REVIEW: THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY – SEASON 1

Ellen Page, Robert Sheehan, Tom Hopper, David Castañeda, Aidan Gallagher, and Emmy Raver-Lampman in The Umbrella Academy (2019)

Starring

Ellen Page (Hard Candy)
Tom Hopper (Game of Thrones)
David Castañeda (Forces of Nature)
Emmy Raver-Lampman (Wednesdays)
Robert Sheehan (Mortal Engines)
Aidan Gallagher (Jacked Up)
Mary J. Blige (Body Cam)
Cameron Britton (The Girl In The Spider’s Web)
John Magaro (Overlord)
Adam Godley (Breaking Bad)
Colm Feore (The Chronicles of Riddick)
Jordan Claire Robbins (Anon)

T.J. McGibbon, Cameron Brodeur, Eden Cupid, Ethan Hwang, Blake Talabis, and Jesse Noah Gruman in The Umbrella Academy (2019)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Kate Walsh (13 Reasons wehy
Ashley Madekwe (Venus)
Emily Piggford (Killjoys)
Cody Ray Thompson (The Man In The High Castle)
Peter Outerbridge (ReGenesis)
Rainbow Sun Francks (Stargate: Atlantis)

Ellen Page, Tom Hopper, David Castañeda, and Emmy Raver-Lampman in The Umbrella Academy (2019)Move over, Marvel – Netflix has a new superhero franchise, and if anything, it’s even more twisted, bloody, and unpredictable than the street-level adventures of The Defenders. Despite Netflix’s decision to jettison many of its Marvel properties, it’s somewhat unfair to compare The Umbrella Academy to the likes of Daredevil and Iron Fist – aside from their comic book origins, the shows are attempting to do very different things; The Umbrella Academy focuses on a dysfunctional family of heroes, who are drawn together by an eccentric and emotionally distant billionaire and tasked with saving the world from annihilation (with a healthy dose of time travel, dancing, and a talking chimpanzee thrown in).The Umbrella Academy (2019)In that way, it has much more in common with DC’s Doom Patrol (a comic that creator Gerard Way has long cited as an inspiration for his own team of misfits, and even previously wrote for), which is why it’s both ironic and strangely poetic that Netflix is launching the series on the same day DC Universe is debuting its decidedly NSFW adaptation of Doom Patrol (check out our premiere review here), based heavily on the Grant Morrison run of comics that also inspired Way’s writing.The Umbrella Academy (2019)Basically, 2019 is an embarrassment of riches for comic book fans – The Umbrella Academy and Doom Patrol are two of the best superhero shows in recent years, blending self-aware humor with stylish storytelling as a way to deconstruct an already overpopulated genre. Plus, their different delivery methods (DC is debuting new episodes of Doom Patrol weekly, as opposed to Netflix’s binge model) ensure that we’ll have plenty of time to compare their approaches as they carve out a very different niche from Marvel’s streaming shows.Ellen Page, Tom Hopper, David Castañeda, and Emmy Raver-Lampman in The Umbrella Academy (2019)The first episode of Umbrella Academy has to do a lot of heavy lifting to introduce viewers to the seven super-powered children who were adopted – or, more accurately, bought – by Sir Reginald Hargreeves (Colm Feore) as babies to be raised into a world-saving team, while also establishing the troubling family dynamics that left them estranged as adults. The show throws a lot of information at viewers up front, but manages to make the exposition engaging and fairly zippy – thanks in large part to its charismatic cast and some truly inspired needle drops. (The soundtrack is consistently awesome throughout, adding a madcap energy to even the most incongruous scenes.)Colm Feore, Dante Albidone, Aidan Gallagher, Cameron Brodeur, Eden Cupid, Ethan Hwang, and Blake Talabis in The Umbrella Academy (2019)There’s something to love about every member of the Hargreeves family, from Tom Hopper’s super-strong – and super repressed – golden boy Luther (aka Number 1); to Robert Sheehan’s mischievous, drug-addicted Klaus (Number 4) who can speak to dead people; all the way through to Ellen Page’s Vanya (Number 7), who can… play the violin really