Thursday, April 17, 2014

Arrow S02 E19: "The Man Under the Hood"

There was a hell of a list of cliffhangers last time, a couple involving secrets. Thanks to Slade, now Thea knows that Malcolm Merlin is her father and both her mom and her brother knew and didn't tell her. And the biggie, Slade also told Laurel that Oliver is the Arrow. Oliver drove Roy away, Quentin is in jail for helping the Arrow, Isabel has taken over Queen Consolidated, and oh yeah, and Slade is also giving Brother Blood a super-powered army to take over Starling City with.

Caught up? Good, here we go. We open on Team Arrow breaking in and blowing up Queen's applied sciences division in hopes it will prevent Slade from creating superhuman soldiers, then play catch up with the various plot threads. Despite Slade's revelation, Laurel doesn't seem completely convinced of the Arrow's identity but is trying to figure it out on her own, and unfortunately many things are falling right into place.

Meanwhile Team Arrow returns to the Arrowcave to find Deathstroke lying in wait. I know this big bad is a serious big bad, but this fight is far too quick to be believable. Although he wasn't in the Arrowcave to fight or to ambush anyone. He was there to steal the Clock King's skeleton key. Now he has access to anywhere in Starling City.

When Deathstroke decides to take the soon-to-be-abandoned S.T.A.R. Labs facility, closing because of the bad publicity from the particle accelerator accident in Central City (second reference as Felicity name dropped Barry Allen earlier in the episode), that's when the awesome starts. There are two scientists there, Caitlin Snow and Cisco Ramon, talking about a Dr. Wells. My mind immediately went to Kristin Wells, AKA Superwoman. Probably not, but it gets better.

Cisco Ramon is played by Carlos Valdes, who will be appearing as the character in the CW's "Flash" series. Comics readers might know him better as Vibe, sadly stereotyped, much hated, and doomed member of Justice League Detroit. The New 52 version of Vibe has dimensional travel powers similar to those of the Flash. Formerly a breakdancing gangbanger, the new Vibe is a scientist.

Seeking to save their lives here, Cisco uses a weapon that formerly belonged to Arthur Light, someone Wells fired two years ago because he was a psycho. This is a clear reference to Doctor Light, one of the Justice League's most dangerous and sociopathic foes, who used Thanagarian light technology to terrorize his enemies. He is a major league psycho, but his gun knocks Deathstroke on his butt. Go, Cisco!

Bad news, Slade gets what he's looking for and leaves - a centrifuge to put his blood into the inmates he released, making his army. In other news, as it turns out, Felicity knows Cisco and Caitlin from visiting Barry. His condition has deteriorated and he was moved to S.T.A.R. Labs, where he's visited often by a woman named Iris, his 'something.' Iris West was hinted at before, but this is the first time she's been named. Felicity is clearly heartbroken, despite the vagueness of Iris' description.

We also find out a little of Isabel's background. She was an intern having an affair with Oliver's father, but he chose his family over her. Sad to find she's just about petty revenge. It seems that Slade is playing the long game, and trained her just to hurt the Queen family. She is just a jilted lover blindly following a man sworn to hurt those she wants to hurt too. Pathetic. She deserves what she gets, at first at least. Could she be on her way to becoming Ravager? Either way, nice to see Diggle do something for once.

The best scene has to be Quentin being confronted by Laurel. She's going to tell him who the Arrow is, but he doesn't want to know, giving meaning to the episode's title. It's his anonymity that makes him useful to Quentin. If he knew he had family, friends, people who cared about him, Quentin couldn't use him as a weapon to point at people. Nice.

And I should say that's the best scene, because Slade deflecting arrows with a sword is pretty cool too. Oliver goes to confront him when he finds out where the centrifuge is, and finds Roy hooked up to it, giving his blood to the inmates. The fight between Arrow, Isabel, and Slade is intense, but still quick due to the big bad's ridiculous superiority. On the good side, Roy saved, army stopped short of superhuman, and Isabel out of the picture.

On Flashback Island, Ivo is spouting some nonsense about a cure for Mirakuru. Why hasn't Oliver mentioned this before? Probably the writers didn't think of it. He says he was ashamed, I call shenanigans. Either way, Felicity gives a sample of Mirakuru to Cisco and Kaitlin to work on. All of the Island stuff this episode rings wrong.

