The world is ready for a bulletproof Black man."
Ain't that the truth? Those words came from Cheo Hodari Coker at Comic Con last summer.
Coker is the creator of the new Netflix show Luke Cage, a Marvel property about a dude who gets superpowers after some kind of experiment gone wrong and kicks ass all across the Harlem underworld while also learning that with great power comes great responsibilities (Spider-Man had the same issues).
From the trailer released earlier this week, Luke Cage looks like an epic cross between The Punisher and New Jack City with great action, a solid hip-hop influence and a cameo by Method Man. Sounds about perfect, really. All 13 episodes of Luke Cage Season 1 drop on Friday on Netflix and if you haven't watched Jessica Jones yet, that would be a good primer series. As Cage himself would say, "Sweet Christmas!"
In the theatres, the big flick opening this week is Deepwater Horizon, Hollywood's star-studded take on the explosion that caused the April 2010 BP crude oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, one of the largest man-made disasters in the history of the planet.
But don't come expecting an environmental morality play or a cautionary tale about the depths of human greed. This is a CGI-heavy disaster movie, kind of like Jurassic World only all the dinosaurs are long dead and decomposed. There is some necessary "look what happens when we mess around with nature" messaging, but for the most part this one is about Mark Wahlberg saving people while Kate Hudson chews her nails off at home. John Malkovich and Kurt Russell are in there somewhere too, arguing.
Director Peter Berg (Very Bad Things, Hancock, Friday Night Lights) fills the first third of the picture with tension (and a lot of technical dialogue explaining how the oil rig works) but when all hell breaks loose, it's hard not to get caught up in the action, which is impressively staged.
But Deepwater Horizon is all spectacle over substance and rather than exploring the greater context or suggesting why the suits of the world need to pay more attention to the salt of the earth types with their boots on the ground (or water in this case), Berg opts for yet another all-American hero story about the triumph of the human spirit under pressure. It's a good film about the shit hitting the fan, but no one ever thinks to ask why the shit and the fan are so close together in the first place.
Also opening, Masterminds is a comedy that casts some of Hollywood's most bankable stars as a bunch of idiots pulling off an unlikely bank heist. Apparently this one is based on a true story, but the way Hollywood operates these days that could just mean that someone robbed a bank somewhere once. There were no pre-screenings for Masterminds and the trailer doesn't have me changing my underwear but the cast is solid (Zach Galifianakis, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones and Jason Sudekis) and the director is Jared Hess, who channeled comedic sheet lightning with Napolean Dynamite but couldn't quite duplicate it with follow-ups Nacho Libre and Gentlemen Broncos. I say get the extra bag of M&Ms and give it a chance.
For the kids, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is Tim Burton's take on the popular novel by Ransom Riggs. I haven't seen it but you have to give Burton the benefit of the doubt, (even if his Alice in Wonderland movies didn't quite deliver) because few other directors have been able to capture the fantastical magic of a child's imagination as consistently. His timeless style seems suited to the material, but early word is the script doesn't quite give these peculiar children enough backstory to fully flesh out their struggles. Fans of Pan's Labyrinth or Coraline will dig this for sure, and Eva Green stars and she is just the best.
Bridget Jones's Baby is also playing but I haven't mustered up the masochism to see the other two either, so let's go back to Netflix for the Download of the Week. The Get Down is a six-episode drama set in the Bronx in the late 1970s and the early days of hip hop. Co-created by Baz Luhrmann (Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge!) this one is worth it for the set decoration, costumes, and glimpse into the early days of North America's most definitive homegrown culture.