REVIEW: ANGELS & DEMONS

 

CAST

Tom Hanks (Sully)
Ewan McGregor (Bigt Fish)
Ayelet Zurer (Man of Steel)
Stellan Skarsgård (Thor)
Pierfrancesco Favino (World War Z)
Nikolaj Lie Kaas (Murk)
Armin Mueller-Stahl (12 Angry men)
Thure Lindhardt (Fast & Furious 6)
David Pasquesi (Year One)
Carmen Argenziano (Stargate SG.1)
Rance Howard (Nebraska)

Ewan McGregor and Stellan Skarsgård in Angels & Demons (2009)Under the watchful eyes of Father Silvano and Dr. Vittoria Vetra, the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) initiates the Large Hadron Collider and creates three vials of antimatter particles larger than any ever produced before. Almost immediately, Father Silvano is killed and one of the vials of antimatter goes missing. At the same time, the Roman Catholic Church is mourning the sudden death of Pope Pius XVI in Rome and prepares for the papal conclave to elect the next Pope. The Camerlengo, Father Patrick McKenna, assumes temporary control of the Vatican. Before the conclave enters seclusion, four of the “preferiti” (the favorite cardinals to be elected pope) are kidnapped by a man claiming to represent the Illuminati. In a video message, he threatens to kill one candidate every hour starting at 8pm and to destroy all of Vatican City at midnight, using the missing vial of antimatter as a bomb. The Vatican summons symbologist Robert Langdon from Harvard University and Vetra to help them save the four preferiti and locate the vial.Tom Hanks and Victor Alfieri in Angels & Demons (2009)Langdon listens to the Illuminati’s message and deduces the four cardinals will die at the four altars of the “Path of Illumination”, marked by statues of angels in locations relevant to the four classical elements. Over the objections of Commander Maximilian Richter, head of the Swiss Guard, but with McKenna’s consent, Langdon is granted access to the Vatican Secret Archives. He examines Galileo Galilei’s banned book with Vetra. Following the clues and accompanied by Inspector General Ernesto Olivetti and Claudio Vincenzi of the Vatican Gendarmerie Corps, they arrive at the Chigi Chapel in the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo. There they find Cardinal Ebner dead, suffocated with soil and branded with an ambigrammatic word “Earth”. They verify the second location is the crowded Saint Peter’s Square and arrive just as a bloody Cardinal Lamassé emerges with his chest branded with “Air”. Vetra unsuccessfully attempts to perform CPR on him, only to discover his lungs had been punctured, while the assassin slips through the crowd.Tom Hanks, Pierfrancesco Favino, David Pasquesi, and Ayelet Zurer in Angels & Demons (2009)While Vetra studies Silvano’s diaries, Langdon, Olivetti and Vincenzi locate the third church, Santa Maria della Vittoria, and arrive to see Cardinal Guidera, branded “Fire” and suspended above a burning pile of wood. A gunfight erupts between the assassin and the officers, with Olivetti and Vincenzi being killed in the process. Langdon manages to escape, but not before being spotted by the assassin. Langdon convinces two Carabinieri officers to take him to the next location and the trio race to the Water altar, the Fountain of the Four Rivers, just as the assassin arrives in a van. The assassin murders the officers and drops a bound and weighted Cardinal Baggia into the fountain before bidding farewell to Langdon and driving off. With the help of bystanders, Langdon rescues the cardinal, who tells him the Illuminati’s lair is Castel Sant’Angelo. There, Langdon and Vetra discover a hidden passageway leading to the Vatican, being used as a hideout for the assassin. Discovering a case with marks for five branding irons, they realize the fifth brand is for the Camerlengo but are confronted by the assassin before they can alert McKenna. The assassin spares their lives once more, stating killing them is not a part of his mission unless they pursue him. He then cryptically warns them to be careful as his contractors are “men of God” before departing. He escapes to a car left for him by his contractor, but is killed immediately when it explodes upon ignition.Tom Hanks in Angels & Demons (2009)Langdon and Vetra rush back to the Vatican where they find Commander Richter hovering over McKenna with a gun, the Vatican symbol branded into McKenna’s chest. Richter and Archbishop Simeon are shot by the Guards. As Richter dies in front of Langdon, he opens his hand to reveal a key which Langdon takes. The stolen antimatter vial is found in St. Peter’s Tomb below the church, but the battery life is too low to risk re-connecting it to a battery. McKenna, a former military pilot, seizes the vial and uses an awaiting helicopter to fly above the Vatican. At a high altitude, he parachutes out as the antimatter bomb explodes overhead. McKenna is hailed a hero and savior, and the cardinals move to elect him pope. Langdon and Vetra use Richter’s key to watch a security video showing McKenna speaking to Richter before the attack. The video reveals it is McKenna, not the Illuminati, who masterminded the scheme. McKenna reveals he murdered the previous pope because he felt the pope had betrayed the church by trying to bridge the gap between science and religion. After McKenna had killed the pope, he intended to have himself elected to the papacy whilst rallying the most conservative Cardinals to his side. The recording is shown to the Papal conclave, and it dawns on McKenna that he has been exposed. He flees to a remote recess in the building where he is able to commit suicide by setting himself on fire.Tom Hanks and Ayelet Zurer in Angels & Demons (2009)The Vatican officially announces McKenna died due to internal injuries suffered during his parachute landing, and Cardinal Baggia is named Pope Luke I, with Cardinal Strauss as the new Camerlengo. Strauss thanks Langdon for his assistance and gives Langdon Galileo’s “Diagramma Veritatis” for his research as a gift from himself and Pope Luke, requesting only it be returned to the Vatican by Langdon’s testament, and any future references he may make about the Catholic Church in his future publications be done gently, to which Langdon replies, “I’ll try.” As the film ends, the new Pope Luke shares a grateful nod with Langdon and Vetra, and walks out onto the balcony to greet the crowd waiting for him in the Square.Tom Hanks in Angels & Demons (2009)Overall Angels and Demons is a fun thrill ride for the summer. Its a superior movie to Da Vinci Code.

