REVIEW: HARLEY QUINN – SEASON 1

Harley Quinn (2019)

Starring

Kaley Cuoco (The Big Bang Theory)
Lake Bell (The Secret Life of Pets)
Alan Tudyk (Doom Patrol)
Jason Alexander (Shallow Hal)
Diedrich Bader (American Housewife)
Ron Funches (Powerless)
Tony Hale (Chuck)
J. B. Smoove (Spider-Man: Far From Home)

Kaley Cuoco in The Final Joke (2020)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Charles Adler (Rugrats)
James Adomian (Storks)
Tisha Campbell-Martin (My Wife and Kids)
Briana Cuoco (The Lydia Bennet!!)
Andy Daly (Semi-Pro)
Chris Diamantopoulos (The Three Stooges)
Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad)
Susie Essman (Curb Your Enthusiasm)
Sean Giambrone (The Secret Life of Pets 2)
Tom Kenny (Super Hero Squad Show)
Wayne Knight (3rd Rock From The Sun)
Rahul Kohli (Izombie)
Phil LaMarr (Free Enterprise)
Sanaa Lathan (The Cleveland Show)
Howie Mandel (Gremlins)
Vanessa Marshall (Final Space)
Christopher Meloni (Man of Steel)
Natalie Morales (Santa Clarita Diet)
Frankie Muniz (Agent Cody Banks)
Matt Oberg (Sisters)
Rhea Perlman (Sing)
Jim Rash (Sky High)
Will Sasso (Mom)
Nicole Sullivan (The King of Queens)
Wanda Sykes (Clerks II)
Jacob Tremblay (Good Boys)
James Wolk (Watchmen TV)

Diedrich Bader and Kaley Cuoco in The Final Joke (2020)DC Universe’s funny, gory supervillain comedy mixes rollicking action with psychological growth. In DC Universe’s Harley Quinn, a gloriously foul-mouthed and blood-spattered adult cartoon, our psychologist-turned-supervillain heroine finds herself in a brutal skirmish with her own parents, who are trying to kill her. (First, they accidentally blew grandma’s head off, then they put a peekaboo hole through grandpa.) Harley beats her emotionally abusive father to a pulp in a filial dynamic I haven’t seen since Karyn Kusama’s Girlfight. “All I wanted was what every Jewish mother wants — for you to marry a doctor!” her mother wails, brandishing a bloody knife. “I AM A DOCTOR!” Harley (Kaley Cuoco) erupts in a zing so nuclear it nearly knocked me as dead as grandma.Kaley Cuoco, Tony Hale, and Ron Funches in The Final Joke (2020)Harley Quinn is the story of what happens when a woman’s ego happens to be as inflated as any mediocre man’s. It’s one of the best surprises of the year. The show stems from Justin Halpern, Patrick Schumacker and Dean Lorey, who have created another clever postmodern take on superhero lore, à la The Incredibles, The Boys, Watchmen and Powerless. (All three were executive producers on the latter.)Kaley Cuoco in Devil's Snare (2020)In 13 zippy, violent and irreverent half-hour episodes, we’re introduced to lovesick Harley, a minor sidekick in unbecoming pantomime garb, who soon breaks free from her toxic romance with narcissist Joker (Alan Tudyk) to branch out on her own (complete with a sexy makeover to embody Margot Robbie’s bat-wielding-in-short-shorts version of the character). Harley, a former practicing therapist, bursts with lava-hot anger, and her addiction to her own temper ends up being her Achilles heel in most episodes. She’s a great protagonist because she makes bad decisions and maintains unhealthy goals. Honestly, it’s a refreshing set of vices for a cartoon female lead.Kaley Cuoco in Devil's Snare (2020)Short of being “How Harley Got Her Groove Back,” the series takes its time to deprogram its heroine from the abuse cycle, following her as she slowly builds her nascent supervillain business/brand. First, her sardonic and husky-voiced best friend Poison Ivy (Lake Bell, playing the character as a grown-up Daria) stages an anti-Joker intervention for Harley that includes hurling her friend in a vat of neon margarita mix disguised as acid (“It’s still kinda stingy,” Harley whines).Kaley Cuoco and Alan Tudyk in Devil's Snare (2020)Then, once her ex is out of her life, Harley realizes how little respect she has in the supervillain boys club (a.k.a. the Legion of Doom) and seeks to establish a ruthless reputation for herself. She assembles a new crew, including a #MeToo-disgraced Doctor Psycho (Tony Hale), shape-shifting thespian Clayface (Alan Tudyk), easygoing fishman King Shark (Ron Funches) and elderly spy-turned-cyborg Sy Borgman (Jason Alexander). Ivy, an avowed environmentalist with her own plant-based agenda, insists she’s not officially in the crew … but let’s just say she’s not-not officially in the crew. They’re raggedy, but they’ll do.Kaley Cuoco and Lake Bell in Devil's Snare (2020)The best episodes are the ones in which Harley must confront her own boundaries as a supervillain. Early on, she finds herself in a cringey nemesis relationship with seemingly-cherubic tween Robin (Jacob Tremblay, as delightfully profane as in Good Boys), which threatens Harley’s fledgling professional legitimacy. Later, she befriends charming villainess Queen of Fables (Wanda Sykes), only to realize she’s hardcore bloodthirsty and not just your garden-variety heisting baddie. I mean, she full-on murders Humpty Dumpty for an omelet. “Oh, you got a line, huh?” she admonishes Harley. “Superheroes have a line. Teen Titans have a line. We don’t give a fuck.”Kaley Cuoco in Devil's Snare (2020)Harley Quinn juxtaposes cheeky joke-telling against face-melting body horror. It’s also not afraid to mock the DC brand at large. Here, every classic superhero is a righteous blowhard, every revered supervillain an impotent buffoon (Harley taunts Batman about how he “fucks bats” every chance she gets). We watch as Aquaman cradles a dying pufferfish in his arms and as Bane continuously fails at every little task. Comedian James Adomian’s harpooning voicework superbly obliterates Tom Hardy’s iconic performance as this character.In fact, the cast at large is key to Harley Quinn’s success. Harley screeches so much I actually became worried for Cuoco’s vocal cords, but the shrieking nonetheless remains essential to Harley’s personal development. She’s no longer the nasally, sexxii baby-voiced Noo Yawka dripping at Joker’s heels, but a rage machine about to explode into flames. She’s often tempered by Ivy’s voice-of-reason deadpan, a masterful turn from Bell, who in fact wrote and directed an entire feature film about the art of vocal talent. Other main cast standouts include Alan Tudyk, doing his cartoon pastiche Alan Tudyk thing, and Jason Alexander, who infuses Sy Borgman with craggy Yiddishkeit. My favorite guest stars of the season include Susie Essman and Rhea Perlman.Kaley Cuoco and Lake Bell in Devil's Snare (2020)Instead of relying on caper-of-the-week hijinks, the producers opt to highlight Harley’s personal growth, organically building action sequences and serialized storylines from that seismic emotional epicenter. Harley may be a supervillain, but she’s also healing from systemic manipulation, finally able to explore her own identity outside of her ex’s. Harley Quinn has its finger on the pulse of female trauma and strength. Kaley Cuoco in Harley Quinn Highway (2020)

