Luke Cage: Who’s Gonna Take the Weight? (Review)

Mike Colter as Luke Cage

Luke Cage episode three continues with the indestructible hero going after Cottonmouth through the side door versus head-on.  “Who’s Gonna Take the Weight?” sees Cornell challenged by Domingo Colon, Chico is guilted into helping Cage take down Cottonmouth and dies as a result and Detective Scarfe turns out to be bent.

Misty’s partner is in Cottonmouth’s pocket and he kills Chico, with his tie, as the lad tries to give evidence to the detective. Mariah and Cornell are having issues because of Cage’s taking down several stash houses that belong to Cottonmouth.

Cornell believes it is Domingo acting out but the Latino heads into the lion’s den and throws down a challenge. Cottonmouth tells his men that Domingo has declared war.

Misty makes the connection between Cage, the stash houses and Mariah’s Crispus Attucks building being hit by the man in the hoodie. The detective places herself at the scene of the crime, in her mind, and realizes that Luke hit Cottonmouth’s “bank.”

Scarfe interrupts Mariah and Cornell’s argument to tell them that Chico is dead and that Luke Cage is the man who stole over $7 million.

The bought cop delivers Chico’s dead body to be disposed of like Tone’s corpse at the funeral home. After the assault on Mariah’s building Cage gives the money to Fish and tells him to sort out the barbershop.

Luke has worked up an appetite and he goes to Connie Lin’s restaurant to eat. He gives her a lot of money to “make things right.” Cottonmouth shoots a rocket through the eatery’s window. Luke spies the incoming explosive and lurches toward Lin.

The establishment explodes into flames as the camera pulls  back for a long shot of the destruction.

This episode was  full of music accompanied action.  Cage hits the stash houses to Charles Bradley‘s “Ain’t It A Sin.” Bradley is singing at Cornell’s club so the gangster is listening to the song at the same time that Luke is attacking.

Cage walks right through Mariah’s front door, the only way in, as he listens to “Bring da Ruckus” by Wu-Tang Clan. The entire scene in the Crispus Attucks building is almost beautiful.

As action scenes go, the choreography is practically balletic in nature. Shot is slow motion, perhaps slowed down by a few frames per shot, Cage lays waste to the place but kills no one.

The explosive ending should signal a key change in the series. Cornell has upped the ante here not realizing that he could have sent in a nuclear warhead and it would have had the same affect.

While it was shocking to see Scarfe kill Chico it was not too surprising to see that he was playing for the other team.  Whaley gives good bad guy so it made sense that his character  would be a turncoat.

It will be interesting to see how long it takes  Misty to realize that her partner is on Cottonmouth’s payroll.

Detective Knight gets the best line of the episode when she muses about getting “I ain’t see sh*t” trademarked.

Luke Cage continues to bring a deeply textured reality to the Marvel universe. Each episode is rich and the hues are both dark and intense. Mike Colter owns each scene he is in, this superhero is multilayered  and his character’s smile when finding the money is almost childlike in its simplicity.

The Netflix series is available to stream all in one go. But, like other Netflix originals on offer, deserves to be parceled out by episode. There is far  too much action to be used up all at once here.

Cast:

Luke Cage: Moment of Truth – Dark Marvel Magic (Review)

Mike Colter as Luke Cage

Luke Cage, the latest hero from the Marvel-verse to appear on Netflix, hit the stream on 30 September.  Like the rest of these Netflix offerings, the entire first season is on offer. However, it seems criminal to  binge though the whole show in one or two sittings.  This dark and moody Marvel magical offering is like a good port. It should be sipped and not gulped.

The series looks like a direct homage to the original comic set against the ’70s atmosphere of blaxploitation films like Shaft, Super Fly and Foxy Brown; to name but a few.  It may have that texture but the framing of each scene is pure Marvel.  The final shot of the first episode, for instance, transforms the viewer right back to childhood.

Drinking in the dark colors and the hues of orange in that last shot is pure comic book storyboard art at its finest.  (And yes comic books are art, thank you very much.)

The first episode of Luke Cage offered a bit of backstory (very little actually) and offers the audience its first personal view of the hero. Sure Luke was in Jessica Jones but his character was peripheral at best.  The bulletproof strongman was there for support and little else. (Apart from that sex scene.)

“Moment of Truth” is slow, almost plodding in its pace, as it sets up Cage and his world.  All the events are presented in an almost lackadaisical style. Nothing is hurried, not even the million dollar robbery later on.

While this is a tad frustrating, it matches the environment. No one in this verse does anything without reason. The villains are steady and, despite being bloodily violent, maintain a pedestrian pace.

