REVIEW: GOTHAM – SEASON 3

 

MAIN CAST

Ben McKenzie (Batman: Year One)
Donal Logue (Ghost Rider)
David Mazouz (New Girl)
Morena Baccarin (Homeland)
Sean Pertwee (Dog Soldiers)
Robin Lord Taylor (Cold Comes The Night)
Erin Richards (The Quiet Ones)
Camren Bicondova (Girl House)
Cory Michael Smith (Wonderstruck)
Jessica Lucas (Cloverfield)
Chris Chalk (12 Years A Slave)
Drew Powell (Straw Dogs)
Maggie Geha (Ted 2)
Benedict Samuel (The Walk)
Michael Chiklis (Fantastic Four)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Leslie Hendrix (Arthur)
James Carpinello (Gangster Squad)
Jamie Chung (The Gifted)
John Doman (Blue Valentine)
Jada Pinkett Smith (Magic Mike XXL)
B.D. Wong (Jurassic World)
Chelsea Spack (Blue Bloods)
Raymond J. Barry (Training Day)
Richard Kind (Stargate)
Naian Gonzalez Norvind (The Devil You Know)
Anthony Carrigan (The Flash)
Ivana Milicevic (Vanilla Sky)
Cameron Monaghan (Amityville: The Awakening)
James Remar (Black Lightning)
Nathan Darrow (Preacher)
Camila Perez (Star)
Tonya Pinkins (The Book of Henry)
Paul Reubens (Batman Returns)
Alexander Siddig (Game of Thrones)
Clare Foley (Sinister)

Maggie Geha in Gotham (2014)Gotham is the crime drama series based on DC Comics’ Batman universe. Having premiered on Fox in the autumn of 2014, the show initially focused on young versions of James Gordon (Ben McKenzie) and Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz). Over time, though, the series introduced younger iterations of well-known villains in the Batman franchise, as well as lesser-known characters to provide a wider representation of the Dark Knight’s universe. Additionally, with Season Two, the episodes were grouped into “Rise of the Villains” (Episodes 1-11) and “Wraith of the Villains” (Episode 12-22), and that concept was continued in Season Three, with Episodes 1-14 grouped into “Mad Love” and Episodes 15-22, under the subtitle of “Heroes Rise.”Benedict Samuel in Gotham (2014)Concepts deriving from the overarching themes were weaved throughout the various storylines. Betrayal is often associated with love, and this theme was well represented throughout the season. Between lovers, siblings, work colleagues, and enemies, betrayal was a symptom of the deterioration of Gotham. Gordon tried to take the high road with his ex-fiancé Lee (Morena Baccarin) who moved on to a relationship with Dr. Mario Falcone (James Carpinello) and fell into an uneasy sexual relationship with Valerie Vale (Jamie Chung) that included a number of lies and betrayals due to their goals arising from their respective jobs – bounty hunter and reporter. But, the downfall between Gordon and Vale came when he is forced by Jervis Tetch (Benedict Samuel) to choose between Vale or Lee in “Follow the White Rabbit” (Episode 6). Although he chooses Vale, all parties easily infer that Gordon is still in love with Lee. Later in the season, Bruce commits a deadly betrayal against Alfred (Sean Pertwee) in “Destiny Calling” (Episode 21) after being kidnapped by the Court of Owls to spend time with The Shaman (Raymond J. Barry) and meeting Ra’s al Ghul (Alexander Siddig). Surprisingly, one ray of light occurred between Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor). Desperate to know why she didn’t kill him, Penguin was surprised and humbled that Fish saw in him her greatest creation (“Burn the Witch” Episode 2).Robin Lord Taylor and Cory Michael Smith in Gotham (2014)

As often that a character was turning on another individual, sometimes the betrayal came from within. Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) seemed to be one of the most conflicted characters through the season, trying to answer the question, “Who am I?” His identity, publicly as Penguin’s Chief of Staff, and privately as Penguin’s mastermind, resulted in a vacuum of questions after Nygma shot Penguin, believing he had killed his best friend who overshadowed and defined him. As a result, Nygma tested a number of the city’s intelligent people for assistance in determining his own identity separate from Penguin. The Tetch virus enhanced and brought out certain traits of characters and finding themselves at odds with themselves. Captain Nathaniel Barnes (Michael Chiklis) received a drop of blood from Alice Tetch (Naian Gonzalez Norvind) which heightened his commitment to the concept of justice, becoming judge, jury, and executioner as well as embodying the law (“New Day Rising” Episode 4). Marios jealousy was amplified, and Lee became a bad girl looking for the bad boy in Gordon, who was forced to self-infect the virus on himself in “Pretty Hate Machine” (Episode 20). As one of the heroes, Gordon was the only one who could control his magnified emotional state.

