REVIEW: LEGION – SEASON 2

Legion (2017)

MAIN CAST

Dan Stevens (The Guest)
Rachel Keller (Fargo TV)
Aubrey Plaza (Life After Beth)
Bill Irwin (Sleepy Hollow)
Jeremie Harris (Bushwick)
Amber Midthunder (Longmire)
Jean Smart (Smantha Who?)
Navid Negahban (Homeland)
Hamish Linklater (The Crazy Ones)
Jemaine Clement (Men In Black 3)

Dan Stevens in Legion (2017)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Katie Aselton (Our Idiot Brother)
Jon Hamm (Mad Men)
Marc Oka (Onryo)
Lily Rabe (All Good Things)
Molly Hagan (Izombie)
Jaclyn Hales (Extinct)

Legion (2017)Noah Hawley’s superhero show has been getting a bad rap. Though Legion‘s first season was a critically acclaimed centerpiece in conversations about great television, Season 2 has barely made a ripple. The critical love is still there, but this season’s viewership has been dwindling and the series has been accused of being too narratively confusing. I for one am sick of all this negativity. This past year Legion has accomplished some of the most complicated and inspired storytelling in the history of television, and it’s time this show gets the love it so deserves. It’s true this last season of Legion has been confusing. No one can deny that. But for me this show has never been a show you watch for its clear story structure. When it comes to Legion, the narrative doesn’t rest in plot points. It rests in its characters’ emotions.Dan Stevens in Legion (2017)If you watch Legion as a by-the-numbers superhero drama like Marvel’s Jessica Jones or even DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, you’re going to be frustrated. Though the series has a clear superhero at its center (Dan Stevens‘ David Haller), a well-organized superhero team (Summerland), a nefarious villain (Navid Negahban’s Farouk), and a seemingly clear goal (to stop Farouk from destroying the world), it’s almost impenetrably weird. There are just too many layers preventing the average viewer from logically following Season 2’s story. Multiple episodes take place in mental traps designed to imprison the members of Summerland. Characters often prefer to monologue about morality instead of coming up with anything that resembles an actionable plan. And whether David is helping or trying to hurt his foe Farouk fluctuates so often you need a graph to track their relationship. Add in the fact that every detail we see in Legion is supposed to be filtered through David’s unhinged mind and that David has no problem lying — to his enemies, his allies, the love of his life, the audience, himself —and the point-by-point summary of what happens in Legion can feel exhaustingly dense.Navid Negahban in Legion (2017)But unlike other superhero fare, Legion was never meant to be watched for its set pieces or its straightforward battles. Instead it’s a show as emotional and internal as its protagonist. Once you start following Legion Season 2 through its emotional arcs rather than its otherworldly action sequences, this season starts to make a lot more sense. And the story it’s telling is an achingly bleak one. Even during its elaborate Bollywood dance number, Legion‘s first season was always a sweet love story between two superheroes who met in an asylum, David and Syd (Rachel Keller). Each episode painted a new way the two loved each other, another sacrifice they would make. It was a season that loved its central relationship as much as these characters loved each other.
Dan Stevens, Amber Midthunder, and Rachel Keller in Legion (2017)Season 2 isn’t that. This season started with David re-emerging into existence after being trapped in his own psyche for a year. However, he doesn’t rejoin the team he was forced to abandon apologetically. He swaggers back into Syd and his team’s life, completely confident that he knows what’s best and hyper aware of his own near omnipotence. His timid uncertainty has evaporated, but that doesn’t mean what’s left is better. While David makes his return, Syd stands behind him, talking a big game about the importance of standing by “her man.” Though her sincerity is there, time and time again her words feel false. There are cracks in this relationship, and they’re starting to become clear to both Syd and the audience.Dan Stevens in Legion (2017)It doesn’t exactly matter why things happen in Legion. Why the mutant with dual personalities Cary (Bill Irwin) and Kerry (Amber Midthunder) split isn’t relevant. Exactly how David’s magnetic druggie best friend Lenny (Aubrey Plaza) exists in the nefarious Farouk’s consciousness isn’t important. Clear explanations for Syd’s future self and why Legion spent an episode focusing on the many different paths in life David could have taken never appear. And none of these explanations matter. What matters instead is the emotional weight behind these moments. How will two people who have been cohabiting their whole lives exist when they’re apart? How long can someone, even a character as independent as Lenny, exist in isolation? How far will David blindly follow Syd? If you strip him of his newfound allies and romance, who is David? Time after time, this season has constructed elaborate questions and used the nebulous rules of science fiction to force its characters to find answers. In this way, each new episode of Legion is a new character study that’s more nuanced, painful, and heartfelt than the last.Dan Stevens in Legion (2017)And yet threaded through this mysteries-and-answers format there’s another emotional arc unwinding, one that questions David’s sanity alongside his ego. If you could bend the laws of the universe and consciousness to your will, Legion asks, how would that change you? And how would that change the people you loved? The series doesn’t have a clear answer to those questions, but it’s smart enough to ask the questions. So often we think about superhero stories having roughly the same stakes as the normal world. The enemies may be more punchable than sickness or climate change, but our heroes typically want the same things we want — to save their loved ones and the world. But power doesn’t just change people’s decisions. It changes the scope of what they consider to be important, sometimes irreparably so. It’s these breaks between “normalcy” and the potential of superheroes that Legion portrays hauntingly well as it dances through moral theory, mental illness, emotional limits, psychic powers, and stunning visuals.Rachel Keller in Legion (2017)David was never meant to be the hero. He may have the right look and say the right things, but he’s always been a bit too ready to lie and a bit too self-involved to be what we consider heroic. However, that’s never made him a bad character. David’s biggest strength has never been his nearly limitless powers but his ability to be so authentically fragile, he can almost effortlessly bend both his allies and the audience to his will. David Haller is a hero only because that’s what we’ve desperately wanted him to be for two years. The fact that Legion has tricked us so well for so long long is a mark of how brilliant this show is at every level. And the fact it can keep up this ruse while also delivering some of the most visually haunting scenes of 2018 and incorporating drops from The Who and The Kinks is just icing on the cake.

