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Reviews

A New “Battleground” in Media: A Review of Hulu’s First Original Series

The world of media is changing, and the debut of the original series “Battleground” is evidence of that change. The series is not a midseason debut from one of the major networks, or even one of cable networks like Starz or FX. Instead “Battleground” makes its home on the Internet streaming service Hulu.  Original programming is not particularly new but no series has come with the hype or has debuted exclusively on a service with the status of Hulu. Amidst all the hype, the question remains does “Battleground” succeed as a show? Will its characters and stories connect with an audience in a way to make them tune in week after week?
The mockumentary format of the series is one made familiar to us by the long running “The Office” and critically acclaimed “Modern Family”. Here the story follows the campaign of Senator, who literally takes a backseat in the pilot episode to her young campaign team focusing on Chris “Tak” Davis, Campaign Strategist, Kara “KJ” Jamison, head of media operations, speech writer Cole Graner and new volunteer Ben Werner. The cast on works well together with Jay Hayden’s charming “Tak” and Ben Samuels’ turn as the nervous bumbling volunteer “Ben” the standouts of the episode.

The pilot does well in setting us up in the world of the campaign, the team  is portrayed as the scrappy underdogs with a laid back work ethic and broken air conditioner thermostat. The story of the pilot is smart, Tak and the team must find a way to outwit their opponent in an effort to secure funding to keep their campaign going. If there is one criticism it is that the script plays it a bit too straightforward with the details of the plan, removing some of the element of surprise as it plays out. This is surprising in a show where many elements of exposition are played with great subtlety. An interesting twist is the almost cyclical story as we are given glimpses into the future of the campaign and the staff, which almost begs the audience to stay tuned to find out how they get there and how the result of the election. The show provides us with some very understated but funny moments of humor and there is a general air of self awareness, complete with sideway glances at the camera and a reference to its being “some internet thing or something”.

Overall “Battlefield” is a solid start to mainstream original programming over the Internet. It is a charming, witty world inhabited by a group of very likable characters. There is a lot of potential in this show and due to the fact that the executives at Hulu are taking a significantly different approach to the development of this series than the usual television or studio executives, the opportunity is there for this show to go places that others of its kind are not able to. With the debut of “Battlefield” and Netflix’s “Lilyhammer” Internet exclusive programming may be finally ready for the mainstream.

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Review: Green Lantern (2011)


***

 

Something ecaped my sight. Tonight I went to see Martin Campbell’s “Green Lantern” and it can only be described as underwhelming. The movie follows the story of Hal Jordan played by Ryan Reynolds, a reckless test pilot who is chosen to be one of the members of the elite Green Lantern Corps by the ring of a dying alien. He is then tasked with not only learning the ring but facing the greatest enemy the Corps has ever known.

Really though? The greatest threat ever?

Green Lantern is a good movie, it is not quite Avatar but the 3D works far better in the fantastic world of Oa than it did in Asgard, the mythical realm presented in Marvel’s Thor. While Thor lacked in visuals and scope, it fares much better than Green Lantern in terms of story. Green Lantern disconcertingly jumps from character to character without much flow and a lot of unnecessary filler. I have heard people criticize the acting in the movie and I have to say that the actors in the movie are what makes it bearable. Events happen out of sequences, climaxes occur without any buildup and characters make decisions that boggle the mind.

Ryan Reynolds did it for me as Hal Jordan, my feeling is that with a stronger script he would own the character. While he gave us enough cocky cowboy, the script left out important elements of his character. From a comic book standpoint it gave us the stripped down Geoff John’s Hal Jordan when we should have gotten the Emerald Dawn version. They glossed over his relationship with his brother and even his recklessness in favour of a super thin romantic subplot with Carol Ferris (Blake Lively) and a few fleeting moments of melodrama about his father. Even how he got his powers left me scratching my head. In still fairly bright daylight not only does an Alien ship crash but he is transported in a big green bubble from a pretty heavily populated suburb (just outside a birthday party) to the crash site. The plot manages to give him enough time to bury Abin Sur and have his friend Tom drive out to pick him up before the Government’s Men in Black show up. There is not even any mention later by the same powers that be of the fact that someone else found the alien first.

The movie momentarily transports Hal to Oa where he undergoes about 5 and a half minutes of “training” by Kilowog and Sinestro, which was one of the best sequences in the film. My wish was that they remove almost all the scenes with Carol Ferris and replaced them with more Oa scenes. The charaters there are far more interesting and carry much more bearing on this plot and the plots of the, now only distantly, possible sequels.

Mark Strong has Sinestro nailed however he was criminally underutilized. I wanted to see the building distrust between him and the Guardians, I wanted to see more of the authoritarian Sinestro. The twist of having the guardians being the ones who create the ring was nice but because Sinestro was not developed it lacked the context to have an impact on anyone not familiar with the comic’s mythos. Even the 2 villains of the piece were badly used. Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard) was awesome, but his character was oddly enough developed backwards. He kind of just shows up at one point and then we learn about his relationship with his father and his own problems far too late for us to hate or pity him. Two of the big action sequences involving him simply just happen. There is no development of an antagonist relationship between himself and the hero. The script tries to gloss over that by repeatedly having the characters talk about being faliures in life and such.

As for Parallax, the embodiment of fear is wasted here. If this were to be a trilogy it should have come in the final chapter, in our hero’s darkest hour (or “Blackest Night in this case). It is instead reduced to a squid-crab thing with a big head that is defeated far too easily by the hero. Luckily there is room for A LOT of alterations and retconning for the sequel and I hope that one of those is making the “Parallax” of this movie merely an incarnation of the deity and that it continues to reside in the yellow battery. As a fan of the comic this brings up one detail that the movie absolutely missed, the yellow impurity in the rings. Really? The characters chatter over and over again about overcoming great fear but the single detail that makes that important and relevant is missed.

I will admit I went into this expecting Blake Lively to ruin every shot she was in and my fears were justified. However, it is not her fault at all, the character she was given to play was bad. It was not the Carol Ferris from the comics and she served no purpose except to look at Hal’s green body suit all googly eyed. In the final confrontation between Hal and Hector, the villain mumbles something about her not loving him like she loves Hal, which made no sense. Just like how Hal merely shows up to confront Hector because his ring recieves a Broadcast message that trouble might show up somewhere near.

The movie is visually entertaining. The ring constructs are wonderfully realized and executed along with the alien world of Oa. The 3D was not as horrifically dark as the Frost Giant world in Thor and Oa was also much more alive than the tomb that was Asgard. These strong points are overwhelmed by the narritive weakness and disjointed nature of the movie. I can only hope that the sequel gets the Green Light and perhaps gets “Dark Knighted” so that the corps gets the movie it deserves.