Amongst chaos, the heroes rise; however, the idea of heroes is a double-edged sword, so the viewer’s traditional definition of hero will be challenged in Season Three. Executive Producer John Stephens said, “Everyone goes through a major character metamorphosis throughout the course of the yea,r” in an interview with Comicbook.com. What is the most dramatic event that a character could go through? Well, it seemed that death (or near-death) and rebirth was a common event for most of the characters. For instance, Ivy Pepper (Maggie Geha) was touched by one of Dr. Strange’s (B. E. Wong) monsters and not only did she age about 10 or so years, but it was the belief of Selina (Camren Bicondova) that Ivy had died. Fish Mooney, Victor Fries (Nathan Darrow), who became Mr. Freeze, and Bridgit Pike (Camila Perez), who became Firefly, actually died and were reborn. It should be noted that while some characters died, they did not embody their familiar mantle: Ivy isn’t known as Poison Ivy, Selena hasn’t become Catwoman, and Jerome Valeska (Cameron Monaghan) may have the iconic creepy wide smile, but nary a whisper of “Joker” has been heard – yet.David Mazouz and Camren Bicondova in Gotham (2014)The parallels amongst pairs of characters did deliver intriguing comparisons. For example, viewers witness the very public destruction of Penguin, each layer of his personae being taken away from him. The betrayal is deliberate, a conscious effort on the part of Nygma, Barbara Keen (Erin Richards), Tabitha Galavan (Jessica Lucas), and Butch Gilzean (Drew Powell). Eventually, even Penguin’s life is taken from him; however, there is also a private betrayal occurring in Lee. She has internalized her loss and although she argues for justice and grabs for the preverbal straws, she finally realizes that she is the root cause of her own betrayal. She hits rock bottom and as a result, injects herself with the Tetch virus, embracing her ruin.Robin Lord Taylor in Gotham (2014)Due to the large ensemble cast of regular cast members, plus the recurring and special guests through the 22 episodes, one of the inherent issues is affording enough screen time to each character so that their origin story is fully explored, resulting in a well-developed character. While Gordon and Wayne/514A (David Mazouz, in a dual role) are central characters and will typically appear in each episode, some of the other regular characters, such as Selina Kyle, Lucius Fox (Chris Chalk), or Butch, seem to disappear from the storyline. For example, in the closing minutes of “How the Riddler Got His Name” (Episode 15), Edward Nygma/The Riddler reveals to Lucius that he is struggling with defining his identity separate and outside of the shadow of Penguin. After announcing to Lucius that he is the Riddler, Nygma knocks Lucius out in his car. Viewers next see Lucius in “Light the Wick” (Episode 18). Fish Mooney is another character that is missing for most of the season after appearing in the season’s opening episode, “Better to Reign in Hell…” Their disappearances do cause some gaps, such as where was Lucius for two episodes, 16 and 17 – one would assume that someone from the GCPD would notice Lucius sleeping off Nygma’s attack in the front seat of his car, parked across the street from the precinct.Drew Powell, Jessica Lucas, and Cory Michael Smith in Gotham (2014)The third season of Gotham provides intriguing complexities to the overarching denigration of the city into chaos and the telling of individual character origin stories. While the origin stories are fascinating, the fact that there is foreknowledge that most of the characters cannot die because they will one day face Bruce Wayne as Batman does cause a wrinkle with the audience’s engagement with the storylines. To compensate, spending more time on character development would alleviate some of the indifference inherent to the nature of prequel narratives. That said, Gotham is a binge-worthy show. The city is visually stunning, and the Steampunk feel captivating. Audiences unfamiliar with the origin stories will likely enjoy the show just as much or more so than those that come to the show with familiarity from reading the comics.

 

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REVIEW: DAMAGES – SEASON 1

MAIN CAST

Glenn Close (Guardians of The Galaxy)
Rose Byrne (Bad Neighbors 1 & 2)
Željko Ivanek (Heores)
Noah Bean (Nikita)
Tate Donovan (Argo)
Ted Danson (The Good Place)

Glenn Close in Damages (2007)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Philip Bosco (The Savages)
Anastasia Griffith (Shadow of The Sword)
Peter Riegert (The MasK)
Marlyne Barrett (The Wire)
Maya Days (Blue Bloods)
Peter Facinelli (Twilight)
Donnie Keshawarz (Homeland)
Michael Nouri (The O.C.)
Casey Siemaszko (Back To The Future)
Zachary Booth (South of Hell)
David Costabile (Suits)
Carmen Goodine (Alter Egos)
Tom Aldredge (Cold Mouintain)
Victor Arnold (The Seven-Ups)
Todd A. Kessler (Bloodline)
Elliot Korte (Just Another Story)
Garret Dillahunt (12 Years A Slave)
Robin Thomas (Pacific Rim)
Mario Van Peebles (Highlander 3)
Donal Logue (Gotham)
Donna Murphy (Spider-Man 2)
Peter McRobbie (Lincoln)

