Iron Fist: Season One
I’ll say this much about Iron Fist, it got better the longer I watched it. That isn’t the most positive thing to say, as shows need to make a solid first impression nowadays because there are just so many quality shows out there vying for my attention, but I at least felt obligated to see this one through due to my love for Marvel and in anticipation of the upcoming Defenders show. Well, Iron Fist isn’t great, but I definitely liked it more than Luke Cage or Jessica Jones. That isn’t saying much, but it’s all I’ve got.
First off, there’s Finn Jones as Iron Fist. It seemed like weird casting when it was first announced, and I just don’t think he was the right fit for the role. His emotional turns tend to feel a bit shallow, and I never really believed that he was this hardcore, kung fu dude. He has that young, pretty boy look that doesn’t fit the character, in my opinion. The supporting cast is also less than strong, but I think that comes down more to the writing and character motivations than it does the acting. Danny’s long lost friends Ward and Joy are both just kind of flat until things really start heating up around halfway through the season. Jessica Henwick’s Colleen and David Wenham’s Harold Meachum fare better, and it’s those two that really drove me to the final climax of the season. Rosario Dawson also makes a return as Claire from the other Marvel Netflix shows, and I want to get on my little actor high horse for a minute in thinking about her performance.
Acting shouldn’t be selfish. It isn’t about giving some performance that makes you look good, or trying to be deep and diving into your character’s circumstances so much that you become the center of attention in a scene. Acting should be about giving to your other performers. The best actors make the other people in the scene better, and that’s exactly what Rosario Dawson has done in all of these Marvel shows. I haven’t loved any of the central characters from these shows (Charlie Cox’s Daredevil is probably the one I’ve liked the most), but every single one of them performs better when Dawson is in a scene. That’s a special talent, I think, and I’m really glad that Claire’s character has been a returning force throughout this building of The Defenders. I hope she sticks around, because her scenes are always the best.
Getting down from that high horse, it’s hard to get too passionate in my disappointment for Iron Fist. When looked at as a whole, I really haven’t liked most of Netflix’s Marvel output, and that sucks. Daredevil season one was ok, season two was fantastic, and then Jessica Jones and Luke Cage have been different kinds of bad. Iron Fist falls somewhere in the middle. It’s certainly not a great show, and I would have given up on it after a few episodes if I was a normal television watching person and not a comic book nerd, but it does get better as it goes on. The action is mostly satisfying despite Finn Jones clearly not having the skills his co-stars have, the world building of K’un Lun and the introduction of Bakuto and Davos heighten the stakes, and it ties in well to what I’d imagine will be the driving story behind Defenders. It wraps up in a bit of an expected way, and the motivations for one of the characters that goes bad at the end feels very forced, but this show grew on me. I still don’t love Finn Jones in the role, but I can live with it. My biggest hope is that once all four of these NYC superheroes comes together, my negative feelings towards some of them won’t be as bad because they won’t be carrying a show all on their own. Still, the writing definitely needs to improve if Marvel and Netflix want this to be a lasting and growing mini-genre.
The Girl on the Train
My wife has been on a bit of an audio book kick lately, and that’s manifested into her watching to watch the film adaptations whenever possible. Since I’m always looking for new movies to watch, I’m totally ok with this. However, the first foray led to us watching Gone Girl, and my review will tell you that I was most definitely not a fan. So it was with some trepidation that we sat down to watch The Girl on the Train, but I had seen the trailers and it had at least piqued my interest, to say nothing of my adoration of Emily Blunt.
Thankfully, The Girl on the Train was a much better mystery than Gone Girl, as my wife will attest to the fact that I frustratingly solved the “big twist” of Gone Girl within the first 15 minutes of the film. The revelation of Girl on the Train wasn’t exactly shocking, because the other, easier to expect characters become obvious red herrings once more is revealed about them, but this ride was at least a fun one. Emily Blunt is great as the broken, alcoholic, obsessive ex-wife, and her backstory does a lot to put her at the center of the murder that takes place.
