REVIEW: MYTHIC QUEST: QUARANTINE

A399CA83-833F-41E7-BD3C-E70B9278CC65-1536x864

Starring

Rob McElhenney (Wonder Boys)
F. Murray Abraham (Star Trek: Insurrection)
Imani Hakim (Reign Over Me)
David Hornsby (Minority Report)
Danny Pudi (Powerless)
Ashly Burch (Critical Role)
Charlotte Nicdao (Thor: Ragnarok)
Jessie Ennis (Better Call Saul)

mythicquestquarantineThe truly remarkable thing about Mythic Quest: Quarantine is just how stubbornly unremarkable it is for much of its running time. This is as close to a “normal” episode of Mythic Quest as possible given the circumstances. The half-hour even begins with a cold open of sorts in which the series’ three lead characters, Ian Grimm (Rob McElhenney), Poppy Li (Charlotte Nicdao), and David Brittlesbee (David Hornsby) engage each other in a video chat call.MythicQuest_110_F0027F-700x394We’ve seen this comedic set up countless times in our quarantined lives on shows like Saturday Night Live and A Parks and Recreation Special, but the way in which Mythic Quest handles the cold open video chat is refreshingly new and bodes well for the rest of the episode. The show doesn’t treat its setup like a one-off gag but rather uses it to establish running concepts like Poppy’s stubborn refusal to shower, while also perfectly reacquainting the audiences with the show’s main trio and their quirks. And if that weren’t enough, it also marks the debut of McElhenney’s pale bare ass on the show.UntitledFrom there, Mythic Quest: Quarantine is damn near dogmatic in its approach to classic sitcom techniques. Rather than bowing to the limitations of video chatting as a narrative device, the show wrestles the concept of remote storytelling into exactly what it wants to do. Never did I imagine that seeing a simple A-B-C half hour story structure again would feel so satisfying.Rob-McElhenney-interview-How-Mythic-Quest-Quarantine-episode-came.jpgw1200stripall-1000x600Quarantine has a few ongoing plot threads just as any “normal” episode of Mythic Quest would. Fittingly Ian and Poppy make up the show’s A-plot, which finds both lead game designers trying to deal with the stress of social isolation as best they can. For Ian that means relentless self-aggrandizement, for Poppy it means working herself to the bone. Over in B-plot land, David and producer Brad Bakshi (Danny Pudi) engage in a high-stakes series of Street Fighter games. If David wins, Brad will consent to donating the company’s funds to charity, if Brad wins, David will lose…everything. Notably, Mythic Quest will be replicating that $600,000 charitable donation in real life. Elsewhere, Lou (Chernobyl writer Craig Mazin, who is apparently just part of the main cast now) drops in to annoy Rachel (Ashly Burch) and Dana (Imani Hakim), and Jo (Jesse Ennis) tries to teach C.W. Longbottom (F. Murray Abraham) how to operate his computer.Mythic-Quest-quarantineThe humor throughout Quarantine’ is undeniably effective. The concept of David losing one eyebrow, all eyelashes, and his mustache plays out perfectly. As do little details like Jo’s home office having a portrait of Ronald Reagan and Ian telling Poppy that a muscular man on the street “called his bluff.” Even the requisite “old man accidentally enables” filter technology trope comes across quite nicely, though of course C.W. Longbottom has to animoji-ize his face, this being an Apple production and all. For much of its runtime, Quarantine proves itself to be a coherent, recognizable, and funny episode of Mythic Quest, which is in and of itself a huge achievement thanks to the aforementioned asterisk. But in the end showrunners McElhenney, Hornsby, and Megan Ganz decide to go for something even deeper and emotionally resonant. It’s important that Mythic Quest: Quarantine isn’t merely a “Very Special Episode” of Mythic Quest. But that doesn’t mean that those final couple of scenes aren’t truly special.6a0120a5580826970c0263ec1bd3d6200c-800wiThrough Poppy’s cat-like aversion to showering and her work addiction are played for laughs throughout the special, the end reveals that they are symptoms of a larger problem. Poppy is quite simply: not doing too well. And there isn’t an intensely dramatic reason for that beyond why any of us would not be doing too well. Granted, Poppy has the added stress of being extra isolated since her family is in Australia. But the weight of this whole experience bearing down on her shoulders is intensely relatable. Mythic Quest’s solution for acknowledging Poppy’s pain, if not solving it, is beautifully simple.mythic-quest-quarantine-rob-mcelhenney-scaledIan just shows up to Poppy’s place and gives her a hug. That’s it. Just a hug. It’s a small thing, but in the context of our current era it’s quietly revelatory. It helps that there is also a technical artistry at play here with the moment occurring far off in the frame on two different cameras. This is largely a practical decision as, due to the show’s dedication to social distancing, Ian is actually played by Charlotte Nicdao’s absolute unit of a husband, Bayden Hine. But that only enhances the experience in a poignant, Lost in Translation kind of way. It gives the characters some semblance of privacy for this powerful moment of social distancing transgression.mythic-quest-quarantine-danny-pudi-scaledThe appeal of many sitcoms throughout TV history is that they present problems that can easily be solved in 22-25 minutes. In the grand scheme of things, Mythic Quest isn’t solving anything here. Nobody made a vaccine, and our own frustrations with the state of the world are sure to return once we close our laptops or turn off our TVs. But for one nice little moment, Poppy got a hug from her friend. And that helps. In its final scene, Quarantine trades in the private moment between Ian and Poppy for a larger spectacle. It’s admirable how all the various plot threads wrap themselves up and lead into a grand finale of each available character propped in front of their respective screens once again for a marvelous remote Rube Goldberg contraption. It’s particularly wonderful that C.W.’s role in this whole thing is merely figuring out how to operate his camera.mythic-quest-quarantine (1)This is not only another impressive technical achievement for the show (one that Ganz and McElhenney said took plenty of practicing but only one take), it’s a cathartic note to go out on. As the characters celebrate their strange group victory, someone calls out “fuck coronavirus!” as the episode’s last line. It’s a cheeky, yet sincere interjection and a fitting conclusion to a cheeky, sincere, and utterly triumphant episode of television.

