REVIEW: DEAD TO ME – SEASON 2

Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini in Dead to Me (2019)

Starring

Christina Applegate (Bad Moms)
Linda Cardellini (Avengers: Endgame)
Max Jenkins (Plus One)
Sam McCarthy (Condor)
Luke Roessler (Deadpool 2)
James Marsden (Westworld)

Into_the_Dark_Crawlers_TV-303956896-large

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Michole Briana White (Love That Girl!)
Jere Burns (Bates Motel)
Barry Livingston (Argo)
Natalie Morales (Santa Clarita Diet)
Suzy Nakamura (Dr. Ken)
Diana Maria Riva (17 Again)
Marc Evan Jackson (The Good Place)
Frances Conroy (How I Met Your Mother)
Katey Sagal (Futurama)

0f20aefe5af91b2042c43cbdbf651e585d-25-deadHow do you keep a secret? That’s the question Netflix’s dark comedy Dead To Me has been asking since season 1, and with season 2 dropping on May 8, that question goes into overdrive. Since Jen Harding (Christina Applegate) killed Judy Hale’s (Linda Cardellini) ex-fiancé Steve Wood (James Marsden) in the season 1 finale, they now both have murdered each other’s significant others, for anyone keeping count. The result is a season with even more twists than the last, as the ladies try to cover up the latest murder.pooka-coverThe balance of this show has always been between the exploration of how people deal with grief and the crazy murder aspect. While I’m happy to see that the grief aspect hasn’t been dropped at all, the show has tipped a little bit more towards the murder side of things. This is helped along by the show cutting the grief group that Jen and Judy went in season 1, this season, which is a shame. The grief group often provided a way for the show to slow itself down and reflect, which this season sorely needs. This season Judy deals with the struggle that is grieving someone who was abusive to her, and both Jen and Judy have to carry the guilt of Steve’s murder as his family becomes ever more involved in their lives.hulu_Into_the_Dark_My_Valentine_reviewWhile last season was about Judy keeping the secret from both Jen and the police, that she and Steve killed Jen’s husband in a hit and run, this season Judy knows that Jen killed Steve from the start, though Jen misleads her about some of the details. So a lot more of the show becomes about the two women working together, running around town, trying to cover it up. Jen discovers what Judy dealt with last season (and this season, for that matter), which is the urge to confess. While all of this is very entertaining, the show becomes a little too hectic with the secret keeping. It helped last season that it was only one of the titular characters keeping a murder secret, because it meant that we got a break from that storyline every once in a while. Instead this season runs at break-neck speed, and it feels a little claustrophobic that there’s no relief from the murder plot-line.hulu_Into_the_Dark_My_Valentine_reviewBoth actresses are incredible as always. Applegate shows off Jen’s enormous rage once again, but also intense vulnerability, which earned her Golden Globe, Emmy, and SAG nominations for season 1. Cardellini fully embodies the neurotic and sensitive Judy, as she struggles with her self-worth, but shows off her incredible depth of kindness. The two characters fall deeper into their co-dependent relationship, making it more unclear than ever whether they are the best things that ever happened to each other, or the worst.198121ba935c31d7384437cccc7a76f521-dead-to-me-s-1.2x.rsocial.w600
New character Michelle, played by Natalie Morales, is a great addition to the cast, I’m only sorry that we don’t get to see more of her. Don’t worry, even though Steve is dead, Marsden is back in a surprising way that I’ll leave to the imagination due to spoilers. Judy’s short-lived cop boyfriend from season 1, Nick (Brandon Scott), is back, and he’s as suspicious as ever, though still continues to be a great guy. This season he struggles with depression and discrimination from his boss at work. Detective Perez (Diana Maria Riva) gets some fleshing out this season, but it’s often clumsily done.UntitledSeason 2 is a wild ride. It’s fun, sad, highly entertaining, but often just a little too cringe-worthy (although if you like cringe then this will be perfect). The cast is as strong as ever, and the high stakes make me wonder how the show is going to manage to top itself next season. The finale ends on a cliffhanger, of course (come on, you know that’s not a spoiler, this is Dead To Me), and all of the characters seem to have grown a little by the end.

