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Mel Gibson Cast In ‘John Wick’ TV series

Mel Gibson joins the world of John Wick as the actor has been cast in the upcoming prequel spinoff series coming to Starz, The Continental. According to Deadline, Gibson will play a character named Cormac, but nothing else is known; however, it seems to be a pretty big casting as Mel Gibson rarely does television. I’m hoping that Mel […]

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Da Vinci’s Demons Review: “The Devil” (Episode 6)

Da Vinci = Van Helsing

A Show Review of Da Vinci’s Demons Episode 6: The Devil

By: Lawrence Napoli


For the first time in this show’s brief history, an episode follows immediately where the previous episode left off which is exactly what the audience needed seeing how last week’s episode: “The Tower,” ended with the unexpected return of Dr. Bashir . . . er, The Turk played by our good friend Alexander Siddig.  Unfortunately, what “The Devil” reveals in furthering Da Vinci’s quest for discovery, meaning and purpose really starts to get muddled in what seems to be an incredibly random side quest as is suggested by The Turk himself. 


Warning: There’s a lot of male nudity in this episode.

Attention readers: This is where my Van Helsing reference comes into play and how it corresponds to the individual for which this episode (“The Devil”) was named, and that’s all you’re going to get from me.  Even if we are talking about the same time period in history as it pertains to Da Vinci and “Person X,” there are a number of reasons why this chance encounter vexes me greatly.  First, I can understand the novelty of writing something like this into the story, but this kind of plot twist feels an awful lot like jumping the shark which makes no sense for a show that very recently got picked up for a second season as of last month.  Second, introducing “Person X” as a relevant character to this story completely undermines every form of opposition Da Vinci has encountered so far.  Third, it just seems too farfetched for how this drama was established; that being, an attempt to explore the fantastic conspiracy and prophecy of Da Vinci’s work and influence within the context of his country’s political stability. 


Simon Belmont could handle him.  Can Da Vinci?

It all boils down to what this Book of Leaves journey really means for both Da Vinci and creator David S. Goyer.  Who’s to say how it will end and what Da Vinci will ultimately learn from it, but let’s not forget that merely introducing this mystery to the character (as a means of resolving some deeply felt mommy issues) motivated Da Vinci to get his work out of the studio and into society.  That connection is what makes this interpretation of Da Vinci interesting and easy to empathize with.  The further Da Vinci drifts towards the Book of Leaves, the further he drifts from every other character this show has so painstakingly connected to the fate of the main character and this sensation is simply impossible to deny once the credits roll for this episode.


If you see me, that means the Book of Leaves, which means everything else disappears!

Since Da Vinci’s relevance to the overall plot seems to take a hiatus, more supporting characters and subplots come to the forefront.  The three brewing subplots that are touched upon are Lorenzo’s political leadership, Giulino’s continued ascension to a contributing member of the ruling family and Rome’s nefarious leadership imploding on itself.  By themselves, these plots are all very interesting so long as they connect back to the main character.  This is why Da Vinci’s diminished capacity resolved so well during last week’s episode.  Unfortunately, none of these situations make a connection to Leonardo’s field trip, they feel rushed because they all happen during this episode and they accentuate Da Vinci’s absence which benefits no one.


We may be getting lost.

Thanks to “The Devil,” I am concerned that interesting characters like the spy and Count Riario continue to fade to obscurity thanks to the introduction of even more new characters that seem equally important to the events surrounding Europe’s landscape as well as Da Vinci’s quest.  I do not take kindly to being introduced to characters who are set up to fulfill certain roles, only to be ushered away from them to satisfy a particular aspect of Da Vinci’s quest which still doesn’t actually get him a step closer to his goal.  It seems like an unreasonable sacrifice for the viewer to make when the strength of this show has been about making interesting connections between characters and situations.  Viewers should not have to wait for another episode to at least get a hint of some connection.


Do you remember when I was a promising villain?