 

 

 

REVIEW: MYTHIC QUEST: RAVEN’S BANQUET – SEASON 1

Rob McElhenney in Mythic Quest: Raven's Banquet (2020)

Starring

Rob McElhenney (Wonder Boys)
F. Murray Abraham (Star Trek: Insurrection)
Imani Hakim (Reign Over Me)
David Hornsby (Minority Report)
Danny Pudi (Powerless)
Ashly Burch (Critical Role)
Charlotte Nicdao (Thor: Ragnarok)
Jessie Ennis (Better Call Saul)

0ba2db67-b2e5-417b-84b7-78cda90b8004-LOCKE_110_Unit_01548R

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Elisha Henig (American Vandal)
Cristin Milioti (How I Met Your Mother)
Caitlin McGee (Plus One)
Jake Johnson (New Girl)
Aparna Nancherla (Space Force)

MV5BNTFiYzA1NzMtNjI3NC00ZGY5LTgxMTUtYmUyMGNlMWFmOWI3XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTkxNjUyNQ@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1499,1000_AL_Given just how colossal the video game industry is, it’s pretty wild that more TV shows haven’t tried to delve deeper into it (except, of course, when in need of inspiration from some previously established and particularly valuable IP). But it’s maybe for the best that one of the first series to take it seriously — while also making merciless, informed fun of it — is “Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet,” a new comedy from the “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” team that has a sly bite behind every hilarious joke.MV5BMDVjNWVlNGItNzU3MS00NTlhLWFlMTMtZGRlMWE3NTNjNDI2XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTkxNjUyNQ@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1579,1000_AL_As conceived by Rob McElhenney, Charlie Day, and Megan Ganz, “Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet” — so named for the long-awaited “Raven’s Banquet” expansion that launches in the pilot episode — is smart to take most of its structural cues from other workplace comedies, including character archetypes including an insecure and unpredictable boss Ian (McElhenney), the not-so-secretly diabolical assistant (Jessie Ennis), and a beleaguered HR representative trying desperately to convince everyone that she is not, in fact, a free in-house therapist. Every character, from Ian to the pair of game testers (Ashly Burch and Imani Hakim) tentatively flirting in the wings, is drawn with specific and vivid detail that gives their individual sense of humor context and drive.MV5BYTUxOTJmZTUtOGY4Mi00NDRmLTk2ZTYtZjZlMTcwMWI5MzQ0XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTkxNjUyNQ@@._V1_SY1000_SX1500_AL_Ian is the chaotic creative mind behind “Mythic Quest,” a “World of Warcraft”-esque collaborative game that steadily generates millions even while fending off constant competitors. The original inspiration for the game came from the novels of C.W. Longbottom (Academy Award winner F. Murray Abraham, having the time of his life), an eccentric sci-fi writer who doesn’t need to understand video games to bask in the praise his stories have been getting since Ian got a hold of them. Meanwhile, ostensible righthand man David (“It’s Always Sunny” recurring player David Hornsby) is mostly an anxious mess set to a constant low boil, while resident corporate shark Brad (a measured, scene-stealing Danny Pudi) keeps his cool at all times in the pursuit of finding more ways to bleed their customers dry. All four of these men, collectively played with a calculated grin, are variations on a theme of character that “It’s Always Sunny” has perfected over its 14 (and counting!) seasons: insecure, egotistical men who make life harder for most everyone around them, both by accident and design. There’s even a mini-me in the making with Elisa Henig’s “Pootie Shoe,” a teen streaming sensation who can make or break a game — and, much to everyone else’s annoyance, knows it.aZNohuRuxYWLNjEs87aCvLImR11On the flip side is Ian’s real secret weapon Poppy (Charlotte Nicdao), a brilliant young programmer who nonetheless spends half her time trying to corral Ian’s more ludicrous instincts. Nicdao gives as good as she gets from McElhenney, making Poppy and Ian a wonderful, compelling odd couple (of friends — there’s never a hint of romance between them, a refreshing and frankly necessary change of pace). But the real key to Poppy, the show’s anchor and immediate standout, is that she isn’t some basic, annoyed voice of reason. She’s ambitious, smart, power hungry, and downright weird in her own right. At her best (or at least funniest), she’s enraged as she constantly has to keep proving herself, and try to make her own mark on Mythic Quest beyond making Ian’s dreams come to life.MV5BYTUxOTJmZTUtOGY4Mi00NDRmLTk2ZTYtZjZlMTcwMWI5MzQ0XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTkxNjUyNQ@@._V1_SY1000_SX1500_AL_Outside of the characters, the show’s also smart in the ways it tackles some of the particular issues facing the industry it’s depicting. One episode, for instance, has David scrambling to give an empowering tour of the office to a group of wide-eyed schoolgirls, only to have the few female employees available confirm that even though they love it, yes, it is very hard to be A Woman in Gaming. Another has the characters attempting to handle an influx of white supremacist players, first by immediately agreeing to ban them, before backsliding into semantic debates all too familiar to anyone unfortunate enough to have frequented Twitter in the past decade. Then there’s the one in which the game get hacked, leading to Ian scoffing that “no one cares about privacy, they just want a good story” — and ultimately, being proved right. One of the best episodes is a complete tonal departure in the form of an extended flashback, starring perpetual sitcom MVPs Jake Johnson and Cristin Milioti as partners in life and business whose gaming company quickly buckles under the pressures of cynical corporate demands.193500093It would be enough for “Mythic Quest” to be funny, and it is. But in taking on the complex, under-examined world of video gaming, the creative team gave themselves a rich area in which their wild, clever, selfish characters can bounce around unlike any other currently on TV.

