Blast Off #30: Black Panther & Captain Marvel lead Marvel’s Movie Rampage on DC

The Team Focus Blast Off is back, with Ernie Estrella making his triumphant return. From The Flash. Arrow, Gotham and Agents of SHIELD to the Black Panther, Captain Marvel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Avengers: Infinity War movies, we’re talking about the comics storm taking place on TV and in Film. How do you think the Film/TV war is stacking up between the two comics publishing behemoths?

Listen to the Team Focus Blast Off #30 with Bags Hooper and Ernie Estrella below:

Tune in regularly for more discussion by Subscribing to the Team Focus Blast Off on iTunes.

Follow @bagshooper and @ernieestrella on Twitter.

Arrow Season 2 Blu-ray – This is the Season Smallville Should have had

Warner Bros’ ambitious comic book adapted series, Arrow, took us on a journey of adventure, conspiracy and a crap load of action in its freshman season. In season one, we found security in our heroic vigilante, even if he wasn’t secure in whom he was or the kind of hero he wanted to be. Arrow Season 2 takes all of our comfort zones and squeezes them through the ringer. Deathstroke is in the mix as well as array of other villains. And the Green Arrow has got to put his inhibitions aside and grow his team. That’s right, Smallville fans. Arrow has pushed the story and adrenaline forward in a way we only wished could have happened by Smallville’s fifth season. Plus, the showrunners tossed in enough comic book Easter eggs to make even the staunchest fan giddy with excitement.

What did the producers get right in Season 2? The first thing you’ll notice is that Oliver Queen’s hair doesn’t look like a bad toupee. His hair was painfully distracting in all the season one flashbacks. Thankfully, without the hair waving about in the wind, you get to enjoy all the great action on the island.

This season, the flashbacks actually feel like a self-contained story. We really get a chance to get inside the psyche of Slade Wilson and his inevitable transformation into Deathstroke. His relationship with Oliver becomes as close and strained as Oliver’s tenuous relationship with his mother. By creating this long term, symbiotic relationship between Slade and Arrow, the producers were able to give more weight to their falling out.

While Slade’s story was top notch, Roy Harper’s story was touch and go. After getting injected by what can only be called DC Comics’ version of a super soldier serum, Roy has to learn how to balance his new found strength without taking out the mental stresses of the serum physically on his friends, and especially Oli’s sister, Thea.

But, Roy isn’t the only powered-up ally on Arrow’s team. Sara joins the roster as Black Canary. With all these heroes in the mix, one has to wonder where does Diggle fall into play – especially with Oliver basically having the martial arts skill of Batman (an attribute that was never present in the comic)? Unfortunately, Diggle takes a back seat this season. He’s more there to offer Oli sage advice, whenever Oli gets a little too heroic for his own good or fails to separate his personal life from his vigilante life. However, he does get a few brief moments to shine when Amanda Waller’s Suicide Squad starts to take shape.

Quentin Lance is also an oddity this season. At first, it seemed he would become more like Star City’s version of Commissioner Gordon. However, he ends up being more of a needless plot device to create an additional riff between Oliver, the Arrow and Laurel.

Regardless of a few pitfalls in character overload, Arrow continues to pulsate with enough high-velocity tension to keep you glued to the screen week-to-week. This is simply one of the most intense drama and action series on broadcast TV that you need to tune into, if you haven’t already done so.

The Blu-ray release adds several bonus features that you’ll want to dive into. While I do enjoy when studios include special features that involve cast sit-downs, I prefer to see more off-the-cuff interviews with third parties. You get to see the cast in a different light – even if some of the answers are canned responses. However, what I do love are bonus features that show how the magic of a series is executed. Arrow is one of those shows that hinges on cool stunts and special effects. Even though there’s a reality to Star City, there are a few fantastical elements that we tune in every week to see.

There are two great bonus features to check out on this blu-ray release. The first is the visual effects of Arrow. We get to hear from the visual effects team and learn how they helped bring season two to life. The second special feature is the wirework of arrow. This is great since Arrow is basically the Batman of Star City. So you get to see how all these intense stunts are performed so that the talents live to perform another day.

Arrow Season 3 premieres on Oct 8 at 8/7C on the CW.

