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Review Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999): Vastly underrated!

genre: action, adventure, science fiction







The Phantom Menace was and still is one of the Star Wars films I can watch with a lot of enjoyment and pleasure. Was it maybe too ambitious for it's own good? Yes. Was it flawed? Yes. But does that automatically make this a bad film? No.

Any film that I can watch multiple times with the same kind of investment and excitement is a good one. The Phantom Menace certainly has a lot of redeeming elements that make it memorable and classic. Liam Neeson as Qui-Gon Jinn is awesome. He doesn't hesitate to break rules and defy the Jedi Council to do what is right. For him all lives matter and he doesn't feel superior to others. And yet he is someone a lot of people would want to follow willingly because of his natural leadership. No matter how tough it gets he keeps calm and composed. One of the most kick ass lightsaber battles in Star Wars Universe. Darth Maul versus Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn. Not only is it a good example of what can be done with good choreography but it also demonstrates how you can make it more dramatic with the right context and excellent soundtrack. Another good element is the pod race. It holds up quite well and is just as exciting as it was the first time I watched it. Anakin Skywalker wasn't joking when he was saying he was a good pilot. Any other person would have died twenty times over. Speaking of Anakin. Jake Lloyd is doing a fine job as young Anakin. And that is coming from me who can't stand most child actors. Could his acting been better? Of course but let's be real here. He isn't supposed to play Shakespeare. There seem to be a lot of people who weren't happy with the decision of George Lucas to have Anakin portrayed as kid. I on the other hand think it's quite essential. Because Ani at this point is innocent and good. He only gets judged harshly because of what he might do in the future. You can't hold him responsible for that. Besides the future is always in motion so the reluctance of the Jedi Council is unwarranted if you ask me. Yes I am aware what the real future is and that the predictions did come true. But do you realize that had the Jedi Council let Qui-Gon train Anakin he might not have turned out the way he did?

What about the story? I must admit that even today the whole trade dispute is a little confusing. But I appreciate what Lucas was trying to do. He is giving an example of how it was possible for Darth Sidious to use this dispute to his advantage and gain power. It is very reminiscent of how many political leaders in the world have been able to get at the top. How does Jar Jar Binks tie into all of this? Surprisingly his role is quite significant. If it weren't for him then Queen Amidala probably would have never reached out to the Gungans and would have lost the war. Do I think he is annoying? Well, I do think that George Lucas went a little overboard with the goofy antics. But to be honest Binks does make me laugh. More than that he made me cringe.

Overall I do think that The Phantom Menace is vastly underrated. At least George Lucas tried to give us new things and expand the Star Wars Universe. More importantly we are shown an Anakin Skywalker who is pure, selfless and heroic. The very opposite of what he will become in the future.




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Review Beyond Skyline (2017): Frank Grillo and Iko Uwais battling aliens with martial arts!

genre: action, adventure, science fiction, martial arts







Skyline is nothing but a vague memory. I remember that I found it slow and boring for the most part until the last fifteen minutes where suddenly they decided to go ballistic. If only the whole film had been like that. Well, I got what I wished for with this semi sequel where things go awry and over the top pretty much within 8 minutes of the film. So is Beyond Skyline better than the original?

Hell, yes! While it's super flawed and has some uneven pacing I can safely say that Beyond Skyline is superior to the original. The main characters are far more likeable and acting so much better. Besides it's almost non stop action. Mind you there will be scenes where you get some sensory overload and events won't always make sense. Don't worry though at one point things will be explained. Not all of it of course. And to be fair it doesn't really matter. Most important is to know who the good guys are and who not. The good guys are Frank Grillo as Mark, Iko Uwais as Sua, Yayan Ruhian  as The Chief (you know Mad Dog from the The Raid), Callan Mulvey as Harper and Bojana Novakovic as Audrey.  (I am very happy to see that Callan is doing so well. Ever since Heartbreak High he has been a favourite actor of mine. He is one of quite a few actors who have had a lot of succes). Obviously the aliens are the bad guys. But wait not all is what it seems. And that is as much as I will say about it since finding out for yourself would spoil the fun. Like I said the film can be uneven sometimes because too much is going on in certain moments. Often it's too loud and chaotic. I needed to avert my eyes sometimes to give them a break. I think writer / director Liam O'Donnell still needs to learn how to effectively intensify action scenes through story instead of violence and chaos. However don't despair. The finale alone redeems all the film's shortcomings where our main characters fight aliens using martial arts. It's totally insane but so much fun. My only gripe with the finale is that it's much too short. Last but not least the bloopers. They also showed how much fun they had making this film and that is always nice to watch.