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REVIEW: NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM 3: SECRET OF THE TOMB

CAST

Ben Stiller (Zoolander)
Robin Williams (Hook)
Owen Wilson (Wedding Crashers)
Steve Coogan (Tropic Thunder)
Ricky Gervais (Muppets Most Wanted)
Jake Cherry (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice)
Rachael Harris (Barley Lethal)
Dan Stevens (The Guest)
Rebel Wilson (Grimsby)
Skyler Gisondo (The Amazing Spider-Man)
Rami Malek (Battleship)
Patrick Gallagher (Sideways)
Mizuo Peck (A Case of You)
Ben Kingsley (Iron Man 3)
Dick Van Dyke (Mary Poppins)
Percy Hynes White (The Gifted)
Mickey Rooney (Revenge of The Red Baron)
Bill Cobbs (Oz The Great and Powerful)
Andrea Martin (Black Christmas)
Brennan Elliott (Curse of Chucky)
Matt Frewer (Watchmen)
Anjali Jay (Izombie)
Alice Eve (Star Trek Into Darkness)
Hugh Jackman (Logan)
Brad Garrett (Finding Dory)

In 1938 Egypt, a team of archaeologists discover the tomb of pharaoh Ahkmenrah, including a young Cecil Fredericks, finding the magical Tablet of Ahkmenrah. The locals warn the group that removing the tablet will end its magic. In present day New York City, Larry Daley remains the night guard of the American Museum of Natural History. He, Theodore Roosevelt, Sacagawea, Attila the Hun, Jedediah, Octavius and Dexter the capuchin monkey help re-open the Hayden Planetarium. A new wax Neanderthal resembling Larry named Laaa is introduced, identifying Larry as his father. Ahkmenrah shows Larry that the tablet is corroding, which later causes the exhibits to act erratically, causing mayhem at the planetarium’s reopening. Afterwards, Larry catches his son Nick throwing a house party, who plans on taking a gap year to sort out his life.Larry reunites with Cecil, now in retirement, who realises the end of the tablet’s magic will cause the exhibits to become lifeless. Cecil explains Ahkmenrah’s parents, Merenkahre and Shepseheret, may be able to restore the tablet’s power, but are located in the British Museum. Larry convinces the museum’s curator, Dr. McPhee, to let him ship Ahkmenrah to London to restore the tablet, convinced that McPhee knows its secrets. Larry and Nick travel to the British Museum, bypassing the night guard Tilly. To Larry’s surprise, Roosevelt, Sacagawea, Attila, Jed, Octavius, Dexter, and Laaa have come as well. Laaa is left to stand guard while the others search the museum, the tablet bringing its own exhibits to life.They are joined by a wax Sir Lancelot who helps them fight off the aggressive museum exhibits like a Xiangliu statue and a Triceratops skeleton. Jedediah and Octavius fall through a ventilation shaft, but are rescued from an erupting Pompeii model by Dexter. The group find Ahkmenrah’s parents, learning the tablet’s power can be regenerated by moonlight, since it is empowered with the magic of Khonsu. Lancelot mistakes the tablet for the Holy Grail and steals it, leaving to find Camelot. Larry and Laaa are locked in the employee break room by Tilly but escape, Laaa remaining behind to distract Tilly, but they become attracted to each other.Lancelot crashes a performance of the musical Camelot, starring Hugh Jackman and Alice Eve as King Arthur and Queen Guinevere, but Larry and the others chase him to the theatre roof, where the New York exhibits begin to die. Lancelot then sees that the quest was about them and gives the tablet back. The moonlight restores the tablet’s power, saving the exhibits. They decide that Ahkmenrah and the tablet should stay with his parents, even if it means the New York exhibits will no longer come to life. Back in New York, Larry spends some final moments with his friends before sunrise. Three years later, Larry now works as a teacher, and a travelling British Museum exhibit comes to New York. Tilly becomes the new night guard, and gives the tablet to Dr. McPhee, showing him its power, and allowing the exhibits to awaken again. Outside, Larry watches them party inside.Fans of the franchise will be pleasantly surprised by the heartfelt and sentimental Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb. The thoughtfulness and homages to ancient history are present and the jokes have a wide enough range to make any age giggle.

REVIEW: THE GUEST

CAST

Dan Stevens (Legion)
Maika Monroe (The 5th Wave)
Brendan Meyer (Girl vs Monster)
Sheila Kelley (Matchstick Men)
Lance Reddick (Fringe)
Leland Orser (Seven)
