REVIEW: DAREDEVIL – SEASON 3

Charlie Cox in Daredevil (2015)

Starring

Charlie Cox (The Theory of Everything)
Deborah Ann Woll (Mother’s Day)
Elden Henson (The Butterfly Effect)
Joanne Whalley (Willow)
Jay Ali (The Fosters)
Wilson Bethel (Hart of Dixie)
Stephen Rider (The Butler)
Ayelet Zurer (Man of Steel)
Vincent D’Onofrio (Jurassic World)

Charlie Cox in Daredevil (2015)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Peter McRobbie (Licnoln)
Amy Rutberg (Recount)
Annabella Sciorra (Cop Land)
Geoffrey Cantor (Maniac)
Matt Gerald (Solace)
Meredith Salenger (Lake Placid)
Danny Johnson (Shades of Blue)
Sunita Deshpande (The Ridge: Origins)
Royce Johnson (Ghost in the Graveyard)
Ayelet Zurer (Man of Steel)

This weekend offers the return of one of the greatest superhero TV shows of all time, as Daredevil season 3 begins streaming on Netflix. The Marvel-Netflix partnership has mostly resulted in top-tier high-quality series, two seasons each of Jessica Jones and Luke Cage enjoying widespread acclaim, and one season each of The Punisher and The Defenders receiving solid positive reactions as well. The two prior seasons of Daredevil were fantastic, so season 3 has a lot to live up to.Vincent D'Onofrio in Daredevil (2015)Last month’s release of second 2 of the superhero series Iron Fist was followed weeks later by the sudden cancellation of that show by Netflix. This followed mostly negative reviews of the first season, and a season 2 critical consensus that recognized the show had improved a great deal while still being the weakest entry in the Marvel-Netflix lineup. Whether Iron Fist will appear in cameos or supporting roles in any of the other shows remains to be seen, but I’m betting he’ll pop up in Luke Cage season 3, or perhaps Cage and Fist will team up for a brand new show called Heroes For Hire. Regardless, the Marvel-Netflix corner of the MCU’s has quickly rebounded from the Iron Fist situation and negative news, as Daredevil season 3 proves.Taking loose inspiration from the 1986 fan-favorite comic book story arc “Born Again” by writer Frank Miller, season 3 picks up where The Defenders left off — Matt Murdock, aka Daredevil, is missing after a building exploded and collapsed on him and the assassin Elektra. Presumed dead, Murdock is critically injured and recuperating while imprisoned crime lord Wilson Fisk, aka the Kingpin, sets in motion a plan to get out of prison and eliminate all of his enemies. The story is a return to the crime-and-vigilantism focused narrative of the show’s first season, which evolved into a bit more of a fantastical/mystical narrative in season 2 (which was still great, just different from the seasons bookending it). There’s just enough sprinkling of adaption of certain plot points, character arcs, and scenes from “Born Again” to be familiar, while overall bringing entirely new concepts and storytelling to make it fresh and unpredictable.Charlie Cox in Daredevil (2015)The returning cast are all in top form again. Charlie Cox as Murdock/Daredevil delivers a complicated performance as a hero struggling with a complete emotional and moral breakdown, as well as a physical breakdown that challenges his sense of self and his mission. Cox also perfectly captures Murdock’s spiritual crisis within the larger themes about sin, forgiveness, and accountability. Cox’s fantastic, nuanced performance brings such believability to the situation, you can imagine this is how someone would act and feel if they actually ran around at night wearing a mask to save lives and fight crime. His sense of inevitability, that it’s his singular calling in life to live as Daredevil — more so even than living as Matt Murdock — makes even his most extreme decisions understandable and rational within his worldview.Elden Henson and Charlie Cox in Daredevil (2015)Deborah Ann Woll returns as Karen Page, with another tour de force performance making the character almost worthy of her own superhero series as a crusading reporter willing to stand up against the same villains against whom the superhuman costumed vigilantes do battle. Woll’s role is the single most important supporting character in any of the Marvel-Netflix shows, in terms of the dramatic weight and relevance she has for the narratives and for providing an audience surrogate at times. Woll treats every scene like she’s the star of the show, and it’s easy sometimes to forget she’s not. Elden Henson’s role as Foggy Nelson takes some particularly interesting turns this season, including of a moral nature, with Henson keeping an air of “in over his head” sensibilities to Foggy while also revealing