well, but has spent her life left out of her super-powered siblings’ adventures.Ellen Page in The Umbrella Academy (2019)But the true revelation of the show is Aidan Gallagher as Number Five, a crotchety time-traveler who has lived into old age after getting stuck in the future but is now trapped in his teenage form, and has witnessed the impending apocalypse firsthand. Five’s return (and his warning about the end of the world) is the catalyst for much of the story, and Gallagher strikes the perfect balance of worldly and world-weary without ever seeming precocious. After a couple of episodes, you’ll be convinced that the 15-year-old really is a grumpy old man in a kid’s body, and his snark – especially in combination with Sheehan’s gleeful lunacy – is the highlight of the series.Ellen Page in The Umbrella Academy (2019)While the show is a fairly faithful, if simplified, adaptation of Way and Gabriel Bá’s comics (with a few pivotal deviations), the interplay between the siblings is more compelling than the mystery at its core, which can sometimes feel like an afterthought compared to the family drama. You’ll likely have more fun trying to figure out the various rifts, rivalries, and connections that have forged and fractured this team than you will attempting to decipher all the clues that are leading towards the apocalypse. Diego (David Castañeda), aka Number 2, is a prickly loner who has spent his life trying to step out from Luther’s shadow, but the deep wounds he carries from a lifetime of playing second fiddle make for a surprisingly poignant character arc. Likewise, Emmy Raver-Lampman’s Allison (Number 3) is the only member of the family who seems to be trying to learn from her past mistakes, and her connections with both Luther and Vanya give the season much of its heart.Tom Hopper in The Umbrella Academy (2019)The show is also stylish as hell; the action scenes – of which there are plenty – are filmed with a kinetic, visually inventive flair, utilizing slo-mo, split-screen, and constantly-moving cameras to create an impressive sense of momentum without ever feeling messy or confusing. Netflix and Universal Cable Productions, the studio behind the show, definitely haven’t skimped on the scale – many of the effects are cinematic in scope, especially Weta’s gorgeous work on Pogo, Sir Reginald’s chimpanzee assistant, who looks like he wandered right off the set of War for the Planet of the Apes. Tonally, Umbrella Academy isn’t quite as meta as the likes of Deadpool or Doom Patrol, but its wicked sense of humor is in full effect throughout, giving it a playful and sometimes deliciously sick attitude, with a smattering of gory visual gags.Ellen Page, Robert Sheehan, Tom Hopper, David Castañeda, Aidan Gallagher, and Emmy Raver-Lampman in The Umbrella Academy (2019)The Umbrella Academy should comfortably fill the void that Netflix’s Marvel cancellations have left in our viewing schedules. (Okay, we’re still not over Daredevil, but the other two, at least.) Showrunner Steve Blackman has created a hilariously twisted, subversively stylish, and surprisingly poignant new superhero series that serves as both a witty deconstruction of our favorite comic book tropes and an ambitious, time-bending romp. Despite some bloat around the midseason mark and a few underdeveloped supporting characters, this is an undeniably super new series.

 

REVIEW: THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2

CAST

Andrew Garfield (The Social Network)
Emma Stone (Easy A)
Jamie Foxx (Ray)
Dane DeHaan (Life After beth)
Colm Feore (Thor)
Felicity Jones (Rogue One)
Paul Giamatti (Sideways)
Sally Field (Lincoln)
Embeth Davidtz (Army of Darkness)
Campbell Scott (The Exorcism of Emily Rose)
Marton Csokas (The Equalizer)
Sarah Gadon (Dracula Untold)
Skyler Gisondo (Vacation)
Stan Lee (Guardians of The Galaxy Vol 2)
Chris Cooper (The Bourne Identity)
Denis Leary (Rescue Me)
Martin Sheen (The West Wing)
Michael Massee (Flashforward)
Max Charles (American Sniper)
B.J. Novak (Saving Mr. Banks)
J.D. Walsh (Two and a Half Men)