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REVIEW: BEN-HUR (2016)

CAST

Jack Huston (American Hustle)
Morgan Freeman (The Dark Knight Rises)
Toby Kebbell (Warcraft)
Nazanin Boniadi (Passengers)
Rodrigo Santoro (Focus)
Sofia Black-D’Elia (Project Almanac)
Ayelet Zurer (Daredevil)
Haluk Bilginer (W.E.)
Moisés Arias (Ender’s Game)
Pilou Asbæk (Game of Thrones)
Marwan Kenzari (The Mummy)
James Cosmo (Highlander)

Ben-Hur (2016)A Jewish nobleman, Judah Ben-Hur (Jack Huston) and his adoptive Roman brother Messala (Toby Kebbell) are best friends despite their different origins. While racing horses, Ben-Hur is hurt and Messala carries him back to their family home in Jerusalem. Despite the hospitality of Ben Hur’s mother Naomi (Ayelet Zurer) and the affections of sister Tirzah (Sofia Black D’Elia), Messala feels alienated in his adopted family. He enlists in the Roman army and fights in the Roman Empire’s wars in Germany. Ben-Hur also develops feelings for the family slave Esther (Nazanin Boniadi) although their different station in life compels him not to pursue her. But when her father Simonides (Haluk Bilginer) seeks to marry her off to a Roman, Judah declares his love for her and takes her as his wife.Morgan Freeman in Ben-Hur (2016)Three years later, Messala returns as a decorated Roman officer. His return coincides with a rising insurrection by the Zealots, who are opposed to the oppressive nature of Roman rule. Judah treats and shelters a young Zealot youth named Dismas (Moisés Arias). Messala reunites with Ben-Hur and attempts to convince his adoptive brother to serve as an informant. Following a reunion dinner with Ben-Hur and his family, Messala informs them that a new Roman governor Pontius Pilate (Pilou Asbæk) will be taking residence in Jerusalem and that no incidents must occur.Jack Huston and Nazanin Boniadi in Ben-Hur (2016)Days later, Pontius Pilate marches into Jerusalem with Ben-Hur and his family watching from a balcony. Dismas attempts to assassinate Pilate with a bow but fails. In retaliation, the Romans storm Ben-Hur’s household and arrest him and his family. Rather than betray a fellow Jew, Ben-Hur takes responsibility for the assassination attempt and is sentenced to enslavement aboard a galley. His mother and sister are sentenced to be crucified. Ben-Hur and Messala fall out with the two hating each other for their perceived betrayals. While being led to the galley, Ben-Hur encounters Jesus (Rodrigo Santoro), who fetches him some water.Ben-Hur endures five years of slavery as a rower aboard a Roman galley under the command of Quintus Arius (James Cosmo). During a naval battle against Greek rebels in the Ionian Sea, Ben-Hur’s galley is boarded. The drummer pressures the slaves to row, but the galley collides with another ship and is destroyed as Ben-Hur manages to cling to a floating mast. He is washed ashore and is found by Sheik Ilderim (Morgan Freeman), who recognizes him as an escaped slave. Ben-Hur manages to convince Ilderim not to hand him over to the Romans by treating one of the Nubian’s racing horses. After Ben-Hur develops a bond with the four racing horses, a grateful Ilderim then trains Ben-Hur to be a chariot racer.Jack Huston in Ben-Hur (2016)Ben-Hur and Sheik