REVIEW: INTO THE DARK – I’M JUST F*CKING WITH YOU

I'm Just F*cking with You (2019)

Starring

Keir O’Donnell (American Sniper)
Hayes MacArthur (Life As We Know It)
Jessica McNamee (The Meg)
Charles Halford (Constantine)

Hayes MacArthur in Into the Dark (2018)Larry is a loner who styles himself as an internet troll. When he checks into a motel to attend a friend’s wedding, he meets the nighttime caretaker, Chester, who is a self-styled joker (possibly with a capital “J”), being really into bad jokes as well as messing with people’s heads for a laugh. After the jokes start becoming more intense and go too far, Larry and his sister start to wonder if Chester is really who he says he is.Pooka-10If you have social anxiety, this could very well be a triggering film. From the germophobic troll Larry to the not-sure-what-his-deal-is-but-has-an-infectious-smile Chester, the film has believable characters that have depth a strange way. While it seems you think you know everything about these characters quickly, you actually learn enough to get the story going but there are many hints at more depth in them. Also, the characters actually evolve as the film progresses, something that I’m finding to be an increasing rarity and when it’s done, you’re usually beaten over the head with it. Here, the evolution feels natural given the circumstances.ITD_IJFWY_SEW_21292RHere’s the thing: This is a low-budget, small-cast indie film that does exactly what a film is supposed to do. It’s written impeccably, kept simple so as not to introduce plot holes, has actual story structure, dynamic characters, and can actually make the audience feel a little edgy even with tongue firmly in cheek. It reminds us that the horror/thriller can be fun and even funny. I haven’t seen other entries of “Into the Dark,” but I’m probably going to remedy this very soon.

REVIEW: LOGAN LUCKY

Starring

Channing Tatum (21 Jump Street)
Adam Driver (This Is Where I Leave You)
Daniel Craig (Cowboys & Aliens)
Riley Keough (Mad Max: Fury Road)
Katie Holmes (Jack & Jill)
Farrah Mackenzie (Please Stand By)
Katherine Waterston (Alien: Covenant)
Dwight Yoakam (Crank)
Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy)
Sebastian Stan (I, Tonya)
Brian Gleeson (Mother!)
Jack Quaid (The Boys)
Hilary Swank (The Reaping)
David Denman (Power Rangers)
Charles Halford (Constantine)
LeAnn Rimes (Coyote Ugly)

Riley Keough and Adam Driver in Logan Lucky (2017)Jimmy Logan is laid off from his construction job at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. While visiting his ex-wife Bobbie Jo to pick up their daughter Sadie for a beauty pageant rehearsal, he learns that Bobbie Jo and her new husband are moving to Lynchburg, making it even harder for Jimmy to visit.Channing Tatum in Logan Lucky (2017)Jimmy goes to a bar, run by his brother Clyde, an Iraq War veteran who lost his hand during the war. Max Chilblain, a pretentious British businessman and NASCAR-team owner, arrives with his friends and insults Clyde, leading to a fight with Jimmy. Meanwhile, Clyde sets fire to Max’s car with a Molotov cocktail. On his way out, Jimmy yells “cauliflower,” which Clyde recognizes as a codeword they used when they committed crimes as young boys. Next day, Jimmy reveals his plan to rob the Speedway, exploiting his knowledge of their pneumatic tube system for moving money.Channing Tatum and Adam Driver in Logan Lucky (2017)Clyde agrees to the plan, and he and Jimmy recruit their sister Mellie, a convicted safe-cracker named Joe Bang, and Joe’s dimwitted brothers Sam and Fish. They plan to break Joe out of prison and return him after the heist is complete, before anyone notices. Clyde intentionally gets himself sent to prison on a minor charge. Mellie, Sam, and Fish infest the Speedway’s pneumatic tubes with cockroaches that Mellie had painted different colors, helping them determine which set of tubes to use. While gathering supplies, Jimmy meets former schoolmate Sylvia, who runs a mobile clinic in need of donations; Sylvia provides Jimmy with a tetanus shot, and the two strike up a conversation. Later, Jimmy learns that construction at the speedway is being completed ahead of schedule, forcing them to reschedule the heist for a week earlier, during the much busier Coca-Cola 600 race on Memorial Day weekend.Daniel Craig, Channing Tatum, and Adam Driver in Logan Lucky (2017)Joe and Clyde arrange for the prison’s inmates to stage a riot, resulting in a lockdown to hide their absence. They escape by hiding under a delivery truck. Mellie meets them in a Ford Shelby GT350, stolen from Bobbie Jo’s husband. At the speedway, Sam and Fish destroy a generator with an explosive, forcing all vendors to accept cash only. Joe improvises an explosive from bleach, gummy bears, and a dietary salt substitute, which detonates within the pneumatic tube system, allowing the crew to begin collecting all of the vendors’ cash. The staff notice smoke coming out of the tubes, and security guards investigate, but a diversion set up by Jimmy and Earl, one of Clyde’s bar patrons, prevents them from discovering the heist. The airflow in the tube delivering the money is reversed, causing Clyde’s prosthetic arm to be lost. Making their way back to the prison, Clyde and Joe are recognized by Chilblain and his sponsored NASCAR driver Dayton White. The job is a success, and Jimmy makes it to his daughter’s pageant in time to hear her perform his favorite song, “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” Jimmy then abandons the money and anonymously alerts the police so they can retrieve it.Daniel Craig, Channing Tatum, and Adam Driver in Logan Lucky (2017)FBI agent Sarah Grayson investigates the heist. Due to the unwillingness of the prison authorities to disclose the extent of the riot, the refuting of Chilblain’s eyewitness account by White (disgruntled because he crashed during the race because he drank some of Chilblain’s energy drink as part of the sponsorship deal), and the speedway administration’s satisfaction with their insurance settlement, the case is closed after six months. Joe is released from prison and returns to his old home to find a bag of money buried by a tree in his yard. Sylvia receives an envelope of money anonymously in the mail, as does one of the now released jail inmates who helped with the riot. It is then revealed that during the heist, Jimmy purposely separated several bags of money from the rest, and sent them to the local dump with the regular trash. The rest he returned, to discourage any potential investigations. Jimmy also retrieved Clyde’s prosthetic hand from the vacuum tube. Now working in a hardware store and having bought a house near his daughter and ex-wife’s home, Jimmy happily reunites with his family at Clyde’s bar, where they and the rest of the gang share drinks. Sylvia also arrives and shares a kiss with Jimmy. Clyde does not recognize one of the patrons, who turns out to be Grayson.Channing Tatum and Adam Driver in Logan Lucky (2017)Overall, as the first feature to draw Soderbergh out of semi-retirement, Logan Lucky is clearly something he wanted to make and his passion comes through in the final product. Produced entirely on his own and without studio interference, Logan Lucky inverts the glamour and opulence of the Ocean’s trilogy without loosing the series’ trademark quirks and high entertainment value. If Logan Lucky is intended to act as sort of push-back of the Hollywood system and studio meddling, then Soderbergh has succeeded at both proving a point and making you laugh while doing it.

