REVIEW: AGENT CARTER – SEASON 2

 

CAST

Hayley Atwell (Cinderella)
James D’Arcy (Master and Commander)
Chad Michael Murray (Freaky Friday)
Enver Gjokaj (Dollhouse)

Image result for AGENT CARTER THE LADY IN THE LAKE

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Bridget Regan (Beauty and The Beast)
Wynn Everett (The Heist)
Reggie Austin (Desperate Housewives)
Currie Graham (Weeds)
Lotte Verbeek (Outlander)
Kurtwood Smith (That 70sm Show)
Ken Marino (Veronica Mars)
Ray Wise (Swamp Thing)
Dominic Cooper (Dracula Untold)
Lyndsy Fonseca (Kick-Ass)

Image result for AGENT CARTER THE LADY IN THE LAKEAgent Carter season 2 would be it’s last. As Agents of SHIELD delves into more and more straight up superhero storylines  and the Netflix/Marvel series bring the MCU into some much darker corners than any other content they create, Agent Carter once more provided a very different source of entertainment. From its period setting, to its focus on heroes without any sort of superpowers, to its tone, Agent Carter continued to bring something different and appreciated to the Marvel TV landscape and the MCU in general.

Image result for AGENT CARTER A VIEW IN THE DARKHayley Atwell once more was as captivating and excellent as ever as Peggy Carter, a character she’s come to completely embody over the years. Peggy came into Season 2 with some of the burdens she had in Season 1 off her shoulders – she’d moved past her initial grief over losing Steve Rogers and didn’t have to deal with quite as much oppressive sexism at the SSR. But soon enough she found herself dealing with a formidable opponent in Whitney Frost – one whose Darkforce (or “Zero Matter”) supplied powers turned her into a true supervillain.

Image result for AGENT CARTER BETTER ANGELSWynn Everett was terrific as Whitney, someone who felt compelled to hide and underplay her incredible intelligence thanks to the era she lived in. The episode “Smoke & Mirrors” evocatively showed us moments that defined both Peggy and Whitney as they grew up, forging them into the very different, but equally strong-willed women they were in 1947.Image result for AGENT CARTER BETTER ANGELSAnother great addition was Lotte Verbeek as Ana Jarvis, Edwin Jarvis’ oft-mentioned, never-seen wife in Season 1. I was wary of them introducing Ana at all after the way she was an off-camera presence last year, but she was so likeable and open – and Verbeek did such a great job showing her kindness and spunk – she easily became an endearing part of the show. Jarvis himself was an interesting element in Season 2. Peggy and Jarvis’ partnership was wonderfully depicted in Season 1 and understandably became a fan favorite element. Season 2 continued that in a big way, and Atwell and James D’Arcy were as amazingly charismatic together as ever.Image result for AGENT CARTER SMOKE & MIRRORSAna being shot resulted in some very strong moments for Ana herself, Jarvis and the two together – and one hell of a scene for Jarvis and Peggy as well, as the two had a pretty brutal argument, with the two close friends each getting in some cruel jabs in the heat of the moment. D’Arcy rose to the occasion showing “Dark Jarvis,” and I was glad to see some more nuance and layers added to the character.Image result for agent carter the atomic jobReggie Austin was likable as Dr. Jason Wilkes and he and Atwell had a nice rapport as the two enjoyed some early flirtation, though ultimately, the character felt a bit bland – even as he had his own struggle with Dark Matter and his battle to stay corporeal. His would-be romance with Peggy really went nowhere, though the two had a nice scene in the season finale, with a melancholy “what could have been” beat included.Image result for agent carter life of the partyEnver Gjokaj was still easy to root for as Daniel Sousa, and tough I feel bad for his poor fiancé-for-a-second, Violet (a charming Sarah Bolger), it was hard not to be happy for Sousa and Peggy finally getting together in the finale.Chad Michael Murray continued to bring the appropriate smarm as Thompson and while it was frustrating to see him revert so much to not trusting Peggy’s instincts early on – and at times it felt murky whether he was just a straight up villain now or not – the final episodes managed to really pull together an intriguing look at a guy who was such an opportunist and so often hard to like, but ultimately did have noble intentions, albeit often coupled with horrible tactics.Image result for agent carter the edge of mysteryCurrie Graham (as Whitney’s in over his head politician husband, Chadwick), Kurtwood Smith (as Thompson’s nasty mentor, Vernon), Ken Marino (as gangster Joseph Manfredi) and the returning Ray Wise (as Roxxon Oil head Hugh Jones) all added to the proceedings as characters who came into Peggy’s orbit, while Dominic Cooper was as fun and entertaining as ever in his two appearances as Howard Stark. And a special nod has to go to Bridget Regan, who was oh-so dynamic and engaging as the badass – and Peggy-obsessed — Dottie, Season 1’s surprise Black Widow, who ended up being reluctantly recruited by an injured Peggy.Image result for agent carter hollywood endingAgent Carter: Season 2 was tightly-constructed as was Season 1 and had a great tone to it. It was another fun season filled with compelling characters – including a strong villain – and 1940s, Marvel-flavored spy heroics, which benefitted from the new visuals the Los Angeles setting gave it. And most of all, it still boasted Peggy Carter herself, who was as awesome as ever. With this being the last season hopefully we will see her show up in other Marvel Projects

