REVIEW: FRED CLAUS

 

CAST

Vince Vaughn (Delivery Man)
Paul Giamatti (The Amazing Spider-Man 2)
Rachel Weisz (The Bourne Legacy)
Miranda Richardson (Sleepy Hollow)
Kevin Spacey (L.A. Confidential)
Kathy Bates (Bad Santa 2)
John Michael Higgins (Couples Retreat)
Elizabeth Banks (Power Rangers)
Ludacris (2 Fast 2 Furious)
Stephen Baldwin (8 Seconds)
Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Watchmen)
Dylan Minnette (Goosebumps)
Burn Gorman (Game of Thrones)

A baby is born, and within a few minutes of his birth, he starts saying: “Ho, ho, ho!”. Mother Claus calls her son, Frederick, over to meet his new brother, whom she has decided to name Nicholas. Mother Claus lovingly refers to the new baby as her little Saint Nick. During Christmas, when Nick opens his gifts including Fred’s, he decides to give them away to orphans which makes Fred angry. Mother Claus advises Fred to be a better person by stating he should be more like his brother; this in turn causes Fred to resent Nick. Feeling isolated, Fred often climbs a tree to confide his problems in a bird. On one occasion, Nick cuts down the tree, saying that now Fred can bring it inside since he liked it so much. However, the birdhouse Fred’s confidant lived in is smashed, causing the bird to leave; this causes a permanent rift between Fred and Nick.In the present day, it is revealed that when Nick becomes a saint due to all his good deeds, he, Fred, and Mother and Father Claus become frozen in time, never to age. Nick has become the modern-day Santa Claus, giving gifts to people and Fred works as a repossession agent in Chicago to take them away. His girlfriend, Wanda, gets mad at him for forgetting that her birthday was the next day. Wanda refers to a previous birthday where Fred promised to take her to France. When Fred gets back to his own apartment, he watches TV when a young orphan boy named Samuel “Slam” Gibbons comes in. Slam talks about wanting a puppy named Macaroni for Christmas. Fred is attacked by countless men dressed up as Santa and after he gets arrested, he calls his brother for $5,000 bail money. He also asks for an additional $50,000 for a get rich quick scheme. Nick agrees to give him the bail money, but tells him that if he wants the $50,000, he has to come to the North Pole and work for it.Soon after, an elf named Willie shows up to take Fred to the North Pole. He is the head elf and has a crush on Santa’s Little Helper, Charlene. Once Fred and Willie arrive at the North Pole, Nick welcomes Fred and shows him around the North Pole. There is a snow globe in the main area of the workshop, where you can say any person’s name and see if they are being naughty or nice. While Fred starts working, Nick introduces Clyde Northcut, an efficiency expert who has come to evaluate the North Pole. Clyde takes Nick to the workshop and on the way tells Nick that he has three strikes. If Nick gets three strikes, the workshop will be shut down for good. Meanwhile, the workshop is in a state of chaos because of Fred, and Clyde says that Nick’s inability to control his work staff is strike one. That night at dinnertime, Nick convinces Fred to come to dinner with Mother and Father Claus and Clyde. Sitting down at the dinner table, Mother Claus continues to praise Nick, while Fred storms out and heads to Frosty’s Tavern, an elf bar, where he meets Willie, who discusses his lack of self-confidence regarding Charlene. Fred teaches Willie to dance, and Willie then falls down in front of Charlene, embarrassing himself. A pep talk by Fred later lifts his spirits.Meanwhile, Clyde deliberately sabotages the mail sorting department by shredding countless children’s letters, which later gives Nick a second strike. Believing that Fred is putting Nick under stress, a family meeting is called (which Fred was tied up and taken to) with Wanda present, and Fred leaves by saying that therapy is for families who want to be together, and their family does not have that problem. When Slam is placed at the top of the most naughty list, Fred understands that Slam has just had it hard and is not naughty. He then stamps every kids’ description as nice.Furious at what Fred has done wrong, Nick ends up fighting with him, in which Nick injures his back. Angry with Nick, Fred leaves the North Pole with his $50,000, but Nick gives Fred a present to take with him. Fred waits until he returns home to open the gift, which is a birdhouse, a replacement for the one on the tree, and a note from Nick which says, “I’m sorry for cutting down your tree. Love, Nick.” Fred is confused and enters a Siblings Anonymous meeting. At the end, Bill Clinton’s younger half-brother, Roger Clinton Jr, makes a speech about his brother’s success. Back at the North Pole, it looks like Christmas is lost. Nick is in bed and cannot make his Christmas Eve journey of delivering presents.Willie reminds Fred that, according to a long-standing rule, only a member of the Claus family can deliver the presents and Fred qualifies. Fred begins delivering presents to children around the world and Willie joins him to assist with the flying of the sleigh and the navigation. Meanwhile, Clyde sabotages their efforts at midnight by shutting off the power, which was the only way for the North Pole to communicate to Fred and Willie, helping them navigate. While Fred and Willie attempt to finish delivering the gifts for the children, Nick talks to Clyde by realizing that when he was a boy, Clyde did not get what he wanted from Nick because he would act up due to bullying, which resulted in him growing up to be the man he is. Nick realizes, thanks to Fred, that his definition of naughty was flawed. Nick makes peace with him by giving Clyde the Superman cape he wanted as a kid but never got.Fred stops by the foster home to visit Slam and bring him the puppy (Macaroni) he wanted. Fred faces away from Slam to hide his identity and explains to Slam that he should become a better person. As the rest of the elves anxiously wait in the tavern, Willie marches in and, with newfound confidence, he walks up to Charlene, grabs a chair to stand on, and kisses her. After Fred announces that Christmas has been saved, everyone gathers around the giant snow globe to watch the children of the world open their presents. Nick tells Fred that he is the best big brother anybody could ever ask for, and they finally make amends.Fred returns to Wanda’s house and she is initially upset to see him and tells him to leave. He refuses and states that he is moving in with her. He gives her a present. Wanda opens it to find a teddy bear holding a French flag. That night, Fred takes Wanda to France in Santa’s sleigh, and they circle around the Eiffel Tower (“It’s a company car. It’s one of the perks.” says Fred). The two continue dating, and Charlene and Willie are now happy together. By next Christmas, Slam is adopted, but Fred never stops watching out for him – even becoming the coach of his Little League Baseball team. As for Clyde, Nick hires him as an efficiency consultant and he teaches the elves how to use a spreadsheet. Nick and Mrs. Claus, as well as Nick and Fred’s parents visit Fred’s and Wanda’s house for Christmas. It is evident that Fred and his mom have grown closer. Fred has also become a true Claus; while Nick has lost a bit of weight, Fred has gained some. The movie ends by showing the bird house hung up outside Fred’s window, and a bird, who looks like the one Fred befriended, perched on it.I do not recall the last time I have seen such entertaining Christmas movie. “Fred Claus” is funny and has many hilarious moments. The message that there is no naughty child and consequently every child deserves a Christmas gift is great. The cast leaded by Vince Vaughn is fantastic and I really loved this movie. A great film for the Christmas holidays.