Beyond Skyline might be a little ambitious and chaotic for it's own good but there are enough moments that redeem the many flaws it has. So certainly worth your time if you want some mindless fun.




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Review Cars 3 (2007): Lightning McQueen passes the torch!

genre: animation, adventure, comedy







When the teaser trailer was shown in the cinema I was real curious about Cars 3 even when it was the last film I expected to be made. I thought the first two had basically told what they could tell and that they were finished. Let's assume that some filmmakers in Hollywood do care about telling stories and aren't solely driven by greed. But now having seen this I think there was still something left. I am going to share my thoughts on it.

Now I have to admit that it took a while for me to actually motivate myself to watch this. A lot of reviews and comments on forums and film review sites had been very rough on Cars 3 and I just wasn't ready to get disappointed. Especially when they claimed that Cars 3 lacked heart. You could say a lot about this third film but not that it lacks heart. That is a blatant lie. Cars 3 very much appeals to the heart but in a way you probably didn't expect. Cars 3 is basically giving us life lessons that could be applied to every individual. You can't stay on top forever. Everybody gets rusty and old. Is there life after that succeslul career? Cars 3 teaches us that some things are unavoidable but that it doesn't automatically your life is less meaningful. As long has you have the fire and passion for something your life will be joyous and fruitful. But it requires self reflection and realization. There is a scene where Lightning thought he knew how his mentor Doc felt to then be told that he was wrong all this time. It's the most emotional moment in the film since it was the the first time the Cars 3 transcended Lightning's story and became an universal moment that everyone can relate to.

That to me was far more compelling than the story of Cruz Ramirez becoming the racer she always wanted to be. Don't get me wrong. I liked it but without Lightning passing the torch it would have much less of a dramatic impact on me. In essence Cars 3 is doing what Creed did for Rocky. Was it what I expected and wanted? No. But was it therefore bad? Absolutely not. Cars 3 is just as touching and endearing as the previous films only it does it in a very confronting manner. And you have to be prepared for that.









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Review The Big Sick (2017): Enjoyable but not a laugh riot as advertised!

genre: comedy, drama, romance






The Big Sick is about the unusual love story of Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gardner. Emily contracts a mysterious illness and is put in a medically induced coma so that they have more time to find out what she has and to cure her. Kumail then is forced to face and spent time with her parents he desperately tried to avoid when Emily and he were together. They had broken up because of Kumail's inability to make the necessary steps to make their relationship happen. Mostly out of fear to be cast out by his Pakistani (Muslim) family for choosing a white woman.

In several interviews Kumail (who is telling his own life story) claimed and guaranteed that the film was mainly a comedy and would provide a lot of laughs despite the relative heavy topics. And yes I can't deny that The Big Sick has some hilarious moments. But to say that it was a non stop laugh riot I will have to disagree. For the most part The Big Sick is a dramatic story made light with some comedic and romantic moments. It's not your typical feel good romcom. I knew how it would end and still the film made it seem like that outcome would not happen. It did of course but like literally in the last minute. Leaving very little space to show us the happy events after which I thought was the whole point in the first place.

There were two elements that made this film stand out from the typical fare. The cultural element where Kumail has to deal with his mother (played by Zenobia Shroff)  and her attempts to hook him up with some nice Pakistani brides. All of them were beautiful, intelligent and much more. But of course like with most arranged marriage set ups the one and only element that counts, "love", is not there. Since his heart already was taken. Some of these brides were really forthcoming and sweet. Like they made sure to have watched Kumail's favourite show The X-Files with very hilarious results. At the same time it pointed out some of the tragic elements concerning arranged marriages. Although very briefly. BTW Zenobia Shroff certainly is one of the highlights in the film since she is very funny in her demeanour and delivery of the lines. Then there is the relationship between Kumail and Emily's parents. The father is played by Ray Romano and the mother by Holly Hunter.  At first they are very sceptical of him but gradually they learn to like and appreciate him. Both Romano and Hunter were excellent. It is during this time that Kumail realizes how much he loves Emily and that she is the one. But does Emily still feel the same?

