Song Spotlight: Haven’t We Been Here Before, By Styx

Styx’s 1983 concept album Kilroy Was Here accomplished a few things. It brought the band new found popularity with the highly successful music video for the song Mr. Roboto. At the same time it split the band’s fan base. To this day many Styx fans dislike the musical direction that the band took with Kilroy Was Here. And ultimately the album led to the demise of the band in 1984.

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I will go on record and state that I truly love this album. I even love the much maligned track Mr. Roboto. For me it’s a fun, yet dramatic song with a great vocal by Dennis DeYoung. On the plus side, Kilroy Was Here contains some of the best music that the band ever produced. On the negative side, the album is far too short and the concept is not fully fleshed out. The album’s storyline is not clear or easy to follow from song to song. Overall it is a very solid album, however the band missed a big opportunity to put out a great concept album.

The latter half of the album finds a batch of songs that are among my favorite from the band. Haven’t We Been Here Before is one of those songs. The song finds Tommy Shaw and Dennis DeYoung elegantly harmonizing in a rare duet. Written by Tommy Shaw, it is one of the band’s most beautiful songs.

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I absolutely love Tommy Shaw’s vocals on this track. They are delicate, and filled with desperate emotion. During the chorus when he’s joined by Dennis DeYoung their harmonies are achingly beautiful. Styx as a band were known for exceptional vocal harmonies. This song really took things to a new and different level vocally.

Musically I can not say enough about the subtle brilliance on display throughout this song. Tommy holds the down the rhythm with his always steadily strummed acoustic guitar. Dennis DeYoung’s subtle keyboards add to the song’s dramatic feel. As the song progresses a slightly overdriven electric guitar enters and adds to the musical layers. The ever reliable Panozzo brothers hold down the foundation on bass and drums

The guitar solo contains the album’s most progressive rock moment. Tommy lays down a melodic and majestic sounding guitar solo. The rhythm section plays a musical figure that recalls the band’s best album, The Grand Illusion. This brief moment really elevates an already emotional and dramatic song.

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It’s such a shame that the band broke up after this album. Musically they tapped into something refreshing and different with Kilroy Was Here. As a fan I feel that the songs Just Get Through This Night, Double Life and Haven’t We Been Here Before are among the best written by the band. I would have loved it if Styx had recorded a whole album in the vein of these songs. I’ve always wondered what a follow up album would have sounded like. When this line up did reform in 1995, minus drummer John Panozzo, they had all moved on in other directions musically. Any hopes of more music akin to Kilroy Was Here seem to be long gone.

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Perhaps one day Dennis DeYoung and his band will play the whole Kilroy Was Here album live. I am sure that he has learned from the missteps of the Kilroy tour in 1983. No theatrics, no acting or prerecorded tracks. Just a fully live version of the album from start to finish. I feel that this album is too good to be left unplayed. I’m looking to Dennis DeYoung because there is no way that the current version of Styx will play it. Perhaps one day.

Troy T.

Casting An X-Men Movie, My Way

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I am a big fan of the X-Men movie franchise, especially the first two X-Men movies.  They are far from perfect movies, but overall they are quite enjoyable. Director Bryan Singer and his crew did a lot of things right. However, there were a lot of missed opportunities and many questionable decisions across the whole X- Franchise. Although some of the casting was perfect, enough of the choices were suspect.

Take a journey with me across time as I attempt too cast a better X-Men movie.  This  version would feature a slight variation on one of the team’s classic lineups.  It would feature Cyclops, Phoenix, Storm, Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Colossus and Sprite. Although he has been overused in the X-Men movie series I would go with Magneto as the villain.

In order to cast this movie properly I would require a time machine. Not only would the casting depend on certain actors.  It would also depend on them at different stages of their careers.

To really do this great comic book franchise justice on the big screen I would bring in The Russo Brothers to direct.  They have proven with their work on the Captain America movies that they are fully capable of handling extreme action sequences as well as serious drama.  I do love a lot of what Bryan Singer did with the franchise. His involvement would add so much to this movie as well. Now, on to the cast.

Hugh Jackman as Logan/Wolverine

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There is no change needed here, Hugh Jackman is the perfect man for the job. To this day I still find it hard to believe that Dougray Scott was originally cast in this role. For this film I would opt for Jackman as he appeared in The Wolverine movie from 2013.  He was at his peak physical condition in this film.

Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier/Professor X

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Patrick Stewart was born to play this character. As great as he was on Star Trek: The Next Generation as Captain Picard, I know many were thinking the same thing that I was. This man absolutely needed to play Professor X one day. Is there a better example of perfect casting?

Iman as Ororo Munroe/Storm

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From the moment that I saw her in Star Trek 6: The Undiscovered Country, I thought to myself, “That’s Storm”. Many felt that Angela Bassett would have portrayed a great Storm. I am sure she would have done great in the role. But my perfect Storm would be Mrs. David Bowie

Rutger Hauer as Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto

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I love Ian Mckellen’s performances as Magneto. He was one of the highlights of the X-Men movies. However, I feel that Rutger Hauer embodies Magneto so much more, especially physically. In the 1980’s watching Hauer in movies like Blade Runner and Ladyhawke I always envisioned him as Magneto. For this film imagine Hauer in his early 60’s, but as fit as he was in Blade Runner.

Brent Spiner as Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler

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While watching Spiner portray Data on The Next generation two thoughts always crossed my mind: 1) Data was this Star Trek’s Spock and 2) Spiner would be the perfect Nightcrawler. Picture a leaner, meaner 1980’s Spiner.

Jonathan Frakes as Scott Summers/Cyclops

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I really enjoyed James Marsden’s portrayal of Cyclops. However I do not feel that the character was written properly and he was under utilized. Once again all those years ago, as I watched Jonathan Frakes on The Next Generation I thought, he would be a great Cyclops.  In the X-Men comic books Cyclops led the team with a commanding presence.  This was never really the case in the movies.  I always liked the dynamic on The Next Generation between Captain Picard and Commander Riker.  It reminded me of the dynamic between Professor X and Cyclops, in the comic books.  Picture a lean and mean 1980’s Frakes.

Daniel Cudmore as Piotr Rasputin/Colossus

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The all to brief appearance of Colossus in X2 is one of the highlights of the entire X-Men movie franchise. The fact that he was not utilized more in X2 is criminal. I always found it odd that Colossus was not cast in the X-Men movies from the start.  Cudmore was perfect as he appeared in X2.

Margot Robbie as Jean Grey/ Phoenix

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Of all the characters here, this was the hardest one for me to cast. No actresses really stood out to me as an obvious choice. After much thought I do believe that Margot Robbie would be great for the role. Femke Janssen was a really good Jean Grey and Phoenix, but she lacked a strong physical presence.

Natalie Portman as Kitty Pryde/Sprite

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Obviously I’m going with a very young teenage Sprite, as she appeared when she first joined the X-Men in the comic books. Imagine a very young Natalie Portman from the early 1990’s.

There you have it, my X-Men cast. Thank you for taking the time to indulge my X-Men fantasy.  Overall this is a movie franchise that should be amazing. But in reality the overall results have been mixed. With Hugh Jackman retiring his claws and the lackluster X-Men: Apocalypse the future is not looking very bright.  This is a movie franchise in need of an X-treme makeover.

Troy T.

DC And Marvel TV Midseason Roundup

Many shows on television are currently  in the midst of a Winter break. This feels like a good time to give a brief overview of the DC and Marvel television shows that I currently watch. I have put them in order of favorite to least favorite, based only on the current season. This is not to say that I dislike any of the shows listed.  I enjoy them all  for different reasons.  Beware there are many spoilers ahead!

Arrow

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Arrow is back on track! Wow!!! This season has been an extremely pleasant surprise after a lackluster and utterly disappointing season 4. Stephen Amell has been the glue on this show. One of the great things about him is that he is just as compelling to watch whether he is the Green Arrow or Oliver Queen.

For me the show was at it’s best when Team Arrow was just Arrow, Diggle and Felicity. I do understand the desire to expand the team and grow Arrowverse. However, the more metahumans and costumed characters that appear do pull the once reality grounded show closer to a living comic book. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but some of  the choices may not be the best ones for this show.   I am choosing to go with the flow of the show.

Overall the newest version of Team Arrow works. However the incredibly hardheaded and impatient Wild Dog may one day wear out his welcome on the show. Ragman is just so cool, no issues here. I was really getting into Artemis, but a great plot twist revealed that she is not who she said she was. I have a feeling that she may come around, maybe. Curtis has gotten less annoying, however the code name of Mr. Terrific just does not work in real life.

