REVIEW: PUSH (2009)

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CAST

Chris Evans (Captain America)
Dakota Fanning (War of The Worlds)
Camilla Belle (10,000 BC)
Djimon Hounsou (Stargate)
Joel Gretsch (V)
Ming-na Wen (Agents of SHIELD)
Cliff Curtis (Deep Rising)
Neil Jackson (Alexander)
Corey Stoll (Ant-Man)
Colin Ford (Daybreak)

Chris Evans and Dakota Fanning in Push (2009)An organization within the United States government called the Division has been secretly hunting down and experimenting on people with psychic abilities since 1945. Two “Movers”, Nick Gant (Colin Ford) and his father Jonah (Joel Gretsch), are running from Agent Carver (Djimon Hounsou), a Division “Pusher”. Jonah tells Nick of a vision he received from a “Watcher” about a young girl he must help in the future in order to take down Division. Jonah helps Nick escape as Carver arrives and kills Jonah.Camilla Belle and Djimon Hounsou in Push (2009)Ten years later, Carver tests a power boosting drug that has killed all previous test subjects on a Pusher named Kira (Camilla Belle). Rendering her doctor unconscious, Kira steals an augmentation drug-filled syringe before escaping. In Hong Kong, Nick (Chris Evans) is hiding as an expatriate. A young girl, Cassie Holmes (Dakota Fanning), arrives at Nick’s apartment, explaining that she is a Watcher and that they are going to find a mysterious case that will help them take down the Division. The case is also sought by the Pop Family, psychic Triads composed of Pop Father (Haruhiko Yamanouchi) and his two sons (Kwan Fung Chi and Jacky Heung) who are “Bleeders”, and his daughter Pop Girl (Xiao Lu Li), who is a Watcher like Cassie.PUSHFollowing Cassie’s predictions, they go to a nightclub to meet Nick’s friend Hook, who is a “Shifter”. He tells them to go to a “Sniff” named Emily (Ming-Na Wen), one of many Sniffs Carver and his right hand Mover, Victor (Neil Jackson), are trying to enlist to find Kira. With Emily’s help, Nick finds Kira; the two had a romantic relationship prior to Kira’s capture by Division. Kira hid the syringe inside the case, then had a “Wiper” erase her memories to keep the Division Watchers off her trail. Nick recruits a “Shadow” named Pinky (Nate Mooney) to “shade” Kira from psychic detection. Cassie finds a key in Kira’s shoe to a locker in a construction building that is shaded by a powerful Shadow, indicating Kira hid the case there.Ming-Na Wen, Cliff Curtis, Chris Evans, Dakota Fanning, and Nate Mooney in Push (2009)Nick devises a complex plan by giving his allies instructions in envelopes to open at specific times, while having a Wiper erase his memories of the grand plot to obstruct the Watchers’ efforts to discern the entire plan. Meanwhile, Hook retrieves the case and creates a duplicate to match the real case with the syringe. As part of the plan, Kira surrenders herself to Carver, who introduces himself to Kira as a friend. Pushing his thoughts into her, Carver convinces Kira that she is actually a Division agent who volunteered to take the augmentation injection and suffered amnesia as a side effect.Pop Girl hunts Cassie and corners her at a secluded spot but The Wiper appears at the right moment to dispatch Pop Girl with a massive memory wipe. Nick meets with Carver, Victor and Kira to trade the drug for Kira’s freedom but Kira tells him their past relationship when Nick revealed his love at Coney Island was a false memory she pushed into his mind. The three force Nick to take them to the construction site that contains the locker holding the case, where the Triads lie in wait to ambush them. Victor kills several Triads before Pop Bleeder unleashes a powerful scream that kills Victor but also kills Pop Bleeder in a wave of collapsing debris.Chris Evans in Push (2009)Nick surprises Carver and grabs the syringe from him. Unable to convince Kira that their relationship was real, Nick jams the syringe into his arm, apparently killing himself. After Carver and Kira leave Nick for dead, he wakes up. Cassie appears and retrieves the true case with the syringe, revealing that Nick took the duplicated case and injected himself with soy sauce. Cassie plans to exchange the syringe to Division for releasing Cassie’s mother, a powerful Watcher who foretold her vision to Nick’s father and set the preceding events in motion even before Cassie’s birth to ensure her and Nick’s eventual success.Flying back to America with Carver, Kira opens her purse and finds the envelope from Nick. Inside is photograph of Nick and herself together at Coney Island with a message: “KILL HIM. See U soon – Nick.” Kira pushes Carver to put his gun in his mouth and fire; the screen fades to black and a single gunshot is heard.I was really surprised by how entertained I was by this.  I found the plot complex but understandable. To dismiss it as a heroes knock-off is also unfair. It’s a sci-fi film but that doesn’t mean all sci-fi films are the same. The film makes good use of its Hong Kong location more so than any recent film I’ve seen and the characters were memorable. The special effects were there for the story and not the other way around.