REVIEW: IMPULSE – SEASON 1

Impulse (2018)

MAIN CAST

Maddie Hasson (The Finder)
Sarah Desjardins (Van Helsing)
Enuka Okuma (Slasher)
Craig Arnold (Heartland)
Tanner Stine (The Thundermans)
Keegan-Michael Key (Why Him?)
Missi Pyle (Gone Girl)

Impulse (2018)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Matt Gordon (Rookie Blue)
Daniel Maslany (Chained)
David James Elliott (Trumbo)
Callum Keith Rennie (Battlestar Galactica)
Aidan Devine (A History of Violence)
Shawn Doyle (Reign)
Michelle Nolden (Earth: Final Conflict)
David Alpay (The Vampire Diaries)
Allison Hossack (Reaper)
Danny Pudi (Powerless)
Lulu Antariksa (Legacies)
Hiro Kanagawa (Caprica
Lauren Collins (Degrassi: TNG)
Will Chase (Sharp Objects)
Gabriel Darku (October Faction)

Maddie Hasson in Impulse (2018)YouTube Red’s new series is part of the ‘Jumper’ family, but it’s driven by a very strong lead performance from Maddie Hasson that makes it more of a character drama about sexual assault than a YA thriller.  Directed by Doug Liman, the pilot for YouTube Red’s Impulse begins with a bang. Two men, one played by Keegan-Michael Key, are engaged in a full-on teleportation brawl, exchanging punches as they shift between a remote iceberg and a busy subway train full of confused passengers. It’s a thrilling spectacle. Over the rest of the 10-episode first season of the show, there is no scene of comparable action or scope, and Key’s role in the series is negligible.the-simpsonsAnd if you’re curious why, as I initially was, despite the presence of Liman and source material from Steven Gould, YouTube Red isn’t selling Impulse on its ties to the Jumper book and movie brand, know that the series’ quantity of teleporting fun is minimal and its fidelity to Gould’s novel is close to nonexistent.  Having dispatched and dismissed the major selling points for Impulse, it’s possible to really respect the show for what it actually is, namely a surprisingly effective exploration of a young woman dealing with the aftermath of sexual assault, while at the same time learning very little about her newfound ability to travel through space in moments of extreme emotion. It’s often quite solid and Maddie Hasson effectively leads a fine ensemble, but Impulse really isn’t the show you might be expecting.imageHasson plays Henrietta “Henry” Coles, a vagabond teen who struggles to make friends and connections because her mother (Missi Pyle) keeps moving from one boyfriend and town to the next. Henry’s latest home is somewhere in upstate New York and comes with a popular, dismissive new pseudo stepsister (Sarah Desjardins) and the challenges of being unable to drive due to several recent and unexplained seizures. A conflict with a teacher in class leads to Henry’s latest seizure and to attention from Townes (Daniel Maslany), who’s on the autism spectrum and a bit of an outcast himself, when he notices that Henry’s condition also causes objects around her to move. That’s nothing, though, compared to what happens when basketball star Clay (Tanner Stine) ignores Henry’s boundaries and vocal protestations after some initially benign making-out. Before she knows what happened, Henry is back in the safety of her bedroom and Clay’s life is changed forever.impulseUsing the sexual assault of a young protagonist as a character catalyst can be effective and fertile instigation for drama — see Veronica Mars or Jessica Jones — but it can also be exploitive when ramifications and emotional scarring are ignored to push the narrative forward. Impulse showrunner Lauren LeFranc is admirably determined not to let the series fall into that second category. What the show does best is deal with consent and the lingering trauma a sexual assault can cause a victim. It’s a multi-episode process that’s almost always in the foreground as Henry faces the constant presence of her attacker; suffers self-doubt as her story is questioned; and shies away from other intimacies in her life, already a problem for the new girl in school and for one of those sci-fi characters whose burgeoning adolescence and nascent powers are intermingled.IMPULSE-Maddie-Hasson-YouTube-Premium1Hasson’s balance of tough-girl exterior and inner fragility is exceptional. There’s a volatile minutelong uncut shot of the young actress in the second episode that sold me completely on the performance and her ability to carry the series. Episodes are preceded by sexual violence content warnings and end with hotline callouts to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. LeFranc and the writers, plus a team of post-Liman directors dominated by women, including Helen Shaver, Alex Kalymnios and Cherien Dabis, do right by this sensitive, difficult side of the story. The performances by Desjardin; Maslany (Tatiana’s brother); and David James Elliott, as the father of Henry’s attacker and a local automotive kingpin, are all totally overhauled as characterizations go from one-dimensional to much more nuanced. The series badly needs the comic touches Desjardin and Maslany provide in their finer moments.22c11def757c6d1c4d1d8056a72353faHenry’s understanding of her power is being laid as an interesting foundation for future seasons, but I accused Freeform’s new drama Cloak & Dagger of slow progress in its superhero narrative and that show is positively steaming along compared to Impulse. Much too much of what drives the first season comes from a mostly ludicrous plotline involving Elliott’s character and a Mennonite-run opioid empire that recalls the way the first season of Bates Motel was about small-town Oregon marijuana trade more than Norman Bates’ introduction to motel maintenance.  The drug story, probably developed with confidence that YouTube Red’s core audience didn’t watch the far more outrageous take on similar material in Cinemax’s Banshee, at least offers another reason for Henry to feel guilt and remorse, and another tense situation to highlight how good Hasson is. It’s weakly plotted, but appropriate for a show that wants to make you think it’s a YA action-franchise starter, when it’s really an interesting and somber character study with a heroine who, very rarely, teleports.