REVIEW: THE LOFT

CAST

Karl Urban (Dredd)
James Marsden (Westworld)
Wentworth Miller (Legends of Tomorrow)
Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family)
Matthias Schoenaerts (The Drop)
Isabel Lucas (Red Dawn)
Rachael taylor (Jessica Jones)
Rhona Mitra (Nip/Tuck)
Kali Rocha (Buried)
Kristin Lehman (Andromeda)
Elaine Cassidy (The Others)
Margarita Levieva (Spread)

Five married men share ownership of an upmarket loft, which they use to discreetly meet their respective mistresses. When the body of a murdered woman is found in that loft, the men begin to suspect each other of having committed the gruesome crime, as they are the only ones with keys to the premises. Through flashbacks, which are intertwined with scenes from the present, the story is unraveled.

The five men are:1.Vincent Stevens (Karl Urban): architect and designer of the building where the loft is situated; married to Barbara (Valerie Cruz) and has children; the one who initially suggests the five use the loft as a private oasis, he is set up by the other men to be accused of the murder.2.Luke Seacord (Wentworth Miller): married to Ellie (Elaine Cassidy), who is an insulin-dependent diabetic; the one who discovered the body and initially calls Vincent and the others over to the loft. The police later insinuate that he is attracted to Vincent. He also recorded the men’s activities in the loft without them knowing.3.Dr. Chris Vanowen (James Marsden): a psychiatrist married to Allison (Rhona Mitra), half-brother to Philip. Chris and Philip have a half-sister, Zoe (Madison Burge). The most reluctant of the men to the idea and the last to accept a key to the loft, Chris eventually does so because he is attracted to Ann (Rachael Taylor), who eventually becomes his mistress. She tells Chris not to fall in love with her because she is a prostitute. He gives her his key as proof he does not use the loft with other women.4.Marty Landry (Eric Stonestreet): married to Mimi (Kali Rocha); a heavy drinker and an obvious lech. He and Mimi become separated when a woman he fooled around with shows up at his home.5.Philip Williams (Matthias Schoenaerts): half-brother to Chris as they have the same mother; recently married to Vicky (Margarita Levieva), who is the only daughter of a wealthy property developer, who is also his boss. He is a drug user who grew up in a dysfunctional household with his abusive father; very protective of his younger sister Zoe, and warns the other men off having sex with her.The murder victim is Sarah Deakins (Isabel Lucas): Vincent, Luke, and Marty met her at a bar; both Vincent and Luke are attracted to her, but she hooks up with Vincent and becomes attached to him. At a party they are both attending, Sarah threatened to tell Vincent’s wife about the affair as a way to have them break up, but she is dissuaded from this by Luke. She seemingly tries to commit suicide at the loft, by taking pills with champagne. She is discovered by Luke, who calls Chris, Marty and Philip, showing them a note to Vincent. The note read “See you in the next life”; this note is taken from the loft by Chris.The men were motivated to set Vincent up by Luke, who showed them DVDs of Vincent having sex with Marty’s wife, Mimi; Chris’s prostitute, Ann (who Vincent had paid to allow Chris to seduce her, so that he would take a key to and use the loft), and Zoe, Philip and Chris’s younger sister. Three of the men leave to set up their alibis, with Philip remaining at the loft to stage the scene. He takes some cocaine and cuts Sarah’s wrists, using her bloodied finger to write a Latin phrase similar to that in her suicide note. He then handcuffs Sarah’s right hand to the bed.Over the course of the movie, as the five men discuss what to do with the body, Luke, Chris, Marty, and Philip drug Vincent, strip and handcuff him to the body on the bed. Before Vincent passes out completely, Chris tells him about Sarah’s suicide and the contents of her note. While being questioned by the police, Vincent tells them of the set-up, but they do not believe him as the only prints found were Vincent’s and Sarah’s. They also have the DVDs of his sexual exploits, except the ones with Mimi, Ann, and Zoe; they won’t believe him that Luke made the videos and the DVDs of the other men were not found. The police also mention that all four men have alibis for that morning — Chris and Luke were seen together having breakfast, Marty was at his office, Philip was alibied by his father-in-law (who was blackmailed with information about his own cheating, information Philip had because he knew Vincent used that same information to blackmail his father-in-law to give him a contract on a project).Releasing Chris from interrogation, Detective Huggins (Kristin Lehman) tells him that Vincent has been arrested for murder; he is surprised as he thought Vincent would only be implicated in Sarah’s suicide. The detective further states that the pills did not kill Sarah, that her wrist cuts were not self-inflicted, the prints on the knife were Vincent’s and they didn’t find a suicide note. The surprised Chris thanks Huggins and leaves. Outside of the police station, he reaches into his jacket pocket, only to find that the suicide note Luke gave to him is gone. He then walks to the loft and confronts Luke about the missing note. After initially denying that he had it, Luke leads Chris to the note, which was in the garbage. Chris looks at the note and wonders why Luke would get rid of the only evidence of the attempted suicide, speculating that Luke, not Sarah, was the author of the note. Luke then tells Chris everything; he framed Vincent, because he was attracted to Sarah himself, and felt that Vincent stood between him and Sarah.We see that Luke had gone after Sarah the night she almost told Vincent’s wife about the affair. He told her that Vincent was using her and not worth it, and that he could treat her better. She rebuffs him, saying she felt nothing for Luke. Hurt, Luke turns around to find that his wife saw him talking to Sarah. When Sarah returned to visit Vincent at the loft, Luke showed up and drugged Sarah, trying to kill her — out of “love” — with an insulin overdose. He then staged the suicide with the pills, champagne bottle, and suicide note. Chris then tells him that Vincent is being charged with murder as Sarah hadn’t been dead when they left her with Philip. Luke then states that technically it was Philip who killed Sarah and that he will clean the situation up. When Chris says no more cleaning up, Luke pulls out a kitchen knife and threatens him. Sirens can be heard and Chris says he called the police, told them everything and that it is over. He and Luke struggle, and he gets the knife from Luke. Luke tells Chris to tell Ellie and their kids that he’s sorry; he then jumps from the loft’s balcony, killing himself.Six months later, Mimi and Marty are reconciled, Philip is facing trial for manslaughter, and Chris is divorced, sharing custody of his kids. He runs into Ann after leaving a bar, and she asks if he needs the loft key, that he had given her for them to meet up. Chris mentions the key would not work as Vincent now lives at the loft, since it was the only thing his wife left him with from their divorce. Ann asks if Chris would like to join her for a drink sometime.The Loft is a fun watch – nothing more, nothing less. It achieves exactly what it sets out to. The 5 lead actors were all pretty solid and gave credible performances.

