REVIEW: MISS CONGENIALITY 2: ARMED AND FABULOUS

CAST

Sandra Bullock (Heat)
Regina King (The Big Bang Theory)
Enrique Murciano (Dawn of The Planet of The Apes)
William Shatner (Star Trek)
Ernie Hudson (Ghostbusters)
Heather Burns (Two Weeks Notice)
Diedrich Bader (Vampires Suck)
Treat Williams (Deep Rising)
Abraham Benrubi (Buffy)
Elisabeth Rohm (Joy)
Leslie Grossman (Popular)
Octavia Spencer (Insurgent)
Stephen Tobolowsky (Heroes)
Katie Finneran (Wonderfalls)

Three weeks after the events of the first film, FBI agent Gracie Hart (Sandra Bullock) has become a celebrity after she infiltrated a beauty pageant on her last assignment. Her fame results in her cover being blown while she is trying to prevent a bank heist.

To capitalize on the publicity, the FBI decide to make Gracie the new “face” of the FBI; Gracie, who is hurt after being dumped by her boyfriend, fellow Agent Eric Matthews (who is relocated to Miami), agrees to the reassignment. Ten months later, she begins appearing on morning television giving out fashion advice and promoting her book.

However, when Cheryl (Miss United States, played by Heather Burns), and Gracie’s friend Stan Fields (William Shatner) are kidnapped in Las Vegas, Gracie is prompted to return to her old ways. She goes undercover to try to rescue Cheryl and Stan accompanied by her bodyguard Sam Fuller (Regina King), whom she despises. This puts her at odds with the FBI, as they are unwilling to lose their mascot and are unsure if she’s still up to the tasks. Brian Cosford (Ross Adam), Gracie’s closest confidant help assure her that she is still “armed and fabulous.”Regina King is terrific as the partner/antagonist and Diedrich Bader hams it up convincingly as an over-the-top style guru (the successor to the character played brilliantly by Michael Caine in the first movie). But most of the truly hilarious moments are down to William Shatner. Sandra Bullock is at her most daring comedic genius.

 

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12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS REVIEW: JOY

CAST
Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)
Bradley Cooper (Serena)
Robert De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook)
Dascha Polanco (Orange Is The New Black)
Virginia Madsen (Highlander 2)
Isabella Rossellini (Death Becomes Her)
Elisabeth Rohm (Heroes)
Diane Ladd (Kingdom Hospital)
Melissa Rivers (First Daughter)
Jimmy Jean-Louis (Heroes Reborn)
In 1989, Joy Mangano is a divorced mother of two, working as a booking clerk for Eastern Airlines. She lives with her two young children, her mother, Terri, her grandmother, Mimi, and her ex-husband, Tony in working-class, Quogue, New York. Her parents are divorced, and her mother and father fight whenever her father shows up at her home. Joy’s older half-sister, Peggy, is an overachiever who constantly humiliates Joy in front of her children. Peggy and Joy’s father Rudy are very close. Terri spends all day lying in bed watching soap operas as a means of escape from her life, leaving Joy to run the household. Only Joy’s grandmother and her best friend Jackie encourage her to pursue her inventing ambitions and become a strong successful woman.
After divorcing his third wife, Joy’s father starts dating Trudy, a wealthy Italian widow with some business experience. While on Trudy’s boat, Joy drops a glass of red wine, attempts to mop up the mess, and cuts her hands on the broken glass while wringing the mop. Joy returns home and creates blueprints for a self-wringing mop. She builds a prototype with help from the employees at her father’s shop. She then convinces Trudy to invest in the product. They make a deal with a company in California to manufacture the mop’s parts at a low price. In order to avoid a potential lawsuit, Joy also pays $50,000 in royalties to a man in Hong Kong who supposedly has created a similar product. When the company repeatedly bills Joy for faulty parts they create, Joy refuses to pay the fees and tells her father, Trudy, and Peggy not to pay them.
Joy needs a quick, easy way to advertise her product, and is able to meet with QVC executive Neil Walker. Neil is impressed and shows Joy his infomercials, where celebrities sell entrepreneur’s products through a telethon system. Neil tells Joy to manufacture 50,000 mops. Joy is advised by Trudy to take out a second mortgage on her home, in order to pay her costs. The first infomercial fails, but when she goes on QVC, Joy and her product become an overnight success. Things look up for the family, with the mop earning thousands of dollars on QVC, and Terri falls for Toussaint, a Haitian plumber Joy hired earlier in the film to fix up a leak in Terri’s bedroom.
Joy’s grandmother dies suddenly. Rudy and Trudy send Peggy to California to conduct Joy’s company business. Afterwards Peggy tells Joy that she paid excessively raised production fees. Joy is angry and travels to California to meet with the manufacturer, who refuses to pay her back. Joy also discovers that the manufacturer is about to fraudulently patent her design. Her lawyer reveals that there is nothing they can do to prevent this, and Joy is forced to file for bankruptcy. Joy discovers that the manufacturers have been defrauding her the entire time she has dealt with them. She confronts the owner, and forces him to pay her back.
Several years later, Joy is wealthy and runs a successful business. She continues to take care of her father, even though he and Peggy had unsuccessfully sued her for ownership of the company. Terri is the only family member who does not live off Joy, finally finding stability through her relationship with Toussaint. Jackie and Tony remain Joy’s most valued advisers, and the film ends with her helping a young mother develop a new invention.
Based loosely on the life and career of Joy Mangano this is the story of her fight to keep her home and her very dysfunctional family together on the way to inventing the miracle mop. In other hands this could make a very bland lifetime movie but steered by David O Russell and headed by a terrific performance from Lawrence, who is proving herself to be superior to any other female actor, Joy is a great experience. It’s worth noting that both Cooper and DeNiro are superfluous in this movie, it is Jennifer Lawrence who carries it from first to last.