Rose Byrne in Damages (2007)No grandstanding or overwrought speeches. Hardly any impassioned objections. No interchangable characters. No cases that are wrapped up in a neat, tidy bow before the end credits for each episode make their upward crawl. FX’s Damages shatters every preconceived notion viewers have been trained to expect from a legal drama, and its critically acclaimed first season is now making its bow in high definition on Blu-ray. MV5BMjc4MjU1Nzg1N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTA1NzQ2MjE@__V1_The series opens as a young woman — half-naked, spattered with blood, and shellshocked — slips out of a high rise apartment building and frantically darts through the streets of New York. Damages then cuts to the exhausted, disheveled woman in an interrogation booth as a couple of detectives almost disinterestedly look on. Far too deep in shock to speak, the only clue as to who this devastated young woman is or what happened to her is a bloodied business card she was carrying, and as the camera closes in, a title card reading “Six months earlier” quickly splashes across the screen.It may only be a difference of six short months, but the Ellen Parsons (Rose Byrne) we see when the clock rolls back is an unrecognizably different person. This wide-eyed idealist is in the middle of being courted by one of Manhattan’s most prestigious law firms. Even though an offer is slid in front of her with more zeroes than the prospective first year associate would ever have thought possible, Parsons blurts out that she has an interview scheduled with Patty Hewes later in the week, and the cheery atmosphere abruptly turns cold. Hewes has carved out a reputation for herself as one of the most powerful and unrelenting forces in high stakes litigation, and taking it as a foregone conclusion that Hewes will offer Parsons a position that she’ll eagerly accept, Hollis Nye (Philip Bosco) warns her that Hewes will irrevocably change who she is.Rose Byrne in Damages (2007)As Parsons starts to see each and every one of her dreams suddenly lurch within arms’ reach, some five thousand former employees of billionaire Arthur Frobisher (Ted Danson) have seen their hopes savagely ripped away from them. His corporate empire collapsed after the SEC caught onto his Enron-like shell game, costing his employees their entire retirement fund — upwards of a billion dollars — while Frobisher himself escaped with his checkbook intact. The government was immediately leery of the timing, with Frobisher pocketing hundreds of millions of dollars by cashing out his stock just before a catastrophic SEC report revealed the company’s underhanded accounting practices, but an intensive three year investigation was unable to turn up any convincing trace of wrongdoing. The criminal trial may have been a total failure, but Patty Hewes (Glenn Close) has been tapped to spearhead a colossal class action law suit against the billionaire on behalf of his thousands of financially devastated employees, and she’s hellbent on fleecing this corporate bully of every last cent. As it turns out, Parsons may be the linchpin to shattering Frobisher’s carefully constructed facade, but at least at first glance, that has nothing to do with the neophyte’s legal prowess.Glenn Close in Damages (2007)Part of what Damages such an infectiously addictive series also leaves it tougher than usual to review. Nothing — nothing — can be taken at face value, and there are so many twists, turns, deceptions, and double-crossings in the plot that any attempt at describing what happens even from the second episode would spoil more than I’d like. Just to be clear, this isn’t Anatomy of a Murder; the courtroom is overly familiar territory, and Damages has no interest in retreading it. Tossing aside legal maneuvers and precedents in dusty books, the season prefers instead to pull back the curtain into the extensive prepwork behind an investigation of this scale, including Hewes’ deft manipulation of everyone and everything around her, Parsons clawing her way through months of backstabbing and mistrust, and Frobisher’s stubborn determination to reclaim his family’s name and clear himself of any wrongdoing.Rose-in-Damages-1x02-Jesus-Mary-Joe-Cocker-rose-byrne-16722887-500-281With hundreds of millions — and potentially a hell of a lot more — at stake, it’s an agonizing journey for everyone involved, riddled with blackmail, assassination threats, subterfuge, abortions, bomb threats, murder, blackmail, kidnapping, infidelity, media manipulation, suicide, deranged stalking, toothless, bloody nightmares, and…oh, just for good measure, a book deal. Damages strikes an extremely effective balance in being lurid enough to stay interesting without veering too far over the edge and coming across as some sort of Prison Break-like cartoon. It also gets a hell of a lot more free reign than I’d expect from basic cable, which is made clear early on when Frobisher is screwing a random blonde in the back of an SUV, snorts a line of coke off her hand, and makes a call to have a witness in the wrong place at the wrong time gunned down. The language isn’t neutered either, with a “bullshit” or “shit” spat out several times each episode, used sparingly enough that the profanity still carries a substantial impact.Rose-in-Damages-1x02-Jesus-Mary-Joe-Cocker-rose-byrne-16722572-500-281Unlike most legal dramas, Damages is an intensely serialized series, focusing squarely on a single case for the entirety of these first thirteen episodes. The writers have a knack for lobbing out a big revelation in each installment, continually maintaining the momentum set into motion in the premiere. Damages has a unique structure that suits the material particularly well. For one, no meandering subplots creep in as filler. Virtually everything that happens is either essential to the Frobisher case or to understanding these characters. There are really only three subplots in the entire season: one involving a mentally unhinged stalker, another following the drastic measures Hewes takes to rein in her rebellious teenaged son, and a third swirling around her number two’s possible defection from the firm. The writing mixes in these stories deftly enough, ensuring that the pacing of the Frobisher case doesn’t stumble along the way and that the audience doesn’t get overly distracted. The only of these plot threads that’s ineffective revolves around Tom Shayes’ loyalty to Hewes and the firm; its inevitable resolution is the only particularly predictable element in the entire first season and the only time the writers seem to be fumbling to fill time.D_EP_105_206Damages also effortlessly juggles two separate timelines. There are brief stretches in each episode set in the here and now, revealing tantalizingly vague clues as to what it is that’s left Parsons drenched in blood and shellshocked: a bloodstained shoe, a disappearing corpse, and a garish bookend caked in blood and tangled with hair, to rattle off a few. The majority of the season takes place in the past, starting off six months earlier and inching forward to the present day from there. As Damages go on, we find out who the players are…what these visual teases mean…how entire lives were upended or butchered outright. The series would’ve been compelling and tense even if it had unfolded in a more linear, traditional way, but the additional layer of that