 

REVIEW: MRS. AMERICA

Mrs. America (2020)

Starring

Cate Blanchett (Lord of The Rings)
Rose Byrne (Bad neighbours)
Sarah Paulson (Glass)
Margo Martindale (The Kicthen)
Uzo Aduba (Tallulah)
Elizabeth Banks (Charlie’s Angels)
Tracey Ullman (Into The Woods)
John Slattery (Mad Men)

Elizabeth Banks in Mrs. America (2020)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Kayli Carter (Rings)
Ari Graynor (The Sitter)
Melanie Lynskey (Two and a Half Men)
James Marsden (Sonic The Hedgehog)
Jeanne Tripplehorn (Timecode)
Niecy Nash (Scream Queens)
Jay Ellis (Escape Room)

Rose Byrne in Mrs. America (2020)Despite looking back to the 1970s battle over the Equal Rights Amendment, “Mrs. America” is as fresh and urgent as the half-century of political jockeying that has unfolded since those events. Cate Blanchett heads a sensational cast as conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly, in a limited series — premiering on Hulu, but produced sibling network FX — that’s among the very best of both.The closest comparison, perhaps, would be “Feud,” to the extent the project focuses on warring female leads during an enticing historical era. The cast of characters, however, is significantly broader, with each of the major figures taking turns serving as the focus over the course of nine episodes. On one side, there’s Schlafly, an expert on Cold War-era strategic concerns regarding the Soviet Union who essentially stumbles into becoming the face of opposition to women’s lib as a branding exercise, labeling it “a threat to the traditional American family.”01_gallery_cate-blanchet_02_0052_06_wide-ddccabdac049e9e5ed9e31cb061731491255785c-s800-c85The irony is that the mother of six, who professes to defer to her attorney husband, Fred (“Mad Men’s” John Slattery), not only has a full-time job but is easily the higher-profile partner in this power couple. Arrayed on the other side are the leaders of the equal-rights crusade, each of whom brings their own priorities to the cause, which serves as a source of friction. As a consequence, “Mrs. America” encompasses not only equal rights but race, abortion and gay rights, with activists such as author Betty Friedan (Tracey Ullman) insisting that standing up for lesbians will only dilute the message. “It’s not our fight,” she maintains.1_q8CzYu9J7a63FAgW7qdrXwFriedan clashes with some of the other big personalities involved, including magazine founder Gloria Steinem (Rose Byrne), the colorful Bella Abzug (Margo Martindale, in a part she was seemingly born to play) and Shirley Chisholm (Uzo Aduba of “Orange is the New Black”), the trailblazing African-American congresswomen who mounted a 1972 presidential run.Tracey Ullman stars as Betty Friedan in Mrs AmericaFor her part, Schlafly wrestles with trying to keep her organization separate from those parts of the right aligned with racism and extremism, a distinction that become increasingly difficult to maintain. Her allies include a composite character played by Sarah Paulson, whose prominence alongside the real-life figures is one of the few faulty notes in this otherwise splendid effort.screenshot-2020-04-12-at-16.00.45Produced by Dahvi Waller (another “Mad Men” veteran, appropriately), with “Captain Marvel” team Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck directing four of the nine episodes, “Mrs. America” brilliantly replicates the period, from the styles and casual sexism on display to the seemingly unlimited song budget. Steinem’s looks are frequently mentioned (she’s referred to as “Glinda,” from “The Wizard of Oz,” versus Friedan’s Wicked Witch), and at one point a financial benefactor casually talks about her great legs. In the process, the miniseries captures the chess match among the combatants, and the ups, downs and indignities associated with being a woman in the public square — especially then, but in ways sadly relevant to anyone with a Twitter account. “No one likes feminists,” Fred Schlafly says, sounding as if he’s channeling Rush Limbaugh. “Not even liberals.”Screen-Shot-2020-04-14-at-5.53.27-PM-998x626The structure turns the narrative into an ensemble piece, but Blanchett is pretty astounding as Schlafly, including a televised debate she attempts to bluster her way through by making up a Supreme Court case, only to be called out on the lie. It’s a particularly bracing moment considering the prevalence of such tactics now, even in this age of ubiquitous fact checkers. Although the narrative essentially ends along with the ’70s — “I believe Reagan is our Moses,” Schlafly says at one point — as the closing script makes clear, the ERA fight has continued into the present. While the title plays off patriotism and beauty pageants, as quality TV goes, “Mrs. America” earns a different kind of crown. And whenever the TV awards business gets back on its feet, that might yield some hardware as accessories to go with it.

