Agent Carter is an 8 episode mid season series that spins out of 2011’s Captain America the First Avenger. Focusing on Peggy Carter, who helped fight Cap fight Hydra in WWII, she now finds herself still working in the SSR but not taken seriously by her male colleagues. Her duties are resigned to getting coffee and filing paperwork.

Set in New York City, Peggy greatly mourns the loss of Captain America, whom she believes to be dead, as does the rest of the world. His loss and the void he leaves behind loom large over the series. The opening scene recaps the end of First Avenger as Peggy is remembering her final moments speaking to Cap. On a humorous note in this world there is now a Captain America radio show and it is ridiculously hilarious. In this show Cap’s girlfriend is completely helpless and is constantly fretting “Help me Captain America! The Nazis tied me up again!!!”

The main story opens with Howard Stark, (who later will be the father of Tony Stark from the Iron Man films) accused of being a traitor. Some of his inventions turn up missing and he is accused of selling them to America’s enemies. On the run from the SSR, he contacts Peggy and asks for her help. This puts her in a position where she almost becomes like a super hero, in that she has a secret life from her co-workers, and has to carry out her investigation in secret.

Assisting her is Howard’s English butler Jarvis, whom Tony Stark later bases his AI assistant of off. They are great on screen together, sharing that British whit. Though Jarvis is not one for combat he is a loyal aid to Carter.

Peggy Carter is played as a person first and an action heroine second. Her doubly secret life affects her friendships and living situation as well. She becomes close to a diner waitress, but their friendship is strained by her secrecy. Peggy’s public identity is that of someone that works at the phone company, which is actually the hidden base for SSR.

She does have one colleague who takes her seriously, and offers some romantic tension. He is a fellow agent who was hurt in WWII and uses a crutch to get around. They don’t go the full blown romantic route but the possibility is planted. Their relationship is strained as he begins to suspect her doubly secret life.

One thing I like is there is an actual body count to this series, and it’s mostly the good guys. Specific agents and characters we are introduced to die, which adds a real consequence to the actions of the series, something I think honestly is lacking from the MCU movies. Also the series finale offers one particular scene that is more gruesome than anything the movies have offered.

There are reference to other things in the Marvel Cinematic Universe but the show is not over burdened with them. Anton Vanko makes one appearance, who is the father of the Iron Man 2 villain. The Roxxon Corporation is around in this time. The Howling Commandos appear in one episode, and share Peggy’s grief over the loss of Steve Rogers. The Red Room, where the Russian Black Widow spies are trained, is introduced. We get one female character that is a foil for Peggy, but the word Black Widow is never said in this series, which was a nice touch of subtlety. There’s another Russian character whose abilities reminded me of Purple Man, but I don’t think it was actually that character.

The final episode ends with a good emotional scene reminiscent of the end of First Avenger, in which we get some good insight into the relationship between Peggy and Howard, as well as how Howard views himself. Peggy is clearly the hero, and does get recognition from her immediate peers, but that moment is soon deflated as she is again ignored by the higher ups. At this point Peggy seems not to be bothered by this anymore, which may come across as sort of anti-climatic.

The final ten minutes or so wrap things up for the characters. For Peggy’s fem fa tale there is a scene that honestly reminded me of the end of Halloween, when Dr. Loomis looks over the balcony for the body of Michael Meyers. Peggy takes a step to move on in her grief of Rogers. Seeds are planted for future stories  which viewers of the MCU, especially the WInter Soldier movie, will be familiar with.

Even though we know that both Carter and Stark will survive the events of the series, these 8 episodes provide a tight character driven story that definitely leaves us wanting more. Here’s to many more great seasons of Agent Carter.

Danger Girl/G.I. Joe is a comic book crossover between the long popular Hasbro toy property and the IDW comic book series about a group of female super spies. In the beginning of the story two G. I. Joe agents get captured, and it is revealed that in this world Abbey Chase of Danger Girl appears to be an agent of Cobra. This world also has a female president. A series of events ensues  in which Madame President orders the Joes to stand down against Cobra, but some of the Joes want to act out on their own to save their captured friends. The Danger Girl crew arrives on the scene and one of the girls punches out the President. Madame President does not appear to be who she seems. The two teams join up against a wild over the top battle to rescue their friends, and one of the Danger Girls in particular is highlighted as the one who really saves the day.

