REVIEW: KAMEN RIDER GHOST

Image result for KAMEN RIDER GHOSTAfter the sheer insanity/genius of giving a Kamen Rider a car instead of a bike, it’s almost as if Toei went motif crazy in order to make the 2015-16 Rider seem just as innovative. Eyeball collectibles, hoodies, historical figures, a pirate ship that can transform into a giant iguana – these are just some of the facets that make up Kamen Rider Ghost. Spanning a total of 50 episodes, including a crossover with currently airing Super Sentai series Doubutsu Sentai Zyuohger, the 17th Heisei era Kamen Rider series (and 26th in total) marks Takuro Fukuda’s debut as lead writer and stars Shun Nishime as the titular character.Image result for KAMEN RIDER GHOSTOn his 16th birthday Takeru Tenkuji, the son of a ghost hunter who died ten years prior, is killed by a monster known as a Ganma while trying to protect his friends from its attack. Resurrected by a mysterious hermit and bestowed with a device known as the Ghost Driver, Takeru gains the ability to transform into Kamen Rider Ghost using orb shaped trinkets known as Eyecons. However Takeru now only has 99 days to gather 15 additional Eyecons contain the souls of historical figures, which when brought together will grant him one wish – to be brought back to life.Image result for KAMEN RIDER GHOSTOn his journey Takeru re-encounters his childhood friend Makoto Fukami, who along with his sister was sucked into the Ganma world ten years ago and has now taken the guise of Kamen Rider Specter. Though initially clashing, the two Riders also face off against the Ganma forces who are devoted to invading our world and reshaping it in their image of perfection. Enemies include the Ganma prince Alain (later becoming Kamen Rider Necrom) and his brother Adel – who also allies himself with the Ganmeizers, 15 deities that defend the Ganma world.Image result for KAMEN RIDER GHOST CASTThe series opens with Takeru on his 99-day quest to collect the 15 Dragon Balls Eyecons and wish for his mortality back from the Eternal Dragon Great Eye, during which he encounters past historical figures and gains new power ups along the way. Each Eyecon grants a new form, which means there are a total of 15 forms on offer before the series is even halfway through. Takeru himself doesn’t receive all of these initially, but even with that in mind it’s still a case of him receiving a new form almost every episode. Even the first episode pulls no punches about how quickly they’re sped through, as Ghost receives the first of his Heroic Eyecons (Musashi) before the audience has even properly gotten to grips with his base form. The speed they’re gone through not only means that many of them don’t really get a decent amount of exposure.12522977_1188615781165919_904208118060116510_nHowever this initial premise only lasts a mere 11 episodes, as Takeru sacrifices his wish to bring Makoto’s sister Kanon back to life instead. Rewarded with a reset countdown and an upgraded base form, the Eyecon gathering starts anew as the Ganma threat becomes properly realised. This is where the show becomes a little more interesting as Alain’s character development takes centre stage, with the Ganma’s argument that humans don’t deserve their world providing that dash of morality that makes Kamen Rider villains so interesting. From there the show moves into yet another arc as it introduces Adel and the Ganmeizers, returning to the “victim of the week” format as this time the cast connect with the Heroic Eyecons rather than finding them. This is the point the show decides to go big on themes (“humanities potential is infinite” etc.)Image result for KAMEN RIDER GHOST CASTKamen Rider Ghost is a great addition to the Kamen Rider family, Thou not as good as Kamen Rider Drive it still holds its own and the last episode gives us a tease of Kamen Rider Ex-Aid which looks to be very intresting.

