seems a bit bland – and I found it hard to believe he didn’t even questions Talia. You’d think he would have demanded a paternity test – if only because of his position. Yet, Bruce also stops short of openly declaring that Damian is his son to the world.

I avoided this film and the two sequels for awhile because I’m not a fan of Grant Morrison at all, nor am I a fan of New 52, and I don’t really like Damian either. But, having said all that, I enjoyed this film. It looks gorgeous. The characterizations were pretty good. I loved seeing Dick Grayson as Nightwing, and the hint of the brothers-in-bat-hood relationship he will eventually have with Damian.

Recommendation: See It
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Next Film: Well, it should be the next in sequence, Batman vs. Robin, but it will probably be Batman: The Killing Joke which I just bought.

Spy

  • Title: Spy
  • Director: Paul Feig
  • Date: 2015
  • Studio: 20th Century Fox
  • Genre: Action, Comedy
  • Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Miranda Hart, Allison Janney, Rose Byrne, Morena Baccarin, Jude Law, Jason Statham, Jessica Chaffin
  • Format: Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format: R1, NTSC

“I must have watched this fifteen times now, because What the fuck? I almost put it up on youTube.” – Elaine Crocker
“I must say I was uncomfortable with the event, but I’d also like to say – it was over ten years ago, the instructor was not harmed.” – Susan
“Fine was your mentor, right?” – Elaine
“Yes.” – Susan
“Why did you not become a field agent?” – Elaine
“We’re such a great fit and a great team… Fine made some great points, maybe I’d match better staying in his ear.” – Susan
“Yeah, he sniped you. All the top agents used to do that before I got here.” – Elaine

“I do not condone these sexy but reckless actions of yours, Susan!” – Nancy

Melissa McCarthy’s Spy is an empowering movie – but it is also laugh-out-loud funny, fast-paced, and quite the ride. The movie stars five very different women and a few men. At the core of the film is the friendship between Susan Cooper and Nancy, two analysts at the CIA. Their job is perfectly explained by the opening scene of the film where Bradley Fine, top CIA field agent, tracks down a man who’s made it known he’s willing to sell a small, portable nuclear weapon. Fine’s holding the man at gunpoint when he points out that he erased the men who helped him hide the nuke, then he erased the “erasers” so Bradley better not kill him. At that moment, Fine sneezes, the gun goes off, and the guy dies. Susan asks, “Why did you do that?” then calmly, and expertly guides Fine to his escape, even calling in a drone strike so Fine can get away. Susan and Nancy’s friendship is illustrated by a scene where they are in a bar talking. Nancy spots Carol Walker, the agency’s top female agent and quietly pokes fun at her for being so perfect. The scene is very real and illustrates how real women talk.

After Fine’s disastrous mission, Elaine Crocker, the head of the department at the CIA tells the agents that someone else must know about the nuke because it’s come up for sale on the black market. Susan had figured out it was Rayna, the seller’s daughter. Fine is sent to get Rayna – but he’s killed and Rayna reveals she knows the names of all the top agents. Thus Crocker needs to find an unknown for the mission. Susan Cooper volunteers. Susan, as a woman, is given a horrible cover story, and even worse and more embarrassing special equipment. When she arrives in Paris, her hotel is the type of dive that makes one want to take a shower just looking at it in the film. In Paris, she runs into Ford, another top agent who quit when Elaine choose Susan for the mission instead of him. Ford will continually show up – proving himself to be an incredible egotist, who constantly brags up his own abilities and insults Susan.

Susan herself through luck and talent manages to do quiet well. She’s supposed to be on a track and report mission, but the building she’s supposed to watch, where Deluka, their lead is staying has burned down the night before. Susan runs into Ford, who leaves her, but she notices that a woman has switched backpacks with Ford. She chases after him, right into the middle of a German dance pop outdoor concert. Ford barely realizes what’s going on but manages to throw the bomb into the river. After the encounter, Susan asks to go to Rome to follow their next lead. Her new cover is even worse than her first one.