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REVIEW: 13 REASONS WHY

MAIN CAST

Dylan Minnette (Don’t Breathe)
Katherine Langford (The Misguided)
Christian Navarro (Bushwick)
Alisha Boe (Paranormal Activity 4)
Brandon Flynn (BrainDead)
Justin Prentice (Izombie)
Miles Heizer (Rails & Ties)
Ross Butler (Riverdale)
Devin Druid (Louder Than Bombs)
Amy Hargreaves (Wonderstruck)
Derek Luke (Biker Boyz)
Kate Walsh (After The Sunset)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Brian d’Arcy James (Smash)
Steven Weber (Izombie)
Keiko Agena (Labor Pains)
Josh Hamilton (J. Edgar)
Tom Everett Scott (Scream: The Series)
Robert Gant (Supergirl)

High school is a crappy, messy experience for the vast majority of people. That fact has never really changed, even with all the talk of Millennials being more sensitive and open-minded than any generation that preceded them. If anything, high school bullying has only become a more serious problem in recent years with the advent of social media and smartphones. Kids have always had a knack for being horrible to one another, but give them the anonymity of the Internet and a screen to shield themselves from the consequences of their actions, and suddenly you have teenagers driven to suicide thanks to revenge porn or targeted online harassment. 13 Reasons Why is perfectly positioned to explore bullying and high school culture in the post-Facebook era. It’s an often depressing and even uncomfortable show to watch, but that only makes it all the more powerful.Based on the best-selling YA novel from Jay Asher and adapted for television by Brian Yorkey, 13 Reasons Why opens several weeks after the tragic suicide of high school junior Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford). Despite her death, Hannah remains a very active participant in the show’s narrative thanks to copious flashbacks and a narrative device involving a series of cassette tapes she recorded shortly before her suicide. Those tapes fall into the hands of Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette), a socially awkward classmate still struggling to come to terms with Hannah’s death. Each of the series’ 13 episodes revolve around one of these tapes, with Hannah explaining in minute detail how her peers (including Clay himself) drove her to take her own life.It’s a pretty grim premise for a high school drama, even by the standards of death-obsessed YA stories like The Fault in Our Stars and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. And apart from the occasional friendly banter between Clay and Hannah or the recurring joke about Clay and his fellow students being utterly mystified by the concept of cassette tapes, there’s little room for humor here. That can make 13 Reasons Why a pretty emotionally draining experience, particularly towards the end as the pieces really start to fall into place. The final episode in particular features one of the most uncomfortable scenes on TV.Not really a show that encourages binge-watching, in other words. But 13 Reasons Why definitely succeeds in its goal of exploring how countless small and large acts of malice, as well as simple indifference or inattention, can fuel a terrible tragedy. Hannah herself references Chaos Theory in one episode, and it applies to this situation as well as it does an amusement park full of hungry dinosaurs. Hannah encounters just about every form of humiliation high school life can possibly throw at someone – from social isolation and petty gossip to sexual harassment and worse. The outcome is a foregone conclusion, so it’s really more a story about how and why so many of those close to Hannah failed to save her in time.Though a newcomer, Langford shines in the lead role. There’s a bright spark to Hannah that slowly fades over the course of the series as she becomes progressively more worn down by life’s disappointments. Langford embodies that optimism and that profound sadness well. Minnette’s Clay is, by design, a much more stoic and reserved character. In the present, Clay is practically a walking zombie stricken equal helpings of grief, confusion and fear about what he’ll learn when he eventually reaches his tape. Even in the past, Clay is someone who struggles to express his emotions and open up to those around him. Minnette does a fine job in what’s often a difficult role, though the show does rely a little too much on shots of Clay gazing wistfully into the distance as he reminisces about his interactions Hannah.Langford and Minnette are often at their best together, channeling just the right sort of warm but awkward chemistry you’d expect from two teens who can’t quite admit to their feelings for one another. Each new bit of progress in their relationship feels like a major victory, one rendered all the more poignant by the knowledge that their friendship/nascent romance is inherently doomed. There’s a nice sense of mystery and unease to their relationship as well. For a long time, it’s very unclear just how close the two characters were prior to Hannah’s death or what exactly Clay might have done to earn himself a spot among the dreaded thirteen .In general, 13 Reasons Why boasts a strong cast that tends to make the most of the material. Initially, Clay and Hannah’s classmates seem to fit into the usual high school stereotypes – your jocks, your cheerleaders, your preppy overachievers, your slackers, etc. But as each member of the thirteen is fleshed out in turn, they show a real depth and angst that reminds viewers that Hannah was hardly the only one who suffered from loneliness and a deep malaise. Standouts include Alisha Boe as psychologically troubled cheerleader Jessica Davis and Brandon Flynn as her equally tortured boyfriend, Justin Foley. The show places a greater emphasis on adult characters than the novel, with memorable, emotionally charged performances from Kate Walsh as Hannah’s grieving mother and Derek Luke as the school’s embattled counselor.13 Reasons Why is far from the most pleasant viewing experience Netflix has to offer, but it is a very powerful and hard-hitting series. The show explores the build-up to and aftermath of a teen’s tragic suicide with great care, painting a compelling portrait of one teen broken by life and another determined to find answers. The show easily ranks among the best high school dramas of the 21st Century.

REVIEW: LET ME IN

CAST

Chloe Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass)
Kodi Smit-McPhee (X-Men: APocalypse)
Richard Jenkins (The Cabin In The Woods)
Cara Buono (Happy Accidents)
Elias Koteas (Crash)
Sasha Barrese (The Ring)
Dylan Minnette (Don’t Breathe)
Ritchie Coster (The Dark Knight)
Chris Browning (Agent Carter)

