REVIEW: VERONICA MARS – SEASON 4

Kristen Bell in Veronica Mars (2004)

 

Starring

Kristen Bell (The GOod Place)
Jason Dohring (Izombie)
Enrico Colantoni (Flashpoint)

Kristen Bell in Veronica Mars (2004)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Percy Daggs III (American son)
Francis Capra (Heroes)
Ryan Hansen (2 Broke Girls)
Max Greenfield (New Girl)
Ken Marino (Agent Carter)
Daran Norris (Izombie)
David Starzyk (Bring it On 5)
Adam Rose (Santa Clarita Diet)
Ryan Devlin (Big Shots)
Julie Gonzalo (Freaky Friday)
James Jordan (Wind River)
Dawnn Lewis (Izombie)
Kirby Howell-Baptiste (The Good Place)
Patton Oswalt (Two and a Half men)
Clifton Collins Jr. (Westworld)
Izabela Vidovic (Supergirl)
J. K. Simmons (Whiplash)
Hiro Kanagawa (Heroes Reborn)
Tyler Alvarez (American Vandal)
Mary McDonnell (Battlestar Galactica)
Mido Hamada (Unknown)
Kyle Secor (The Flash)
François Chau (The Tick)
Logan Miller (Escape Room)
Josh Duhamel (Transformers)
Patrick Cox (2 Broke Girls)
Rodney Rowland (Legacies)
Barry Livingston (Argo)
Clark Duke (Kick-Ass)
Jacqueline Antaramian (Side Effects)
Paul Karmiryan (In The Vault)
Lukas Gage (American Vandal)
Christopher B. Duncan (Legacies)
Patrick Wolff (Starship Troopers)

Chino and the ManIn Hulu’s revival of Veronica Mars, the title character (Kristen Bell) visits one of the many men she put behind bars as a teenager. Realizing that she’s still working as a private investigator, he snipes, “That was your job in high school, right?” Television shows are a product of a particular time in the lives of their characters, creators, and audiences. One of the biggest problems with the recent trend of belated-sequel seasons is that they try to act like nothing has changed for any of those groups when, say, a 32-year-old Rory Gilmore shouldn’t still be acting like a 20-year-old. This issue should be especially acute for Veronica Mars, which in its original run drew much of its power and verve from presenting a hard-boiled gumshoe who looked like she had just quit the school dance team. (She had, actually, in the wake of her best friend’s murder.)Chino and the ManBut the new eight-episode Hulu season is keenly aware that its heroine is stuck in neutral. It’s less surprising for her as an adult to be doing stakeouts and fending off gangsters at gunpoint. But it’s also sad and self-destructive — in a very film-noir kind of way — that she’s retreated to the role she had before she was old enough to vote. When her high school frenemy Weevil (Francis Capra) asks what’s wrong with her, she cracks, “You know, there are a range of opinions.” She spends as much of her narration beating herself up for mistakes and character flaws as she does helping us follow the complicated case that’s brought her back to television. And Bell is just as charismatic, vulnerable, and slick with the banter as she was when she could pass for an 11th-grader.newgirl-ep708_sc9-ray_1203_originalVeronica creator Rob Thomas presciently set the original series in a California beach town with no middle class — only the ultrarich and the people who work for them. The setting works even better amid our present-day class warfare, and the plot involves a series of bombings that may be connected to a movement to drive out the city’s few remaining mom-and-pop businesses. Chief among the early suspects: “Big Dick” Casablancas (David Starzyk), a real-estate mogul (and holdover from the original series; he’s the father of Ryan Hansen’s Dick) publicly insisting that “we need to get back to a better time.” There’s a healthy mix of new faces, including Patton Oswalt enjoying his celebrity as witness to the first bombing; J.K. Simmons at his most charming as an ex-con now working as Big Dick’s enforcer; Kirby Howell-Baptiste as a bar owner Veronica befriends; and Izabela Vidovic as a teen reminiscent of Veronica back in the UPN days. And Veronica of course works the case with her beloved father, Keith (Enrico Colantoni, appealingly relaxed as ever, even as Keith battles health issues), while still trying to make things work with high school flame Logan (Jason Dohring, who apparently lives at the gym now).9a8851bc-3c87-458d-9481-8e4ea386bca3-vmars_101_md_2021r_fThis is the second time Bell and Co. have returned to this world: A 2014 movie introduced us to Veronica as an adult. Perhaps because the film was funded by Kickstarter, Thomas and Diane Ruggiero-Wright (who also co-wrote the new season) leaned hard into fan service, with a mystery that was largely an excuse to bring back as many old favorites as possible. It was fun in spots, but a violation of the bleak noir ethos of the original series, which was at its best when it denied the audience what it wanted and gave them what the story demanded. The Hulu version also features a host of familiar faces, like Max Greenfield as Veronica’s ex Leo (now an FBI agent looking into the bombings), but they turn up only when the plot calls for them. And the ending to this new mystery feels satisfying both to the narratives and to the themes of Veronica’s life as a woman who can’t stop looking for the truth, no matter how much it hurts.Keep Calm and Party OnThe conclusion is darker than some fans may want, but feels like a necessary corrective for this new phase of our heroine’s life. It’s a terrific return to form for one of television’s all-time great underseen gems