In Rome, Susan saves Rayna – the woman she’s after, from a poisoned drink. Rayna has the man who slipped it to her killed, then invites Susan  on her private jet to Budapest. On the jet, Susan is knocked out. When one of the men on the plane threatens Rayna (largely because she treats him badly – not even knowing his name), shoots up the plane, and kills the pilot and navigator. Susan lands the plane. Rayna concludes that Susan is CIA – Susan convinces her she’s Amber Valentine a bodyguard hired by Rayna’s father. Rayna accepts this but is wary. When they land, Susan runs into Nancy, and tells Rayna she’s another of her operatives. A car shoots at them, killing Anton, one of Rayna’s retainers – Susan gives chase on a scooter. She catches up to the car, and fires at it and it crashes – it’s the agent, Carol Walker. Susan’s apologizing, when Carol pulls a gun at her – then is killed by a sniper.

Rayna is to meet her buyer at a disco. The Ally from Rome, Aldo, shows up – as does Ford and Nancy. Ford causes trouble, Susan has Nancy cause a distraction, and Susan goes after the woman to prevent her from meeting Rayna. Susan gives chase and fights the woman in a kitchen, using things like cast iron pans and tupperware. She does pretty well, but ends-up cornered. Fine shows up and kills the girl, but he and Rayna who are working together take Susan hostage. She ends-up tied up with Aldo. Susan’s pretty demoralized by this but Aldo cheers her up and then helps untie her. They escape.

Susan goes to find Rayna, Fine, the broker, and the buyer. Rayna claims Susan is doing all this because she loves Fine. Fine had revealed himself to be a triple agent. Rayna takes the group to the nuke, and again all hell breaks loose as the broker kills everyone he can so he can take the nuke and the diamonds that were Rayna’s payment. Ford arrives and pratfalls into the room – becoming a liability. Susan and Fine handle things in the room, though the broker escapes with the diamonds and nuke. Susan runs to the helicopter to get him and jumps on the strut. Ford jumps on her. Susan lets Ford fall in the lake, knocks the nuke and diamonds in to the lake but gets caught at the wrong end of the broker’s gun. Nancy shows up in another helicopter and fires at the broker. The broker, not quite dead fights back and grabs Susan’s necklace – she loosens the adjustable toggle and the guy falls into the lake.

Now successful, Susan passes up a chance at a dinner date with Fine for a girls night with Nancy. Elaine promises to keep her on as an active agent.

Whereas the opening credits are a typical Bond-type montage of smoke and girls – the end credits show Susan’s missions, complete with secret identities and special weaponry and they are hilarious. The movie also has a terrific soundtrack of fun music. Spy is an empowering movie and I enjoy it every time I watch it. It pushes through the Bechel test like water. The main characters – Susan, Nancy, Elaine, and Rayna are all women. Even secondary characters – the traitor Carol, and the third analyst in the basement – are women. Moreover, the men aren’t particularly competent. Bradley Fine walks into the opening scene like he’s James Bond, but he sets-up the entire movie by killing Rayna’s father, accidentally, before finding out where the suitcase bomb is. Ford is an egotistical braggart who’s claims are so ridiculous he’s obviously making them up (and Susan calls him on it), and the reality of his “abilities” is considerably “less”.

Susan begins the film as an extremely competent CIA analyst – without her in his ear, Fine wouldn’t last 30 seconds. When Elaine, Susan’s boss, digs into Susan’s records at The Farm – the CIA’s training facility, she’s impressed and even asks why Susan didn’t apply for a field agent position – only to discover that Fine suggested that she should not. Susan and the other analysts have to endure horrible conditions in the CIA basement in Langley – with bats and mice in the room – yet all three analysts deal with it like it’s nothing. No women standing on chairs screaming at a mouse here. The scenes between Nancy and Susan, especially their first scene in the bar, are written the way women actually talk. And Nancy is also a strong woman who adds to the chemistry of the film.

Rayna, as the villain of the piece, is the type of woman it’s easy to dislike – she’s a spoiled, pampered brat. She always gets exactly what she wants, yet she cares little for other people. Even her underlings can’t stand her – and many try to kill her in the film. Rayna’s method of intimidation includes poking fun at Susan’s looks and her clothes. She also is a psychopath – she doesn’t even care about Fine, whom she’s sleeping with, even though he killed her father.

I highly, highly recommend this film. It’s empowering to watch. But it’s also very funny – and it’s a great action/adventure film.

Recommendation: A Must See
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Next Film: Son of Batman