Cage is pressed into the role of good guy. His prison background has made him cautious and slow to commit. It is a combination of factors that forces Luke to stand against what he clearly knows is wrong.

Despite the slow crawl of the pilot there is a lot going on in the streets of Harlem. Luke Cage may be keeping a low profile, sticking to his personal code of ethics, but no one else is.

A club owner and gangster colludes with a corrupt councilwoman and a mobster from another “gang.” Illegal gun sales and a robbery that turns deadly is also just another event in the neighborhood.

Cottonmouth looks to be the big bad of this series.  (How apt that he has a huge portrait of a crowned Biggie Smalls behind his desk.) It is fitting that Ali has been cast as Stokes. The actor exudes restrained power from every pore. No one else would have been a good match for Colter’s Cage.

The cast all bring much to the table and each one has an impressive pedigree on offer. Ron Cephas Jones, for example, has been one busy performer in the last two years with roles in Mr. Robot, This is Us and now Luke Cage and he has a relatively small role. 

Watching the season’s first episode was a little frustrating at first as it took its sweet time getting to the point.  It was, however, worth the wait. Luke Cage is a brilliant addition to the Marvel television stable of shows.

Head on over to Netflix now and watch this hero work against the  backdrop of a faint R&B soundtrack. Luke Cage, aka Power Man looks to be another winner.

Cast:

Jessica Jones: AKA the Crush Syndrome (Review)

The second episode of Jessica Jones on Netflix follows the aftermath of Hope shooting her parents to death in the elevator (lift). Marvel can do dark brilliantly and Jones as protagonist just does not get much darker.

Jessica Jones and Jeri Hogarth

The second episode of Jessica Jones on Netflix follows the aftermath of Hope shooting her parents to death in the elevator (lift).  Marvel can do dark brilliantly and Jones as protagonist just does not get much darker.  This noir-like offering gives us strong women in spades, albeit all are damaged somewhat, and two “stronger” male figures. Cage and Kilgrave (the latter is strong in will and his ability to make people act against their nature) are both arguably stronger than Jones, but then she has vulnerabilities because of David Tenant’s character.

In terms of overly capable performers in the dark series, Krysten Ritter as Jessica Jones,  Aussie actress Rachael  Taylor as her sister (adopted) and Carrie-Anne Moss give us a trio of women who are strong, assertive and successful. (Although admittedly both Trish (Taylor) and Jeri Hogarth (Moss) are higher on the scale of “success” than Jones.)

The build up of Kilgrave (Tennant) is brilliant. Thus far, even though we have yet to see KIlgrave, apart from a very quick profile shot as he screams into Jones’ ear, the series is making him out to be a villain amongst villains. (This  lack of appearance is rectified by the end of the episode when he takes over  a family and shuts their children in a closet.)

As Jessica continues to track down Kilgrave we are treated to a number of moments that stand out.  Apparently even his near death experience, being hit by a bus may not have killed the baddy but it certainly messed him up, did not lessen his powers of persuasion.

Such as the poor man who gives up both his kidneys to Kilgrave. This particular sequence in the episode was as blackly funny as it was horrific.  Attached to a dialysis machine and trapped with his cloying mother, the man seems almost oblivious to his surroundings.

After his mother leaves to get Jessica a drink, she questions this victim of Kilgrave. The man motions for a pencil, taking the instrument, he then starts awkwardly printing on a scrap of a paper after Jones asks who did this to him.

K-I-L…

“Kilgrave,” Jessica prompts.

“KILL ME.”

This hapless victim of Kilgrave is clearly in his own personal hell with his  devoted mother, who believes his condition is God’s punishment for his previous indiscretions, as the jailer. What makes this scene so ironic is Jessica’s statement to Jack the victim.

“God didn’t do this to you, it was the devil, and I’m going to get him.”

How can you not love this type of sly black humor? It is obvious that poor Jack wants to die, not because of what Kilgrave has turned him into, but to get away from his suffocating overly religious mother.

Later we learn just what happened the night that Kilgrave was injured. It is also  made clear that Jones has a thing for Cage. She tells him about his married lover, whose husband, she says, hired Jessica to prove her indiscretions with Luke (Mike Colter).  

Another stand out moment shows us the mythos of the bartender. A man who is “unbreakable.” Certainly the power-saw scene was goosebump inducing, as was Jones’ reaction to his little display, but the use of the phrase brought up visions of Bruce Willis and M. Night Shyamalan. (As well as a delirious Samuel L. Jackson shouting out, “They called me Mr. Glass!”)

This display of invincibility, against a power-saw at least, is one of the more overt shows of power. So far, the series has downplayed Jones’ power. It appears in snippets, such as Jessica stripping off locks from the hospital lockers in the changing room, or her fight in the bar when she aids Cage, who clearly did not need it.