Ilderim later travel to Jerusalem to take part in a grand chariot race at the newly built Roman circus. Jesus’ preaching ministry draws the attention of governor Pilate and Messala, who is now the commander of the Roman garrison and a champion chariot racer. While visiting Jerusalem, Ben-Hur encounters Esther, who has become a follower of Jesus and is involved in charity work. Esther tells Ben-Hur that his mother and sister are dead, and despite their reunion, the two are kept emotionally apart due to her new cause which is contrary to Judah’s insistence on seeking revenge against Messala. Ben-Hur later confronts Messala alone in their former home but is forced to flee when Roman soldiers turn up. After the Romans execute twenty Jews in reprisal, Esther completely falls out with Ben-Hur. Sheik Ilderim instructs Ben-Hur in chariot racing techniques. Later, Ben-Hur encounters a former Roman soldier named Druses (Marwan Kenzari), who informs him that his mother Naomi and sister Tirzah are still alive. However, their reunion is soured when Ben-Hur discovers his mother and sister have leprosy, the former also appearing to have lost her memory.Morgan Freeman and Jack Huston in Ben-Hur (2016)Sheik Ilderim bribes Pilate into allowing Ben-Hur to compete by proposing a high wager. Esther tries to convince Messala not to race Ben-Hur, but he is adamant that he will win. On the day of the race, Ben-Hur follows Ilderim’s instructions to hold back from the race until the final laps. Using dirty tactics, Messala manages to knock out the other competing charioteers. Following a brutal and grueling race, Ben-Hur wins the race. Messala survives but is badly wounded and loses a leg. Ben-Hur’s victory embolden the Jewish spectators and yields dividends for Ilderim. Despite his victory, Ben-Hur is despondent about his family and his former friend Messala. Later, Esther witnesses the arrest of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Ben-Hur and Esther witness a bruised and beaten Jesus being forced to carry his cross through the streets. Mirroring his first encounter with Jesus, Ben-Hur tries to offer Jesus water but is beaten by a Roman soldier. Following Jesus’ crucifixion, a rainstorm occurs. Naomi and Tirzah are miraculously healed by rainwater containing the blood of Jesus, and Sheik Ilderim pays a ransom to set them free. In the end, Ben-Hur reconciles with Messala. Despite his anger, Messala finds the strength to forgive Ben-Hur and is reconciled to him and his family. Together, Ben-Hur, his mother, sister, Esther, and Messala accompany Sheik Ilderim’s caravan as they leave Jerusalem.Toby Kebbell and Jack Huston in Ben-Hur (2016)The main actors and actresses do a good (not great) job. I felt Morgan Freeman may have phoned it in a little, but he delivered one of my favourite lines of the movie. My favourite actors were the slave drivers on the galley along with the drummer. They have small roles but I loved them. I didn’t care for the Jesus scenes though. He is a hard character to portray, and I just didn’t like it when he spoke. Overall, I felt it was a pretty good movie that succeeds in many aspects with the themes of revenge/forgiveness and delivers one exciting race. It’s not perfect but a good movie overall.