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REVIEW: LUKE CAGE – SEASON 1

CAST

Mike Colter (Ringer)
Mahershala Ali (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay)
Simone Missick (A Taste of Romance)
Theo Rossi (Cloverfield)
Alfre Woodard (Star Trek: First Contact)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Rosario Dawson (Sin City)
Frank Whaley (Broken Arrow)
Sônia Braga (Alias)
Frankie Faison (The Silence of The Lambs)
Rob Morgan (Stranger Things)
Sean Ringgold (American Gangster)
Parisa Fitz-Henley (Even Money)
Karen Pittman (The Ameircans)
Erik LaRay Harvey (Twister)
Ron Cephas Jones (Mr. Robot)
Sonja Sohn (The Originals)
Rachael Taylor (Jessica Jones)

Netflix’s latest drama may not be a great superhero series, but it’s searingly relevant and entertaining. Premiering on Friday, Sept. 30, Luke Cage is vital and alive and of-the-moment. It sings with the rhythms and swagger of Harlem and it’s a genre show that wears its intellectual curiosities like a badge. It’s so satisfying as badass street poetry and muscular urban renewal parable that after watching the seven episodes made available for critics, I barely cared that as a superhero show, Luke Cage is often repetitive and a little underwhelming. It’s the logical extension of Marvel’s niche-y approach to its Netflix offerings, a specificity that has yielded shows that are far more provocative, but far less universally accessible than the company’s blockbuster movies.The Marvel movies try to tick every box, but staying true to Netflix’s general business model, their comic book shows have just gone after one or two boxes aggressively. Jessica Jones used a snarky heroine and a mind-controlling bad guy to craft a story about consent and the power of sisterhood. Daredevil was using blindness and the darkness of Hell’s Kitchen as a platform for a story of Catholic guilt and challenged faith. Run by Cheo Hodari Coker, Luke Cage is the Harlem Renaissance intersecting with the comic book renaissance, a confrontational act of all-too-real wish fulfillment imagining a young black male as bulletproof.

Mike Colter’s Luke Cage was introduced in Jessica Jones as a haunted love interest for the main character, where we learned about his powers, basically being super-strong and impervious to bullets (or pretty much anything that might pierce/penetrate/crush his skin). We pick up with Luke sweeping the floors at the neighborhood barbershop run by Frankie Faison’s Pop. It’s the sort of community institution where people sit around all day debating the coaching styles of Pat Riley and Phil Jackson or whether Easy Rawlins or Kenyatta was the better urban fiction hero. By night, he works as a dishwasher at Harlem’s Paradise, a nightclub with a tremendous talent booker and operated by mobster Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes (Mahershala Ali), cousin of local politician Mariah Dillard (Alfre Woodard). Immediately, we see a harsh contrast between the greedy capitalist renewal espoused by Cottonmouth and Dillard and the grassroots Harlem that Luke Cage wants to be a part of and wants to elevate. Naturally, conflict is a-brewing between the two Harlems.Like Wilson Fisk in Daredevil, Cottonmouth is a vicious, remorseless killer, but he’s also got a somewhat noble sense of how what he’s doing is good for the borough he grew up in. Cottonmouth’s ties are to family and also to the idea of legacy and the protection of a renowned family name, key details that Coker and his writers hit hard.The Marvel movies rely on outsized special effects to capture their heightened take on reality, but the Netflix shows don’t have the budget for that, so they opt for outsized thematics instead. Like Jessica Jones before it, Luke Cage is aggressively unsubtle, but it’s also aggressively smart. Sure, having Luke Cage wandering around, wearing a hoodie as an act of defiance, reading Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man feels a bit on the nose, but once you throw in the references to Walter Mosley and Donald Goines and Ta-Nehisi Coates, it becomes clear that this show doubles as a superlative summer reading list, which has value beyond computer-generated scenes of mass destruction or a really cool mocap villain.The early episodes are so charmingly brainy and move with such a light step — Paul McGuigan of Sherlock and Scandal knows his way around a flashy pilot — and the cinematography is so stylish — not surprisingly, everybody loves photographing Mike Colter — that you only sometimes realize that the things you expect to get out of a superhero show are largely missing. Luke Cage is, to his great detriment, initially much too powerful, and while he’s certainly a reluctant hero, when he actually goes to work on the bad guys, it’s pointless to try stopping him. The “Ruckus” set piece in the third episode stands out because nothing else even comes close in scope or action execution. Of the seven episodes, the one that was least successful for me, and by a wide margin, was the most comic book-y, an origin-story fourth episode that hews reasonably closely to Luke’s ’70s Marvel origins. It’s fitting that Luke would want to debate pulp and elevated pulp-fiction African-American heroes, because that’s the tradition Luke Cage operates best in, which is great if that’s what you’re looking for the show to be.Ali makes great use of a classic villain cackle, and he gives Cottonmouth a coiled, psychotic rage and disarming glimpses of reasonableness. Woodard’s Mariah is Cottonmouth’s opposite, all superficial gentility and then undercurrents of something unhinged that become more frequent. Faison and Ron Cephas Jones, as a barbershop chess wiz named (or nicknamed) Bobby Fish, offer grounded decency, and I’m enjoying what Theo Rossi is doing, skulking around the edges, as a criminal intermediary dubbed Shades. Simone Missick’s Misty Knight and Rosario Dawson’s Claire Temple are there half as proactive female leads, half as potential love interests for Luke, but sometimes are confusing reminders that Luke was mighty hung up on a deceased ex — and then on Jessica Jones — just one TV show ago and they feel like they ought to be mentioned.Just as Colter moves with purpose, Luke Cage moves with purpose, even if that purpose isn’t the same as what Civil War or Age of Ultron have led audiences to anticipate from Marvel. It’s a series infused by the conversations we’re having about race and gender and the American urban space in 2016, and it’s a series built to inspire additional conversations about black masculinity and representations of heroism in an age in which the news is too often focused on the tragic disposability of black masculinity. Luke Cage is another great staple for Marvel and its Cinematic Universe.

