Turbo Kid

Netflix has a lot of hidden gems if you have the time and the boredom levels to go looking for them, and among these gems is Turbo Kid, an odd mash of 80’s nostalgia, coming-of-age tropes, post-apocalyptic humor… and also Michael Ironside. With an 89% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 60% on Metacritic, Turbo Kid is far from a perfect movie, but it is fun and memorable, and free -assuming you are stealing your Netflix account from a friend, which we know about 45% of you are doing. We don’t want to put too fine of a point on this, so let’s just say that this movie is weird… but weird in a good way. It also has points where it makes surprisingly relevant and meta-commentary on our culture and our entertainment industry.

The Distant Distant Future
Set in the way far-off future of 1997, the story revolves around “The Kid.” An orphan whose parents were killed and now lives alone in a very post-apocalyptic Canada. It’s like Mad Max with trees instead of desert, and bicycles instead of flame-spewing-hot-rod-monster-trucks. The Kid is fascinated with a comic book called Turbo Rider, who may or may not have been an actual person that actually fought robots before the world ended. The wasteland is ruled by two different factions, the free city ruled by Fredrick the Arm-Wrestling New Zealand Cowboy and Zeus, your typical apocalyptic warlord who controls the water and an army of over-the-top henchmen with ridiculously impractical weapons. Everything changes for the The Kid when he meets Apple, a strange girl who he initially distrusts but comes to etc, etc, etc… We won’t spoil any of the movie, but you can already see where all of this is going.

The plot progression is not surprising, but it’s not necessarily the story that is the most interesting part of Turbo Kid. It’s the movie’s imaginative setting, quirky characters, and absurd humor that really helps propel this Sundance Indie film into something altogether different. There are more than a few clever nods and winks to 80’s culture and video games. More than anything, it is a movie that delivers action and heart, and yet does not to take itself too seriously. The cliches are plentiful and to many that would seem like a bad thing, but Turbo Kid does its best to steer into them while acknowledging their purpose in the greater theme of the movie.

Rated PG for Over the Top Violence
Turbo Kid is not so much a modern movie about a devastated world, as it is a 1980’s movie about a devastated world. Even the cause of the devastation is stated as: acid rain, which isn’t something you hear a lot about anymore. This movie may have been released in 2015, but it goes to painstaking lengths to feel like something you would find on an old VHS at the back of a Blockbuster in 1986. It’s plot does not try to be clever or do anything new, and instead follows the very typical formula you would expect from an adolescent-action-fantasy movie from that era. However, Turbo Kid is different in the fact that it uses more buckets of practical-effects-blood and guts than the first Friday the 13th film. It can be a bit startling, since it contrasts harshly with the movie’s light 80’s nostalgia feel, but that might be the point.

It is at least a shallow commentary on the acceptability of violence in movies marketed toward kids. Everything else about this movie seems to imply that it would have been rated PG, had it been released in theaters during the Regen era, except for the gore. It is unnecessary, extreme, and treated completely casually by the characters in the movie. Sawed off torsos and geysers of blood are seen as normal in the world of Turbo Kid, and that is equal parts disturbing and morbidly hilarious. We could also bring up that life in any post-apocalypse would probably desensitize the denizens of that world, but we won’t. We could also mention that the colorful outlook of Apple and The Kid are a depressing dichotomy to the bleakness of the world they inhabit, but we won’t. We could also say that Turbo Kid is a comment on nostalgia-media in general, and is therefore an overly sentimentalized metaphor for how we -as adults- look back on our childhood, which was surrounded by dangers, disasters, and external threats we were only barely able to comprehend… but we won’t do that either.

Conclusion
Unfortunately, as much as we admire what the movie does and the commentary it attempts to make we hesitate to draw any real deeper meaning from it, without stretching the bounds of credulity. Still, it is fun, sweet, and worth a watch. Are you going to walk away from Turbo Kid with some new or great understanding about yourself and the life around you? No, but you will walk away smiling.

Some may see this film as just another attempt to cash in on the nostalgia-media that has grown so rampant over the past decade, but we actually see it as a entertaining niche movie with a genuine love for a time when life was simpler and maybe when action-adventure-fantasy movies were a little more desensitized to what they promoted to children. Turbo Kid has won multiple awards, including a 2016 Saturn Award for Best International Film, and it is well-deserving of the accolades.