In 2000, Oscorp scientist Richard Parker records a video message to explain his disappearance. Later, he and his wife, Mary, are aboard a private jet hijacked by a man sent to assassinate Richard. The plane crashes, killing both Richard and Mary, after he uploads the video.Fourteen years later, Richard’s son Peter continues to fight crime as Spider-Man. He pursues and apprehends Aleksei Sytsevich. Later, Peter meets with Gwen at their high school graduation ceremony and, insisting he keep his vow to her father, ends their relationship. Peter’s childhood friend, Harry Osborn, returns to Manhattan to see his terminally-ill father, Norman, CEO of OsCorp. Norman explains his illness is genetic, and Harry is at the age where it first develops. Norman gives Harry a small device he claims contains his life’s work. The next day, Norman dies and Harry is appointed the new OsCorp CEO.While working in an OsCorp laboratory, electrical engineer Max Dillon shocks himself by accident and falls into a tank of genetically-engineered electric eels. They attack him, and he mutates into a living electric generator. Meanwhile, Peter attempts to maintain a friendship with Gwen, but she reveals that she may move to England for schooling. Before they can discuss it, Dillon wanders into Times Square, accidentally causing a blackout, and is stopped by Peter after a battle. Dillon is taken to Ravencroft Institute, where he is studied by German scientist Dr. Kafka. Meanwhile, the first symptoms of Harry’s illness are showing, and he uses the device Norman gave him to deduce that Spider-Man’s blood could help save him. He asks Peter, who has been selling photos of Spider-Man to the Daily Bugle, to aid him in finding Spider-Man. Peter refuses, unsure of what effects the transfusion would have. Although he later comes to Harry as Spider-Man, he still refuses, and Harry develops an intense hatred towards Spider-Man. The OsCorp board-members, in particular the vice-president, Donald Menken, frame Harry for covering up Dillon’s accident, remove him as CEO, overthrow him and take control of Oscorp. Harry’s assistant, Felicia Hardy, informs him of equipment that could help him, so he makes a deal with Dillon, who now calls himself “Electro,” to get him back inside the OsCorp building. There he finds a suit of armour and other equipment made by Norman, as well as venom from the now-destroyed genetically-altered spiders. The venom accelerates Harry’s illness and transforms him into a goblin-like creature, but the suit’s built-in emergency protocol restores his health and cures his disease.Peter uses information left by his father to locate the video message in an abandoned subway station’s hidden lab. Richard explains he had to leave because he refused to cooperate with Norman’s biogenetic weaponization plans. Peter then hears a voicemail from Gwen, telling him she was offered the British scholarship and is heading to the airport earlier than expected. He manages to catch her and professes his love for her, and, vowing to go wherever she goes, they agree to go to England together. Electro causes another blackout, and Peter heads off to fight him as Spider-Man. Gwen follows, and together they restore power and overload Electro’s body, killing him.The transformed Harry, who now calls himself “Green Goblin”, arrives equipped with Norman’s armor and weaponry. Upon seeing Gwen, he deduces Spider-Man’s secret identity and, swearing revenge for being refused the blood transfusion, kidnaps her and takes her to the top of a clock tower. Peter manages to defeat the Green Goblin, but his webbing breaks during the battle and Gwen falls to her death. Peter, depressed and distraught, mourns over Gwen’s death and ends his career as Spider-Man. Five months later, Harry is coping with the aftereffects of his transformation while incarcerated at Ravencroft. His associate, Gustav Fiers, visits Harry and the pair discuss forming their own team. Harry orders Fiers to start with Sytsevich. Later an unknown team of men break Sytsevich out of prison. Equipped with electromechanical suit armor, Sytsevich calls himself the Rhino and rampages through the streets. Peter, inspired by Gwen’s graduation speech, resumes his role as Spider-Man and confronts him.The Amazing Spider-Man 2 nearly earns an honest emotional response over this pairing. The writing could be better, but Garfield and Stone do an excellent job selling their roles and this movie. I am a big fan of Stone, and she elevates Garfield’s already solid performance. Webb does not quite find the balance between this drama and spectacle, and the film understandably includes a number of rollicking action sequences. The visual effects are strong, but the bullet-time slow motion feels a bit stale. There is a lot of flash to these bits, but not much substance. This is an entertaining film that could be better.

