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‘Black Lightning’ Premiere: Strike Back to the Heart of it All!

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The CW is inundated with superhero shows now – that broody hooded archer that began it all, Arrow; run Barry run! on The Flash; up up and away with the Girl of Steel on Supergirl; and of course our favorite time-traveling misfits in Legends of Tomorrow, give us all a hero of one form or another to look forward to on nearly every day of the work week. Last night we welcomed the latest addition to the superhero family, Black Lightning, in all his electric glory!

So what do we know right off the bat? The show is based on a DC comic book series of the same name that began in 1977. The city of Freeland, where Black Lightning takes place, has a seriously bad gang problem. One gang in particular, calling themselves The 100 Gang, marches around dealing drugs and pulling guns without regard for innocents or the threat of cops. The cops seem at best ineffective and at worst corrupt, and the mostly-black community already has a well-deserved distrust of the police, clearly demonstrated when Jefferson gets pulled over and manhandled rather rudely by some, what else, white cops.

Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams) is the principal of Garfield High, where his younger daughter Jennifer (China Ann McClain) attends, while his elder daughter Anissa (Nafessa Williams) is a nursing student by day and a political activist by whenever else she can get away with. It seems as though the pristine reputation Dad has at Garfield High and in Freeland in general is far too taxing for his youngest daughter, who angsts at being labeled the Queen of Garfield High and tries to prove how baller she really is by sneaking off to go clubbing at a place called The 100 Club, because that doesn’t sound blatant at all. But the wrong end of a dealer who owes a mid-level gangbanger called Lala (William Catlett), he insists on it, leaves Jennifer reeling and terrified.

Jefferson, meanwhile, is just trying to smooth his way back into his ex-wife’s good graces, and does seem to be getting somewhere with it too, when of course bold as a brass The 100 Gang pops into Garfield High and drags off both his daughters. Jeff’s-ex Lynn (Christine Adams) simply tells him to bring their girls home, and we see his well-defined jaw tighten as to the consequences of that kind of command.

See because, Jefferson has a deep black secret. Some nine years ago this former Olympic athlete took up the mantle of the superhero Black Lightning, for all sorts of noble reasons, but more or less primarily to clean up Freeland and make the place safe for his daughters again. But he kept coming home all banged up to hell and gone, his wife roundly informing him that his heroic antics are just another addiction, and finally insisting on a divorce. Thus, the hero Black Lightning hung up his mask and hasn’t been heard of in Freeland for nine whole years. Until now.

Most of us have seen Taken, right? Pierce certainly isn’t a man with spiffy CIA-like skills or anything, but what he does have is incredible meta-like powers over all kinds of electricity and things related to it, and has a serious mission to protect his ex-wife and daughters. So when his family gets caught up in the gang violence he thought had been curtailed with the defeat of Tobias Whale (Marvin ‘Krondon’ Jones III), notorious kingpin and Black Lightning’s main nemesis, Jeff has to grit his teeth and return to Gambi, the tailor front man who designed Lightning’s costume and was like Alfred to his Batman.

Of course Gambi’s been working on a new suit, and even as Jeff laments not wanting to go back into the superhero life again, Gambi (James Remar) reminds him it was only a matter of time anyways, and how not only does Jeff’s family need him, but the whole city of Freeland and perhaps the world, needs Black Lightning to return, perhaps now more than ever. And still Jeff struggles, knowing it was his difficulty with duality that led to his divorce and separation in the first place. But he’s going to need to come clean far sooner than anyone realizes, because it turns out, this whole meta-powers thing actually appears to be hereditary!

Nothing says, “I’m back bitches!” like a spiffy new suit and a good old fashioned motel brawl, during which Lightning dutifully avoids outright killing anyone. But oh does he revel in taking out his frustration physically on some scumbags that truly deserve it, as we all would. And that’s where Black Lightning truly shines.

Right now, the main target audience of the CW superhero shows have all gotten kind of tired of seeing the heroes journey from the very beginning, where he (or she) struggles with morals and ethics and powers and all that funnery. We are aging and tired and scared, for us and for our kids and our lives, and want nothing more than to be able to take back our streets and make them safe for any color, any kind of person. Black Lightning gives us all of that in the best way possible; any one of us could be Jefferson Pierce tomorrow, and how utterly badass would that be?