So, if you have a couple hours to kill, switch on Netflix, or just go to their website, and stream it now. You won’t be sorry.


image courtesy: http://dailygrindhouse.com/thewire/post-apocalyptic-week-sequel-turbo-kid-2015/
blaxploitation

“Sweet Christmas.” If you haven’t yet streamed Luke Cage on Netflix than you are missing out. Marvel’s newest show is a hit, and a refreshing take on a character that was once more two-dimensional than the pulp pages he was printed on. Luke Cage first appeared in 1972’s Heroes for Hire. Originally the character of Cage was a man of unlimited violence and limited vocabulary that punched his way through Harlem encountering every situation and trope that the blaxploitation movement had to offer. Though Cage was a breakthrough for black comic characters, much like blaxploitation itself, the original Power Man comic was fought with missteps and offensive stereotypes.

Sweet Sweetback Badass History
Blaxploitation was a movement in the movie industry that began in the 1970’s. It was a direct reaction to several forces, but to understand the movement’s origins you need to go back to a much earlier time. At the start of the era of motion pictures the only roles available to African Americans were that of the slaves or buffoons. Even positive roles, such as the butler or the “mammy,” still emphasized the inherent idea that blacks were inferior to whites. Movies like Gone with the Wind put forth a world view that the proper place of a black man or woman was at a social position lower than a white man or woman. This idea continued well into the 1950’s and 1960’s, but then things started to change.

The Civil Rights movement ushered in a new racial landscape. All black casts began to put on productions of their own, financed on their own dime. This was how in 1971 Martin Van Peebles was able to put together a movie called Sweet Sweetback’s Badass Song. It was the story of a black protagonist fighting against white power and the violent forces of ghetto life. It was all set to a soundtrack by Earth, Wind, and Fire. Van Peebles made the movie on a shoestring budget in two weeks, but it went on to gross 10 million dollars. It was an incredible success and black audiences found a hero who looked more like them and struggled with some of the same things they did. Much like Luke Cage it was a milestone for black protagonists, and it started a movement.

By the late 1960’s the movie industry was struggling. The Golden Era of cinema was over, and the rise of TV as well as several Justice Department lawsuits had broken up the monopolies of the the old major studios. Many places -like MGM- were struggling just break even with each movie they made. Yet, the success of Sweet Sweetback’s Badass Song exposed Hollywood to a potentially new revenue stream, black people. So in 1971, MGM released Shaft. If Sweet Sweetback forged the genre of blaxploitation than Shaft sharpened and refined it down to a formula. It grossed 12 million dollars, won Isaac Hayes an Oscar for the soundtrack, and inspired every studio in Hollywood to make its own Shaft. Blaxploitation was born.

The Angry Black Power Man
Marvel -never one to be left behind- launched their own title in the genre of blaxploitation. Heroes for Hire -later re-titled to Power Man- was about Luke Cage, a tough talking, ass-beating, ex-con, with super powers. Like the cinema movement Luke Cage embodied all the elements of blaxploitation: violence, themes of anti-establishment, and negative stereotypes of inner cities and those that lived there. Many criticized the comic’s protagonist as nothing more than a jive-talking angry black man, and that original characterization is pretty spot on. He was nothing more than a caricature. After all, it is hard to forget that he was created by three white men, Archie Goodwin, John Romita, Sr. and George Tuska. However, if we are going to talk about the negatives of Cage’s original depiction and its roots we also need to examine the positives as well.

Luke Cage was the first African American to star in his own comic book. -At the time Black Panther was not American and the Falcon only played second-fiddle to Captain America- Cage, despite his initial flaws, was the first black American superhero to have his own book, and that is incredibly important. It is also worth noting that Cage’s struggles were real. He fought gangs, thugs, corrupt police, and a power structure designed to keep black men in “place.” Those were all themes explored in blaxploitation movies, and there is a reason they resonated with some African American audiences at the time. Cage and his writers often showed that the law is not equally applied to everyone, and though the comic and its depictions were often simplified and relied on stereotypes, they did -at least in part- reflect the struggle of many black Americans. Having someone like Luke Cage -who had the power to fight back and be a hero- was empowering, even if it wasn’t always the most flattering of depictions.

As the blaxplotiation movement faded in the mid to late 1970’s so did the popularity of Luke Cage, but he never went away. Later writers went on to fix a lot of the more questionable elements of his character. His vocabulary was expanded, the jive-talk was dropped, and he found a best friend in Danny Rand, Iron Fist, -who himself was initially an exploitation of the popularity of kung fu movies. Luke Cage eventually married Jessica Jones and they had a child together. He became a member of the Defenders and the Avengers and evolved into a much more nuanced and three-dimensional figure. All of this has culminated in the depiction we receive in the Netflix show, an intelligent and complicated character. Similarly, Harlem and its people are also depicted in various ways, not just criminals or victims, but as neighbors and friends. The world and Luke Cage have come a long way, but it is worth looking back and remembering those beginnings.

