REVIEW: WHAT/IF – SEASON 1

Renée Zellweger, Jane Levy, and Blake Jenner in What/If (2019)

 

Main Cast

Renée Zellweger (Appaloosa)
Jane Levy (Don’t Breathe)
Blake Jenner (Cousin Sarah)
Daniella Pineda (The Originals)Renée Zellweger in What/If (2019)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Dave Annable (666 Park Avenue)
Louis Herthum (Westworld)
Allie MacDonald (Cardinal)
David Barrera (Generation Kill)
Juan Castano (Sharknado 2)
Samantha Marie Ware (Glee)
Keith Powers (Famous In Love)
Gabriel Mann (Revenge)
Julian Sands (Smallville)
Kristen Hager (Wanted)
Brenda Bakke (Under Siege 2)

Renée Zellweger and Gabriel Mann in What/If (2019)It’s tricky to explain Renée Zellweger’s new Netflix show What/If to somebody who hasn’t seen it, because it’s an exercise in diametrically opposed contradictions. It’s a sexy thriller, even though it’s about as sexy as slow-transit constipation. Its unique selling point is that it follows the consequences of actions, even though that also describes every single story ever told by anyone in the entire history of humankind. It’s a television series, even though its title is punctuated like a sub-tier early noughties boyband.Jane Levy and Juan Castano in What/If (2019)What I can say with confidence is that What/If is trash. The pilot episode was directed by the man who directed Sharon Stone’s 1993 boobathon Sliver, who appears to have been preserved in amber ever since the moment that film wrapped. The characters, the dialogue, the sets and costumes and music are all firmly in mid-90s, low-budget erotic thriller territory, and there’s barely a concession to modernity to be found anywhere. It’s confusing, too; the second scene takes place a year after the first scene, but the third scene takes place three days before the second scene. What’s more, almost all of the episode’s establishing shots take place during a thunderstorm for some genuinely unfathomable reason.Renée Zellweger in What/If (2019)One of the lead characters runs a struggling molecular sequencing company, despite being so aggressively stupid that it’s a wonder she ever figured out cutlery. The profession is an afterthought – clearly, nobody from the writer down cares a jot about the nuts and bolts of molecular sequencing – but it adds a vaguely futuristic sheen to the series, giving it shades of a Hallmark Channel Black Mirror reboot.Renée Zellweger in What/If (2019)Taken on the surface, What/If looks like a grand error; like another Cloverfield Paradox sold off to Netflix in a fire sale because its studio couldn’t believe what a clunker it was. But that’s the weird thing about What/If. I think – and I might be wrong, because this is pure conjecture – that its trashiness might actually be sort of deliberate.The best case for this argument lies with Zellweger’s character, a sexually voracious billionaire puppetmaster taken to wandering around her sprawling apartment late at night pontificating about the nature of destiny versus free will into a 2010-model dictaphone. Read that sentence back. That has to be deliberate, right? No sensible person, with the possible exception of EL James, would ever create a character this preposterous on purpose, surely. And I haven’t even mentioned her primary hobby yet. It’s doing archery in her kitchen. Of course it is.And Zellweger relishes every second of it. It’s a huge, camp, scenery-licking wink of a performance that channels every broad rich bitch trope you care to imagine. She’s the sort of person who writes “AT ANY COST” in block capitals on a piece of paper before we smash-cut to a day when her new book At Any Cost has become an epoch-defining bestseller. She’s the sort of person who keeps her keys in an enormous plexiglass cube in the middle of the room. She’s the sort of person who, when her butler sniffs that one of kitchen arrows has hit the target “left of centre”, smirks: “Three words no one has ever used to describe me”.
In What/If, Zellweger’s character meets a barman and invites him home. He declines, and so she escalates her offer. For one night with him, she offers to pay his wife (the molecular sequencer) $80m to rescue her ailing molecular sequencing business. It’s a plot, as the sequencer states in a rare moment of self-awareness, that’s been “ripped out of a bad 90s movie”. But it doesn’t end there, because it starts to look as if Zellweger chose the barman deliberately in order to ignite a bizarre Rube Goldberg sequence of events. Which is silly, right? The whole plot is so gaudy that it has to be tongue in cheek. But the thing is, Zellweger is the exception here. The rest of the characters, and all the subplots, are tedious and witless and played absolutely straight. Had What/If been The Renée Zellweger Show, it would have been fantastic. As it stands, she’s the only thing saving the series from terminal mediocrity.whatif_102_unit_00954rcSo, yes, What/If is tricky to explain. It isn’t the best show you’ll ever see. It isn’t even the worst best show. It might be the best worst show, but then again it also might be the worst worst show. Honestly, I’m stumped.