REVIEW: HALO 4: FORWARD UNTO DAWN

 

CAST

Thom Green (Camp)
Anna Popplewell (Reign)
Enisha Brewster (Footloose)
Ayelet Zurer (Man of Steel)
Masam Holden (Elizabethtown)
Mike Dopud (Arrow)
Iain Belcher (Ungodly Acts)
Osric Chau (2012)
Katerina Katelieva (Evangeline)
Daniel Cudmore (X-Men 2)
Alex Puccinelli (Finding Dory)
Jen Taylor (Darkest Day)
Ty Olsson (Battlestar Galactica)

In 2525, as mankind has begun to colonise space, a group of cadets are training to fight against human insurrectionists. One of these cadets, Thomas Lasky, has doubts about his abilities as a soldier and his convictions for this war. Whilst he struggles with himself, the planet is invaded by an unknown alien race. Reeling under the assault, Lasky and his squad mates are rescued by John-117, one of the UNSC’s legendary SPARTAN-II super-soldiers. John must inspire Lasky to fulfill his potential as a soldier and a leader to fight against an enemy deadlier than any that humanity has faced before.Standing alone, Forward Unto Dawn is visually stunning, aesthetically sound, and superb talent on both sides of the camera. In my opinion, Forward Unto Dawn’s storyline was not intended to be a stand alone story, but instead as a lead up story to be used in unison with the Halo 4 video game. The character building within the series was centered around Cadet Lasky. It was also about Lasky’s first meeting with John-117, as a flashback/memory. Forward Unto Dawn was also intended to bring more fans of the series to the Halo books.

 

REVIEW: LAST KNIGHTS

CAST

Clive Owen (Sin City)
Morgan Freeman (Momentum)
Cliff Curtis (Fear The Walking Dead)
Aksel Hennie (Hercules)
Dave Legeno (Snow White and The Huntsman)
Ayelet Zurer (Man of Steel)
Shohreh Aghdashloo (X-Men: The Last Stand)

Bartok, an ageing nobleman, watches over his estate—a vassal kingdom to a great empire. Protecting the Bartok clan is Commander Raiden and his elite soldiers, who also serve Bartok. Raiden is surprised when Bartok tells him he is to be his heir, and gives him a sword. The empire has become corrupt and the evil minister, Geza Mott, humiliates Bartok by beating him with a stick for failing to provide an adequate bribe, until Bartok retaliates — which is treason against the crown. Bartok is put to trial where he speaks openly of his disdain for what honour has become in the empire. He is sentenced to death and Raiden is ordered to execute his own master. Bartok’s estate is divided and the Bartok clan is disbanded. Geza Mott suspects Raiden will demand vengeance, and has his trusted warrior, Ito, watch Raiden to ensure there is no possibility of revenge.A year passes and Raiden is now a drunk. Geza is still highly fearful of Raiden’s wrath and demands half his father-in-law’s troops to safeguard him while he completes construction of his newly fortified estate, with more soldiers than the emperor’s own security detail. Raiden’s wife, Naomi, couldn’t bear to be with him as he had fallen so low, with Raiden even selling his sword for more drink. When Bartok’s virgin daughter is offered to Raiden in a whorehouse, he shows no concern for her but leaves the premises. Geza finally lets his guard down and stops watching Raiden. It is now revealed that Raiden and the Bartok clan soldiers sacrificed everything for the illusion of a complete defeat, and have been waiting for the right time to group and together regain the clan’s honour by avenging their master’s death.Raiden’s men have been working in secret, building up contacts and connections, and gathering intelligence about Geza’s estate – even secretly altering his estate to help them in their cause. As Raiden’s men infiltrate the estate, Auguste has secretly made a pact with Raiden to help him, in exchange for Raiden’s help to free his daughter from her marriage to Geza Mott. Geza has always mistreated Auguste’s daughter which, along with Bartok’s execution, causes Auguste to see that his vicious son-in-law has no honour. Raiden and his men successfully infiltrate Geza’s estate, are discovered, and need to face a large number of soldiers.Raiden’s men fall one by one as they enter deep into Geza’s estate. Ito takes responsibility for his complacency and duels with Raiden. Ito’s sword fails and Raiden kills him. Raiden breaks into Geza’s bedroom and decapitates him. With Geza dead, Raiden’s surviving group rescues Bartok’s daughter and tells her that Bartok’s honour is restored. When word reaches the Emperor, he discusses with his council on how to deal with Bartok’s soldiers, who caution him against the risk of turning the people against the crown. They realise that the public view Geza’s death as a righteous one, and widely support the Bartok clan. The council advises that any judgement should restore their honour, rather than make them martyrs. Raiden asks that he be the only one executed for Geza’s death.The crown publicly admits the righteousness of the Bartok clan, but also reminds the crowd that killing a high council member is still the same as an attack on the emperor and Raiden will be executed. Before his execution, Raiden charges Lt. Cortez to take control of the surviving Bartok clan. In a flashback, he sees Naomi one last time to apologize for her suffering before making peace with his own life. Raiden lowers his head with his eyes closed, and as the executioner draws his sword back, Raiden’s eyes suddenly open wide and the screen goes to black.If you’re strictly an “action” viewer, you may not enjoy this movie. But if you enjoy a good story that isn’t entirely predictable, you might just enjoy this film