second timeline really adds another layer of intrigue, making it that much more of a suspenseful mystery. For all of this to gel under a slew of different writers and directors shows how strong a hand was guiding the series, and the work in piecing it all together in editing is exceptional.Rose-in-Damages-1x05-A-Regular-Earl-Anthony-rose-byrne-16730966-500-281Damages lives and dies by the strength of its performances. As effective as the twists and turns of the investigation into Frobisher’s machinations are, this is inarguably a character-driven series. The centerpiece is, of course, Glenn Close as Patty Hewes. She’s a legal shark, and much like the great white in Jaws, the writers avoid overexposing her to ensure that every appearance — every line of dialogue — carries a dramatic impact. Essential for this sort of puppet master, Hewes remains impenetrable throughout. There are no weepy monologues or impassioned speeches in front of a sobbing courtroom. There’s a vulnerability she tries her damndest to mask — something that leaks through as the season draws to a close, despite her best efforts — but that steely veneer remains intact whenever someone else shares the scene. It’s an exceptional performance by Close, who infuses the character with a strength, intensity, and slightly elusive charm that make it instantly clear why Hewes so utterly dominates the field: beloved by her clients, at least when victory is in sight, cautiously admired by her associates, and terrified by any lawyer ambitious enough to sit on the other side of the aisle.damages7_0Hewes is far removed from any of the attorneys I’ve seen in dozens of other legal dramas. Hewes wants to give her clients what they deserve, of course, but it’s not about altruism or doing the right thing; this is a game to her, and Hewes is a damned good player. Being pitted against an arrogant bully like Frobisher just makes the battle that much more compelling, and Hewes is so determined to pull a win that the law itself is incidental. She’s not a do-gooder or a staunch heroine, and the steps she takes to ensure victory and to get her unwitting pawns to step in line are nearly as repulsive as the lengths Frobisher goes to in order to protect his bankroll. This intense character isn’t watered down to be more easily embraced by some particular TV viewing demographic. Hewes is humanized just enough to make her seem like a well-realized character and not a one-note force of nature, defined largely by her relationships with her family: her husband is a jet-setting financier who she barely sees, and Hewes’ son is a brilliant but rebellious teenager who resents his mother and is teetering on the brink of expulsion.Rose-in-Damages-1x09-Do-You-Regret-What-We-Did-rose-byrne-16752016-500-281Ellen Parsons too is defined in large part by her relationships. Parsons thinks she’s lost her shot at working under Hewes when her interview is inflexibly rescheduled to her sister’s wedding day, and she without hesitation chooses family over her budding career. Two of the driving forces this season are part of Parsons’ extended family: her fiancé David (Noah Bean), whose grueling hours as a surgical intern make any chance of spending time together that much more remote, and her best friend and future sister-in-law Katie (Anastasia Griffith). Parsons’ personal and professional lives are continually colliding, and there’s an instant level of intrigue by how in the space of six months she devolved from an upbeat, optimistic, naive law school grad eager to start her first day at a prestigious firm to an embittered, disheveled mess accused of murder…to see just how her short time at Hewes and Associates so profoundly and irrevocably transformed her. Rose Byrne does a marvelous job playing what at first glance looks like two entirely different characters, and it’s fascinating to think that she so seamlessly weaves the two together throughout the course of the season, despite these moments being shot far out of sequence and not even being entirely sure how these puzzle pieces connected together during filming.Ted Danson in Damages (2007)Ted Danson is another standout as billionaire executive Arthur Frobisher. One intriguing choice Damages makes is that Frobisher himself isn’t a worthy adversary for Hewes. His corporation may have been modeled after Enron, but Frobisher is hardly a Ken Lay. This isn’t the usual corporate stereotype: a balding, bespectacled man in his 60s who condescendingly sips a glass of $1,200 Scotch in some palatial office and barks out orders. No, he’s a reasonably down to earth guy — fit, trim, eager to sit down for a family barbeque, shoot hoops with his teenaged son, or grab a sandwich from a cart on the street corner. Nothing about the man, at least to those who don’t religiously tune into Court TV or Fox News, would point to a couple billion dollars at the bottom of his balance sheet. That said, Frobisher is fiercely protective of his fortune and his name. While it’s never in doubt that Frobisher is guilty of bilking his employees — or that he’s at the very least hiding something — he’s arrogant enough that he’s convinced he’ll be vindicated in court, no matter what his handlers say or suggest. Far from the calculating criminal mastermind these sorts of series are usually littered with, Frobisher is an impulsive screw-up. He stubbornly sticks to whatever game plan seems like a good idea at the time, backed by a big enough bankroll to pay someone to mop up whatever mistakes he makes along the way. The most intriguing villains are almost always the ones who sincerely don’t think they’re in the wrong, and Frobisher’s been lying to himself about his innocence so long that he even seems to buy the party line himself.untitledThere are a couple of other key roles worth noting as well. Even if Frobisher himself isn’t much of a capable opponent, his attorney Ray Fiske (Zeljko Ivanek) is as close to a match for Patty Hayes as they come. There’s a particularly intriguing relationship between Frobisher and Fiske — an uneasy friendship borne out of the fact that there’s not much of anyone else to whom either of them can relate. One of Hewes’ greatest assets is Tom Shayes (Tate Donovan), her instantly likeable second-in-command. Shayes is bright, talented, and doggedly loyal, but he doesn’t have what it takes to step out from Hewes’ shadow. The fact that he’s a quietly reluctant second fiddle makes him more compelling than someone who unquestionably follows orders with a smile.Rose-in-Damages-1x12-There-s-No-We-Anymore-rose-byrne-16757877-500-281I was thoroughly impressed by Damages. As frequently as the series teases and misleads viewers along the way, all of it seems logical and earned, not just a case of the writers lazily pulling the rug out from under the audience just to keep them off-guard. The season resolves all of the central conflicts before it’s over and done with, and although it doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, exactly, there’s a hell of a lead-in for season two and some tantalizing questions left dangling in front of viewers. It’s such an addictive show that I devoured the entire first season in a day, and there are very, very few series that have compelled me to do that. Tightly woven, wonderfully acted, and sharply written, Damages is a series that’s well worth discovering on Blu-ray for those who missed its first season.