31 DAYS OF HORROR REVIEW: PIRANHA 3DD

CAST

Danielle Panabaker (The Flash)
Matt Bush (Adventureland)
Katrina Bowden (30 Rock)
David Koechner (Anchorman)
Chris Zylka (The Secret Circle)
Gary Busey (Predator 2)
Christopher Lloyd (Back To The Future)
Ving Rhames (Mission Impossible)
Adrian Martinez (A Perfect Murder)
Paul Scheer (Year One)
Clu Gulager (The Tall Man)
Jean-Luc Bilodeau (LOL)
Megan Tandy (Teen Wolf)
Eli Roth (Inglourious Basterds)
David Hasselhoff (Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.)

A year after the massacre on Lake Victoria by prehistoric piranhas, an eradication campaign has left the lake uninhabitable, and the town itself has been largely abandoned as a result of the drying-up of the lake. Meanwhile, at Cross Lake, two farmers (Gary Busey and Clu Gulager) search the waters to recover the body of a dead cow. Piranha eggs that have been laid inside the cow hatch, and the farmers are killed by the swarm, but before they both die, one farmer pops out of the water, bites the head off one of the piranhas and spits it into the air before sinking back into the water.

Maddy (Danielle Panabaker), a marine biology student, returns home for the summer to the waterpark she co-owns. She finds to her horror that the other co-owner, her step-father Chet (David Koechner), plans to add an adult-themed section to the waterpark with “water-certified strippers”, and re-open it as “Big Wet”. At a party at the waterpark that night, Maddy encounters several old acquaintances, including her policeman ex-boyfriend Kyle (Chris Zylka) and Barry (Matt Bush), who has secretly had a crush on her since grade school. She also runs into two of her close friends, Ashley (Meagan Tandy) and Shelby (Katrina Bowden). Shelby and her boyfriend Josh (Jean-Luc Bilodeau) go skinny-dipping in the lake, where a piranha makes its way inside her vagina. Meanwhile, Ashley and her boyfriend Travis begin to have sex in their van, but Ashley accidentally trips the handbrake with her foot, causing the van to roll into the lake. Travis, handcuffed to the van during foreplay and unable to escape, is devoured while Ashley, on the roof of the van, calls for help. With no one around to hear her cries, the van sinks into the lake and she is eaten alive by the killer fish.