REVIEW: SUPERGIRL – SEASON 1

Starring

Melissa Benoist (Jay & Silent Bob Reboot)
Mehcad Brooks (Necessary Roughness)
Chyler Leigh (Not Another Teen Movie)
Jeremy Jordan (The Last Five Years)
David Harewood (Hoemland)
Calista Flockhart (The Last Shot)

Melissa Benoist in Supergirl (2015)

Recurring/ Notable Guest Cast

Dean Cain (Lois & Clark)
Laura Benanti (Royal Pains)
Helen Slater (City Slickers)
Owain Yeoman (American Snipe)
Faran Tahir (Iron Man)
Robert Gant (13 Reasons Why)
Malina Weissman (A Series of Unfortunate Events)
Briana Venskus (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)
Peter Facinelli (Twilight)
Chris Vance (Prison Break)
Justin Leak (Powers)
Eric Steinberg (Stargate SG.1)
Jenna Dewan (American Virgin)
Chris Browning (Agent Carter)
Brit Morgan (Friend Request)
Levi Miller (Better Whatch Out)
Tristin Mays (The Vampire Diaries)
Glenn Morshower (Transformers)
Iddo Goldberg (Salem)
Charles Halford (Reprisal)
Hope Lauren (The Valley)
Henry Czerny (Mission Impossible)
Emma Caulfield Ford (Buffy: TVS)
Blake Jenner (What/If)
Tawny Cypress (Heroes)
Daniel DiMaggio (American Housewife)
Italia Ricci (Designated Survivor)
Jeff Branson (For All Mankind)
Ray Campbell (Breaking Bad)
Laura Vandervoort (Bitten)
Sara Gilbert (The Big Bang Theory)
Eddie McClintock (Warehouse 13)
Jordana Taylor (A Wrinkle In Time)
Mackenzie Brooke Smith (Terminator: TSCC)
Grant Gustin (Glee)
Eve Torres (The Scorpion King 4)

 