 

REVIEW: THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX

The Cloverfield Paradox (2018)

CAST

Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Jupiter Ascending)
David Oyelowo (Jack Reacher)
Daniel Brühl (Rush)
John Ortiz (Kong: Skull Island)
Chris O’Dowd (St. Vincent)
Aksel Hennie (Hercules)
Zhang Ziyi (House of Flying Daggers)
Elizabeth Debicki (The Great Gatsby)
Donal Logue (Gotham)
Simon Pegg (Mission Possible: Rogue Nation)
Greg Grunberg (Heroes)
Suzanne Cryer (Two Guys and a Girl)

 

The Cloverfield Paradox (2018)In the near future, Earth is suffering from a global energy crisis. The collective space agencies of the world prepare to launch the Cloverfield Station for testing of the Shepard particle accelerator, which would provide Earth with infinite energy if it works, but pundits fear it will create the “Cloverfield Paradox”, opening portals to other dimensions and allow horrors from those to threaten Earth. Among the crew is Ava Hamilton, who frets about leaving her husband Michael, a doctor, for potentially many years. The two struggle with their relationship after losing their children to a house fire.John Ortiz, David Oyelowo, and Gugu Mbatha-Raw in The Cloverfield Paradox (2018)In orbit, the station crew fail to achieve success with Shepard for about two years but eventually achieve a seemingly-stable beam, but it then overloads and creates a power surge on the station. After restoring basic power, they find Earth has vanished from their view, along with the gyroscope that aids in navigation. As the crew work to repair the ship, strange events begin to occur. They rescue a woman, Jensen, fused with wires behind a panel. Volkov fears something crawling beneath his skin before he is compelled to craft a gun; before he can threaten the crew, his body convulses and ruptures, revealing the station’s colony of worms within him. Mundy’s arm gets pulled into a wall, and then severed clean off; they later find the arm moving on its own volition, and when they recognize that it is try to write something, they are led to dissect Volkov’s body and locate the missing gyroscope. They quickly discover Earth and realign their communications, but pick up mistaken transmissions that state that Cloverfield Station had been destroyed and fallen to Earth.Chris O'Dowd in The Cloverfield Paradox (2018)They speak to Jensen and discover they are in an alternate dimension. In this one, Hamilton’s children had not died and she stayed on Earth as a civilian engineer, while Jensen had replaced Tam as the station’s engineer. They suspect that the Shepard device caused them to move into the new dimension, and reactivating Shepard will reverse that; Tam works out a means to then make Shepard work properly, but she is killed in a freak accident. The crew start working on repairs, while Hamilton decides to return with Jensen to Earth to be with her kids. As they prepare, Mundy is killed in an explosion caused by a strange magnetic field, which nearly tears the station in half. The station commander Kiel sacrifices himself to disengage a wildly-spinning accelerator ring from the station before it is destroyed, leaving Hamilton in charge.Gugu Mbatha-Raw in The Cloverfield Paradox (2018)Meanwhile, on Earth, Michael wakes up to discover a number of strange events happening across the planet, including witnessing the silhouette of a giant monster. On his way to offer his assistance at the local hospital, he stops to help a young girl named Molly. After learning that the hospital has been destroyed, he takes Molly to an underground shelter belonging to a friend and tends to her wounds.Daniel Brühl and Ziyi Zhang in The Cloverfield Paradox (2018)With Shepard ready to activate, Hamilton and Jensen prepare to leave, but Jensen suddenly knocks her out, uses the gun Volkov made to kill Monk and wound Schmidt, and insists that the station must stay in this dimension so they have access to the Shepard device. Regaining consciousness, Hamilton overpowers Jensen for the gun and shoots out a window, ejecting Jensen into space. Hamilton decides to return to their dimension with Schimdt, but makes a recording to herself in the alternate dimension, giving her the plans for the Shepard device, and stressing the importance of her family. Hamilton and Schimdt successfully reverse the dimension shift, and then make Tam’s modifications to engage Shepard properly to provide the energy source. The two, after reporting in, are then forced to evacuate, since they had sacrificed their life support systems to make the return trip to their dimension. As the evacuation shuttle breaks through the earth’s atmosphere, a giant monster comes up roaring through the clouds.Cloverfield is becoming a great outlet to tell really good Sci-Fi stories. Some of the best we have seen in a long time. Paradox adds to the mythos while also being its own movie. I can see from many of the reviews that this is not for everyone, I get that, but you can’t come in to these movies looking for answers, that’s not how the Cloverfield movies work. They present themselves and leave us to draw conclusions based on what we witnessed. An excellent addition to the Cloverfield franchise.