The two villains this season have been a breath of fresh area. Damien Darhk was a great villain last season, however I do not feel that Arrow and the use magic were the best of combinations. The introduction of Tobias Church, with his incredible fighting skills and brass knuckles, was a return to form. And the reveal that Prometheus, another masked archer, was the real villain of Season Five was a great surprise.

This season has done so many things right, it’s amazing. Oliver as Mayor, his new love interest, a new and improved mask for Spartan and an engaging flashback storyline. Speaking of the flashbacks, who had the absolutely brilliant idea to cast Dolph Lungren? He has been fantastic, this man can really act when given the opportunity. I hope to see a lot more of his character as the season progresses. And the mid-season ended on quite a cliffhanger!

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.

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It’s incredible how this show continues to improve and mature with each season. After an enjoyable, but slightly underwhelming, first season this show has really skyrocketed to it current great state. One of the major turning points of the whole series was the introduction of Mack. He has added so much to the team and to the show. He is an incredibly physical presence and his character brings so much richness to the show.

There are so many interesting plots and subplots happening this season. The most obvious being the introduction of Ghost Rider. When this was first announced I was not excited at all. I did not see the correlation between Ghost Rider and S.H.I.E.L.D. I stand corrected, what a fantastic storyline it turned out to be. The new director of S.H.I.E.L.D, played by the great actor Jason O’Mara, being an Inhuman was a twist. Daisy/Quake’s new gritty and goth persona. Doctor Radcliffe’s secret project, AIDA, and all of it’s potentially harmful ramifications leading into the next story arc Life Model Decoy.

Of all the shows on this list S.H.I.E.L.D is far and away the one that has grown and improved the most.

Gotham

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Let me make a confession. Last season I was secretly hoping that Gotham would get cancelled. The show veered so far off track that I was losing interest. There was just enough there to keep me curious about the overall storyline. But I didn’t really want to have to sift through the dreck to discover what was going to happen next.

When Gotham was first announced I really did not see a reason for the show. Once again I was quickly proven wrong. Season One produced a surprisingly engaging show. Ben McKenzie as James Gordon and David Mazouz as a young Bruce Wayne quickly won me over. Jada Pinkett Smith was mesmerizing as Fish Mooney.

Sad to say that many of the things that made Season One so great were lacking in Season Two. The second season spent far too much time dealing with Arkham Asylum, Hugo Strange and his experiments. Plus the level of violence and gore was escalating far too much. Was this a show based on comic books or was it a horror movie?

This season, thankfully, the gore has been minimized and the emphasis put back on great storylines and character development. That being said, whose bright idea was it to turn the Penguin into a lovesick schoolboy pining away for the very heterosexual Riddler? Speaking of the Riddler, his character continues to be one of the highlights of the show. The Mad Hatter storyline and it continuing after effects has been quite interesting. It’s effects on Captain Barnes, played by one of my favorite actors Michael Chiklis, have been bittersweet. His story arc was great, however as a result it looks like he may no longer be on the show. I do hope that this is not the case.

The focus on great stories and deeper character development has really reignited my interest in Gotham this season. I hope that the show can continue on this track going forward.

The Flash

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So far a great, but slightly uneven season. The ramifications of Flashpoint just keep unfolding. This is an all-encompassing storyline that if handled wrong could have been a disaster. Well, so far so good. Grant Gustin as Barry Allen/ The Flash continues to excel. I must say that I have never been 100% happy with his costume, but Gustin really makes it work.

Just like the prior shows mentioned, so many great plots and subplots going on here. Caitlin Snow emerging as a metahuman. Wally West’s long journey to becoming Kid Flash. A new love interest for Joe West. The introduction of Julian Albert and his reveal as Doctor Alcemy. The introduction of the very Transformer like speed god Savitar. There is a lot going on in Central City this season! The Flash has been excellent since season one and, so far, that trend is continuing.

Supergirl

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I was a big fan of the first season of Supergirl. Melissa Benoist was fantastic in the lead role She was given the opportunity to regularly flex her muscles by fighting a wide array of super powered criminals and aliens. Calista Flockhart was such a strong presence as Cat Grant. She really helped to keep the show focused and grounded.