REVIEW: IZOMBIE – SEASON 4

iZombie (2015)

 

MAIN CAST

Rose McIver (Power Rangers RPM)
Malcolm Goodwin (American Gangster)
Rahul Kohli  (Happy Anniversary)
Robert Buckley (Killer Movie)
David Anders (Alias)
Aly Michalka (Two and a Half Men)
Robert Knepper (Cult)

iZombie (2015)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Jason Dohring (Veronica Mars)
Adam Kaufman (BUffy: TVS)
Jessica Harmon (The 100)
Bryce Hodgson (Kid Cannabis)
Robert Salvador (Arrow)
Jade Payton (Good Game)
Daniel Bacon (Stargate SG.1)
John Emmet Tracy (Fifty Shades Freed)
Dawnn Lewis (Futurama)
Linda Park (Star Trek Enterprise)
Jake Manley (The Order)
Sam Huntington (Superman Returns)
Ryan Devlin (Veronica Mars)
Gerard Plunkett (Sucker Punch)
Christie Laing (Arrow)
Keenan Tracey (Bates Motel)
James Jordan (Veronica Mars)
Hiro Kanagawa (Heroes Reborn)
Daniel Bonjour (After The Rain)
Adam Greydon Reid (Sanctuary)
Francis Capra (Veronica Mars)
Bar Paly (Pain & Gain)
Ella Cannon (Supernatural)
Eddie Jemison (Waitress)
Izabela Vidovic (Veronica Mars)
Adam Tsekhman (Legends of Tomorrow)
Carrie Anne Fleming (Supernatural)
Enrico Colantoni (Flashpoint)
Al Sapienza (House of Cards)
Jill Teed (Battlestar Galactica)
Maher Zickel (Bones)
Paul Rudd (Ant-Man)
Nemo Cartwright (Descendants)

 

Rose McIver in iZombie (2015)Across its first three seasons, iZombie was largely Veronica Mars with zombies and that was no bad thing. It was consistently entertaining, offered a fresh take on the overpopulated zombie genre and had a cast of characters you genuinely engaged with, not to mention a hugely underrated lead turn from Rose McIver, who absolutely nailed every single personality she was asked to inhabit.  From superhero-brain to old-man-brain and many more in between, Liv’s (McIver) various personalities after eating the brains of victims to solve their murders have been a large part of the show’s quirky charm.Robert Buckley, Rose McIver, Aly Michalka, and Rahul Kohli in iZombie (2015)Yet you had the sense it was always building to a game-changing event – which came in the season-three finale as the existence of zombies was revealed to the world. Following a time jump, season four started with Seattle becoming the walled city of New Seattle as the US government contained the zombie outbreak, setting up a season-long conflict between zombies and humans that looks set to explode in the season four finale.More importantly though, the season has upped the stakes for Liv, where she’s not just a crime-solving zombie any more, meaning that the ‘Brain of the Week’ structure has taken a bit of a backseat. It’s a big change that is good for the show, especially now that it’s been renewed for a fifth and final season by The CW.iZombie (2015)This season has seen Liv become the underground leader Renegade after the previous leader was brutally executed, smuggling sick humans into New Seattle and scratching them to save them so they can start a new life as a zombie. It’s put her in the sights of Fillmore-Graves, who are responsible for controlling the population in New Seattle, with the penultimate episode seeing her turn herself in to protect her boyfriend Levon (Daniel Bonjour). Liv’s arc has helped to keep the show fresh, immune to the problems of predictability that can affect long-running crime procedurals due to the repetitive structure. Instead we have a show whose morally complex central storyline has a genuine sense of peril – tricky when your main character is a zombie, even though we can’t imagine Liv will be killed off in the season-four finale.iZombie (2015)The big change hasn’t been without its issues, though, as some overstuffed episodes in the second half of season four struggled to find the right balance between quirky and serious. However, when the show could easily have rested on its laurels, it decided to change things up. Surely it’s better for an established show to rip up the status quo? It’s not like fans haven’t had the ‘Brain of the Week’ to enjoy, either, as Liv has savoured hopeless-romantic-brain, germaphobic-brain and pick-up-artist-brain among others, and the rest of the cast have got in on the act too (Major’s wrestler-brain remains a highlight). The only difference is that these are now just the delicious sides to the meatier main course of the season.b7dab6_928eb416b1fb4db898d56136b89713f0~mv2And with co-creator Rob Thomas revealing before the show was renewed that he needed just one more season to get to the “end of our story”, iZombie’s move into a more serialised storytelling can pay dividends in the final season as it’s clear that it’s all been building to a planned resolution.izombie-season-4-finale-1111048-1280x0That’s likely to be the discovery of a workable zombie cure, and Ravi had a breakthrough in the penultimate episode – but iZombie doesn’t need to be cured. It’s never felt more alive.