In March 1983, in Los Alamos, New Mexico, a disfigured man is taken to the hospital. An unnamed police detective tries to question him about a recent murder. The detective is called to a phone and told that the man’s daughter was just downstairs. While he is on the phone, the man jumps out of the window, leaving behind a scrawled note that reads “I’m sorry Abby.”Two weeks earlier, Owen, an unhappy and lonely 12-year-old boy who is neglected by his divorcing parents, sees a young girl named Abby and an older man, Thomas, moving in next door and notices that she is barefoot despite the snow. Owen meets Abby one night and asks if she is cold upon seeing no footwear on her feet. Abby states that she doesn’t get cold. Owen and Abby become close friends and start communicating by Morse code through the walls of their apartments. At school, a bully named Kenny and two of his friends, Donald and Mark, constantly terrorize Owen, who lies to his mother about it but tells Abby the truth. Abby encourages him to retaliate.Thomas murders a man and collects the blood, but accidentally spills it. Hungry, Abby attacks a concerned neighbor named Jack to drink his blood, revealing that she is a vampire. On another night, Thomas hides in the back of a teenager’s car, murders the passenger, and tries to flee, but crashes the car and becomes trapped inside. He pours concentrated sulfuric acid on his face, disfiguring himself to prevent his identification. He is taken to the hospital, bringing the story back to the first scene.Abby learns what happened and climbs up the hospital building to see Thomas after speaking to the front desk worker who noticed that Abby is barefoot upon departure and couldn’t find her afterwards. She knocks on the window and he points to his throat, unable to speak, and leans out of the window; Abby drinks his blood. Thomas passes out and falls to his death. That night, Owen is awakened by Abby who insists he verbally invite her in. She spends the night in his bed upon discarding her clothes and agrees to be his girlfriend. The next day, Owen’s class goes ice-skating on the river. Kenny and his friends threaten to throw Owen into a hole in the ice. Emboldened by his relationship with Abby, Owen hits Kenny with a metal pole, splitting his left ear and causing him to scream in pain. At the same moment, several kids spot a body encased in the ice and begin screaming. It is the body of Jack, who Thomas threw into the (then unfrozen) river. Along with the body is Thomas’s bag.Later, Owen sees Abby and hoping to make a blood pact with her, cuts his finger. Unable to control herself, Abby laps up a drop of Owen’s blood revealing her vampire form. Not wanting to hurt Owen, she flees and instead attacks a woman named Virginia upon jumping out of a tree. Virginia’s boyfriend Larry witnesses the attack and calls an ambulance upon chasing her off. The next night, Abby admits to Owen that she is a vampire and that Thomas was not her father. Owen discovers an aged photo of her with Thomas as a young boy. As Thomas continued to age, he posed as Abby’s father while she did not physically age past twelve. In the hospital the next morning, a nurse goes into Virginia’s unit to open the curtains and finds Virginia feasting on her own bloody wrists. She has been turned into a vampire by Abby. As sunlight enters the room, Virginia bursts into flames that quickly spread throughout the unit, killing them both and setting the entire floor on fire.Owen sneaks out to spend the night at Abby’s. The next morning, the detective forces his way into Abby’s apartment and finds her asleep. He begins to uncover a window but is distracted by Owen. Abby wakes and attacks the detective to feed on his blood. The dying detective appeals to Owen for help, but Owen does not intervene. Abby tells Owen she will have to leave town. They share a kiss and he watches tearfully as she enters a taxi and leaves.During Owen’s swim class, Kenny, his sadistic older brother Jimmy, and their friends, are seeking revenge for the injury Owen had inflicted to Kenny’s ear. They ambush Owen and throw him into the pool. Jimmy says that if Owen can hold his breath underwater for three minutes, he will only be cut on the cheek, otherwise Jimmy will poke out one of Owen’s eyes. Owen is forced underwater by Jimmy. After one minute, Kenny and his friends realize this is excessive and try telling Jimmy to stop, but he angrily refuses. But then an unseen assailant breaks through the skylight, attacking the bullies, and Owen sees torn-off limbs sinking into the pool all around him. Owen emerges from pool to catch his breath and then sees a pair of familiar bare feet come near him. He then looks up, faintly smiling to see an off-screen Abby.Owen leaves town in broad daylight on a train, traveling with a large trunk. From inside, a message in Morse code is tapped out. Owen taps out a response and then looks out the window, quietly singing to himself “Eat some now, save some for later,” the jingle of Now and Later candy, which Abby and Owen had shared in an earlier scene.This is complex and multi-layered horror story-telling, and a minor masterpiece. Well worth watching in its own right – and then worth comparing with the original, Let The Right One In, so you can judge for yourself which is the most effective. Unlike many Hollywood remakes of European films, this one really was worth doing

REVIEW: DON’T BREATHE

CAST

Jane Levy (Evil Dead 2013)
Stephen Lang (Avatar)
Dylan Minnette (Goosebumps)
Dabiel Zovatto (It Follows)

Rocky, Alex, and Money are three Detroit delinquents who make a living by breaking into homes secured by Alex’s father’s security company and selling the items they take. However, the person buying the stolen goods from Money doesn’t give them a fair price, and not nearly enough to fund Rocky’s dream of moving to California with her little sister Diddy to escape their neglectful mother and her alcoholic boyfriend. Money receives a tip that an Army veteran living in an abandoned Detroit neighborhood has $300,000 in cash in his house, given as a settlement after a wealthy young woman, Cindy Roberts, killed his daughter in a car accident. The three stake out the house and discover that the man is in fact blind. After some deliberation, they decide to break into the house at night.That night, the three approach the house and drug the Blind Man’s dog. Finding all the entrances locked, Rocky enters the house through a small window and lets the other two in. The group searches the house for the money but are unable to find it; assuming it is behind a locked door, Money shoots the lock. The noise wakes up the Blind Man, who subdues Money and murders him with his own gun. Rocky hides in a closet, where she witnesses the Blind Man open a safe to check on his money. After he leaves, Alex finds Rocky in the closet, and the two open the safe and take the money. Meanwhile, the Blind Man finds Money’s and Rocky’s shoes downstairs, and realizes that Money was not the only intruder.Rocky and Alex evade the Blind Man and find a door leading to the basement. There, they are surprised by a restrained, gagged woman in a homemade padded cell. She shows them a newspaper article mentioning Cindy and the car accident; they realize that she is Cindy, held captive by the Blind Man. They free her and run for the storm cellar door, only to be surprised by the Blind Man, who mistakenly shoots and kills Cindy with Money’s gun. Rocky and Alex flee into the cellar while the Blind Man, enraged at Cindy’s death, shuts off the lights. After a struggle, Alex knocks out the Blind Man, and Rocky follows him back upstairs.After blocking the basement door, they encounter the Blind Man’s Dog, who has recovered from being drugged. Alex and Rocky are unable to unlock the front door in time before the dog attacks them, and so they flee into the upstairs bedroom, where they find themselves trapped by the barred windows. Rocky escapes the room through a ventilation duct, while the dog breaks into the bedroom and attacks Alex, who falls out of a window onto a skylight and briefly falls unconscious. When Alex awakens, the Blind Man shoots out the skylight and later manages to corner Alex in his utility room, where he appears to kill him with a pair of pruning shears. Meanwhile, the dog pursues Rocky through the vents, and she is eventually captured by the Blind Man. She wakes up restrained in the basement, where the Blind Man reveals that Cindy was carrying his child in order to replace the one she killed. He then prepares to artificially inseminate Rocky with a turkey baster, but then it is revealed that the Blind Man accidentally stabbed Money’s corpse with the shears as opposed to his intended victim of a passed out Alex, who has now become conscious and manages to save Rocky and handcuff the Blind Man.Rocky and Alex are unable to call the police, as their blood is all over the house, so they try to leave through the front door, but the Blind Man breaks free and shoots Alex dead. Rocky flees, but is pursued by the dog. She manages to trap the dog in her car trunk, but is recaptured by the Blind Man and dragged back to his house. Inside, Rocky disorients the Blind Man by setting off his house’s loud alarm system, then beats him with a crowbar and knocks him into the basement; he inadvertently shoots himself as he falls. Believing him dead, Rocky escapes before the police arrive.With the money, Rocky prepares to leave Detroit with Diddy on a train to Los Angeles. Before boarding the train, she sees a news report stating that the Blind Man killed two intruders (Alex and Money) in his house and is in stable condition at the hospital, but did not report Rocky or the stolen money.Don’t breathe is a gripping survival – horror which conjures its scares not only with jumpscares but within its atmosphere as well as its villain. The suspense and tension is sure to leave you struggling to breathe.