I didn’t care for much of this episode other than two quotes which I feel are central to Da Vinci as well as being significant social commentary  1) “Hell exists if the evil of this world exceeds our belief to conquer it.” And 2) “All things are possible.  Even defeat.”  The first suggests the kind of empowerment felt initially by Da Vinci to do something with his gifts and the second suggests Da Vinci ought to address his greatest weakness: lacking any sense of humility.  Perhaps these ideas will take form in next week’s episode: “The Hierophant.”  Or perhaps Da Vinci will have a run-in with Medusa.

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Review: Da Vinci’s Demons Episode 5: “The Tower”

Da Vinci = Liberace

A Show Review of Da Vinci’s Demons Episode 5: “The Tower”


By: Lawrence Napoli

My titular suggestion of whom else I feel Da Vinci channels in this fifth episode of Da Vinci’s Demons is more than a reference to the many examples of “air piano” he displays throughout as he attempts to work out the predicament he finds himself in.  Indeed, last week’s episode ended with an extreme curve ball that saw him in handcuffs at the very moment he was finally receiving full acceptance and praise within the epicenter of Florence’s power.  Even during the Renaissance, it was a very bad idea to get on the wrong side of anyone in power because the manner of “due process” the viewer witnesses here apparently requires no evidence to see a person be jailed indefinitely.  Ah, but Da Vinci’s powers of observation and reason are equal to the task as his abilities are easily applied to just about any situation; not just inventing cool things.  It’s not about being smarter than everyone else (because he’d avoid being Florence’s whipping boy amidst the intercession of Rome), but about cutting to the quick faster than everyone else which reveals the true benefactor, the true motive and the true conspiracy that seeks to remove Da Vinci from the game in which Florence’s freedom hangs in the balance.


Bat shit crazy!

Although we see plenty of scenes of Da Vinci in prison, the engine of this episode is the court room drama that seeks to make his imprisonment permanent.  These moments are perhaps the most pleasing of this episode because it gives the audience an entirely unique format in which to experience the story.  The extra twist to these proceedings shows a certain someone pledged with Da Vinci’s defense.  This begins to redefine their relationship to a level of mutual respect viewers have not yet seen and have these characters ever experienced in their lives.  Unfortunately, this does mean this episode is very heavy on dialogue and not particularly abundant with action, laughs and visual effects. 


Witness for the defense.

It also means that other characters continue to step to the forefront in terms of their impact to the story and their ability to connect with the audience.  Da Vinci’s Demons continues its strategy of paralleling conflicts that shows the Medici’s attempt to sure up their financial situation by securing a foreign account while displaying Da Vinci’s personal plight.  As it turns out, this subplot is equally important and shockingly, not mutually exclusive to Da Vinci’s imprisonment.  These scenes give the audience a much clearer view of what the Medici family represents, the kind of people they really strive to be and their vision moving forward into the future.  In just about every episode prior to The Tower, the Medici’s are portrayed as your average ruling class snobs that are completely out of touch with “the people.”  Certainly, Da Vinci’s influence has been bridging that gap, but Lorenzo’s sales pitch combined with Giulino’s charm gives us a reverse perspective from the top down that doesn’t repulse or disgust.  Knowing Lorenzo’s manic nature, I don’t fully trust his high minded idealism as I could easily see him turn on Da Vinci (and by extension, the audience) instantly if he saw profit in it.


Not even this ugly beard will prevent me from getting to the truth.

The Tower is easily my favorite episode thus far mostly due to the court room drama format.  Although this episode is less concerned with the Book of Leaves, it ends with the surprising return of a person who set Da Vinci on this path of discovery in the first place.  The audience is treated to more cryptic imagery that doesn’t exactly make sense so hopefully we will discover the connection between Da Vinci and the Vault of Heaven before this first season is over.  The one thing I don’t care for at all is the fact that Riario and his Roman conspirators are not seen once during this entire episode.  Although, I imagine this situation will be rectified in next week’s episode entitled “The Devil”.  God only knows how Da Vinci will continue to survive, let alone discover the Book of Leaves, despite the immensity of his adversity.