 

 

 

REVIEW: THE BOURNE SUPREMACY

CAST
Matt Damon (Good Will Hunting)
Franka Potente (Blow)
Karl Urban (Red)
Julia Stiles (A Guy Thing)
Brian Cox (Rise of The Planet of The Apes)
Gabriel Mann (Josie and The Pussycats)
Joan Allen (Manhunter)
Marton Csokas (Alice In Wonderland)
Michelle Monaghan (Mission Impossible III)
Karel Roden (Hellboy)
Chris Cooper (American Beauty)
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Two years after the events of the first film, Jason Bourne and Marie Kreutz are now in Goa, India. Still experiencing flashbacks about his former life as a CIA assassin, he records them in a notebook. In Berlin, CIA agents subordinate to Deputy Director Pamela Landy are paying US$3 million for the “Neski files”, documents on the theft of $20 million in allocation money seven years prior. Kirill, an agent for Russia’s Federal Security Service, plants Bourne’s fingerprint to frame him, kills the agents, and steals the files and money for delivery to Russian oil oligarch Yuri Gretkov. Kirill travels to Goa to kill Bourne, but Bourne spots him and flees with Marie. As the couple drive away, Kirill attempts to shoot Bourne, but kills Marie by mistake. Their vehicle goes off a bridge and into a river; Kirill assumes that Bourne is dead.Matt Damon and Julia Stiles in The Bourne Supremacy (2004)Bourne survives and leaves for Naples, Italy, with money and passports. After finding the fingerprint Kirill planted, Landy learns that it belongs to Bourne and subsequently asks Deputy Director Ward Abbott about Operation Treadstone, the defunct CIA program to which Bourne belonged. Landy tells Abbott that the CIA agent who stole the $20 million was named in the Neski files. Some years previously, Russian politician Vladimir Neski was about to identify the thief when he was supposedly murdered by his wife in a Berlin hotel. Landy believes that Bourne and Treadstone’s late supervisor, Alexander Conklin, were somehow involved. She also believes that Bourne killed her two agents. Both Abbott and Landy go to Berlin to capture Bourne.

In Naples, Bourne allows himself to be identified by security. He subdues his CIA interrogator, copies the SIM card from his cell phone, and learns from a subsequent phone call about Landy and what she thinks Bourne did. Bourne goes to Munich to visit the only other remaining Treadstone operative, Jarda, who informs Bourne that Treadstone was shut down after Conklin’s death. Jarda tries to incapacitate Bourne before an incoming CIA team arrives, but Bourne kills him, blows up his house, and escapes. Bourne follows Landy and Abbott as they meet former Treadstone support technician Nicky Parsons to question her about her past experience with him. Believing that the CIA is hunting him again, Bourne calls Landy from a nearby roof and is told that he is being pursued because he killed two people in Berlin. He demands a meet-up with Nicky and indicates to Landy that he can see her in the office, shocking the entire CIA team.
Matt Damon and Franka Potente in The Bourne Supremacy (2004)
Bourne kidnaps Nicky at the Alexanderplatz, and learns from her that Abbott was the head of Treadstone, not Conklin. He remembers that he murdered Neski in Berlin, but Nicky knows nothing about it, so he lets her go. Bourne then visits the hotel where the killing took place and remembers more of his mission—he killed Neski on Conklin’s orders, and when Neski’s wife showed up, he shot her to make it look like a murder–suicide. Abbott kills Danny Zorn (Conklin’s assistant) when he suspects a conspiracy against Bourne; he (Bourne) breaks into Abbott’s hotel room and records a conversation between him and Gretkov that incriminates them in the theft of the money. Abbott confesses to ordering the assassination in Goa, Neski’s murder by Bourne, and the murder of the agents by Kirill, for which Bourne was to be framed. When Landy suspects Bourne’s innocence and confronts Abbott, he commits suicide by shooting himself in the head. Bourne sends the tape of the confession to Landy, vindicating himself.
Bourne goes to Moscow to find Irena Neski, the daughter of Vladimir Neski. Kirill, tasked once again by Gretkov with killing Bourne, finds him and shoots him in the shoulder from a distance. Bourne steals a taxi and Kirill chases him. A long high-speed chase also involving many police cars ends after Bourne forces Kirill’s vehicle into a concrete divider. After finding that Kirill is mortally wounded, he lowers his gun and walks away. Bourne locates Irena Neski and confesses to murdering her parents. Gretkov is arrested.
Some time later, in New York City, Landy receives a phone call from Bourne; she expresses her thanks for the tape of Abbott’s confession before telling Bourne that his real name is David Webb and he was born 4/15/71 in Nixa, Missouri. Bourne then says “Get some rest Pam, you look tired”, indicating once again that he can see her, before hanging up and fading into a New York crowd.
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This really is an excellent spy thriller, with plenty of high quality car chases and escapes included too. The storyline is believeable within the context of the world of global espionage,, the film moves at a great pace and nicley sets up the third installment, The Bourne Ulitimatum.