REVIEW: GOTHAM – SEASON 1

CAST

Ben McKenzie (Batman: Year One)
Donal Logue (Ghost Rider)
David Mazouz (Touch)
Zabryna Guevara (All Good Things)
Sean Pertwee (Dog Soldiers)
Robin Lord Taylor (Another Earth)
Erin Richards (The Quiet Ones)
Camren Bicondova (Girl House)
Corey Michael Smith (Carol)
Jada Pinkett Smith (Collateral)
John Dorman (The Wire)
Victoria Cartagena (Salt)
Andrew Stewart -Jones (Beauty and The Beast)
Drew Powell (Straw Dogs)
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RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Richard Kind (Stargate)
Grayson McCouch (Armageddon)
Brette Taylor (Rescue Me)
Clare Foley (Win Win)
Lili Taylor (The Conjuring)
Carol Kane (The Princess Bride)
David Zayas (Dexter)
Jeremy Davidson (Roswell)
Margaret Colin (Independence Day)
Susan Misner (The Forgotten)
Kim Director (Blair Witch 2)
Christopher James Baker (Sanctum)
Todd Stashwick (The Originals)
Nicholas D’Agasto (Final Destination 5)
Makenzie Leigh (The Slap)
Lesley-Ann Brandt (Spartacus: Blood and Sand)
Morena Baccarin (Firefly)
Christopher Heyerdahl (Sanctuary)
Peter Scolari (The Polar Express)
Dash Mihok (Silver Linings Playbook)
Anthony Carrigan (The Flash)
Julian Sands (Smallville)
Maria Thayer (Hitch)
Cameron Monaghan (The Giver)
Jeffrey Combs (Star Trek: DS9)
Colm Feore (Thor)
Milo Ventimiglia (Heroes)
Willa Fitzgerald (Scream: The Series)
Chris Chalk (12 Years a Slave)

MV5BNTQ4MDU3NDQ5Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNjc0OTM3MjE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1445,1000_AL_Gotham City has an old, relatively vague history independent of when Thomas and Martha Wayne were shot down in an alleyway, usually the first and primary thing that comes to mind about the motivation that drives Batman: the crime that got so bad that it took his good-natured parents away from him. The surroundings responsible for the billionaires’ murder weren’t created overnight, though, and intensified in response to their death, a time period that often goes unaddressed unless a detail about Bruce Wayne’s transformation into the brooding hero needs mentioning. As a response to the character’s unrelenting popularity the folks at DC aim to use that largely unexplored space to provide an origin story for the city’s violence and corruption, an attempt to recapture the magic of Smallville in a darker environment. The result is Gotham, a blend of crime-case procedure and mobster politics that also fills in the gaps between the orphaning of Bruce Wayne to where Batman begins.Taking pages out of the playbook of the comic-book series “Gotham Central”, the show largely focuses on the interworking parts of the Gotham City Police Department, notably the arrival of rookie detective Jim Gordon in the midst of rampant corruption. The OC star Ben McKenzie brings initiative and fire to the character, a war veteran and straight-laced servant of the law who’s thrown together with a dirty partner in Harvey Bullock, whose sympathetic flaws are marvelously embodied by Donal Logue. Their first case together? The murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne, later revealed to be connected to the city’s organized crime activity. In their investigation, Gordon quickly gets introduced to key players pulling the strings in Gotham, notably a swanky nightclub operator in Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith) and her aging, rational boss, Carmine Falcone (John Doman). Then, there’s Oswald Cobblepott (Robin Lord Taylor), an attendant to Fish whose wavering allegiances also come to the surface in response to Gordon and Bullock’s investigation, working him into a position of persistent danger and upward mobility if he plays his cards right.Against the backdrop of a Gotham City that combines Tim Burton’s gothic vision with Christopher Nolan’s stark approach into a relatively timeless metro area, Gotham comes in hard and fast with its nods to the DC universe, eliminating any early concerns about how much of the mythology it’ll incorporate. In fact, the show actually suffers from an oversaturation of these references, especially in how many of the classic villains have benign links to the GCPD in their pasts and, quite simply, how many have already shown up and taken shape into their well-known personalities. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, nor with tweaking what’s known about the universe into its own continuity, but it does detract from the production succeeding as a credible prequel to the age of Batman — touted early on as a selling point for the show.It’s fascinating to see the riddlesome Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) as an awkward, morbid Dexter-like puzzle-solver working in the precinct, and to see a young Catwoman giving prowler pointers to a young Batman not long after she witnessed the infamous Wayne murder.The areas where Gotham works are within the politics of the GCPD and the evolving criminal element, and, by association, the origin stories of Jim Gordon’s fight against the department and The Penguin’s ascent up the crime ladder. Elevated by Gordon’s furious diligence against the powers-that-be who keep him from properly doing his job. Gotham is in a comfort zone while exploring maneuverings of Robin Lord Taylor’s brilliantly grimy performance as Oswald Cobblepott. Combining the knowledge that he’ll eventually become a massive player in Gotham with the unpredictable, volatile nature of his younger self exemplifies what a prequel can accomplish.Gotham really exposes the crux of its issues in the origin story of Bruce Wayne, built around the young orphaned billionaire developing the gumption and skill to investigate his parents’ murder, planting the seeds for his growth into the Caped Crusader. As Gotham grows in it’s first season it becomes fascinating show dealing with the city before Batman came along and as it heads into it’s second season who can truly see the show has found it’s footing and will hopefully be around for sometime to come.