REVIEW: VANTAGE POINT

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CAST

Dennis Quaid (Movie 43)
William Hurt (The Incredible Hulk)
Matthew Fox (Lost)
Forest whitaker (The Butler)
Said Taghmaoui (Wonder Woman)
Sigourney Weaver (Paul)
Édgar Ramírez (Joy)
Ayelet Zurer (Daredevil)
Eduardo Noriega (The Last Stand)
Richard T. Jones (Terminator: TSCC)
Bruce McGill (MacGyver)
Zoe Saldana (Avatar)
Holt McCallany (Heroes)

U.S. President Henry Ashton (Hurt) attends a political summit in Salamanca, Spain, to promote an international treaty. Displayed with eight differing viewpoints, an assassination attempt on the president occurs, relayed in a time span of 23 minutes. Each time the events unfold from the beginning, a new vantage point is shown revealing additional details, which ultimately completes the story of what actually took place during the incident.From the first vantage point, GNN producer Rex Brooks (Weaver), directs various media personnel from a mobile television studio as the president arrives at the gathering. Mayor De Soto (Rodriguez) delivers a short speech and then introduces the president, who is shot twice as he greets the crowd from the podium. An explosion outside the plaza soon follows. Moments later, the podium itself is destroyed by a secondary explosion, killing and injuring numerous people. As the smoke clears, GNN reporter Angie Jones (Saldana) is seen lying dead in the rubble.The second vantage point follows Secret Service agents Thomas Barnes (Quaid) and Kent Taylor (Fox). Barnes notices a curtain fluttering in the window of a nearby building that was allegedly vacated. He also observes American tourist Howard Lewis (Whitaker) filming the audience. After the president is shot, Barnes tackles a man rushing to the podium named Enrique (Noriega). Taylor pursues a lead to a potential assassin. Following the second explosion, Barnes barges into the GNN production studio and asks to view their footage. He calls Taylor, who reports the direction of the suspected assassin’s escape route. Barnes then views an image on one of the camera’s live feeds that startles him and prompts him to run out.In the third vantage point, Enrique, a Spanish police officer assigned to protecting the mayor of Salamanca, sees his girlfriend Veronica (Zurer), being embraced by a stranger and overhears them speaking about meeting under an overpass. When he confronts her, Veronica assures Enrique of her love for him as he hands her a bag. When the president is shot, Enrique rushes onto the stage to protect the mayor, but is tackled by Barnes. While being detained, he witnesses Veronica toss the bag he gave her under the podium, causing the second explosion. Enrique escapes as the agents who previously had him in custody mount a chase while firing shots in his direction, failing to subdue him. Enrique confronts an unseen individual at the overpass and asks if he is surprised to see him still alive.The fourth vantage point revolves around Howard Lewis who is chatting with a man called Sam (Taghmaoui), while a little girl named Anna (Zapien), bumps into him and drops her ice cream. Later, Lewis notices Barnes looking at the curtain fluttering in the window of a nearby building, and captures the footage with his camcorder. Following the second explosion at the podium, Lewis chases Enrique and the pursuing Secret Service agents. At the overpass, Lewis views the pair of agents from afar shooting in the direction of Enrique as he greets an individual in a police uniform under the overpass. Seriously wounded, Enrique falls to the ground. Lewis sees Anna who had earlier become