Movie News Reviews

Da Vinci’s Demons Review: Episode 4: “The Magician”

Da Vinci = Batman

A Show Review of Da Vinci’s Demons Episode 4: “The Magician”

By: Lawrence Napoli



The end of last week’s episode saw Florence all but folding in on itself what with “demonic” possession, spies amongst the ruling family and the flippant Leonardo Da Vinci of all people being relied upon to tip an inevitable conflict with Rome in his own country’s favor.  This episode escalates the situation to the closest we’ve all come to witnessing a field battle along the lines of Braveheart or The Patriot, but to have such a conflict only halfway through such an abbreviated, first season could possibly spoil the finale.  Thus, we are all given a nice tease as to what we may expect when Florence and Rome set their armies against each other.

As a character, Da Vinci becomes more and more difficult to get a grasp of during this episode which is not necessarily a bad thing considering David S. Goyer’s conscious efforts to portray the man as physically incapable of containing and channeling the brilliance within him.  As the title of this review suggests, Da Vinci demonstrates the same DIY, self confidence and determination as a certain Dark Knight.  However, it is Leonardo’s sudden change of heart amidst his constant pondering of the Vault of Heaven, the Book of Leaves, the security of Florence and keeping the Medici’s off his ass where this connection is demonstrated by an oddly timed moment of clarity.  Rome is on Florence’s doorstep which forces Da Vinci’s rumination to a depressing state in which he all but admits the constant and perpetuating destructive nature of man, which leads to a flip flop (of sorts) concerning his own infernal devices and a rash reaction that surprises every single character. 

Da Vinci’s manic nature can be a bit frustrating to accept because he is brilliant and charming and clearly the protagonist of this show, but his attention span is short, his motives still seem a bit selfish and even his own friends are getting irritated by his actions.  No, he’s not as easy to like as Iron Man because Da Vinci’s comedy isn’t nearly as frequent, but Tom Riley continues to evolve this character with peaks and valleys in a way that challenges the viewer.  I love the fact that Da Vinci is in a world of his own to the point where everything could be collapsing around him and he still wouldn’t care less about such a detail if it interrupted one of his thoughts.  It may come off as hubris on steroids, but his unconventional means haven’t backfired yet.

Riario gets back into the direct plot after a brief hiatus last episode to once again come off as the smooth talking sonova-B; he actually is to once again match wits with Da Vinci and the rest of his cohorts from Florence.  I like how each confrontation has escalated in terms of the venue and stakes, but I don’t like how Riario is constantly behind the 8 Ball.  For someone who claims leadership over a network of spies and information control, he doesn’t have very good facts about Da Vinci the man, his propensity for bravado and his excellent showmanship.  As a result, this character is starting to look a little weak to me, and when you factor in his character being handled by Rome in a similar fashion as Florence treats Da Vinci, I expect to see this rabid dog cut loose sooner than later which will make him more threatening and a better villain overall.

This wasn’t a week for special effects of any sort which was kind of a disappointment.  Plot twists involving the spy’s conspiracy and the Medici family’s political agenda ate up a lot of time that could have been used to show us all a little more of “Leo Land” from a visual effects perspective.  Alas, there’s a lot of dialogue and minimal action and how this episode ends doesn’t suggest the promise of more action in the next episode: “The Tower.”  Still, Da Vinci’s pursuit of the Book of Leaves progresses slowly but surely which gives the viewers an explanation as to why this opportunity landed in Florence of all places. 

Overall, this was a decent episode that could have been better had it delivered on any one of its various teases (especially one that involves a rather large set piece).  I’m really starting to hate Lorenzo as a character and wondering if everyone in Florence would be better off if his brother (who isn’t the blathering idiot he usually is for this episode) was calling the shots.  I like what the spy continues to do and I like how any internal conflict about what is being done gives way to self preservation; which yields a more devious character.  As for next week’s episode, I really want to know how Da Vinci’s big mouth is going to get him out of this one.