REVIEW: MAGIC KID 2

CAST

Ted Jan Roberts (Masked Rider)
Stephen Furst (Babylon 5)
Dana Barron (Snow bride)
Jennifer Savidge (Evolution)
Susan Angelo (The Truman Show)
William Daniels (The Graduate)
Howie Mandel (Gremlins)
David Morse (Disturbia)

68982820_506077973507297_8171564859943550976_nKevin Ryan is a film star named Ninja Boy. David Wadsworth is a film producer who expects big money from his new film starring Ninja Boy. Meanwhile, Kevin has to study to pass on to the 10th grade but he won’t succeed if he keeps on starring in movies. Kevin’s agent is his uncle Bob Ryan, who plays poker all day with his friends.magic-kid-iiKevin is home-schooled by his tutor Suzanne, who wants Kevin to finish school. When Kevin visits Suzanne’s home, he asks her daughter Maggie on a date. Maggie agrees and soon Kevin falls in love with her. Meanwhile, Uncle Bob, who is concerned about the millions of dollars he will owe if Kevin breaks his movie contract, supports Kevin choosing the film. Kevin then runs away from home. David gives Uncle Bob 24 hours to find Kevin. Uncle Bob doesn’t find him and David sends Luther (his bodyguard) after him. After a motorcycle chase, Bob gets arrested. Luther bails him out and takes him back to his house.Then Uncle Bob finds Kevin’s school book and goes to Suzanne. When Kevin returns from a date with Maggie, he hears that Uncle Bob and Suzanne had a long talk and both decided that Kevin must go to school first. That brings Uncle Bob in conflict with David, who makes a plan to kill the Ninja Boy.dana 15This is a rare movie, in that it is a sequel to another movie “Magic Kid”, but is better than the original! not long after this movie Ted Jan Roberts would become the main star in the short lived Masked Rider series.