Advertisements

REVIEW: AGENT CARTER – SEASON 1

MAIN CAST
Hayley Atwell (Cinderella)
James D’Arcy (Hitchcock)
Chad Michael Murray (House of Wax)
Enver Gjokaj (Dollhouse)
Shea Whigham (American Hustle)
RECURRING AND NOTABLE GUEST CAST
Dominic Cooper (Dracula Untold)
Lyndsy Fonseca (Kick-Ass)
James Frain (Gotham)
James Landry Hebert (Looper)
Meagen Fay (Species 4)
Ray Wise (Robocop)
Ralph Garman (Ted)
Bridget Regan (Beauty and the Beast 2012)
Jack Conley (Angel)
Neal McDonough (Arrow)
Leonard Roberts (Heroes)
Rick Peters (Veronica Mars)
Ralph Brown (Alien 3)
Toby Jones (The Hunger Games)
Considering it was a 1940s period piece starring an already-established, likable character and was created by the guys who wrote Captain America: The Winter Soldier, you’d think people would have been more excited going into Marvel’s Agent Carter. Not that I didn’t see plenty of excitement as well, mind you, but I also saw a lot of cynicism – stuff about how it was a “prequel” and thus “wouldn’t matter” and also about how because Peggy and the other characters didn’t have superpowers, “Who cares?”But Agent Carter didn’t need to succeed by setting up something to pay off in another film it just needed to be an entertaining, involving show. And boy, was it.
Yes, it only got better as it went along, but Agent Carter — which came from executive producers/showrunners Michele Fazekas & Tara Butters — was a lot of fun from the start. Hayley Atwell had already established how great she is as the character and easily slid into the lead role, and pairing her with Edwin Jarvis (James D’Arcy) was an inspired move. Atwell and D’Arcy had terrific, non-romantic, chemistry together, playing Peggy and Jarvis as an instantly lovable, quirky duo and making the scenes where Jarvis accompanied Peggy on missions really pop – even before Peggy got to beat up bad guys.
With only eight episodes, Agent Carter moved quickly, in a satisfying manner. Bridget Regan was introduced as Peggy’s neighbor, Dottie, and just a week later – with fans already speculating on what her character could really be – she’s killing a guy, leading into a really awesome reveal that Agent Carter was introducing the Black Widow program into the mix.

