Netflix is 3% Closer, but Still Fighting White Supremacy Saviors

At this point, it’s damn near impossible to keep up with the onslaught of Netflix original programming. Along with all of the film and series content, the tentacles of the entertainment Kraken inevitably started reaching out for more international collaborations. Around Thanksgiving we were treated to the Brazilian series 3%. In terms of originality, it doesn’t score high: another variation on the theme of a future world where young adults do what they have to do to survive.

It does have its points of deviation though from say The Hunger Games and Divergent with a touch of Elysium. Brazil has had a long and appalling history of income inequality, which I’m sure is where the idea of the tagline came from: “In a dystopian future there is a clear divide between the rich and poor, but when a person turns 20, they have the opportunity to cross the divide.” As implied, by free will all the candidates get to try to make it from the miserable mainland to the utopian island Mar Alto; that looks kind of like Recife to Fernando de Noronha on the map. The tests they undergo are less physical and more psychological until they are whittled down to the fabled 3%. The setting, albeit futuristic, feels closer to present as we undergo our own survival in the collapse.

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Diversity on Fire: Thoughts on the Return of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

I would not fault anybody for not watching or liking Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. due to its hot mess of a first season. However, it has improved. Does it still have issues? Indeed it does. But with those issues comes the fact that it still remains one of the most diverse casts on TV. Though aside from showrunner Maurissa Tancharoen, I wonder what that diversity looks like behind the cameras. Anyway, now there is Gabriel Luna. With his head on fire. There was a lot of hype about the Robbie Reyes incarnation of Ghost Rider leading up to the season 4 premiere. By and large, it held up. Here are just a few points I remember and talked about with friends in person and via the internets.

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Tigresa y Tarantula

Daredevil Season 2 has been up and streaming on Netflix for some time now and if you haven’t watched it, are you okay? Should we call someone? Just kidding. But seriously, go watch it if you still haven’t. It was another successful team-up for Netflix and Marvel after an exceptional Jessica Jones. If you haven’t watched that yet, that’s it, I’m coming over! As I’ve previously written, I recognize my bias and personal history with Daredevil, but in my opinion, especially in terms of tone, the series continues to be the MCU’s masterpiece (ducks).

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The Imperator and The Widow

Last year was the year of the most iconic feminist leading lady in action/sci-fi, arguably the most in cinematic history: the one and only Imperator Furiosa played be Charlize Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road. Thanks to a fellow NOC, I have finally finished the way too short first season of Into The Badlands. Following Furiosa and a long history of leading women in Hong Kong action cinema with better acting chops and doing more roundhouse damage than their male co-stars (Michelle Yeoh will be back soon as Yu Shu Lien people!), Into the Badlands also introduced us to strong heroines whose stories I hope to better understand in more detail in a second season. More than Wu’s Sunny, more than the avatars, even more than my man Cung Le, it was Emily Beecham’s show-stopping performance as The Widow that locked me in.

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#AskLexi II: We Are Lexi

On a very cold sub-zero January evening in Minnesota (talking windchill -30 F people) , one of our favorite NOCs was ready for some questions. Director, writer, activist, martial artist, general badass, and real life superhero Lexi Alexander joined me at The NOC for another round of #AskLexi. I wasn’t prepared for the hundreds of fans that overwhelmed us with questions, but the feeling of love radiated out of the computer and warmed my heart in the chilly house. Here are some highlights.

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The Challenger: No Challenge at All for a Few Minutes of Your Time

I had no interest in watching the first Democratic Party debate without analysis from Democracy Now and commentary from my favorite late night and podcasting comedy crews. So, it worked out well that on the same evening I was introduced to a short film that packs quite the punch: The Challenger.

Pun intended.

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Scored Too Soon? The Career of Michael Jai White: A Retrospective

In most sports, scoring early is a good thing. If you’re a soccer player or fan, though, you know the woes of scoring too early. If any of you listen to or watch Men in Blazers, you’ve heard this all before from Roger’s unending sadness with his Everton routinely scoring too early. This has happened to me both on the pitch, but mostly watching my beloved teams pay dearly for going up 1-0 in the first five minutes of matches only to be smacked down with three or four unanswered goals once the final whistle blows. It’s part of the roller coaster of emotions that is the world of football. I feel like this could be a metaphor for Michael Jai White’s career.

I recently had an evening to myself and while scrolling through the ever expanding Netflix streaming queue, I noticed a couple of recent Michael Jai White flicks I hadn’t yet seen. Double feature? Sure.