Arrow: Season 2 [Blu-ray]
Starring: Stephen Amell, Katie Cassidy, David Ramsey, Willa Holland, Emily Bett Rickards
Studio: Warner Home Video
Release Date: September 16, 2014

Rating: 8.5 / 10

‘The Originals’ Blu-ray – First Season Excelled in Paternal Relationships

Whenever a spinoff is announced, fans wonder if the new show will simply reuse the plot, theme and character dynamics of the core series. Successful spinoffs like The Jeffersons and Frasier were nothing like their forefathers All in the Family and Cheers respectively. Others like Sex in the City’s spinoff The Carrie Diaries, which targeted a totally different audience and serve as a prequel, were doomed from day one.

So when the CW announced that it would spin off The Originals from The Vampire Diaries, there was some apprehension. After too many repetitive shocks, The Vampire Diaries was already starting to lose its edge, an edge that was due in large part to the original family. The show stopped being about character dynamics and more about who would die next and then come back to life through some miracle lore. Then, the whole Stelena vs. Delena back-and-forth dynamic started to wear numb. How would The Originals be able to carve out its own niche?

The series focuses on the original family, consisting of Klaus and Elijah Mikaelson. Although Rebekah is part of the family, she’s only a supporting character (which is a little weak sauce). In the pilot, Klaus heads down to New Orleans and has to deal with a bunch of witches that have hexed Hayley, the mother of his unborn hybrid-werewolf child. Elijah follows him down to NOLA, hoping that this baby will be the key to Klaus’ salvation and the rebirth of the Mikaelson family as a loving unit.

Unfortunately, right away we get the hint of a love triangle. Elijah falls in love with Haley and we’re all thinking, time for another episode of The Vampire Diaries. Thankfully, that’s not the case. The first season focuses on the salvation of Klaus. While Elijah does develop feelings for Haley, Klaus never develops the same type of love for the mother of his child. Instead, Klaus develops a protective, familial love for Haley. As a Vampire Diaries viewer, once you realize that this seemingly orchestrated love triangle will never be, you can enjoy the series.

Now, it’s only fair to say that this series does drum up some old villains from TVD, which can potentially be laborious. However, the freshman season focuses more on Klaus trying to retake New Orleans from his adopted vampire son, Marcel. This is the relationship that really sets the series apart from TVD. It also adds another layer of depth to Klaus’ already intricate personality.

The Originals explores tests the many layers of family bonds, both blood bonds and those that develop through time and experience. There are witches, vampires and werewolves. And you’ll get to see them all interact in a struggle for survival. Of course, there are a lot of shocks since the producers are the same as those on TVD. But for right now, it’s really the dueling family dynamics that make the show interesting. Sure, the original family has its own family beef to deal with that does at times feel like a TVD rehash. But when the focus turns Klaus, Marcel and Davina (Marcel’s adopted witch prodigy), The Originals truly excels. Also, the witches and the werewolves finally get to show off some badassery, which is reason enough to watch.

The Originals Season 2 premieres Oct 6 at 8/7C on The CW.

The Originals: Season 1 [Blu-ray]
Starring: Joseph Morgan, Daniel Gillies, Claire Holt, Phoebe Tonkin, Charles Michael Davis, Danielle Campbell
Studio: Warner Home Video
Release Date: September 2, 2014

Rating: 8 / 10

Black Dynamite creators talk new movie, ‘Arrow’ and racial challenges in TV & Film

Recently, we spoke with the creative team behind Black Dynamite: Carl Jones (The Boondocks), Michael Jai White (voice of Black Dynamite) and Byron Minns (voice of Bullhorn).

We cover a lot of topics in this interview, from the upcoming Black Dynamite sequel and season 2 of the animated series to the challenges black actors face in TV and Film.

Here are some of the highlights:
0:30: Life in the writer’s room of Adult Swim’s Black Dynamite
3:56: Michel Jai White on Bronze Tiger vs Oliver Queen showdown
5:50: New Black Dynamite movie in the works
7:07: White discusses the challenges black characters face in TV and film
9:07: Jones’ speaks on the problems of “slavery” as the new genre
12:47: Celebrity appearances and guest-stars in Black Dynamite Season 2

Big thank you to Jones, White and Minns for their honest and thoughtful insight into the industry.