 

REVIEW: CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER

 

CAST

Chris Evans (The Losers)
Samuel L. Jackson (Jurassic Park)
Scarlett Johansson (Lucy)
Robert Redford (The Sting)
Sebastian Stan (Spread)
Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker)
Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother)
Frank Grillo (The Purge 2)
Maximiliano Hernandex (Warriors)
Emily Vancamp (Revenge)
Hayley Atwell (The Duchess)
Toby Jones (The Hunger Games)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble0
Alan Dale (Lost)
Chin Han (Arrow)
Garry Shandling (Over The Hedge)
Steven Culp (Jason Goes To Hell)
Gary Sinise (Deception)
Thomas Kretschmann (Dracula)
Elizabeth Olsen (Godzilla)
Danny Pudi (Powerless)
Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick-Ass)
Callan Mulvey (Batman V Superman)
Jenny Agutter (Child’s Play 2)
Adetokumboh M’Cormack (Lost)
Evan Parke (King Kong)
Henry Goodman (The New Pope)

MV5BMTYxNTI5OTkyM15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTUwMDM0MTE@._V1_Two years after the Battle of New York, Steve Rogers works in Washington D.C. for the espionage agency S.H.I.E.L.D. under Director Nick Fury, while adjusting to contemporary society. Rogers and Agent Natasha Romanoff are sent with S.H.I.E.L.D.’s counter-terrorism S.T.R.I.K.E. team, led by Agent Rumlow, to free hostages aboard a S.H.I.E.L.D. vessel from Georges Batroc and his mercenaries. Mid-mission, Rogers discovers Romanoff has another agenda: to extract data from the ship’s computers for Fury. Rogers returns to the Triskelion, S.H.I.E.L.D.’s headquarters, to confront Fury and is briefed about Project Insight: three Helicarriers linked to spy satellites, designed to preemptively eliminate threats. Unable to decrypt the data recovered by Romanoff, Fury becomes suspicious about Insight and asks senior S.H.I.E.L.D. official Alexander Pierce to delay the project.MV5BMjIzODY0NzA4NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODQwMDM0MTE@._V1_On his way to rendezvous with Maria Hill, Fury is ambushed by assailants led by a mysterious assassin called the Winter Soldier. Fury escapes to Rogers’ apartment, and warns Rogers that S.H.I.E.L.D. is compromised. After handing Rogers a flash drive containing data from the ship, Fury is gunned down by the Winter Soldier. Fury dies in surgery, and Hill recovers the body. The next day, Pierce summons Rogers to the Triskelion. When Rogers withholds Fury’s information, Pierce brands him a fugitive. Hunted by S.T.R.I.K.E., Rogers meets with Romanoff. Using data in the flash drive they discover a secret S.H.I.E.L.D. bunker in New Jersey, where they activate a supercomputer containing the preserved consciousness of Arnim Zola. Zola reveals that ever since S.H.I.E.L.D. was founded after World War II, Hydra has secretly operated within its ranks, sowing global chaos with the objective of making humanity willing to surrender its freedom in exchange for security. The pair narrowly escape death when a S.H.I.E.L.D. missile destroys the bunker, and realize that Pierce is Hydra’s leader within S.H.I.E.L.D.MV5BNDQzMjcwMzA0NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNjIwMDM0MTE@._V1._CR1,116,932,390_Rogers and Romanoff enlist the help of former USAF pararescueman Sam Wilson, whom Rogers befriended, and acquire his powered “Falcon” wingpack. Deducing that S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Jasper Sitwell is a Hydra mole, they force him to divulge that Zola developed a data-mining algorithm that can identify individuals who might become future threats to Hydra’s plans. The Insight Helicarriers will sweep the globe, using satellite-guided guns to eliminate these individuals. Rogers, Romanoff, and Wilson are ambushed by the Winter Soldier, who kills Sitwell. During the fight, Rogers recognizes the Winter Soldier as Bucky Barnes, his friend who was captured and experimented upon during WWII. Hill manages to extract the trio to a safehouse where Fury, who had faked his death, is waiting with plans to sabotage the Helicarriers by replacing their controller chips.MV5BMTk0NDI5ODQwNV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjIwMDM0MTE@._V1._CR1,116,933,389_After the World Security Council members arrive for the Helicarriers’ launch, Rogers broadcasts Hydra’s plot to everyone at the Triskelion. Romanoff, disguised as one of the Council members, disarms Pierce. Fury arrives and forces Pierce to unlock S.H.I.E.L.D’s database so that Romanoff can leak classified information, exposing Hydra to the public. Following a struggle, Fury kills Pierce. Meanwhile, Rogers and Wilson storm two Helicarriers and replace the controller chips, but the Winter Soldier destroys Wilson’s suit and fights Rogers on the third. Rogers fends him off and replaces the final chip, allowing Hill to take control and have the vessels destroy each other. Rogers refuses to fight the Winter Soldier in an attempt to reach his friend, but as the ship collides with the Triskelion, Rogers is thrown out into the Potomac River. The Winter Soldier rescues the unconscious Rogers before disappearing into the woods. With S.H.I.E.L.D. in disarray, Romanoff appears before a Senate subcommittee and Fury, under the cover of his apparent death, heads to Eastern Europe in pursuit of Hydra’s remaining cells. Rogers and Wilson decide to find the Winter Soldier, while Rumlow, who was a double agent for Hydra, is hospitalized following the Triskelion’s destruction.MV5BMjExMDA3Nzc1N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTMwMDM0MTE@._V1_In a mid-credits scene, Baron Wolfgang von Strucker, at a Hydra lab, proclaims that the “age of miracles” has begun as scientists examine an energy-filled scepter and two prisoners: one with superhuman speed, the other with telekinetic powers. In a post-credits scene, the Winter Soldier visits a Bucky memorial at the Smithsonian Institution.MV5BMTQxNDc0MjM4M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDc0MDI5MDE@._V1_SX1500_CR0,0,1500,999_AL_Seeing Cap and Black Widow banter about his dating life,  plays on the established chemistry between Evans and Johansson, working both the humor and the inherent pathos that defines their roles. That Mackie and Redford both effortlessly slide into this established dynamic is testament to what skilled performers they are. There is also some nice continuity to having the same writers return from The First Avenger to craft its sequel. There are plenty of parallels and callbacks here. when  watched back to back, you not only get to appreciate the original more, but enjoy how they connect.