The world of Danger Girl is not nearly as large as the world of G. I. Joe, and Cobra seems to be the main enemy of this story. The plot is pretty straight forward, but your getting what you expect of these properties. Danger Girl/G.I. Joe is filled with ludicrous over the top action starring highly glamorous men and women of the special forces that are fighting to save the day.

Vampirella is a female Vampire adventurer who was originally published in 1969 by Warren Publishing.Three years prior, the supernatural soap opera Dark Shadows aired on ABC. Eventually the vampire character Barnabas Collins became the main character of that TV show. In recent years Dynamite Entertainment has picked up the rights to both properties, this a crossover was inevitable.

The villain is introduced right away, Elizabeth Bathory, the real life woman who bated in young girls blood, is portrayed as an ancient vampire. We briefly stop in Victorian London where she encounters Jack the Ripper. Vampirella in the comics has only been on earth (she’s actually and alien by the way) during modern times. Barnabas Collins has existed for centuries, but given Vampirella’s back-story, the main part of this crossover takes place in the modern day. The original Dark Shadow’s show ran until 1971, with a few films that followed. So to my knowledge this is the first time that the classic Barnabas Collins has been brought to the modern day. (There was a reboot/revival short lived tv series in the early 1990s).

Cut to modern day, Bathory has come to New York City, and her crimes get the attention of our two vampire heroes. Barnabas has an interesting motivation in that he is able to control his urges and apparently has ways of feeding without hurting anyone. However when he was first a vampire he took many victims. In remorse he has sworn to protect the ancestors of his victims. This brings him to New York. Vampirella is already there and works with the police.

Barnabas brings an ally with him that is a werewolf, and Vampirella introduces us to Pantha, a woman that can turn into a Panther. While there’s seemingly no sexual tension between Barnabas and Vampirella, there’s plenty between the two supporting characters. Barnabas plays the old man out of touch with the times as Vampirella is more in tune with today. They are both good allies for each other though.

This is more of an action story than a horror story. There’s lots of graphic violence, tearing people limb from limb etc. Perhaps this is not what Dark Shadow fans are used to seeing, but it fits the story I guess. The plot itself is pretty simple, and we sort of get a cameo from the witch that cursed Barnabas, and Dracula makes a surprise appearance at the end. (He has a history and rivalry with Vampirella).

Barnabas and Vampirella both debuted within a few years of each other, and while tonally they are very different characters, their vampiric roots managed to bring them together. So if you ever wanted to see what would happen if these two met, check it out.

1973 saw the premiere of The World at War. Considered a landmark in the history of British television, this World War II documentary was considered ahead of its time in rekindling interest in military history.

A generation later, World at War producer Jeremy Isaacs returned to produce the Cold War documentary for CNN and BBC.

Last August, the most important documentary of our generation debuted, its final two episodes aired in early January of 2015. This documentary aired on the WWE Network. This documentary, was the Monday Night Wars.

For the uninitiated, the Monday Night War was a period from September 4th, 1995 t March 26th 2001, during which the TNT network aired WCW Monday Nitro, head to head against WWF Monday Night Raw. Considered by many fans to be wrestling’s greatest era, early on WCW was dominant, with a villainous Hulk Hogan leading the groundbreaking NWO faction. WWF later fought back, with it’s Attitude Era and new edgy stars like DX, the Rock, Mankind, and Stone Cold Steve Austin. Eventually WWF purchased WCW in early 2001, hence winning the Monday Night Wars.

The first episode features the background of the rivalry between Ted Turner and Vince McMahon, how Eric Bischoff became head of WCW and started the Monday Nitro program. The first episode of Nitro is highlighted, with it airing live from the Mall of America and the surprise appearance of Lex Luger.

The following episode features the NWO, which included the most shocking heel turn ever, Hogan going bad. His reluctance to turn heel is mentioned, as is how innovative and real life the story line felt.

At this point one of the weaknesses of the documentary becomes apparent. Every episode feels the need to spend 5-10 minutes recapping what we already knew, or at least learned in the first episode. So basically there could be up to 190 minutes of material you already heard, that’s almost like losing 3 episodes.

It’s interesting to see who appeared for an interview for this and who did not. We get Vince McMahon, Vince Russo, Lex Luger, Hogan, Nash, HBK. There are a few older clips of Vince, Bischoff, and others. However there are no interviews of Sting, Madusa, Chyna, and very little of the Undertaker. I can’t help but wonder what was a bigger factor in not having Chyna, her past relationship with HHH, or that she is a porn star during the now PG era of WWE. There’s an old interview from Ted Turner from 1998 where he talks about WCW. (This interview, often the same segment of it is played repeatedly throughout various episodes). An exclusive Ted Turner interview would have been gold.