 

CHRISTMAS 2017 REVIEW: DECEPTION (aka The Reindeer Games)

CAST

Ben Affleck (Batman V Superman)
Charlize Theron (Prometheus)
Gary Sinise (The Green Mile)
Dennis Farina (Get Shorty)
Donal Logue (Ghost Rider)
James Frain (Gotham)
Danny Trejo (Machete)
Isaac hayes (South Park)
Clarence Williams III (The Butler)
Ashton Kutcher (Dude, Wheres My Car?)

Nick Cassidy and Rudy Duncan are cellmates in prison two days away from release. Nick has been corresponding with a young woman named Ashley Mercer, who is waiting for him on the outside. After Nick takes a shiv in a prison fight and dies, Rudy, who just wants to have a cup of hot chocolate after he reunites with his family, takes his place and lets the beautiful Ashley think he is the one who has been writing her. Gabriel, the leader of a gang who assaults Rudy and Ashley in their cabin, and is Ashley’s brother and tells “Nick” that the gang, with Nick’s help, will rob the casino he used to work at. Rudy reveals he is not Nick, but Ashley continues to confirm he is and that she wrote to him knowing Gabriel was going to kidnap and force Rudy to assist in the robbery. Rudy, while furious with Ashley, is reluctantly forced to go along with his ruse.

Using the information from the real Nick’s prison cell stories, Rudy is able to devise a robbery plan and informs Gabriel that the biggest loot is hidden inside a safe in the manager’s office (the “PowWow” safe). On the night of the robbery, Rudy breaks out of his holding in order to find a way to arm himself as he knows Gabriel will kill him after the robbery. He stumbles upon Gabriel and Ashley and learns that they are lovers and partners in crime.

The group robs the casino, each dressed as Santa Claus. Rudy, forced to take part in the robbery, hides the fact that he knows Ashley’s secret. Shots are fired and security guards and Santas are shot. Ashley drives into the Casino and lets Nick/Rudy know she is in on the heist. All meeting in the manager’s office, Gabriel introduces Rudy to the casino manager as Nick but the manager recognizes that he isn’t Nick and Rudy confesses. Gabriel, furious at Rudy’s deception, spares him for a moment when he demands to know where the “PowWow” safe is. When the manager opens the safe, he grabs guns from inside and kills one of the robbers as the rest flee. Rudy kills another one of the robbers and is then grabbed by Gabriel and Ashley who tie him up in their 18-wheeler truck.

They plan to drive him off the edge of a cliff in a burning vehicle with a little of the money so that officials will guess all had been burned. After accidentally revealing too much information during an argument with Rudy, Ashley shoots and kills the now suspicious Gabriel. Shortly after, Nick appears, having staged his death at the prison. It is revealed that Ashley’s real name is Millie Bobeck and Rudy learns that the two had collaborated to rob the casino using Rudy and Gabriel and his gang. Ashley had known the entire time who Rudy truly was. Nick also informs Rudy that the prison stories were part of a set-up.

After they tie Rudy to the steering wheel to drive off the cliff, he produces a knife he had gotten earlier, cuts his bindings, hot wires the car, sets it to reverse and crushes Nick. With Ashley firing at him, he rams the fiery car into her and dives out as the car and Ashley go over the cliff. Nick tries to convince Rudy that they can share the money but Rudy locks him in the truck and also sends it over the cliff. Rudy picks up the stolen cash and begins distributing it in mailboxes he comes across on the way home to his family, and eats a Christmas dinner with them. The film closes with Rudy smiling.

Though it is a basic Action Thriller, there are many subdivisions, that will leave fans of any genre satisfied. Don’t know why they changed the name for the UK.

REVIEW: LITTLE WOMEN

CAST

Winona Ryder (Black Swan)
Gabriel Byrne (Stigmata)
Trini Alvarado (The Frighteners)
Kirsten Dunst (Bring It On)
Claire Danes (Romeo + Juliet)
Christian Bale (Batman Begins)
Eric Stoltz (Caprica)
John Neville (Odyssey 5)
Mary Wickes (Sister Act)
Susan Sarandon (Tammy)
Matthew Walker (Highlander: The Seires)
Donal Logue (Gotham)