I found myself pretty invested in her journey, despite some heavy-handedness in theme and some overly dramatic revelations. Once the reveal does happen, things go on a bit too long, as Emily Blunt’s character puts the pieces together much slower than the audience does, resulting in some “well, duh” flashbacks that have very little impact. Still, this was a much better movie than Gone Girl, a movie I still can’t believe some people say is good.
Ultimate Beastmaster: Season One
I’m a huge fan of Ninja Warrior (both the original Japanese and American versions), so when I saw this show randomly pop up on Netflix, executive produced by Sylvester Stallone, I was pretty stoked. For the sake of not burying the lead, Ultimate Beastmaster comes nowhere near Ninja Warrior, but it’s still a fun time if you can look past its obvious inspirations and sometimes lame attitude.
The concept is a bit different from its obstacle course predecessor. It’s still every man and woman for themselves, but each is representing their country of origin, and each participating country has their own broadcasters that the show cuts to for reactions whenever the competitors succeed or fail. One of America’s commentators is Terry Crews, because of course it is. But in all seriousness, Crews and his co-host Charissa Thompson (who I hadn’t heard of, but apparently is a successful entertainment host) do a great job joking amongst themselves and highlighting the silly drama of the show. Some of the writing centered around “the beast,” or the obstacle course itself is a bit cheesy, but that’s kind of the point. I wasn’t as big of a fan of some of the other broadcasters from other countries, as a lot of their bits came down to poking fun at America. I get it, other countries hate us because we’re big and loud and tend to win everything, but sometimes it goes beyond fun and comes across as petty. I’m looking at you, host with the glasses from Brazil.
While it doesn’t have the effortless silliness or standout competitors of Ninja Warrior, Ultimate Beastmaster is still a fun competition show to watch on a Friday night at home when you’re getting drunk with your wife. That’s a really specific example, I know, but that pretty much sums up my entire experience with Ultimate Beastmaster. I’m hoping in season two they switch up the obstacles a bit, because the finale felt sort of underwhelming watching the finalists compete on the same basic course they had already completed. And it certainly wouldn’t hurt to have some sort of taped public tryout, because some of the competitors certainly didn’t belong among such elite company. If they couldn’t make it past the first obstacle, I’m not sure how they even made it on the show.
Finding Nemo was never one of my favorite Pixar movies. It’s still great, as most Pixar films are, but I never felt like it deserved or warranted a sequel. Finding Dory did nothing to change my mind on that. It isn’t aggressively bad, but I rarely laughed out loud, thought it was way too long given the concept and plot details, and found the overarching message of the film to lack the subtlety that Pixar films normally possess.
First of all, Dory is an annoying character. She’s endearing, sure, but only in small doses as a secondary character. She should not be leading her own film. Second of all, the actual story of this one should have been a ten minute Pixar short, not an entire movie. The situations the characters find themselves in are overly wacky, and lack punch because similar things happened in the original film. Speaking of, plenty of returning characters make cameos here, and while they all at least have some relation to the plot, things do tend to feel a bit forced. The only new character I loved was Ed O’Neill’s Hank, the octopus. His sarcasm was refreshing when compared to Dory’s annoying, unrelenting optimism, and it’s their relationship that is most interesting in the film. The other characters are phenomenally forgettable, so much so that I couldn’t even begin to try and name them.
But beyond just the “been there, done that” feeling of the story is that this one just isn’t very funny or interesting. Dory’s shtick gets old very quickly, and as I mentioned earlier, the supporting cast doesn’t really do much to freshen things up. Some of the little adventures the characters find themselves in are fun enough, but again, it doesn’t feel special anymore. The movie is only around 100 minutes long, but it feels way longer than that. By the time it looks like Dory has reached her goal, there are still like 30 minutes to go, and it was right about then that I decided I definitely didn’t like Finding Dory. There are far worse movies out there, especially when it comes to animated films. But I have higher expectations of Pixar, and it’s a bummer that they spent the time to make this needless, disappointing sequel, when they could have been focusing on something new.