The next day, Maddy is consoling Shelby about their missing friends. While sitting on a jetty, they are both attacked by a swarm of piranhas. They manage to kill one, and Maddy, Kyle and Barry take it to marine expert Carl Goodman (Christopher Lloyd) to examine. He informs them that the piranhas may be moving via sewage pipes and underground rivers between lakes, attracted by chemicals involved in swimming pool cleansers that match their spawning routes. However, the wider world wouldn’t listen to his theory that the fish could evolve to become terrain-viable. The trio return to the lake, where they establish that the piranhas cannot make their way into the outflow pipes connecting the lake and the waterpark. While Shelby and Josh are having sex, the piranha in Shelby’s vagina bites Josh’s penis, forcing him to chop the organ off with a knife. Both are hospitalized, but survive. Kyle is revealed to be corrupt and taking bribes from Chet, who is secretly pumping water from an underground river into the waterpark, lowering his costs and boosting his profits. Chet orders Kyle to keep Maddy from finding out about his nefarious plans.

“Big Wet” opens the next day. Among the first guests are Deputy Fallon (Ving Rhames), who survived his previous ordeal with the piranhas but lost his legs, and former cameraman Andrew Cunningham (Paul Scheer). While the duo attempts to overcome their fear of the water after they were attacked a year ago, David Hasselhoff also makes an appearance as a celebrity lifeguard.

Discovering the connection between the park and the underground river, Maddy attempts to shut the waterpark down, but is stopped by Chet and Kyle. The piranhas make their way to the area and attack, killing many of the lifeguards and waterpark-goers. Fallon attaches a shotgun prosthesis to his legs in order to save the visitors, while Hasselhoff, after rescuing a small boy named David (Matthew Lintz), is pleased that he has finally become a real lifeguard. In the chaos, Chet refuses to help any survivors, including Kiki (Irina Voronina), who is eaten by the fish. He reluctantly offers some cash to a young girl whose mother is dead, but then accidentally reverses over her with his golf cart. As he attempts to drive off to safety, Chet is then decapitated by a hanging cable.

Maddy instructs Barry to begin draining the pools; however, while rescuing people from the water, she becomes caught in the suction and is dragged down to the bottom of the pool. After Kyle refuses to save her because of his fear of piranhas, Barry, despite being unable to swim, leaps down and brings her to the surface, whereupon Maddy is revived. She and Barry then kiss.
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Another employee, Big Dave, pours pure chlorine into the pipes, followed by a lit joint. The resulting explosion kills most of the piranhas, while Kyle is killed by a falling trident. The celebrations are cut short, however, when Maddy takes a phone call from a horrified Mr. Goodman, who informs them that the escaped piranha are evolving and are now able to move on land, to which Maddy replies that she knows. The film ends as the Piranha Queen emerges from the pool and decapitates David (the small child who Hasselhoff saved earlier), leading Hasselhoff to quip “Little ginger moron”, while the surviving visitors pick up their phones and take pictures of the dead child.
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In a post-credits scene, Hasselhoff is running on a beach holding a trident, which is an advertisement for a film titled Fishhunter.Image result for piranha 3ddI found it a gross and funny B-Movie, with stupid but hilarious characters. The director knows the B-movie formula, with teats and beautiful girls. Christopher Lloyd has become stereotyped as the mad scientist in American comedies . The uncredited Ving Rhames afraid of the water and shooting with his leg is comical. But David Hasselhoff steals the movie making fun of himself as the most famous lifeguard of all times. If you shutdown your brain, you will certainly enjoy this movie.