It is too bad that The Big Sick never truly gets deeper into the issues that are raised. For me those were the most interesting. Same goes for the film not spending time on showing us the aftermath and sharing the happy moments. It would have been fun to see how and when the Pakistani parents would get used to Kumail's defiance. Perhaps that is reserved for a future sequel maybe? 

So yes The Big Sick certainly is enjoyable only not nearly the laugh riot as advertised. 









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Review Assault on Precinct 13 (1976): Totally annihilates the remake in case you were wondering!

genre: action, crime, thriller








It took me 41 years to watch this film and I wished I had done so much sooner. Not only does Assault on Precinct 13 hold up after all these years it undeniably is one of the coolest films I have seen in my lifetime.

Writer / Director John Carpenter himself confirmed he was heavily influenced by Howard Hawks' Rio Bravo and George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead. I have seen many interviews where Carpenter had stated that wanted to make a Western but at that time the genre wasn't that popular any more so he hid one in an action exploitation film which back then was huge. Main character Ethan Bishop (Austin Stoker) confirms this in a scene where he realizes and states that he is in the middle of a siege. I am not sure if I have seen Rio Bravo. If I did it must have been when I was really young. But you can be sure I will definitely watch it sooner than later. Although it is not necessary to appreciate this film. Nor is it necessary to watch Night of the Living Dead. But it does add to the viewing experience. Especially if you recognize the similarities in how the gang members are portrayed. They are silent, relentless and there are many of them. They easily could have been zombies.

What really stood out for me was the relationship that is developed between police officer Ethan Bishop and Napoleon Wilson. Ethan treats Napoleon with respect throughout the film. Contrary to how other officers have treated him. In return Napoleon does the same. We are made aware of the fact that Napoleon is a ruthless killer and very much hated by almost everyone. At first glance he doesn't seem to be that threatening but there is an air of mystery and unpredictability surrounding him that makes him a very compelling character. Darwin Joston certainly contributed to that with his charm and fearlessness. He doesn't seem to be that much bothered by the dire situation he is in but he is very aware that if he doesn't side with Bishop that he probably won't survive. Bishop is very practical also. He doesn't get too hung up about Napoleon being a ruthless criminal since he needs him to defend the remaining people in the almost abandoned police station. He is also a very honourable man since he doesn't give up on Lawson ( a father who killed a gang member after they had murdered his daughter in cold blood). Bishop doesn't even know this fact but all he knows that he is a man who is being hunted by gang members and that he needs his protection no matter what.

Another character that made an impression on me was Lauri Zimmer as Leigh. She adapts to the dire situation quite well and stays calm and composed and even dishes out pain when needed. In one scene she gets shot and instead of panicking and crying she kills her assailant like a champ. I was stunned to find out that she only has done five films before she retired from acting. She now is a teacher. As far as I am concerned she is one of the best actresses this planet has ever produced.

So why does this annihilatie the remake? I remember having seen the remake and remember the actors who were in it but everything else is a blur. If there was anything memorable I would not have forgotten. That is how I roll. The original however is filled with classic and memorable moments that still hold up today. Just thinking and writing this review makes me want to watch the film again. A true classic.




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Review Backdraft (1991): A Ron Howard classic!

genre: action, drama, mystery, thriller






The first time I saw Backdraft I was on the edge of my seat throughout the film. Next to drama about the brothers McCaffrey it was also a whodunnit. A very thrilling and exciting one. But how does it hold up once you have seen it already?

I think I must have watched this more than ten times throughout the years and each time I did it evoke emotions at the same spots apart from finding out the culprit behind the fires. Once you know you can't help but look for signs and the red herrings to see if they match up with the outcome. Then you realize that the thriller elements probably could have used a little more attention since Backdraft takes some leaps in logic and neglects to give you more misdirections. A little more complexity and psychology would have certainly made the thriller elements more interesting with multiple viewings. 