Each episode is given a specific topic. The third episode is about the WWF Attitude Era, followed by episodes for DX, Foely, and Bret Hart. It was interesting to see how Bret and HBK were friends early on, when WWF started its “Youth movement.” It’s generalized how WCW didn’t use Hart well but it’s not followed up on specifically. (And they show Hart with the WCW belt.) An ECW episode follows telling how Vince invested in the company and how they kept losing their roster to WCW. An Austin episode airs before going back to WCW with the Cruiserweights (where see Benoit and hear his name said) and Goldberg, where the numbers of his undefeated streak are called into question, and CM Punk says no, in fact he was not and Austin Clone. Then we go back to WWF with the Rock.

The best episode is easily Diva’s gone wild, even though Madusa isn’t interviewed for it. After the Madusa incident, where she appeared on Nitro and threw the WWF women’s title in the garbage, the WWF legitimately did not have a women’s title for 3 years after this. Chyna is covered even though she wasn’t interviewed for this. They also cover Sunny and Sable and how the Diva’s evolved over time. (It should be said that WCW’s women’s division is given little to no coverage)

The following celebrity episode was very interesting, but the most disappointing episode was about Sting and the Undertaker and how neither of them jumped ship. This episode aired after Survivor Series of 14, where Sting finally made his WWE debut. A good portion of the episode is spent time speculating on why neither of them ever switched sides, and it simply boggles the mind why nobody just asked them. Again Sting does not appear on camera for this at all, Undertaker briefly appears in a few other episodes, but not this one. Why on Earth would they not simply just ask the guys? They both work for the company right now. For God sakes it’s not like they’re both dead!

While that was the most disappointing episode the following one was probably the dumbest. Fifteen episodes in and we keep getting the narrative that WCW lost because they didn’t build new stars. Now this episode tries to say how they did. They talk about the Giant (Big Show) and how he “beat” Hogan to become champion in his first ever match. They don’t mention how that match is considered one of the all-time goofiest things in wrestling, with the YET-TAY (big giant guy wrapped up like a mummy) coming to the ring and he and the Giant dry hump Hogan. Also not mentioned is how in the storyline the title gets vacated anyway and Macho Man wins it at the next PPV (ala WMIV) which was WW3, WCW’s attempt to out-do the Royal Rumble.

We get an episode on the Kliq, how one group of friends influenced both companies. The next to last two episodes are Mistakes on the Battlefield and the Fall of WCW. Here we see Bischoff’s frustrations in the later years and Russo’s tenure at WCW. The lawsuit between Hogan and Russo is mentioned but not covered much. The general disarray of WCW’s final days is covered, from the later gimmicks to the KISS appearance to the Viagra on a pole match. The Oklahoma gimmick mocking J.R. is ignored. Russo still defends putting the title on David Arquette, because it got a mention in USA today. They keep the traditional narrative of Nash and Hogan played politics and didn’t let new talent flourish, but we don’t really get Hogan and Nash’s side of the story. I would have liked some coverage on the Thursday night war too, when Smackdown and Thunder aired head to head.

The final episode covers the purchase of WCW by WWF, and how the Invasion angle was underwhelming due to the contract situations. It is mentioned how WCW had no TV deal, and it is suggested that WWF couldn’t air WCW programming on another network due to the nature of their contract with TNN (on which RAW aired at the time). However they did air Smackdown at this time so I would have like to have seen that clarified more.

The subsequent years of various WCW alumni appearing are covered, as is the return of Hogan/Hall/Nash to WWF and how they came in with their NWO gimmick. Interestingly they say there was this Executive Creative Control table that voted against bringing Hogan back, but Vince over ruled them.

There was a sports writer that appeared for this documentary, and he said that in the history of television, there’s never been two sports federations that went head to head. That was an interesting insight.

The Monday Night Wars is one of my personal obsessions, and because of that I knew a lot about it going into this. However, despite my criticisms above, it did offer a lot of insight into various aspects of that time. I would have liked to have seen a few things be elaborated on, but that’d probably be the case no matter what.