Movie News Reviews

Da Vinci’s Demons Review: Episode 3 “The Prisoner”

Da Vinci = Bill Maher

A Show Review of Da Vinci’s Demons Episode 3: “The Prisoner”

By: Lawrence Napoli


Bang! Just as I made an observation concerning the formulaic structure to this show’s episodes, director David S. Goyer goes and throws me a curve ball. Get out of my head, man! Unfortunately, the first couple of minutes of this third episode are no less cryptic, chaotic and curious by cutting to several characters in a sequential order that doesn’t make any sense unless you watch the rest of the episode. Perhaps the purpose of starting every episode in this manner is meant to reflect Da Vinci’s personal thought process which is an incomprehensible collision of ideas that would only make sense to fellow human dynamos. As it is, it’s still somewhat of a frustrating way to start an episode, and even if one were to put the confusing juxtaposition aside, the first moments feel like this entire episode is going to be rushing through some plot. Thankfully, this intro is only a momentary decent into madness.


The story that is taking form by the end of this episode is certainly branching out to some very interesting places as well as featuring even more established characters and their respective subplots. In fact, Da Vinci takes a bit of a back seat to his supporting cast this time around which makes for more screen time for Giulino Medici (Tom Bateman), Count Riario (Blake Ritson), Clarice Orsini (Lara Pulver) and an as yet unidentified wild card who happens to be introduced in this appropriately titled episode: “The Prisoner.” All that can be said about this new character is that he comes from an older world of wisdom – the very same kind which Da Vinci seeks in his quest for ‘The Book of Leaves,’ and it certainly appears as though “Mr. X” and This third episode unloaded hefty amounts of plot twists and developments that I simply was not expecting: Lorzeno vs. his brother, Lorezno’s wife vs. his mistress, the Pope vs. his enforcer, the enforcer vs. the prisoner and science vs. religion. That last, thematic, conflict is the heart of this particular episode as what appears to be a series of hideous demonic possessions has become quite alarming to the people of Florence so much so that even Da Vinci must take notice and investigate. All right, so maybe Da Vinci isn’t exactly Bill Maher as he isn’t completely dismissive of the devil, but he is still looking at the overall picture as well as the acute details to find nothing but suspicious timing to all of the events he observes.


I really enjoy the dichotomy this series is delving into between the world of faith, mysticism and religion against the world of fact, reason and science. What’s interesting to think about is that those who are authorities in either world don’t exactly find that much separation between them in how they maintain and utilize their power and influence over others. They also seem to be the kind of people who are so far removed from the trials and tribulations of normal people (i.e. the SUPER rich). This is why Da Vinci presents such a compelling protagonist. At this point in his life, he is only now being recognized for his talents, yet he is still a no-name and is treated as such by those threatened by his abilities (those in power). He is certainly a champion of the people, but this episode is also clear that his own personal demon known only as obsession can get the better of him at times and it remains to be seen if this fatal weakness will be revisited in next week’s episode: “The Magician.”


Movie News Reviews

Review of Da Vinci’s Demons Episode 2: The Serpent

Da Vinci = Sherlock Holmes

By: Lawrence Napoli


The tale of how Leonardo Da Vinci fits (supposedly) into the political climate of Renaissance Italy and perhaps a greater global web of conspiracy and control continues with “The Serpent.”  In this second episode, I already see a structural pattern that may be developing for the remainder of this initial season in that substance induced visions set Leo on the path for which his exploits will follow.  The mystery and cryptic nature of Leonardo’s visions dangerously tip toe along the line that separates intrigue and absurdity.  This really puts an unnecessary burden on the viewer to really want to see the episode through to the very end before he or she has decided to make that kind of commitment on a Friday night filled with channel surfing.  Perhaps creator David S. Goyer’s desire to designate substance abuse during this time period as common as drinking wine ought to be shelved in favor of a slightly more traditional hook to begin episodes.  The story of Da Vinci’s Demons is certainly layered with more than enough juicy plot to keep viewers coming back for more that it shouldn’t give them excuses to turn away from the very start.