Fortunately it doesn't detract from Backdraft's real strength. The drama and the spectacle. I wonder what firemen think of this film? I am sure that there are a lot of inaccuracies but even I was impressed with how the firemen were portrayed. They are shown as godlike heroes who go above and beyond to do their job. Now I happen to agree with that to an extent since they do go into dangerous and hazardous situations regularly to save people. How can you not respect and admire that? In Backdraft the firemen have to deal with the beast or animal as fire is called like it's a living and breathing creature. I found this aspect to be very compelling as the film shows you many moment where the fire does act like a character. Director Ron Howard wanted to use CGI but he decided to scrap that idea since it simply didn't look good enough. They went practical and used real fire. They made it do things unlike we had seen before. Even today it looks incredible and impressive. I just found myself marvel at the magnificence. And then to have our main characters deal with this beast only adds to the excitement. While I wished they would have deepened the relationship between the brothers McCaffrey played by William Baldwin and Kurt Russel more you do buy them as brothers who are at odds with each other. Robert De Niro as Donald Rimgale was excellent. As was Donald Sutherland as pyromaniac Ronald. 

Backdraft is being accused of having too many subplots. In hindsight a case could be made for that although I do think that because of the subplots you get to know what the main characters are about. Stephen McCaffrey (Kurt Russel) at one point is seen as a leader who takes unnecessary risks. He is a man who keeps most of his true emotions bottled up behind this bravado and machismo. It makes sense to me that he would choose his wife to open up. Even when their marriage is troubled. BTW Kurt Russel steals the show in every scene he is in. His demeanour and intensity actually make you root for him even when he is a big jerk a lot of times.

For me personally Backdraft has resonated with me every time I watched it. There is something magical about the courage and heroism displayed on the screen. It certainly is incredibly spectacular. How anyone could think this is bad or boring is beyond me. 







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Review Psych: The Movie (2017): Glad to see the gang back again but I can't deny that I was a little disappointed with the overall result!

genre: comedy, crime, mystery






Psych was a very creative and funny spin on the crime genre that was built on the great chemistry between James Roday and Dulé Hill. The two together made the show what it was. But like a lot of successful shows they lost their way and forgot about that and made other elements more prominent. So when the show ended I wasn't particularly sad to see it go like I normally am when shows finish. Still the idea of Psych coming back as a TV movie made me happy because that could become a regular thing especially if it would bring the magic that once was. 

Unfortunately this isn't the case. The whole movie was disappointing. It was fun to see most characters from the show return. And the banter between Shawn and Gus easily was the best the movie had to offer. But other than that it wasn't that good. In the later seasons of the show they made the mystery element more important which sometimes really worked well since it added genuine thrills and suspense next to the comedy. However more than I would like to it detracted from the comedy. I didn't mind the more dramatic episodes since they only made you love the characters more. What I did find annoying was the fact that it got in the way of how Shawn and Gus interacted. The focus was on the mystery and the dynamics between Shawn and Gus seemed like an afterthought. Actually a lot of the interactions between Shawn, Gus and other characters was what gave the show it's edge. In this movie these interactions are only present for the sake of nostalgia without giving us the wit and clever jokes that usually were part of these interactions. This becomes apparent in the way Shawn's father is treated. In the early seasons Shawn and his father (Corbin Bernsen) also had some interesting dynamics. They emphasized Shawn's unique crime solving skills compared to that of a veteran cop. Plus I liked the relationship they had. The father always acted like Shawn was a pain while in truth he was very proud. Now you didn't get anything that came close to it. All you got was how the father had mellowed out and that he is not the same guy we knew. I don't know it just felt that the writers couldn't be bothered to give us the characters we learned to love. But then the mystery itself was hardly compelling or one that you could take seriously. Psych always was a comedy but it did have moments where things could get real. In this movie this never happens. Almost like you are never supposed to like it's one big joke. 

I never watched Psych for the mysteries. For me it was about Shawn and Gus and how they solved those crimes. So any time when you shift away the focus from that you shoot yourself in the foot. I like it that through these TV movies these beloved characters can live on but then they should go back to what made the show great in the first place.
                                                  






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Review Go Goa Gone (2013): One of the first Indian zombie flicks and I'll be damned it's actually entertaining!

genre: comedy, horror, action







Go Goa Gone is one of the first zombie films made in India 2013. I guess they thought it was about time to venture in that genre. And I must say that I was pleasantly surprised how good it was. 