REVIEW: SONIC THE HEDGEHOG

Jim Carrey and Ben Schwartz in Sonic the Hedgehog (2020)

Starring

Ben Schwartz (Ducktales)
James Marsden (Westworld)
Jim Carrey (Kidding)
Tika Sumpter (Ride Along)
Natasha Rothwell (Like a Boss)
Adam Pally (Iron Man 3)
Lee Majdoub (The 100)
Neal McDonough (Arrow)
Tom Butler (Freddy vs Jason)
Frank C. Turner (IT)
Garry Chalk (Beast Wars)
Michael Hogan (Battlestar Galactica)
Peter Bryant (Legends of Tomorrow)

Sonic the Hedgehog (2020)Sonic, an extraterrestrial blue hedgehog who can run at supersonic speeds, finds himself sought after by a tribe of echidnas for his power. His guardian, Longclaw the Owl, gives him a bag of rings that can create portals to other planets, using one to send him to Earth while she protects him from the echidnas. Ten years later, Sonic enjoys a secret life near the town of Green Hills, Montana, but longs to make friends. He idolizes the local sheriff, Tom Wachowski, and his veterinarian wife, Maddie, unaware the pair are planning to relocate to San Francisco soon, as Tom has been hired by the San Francisco Police Department.1344One night, Sonic becomes upset over his loneliness when playing baseball by himself, and runs at supersonic speed as a result, inadvertently triggering an electromagnetic pulse that knocks out power across the Pacific Northwest. Roboticist and scientific genius Doctor Robotnik is enlisted by the United States Department of Defense to uncover the source of the outage. Robotnik discovers and tracks Sonic, who hides in the Wachowskis’ shed. Tom discovers Sonic and accidentally shoots him with a tranquilizer, causing him to send his bag of rings through a portal to San Francisco. Tom reluctantly agrees to help Sonic before Robotnik arrives at the Wachowskis’ house and the two flee. As the pair evade Robotnik, who labels Tom a domestic terrorist, they slowly bond, with Tom learning about Sonic’s desire for a real friend.UntitledRobotnik comes across one of Sonic’s quills, discovering the power in it has the potential to fuel his robots, and becomes obsessed with capturing Sonic. As he tracks them down, Tom discusses his plans to leave Green Hills, which Sonic disapproves of. Shortly after defeating a robot sent by Robotnik, an explosion injures Sonic. Arriving at San Francisco, Tom brings him to Maddie, who revives him. While Tom explains about their situation to Maddie, Sonic receives a new pair of sneakers from Maddie’s niece. The group soon head to the roof of the Transamerica Pyramid, where Sonic’s bag of rings landed, and recover them. Robotnik arrives in a hovercraft and attacks them, forcing Sonic to use a ring to send Tom and Maddie back to Green Hills.Sonic the Hedgehog (2020)Sonic flees from Robotnik, who uses the power of Sonic’s quill to match his speed. The two engage in a chase across the world, ultimately returning to Green Hills. Robotnik incapacitates Sonic, but Tom intervenes, allowing Sonic to regain his strength and reclaim his lost energy. Overcoming Robotnik, Sonic defeats him by sending him to another planet. Following the incident, Tom and Maddie decide to stay in Green Hills and let Sonic live with them. The US government erases all evidence of the events, including records of Robotnik’s existence. Meanwhile, Robotnik, still in possession of Sonic’s quill and having lost his sanity, begins plotting his revenge. On Earth, Tails, a twin-tailed fox from Sonic’s world, emerges from a ring portal in search of Sonic.Sonic the Hedgehog (2020)When I saw the original trailer I was genuinely horrified in Sonic’s design, like a person in bad cosplay. After the redesign many like myself felt the need to support this movie to honour the fan service and genuine care. I’m sure glad that I did. A funny movie, Jim Carrey was amazing like always and of course Sonic looked great. A very fun movie for the whole family.

