Archive for the Fantasy Category

DC’s ‘Legends of Tomorrow’ Season Two Finale: Meanwhile, at the Legion of Doom!

Posted in Action, comedy, Comics, drama, Fantasy, Historical, Romance, Sci-Fi with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 8, 2017 by aliciamovie

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 Reviewed by Alicia Glass

Spoilers are totally Legendary!

Time is never on the Legends’ side, so we’re diving right into this! So, what do we know? The beginning of the season had Captain Rip Hunter missing and Sarah Lance taking his place, mostly to the agreement of the rest of the Legends. Whilst searching for Rip, the team picked up some stray new Legends, mainly from the 1940’s Justice Society of America in the form of Amaya, and Nate Heywood, historian and time investigator who gets himself some spiffy powers along the way. The search for Rip Hunter also brought together the aptly named Legion of Doom, comprised of original members Eobard Thawne a.k.a. Zoom from the Flash-verse; Malcolm Merlyn of the Arrow world, former League of Assassins boss; and Damien Darhk, also of the Emerald Archer’s life, magic-using baddie and the slayer of the Black Canary, making him a personal mark for Captain Lance. And unfortunately the Legion gets ahold of Rip Hunter first, cuing him for a brief turn as a bad guy while everyone else gears up for the hunt of the ultimate legendary artifact, the Spear of Destiny!

Yes, LOT went there, it is a show about fighting bad guys through time and all. So in this world, the Spear of Destiny is the thing that pierced the side of Christ himself, yes that thing, that when wielded with a certain incantation of some ancient book, can rewrite reality itself according to the users desires. Of course the Legion wants the Spear, every one of them has stuff in their past they’d much rather erase or change the outcome of, but Thawne in particular was a very bad boy and is being pursued through time and space by the Black Flash. The Black Flash is a form of Death in the Speedforce and in this world the manifestation of what became of enemy Hunter Zolomon after he was carted away by two Time Wraiths. (I know; just go with it.)

So skimming Rip Hunter’s brain led them to search for the pieces of the Spear, that Rip Hunter had judiciously broken up and hidden all over time and space. The hunt for the pieces and the Spear itself, once put back together again, has a tendency to bring out the bad ghosts in our various Legends, but none more so than our firebug thief Rory, still missing his beloved partner Leonard Snart after all this time. So of course, to persuade Rory to join the purported winning side, the Legion of Doom scurries back to Central City in 2014, before Snart joined the Legends and became a reluctant Hero, and pops him out to recruit his partner into stealing the Spear for the lot of them. And yes, sadly, it does work. (I love me some Wentworth Miller forever, and yes I’m very well aware Captain Cold is originally a bad guy, but this villainous return in the latter half of LOT Season Two is a shade disheartening.)

The last couple of episodes of the season are basically an alternate version of reality even for LOT, after the Legion went Spear-happy. And while seeing our familiar characters as darker alternate versions of themselves may be amusing for a few minutes, it gets tired real fast. Then again, the season finale has the entire team going back in time to an event they already visited and changed, resulting in multiple versions of most of them arguing amongst themselves even as they try to fight the Legion for control of that damnable Spear!

So what are we doing back in 1914 with a certain soldier named John Tolkien, again? We’re going to get the blood of Christ in the hidden vial on a war-torn battlefield to get the Spear to work, but plans are being thwarted by alternate-Legends and of course the Legion of Doom’s interference too. After doubt and discussion, every single last one of our Legends is coming out swinging, even as Zoom shows up with an ass-load of yellow Speedster reinforcements! What to do?

Sara Lance has long been the standout character on this show. From her League of Assassins on Arrow origins in the Black Canary leathers that she left her sister Laurel as a legacy, to the white leathers she wore in Season One of LOT, where she swayed hearts and minds alike with sincere care of her friends and family, and unapologetic joyful bisexuality, Sara Lance was the right choice for replacement Captain in Season Two. So when Sara is holding the Spear of Destiny and everyone’s about to get annihilated by the Legion of Doom, we can trust that even though she protests she’s too full of darkness, that as Rip Hunter says, “I believe in you.” Her final method of dealing with Zoom, arguably the leader of the Legion of Doom in this incarnation, is justifiably clever and very much a White Canary move.