 

REVIEW: THE BOURNE IDENTITY

CAST

Matt Damon (Oceans Eleven)
Franka Potente (Creep)
Chris Cooper (The Muppets)
Clive Owen (Sin City)
Brian Cox (Manhunter)
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Lost)
Gabriel Mann (Josie and The Pussycats)
Julia Stiles (10 Things I Hate About You)
Jimmy Jean-Louis (Joy)
Walton Goggins (The Hateful Eight)
Josh Hamilton (Dark Skies)
In the Mediterranean Sea, Italian fishermen rescue an unconscious American man (Matt Damon) floating adrift with two gunshot wounds in his back. They tend to his wounds, and when the man wakes, they find he suffers from dissociative amnesia: he has no idea of his identity but is aware of advanced combat skills and fluent in several languages. The skipper finds a tiny laser projector under the man’s skin that, when activated, gives a number of a safe deposit box in Zürich. Upon landing, the man heads to investigate the box. Arriving at the bank, the man finds the box contains a large sum of money in various currencies, numerous passports and identity cards, and a handgun; the man takes everything but the gun, and leaves, opting to use the name on the American passport, Jason Bourne.
A bank employee contacts Operation Treadstone, a CIA black operation program after Bourne’s departure. Treadstone’s head, Alexander Conklin (Chris Cooper), contacts CIA Deputy Director Ward Abbott (Brian Cox) about the reappearance of Bourne. Abbott warns that Bourne, a CIA agent, had been assigned to silently assassinate exiled African dictator Nykwana Wombosi (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), but the attempt failed, and Bourne must be dealt with. Conklin activates three agents to take down Bourne: Castel (Nicky Naude), Manheim (Russell Levy), and the Professor (Clive Owen), while also issuing alerts to local police to capture Bourne.
Bourne attempts to get more information from the U.S. consulate, but he is discovered by guards. He evades capture, leaves the embassy, and gives a German woman, Marie Helena Kreutz (Franka Potente), $20,000 to drive him to an address in Paris listed on his French driving license. At the address, an apartment, he hits redial on the phone and reaches a hotel. He inquires about the names on his passports there, learning that a “John Michael Kane” had been registered but died two weeks prior in a car accident. Castel ambushes them in the apartment, but Bourne gets the upper hand. Instead of allowing himself to be interrogated, Castel throws himself out a window to his death. Kreutz finds wanted posters of Bourne and herself, and agrees to continue to help Bourne.
Meanwhile, Wombosi approaches the police about the attempt on his life. Conklin, having anticipated this, had planted a body in the Paris morgue to appear as the assailant, but Wombosi is not fooled and threatens to report this. The Professor assassinates Wombosi on Conklin’s orders. Bourne, posing as Kane, learns about Wombosi’s yacht, and that the assailant had been shot twice during the escape; Bourne now considers himself to have been the assailant. He and Kreutz take refuge at the French countryside home of her ex-lover Eamon (Tim Dutton) and his children. Conklin tracks their position and sends the Professor there, but Bourne is able to mortally wound him. The Professor reveals their shared connection to Treadstone before dying. He sends Kreutz, Eamon and his children away for their protection, and then contacts Conklin via the Professor’s phone to arrange a meet. From a rooftop near the arranged location in Paris, Bourne sees Conklin has brought backup, so abandons the meeting but uses the opportunity to place a tracking device on his car, leading him to the Treadstone’s safe house.
Bourne breaks in and holds Conklin and logistics technician Nicolette “Nicky” Parsons (Julia Stiles) at gunpoint. Bourne starts to fully recall the assassination attempt through successive flashbacks. As Kane, and working under orders from Treadstone, Bourne infiltrated Wombosi’s yacht but could not bring himself to kill Wombosi while Wombosi’s children were present, and instead fled, being shot at during his escape. Bourne announces he is resigning from Treadstone and not to be followed. As agents descend on the safehouse, Bourne fights his way free. Meanwhile, when Conklin goes to leave the safe house, he is killed by Manheim, who was ordered to terminate Treadstone by Abbott.
Abbott reports on the dismissal of Treadstone before an oversight committee but announces a new project codenamed “Blackbriar”. Some time later, Bourne finds Kreutz renting out scooters to tourists on Mykonos, and the two reunite.
This edition is the best one to have.  Well acted, well scripted, and filmed at real European locations make this movie really enjoyable