Chyler Leigh and Melissa Benoist in Supergirl (2015)Warner Bros have had a rocky road when it comes to their superhero characters and although the Christopher Nolan Batman franchise epitomized this character, their other attempts at films like Green Lantern and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice met with criticism. Sometimes ‘dark’ does not always work, particularly when it comes to superheroes and if you want an example at this, check out the Marvel Universe of superheroes. However for their TV series (Arrow, Flash, Legends of Tomorrow), they’ve successfully captured the spirit of these characters and the comic universe where they came from and thankfully Superman’s cousin Kara Zor-El (aka Kara Davers) is also part of this success thanks to the excellent TV series Supergirl that stars Melissa Benoist as this intelligent and beautiful Kryptonian. Given that, the entire casting for Supergirl is perfect!The series is also created by Ali Adler, Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg who are no strangers to the world of superheroes and compared to the entire DC Comics TV line-up, Supergirl is easily one of my favorite as it doesn’t try to be too dark but rather, uplifting and enjoyable.Also joining Benoist as Supergirl is Mechad Brooks (Jimmy Olsen), David Harewood (Hank Henshaw or the ‘Martian Manhunter’ known as J’onn J’onzz), Chyler Leigh (Kara’s adopted sister Alex Danvers), Jeremy Jordan (Kara’s sidekick) and also Calista Flockhart who plays Cat Grant, the owner of CatCo Worldwide Media (think a modern version of the Daily Planet). Sure, some of the actors camp it up for the TV series but this campiness actually works well with the characters and the story and once again, continue with the light-hearted nature of the series.David Harewood, Chyler Leigh, Glenn Morshower, Jenna Dewan, and Melissa Benoist in Supergirl (2015)Given that, there are some darker moments in the series but overall and compared to The Flash, Arrow, Legends of Tommorrow, Supergirl is a much more colorful and hopeful story. The series even boasts Helen Slater (who played the original Supergirl in the 1984 movie) as Eliza Danvers as Kara’s adoptive mother plus Dean Cain as her father who played Superman in the classic 1993 TV series, Lois & Clark. This is also what I enjoy about Supergirl is all the cameos and whether that’s from film or the world of DC Comics itself, the creators really cram in quite a few people into the series, many as Easter Eggs.Chyler Leigh, Laura Benanti, and Melissa Benoist in Supergirl (2015)Although each episode has a ‘villain’, the overarching villain is Laura Benanti as Alura Zor-El who plays the evil twin sister of Kara’s mother. Having additional Kryptonians in the show does increase the jeopardy for our heroine and some of these episodes are considerably darker. Then you have billionaire Maxwell Lord (Peter Facinelli) who is not evil perse but wants the best for the world which of course causes conflict. Once again, some great villains for Supergirl. Kara’s supporting cast include an African American Jimmy Olsen who also provides a love interest for Supergirl plus their geeky tech-head sidekick Winn Schott who together attempt to protect the fictitious National City. Then you have Kara’s sister Alex who works for the DEO (Department of Extra-Normal Operations) that is run by Hank Henshaw, an alien known as J’onn J’onzz disguised as a human in order to protect the world from alien threats. The character of Henshaw also has a great history.Melissa Benoist in Supergirl (2015)Interestingly, Superman is mentioned in the series and does appear off screen. He will actually makes a full appearance in Season 2 of Supergirl but the coolest crossover in any TV series was when Grant Gustin from The Flash starred in one episode which had fanboys and fangirls gushing from the coolness factor. With 20 episodes in this collection, Supergirl does end with a cliffhanger and with a second season confirmed (moving to CW) things are looking up for the Girl of Steel.Jeff Branson and Melissa Benoist in Supergirl (2015)Supergirl on Blu-ray boasts some exceptional video and audio quality that really highlights the colourful costumes, villains and heroes of this universe. For special features, we get a handful of deleted scenes plus a couple of fun documentaries about J’onn J’onzz and Supergirl. All in all, it’s a great release from Roadshow Warner.Laura Vandervoort and Melissa Benoist in Supergirl (2015)Supergirl is a proof that superheroes don’t need to be dark and moody and this TV series captures the spirit and core of this character that thanks to its creators successfully transforms the comic into a very enjoyable, clichéd and action packed live-action series with lots of world building and character development!. An Excellent series and a must see for all DC fans.

 

 

REVIEW: CONSTANTINE (2014)

Matt Ryan in Constantine (2014)

Starring

Matt Ryan (Justice League Dark)
Lucy Griffiths (Robin Hood)
Angélica Celaya (Danger One)
Charles Halford (Reprisal)
Harold Perrineau (Lost)

Charles Halford, Matt Ryan, and Angélica Celaya in Constantine (2014)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Lisa Darr (Popular)
Joelle Carter (Home Before Dark)
Michael James Shaw (Limitless)
Sean Whalen (Superstore)
Jonjo O’Neill (The Fall)
Charles Parnell (The Last Ship)
Chasty Ballesteros (The Ranch)
Emmett J Scanlan (Krypton)
Niall Matter (Eureka)
Laura Regan (Mad Men)
Amy Parrish (One Tree HIll)
Max Charles (The Neighbours)
Juliana Harkavy (Arrow)
Megan West ((This is Us)
Claire van der Boom (The Square)
Jose Pablo Cantillo (Crank)
Joelle Carter (Justified)
Paloma Guzmán (The Deuce)
Roger Floyd (Graceland)
Amanda Clayton (John Carter)
Mark Margolis (Breaking Bad)
Jeremy Davies (Lost)
William Mapother (Another Earth)
Skyler Day (Raven’s Home)
Robert Pralgo (The Vampire DIaries)
Annalise Basso (Ouija 2)
J.D. Evermore (Cloak & Dagger)
Brandon Larracuente (13 Reasons Why)