REVIEW: FLASHPOINT: THE COMPLETE SERIES

MAIN CAST

Enrico Colantoni (Veronica Mars)
Hugh Dillon (Ginger Snaps Back)
Amy Jo Johnson (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers)
David Paetkau (Final Destination 2)
Sergio Di Zio (Reign)
Michael Cram (Arrow)
Mark Taylor (Cinderella Man)
Ruth Marshall (Casino Jack)
Olunike Adeliyi (John Q)
Clé Bennett (Harvard Man)
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Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Gabriel Hogan (Condor)
Philip Akin (Highlander: The Series)
Lisa Marcos (Rogue)
Arnold Pinnock (Cypher)
Sarah Gadon (Dracula Untold)
Andrew Gillies (Mutant X)
Mpho Koaho (Saw III)
Jeff Seymour (Bury The Lead)
Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black)
Peter Stebbings (Bates Motel)
Pascale Hutton (Sanctuary)
Colm Feore (The Chronicles of Riddick)
Michael Mando (Better Call Saul)
Noah Jenkins (Earth: Final Conflict)
Alisen Down (Smallville)
Tyler Stentiford (The Story of Luke)
Janaya Stephens (Death Race)
Jessica Steen (Chaos)
Peter MacNeill (Open Range)
Aaron Abrams (Hannibal)
Ona Grauer (V)
Tattiawna Jones (Robocop)
Kari Matchett (Wonderfalls)
Peter Outerbridge (Beauty and The Beast)
Genelle Williams (Bitten)
Kevin Jubinville (MIss Sloane)
Ryan Kennedy (Caprica)
Heny Czerny (Supergirl)
Matthew Bennett (Battlestar Galactica)
Chandra West (White Noise)
Kenneth Mitchell (Odyssey 5)
Nicholas Campbell (Da Vinci’s Inquest)
Shauna MacDonald (Saw VI)
Calum Worthy (Americal Vandal)
Alexia Fast (Jack Reacher)
Kathleen Munroe (Patriot)
Sherry Miller (The Virgin Suicides)
Stephen Amell (Arrow)
Brian Markinson (Caprica)
Tamara Gorski (Angel)
David Calderisi (Earth: Final Conflict)
Roger Cross (First Wave)
Greg Bryk (Bitten)
Laara Sadiq (Arrow)
Noah Danby (Riddick)
Kathleen Robertson (Bates Motel)
Alan Van Sprang (Star Trek: Discovery)
Gina Holden (The Butterfly Effect 2)
John Pyper-Ferguson (Caprica)
Brendan Fletcher (Freddy vs Jason)
Alex Carter (Out of Time)
Krista Bridges (Heroes Reborn)
Fulvio Cecere (Valentine)
Shawn Roberts (Resident Evil: The Final Chapter)
Colin Cunningham (Elektra)
Michael Eklund (Bates Motel)
Brendan Penny (The A-Team)
Tyler Johnston (The Odds)
Adrian Hough (The Fog)
Lyndie Greenwood (Sleepy Hollow)
Mike Dopud (Arrow)
Jonathan Scarfe (Van Helsing)
Ian Tracey (Sanctuary)
Jeffrey Parazzo (Power Rangers Dino Thunder)
Erin Karpluk (Ripper 2)
Natalie Alyn Lind (The Gifted)
Yannick Bisson (Year By The Sea)
Kate Hewlett (Stargate: Atlantis)
Chris Violette (Power Rangers SPD)
Patrick Sabongui (The Flash)
Rachel Blanchard (Carrie 2)
Natalie Brown (Saw V)
Richard Chevolleau (Hannibal)
Victor Garber (Legends of Tomorrow)
Rachel Skarsten (Reign)
Max Martini (The Order)
Eve Harlow (Heroes Reborn)
Rob Stewart (Painkiler Jane)
Cynthia Preston (Carrie)
Sonya Salomaa (The Collector)
Benjamin Ratner (Travelers)
Joe Dinicol (Arrow)
Lawrence Dane (Scanners)