Agent Carter wasn’t tied into the modern Marvel movies in a direct way, but there were a ton of cool connections throughout, beyond Peggy’s important history with Captain America. Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper), while only appearing in three episodes, was crucial to the story, and we got an intriguing look into his psyche in the season finale.
Dum Dum Dugan and the Howling Commandos showed up, we got to see more than one Black Widow at work and then there was Dr. Ivchenko, AKA Fr. Fennhoff – who is also known as the Marvel villain Dr. Faustus and who turned out to be tied into the Winter Soldier by the end, via a cool Marvel-movie type final scene.
In general, all the characters were really clicked. It was surprising to see Lyndsy Fonseca play a non-action role here, but she made Angie incredibly likable and charismatic and the scenes between her and Peggy were very sweet, showing Peggy making a far more normal connection than her life usually allows. Early on, I was concerned by the portrayal of the men at the SSR. Except for Enver Gjokaj’s sympathetic Daniel Sousa, they all felt pretty one note. Yes, it was important and fitting, given the era the show was set in, to show just how dismissive the guys in the office, in general, were of Peggy, unable to see just how skilled she was and the contributions she could bring. But the first couple of episodes had Thompson (Chad Michael Murray), Dooley (Shea Wigwam) and Krzeminski (Kyle Bornheimer) all feeling pretty similar and one-note, in a way that could have quickly become grating. Fortunately, the most annoying of this bunch, Krzeminski, was soon dead and Dooley and Thompson became much more nuanced as the season continued.
Dooley doing his own investigating and seeing that things didn’t ad up as  Howard Stark being the culprit was a great touch, letting us see why this guy was in charge in the first place. And the mission in Russia in “The Iron Ceiling”(a standout episode) gave us a ton of insight into Thompson and who he really was versus the image he projected. The season culminated in a very satisfying manner, with Dooley’s noble sacrifice, the reason behind Fennhoff’s anger at Howard revealed and a big cathartic release for Peggy, who got to beat Dottie in combat and finally really and truly put Steve Rogers to rest. This latter part was especially handled well and reinforced something that had been occurring to me all season – that it was especially silly to dismiss Agent Carter as “a prequel” when, if anything, it worked as a pretty direct sequel to Captain America: The First Avenger, simply following what happened next for Peggy (and, to a lesser extent, Howard) after that film’s events, instead of Steve.

REVIEW: DOLLHOUSE – SEASON 1-2

Image result for DOLLHOUSE TV LOGO

MAIN CAST

Eliza Dushku (Tru Calling)
Harry Lennix (Man of Steel)
Fran Kranz (The Cabin In The Woods)
Tahmoh Penikett (Battlestar Galactica)
Enver Gjokaj (Agent Carter)
Dichen Lachman (Agents of SHIELD)
Olivia Williams (X-Men 3)
Image result for DOLLHOUSE GHOST
RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Amy Acker (Angel)
Reed Diamond (Bones)
Liza Lapira (Cloverfield)
Kevin Kilner (Earth: Final Conflict)
VIncent Ventresca (Cold Case)
Alan Tudyk (Firefly)
Alexis Denisof (Avengers Assemble)
Keith Carradine (The Big Bang Theory)
Summer Glau (Arrow)
Matt Keeslar (Scream 3)
Miracle Laurie (Insane Jane)
Mark Sheppard (Chuck)
Erin Cumming (Spartacus)
Jim Piddock (The Man)
Anson Mount (In Her Shoes)
David Alpay (The Vampire Diaries)
Aisha Hinds (Cult)
Patton Oswalt (Caprica)
Mehcad Brooks (Supergirl)
Octavia Spencer (Mom)
Emma Bell (Final Destination 5)
Teddy Sears (The Flash)
Jordan Bridges (J. Edgar)
Ian Anthony Dale (Mr. 3000)
Gregg Henry (Slither)
Ashley Johnson (Roswell)
Felicia Day (The Guild)
Janina Gavankar (True Blood)
Chris William Martin (The Vampire Diaries)
Adair Tishler (Heroes)
Zack Ward (Transformers)
Clayton Rohner (The Relic)
Jamie Bamber (Battlestar Galactica)
Kristoffer Polaha (Ringer)
Stacey Scowley (The Brotherhood 2)
Michael Hogan (Red Riding Hood)
Nelson Franklin (New Girl)
Ray Wise (Swamp Thing)
Adam Godley (Powers)

Dollhouse is a near-future SF tv series, featuring Eliza Dushku as Echo, a woman working for the secretive “Dollhouse” who has voluntarily had her personality wiped in order to be imprinted with any mind and skills a client requires. While initially very episodic, a longer plotline slowly emerges as the more disturbing aspects of this technology and the Dollhouse emerges.

This series comes from the mind of Joss Whedon, responsible for Buffy, Angel, and Firefly. Like Firefly, Dollhouse was cancelled ignominiously in its second season, so be warned that you will not get the full story Whedon planned to write. Whedon has a real genius for producing brilliant genre TV that delights fans but doesn’t make it as a mainstream show, and the tension between his desire to tell a big story, while not alienating casual viewers, shows in the early episodes, which see Echo sent off on unrelated assignments.