Angélica Celaya in Constantine (2014)DC/Vertigo’s John Constantine leapt from the sordid, scary pages of his Hellblazer comics thanks to EPs David Goyer (The Dark Knight, Man of Steel) and Daniel Cerone (Dexter, Charmed). Matt Ryan, as the titular hero, was really effective in bringing Constantine to life on screen. Flippant when called for. Vulnerable when need be. All the while – whether casting out a demon from some poor body or battling one within himself – creating a very commanding, likable presence on screen. John Constantine was a the sort of hero you had to get right immediately and Ryan excelled.Matt Ryan in Constantine (2014)John’s back up proved reliable from a charismatic standpoint. Chas and Zed were great characters and as the serious progressed we got to see their back story’s and what made them the way they are.I really liked that Newcastle was used as the show’s jumping off point, and that throughout the season John would have to atone in various ways with scattered members of that ill-fated team, but his own team often suffered. Even though we’re only talking about 13 episodes here, the show still made good use of a seasonal arc format. Even using the “Rising Darkness” to both inform and be the cause of a procedural “case of the week” structure .Matt Ryan in Constantine (2014)The “Scry Map” gave John demons and ghosts to chase, all under the umbrella that hell was slowly encroaching upon the world of the living. And while not every “case of the week” landed, a couple of stories ripped from the comics came alive in (remixed) cool ways (“A Feast of Friends,” “The Saint of Last Resorts: Part 1” and “Waiting for the Man”). Along with some DC notables like Felix Faust, Eclipso’s Black Diamond, and Jim Corrigan.I liked that Manny turned out to be the villain right at the end of the finale. Mostly because the “Rising Darkness” needed a face. The Brujeria were mentioned quite a bit, but never shown.Matt Ryan in Constantine (2014)Was the twist worth sitting through a handful of episodes where I wondered why Manny was even there at all? Maybe, maybe not. But the show needed a “big bad,” and whether or not Manny turns out to be Satan himself or just an evil angel, he still fits the bill nicely.Constantine had a cool look, an awesome lead, and a confidence that you don’t see in most fledgling series. As the series went on it became an intriguing show with many dimensions that would of been worth exploring in later seasons, this is a show that was cancelled too soon and now with a unresolved cliffhanger we may never know where it will lead. On the plus side Matt Ryan’s Constantine is coming too Arrow, so we at least get to see him at least one more time.

REVIEW: REPRISAL – SEASON 1

Reprisal (2019)

Starring

Abigail Spencer (Cowboys & Aliens)
Rodrigo Santoro (300)
Mena Massoud (Aladdin)
David Dastmalchian (The Suicide Squad)
Rhys Wakefield (The Purge)
Madison Davenport (Sharpe Objcts)
Craig Tate (12 Years a Slave)
Wavyy Jonez (See You Yesterday)
W. Earl Brown (Bates Motel)
Gilbert Owuor (Mute)
Shane Callahan (American Soul)
Rory Cochrane (Argo)
Bethany Anne Lind (Doom Patrol)
Ron Perlman (Hellboy)

Abigail Spencer in Reprisal (2019)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Blake Sheldon (Afterlife)
Lea DeLaria (Cars 3)
Happy Anderson (The Knick)
Blake Perlman (Hand of God)
Charles Halford (Constantine)
Scarlett Blum (The Outsider)
Jason Davis (The Accountant)
David Dastmalchain (The Dark Knight)