separated from her mother, trying to cross a busy intersection. An ambulance races down the road about to hit Anna, as Lewis runs out to save her.The fifth vantage point begins as President Ashton, having been informed of a credible assassination threat, has returned to his hotel room with his aides while his body double proceeds to the gathering in the plaza. The President talks with his personnel about the reason for the terrorists’ plot, the retaliation by the U.S. to the plot, the return of Barnes to active duty, and giving the order for the retaliation to proceed. The first explosion occurs just outside the hotel. Seconds later, a masked assailant bursts into the president’s room, shoots his advisers and then proceeds to abduct Ashton. By the sixth vantage point, terrorist Suarez, previously seen as Sam, shoots Ashton’s body double using a remote-controlled automatic rifle placed in an adjacent window next to the one with the fluttering curtain that had drawn Barnes’ attention earlier. The rifle is retrieved by Taylor, who Barnes sees leaving the scene wearing a Spanish policeman’s uniform on one of the GNN live feeds, even though he tells Barnes that he’s in pursuit of the assassin over the phone. Barnes realizes Taylor is actually part of the terror plot. The man Enrique saw embracing Veronica is revealed to be sharpshooter Javier (Ramirez), whose brother is being held hostage to ensure Javier’s cooperation with the terrorists. The first explosion, at the hotel, is revealed to be a device detonated by a suicide bomber disguised as a bellhop who had previously handed Javier a hotel room key. Javier kills the guards and aides within the hotel, and kidnaps the president. Ashton is later placed in an ambulance with Suarez and Veronica disguised as medics. Javier joins Taylor in a police car to a planned rendezvous at the overpass.Barnes commandeers a car and chases Taylor and Javier. Barnes gets into a collision with a truck, allowing the duo to escape. At the overpass, Enrique, who did not die in the blast at the podium as intended, confronts Javier and Taylor. Enraged, Javier shoots Enrique, mistakenly believing he had knowledge of his kidnapped brother’s whereabouts. Javier is then shot and killed by Taylor when he demands to be brought to his brother, who had been killed earlier by Suarez. Enrique dies of his wounds as Barnes reaches the scene on foot firing several rounds at Taylor, who attempts to flee. After crashing his car, a critically injured Taylor is dragged out by Barnes. He orders Taylor to reveal where the president has been taken, but Taylor dies. Meanwhile, Ashton regains consciousness in the ambulance and attacks Veronica, distracting her and Suarez just as Anna runs into their path. Suarez swerves causing the ambulance to flip over just as Lewis pulls Anna out of its way. Barnes runs to the ambulance where he sees Veronica lying dead. He shoots Suarez dead and rescues the president.This film really gets going right away and there is no time for a break.

REVIEW: DAREDEVIL – SEASON ONE

 

MAIN CAST

Charlie Cox (Stardust)
Deborah Ann Woll (Ruby Sparks)
Elden Henson (The Buttefly Effect)
Rosario Dawson (Sin City)
Toby Leonard Moore (John Wick)
Vondie Curtis-Hall (Die Hard 2)
Bob Gunton (The Lincoln Lawyer)
Ayelet Zurer (Man of Steel)
Vincent D’Onofrio (Men In BLack)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Peter McRobbie (Spider-Man 2)
John Patrick Hayden  (Yin/Yang)
Nikolai Nikolaeff (Power Rangers Jungle Fury)
Peter Shinkoda (Masked Rider)
Rob Morgan (Stranger Things)
Scott Glenn (The Silence of The Lambs)
Wai Chang Ho (Robot Stories)

 