The film focuses on the March sisters: beautiful Meg (Trini Alvarado), tempestuous Jo (Winona Ryder), tender Beth (Claire Danes), and romantic Amy (Kirsten Dunst), who are growing up in Concord, Massachusetts during and after the American Civil War. With their father away fighting in the war, the girls struggle with major and minor problems under the guidance of their strong-willed mother, affectionately called Marmee (Susan Sarandon). As a means of escaping some of their problems, the sisters revel in performing in romantic plays written by Jo in their attic theater.Living next door to the family is wealthy Mr. Laurence (John Neville), whose grandson Theodore, nicknamed “Laurie” (Christian Bale), moves in with him and becomes a close friend of the March family, particularly Jo. Mr. Laurence becomes a mentor for Beth, whose exquisite piano-playing reminds him of his deceased daughter, and Meg falls in love with Laurie’s tutor John Brooke (Eric Stoltz). Mr. March is wounded in the war and Marmee is called away to nurse him. While Marmee is away, Beth contracts scarlet fever from a neighbor’s infant. Awaiting Marmee’s return, Meg and Jo send Amy away to live in safety with their Aunt March. Prior to Beth’s illness, Jo had been Aunt March’s companion for several years, and while she was unhappy with her position she tolerated it in the hope her aunt one day would take her to Europe. When Beth’s condition worsens, Marmee is summoned home and nurses her to recovery just in time for Christmas. Mr. Laurence gives his daughter’s piano to Beth, Meg accepts John Brooke’s proposal and Mr. March surprises his family by returning home from the war.Four years pass; Meg and John marry, and Beth’s health is deteriorating steadily. Laurie graduates from college, proposes to Jo and asks her to go to London with him, but realizing she thinks of him more as a big brother than a romantic prospect, she refuses his offer. Jo later deals with the added disappointment that Aunt March has decided to take Amy, who is now sixteen (and now played by Samantha Mathis), with her to Europe instead of her. Crushed, Jo departs for New York City to pursue her dream of writing and experiencing life. There she meets Friedrich Bhaer (Gabriel Byrne), a German professor who challenges and stimulates her intellectually, introduces her to opera and philosophy, and encourages her to write better stories than the lurid Victorian melodramas she has penned so far.In Europe, Amy is reunited with Laurie. She is disappointed to find he has become dissolute and irresponsible and scolds him for pursuing her merely to become part of the March family. In return, he bitterly rebukes her for courting one of his wealthy college friends in order to marry into money. He leaves Amy a letter asking her to wait for him while he works in London for his grandfather and makes himself worthy of her. Jo is summoned home to see Beth, who finally dies of the lingering effects of scarlet fever that have plagued her for the past four years. Grieving for her sister, Jo retreats to the comfort of the attic and begins to write her life story. Upon its completion, she sends it to Professor Bhaer. Meanwhile, Meg gives birth to twins Demi and Daisy. A letter from Amy informs the family Aunt March is too ill to travel, so Amy must remain in Europe with her. In London, Laurie receives a letter from Jo in which she informs him of Beth’s death and mentions Amy is in Vevey, unable to come home. Laurie immediately travels to be at Amy’s side. They finally return to the March home as husband and wife, much to Jo’s surprise and eventual delight.Aunt March dies and she leaves Jo her house, which she decides to convert into a school. Professor Bhaer arrives with the printed galley proofs of her manuscript but when he mistakenly believes Jo has married Laurie he departs to catch a train to the West, where he is to become a teacher. Jo runs after him and explains the misunderstanding. When she begs him not to leave, he proposes marriage and she happily accepts.It’s a small scale masterpiece that will leave you in tears. The film is honest and true in it’s portrayal of human emotion. It went from being an adaptation of the book to it’s own story and portrayal of people and their lives. It’s beautiful aesthetically and dramatically, and a real gem of a film.

 

REVIEW: SHARK NIGHT 3D

CAST

Sara Paxton (Superhero Movie)
Dustin Milligan (The Butterfly Effect 2)
Chris Carmack (Into The Blue 2)
Katharine McPhee (The Hosue Bunny)
Chris Zylka (The Amazing Spider-Man)
Joel David Moore (Bones)
Sinqua Walls (Teen Wolf)
Alyssa Diaz (Red Dawn)
Joshua Leonard (Bates Motel)
Donal Logue (Gotham)

Seven Tulane University undergraduates – Sara, Nick, Beth, Malik, Maya, Blake and Gordon – drive to Sara’s family vacation home on a private lake. There, Sara encounters her old boyfriend, Dennis, and his friend Red. Nick, Blake, Malik and Maya go wake-boarding when a shark attacks Malik. He is able to swim back to shore – missing his right arm. When Nick swims into the lake to retrieve Malik’s arm, he is pursued by the shark, barely making it to shore. Being a pre-med student, he stabilizes Malik, and they all take him to the hospital. Blood from Malik’s wound attracts a shark that attacks the boat. Maya (Malik’s girlfriend who he was about to propose to) is knocked into the water and eaten. The shark damages the steering column of the boat, causing it to crash in front of the boathouse. Sara, Nick and Malik make it to shore.Dennis and Red arrive and agree to take Beth and Gordon to the mainland. During the boat trip, Dennis reveals that he and Red put the sharks in the lake and feed college students to them. Dennis forces Gordon into the water by shooting him; he swims to a mangrove tree but is devoured by a bull shark. Red and Dennis force Beth to strip down and feed her to cookiecutter sharks. Malik arms himself with a harpoon and ventures into the water to kill the shark that killed Maya. His wound attracts a hammerhead shark; he kills it but is further wounded. Nick and Blake pull the shark to shore, and Nick finds a camera attached to its belly. Blake decides to take Malik to the mainland on a jet ski. When they are pursued by sharks, Malik sacrifices himself and later Blake is killed by a great white shark.Sheriff Sabin visits Sara and Nick and gives them soup, which makes Nick and Sara’s dog, who has also eaten the soup, pass out. Sara hears Dennis and Red speaking from Sabin’s radio, describing Beth’s death. Dennis and Red then appear and take Sara to their boat, while Sabin prepares to dunk Nick into the lake, where sand tiger sharks wait. Sabin reveals that he, Dennis and Red have been inspired by the Discovery Channel’s Shark Week and Faces of Death videos to film people being eaten by sharks. Nick is able to break free and ignite a can of gas. Badly burned, Sabin plunges into the lake and is eaten by a sand shark.Dennis reveals the reason why he is bitter at Sara: three years ago, while they were dating Sara had to go off to college and she and Dennis had a farewell swim at their favorite diving spot. The day is ruined when Sara almost drowns and Dennis, who is angry with her for having to leave him, refuses to help her. As revenge she runs him over with a jet ski, damaging half his face. Red throws her dog into the water and soon after Dennis calls up Carl, the man from the bait shop, telling him to release another great white shark, Dennis and Red lower her into the lake in a shark cage. As Dennis is about to release her, Nick arrives and takes Red hostage. After a scuffle during which Dennis kills Red in order to catch Nick offguard, Nick shoves Dennis into the water and tries to set Sara free but Dennis appears and tries strangling him. Nick escapes as a great white shark devours Dennis. Nick kills the shark and frees Sara. Nick, Sara, and Sara’s dog swim to the boat, having survived. A distance away, another great white shark breaches, signifying that sharks remain in the lake.If you like your B-movies and don’t take things too seriously, you’ll enjoy this.