Still of Rebeca Robles and Madison Davenport in REPRISAL on HuluThe term “noir” gets slapped on a lot of things these days that don’t deserve it, as an all-purpose identifier for productions that are grim and violent and impressed with themselves. It’s there in the news release for Hulu’s new series “Reprisal”: “a hyper-noir story that follows a relentless femme fatale.”15-1“Reprisal” isn’t really noir, though. It doesn’t have the style or the romance or the fatalism. It’s an example — fairly diverting, but never entirely satisfying — of another currently popular television genre: the fairy tale of aggrieved American manhood, even though in this case the bitter hero is a heroine. Pumped up with rural gothic atmosphere and punctuated with self-consciously curated pop songs, these shows are what happen when you read “Mystery Train” and “Fight Club” and don’t find any appreciable intellectual distance between the two. These fantasias stretch across genres, and if you’re not looking for them you might not realize how common they are among the assertively woke shows that are drawing more attention at the moment. Notable examples include “Banshee” and “Rectify”; current shows like “True Detective” and “Watchmen” share some of the characteristics. Certain actors make a living off them — Ron Perlman, who’s completely in his element as a quietly menacing mob boss in “Reprisal,” has been a stalwart of the genre through “Sons of Anarchy” and “Hand of God.”c-i-a-ii-target-alexaThe settings are generally Southern (though occasionally Western or Midwestern), and “Reprisal” takes place in an imaginary South, unlocated except for a reference to its being 900 miles from Detroit. (The show was filmed in North Carolina.) Restaurants have names like Slimmy Hank’s Egg Pit and Bolo’s Worldwide Rathskeller; an important scene of the action is a motel called Donuts & Duvets. Time and history are also slightly unmoored. The crucial role of flip phones seems to put us in a more or less recent past, though the prevalence of Tommy guns and vintage hot rods argues for something further back. Newscasts report a glowing orange anomaly in the atmosphere, and characters recall their service in the War for the Archipelago.997768d2-460f-4cbd-a2ca-f0d5648b23faAt the center of this hothouse setting dreamed up by the writer and producer Josh Corbin is a monolithic road house called a Bang-a-Rang. It’s a little bit Cirque du Soleil, a little bit Kit Kat Klub (with Lea DeLaria in the Joel Grey M.C. role), all with a naughty-high-school-drama vibe, as if Baz Luhrmann and David Lynch had collaborated on an after-hours club inside a Walmart. It’s the headquarters of a criminal gang called the Banished Brawlers, who spend most of their time hanging out at the Bang-a-Rang and getting misty-eyed about how they’ve found a “family” based on shared pain and manly camaraderie. There is a story here also, but it feels wan and patched together — so much of the show’s imagination has gone into the world building and the artisanal Americana and the stylistic flourishes, like the bloody, crunching scenes of violence set to oddball musical choices like “25 or 6 to 4” or “Dammit, Janet” (from “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”).ReprisalThe Brawlers are enjoying a period of peaceful coexistence with their rival gangs (who have equally pretentious names like the Happiness Ghouls), but they’re haunted by an original sin: the betrayal and brutalization years before of the gang leader’s sister, who was dragged behind a truck and left for dead. “Reprisal” — with the double meaning of revenge and repetition — traces her implacable campaign to clear her name and get satisfaction, with extreme prejudice, from the various men who wronged her. There are cultural-political themes and sexual politics in the mix here. The mostly white good old boys of the Bang-a-Rang feel their long-held privileges, and the sanctity of their fraternal bond, are under unfair assault. The sister is joined in her campaign by a formerly abused, newly empowered homemaker and a pair of small-time African-American Robin Hoods. Caught in the middle are the Bang-a-Rang’s strippers and entertainers, who pick up shotguns when needed. (A lot of the show’s budget went to red light filters, smoke and pasties.)15-1The sister is played by Abigail Spencer, whose sculpted features and reserved delivery give her an air of retro glamour that’s been exploited before in the lightweight time-travel adventure “Timeless” and the heavy drama “Rectify” — if you’re trying to bake up a noir, she’s the starter. If there’s a monotone quality to her performance here — as there is to that of Rodrigo Santoro (“Westworld”), who plays the most thoughtful of the Brawlers — it’s probably because the show doesn’t take their characters anywhere we can’t see coming. If you like the combination of violent action, sentimental fantasy, literary pretension and periodic slapstick humor that “Reprisal” offers, you may enjoy it well enough. Or you may wish you were watching something with the energy of “Banshee,” the clammy atmosphere of “Quarry” or the charm of “Hap and Leonard.” But that’s what streaming is for.

REVIEW: THE LAUNDROMAT

Antonio Banderas, Gary Oldman, Meryl Streep, David Schwimmer, and Jeffrey Wright in The Laundromat (2019)

Starring

Meryl Streep (Into The Woods)
Gary Oldman (The Dark Knight)
Antonio Banderas (The Mask of Zorro)
Sharon Stone (Catwoman)
David Schwimmer (Friends)
Matthias Schoenaerts (Red Sparrow)
Jeffrey Wright (Westworld)
Will Forte (Fanboys)
Chris Parnell (Goosebumps 2)
James Cromwell (Star Trek: First Contact)
Melissa Rauch (The Big Bang Theory)
Larry Wilmore (Vamps)
Robert Patrick (Terminator 2)
Rosalind Chao (Star Trek: DS9)
Nikki Amuka-Bird (The Omen)
Nonso Anozie (Game of Thrones)
Amy Pemberton (Legends of Tomorrow)
Charles Halford (Constantine)

Meryl Streep and Jeff Michalski in The Laundromat (2019)The film follows Ellen Martin (Streep), whose dream vacation takes a wrong turn and leads her down a rabbit hole of shady dealings that can all be traced to one Panama City law firm, run by financially seductive partners Jürgen Mossack (Oldman) and Ramón Fonseca (Banderas). In a shocking denouement she soon learns that her minor predicament is only a drop in the bucket of millions of files linking off-shore drug trafficking, tax evasion, bribery, and other illegal enterprises to the world’s richest and most powerful political leaders.Antonio Banderas and Gary Oldman in The Laundromat (2019)The subplot of a wealthy man and his daughter bears strong reference to the events described in the April 2019 book, The Bouvier Affair: A True Story, involving a network of trusts under a Russian oligarch’s name in Cyprus. The book focuses on Dmitry Rybolovlev, his daughter, Ekaterina Rybolovleva, and his wife, ElenaMeryl Streep and Larry Clarke in The Laundromat (2019)I found the film better than I’d imagined. It has a refreshing style for sure and maybe watched by a lot of folks who need the truth put forth to be in this entertaining format. The title of the movie was not an attractive lure, though for me, and I almost passed watching it.