how much the character can surprise himself in moments of crisis.Elden Henson and Jay Ali in Daredevil (2015)Henson smartly plays to the fact the character must be simultaneously frustrating and endearing, alternately Murdock’s friend who is reliable and trustworthy while also a guy who screws up and spills the wrong beans or lacks adequate faith in Matt, Karen, or himself. Vincent D’Onofrio continues to awe as Wilson Fisk, a role I’d previously thought was nearly impossible to fill because I couldn’t imagine any actor capturing the delicate balance between cunning villainy, secret vulnerabilities, and sheer larger-than-life presentation required to really get the character right. D’Onofrio not only proved me wrong, he actually managed to improve upon a character who already had decades of exceptional stories in the comics featuring many iconic arcs.Vincent D'Onofrio in Daredevil (2015)There is an undercurrent of pain and purpose to this incarnation of Fisk, as if even simple daily activities like eating or sitting quietly by himself take a toll on his soul and inflict physical discomfort. D’Onofrio’s Kingpin is magnificent, and worthy of transitioning into some of the MCU theatrical releases for at least a few cameos and supporting turns — it would be amazing to see him in a Spider-Man movie, for example.  fear saying too much about any of the newcomers to the cast, because their roles and specific natures are all better revealed to you through watching the episodes. However, I need to mention a few things about three actors in particular.Charlie Cox and Wilson Bethel in Daredevil (2015)Joanne Whalley is sublime in a role requiring quiet dignity in the face of a world that laughs at faith and belief in higher purpose, and the scenes between her and Cox are among the best moments of the season. Jay Ali brings an authentic sense of purpose and integrity coupled with the sort of self-righteousness and frustrated entitlement that can blind even good people to their mistakes, exacerbating the damage to themselves and others around them. And Wilson Bethel is ideal as an iconic character torn apart by inner demons he has long suppressed, fighting a dark desire to give in to his worst nature and put his amazing talents to use for those who were once his enemies.Vincent D'Onofrio in Daredevil (2015)The directing in Daredevil is always splendid, but this season requires even more inky noir than usual, as well as a gothic tone beyond what we saw in the first two seasons. The battle between the angels of our better nature and our base inclinations, and how often people can confuse the two — or justify blurring the lines between them when it suits a desired outcome — is at the heart of this season for all of the characters in one way or another, and that’s reflected consistently in the visual presentation. From lighting and color that speak to the overarching concepts as well as to individual shots and scenes, to the use of wide open space juxtaposed against literal or metaphorical restraint and confinement, season 3 is elevating the entire visual approach to the show.Charlie Cox and Deborah Ann Woll in Daredevil (2015)The fight choreography and action are once again the best of the entire Marvel TV category, and even superior to much of the action and fight scenes we seen in big-screen theatrical releases. They love their long tracking shots in Daredevil, and this season delivers the goods in spades once again — if you loved that hallway fight in season 1 (and let’s face it, who doesn’t love that sequence?) you’re in for some thrills in season 3, I assure you. img_2785Daredevil season 3 keeps that tradition of excellence alive once again. I’ve only seen the first six episodes that were available for preview, so I’ll be watching the clock til the entire show is available for me to binge on Friday like the rest of you fans. If the back half of the season is as good as the first, this looks to be the best season yet for the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen.

REVIEW: LUKE CAGE – SEASON 2

Mike Colter in Luke Cage (2016)

 

MAIN CAST

Mike Colter (Zero Dark Thirty)
Simone Missick (K-Town)
Theo Rossi (Red Sands)
Gabrielle Dennis (Bring It On 5)
Mustafa Shakir (The Deuce)
Finn Jones (Game of Thrones)
Jessica Henwick (Star wars: The Force Awakens)
Stephen Rider (The Butler)
Alfre Woodard (Star Trek: First Contact)

Mike Colter in Luke Cage (2016)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Rosario Dawson (Sin City)
Reg E. Cathey (Fantastic Four)
Thomas Q. Jones (Being Mary Jane)
Elden Henson (The Butterfly Effect)
Rob Morgan (Stranger Things)

Rosario Dawson and Mike Colter in Luke Cage (2016)Is it ever okay to do the wrong thing for the right reason?” That line, spoken by Misty Knight (Simone Missick) in episode six, is the key to the excellent second season of Luke Cage. Every one of its major characters is playing a game without rules, a game to save the district of Harlem, and there’s no way to win by playing clean. The constant interest comes from watching how dirty they’re prepared to get.Mike Colter in Luke Cage (2016)Since we last saw him, Cage (Mike Colter) has become a huge celebrity. The public track him via an app. Everyone wants selfies. He is as famous as it gets, but he’s flat broke (helping the helpless doesn’t pay) and he can’t save everyone. Luke’s a plaster over Harlem’s problems, not a cure. He can’t really help Harlem unless he can bring down Mariah Dillard (Alfre Woodard), whose fingerprints stain almost every crime in the neighbourhood. Cage is not the only one looking to bring Dillard to justice. John McIver, aka Bushmaster (Mustafa Shakir), has arrived in town with an old grudge to settle and some dark magic that could help him defeat Cage.Alfre Woodard and Mustafa Shakir in Luke Cage (2016)The introduction of Bushmaster, who can match Cage punch for punch with the help of some herbal witchcraft, may sound like the show is heading back to Diamondback territory, but that’s not the case. Bushmaster isn’t really here to serve as an adversary to Cage, but to Dillard, who is as much a series lead as Cage. And thank God. You can never have too much Alfre Woodard. Mariah is the best kind of villain because she thinks she’s doing the right thing and doing what she has to do to achieve it. She’s building hospitals and safe homes for single mothers, but she’s selling guns, blackmailing officials and having people murdered to achieve it. If she’s only hurting bad people to help good people, is she really so wrong? Her family’s history of betraying others is what brings Bushmaster after her. He’s the only man she can’t negotiate with.Simone Missick and Mike Colter in Luke Cage (2016)Most of Marvel’s superhero series suffer a mid-season sag, without enough plot to fill their episode quota. This season never succumbs to that because it’s not rooted in plot but character. There are episodes where little happens in terms of event, but characters deepen and crack, becoming less who they want to be and more who they have to be, even Luke. Luke Cage could now remove any superhero elements almost entirely and still function as a series. It’s become Game Of Thrones-esque in its battle for Harlem, and like that show, whoever claims the prize will do so with bloodied hands.

REVIEW: JESSICA JONES – SEASON 2

JessicaJonesS2_Horizontal-KeyArt_US-1-600x256

MAIN CAST

Krysten Ritter (Veronica Mars)
Rachael Taylor (Transformers)
Eka Darville (Power Rangers RPM)
J.R. Ramirez (Arrow)
Terry Chen (Bates Motel)
Leah Gibson (Rise of The Planet of The Apes)
Carrie-Anne Moss (The Matrix)
Janet McTeer (The White Queen)
Callum Keith Rennie (Battlestar Galactica)

Krysten Ritter in Jessica Jones (2015)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Hal Ozsan (Redline)
Maury Ginsberg (Two Guys and a Girl)
Angel Desai (Black Knight)
Rebecca De Mornay (Risky Business)
Elden Henson (Daredevil)
Wil Traval (Once Upon a Time)
David Tennant (Doctor Who)
John Ventimiglia (The Sopranos)
Lisa Tharps (Law & Order: SUV)
Rob Morgan (Daredevil)

The first season of Marvel’s Jessica Jones was a kind of miracle, combining a taut and entertaining superhero narrative with one of the most nuanced explorations of domestic abuse and sexual violence ever put on screen. Krysten Ritter’s prickly, guarded, hard-drinking Jessica is a female superhero with unique significance. Her very existence—a woman with literal super-strength who still fell prey to a male predator—skewers accepted narratives about victimhood, while her determined independence cuts through expectations of how women are “supposed” to act after assault.Krysten Ritter in Jessica Jones (2015)Ritter’s performance in the second season is a few degrees more emotional, as Jessica—prompted by her best friend Trish (Rachael Taylor)—finally begins to set in the trauma of her past. That trauma encapsulates not only Kilgrave’s abuse, but the car accident that killed her family and landed her in a hospital where mysterious, horrific, superpower-inducing experiments were conducted on her. And she’s not sad or scared about what was done to her; she’s furious. In an anger management support group she reluctantly attends, participants bounce a ball against the wall to relieve stress while they share their stories. Jessica bounces it so hard she smashes a hole in the wall, before confirming: “Still angry.” Female anger is often stigmatized; women put on a calm face for fear of being labelled crazy or hysterical or a bitch. To see it expressed so openly and so often in a Netflix comic-book adaptation feels faintly revolutionary.Rachael Taylor and Eka Darville in Jessica Jones (2015)That’s also true of the new season’s handling of Jessica’s sex life. When a midtown douche notices Jessica in a bar and leers—“Nice ass”—she wheels around and snaps, “What did you say?” Surely she’s about to kick his ass, you think. Smash-cut to: Jessica having joyless sex with this loser in a bathroom stall, her face a mask, her detachment painfully clear. It’s a stark contrast to her passionate clinches last season with Luke Cage (Mike Colter), which served to show that being raped did not define her. Then, sex was a way in which she reclaimed her body and her selfhood; now, it’s a way for her to dissociate. This coping mechanism is explored in greater depth following the introduction of her new love interest Oscar (JR Ramirez), a big-hearted family man who’s bewildered by Jessica’s resistance to intimacy.Krysten Ritter in Jessica Jones (2015)The plot thread driving the new season is Jessica and Trish trying to uncover the truth about 20 missing days from Jessica’s past: 20 days during which she went into hospital almost dead, and emerged with superpowers. Though she has total amnesia about this time, it gradually becomes clear that her origin story is similar to that of this season’s Big Bad (played by Janet McTeer), a mysterious, preternaturally strong young woman who was subjected to the same experiments as Jessica, and came out a “monster.” The presence of a super-powered villain terrorizing New York yet again only heightens the public backlash against “supers,” although the bigotry faced by Jessica and others like her is the one place where the show’s allegories feel clumsy, particularly in a scene where someone pointedly refers to “you people.”While the new season—at least for its first five episodes—lacks a threat as propulsive and engaging as Kilgrave, its ensemble also feels better served. Carrie Anne Moss’s steely, high-powered lawyer Jeri Hogarth, by now a mainstay of the Marvel TV universe, is propelled in a rich, moving new direction by some unexpectedly brutal news. And Trish’s history as a child star takes on new complexity when she’s forced by necessity to seek out a producer who assaulted her when she was a teenager. The moment in which Jessica confronts this particular creep, and denounces “pricks like you who think you can take whatever, or whoever, you want” would have been a thrill no matter the context, but in this Time’s Up moment in Hollywood it’s a particularly cathartic standout. As a female superhero whose anger makes her powerful, and whose trauma has no impact on her strength, Jessica Jones has never felt more essential.

REVIEW: THE DEFENDERS

CAST

Charlie Cox (Stardust)
Krysten Ritter (Veronica Mars)
Mike Colter (Zero Dark thirty)
Finn Jones (Game of Thrones)
Élodie Yung (Gods of Egypt)
Sigourney Weaver (Avatar)
Rachael Taylor (The Loft)
Eka Darville (Power Rangers RPM)
Elden Henson (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay)
Deborah Ann Woll (Ruby Sparks)
Jessica Henwick (Game of Thrones)
Ramón Rodríguez (The Taking of Pelham 123)
Rosario Dawson (Sin City)
Scott Glenn (The Silence of The Lambs)
Simone Missick (K-Town)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Wai Ching Ho (Cadillac Man)
Carrie-Anne Moss (Chuck)
Peter McRobbie (16 Blocks)
Rob Morgan (Stranger Things)
Marko Zaror (Machete Kills)
Amy Rutberg (NCIS: New Orleans)

 

The Defenders is Marvel’s best Netflix show, hands down.  While the crossover between Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, and Luke Cage can occasionally veer into a fragmented set of mini-episodes early on, the awesome foursome eventually unites to form a show greater than the sum of its parts. The street-level superheroes provide a fantastic eight-episode run with high stakes, a frenzied pace and, most importantly, effortless chemistry.Things don’t start off that way, though. The opening pair of episodes read almost as a greatest hits collection of each hero’s respective shows before the narrative eventually relents and shoehorns the plot in a comically convenient way for the four to come together. The lack of instant gratification can be grating, but this is easily relieved by the fun interaction between fan-favourites that leads up to the team-up. Misty Knight and Jessica Jones’ brief scenes are worth the price of admission alone and there are a few, shall we say interesting, crossovers you won’t see coming. Without giving too much away, a cataclysmic event is unleashed upon New York and The Defenders, each following their own leads, stumble into each other’s paths in the same building. And then things get good. Really, really good. Unsurprisingly, The Hand are the villains of the season and are led by Sigourney Weaver’s Alexandra. Her performance is tempered by an unidentified terminal illness which spurs her character on and at least drives her away from the realms of cartoonish MCU villain as  she has an actual character arc rather than the bland go there, be evil trope of prior bad guys. When the show does focus on The Defenders (and, in fairness, that’s 90% of the time) the show is a rollercoaster of wisecracks, quips and, yup, Jessica Jones’ side-eye. It’s glorious fun and, for my money, feels like a much bigger event than The Avengers ever was. There’s a spine-tingling moment, complete with an inspirational score bubbling up in the background, where the four heroes unite to take on a foe at the midway point which ranks as an all-time great Marvel moment.Yes, The Defenders run is short, but those thinking a mere eight episodes won’t cut it can have their fears put to rest. Coupled with Game of Thrones season 7’s clipped seven-episode run, it feels like we’re reaching a watershed point in television where shows don’t need to be chained to a long episode run anymore. Barely a second is wasted in The Defenders: Every quiet character moment is poignant and fleshes out something or someone; every action sequence leads to something bigger, better, and more shocking; and every one-liner and on-the-nose dig at Iron Fist will make you laugh. Nothing outstays its welcome.

 

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 2

CAST

Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)
Josh Hutcherson (The Forger)
Liam Hemsworth (Knowing)
Woody Harrelson (Zombieland)
Elizabeth Banks (The Lego Movie)
Donald Sutherland (The Italian Job)
Phillip Seymour Hoffman (Doubt)
Julianne Moore (Freedomland)
Willow Shields (beyond The Blackboard)
Sam Claflin (Snow White and The Huntsman)
Mahershala Ali (Alphas)
Jena Malone (Donnie Darko)
Jeffrey Wright (Source Code)
Paula Malcomson (Caprica)
Stanley Tucci (The Lovely Bones)
Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones)
Elden Henson (Daredevil)
Michelle Forbes (Powers)
Gwendoline Christie (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)
Robert Knepper (Heroes)
April Grace (Lost)
Sarita Choudhury (Jessica Jones)

Katniss Everdeen is recovering after being attacked by Peeta Mellark, who has been brainwashed by the Capitol. The rebels attack and disable the Capitol’s weapons arsenal in District 2. Katniss tries to rally the loyalists against the Capitol, but is shot and injured in the confrontation. Despite Katniss’ desire to kill President Snow personally, Alma Coin refuses to allow her into battle. At Finnick and Annie’s wedding, Johanna Mason suggests Katniss sneak aboard a supply ship leaving for the Capitol, where Commander Paylor is planning an invasion. Unable to bring her back, Coin has her assigned to the “Star Squad”, led by Boggs and includes Gale, Finnick, Cressida, Messalla, Castor, Pollux, Jackson, the Leeg twins, Mitchell, and Homes; they will follow in relative safety behind the actual invasion of the Capitol providing video of their incursion for propaganda purposes. Boggs carries a holographic map (the “Holo”) to help them evade known booby trapped “pods” which line the streets of the Capitol. Coin also sends Peeta to join the squad, even though he has not fully recovered from the Capitol’s conditioning.

As they venture deeper into the Capitol, Boggs triggers a pod which sets off a land mine and mortally wounds him, and transfers command of the Holo to Katniss before dying. The squad triggers another pod, which releases a flood of lethal black tar. Peeta momentarily succumbs to his conditioning and attacks Katniss, pushing Mitchell into the tar and killing him. The group takes shelter in an abandoned building, where Jackson, the second-in-command, attempts to commandeer the Holo, until Katniss convinces them she is under secret orders from Coin to kill Snow. Katniss and most of the group escape just before a squad of Peacekeepers arrive and destroy the building, killing the Leeg twins. The Capitol broadcasts a message announcing Katniss’s death, which is interrupted by Coin, who delivers an impassioned eulogy for her, to rally the rebels.

The team descends into the Capitol’s sewers to avoid further pods, but they are attacked by a horde of genetically engineered creatures called “mutts”. Jackson, Castor, and Homes are killed as the squad flees through the sewers. Finnick is overwhelmed as he fights off the swarm to allow the team to escape, forcing Katniss to set the Holo’s self-destruct, killing him and the remaining mutts. The surviving team members reach the surface but are chased by Peacekeepers, and Messalla is killed by a pod that melts and disintegrates him. The team takes refuge in a shop, where Tigris, a former Hunger Games stylist and rebel sympathizer, hides them in her basement.

As rebel forces gain ground, Snow invites fleeing Capitol citizens into his mansion for protection. Katniss and Gale join the crowd, posing as refugees to gain access to Snow. Rebels arrive and attack, killing many in the crossfire. In the chaos, Katniss pushes forward to Snow’s mansion, where Peacekeepers are herding Capitol children toward the closed gates. A hovercraft flies overhead, and drops small parcels by parachute into the pen of children. The parcels explode, killing them. A team of rebel medics attempt to help the injured, among whom is Katniss’s sister Prim. A second wave of bombs detonate, killing Prim and knocking Katniss unconscious. Upon recovering, Katniss learns the Capitol has been conquered, and Snow captured. When Katniss confronts Snow, he claims that Coin orchestrated the bombing outside his mansion to turn his soldiers against him. Katniss realizes that the incident resembles a trap that Gale had developed earlier. When Gale is unable to assure Katniss that the bombs were not of his design, Katniss cuts all ties with him. Coin invites the remaining Hunger Games victors to vote on a proposal to have another Hunger Games using the children of the Capitol, as a symbolic gesture to satisfy the districts. Katniss swings the vote in favor, in exchange for the right to execute Snow personally.

At the execution, Katniss shoots and kills Coin instead of Snow. The rebels take Katniss into custody, while Snow is tortured and killed by the angry mob. Katniss is eventually pardoned for her crime and returns to District 12, where she is joined by Peeta, who has recovered from his conditioning. Commander Paylor is elected the new President of Panem, and Katniss, Peeta, and Haymitch bond over their shared trauma. Years later, Katniss and Peeta play with their two children, as Katniss contemplates the nightmares of her past, and somberly reflects that “there are much worse games to play.”

The special effects are amazing, and the film gripped me throughout. There are some chilling and sad moments and with some twists along the way. Music from previous films is used to powerful effect. Jennifer Lawrence puts in an incredible performance as Katniss, and there are other strong performances from the cast. I was sad to see this end series, but feel everyone involved can be incredibly proud of what has been achieved. An outstanding and thought provoking finale.

REVIEW: THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 1

CAST
Jennifer Lawrence (Behind Closed Doors)
Josh Hutcherson (Zathrua)
Liam Hemsworth (Triangle)
Elizbath Banks (Zack & Miri)
Donald Sutherland (The Italian Job 2003)
Woody Harrelson (Zombieland)
Willow Shields (Beyond The Blackboard)
Paula Malcomson (Caprica)
Stanley Tucci (The Lovely Bones)
Phillip Seymour Hoffman (The Ides of March)
Jeffrey Wright (Ali)
Sam Claflin (The Quiet Ones)
Jena Malone (Donnie Darko)
Julianne Moore (Hannibal)
Mahershala Ali (Predators)
Robert Knepper (Cult)
Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones)
Elden Henson (Daredevil)
Sarita Choudhury (Jessica Jones)

After being rescued from the destroyed arena in the 75th Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen, along with fellow Victors Beetee and Finnick Odair, are taken to District 13, an independent district isolated from the rest of Panem that has been spearheading the rebellion, where she is reunited with her mother and sister Prim. While recuperating, she is introduced to President Alma Coin, the rebel leader, and is told that her actions in the arena sparked riots and strikes against the Capitol. Coin asks her if she will become the “Mockingjay”—the symbol of the rebellion—as part of their “hearts and minds” strategy. Katniss flatly declines, angrily reminding her that they left Peeta Mellark, her portrayed lover and fellow District 12 tribute, behind in the arena. At the suggestion of Plutarch Heavensbee, the former Gamemaker, she is taken to see the ruins of District 12, which was completely leveled by a Capitol bombing campaign (with the exception of the houses in the Victor’s Village). After seeing that Peeta is being used by Capitol state television to quell the rebellion, Katniss reluctantly changes her mind and agrees to become Coin’s Mockingjay, on the condition that Peeta and the other victors will be rescued and pardoned at the earliest opportunity, and that her sister, Prim, will be allowed to keep her cat.
After Haymitch notes that Katniss thrives on spontaneity, she is introduced to her film team (led by Capitol escapee Cressida), is dressed up in a specially-designed outfit, and given Effie Trinket as a stylist and close friend Gale as a bodyguard. They go out to District 8 to visit a hospital, but as the visit concludes, a Capitol bombing squadron arrives and bombs the hospital, killing everyone inside. In her rage, Katniss gives a rousing speech to the camera, which is broadcast when Beetee hijacks the Capitol’s news feed. After it is broadcast, strikers in District 7 kill an entire team of Peacekeepers with hidden land mines.
After seeing a weakened Peeta on a TV propo (propaganda shots) the team then go back to District 12, where Gale tells the story of its destruction, and Katniss is filmed singing “The Hanging Tree”. Soon after, hundreds of protestors in District 5, singing the same anthem, launch a suicidal human wave attack against a hydroelectric dam that is the Capitol’s primary source of electricity. The attack succeeds, forcing the Capitol to revert to backup power generators and weakening their ability to broadcast their propaganda.
That night, Katniss watches Peeta being interviewed by Caesar Flickerman, the Games’ former presenter, when, in an apparent defiance of his captors, Peeta suddenly shouts a warning that the Capitol is about to attack District 13. Coin orders a mass evacuation into the underground shelters. While Prim is nearly locked out when she goes back to get her cat, everyone manages to get inside safely, and the facility survives the attack unharmed. Upon emerging, Katniss discovers that the area is littered with white roses, realizes that President Snow has sent them to taunt her, and presumes that he is about to kill Peeta. As Peeta’s warning gave the District an additional eight minutes evacuation time, Coin dispatches an elite special forces team, which includes Gale, to rescue him, along with Johanna Mason, and Annie Cresta, the remaining Victors, from their prison in the Capitol’s Tribute center. The rescue is successful. However, when Katniss goes to greet Peeta, he unexpectedly attacks and strangles her into unconsciousness, before being knocked unconscious himself by Boggs.
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Katniss wakes up in the medical facility, and is informed that Peeta has been “hijacked” — a form of physical/mental torture in which he is brainwashed into wanting to kill Katniss by associating memories of her with the psychological terror created by tracker jacker venom — explaining why the Capitol allowed Gale’s team to escape. Peeta is strapped to a bed and placed in a solitary confinement, while a serum is being developed to undo the effects of the hijacking. Meanwhile, Coin announces the successful rescue of the Victors, and that their next objective is the Capitol’s principal military stronghold in the ravines on District 2.
Excellent performances by actors and a very dramatic, dark mood rather.
An awesome film and a great build-up towards the grandiose finale .

REVIEW: DAREDEVIL – SEASON ONE

 

MAIN CAST

Charlie Cox (Stardust)
Deborah Ann Woll (Ruby Sparks)
Elden Henson (The Buttefly Effect)
Rosario Dawson (Sin City)
Toby Leonard Moore (John Wick)
Vondie Curtis-Hall (Die Hard 2)
Bob Gunton (The Lincoln Lawyer)
Ayelet Zurer (Man of Steel)
Vincent D’Onofrio (Men In Black)

Charlie Cox and Deborah Ann Woll in Daredevil (2015)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Peter McRobbie (Spider-Man 2)
John Patrick Hayden  (Yin/Yang)
Nikolai Nikolaeff (Power Rangers Jungle Fury)
Peter Shinkoda (Masked Rider)
Rob Morgan (Stranger Things)
Scott Glenn (The Silence of The Lambs)
Wai Chang Ho (Robot Stories)
Amy Rutberg (Recount)
Royce Johnson (Ghost in the Graveyard)
Matt Gerald (Terminator 3)

 

Daredevil was a fun, ferocious look at Marvel’s own city-saving vigilante. Similar to DC’s Batman and Green Arrow, Matt Murdock loves his city. Even more so, the neighborhood of Hell’s Kitchen which was hit hard by the Chitarui attack – one of the show’s only mentioned connections to the MCU. In place of a crime-ravaged Irish immigrant-heavy neighborhood (as per the 60s/70s Daredevil comics), the choice was made to portray the square mile of crowded city as “mostly good people on hard times due to recent alien events.” Still folksy, but more modern. A smart move that helped tie Daredevil to the rest of the MCU happenings, despite the fact that the show is the grittiest, most violent entry into Marvel’s TV/movie canon so far. Strong, grounded performances, smart writing, and hard-hitting fight scenes immediately helped elevate Daredevil above fans’ expectations (which were already quite high). Buffy/Angel alums Drew Goddard and Steven S. DeKnight (who took over as showrunner early on after Goddrad left for the ill-fated Sinister Six) delivered a taught, thoughtful, and appreciatively earnest take on Matt Murdock – one of Marvel’s most complex, hard-to-get-a-handle-on characters (and one of the most religious). A hero no movie would ever be able to get quite right.

Vincent D’Onofrio’s Wilson Fisk  served the show well. Fisk was portrayed as a very vulnerable man. A seriously dangerous one, no doubt, but also one who came with his own formative backstory and current web of lies and betrayals. Also…a love story. Fisk’s moments spent, early on, wooing and doting upon Ayelet Zurer’s art gallery curator Vanessa was a daringly wonderful way to introduce us to the character. Especially since Fisk had remained off-screen for a few episodes while the show built him up. D’Onofrio performance as Fisk was, simply put, one of the best parts of the show. As a man who almost seemed to be learning the actual mechanics of how to speak to other people every time he opened his mouth, Fisk’s shyness/awkwardness helped not only separate him from most crime boss cliches, but also helped us understand why a man as lonely and isolated as he was would become so lethally attached to Vanessa. While also seeing someone like Wesley, his right hand man, as a “true friend.” Despite them never showing any real bonds of brotherhood. Just an intense, loyal employer/employee relationship.

Charlie Cox’s Matt Murdock was no slouch either, of course. As Matt constantly wrestled with how far he should morally go as a vigilante, Cox handled things with care and relatable concern. Of course, even with the act of killing as a point of spiritual debatelaire, Matt was willing to do just about most everything else under the sun to achieve his goals – including maiming, torturing, and knocking people into comas. He even, on a few occasions, threatened to kill villains via not saving them from their serious injuries. It was enough make one easily believe that all of this would weigh heavy on a Catholic’s conscience. The supporting cast was great as well. I really liked that this season didn’t go the trite, soapy “love triangle” route with Matt, Foggy, and Karen. There was some flirting, and a few seeds planted here and there for possible romantic tension – but the show politely waved at the idea while graciously passing it by. Deborah Ann Woll’s Karen was to be no one’s prop. And she wouldn’t seek solace “in the arms” of another. And she’d fight back, on whatever level was available to her. Also, Elden Henson’s Foggy Nelson was able to equally provide humor and drama in his fresh take on the “sidekick” role.

This praise also goes for Rosario Dawson’s Claire Temple and Vondie Curtis-Hall’s Ben Urich – both important characters here (though Claire had never been tied to Daredevil in the comics) in their own right, given unique (and sometimes surprising) treatments. The fight scenes are, naturally, worth noting. You’ll find most folks raving over a sequence in the second episode, “Cut Man” (one of the show’s best entries), as well as a few others. And again, expert choreography aside, it’s the fact that Matt quite often takes an extreme shellacking that gives these battle sequences extra “oomph.” It really draws you in when you can almost feel how hard it is for Matt to face down a squad of thugs. When every blow to his body rocks yours. Daredevil was a thrilling, ultra-starisfying take on Daredevil’s material and lore. One that, like Favreau’s first Iron Man film, helped breathe new life and fandom into a somewhat B-tier Marvel character.