REVIEW: AMERICAN HUSTLE

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CAST
Christian Bale (The Dark Knight)
Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games)
Bradley Cooper (Limitless)
Amy Adams (Man of Steel)
Jeremy Renner (The Bourne Legacy)
Louis C.K. (Blue Jasmine)
Michael Pena (The Martian)
Shea Whigham (Agent Carter)
Alessandro Nivola (Jurassic Park 3)
Elisabeth Rohm (Heroes)
Said Taghmaoui (Lost)
Dawn Olivieri (The Vampire Diaries)
In 1978, con artists Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) have started a relationship and are working together. Sydney has improved Rosenfeld’s scams, posing as English aristocrat “Lady Edith Greensly”. Irving loves Sydney, though is hesitant to leave his unstable and histrionic[8] wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence), fearing he will lose contact with her son Danny, whom Irving has adopted. Rosalyn has also threatened to report Irving to the police if he leaves her.
FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) catches Irving and Sydney in a loan scam, but offers to release them if Irving can line up four additional arrests. Sydney opposes the agreement. Richie believes Sydney is English but has proof that her claim of aristocracy is fraudulent. Sydney tells Irving she will manipulate Richie, distancing herself from Irving.
Irving has a friend pretending to be a wealthy Arab sheikh looking for potential investments in America. An associate of Irving’s suggests the sheikh do business with Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner) of Camden, New Jersey, who is campaigning to revitalize gambling in Atlantic City, New Jersey, but has struggled in fundraising. Carmine seems to have a genuine desire to help the area’s economy and his constituents.
Richie devises a plan to make mayor Polito the target of a sting operation, despite the objections of Irving and of Richie’s boss, Stoddard Thorsen (Louis C.K.). Sydney helps Richie manipulate an FBI secretary into making an unauthorized wire transfer of $2,000,000. When Stoddard’s boss, Anthony Amado (Alessandro Nivola), hears of the operation, he praises Richie’s initiative, pressuring Stoddard to continue. Carmine leaves their meeting when Richie presses him to accept a cash bribe. Irving convinces Carmine the sheikh is legitimate, expressing his dislike of Richie, and the two become friends. Richie arranges for Carmine to meet the sheikh, and without consulting the others, has Mexican-American FBI agent Paco Hernandez (Michael Peña) play the sheikh, which displeases Irving.
Carmine brings the sheikh to a casino party, explaining mobsters are there and it is a necessary part of doing business. Irving is surprised to hear that Mafia overlord Victor Tellegio (Robert De Niro), right-hand man to Meyer Lansky, is present, and that he wants to meet the sheikh. Mafia man Tellegio explains that the business needs the sheikh to become an American citizen and that Carmine will need to expedite the process. Tellegio also requires a $10,000,000 wire transfer to prove the sheikh’s legitimacy. Richie agrees, eager to bring down Tellegio, while Irving realizes the operation is out of control.
Richie confesses his strong attraction to Sydney but becomes confused and aggressive when she drops her English accent and admits to being American. Irving arrives to protect Sydney and tries to stop their deal with Richie, but Richie says if they back out, Tellegio will learn of the scam and will murder them all, including Rosalyn and Danny. Rosalyn starts an affair with a mobster, Pete Musane (Jack Huston), whom she met at the party. She mentions her belief that Irving is working with the Internal Revenue Service, causing Pete to threaten Irving, who promises to prove the sheikh’s investment is real. Irving later confronts Rosalyn, who admits she told Pete. She agrees to keep quiet but wants a divorce.
With Carmine’s help, Richie and Irving videotape members of Congress receiving bribes. Richie assaults Stoddard in a fight over the money and later convinces Amado that he needs the $10,000,000 to get Tellegio, but gets only $2,000,000. A meeting is arranged at the offices of Tellegio’s lawyer, Alfonse Simone (Paul Herman), but Tellegio does not appear. Richie records Simone’s admission of criminal activities.
Irving visits mayor and friend Carmine and admits to the scam, but says he has a plan to help him. Carmine throws Irving out and the loss of their friendship hits Irving hard. Irving and Sydney meet with Amado, Stoddard and Richie. The feds inform Irving that their $2,000,000 is missing, and that they have received an anonymous offer to return the money in exchange for Irving and Sydney’s immunity and a reduced sentence for Carmine. Richie accuses the duo of theft. Irving suggests Richie either has the money or is incompetent for losing it. In fact, he reveals, they never met with Tellegio’s lawyer. Instead, Irving had a friend, Edward Malone (the host of the party where he met Sydney) pose as Simone to con Richie. Amado accepts the deal and Stoddard removes Richie from the case, which effectively ends his career, dropping him back into obscurity. Irving and Sydney move in together and open a legitimate art gallery, while Rosalyn lives with Pete and shares custody of Danny with Irving.
David O. Russell has had a good record of making extremely enjoyable films, and many of them display a great sense of artistic achievement. in “American Hustle” he excelled himself in juggling his superb cast in a perfectly integrated ensemble. This is certainly a film that no film lover should miss.

REVIEW: ANGEL – SEASON 1-5

 

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MAIN CAST

David Boreanaz (Bones)
Charisma Carpenter (Scream Queens)
Glenn Quinn (R.S.V.P)
Alxis Denisof (Dollhouse)
J. August Richards (Agents of SHIELD)
Amy Acker (The Cabin In The Woods)
Vincent Kartheiser (Mad Men)
Andy Hallett (Chance)
James Marsters (Smallville)
Mercedes McNab (The Addams Family)

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RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Tracy Middendorf (Scream: The Series)
Christian Kane (Just Married)
Josh Holloway (Lost)
Sarah Michelle Gellar (Ringer)
Michael Mantell (The Ides of March)
Elisabeth Rohm (Joy)
Obi Ndefo (Stargate SG.1)
Johnny Messner (Anacondas)
Jennifer Tung (Masked Rider)
Seth Green (Family Guy)
Andy Umberger (Deja Vu)
Tushka Bergen (Mad Max 3)
Beth Grant (Wonderfalls)
Bai Ling (The Crow)
Jesse James (Blow)
J. Kenneth Campbell (Mars Attacks)
Henri Lubatti True Blood)
Christina Hendricks (Mad Men)
John Mahon (Zodiac)
Kristin Dattilo (Intolerable Cruelty)
Carlos Jacott (3rd Rock From The Sun)
Lee Arenberg (Once Upon A Time)
Jeremy Renner (Avengers Assemble)
Ken Marino (Veronica Mars)
Stephanie Romanov (Thirtten Days)
Tamara Gorski (Man With The Screaming Brain)
Julie Benz (Punisher: Warzone)
Eliza Dushku (Tru Calling)
Alastair Duncan (The Batman)
Sam Anderson (Lost)
Todd Stashwick (The Originals)
Justina Machado (Final Destination 2)
Matthew James (American Crime)
J.P. Manoux (Birds of Prey)
Tony Amendola (Stargate SG.1)
David Herman (Futurama)
Edwin Hodge (The Purge)
Daisy McCrackin (Halloween 8)
Juliet Landau (Ed Wood)
Brigid Brannagh (Army Wives)
W. Earl Brown (Bates Motel)
Tony Todd (Wishmaster)
Jim Piddock (The Prestige)
Julia Lee (A Man Apart)
Gerry Becker(Spider-Man)
Eric Lange (Lost)
Leah Pipes (The Originals)
Thomas Kopache (Catch Me If You Can)
Brody Hutzler (Days of Our Lives)
Persia White (The Vampire Diaries)
Daniel Dae Kim (Lost)
Mark Lutz (Bitch Slap)
Alyson Hannigan (How I Met Your Mother)
Keith Szarabajka (The Dark Knight)
Frank Salsedo (Power Rangers Zeo)
David Denman (Outcast)
Justin Shilton (Little Miss Sunshine)
Rance Howard (Chinatown)
Kristoffer Polaha (Ringer)
Jack Conley (Payback)
Jim Ortlieb (Roswell)
Laurel Holloman (Boogie Nights)
Jeffrey Dean Morgan (The Losers)
Sunny Mabrey (Snakes On A Plane)
Summer Glau (Firefly)
John Rubinstein (Red Dragon)
Alexa Davalos (Clash of The Titans)
Kay Panabaker (No Ordinary Family)
Joel David Moore (Bones)
Adrienne Wilkinson (Xena)
Gina Torres (Hannibal)
Annie Wersching (The Vampire Diaries)
Danny Woodburn (Watchmen)
Sarah Thompson (Cruel Intentions 2)
Jonathan M. Woodard (Firefly)
T.J. Thyne (Bones)
John Billingsley (Star Trek: Enterprise)
Simon Templeman (Black Road)
Roy Dotrice (Beauty and the Beast)
Brendan Hines (Lie to Me)
Tom Lenk (Argo)
Navi Rawat (Feast)
Roy Werner (Power Rangers Time Force)
Alec Newman (Dune)
Adam Baldwin (Chuck)
Jaime Bergman (Soulkeeper)
Stacey Travis (Easy A)
Dennis Christopher (Django Uncahined)

When Joss Whedon pitched Angel: the Series, he described it as a detective-style film-noir-themed take on the supernatural, much in the same way Buffy was pitched as a look from the viewpoint of the Horror genre. Buffy’s style took some time to get right, but the aesthetics of this show in its first year are well thought out and crafted; darkness and emotive shadow creep over, tense musical swells linger, and the picture is shot in a large resolution to provide just a bit of grain. I’d be damned if it didn’t seem intentional. Joss also said that where Buffy looked, metaphorically, at the hell of High School, Angel’s show would look at life past it in your early adulthood and the life and relationship issues of that unique, big city world. This metaphor is dominant in the first season, and is one of the main themes.

Angel, as a series, is always and will always be about redemption, but the themes of its respective seasons are about the different facets to it. Exploring what it is, losing the chance at it or the responsibility one pledges to it is all covered over the duration of the show. With season one, it was most direct: How do you get it? At the start of the season we see Angel arrive in LA, see him save lives, but we also watch him slip deeply into apathy about his goal. To understand the importance and worth of a human and life and soul, Angel learns in “City of” (1×01) that one must have a human connection; friends and allies that make his life worth living so his mission can be worth fighting for, and most importantly so that he doesn’t become detached from (and even dangerous to) those he hopes to save.

The season, as I mentioned, does lack a cohesive arc, but it also has a tremendous amount of hugely entertaining and well-written standalones. Many of them focus on Angel’s mission: “helping the helpless.” Angel makes it his goal to not only save lives, but save souls and make life worth living for others, and as a result of this his connections are solidified as he carries this out. He and his group slowly form into a legitimate investigation team which takes cases and makes money off of them, and many of the seasons situations out of which the characters are developed are a result of these cases. Cordelia, who in “Rm w a Vu” (1×05) is still defining herself by her possessions, searches for a place to live. Instead what she finds is a stronger sense of self, and in that a connection to the world of humans rather the one of plastic. Doyle and Wesley both find their own connections, as well. Episodes such as these are the season’s order, in every one of which something new happens that alters the main or supporting characters, or teaches the audience something about them.

This is, in my opinion, what sets shows like Buffy and Angel apart: relevance. More than any other show, each episode contains progressive, ongoing development that charts development in a very realistic way. On a more specific level, this particular season has an extremely strong episode to episode consistency, with each individual showing striking its own tone and exploring the main theme in different ways. A few larger, more exciting events may have helped, but at the same time I appreciate this season for what it is and how it does something a bit different from most other seasons of Buffy or Angel. There’s a lot more to talk about, including the metaphorical basis’ used and what we’re being fed through them, as well as the general ups and downs. The strongest suit this season has is its extremely fluid use of theme. Though the ponderings on connection, redemption and starting a new life are not as intricately detailed, subtle or socially penetrating as the themes of any other season, the careful and consistent way they’re used to develop characters and give the stories real world relevance is masterful. Angel made it his mission to save souls, and we were shown him connecting with people by helping them, failing to help them, or losing them altogether. All the supporting characters followed, gaining their own redemption through helping Angel and the helpless.

With the exception of Wesley being overly bumbling at times, nothing felt out of character this season, and that’s extremely impressive considering the length of a season. Doyle’s sacrifice in “Hero” (1×09), Angel’s re-ignited belief in himself in “To Shanshu in LA” [1×22] or Kate’s decision to see Angel kiss daylight in “Sanctuary” [1×19] were all thematically conclusive, resonant and well built up to.

The preceding season was,strong and coherent. While looking at the tribulations of life after High School in the big city, it managed to do so in a way that developed the characters within another major theme: Connection; Human emotions and growth that make us a part of the world, make us human. By the end of the season, Angel had been given a purpose, both short and long term, and a mission to fight for: Fighting in the final battles and surviving to be made a breathing human being again. Season Two, with a much broader theme, builds logically on that, and asks our vampire hero just what it means to really be human. Much of the season’s development is split in that way, with Angel increasingly being led off into his own world, with his friends developing entirely in a place away from him.screen-shot-2016-09-09-at-10-18-22-am-e1473430782777While he and the fate that ties him to Darla explore the complexities of human existence, Cordelia, Wesley and Gunn become forced to suffer through and succeed in it on their own. Though not as characterized by pain and hopelessness as much as S3 post “Sleep Tight” [3×16] through to the end of the series is, there’s much darkness and suffering abound, especially for Angel. His epic trials and will for revenge separate him harshly from humanity, only for him to realize that his worst actions are indeed wholly human, and that this is what humanity really can be. Season Two has such interesting ideas in spades, and its theme looks at all the best (“Untouched” [2×04], “Guise Will Be Guise” [2×06], “Epiphany” [2×16]) and worst (“Reunion” [2×10], “Reprise” [2×15]) sides of our existence: forgiveness, self-control, image, obsession, revenge, victory, belonging and the very nature of evil itself. By the time the season closes, Angel’s re-examined entirely what his mission is and how he’s to fight it, and goes from a champion vampire-with-a-soul to simply a genuinely good human being who helps people.fake-dwarvesWith the exception of the brilliant period piece Are You Now or Have You Ever Been?, and a few rare others, the season doesn’t have quite as much use for pure standalones. Its arc employs its best metaphors and situations in the interest of exploring all sides of the characters’ journey, and as such, the season gives the impression that more happens this year than last because of the depth of each phase of the arc: the four episode standalone period, the first part of the Darla arc (“Dear Boy” [2×05] to “Reunion” [2×10]), the second part of the Darla arc (“Redefinition” [2×11] to “Epiphany” [2×16]), another couple of standalones (“Disharmony” [2×17] and “Dead End” [2×18]) and the Pylea arc (“Belonging” [2×19] to “There’s No Place Like Plrtz Glrb” [2×22]).

This is likely why the season finds such a strong and undivided following. While some dispute the worth of the standalones or the Pylea arc, others like them, and everyone loves the story arc; there’s something for everyone. The best aspect of this year of the character’s journey in L.A. is how broad and all encompassing the season is. With the exception of Season Five, I find this to be the best season of the show. It has a few great metaphors, an engaging, unpredictable story arc, fun standalones, important character development, strong drama, and some of the most intelligent moral and social considerations I’ve ever seen on a TV show or in a movie.

Like at the start of Season Two, the writers seemed to have a clear direction in mind at the start of Season Three, and they wisely picked up the story at the logical introductory point: With Angel having conquered his innermost doubts about his own humanity. He begins to live a truly human life. He’s accepted his role in the world as a good person rather than a champion, and recognizes the world as a wide-open, random place with no greater destiny or order about it. It’s the kind of world where even the smallest acts of kindness mean everything, because they mean someone is able to shrug off the horrible burdens of life long enough to make another life better.screen-shot-2016-09-09-at-10-18-22-am-e1473430782777It opens with a six episode prelude looking at various facets of the responsibilities and obligations of normal human life, and then really begins with “Offspring” [3×07] when Darla returns to L.A. in a very, very pregnant state. Like “Dear Boy” [2×05] was for S2, this is where the beginning of S3 truly lies. With Darla’s death and the birth of baby Connor (“Lullaby” [3×09]) as the emotional forces driving the season, the writers used the question of responsibility and all the ideas that fall under it (justice, deserving, chaos and guilt) to create some truly, gut-wrenchingly impossible situations for our characters to face. If I have to commend this year for one thing alone, it’s the painstaking drama that the writers plunge the characters into throughout the main arc and in the mini-arcs that follow. Although there’s not nearly as much thematic depth as S2 or as much consistency as S1, the tragedies and difficult moral situations our beloved Angel Investigations team members are forced to face moved me deeper than a lot of other episodes in the series.

Aesthetically, S3 also has a much more sprawling scope than the previous two seasons. While the first six episodes were essentially standalones, everything that followed “Offspring” [3×07] was in some way tied to the main plot arc of the show, even when some of its key players disappeared following the epic tragedy of “Sleep Tight” [3×16]. Just when it seemed the story was about to move in another Pylea-like offshoot after the main storyline concluded, Connor and Holtz returned and the plot kept on chugging. This led to some problems, of course, as all season-long arcs eventually do. Tension sometimes tried to take the place of real content and it often showed. It also led to there being an uncomfortable setup/payoff ratio on the episode list. But on the plus side, S3 (and S4, which moves even further in this direction) had a feeling of epic scope that no other seasons manage, so to even think of the better aspects that lie within strikes me. Such a sprawl is one of the reasons many people love S3 even if they haven’t looked very deeply at it.Image result for angel forgiving“Forgiving” [3×17] was another gem, as it looked at the human need to assume we live in an ordered world where someone is responsible for everything that happens. But it’s never that easy, and watching Angel struggle with that was fascinating. The final three episodes (“A New World” [3×20], “Benediction” [3×21], “Tomorrow” [3×22]) made up another interesting stretch where we saw how our characters could be motivated by pain, hatred or love and the effects of all those things.

Having already been on the air for three years, Angel had more then enough time to establish its theme, characters, and relationships. It was in its fourth year that it would bring all of these elements to the forefront and then mix them up in a season that would come to be known for its complex twists and turns.The season begins with our title character trapped at the bottom of the ocean – put there by his son – with the rest of his gang broken up. From this grim beginning, things only get darker – literally. Enter the Beast, a rock-encrusted devil whose arrival is heralded by a rain of fire and promptly blocks out the sun over L.A. All signs are pointing to the apocalypse, and it’s up to Angel and the rest of his demon-fighting crew to put a stop to it. From a storytelling point of view things just keep getting worse and worse and it’s a credit to the writers that they somehow manage to end it all on a positive note.Since Season 2 Angel has been a very arc-heavy show, but in its fourth year it would approach almost 24 levels of continuity and follow-through. In addition to being very cool to watch, the interlinked episodes add up to a season that is one big experience unto itself. It’s as if the entire season is one episode with many chapters.This year we get to watch everything get shaken up. Wedges are slowly driven between certain relationships while jealousy quickly divides others. The great thing about it is that you get to see what has caused all of these problems. Despite their best efforts to hold together, these characters have no choice but to push each other apart. It makes for gripping television.Visually and stylistically the show is very well put together. The directing efforts of Joss Whedon (who is always excellent), Tim Minear (who has grown by leaps and bounds over the course of the series), and even Sean Astin (yes that Sean Astin) give the show a very polished and theatrical feel. The producers repeatedly stated that they were going for an ‘operatic’ feel to the season and they pulled it off very well. The use of darkness and shadow deserves special mention as does the great use of wide shots and the directors’ ability to fill each frame with as much information as possible. Wesley goes from bumbling dork to dark James Bond. Cool! While the twists and turns are great, the really cool thing to the season is the multiple layers that you’ll find within. Just when you think you know who the real ‘big bad’ is or in which direction the show is going, the rug is pulled out from under your feet. The entire season keeps you guessing from start to finish. Of course, our heroes win in the end — but everyone is left wondering if they did the right thing. And that’s what sets the show apart: It’s action with substance.

Nobody, not the producers, not the actors, and certainly not the fans could have predicted where this show would go. Where it could go. After all, this is an hour-long fantasy about a guy who spends so much time sitting in the shadows and brooding so much he would give Batman a run for his money. Or utility belt, as the case may be. So why is it that after five years and over a hundred episodes this show was still one of the freshest on TV? Simple: this is a story about something. What started off as just a Buffy spin-off has ended up as a massive epic that challenges, if not surpasses, its parent show. Unfortunately, the WB didn’t think so. After giving the producers a hard time and insisting on several changes, the network decided to bring the show back for a fifth, and what would be its final year.

 

So, in previous seasons we’ve had operatic apocalypses, quests for meaning, and our hero even went evil for a while. There’s only one place left to go. Into the belly of the beast, into hell itself: a law firm. Based on the out-of-left-field plot twist that was thrown at Angel and the gang in previous season’s finale, the team is now in charge of wolfram and hart the evil law firm that they’ve spent the entire series battling. The trick then becomes changing the system from the inside, all the while making sure that it doesn’t change them.


Unfortunately when the network decided to renew the show for a fifth year, there were conditions. First and foremost, it had to be more stand-alone. No more back-to-back cliffhangers. Next, the budget was cut. And finally, to sweeten the deal, the producers decided to bring over Spike – who was barbequed in the Buffy finale – in the hopes that his fans would follow. Luckily the introduction of Spike worked out well. He added a nice flavor to the show and helped flesh out Angel’s character in a way that nobody else could have. The punky vampire brought out the worst in our hero, which ended up resulting in some great comedy. Even if this Spike was different from whom he became on Buffy, he made for a nice addition.

The most unwelcome change was the standalone mandate. Yes, it can work, but it’s just not as good. The greatest strength of this show has always been its own history and tying the hands of the writers was a mistake. It resulted in a bump in the show’s overall flow. Even though it seems rushed, things tie up nicely and the finale certainly puts the “grand” in grandiose; now there’s a balls-to-the wall showstopper for you. Most people will agree that the show finished with perfect thematic closure. These characters fight an impossible fight knowing they’ll probably lose, but that’s not the point. They fight, not to win, but because that’s who they are. They don’t give up. No matter what.

REVIEW: BEAUTY & THE BEAST – SEASON 1-3

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MAIN CAST

Kristin Kreuk (Smallville)
Jay Ryan (Young Hercules)
Austin Basis (J.Edgar)
Nina Lisandrello (The Devil Wears Prada)
Nicole Gale Anmderson (Mean Girls 2)
Sendhil Ramamurthy (Heroes)
Brian White (The Cabin In The Woods)
Max Brown (The Tudors)
Amber Skye Noyes (One Life To Live)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Yannick Bisson (Murdoch Mysteries)
Britt Irvin (V)
Khaira Ledeyo (Just Cause)
Peter Outerbridge (ReGenesis)
Rob Stewart (Painkiller Jane)
Elizabeth Blackmore (The Vampire Diaries)
Luke Macfarlane (Kinsey)
Lara Jean Chorostecki (Hannibal)
David Richmond-Peck (Sanctuary)
Kelly Overton (True Blood)
Mike Dopud (Stargate Universe)
Rachel Skarsten (Reign)
Bianca Lawson (Buffy)
Rena Sofer (Heroes)
Bridget Regan (Agent Carter)
Luke Roberts (Black Sails)
Brendan Hines (Lie To Me)
William deVry (Stargate SG.1)
Ty Olsson (Battlestar Galactica)
Edi Gathegi (X-Men: First Class)
Shantel VanSanten (The Flash)
Steve Blund (Bitten)
Ted Whittall (Smallville)
Brian Tee (Jurassic World)
David de Latour (Power Rangers Jungle Fury)
Annie Ilonzeh (Arrow)
Riley Smith (Eight Legged Freaks)
Haley Webb (The Final Destination)
Elisabeth Rohm (Joy)
Paul Johansso (Highlander: The Raven)
Michael Filipowich (Earth: Final Conflict)
Tom Everett Scott (Scream: The Series)
Brennan Brown (The Man In The High Castle)
Christopher Heyerdahl (Sanctuary)
Steve Valentine (Mike & Molly)
Danielle Bisutti (Curse of Chucky)
Anthony Ruivivar (Starship Troopers)
Charlotte Arnold (Patriot)
Zach Appelman (Sleepy Hollow)
Natasha Henstridge (Species)
Alan Van Sprang (Reign)
Stephen McHattie (300)
Lochlyn Munro (Little Man)
Jason Gedrick (Iron Eagle)

This season revolves around Catherine and Vincent trying to pursue a relationship together, whilst being hunted down by a top-secret government organization named Muirfield who want Vincent dead. Muirfield are revealed to have conducted a high-profile secret experiment on soldiers fighting in Afghanistan. These experiments resulted in every soldier becoming physically stronger and faster, hoping this would win the war quicker. But, something went wrong, as the entire force went out of control with their new abilities. The government gave orders to kill them all, but Vincent escaped and has been in hiding ever since. Muirfield make several attempts to capture Vincent during this season, and even enlist the help of Cat and those close to her to capture him.Catherine’s family history is delved into in this first season, as her mother’s unsolved murder has preyed on her mind for nine years. Catherine witnessed her mother shot and killed by two hitmen who were then killed by Vincent. Catherine refused to believe the official police report that her mother’s death was that of carjacking gone wrong since the men who killed her mother suddenly appeared and began shooting without saying a word, as well as that the two dead killers identities were never found in any police record, leading Catherine to believe that her mother’s killing was that of a government conspiracy. It was later revealed that Catherine’s mother worked for Muirfield, conducting the experiments, and ultimately helped turn Vincent into a beast. Catherine must deal with conflicted feelings of her mother’s memory across this season, having been determined to solve her case for all this time. When Catherine watches her father get run over in the season finale, she then learns that, biologically, he was not her real father after all.

Vincent’s DNA mutates as the season progresses, as he becomes more beast-like. He begins experiencing black-outs, which J.T. associates with Catherine’s interference. Cat and Vincent will stop at nothing to see each other, however. Assistant District Attorney Gabriel Lowen visits Cat’s precinct to investigate the beast-like attack in the city and over time he reveals that not only does he know about Muirfield but that he shares the same ability as Vincent. At first an enemy, Gabriel goes on to become an ally to Vincent by the end of the first season and suggests he has found a cure to the virus inflicted on them by Muirfield. Vincent ultimately wonders if he wants to be cured or not.

Vincent is captured in the season finale as a helicopter drops a net on him and flies him away, leaving Catherine heartbroken. With Vincent captured, a gun is then aimed at Catherine’s head. But, someone orders them not to shoot; Agent Bob Reynolds –Catherine’s biological father.

A modern day take on the story which has Kristen Kreuk as ‘the Beauty’ & Jay Ryan as ‘the Beast’. A great series, plenty of ‘edge of your seat’ drama with a gentle love story woven through the plot.

Vincent was captured by Muirfield, an underground government organization that has been hunting him, in the previous season finale. Cat, the woman who he has fallen in love with and who accepts what he has been changed by Muirfield, will do anything to find him. This season, their love faces more challenges than ever before.  During the season, Vincent and Cat briefly break up with each other, due to Vincent having changed so much because of Muirfield wiping his memory. Cat starts a relationship with Gabe, a previous beast, now turned ally, while Vincent starts to date Tori, a wealthy socialite who has discovered that she is also a Beast. Eventually, after regaining his memories and Tori’s death during the season, Vincent realizes that he is still in love with Cat and tries to win her back, but she rejects his advances. However, slowly she starts to realize that she still loves him and they both get back together near the end of the season.

However, Gabe does not take the break up very well and starts to become obsessed with hunting down Vincent, by framing him for murder. He tries to hide his jealousy by claiming Vincent is dangerous, and he is only trying to protect Cat, while at the same time trying to win her back. However, he becomes more dangerous, as he suspends both Cat and Tess from the police force, becomes more ruthless and even goes so far as to kidnapping Cat’s sister Heather, who then later learns Vincent’s secret. However things become much worse after Gabe becomes a Beast again and starts killing those closest to Cat and Vincent. A final showdown will come between them finally ending the feud once and for all which could possibly end Vincent’s life.