HALLOWEEN OF HORROR REVIEW: CONSTANTINE – RAGE OF CALIBAN

Image result for constantine 2014

CAST

Matt Ryan (Layer Cake)
Charles Halford (Agents of SHIELD)
Harold Perrineau (Lost)

960You can tell “Rage Of Caliban” is gonna be a good one from the last-minute excuse for Angélica Celaya’s absence: “Zed’s in art class.” All week? Apparently, because John and Chas spend the run-up to Halloween in Birmingham, Alabama figuring out how to exorcise a young boy safely after What Happened In Newcastle. Creator Daniel Cerone writes and Neil Marshall directs, in case you needed any more proof that this was originally the second episode of Constantine. Why sit on it? Just to get the ball rolling on the post-Liv version of the show? Yes, “Rage Of Caliban” sounds like a lost third-season Star Trek about some neglected godlike alien, but it’s actually a demon seed story that’s about as good as a network demon seed story can be.See, there just isn’t that much life left in evil children. Nothing short of a Claire Denis rethink is going to revive childlike drawings of scary things or kids smiling with black eyes. True enough, “Rage Of Caliban” isn’t that scary, but its scary scenes are vivid. Constantine is trying its damnedest with the look, sound, and mood of those scenes. The cold open is an establishing shot of a house and then a fluid pan—like Marshall’s demon shots in the pilot—through a house and up to the ceiling where a bloody man is being held, and then we follow him to the floor where he lands in front of a cowering girl. For some reason the demon moves on from her to the next child along the psychic railroad—another pilot callback, and this time we get to see what that railroad effectively means for a certain kind of spirit—a bullied boy named Henry. With Henry we get a couple of long suspense scenes that immerse us in that house, a standoff with a dog that struggles against his leather collar so mightily the sound is still haunting my ears, and a carving knife mishap that never really feels threatening but still effectively tightens the screws. The playground fight is silly, and the telekinetic explosions are too harmless to bother a mouse, but so what? Cerone and Marshall give evil children a fighting chance.The real reason I suspect producers sat on “Rage Of Caliban” so long is they wanted to get into a groove with the new face of Constantine—John, Zed, Chas, and Manny—since they threw out the old one at the end of the pilot. Unfortunately that means we’ve gone five episodes without really finding out The Deal With Manny, which is that he can only help through guidance. “When humanity was granted free will, angels lost the power to directly influence events on earth.” John takes that to mean Manny’s just here to shoot the shit. He’s not wrong. But Manny is allowed to offer guidance, which I guess means cryptic counsel and which I don’t think actually has any bearing on John’s ability to solve the case. Manny tells him to think about when he was a child in order to appeal to Henry, or rather Marcello, the possessing spirit who was once a boy who got revenge on his abusive father by introducing him to an axe. Now Marcello’s catatonic in a psychiatric hospital. His animating spirit is off killing more parents.That’s the core of this evil children story, violent dads and helpless kids who suddenly get to be not so helpless. Marcello’s dad used to chop his fingers off on a bloody stump. John’s used to beat him so much he considered suicide. And Henry’s is a macho tough guy who wants Henry to stand up for himself. When John first arrives in the guise of the new school counselor, shirt tucked in and tie too short, Henry’s dad knocks John out while he’s leaving. He’s not abusive to Henry, although he does mock him for crying wolf about someone in his room at night. Henry’s just very sensitive to not living up to his father’s vision of masculinity and the strain that’s putting on his parents’ relationship. He can’t handle the discord in his house. Luckily his new friend and cohabitant Marcello is quite talented at dealing with anger toward parents. “Danse Vaudou” ultimately spun itself into a metaphor for survivor’s guilt. “Rage Of Caliban” is more deliberate, but it lays out a motif and mostly leaves it at at that. A child can react like Marcello and continue a cycle of violence, or he can react like John and endure? The episode never really resolves Henry’s story—what happens next time he’s bullied at school? Is it okay for him to fight back?—but at least his happy family is restored.constantine-recap-episode-6The emotion comes from John’s story. First of all it’s actually a little funny. For instance, back at the home base, Chas starts playing with a sword. He asks what it does and then segues into a story about how he drove Renee away and how John never listens. John takes the sword from him. “This is the Sword Of Night. Compels the holder to speak the truth.” Not only do we finally get some specifics on Manny but the John-Chas relationship has never been clearer. The school counselor get-up is a good sight gag on its own, but the throwaway “I told Chas this wouldn’t work” is so evocative I can picture them bickering about it. And as for the heart of the story, all it takes is a quick flashback to What Happened In Newcastle to explain why John’s so afraid of exorcising the boy. Last time he sent a girl to Hell, and what with The Engorging Evil, who knows what it might take to pry Marcello’s grasp from Henry’s body. As usual, getting rid of the spirit ultimately looks so easy Zed could do it, but there’s a healthy serving of catharsis in the moment Henry comes to in the haunted house from The Guest. John did it! There’s never any real threat of him not saving the day, but the episode imbues this exorcism with all of John’s self-doubt. Saving Henry is an act of faith. And it’s rewarded.