Getting the Shaft
Blaxploitation had its fair share of critics and supporters. The NAACP and the aptly named Coalition Against Blaxploitaiton lodged protests against the films, claiming they were centered around negative stereotypes, black men as violent and angry criminals. They also criticized the movies’ use of language and it depiction of life in inner cities populated only by drug dealers, hit men, and pimps. Thus, even while blaxploitation movies were breaking down barriers they were also reinforcing others, casting black men as thugs. It also didn’t help that movies like Shaft were written by white writers, most of which who had no real experience in inner city areas. In fact, Ernest Tidyman a white writer from Cleveland is the man who created Shaft. He also wrote the screenplay with the help of a man who most famously wrote for Star Trek. That’s hardly the “ghetto experience.” Blaxploitation was not exactly a shining moment in cinema history, but like Luke Cage, it wasn’t entirely without merit.

More than anything blaxploitation movies started a conversation in America about race and depictions of African Americans in stories. It also helped give black directors -such as Gordon Parks– a break they may not have ever received, and for the first time it gave audiences a chance to see non-white heroes in starring roles. We would also be remiss not to mention the memorable soundtracks and songs of these films, many of which came to define the 1970’s as a decade. Maybe, these are all things worth remembering, even amidst all the elements of exploitation and the overwhelming number of negative stereotypes. By the mid to late 1970’s Hollywood studios stopped producing blaxploitation movies under pressure from groups like the NAACP and CAB. They claimed that ultimately the movies did more harm than good through eroding positive black role models in favor of vengeful and violent depictions.

The movement ended as quickly as it began, but its legacy continued. It is possible that without these movies and heroes like Luke Cage, the mainstream black actors of the 1980’s would not have been possible, people like Eddie Murphy or Denzel Washington. Thanks to the movies of the 1970’s leading black men no longer seemed so impractical or unmarketable. Luke Cage’s roots will always lie in the era of blaxploitation, but as this most recent Netflix show proves they do not end there. Cage has evolved into a thoughtful and positive role model, much like how the modern movie business evolved from the 1970’s. Nobody is saying that either are perfect, but it is worth reflecting on how far we have come, even as we acknowledge how much is still left to accomplish.

It has finally arrived. Dreamworks Animation and Netflix have teamed up to bring Voltron Legendary Defender to the home streaming service. The cartoon series will be available to watch this summer, and will feature all the classic elements of the Voltron mythos, 5 teenagers, 5 cat robots, all forming to make one giant robot who kicks alien posterior.

The original Voltron was a 1980’s Japanese cartoon series that was ported to America, except with a lot of content cut out. Beast King GoLion was the original Japanese show made for adults, and as such had a lot more violence and non-kid friendly scenes. When the dubbed version came to America as Voltron, the show was pretty much in shambles. All the convoluted anime plot lines combined with all the messy editing made for a fun show but not a very coherent overarching storyline, but that is something this new Dreamworks projects has aimed to fixed.

With the format of Netflix Voltron Legendary Defender will not only have interesting individual episodes but a coherent story that carries through the entire series. Since Netflix programming does not have to rely on time schedules and network TV programming, the show can be less episodic-based and more about a larger story. What you get is quality animation more aligned with modern TV storytelling as opposed to the one-shot story-arcs of cartoons past.

Hopefully, this format will catch on more in the animation world. We are still keeping our fingers crossed that Netflix realizes the potential of cartoons like Young Justice, which they should definitely choose to pick up for a third season… hint… hint…

Voltron Legendary Defender starts airing on June 8 on Netflix. Watch the trailer now:


Image courtesy: http://www.voltronlegendarydefender.com/

A movement on the rooftop. Soft running footsteps, and then suddenly he’s there, a man dressed in red, like the devil himself, Daredevil to be more exact. The guardian of Hell’s Kitchen cannot see, at least not like you or we can, but that does not stop him from defending the neighborhood he loves and fighting for justice in a world full of gods and super soldiers. With the hit Netflix Marvel series returning this weekend for its second season, we here at The NYRD thought it would be a good time to blindly dive into the science of Daredevil and the differently-abled -pun intended.