31 DAYS OF HORROR REVIEW: PIRANHA 3D

CAST

Richard Dreyfuss (Tin Man)
Ving Rhames (Mission Impossible)
Elisabeth Shue (Hollow Man)
Christopher Lloyd (Back To The Future)
Steven R. McQueen (The Vampire Diaries)
Jerry O’Connell (Sliders)
Jessica Szohr (Ted 2)
Eli Roth (Inglourious Basterds)
Kelly Brook (Three)
Adam Scott (Kampus)
Riley Steele (Pirates II)
Richard Chavira (Desperate Housewives)
Dina Meyer (Birds of Prey)
Bonnie Morgan (The Devil Inside)
Paul Scheer (Year One)

Fisherman Matt Boyd is fishing in Lake Victoria when a small earthquake hits, splitting the lake floor and causing a whirlpool. Boyd falls in, and is ripped apart by a shoal of piranhas that emerge from the chasm.

Jake Forester is admiring attractive tourists as spring break begins. He reunites with his old crush Kelly Driscoll and meets Derrick Jones, a sleazy pornographer, as well as Danni Arslow, one of his actresses. Derrick convinces Jake to show him good spots on the lake for filming a pornographic movie. That night, Jake’s mother, Sheriff Julie Forester, searches for the missing Matt Boyd with Deputy Fallon. They find his mutilated body and contemplate closing the lake. This decision, however, is made difficult as two-thousand partying college students are on spring break, which is important for bringing revenue to the small town. The next morning, a lone cliff diver is attacked and consumed by the vicious, marauding piranhas.

Jake bribes his sister, Laura, and brother, Zane (Sage Ryan), to stay home alone so that he can show Derrick around the lake. After Jake leaves, Zane convinces Laura to go fishing on a small sandbar island. They forget to tie the boat down and are stranded in the middle of the lake. Meanwhile, Jake goes to meet with Derrick and runs into Kelly, who accepted Derrick’s invitation on board his boat, The Barracuda. Jake meets Crystal Shepard, another one of Derrick’s actresses, and cameraman Andrew Cunningham.  Julie takes a team of seismologist divers—Novak Radzinsky, Sam Montez, and Paula Montellano to the fissure. Novak speculates that the rift leads to a buried prehistoric lake. Paula and Sam scuba dive to the bottom and discover a large cavern filled with large piranha egg stocks. Both are killed by the piranhas before they can alert the others to the discovery. Novak and Julie find Paula’s corpse and pull it onto the boat, capturing a lone piranha, which they take to Carl Goodman, a marine biologist who works as a pet store owner. He explains that it is a highly aggressive prehistoric species, long believed to be extinct, and that the piranhas have survived through cannibalism. The species is able to vigorously devour its prey in seconds.
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Julie, Novak, Fallon, and Deputy Taylor Roberts try to evacuate the lake, but their warnings are ignored, until the piranhas begin to fiercely attack the tourists. Novak boards a jet-ski with a shotgun to help while Fallon drags people to shore, and Julie and Taylor try to get swimmers into the police boat. Almost everyone in the lake is either wounded, dismembered, or killed by the piranhas altogether, while the remaining surviving tourists escape. The party spot rapidly turns into a bloodbath.
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Meanwhile, Jake spots Laura and Zane on the island and forces Derrick to rescue them. Derrick crashes the boat into some rocks, flooding the boat’s lower deck and causing the boat to begin sinking. Kelly is trapped in the kitchen while Derrick, Crystal and Andrew fall overboard from the impact of the collision. Crystal is devoured, and Andrew escapes to shore unharmed. Meanwhile, Danni manages to get a partially eaten Derrick back on board, where he then dies.  Deputy Fallon makes a last stand, taking a boat motor and using its propeller to shred many piranhas, though he is presumed to be killed by the Piranhas. After the chaos settles, Julie receives a call from Jake pleading for help. Julie and Novak steal a speedboat and head off towards the kids. They reach Jake and attach a rope to his boat. Julie, Danni, Laura, and Zane start crossing the rope, but the piranhas latch onto Danni’s hair, causing her to lose her grip on the rope and fall into the water, where she is quickly devoured. The others make it across safely, but the rope comes loose. Using Derrick’s corpse as a distraction, Jake ties the line to himself and goes to save Kelly. He ties Kelly to him and lights a flare after releasing the gas from a pair of stored propane tanks. Novak starts the boat and speeds away just as the piranhas surround Kelly and Jake. They are dragged to safety as the propane tanks explode, destroying the boat and killing most of the piranhas.
Image result for piranha 2010Mr. Goodman calls Julie on the radio, and Julie tells him that they seem to have killed the majority of the piranhas. A horrified Goodman tells her that the reproductive glands on the piranha they obtained were not mature, which means that the fish they have killed were only the babies. As Novak wonders aloud where the parents are, the human sized-Piranha Queen leaps out of the water and eats him.