Tammy Isbell (Bitten)
Ari Cohen (Smallville)
Cristina Rosato (Mother)
Patrick Garrow (16 Blocks)
JR Bourne (Stargate SG.1)
Anthony Lemke (Robocop: Prime Detectives)
Rossif Sutherland (Reign)
Greyston Holt (Bitten)
Aaron Douglas (Battlestar Galactica)
Benjamin Ayres (The Vampire Diaries)
Michael Shanks (Stargate SG.1)
David Alpay (Man of The Year)
Dylan Neal (Arrow)
Sandrine Holt (House of Cards)
Ty Olsson (War For The POTA)
Shawn Doyle (Don’t Say A Word)
Katharine Isabelle (The Order)
Jonathan Keltz (Reign)
Keram Malicki-Sánchez (Punisher: Warzone)
Kris Lemche (Final Destination 3)
Maria del Mar (Blue Murder)
Chad Donella (Shattered Glass)
Maurice Dean Wint (Cube)
Charlie Carrick (Reign)
Brennan Elliott (Curse of Chucky)
Dion Johnstone (The Core)
Steve Bacic (Andromeda)
Mark Lutz (Bitch Slap)
Roark Critchlow (V)
Paul Popowich (Dark Angel)
Andrew W. Walker (Sabrina: TTW)
John Ralston (Bitten)
Michelle Nolden (Red)
David Richmond-Peck (She’s The Man)
Zoie Palmer (Lost Girl)
A.J. Buckley (Walking Tall 2)

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The show is based on a real life Toronto police unit similar to SWAT but with their own integral negotiators. This is a brilliant set up because every episode can go either way with a brutal violent conclusion or the culprit talked down peacefully. The issues are dealt with in a mature and considered fashion which rather excellently means that the person with the gun is not always the baddy.

FLASHPOINT The team is rather more imaginatively put together than in most similar shows. The team leader (Enrico Colantoni) is the cuddly negotiator whilst two bullet headed middle-aged men (Hugh Dillon and Michael Cram) are his subordinates. They have similar but different home lives and chat through raising teenagers on the way to work. A black junior policeman (Mark Taylor) and an Italian junior policeman (Sergio di Zio) have minor roles but occasionally get their moment in the limelight and both rise to the challenge when they do. David Paetkau plays the ex-special forces sniper who has transfered in. His difficulties integrating and changing his focus from killing to resolving the situation are well handled and his dark back story is mercifully not as overblown as it easily could be. The last team member is Amy Jo Johnson (the only american on the cast) who is the beautiful woman who has to struggle to maintain her position on the team.FLASHPOINT Each show starts with a quick introduction to a perilous situation and then winds back a few hours to see how the problem started. We then build up to the point where police must start making life and death decisions. There are a few running storylines throughout the shot, but most episodes can be seen as standalone.The Show lasted five seasons and does bring us to a satisfied finale, only season one is available on DVD in the UK but many imports can be found on various sites.