Daredevil was a fun, ferocious look at Marvel’s own city-saving vigilante. Similar to DC’s Batman and Green Arrow, Matt Murdock loves his city. Even more so, the neighborhood of Hell’s Kitchen which was hit hard by the Chitarui attack – one of the show’s only mentioned connections to the MCU. In place of a crime-ravaged Irish immigrant-heavy neighborhood (as per the 60s/70s Daredevil comics), the choice was made to portray the square mile of crowded city as “mostly good people on hard times due to recent alien events.” Still folksy, but more modern. A smart move that helped tie Daredevil to the rest of the MCU happenings, despite the fact that the show is the grittiest, most violent entry into Marvel’s TV/movie canon so far. Strong, grounded performances, smart writing, and hard-hitting fight scenes immediately helped elevate Daredevil above fans’ expectations (which were already quite high). Buffy/Angel alums Drew Goddard and Steven S. DeKnight (who took over as showrunner early on after Goddrad left for the ill-fated Sinister Six) delivered a taught, thoughtful, and appreciatively earnest take on Matt Murdock – one of Marvel’s most complex, hard-to-get-a-handle-on characters (and one of the most religious). A hero no movie would ever be able to get quite right.

Vincent D’Onofrio’s Wilson Fisk  served the show well. Fisk was portrayed as a very vulnerable man. A seriously dangerous one, no doubt, but also one who came with his own formative backstory and current web of lies and betrayals. Also…a love story. Fisk’s moments spent, early on, wooing and doting upon Ayelet Zurer’s art gallery curator Vanessa was a daringly wonderful way to introduce us to the character. Especially since Fisk had remained off-screen for a few episodes while the show built him up. D’Onofrio performance as Fisk was, simply put, one of the best parts of the show. As a man who almost seemed to be learning the actual mechanics of how to speak to other people every time he opened his mouth, Fisk’s shyness/awkwardness helped not only separate him from most crime boss cliches, but also helped us understand why a man as lonely and isolated as he was would become so lethally attached to Vanessa. While also seeing someone like Wesley, his right hand man, as a “true friend.” Despite them never showing any real bonds of brotherhood. Just an intense, loyal employer/employee relationship.

Charlie Cox’s Matt Murdock was no slouch either, of course. As Matt constantly wrestled with how far he should morally go as a vigilante, Cox handled things with care and relatable concern. Of course, even with the act of killing as a point of spiritual debatelaire, Matt was willing to do just about most everything else under the sun to achieve his goals – including maiming, torturing, and knocking people into comas. He even, on a few occasions, threatened to kill villains via not saving them from their serious injuries. It was enough make one easily believe that all of this would weigh heavy on a Catholic’s conscience. The supporting cast was great as well. I really liked that this season didn’t go the trite, soapy “love triangle” route with Matt, Foggy, and Karen. There was some flirting, and a few seeds planted here and there for possible romantic tension – but the show politely waved at the idea while graciously passing it by. Deborah Ann Woll’s Karen was to be no one’s prop. And she wouldn’t seek solace “in the arms” of another. And she’d fight back, on whatever level was available to her. Also, Elden Henson’s Foggy Nelson was able to equally provide humor and drama in his fresh take on the “sidekick” role.

This praise also goes for Rosario Dawson’s Claire Temple and Vondie Curtis-Hall’s Ben Urich – both important characters here (though Claire had never been tied to Daredevil in the comics) in their own right, given unique (and sometimes surprising) treatments. The fight scenes are, naturally, worth noting. You’ll find most folks raving over a sequence in the second episode, “Cut Man” (one of the show’s best entries), as well as a few others. And again, expert choreography aside, it’s the fact that Matt quite often takes an extreme shellacking that gives these battle sequences extra “oomph.” It really draws you in when you can almost feel how hard it is for Matt to face down a squad of thugs. When every blow to his body rocks yours. Daredevil was a thrilling, ultra-starisfying take on Daredevil’s material and lore. One that, like Favreau’s first Iron Man film, helped breathe new life and fandom into a somewhat B-tier Marvel character.