Of course none of that mattes when, after depositing the surviving Legion guys into summary punishments and saying some other goodbyes, the Waverider is rocked by a time-quake and our Legends are tossed out of the time-stream into some totally messed up version of reality that’s like an Escher fever-dream – skyscrapers twisted into fantastical shapes, dinosaurs roaming freely, and way too many different timeline styles all jumbled together! Captain Lance’s statement of, “Guys, I think we broke Time,” appears to be a massive understatement.

Season Two lacked a good deal of the main plot points from Season One, mainly Vandal Savage and the Hawk-peoples, but these can actually be considered strengths for this new Season. Instead we have the formation of the Legion of Doom, and honestly, the Doom-centric episodes of LOT are just some of the most adorable, bumbling arguing-amongst-yourselves villainy ever, and a sheer joy to watch. Picking up these new Legend character, Amaya and Nate, may have been a long shot, but the Hawk folk needed replacing. Amaya happens to be (or will be, whatever) the Grandmother of future Arrow heroine Mari McCabe also known as Vixen, which has already happened on the other show and is therefore canon, so Amaya struggles with the concept of proposed destiny holding her back from living her current life. As for Nate Heywood, he also has roots through his father and grandfather in the JSA, and a long comic book history of repeated use of the name Steel, both powered and not. Taken altogether, the newer parts of Legends of Tomorrow are mostly pluses, and far outweigh any comic book canon minuses. And the setup for Season Three of Legends of Tomorrow opens doors for all sorts of other well-known and lesser-known DC heroes, villains, and show cross-overs!

‘Cosplay Melee’ Premiere: Swing for the Fences!

Posted in Action, Anime, Cartoon, comedy, Comics, drama, Fantasy, Foreign, Historical, horror, Movies, Musical, Romance, Sci-Fi, suspense with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 27, 2017 by aliciamovie

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Reviewed by Alicia Glass

So the SyFy channel is taking another stab at the fandom with the mostest, the cosplayers! You know, those insane peoples who like to make their own, often movable, skit-able, even stage and screen-ready costumes, to bring their favorite fandoms to life! One can’t even say it’s a kids or younglings game anymore, in the premiere episode one of the contestants was over 40. This is a fandom that people of all ages, genders, colors and backgrounds love, and is generally acknowledged by true cosplayers as all-inclusive, meaning no-one should ever be excluded or discouraged from cosplaying, for really any reason. (The so-called Ambassadress of Cosplay, Yaya Han, got herself some disapproval after she claimed on the short-lived SyFy show Heroes of Cosplay that cosplaying isn’t necessarily for people with larger body types. And that was the nice way of re-wording what she said.)

Cosplay is officially a full-fledged fandom these days, rather than any kind of hobby. And it would have to be, considering cosplay can now cost you would not believe how much money, often to make a single costume replication absolutely spot-on perfect, and yet still be able to wander around conventions wearing it the entire time, of course posing for multiple pictures too. Cosplayers rarely get paid (I wanted to say never but times are changing and cosplayers are being hired to advertise video games and such now), and the making of these fan-atical costumes require a ton of work, time, and energy. I think everyone should try it, but honestly not everyone can do a good Cosplay. If we’re gonna have a game show based around the ability to Cosplay, it had better be good, better, best, a passion, an obsession, a love that is almost scary. And that’s actually what this new show seems to be presenting, thank goodness.

We have a host who is also a judge, Yvette Nicole Brown, of Community fame and apparently a huge fangirl of all things geeky; LeeAnna Vamp, named as one of the “Best Comic-Con Cosplayers of All Time” and nerdy fashion model, fan-atic, and all-around jane of all things geekery; and Christian Beckman, builder, costume designer, creator, President of Quantum Creation FX, Inc., his creations have adorned movies like Tron: Legacy, Men In Black 3, and Ender’s Game, just to name a few. Basically, we have the “everyman, I love everything” Judge (Brown), the “make it pretty” Judge (Vamp), and the “make it work” Judge (Beckman); that totally works for me.