You can catch up on Black Dynamite Season 1 now available on Blu-ray and DVD.

Black Dynamite Season 2 will premiere this October.

Check Out Grant Gustin’s New Threads as ‘The Flash’

Grant Gustin Flash

While fanboys find something new to debate about the Man of Steel sequel seemingly every week, they are singing ‘Kumbaya’ when it comes to CW’s TV versions of their comics, especially the adaptation of Green Arrow in the hit series, Arrow and it’s already been used to introduce TV viewers to a larger DC universe by launching a spinoff show, The Flash, whose pilot is currently in pre-production. It stars Grant Gustin (Glee, 90210) and produced by Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg and David Nutter, the team who brought us Arrow. DC Entertainment Chief Creative Officer and one of the modern-day writers who has a long and legendary run on the character, Geoff Johns is involved in co-writing the pilot with Berlanti and Kreisberg.

Gustin made his debut as Barry Allen, AKA the Flash, in two episodes of Arrow, The Scientist (208) and Three Ghosts (209). Now DC Entertainment has released this first image of Gustin in the classic silver age Flash costume as designed by multiple Oscar-winning costume designer, Colleen Atwood, who did more stellar work from what we can see in this released photo. It’s just a teaser, but it gives more faith–a major commodity for fans of comic books–that the upcoming pilot is on the right path. Sporting a darker shade of red than the comics, this skin tight design looks to fit in line with Atwood’s other work on Arrow.

This comes off the heels of the recent casting news for CW’s other DC Comics TV show in production, Gotham in early February that included Robin Lord Taylor as Oswald Cobblepot/The Penguin, Sean Pertwee as Alfred Pennyworth, Zabryna Guevara as Captain Essen, Ben McKenzie as James Gordon, Erin Richards as Barbara Kean, and Donal Logue as Det. Harvey Bullock. This series is rumored to be inspired by the popular series, Gotham Central and act as series about the Gotham police department during the time after Bruce Wayne’s parents are murdered.

So as the world turns and burns prematurely for the big screen universe, the small screen world of the DCU is gaining steam.

7 Focus Points on the ‘Arrow’ Mid-Season Return

Arrow Season 2 Episode 10: Blast Radius

Arrow: Blast Radius
After Arrow concluded for 2013, with an excellent (albeit slightly modified from comic canon) introduction to Barry Allen, fans have been clamoring to see what’s next for our beloved “Hood” … or “Archer” or “Arrow” or “Green Arrow” or whatever he’s going by these days.

We’ve had a chance to check out the mid-season return of Arrow. And we’re delighted to say that it keeps up all the tension established in the first half of season two.

Here are seven focus points on tonight’s episode with minimal spoilers:

* The episode begins a few weeks after Barry’s laboratory accident. The lightning landed him in a coma in Central City. Hopefully, we’ll actually get to see him dip into the speed force this season.

* Sebastian Blood is stepping further into the limelight. We now know that he’s working directly with Slade, aka Deathstroke. However, we’re still waiting to see what their actual partnership entails and what that means for Oli.

* Viewers can expect some pretty awesome stunt motorcycle driving that would make the Sons of Anarchy and Batman jealous.

* Oli is in a bad mood – again… and it will affect the team. He also makes a small – very small – emotional confession through his usual stoic demeanor.

* We’re going to start to learn more about what’s going on with Roy. Look out for parallels with Roy and Slade.

* Laurel continues to feel more like Lana Lang (Kristin Kreuk) on Smallville. The whimpering and self-pity continues and it will probably put her in harms way when she makes an important discovery.

* One of the great things about comic book adaptations is watching a new origin story unfold. We’ll start to learn a little bit about Blood’s upbringing.

Katrina Law Joins ‘Arrow’ as Ra’s al Ghul lovechild

If you were a fan of Starz Spartacus, then you have even more reason to watch the CW’s Arrow.

Katrina Law will be joining her Spartacus compatriots, Manu Bennett and Cynthia Addai-Robinson, this season on Arrow.