Chase the ‘Black Lightning’ on the CW, Tuesdays at 9/8c!

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Joy Ride Is An Extremely Raunchy And Hilarious Comedy

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Joy Ride is an extremely raunchy and hilarious comedy that takes the mantle of ensemble risky
comedies that at times, leave your mouth on the floor. Joy Ride focuses on two best friends
Audrey and Lolo (Ashley Sullivan and Sherry Cola) end up getting roped up into a trip to Asia,
they end up on gals pal cross-continent trek to find Audrey’s long lost birth mother so she
doesn’t lose a huge business deal.

The chemistry in this movie is superb. Every character has their moment to shine and there’s
rarely a scene where you don’t get a belly laugh. I was shocked at how crazy and bold this
movie got, continually pushing the line to get a laugh. The movie does a good job of getting to
the point and getting to the scenes that really make you chuckle. There are some editing choices where the story flies by some stuff, and it feels a little incomplete, but never at the expense of really enjoying being around for the journey.

I thought that this was a sleeper for this year and certainly a movie worth watching with your
friends some weekend. It’s great to throw on if you want a laugh and really just enjoy some
great actors riffing off each other. The focus on culture was a nice touch and really elevated the movie to another level. While I would say if you’re easily offended, this movie is not for you – if you’re looking for a no holds barred comedy, Joy Ride is a trip worth taking.

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Who Doesn’t Want To Wear The Ninja Suit Of Snake-Eyes Or Dress Like The Mandalorian?

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Hasbro has had their pulse app out for a while now. It allows for access to items to buy, preorder, and a look into future projects and releases. It also allows for a very cool thing most nerds (a group of which I am a proud card-carrying member) have always wanted, the ability to make yourself into an action figure. I’ve contemplated making one for a time but, I finally got my chance to get my hands on one at Comic-Con this year. Now, of course, I had to wait in line as it was a pretty sought-after item. Who doesn’t want to have themselves wear the ninja suit of Snake-Eyes or dressed like a Mandalorian? I was approached by one of the booth staff as I was showing my nephew all the cool ways we could get him his own MIles Morales action figure with his face (as he’s a massive fan) and invited to take a seat and scan our faces into the Hasbro Pulse app with the help of their awesome team and make this dream a reality. My wife was with us, so of course she got in on the fun too. We scanned our faces in and it was very simple and quick. Then we all selected our figures to add our heads to. We all chose Power Rangers(Me as the Black Ranger, my wife chose the pink ranger and the nephew got the red ranger). Then we were told that we needed to wait about 4-6 weeks and we’d have our custom action figure team in our hands. This was a major part of our Comic-Con adventure and definitely, a memory my wife and nephew won’t forget (as it was both of their first Con ever). Thank you to Hasbro for being so generous(also getting me brownie points that home) and I highly suggest checking out Hasbro Pulse and all the cool stuff it has to offer.

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The Last Voyage of the Demeter: Double-knock on wood!  

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Adapted and written largely from the Captain’s Log chapter of Bram Stoker’s magnum opus Dracula, The Last Voyage of the Demeter tells the story of Dracula’s journey by ship from Carpathia to London, and what happened to her crew in the interim.

So here we are in Bulgaria, middle of 1897, and Captain Eliot (Liam Cunningham) of the Russian schooner Demeter is here to take on some strange cargo from some unknown client and transport it to Carfax Abbey in London. In need of some extra hands, the Captain sends out his capable Second Wojchek (David Dastmalchian) to scout for some, and initially the roving black doctor and aspiring philosopher Clemens (Corey Hawkins) is passed over in favor of more work-roughened men. The adorable cabin boy of the Demeter, Toby (Woody Norman), narrowly misses being crushed by the mysterious dragon-marked crates being loaded onto the ship, saved by Clemens himself and switched out with the superstitious sailors running from the Demeter like they had been poisoned by the sign of Dracul. And now, armed with some nine or so crewmen, Doc Clemens, and Captain Eliot himself, the twenty-four strange what looks like coffins adorned with dragon signs brought mostly safely aboard, the Demeter can make for open water and the Hell that awaits them there.