REVIEW: GOOSEBUMPS (2015)

CAST
Jack Black (School of Rock)
Dylan Minnette (Lost)
Odeya Rush (The Giver)
Ryan Lee (Super 8)
Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone)
Jillian Bell (22 Jump Street)
Halston Sage (Bad neighbours)
Steven Krueger (The originals)
Ken Marino (Agent Carter)
Zach Cooper and his mother Gale move to the town of Madison, Delaware. While settling in, Zach meets his new neighbor Hannah and her father, known as “Mr. Shivers”. Zach and Hannah become quick friends, but Mr. Shivers frequently warns Zach to avoid contact with them. At Madison High School where Gale works as the vice-principal, Zach befriends Champ, a socially awkward student. The next night, Zach hears Mr. Shivers and Hannah arguing, followed by Hannah screaming. He calls the police, but Mr. Shivers assures the officers that the noise came from his television. Fearing Hannah is in danger, Zach tricks Mr. Shivers into going to the police station for further questioning and breaks into his house with Champ’s help. The two find a shelf containing many Goosebumps manuscripts, all of which are locked. Zach unlocks one of the books, but when Hannah discovers them, Zach drops the book, releasing the titular character of The Abominable Snowman of Pasadena that breaks out of the house. They pursue the monster to an ice skating rink, where Mr. Shivers appears and imprisons it back into the book.
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On the way home, Mr. Shivers reveals that he is Goosebumps author R.L. Stine. He created the stories as a child to terrorize the people that made fun of him, but the monsters came to life and became uncontrollable, so he had to trap them inside their manuscripts. Returning to the house, they find Slappy from the Night of the Living Dummy, which was accidentally unlocked before, waiting for them. Angry at being imprisoned, Slappy burns his own manuscript and flees in The Haunted Car. They are attacked by the lawn gnomes from Revenge of the Lawn Gnomes, but when Stine and the kids try to smash them, each of the gnomes reform, making them realize that they can only run away.
Slappy releases several monsters, letting them rampage under his command. Zach suggests Stine to write a new book that will trap every monster, but he can only do it with his special typewriter which is at the high school. On the way there, Brent Green from My Best Friend Is Invisible and the giant praying mantis from A Shocker on Shock Street attack Stine’s car, so they are forced into hiding. The titular Werewolf of Fever Swamp pursues them into an abandoned supermarket, only to be run over by Zach’s aunt Lorraine.
As they cut through the cemetery, Zach notices that Hannah glows blue in the moonlight. After evading the Graveyard Ghouls from Attack of the Graveyard Ghouls, they manage to make it to the high school. There, Zach privately questions Stine about Hannah, and Stine reveals that she is a Goosebumps character (from The Ghost Next Door) he created to cope with his loneliness, of which she is seemingly unaware. Stine finds the typewriter and starts writing a new story based on the events around them, while Zach leads the students in fending off all the released monsters that are storming the building. Slappy confronts Stine and breaks his fingers with the typewriter case before the story is finished.
Stine, Zach, Champ and Hannah board a school bus and go to an abandoned amusement park. There, Slappy lets out the blob from The Blob that Ate Everyone. Stine then hands the book and typewriter to Zach, and distracts the blob by allowing it to devour him alive. Zach finishes the story, but is reluctant to open the book because Hannah will also be sucked inside it. Revealing she knew the truth about herself all along, Hannah opens the book, sucking Slappy and all the other monsters into it; she bids farewell to Zach with a kiss before she is also sucked in.
Sometime later, Stine has started working as Zach’s English teacher. After class, Zach is surprised and delighted to see that Hannah is there and Stine reveals to Zach that he wrote her back into existence with another book. She and Zach kiss and leave school together while Stine burns Hannah’s manuscript, making her permanently real. As he prepares to leave the school, he sees the typewriter typing by itself inside its display case. To Stine’s horror, Brent Green has evaded imprisonment and begins writing a story titled The Invisible Boy’s Revenge.
It’s a fun story even if you are not aware of Goosebumps, but I’m sure if you are a huge fan, you’ll get a real kick out of seeing some of the monsters from your favorite books/TV epoisodes make an appearance on the big screen.

REVIEW: LOST – SEASON 1-6

Image result for lost tv logo

MAIN CAST

Matthew Fox (Alex Cross)
Evangeline Lilly (Ant-Man)
Naveen Andrews (Planet Terror)
Jorge Garcia (Alcatraz)
Emilie de Ravin (Roswell)
Maggie Grace (The Fog)
Josh Holloway (Colony)
Yunjin Kim (Shiri)
Daniel Dae Kim (Insurgent)
Dominic Monaghan (Flashforward)
Harold Perrineau (Constantine)
Malcolm David Kelley (Saving Grace)
Ian Sommerhalder (The Vampire Diaries)
Terry O’Quinn (Alias)
Michelle Rodriguez (The Fast and The Furious)
Cynthia Watros (Finding Carter)
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Suicide Squad)
Elizabeth Mitchell (V)
Henry Ian Cusick (24)
Rodrigo Santoro (Westworld)
Kiele Sanchez (30 Days of Night: Dark Days)
Jeremy Davies (Hannibal)
Michael Emerson (Saw)
Rebecca Mader (Iron Man 3)
Ken Leung (X-Men: The Last Stand)
Jeff Fahey (The Lawnmower Man)
Nestor Carbonell (Bates Motel)
Zuleikha Robinson (Homeland)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Fredric Lehne (Zero Dark Thirty)
L. Scott Caldwell (The Net)
Kimberley Joseph (Xena)
Greg Grunberg (Heroes)
Billy Ray Gallion (Castle)
John Terry (Zodiac)
Veronica Hamel (The Last Leprchaun)
Neil Hopkins (The Net 2.0)
Michael Deluise (Wayne’s World)
Kristin Richardson (Rock Star)
William Mapother (Powers)
Mira Furlan (Babylon 5)
Andrea Gabriel (2 Broke Girls)
Nick Jameson (24)
Keir O’Donnell (Wedding Crashers)
Charles Mesure (V)
Tamara Taylor (Bones)
Robert Patrick (Terminator 2)
Swoosie Kurtz (Mike & Molly)
Kevin Tighe (K-9)
Zack Ward  (Postal)
Julie Bowen (Modern Family)
Daniel Roebuck (Final Destination)
Beth Broderick (Sabrina: TTW)
Anson Mount (CDollhouse)
Saul Rubinek (Warehouse 13)
Katey Sagal (8 Simple Rules)
Sam Anderson (Angel)
Marguerite Moreau (Easy)
DJ Qualls (Road Trip)
Brett Cullen (Injustice)
Rachel Ticotin (Total Recall)
Michael Cudlitz (The Walking Dead)
Lindsey Ginter (Hercules: TLJ)
Francois Chau (Stargate SG.1)
Adetokumboh M’Cormack (Blood Diamond)
M.C. Gainey (Django Unchained)
Kim Dickens (Hallow Man)
Kevin Dunn (Samantha Who?)
Theo Rossi (Luke Cage)
Tania Raymonde (Texas Chainsaw 3D)
Evan Handler (Californication)
Gabrielle Fitzpatrick (MMPR: The Movie)
Michael Bowen (KIller x)
April Grace (A.I)
Alan Dale (Ugly Betty)
Paula Malcolmson (Caprica)
Andrew Divoff (Wishmaster)
Aisha Hinds (Cult)
Nathan Fillion (Firefly)
Fionnula Flanagan (The Others)
Diana Scarwid (Wonderfalls)
Cheech Marin (Machete)
Sung Hi Lee (Nurse Betty)
Shaun Toub (Iron Man)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)
Cleo King (Mike & Molly)
Patrick J. Adams (Legends of Tomorrow)
Billy Dee Williams (Star Wars)
Sonya Walger (Flashforward)
Marsha Thomason (White Collar)
Carrie Preston (True Blood)
Tracy Middendorf(Scream: The Series)
Lance Reddick (Fringe)
Fisher Stevens (Hackers)
Thekla Reuten (Highlander 5)
Anthony Azizi (Eagle Eye)
Graham McTavish (The Hobbit)
Andrea Roth (Ringer)
Grant Bowler (Ugly Betty)
George Cheung (Dark Angel)
Kevin Durand (X-Men Origins)
Faran Tahir (Supergirl)
Michelle Forbes (Powers)
Raymond J. Barry (Cold Case)
Said Taghmaoui (American Hustle)
Reiko Aylesworth (24)
Eric Lange (Cult)
Alice Evans (The Originals)
Mark Pellegrino (Chuck)
Titus Welliver (Agents of SHIELD)
Brad William Henke (Fury)
Hiroyuki Sanada (The Wolverine)
John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone)
David H. Lawrence XVII (Heroes)
Dylan Minnette (Goosebumps)
William Atherton (Ghostbusters)
Jodi Lyn O’Keefe (Halloween: H20)