REVIEW: DAYBREAK – SEASON 1

Colin Ford in Daybreak (2019)

Starring

Colin Ford (Push)
Alyvia Alyn Lind (Revenge)
Sophie Simnett (The Lodge)
Austin Crute (Booksmart)
Cody Kearsley (Riverdale)
Jeanté Godlock (Sell Out)
Gregory Kasyan (War Dogs)
Krysta Rodriguez (Bakery in Brooklyn)
Matthew Broderick (Election)

Matthew Broderick and Sophie Simnett in Daybreak (2019)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Chelsea Zhang (Titans)
Andrew Fox (The Eight House)
Zoe Biggers (Prism)
Charlotte Benesch (Greanleaf)
Virginia Asbury (Cents)
Jade Payton (Izombie)
Natalie Alyn Lind (The Gifted)
Ken Marino (Veronica Mars)
Joe manganiello (Justice League
Mather Zickel (Bones)

Colin Ford, Austin Crute, and Alyvia Alyn Lind in Daybreak (2019)While so many producers and networks are preoccupied with creating the next Walking Dead or Stranger Things, Netflix has looked back further, specifically to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, for its new series Daybreak. That’s not to say the post-apocalyptic comedy-drama is in any way a copycat — while there are “ghoulies,” you won’t find a single vampire — but it is a worthy successor to the cult favorite in terms of its wry self-awareness and exploration of the high school experience through a supernatural/sci-fi lens.Cody Kearsley and Jeanté Godlock in Daybreak (2019)Loosely based on the series of graphic novels by Brian Ralph, Daybreak is set in Glendale, California, in the months after a nuclear apocalypse reduced most adults to “goo,” and turned those that remained into mindless, zombie-like ghoulies, sentenced to endlessly repeat the last thing they said before the attack, no matter how banal (“There’s a sale at Lululemon”). That leaves the teens and children to fight for survival in a world that’s part Road Warrior, part Lord of the Flies, part Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, with heaping helpings of irony and dark humor.Krysta Rodriguez in Daybreak (2019)Colin Ford (Supernatural, Under the Dome) stars as Josh Wheeler, a 17-year-old transfer student from Canada who finds that his outsider status serves him well in the End Times. He navigates the territories staked out by high-school cliques turned tribes (The Jocks, The 4-H Club, Disciples of Kardashia, and so on), while stockpiling supplies and searching for Sam Dean (Sophie Simnett), the love of his life who was separated him the night of the attack.Daybreak (2019)Like a post-apocalyptic Malcolm in the Middle, Josh routinely breaks the fourth wall in the first two episodes to serve as the audience’s guide to this bizarre, new world, in which two-headed crows scrounge for morsels, doomed contestants compete in “American Ninja Idol” for the entertainment of the leader of The Jocks, and the bogeyman-like Baron Triumph prowls the streets on a motorcycle, capturing kids to eat. Despite Josh’s determination to remain a loner, he falls in with Angelica (​Alyvia Alyn Lind​), a precocious girl with a flame-thrower and malleable morals, and Wesley Fists (Austin Crute), a former jock turned pacifistic samurai seeking redemption. Together, they form a compelling central cast that is, luckily, more than mere archetypes of young-adult drama. (Likewise, Matthew Broderick as the “woke” Principal Burr and Krysta Rodriguez as the beleaguered Ms. Crumble prove to be more than cookie-cutter authority figures.)Jade Payton in Daybreak (2019)Although Ford is joined by other narrators in subsequent episodes, he bears the weight of the world-building, and carries it well, addressing viewers as if they’re participants in this offbeat adventure. If Ford weren’t so charming, and Josh weren’t such goofy, endearing everyman (everykid?) Daybreak would likely stumble out of the gate. However, the series’ success doesn’t owe all to him; when the narration, and the focus, shifts to other characters, Daybreak still works — and works well. While Daybreak doesn’t blaze any new trails, in either teen comedy-drama or post-apocalyptic fiction, it has a great deal of fun exploring the tropes of both. The wasteland of Glendale is high school writ large, with the adolescent pecking order weathering the nuclear attack (and even thriving in its aftermath), and teens seeking a place among the cliques, not merely for social acceptance but for their survival. It’s no coincidence that a shopping mall, kept pristine even as society crumbles, emerges as an oasis for the outcasts.47e9a30a87171a0193c6ca7ae9218bd5119bad1eWith the ghoulies, Daybreak introduces a zombie-like menace that wisely sidesteps the familiar threat of The Walking Dead, 28 Days Later and the like. Sure, they’re revenants, of sorts, but the repetition of their frequently silly final words (“How do you pronounce ‘La Croix’?”) goes a long way to diffuse any sense of dread. Angelica goes to great length to differentiate ghoulies from zombies, noting that while their bites may leave scars, they won’t transform their victims (a knowledge bomb that arrives a bit too late for Josh). But, as is so often the case in post-apocalyptic fiction, the real danger isn’t the monsters but the humans, whether they be The Jocks or the cannibalistic Baron Triumph.b1dc4-episode2bstill2b3Witty, self-aware and endlessly entertaining, Daybreak offers something for everyone: teen angst (and romance), samurai action, Mad Max-style car chases and, yes, metatextuality, all in one, enjoyable bundle. It’s a post-apocalyptic Buffy the Vampire Slayer for 2019, only, y’know, without vampires.