REVIEW: GREMLINS 2: THE NEW BATCH

CAST

Zach Galligan (Hatchet 3)
Phoebe Cates (Private School)
John Glover (Smallville)
Robert Prosky (Mad City)
Robert Picardo (Stargate: Atlantis)
Christopher Lee (The Hobbit)
Haviland Morris (The Fifth Element)
Dick Miller (A Bucket of Blood)
Jackie Joseph (The Split)
Gedde Watanabe (Gung Ho)
Keye Luke (Battle of The Planets)
Hulk Hogan (The Ultimate Weapon)
Kathleen Freeman (As Told By Ginger)
Howie Mandel (Lois & Clark)
Frank Welker (Transformers)
Neil Ross (Babe)
Raymond Cruz (Breaking Bad)
Julia Sweeney (Pulp Fiction)
Dean Norris (Total Recall)
Henry Gibson (Sabrina: TTW)
John Astin (The Frigteners)
Bubba Smith (Police Academy)

After the death of his owner Mr. Wing (Keye Luke), the mogwai Gizmo (voiced by Howie Mandel) becomes the guinea pig of mad scientists working at Clamp Enterprises, an automatic state-of-the-art office building in Manhattan, run by eccentric billionaire Daniel Clamp (John Glover). At the mercy of the chief researcher Dr. Catheter (Christopher Lee), Gizmo is rescued by his friend Billy Peltzer (Zach Galligan) and his fiancee Kate (Phoebe Cates), both of whom work at Clamp Enterprises. Clamp quickly befriends Billy upon being impressed by his skills in concept design, also sparking the interest of Billy’s superior Marla Bloodstone (Haviland Morris). Gizmo is left in the office, where water spills on his head and spawns new mogwai, including Mohawk (voiced by Frank Welker), who then has Gizmo locked in the vents. They eat after midnight, turning into gremlins.

After Gizmo finds a way out of the vent, Mohawk tortures him while the other Gremlins cause the fire sprinklers to go off and spawn a Gremlin army that throws the building into chaos. Billy attempts to lure the Gremlins into the lobby, where sunlight will kill them; after Billy briefs Clamp on gremlin knowledge, he inspires Clamp to try to save the city; Clamp, realizing the good PR it will bring, escapes outside through a secret tunnel to cover the front of the building in a giant sheet depicting nighttime to trick the creatures. The Gremlins devour serums in the lab; one becomes the intelligent Brain Gremlin (Tony Randall), who plans to use a “genetic sunblock” serum to immunize the group to sunlight. Another Gremlin turns into a female, while a third becomes pure electricity and, after killing Dr. Catheter, is trapped in Clamp’s answering machine by Billy. All the while “Grandpa Fred” (Robert Prosky) catches the chaos on camera with help from a Japanese tourist named Mr. Katsuji (Gedde Watanabe), broadcasting it to the world; he dreams of being a proper anchorman but only works at Clamp Enterprises as the host of a late night horror show.

Murray Futterman (Dick Miller), Billy’s neighbor from Kingston Falls visiting New York City and still trying to recover from the trauma from the events of the first film, encounters a bat-hybrid Gremlin the Brain Gremlin used the serum on; he covers it with cement, effectively turning it into a gargoyle. Murray realizes that he is not crazy as everyone believed and that he has to help; when Clamp escapes the building using a secret route, Murray uses it to sneak inside the Clamp building to aid Billy. Billy and the chief of security Forster (Robert Picardo) team up, but Forster is stalked and sexually harassed by the female Gremlin who is attracted to him. Mohawk finishes torturing Gizmo and devours a spider serum, transforming into a monstrous half-Gremlin half-spider hybrid. He attacks Kate and Marla, but Gizmo (tired of being bullied, dressed up like Rambo) confronts Mohawk and kills him with an ignited bottle of white-out. Outside the building, a rainstorm frustrates Clamp’s plan as the Gremlins gather in the building’s foyer, singing “New York, New York” as they anticipate all the havoc they’re planning to cause.

Billy formulates a second plan to kill the Gremlin army: having Mr. Futterman spray the army with water and then releasing the electrical Gremlin, electrocuting and killing all of the army including the Brain Gremlin. Clamp charges in with the police and press, but sees the battle is already over; although disappointed he could not take part in the heroism, he is so thrilled by the end result that he gives Billy, Katie, Fred and Marla promotions and hires Mr. Katsuji as a cameraman. Billy and Kate then return home and Gizmo stays with them for good. Forster (covered from head to toe in lipstick marks) calls Clamp, explaining he’s trapped in a restroom with the female Gremlin (the only survivor of the army), and is dismayed when Clamp says it will take hours to rescue him as they clear the building. The female Gremlin’s initial lust reveals itself as a far more intensely passionate love as she approaches Forster in a wedding dress. After much horror and discomfort, Forster eventually gives in.Gremlins 2 is one of the funniest films that you will see. And I’m just a little surprised that Joe Dante isn’t still active so much in the business anymore. He made some great films and I would gladly see anything that he puts his name on.

REVIEW: GREMLINS

CAST

Zach Galligan (Hatchet 3)
Phoebe Cates (Drop Dead Fred)
Hoyt Axon (Retribution)
Frances Lee McCain (Footloose)
Corey Feldman (The Goonies)
Keye Luke (The Mighty Quinn)
Dick Miller (A Bucket of Blood)
Jackie Joseph (Police Academy 2)
Polly Holliday (Mrs. Doubtfire)
Judge Reinhold (The Santa Clause)
Jonathan Banks (The Lizzie Borden Chronicles)
Frank Welker (Transformers)
Howie Mandel (Lois & Clark)
Peter Cullen (Transformers)
William Schallert (Innerspace)

Randall Peltzer, a struggling inventor, visits a Chinatown antique store in the hope to find a Christmas present for his son Billy. In the store, Randall encounters a small, furry creature called a mogwai (Cantonese: 魔怪, “monster”). The owner Mr. Wing refuses to sell the creature to Randall, though his grandson secretly sells the mogwai to Randall but tells him to remember three important rules that must never be broken – do not expose the mogwai to bright lights or sunlight which will kill it, do not let it get wet, and never feed it after midnight.

Randall returns home to Kingston Falls where he gives the mogwai to Billy as a pet. Billy works in the local bank, and fears his dog Barney will be put down by Mrs. Deagle. Randall names the mogwai “Gizmo” and Billy makes sure to treat him well. But when Billy’s friend Pete spills a glass of water over Gizmo, five more mogwai spawn from his back, a more troublemaking sort led by the aggressive Stripe. Billy shows one of the mogwai to his former science teacher Mr. Hanson, spawning another mogwai, who Hanson experiments on. Stripe’s gang trick Billy into feeding them after midnight by chewing out the power cord to his bedside clock and transform into cocoons, as does Hanson’s mogwai. Shortly after, their cocoons hatch and they emerge as mischievous, reptilian Gremlins that torture Gizmo and try to murder Billy’s mother, while Hanson is killed by his Gremlin.

All of the Gremlins are killed except Stripe, who escapes to a local YMCA and jumps into a swimming pool, spawning an army of Gremlins who wreak massive chaos around Kingston Falls. Billy tries to warn the police but they don’t believe him. Many people are injured or outright killed by the Gremlins’ rampage, including Mrs. Deagle, who is launched out of her house on a stair lift that has been sabotaged by the gremlins. At the local bar, the Gremlins have fun until the barmaid Kate Beringer, Billy’s girlfriend, flashes them with a camera and escapes into the bank with Billy and Gizmo. While hiding, she reveals her father died in a chimney while dressed as Santa Claus. Billy and Kate discover the town has fallen silent and the Gremlins are watching Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in a theater. They set off an explosion, killing all the Gremlins except Stripe.

Billy chases Stripe into a Montgomery Ward store, where Stripe climbs into a water fountain and tries to spawn more Gremlins. Gizmo arrives in a toy car and opens a skylight, exposing Stripe to extreme sunlight and melting him. In the aftermath of the Gremlins’ rampage, Mr. Wing arrives to collect Gizmo, scolding the Peltzers for their carelessness, thinking the Western world is not ready but comments that Billy might some day be ready to care for Gizmo properly. Gizmo likewise believes so, having become attached to Billy. Mr. Wing departs with Gizmo in tow, while Randall narrates to the audience to check their house if things go wrong, because “there just might be a Gremlin in your house”.Originally a much more evil script (intended to be an anti-Wonderful Life), Chris Columbus was inspired to write Gremlins as he listened to the rats in his apartment scurry about in the dark during the night. He lightened the material somewhat before filming began, but Joe Dante’s wild vision makes it a twisted, festive reality. Gremlins sparked the rise of Chris Columbus as a creative force in Hollywood. Only 25 at the time of filming his career has been made up of classics, and Christmas classics, such as The Goonies, Young Sherlock Holmes, Home Alone, Home Alone 2, Harry Potter, and Bicentennial Man. Joe Dante never scored a bigger hit, but his subsequent career significant;y defined 80s and 90s cinema with movies such as Innerspace, The ‘burbs, Gremlins 2, and Small Soldiers. Goldsmith scoring every one of them until his death in 2004.