Now you do have to realize that this is not a fresh or creative take on zombies. So if you were hoping for that I will have to disappoint you. But seeing how this is the one of the first excursions into the genre they probably want to ease people into these types of films. So you see the film explain the basics of zombies and how to deal with them. It's actually one of the elements that makes this film even funnier. Like a comedic take on The Walking Dead where in that universe they did not even made films about zombies because it's a completely new phenomenon for them. Although Go Goa Gone doesn't go that far because the main characters in the film are aware of the creatures and films but never paid much attention to them. To be frank Indian horror films are a rarity. Not sure why exactly but perhaps one day the audience will warm up to those and we will see more being made. 

A lot of people compare this to Shaun of the Dead. It's been a real while I have seen that one and I do remember liking it but to be honest I do feel it's a bit overrated. So whenever another film mixes up comedy with zombies you have people compare it to that film and of course Go Goa Gone won't be able to live up to it. What this film does achieve is to provide comedy that people can relate to. In this case the three friends Luv (Vir Das), Hardik (Kunal Khemu) and Bunny (Anand Tiwari) who are joined by Luna (Puja Gupta) and Boris played by bollywood star Saif Ali Khan. Both Luv and Hardik take advantage of Bunny and mostly give the impression they leech of him instead of being real good friends. But because of the dire events they find themselves in we get to see other sides to them. Most of the comedy is based on the dynamics between these characters and how they deal with the new threat. They are very likeable characters and you don't want to see them get hurt even if at one point they act like total buffoons and don't prepare themselves properly. 

The ending hints to a sequel that unfortunately has not been made yet but it has been confirmed that it's coming. I for one am looking forward to it. Go Goa Gone is a very adequate, funny and entertaining zombie flick. Sometimes that is all I ask for.








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My thoughts on the midseason finales of Arrowverse (SPOILERS)








Arrow S06E09: Irreconcilable Differences

I really love the shows in Arrowverse but sometimes I really can't stand the horrendous writing just to keep it edgy and dramatic. I mean how many more times must The Green Arrow's identity become a problem for Oliver Queen to deal with. It has happened a million times already. It's boring, tedious and completely distracts from the crime fighting and more important events. Then another recurring theme. Betrayal. The whole point of a team is that you work together because you have each other's trust. But ever since Oliver has the team there have been members betraying that trust on a whim and then magically that trust gets restored again because the writers say so. Now granted the way they did it this time where Cayden James is the puppeteer of all the wrong doings was a nice touch however that doesn't excuse the writers from the fact that they let members like Rene act out of character. Just like the characters in the show we the audience also need to be able to rely on them unless you have a very good reason for us not to. In this case I don't think they did this. Obviously things look dire now and naturally it will get resolved quickly after the break. Still the writers really need to stop resorting to the overused themes and try to do new things. 



The Flash S04E09 Don't Run

So far I have not been that impressed with this season. I don't think The Thinker is really compelling as the main villain. Even with the moves he pulled I find myself disinterested and hope it will improve. I am getting a little tired of Team Flash being so easily owned while by now they should be more vigilant and efficient. Killer Frost very easily could overpower Amunet Black but somehow she keeps forgetting her true strength. I am sure that is due to limits budget wise and not the quality of the writing. I also don't get why first they made a big deal about Wally but then want us to completely forget about him like he never existed. It's that kind of writing that annoys the hell out of me. Now Barry Allen is in trouble because of the super smart chess tactics thought up by The Thinker. While I have to admit I didn't see the twist coming I wasn't wowed in the least. Because there is very little logic tied to his actions. It's just because the writers say it's clever instead of actually writing something clever. Big difference.