 

REVIEW: CAPTAIN MARVEL

Starring

Brie Larson (Kong: Skull Island)
Samuel L. Jackson (The Hateful eight)
Ben Mendelsohn (Ready Player One)
Djimon Hounsou (Guardians of The Galaxy)
Lee Pace (Pushing Daisies)
Lashana Lynch (Still Star-Crossed)
Gemma Chan (Mary Queen of Scots)
Annette Bening (American Beauty)
Clark Gregg (Much Ado About Nothing)
Jude Law (Spy)
Mckenna Grace (I, Tonya)
Vik Sahay (Chuck)
Kenneth Mitchell (Star Trek: Discovery)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble)
Chris Evans (The Losers)
Scarlett Johansson (Lucy)
Mark Ruffalo (Just Like Heaven)
Don Cheadle (Traffic)
Nelson Franklin (New Girl)
Patrick Gallagher (Glee)
Colin Ford (Daybreak)

Brie Larson in Captain Marvel (2019)In 1995, on the Kree Empire’s capital planet of Hala, Starforce member Vers suffers from amnesia and recurring nightmares involving an older woman. Yon-Rogg, her mentor and commander, trains her to control her abilities while the Supreme Intelligence, the artificial intelligence that rules the Kree, urges her to keep her emotions in check.Brie Larson in Captain Marvel (2019)During a mission to rescue an undercover operative infiltrating a group of Skrulls, alien shapeshifters with whom the Kree are at war, Vers is captured by Skrull commander Talos. A probe of Vers’s memories leads them to Earth. Vers escapes and crash-lands in Los Angeles. Her presence attracts S.H.I.E.L.D. agents Nick Fury and Phil Coulson, whose investigation is interrupted by a Skrull attack. In the ensuing chase, Vers recovers a crystal containing her extracted memories while Fury kills a Skrull impersonating Coulson. Talos, disguised as Fury’s boss Keller, orders Fury to work with Vers and keep tabs on her.Jude Law, Brie Larson, and Rune Temte in Captain Marvel (2019)Using her extracted memories, Vers and Fury go to the Project Pegasus installation at a U.S. Air Force base. They discover Vers was a pilot presumed to have died in 1989 while testing an experimental light-speed engine designed by Dr. Wendy Lawson, whom Vers recognizes as the woman from her nightmares. After Fury informs S.H.I.E.L.D. of their location, a team led by Talos disguised as Keller arrives. Fury discovers Talos’s ruse and helps Vers escape in a cargo jet with Lawson’s stowaway cat Goose. They fly to Louisiana to meet former pilot Maria Rambeau, the last person to see Vers and Lawson alive.Samuel L. Jackson and Brie Larson in Captain Marvel (2019)Rambeau and her daughter Monica reveal that Vers is Carol Danvers, who was once like family to them. Talos, arriving unarmed, explains that the Skrulls are refugees searching for a new home and that Lawson was Mar-Vell, a renegade Kree scientist helping them. Talos plays a recovered recording from Lawson’s jet, prompting Danvers to remember the crash: Lawson was killed by Yon-Rogg to prevent her from destroying the engine before the Kree could recover it. Destroying the engine herself, Danvers absorbed the energy from the ensuing explosion, gaining powers but losing her memory.Samuel L. Jackson and Brie Larson in Captain Marvel (2019)Danvers, Talos, Fury, and Rambeau locate Lawson’s cloaked laboratory orbiting Earth, where Lawson hid several Skrulls, including Talos’s family, and the Tesseract, the power source of Lawson’s engine. There, Danvers is captured by Starforce and interfaces with the Supreme Intelligence. During their conversation, Danvers