Stay with me.  The investigation is just getting started.

As for the plot, Leonardo’s pursuit of a once thought, mythological source of knowledge known only as ‘The Book of Leaves’ continues via baby steps in this episode that certainly comes off as an investigation worthy of Sherlock Holmes.  Da Vinci continues to use his photographic powers of observation and deduction to connect the events that unfold before him in the city-state of Florence to clues that are vital to his fated path of enlightenment.  What makes this episode work a tad better than the first is that other characters are given more opportunities to develop independent of Da Vinci’s presence which not only makes each character rounder, but makes Leonardo’s interaction with them that more meaningful.  I also like how this episode reveals the maestro as more than a selfish artisan, but as a loyal patriot to his native Florence.  It’s an important development that finally establishes Da Vinci as a hero and not simply smarter than everyone else.  Overall, the plot’s progression continues to intrigue as it leaves the viewer with a new destination in mind for our hero which may lead him to entirely new shores.


It looks like I will be Da Vinci’s nemesis.

It seems as though the budget allotted to each episode via Starz precludes the possibility of having episodes strictly devoted to action and set pieces that require the use of prolonged special/visual effects to get the idea across.  Where “The Hanged Man” episode used sparing visual effects for a couple of Da Vinci’s inventions and his “bullet-time vision, “The Serpent” uses effects for his inventions and a harrowing escape involving a rapid ascent via pulleys.  Yes, budget limitations can be used to a filmmaker’s advantage in that it forces one to rely on spectacle less and writing/performance more.  However, it can also lead to predictability, because if a very elaborate effect is used early in an episode, chances are the audience will not see another.  I understand that this is a very nitpicky criticism, but if the idea is to show Da Vinci’s works as awe-inspiring, then showing more visual effects is an inevitability that the budget may not have accounted for.


Perhaps one of Da Vinci’s infernal devices at work?

The only other character I’m starting to be interested in beyond Da Vinci himself is Lucrezia Donati, played by Laura Haddock, and yes, my interest goes beyond the regular nudity her character engages in.  Being a secret agent for Rome (which isn’t portrayed in the kindest light), she is meant to infiltrate the ruling Medici family and report her findings.  However, her budding relationship with Da Vinci and her proximity to Lorenzo may have compromised her self-serving nature.  She appears to be showing genuine affection to Leonardo, but it may still be her ingratiating herself into his inner circle for nefarious ends.  Either way, Lucrezia is a woman to watch for her fate may be more closely tied to Da Vinci’s than any of us realize.


Keep your eyes on the prize Leo; not the thighs.

I enjoyed this second episode, but I am disappointed at the fact that this first season is already 25% complete.  With only 6 episodes left, I feel the show may not have accomplished enough plot-wise to justify a second season which traditionally means a new direction, characters and stakes.  Unless, of course, the “second season” is simply “season one: volume 2,” which would make more sense if released within the same year; along the lines of what AMC does with The Walking Dead.  Too much downtime between volumes of the same season without some evolutionary leap in the storytelling process would lose viewers and ultimately kill the show.  Next Friday’s episode “The Prisoner” will reveal even more, but it remains to be seen how only 8 one hour-long episodes can effectively communicate the conflict between one man of singular intelligence and talent against a sea of corruption, control, greed and violence.

Movie News Reviews

Review: David Goyer’s: Da Vinci’s Demons Episode 1: The Hanged Man

Da Vinci = Tony Stark

A Show Review of Da Vinci’s Demons Episode 1: “The Hanged Man”

By: Lawrence Napoli


Who ever really knew the genius behind the Renaissance polymath?  A man of art, philosophy, creativity and ingenuity apparently had himself some inner demons with which he had to deal.  At least, that’s what creator David S. Goyer would have you believe for the premium television series debut of Da Vinci’s Demons only on Starz; a show about the mystery surrounding the man, the myth and the legend of Da Vinci as he finds his way in life during tumultuous times.