Jessica Jones so far,  is focusing on her relationships with Trish and the cool, aloof Hogarth (Moss) as well as her initial attraction to Luke Cage. There are brief flashes of life “under Kilgrave” and of course the Shlottman murders committed by Hope (Erin Moriarty) are part of Jones’ current workload.

The P.I. also discovers what may be Kilgrave’s achilles heel after learning that he underwent the kidney transplants sans anesthesia.  She learns that certain drugs  could leave him vulnerable.  Propofol or Sufentanil were the drugs he turned down before the operation.  She also learns what “Crush Syndrome” is; after one kidney is destroyed the other begins to shut down in sympathy.

The episode ends with Cage in her apartment, after Jones has that epiphany about the drugs being Kilgrave’s weakness and Luke get the last, and perhaps coolest line in the episode, with his, “You can’t fix me. I’m unbreakable.”

Jessica Jones is great small screen Marvel, darker than Agents of SHIELD and Agent Carter, as both of these offerings contain an amount of overt humor, versus the black kind.  So far, Krysten Ritter rocks it as the strong, P.I. who has a personal demon to slay. The series is on Netflix which means that the whole thing can be watched without waiting. Tune in for the dark humor and a storyline that promises much.

Jessica Jones: The Underbelly of Marvel Noir

Jessica Jones is the dark side of Marvel, it is noire to the very core with a heroine that drinks too much and has been to the dark side and back, but only just. Played by the impressive Krysten Ritter (who will be remembered principally for playing Jesse Pinkman’s druggie girlfriend that Walter lets OD) this series is darker than dark and full of bad attitude.

Kristen Ritter as Jessica Jones

Jessica Jones is the dark side of Marvel, it is noire to the very core with a heroine that drinks too much and has been to the dark side and back, but only just.  Played by the impressive Krysten Ritter (who will be remembered principally for playing Jesse Pinkman’s druggie girlfriend that Walter lets OD) this series is darker than dark and full of bad attitude. 

It is also addictive to watch and great fun.  Jessica Jones is enjoyable in a way that the regular Marvel “good guys” cannot be. Sure there are superheroes, and just plain old heroes, who have dark pasts and some pretty messy backstories, but Jones, who will also turn up in The Defenders (which will also be aired on Netflix) in 2016 beats those hands down.

If one is interested enough there is at least one “wiki” page entry for Jones’ character in the Marvel verse.  Apparently the dark haired super-strong gal with limited invulnerability powers was a member of S.H.I.E.L.D. at one time until her dark nature got her the boot.

The magic of Jessica Jones is that Krysten makes the hero so watchable that it is difficult not to binge all 13 episodes on offer over at Netflix.  Another point in this dark Marvel heroine’s favour is that we don’t need to know an awful lot about the superhero.  The pacing and story telling is such that we find out all that is needed to know.

Certainly there are characters in the show that come from the verse and are all part of the lore of Jones’ world. Luke Cage (played with an impressive depth and bearing by actor Mike Colter who is working currently on TNT’s Agent X and will, apparently have his own TV show titled, appropriately enough, Luke Cage) has ties with Jessica in both the comic world and on the series.

Whether there are any “Easter Eggs” in the show or not remains to be seen. Admittedly it is hard to take one’s eyes off of Ritter, just as it was in Breaking Bad.  The actress oozes a sense of dangerous reality in Jessica Jones and merely walking across her cluttered apartment floor takes on special meaning.

The flashbacks and her mantra of street names, to help get over “the Purple Man” aka, KIlgrave go a long way toward telling us that this is one flawed superhero.  Thus far the viewer has yet to see more than a silhouette or an arm of Kilgrave and we have only heard his voice. The part will be played by David Tennant (former Dr Who fan favorite and star of the US version of Broadchurch, which he also starred in, Gracepoint.)

Once again the Purple Man is part of the verse and a major nemesis of Jones in the comics.  In the pilot episode, AKA Ladies Night, Jones is serving papers to douche client when she picks up the vibe of Kilgrave. Later a girl’s parents show up asking Jessica to find and save their daughter Hope (Erin Moriarty). 

Jones accepts, reluctantly and in the process of tracking down the girl learns that Kilgrave is still alive, despite what Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor), Jones’ adopted sister believes. The pilot episode is tight and entertaining. It ends with the viewer wanting more and as it is on Netflix, this is definitely possible. 

Perfectly timed to fill that holiday gap left by midseason and fall finales, Jessica Jones is a really dark gem. Tune in to Netflix and get hooked on that bad girl superhero vibe.