Four contestant cosplayers come in to the lab, very similar to the one they have for Face Off, they get given the theme for this contest, and then they go by rounds to get to this weeks winner. The pilot episode theme is Space Opera, and the opening challenge is to begin from the head down, with a helmet or headgear for your original character from whatever fandom you’ve chosen. On to our contestants!

Fred, the eldest at some 40+, loves him some SciFi, and of course the gateway drug to that world was inevitably Star Trek, so guess which space opera he picked for his character. Xavier is the tall and very quiet black guy, the huge Star Wars fan who’s already made a fan-film from the ‘verse and making that armor was what got him into cosplaying in the first place, so his characters theme is chosen too. Grace is a cop in real life, somehow even with that incomprehensibly long red hair, so she chooses a bounty hunter character in the Guardians of the Galaxy universe, where badass women abound, as it should be. And finally, Alicia of the mermaid hair is mildly uncomfortable in this genre, so she chooses the world of Chronicles of Riddick for her character, with their Necromonger armor as inspiration.

The first round concludes and while I didn’t agree with the judges’ elimination choice (as often happens on these kinds of SyFy shows), I stuck around to see what the remaining contestants would come up with and who would win the $10,000 prize. Round two consisted of mechanical parts being presented to the players, that they had to make some sort of flying jet-pack doohickey with as part of their characters’ costume. Hot glue, flying craft foam and mayhem ensue.

In the end, the quiet Star Wars fan who was bullied as a child took home the win, as his costume was the most cohesive and easily read as being from the Star Wars universe. The judges were all kind and helpful and reluctant to choose one over another and thereby eliminate anyone, but I felt that’s simply because they wanted to encourage the players to continue doing what they love, cosplay, and not play up any lack on their part that caused the loss of the contest.

So far it’s a fairly standard SyFy contest show, in the vein of Face Off and the like, that you could actually learn cosplay techniques from if you pay attention. Not everyone has access to giant portable heaters and hot glue guns and craft foam with designations like they came from an aircraft carrier, but the show is making sure to name at least some of the things they’re using, and sometimes suggesting cheaper alternatives. It’s a fun little show and worth giving a try at least once.

Celebrate all the fandoms and fan-atics with Cosplay Melee on the SyFy channel, Tuesdays @ 10/9c!

‘Beyond’ Finale: Is there Life in the Afterlife?

Posted in Action, comedy, drama, Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 28, 2017 by aliciamovie

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Reviewed by Alicia Glass

So it turns out that, despite being filmed in a much more linear and episodic manner, ‘Beyond’ is a watered-down attempt at the Netflix opus ‘The OA’. We’re dealing with concepts of near-death-experiences or NDEs, life and death and the actual existence of an afterlife, and powers learned from touching the realms of these un-provable concepts. In all cases, it seems, these powers in particular are unstable and unpredictable, but are potentially catastrophic.

Holden Matthews (Burkely Duffield) is no stranger to this concept though, as he fell into a coma as the result of an accident when he was very young, and stayed there for twelve whole years before suddenly, inexplicably, waking. His body was being taken care of in the hospital as best they could, but when he woke Holden experienced no ill affects other than large gaps in his pop culture knowledge and dating experiences, at least at first. Holden begins manifesting what only can be described as otherworldly powers, mostly what looks like telekinetic emotional backlash when he’s scared or livid. But Holden also begins suffering visions, landscapes of ethereal plains that seem familiar and a haunting old man who wants him to harness his powers, both here in the otherworld and out in real life.

Spoilers live in the afterlife too!