REVIEW: THOR

CAST

Chris Hemsworth (The Huntsman: Winter’s War)
Anthony Hopkins (The Silence of The Lambs)
Natalie Portman (Black Swan)
Tom Hiddleston (Crimson Peak)
Stellan Skarsgard (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo)
Kat Dennings (2 Broke Girls)
Clark Gregg (Agents of Shield)
Colm Feore (Gotham)
Idris Elba (Pacific Rim)
Ray Stevenson (Punisher: Warzone)
Tadanobu Asano (Mongul)
Josh Dallas (Red Tails)
Jaimie Alexander (The Last Stand)
Rene Russo (Get Shorty)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble)
Matt Battaglia (Mike & Molly)
Samuel L. Jackson (Snakes On A Plane)
Jeremy Renner (The Bourne Legacy)
Maximiliano Hernández (Ringer)

MV5BMTMxNDU2NDYxNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMzc4MjIwNQ@@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,756_AL_As the film opens, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is moments away from ascending to the throne of Asgard. The coronation is cut short by invading frost giants seeking to reclaim what was once the source of their power. Odin (Anthony Hopkins) — the omniscient ruler of the Norse gods as well as the father of Thor — had long ago taken precautions to stave off those sorts of threats, and the small invading force is almost immediately vanquished. Still, Thor is incensed: ancient enemies of the Asgardians having actually stepped foot inside the palace…the untold havoc they could have wrought. The only rational response, to his mind, is to wage war on the frost giants’ realm of Jotunheim — to exterminate those savage beasts once and for all. Thor mistakenly believes a swift, merciless retaliation would be following in his father’s footsteps. The difference is that Odin knows all too well the heavy price of war; Thor does not. Despite an express command from Odin, who yet still reigns as king, Thor enlists the help of his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston),Sif (Jaimie Alexander), and the Warriors Three (Ray Stevenson, Tadanobu Asano, and Josh Dallas) to strike back. With the unyielding might of Mjolnir at his side, Thor mercilessly slaughters dozens — perhaps hundreds — of the greatest warriors under the command of King Laufey (Colm Feore). Thor’s thirst for vengeance threatens to consume the entire frostbitten realm — not to mention the lives of his closest allies — but the battle is cut short. Odin storms in to restore the uneasy peace between Asgard and Jotunheim that, until now, had lasted for millenia. Just as Laufey had suffered heavy losses, so too must Odin. An enchantment is cast upon Mjolnir that only one who is worthy can lift it. Thor is stripped of his armor and his title. Then, Thor too is cast aside, forever exiled to the realm of Midgard…or, as the creatures inhabiting that oversized ball of mud call it, “Earth”.Trapped in an unfamiliar world. Powerless. Alone. Well, “alone” doesn’t last all that long. The atmospheric effects of Bifrost — the opening of the rainbow bridge to Earth — had already attracted the attention of Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who’s been doing some post-grad physics research in this sleepy, remote stretch of desert in New Mexico with colleague Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) and snarky assistant Darcy (Kat Dennings). With the occasionally reluctant help of his newfound friends, Thor tries to adjust to what he’s certain will be a brief derailment on Midgard, and he does what he can to prepare for his return home. Still a seasoned warrior despite a lack of mystical armament, Thor even battles his way through a government stronghold in an attempt to reclaim Mjolnir. Triumph is snatched away from him when Thor discovers the hammer’s enchantment has deemed him unworthy, and his sorrow only grows upon receiving a message from his brother Loki…that the toll this ordeal has taken on their father was greater than even the mighty Allfather could bear…that Thor is doomed to live among the mortals forever. Being cutoff from his homeland means that Thor has no idea what sorts of machinations have wrapped their fingers around the throat of Asgard, and the havoc that results soon spills over onto Earth..Kat Dennings shoulders a lot of the comic relief, and she manages to connect every single time she steps up to the plate. The fish-out-of-water humor — a god trapped in a backwater New Mexico town that seems content to live as if it’s still 1954 — is more inspired than usual. There’s even a running gag with Jane plowing into Thor with her SUV, and, yeah, the good-ol’-boys in town react to a magical hammer falling from the sky by throwing a big-ass barbecue. It’s fun but never dumb or overly cartoonish, and Branagh walks that delicate line flawlessly.Having an accomplished actor like Kenneth Branagh in the director’s chair clearly brought out the best of all the actors.  Thor explores what heroism is in a way that resonates so much more truly and more deeply that most comic book adaptations. The film delivers the visual spectacle and awe-inspiring action you’d hope to see in a summer tentpole without losing sight of its smartly crafted screenplay or impressively rich characterization.