This was a good episode, chockful of comics references, performances, and action. Looking forward to Roy's journey back next week, but hope the fight against Slade doesn't drag on too long - because it's starting to.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

More Eurovision 2014

Here are several more of the finalists for the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest, being held in Coperhagen in just a few weeks, including the controversial Austrian entry by Ms. Conchita Wurst. Definitely some very tough competition this year...

FYR Macedonia - "To the Sky" by Tijana

Slovenia - "Round and Round" by Tinkara Kovac

Russia - "Shine" by the Tolmachevy Sisters

Austria - "Rise Like a Phoenix" by Conchita Wurst

Sweden - "Undo" by Sanna Neilsen

Portugal - "Quero Ser Tua" by Suzy

Finland - "Something Better" by Softengine

Norway - "Silent Storm" by Carl Espen

Switzerland - "Hunter of Stars" by Sebalter

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Dumpsta Players Present… PromTrash Broadway!

The Dumpsta Players Present "PROMTRASH BROADWAY"

The Date: Wednesday, APRIL 16, 2014
The Time: Doors open at 10 PM, showtime is 11 PM sharp! 21+ $1.99 cover!
The Place: Bob and Barbara's, 1509 South Street, Philadelphia PA, For info: 215-545-4511

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the trashiest Prom Queen of all? That's right, folks, time again to pick America's trashiest Prom Queen!

The Dumpsta Players celebrate their 18th Annual stag, drag, come-as-you-were/are/is "PROMTRASH BROADWAY" @ Bob and Barbara's!

Cheery Hell High's drama teacher, Mr. Blob Claymation, is workin' the kids up into a frenzy as this Prom is guaranteed to be an EXTRAVAGANZA! From "A Chorus Line" to "Bye Bye Birdie" the kids promise a show you will not soon forget!

Will 2013 Prom Trash queen Sharon Babcock AKA Divine Miss Jimmi return? Will last year's runner up, Mrs. Miller be back?

It's revenge of the dreadful prom, so join in the ffffun! We invite all to put on a prom dress, don a tux, and compete with the gender bending drag kings, queens, straight up females and males, fag hags, pretty princesses and assorted other freaks!

Come enjoy The Dumpsta Players' 150th show and the sensational crowning in - "PROMTRASH BROADWAY!"

A portion of the proceeds from "PromTrash Broadway" go to support The Rotunda.

The Rotunda is a community-gathering place that is fueled by the belief that art is a catalyst for social change and that the arts can lead to the formation of meaningful partnerships between the University of Pennsylvania and surrounding neighborhoods. Over 300 events are offered every year, including live music, film, spoken word, theater, art, dance, education, youth programs, arts incubation, and various experimental genres. As an alcohol-free, smoke-free venue, The Rotunda provides a critical social alternative for all ages. At its core, The Rotunda is a shared space fostering learning, enrichment, and community support while empowering the public to present, produce, and promote their work.

This event is also co-sponsored by Philly Queer Media.

Check out The Dumpsta Players on Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, and on their own website.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Legacy of the Blue Falcon

There was a dead zone in the middle of the 1970s when we really didn't have superheroes on Saturday morning television. Oh, they were there, they were just... neutered. They solved problems, fought pollution and litter, preached brotherhood, rescued kittens, and taught magic tricks and moral lessons. These are by no means bad things, but at the time, I knew all that stuff, what I wanted was for Batman to punch the Joker just once.

It was into this environment, full of neutered superheroes and teens and their dogs solving mysteries that Blue Falcon and his robotic sidekick Dynamutt the Dog Wonder were born. They were a bit of both worlds. The latter being the Scooby-Doo like comic relief and BF being the serious superhero. For me, a new superhero was sometimes better than an out of character superhero like the Super-Friends.

Blue Falcon was a wealthy socialite in Big City, Radley Crown, a loose Batman clone with more science at his disposal, well, obviously, with a robot dog. He had a great car that also flew, was summoned by a signal, and best of all, was voiced by Gary Owens. As shown by more than a couple crossovers (and sadly the Laff-a-Lympics), BF and DW were solidly in the Scooby-Doo universe.

Sometimes it was silly, but it was still superheroes on TV so I ate it up. Sadly though, after only twenty episodes, an apparent two seasons, our heroes were relegated to syndication. There were appearances, yes, on the embarrassing and aforementioned Laff-a-Lympics, and much later as a ridiculous recurring character on Cartoon Network's "Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law."