We meet Willa (Dilan Gwyn), the enigmatic lover of Holden who has a clear agenda of her own, claiming she was with Holden the entire time he was in his coma, off in this transcendental world they refer to simply as the Realm. Willa’s grandfather, Arthur (Alex Diakun), off in his coma too but with some sort of magical sciencey phone app that allows him to communicate with her, happens to wear the face of the old man that’s been haunting Holden’s visions.

A fair amount of tedious backstory boils down to an interesting conceptual question – is there a real, knowable afterlife? Arthur and certain Isaac Frost (Martin Donovan) desperately wanted to answer this question, after Willa’s mother fell into a coma bringing her into the world. Long after they split over their philosophical differences, Frost used his power and influence to create this kind of death cult called Hollow Sky, while Arthur used one of the coma-inducing machines he built to send himself into the Realm. All this happened quite some time ago, but upon finding Holden and his somehow unique experiences in the Realm and special brain, everyone wants to use Holden for his, or her, own purposes in the here and now.

So what now? Holden is awake and being chased down by the Man in the Yellow Jacket, who technically works for Frost; Holden is dealing with his mom and dad being separated and his younger brother now acting out in college; and the memories of the Realm, which we now understand is more or less the anteroom to the afterlife, are coming on stronger too. Arthur and Willa were training Holden in the Realm, which apparently began to bleed over into the real world once he was awake, and unfortunately that makes him a good target for the Man in the Yellow Jacket and other Hollow Sky cronies. Jeff McArdle (Jeff Pierre), Kevin’s older and much more militaristic brother, is determined to avenge his little brothers murder and save Holden as best he can too.

Much of this is on the surface, and the underlying story of the afterlife question lingers in interesting use of CGI and green-screen effects. During commercial breaks in the show, the cast and crew of Beyond have snippets of effects used on the show, acting tidbits and mini character bios, which does make for interesting viewing but does rather take away from the attempt to build believable wonder in the Realm and the Afterlife inside the show itself. Despite the implausible atmosphere in previous episodes, the finale at least does deliver in a satisfactory manner on that score. With fairly simple concepts and effects reminiscent of the movie Ghost, Beyond brings across a comeuppance to most of the villains and a palatable pause to the good guys that brings approval from many skeptics.

Again like The OA, the show starts with a strong concept and pilot episode, staggers a bit in the middle with some gratuitous storytelling, and finishes with a pretty darned satisfying finale that closed off some major storylines and opened a few new ones for Season Two.

Explore the concept of an Afterlife with Beyond Season One on Freeform!

‘Legion’ Premiere: It’s all in your head, dear

Posted in Action, comedy, drama, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, suspense with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 13, 2017 by aliciamovie

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Reviewed by Alicia Glass

So any geek and nerd out there worth their salt has at least heard of the X-Men by now, right? Long-running comic books, several animated TV shows, plus multiple movies with even more offshoot films that sprung from them; yes, we all know the multiple mutants who wear the X in a circle and fight for their freedoms for our glorious entertainment. This new show, Legion, bears the X in a circle on the O in the title, but after that rather psychotic premiere, I’m betting some of you are still wondering why. So let’s clear up a few things before getting to the main event.

Spoilers mutate everywhere!

David Haller (Dan Stevens) is the son of Charles Xavier, you heard me right, Professor X himself, and yes, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia at a very young age. Of course, any child of the Professor is likely to have all kinds of mental issues, considering it’s entirely possible that he’s inherited not only all of his fathers mutant gifts, but without knowing who David’s mother is, it’s also way possible his powers surpass that of his fathers. For those of you who are longtime fans of the X-Men, knowing how much the Professor suffered in his far-too-long life, the idea that David could be more powerful than Xavier should be very scary indeed.

When we catch up with David as a semi-adult he’s already had plenty of problems with mutant powers as a child, and now he’s gotten himself landed in the nut-nut factory, I mean, psychiatric hospital. His powers are manifesting whether he likes it or not, and while some of the hospital staff are trying to convince him that he’s mentally ill and that’s all, only that and nothing more, the arrival of David’s dream girl Sydney Barrett throws things into further disarray.

“Dream girl” is an interesting way to introduce Syd Barrett (Rachel Keller), for she could just be another of David’s hallucinations, or not, the show is given us in such a hysterical mental light that initially, it’s hard to tell if Syd is even really-real. She posits that perhaps the patients problems aren’t actually in their collective heads, and what if they aren’t even problems at all? Mutant powers manifesting in the 70’s can certainly seem that way. (That’s another thing of note: David seems to age incredibly slowly, but we’ll come back to that potential why in a bit.) Syd doesn’t like to be touched, despite agreeing to be David’s girlfriend in this kind of oddly loving relationship without any physical contact of any kind. And while such a thing is, I think, certainly possible, it raises all sorts of interesting thoughts and questions about how we relate to each-other without any physical contact.

So the timeline, while never really understandable already, now gets very confuddled, as all sorts of strange things begin happening to and around David in the hospital, including visions of what he calls “the demon with yellow eyes”. These other interrogators who are asking David about his time in the hospital are incredibly leery of his entire presence, but they do seem to actually exist and as far as we can tell, the guards that most definitely aren’t cops who mutter about David being potentially the most powerful mutant on the planet, are telling the truth. But that’s all up for debate, because here is where we speculate on who the demon with yellow eyes could possibly be.

Noting reality-changing abilities and yellow eyes, my first thought as to who the demon could be, was Dark Phoenix. But the current best theory I’ve heard ‘round the internet is that the squat, yellow demon creampuff with the topaz eyes is Mojo, an 80’s era X-Men villain dictator who rules his own pocket universe called, obviously, the Mojoverse. Given the ever-changing reality of the show, both in and outside of itself, and the appearance of the yellow-eyed demon towards the end when David is dubiously rescued by an apparently mutant-friendly group, I choose to call him Mojo for now.

So what else? David did seem to get rescued from his interrogators towards the end of the episode, but how trustworthy his rescuers are and what their hidden motivations are, remains to be seen. The entire introductory episode is like a fever dream, like what it would be like to be living in David’s head, where one is never entirely sure what is really-real and what isn’t, along with seriously scary powers and a desire to be left in peace, all at the same damn time. Showrunner Noah Hawley, creator of the hit FX show Fargo and now Legion, has taken great pains to make the show as different and edgy as possible, while always mindful of aiding the actors to bring forth their greatest performances for his vision. Hawley created a 160-track playlist of experimental sounds, strange mental mood music (Pink Floyd and the like) and such to aid Dan Stevens in his portrayal of David for the show. And the name of David’s girlfriend, Syd Barrett, is an acknowledgement of the full of impact of music on the show’s writing, for Roger “Syd” Barrett is a singer of the rock band Pink Floyd and that makes total sense.

In an era of far far too many superhero shows and movies that are all way too formulaic, Legion is like shooting opium straight into your brain – new, entirely different, dreamlike and beautiful but terrifying in equal measures. FX is already known for being edgy and unusual, here’s hoping the entire season of Legion will have us all chasing the mutant dragon in the same visually hallucinogenic state as the first episode.

Expand your mind with Legion on FX, Wednesdays @ 10/9c!

‘The Librarians’ Season 3 Finale: To magic, or not to magic, that is the question

Posted in Action, comedy, drama, Fantasy, Historical, Romance, Sci-Fi, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 25, 2017 by aliciamovie

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Reviewed by Alicia Glass

Welcome back to the Library! So sorry we can’t stay and chat, but here, let our immortal caretaker Jenkins (John Larroquette) serve you tea, don’t mind the flying swords or self-updating magical books, we’re sure Flynn Carson (Noah Wyle) will be back any minute to tell us of his latest adventures!

While it’s true Flynn Carson in the original ‘Librarian’ movies began the mythos the show is based on, I’m glad there was more focus on the other Librarians in this season of the beloved adventuring show. The start of the season sees the latest Big-Bad against our Librarians, an evil ancient Egyptian God named Apep, spreading his darkness insidiously out into the world. And to add more ink to the mix, the government-led supernatural hunters collectively known as DOSA, or Department of Statistical Anomalies, are hot on the trail of the Librarians too!