Season Two began strong with the unexpectedly cool Tyler Hoechlin portraying Superman/Clark Kent. But as the season has progressed I feel that the overall quality of the show has slipped a bit.

There are definite positives this season. The introduction of Mon-El, Lena Luther and James Olsen’s emergence as The Guardian have really helped the show. Other storylines include deeper character development for J’onn J’onzz and the slowly unfolding mysteries of Cadmus. All of these plotlines have been big pluses.

But everything about Season Two has not been a hit with this fan. The loss of Cat Grant, Maxwell Lord and Alex Danver’s all consuming identity crisis storyline have helped to weaken a once great show. Another negative is the writers apparent desire to show us that she may be Supergirl, but she is not invulnerable or all powerful. It seems to me that in this new season Supergirl has been knocked around and defeated on a regular basis.

I am hoping that some of these missteps are just a temporary sophomore slump. But I really do miss Cat Grant and Maxwell Lord and what they brought to the show.

Legends Of Tomorrow

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Season Two has been a busy one. Nate Heywood/Steel has been a great addition to the show. The introduction of the Justice Society of America was incredibly cool. But Rip Hunter is sorely missed! Without him leading the team the show feels a bit loose. Sara Lance/The White Canary was a much more interesting character when she appeared on Arrow as The Canary. Having her lead the team is not the show’s best moment, she is no Rip Hunter. I thought for sure that Nate Heywood was going to be the new team leader after Rip’s exit. Another great addition to the show has been Vixen from the JSA. She has a great look and I really like her super powers.

The time travel storylines are still interesting and at times fun.  I would like to see more traveling to future times. Vandal Savage as a villain is sorely missed. But bringing in Damien Darhk, the Reverse-Flash and Malcolm Merlyn has helped to compensate for the loss of Vandal Savage. Of course bringing in villains from Arrow and The Flash has helped to pull the Arrowverse tighter together.

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Of course this season also featured the four part Arrowverse crossover. For me the crossover was exciting, but perhaps a bit too cartoonish with the Heroes vs Aliens storyline. It was cool to see the various pairings, but I fell that a more grounded storyline might have better served the whole of Arrowverse. I am curious to see what they will do next time.

All of the shows, in varying degrees, gave us quite a bit to digest so far. I am greatly looking forward to the second half of the season. I am sure that some questions will be answered. And at the same time some mysteries will deepen.

Troy T.

Arrow Season Five

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Season five of Arrow is off to a very promising start. The show really needs to rebound from a very messy and disappointing season four.  The fourth season started off well with the introduction of Damien Darhk and ended with Team Arrow splintering after fighting off world-wide nuclear destruction. Just saying that latter part in regard to Arrow sounds rather silly, nuclear missiles and world-wide destruction?!?  What happened to the gritty street level Arrow of a few seasons ago?

Below are some of my thoughts on the early goings of season five. Beware there are some spoilers included.

Three episodes into Season Five and thus far I am quite satisfied. Some of the issues from season four seem to have been corrected. The show has returned to fighting crime on the streets of Star City. The action sequences, once among the best on television, are great again. As season four progressed the action become more and more lackluster, almost an afterthought. At times the action sequences looked like a bunch of grownups play fighting. And the final confrontation between Arrow and Damien Darhk was really rather lame and anticlimactic .

One of the shows most important characters since season one has been Thea Queen/Speedy. Last season there was far too much focus on her. As Speedy she never looked good in her mask. Willa Holland, the actress that portrays Thea, had a great stunt double. However Willa, as Speedy, was never really all that convincing to me as a warrior or a superhero. On the personal side, all of the over the top angst and drama surrounding the character grew old a long time ago. This season she is in a great place serving as Oliver’s chief of staff. For now she has retired as Speedy, a very good thing in my opinion.

Curtis Holt, one of the show’s recent additions, was on the verge of becoming the Jar Jar Binks of television. At times during season four he felt like a silly and unnecessary addition to the show. So far I am enjoying his slightly more serious demeanor as he prepares to join Team Arrow. However, if he left the show I would not miss the character at all. It would seem that he is here to stay, for now anyway. It appears to me that the show’s writers felt the need for a lighthearted and slightly airheaded character to replace Felicity Smoak. Felicity is still a huge part of the show, however her recent story arcs have turned her in a much more serious direction. The thing about Felicity is that when she was acting as comedic relief her character was far from annoying.  I wish that I could say the same about Curtis.