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Spare Parts: An Emotional Roller Coaster at the Theme Park of Broken Immigration Policy

The number of PG or PG-13 films that really move or inspire me is not that large. Somewhere at the top of that list is Finding Neverland. It’s tough to remember exactly what was going on with me at the time, but I remember it hit me hard. There is now a new contender: Spare Parts. The movie is based on this Wired article about four undocumented high school students from Arizona with a shoestring budget that enter and win a national robotics competition. Oh, and they end up at the college level knocking off the likes of MIT students.

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Daredevil: First Season Wrap-Up

Some of my fellow NOCs and other contributors have written eloquent season reviews and critiques of Daredevil so I’ll keep this brief. I’m pretty biased with this character and while I tried to restrain some and was somewhat critical, there was a lot of praise throughout my recaps. When something that’s been a part of 2/3 of your life finally is treated correctly, it can be quite the emotional ride. Congrats to Netflix for this, their greatest and most-watched original series. Netflix and Marvel: the new Kingpins. Best superhero show? Yes. Best Marvel property? Yes. Best show, movie, anything a camera has filmed? Shit, probably. Sure. Yes.

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NOC Recaps Daredevil: None Shall Sleep

What a groundbreaking ride this has been. I am so thrilled that this character and his world that connected with me as kid has finally fallen into the right hands and ended up not just revolutionizing the superhero genre, but TV and film in general. Therefore, it’s fitting that show runner Steven DeKnight took the writing and directing duties for the finale. After all the defending of Daredevil I’ve done up to this point with haters of the “lesser Spider-Man,” not to mention the failure of the movie, it feels personally triumphant for me. Bill Everett and Jack Kirby have passed, but I can’t imagine how Stan Lee must feel watching a Pavarotti moment with these characters in the finale culminating the origin story and thusly named: “Daredevil.” I think Puccini would approve.

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NOC Recaps Daredevil: So Much for a Complete Daily Bugle Staff

“The Ones We Leave Behind” is another dense episode that fortunately doesn’t feel like it drags. Two of the leads deal differently with killing, there’s some backstabbing in the consortium, some classic Daredevil roof hopping, and another climactic and shocking ending. Damn. Fucking Sony.

It opens with Karen tossing the gun in the river. She’s obviously messed up after murdering Wesley and this plays out once she gets home and hits the bottle hard to put herself to sleep. She wakes up startled thinking she hears something, but then relaxes and decides to switch to beer for bed. Does that ever work? She turns from the fridge and our bald menace is staring her down. He delivers another stellar speech telling her he knows how hard it is to take a life. He goes on about how you feel the weight of the person’s life, the cherished moments, and such. Then he says: “I want you to know something, something important that I’ve learned: that it gets easier the more you do it.” And he attacks. And Karen wakes up. Really wakes up this time. The old nightmare within the nightmare. Well played writers.

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NOC Recaps Daredevil: Saw Blades & Tender Villains

Four of our favorites are paired up once more and give us some outstanding on-screen chemistry. Claire’s patches up Matt again, even if it’s for a brief moment. While Vanessa is in recovery, Fisk and Wesley share some very tender moments as Wesley tries to balance his BFF’s sanity with keeping the machine moving. Nelson and Murdock Attorneys at Law continues to unravel with Karen upset and the boys still not talking to each other. Mr. Potter battles like a gladiator and we get quite the climatic ending in “The Path of the Righteous.”

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NOC Recaps Daredevil: The Trial of the Incredible Matthew Murdock

Yes, the boys are fighting and Foggy Bear attacks like a… bear. It’s Foggy’s turn to learn about Matt’s powers and the first part of “Nelson v. Murdock” basically repeats previous scenes and flashbacks of folks that know about Matt. Nothing new that we don’t already know until the way Foggy plays it at the end. Besides Foggy’s cross examination of Matt, we get flashbacks to their meeting and law school daze days, Madame Gao puts Fisk in another time out, Karen tricks Ben in a game changing way, and a benefit dinner really could have used a Medieval cup-bearer.

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NOC Recaps Daredevil: Ninja Nobu! Ninja? No. Boo.

Ninja fight! Maybe you didn’t get that, let me clear my throat: FUCKING NINJA FIGHT!!!!!! I feel like I’m 12 again. One aspect of this episode I loved and found very original was the use of the ninja battle as the tie that binds. Though the ninja fight scenes are one complete fight, they are broken up chronologically and are stuck between all the other subplots. So essentially, the fight itself becomes not just a fight, but its own overarching subplot. Very cool. Credit due to the director Nick McCormick (The Good Wife), Silvera, and crew for a new take on the use of and cutting of a fight scene.