 

 

REVIEW: WESTWORLD – SEASON 2

Westworld (2016)

Starring

Evan Rachel Wood (The Ides of March)
Thandie Newton (Crash)
Jeffrey Wright (The Batman)
James Marsden (X-Men)
Tessa Thompson (Thor: Ragnarok)
Fares Fares (Chernobyl)
Luke Hemsworth (The Anomaly)
Louis Herthum (What/If)
Simon Quarterman (THe Scorpion King 2)
Talulah Riley (Bloodshot)
Rodrigo Santoro (300)
Gustaf Skarsgård (Kidz in da Hood)
Ed Harris (The Truman show)
Ingrid Bolsø Berdal (Hercules)
Clifton Collins Jr. (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood)
Angela Sarafyan (The Immigrant)
Katja Herbers (Sonny Boy)
Shannon Woodward (Adult World)
Anthony Hopkins (Hannibal)
Zahn McClarnon (Doctor Sleep)

Thandie Newton in Westworld (2016)

Recurrin / Notable Guest Cast

Betty Gabriel (Unfriended: Dark Web)
Jimmi Simpson (White House Down)
Ben Barnes (The Punisher)
Peter Mullan (Hostiles)
Jonathan Tucker (Pulse)
Leonardo Nam (He’s Just Not That into You (film))
Ptolemy Slocum (Hitch)
Martin Sensmeier (Yellowstone)
Tao Okamoto (Batman v Superman)
Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad)
Neil Jackson (BLade: The Series)
Fredric Lehne (lost)
Currie Graham (Agent Carter)
Rinko Kikuchi (Pacific Rim)
Hiroyuki Sanada (The Wolverine)
Kiki Sukezane (Heroes Reborn)
Masayoshi Haneda (Edge of Tomorrow)
Lili Simmons (The Purge TV)
Erica Luttrell (Stargate: Atlantis)
Sidse Babett Knudsen (Inferno)
Gina Torres (Firefly)
Julia Jones (Jonah Hex)
Booboo Stewart (Descendants)
Sela Ward (Gone Girl)
Jack Conley (The Cell)