 

REVIEW: SMURFS: THE LOST VILLAGE

176884_front

 

CAST

Demi Lovato (Camp Rock)
Mandy Patinkin (Dead Like Me)
Joe Manganiello (Magic Mike)
Rainn Wilson (Super)
Jack McBrayer (Wreck-It-Ralph)
Danny Pudi (Powerless)
Dee Bradley Baker (American Dad)
Frank Welker (Transformers)
Michelle Rodriguez (The Fast and The Furious)
Ellie Kemper (21 Jump Street)
Julia Roberts (Closer)
Ariel Winter (Modern Family)
Jake Johnson (New Girl)
Josh Keaton (Green Lantern: TAS)
Yuri Lowenthal (Legion of Super Heroes)
Scott Menville (Teen Titans)
Tara Strong (Batman: The Killing Joke)
Kari Wahlgren (Rick and Morty)
Jeff Fischer (American Dad)
Courtney Peldon (Frozen)
Lisa Wilhoit (Family Guy)

In Smurf Village, the Smurfs live peacefully among themselves. Their leader is the wise, eldery, and a bit overprotective, Papa Smurf. Some of the Smurfs include the klutsy and slow-witted Clumsy Smurf, the intelligent and eccentric Brainy Smurf, the strong and gutsy Hefty Smurf and the beautiful Smurfette, who feels out of place in Smurf Village as the only girl. Smurfette was created by the villainous wizard Gargamel from a lump of clay, but was redeemed by Papa Smurf and became part of the village. Gargamel makes it his mission to capture the Smurfs, steal all of their essence, and become the most powerful wizard in the world.After Smurfette accidentally breaks an invention by Brainy, made up by a fun day snowboarding with Clumsy, Brainy and Hefty, Smurfette sees a blue creature hidden by a leaf and follows it straight into the forbidden forest, which Papa Smurf forbids the Smurfs from entering, believing the creature to be a Smurf. She loses sight of the creature but she discovers a hat that was dropped by the possible Smurf. Smurfette ends up being captured by Gargamel and at his castle, she ends up inadvertently revealing the hat, enabling Gargamel to mix up a brew that causes him to locate the village on a map. Soon enough Clumsy, Brainy, and Hefty, who followed Smurfette, help her escape and return to Smurf Village, where they are reprimanded by Papa Smurf for disobeying his orders and confines them to their houses while dismissing their claims of a lost village filled with Smurfs.However, Smurfette, still wanting to find her place, sneaks out into the night, with Brainy, Clumsy, and Hefty volunteering to come with her. Gargamel soon discovers them trying to find the lost village and heads out with his cat Azrael and giant bird Monty to stop them. The four best friends follow the map and end up in various predicaments and misadventures, like being attacked by monster flowers and getting caught in a stampede of luminescent rabbits, one of whom they befriended and named Bucky, who helps them on their quest. After setting sail on their handmade raft along the river, they encounter Gargamel, Azrael, and Monty. Following a brief chase, Gargamel was thrown out of his own raft. Hefty and Smurfette convince the others to help save him. They do so but instead of thanking them, he pushed them out of their raft, leaving them to plunge down a waterfall.Meanwhile, back at Smurf Village, Papa Smurf tries to reconcile with Smurfette over his actions on the previous night, but soon discovers that she, Brainy, Hefty, and Clumsy are gone, so he sets out to find them and set things right. Back with the Smurf group, after surviving the waterfall and washed ashore, they are soon captured by the leaf-covered creature from earlier along with a few others and they soon reveal themselves to be female Smurfs. They are taken to their village, which is called Smurfy Grove, in the trees and get to know all the girl Smurfs, including the leader Smurf Willow, the tomboyish Smurf Storm, the hyperactive Smurf Blossom, the gentle Smurf Lily and the music-loving Smurf Melody. They all welcome the Smurfs, especially Smurfette, to their humble home. After a while of showing them what they do, Smurf Storm and Clumsy come back with her telling that Smurfette was created by Gargamel. Before they can attack her for being considered a traitor, Papa Smurf appears, and the female smurfs accept him into their home. Then, Gargamel comes and destroys Smurfy Grove, capturing all the Smurfs, all except Smurfette, who is now alone, feeling guilty for her actions. However, Brainy’s pet Snappy bug shows her a picture of her and the others, and she soon realizes that she is not a real Smurf, and heads back to Gargamel’s lair with Snappy and Bucky to save the Smurfs.At Gargamel’s lair, where all the Smurfs are, Brainy makes a plan to escape. Papa Smurf hears their plan and he and Smurf Willow decide to help them. Hefty, Brainy, Clumsy, and some of the female Smurfs succeed at the plan until Gargamel and Azrael spot them and put some of the female Smurfs and Clumsy into his Smurfilator, extracting their essence. Smurfette appears, tricking Gargamel that she wants to be an evil smurf again. When Gargamel tries to turn Smurfette into an evil smurf, he realizes that Smurfette is absorbing his magic powers instead, a skill she found earlier after destroying Brainy’s invention. The lair explodes, sending Gargamel, Azrael, and Monty into a lake full of piranhas. Unfortunately, Smurfette has reverted to her original lifeless clay form. Back at Smurf Village, all the Smurfs mourn the loss of Smurfette. Using their energy, Smurfette comes back to life and becomes a Smurf again and everybody celebrates. After which, Smurf Village and Smurfy Grove become united with each other and Smurfette finds her purpose, being anything she wants to be and most of all, a true-blue Smurf.Smurfs: The Lost Village is a story that fits nicely between the classic Peyo comics and the Hanna-Barbera Saturday morning cartoon. The animation is beautifully done. There is no way you can take every little detail in with just one viewing. The plot is fairly straightforward with adventure at the forefront. This film avoids the misplaced pop culture references and overused Smurf puns that many disliked about the previous movies. “Smurfs: The Lost Village” aims for a younger audience, but adults shouldn’t have a problem remembering why they liked these characters themselves.