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This film was of course, filmed in 3D (there are two discs, one 2D, one 3D) with dismembered body parts and voracious piranhas coming at you in abundance. Strangely enough, I found that the 3D effects worked rather better in 2D and wearing the gasses provided was little more than a gimmick and made everything a bit monochrome. Still, it is all great fun and I enjoyed every bloody minute of it and, provided that you throw your artistic sensibilities out of the window, so, I am sure, will you!

REVIEW: POSSESSION

CAST

Sarah Michelle Gellar (Cruel Intentions)
Lee Pace (The Hobbit)
Michael Landes (Lois & Clark)
Chelah Horsdal (Hell On Wheels)
Tuva Novotny (Nobel)
Dhirendra (Da Vinci’s Inquest)
William B. Davis (The X-Files)
Peter Bryant (Dark Angel)
Veena Sood (50/50)

Jess (Gellar) is a sweet-natured but driven lawyer who puts her career ahead of her personal life and ahead of her marriage to her artist husband, Ryan (Landes). The couple is on the verge of their first wedding anniversary, and though they are happy, the thorn in the side of their relationship is Ryan’s younger brother Roman (Pace). Where Ryan comes across as an honest and sweet man, Roman is the direct opposite. Roman is moody and violent, particularly with his casual girlfriend Casey (Novotny), and Jess is terrified of him, particularly as she met Ryan through Roman when she represented him in court on an aggravated assault charge. When Roman overhears Jess and Ryan discussing their plans to send him to a halfway house, he packs his bags and leaves in his car.
Jess calls Ryan, worried about what the impulsive Roman will do, and Ryan quickly heads home in his car. As the brothers cross the Golden Gate Bridge, they crash into one another and are both seriously injured. Jess goes to the hospital and learns that both Roman and Ryan are in comas. Casey arrives and shares a few words with Jess, who promises to keep her updated. Later, Jess gets her mail and finds one of Ryan’s weekly handwritten love letters. After several weeks, Roman suddenly awakens—but he immediately claims to be Ryan, begging Jess to believe that he is her husband returned to her in his brother’s body. He implies that something supernatural happened when their bodies were revived side by side on the road, but cannot explain the phenomenon. Jess is initially doubtful and hostile towards Roman, believing that he is disoriented from his head injuries, and she employs Casey’s help in trying to get him to regain his memories.
However, he maintains that he is Ryan, continually offering romantic gestures and recounting specific memories private to them. Eventually, after a year passes, once he accurately recalls the story behind a certain photograph of the two of them, she believes that he is truly her husband and they resume their romantic life. Despite the disapproval of Jess’ co-workers and a harsh reaction from Casey, who still believes that he is actually Roman, Jess and Ryan fall back into their former happy marriage, although Jess is still hesitant to turn off the machines keeping Ryan’s body alive. They are both soon thrilled by the news that Jess is pregnant. Casey goes missing, but when the police question them, Ryan merely says that she was “troubled”. Jess notices a discrepancy in a necklace that Ryan gave her before his accident, but brushes it aside until she discovers the original necklace hidden in a picture frame.
She then discovers that the box in which she kept all of Ryan’s many love letters and photographs has been broken into, and she realizes that Roman has in fact lied to her, having previously studied the pictures and letters to learn the details of their marriage to impersonate his brother. When she confronts him, he quickly grows violent with her, saying that he did it because he loved her and knew they were meant to be together, saying that she must have sensed that it was him all along, and it is revealed that he murdered Casey because of her suspicions. As Roman and Jess fight, Ryan, in the hospital, experiences a seizure. Jess finally manages to stab Roman with a pottery knife, and he dies as the doctors work on Ryan. Later, at the hospital, Jess learns that her baby sustained no injuries from Roman’s attack and that Ryan managed to pull through his episode, and she sits by his bedside, promising to wait for him and start their life over once he returns to her.Possession has an intriguing premise but a poor screenplay and execution. The story of a man possessed by the spirit of his brother could be an excellent horror, thriller, drama or even story of repressed desire. Unfortunately despite of the lovely Sarah Michelle Gellar, the plot is not well developed and has many flaws, like for example the fate of Casey or what would happen with Jessica after killing Roman. Worth seeing for SMG fans.