Evan Rachel Wood in Westworld (2016)The first season of Westworld, and maybe the second, can be encapsulated by an exasperation-inducing exchange in Sunday night’s premiere, in which William (Ed Harris, but Jimmi Simpson plays him, too) encounters an android boy (Oliver Bell) modeled after Ford (Anthony Hopkins, whose character died last season). The boy, in quaint pedal pushers, speaks in digital tongues to William, teasing and prodding him to participate in the park’s games now that the stakes are real. When William grouses about his riddles, the boy reproaches the man in the black hat: “Everything is code here, William.” Soon after, bullets fly.Thandie Newton and Simon Quarterman in Westworld (2016)Maybe I’m being too harsh. Yes, it’s obvious—but for the viewer, his words have deeper implications than they do for ol’ Black-Hat Bill. It’s true that everything in Westworld is code—artificial, semiotic, programmed, significant. In the first season, the audience was introduced to an adult playground, populated with fleshy androids designed for human gratification. As the hosts gained sentience and found a path to liberation, they became stand-ins for human fears: the silent omnipresence of technology, the exploitation of the oppressed, the struggle for self-actualization, and/or the horrifying immortality of creation. They are also, in Season 2, scattered across time and space, broken into contingents of unlikely pairings and shaky alliances, trying to survive within the parameters of the sandbox created last season.If a prestige drama is a complex machine, what’s unique about Westworld is how willing the show is to depict that machine without explaining the processes that comprise it. It’s committed to the endpoint of its fantasies, and surprisingly vague on process, which is one of the reasons Season 1 could be so frustrating. It often feels as if Westworld works backwards—first presenting a scenario, then spending endless future scenes explaining how that scenario came to exist. (I await an explanation for why Evan Rachel Wood’s Dolores is clearly wearing cream foundation and blush in her initial close-ups this season; perhaps we’ll learn that the robot women, freed from their masters, have started experimenting with lipstick feminism.)

Westworld this season is a story about games. The park is supposed to be a hermetically sealed playground that allows participants to safely pursue anything without consequence, but the series itself emphasizes that this notion is actually impossible. Season 2 introduces two new parks; one, as hinted at in the trailers and in details of Season 1, is a facsimile of shogunate Japan, starring Hiroyuki Sanada and Rinko Kikuchi. The other, which I won’t spoil, is such a pointed fantasy of white male entitlement that it leads the viewer to see all of Westworld’s illusions as fantasies designed for that exact viewer. Both underscore one of Westworld’s most disturbing details: practically every female host has been designed to be some kind of whore.Ed Harris in Westworld (2016)The series is not subtle with these thematics, even as it revels in the fantasies it presents. When we get to Shogun World, it’s hard to tell if the show means to comment on orientalism, or if it’s just showcasing samurai and geishas because they look cool. All of its portentous conversations between hosts and humans about android consciousness exist somewhere in the space between an aha moment and an eye roll—without fully committing to either. The spoken discourse is a red herring that distracts from what’s really at play in the show. The hosts aren’t human, and the human characters aren’t interesting. What instead pulsates with life is the sandbox itself: the potential energy of this playground, with its unexplored easter eggs yet to be discovered.James Marsden, Evan Rachel Wood, and Talulah Riley in Westworld (2016)Which is why it is so satisfying—if still rather confusing—that in Season 2, the show has committed to spinning out, sending its sprawling cast on side quests as though they were Dungeons and Dragons campaigners. And as it unfolds, this iteration of Westworld becomes less a story about games than it is a series of games about story. Stakes, climax, and continuity are just tools to be tweaked and adjusted; characters’ personalities and motivations are little more than quirks, drawn from a deck or determined by a die. As the show posited in its first season finale, the hosts’ backstories—the things they keep forgetting and remembering—are both pre-programmed methods of control and pathways to deeper meaning. Westworld follows both avenues, simultaneously. As a result, it’s a scrambled, tabletop R.P.G. of a season, in ways that are both supremely satisfying and incredibly frustrating. Many adventures in Season 2 have the quality of a dungeon master inventing a plotline on the fly, after a few rolls in a row have landed the campaign somewhere unexpected.Evan Rachel Wood and Jeffrey Wright in Westworld (2016)It’s a feeling that other shows might try to avoid. But Westworld is instead embracing it, leaning into chaos, actively doing all of the things that it’s sowing distrust in: producing a mythology, playing a game, telling a story. Its deep ambivalence toward the stuff it’s made of is ultimately what matters about the show, more than the thing itself. Just as Arnold (Jeffrey Wright) installed reveries into the hosts to provide them with a pathway to self-consciousness, Westworld itself is a collection of reveries, seeking to locate its own center. This might be why Bernard (also Wright)—the host version of Arnold—becomes the viewer’s surrogate in the second season. Wright is a criminally overlooked performer in general, but in Season 2 he is the emotional register that the rest of the show is calibrated around. A human consciousness turned digital, he is a part of both worlds—both the watchmaker and the watch. Through him and characters like him, the narrative takes on the structure of the maze metaphor from Season 1—a convoluted, repetitive path towards the middle.Ed Harris in Westworld (2016)Westworld encourages the viewer to see its animated puzzles from every angle. It seems less and less that the show knows what it wants to be about, which will always be a knock against it. But with much more centripetal force than last season, it also draws the audience towards its own center, in its own vivid journey toward self-consciousness. It’s easy to get sucked in to Westworld’s reveries. It’s harder to convince yourself that its dark fantasies are just a game.