Lost Season 1 succeeds first and foremost in character development. Lost is about relationships and before we can understand the dynamic behind the various relationships that develop over the course of a season, we need to understand what motivates these characters. This shows approach of having an individual episode focus on a single character through flashback, while formulaic, is a brilliant decision.

Episodes like “The Moth” (Charlie), “Confidence Man” (Sawyer) and “Walkabout” give us a wealth of information about the people we are being introduced to. These episodes and others are entertaining, exciting and contain pivotal character moments that are still important to the story even in season four and undoubtedly beyond. As I’ve said, this is the foundation for the whole universe that we are being presented and the team behind Lost nailed it right from the “Pilot”.

With character being such an important focus of the first season, the major story and mysteries surrounding the island are deliberately underdeveloped. After the survivors’ first night and their encounter with the monster we know this island is anything but normal, but we are only given glimpses from that point on. Over the course of the season we discover that there are other people on the island but beyond that we really don’t learn anything. The truth is that if the writers had tried to develop the story at the same pace as the characters it would have all been too much, too soon and the whole world they are trying to build would have come tumbling down like a deck of cards. Saying that the story is underdeveloped may sound like a complaint but I feel that it was the best decision. We are given a thin vertical slice of what is to come in later seasons and that is all we really need.

Of course, there are a plethora of individual character stories that thrive over the course of the season. Jin and Sun’s tumultuous relationship and betrayal, Charlie’s battle with drug addiction, Claire copping with being a parent and the love triangle between Kate, Jack and Sawyer are just a small few of the intriguing storylines that take place. All of these work to strengthen our understanding of the survivors and

Definitely of note is the story of John Locke and his relationship with the island. It’s a fascinating story to watch unfold over the course of the season and Locke’s journey is very different from the rest of the survivors. He starts perceiving the island as a living entity and develops an understanding of it that everyone else fails to understand and they fear him for it. I wouldn’t call him the villain of the show — for the first season I would say “the unknown” is the nemesis — but Locke definitely has his own agenda. Terry O’Quinn does an exceptional job of portraying Locke’s development over the course of the season. He brilliantly presents a troubled and destroyed man who has experienced a profound miracle and is now trying to make sense of what has happened to him.

As long time fans have come to expect, Michael Giacchino’s score adds an extra amount of depth to the season. He stands out as one of the premiere composers on television and Lost would simply not be the same without him. Most of Lost’s twists and turns may not have the same impact the second time around but that doesn’t mean that their importance isn’t appreciated. This show’s opening season set the foundation for things to come over the course of the series.

Attempting to build on the strength of Season One, Lost Season Two introduces several new characters and a new mysterious group to keep viewers enthralled. The introduction of the tail section characters does serve a purpose early in the season as it reinforces the Others as formidable villains. While the survivors on the beach have had it relatively easy, the tailies experience 48 days of hell in which their numbers shrink to a handful. Beyond that, Libby slides into a cute love story with Hurley while Ana Lucia stands around and takes up space until she is shot to death by Michael. Neither contributes a substantial amount to the season or the series besides being canon fodder for Michael.

As for Mr. Eko, he does have a couple of good flashback episodes but it also feels like the writers are never quite sure what to do with him. At some points he’s a passive observer to events unfolding and the later he actively gets involved in the pressing of the button. Those last few episodes in which he finds himself destined to push the button almost seem as if the were a scramble to give the character something substantial to do. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of Eko but I feel as if his character was completely mismanaged from the outside.

Only Bernard, who really doesn’t do much himself, feels like a relevant addition from the tail section as he ties up the loose end regarding Rose’s husband. Their reunion alone makes his introduction worth the effort. The best new addition to the Lost cast is the person we see the least throughout the season – Desmond David Hume. His appearance in the first couple of episodes of the season were used solely to introduce the concept of the button but his flashback and story in the two hour finale presented an intriguing new character. He’s a hopeless romantic on a quest to regain his honor and reunite with his true love. Desmond’s story is leaps and bounds more exciting than the rest of the new cast.

Locke’s journey this season doesn’t really start to get interesting until the introduction of Henry Gale. For the first half of the season we get to see Locke at his most confident. He’s finally opened his hatch and discovered a bevy of new treasures inside to support his claims that the island and his connection to it are part of some much larger destiny. However, Gale’s arrival brings with it seeds of doubt as John’s world begins to fall apart. This culminates in the discovery of the Pearl Station and Locke’s complete loss of faith in the button and the island. It’s a good journey that has a great conclusion in the finale.

I really enjoyed Sawyer’s return to form midway through this season. Sure it didn’t make much sense for Sawyer to turn the entire camp against him in “The Long Con” but it was one of my favorite story lines of the season. His return to a nastier, less fan-friendly Sawyer was short lived however as he fairly quickly crept back into the good graces of the rest of the group.

Michael’s battle to get Walt back from the Others had him depart midway through the season but his return in the final few episodes of the season were thoroughly entertaining. His murder of Ana Lucia and Libby gave way to an interesting game of deception as Michael is forced to convince the survivors that Henry was behind their deaths. His absolutely disgust in himself for taking a life mixed with the continued desperation he has to reunite with his son makes for some of the best character moments of the entire season. Harold Parrineau does a fantastic job of portraying Michael’s spastic range of emotions in those final few episodes.