Tabatha Shaun (Persecuted)
Chase Williamson (John Dies At The End)
Joel David Moore (Bones)
Ethan Embry (Disturbing Behaviour)

Spencer and Laura Peterson with their children Luke and Anna are coping with the loss of their eldest son, Caleb, to the war in Afghanistan. They are visited by David Collins, a former soldier and Caleb’s best friend. He announces to the family his reason of visit; to help Caleb take care of the family. David is polite, warm and friendly toward the family, and Laura offers to let him stay as long as he needs to.David hears of Spencer’s troubles at work and sees Luke return home with a mark on his face, caused by a gang of jock bullies in school. The next day, with Luke’s help, David follows the bullying jock gang that attacked Luke to a bar, and humiliates them in a confrontation which erupts into a fight that injures all the bullies. He then uses his knowledge of the law, as well as a bribe, to convince the bartender not to tell anyone. David then goes to a party with a reluctant Anna, where he makes a good impression with her friends. He later saves her friend Kristen from her ex-boyfriend and then has sex with her, and also inquires about where to buy guns from Anna’s friend Craig. On their way home, Anna offers to make David a mix CD.David gives Luke some advice on dealing with bullies and gives him his butterfly knife. He meets Craig and his friend to buy the gun, but then kills them both and takes all the weapons, including two grenades. An increasingly suspicious Anna calls the military base to ask about David. The call alerts a private corporation headed by Major Carver, who assembles a special forces team and heads to the Peterson’s house. Anna is told that David had presumably died a week earlier. She then learns that Craig was killed and her boyfriend Zeke has been blamed for it. It is revealed that Spencer’s boss died under mysterious circumstances, giving him the promotion he always wanted. Anna asks Luke to research the numbers David has called on his phone.At school, one of the bullies assaults Luke again, and he retaliates, injuring the bully. After they are both sent to the principal’s office, David arrives and blackmails the principal to give Luke a month of after-school detention with threats of litigation if the principal expels him. Luke tells David of Anna’s suspicions, but promises not to investigate any further or tell anyone else. While David helps Laura with the laundry, Major Carver’s team attack the house. David deftly kills all except Carver. Deciding his cover has been blown, David kills Laura. While driving away, he sees Spencer and kills him as well.Carver picks up Anna and informs her of her parents’ death. He also reveals that David was a soldier who became one of the test subjects for a medical experiment in the military and, being a former test subject of the said military program, he was “programmed” to kill anyone who might compromise his identity. David kills Kristen, destroys the restaurant she works at, then heads for the school to kill Luke. Carver and Anna head for the school, and enter a haunted house set up for the Halloween dance. David announces his presence by turning off the lights and playing Anna’s mix CD, then kills Luke’s teacher and Carver. Anna shoots David with Carver’s gun, but David stabs her in the leg and attempts to choke her. Luke stabs David with his own butterfly knife. As he seemingly dies, David tells Luke that he’s proud of him and that Luke did the right thing. Sitting in an ambulance, Anna and Luke overhear the firefighters talking about discovering two charred corpses with no teeth. Anna sees a firefighter limp out from within, who turns to face her. Much to her horror, it is revealed that the firefighter is David himself.Dan Stevens as “the guest” is fantastic and this role really shows off his range as an actor. He infiltrates this family in every single way and the filmmakers did a really good job of keeping tension and having you wonder for a long time who this guy really is. Much of this is thanks to the performance of Stevens. In a way he’s a very likable lead, even when things start to get weird you keep rooting for him. He plays “the guest” with so much conviction it’s hard to tell what is going on in his mind but one thing is certain, you don’t want him in your house for too long. In conclusion The Guest is a great thriller and well worth checking out.

