REVIEW: VERONICA MARS – SEASON 1

Starring

Kristen Bell (The Good Place)
Teddy Dunn (Jumper)
Jason Dohring (The Originals)
Percy Daggs III (Detention)
Sydney Tamiia Poitier (Death Proof)
Francis Capra (Izombie)
Enrico Colantoni (Flashpoint)

Kristen Bell in Veronica Mars (2004)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Michael Muhney (The Young and The Restless)
Corinne Bohrer (The Flash 90s)
Amanda Seyfried (Les Miserables)
Lisa Thornhill (Agter The Sunset)
Kyle Secor (The Purge: Election Year)
Daran Norris (Izombie)
Brandon Hillock (Villains)
Bradley Joseph (Stone & Ed)
Patrick Wolff (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers)
Duane Daniels (Fashion House)
Jonathan Chesner (Bones)
Christian Clemenson (Apollo 13)
Aaron Ashmore (Smallville)
Wilmer Calderon (Fast & Furious)
Paris Hilton (House of Wax)
Ryan Hansen (2 Broke Girls)
Bobby Edner (The Amanda Show)
Paula Marshall (Murder In The First)
Alison MacInnis (Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue)
Kyla Pratt (Dr. Dolittle)
Adam Wylie (Child’s Play 2)
Robert Baker (Supergirl)
Sam Huntington (Superman Returns)
Melissa Reneé Martin (The Secret Craft)
Lisa Rinna (Days of Our Lives)
Jane Lynch (Glee)
Harry Hamlin (Clash of The Titans)
Amanda Noret (Bunny Whipped)
Jessica Chastain (Zero Dar Thirty)
Adam Kaufman (Buffy: TVS)
Steven Williams (Jason Goes To Hell)
Bonita Friedericy (Chuck)
Alona Tal (Cult)
Tina Majorino (Scorpion)
Erica Gimpel (God Friended Me)
Anastasia Baranova (Z Nation)
Jonathan Bennett (Mean Girls)
Chris William Martin (The Vampire Diaries)
Megalyn Echikunwoke (That 70s Show)
Kevin Sheridan (Heart of Dixie)
Emmanuelle Vaugier (Two and a Half Men)
Max Greenfield (New Girl)
Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad)
Christopher B. Duncan (Legacies)
Katie Leclerc (The Big Bang Theory)
Bridget Hoffman (Total Recall)
Anthony Anderson (Transformers)
Jowharah Jones (Ugly Betty)
Ken Merckx (Masked Rider)
Christine Lakin (Family Guy)
Adam Scott (Krampus)
Leighton Meester (The Roommate)
Alyson Hannigan (Buffy: TVS)
Cynthia LaMontagne (Austin Powers)
Zachery Ty Bryan (Home Improvement)
Erin Chambers (Stargate: Atlantis)
Ken Marino (Agent Carter)
Jonathan Taylor Thomas (Last Man Standing)
Theo Rossi (Luke Cage)
Joey Lauren Adams (Chasing Amy)
Roy Werner (Power Rangers Time Force)
Kyle Gallner (American Sniper)