The duty of showing Clemens around the ship falls to a cheerful Toby, who proudly shows him the living areas, the Captain’s quarters, the very-large cargo hold, the galley and kitchen where the overly-devout Joseph (Jon Jon Briones) cooks the crews meals, the various above decks, even the sails, and the rigging are all at least touched on, and the livestock pens that Toby himself is in charge of, including the handsome good-boy doggy Huckleberry, or just Huck. We the audience get a very clear feeling of what it’s like to actually be aboard the Demeter, just how large she really is, and what living on a ship for months at sea is really like, the reality and practicality and the dangers of it.

Everyone more or less settles in for a hopefully uneventful voyage, taking mess around the common table and exchanging ideas or aspirations for when they arrive in London early thanks to the fair winds, and receive a handsome bonus for their troubles. But that involves being alive and making it to London to spend said bonus and pay, and the coffin crates spilling dark soil from the motherland and disgorging all sorts of other nasty secrets, have some serious plans to the contrary.

First, it’s the livestock, innocent and shrieking in their locked pens as a monster takes great furious bites out of their necks, and of course, the creature just straight up ruins poor doggy Huck. Then there’s the fully grown girl that gets dislodged from an open coffin-crate, covered in bite scars and as pale as death, she eventually starts interacting and talking after several blood transfusions from Doc Clemens, Toby learns her name is Anna (Aisling Franciosi). And then, as the weather turns foul and the winds begin to be a serious problem, the attacks turn toward the remaining humans onboard the Demeter.

Most people these days are familiar with Dracula, that gorgeous cunning vampire Elder who can supposedly transform into a bat or a wolf, seducing women to voluntarily offer up their veins like an unholy sacrament, a being at once beautiful and powerful, but also horrific and murderous if given half a heartbeat to smell your blood. This is not Dracula.

Instead, the creature that hunts the humans occupying the Demeter is an absolute monster, not a single human feature left to it, barely even recognizable as humanoid-shaped, instead boasting not just full-length bat wings but an entire exo-skin of bat membranes that can be used for feeding, a mouth full of needle-like teeth akin to a predator of the deepest darkest parts of the ocean, those yellowed Nosferatu eyes that will not tolerate light in any way, and of course giant pointy bat-ears. This is a thing, a grotesque straight from the depths of Hell, and no amount of glamor magic can make this Dracula (Javier Botet) seem like anything other than what he, is – a parasitic demon who only wants your blood. There is no reasoning with it, no trapping it, not even really any talking to it (kinda hard to talk when your throat has been ripped out), and, like the much more frightening Dracula stories of old, no amount of pure faith behind a symbol does anything other than give false hope.

Coming face to face with an actual abomination does different things to different people. The formerly delightfully foul-mouthed Abrams (Chris Walley) dissolves into a blubbering mess; poor Larsen (Martin Furulund) didn’t even get to see his own death coming; and it turns out Olgaren (Stefan Kapicic) wants to live so badly, he’ll suffer becoming a blank-eyed Renfield if that’s what it takes. All of Cook Joseph’s purported pure faith didn’t stop him from trying to take the coward’s way out and didn’t save him anyway when the sound of unnatural bat wings descended on him. I find that kind of irony delicious. Dear Anna, resigned to her fate to be eternal food for the horror that terrorized her village, nevertheless wants to try and save whoever is left of the Demeter with her own sacrifice, and there aren’t many. Wojchek of course wants to kill Dracula, but for all his logic and solid practical nature, has no experience whatsoever with this sort of thing, and sure doesn’t want to sacrifice the Demeter, the beloved ship he called home that was promised to him by Captain Eliot himself, in order to destroy that demon. Even poor sweet Toby isn’t safe from the creature’s clutches, and what happens to the cabin boy of the Demeter is what finally sends Captain Eliot over the blooming edge. And who could blame him? For this sort of thing to happen during the last voyage of such a proud, solid ship as the Demeter, is some serious bullsh*t.

To leave such a film open for a potential sequel, especially when called the last voyage of something, was a pretty hefty ask, and somehow the filmmakers managed it. I personally think a different version of Van Helsing, the infamous vampire hunter, teaming up with a certain black doctor who nurses a serious grudge against Dracula, could be a kickass sequel. Until then, experience the doomed final journey of the Demeter and her poor crew in all it’s bloodstained glory, in theaters now!

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