HALLOWEEN OF HORROR REVIEW: THE CELL 2

CAST

Tessie Santiago (Queen of Swords)
Chris Bruno (The Fosters)
Frank Whaley (Pulp fiction)
Bart Johnson (The Client List)
Michael flynn (Halloween 4)
Amee Walden (Ice Spiders)
Charles Halford (Constantine TV)

Maya Castaneda (Tessie Santiago) is an investigator with psychic abilities — a power which she gained during a yearlong coma, the result of her having been victimized by a notorious serial killer known as the Cusp. Now the killer is back in action, and Maya must summon her psychic talents to delve into the dark mind of this notorious maniac, in the hopes of saving his next victim — before time runs out. From out of the ashes of the wonderfully vivid and visually captivating “The Cell“, comes a brand new follow-up by the simple moniker of “The Cell 2“. Though this time around no Jennifer Lopez, no elaborate renaissance nightmare feeling sets and no Vincent D’Onofrio. So what gives? I anticipated a follow up for quite some time coming off the first film, though this round was simply a disappointment.
The film itself is radically different than “The Cell”, which is a shame as the original film direction was what made the franchise special. To begin, we receive narration that the FBI has started to enlist special individuals who hold extraordinary gifts. This solicitation acts as an aid to hunt down serial killers, psychos and madmen. Kessel, the FBI head is in charge of the justice task force. The focus of recent investigations centers on one individual who calls himself “The Cusp”. Maya Casteneda(Tessie Santiago) is there ace in the hole who is able to psychically concentrate on individuals possessions to get inside there head. Her viewpoint is from the eyes of the individual. This talent was acquired when Maya was killed 6 times and brought back by “The Cusp” as a cruel form of torture. The afterlife visits enabled Maya with this special gift of hers.  “The Cusp” has eluded the police on over 23 victims and has shown no signs of stopping his indulgent serial killer activities. Maya is the only solution to finding him and identifying the killer. The Cusp in essence kidnaps young girls, tortures them, and kills them only to bring them back to do it all again. On the other end he is an intelligent medically knowledged individual who delves into the realms of parapsychology and is strangely afraid of the dark. He keeps his captives tied to a chair with a “Saw” looking wooden box latched around their heads.Clearly a lower budget offering the great set work that we enjoyed previously was replaced by cheesy CGI sets. By cheesy I mean they kind of look like left over video game sets. Clearly green screened and pasted it. The production look just didn’t pop and make ya feel like the the actors were really caught in any nightmare world. In fact even if it was CGI, the environments could of been made to be presented a whole lot creepier and interesting. A pedestal in a big room…., a hallway full of memories…., a room with some wave filter applied over it…., that’s it folks. That’s the nightmare world that exists in the serial killers mind. I felt really cheated if you ask me. The best scene is actually some leftover footage they start the film with from “The Cell”

REVIEW: AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. – SEASON 1

CAST

Clark Gregg (When A Stranger Calls)
Ming-Na Wen (Stargate Universe)
Brett Dalton (Killing Lincoln)
Chloe Bennet (Nashville)
Ian De Caestecker (Filth)
Elizabeth Henstridge (Reach Me)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