REVIEW: GHOST RIDER

CAST

Nicolas Cage (8mm)
Eva Mendes (2 Fast 2 Furious)
Wes Bentley (The Hunger Games)
Sam Elliott (Hulk)
Donal Logue (Gotham)
Peter Fonda (Easy Rider)
Brett Cullen (Injustice)
Rebel Wilson (Grimsby)
Joel Tobeck (Ash vs Evil Dead)

The Devil, Mephistopheles, sends his bounty hunter of the damned, the Ghost Rider, to retrieve the contract of San Venganza for control of a thousand corrupt souls. Seeing that the contract would give Mephistopheles the power to bring Hell on Earth, the Rider refuses to give him the contract.
In 1986, Mephistopheles (Peter Fonda) reaches out to 17-year-old stunt motorcycle rider Johnny Blaze, offering to cure his father’s (Brett Cullen) cancer in exchange for Blaze’s soul, to which he hastily accepts. The next morning, Blaze awakes to discover that his father’s cancer is cured, but he is killed that same day in a motorcycle stunt in which he falls into the ring of fire he is jumping through. Blaze accuses Mephistopheles of causing his father’s death, but Mephistopheles considers their contract to be fulfilled and promises to one day see him again.
21 years later, Blaze (Nicolas Cage) has become a famous stunt motorcycle rider known for surviving numerous deadly crashes. Blaze meets his lifelong sweetheart Roxanne Simpson (Eva Mendes), now a news reporter, whom he abandoned after his father’s death. He convinces her to attend a dinner date. Meanwhile, Blackheart, the demonic son of Mephistopheles, comes to Earth, along with three fallen angels who bonded with the elements Air, Earth and Water. They are tasked to find the lost contract of San Venganza. In response, Mephistopheles makes Blaze the new Ghost Rider and offers to return his soul if he defeats Blackheart. Blaze is driven straight to the station on his “first ride”, where he transforms into the Ghost Rider and kills the Earth Angel Gressil. The next day, he meets a man called the Caretaker, who seems to know all about the history of the Ghost Rider. He tells him everything that happened was not a dream and that it will happen again, especially at night when he is near an evil soul.
When he arrives home, Blaze finds Simpson and reveals himself as the Devil’s bounty hunter. Unconvinced, she walks away in disbelief. After a brief imprisonment for the murders that Blackheart committed, Blaze kills the Air Angel Abigor and goes back to the Caretaker who tells him of his predecessor, Carter Slade, a Texas Ranger who hid the contract of San Venganza. Blaze returns home to find that Blackheart has killed his friend Mack and has taken Roxanne captive, threatening to kill her if Blaze does not deliver the contract.
Blaze returns to the Caretaker and obtains the contract. The Caretaker reveals that he is Carter Slade. Slade tells Blaze that he is more powerful than his predecessors since he sold his soul for love as opposed to greed. Slade leads Blaze to San Venganza, then gives Blaze a lever action shotgun before fading away.
After killing the Water angel Wallow, Blaze gives the contract to Blackheart. He quickly transforms into Ghost Rider in an effort to subdue Blackheart, but dawn arrives and he is rendered powerless. Blackheart uses the contract to absorb the thousand souls into his body. He attempts to kill Blaze, but is distracted when Simpson uses Blaze’s discarded shotgun to separate them. After Blaze tries to kill Blackheart with the shotgun, he moves in and uses his Penance Stare to render him catatonic, burning all the corrupt souls within Blackheart.
Mephistopheles appears and returns Blaze his soul, offering to take back the curse of the Ghost Rider. Determined not to make another deal, Blaze declines, saying that he will use his power against him, and against all harm that comes to the innocent. Infuriated of being robbed of the power, Mephistopheles vows to make Blaze pay, but Blaze tells Mephistopheles that he is not afraid. Mephistopheles then disappears, taking Blackheart’s body with him. Later, Simpson tells Blaze that he got his second chance before sharing a final kiss with him. Blaze then rides away on his motorcycle, turning into the Ghost Rider.Mark Steven Johnson (also director of Daredevil) has done a good job with the adaptation, but having watched either Daredevil or Ghost Rider it’s obvious that dialog isn’t his strong point. Despite Cage’s passion for the role, if you’re expecting academy award winning acting from this flick, you’re gonna be sorely disappointed. That said, Peter Fonda is very well cast as Mephistopholes and Wes Bentley does a good job at playing the bad-guy particularly in comparison to his slightly wet counter-parts.  A Good Marvel but not a great one.