The real gem of this season and my favorite story arc is the introduction of Michael Emerson as Henry Gale. He spends most of his time confined in the Swan Station but that doesn’t stop him from being a formidable foe for the survivors of Flight 815. With the survivors fractured and keeping secrets from one another, Henry frequently manages to turn one survivor against the other. He’s favorite prey is John Locke who we already know is quite susceptible to snide comments and underhanded suggestions. Henry turns Locke inside out and uses him against Jack causing the group of survivors to lose focus. Its brilliant to watch unfold and Emerson brings a lot of weight to the role.

This season is easily broken down into two separate parts; the first six episodes that aired before an eight week hiatus and then the rest of the season. Even though the first six are considered part of the third season, they feel much more like a prologue. Very little time is spent with the survivors on the beach and the main focus of the story is Jack (Matthew Fox), Kate (Evangeline Lilly) and Sawyer’s (Josh Holloway) imprisonment by the Others. T

The second half of the season also featured some of the show’s best episodes to date. Including the brilliantly told “Flashes Before Your Eyes”, which is an interesting twist on Lost’s  flashback scenario. Other episodes like “The Man from Tallahassee” and “The Brig” answered long asked questions while “The Man Behind the Curtain” and “One of Us” gave us a much needed back-story on both Ben (Michael Emerson) and Juliet (Elizabeth Mitchell).

Really, the only weak point of the final sixteen-episode run would be “Stranger in a Strange Land”, an episode that primarily focused on the origins and meaning of Jack’s tattoo. We still don’t really understand the significance and we’re not too sure if the writers do either as they never bring up the subject again for the rest of the season. Even “Expos¿”, an episode that featured fan-hated Nikki (Kiele Sanchez) and Paulo (Rodrigo Santoro), told an interesting “Twilight Zone” style story and we couldn’t be happier with the conclusion.

If you were to suggest that the theme for season one was man vs. the unknown and that season two’s was man vs. machine  it would be fair to suggest that the theme for season three is man vs. man, as the main crux of the season deals with the survivors of Flight 815 dealing with the Others. There is a constant power struggle between the two groups and the narrative frequently shifts back and forth from the Others camp to the survivor’s beach. Intertwined throughout, are personal struggles for several of the characters in both camps and we realize as the story pushes forward that even though they are enemies, their survival appears to be dependant on each other.

At the core of this struggle is Benjamin Linus, and it would be a sin not to mention Michael Emerson’s fantastic performance as the enigmatic leader of the Others. He never once falters in portraying a creepy and unnerving nemesis for the survivors of Flight 815 and in particular, John Locke. Terry O’Quinn puts in an equally inspired performance and every time these two appeared on screen together, you knew something special was about to happen. Everything culminates in what can be described as one of the best season finales in recent memory. Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof deliver a brilliantly told story that is full of emotion, suspense and action.

After a stunning conclusion to the show’s third season, the bar was raised and much was expected of the fourth season of Lost. With the final three seasons reduced to sixteen episodes each and a clear finish line. The creative team could now focus on telling their story without having to worry about how many episodes they had left to work with. Season four is the first to benefit and delivers a faster paced and leaner story that expands the Lost universe in some unexpected ways and delves into the mystery that was introduced at the end of last season.The “flash-forward” at the end of last season introduced an exciting new way in which Lost stories could be told. The use of these flash-forwards continues through the fourth season, revealing that even more Oceanic survivors made it off the island and also introduces an intriguing conspiracy of silence regarding those who weren’t so lucky. This storyline is the backbone of the fourth season as we discovered who was fortunate enough to escape the island and who was left behind. This is arguably the series’ best story arc since the mystery surrounding the hatch and is a well-developed, tightly paced narrative that actually has a satisfying conclusion at the end of the season.

The benefit of a shortened schedule is apparent and this season has far less “filler” than previous outings. Less episodes means that every minute of screen time becomes that much more precious and the outcome is a season that doesn’t have what we’d consider a bad episode in the bunch. Even this season’s Kate-centric episode is decent when compared to previous years’ outings. There are plenty of episodes that you will want to revisit here, including the pivotal “The Constant” that is a game-changer when it comes to the series’ mythology. It also features Henry Ian Cusick’s best performance as Desmond to date and one of the more memorable Michael Giacchino scores. The rest of the season is filled to the brim with moments that will have any Lost fan riveted.


Acting wise, all the great performances that you have come to expect from the series’ regulars are present. Michael Emerson and Terry O’Quinn continue to put in stellar performances as Ben Linus and John Locke respectively. As has been stated many times throughout the last couple of seasons, these two have some phenomenal chemistry on screen and they spend a great deal of time verbally sparring with each other this season. The newcomers to the show are no slouches either. Veteran actor Jeff Fahey is memorable as helicopter pilot Frank Lapidus. Ken Leung has already become a series favorite as the sharp-tongued Miles Straume and while some fans have had a negative reaction towards Rebecca Mader’s Charlotte Lewis, it is hard to deny that she puts in a respectable performance here.

Jeremy Davies deserves special recognition for his portrayal of physicist – Daniel Faraday. Simply put, Davies’ is awesome as the polite and awkward scientist whose unique viewpoint of the island’s core mysteries is a benefit to the series. If given more screen time he would have probably stolen the show and he stands alongside Ben Linus and Desmond Hume as yet another exceptional new addition to the series.

With the introduction of new characters and the already expanded Lost cast, some regulars take a step back and are not featured as prominently as you would expect. Most notable are series heavyweights Jack and Kate, who are present and accounted for, but see their roles slightly reduced as other characters are brought to the forefront. As the cast and story expand, it has obviously become a necessity to focus on a wider range of characters. The series’ writers are equal to the task and do a good job of handling a large cast without forgetting anyone in the mix.

Last season, Lost successfully made the transition into the realm of science fiction with classic episodes like “The Constant” and of course, making the island literally disappear in “There’s no Place Like Home.” Season 5 dives head first into weighty science fiction concepts with time travel playing a major role in the narrative for the entire year. There are inherent risks with introducing time travel into a story that is already as complex as the one Lost has become over the past few years. For the most part, the writers do a good job of keeping the time travel aspect of the story from becoming too complicated, but there is no dispute that it is the driving force of the season’s narrative.

The first half of the season is comprised of two very distinct storylines. One of those being Jack Shephard’s desperate attempt to reunite the Oceanic Six in order to return to the island and the other being the journey of those left behind as they find themselves inexplicably traveling through time. The Oceanic Six storyline is definitely the weaker of the two. The story of the Six, hours before they return to the island was weakened by a slow start with the somewhat Hurley-centric “The Lie.” This is an episode that featured a little too much of Hugo Reyes’ wacky exploits as he transports an unconscious Sayid around Los Angeles. The rest of the Oceanic Six story is essentially a waiting game as we watch the pieces fall into place so that these characters can return to where we really want them to be – on the island. In fact, their return to the island in “316” feels rushed, almost as if the writers realized that the best place for these characters is back on the island.