 

REVIEW: LEGION – SEASON 1

MAIN CAST

Dan Stevens (Downtown Abbey)
Rachel Keller (Hollidaysburg)
Aubrey Plaza (Life After beth)
Bill Irwin (Sleepy Hollow)
Jeremie Harris (Pariah)
Amber Midthunder (Hell or High water)
Katie Aselton (The Gift)
Jean Smart (Smanatha Who ?)

NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Hamish Linklater (Battleship)
David Selby (The Social Network)
Mackenzie Gray (Man of Steel)
Scott Lawrence (Avatar)
Jermaine Clement (Men In Black 3)
Eddie Jemison (IZombie)

For those among you who, like me, love some of the slightly weirder superheroes out there (especially of the mutant kind and preferably in the X-Men universe) but feel most of those guys’ screen outings so far were either constricted by the 2-hour format or held back by the need to appeal to mainstream audiences, I’m happy to report there is finally a full length TV-show that dares to fully embrace the craziness of its source material without taking any prisoners. The show’s name is ‘Legion’ (and I’m already pretty sure its fans will be many).Following the storyline may seem a little difficult (at least at the beginning) for ‘Legion’ plunges us head first into the confused mind of its hero, and the narrative is – deliberately – often just as fractured as David Haller’s personality. Right from the start this show makes it very clear how committed it is to convey its protagonist’s unstable state of mind – and boy does it succeed: through David’s eyes we experience an often terrifying (albeit colorful) world where we can never be sure what’s real and what’s imagined; nor can we get a grasp on where we are, when we are, or even who we are.But this trip down the rabbit hole is well worth taking (even if it does turn into a horror trip at times) for it’s a psychedelic ride that has been designed by very talented people. Creator Noah Hawley, who has already given us the excellent show ‘Fargo’, obviously knows what he’s doing, and watching the show feels like listening to a perfectly composed concept album from a seventies rock band. The cast is terrific (especially Dan Stevens as David Haller); the visuals and the production design are a wonderfully weird mix of retro and modern elements which fits David’s distorted perception of time and reality like a glove, and the mystery surrounding David as he desperately tries to cut through the haze and figure out what’s going on will keep you glued to the screen throughout.Insanity is a tricky subject to tackle, and the possible pitfalls are many; present it with too much levity and you risk the accusation that you’re making fun of people with a terrible illness – yet if you portray it as tragic and bleak as it often is  you will lose your audience. So to find the right tone here was not an easy thing to do, but I believe the show – just as Marvel did in the comic books – does an outstanding job at never coming across disrespectful while still offering fantastic entertainment.So to sum up my first impression: ‘Legion’ represents a refreshingly different side of Marvel (compared to the films and shows based on Marvel Comics’ more “grounded” creations that we’ve seen so far) and by fully embracing the source material’s “weirdness” the show is a testament to just how insanely (in the true sense of the word) inventive and versatile Stan Lee and his band of brothers were/are. This show is wilder, more surreal and generally much, much crazier than your average superhero story and there are moments where you feel reminded of the works of David Fincher, Charlie Kaufman or even David Lynch. I’d highly recommend it especially to adult comic book fans and those among you who don’t demand everything be explained within the first episode. Personally, I feel this is Marvel at its best and most complex.