REVIEW: ONCE UPON A TIME…IN HOLLYWOOD

Starring

Leonardo DiCaprio (Inception)
Brad Pitt (Moneyball)
Margot Robbie (Suicide Squad)
Emile Hirsch (Alpha Dog)
Margaret Qualley (The Nice Guys)
Timothy Olyphant (Santa CLarita Diet)
Julia Butters (American Housewife)
Austin Butler (Arrow)
Dakota Fanning (Ocean’s 8)
Bruce Dern (Freaks)
Mike Moh (Inhumans)
Luke Perry (Riverdale)
Damian Lewis (Homeland)
Al Pacino (The Devil’s Advocate)
Brenda Vaccaro (Supergirl)
Nicholas Hammond (Stealth)
Samantha Robinson (Cam)
Lena Dunham (This is 40)
Harley Quinn Smith (Yoga Hosers)
Danielle Harris (Halloween 4)
Scoot McNairy (Argo)
Clifton Collins Jr. (Westworld)
Dreama Walker (Compliance)
Rebecca Rittenhouse (The Mindy Project)
Rumer Willis (Return To Sender)
Clu Gulager (Feast)
Martin Kove (The Karate Kid)
Rebecca Gayheart (Dead Like Me)
Kurt Russell (The Christmas Chronicles)
Zoë Bell (The Hateful Eight)
Michael Madsen (Species)
James Remar (Black Lightning)
Corey Burton (Critters)
Quentin Tarantino (Planet Terror)
Maurice Compte (Power)
James Marsden (X-Men)
Townsend Coleman (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Perla Haney-Jardine (Steve Jobs)

Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio in Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood (2019)In February 1969, Hollywood actor Rick Dalton, star of 1950s Western television series Bounty Law, fears his career is over. Casting agent Marvin Schwarz advises him to make Spaghetti Westerns, which Dalton feels are beneath him. Dalton’s friend and stunt double, Cliff Booth —– a war veteran who lives in a trailer with his pit bull, Brandy —– drives Dalton around because Dalton’s alcoholism has resulted in multiple DUIs. Booth struggles to find work due to rumors that he murdered his wife. Actress Sharon Tate and her husband, director Roman Polanski, have moved next door to Dalton, who dreams of befriending them to restore his status. That night, Tate and Polanski attend a celebrity-filled party at the Playboy Mansion.Margot Robbie in Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood (2019)The next day, Booth repairs Dalton’s TV antenna. He reminisces about a sparring contest he had with Bruce Lee on the set of The Green Hornet, resulting in Booth being fired. Charles Manson stops by the Polanski residence looking for Terry Melcher, who used to live there, but is turned away by Jay Sebring. Tate goes for errands and stops at a movie theater to watch herself in The Wrecking Crew. While driving Dalton’s car, Booth picks up a hitchhiker, named Pussycat. He drops her off at Spahn Ranch, where Booth once filmed Bounty Law. He notices the hippies living there (the Manson Family). Suspecting they are taking advantage of the owner, George Spahn, Booth insists on checking on him despite Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme’s objections. Spahn dismisses Booth’s fears. Booth discovers that Steve “Clem” Grogan slashed a tire on Dalton’s car; Booth beats him and forces him to change it. Tex Watson is asked to deal with the situation but arrives as Booth drives away.Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio in Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood (2019)Dalton plays a villain on the pilot of Lancer, and strikes up a conversation with his eight-year-old co-star, Trudi Fraser, a committed Method actor. Dalton struggles with his dialogue. After having a breakdown in his trailer, Dalton delivers a performance that impresses Fraser and the director, Sam Wanamaker, bolstering Dalton’s confidence. After watching Dalton’s guest performance on an episode of The F.B.I., Schwarz books him as the lead of Sergio Corbucci’s next Western, Nebraska Jim. Dalton takes Booth with him for a six month stint in Italy, during which he appears in two additional Westerns and a Eurospy comedy, and marries Italian starlet Francesca Capucci. Dalton informs Booth he can no longer afford his services.Leonardo DiCaprio in Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood (2019)On the evening of their first day back Dalton and Booth go out for drinks, then return to Dalton’s house. Booth smokes an acid-laced cigarette and takes Brandy for a walk. Tex, Susan Atkins, Linda “Flower Child” Kasabian, and Patricia “Katie” Krenwinkel park outside in preparation to murder everyone in Tate’s house. Dalton hears the car and orders them to leave. Changing their plans, they decide to kill Dalton after Sadie reasons Hollywood “taught them to murder”. Flower Child drives off, deserting the other three. They break into Dalton’s house and confront Capucci and Booth, who recognizes them from Spahn Ranch. Booth orders Brandy to attack, and together they kill Katie and Tex and severely injure Sadie. Booth is injured in the altercation. Sadie stumbles outside, alarming Dalton, who was listening to music on headphones, oblivious to the mayhem. He retrieves a flamethrower – a souvenir from one of his movies – and incinerates her. Booth is hospitalized, Sebring engages Dalton in conversation, and Tate invites Dalton over for drinks.The ending leaves you wondering “What if…” over and over again, questioning what reality would look like if these fictional characters of Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth actually existed. And I think that’s when I realized how perfect the title was: it’s a humorous, fairy-tale (although not completely violent-free) ending to the tragic fate of Hollywood in the 60s…