The aptly named “The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham” is the best episode that takes place almost entirely off the island. The story chronicles John Locke’s attempt to convince the Oceanic Six that they need to return to the island in order to save those left behind. It’s a tragic story for John Locke who has spent the last four seasons in the belief that the survivors of Flight 815 are tied by a single destiny but only in death does he finally make people believe. It’s a well-scripted story and wonderfully acted by Terry O’Quinn who does a great job of portraying an interesting transition for Locke on screen.

Locke isn’t the only one who goes through a transition this season as Benjamin Linus is forced into a situation that is quite surprising for the character. Without delving into too much detail, the dynamic between Locke and Ben changes quite a bit but the great chemistry between O’Quinn and Michael Emerson is still as exceptional as it has always been. Linus fans should not be disappointed by some of the great developments for the character this season.

On the island, Sawyer and the rest of the survivors left behind are forced to cope with the fact that they are constantly flashing through time, either to the past or the future. The approach taken here is straightforward and clearly laid out in the first episode of the season; you cannot change events in the past – whatever happened, happened and couldn’t of happened any other way. Faraday acts as the mouth piece for much of the technobabble in the early part of the season with Sawyer playing the part of the ‘everyman’ who constantly questions why things are happening the way they are. This allows the writers an opportunity to ease the audience into this shift of events without making things too complex to follow. There is plenty of exposition, but with Sawyer’s classic charm to offset Faraday’s jargon, it makes it a lot easier to swallow.

Time travel is utilized to its fullest here to reveal some of the island’s back-story over the last 50 years. Sawyer and co. pay a visit to the Others of the 1950s and are introduced to past leaders of the mysterious group. We also see some much-needed loose ends tied up as we finally learn more about Rousseau and her research team and we also discover why Richard Alpert visited a young Locke just one season ago. As secrets are revealed and key puzzle pieces are slid into place it’s surprising to see just how well everything fits together. Some of this is certainly due to the asset of knowing how many episodes you have left to tell your story in, but I’m hard pressed to find many plot holes in any of the explanations given. Cuse and Lindelof deserve credit for maintaining a watertight narrative throughout most of the season.

Season 6 of Lost is quite possibly the most scrutinized season of television in history. With both longtime fans of the series and curious outsiders wondering if this season would deliver both on answers and a satisfying conclusion, series show runners Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse had an incredible task on their hands. With an edge-of-your-seat conclusion to Season 5, the small band of survivors we’ve grown to love set out on their final journey against a villainous shape shifter on an island of mystery.

In Season 4, “The Constant” established Lost as a science fiction series when it introduced time travel into the equation. From that point forward, until the conclusion of Season 5, the series maintained and expanded on that concept by sending the survivors hurtling through time until they eventually landed in 1974 (or 1977, for those on Ajira 316). Season 6 drops the time travel story completely and introduces a different sci-fi concept: alternate realities. It appears that the detonation of Jughead in “The Incident” created a parallel universe in which events played out slightly different and Oceanic Flight 815 never crashed.Much like flash-backs and flash-forwards, we experience this parallel universe through a series of “centric” flash-sideways featuring the lives of these characters as if the crash had never happened. This gives Lindelof and Cuse a unique opportunity to reexamine the lives of these characters from a completely different perspective. The flash-sideways giving us incredibly important character moments and an intriguing new story that’s both surprising and engaging. With each “centric” flash-sideways story, parallels are drawn to the character’s plight while they are on the island. This relationship between timelines establishes a key connection between both storylines that give the flash-sideways an importance outside of simply being a different perspective on how things could have ultimately played out.

Connections between the two universes are explored more thoroughly as the series progresses and we do ultimately get a resolution to the flash-sideways storyline. How satisfying that resolution is will ultimately be based on a number of factors that stem from your own expectations. In other words, it’s a polarizing conclusion to a very unique story and you’re probably either going to love it or hate it. I loved the way the flash-sideways story ended because it satisfied the need for closure.

“Happily Ever After” stands out as the episode that had the most impact on both universes. Living, breathing Desmond David Hume (Henry Ian Cusick) has his consciousness transported into what we now know to be the afterlife and acts as the genesis for everything that happens in the “flash-sideways” realm after his departure. Desmond is also the catalyst for most events that occur leading up to and including the finale. He’s seen as nothing more than a tool by those around him; a means to an end. However, Desmond is infused with his own sense of purpose. With the events he experienced in the other universe infecting his mind, Desmond sets out to free those remaining on the island from their pain and suffering and take them to a better place. It’s funny how both Desmonds are essentially driven by the same goal, with only one succeeding. But Desmond’s error on the island gives Jack and Kate (Evangeline Lilly) the window they need to stop the Man in Black.untitledTerry O’Quinn, who spent most of the past five seasons playing John Locke, slips into his new role as the embodiment of dark temptation with ease. We actually saw him as the Man in Black last season, but even O’Quinn didn’t realize that he was technically playing a different character until close to the finale. Here he’s allowed to truly enjoy portraying a villain and it’s obvious he’s having a hell of a lot of fun in the role.The Man in Black tests the survivors like never before. Offering them freedom, survival and even  answers to some of the island’s more pressing mysteries. The way that the survivors respond to this temptation ultimately defines who they truly are, even if it takes them some time to make the right decision. Again, just like the flash-sideways, this gives us yet another fascinating new perspective on these characters. We see them at both their weakest and their strongest this season.Season 6 does a good job of explaining some mysteries while others are left up to the viewer to dissect for years to come. Lost: Season 6 is a strong conclusion to what has been an extraordinary series. All the elements that made the past five seasons so great are here, with the added bonus of this being the final season and the stakes being raised for all the characters. Whether or not the answers provided are satisfying or cover enough ground will vary drastically for different viewers, but ultimately, Lost: Season 6 delivers closure on a story that has captivated us for so long.

REVIEW: AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. – SEASON 2

CAST

Clark Gregg (When A Stranger Calls)
Ming-Na Wen (Stargate Universe)
Brett Dalton (Killing Lincoln)
Chloe Bennet (Nashville)
Ian De Caestecker (Filth)
Elizabeth Henstridge (Reach Me)
Nick Blood (Identicals)
Adrianna Palicki (G.J. Joe: Retaliation)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Hayley Atwell (Cinderella)
B.J. Britt (Veronica Mars)
Neal McDonough (Arrow)
Reed Diamond (Dollhouse)
Henry Simons (No Good Deed)
Patton Oswalt (Blade: trinity)
Lucy Lawless (Ash Vs Evil Dead)
Adrian Pasdar (Heroes)
Kenneth Choi (Street Kings)
Simon Kassianides (Quantum of Solace)
Brian Patrick Wade (The Big Bang Theory)
Ruth Negga (World War Z)
Maya Stojan (Castle)
Dylan Minnette (Goosebumps)
Kyle MacLachlan (Dune)
Brian Tee (Jurassic World)
Monique Gabriela Curnen (The Dark Knight)
Joel Gretsch (V)
Tim DeKay (Swordfish)
Dichen Lachman (Dollhouse)
Lou Ferrigno Jr. (The Young and The Restless)
Jamie Harris (Rise of The Planet of The Apes)
Blair Underwood (Gattaca)
Christine Adams (Batman Begins)
Edward James Olmos (Green Hornet)
Luke Mitchell (Home and Away)
J. August Richards (Angel)
Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother)
Jaimie Alexander (The Last Stand)