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NOC Recaps Daredevil: Papa Don’t Preach

At this point, the similarities between Matt Murdock and Wilson Fisk both wanting to make their city a better place have been repeated a few times. Yep, they’re two sides of the same coin; we get it. Well, there’s another strong tie that binds; they both have serious daddy issues. Matt’s came earlier and now we get to see a big reason why Fisk is who he is. I mentioned there may have been a hint at potential childhood trauma on the fourth episode recap, and my, my; “hint” seems so wrong after this. In addition, Matt ends up in Karen and Foggy’s (and Ben’s) investigation, and Fisk’s grip on his empire starts loosening, creating tension among the consortium in “Shadows in the Glass.”

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NOC Recaps Daredevil: Sticking it to Matt Murdock

I love Stick! Sticky Sticky Stick! I lost my mind on this one. It’s still hard to pick a favorite, but this episode is a strong candidate. This is the first time the character has appeared off the page — because we are not counting the terrible Elektra movie — and after Daredevil/Matt, he’s right there as my next favorite character. Why? I think it goes like this: having grown up on many (mostly shitty, some good) martial arts flicks and having trained for years, there’s this stereotypical Mr. Miyagi idea of what a teacher — a sensei — should be like. Kind, gentle, wise, patient, caring, loving, etc. I’ve even had some that sadly seemed to be playing the part.

The wise part, sure, and ninja master indeed, but stereotype be damned. Dude’s an asshole! An arrogant, mean, crotchety old piece of shit asshole. This is the way Miller created and wrote Stick, and Scott Glenn knocks it out the fucking park. I couldn’t get enough. The Golden Broken Arm is yours sir.

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NOC Recaps Daredevil: Symphony of Destruction

When great writing, directing, and acting come together in a crime drama, every so often we are treated to interesting and complex characters that are so much more than just “the bad guys.” It also turns out, from stage and some screen experience, these are the roles actors salivate over. Whether they admit it or not, everybody wants to play the villain. Even more want to play a villain with depth that can get the audience behind them. This episode gives us deeper insight into the well-oiled machine that is the extremely organized crime operation run by concert master Wesley on the ground, but overseen by the true conductor of the symphony: Wilson Fisk.

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NOC Recaps Daredevil: The Child and the Monster

About three weeks before we got “the Netflix drop,” Vincent D’Onofrio was responding to Daredevil and Wilson Fisk questions on Twitter. One of the early questions that he responded to was probably the best:

This is our introduction to Fisk and I couldn’t take my eyes off him. He owns this one. Golden Broken Arms, legs, all limbs to D’Onofrio. In addition, the Russians get some more attention, Matt and Claire continue being awesome, and Ben and Karen team up.

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NOC Recaps Daredevil: aka Law & Order Hell’s Kitchen

I brought this up in my recap for “Into the Ring,” but “Rabbit in a Snowstorm” is where we really get the Law & Order: Hell’s Kitchen portion of the show. We can break this one down into three parts too: bowling alley/back alley; Karen, Ben, and the devious corporation formerly known as Prince Union Allied; and the murder trial. There’s an up, then down, then back up wave feel in terms of rhythm in this one.

This being an outstanding ensemble drama, the writing and acting sparks get passed around nicely. I’m going to start giving out (drum roll…) “The Golden Broken Arm for Best Performance per Episode.” Appropriate, right? The best performance from “Into the Ring” goes to Charlie Cox, and “Cut Man” is all Rosario Dawson. This episode, though, is actually tougher, but I’m going to go out on a limb. (Ha, “limb” — more on that later).

Let’s begin though, with Sason Jathom. Who?

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NOC Recaps Daredevil: I’m Bleeding, Save Me Rosario!

This one’s amazing. Holy shit. Wow!

Okay, I think we can break it down into three acts: Matt and Claire, Battlin’ Jack, and the beat down at the end. I guess there’s also the Karen and Foggy bender that’s cute and light. Enough on that? Okay, good. Ding, ding, there’s the bell. Let’s get in to episode two of Daredevil, “Cut Man.”

Fight!

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NOC Recaps Daredevil: Marvel’s Got DC Throwing Tantrums

It’s still surreal to me that it’s here after all the hype and the waiting. Rather than hash out point by point what happens, let’s look at reasons why the first episode of Marvel and Netflix’s Daredevil is one of the best first episodes of anything ever filmed; superhero or otherwise.

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