We find Flynn and Colonel Baird (Rebecca Romijn) as they always were, having the occasional date that usually turns into a Librarian case, tip-toing around commitment with out ever really getting there, and fighting demons and evil Gods and all sorts of nasties along the way. Cassandra (Lindy Booth) had her own trials and tribulations this season, when the question of whether or not her brain tumor is what gives her her mental gifts came to a head. With the help of the best medical technology and doctors out there (why they didn’t use magic, I’m still not sure), plus some aid from a vampire-run night spa, Cassie hops back to her sprightly self in one nervous episode, but with a twist – her gift, minus the tumor, just multiplied a ton and tossed in telepathy and auto-hypnosis-like talents too. Stone (Christian Kane) went from a sworn statement against the use of magic, to being forced to use it to save his fellow Librarians, to being branded with magic whether he likes it or not, when he went looking for solace and training in Shangri-La with the Monkey King. (The Monkey King was played by Ernie Reyes Jr., which is extra cool, btw.) And of course Ezekiel Jones (John Harlan Kim) is as he always is, master thief and technology-handler, second to none, especially in his own mind. Though the episode where Ezekiel Jones fell in love, and lost her, and gained a love potion of sorts from it, did kind of make him question what might be missing in his charmed life.

Season three saw the return of Charlene (Jane Curtin), the original Guardian of the Library, who’s been running and hiding this whole time Flynn’s been looking for her. After a fair bit of to-ing and fro-ing, Charlene makes her required sacrifice and takes her place in the Library mirror alternate dimension with Judson, content that her missions and care of the Library have been turned over to the best the Library has to offer.

So here we are at the season three finale, where both major storylines have come to a massive head! DOSA is here to take over the Library, headed by Baird’s former military boss Cynthia Rockwell (Vanessa Williams), and hey guess what, they already have Apep’s sarcophagus, and think they have Apep himself under lock and key too. Baird, spurred on by some deep inner plan we just know she has to be following, tosses on a DOSA jacket and lets the military guys come in to the Library to remove everything and take it to the facility they’ve been specially building, to be the same amazing size and containment as the Library itself. But see, here’s the thing – Rockwell and the rest of the military guys don’t put any belief in magic, which means their version of containment deals with physical bars and restraints and proven science; no glyphs or wards or even a sprinkle of faerie dust contaminates this new lockdown facility.

Much of the episode deals with the apparent defection of Colonel Baird over to the Rockwell military side, but if you watch The Librarians as faithfully as I do, there are clear clues that there is a majorly deep plan laid that will explain all this nonsense, most likely in the last few minutes of the episode. And without spoilers, I can simply say that’s more or less exactly what happens – Baird, and Flynn of course, hatched an incredibly daring but necessary plan, and managed to pull it off with very little in the way of loss of life, or important artifact damage to the Library itself, either. Their plan might have been far-fetched and a little predictable inside the show dynamic, but the adorkable characters and the zingy fun attitude prevalent in the show make it so we just don’t care – we love The Librarians!

Season three had many terrific moments worth note – Sean Astin guested as the poor magician who so sorely wanted to win the heart of Felicia Day’s Charlotte; the episode featuring a high-school-equivalent-reunion with a bunch of Frost Giants was a personal favorite of mine; Flynn found a missing Librarian down the rabbit hole guarding the Eye of Ra; and yes, the episode with the vampire-run night spa retreat was beautiful and loving, lead vampire Estrella (Clara Lago) did an excellent job.

Only a day or two after the season finale aired, TNT confirmed a season four for our always amazing Librarians, so rejoice in that, fans!

Catch all the episodes of Season Three of The Librarians on the TNT website!