removes the Kree implant that was suppressing her powers, allowing her to reach her full potential. In the subsequent battle, Fury retrieves Goose, who is revealed to be an alien Flerken. Goose swallows the Tesseract and scratches Fury, blinding his left eye. Danvers destroys a Kree bomber, forcing Kree officer Ronan the Accuser and his squadron to retreat, before overpowering Yon-Rogg on Earth and sending him back to Hala with a warning to the Supreme Intelligence.Djimon Hounsou, Brie Larson, Rune Temte, Gemma Chan, and Algenis Perez Soto in Captain Marvel (2019)Danvers departs to help the Skrulls find a new homeworld, leaving Fury a modified pager to contact her in an emergency. Meanwhile, Fury drafts an initiative to locate heroes like Danvers, naming it after her Air Force call sign, “Avenger”. In a mid-credits scene, set in 2018, the activated pager is being monitored by the Avengers when Danvers appears. In a post-credits scene, Goose climbs onto Fury’s desk and regurgitates the Tesseract.Brie Larson in Captain Marvel (2019)This is actually one of the rare examples of a prequel that “gets it right”, and explains things that happens in later films while managing to tell its own story. It also explains why the highly publicized (and until now highly off-limits due to licensing) Skrulls are absent throughout the rest of the MCU’s history. It also manages to provide some color around Ronan’s obsession with power, even though he only has a few brief scenes. All in all Captain Marvel is a solid film on it’s own, while still connecting itself to the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe. Certainly worth the price of admission

REVIEW: SMALLVILLE – SEASON 4

Starring

Tom Welling (Lucifer)
Kristin Kreuk (Beauty and The Beast)
Michael Rosenbaum (Impastor)
Allison Mack (Wilfred)
Jensen Ackles (Supernatural)
Annette O’Toole (The Punisher)
John Schneider (The Haves and the Have Nots)
John Glover (Shazam)

Tom Welling and Erica Durance in Smallville (2001)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Erica Durance (Supergirl)
Margot Kidder (Superman)
Ona Grauer (V)
Rekha Sharma (Dark Angel)
Michael Ironside (Scanners)
Robert Wisden (Highlander: The Series)
Brianna Brown ((Hollywood Homicide)
Eric Johnson (Flash Gordon)
Julianne Christie (Encino Man)
Amanda Walsh (Disturbia)
Lisa Marie Caruk (Final Destination)
Moneca Delain (Trick r Treat)
Chelan Simmons (Good Luck Chuck)
Kyle Gallner (American Sniper)
Benjamin Ratner (Wonder)
J.P. Manoux (Veep)
Terence Stamp (Superman II)
Trent Ford (The Island)
Jane Seymour (Wedding Crashers)
Claudette Mink (Children of The Corn 7)
Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother)
Malcolm Stewart (Jumanji)
Heather Doerksen (Van Hesling)
John Novak (Dr. Dolittle 3)
Jerry Wasserman (Watchmen)
Samantha Ferris (The Tall Man)
Sarah Carter (The Flash)
John Pyper-Ferguson (Caprica)
Derek Hamilton (Arrow)
Camille Mitchell (Izombie)
Chris Carmack (Shark Night
Nolan Gerard Funk (Arrow)
Diego Klattenhoff (Mean Girls)
Alvin Sanders (Tin Man)
Byron Mann (Dark Angel)
Peyton List (Gotham)
Peter Wingfield (Highlander: The Series)
Erica Cerra (Power Rangers)
Jesse Hutch (Arrow)
Kandyse McClure (Battlestar Galactica)
Beatrice Rosen (2012)
Jonathan Bennett (Mean Giels)
Tom Butler (Blade: The Series)
Pascale Hutton (Sanctuary)
David Orth (The Lost World)
Craig Veroni (The Net)
Colin Ford (Daybreak)