Echo’s assignments range from the obvious seductions to less obvious tasks such as bodyguard and safe-cracker. As time goes on, we see her blank state slowly becoming not so blank. An outside element is provided by FBI agent Ballard, who is investigating the Dollhouse, and becomes obsessed with locating Echo and finding why she would enter the Dollhouse.

Once the first season gets into its stride it deals with rogue agent Alpha, whose eventual return causes chaos, and the ongoing investigation of Ballard. Slowly building along with this are the big questions of what the corporation behind the Dollhouse really want, what could be done with this technology, and how the apparently-wiped minds slowly find a personality. Season two attempts to kick into high gear, and throws some more radical changes into the mix, including glimpses of the eventual result of the Dollhouse technology, but ultimately couldn’t avoid cancellation.

Dollhouse has some excellent secondary characters, and tries to create an ensemble despite Dushku being very much the face of the show. Characters such as Topher, DeWitt, Langton, and Dr Saunders are brilliantly drawn, and the dialogue sparkles. As ever with a Whedon product, the characters draw you in and make you wish you could watch them again and again.

Ultimately Dollhouse is a brave but failed attempt to create something a little different, and provoke some real thought, in a genre that sometime gets too bland. It’s well worth watching, but doesn’t give the full story its vision deserved.

 

REVIEW: LIE TO ME – SEASON 1-3

maxresdefault

MAIN CAST

Tim Roth (The Incredible Hulk)
Kelli Williams (Army Wives)
Brendan Hines (Terminator: TSCC)
Monica Raymond (Chicago Fire)
Hayley McFarland (The Conjuring)
Mekhi Phifer (Divergent)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Jake Thoams (A.I.)
Tim Guinee (Iron Man)
Nolan Gerard Funk (Arrow)
David Anders (Izombie)
Rance Howard (A Beautiful Mind)
Anthony Ruivivar (Scream: The Series)
Isabella Hoffman (Legends of Tomorrow)
Sasha Roiz (Caprica)
Kristen Ariza (Startup)
Mekenna Melvin (ChucK)
Sean Patrick Thomas (Save The Last Dance)
Deidre Lovejpy (Bones)
Carlos Lacamara (Heroes Reborn)
Megan Follows (Reign)
Christine Adams (Agents of SHIELD)
Ajay Mehta (Anger Management)
Shea Whigham (Agent Carter)
Cheryl White (Major Crimes)
Virginia Williams (Fairly Legal)
Pej Vahdat (Bones)
Jennifer Beals (Flashdance)
Kevin Tighe (Lost)
Currie Graham (Stargate: The Ark of Truth)
D.B. Woodside (Buffy)
Jason Beghe (Californication)
Clea DuVall (The Faculty)
Mageina Tovah (Spider-Man 2 & 3)
Melissa Tang (Mom)
Jonathan Banks (The Lizzie Borden Chronicles)
Erika Christensen (Flightplan)
John Pyper-Ferguson (Caprica)
James Marsters (Buffy)
Gretchen Egolf (Roswell)
Marc Blucas (Red State)
David Kaufman (Superman: TAS)
Karina Logue (Bates Motel)
Sean O’Bryan (The Princess Diaries)
Garret Dillahunt (Terminator: TSCC)
Lennie James (The Walking Dead)
Alicia Coppola (Another World)
Roy Werner (Weeds)
Jason Gedrick (Beauty and The Beast)
April Grace (Lost)
Todd Stashwick (The Originals)
Ricky Jay (Flashforward)
Miguel Ferrer (Robocop)
Felicia Day (Dr. Horrible)
Jason Dohring (Veronica Mars)
Ashley Johsnon (Dollhouse)
Howard Hesseman (That 70s Show)
Mark Harelik (The Big Bang Theory)
Melissa George (Triangle)
Max Greenfield (Veronica Mars)
Bruce Weitz (General Hospital)
Enver Gjokaj (Agent Carter)
Alona Tal (Cult)
Khary Payton (Teen Titans)
Michael Beach (The Abyss)
Yara Shahidi (Ugly Betty)
Alyssa Diaz (The Vampire Diaries)
Kenneth Mitchell (Odyssey 5)
Richard Burgi (Chuck)
Conor O’Farrell (Stir of Echoes)
Catherine Dent (Termiantor: TSCC)
Kenny Johnson (Cold Case)
Erick Avari (Stargate)
Carmen Argenziano (Stargate SG.1)
Natalie Dreyfuss (The Originals)
Tiffany Hines (Bones)
Haley Ramm (X-Men 3)
Monique Gabriela Curnen (The Dark Knight)
Jennifer Marsala (Hart of Dixie)
Shawn Doyle (Reign)
Jamie Hector (Heroes)
Audrey Marie Anderson (Arrow)
Brent Sexton (Birds of Prey)
Katherine LaNasa (The Campaign)
Daniela Bobadilla (Anger Management)
Tricia Helfer (Battlestar Galactica)
Kathleen Gati (Arrow)
Noel Fisher (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Maury Sterling (The A-Team)
Jessica Parker Kennedy (The Secret Circle)
Brandon Jones (Pretty Little Liars)
Jim Beaver (Mike & Molly)
Barry Shabaka Henley (Heroes)
John Diehl (Stargate)
Keith Robinson (Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue)
Michael B. Jordan (Fantastic four)
Frankie Faison (The Silence of The Lambs)
Paula Malcomson (The Hunger Games)
Victoria Pratt (Mutant X)
Adam Godley (Powers)
Dylan Minnette (Goosebumps)
Annabeth Gish (Flashforward)
Alexandra Lydon (Mockingbird)
Ashton Holmes (A History of Violence)