For many, Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD in its first season  became a forgotten and/or overlooked series, which was too bad, and yet understandable. This was Marvel’s first TV series, coming off of an amazing run of movies and it just didn’t deliver when it debuted. The initial episodes felt unfocused and badly paced,but many people people felt the show improved when SHIELD notably improving in the wake of Captain America: The Winter Soldier’s events.In season 2 the pacing was hugely improved, with storylines no longer taking forever to bubble up again and secrets no longer being kept both from the audience and the characters that no one on screen seemed in a hurry to deal with. Instead, there was payoff to big plot threads happening consistently, as both lingering questions from Season 1 and newly introduced plotlines were deftly dealt with and tied up, while paving the way for new mysteries. On the villain front, there was some nicely done twisting and turning regarding who the Big Bad would be in Season 2. We began with a focus on Hydra leader Whitehall and while Reed Diamond had fun in the role, Whitehall rarely had moments that made him feel like a truly credible threat. When he was killed in the midseason finale, it seemed Kyle MacLachlan’s Cal would take center stage as SHIELD’s main foe… but there was yet another swerve in store.The fact that Skye’s mother, Jiaying (Dichen Lachman), was alive at all was a surprise and we soon saw that she was the leader of the Inhumans and could be pretty strict and cold when it came to doing what she felt was right to protect her people… but that was all hiding just what a zealot she had become, convinced war with humanity was inevitable and willing to begin it herself (via a staged attack) to get all her people on her side. The fact that Jiaying was the true main villain of the season was a subtle, slow reveal and much appreciated for how it was pulled off. We understood the tragic events that had changed her, even as we came to see she, and not Cal, who was the most dangerous.Oh, and did I say Inhumans? This was also a huge part of the season, which was especially notable because it indicated that behind the scenes, Marvel had decided Agents of SHIELD could lead the way in a much more notable way than before, rather than being simply reactive to the events of the films. We know an Inhumans film is coming in a few years, but now this series has already introduced the concept into the MCU. Presumably the film will focus on the Royal Family and a very different group of Inhumans than the ones we met here, but this show was still allowed to be the first part of the MCU to give us Terrigen Mist, the Kree origins and all the major background elements of the Inhumans.
In general, SHIELD felt less restrained this season. The first couple of episodes utilized the notable Marvel villain Absorbing Man, while the reveals that Cal and Skye were, respectively, Mr. Hyde and Daisy Johnson/Quake, rooted this show much more into its Marvel Comics roots.While it began in the latter half of Season 1, SHIELD: Season 2 also benefited from much stronger characterization. While there were so many characters they all didn’t get as much time as might have been ideal, they still all felt much more distinct and specific than the show’s early days, and the fact that several members came and went and shifted allegiances kept things interesting. Ming-Na Wen was always a great presence on the show, but Melinda May was given a lot more depth, as we met her ex-husband, Andrew (Blair Underwood) and finally got the dark details of that incident in Bahrain that we kept hearing about in Season 1. The rift between Fitz and Simmons added a lot more textures to both of them, and was beautifully played by Iain De Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge, while Coulson, now the director of SHIELD, had to reevaluate his approach, making much harsher decisions that pained him, but felt more involving and believable than the overly sappy, often naive approach that he began the series with.As for Skye, the writers and producers certainly still were determined to make her the most important and revered character on the show, but this season, it actually felt like they were earning her that position. Sure, we had to accept that she’d apparently gotten one hell of a crash course in being a badass fighter from May between seasons, but it felt good to see her actually be such a formidable presence in the action scenes – and Chloe Bennet really rose to the challenge of her characters new dynamic. And by making Skye both an Inhuman and Daisy/Quake, we at least had tangible reasons she would be important to us as viewers, beyond Coulson simply saying she was awesome over and over again. Bennet and Kyle MacLachlan also were able to build a strong rapport together as the estranged father/daughter duo. Speaking of MacLachlan, what a job he did. While Dichen Lachman brought the perfect pained righteousness to Jiaying, who truly believed what she was doing was right, MacLachlan had the freedom to go absolutely crazy as the absolutely crazy Cal and wow, was he fun. He expertly conveyed his character’s wish to be a happy, doting husband and father intermixed with his violent rage and gave the season some of its best moments – goofy Mr. Hyde makeup/visuals in the season finale aside.The new additions to the SHIELD crew were also appreciated, with Nick Blood’s Lance Hunter, Henry Simmons’ Mack and Adrianne Palicki ‘s Bobbi Morse/Mockingbird all fitting in very well. With such a big group of agents, someone was bound to be overlooked, and unfortunately, that was Trip (B.J. Britt), who never really got a storyline of his own – except to be the big midseason death. Which wasn’t as impactful as it could have been because he felt like a character with potential that was never fully utilized in any capacity (Remember when he and Simmons were flirting?).The “Other SHIELD” storyline was an interesting inclusion, with Edward James Olmos bringing exactly the gravity you’d expect him to as Gonzales. I liked the idea of he and Coulson being so opposed and yet very respectful of one another, in their own ways. I just wish we’d gotten a bigger payoff to that, as Gonzales was killed by Jiaying before he and Coulson really came to any sort of conclusion in their own conflict except on the “very begrudging/wary allies” level.I went into Season 2 very concerned about Grant Ward’s continuing presence on the series. His betrayal was a shot of Adrenalin the bland SHIELD crew needed and his actions had been too extreme and lethal to be forgiven or excused – but this is TV, where it seems any character can be redeemed. And I really didn’t want to see Ward redeemed, especially since Brett Dalton really found the character when he was allowed to play him as a villain. Thankfully, Season 2 didn’t try to bring Ward back onto the SHIELD team – in fact, by the end, he was more delightfully despicable than ever, torturing Bobbi and setting a trap to kill any SHIELD agent that attempted to rescue her and shooting and killing May, point blank, the first chance he had.SHIELD: Season 2 benefited from a show now unafraid to shake up the dynamic. Perhaps having to completely change everything about the series two thirds into the first season served as an inspiration, but from Simmons’ double agent status, to Gonzales’ crew taking over, the show rarely felt stagnant. The show’s always been in a difficult scenario – people love the interconnectivity of the MCU, but because the movie’s have the big superheroics covered, SHIELD felt hindered by not being able to deal with a lot of the bigger name heroes, in a way a series like The Flash (which isn’t connected to DC’s movies at all) doesn’t have to deal with. The decision to have Coulson and Skye begin to form a team of superpowered members seems to indicate those involved have decided its time to bring some more ongoing flash  to the series, even if it won’t be with the biggest name characters. Things will no doubt change in a big way again as a result, but right now, it’s exciting to ponder what’s coming next.