The Monday Night Wars documentary is a fun nostalgia trip that offered some good insights into wrestling’s greatest era. However, ultimately, as a documentary, it was a little disappointing. In conclusion, it’s obvious that someone needs to write a book about the Monday Night Wars, and that someone just might have to be me.

Woman in Black 2 moves forward in time from it’s predecessor, this time being set in 1941 during the air raids. During World War II while the Germans bombed London many children were sent off to the country side to be safe. This same historical event was also used as the beginning for The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe which started the Narnia series, and its last film adaptation played up more on the air raid background.

Unfortunately for these children they are sent off to a place more horrific than the magical land of Narnia. Two adult women take the children to the abandoned house from the first movie. The story focuses on one particular child whose just lost both his parents. He doesn’t speak, and only communicates through written notes.

Eerie events begin to unfold, largely centering around the mute child. One of the adult women has something revealed from her past that ties into the story. The body count is fairly low, and the third act provides a pretty interesting setting adding a minor twist to one of the characters.

It’s a sequel that stands on its own, which I like. You don’t have to see the first one to get this, and it could almost be it’s own film. It’s not as scary as the first one, but the first one maintained a sense of dread throughout, which is almost impossible. Still, this is a solid horror flick, and left me curious to where a part 3 could go.

There’s not much I can say about this David Fincher film without spoilers, but I wanted to at least briefly talk about what’s probably the best movie I’ll see this year.

Gone Girl is about a young couple, Nick and Amy. They’re both writers living in Missouri who used to live in New York City. It opens with Amy disappearing. Nick becomes a suspect after a few instances where his behavior appears odd, as well as prodding by the media. There’s a few strange circumstances, he appears to not know is wife’s friend, and there’s a few odd things about the crime scene.

The mystery itself get’s answered part way through, with the remainder of the film dealing with the fallout from the actual truth. We get an examination of celebrity culture, marriages, unreliable narrators, and the nature of the modern news media. Margo is Nick’s twin sister, and is his moral support throughout the movie. One moment I found highly disturbing is was when a cable news anchor woman suggested that these two have an incestuous relationship. Throughout the film talking heads on cable news make outlandish suggestions like this simply because they can.

Several characters in this film seem very disturbed. If there’s one criticism I have it’s that one character in particular immediately seemed messed up which sort of spoiled the mystery for me. Even the way this character spoke seemed otherworldly. Again I can’t say anymore without spoiling things.

Regardless, Gone Girl is pretty suspenseful throughout, and another great entry by Fincher.

TMNT the movie is the latest update of the franchise that started as a 1980s black and white indy comic, and later went on into a long running cartoon, accompanied by various video games, and even a few other movies at one point. This latest film opens with comic book like imagery showing the basics of the turtles origins. While it looked cool in the long run it was unnecessary as we get a story told through reporter April O Neil’s point of view. Ultimately this movie is April’s story of wanting to be a respectable reporter, which I enjoyed.

The Foot Clan, now a paramilitary like criminal army is terrorizing the city. April is a reporter covering ridiculous stories like fly by night fitness trainers etc while she desperately wants a real story. One night she catches the Clan being fought off by someone, and at first she presumes it’s a lone vigilante fighting back. When she discovers the actual truth, it of course makes it even harder for her boss, played by Whoopi Goldberg, to take her seriously. The phrase Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is mixed around a but, and we even get some fan service to the old rumor that they were going to be aliens in this movie. A character actually says that would be stupid.

The turtles themselves are true to how I remember them in the cartoon (The Turtle Van even shows up at the end). Leonardo is the leader, Donatello is the science/gadget whiz. His nerdiness is played up more and I liked that he was physically the smallest of the four. Michelangelo is the party dude I remember from the cartoon. He drops lots of nerd references like Star Wars, Batman, Marvel, etc, along with other jokes and humor. Raphael is the hot head who sometimes doesn’t get a long with the others. This could have been played up more because it culminates in a great emotional moment for him that should have had more impact. Turns out that April has a personal connection from her past to the turtles which tightens the narrative.

The villains plot involves something special about the Turtles which was different. The action scenes were done well. Though I have to say if you really think about it there’s no reason plot wise for Shredder’s armor to exist. One action scene in the subway honest to got brought back memories of Ron Perelman’s Vincent from the 1980s TV show Beauty and the Beast. The best action scene was definitely going down a snowy mountain in a semi truck.

TMNT is one of those movies where the concept is completely ridiculous, and it just takes that concept and runs with it. So all in all I enjoyed it.