REVIEW: DREAMGIRLS

CAST
Jamie Foxx (Collateral)
Beyoncé Knowles (Austin Powers 3)
Eddie Murphy (Dr. Dolittle)
Danny Glover (Earthsea)
Jennifer Hudson (Empire)
Anika Noni Rose (The Good Wife)
Keith Robinson (Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue)
Hinton Battle (Buffy)
Loretta Devine (Crash)
John Lithgow (3rd Rock From The Sun)
John Krasinski (License To Wed)
Laura Bell Bundy (Anger Management)
Ivar Brogger (Andromeda)
Dawnn Lewis (Veronica Mars)
Jaleel White (Family Matters)
Cleo King (Mike & Molly)
Gregg Berger (Transformers)
Backstage at an amateur talent show at the Detroit Theatre in 1961, young car salesman Curtis Taylor Jr. meets a girl group known as “The Dreamettes”: lead singer Effie White and back-up singers Deena Jones and Lorrell Robinson. Curtis presents himself as The Dreamettes’ new manager and arranges for The Dreamettes to become backup singers for popular R&B singer Jimmy ‘Thunder’ Early.
Jennifer Hudson in Dreamgirls (2006)
Curtis soon starts his own record label, Rainbow Records, out of his Detroit car dealership, and appoints Effie’s brother C.C as his head songwriter. When their first single fails after another pop group releases a cover version, Curtis, C.C, and their producer Wayne turn to payola to make Jimmy and The Dreamettes pop stars. Offstage, Effie becomes infatuated with Curtis, while the married Jimmy begins an affair with Lorrell.
Jimmy’s manager Marty grows weary of Curits’ plans to make his client more pop-friendly and walks out. When Jimmy bombs in front of a Miami Beach audience, Curtis sends Jimmy out on the road alone, keeping The Dreamettes behind to headline in his place. Feeling that Effie’s curvy figure and distinctive voice will not attract audiences, Curtis appoints the slimmer and higher-voiced Deena lead singer and renames the group ” Deena Jones and the Dreams”.
With the aid of new songs and a new more glamorous image, Curtis and Marty transform The Dreams into a top selling mainstream pop group. However, Effie begins acting out, particularly when Curtis’ affections also turn towards Deena. Curtis eventually drops Effie (who has just learned she is pregnant with Curtis’ child) from the group, hiring Michelle Morris, a young intern, to take her place, which Effie finds out before anyone can tell her. Despite Effie’s defiance at being ousted, and her last-ditch appeal to Curtis, he, C.C., and The Dreams leave her behind and forge ahead to stardom.
Effie has now become an impoverished welfare mother, living in inner-city Detroit with her daughter, Magic, and struggling to return to music. One day, Marty appeals to Effie to let him help her rebuild her career and compels her to use her struggles as motivation in her music. Meanwhile, Rainbow Records has moved to Los Angeles, where The Dreams have become superstars. With Rainbow the biggest pop business in the country, Curtis is now attempting to move into film production with a film about Cleopatra starring an unwilling Deena, who is now his wife. Meanwhile, Jimmy Early has descended into drug addiction, his career neglected due to Curtis’ preoccupation with Deena. When Early has a breakdown onstage at Rainbow’s tenth anniversary TV special the following year, dropping his pants in front of the audience and live TV cameras, Curtis drops him from the label, and Lorrell ends their long affair. Later, Jimmy is found dead in a hotel room from a heroin overdose.
Angered over Curtis increasing control and remixing over his music for a new sound, and his lack of sympathy upon learning of Jimmy’s death in which Curtis calls it a “bad bad scene” after watching it on a breaking news bulletin, C.C quits and returns to Detroit to find Effie, who has been rebuilding her music career with Marty as her new manager. The two siblings reconcile, C.C meets his niece Magic for the first time and he writes and produces Effie’s comeback single, “One Night Only”. Just as the record begins gaining radio play in Detroit and climbs the charts, Curtis becomes furious when he learns about C.C helping Effie out in rebuilding her career. Out of desperation and spite, he uses payola to force radio stations to play a disco cover of “One Night Only” by The Dreams instead. His plan falls apart when Deena, angry over Curtis’ control of her career, finds evidence of his payola schemes and contacts Effie and C.C, who arrive in Los Angeles with Marty and a lawyer.
Deena and Effie reconcile, while Curtis, wanting to avoid being reported to the FBI for payola, agrees to give Effie’s record national distribution. Inspired by Effie’s victory, Deena leaves Curtis to make it on her own.
As a result, The Dreams give a farewell performance at the Detroit Theater. At the conclusion of the concert, Deena invites Effie to join the group onstage and sing lead for the final performance of the group’s signature song, “Dreamgirls.” As the concert ends, Curtis notices Magic in the front row, walks down the aisle, stands next to her without speaking and realizes that he is her father.
An absolutely wonderful movie with great music and performances. Jennifer Hudson is incredible