Veronica Mars is set in Neptune, California, a town without a middle-class. Everyone’s either a millionaire or works for one, and the man largely responsible for Neptune’s unparalleled success is Jake Kane (Kyle Secor), the resident billionaire software mogul. Kane and his family are still reeling from the murder of his daughter Lilly (Amanda Seyfried) some months earlier, and as if that loss wasn’t enough, the beloved Kane family was doggedly pursued by a county sheriff convinced that they were hiding something. Public sentiment turned against Sheriff Keith Mars (Enrico Colantoni), who was ousted from office and abandoned by his wife.Kristen Bell and Jessica Chastain in Veronica Mars (2004)Cue the title character. His daughter Veronica (Kristen Bell) had already lost her best friend with Lilly’s death, but standing by her father also cost Veronica her friends, her social status, her house…even her mother. Veronica had already been unceremoniously dumped by Lilly’s brother Duncan (Teddy Dunn) shortly before her friend’s murder, and a defiant visit to face her former friends at a party weeks later led to Veronica being drugged and raped. Despite having lost so much, Veronica is resilient enough to move on with her life, and as her father struggles to stay afloat as a private eye, Veronica puts her smarts and determination to work to help ease the caseload at Mars Investigations. She also puts her talents to use to help her classmates with their troubles — for a price, of course. To cap it all off, Veronica’s faced with a couple of her own mysteries to solve. What convinced Lianne Mars to abandon her family, and where is she now? Who was it who drugged and raped Veronica last December? Also, is her father right — did someone other than disgruntled Kane Software employee Abel Koontz murder Lilly? If there is, who orchestrated the conspiracy that led to Koontz’ confession and why?Kristen Bell in Veronica Mars (2004)The dialogue in Veronica Mars has the same sparkle as Joss Whedon’s work…arguably better, even, since Buffy sometimes sounded like a deliberate attempt to be hip, whereas Veronica Mars manages to be witty and clever without feeling quite so forced. The writing doesn’t skew as young as one might expect from a TV show set in a high school. If anything, the target audience seems to be twentysomething — I don’t know how many fifteen year olds would be able to appreciate references to Archie comics or 21 Jump Street, f’r instance. Characterization is another strength of the series, and part of the reason Veronica Mars works as well as it does is that the audience truly does care about the characters. Despite having a seemingly endless array of talents, Veronica isn’t some sort of idyllic Mary Sue. She’s not always right. Her investigations frequently take morally questionable turns. Things don’t always go the way she wants. Not every episode has a happy ending.Kristen Bell in Veronica Mars (2004)Along with the cases that are solved in the space of forty minutes and change every week, a couple of mysteries are introduced in the pilot that are gradually explored throughout the entire length of the season. That’s right — unlike the hydra that is Lost, where answering one question spawns ten more, all of Veronica Mars’ mysteries are resolved by the time the season finale rolls around. (The finale tosses out a couple questions of its own, but if a second season hadn’t gotten the green light, it still would’ve been a fitting end to the series.)Veronica Mars has a capable cast to match the quality of the writing. Veronica is strong and cynical…bright and sarcastic…and even though all of the trauma she’s suffered over the past year has aged her somewhat, she’s still an emotionally vulnerable teenage girl.Kristen Bell and Alona Tal in Veronica Mars (2004)That’s a lot to juggle, but Kristen Bell is talented enough to make such a colossal task seem effortless and captivating enough to carry a show on her shoulders. Of course, Bell is joined by a strong enough supporting cast that she doesn’t have to shoulder it all herself.VM-S2D2_04After cutting down Wallace (Percy Daggs III), the new kid at school, who’d been stripped naked and duct taped to a flagpole, he and Veronica become best friends. In teen-TV land, it’s an immutable rule that people of different genders can’t just be pals…there’s this endless temptation to couple everyone. Veronica Mars manages to resist, resulting in one of the few platonic friendships like this left on television.Enrico Colantoni, who plays Veronica’s father, is another fan favorite, able to shift from warm, loving, and borderline-goofy to secretive and deadly serious when the situation calls for it. There’s also Eli “Weevil” Navarro (Francis Capra), the leader of a local biker gang from the wrong side of the tracks who engages in some mutual backscratching with Veronica.Kristen Bell in Veronica Mars (2004)The character who stands out the most — aside from Veronica, of course — is Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring). Like Kristen Bell, Dohring is endlessly engaging. He’s introduced as an “obligatory psychotic jackass”, but as the season progresses, Logan’s humanized without being watered-down; even when he’s doing something as thoroughly loathesome as bribing a homeless vet to join in on his homebrew Bumfights video, there’s an undercurrent of understanding why Logan is the way he is. The character changes throughout the season, but the shift feels deserved and natural, not just because that’s what’s scrawled on the whiteboard in the writing room.Other guest stars throughout the season include Napoleon Dynamite’s Tina Majorino as computer whiz Mac, Aaron Ashmore as a love interest with a shady past, Logan’s movie star family (played by Harry Hamlin, Lisa Rinna, and Alyson Hannigan), Anthony Anderson, Zachary Ty Brian, Joey Lauren Adams, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, and, in a shameless bit of stuntcasting, Paris Hilton. Kristen Bell and Francis Capra in Veronica Mars (2004)The fact that the second episode of Veronica Mars manages to be really good despite a Paris Hilton guest spot really is a testament to how good a series this is. Oh, and, in true Laura Palmer fashion, just because Lilly Kane is dead doesn’t mean that Amanda Seyfried can’t rear her head in nearly every other episode.The conclusion to most of the mysteries caught me by surprise. Throughout the entire season, the only time I correctly guessed the culprit was in “Lord of the Bling”, and even then, the motivation and execution were well out of my reach. The many twists the stories take are clever, and watching these episodes a second time, I could spot all sorts of clues and hints that didn’t seem that important the first time through. Veronica Mars is a series that’s easy to dive into as a marathon, but for viewers catching these episodes for the first time, I’d recommend drawing it out a bit.

REVIEW: THE GOOD PLACE – SEASON 3

Ted Danson, Kristen Bell, William Jackson Harper, Manny Jacinto, Jameela Jamil, and D'Arcy Carden in The Good Place (2016)

Starring

Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars)
William Jackson Harper (All Good Things)
Jameela Jamil (Ducktales)
D’Arcy Carden (Barry)
Manny Jacinto (Top Gun: Maverick)
Ted Danson (The Orville)

Kristen Bell and William Jackson Harper in The Good Place (2016)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Maya Rudolph (Bridesmaids)
Adam Scott (Krampus)
Mike O’Malley (My Name Is Earl)
Marc Evan Jackson (Kong: Skull Island)
Eugene Cordero (The Mule)
Kirby Howell-Baptiste (Barry)
Ben Lawson (No Strings Attached)
Ben Geurens (Reign)
Leslie Grossman (Popular)
Anna Khaja (Quantico)
Ajay Mehta (Anger Managment)
Tiya Sircar (The Internship)
Michael McKean (This Is Spinal Tap)
Jama Williamson (School of Rock)
Stephen Merchant (Logan)
Jason Mantzoukas (The Dictator)
Maribeth Monroe (Downsizing)