The Man Without Fear (or Sight)
The accident that left Matt Murdock blind also gave him heightened senses, but Daredevil is not alone in this phenomena and most blind people don’t need chemical waste to sharpen their other senses. It comes down to simple brain chemistry. Our brains are magnificent pieces of equipment that adapt and change to help us survive. It is not so much that blind people learn to use their other senses better, but that the brain actually rewires itself to compensate for the loss. This is called cross-modal neuroplasticity, but that’s just a fancy way of saying that your brain finds ways to use your other senses  more efficiently. In some ways it is similar to the condition known as synesthesia, which is when the input from one sense triggers another sense automatically, such as how some people can hear a color, or taste a sound.

Tests conducted in Canada found that blindfolded individuals could identify more layers of harmonicity in music notes than their non-blindfolded counterparts, even only after a few minutes without vision. Another study recently published in The Journal of Neuroscience, gives functional MRI evidence that people who are born deaf still use the parts of their brain that normally process sounds, called Heschl’s gyrus. Instead of processing sound, however, they use those areas to instead process other stimuli like taste or touch, almost literally hearing the world through another sense. Blind people like Daredevil also experience the world differently. Their visual cortex is still active only it becomes used to process information from things like sound and even smells. . All of this amounts to what many might a real-life superpower, but don’t crack open the mask and devil horns just yet.

Unfortunately -and despite the incredible capabilities of the human brain- there are limits to our brain plasticity. Being born deaf or blind, or becoming differently-abled at an early age -like Matt Murdock- gives a person their best chance of adapting to the condition. Brains are more pliable in youth, especially during particularly sensitive periods of development, like language acquisition. However, adults have a harder time adapting. Certain pathways have already been formed and experiences have already been learned. The truth is that neuroplasticity only goes so far, and the enhanced senses of Daredevil are still well beyond the capability of any human brain. His “sight” is very much an invention of comic books, but that does not mean that many real-life differently-abled individuals are not extraordinary in their own ways.

Blind as a Batfleck
Daniel Kish, has been blind since he was a baby, but that has not stopped him from doing things like hiking and even riding a bike. If we are looking for a real-world equivilant of Daredevil than Daniel might fit the bill. Through a technique of clicking his tongue, Daniel is able to use a process of echolocation that is similair to that of a bat. This kind of power was portrayed poorly by Ben Affleck in the 2004 flop, Daredevil, where Murdock is able to bang objects or use the rain to “see” the world around him. Daniel, however, does not throw pots at the wall every time he needs to find a doorway.

There are two types of echolocation, active and passive, and even sighted people employ its use in their day to day lives. Hearing footsteps growing louder, or sensing that there is a wall in front of you in a darkened room can all be forms of passive echolocation. The human brain is wired to interpret sound vibrations spatially. It is part of the reason why we have two ears placed on different sides of our head. Our brains naturally take in the sound around us, and then use the information from each ear to determine certain factors, like location, proximity and even size of the object we are hearing. In other words, if a car is coming at us on our left side, our left ear will hear it at a slightly louder volume than our right ear. Due to the Doppler effect, the car will sound progressively higher-pitched as it approaches and then lower-pitched as it travels further away from the observer. The brain then uses all that information to place the object in our mental landscape. People like Daniel Kish and Matt Murdock use this technique, except they don’t always wait for the world to give them a passive sound to do so. Instead, they make their own.

Human echolocation has been formally studied since at least the 1950s, and those that employ it have the ability to detect objects in their environment by sensing the echoes which bounce back to them, often by tapping a cane or making clicking noises with their mouths, as is the case with Daniel Kish. Differently-abled people with this ability have likely rewired their brains to actually interpret sound waves reflected by nearby objects, allowing them to orient themselves in a world they cannot see through typical human means. It has been inferred, and even outright stated, over the years that Daredevil “sees” very similiar to this technique, whether it be the sonar of Ben Affleck or the “world on fire” explanation that we get in the new Netflix series.

The Kingpin of Perception
A lot of this comes down to our own personal perceptions of the world. As sighted humans we put a lot of emphasis on out ability to see, sometimes at the determent of our other senses. “Seeing is believe,” “eye witness,” and “stop looking while I use the urinal,” are all common sayings that we hear daily at The NYRD office. When we think about the world we often do it through visual terms, even memories are often “visualized” in our minds as pictures or moving images, but human sight is remarkably limited. Only a miniscule fraction of light waves are perceptible to our eyes. For instance, snakes are capable of seeing infrared spectrum light, and many game animals can see ultraviolet light. Going beyond sight, there are many creatures that experience the world -or even more of it- than your average human.