We have all told a lie at one point in our lives. While our the lies we have told may be small, one needs to look no further than his or her local news to see that not all lies are harmless. Sometimes though lies seem like a last resort and getting the truth isn’t as simple as a lie detector. Dr. Cal Lightman (Tim Roth) would be the first to tell you a lie detector is garbage and he illustrates this point in an early episode in the series.  A lie detector establishes a baseline for truthful statements and then measures body factors like pulse rate, skin conductivity and temperature; any changes from the baseline readings indicates a lie. The problem is as Dr. Lightman shows in his trademark sardonic fashion, do something as simple as introduce an attractive woman in the room and the most honest man will instantly be a liar to the machine. His solution? Himself.


Lie to Me throws viewers into the world of human lie detector, Cal Lightman. His lie detecting skills rely on universal facial expressions and how a well-trained individual can detect a liar from reading “micro expressions.” Lightman heads up the private deception detection firm The Lightman Group and throughout the course of Lie to Me’s thirteen freshman episodes, Lightman and his associates Dr. Gillian Foster, Eli Loker, and new protégé Ria Torres will put their finely trained skills to the test as their group is hired from clients ranging from billionaires worried about potential gold diggers to law enforcement in stopping a copycat serial rapist. As absurd as the notion of Lightman being able to read facial expressions to determine whether a person is lying is, prepare to be blown away, as it’s all based on the very real and groundbreaking research of Dr. Paul Ekman.


Dr. Ekman pioneered the study of micro expressions and universal emotion and serves as a creative inspiration for Roth’s character. The creators have kept Ekman in the loop throughout the creative process and Fox allows Ekman to blog about what is factual and what is exaggerated on the show’s website, which earns this new series bonus points for giving viewers something to think about once the episode ends.

Once Roth is able to establish himself in the role of Lightman and we get bits and pieces of his human side (his relationship with Dr. Foster as well as his teenage daughter). Fortunately, the formula of the show does allow for Lightman’s other colleagues to hold their own as there is almost always a secondary case assigned to the pair not working with Lightman on the primary case. This allows for character bonds to be formed, in some cases from scratch as Monica Raymund’s character, Ria Torres, is a new addition to the team and provides some great dramatic tension from time to time as her ability is natural, which often draws the ire and jealousy of her brilliant boss.


Finally, the most unique positive aspect of Lie to Me comes from viewers being able to play along at home. As we learn little explanations of micro expressions from Lightman, in later episodes it’s fun to try and spot character motivations before they are revealed to us by one of the team.