REVIEW: ROAD TRIP 2: BEER PONG

CAST

Preston Jones (Spring Break ’83)
Michael Trotter (Underground)
Nestor Aaron Absera  (Van Wilder 3)
Danny Pudi (Powerless)
Julianna Guill (Friday The 13th)
Daniel Newman (The Dark Knight Rises)
DJ Qualls (Cherry Falls)
Rhoda Griffis (Runaway Jury)

Andy (Preston Jones) is egged on by his best friends to stop worrying so much about his girlfriend, Katy Hartman (Julianna Guill), back-home and start enjoying college life to the fullest. While enjoying his life, he remembers Jenna, an old girlfriend from home who is now a beer pong model and becomes infatuated with her. Andy and his friends decide to hit the road chasing Jenna and her model friends to compete in a beer pong tournament, but their plans get complicated when Katy decides to transfer to his university so she can be closer to him. They call on a son of a rich despot, Arash (Danny Pudi), who hopes to get him to sponsor their road trip but instead are taken into custody by the CIA, who interrogate them and dump them in Bethesda. They steal a taxi and continue their journey, but make a pit stop in family run strip clip, only to run afoul of a gang of bikers. Short of cash, they pick up a hitchhiker hoping she will pay for a ride. Instead, she holds up a convenience store and steals the taxi.maxresdefaultKorkin (Michael Trotter) prays for rescue and a school bus full of beautiful girls appears. The driver, Sarah (Leandra Terrazzano), is the daughter of the reverend who founded “Chastity Until Marriage” and quickly sees through their lies but agrees to continue their road trip to Nashville. Korkin makes it his mission to sleep with Sarah. His first attempt to “score” with Sarah is on the bus while everyone is sleeping. While Sarah sleeps with her head on his lap, Korkin removes Sarah’s bra and attempts to feel her up while she sleeps. However, Arash crashes the bus and awakens everyone aboard. Arash takes a turn driving the bus while the others sleep but gets distracted by phone sex and has an accident, hitting a wild boar that becomes stuck under the truck. They stop the next day and Korkin realizes they are in Katy’s hometown and they call in to her mother’s house.

forsaken-schaech-fehr-smith-rex

The gang eventually catch up with Jenna and the Beer Pong tour. A video Andy had intended as an anniversary present for Katy had been posted on the internet by Korkin. The video of him singing In the Buff has become a hit and Jenna has him perform it live on stage. The performance is also posted on the internet and Katy sees Andy kissing Jenna at the end of his performance. Meanwhile back on the bus where Korkin meet Sarah again, she says she’s inspired by Andy’s song in the previous performance and starts stripping meaning she’s willing to have sex with Korkin. On the other hand, Andy was trying to have sex with Jenna but couldn’t since he’s actually in love with Katy. Due to this fact, Jenna then decided to give her blessings to Andy and his girlfriend. However, shortly after leaving Jenna’s trailer, Andy gets a call from an enraged Katy that she wants to end their relationship. Heartbroken and angry at Korkin since it his idea that the gang went for the road trip, he went to see Korkin who was still having sex with Sarah. After berating with Korkin, Andy and the gang begin competing in the beer pong tournament. The film ends when Katy eventually ends up at the Beer Pong tournament and makes amends with Andy.19537766_20130910124712289I was plesantly suprised that it wasn’t as bad as I expected. It isn’t as good as the first as is the case with most sequels but this one isn’t far off the mark.