A dog’s sense of smell is 10,000 to 100,000 times more acute than our own, but their eyesight is weaker. They are animals that experience the world through their nostrils, and in many cases often more sharply than us and our eyes. According to James Walker, former director of the Sensory Research Institute at Florida State University, “If you make the analogy to vision, what you and I can see at a third of a mile, a dog could see more than 3,000 miles away and still see as well. As humans we like to prioritize our own experiences over the experiences of others -which also explains politics. We tend to extrapolate that the way we “perceive” the world is the universal way -that it is the “normal” way- to experience the world around us. Yet, that is so far from the truth it is almost laughable. Human eyesight isn’t even that great, just ask anyone who has to wear glasses. We can’t see into extreme spectrums of light, and there are literally colors that exist that we have never seen and will never see.

This brings us back to Daredevil. We often call what he experiences a superpower, but the truth is that it is just another way to experience the world. His perception of reality may not be the same as Daniel Kish’s or even yours, but it is no less or more limiting. In fact, Matt Murdock’s true superpower is not so much his ability to “see” differently, but his dedication to not allowing his lost visual sense to get him down. Instead, of giving up he trained himself to peak human condition through perseverance and crazy martial arts.

As superheroes in the Marvel Universe go, he is not a thunder god, or a raging green hulk monster. He does not get his powers from a robotic suit or a super soldier serum. His superpower only lets him see the world around him differently. Daredevil is a hero because he dedicates himself to being one. He didn’t give up, even when the world told him that he was different or “broken,” and in our opinion, there is no better analogy for what it truly means to live as a differently-abled person.


We would like to thank our expert consultant, Dr. Douglas Smith, MD, for his help on writing this article.

If you say, “Marc Spector” to your average person they will have no idea who you are talking about, but with the success of Daredevil and early positive reviews for Jessica Jones, Marvel may soon look to add Moon Knight to their Netflix line-up.

The rumor comes from Umberto Gonzalez of Heroic Hollywood. He dropped a hint on the televised fate of Spector while guest starring on Collider Heroes on YouTube. “The hot rumor is that Moon Knight is actually being developed for Netflix since he is a divergence of Bruce Wayne,” said Gonzalez. “So like the way they’re back-door piloting Punisher in ‘Daredevil’ season two, if it works out, same thing with Moon Knight.”

Unfortunately, not much more is mentioned after that, and there have been rumors about Moon Knight coming to the MCU for a long time. So it is entirely possible this all coming off an old rumor that has since been debunked, but we here at The NYRD remain hopeful.

Marc Spector is Marvel’s answer for Bruce Wayne, with a dark tone and history to match. For example, unlike Batman, Moon Knight earned his fortune through mercenary work, but he is an expert combatant with peak strength and agility. He would not be out of place at all in the world that Daredevil created. His storylines tend to get violent, making him a much better match for Netflix than the more colorful and kid-friendly big screen MCU. He has also been a member of The Defenders, which helps strengthen these rumors.

There has been talk for sometime that all the Marvel Netflix shows will converge into one, becoming the superhero team The Defenders. Though, like the Avengers, The Defenders have had many line-ups in the past, including everyone from Daredevil to Moon Knight to Doctor Strange and the Hulk.


Photo courtesy: http://www.comicvine.com/forums/battles-7/saiko-vs-moon-knight-688898/

With the start of the Television Critics Association Summer Press tour for Netflix, Marvel and Netflix talked about their plans moving forward. The goal of the two comic and streaming giants is to release a new Marvel Netflix property every six months. Some of these will be new seasons of continuously running programs, while others will be new properties altogether, such their newest show AKA Jessica Jones.

All of this is leading up to a Netflix Crossover Event, The Defenders. It seems to be that Marvel is going to do for Netflix and streaming TV what they have already done in movies. Unfortunately, no actual schedule was released and they seemed to be hinting at the fact that only certain series would receive multiple seasons, while others would work more as stand-alones. That determination will probably be made on a basis of how well each individual series is received.

There is still a lot of vagueness circling the Internet about what is going on. For instance, there still no set launch date for Jessica Jones or what the next series after that will be. There is very little confirmation of any type for anything, right now. However, Variety did report that Jessica Jones will debut in 2015, but no exact date was given. That means we could be waiting until December for our next small screen return to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We do know that Daredevil is currently filming its second season, and with Walking Dead‘s Jon Bernthal playing the Punisher.

There are even rumors that Frank Castle could receive his own stand-along series, but all of that seems little more than speculation by Hitflix. Only time will tell, but for right now, all we at The NYRD can do is bide our time with baited breath until AKA Jessica Jones, and the return of Daredevil.


Photo courtesy: http://tennantnews.blogspot.com/2015/04/photos-david-tennant-filming-aka.html