Adam Scott and Kristen Bell in The Good Place (2016)After their down right incredible second season I was more than a little curious about how this season would turn out. The real joy of The Good Place is how every season is drastically different in content while still staying true to the shows sense of humor, core characters and themes of moral philosophy.Ted Danson and D'Arcy Carden in The Good Place (2016)Season 3 opts to explore the usual ideas of morality while on Earth, giving more great moments of the core group of humans interacting and learning together without so much of the original gimmick.Kristen Bell and Jameela Jamil in The Good Place (2016)The biggest positive of this show is how well written the interactions between the main cast are managing to be very funny while offering actual incite into the underlying philosophy of the show. By taking the characters out of the crazy afterlife setting for a large part of the season forces the writers to focus on this element and allows the actors to show of their comedic sensibilities. However I would be lying if I said that the later half of the season, where more of the absurd elements the show rose to prominence for came back into play more, wasn’t the more interesting part. I have to give props to the writers for trying something different though and I can’t wait to see where they take this concept next.Ted Danson and Kristen Bell in The Good Place (2016)This season is where the cast got to show off more. The character of Jason became far more realised, fleshed out and funny when he had more mundane concepts to deal with. Kristen Bell and William Jackson Harper got to flex their dramatic mussels for larger sections and D’arcy Carden absolutely crushes it in every episode, especially in episode 9 “Janet(s)”.Ted Danson and Kristen Bell in The Good Place (2016)With it’s emphasis on name-drooping actual philosophers and general upbeat and absurd tone, The Good Place continues to separate itself for most of it’s competition.

REVIEW: KNOCKED UP

 

CAST

Seth Rogen (Bad neighbours)
Katherine Heigl (27 Dresses)
Paul Rudd (Ant-Man)
Leslie Mann (17 Again)
Jason Segel (How I Met Your Mother)
Jay Baruchel (This Is The End)
Jonah Hill (Cyrus)
Martin Starr (Veronica Mars)
Charlyne Yi (Cloverfield)
Harold Ramis (Year One)
Alan Tudyk (Firefly)
Kristen Wiig (Zoolander 2)
Bill Hader (Superbad)
Ken Jeong (The Hangover)
Craig Robinson (Zack and Miri Make a Porno)
Adam Scott (Krampus)
J.P. Manoux (Birds of Prey)
Paul Feig (Spy)
Jessica Alba (Machete)
Steve Carell (Evan Almighty)
Andy Dick (Dude, Where’s My Car?)
James Franco (Spider-Man)
Eva Mendes (2 Fast 2 Furious)
Dax Shepard (Hit and Run)

Film Title:

The 40 Year Old Virgin took more than two hours to get its main character laid. In Knocked Up…? Fifteen minutes flat. It’s not that Ben Stone (Seth Rogen) was on the prowl or anything; fate just kinda got hammered and passed out in his lap. See, Alison Scott (Katherine Heigl) landed a gig as on-air talent at E!, and after celebrating a bit too hard, she wakes up the next morning to Ben’s hairy, pasty, bare ass poking out of her bedsheets. Ali groans to her sister (Leslie Mann) about making such a shameful mistake, while Ben darts home to brag to his stoner roommates as they slowly get their topless celebrity database off the ground.

Writer/director Judd Apatow doesn’t use Knocked Up as an excuse to toss in whatever dick jokes he’d been stockpiling for the past couple of years. He genuinely likes and respects these characters, and so much of what happens is drawn from his own experiences as a father-to-be that as hysterical as the movie often is, it also feels surprisingly real and sincere. Knocked Up treats pregnancy with quite a bit of gravity, and the way its characters fight — particularly between on-screen husband and wife Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann — can be unflinchingly cruel. Most filmmakers would water down the less glamorous side of love, romance, and parenthood or use them as a springboard for cheap, easy laughs, but Apatow is sharp enough to deftly balance the comedy with the drama.

The movie is perfectly cast. Katherine Heigl is a buxotic Amazon cut from the Russ Meyer cloth, sure, but she’s also sweet, somehow sympathetic no matter how much her character’s hormones may be raging, and sharp enough to hold her own with the rest of the cast. Seth Rogen joins a small army of Apatow regulars — name just about any project the prolific producer has shepherded over the past decade and chances are at least six people from it are in here somewhere — and it’s a breakout role for him. Ben is slovenly but kind of endearing at the same time, enough so that I could almost buy someone with Heigl’s good looks succumbing to his charms. His jaunt into adulthood feels natural and believable too, not just something in a montage penned by a screenwriter collecting a seven figure payday. There’s something about the fact that Ben’s roommates are played by actors who are all friends in real life that gives their loose, improvisational energy that much more spark.MV5BMTU3MTIzOTU3N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwOTM3ODc2._V1_Knocked Up didn’t strike me as the sort of instant classic so many people heralded it as, but I did enjoy it, and I’m kind of left with the impression that the movie will grow on me more and more its viewed.