REVIEW: MAN OF STEEL

CAST

Henry Cavill (The Immortals)
Amy Adams (American Hustle)
Michael Shannon (Boardwalk Empire)
Diane Lane (Unfaithful)
Russell Crowe (Gladiator)
Antje Traue (Seventh Son)
Harry Lennix (Dollhouse)
Richard Schiff (Seven)
Christopher Meloni (Underground)
Kevin Costner (Waterworld)
Ayelet Zurer (Daredevil TV)
Laurence Fishburne (Hannibal)
Mackenzie Gray (Smallville)
Ian Tracey (Bates Motel)
Carla Gugino (Watchmen)

The planet Krypton, unstable from years of industrial mining, faces impending destruction. Jor-El, chief advisor to Krypton’s supreme council, recommends a full-scale evacuation of the planet’s inhabitants. Before any action can be taken, soldiers led by General Zod, an old friend of Jor-El’s, launch an uprising and arrest the councilors. Realizing that Krypton is doomed, Jor-El steals genetic codes sought by Zod and infuses them into the DNA of his infant son, Kal-El – the first naturally born Kryptonian child in centuries. Donning his old armor, Jor-El sacrifices his life to allow his son to escape on a preprogrammed spacecraft. Zod orders the rocket’s destruction, only to learn that forces loyal to the council have suppressed the rebellion. In a brief trial, Zod and several of the surviving rebels are convicted of treason and sentenced to the Phantom Zone seconds before Krypton explodes.

Following Jor-El’s coordinates, the ship crash lands on Earth in Smallville, Kansas. A childless couple, Jonathan and Martha Kent, find Kal-El and raise him as their own, naming him Clark. As he grows up, Clark becomes an isolated young man as a result of developing superhuman powers. He then learns his true origins from Jonathan, who urges him to keep his powers hidden. Several years later, Jonathan dies in a tornado while refusing to let Clark save him. Burdened by guilt, Clark leaves to travel the world under several aliases, seeking a new purpose.

Lois Lane, a reporter at the Daily Planet in Metropolis, receives an assignment to investigate the discovery of a Kryptonian scout ship in the Canadian Arctic. Disguised as a worker, Clark enters the ship and activates its central computer using a key left by Jor-El, allowing him to communicate with an artificial intelligence modeled after his father. The AI explains that Clark was sent to Earth to guide its people, and presents him with a Kryptonian uniform bearing his family’s symbol. While following Clark, Lois inadvertently triggers the ship’s security system. Clark uses his powers to rescue Lois before donning the uniform and testing his ability to fly. Lois attempts to have her supervisor Perry White publish an article on the incident, but he refuses to do so without proof. After tracking down Clark, Lois eventually agrees to keep his secret safe.

Escaping the Phantom Zone, Zod and his crew travel to Earth after intercepting a transmission from the scout vessel. Deducing that Kal-El is nearby, they broadcast a global address demanding that he surrender or risk war. Clark meets with the U.S. Army and agrees to comply, with Lois joining him as a hostage. Zod reveals that he possesses advanced terraforming equipment salvaged from Kryptonian outposts, which he intends to use to transform Earth into a new Krypton. His science officer, Jax-Ur, extracts Clark’s genes to create Kryptonian colonists who will exterminate humanity and build a society based on Zod’s ideals of genetic purity. With help from Jor-El, Clark and Lois escape and warn the Army, just as Zod orders an invasion.

Given the codename “Superman”, Clark destroys the terraforming platform, while his human allies launch a suicide attack, killing Zod’s troops. Vowing to eradicate humanity himself, Zod battles with Superman, and the two eventually crash into a train station. Zod turns his own heat vision on a group of passengers, but Superman kills him.

Now the last surviving Kryptonian, Superman persuades the Army to let him act independently, so long as he does not turn against humanity. To allow access to dangerous situations without attracting attention, Superman is hired as a freelance reporter for the Daily Planet.

The most striking thing about Man of Steel is how grim it is compared to the previous Superman entries. Christopher Reeve’s Superman was confident and heroic, but here Henry Cavill’s rendition doesn’t seem so sure of himself. He can take off flying much faster though, and isn’t afraid to throw a few punches. The tights that Christopher Reeve wore have been replaced here by a more menacing chain-mail suit. The movie’s general atmosphere is pretty dark, with a blue tint given to the entire movie and a score by Hans Zimmer that is quite a contrast to that of John Williams in the earlier movies. However, it seems like the Superman comic books have recently taken a dark turn as well.  Keeping an open mind while watching Man of Steel, I accepted most of the liberties being taken and enjoyed it for what it was.