The sizzling, on-screen chemistry between the two leads is not bettered by any paring on TV, anywhere. It’s what keeps the extensive, loyal fanbase watching this show. This Season exploring more and more the mythology the show add greater scope to the story.

Beauty and the Beast started off with a clear cut mission – save Vincent (Jay Ryan) from his unpredictable beast-infused self. As the narrative evolved and Vincent became both hero and victim in a multitude of ways, the writers took fans on a roundabout journey guided by Catherine’s (Kristin Kreuk) romantic entanglement with his character and her convenient position as a police detective. Although his beast side is still in tact after a series of near misses with potential antidotes, the writers have essentially given him a full pardon and put him squarely on the side of the do-gooders as he reenters the realm of living a “normal life.” No longer does Cat have to concern herself with the ramifications of his violent outbursts, for the most part, now they have other concerns. With Muirfield out of the picture, who has stepped in to fill their vast secret government agency shoes? This leads us to the overarching premise of season three.

With Vincent’s origin story largely revealed, the writers have veered away from some of the old storylines and brought in what appears to be a new antagonist, Liam who has links to the the past.


There were also some notable differences in the aesthetics of the latest beast. In the season three premiere of Beauty and the Beast, you’ll notice that there are almost no physical signs besides the increase in strength and agility, and glazed over eyes. This is unlike Vincent or any of the other past beasts who undergo a noticeable transition each time they beast out. One of the most interesting aspects of season three is clearly watching Cat and Vincent reconcile what it means to be a couple. It’s not a new concept for the show, entirely, but at the same time the writers have never had the opportunity to explore it without the constraints of Vincent’s under-the-radar lifestyle, which for the most part has been expunged along with his unflattering record. At the end of the season three opener, Vincent proposes to Cat. This proposal has been building over time.

At the core of Beauty and the Beast is Vincent and Cat’s relationship, and its ups and downs give the show a depth that balances out some of the more unrealistic events in the storyline. Despite the beast elements, there is a sense of relatability within their romantic struggles that fans find attractive.

Image result for beauty and the beast held hostage

The return of Nicole Gale Anderson’s character, Heather, was an excellent choice for the season. Her relationship with her sister, Cat, offers fans a break from the monotony of the catching-bad-guys motif that streamlines its way through the show. Both sisters now being engaged also adds a lighthearted element to the proceedings. Heather is often times one of the most refreshing parts of BATB. Her limited knowledge previously made her a bit of a buzz kill at times, but overwhelmingly her avid perkiness acted as its own character on the show. Heather also represents the light at the end of the tunnel for Cat, in a way. After all of the tragedy that has enveloped her character in the last two seasons, somehow her relationship with her sister is stronger and more open than ever.


The third season breathed new light into the show, having a decent villain play out through the season was a good choice, hopefully season 4 will continue making this a show a great series.

REVIEW: THE 60S

 

CAST

Josh Hamilton (The Bourne Identity)
Julia Stiles (Silver Linings Playbook)
Jerry O’Connell (Sliders)
Jeremy Sisto (Wrong Turn)
Jordana Brewster (The Fast and The Furious)
Leonard Roberts (Heroes)
Bill Smitrovich (Ted)
David Alan Grief (Jumanji)
Marc Blucas (Red State)
Carnie Wilson (Bridesmaids)
Kimberly Scott (The Abyss)
Elisabeth Rohm (American Hustle)
Brian Klugman (Bones)
Rosanna Arquette (Pulp Fiction)

The Herlihys are a working class family from Chicago whose three children take wildly divergent paths: Brian joins the Marines right out of High School and goes to Vietnam, Michael becomes involved in the civil rights movement and after campaigning for Bobby Kennedy and Eugene McCarthy becomes involved in radical politics, and Katie gets pregnant, moves to San Francisco and joins a hippie commune. Meanwhile, the Taylors are an African-American family living in the deep South. When Willie Taylor, a minister and civil rights organizer, is shot to death, his son Emmet moves to the city and eventually joins the Black Panthers, serving as a bodyguard for Fred Hampton.

The illustrations of the emotional uproar at the time was so excellently done that people may feel like there experiencing it for them self. The portrayl of the characters development, as well as the Social Issues of the time, was wonderfully intense. Many of the sense were so so emotionally rich that I even cried a few times, even when it wasn’t a particularly sad scene.

The NBC news clips furthered the feeling of experiencing the important events of the sixties, such as JFKs assasination, yourself. Watching what so many saw back in 1963 evokes a feeling of empathy for everyone who heard the news so long ago.

One main aspect of the sixties was the feeling of hope, and that anyone could make a difference, which was clealy evident in the film. For those not very interested with the culture and history of the sixties, chances are that the film still possess something they would enjoy.

Overall The Sixties was a great film.