Thursday, December 25, 2014

Jesse's "Pliny The Elder" extract clone with Brettanomyces | Chad'z Homebrew Reviews #42

It's been a long time since I last reviewed a homebrew. Jesse recently brewed a Pliny the Elder extract kit, but he fermented it with Brett to see what would happen. What happened was an awesome homebrew!

Here's a link to the homebrew recipe I was referring to: http://www.eckraus.com/blog/pliny-the-elder-clone-beer-recipe-all-grain-extract/

Friday, December 12, 2014

My thoughts on "Gotham" so far

I was pretty stoked when I heard about Gotham – a live-action TV show taking place in a pre-Batman Gotham City. With the success of the Christopher Nolan Batman films as well as Marvel’s X-Men and Avenger family of films, it’s no surprise that a major network would take a chance on a television series based on a comic book. Only, that it’s not really a strict adaptation of the Batman mythos. In fact, Gotham is quite obviously “inspired by” the comics, rather than “based on” them. Setting the show in Gotham City before the arrival of Batman enables the show to concentrate on “normal” people, though plenty of unusual criminal elements seem to crop up in every episode.

The show centers on Detective Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) and his surly partner Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue). It’s quite similar to the Nolan Batverse in that the entire police department is corrupt; they all answer to crime boss Carmine Falcone (John Doman); and there’s even intra-departmental “turf wars,” as seen whenever Major Crimes Unit officers Renee Montoya (Victoria Cartagena) and Crispus Allen (Andrew Stewart-Jones) bump into Gordon and Bullock.

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The look of the show is also very Nolan-esque, though it seems like the majority of the scenes take place in the day (though, to be fair, it’s never sunny and almost always raining). It doesn’t have the obvert studio lot look as seen in the Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher movies.

It’s clear Fox wants Gotham to appeal to the non-comic book reader so that you don’t have to be intimately familiar with the history of Batman in order to follow the show (though there are plenty of subtle references peppered throughout the series). That’s probably why they set it in the time immediately after Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) witnesses his parents’ murder in a back alley. In fact, this is the overarching plot point to the entire series. It’s handled much differently here than in previous incarnations of live-action Batman. I have a feeling this will be a Lost-type mystery that will change and evolve as the show progresses without ever being solved.

The first episode concentrates on the Wayne murders. Gordon and Bullock are lead to believe they were hapless victims of an ex-con on parole just trying to get by. It becomes clear that this was never the case and whoever shot the Waynes actually assassinated them and made it look like an ordinary mugging gone wrong. But who would want them dead? Cui bono?

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And while that may be the one plot device that moves the series along, there’s still plenty of sub-plots to attract your attention. Some are more interesting than others, in fact – there may be a few too many of them as a whole. Let’s run down the list:
  • Bullock is clearly a crooked cop and Jim Gordon always plays by the rules. They have almost a husband-and-wife relationship in that Gordon is constantly trying to get Bullock to change his ways (and eventually is successful in doing so).
  • Jim’s girlfriend Barbara (Erin Richards) is Renee Montoya’s ex-lover, but Jim doesn’t know this. She often plays the damsel-in-distress role, or the why-won’t-you-let-me-in role. She’s a cliché character and they have a cliché relationship. She exists for little more than melodrama, but at least she’s used sparingly.
  • Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett-Smith) is one of Carmine Falcone’s underlings (one among many). She is a sociopathic witch who will stop at nothing to get what she wants. We’ve seen this type of character countless times in crime dramas – the lieutenant who is constantly vying for the alpha dog role (and constantly failing). In one aspect, this character is annoying because she’s so familiar. But on the other hand, it’s quite original to see this role in the form of a sexy black woman. Pinkett-Smith is by far the best actor on the show and she really owns this role – give her an Emmy, please!gotham-fish-mooney
  • Oswald Cobblepot aka “Penguin” (Robin Lord Taylor) is a bumbling hood who somehow wound up in the company of organized crime. Much like Fish Mooney, he really only cares about himself, and he too is a master conspirator who is constantly playing many sides against each other. He’s an evil genius to be sure, though his character is a tad difficult to believe since it’s live action (why would an organized crime gang keep him in their company? He really has no tangible skills and he’s physically handicapped. He’s practically useless).
  • Selina Kyla aka “Cat” (Camren Bicondova) is a homeless teenage girl with an A+ in street smarts. She claims to have seen the face of the Wayne murderer before he put his mask on. But she’s also a pathological liar – a trait that will land her in hot water throughout the series. She has a crush on Bruce Wayne, which is a little creepy as she appears to be about five years older than him and he’s still in his pre-pubescent years.
I’ve noticed that there’s something of a formula to the way each show’s story plays out. It seems to go like this:
  • Opening scene: the establishment of the show’s central villain, always shrouded in mystery.
  • First act: Gordon and Bullock investigate and a huge clue always lands in their lap.
  • Second act: Major action scenes with Gordon and Bullock apprehending the villain… or who they think the villain is.
  • Third act: It turns out the villain they captured in the second act wasn’t actually the real villain, or it was and there’s a lot more to the villain’s M.O. than meets the eye.
  • Closing scene: Plot twist and/or cliffhanger.gotham-arkham-asylum-jpg
Gotham seems to be trying to play it straight when it comes to the police work (i.e. detective investigation, forensics, and all those tropes you see on shows like C.S.I., Law & Order and N.C.I.S.) However, when it comes to the actual villains and the action sequences, it opts for the more “comic booky” (for lack of a better term) approach. There’s a lot of rooftop chases; car chases; shoot-outs; dark and abandoned warehouses and industrial buildings; and of course plenty of martial arts. Sometimes it complements the story; other times it’s over-the-top. I don’t watch those other crime dramas enough to know if these action sequences are comparable to what appears on them, but in the context of this show they at least don’t seem out of place.

Of course, throughout the entire series there are a lot of sub-plots going on, mostly involving the Penguin, Fish Mooney, Falcone, the mayor (Richard Kind), and the other crime boss - Salvatore Maroni (David Zayas) all fighting, spying on, and backstabbing each other. In fact, sometimes I find these plot elements more interesting than the main “good guys versus bad guys” plot. It’s melodramatic to be sure, but it’s comic book melodrama – you don’t see that on primetime network television too often.

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I have to say that overall I am enjoying the series, but I do not love it. I’ll be curious to see where it goes with the over-arching stories, and I’ll also be hoping for some better villains.
What do you think of it?

NOTE: For my thoughts on each individual episode, check out my series of vlogs embedded below: