REVIEW: IZOMBIE – SEASON 2

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MAIN CAST

Rose McIver (Power Rangers RPM)
Malcolm Goodwin (The Bellman)
Rahul Kohli (Happy Anniversary)
Robert Buckley (Killer Movie)
David Anders (Alias)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Aly Michalka (Two and a Half Men)
Steven Weber (2 Broke Girls)
Leanne Lapp (No Clue)
Brian Markinson (Arrow)
Molly Hagan (Sully)
Nick Purcha (Angels In The Snow)
Adam Rose (Up In The Air)
Robert Knepper (Cult)
Justin Prentice (13 Reasons Why)
Kurt Evans (Sanctuary)
David Starzyk (Hot In Cleveland)
Ona Grauer (V)
Jessica Harmon (Hollow man 2)
Bryce Hodgson (Falling Skies)
Ian Reed Kesler (2 Broke Girls)
Eddie Jemison (Waitress)
Jerry Trimble (Heat)
Steven Williams (LA Heat)
Greg Finley (The Flash)
Brooke Lyons (2 Broke Girls)
Anna Galvin (Warcraft)
Daniella Alonso (The Hills Have Eyes 2)
Fiona Vroom (Power Rangers)
Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars)
Bradley Stryker (The Lizzie Borden Chronicles)
Enrico Colantoni (Flashpoint)
Kacey Rohl (Hannibal)
Ali Liebert (Bomb Girls)
Sarah Grey (Legends of Tomorrow)
Andrea Savage (Episodes)
Ken Marino (Agent Carter)

Consistently offering clever, witty and fun episodes, iZombie solidified itself as one of the most entertaining series on TV in its second season. Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero-Wright had already created an offbeat yet inviting world in Season 1 and in Season 2 they built upon it, putting the characters into more intense and involving situations, all while still maintaining the show’s crucial, knowing sense of humor.The cast continue to be one of the most likeable you’ll find, anchored by the excellent Rose McIver. Okay, it’s one of the show’s reaches that pretty much every brain Liv eats is a very focused, specific type of person, but that’s just part of the deal here. And it gives McIver so much to work with, as she goes all in playing Liv taking on personas as varied as a coach, a stalker, a costumed vigilante or a tough stripper. Every week, McIver is given something different to play and she consistently nails it, with ongoing mileage gotten out of how out there and uncharacteristic Liv gets, depending on her latest brain meal.After his heartbroken ex-fiancé character take a surprising (and awesome) turn at the end of Season 1, Robert Buckley’s Major got a great storyline in Season 2, as he found himself working for Vaughn Du Clark (Steven Weber), tasked with assassinating zombies – all while actually locking them up instead, which put him in a very precarious position both with Du Clark and the cops and the FBI, who were getting closer and closer to him for his actions in both Season 1 and 2.The fact that those investigating Major’s crimes were Clive (Malcolm Goodwin) and his FBI partner/love interest Dale Bozzio (Jessica Harmon) only increased the tension, even while Clive and Dale made a great pairing – with Harmon effortlessly fitting in on the show, as the somewhat goofy Dale provided a great foil for the somewhat stoic Clive. And in the midst of this, having Clive begin to slowly notice the things that were off about Liv was continually intriguing, since it was inevitable that Clive would one day find out The Secret.Blaine (David Anders) in the meantime had to adjust to life as a human again – for awhile at least, as he never kept his nose clean and eventually became one of the undead again, with Anders always bringing a wonderfully quirky/funny approach to the character. McIver and Rahul Kohli continued to be a delightful duo in all the scenes between Liv and Ravi and Kohli shined throughout the season, though I do hope Season 3 can perhaps give Ravi more of his own storyline at some points beyond the ongoing search for a cure or the burgeoning love triangle between Ravi, Peyton (Aly Michalka) and Blaine. The end of the season, as Ravi began to suspect Major was up to no good – and their big confrontation about it – showed how strong it can be to use the usually comic presence of Ravi in a dramatic manner that would be interesting to explore again.As Season 2 progressed, one really strong element was how it began to bring together several storylines. We began to see Major’s growing interaction with Blaine begin to bring him even more in focus as a suspect for Dale and Clive, while Peyton’s return — it was good to see Michalka, who also fits in great with this cast, get more to do — had her wrapped up with Blaine (in more ways than one) and helping lead us to a new villain on the show, Stacey Boss (Eddie Jemison).

Best of all, the “brain of the week” storylines began to becoming increasingly tied into the main stories as well. And yes, this meant sometimes you had to accept a bit more coincidence on the show, but it still was exciting and gratifying to see how all the different elements were intersecting in different ways and how Liv could learn new info thanks to a new murder victim connected in ways that were sometimes not apparent on the surface.When it came to Big Bads, Vaughn Du Clark certainly delivered. Stephen Weber seemed to be having a ball in the role and was delightfully awful as the energetic, confident mega-douche of a sports drink company CEO. He was also given a great foil in Gilda (Leanne Lapp), his daughter, who was just as corrupt as her dad. Gilda has no qualms about manipulating Major, Liv or anyone else and Lapp brought just the right attitude to the character – even as we saw just how awful Du Clark was as a dad, giving us a tinge of sympathy, or at least understanding, about why she was the way she was, even as it was clear she needed to be stopped. The season also ended in an epic, satisfying manner, with Clive finally finding out the truth, an all-out “Romero Zombie” attack and both Du Clark and Gilda being taken out – all while we met a huge new player on the scene that looks to be upending the show in a huge way.Nearly every week, iZombie continued to deliver in its second season and the show easily overcame any sophomore slump worries. The creators and cast seem to know exactly the right  tone to go for here, offering up a show that has a fun, accessible vibe but can get suitably intense, dramatic and gory when need be. When the CW gave all of their series early renewals last year, iZombie was one of the ones I know I was celebrating the most. Bring on Season 3!

 

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REVIEW: JUSTICE LEAGUE: DARK

CAST

Matt Rayan (Constantine)
Jason O’Mara (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D)
Camilla Luddington (The Pact 2)
Nicholas Turturro (Zookeeper)
Ray Chase (Kingslaive)
Enrico Colantoni (Veronica Mars)
JB Blanc (Breaking Bad)
Roger Cross (Arrow)
Colleen Villard (The Avengers: EMH)
Jerry O’ Connell (Sliders)
Rosario Dawson (Sin City)
Jeremy Davies (Sleepy Hollow)
Alfred Molina (Spider-Man 2)
Fred Tatasciore (Hulk Vs)

All over the world, people suddenly begin panicking as they start to see everyone around them as demonic monsters and end up killing innocents before members of the Justice League stop them. Deliberating about this strange outbreak, most of the League’s members come to the conclusion that magic must be involved in this. Despite his own past experiences with magic, Batman expresses his skepticism and walks out; but as he returns to Wayne Manor to rest, he finds the word “Constantine” written all over the walls.
In a flashback, occultist John Constantine and Jason Blood – engaged the Demons Three in a poker game in Las Vegas for high-end stakes, even offering his home, the House of Mystery, as his part of the pool in exchange for a box of artifacts, including one called the Dreamstone. However, both parties cheated at the game, and when Constantine exposed the Demons’ trickery, they attacked him. Constantine unleashed Jason’s alter ego, the demon Etrigan, who defeated the Demons Three, but not before they swore revenge on him.
Batman visits Zatanna after one of her performances and begins to ask about Constantine. Deadman possesses Batman and tells Zatanna she needs to see John. Zatanna brings Batman to Constantine. The trio narrowly manage to get inside John’s house in time where they are joined by Black Orchid. The group gathers to share information, and after a quick discussion and some argument between John and Zatanna, form a team to investigate the cause and reason for these supernatural occurrences.
The heroes visits a friend of Constantine and Zatanna’s named Ritchie Simpson, but outside the house they find shroud spirits of Death waiting to collect Ritchie’s soul upon his upcoming demise. The team is granted entry by Simpson, who is suffering from a magical cancer and resentful of Constantine for abandoning him to his fate but loans them the Keshanti Key. Constantine and Zatanna look through a man’s memories for the cause of his frenzy, and discover that he was possessed. Batman, Deadman, Constantine, and Zatanna narrowly manage to escape from a conjured beast as the creature consumes its victim, and Zatanna proceeds to destroy the monster.
Returning to Ritchie’s home to identify the ring from the man’s memory, the team finds him about to die with Blood nearby. Batman revives Ritchie with an adrenaline shot to the chest, but he quickly falls into a coma. After being brought to the House of Mystery for interrogation, Blood tells the team that he did not attempt to hurt Ritchie, but was looking for a way into the House of Mystery to find the Dreamstone; created by a sinister magician naming himself Destiny. Ritchie awakens and names Felix Faust as his assailant before falling back asleep.
The group locate Faust’s observatory with help from Swamp Thing. When they infiltrate Faust’s lair, the wizard battles the team, but is ultimately defeated by Zatanna; however, Faust is found to have no involvement in hurting Ritchie. Ritchie awakens and is revealed to have the other piece of the Dreamstone; using it to keep his cancer in remission, but then he is seemingly killed when the Dreamstone brings Destiny back to life. Destiny declares himself a god, destroys the House and departs to sink the United States into chaos; Zatanna saves the group, but passes out from the exertion. The Justice League tries to fight Destiny, but he makes them perceive each other as demonic threats. Etrigan attacks Destiny, but is separated back into Jason Blood and Etrigan. Constantine summons Swamp Thing, who agrees to fight Destiny, while Batman and the recovered Zatanna disable the Justice League.
Constantine tricks Destiny into bringing him and Deadman within his protective shield, allowing Deadman to wound Destiny, before Constantine, Batman, and Blood destroy the Dreamstone and Destiny’s body, leaving Ritchie, whose soul is dragged to Hell by the shroud spirits. Right afterwards, Blood succumbs to his mortal wound from centuries before. Zatanna, Constatine and Etrigan bury Blood’s body near the place of his old village, before Etrigan leaves for parts unknown. Zatanna agrees to join the Justice League, while Constantine declines (knowing Batman won’t approve if he did). The two return to the now-rebuilt House of Mystery, taking a first tentative step to restoring their fractured relationship, and Deadman likewise joins the restored Black Orchid as her soulmate.It’s refreshing to see a simpler, more straightforward, yet still effectively intriguing story-telling pace set by DC’s animated feature titles. JLD continues the trend of it’s predecessor, excelling at brief but complete introductions to some of DC’s more obscure characters, bringing them out of the shadows. The use of the overly popular Batman is very fitting here and die-hard and new fans should find a bunch to like. Animation is solid, the voice-casting is even better.And it’s great to see Matt Ryan back as Constantine.

REVIEW: VERONICA MARS – PRESIDENT EVIL

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PRESIDENT EVIL

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CAST

Kristen Bell (The Boss)
Jason Dohring (The Originals)
Percy Daggs III (Izombie)
Michael Muhney (The Young and The Restless)
Francis Capra (Heroes)
Enrico Colantoni (Powers)

GUIEST CAST

Robert Ri’chard (The Vampire Diaries)
Michael B. Silver (I Am Sam)
James Jordan (True Blood)
Ryan Devlin (Deck The Halls)
Daran Norris (Izombie)
Blake Shields (Heroes)
Ryan Pinkston (Bad Santa)
Krista Kalmus (Fired Up!)
Jaime Ray Newman (Bates Motel)
Ed Begley Jr. (Batman Forever)
Brandon Hillock (Villains)
Dianna Agron (Glee)

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Veronica shows one of the rape victims (Krista Kalmus) the photo of a suspect, but she doesn’t recognize him. In criminology class, Veronica does a case study of Weevil (Francis Capra), and the class enjoys it. After the study, Veronica tells Weevil that she’s dating Logan (Jason Dohring), and he reacts negatively. Veronica then walks into Mars Investigations and finds Cyrus O’Dell and his wife (Jaime Ray Newman) talking with Keith, while Veronica herself does some detective work. Keith informs Veronica that Dean O’Dell’s stepson is dying and that he wants Keith to find the boy’s biological father. At Mercer’s (Ryan Devlin) party, two masked men enter and steal everyone’s valuables, including the necklace that Lilly gave Veronica. Wallace (Percy Daggs III) is failing his mechanical engineering class, a subject in which he wanted to major. Meanwhile, Keith tracks down the husband, and Veronica accuses Weevil of robbing the party.
Image result for veronica mars president evilAt the meeting, Dean O’Dell’s wife asks the ex-husband to give their son a bone marrow transplant. Meanwhile, Sheriff Lamb (Michael Muhney) arrests Weevil for the robbery. Veronica visits Weevil in prison before she decides to look into a pizza delivered to Weevil’s house. Sheriff Lamb tells Keith that the ex-husband has disappeared before accusing Keith in the ex-husband’s disappearance. Keith thinks that Dean O’Dell was involved in the disappearance, but when he visits Dean, it turns out that Dean’s wife and stepson have disappeared to a hospital in Mexico, presumably taking the ex-husband with them. Wallace visits a “tutor”, who gives him a mysterious “study guide” before going back to for the “answers.” Veronica notices the masks being used in a short film, but they were stolen. When they are in Mexico, Dean O’Dell reveals that he lied to Keith about their whereabouts.
Image result for veronica mars president evilVeronica tracks the casino robber down to a volunteer police officer. She has evidence, and the police comes to arrest him. However, they don’t find the necklace. At the hospital, Keith hesitates when O’Dell asks him what he would do if Veronica were in danger. Veronica gets her necklace back from the perpetrator’s daughter. Because he gave bone marrow, the ex-husband now has a much more favorable divorce settlement. Veronica tracks down the suspect in the photo, Wang Yi, but his roommate tells Veronica that he is Claire’s boyfriend.Image result for veronica mars president evilVeronica Mars will be one of my favorite shows of past, this episode although being a Halloween themed is also very important to the overall season 3 episode. As a standalone episode its also fun to see Veronica and Logan in Halloween gear. all in all a great episode from a great show.

REVIEW: GALAXY QUEST

CAST

Tim Allen (The Santa Clause)
Sigourney Weaver (Alien)
Alan Rickman (Alice Through The Looking Glass)
Tony Shalhoub (The Siege)
Sam Rockwell (Iron Man 2)
Daryl Mitchell (House Party)
Enrico Colantoni (Veronica Mars)
Robin Sachs (Buffy)
Jed Rees (News Movie)
Justin Long (New Girl)
Missi Pyle (Two and a Half Men)
Rainn Wilson (Super)
Dian Bachar (Orgazmo)
Gregg Binkley (My Name Is Earl)
Kevin McDonald (That 70s Show)

The former cast of the once-popular television space-adventure series Galaxy Quest spend most of their days attending fan conventions and promotional stunts. Though Jason Nesmith (Allen), who played the commander of the NSEA Protector, thrives with the attention, the other cast members—Alexander Dane (Rickman) as the ship’s alien science officer, Fred Kwan (Shalhoub) as the chief engineer, Gwen DeMarco (Weaver) as the computer officer, and Tommy Webber (Mitchell) as a precocious child pilot—all resent these events.

During one event, Nesmith is approached by Mathesar (Colantoni) and others calling themselves “Thermians” and request his assistance, which he agrees to, thinking this is a planned and paying fan event. Later at that same convention, Nesmith becomes despondent after overhearing attendees speaking of him as a laughing stock by fans and his fellow actors, and he loses his temper with an avid fan, Brandon (Long). After Nesmith spends the night drinking heavily, the Thermians arrive to pick up a hungover Nesmith in the limo he had requested. Unaware that they are truly octopoidal aliens, using technology to appear human, the barely conscious Nesmith is oblivious to his limo being beamed aboard the Thermian’s spaceship. Aboard their ship in deep space, Nesmith goes through the motions of commanding the ship and asks to be returned home. When they send him back to Earth via a transporter, Nesmith realizes that it is all real. He races to meet his cast, accidentally bumping into Brandon and misplacing a Thermian communicator Mathasar gave him with Brandon’s fan-made replica. Nesmith eagerly relates his experience to the crew, who think he is drunk again. When another Thermian appears and request the entire crew’s help, Nesmith manages to convince them, along with their handler Guy Fleegman (Rockwell), an actor who played a unnamed security officer on one episode before being killed off, to come along. They are all transported to a perfect reproduction of the NSEA Protector in deep space, and are shocked by the reality of the situation.

Mathesar begs the crew to command the Protector, as Nesmith’s previous actions (namely, blowing up the opposing ship) have enraged Sarris (Sachs), a reptilian humanoid that seeks to wipe out the Thermians. While they were able to recreate the ship from the broadcast episodes, the Thermians have no idea how to pilot it. The crew hesitantly take the controls, and despite their ineptitude, the Thermians cheer them on. After the second encounter with Sarris’ ship, they barely evade his attack by flying through a minefield, severely damaging the ship. The humans take a shuttle to a nearby planet to find a replacement beryllium sphere as a new power source. They manage to secure the sphere after a run-in with the hostile alien species on the planet. Once back aboard the Protector, they find that Sarris and his soldiers have captured the ship.

Sarris interrogates the humans, discovering they are only actors, and recognizes that the Thermians have no concept of fiction, believing the show to have been real. Sarris sets the Protector to self-destruct and departs, leaving a few sacrificial soldiers to guard the humans. Nesmith and Dane use a gambit from the show to engineer their escape, and then Nesmith orders his fellow cast members to help rescue the other Thermians, finish repairs to the Protector, and prepare to engage Sarris in combat. Nesmith and DeMarco then set off into the bowels of the ship to stop the self-destruct sequence, using help from Brandon and his group of friends via the swapped communication device. Along the way, they encounter Omega 13, a plot device introduced in the final episode but never used; Brandon notes it could either destroy all matter in the universe or rewind time by 13 seconds, “enough time to undo one mistake”.

Having finally accepted their roles on the ship and gained confidence in themselves, Nesmith and his crew use the minefield as a weapon against Sarris’ ship, destroying it. They prepare to head to Earth when Sarris, who has transported over at the last moment, starts killing the crew. A desperate Nesmith activates the Omega 13, which reverses time far enough for him to knock out Sarris. They near a wormhole to return the humans home via the command module, and Nesmith assures Mathesar he has the ability to command the Protector along with the other Thermians. The humans, along with Laliari (Pyle), a Thermian that has fallen in love with Kwan, return home. The command module crashes into Earth near a fan convention and comes to a stop after crashing through one wall, which the audience takes as part of the show. As the crew exits the module, Sarris wakes up and tries to fire on them, but Nesmith reacts faster, and disintegrates Sarris with a phaser-like weapon. The crowd erupts into cheers. Some time later, Galaxy Quest is revived as a new series, starring the same cast along with Fleegman and Laliari.Great film, so very well written. A homage/parody to Star Trek, it’s also very well acted by those within it. And very, very funny.

REVIEW: POWERS – SEASON TWO

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MAIN CAST

Sharlto Copley (Chappie)
Susan Heyward (Poltergeist)
Olesya Rulin (Greek)
Adam Godley (Battleship)
Max Fowler (Rage)
Michael Madsen (Kill Bill)

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RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Andrew Sensenig (Stray)
Logan Browning (Summerland)
Justin Leak (Insurgent)
Shelby Steel (The Friendless Five)
William Mapother (Lost)
Tricia Helfer (Battlestar Galactica)
Enrico Colantoni (Veronica Mars)
Michelle Forbes (True Blood)
Teri Wyble (Terminator Genisys)
Wil Wheaton (The Big Bang Theory)
Robin Spriggs (Containment)
Image result for powers season 2Powers’ first season was acceptable, but it was also noticeably faulty in many respects. For the first PlayStation Original Series, the show was a fair adaptation of its source comics, published initially by Image Comics, and later by Marvel’s Icon imprint, but it was also a show that pretty clearly established that PlayStation was nowhere near becoming the new television heavyweight. Fortunately, the second season of Powers is overall an improvement over the first (especially since, unlike Season One, it actually released here in Canada on time!), being founded on a decent mystery, and increasing some of the production values, complete with the show now having a proper intro for the opening credits, rather than just a lame title call like in Season One.Image result for powers season 2
Despite some of its improvements though, Season Two of Powers still feels like it’s trailing most primetime television shows, let alone many Netflix shows that are also vying for the streaming attention of 18-49 audiences. It’s also trailing even some lesser comic book shows on primetime syndication in its second season, though at least the show is moving in a forward direction, and a potential third season, which Sony hasn’t confirmed one way or the other as of this writing, could have the show better keeping pace with some of its competition on other TV platforms.
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First, let’s start with what the second season of Powers really did right; Its sense of mystery and intrigue. The season’s initial springboarding from the murder of Retro Girl led to two very enjoyable premiere episodes of three, even though the third premiere episode was a bit less interesting. The Retro Girl mystery was one that had a lot of angles, and its twist resolution, of the murder being a rather trivial act by a toy maker that wanted to sell a hot commemoration figure, was actually pretty solid too, and unfolded in another of this season’s best episodes. Compared to the Wolfe conflict from Season One, the Retro Girl murder felt tighter and more satisfying, especially when it could more closely utilize the same story arc from the Powers source comics.
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Another element of this season that was particularly strong were the individual arcs of Walker and Pilgrim, Walker especially. Walker’s past arrogance and fall as Diamond was effectively expanded upon this season, beyond the tutelage of Wolfe, and Walker’s connection to the now-absent Johnny Royalle, and the way that this tied into the present, with Walker having to be a begrudging mentor to a new team of superheroes, New Unity, was also pretty inspired. Likewise, Pilgrim’s connection to her father also had some interesting developments, with Pilgrim’s values especially being tested when she ends up falling for Kutter, who is critically injured later in the season by one of the principal villains, Morrison, a character with a big connection to Michael Madsen’s brand new legacy Power, SuperShock. Everything ending with Pilgrim getting her own abilities, and immediately seeming to be corrupted by them, is one of many things with solid promise for a potential third season of Powers as well.
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It’s at that latter point however that Powers’ second season especially runs into problems. For whatever reason, the show awkwardly changes gears just over the halfway point of Season Two, completely wrapping up the Retro Girl mystery, and instead moving into another conspiracy involving a mentally-degrading SuperShock. This would be fine on paper, though it sweeps way too many elements from earlier in the season under the rug, and makes most of the new character and story developments from the early episodes end up being completely pointless in the end. Another problem is that, while the idea of SuperShock being the downfall of himself and his own world, much to the delight of his fading arch-nemesis, Morrison, is great on paper, it shouldn’t have been crowbarred at the tail end of a season. It just leads to SuperShock’s sudden mental breakdown and murder spree feeling rather rushed and contrived. Michael Madsen was a cool addition to the cast for sure, but after a while, he sort of stopped trying in his performance, since even Madsen clearly knew that SuperShock’s storyline wasn’t given nearly enough room to be properly fleshed out, especially with SuperShock seemingly throwing himself and Walker into the sun at the end of the season.
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One lingering problem that the show almost completely failed to fix in Season Two as well is the same horrible lack of focus from the first season. The first season felt like it was very spread thin in trying to develop all of these many story arcs that didn’t always go together, and when you only have ten-episode seasons of Powers, especially when the episodes clock in at a mere forty minutes or so each, you can’t afford to get distracted with too much unnecessary world-building. The later portions of Season Two did tighten the focus a bit, in fairness, but the front half of the season especially jumped around way too much, and needed to pick a more consistent direction, especially considering the weird storyline shift from the Retro Girl murder to the SuperShock breakdown. Fortunately, making Zora, Calista, Krispin, and new addition, Martinez into one team in New Unity, could be a good way to fix some of the focus problems in Season Three, if Powers is renewed for a third season.
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Despite Powers still doing its best to be raw, mature and sometimes harshly violent, there still isn’t too much to dig into in Season Two, with the show clearly wanting to appeal to adults and fans of the source comics, but mostly still coming off like it’s primarily targeting adolescents. That said though, Powers still improved in its second season, however slightly, and could keep improving nicely in a third season, if it gets one. Like I’ve said more than once, you can only expect so much from a PlayStation Original Series, but Powers is still respectable, and has glimmers of brilliance, especially in some of Season Two’s better episodes.
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With a tightening of story focus and slightly deeper character arcs, a third season could finally start standing with the many other successful comic book shows of the current television era, even if Powers will probably never be in the same league as comic book series darlings like The Flash or Marvel’s Netflix shows. As a neat little bonus for PlayStation Plus subscribers that love superhero media though, Powers is becoming noticeably more worth your time in its second season, even if there’s still plenty of room to further improve.

REVIEW: MONEY TRAIN

CAST

Wesley Snipes (Blade)
Woody Harrelson (The Hunger Games)
Jennifer Lopez (Jersey Girl)
Robert Blake (The Restless Gun)
Chris Cooper (The Kingdom)
Joe Grifasi (The Deer Hutner)
Scott Sowers (Under Siege 2)
Skipp Sudduth (The Cherry Orchard)
Vincent Pastore (Revolver)
Jeremy Roberts (The Mask)
Enrico Colantoni (Veronica Mars)
Flex Alexander (One on One)

Image result for money train (1995)On Christmas, we meet foster brothers John and Charlie. They work as transit cops patrolling the New York City subway. When a mugging occurs, John and Charlie chase the mugger into a subway tunnel, and all trains traveling in their direction are halted. But their harsh transit captain Donald Patterson, allows the money train to continue. John and Charlie avoid getting hit by the train; however, when transit police at the next station witness the mugger running toward the money train, they shoot him dead. The mugger is revealed to be a young teenage boy, which triggers a brawl between John, Charlie, and the other transit officers. Patterson blames the two for causing his money train to arrive late.Image result for money train (1995)Charlie asks John to borrow $300 to buy a Christmas present, but Charlie instead uses the money to pay off some of his gambling debts to the sleazy night club owner Mr. Brown. Brown intends to have Charlie killed by throwing him off a building, but John bursts in and interrupts, telling Brown that he has the money Charlie owes him. Brown reveals to John that Charlie is $15,000 in debt, so John offers to have the money delivered in a few days. Brown accepts and lets Charlie live. During their night shift, John and Charlie are introduced to Grace Santiago, a decoy transit officer newly assigned to their unit. Both brothers immediately take a liking to her. During their patrol, a serial killer known as the Torch robs a token booth and sets it on fire. John and Charlie rescue the booth worker and put out the fire, but the Torch manages to escape.Image result for money train (1995)At a local bar, Charlie reveals a plan to rob the money train in order to pay off their debts, but John, judging the caper impossible, rejects the idea. Later that night, the two brothers and Grace are assigned to patrol the money train. As Charlie discovers a grate in the floor and a ladder leading to Central Park, a brawl breaks out between John and another officer, quickly involving the entire squad. Patterson again blames the two for the incident and also accuses them of taking some train money, but even after it is found that a collection agent miscounted, Patterson continues to insult them. At the bar, Charlie tells John that the best time to rob the money train would be on New Year’s Eve because of looser subway security and because the subway makes the most money on that date: up to $500,000. The plan involves entering the train through the metal grate when the train has stopped, driving it to the maintenance ladder, and escaping into Central Park. John remains reluctant to attempt the theft. John gives Charlie the $15,000 he needs to pay back Mr. Brown, but on the train, Charlie loses it to a thief. He goes to Brown to explain but is brutally beaten by his men. When Charlie comes back home, he looks at John’s house from his window and he sees Grace and John sleeping together. Charlie later tells John that he’s happy for him, but he’s clearly saddened by Grace’s rejection. To nab Torch, an ambush is arranged for which Grace is disguised as an attendant at a station token booth. Torch notices this and, to distract the police, pushes a man in front of a moving train, killing him. Torch sprays gasoline on Grace, but before he can light it, Charlie alerts the other officers, who shoot at Torch. John pursues him into another station, where they fight. Torch is burned by the gasoline he’s carrying and pushed under a moving train, killing him. Patterson fires Charlie for ruining the ambush, and when John tries to defend Charlie, he’s fired as well.Image result for money train (1995)John then heads to the strip club of the mobsters who beat up his brother and were threatening him for failing to pay up his gambling debts and, after storming inside, beats them all up utilizing his Kung-Fu skills,  including knocking down the criminal boss of the organization, Brown, with a 360-degree kick.Image result for money train (1995)Charlie decides to go ahead with his robbery plan. John is reluctant to do anything about this, but Grace persuades him to save Charlie from trouble. When the money train stops at one of the stations, Charlie enters the train from beneath and drives it to the maintenance ladder, but he can’t escape with the money due to the presence of a group of policemen. Meanwhile, John reaches the train and persuades Charlie to drive further to prevent their arrest. Knowing that Patterson will direct his team to trip the train’s brakes, the duo bleeds the brakes. Patterson then orders a steel barricade erected to stop the train, but John increases the speed of the money train to its maximum so that it smashes through the barricade. Transit control officer Kowalski declares the money train a runaway and starts clearing tracks, but Patterson diverts the money train onto a track occupied by a passenger train to keep it from having a clear path, putting innocent people at grave risk. The money train rams into the passenger train and then slows down, but speeds up again because it’s in full throttle and rams the train again. It repeatedly keeps ramming the passenger train with the increasing risk of derailing it and killing everyone on board.Image result for money train (1995)Since the money train now had no braking power and the throttle lever is jammed at full power, the brothers decide to throw it into reverse, derailing it and killing both of them but allowing the passengers to live. Charlie comes up with an idea and positions an iron bar in such a way that when the money train rams the other train once more, the bar trips the reverse lever. Both of them climb on top of the train and proceed to the front. When the trains collide one more time, the reverse lever is activated and both brothers jump across to the other train as the money train derails tumbles around several times knocking over several support beams (much to the horror of Patterson who witnesses the whole crash) before finally screeching to a stop on its side just before the station.Image result for money train (1995)The brothers try to escape during the commotion but are spotted by Patterson. They pretend to have come to help him, but Patterson rudely insults them. Fed up with his constant abuse, the brothers punch him in the face. As he shouts out to his team to arrest them for assault, Grace comes rushing in and arrests Patterson for endangering the lives of the people on the passenger train. When the two brothers exit the station, they are in Times Square as the countdown for the New Year begins. During the celebration, John realizes Charlie is carrying a money bag containing over $500,000, much to his dismay. The film ends with John and Charlie walking into the distance arguing over the money.Image result for money train (1995)Snipes and Harrelson look like they’re having a ball in this fast paced action caper. It’s a fun ride with plenty of action so I enjoyed it for what it was.

REVIEW: CONTAGION (2011)

CAST

Gwyneth Paltrow (Iron Man)
Laurence Fishburne (Hannibal TV)
Kate Winslet (Divergent)
Marion Cotillrd (La Vie En Rose)
Jude Law (Spy)
Matt Damon (Jason Bourne)
John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone)
Monique Gabriela Curnen (Lie to Me)
Jennifer Ehle (The Ides of March)
Elliott Gould (OCean’s Eleven)
Enrico Colantoni (Veronica Mars)
Bryan Cranston (Godzilla)
Chin Han (Arrow)
Sanaa Lathan (Blade)
Kara Zediker (Rock Star)

Returning from a Hong Kong business trip, Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow) has a layover in Chicago to have sex with a former lover before returning to her family in suburban Minneapolis. She appears to have contracted a cold during her trip. Her six-year-old son from a previous marriage, Clark, also becomes symptomatic and is sent home from school. Beth’s condition worsens and two days later she collapses with severe seizures. Her husband, Mitch (Matt Damon), rushes her to the hospital, but she dies of an unknown cause.

Mitch returns home and finds that Clark has also died from a similar infection. Mitch is put in isolation but seems to be immune to the disease. He is released and returns home to his teenaged daughter Jory, who had been living with Mitch’s former wife and her husband and has decided to stay with Mitch since he’s now all alone. They face decaying social order and rampant looting of stores and homes. Mitch is unsure if Jory has inherited his immunity and he struggles with the frustration of quarantine, his desire to protect his daughter and learning that his wife was cheating on him immediately prior to both her death and that of his stepson.

In Atlanta, representatives of the Department of Homeland Security meet with Dr. Ellis Cheever (Laurence Fishburne) of the CDC and express fears that the disease is a bio weapon intended to cause terror over the Thanksgiving weekend. Dr. Cheever dispatches Dr. Erin Mears (Kate Winslet), an Epidemic Intelligence Service officer, to Minneapolis to begin investigating. Mears traces the outbreak back to Emhoff while negotiating with local bureaucrats initially reluctant to commit resources for a proper public health response to the virus. Dr. Mears later becomes infected and dies.

At the CDC, Dr. Ally Hextall (Jennifer Ehle) determines the virus is a mix of genetic material from pig and bat viruses. Work on a cure stalls because scientists cannot discover a cell culture within which to grow the newly identified Meningoencephalitis Virus One (MEV-1). UCSF professor Dr. Ian Sussman (Elliott Gould) violates orders from Cheever (relayed through Hextall) to destroy his samples, and identifies a usable MEV-1 cell culture using bat cells. Hextall uses the breakthrough to work on a vaccine. Other scientists determine the virus is spread by fomites, with a basic reproduction number of four when the virus mutates, with projections of one in twelve of the population being infected, and a 25-30% mortality rate.

Conspiracy theorist Alan Krumwiede (Jude Law) posts videos about the virus on his popular blog. In one video, he shows himself sick and later claims he recovered using a homeopathic cure derived from forsythia. In a panic, people seeking forsythia overwhelm pharmacies, spreading and accelerating the contagion as the infected come into contact with healthy people. Krumwiede’s claims attract national attention. During a television interview he discloses that Dr. Cheever had secretly informed friends and family to leave Chicago just before the city was quarantined. Cheever is then informed the government will investigate and may charge him for leaking information. Later it is revealed Krumwiede had faked being infected by the virus in an attempt to increase profits for shareholders in companies producing and selling forsythia. Krumwiede is arrested for conspiracy and securities fraud, only to walk free when his many supporters successfully raise funds to provide for his bail.

Using an attenuated virus Dr. Hextall identifies a possible vaccine. To cut out the lengthy time it would take to obtain informed consent from infected patients, Dr. Hextall inoculates herself with the experimental vaccine and immediately visits her gravely ill father, who has been infected with MEV-1. The doctor does not contract MEV-1 and the vaccine is declared a success. The vaccine’s production is rapidly increased, but due to limited production, the CDC awards vaccinations by lottery based on birth date. Inoculations take place for one full year until every survivor is vaccinated. First responders, doctors and others designated by the government are declared exempt from the lottery. Dr. Cheever gives his fast-tracked MEV-1 vaccination to the son of Roger (John Hawkes), a CDC janitor who had overheard Dr. Cheever’s phone call warning his girlfriend to leave Chicago.

Dr. Leonora Orantes (Marion Cotillard), a WHO epidemiologist, travels to Hong Kong to follow the Beth Emhoff lead. She collaborates with Sun Feng (Chin Han) and other local epidemiologists and public health officials; they identify Emhoff as patient zero. As the virus spreads, Feng kidnaps Orantes to use her as leverage to obtain MEV-1 vaccine doses for his village. Orantes spends months living with the villagers until the vaccine is announced. Feng exchanges Orantes for the vaccine doses. Her colleague mentions that the exchanged doses were placebos and Orantes rushes away to warn them. The death toll reached 2.5 million in the U.S. and 26 million worldwide. Dr. Hextall places samples of MEV-1 in cryogenic storage, alongside samples of H1N1 and SARS.

The source of the virus is revealed to viewers. A bulldozer (coincidently, operating for the company Emhoff works for) knocks down a palm tree disturbing some bats, with one finding shelter and food in a banana tree. That bat then flies over a pig pen, dropping a chunk of banana from its mouth, which was then eaten by a piglet. Chinese chefs later collected pigs from the pen and took them to a casino where one chef was called away from his preparations of the piglet, casually wiping his hands on his apron. The chef then shook hands with Beth Emhoff, giving her the mix of bat and pig viruses that makes her patient zero and the origin of the MEV-1 virus.

This was an interesting film. It is very realistic and while there is no major action plot, the realism keeps you hooked.