DAREDEVIL — Marvel’s Daredevil (on Netflix) was to my mind one of the real standouts of this past year. They stayed pretty true to the title and Vincent D’Onofrio as The Kingpin was positively scary. It could well be the best thing D’Onofrio’s yet done.
Season two, where they changed showrunners, will be shaking things up with a faster pace, more romance, and some morally complex storytelling that introduces the controversial gun-toting super-antihero The Punisher.
When the series abruptly changed showrunners (never a good sign), I’ll admit to being more than a little concerned. The first season was TV’s first superhero show targeted exclusively to grown-ups and writer-producer Steve S. DeKnight pushed Marvel’s envelope with brutal violence and bold storytelling risks.
Early reports are that new showrunners Doug Petrie and Marco Ramirez retain what fans loved about the first year while also flooring the narrative accelerator. Remember how the first season waited until the end of the third episode to give fans a glimpse of D’Onofrio’s Kingpin (who isn’t even expected to appear this season)? The delay worked as the show focused on introducing its heroes and building up Kingpin’s sinister reputation. By contrast, season 2 opens with an action scene and very quickly introduces Frank Castle a.k.a. The Punisher (The Walking Dead’s Jon Bernthal). “The advantage of any sequel is you can dive right in,” Petrie says. “We hit the ground running and then we ran as fast as we f—ing could.”
As comic fans know, Castle is an ex-Special Forces soldier with a tragic past who becomes a New York vigilante. He has the same clean-up-the-streets mission as Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox), except he uses guns instead of beatdowns and quite simply murders every criminal he can find. Whether he’s a hero or a villain is left open to interpretation (and has long been argued both ways by fans online), but the first couple episodes will have many viewers supporting his techniques.
The Punisher is considered a divisive character because Marvel and D.C. superheroes, as a general rule, avoid ever using guns. Notable exceptions include Captain America when he was fighting in WWII and a few others like Hellboy and Deadpool. But Castle is like a walking NRA ad who hunts down and executes everyday street criminals and gang members, not just supervillains and their henchmen. Expect the show to compare him to Murdock as viewers are pressed to analyze the difference between the two.
“Viewers watching the show will be rooting for this guy with a gun but we’re also going to force people — the way we force Matt — to second-guess themselves,” Petrie says. “Taking lethal justice into your own hands in America in 2015 is tricky s–t. We have not shied away from the rich complicated reality of Now. If you’ve got a gun and you’re not the police you’re going to incite strong feelings. We’re stirring the pot and we’re aware of the headlines where we live and we’re trying to get people to think.”
Ramirez adds the team talked a lot about Taxi Driver’s famous malcontent Travis Bickle when shaping their version of the character. “He has a different moral code,” he says. “Matt is a devout Catholic — and you rarely see a character who’s a devotee anything on TV. Frank has Hammurabi’s Code. It’s like letting a great white shark into the water.”
Daredevil season 2 will have more passion as well. While the first season was relatively chaste, season 2 will get steamier as Matt gets closer to Karen (Deborah Ann Woll) and then his old college girlfriend resurfaces. You know, Elektra (Elodie Yung), which introduces another antihero into the mix, one that’s very different from the Jennifer Garner big screen version.
“Matt’s a deeply moral complicated guy and she’s just the best bad girlfriend you can possibly have,” Petrie says. “She does everything wrong and attractive, she’s his id, the wild side. Matt is always taming his wild side. Elektra just lets it out. He’s both repulsed and deeply drawn to that.”
However, the show will be less dark than the first season in one respect — literally. Season 1 had rooms that were sometimes so dimly lit that fans were squinting at their TVs, whereas there’s more clarity this time around. “It will still be dark, but we’ve added more layers,” Petrie says.
Still, the elephant in the room, however, is why D’Onofrio won ‘t appear. To me, he was the standout character in the whole show. They’re still filming, so anything is possible. Maybe to have him appear in the final episode of the season. I mean, he’s just got to come back.
While there’s no set start date for season two, it will return in 2016.
ELTON’S CRIB — Via the BBC News: “A once-famous recording studio in a French chateau is being refurbished and will reopen in 2016. The Chateau d’Herouville – where the original piano used by Elton John on Goodbye Yellow Brick Road has languished for more than 30 years in an attic.
Once upon a time there was a Honky Chateau.
That was the name that Elton John gave to one of his favorite studios – the Chateau d’Herouville.
In 1972 and 1973 three of his best-loved early albums were recorded in the loft of the 18th Century pile: Honky Chateau, Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player, and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.
Sir Elton was one of many British and American rock acts who came to Herouville in the early 70’s – earning it the nickname of “France’s Abbey Road”.
Just an hour outside Paris, it offered top-class recording facilities. But what also attracted the likes of David Bowie, T Rex, Cat Stevens, Pink Floyd – and later the Bee Gees, Richie Blackmore, Iggy Pop – was its lifestyle.
“Herouville was the original residential studio. It was a kind of hotel. The musicians didn’t just make music. They could sleep, eat, and live here. If they wanted to record in the middle of the night, that was fine,” says Eric Baert, who is mayor of the 600-strong village of Herouville.
“And the story goes that Michel Magne was pretty good at hospitality!”
Michel Magne is the central figure in the story of the Honky Chateau.
He was the composer and musician – well-known in France after writing scores for several hit films – who bought the chateau in 1962.
Set in the middle of the village, the chateau has two wings which once ran together but are now joined only by a wall. There is a large garden, and outbuildings set around an octagonal (and officially protected) stone drinking trough.
In the mid-19th Century, Chopin is said to have conducted his love affair with the writer George Sand here. That is why Magne named his main recording area – up in the eaves – the George-Sand.
At the end of the 1960’s, Magne had the idea of creating a new kind of studio – one where musicians would be freed from the rigid conservatism of the corporate system.
“People said I was mad because no-one would want to make the 30km (19 miles) journey from Paris to record in the middle of nowhere,” he said.
“But then they saw the groups arriving from America.”
Among the first to discover the charms of Herouville were the Grateful Dead.
In June 1971, they had been due to play at a free festival nearby, but it was rained off. As they were staying at the chateau, they instead decided to put on an impromptu concert in the gardens. Villagers provided the audience.
The concert was caught on film, showing the San Franciscans in peak form.
One of those watching (and dancing) was 17-year-old Marie-Claude Calvet. A Bardotesque schoolgirl, she had met Magne the year before while hitchhiking near Herouville. They were to marry in 1972.
“Those years were like a dream. It was magical to sit in the studio and watch these great artists like Elton John and Pink Floyd play. It was only many years later that I realized how lucky I had been,” she says.
The Dead concert stays in Marie-Claude’s mind as a highpoint.
Michel Magne was reluctant to use police as security, so the mayor agreed to lend the local fire brigade. Unbeknownst to the firefighters, the wine they drank had been lightly laced with LSD.
Many of them were later seen cavorting naked in the swimming pool.
“The next day we got up. The Grateful Dead had gone, but before they went they had cleaned up the entire garden. They were such nice guys,” she says.
Marc Bolan recorded The Slider and Tanx. Pink Floyd recorded Obscured by Clouds. Cat Stevens came for Catch Bull at Four. Uriah Heep did Sweet Freedom. David Bowie recorded Pin Ups and later – in 1977 – Low.
By that time though the heyday was over. Running the chateau was costing a fortune and Magne was a hopeless manager. The carefree atmosphere of the early 70’s was doomed. In 1974 Magne and Marie-Claude moved to the south of France, leaving the studios to be run by new hands.
For a few years they kept going. The Bee Gees came for Saturday Night Fever – recording much of the vocals in the stairwell because of its great acoustics – and later there were Sham 69 and Fleetwood Mac.
But Herouville continued to hemorrhage money. Pursued by creditors, Michel Magne became obsessed by the idea of returning to his beloved chateau. It was hopeless: the law was moving in. In 1984, he killed himself in a hotel room a few miles from his erstwhile home.
The chateau was abandoned. A developer planned to turn it into flats, but happily was blocked. The garden turned to jungle.
Periodically music fans would peer through the iron railings, trying to summon up the spirit of what was now a decaying ruin.
But today – more than 30 years on – the chateau is beginning to breathe again.
Four French friends with long experience in the music business have found the money to buy the chateau and start restoring the studios to their former glory. A first studio has been opened in the outbuildings, where they run training sessions for sound engineers, and the next stage will be the famous George-Sand.
Jean Taxis, Thierry Goracino, Pascal Besnard and Stephane Marchi know that the task ahead is a long and expensive one.
“We have been friends for 30 years, and for 30 years we have had a dream of building a place where expertise and creativity can be seamlessly associated,” says Marchi, who works in media finance in London.
“Ultimately we want to expand from sound recording to other mediums – writing, sculpting and painting. In everything we are inspired by the idea of recreating the state of mind that prevailed here in the early 70s.”
How would he define that state of mind? “Freedom.”
Today the gardens have been cleared so you can see the pool where once LSD-happy firemen dive-bombed with local lovelies. There is a gnarled tree which as a sapling was given to Michel Magne by a visiting Jane Fonda (fresh from Barbarella).
Inside the chateau, signs of life are returning. Jean Taxis lives with his wife on the first floor of one of the wings.
There are old acoustic tiles on the walls, and what look like mattresses hammered into the ceiling. But the sound is pure, and a specialist has said it needs little work to be back in business.
In the corner stands a grand piano, a Steinway. For more than half a century it has stood in this place, because it was Magne’s personal piano. These are the very keys on which – more than 42 years ago – Elton John embarked on the opening bars of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.”
SHORT TAKES — This week began with several pundits announcing the imminent cancellation of the Meredith Viera Show. Two of the bigger media-outlets reported it with almost too much fanfare and glee. Odd as Viera has always been one of the more level-headed talking heads out here. Her show’s second season was fine-tuned and works much better for her. And, Lance Bass, as a semi-regular contributor was a brilliant move. He brought a much-needed demo to the show. It’s tough out there in the afternoon-TV world. Your audience is an often hard-to-target one. Meredith Viera filled a void; and, in my opinion pretty darn well … Fox TV which essentially built the X-Filesand proudly rode the wave has done a terrific promo campaign for the upcoming X-Files six-episode re-boot beginning on Sunday, January 24. Monday they released their piece-de-resistance, a twenty-one-minute promo (titled The X-Files-Re-Opened) that not only delves fairly precisely into what the six episodes will be, but reveals a break between the two characters, Mulder and Scully, over their son William. To my memory, it was never really clear how that child really came to be; but, adoption is the most likely culprit. Posters on the various sites were pretty evenly divided over their presumed personal problems, as well as to what the shows should be like: more mythology … or, straight crime-of-the-week eps. The lengthy promo also includes interviews with David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Mitch Pileggi and the show’s creator Chris Carter. Also glimpsed were various other actors as well as some production people. I watched it several times and at one point the duo begin to chase a culprit who runs up a flight of stairs, which prompts Mulder to say, “I don’t do stairs anymore.” Carter opines that the six episodes also deal with age, as the team is now older … and, wiser? I was glued to the screen. Can’t wait for this one. See the trailer:
… One more Fargo item; I’m a few episodes behind in season two, but he one I watched ended with a just-mesmerizing version of “Man of Constant Sorrow” by Blitzen Trapper. Again, this second season is nothing short of brilliant. Here it is:
… Another year dwindles down and there’s no question that Donald Trump is the story of the year. People thought he’d be long gone by now; yet, he’s stronger than ever. Is he the right guy? I have the same serious questions as everyone else, but he’s engaged people like no one has in decades. Here’s to 2016 … see you back here Monday!!!
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