‘Emerald City’ Premiere: Not your parents’ ‘Land of Oz’

Posted in Action, Fantasy, Romance, Sci-Fi, suspense with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 13, 2017 by aliciamovie

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Reviewed by Alicia Glass

What person doesn’t know the film of Judy Garland as a bright little serial killer of witches, and her unlikely companions? Your parents’ Wizard of Oz has gotten a serious upgrade, with everything from an expanded-world story, to costumes that rival entire stage productions on their own. But how well does the upgrade stand up?

Way back when, Dorothy and her mom were on the run, from who knows what. Dorothy’s mom crashed a certain Gale residence during a bad storm, and after some story glossing, we gather Dorothy was more or less adopted by her Aunt while her mom was off doing we don’t know what yet. Current-tense twenty-something Dorothy (Adria Arjona) is a medical student, avoiding contact with her birth other, who’s now apparently trying to reconnect with her wayward daughter. One nasty tornado, worried daughter about her missing mother, and a police car with a trapped German Shepherd dog later, and Dorothy is spinning vertigo in a completely different land.

And of course, what’s the first thing that happens next? The cop car comes into contact with an exotic person in stripey orange, BAM. Dorothy and the dog get taken by some seriously not-so-friendly natives, not a Munchkin nor little person in sight. In fact, Ojo (Olafur Darri Olafsson), the man who ends up helping Dorothy on her way, towers over her in that Viking savage kind of way. No, these people are the folk of the Tribal Freelands, though of course at some point in the show they’re referred to as the “munjedkins”, so make of that what you will.

Despite his misgivings of Dorothy, for she apparently killed the “merciful and stern” Witch of the Eastern Woods, Ojo decides to lead Dorothy to a road that will take her to the Wizard if she follows it far enough, in the hopes that the Wizard can get her home. Getting to the road itself means going through the Prison of the Abject, a really unpleasant place that houses Ojo’s own wife, that the Witch of the East made. And then here we finally make it to the road, which is barely even brick, instead dusted yellow with poppy pollen. Poppy. You know, opium? Oh yes, the Lollipop Guild is far away now.

Dorothy is striding down the road and comes across a man being crucified in a field, who of course she has to help down and at least tend to his injuries. The man claims to suffer amnesia, not even remembering his own name, so Dorothy names him after the home town back in Kansas she misses fiercely, Lucas (Oliver Jackson-Cohen). And as Dorothy and the newly-named Lucas take back to the yellow poppy road, they discover the Witch of the East isn’t entirely dead.

I’d like to state for the record that, while I understand the Witch of the East Woods was a savage and stern woman, the manner in which she actually did die was seriously incongruous and unlikely for a Witch of her potential caliber. Anyway, the upshot is, those ruby-and-gold clawed gauntlets the East Witch was sporting transfer to Dorothy at the moment of her death, which is interesting, because the power players of the show spend a lot of the premiere stating “only a witch can kill another witch”.

Meanwhile elsewhere, news of the death of the East Witch (Florence Kasumba) has spread very fast, and the Wizard (Vincent D’Onofrio) in the Emerald City is opening the sealed Witches’ Temple so her remaining sisters may give her a proper funeral. The Wizard also sent some of his personal Guard to check out the circumstances surrounding East’s death. But the opening of the Temple is a big deal, as it hasn’t been opened since the death of the Witch or Mother of the South was felled by this catch-all monster called the Beast Forever, and the Wizard ordered the place sealed up and outlawed magic entirely. Because somehow the Wizard did what no one else could, not even by magical means, and took out the Beast Forever himself.

Mother-Witch of the North, Glinda (Joely Richardson) of the chaste army of nun-like acolytes, and her opium-addicted whore of a sister, Witch of the West (Ana Ularu), converge with the Wizard to do a last “sing” for their sister of the East in the Temple, and also to pull off some kind of subterfuge right under everyone’s nose. Needless to say, the actual funeral of Sister East is rather unusual, even for Oz.

Elsewhere on the road, Dorothy’s concern for Lucas’ bleeding wounds lead her to the hovel of the Herb-Witch Mombi (Fiona Shaw), who happens to be keeping a young boy prisoner for some odd nefarious motives. And of course it turns out, this boy has a few peculiar secrets of his own.

We do Emerald City a disservice if we try to compare it to anything else, up to and including the original Wizard of Oz, or the current favorite catchphrase about the show, “Game of Thrones meets Wizard of Oz,” because the show obviously has its own mythos and backstories. They want rather desperately to give us a grand show and pack in as much of the world as possible, but its all for naught if we just don’t care about the characters.

I liked the interplay between the Wizard, (love me some D’Onofrio too) and the strikingly different Witches, their costumes, like everything from the original stories got polished or roughened elsewhere; the show has the potential to be something great. Give it a chance, and remember, Return to Oz was a very different take on the whole Oz world, but most of us loved that too. And a shoutout to L. Frank Baum too!

Transport yourself to Emerald City on NBC, Fridays @ 9/8c!

San Diego Asian Film Festival presents ‘The Mermaid’: Thinking with your Hectocotylus

Posted in Action, comedy, drama, Fantasy, Foreign, Movies, Romance with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 10, 2017 by aliciamovie

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Reviewed by Alicia Glass

Director: Stephen Chow

Studio: Alpha Pictures

Review Rating: 8 out of 10

A hidden mermaid is sent to assassinate the rich developer planning on destroying her ecosystem, but instead manages to fall for him!

This film is absolutely adorkable and I can’t say enough good things about it. The traditional premise of the well-known Little Mermaid story is given a modern Chinese slant from director Stephen Chow, famous for fun films like Kung Fu Hustle. His cheeky slapstick humor with the sly fish-scale edge and the well-known Asian taste for seafood gives the film a veneer of roe humor we all need rather desperately right now. Because you know, the taste and smell of fish can overpower practically anything, including bullshit!

So Liu Xuan (Chao Deng) is a very wealthy businessman, or at least he tries very hard to be. Money he has in abundance, but apparently even that can’t buy the respect of his fellow richers, for he’s rather constantly reminded of his common roots, and how he had to create himself out of practically nothing, rather than being born into money. Shan (Yun Lin), the most lithe of the underground merfolk, has been practicing her human walk, and is sent on a mission to assassinate Xuan just as soon as it becomes apparent that he’s planning on purchasing the Green Gulf, where her merpeople live. For the purposes of a sea reclamation project and using sonar technology, which of course damages the merfolk something awful, Xuan generally thinks only of money and how to get more of it, until Shan drops a honeypot trap on him.

But no-one, especially not Shan herself, expected Xuan to turn out to actually be somewhat of a good guy, one who can actually relax and enjoy seeing a pretty girl go nuts on her whole-chicken entrée in a park. Shan never expected to care for Xuan, or he for her (since he thinks she’s little more than a hooker sent to tempt him), and not even the rival richer Li Ruolan (Yuqi Zhang), who keeps trying to seduce or undermine or both Xuan, can dissuade him from pursuing Shan with a fervor.

Of course Octopus (Show Lo) himself wants Shan, and causes all kinds of troubles when he departs Green Gulf to come try and aid Shan on her mission. And by “aid”, I mean Octopus laughingly tries to keep Shan from falling in love with Xuan, keep himself from being made into sashimi by Xuan’s men, and in general, Octopus is way more of a hilarious nuisance than he is any kind of help. But he’s thinking with his … *ahem* hectocotylus instead of his head, so there you go.

Along with being extremely funny and not always in a slapstick-y way, The Mermaid has gorgeous visuals, mostly of merfolk tails, and high-flying acrobatic performances that actually make perfect sense for the confines of the story. Chow reminds us that humanity is quite capable of acting monstrous without any outside help, thank you very much. The story itself remembers that no matter how rich and untouchable you might think you are, your actions can have far-reaching and unexpected consequences, and no matter how high (or low-down) you get, to always remember the people, not-quite-people, and even the occasional monster that got you there.