REVIEW: STAR TREK BEYOND

CAST

Chris Pine (Into The Woods)
Zachary Quinto (Heroes)
Zoe Saldana (Avatar)
Karl Urban (Dredd)
Simon Pegg (Paul)
John Cho (Total Recall)
Anton Yelchin (Alpha Dog)
Sofia Boutella (Monsters: Dark Continet)
Idris Elba (Thor)
Greg Grunberg (Alias)
Danny Pudi (Community)
Shea Whigham (Agent Carter)
Melissa Roxburgh (Arrow)
Jennifer Cheon Garcia (Van Helsing)

Three years into its five year mission, the USS Enterprise arrives at Starbase Yorktown, a massive space station, for resupply and shore leave for her crew. Struggling to find continued meaning in the endless nature of their mission of exploration, Captain James T. Kirk has applied for a promotion to Vice Admiral and commanding officer of Yorktown. He recommends Spock as the new captain of the Enterprise. Meanwhile, Hikaru Sulu reunites with his husband and their young daughter, Montgomery Scott works to keep the ship operational, and Spock and Nyota Uhura amicably end their relationship; Spock also receives word from New Vulcan that Ambassador Spock (Spock’s future self from the original timeline) has died.

The Enterprise is dispatched on a rescue mission at short notice after an escape pod drifts out of a nearby uncharted nebula. The survivor, Kalara, claims her ship is stranded on Altamid, a planet within the nebula. The rescue turns into an ambush when the Enterprise is quickly torn apart by a massive swarm of small ships. Krall and his crew board the ship, and unsuccessfully search for a relic called an Abronath that Kirk had obtained for a failed diplomatic mission. Krall captures and removes many crew members from the ship. Kirk then orders the crew to abandon ship as the Enterprise’s saucer section hurtles towards the planet.

On the planet’s surface, Sulu, Uhura, and other survivors are captured by Krall. Kirk and navigator Pavel Chekov, accompanied by Kalara, locate the wrecked saucer section. Kalara is discovered to be following Krall’s orders when she tries to retrieve the Abronath. To escape Krall’s soldiers, Kirk activates the still-functional thrusters, causing the saucer to lurch forward, crushing Kalara. Meanwhile, a wounded Spock and Dr. Leonard McCoy search for other survivors. Spock confides to McCoy that he intends to leave Starfleet to continue the late Ambassador Spock’s work on New Vulcan. Meanwhile, Scott is rescued by Jaylah, a scavenger who previously escaped Krall’s encampment. She takes Scott to her makeshift home, the grounded USS Franklin, an early Starfleet vessel reported missing over a century earlier. Scott is reunited with Kirk, Chekov, McCoy and Spock. Using the ship as a base, they plot to raid Krall’s camp and transport the crew to the Franklin, then escape the planet in the repaired ship. Meanwhile, Krall coerces Ensign Syl to hand over the Abronath that she had kept hidden for Kirk, then kills her with it. The Abronath is the missing half of an ancient bioweapon, created by the planet’s original inhabitants, which can disintegrate any humanoid. With the device complete, Krall intends to attack Yorktown and kill its inhabitants, and, using its advanced technology, go on to attack the Federation. Kirk and the others free the crew as Krall launches into space with the bioweapon, leading his drone fleet to Yorktown.

The Starfleet crew pursues Krall in the Franklin. Scott transports Spock and McCoy into one of Krall’s drone ships. After dispatching the pilot, they learn that VHF transmissions can disrupt Krall’s communications. Matching the drone fleet’s frequency and using the ‘classical’ song “Sabotage” by the Beastie Boys, they destroy almost the entire fleet. Krall and his three surviving ships crash in Yorktown. As Krall flees into the city, Uhura and Kirk discover from the Franklin’s logs that he is actually Balthazar Edison, the former captain of the Franklin. A pre-Federation human soldier, Edison became disillusioned with the newly founded Federation, rejecting its principles of unity and cooperation with former enemies, like the Xindi. When he and his crew were stranded on Altamid by a rogue wormhole, he believed the Federation had deliberately abandoned them. The three survivors prolonged their lives with the technology of the planet’s extinct natives (at the cost of their human physiology and their numerous victims’ lives), and repurposed their dormant drone workers into the swarm. Krall now plans to destroy the Federation and resume galactic conflict. Kirk pursues Krall into Yorktown’s ventilation system, where Krall activates the bioweapon. Before it can be unleashed, Kirk ejects the weapon and Krall into space. Spock and McCoy save Kirk moments before he is also blown into open space.

Commodore Paris closes the unsolved cases of the fate of Captain Edison and the USS Franklin crew. Kirk decides to remain as a captain, and Spock chooses to stay in Starfleet and resumes his relationship with Uhura. Jaylah has been accepted into Starfleet Academy based on Kirk’s recommendation. As the crew celebrates Kirk’s birthday, they view the construction of their new ship, USS Enterprise-A, and after its completion, they depart on their next mission.This film feels in many ways like a completion of the work done to establish the rebooted series. The actors have now made the characters their own and no longer feel like imitations of the original incarnations. The film ends with the commissioning of an all-new Enterprise. As Paramount has already confirmed that a fourth instalment is on the way, we can be sure that Kirk and his crew will continue their little Trek through the Stars for some time to come.