There really wouldn't be a more serious appearance until the "Dyno-Might" episode of "Dexter's Laboratory," where Dynomutt is mortally damaged in combat and Blue Falcon brings him to Dexter to repair. Dexter of course rebuilds him to the max, into a cross between Robocop, Batman, and a mechtank. Hilarity ensues as BF, Dexter, and the old DW must stop this new threat. A bit cartoony, but not bad, it was certainly better than Harvey Birdman.

The Blue Falcon's next major appearance was very different. In the "Heart of Evil" episode of "Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated," there are several landmarks of note for the character. We finally get an origin story for Dynamutt and the Blue Falcon, the hero is presented very much the same way as Batman in Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, and the Hanna-Barbera shared universe is expanded to include the "Jonny Quest" characters as well with Dr. Benton Quest involved in the origin and Dr. Zin as the villain.

But this year, just as I was getting excited by a world where Jonny Quest and the Blue Falcon co-exist, they rewrote the rules. Scooby-Doo! Mask of the Blue Falcon reboots the superhero as a fictional character from comics, who had a campy TV series in the past, and now a darker edgier movie coming out now. Yeah, holy Batman, Batman. It does however make some nice points about grim and gritty superheroes and Hollywood.

The direct-to-DVD movie is not without its charm however. Many of the Hanna-Barbera superhero characters of the past appear as background as this case happens at a comic book convention. Look for cameos of Frankenstein Jr., Mightor, the Herculoids, Hong Kong Phooey, Space Ghost, Apache Chief, even Atom Ant, and others. These Easter eggs make the feature almost tolerable. Despite his name in the title, the Blue Falcon isn't really in this flick. There is a sequel in the works, set in the same continuity.

Dynomutt and the Blue Falcon live on however in our memories, and on DVD (though not yet streaming). If you remember the toon, relive it, and if you're a noob, check it out. It's an animated slice of the 1970s worth watching.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Marvel's Iron Man & Hulk: Heroes United

Marvel's Iron Man & Hulk: Heroes United ~ This was a nice surprise to find on Netflix, a new Marvel animated film. I was even more excited by the opening credits sequence filled with Silver Age-y art and design. When the feature actually started however, I was disappointed. It is very blocky ugly computer animation, the type of which would make the MTV "Spider-Man: The New Animated Series" or Nick's teenage "Iron Man: Armored Adventures" show look positively pretty. No wonder I hadn't heard of this. Even Marvel must be ashamed of it.

I'm really not sure what to make of the neon version of the movie Abomination, it's just bizarre. Is he wearing armor, or is that his skin? Speaking of armor, the Hulkbuster armor is featured early, possibly to cash in on its brief cameo in Iron Man Three or rumored appearance in Avengers Age of Ultron. Speaking of Avengers, both Adrian Pasdar and Fred Tatasciore (sadly with some sort of new voice modulation) reprise their voices as Iron Man and Hulk from "Avengers Assemble."

After Hulk and Abomination tag team for a bit, get captured by Hydra scientists who create a living energy weapon, Iron Man shows up and, shades of the Silver Age, picks a fight with the Hulk. It's weird, especially after it's established they're friends. The energy weapon unites the two as it attacks them. It doesn't have a humanoid form at first, but my first thought was Zzzax, and I was right.

I had to wonder about the redesign of Zzzax. Why not put this ugly CGI they're using to good use? With computer animation they could bring to life a character that in the two-dimensional comic book medium was usually just a human shaped lightning bolt. It could look great, but they chose differently, and sadly.

With Hulk blinded and Iron Man's armor non-functional, the two have to depend on each other. I suppose it's a lesson in cooperation for the kids this animated feature seems to have been made for. Besides Zzzax they also have to contend with shadowy Wendigos. Hmmm, I thought they were white and there was only one, but what do I know?

Another thing is did Tony Stark make a killing at a SHIELD yard sale post-Captain America The Winter Soldier? Suddenly he's got his own helicarrier, a fleet of jets, and a battalion of mandroids. What's up with that? I also really dislike the idea of Hulk needing armor. I guess we know, despite the overabundance of Hulk villains, who the real star of this cartoon is.

Don't let Netflix cut off the end credits or you'll miss the lead-in to what I assume is the next CGI feature starring Iron Man and Captain America vs. the Red Skull. This was an okay distraction. I would have rather had traditional animation and maybe more thought in the plot and dialogue.