Speaking of Felicity Smoak, it is beyond me as to what the writers are thinking. They spent the latter half of season four turning Felicity, one of the most likable characters on television, into someone rather unlikable. So far in season five the ire that she displayed in season four is now replaced by criticism and sarcasm that she directs toward Olivier/Green Arrow.  There are occasional flashes of the old Felicity, in part due to her new SCPD boyfriend.  Let’s see how long this new relationship lasts.

Oliver’s flashback storylines have been a part of he show’s framework since the beginning.  The flashbacks serving to show us the events that transformed playboy Oliver Green into Arrow.  Seasons one through three told engrossing story’s about his time on the island, as well as In Hong Kong.  At this point I really would not miss Oliver’s flashback storylines. Last seasons flashbacks started off interesting, but became rather pointless as the season progressed. This season’s new flashback storyline is far more compelling and relevant, but I am not sure how much longer they can continue this aspect of the show.

An extremely pleasant surprise with the new season is a separate storyline for John Diggle. Diggle, like Thea, has been an important character on the show since the beginning. After leaving Team Arrow at the end of last season I was not sure if we would see him again. But this season introduces a new storyline for Diggle that looks to intersect with Green Arrow’s story arc. I would love to see him rejoin Team Arrow, along with the new recruits.

The other new additions to Team Arrow, along with Curtis, are Wildcat, the new Canary and the incredibly cool Ragman. Seeing Ragman was a nice surprise. A minor character in the comics, he makes a surprisingly smooth transition from the comic page to the television screen. I am not sure if he will be a permanent addition to Team Arrow, but I do want to see more of this character.

When Arrow first premiered in 2012 it quickly became one of my favorite shows on television. However the quality of the show has diminished as Team Arrow grew bigger and bigger. The bigger team brought less focus on Oliver/ Arrow, less compelling storylines for the supporting cast and a lighter tone to the show. With shows like The Flash and Supergirl the growing supporting casts have not lessened the quality of the storylines. Nor have they taken anyway the focus from the show’s main character. At times in season four Arrow felt like a co-star on his own show. The expanded supporting casts on The Flash and Supergirl made the shows better. I am hopeful that Arrow can follow suit, so far that seems to be the case in the early going of Season Five.

X-Men: Apocalypse, Third Time’s A Charm?

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I saw the newest X-Men movie, X-Men: Apocalypse, this past week. Here are a few thoughts.  Beware there are spoilers.

 

The Good:

James McAvoy is excellent as Professor X.
They finally got the look of Magento’s helmet right.
Nightcrawler is back!
It always good to see Hugh Jackman don the claws.
Aside from a few cheesy moments early on Apocalypse was a really good villain.
Angel, Storm and Psylocke were good in the few scenes that they appeared in.
Very cool to hear Metallica’s The Four Horsemen blasting through the theater speakers.

 

The Bad:

It seems the casting department went out of their way to cast odd looking actors to portray Cyclops, Jean Grey and Nightcrawler.
Why did the writers go so overboard in portraying Mystique as a hero? Makes no sense, Mystique is a villain.
No Colossus?!?! Why leave one of the best X-Men off the team?  His all too brief appearance in X2 is one of the highlights of the entire X-Men movie series.
Does Magneto really have to be in every X-Men movie?

 

The Ugly:

Jennifer Lawrance is a dud, her performance is dull, boring and passionless.  In the Mystique makeup she is just weird looking.
At times the movie was a bit slow. How is it possible to make a boring X-Men movie?  The prior X-movies were not wall to wall action, but even in the quieter moments they were never boring.

 

Overall I enjoyed a good portion of the movie, however I was extremely underwhelmed. At the end of the movie I left the theater feeling rather unsatisfied.  This certainly was not the case when I saw Captain America: Civil War or Batman V Superman. Overall the director, Bryan Singer, has done a great job in the previous X-Men movies. However, I do believe that it may be time for him to step aside and bring in some new blood, with a fresh and different approach. The characters of the X-Men are far to exciting to be featured in underwhelming movies like this one.  For all of it’s faults at least X-Men: The Last Stand was an exciting movie.