Da Vinci, the dynamo.

This debut episode entitled The Hanged Man presents the setting of Florence, Italy during the middle of the Renaissance and the viewer is introduced to Leonardo in the prime of his youth.  His creativity is literally bursting from his mind and his eagerness to extract every thought is just as ambitious.  Despite the inspiration of the period, there are still social and political restraints that the man must contend with and it is in this specific regard where we learn of his first true demon, namely: how a genius such as he is to fit in with the rest of society. 

Tom Riley plays Da Vinci in a manner that directly channels Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark in just about every way.  Perhaps this is the preferred method of portraying a human dynamo onscreen these days?  Riley shows off a decent amount of charisma with the rest of his cast, but his best moments are shared with the mysterious character known as “The Turk” played by Alexander Siddig whom you will all remember as Dr. Bashir from Deep Space Nine.  Riley’s energy matches his arrogance, but it appears that director David S. Goyer has steered Riley’s performance to reserved calm and focus whenever Leonardo engages in painting or drawing portraits; specifically those of beautiful women. 


Dr. Bashir, I presume?

Oh yes fellow viewers, Da Vinci’s Demons won’t be appearing in high school classrooms anytime soon due to its R-rating for language and nudity and as this is more of a fictional elaboration of the man’s life, it won’t be appearing on the History Channel either.  I get a very distinct Assassin’s Creed sensation while watching this show as not only the set and costume design mirror those used in Assassin’s Creed II, Brotherhood and Revelations, but the concepts of conspiracy and shadow government is a thinly layered veil that obscures the events in which Da Vinci participates.  Being a man of singular talent, he values the freedom to pursue his own machinations above all else so it remains to be seen if the protagonist will be presented as a proponent of social freedom, of social control or simply a man out for himself.


Da Vinci, the lover.

The only weakness of this debut episode is the fact that the show launches the viewer immediately into a plot rife with betrayal and conspiracy without being thorough about introducing Leonardo himself and what he’s all about.  Goyer is counting on people being somewhat familiar with Da Vinci’s history as he gradually introduces his own unique vision of the man over the course of the next seven episodes.  Honestly, I would have preferred a tad more time (perhaps even the entire episode) devoted to strictly establishing the character of Da Vinci.  The audience is shown a multitude of the man’s talents over a fraction of the screen time which feels like the show is rushing through Leonardo’s key traits and abilities.


What drives Da Vinci to his multiple areas of expertise?

This show will not suffer from a lack of production value as the visual effects look great, but are used sparingly for wide establishing shots of various cities and provinces in addition to an impressive means of communicating Da Vinci’s photographic memory in the form of bullet time.  This show certainly looks the part of a well developed series, but I still have a question in regards to the cast of characters.  Although those of power certainly could be forms of opposition to Leonardo, no one appears to be worthy of being his intellectual foil.  Perhaps the series will be pitting intelligence against politics and money and that would indeed be a fresh take on what the concept of “true power” means in society and how it pertains to groups as well as individuals.  However, I get the impression that we may be in store for a singular adversary to Da Vinci which would be a tad formulaic and somewhat diminishing of the man’s well established brilliance.  I would equate this potential conflict to pitting Superman against Lex Luthor: there really isn’t a match there.  But, Superman versus world peace, world hunger, climate change, terrorism, etc; that would be very interesting because it pits an individual of infinite capacity against problematic ideas that are self replenishing. 


Plenty of inventions are showcased in this show.

The Hanged Man was a good first episode, but I really need to see more of Leonardo’s character.  He easily comes off as superior to his peers in every category save for resources, but he needs to generate a tad more sympathy to be “heroic.”  I anticipate next week’s episode: The Serpent, to unravel a bit more of the shadowy plot, even more of his iconic inventions and dynamic applications of his natural talents.  But, I also want to see a better connection between the main character and the audience rather than glazing over the mundane details of his personal relations.

Head on over here for a preview to the next episode of Da Vinci’s Demons, “The Serpent.”

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