Law has been tapped to play Nyssa Raatko (aka Nyssa al Ghul), a lovechild Ra’s al Ghul had on his journeys to Russia.

Nyssa al Ghul is Talia al Ghul’s half sister. So, where the heck is Talia?

As if there weren’t enough Batman parallels on Arrow, most fans believe Talia is Summer Glau. This would make Talia’s reveal on Arrow very similar to Marion Cotillard’s reveal in The Dark Knight Rises. The assumption makes sense. In both Arrow and The Dark Knight Rises, a mystery business woman is added to the mix in order to bail out our heroic businessman.

Nyssa will debut as an integral member of the League of Assassins and will come to Star City to bring back the Black Canary.

Vertigo is back in play in ‘Arrow’ Season 2 Episode 7: State v. Queen

It’s time for the trial of Moira Queen on Arrow.

We’re all waiting to learn what mysterious “other” secrets Moira has been hiding that would make her want to choose the death penalty over a long court case.

In Episode 2.7, The Count will return to Star City. Apparently, that break from Iron Heights prison, after the quake, freed more than the Doll Maker. For some reason, this reminds me of the Batman: Arkham City and Arkham Origins story line. Unfortunately for Diggle, he may be the first one to get contaminated with Vertigo’s vile toxin. Here’s a clip:

Check out the photos from “State v. Queen.” It looks like Laurel will be taking over for ADA Adam Donner in the state’s case against Moira Queen.

Photos feature Stephen Amell, Willa Holland, Colton Haynes, Seth Gabel, Dylan Bruce, Susanna Thompson, Teryl Rothery and Katie Cassidy.

esoTarik Episode #7: Arrow isn’t Batman

If there’s one show that has surprised us all by how good it is, that show is Arrow, starring Stephen Amell, on The CW.

But no show is perfect. In the latest esoTarik, it’s time to go under “The Hood” of Arrow and work out some of our questions and minor nitpicks regarding the show.

Exactly how good is Oliver Queen (aka Green Arrow) in a fight? Can he beat Batman? Is there any limit to the fighting skills he acquired while on the island?

Watch this episode of esoTarik and let us know your thoughts on The Hood…or Arrow… or Green Arrow… or whatever it is they’re calling him in Star City these days.

Note: this video contains minor spoilers through Arrow Season 2 Episode 5.

Be sure to tune back into BuzzFocus every week for more episodes of esoTarik.

‘The Vampire Diaries’ Season 5 Episode 7 Lead-in: Stop with the Dopplegangers… Please

Raise your hand if your enjoying the addition of Janina Gavankar, as Tessa, to The Vampire Diaries.

Okay, am I the only one? When new characters are introduced to the Mystic Falls mythos, I’m always excited. There’s only so much rehashing of previous story arcs and relationship triangles that can be achieved with a small cast – especially one where everyone seems to die so frequently.

Last year, we got Connor – the best damn hunter Mystic Falls had ever seen and one of the best character additions since Klaus. Unfortunately, we lost Connor before Season 4’s mid-season finale. I can only hope that Tessa survives a little longer. She may be crazy, but I like strong female characters that can pull some strings.

Sadly, I’m not holding my breath. We’ve got a touch of doppleganger (or triple-ganger as the case may be with these so-called “shadow-selves”) overload in Mystic Falls. First Silas is Stefan and now Amara is Elena? As Caroline would say, “Seriously?”

The story has become too tied to the whole Stefan, Damon and Elena love drama. Let Damon be with Elena and just be done with it. Introduce new stories. Let new characters have a chance to live and impact existing characters – without dying. Now, that would have worked if The Originals had more time to breath before they got their own TV series. So we’re back to square one in Mystic Falls. It’s starting to remind me of Gossip Girl and the whole Chuck and Blair situation that ricocheted back-and-forth ad nauseum.

So, Dear Vampire Diaries writers…

Let it go. Please. You did such a great job in past seasons. Let’s not fall victim to a lack of creativity because we know you have it in you to be great.

Check out the gallery below from “Death and the Maiden”. Tessa’s got blood on her neck. Hopefully she doesn’t die as part of November sweeps. Send one of the dopplegangers back to the other side and bring back Bonnie. Ghosts are boring.