REVIEW: THE AVENGERS: EARTH’S MIGHTIEST HEROES

MAIN CAST (VOICES)

Brian Bloom (Vampirella)
Chris Cox (All Star Superman)
Jennifer Hale (The Rick)
Peter Jessop (Jla Adventures)
Phil LaMarr (Free Enterprise)
Eric Loomis (Shin Chan)
James C. Mathis III (Undercover Brother)
Colleen Villard (Duel Masters)
Fred Tatasciore (Hulk Vs)
Rick D. Wasserman (Planet Hulk)
Wally Wingert (American Dad)

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RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST COICES

Gabriel Mann (Cherry Falls)
Drake Bell (The Reef 2)
Bumper Robinson (Sabrina: The Teenage Witch)
Steven Blum (Wolverine and Teh X-men)
Alex Desert (The Flash 90s)
Vanessa Marshall (Duck Dodgers)
Kari Wuhrer (Eight Legged Freaks)
Elizabeth Daily (Valley Girl)
Troy Baker (Lego Batman)
Nolan North (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Crispin Freeman (Hellsing)
Scott Menville (Teen Titans)
Grey DeLisle (Danny Phantom)
Cam Clarke (He-Man)
Lance Reddick (Lost)
J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)
Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show)
Nika Futterman (Hey Arnold!)
Lance Henriksen (The Terminator)
Jonathan Adams (Bones)
Jeffrey Combs (Gotham)
Graham McTavish (The Hobbit)
Dawn Olivieri (The Vampire Diaries)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)
Dwight Schultz (The A-Team)
Keith Szarabajka (The Dark Knight)
Lacey Chabert (Mean Girls)
Dee Bradley Baker (American Dad)
David Kaufman (Superman: TAS)

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Both Marvel and DC have to an astonishing degree started to pick up these last few years, with several well-appreciated shows that I really enjoy: Young Justice, The Spectacular Spider-Man, Iron Man: Armored Adventures, Green Lantern TAS, and now this; The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. It’s very rare indeed for a superhero cartoon of this magnitude to be  great from start-to-finish, but that’s what Earth’s Mightiest Heroes is, right from Episode 1 `Iron Man is Born’ to the finale `Avengers Assemble!’. There are literally no dud episodes whatsoever! The whole series is infused with tremendous intrigue, exceptional plotting and some of the tightest continuity I’ve ever seen in a TV series. The number of sub-plots and story-arcs that are juggled here is staggering, but the creative team handled it all with such precision. The coherency, intricacies and pacing is nothing short of exemplary overall. This isn’t just essential for kids; adult Marvel fans will get bags of satisfaction from watching this cartoon!MV5BMTgxOTA1Nzk3OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDk0MzY2MjE@._V1_So what exactly can folk expect? Well, as I said, the choicest pieces of Marvel history (be it in comics or on film) have been successfully adapted and utilized here. From how the Avengers banded together to life-changing events like the Civil War threat and the Skrulls’ Secret Invasion (adapted beautifully here!). Iron Man, the Hulk, Captain America, Thor, Ant-Man/Yellowjacket, the Wasp and Black Panther are all superbly established before `Assembling’ for the first time, members come-and-go, characters undergo changes, Hawkeye, Ms. Marvel and the Vision join the ranks, and all-manner of superb guests join the party, such as Spider-Man, Wolverine, the Fantastic Four and even those Guardians of the Galaxy!

And on the villains-front, you can be subjected to a cracking-bunch of dastardly rogues, such as Loki, the Red Skull, Hydra, A.I.M., Baron Zemo, the Enchantress, the Masters of Evil, Kang the Conqueror, Doctor Doom and (of course!) chief arch-nemesis Ultron. And it’s not all just for window-dressing. The depictions of all these characters (hero, villain and otherwise) and their worlds is just pure gold. It’s perhaps the most faithful animated portrayal of the Marvel Universe.
Really, The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes could (and should) have gone on for more seasons. Instead, Marvel pulled the plug in favor of the replacement show Avengers Assemble. Thus in the last batch episodes, you DO get the feel that the writers were trying to wrap things up and give the show a grand swansong to make way for the next-cartoon-in-line. Admittedly, there are a few loose ends left over, but the series is mostly wrapped-up in winning style with a very acceptable conclusion. And in an age where too many shows are cancelled prematurely/end on a sour note, it makes that final moment of `Avengers Assemble!’ all the more of a triumph, just like the entire series itself.