J. August Richards (Angel)
Shannon Lucio (The O.C)
Ron Glass (Firefly)
Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother)
Sarah Dumont (Don Jon)
Leonor Varela (Blade II)
Samuel L. Jackson (The Hateful Eight)
David Conrad (Roswell)
Ian Hart (Harry Potter)
Ruth Negga (World War Z)
Louis Ozawa Changchien (The Bourne Legacy)
Cullen Douglas (Pure Genius)
Vincent Laresca (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang)
Titus Welliver (The Town)
Maximiliano Hernández (Ringer)
Ilia Volok (Power Rangers Wild Force)
Jimmy O. Yang (Fantasy Island)
Saffron Burrows (Deep Blue Sea)
Charles Halford (Constantine)
Peter MacNicol (24)
Erin Way (Colony)
Robert Baker (Supergirl)
Laura Seay (Superbad)
Maximilian Osinski (In Time)
Aiden Turner (All My Children)
Dylan Minnette (13 Reasons Why)
Daniel Zovatto (Don’t Breathe)
Christine Adams (Black Lightning)
Maiara Walsh (The Vampire Diaries)
Carlo Rota (Saw V)
Stan Lee (Super Hero Squad)
Elena Satine (The Gifted)
Bill Paxton (Aliens)
Robert Belushi (How I Met Your Mother)
B.J. Britt (One Tree Hill)
Jaimie Alexander (Thor)
Austin Nichols (Bates Motel)
Dylan Bruno (Taken 3)
Brad Dourif (Cult of Chucky)
Adrian Pasdar (Heores)
Patton Oswalt (Young Adult)
Amy Acker (Angel)
Rob Huebel (Baywatch)
Glenn Morshower (Transformers)
Alice Wen (Jay & Silent Bob Reboot)
Alicia Lagano (Paranorman)
Dayo Ade (October Faction)

Ming-Na Wen, Clark Gregg, Iain De Caestecker, Brett Dalton, Chloe Bennet, and Elizabeth Henstridge in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2013)When Marvel’s cinematic universe first took off, the next move was to make the leap to television, Marvel turned to Avengers director Joss Whedon’s brother Jed and his wife/collaborator Maurissa Tancharoen, who took the popular Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase One character Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), the man who helped gather the heroes who became the Avengers, and made him the star of his own series, focused on his team at S.H.I.E.L.D., the international peacekeeping organization run by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson.) The hour-long drama would build off of the well-known heroics, and tell connected tales of espionage, as Coulson and his squad respond to threats to humanity around the world.Now, in case you haven’t seen The Avengers, you should know that in a climactic battle, Coulson was very badly injured, which became a rallying point for the heroes. Well, he’s back, but how he made it back is a large part of the series’ foundation, which is revealed in piecemeal over the course of the first season. Coulson’s search for the truth is intertwined with the arrival of the newest member of his team, a hacker known as Skye (Chloe Bennett), who has plenty of secrets of her own, in part due to her past as a rogue “hacktivist.” Trust is a massive theme in the series, as no one is sure about anyone else but they have to rely on each other if they are going to complete their missions, which remind one of Fringe in a big way, as the team investigates strange phenomena in order to keep humanity safe.Lorelei, Though certainly not a big-name Marvel character (her sister The Enchantress has a much higher profile) and not the first recognizable super-powered character on the show (that would be the cybernetic assassin Deathlok, whose origin is revealed over the course of the season), Lorelei tips the scales with her appearance because she, as an Asgardian, creates a direct link to the world of Thor, and also because she’s followed to Earth by Lady Sif (Jaimie Alexander), the Asgardian warrior from the two Thor films. Finally, fans exclaimed, there’s some honest to goodness superhero action to be enjoyed, and that was followed by direct ties into the new Captain America movie, picking up the plot from the theaters and bringing its effects home. This was the crossover dream that comics mastered decades ago, and now Marvel was making happen between movies and TV (and you didn’t really even need to see both sides to enjoy them separately.)After offering this cookie to the fans, the series shifted back to the spy game though, where it would stay for the rest of the season, introducing Bill Paxton and Saffron Burrows in major roles) as Coulson’s organization crumbled around him and the team shifted from saving the world to saving each other. Coulson’s team, which, aside from Skye, includes Ward (Brett Dalton), a perfect soldier; badass pilot May (Ming-Na Wen) and science specialists Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge), comes together quickly as a unit on the series, establishing their personalities right off the bat, with Skye serving as the show’s young star, showing the old guard how a new generation does the job (though still requiring saving and offering a hearty cry every now and then) and Fitz and Simmons serving as the audience’s tech-loving stand-ins, the most down-to-earth parts of a fantastical realm. May though, with her economy of words and excess of butt-kicking skill, is the “Wolverine” of the show, and her relationship with Coulson serves as a backbone for the series. Naturally, Gregg’s performance is integral to the show, and he continues to shine in the role of Coulson, giving us a smartass secret agent for the ages.193500093

While the show is a serial and does well at telling action-adventure arcs of mystery and intrigue, building the mythology and establishing a larger storyline, it could do one-offs as well, including two of the season’s best episodes, “FZZT” which ties into The Avengers while telling a standalone story that put a spotlight on Fitz and Simmons, and “T.R.A.C.K.S.”, which puts the team on a train and tries out some interesting storytelling structure. The show also has its humorous side, taking its tone from the Marvel films, which blend grits with grins (and though Patton Oswalt gets a featured role in one episode, for once, he’s not responsible for the laughs.) For the most part, this mix works well, as it helps illustrate the growing camaraderie between the teammates and keeps the tone light, but it can get out of hand very quickly. The final episode, where much of what’s been revealed over the course of the previous 21 episodes comes to a head, the lightheartedness (thanks to an appearance by a famous friend of the team) goes over the top.