REVIEW: CHUCK – SEASON 5

CAST
Zachary Levi (Heroes Reborn)
Yvonne Strahovski (Batman: Bad Blood)
Adam Baldwin (Firefly)
Joshua Gomez (Invasion)
Sarah Lancaster (Saved By The Bell: The New Class)
Ryan McPartlin (J.Edgar)
Mark Christopher Lawrence (Halloween II)
Scott Krinsky (The O.C.)
Vik Sahay (Bones)
NOTABLE GUEST/RECURRING CAST
Bonita Friedericy (Veronica Mars)
Mekenna Melvin (Lie To Me)
Carrie-Anne Moss (Jessica Jones)
Angus Macfadyen (Alias)
Richard Burgi (Starship Troopers 2)
Brandon Routh (Legends of Tomorrow)
Linda Hamilton (The Terminator)
Bo Derek (Sharknado 3)
Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
Ethan Phillips (Star Trek: Voyager)
Justin Hartley (Smallville)
Jeff Fahey (Lost)
Danny Pudi (Powerless)
Stan Lee (Spider-Man)
Tony Todd (Candyman)
Cheryl Ladd (Poison Ivy)
Ben Browder (Arrow)
Erin Cahill (Power Rangers Time Force)
Robert Duncan McNeill (Masters of The Universe)
Mark Pellegrino (The Number 23)
David Koechner (Anchorman)
Catherine Dent (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)
Eric Lange (Lost)
Beau Garrett (Tron: Legacy)
Rebecca Romijn (X-Men)
Mo Collins (Fear The Walking Dead)
Tim DeKay (Get Smart)

Chuck Bartowski no longer possesses the Intersect, but has matured into a confident and capable secret agent. As he mentors the new Intersect, he also has to deal with the fact he and his team are now independent contractors with bills to pay and rival companies to compete with. When a dangerous agent comes after the Intersect, Chuck has to call upon his resources and training to stop them.

Chuck has always been a curious show, a geek comedy with dramatic and romantic overtones whose tone has often spun on a dime. The show has always done a good job of managing these different tones and styles, keeping everything grounded though Zachary Levi’s earnest-but-sympathetic performance as the title character. In the fifth season, the show experiences several additional such tonal shifts, as Chuck is betrayed by his best friend (but it turns out not to be his fault) and, most surprisingly, has his life almost ruined in the final few episodes of the series. For a show that’s always been quite warm-hearted and entertainingly cheesy, the surprisingly bleak tone of the final few episodes comes as a bit of a shock.

The season  only consists of thirteen episodes. Given the tone of the show, I was confidently expecting some last-minute solution or cure would be found. Instead, we get a highly inconclusive ending. It’s not quite The Sopranos, but the series ending without ever answering the central question poised by the last couple of episodes is an unexpected and possibly even brave choice. Whether it’s the right choice is one that fans will be arguing about for years to come. For myself, Chuck has always been first and foremost an escapist and fun show, not a gritty drama like the new BSG or something from HBO. Ending the show in this manner feels out of character for the series, and a little bit of pointless torture for our main characters who really deserved more of a happy ending.

That aside, the final season of Chuck is entertaining, well-acted and often quite funny.  the ending will be divisive, but certainly the season is worth watching for established fans. In particular, the way Chuck’s character develops across the five seasons, going from nerd to an intelligent, resourceful agent  does pay off very well here.

REVIEW: HOODWINKED TOO! HOOD VS EVIL

CAST (VOICES)
Hayden Panettiere (Heroes)
Glenn Close (Guardians of The Galaxy)
Patrick Warburton (Family Guy)
Joan Cusack (Addams Family Values)
David Ogden Stiers (Two Guys and a Girl)
Bill Hader (Superbad)
Amy Poehler (Inside Out)
Martin Short (Mars Attacks)
Brad Garrett (Finding Nemo)
Andy Dick (Road Trip)
David Alan Grier (Jumanji)
Cheech Marin (Cars)
Tommy Chong (That 70s Show)
Phil LaMarr (Free Enterprise)
Tress MacNeille (Futurama)
Danny Pudi (Powerless)
Rob Paulsen (Animaniacs)
Bridget Hoffman (Hercules: TLJ)
Wendee Lee (Masked Rider)
Wolf (Patrick Warburton), Granny (Glenn Close), and Twitchy (Cory Edwards) are on a rescue mission to save Hansel and Gretel (Bill Hader and Amy Poehler) from an evil witch named Verushka (Joan Cusack). The plan goes wrong however and Granny is kidnapped as well. Meanwhile, Red (Hayden Panettiere) is in training with a mysterious group called the Sisters of the Hood where she learns that a secret all powerful truffle recipe has been stolen. She teams up with Wolf and Twitchy to find the recipe and save her grandma, but she and Wolf can’t get along and the team splits up. Meanwhile, Verushka, who stole the truffle recipe, tries to force Granny into making it for her.
Granny escapes and finds Hansel and Gretel, but learns that they are actually the masterminds behind the plot. Granny is recaptured and learns that Verushka was an old classmate of hers when they were both in training with the Sisters of the Hood; Verushka was always second behind Granny’s accomplishments. Eventually Red, Wolf, and Twitchy team back together and infiltrate Hansel and Gretel’s base. Red accidentally reveals the final ingredient for the truffle recipe and the truffles are made.
Hansel and Gretel eat the truffles transforming into giants and go on a rampage through the city. Hansel and Gretel betray Verushka, whereupon Granny convinces her to join forces with her, Red, Wolf, and Twitchy. They trick Hansel and Gretel into eating more truffles which make them so obese that they can no longer move their arms and legs, before the two are arrested.
MV5BMTMzMDAwMjMxN15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMzg3MDQ2NA@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1773,1000_AL_
The Plot is not nearly as clever or well written as the original. However, since the characters are already developed, the the jokes are well presented, well timed and come quickly. This movie is far more action driven than the original. The plot seems merely the vehicle. Don’t expect unique take on an old tale as the movie primarily moves forward developing current characters and back stories. Additional fairly tail intersections are used for story structure. Overall it’s a fun movie and if you enjoyed the first one you will enjoy this.