Kristin Kreuk, Tom Welling, and Erica Durance in Smallville (2001)

All my dreams are on the ground
Crawling’ round and round and round
Somebody saaaaaaaaaave me
Let your waters break right through
Somebody saaaaaaaaaave me
I don’t care how you do it
Just saaaave me, saaaave me
I’ve made this whole world shine for you
Just save, save
Come on, I’m still waiting for you

Anyone with even a passing affection for WB’s Smallville knows that song inside and out, upside and down … and they probably hear it while they’re trying to fall asleep, too.Jensen Ackles, Kristin Kreuk, and Tom Welling in Smallville (2001)When I hear that tune (recorded by Remy Zero, btw) I know I’m in for some good, goofy, Superman-sized fun. Yes, TV geeks, it’s true: The cold-hearted and perpetually cynical Scott Weinberg harbors a deep and devoted affection for the goofball X-Files / comic book amalgam known as Smallville. For all its pedantic plot twists, overbaked dialogue, and “aw-shucks” corn-pone-osity — I’m actually a big fan of the show. To me, Smallville is like a big bowl of Cool Whip; you’ll eat it because it’s really tasty, even though you should probably be spending your time on something a little more substantial or nutritious.Kristin Kreuk in Smallville (2001)But hey, I’m a sucker for the Superman mythology, plus there’s something quaintly endearing about the young Supes stories and the way they’ve been wedged into a fairly convention teen-centric soap-opera story. Plus, Smallville is one of those “comfort” shows, the kind in which you always know that things will turn out OK and that the few dangling character threads will always be tabled for another day. The story’s simplicity itself: Teenager Clark Kent is forever trying to juggle “normal” adolescence while discovering his own amazing powers. Needless to say, our hero must deal with snooping pals, protective parents, and a whole host of dangerous doings in one of TVdom’s most villain-producing burgs. (Second only to Buffy’s hometown, of course.) It’s all very broad and corny and cartoony … and all of it works exceedingly well in the context of “Superman.” Whenever the show gets too outlandish or sappy or (yes, even) silly, the Superfans can always sit back and think “Yeah, it’s cheesy, but it’d still fit well within the pages of a comic book.”Allison Mack, Tom Welling, and Erica Durance in Smallville (2001)Clark’s gang consists of the lovely Lana Lang, the ever-inquisitive Chloe Sullivan, Chloe’s sassy cousin Lois (yes, Lois Lane!), and the devilishly duplicitous Lex Luthor. Toss in a few doting parents, Lex’s perpetually scheming papa, Lana’s bland ol’ boyfriend, a few recurring characters, and an ever-fresh supply of colorful villains … and there’s your cast of players. Hardcore fans will find plenty to enjoy in Smallville’s fourth season, but I say there was way too much time devoted to Lana’s boyfriend, Jason, a lumbering subplot involving witchcraft got way too much screen time, and that the already well-established crush-triangles between Clark, Lana, and Chloe have, by now, been run effectively into the ground. But while I’d absolutely contend that Smallville’s fourth season is its “weakest” one yet, it’s still just comfy enough to keep the fans satisfied. The relatively weakest and somewhat repetitive fourth season of a series that I consider a goofily enjoyable good time, this collection exists mainly for those who already own Seasons 1, 2, and 3. There’s four or five episodes here that have real revisit value; the rest are perfectly watchable, but nothing more than that.