REVIEW: LEGENDS OF OZ: DOROTHY’S RETURN

CAST

Lea Michele (Scream Queens)
Dan Aykroyd (Ghostbusters)
Jim Belushi (Red Heat)
Kelsey Grammer (Bad Neighbours 2)
Tracey Adams (American Horror Story)
Michael Kravic (Ghosts of Mars)
Martin Short (Mars Attacks)
Bernadette Peters (Annie)
Oliver Platt (2012)
Hugh Dancy (Hannibal)
Brian Blessed (Flash Gordon)
Megan Hilty (The Good Wife)
Patrick Stewart (American Dad)
Richard Steven Horvitz (Power Rangers)
Tom Kenny (Super Hero Squad)
Cam Clarke (He-Man 2002)
Scott Menville (Teen Titans)

In the Land of Oz, the Emerald City’s co-leaders the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion discover that an evil Jester has stolen the broomstick of the late Wicked Witch of the West and taken control over the Flying Monkeys. With Oz’s future at stake, the Scarecrow decides to use his invention called the Rainbow Mover to summon Dorothy Gale to save the kingdom again. But flying monkeys invade the castle and force the trio out the window.

In Kansas, Dorothy’s farm has been wrecked by a tornado, leaving it in disrepair. A sleazy man claiming to be a government appraiser arrives and condemns the farmhouse, handing the Gales an eviction notice. Dorothy discovers people all across town have been handed the same notices and are moving on. Dorothy and Toto encounter a rainbow which abducts them, transporting them to Oz, but not to the Emerald City as intended.

Dorothy meets Wiser, an overweight but intelligent owl who cannot fly. They enter Candy Country, where everything is made out of confectionery including the people. They are promptly arrested by Marshal Mallow for breaking the “no eating anything made of candy rule” due to the Jester tampering with the signs and taken before a court presided over by Judge Jawbreaker. When Judge Jawbreaker finds them guilty, the lollipop stenographer asks for their names to put on the death certificates. Upon realizing who Dorothy is, Judge Jawbreaker drops the charges of eating candy and releases her and Wiser. under the suggestion of Judge Jawbreaker, Mallow joins the group on their way to the Emerald City as a promise he made to find the missing General Candy Apple. Meanwhile, Glinda confronts the Jester in his castle, who has attached his sister’s crystal ball to her broomstick, creating a magic staff which he has used to turn Oz’s leaders (with General Candy Apple among them) into subservient marionettes. Glinda also falls victim to this as well.

Dorothy’s company enter the Dainty China Country and require permission from the vain China Princess to pass through her kingdom. With Mallow posing as a suitor, the group enter the China Princess’ castle and see her rejecting potential suitors but is enchanted by Mallow’s singing. An earthquake caused by the Jester damages the land, prompting an angry China Princess to blame Dorothy for the Jester’s torment but agrees to allow her group to pass through on the condition she accompanies them. Finding a bridge to the Emerald City destroyed, the group decide to construct a boat but all the talking trees refuse to co-operate, except an aging tree named Tugg who is carved into a galleon. They sail into the Emerald City, finding it abandoned, only to be attacked by the Flying Monkeys. Dorothy’s group escape into a cave system but tumble down a waterfall.