 Legends of Tomorrow S03E09 Beebo the God of War

Despite the writers mocking vikings I thoroughly enjoyed this episode since the members especially Jefferson are dealing with the death of Stein. I disliked him leaving the team though. But Constatine showing up made me real happy. It would be real awesome if he will be part of the Legends for a while. And who knows this might lead to him getting his own show again. It would expand and enrich Arrowverse considerably. So make that happen. And it was nice to see Ava Sharpe finally mellowing out a bit. Not sure if that is because she likes Sarah. But it doesn't matter. Most important is that the Legends finally get the respect they deserve. 



Supergirl S03E09 Reign

The first two seasons of Supergirl had been very enjoyable to me without exception until the last four episodes of this third season. I am aware that they are trying to make Kara go through some stuff and set up the new villain Reign who is going to be Supergirl's version of Doomsday. At leasts that is what I have understood. But somehow the writing simply isn't as compelling as it once was. Although same could be said for all of the shows in Arrowverse. I certainly hope this trend won't continue and that they will pick up the pace soon enough. I thought it was almost brilliant to set up Reign as one of the good guys or someone we could root for and then to have Kara find out that things aren't what they seem. The ultimate betrayal. Only I don't think the writers did a good job of convincing us that Samantha Arias is a good friend of Kara. I can't recall them having real conversations or moments where they helped each other out in significant ways. Question is why go to all the trouble of establishing Samantha as an innocent to then suddenly make her appear as this super villain who is hell bent on dishing out justice the old Kryptonian way long before Kara's Krypton existed. There is no real build up to this. At least not in the way that it has much impact. Seems like a lost opportunity to me. Fortunately the battle between Reign and Supergirl certainly was exciting enough but imagine if the stakes were higher and Kara knew it was Samantha. The dramatic impact would have been so much more devastating. 

The whole Mon-El returning thing was hardly surprising but I have a feeling it is going to be one of those soapy relationships where they eventually will end up together but not until they go through some real hardships.  I can't say that I like it or truly despise it. I just wished that it would be more meaningful. Still it could very well be possible that Mon-El is going to be used as motivation for Kara to be the Supergirl we haven't seen before. For example if Mon-El dies at the hand of Reign. How will Kara take it? She will go nuts I tell ya. 

So overall the ending of this midseason finale of Supergirl does make up for some of the bad writing these last episodes but I do hope that the writing will be at least on par with season 2 and earlier episodes of season 3.  






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Review Vixen: The Movie (2017): Decent and entertaining origin story where familiar superheroes from Arrowverse make an appearance!

genre: animation, comic book adaptation, superhero







Originally Vixen was an animated web series that spun off from Arrow. It consisted of two seasons. Warner Brothers decided to combine these two seasons and add an extra fifteen minutes of story resulting in Vixen: The Movie. Basically it's the origin story of Vixen set in Arrowverse. (So don't be surprised to see some familiar superheroes make their appearance.) It was stated that if the series was successful it could lead a new live action series. Vixen (voiced and played by Megalyn Echikunwoke) was also intended to be featured in the second season of Legends of Tomorrow but due to previous commitments this never happened. They opted for Maisie Richardson-Sellers as Amaya Jiwe. the grandmother of Mari McCabe (Megalyn Echikunwoke) who also is named Vixen. Seeing how Amaya's storyline is quite essential in the third season of Legends of Tomorrow this animated movie got my interest.

So what do I think of it? I liked it. Sure it's a little rough around the edges and the animation might not always be top notch but the story came across just fine and in the end isn't that what it's about? This animated movie really felt like a special event in Arrowverse where a lot of familiar characters like The Flash and The Green Arrow have their parts to play. But what made this even more special was the fact that they were actually voiced by the actors of the live action shows. You can tell that for some actors this was something they had to get used to still the voice acting was adequate enough. 

As one would expect this animated DC movie set in Arrowverse like the shows is action packed. I am not entirely sure if they actually would have the budget to recreate all the powers displayed in a live action show but it was nice to see what Vixen is capable of. She is far more powerful than previously shown. More important Vixen does real superhero things like rescuing people from robbers and thieves. An element I find incredibly important. It makes her instantly likeable and why you will root for her throughout her adventures. They probably could have gone a little deeper into her roots although I have the suspicion we will eventually in future episodes of Legends of Tomorrow.

If it were up to me the live action Vixen would already be a reality. At this point I am fully embracing the expansion of the already quite huge Arrowverse. So bring it on!





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