Back for a second longer season, this show is every bit the show that I so enjoyed in the first season and even a little bit more. As with all shows, the first season suffers from a few growing pains. Actors need to settle into their roles, writers need to discover their characters’ true personalities and basically the show needs to settle. Thats why the second season is often a bit better than the first and Lie to me is no exception to that. The show was smoother, the acting more comfortable and the character relationships had chance to really blossom in a believable manner.

In this second season Cal seems to be much more lively, a great deal more fun to watch. HIs mock nervous energy, dry sense of humour and heart of gold is a more likeable. The other key element I liked in this series was the advancement of the relationships. There’s not any major romantic steps forward in this season, but Cal’s relationship with his daughter is a real high point of the show, as are his relationships with Foster and the rest of the gang. Every character seems to enjoy real chemistry with the others and that’s rare in any show, yet alone a procedural drama.

Overall this is another strong season. The show is funny when it needs to be, fast paced and action packed when thats called for, and finally it is interesting enough to more than keep your attention with every episode. Quite frankly, by the end of this season I would normally be hooked for the long hall. Shame then that there’s only one season left to watch

I was aware going in that this was going to be the final season of the show however it quickly becomes apparent that show runners weren’t similarly informed . The series really didn’t have the feel of a final season and indeed the show seemed to be picking up pace as it approached its final episode with new characters getting screen time and relationships moving forward with the usual pace of a procedural show finding its feet.

Because of this not only did the season not feel like a final season, the finale lacked any kind of closure whatsoever. It’s a shame as this show deserved more than just to fizzle out in what felt like a mid-season break rather than a complete end.

All I can say to finish is that once again a good show has been cancelled early while so many bad shows remain, which is a real shame. However, don’t let the poor ending to this show put you off.

REVIEW: AVENGERS ASSEMBLE

CAST

Robert Downey Jr. (Sherlock Holmes)
Chris Evans (The Losers)
Scarlett Johansson (Lucy)
Chris Hemsworth (The Huntsman: Winter’s War)
Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight)
Jeremy Renner (The Bourne Legacy)
Tom Hiddleston (Crimson Peak)
Clark Gregg (Agents of Shield)
Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother)
Stellan Skarsgard (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo)
Samuel L. Jackson (Snakes On A Plane)
Gwyneth Paltrow (Contagion)
Paul Bettany (Legion)
Alexis Denisof (Angel)
Powers Boothe (Sin City)
Ashley Johnson (What Women Want)
Enver Gjokaj (Agent Carter)
Stan Lee (Thor)
Lou Ferrigno (The Incredible Hulk)

Avengers Assemble  brings together many of the heroes from the Marvel universe who have already been featured in their own various films. The pictures have been constructed in an engaging web that, in some ways, is tied together in “The Avengers”


The Avengers opens with Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Thor’s adopted and power-mad brother, breaking into a secret lab and taking the tesseract, a glowing blue cube that has the power to open gateways to other universes. He brainwashes Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Professor Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) so that he can have both a worker and a warrior, and goes about a plan that will open a doorway so that an alien army can begin to take over Earth.

So, Director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) calls in all of the various heroes, including Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), Captain America (Chris Evans) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), who – carefully – goes to pick up Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) Additionally, Thor (Chris Helmsworth) pops in when he hears that his brother is up to no good.

The film is enjoyable as a popcorn action flick, with solid performances and an impressively skilled level of organization of several main characters. However, the real surprise is the humor – while Downey, Jr’s character gets all the great one-liners, there are little moments that are some of the funniest of the year, including a nod to a particular early ’80’s video game (and what makes the humor of the film work are moments like this, which could have just been the reference, but go the full way and use the visual of the game as the punchline for the joke).

The performances are all excellent good, although particular note has to be paid to Mark Ruffalo as Banner/The Hulk. Now the third different actor (after Eric Bana and Ed Norton) to play the role in recent years, Ruffalo really – even with limited screen time – proves himself to finally be a great choice for the role, getting the character’s inner turmoil and sadness. Downey, Jr’s wisecracking Iron Man persona continues to entertain and supporting performances are fine, as well, including a very different performance from Cobie Smulders (Robin from “How I Met Your Mother”) as Agent Maria Hill.