The China Princess is shattered by the fall and presumed dead, prompting Dorothy to head for the Jester’s palace alone. Mallow mourns the princess, and sings to her about his newfound love for her, discovering she is alive and fixes her. Mustering up his confidence and strength, Wiser manages to fly off to aid Dorothy. Dorothy and Toto confront the Jester, who plans to kill her, only for Toto to drop a curtain on his head, with the lead Flying Monkey named “You” stealing the Jester’s staff to regrow its wings after the latter shrunk them. As the Jester gives chase, Dorothy reunites with her captured friends and they confront the Jester on the rooftop. In the ensuing fight for the staff, Dorothy falls off the roof but is caught by Wiser.

The rest of Dorothy’s friends arrive with Tugg built on wheels, engaging the Flying Monkeys in battle. The Jester tries to rid himself of Dorothy by summoning a tornado but Dorothy’s own magic breaks the spell damaging Oz and freeing the marionettes. The Jester is nearly sucked into the tornado, but is saved by Dorothy. However, when she casts the staff into the tornado, the Jester throws himself in after it and vanishes. Glinda appears and sends Dorothy and Toto home.

Reuniting with Aunt Em and Uncle Henry, Dorothy rallies the townsfolk to stand up for their homes, discovering the appraiser is a con artist using multiple fake licenses to commit crimes. He is arrested by the sheriff while his lackey runs off. Everyone starts to rebuild their town with Dorothy’s farm being among those rebuilt.All in all this is a film that the whole family should find charming and fun. And at 88 minutes it is the perfect length to tell the new Oz story while keeping your attention. Ignore those critics complaining about the quality of the animation. Its a kids’ movie, for crying out loud!

REVIEW: DRAGON DYNASTY

CAST

Federico Castelluccio (The Pink Panther 2)
Stana Katic (Castle)
James Hong (Blade Runner)
Dion Basco (Dahmer)
Aaron Hendry (The Polar Express)
Peter Kwong (The Golden Child)

Image result for DRAGON DYNASTY (2006)The story, written by Berkeley Anderson and directed by Matt Codd, finds Marco Polo and his group of Italian explorers in China, after establishing trade relations with the country. The emperor is happy to give his guests a good send-off, however someone else has other plans. Shang Sei, played by Peter Kwong, does not trust the ‘Westerners’, so uses an ancient stone to call up two terrifying dragons from the netherworld to wreak havoc upon their journey home.Image result for DRAGON DYNASTY (2006)The positives of this film are its budget and the fact that it pretty much cuts straight to the action. There is no waiting around for tedious scene-setting and unnecessary dialogue, which is a good thing as the acting and story-telling is quite disappointing. We do however, get to see two dragons in all their flying, fire-breathing glory and the special effects in this area are good enough to keep you entertained, at least for a time. The dragons look impressive enough and when they breathe fire, you can almost feel it exploding out of your television screen, which is a compliment to the special-effects creators. While the special effects are not up to the same standard as high-profile, big screen productions, a good effort has been made to make fights, deaths and dragons look authentic. Dragon Dynasty‘s big budget, of an estimated $1,000,000, saves it from being just another cheesy production, although there is still a smattering of corny lines.Image result for DRAGON DYNASTY (2006)The cast includes James Hong, Federico Castelluccio and Stana Katic, who has gone on to better things and is now known as detective Kate Beckett on TV series Castle. Unfortunately, despite this illustrious cast, the acting in this film is not up to scratch, especially in the banter between Marco (Castellucio) and his explorer team. You can almost see the scripted words coming out of their mouths and the procession of events doesn’t evoke much emotion in the audience.Overall, the best thing about Dragon Dynasty is the special effects, the dragons in particular. It is let down by poor writing and many scenes that leave you wondering why on earth people think that fighting a dragon by standing on the ground with a sword and shield is ever going to work. However, if you are looking for some light,  dragon attack-themed, entertainment, then this film is worth a watch.