REVIEW: THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK

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CAST

Vin Diesel (XXX)
Colm Feore (Thor)
Thandie Newton (Crash)
Judi Dench (Skyfall)
Karl Urban (Dredd)
Alexa Davalos (Clash of The Titans)
Linus Roache (Batman Begins)
Keith David (The Cape)
Nick Chinlund (Training Day)
Mark Gibbon (Robin Hood Beyond Sherwood)
Terry Chen (Bates Motel)
Christina Cox (Stargate SG.1)
Peter Williams (Catwoman)
Christopher Heyerdahl (Sanctuary)
Roger Cross (Continuum)
Ty Olsson (Battlestar Galactica)
John Mann (Dark Angel)
Kim Hawthorne (Greenleaf)
Lorena Gale (Halloween: Resurrection)
Aaron Douglas (Battlestar Galactica)
Kristin Lehman (The Loft)

Vin Diesel and Alexa Davalos in The Chronicles of Riddick (2004)The film opens years after the first film, once again introducing us to Riddick (Vin Diesel), who is once again on the run from bounty hunters. After escaping from his latest pursuers, he finds his way back to Inam (Keith David), who – with an air elemental (Judi Dench) – convince Riddick that he is the only one that can save their planet (and others) from the Necromongers, a race of war-happy individuals who are laying waste to one planet after another and claiming them as their own, assimilating whoever accepts and destroying who doesn’t. Lead by the Lord Marshal (Colm Feore), they are seeking out the utopian Underverse.Vin Diesel and Alexa Davalos in The Chronicles of Riddick (2004)Riddick is there as the planet is assaulted, but isn’t able to do much, as he’s quickly outnumbered and outgunned. However, when he’s captured by the Necromongers, he figures a way to escape in the middle of a process that scans his thoughts. He then flies off to the prison planet Crematoria to seek out Jack, a girl from the original, who now goes by Kyra (Alexa Davalos). Once the two meet up again, they have to escape from Crematoria, which manages a toasty 700 degrees in the daylight. Meanwhile, Lady Vaako (Thandie Newton) and Lord Vaako (Karl Urban) are dispatched to persue Riddick, as the Lord Marshal has other plans for him.Vin Diesel in The Chronicles of Riddick (2004)While flawed, Riddick is certainly ambitious. The production design is nothing short of spectacular, and the visual style is an explosion of what the first film offered – I especially liked the opening, where Riddick seems to be running across the tops of a maze that stretches out to the horizon. Costume design is superb, while the film’s visual effects are not seamless, but still very strong. Overall, the creation of this universe”the film exists in is first-rate.Vin Diesel, Thandie Newton, and Linus Roache in The Chronicles of Riddick (2004)Chronicles of Riddick offers some pretty good performances. Few growl out one-liners better than Diesel; while there’s not a lot of depth to the performance, it’s an interesting character that I don’t think any other actor would be as right for as Diesel is. Supporting performances by Newton, Dench, Fiore and others are also enjoyable. Overall, the film is a fine attempt to take the character into an epic that operates on a much grander scale than the first film.