HALLOWEEN OF HORROR REVIEW: DISTURBING BEHAVIOR

CAST

James Marsden (Superman Returns)
Katie Holmes (Go)
Nick Stahl (Terminator 3)
Tobias Mehler (Wishmaster 3)
Steve Railsback (Lifeforce)
Bruce Greenwood (Star Trek)
Katharine Isabelle (American Mary)
William Sadler (Roswell)
Ethan Embry (Eagle Eye)
Derek Hamilton (Arrow)
Chad Donella (Smallville)
Natassia Malthe (Elektra)
David Paetkau (Flashpoint)
Brendan Fehr (Bones)
Sarah-Jane Redmond (V)
Carly Pope (Popular)
Lynda Boyd (Power Rangers In Space)
Daniella Evangelista (Ripper)
A.J. Buckley (Pure)
Jay Brazeau (Bates Motel)
Garry Chalk (Dark Angel)

DisturbingBehavior1

Steve Clark (James Marsden) is a high school senior whose family moves to Cradle Bay, a picturesque coastal town in Washington state’s Puget Sound with his parents. It has been nearly one year since Steve’s older brother, Allen (Ethan Embry), committed suicide which traumatized the family. Steve’s parents tell him that they have relocated from Chicago to Cradle Bay as a fresh start to move on with their lives.

During Steve’s first day at his new high school, he meets and befriends three outcast students, Gavin Strick (Nick Stahl), U.V. (Chad Donella), and Rachel Wagner (Katie Holmes). Gavin tries to tell Steve that he believes there is something evil about the “Blue Ribbons”—a clique of students taking part in a “special program” led by the school psychologist, Dr. Caldicott (Bruce Greenwood). Steve is understandably skeptical. The following day at lunch, Gavin walks in looking like a Blue Ribbon. When Steve tries to confront Gavin, he gets punched in the stomach for his impertinence. Later, after being chased home, Steve finds Blue Ribbon member Lorna Longley in his living room, waiting to seduce him under the pretense of helping his younger sister study. However, her heightened arousal causes her to suddenly behave erratically and smash her head into a mirror, after which she is taken to a medical facility under Dr. Caldicott’s care. Now Steve and Rachel must find the source of the Blue Ribbons as well as try and save the rest of the school before it’s too late. They find a CD-R disc that Gavin hid for them in the boiler room, containing a video he made of himself before his “transformation”, telling them about the club and about the history that he learned about Dr. Caldicott.
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During this, Steve also befriends Dorian (William Sadler), the school janitor, who appears to be mentally handicapped and hunts rats for the city for some extra cash. Dorian demonstrates a device called an E-Rat-icator which emits a soft, high pitched whine that is supposed to be innocuous but annoying to rats, which is an abysmal failure. Steve discovers that Dorian is actually highly intelligent, and carries classical literature pieces with him, and that he’s hiding because he wishes to be left alone and does not trust society. Dorian also tells Steve that he suspects that the entire community of Cradle Bay is part of a massive conspiracy made up of nearly all of the parents, as well as the local police chief Cox, the school principal and entire school faculty, who hired Dr. Caldicott to “re-program” their own children to become the perfect people that they want them to be and not free-thinkers. A little later, during an encounter where a Blue Ribbon known as “Chug” (A.J. Buckley) assaults Rachel in the school basement, the E-Rat-icator goes off, and immediately sends the student into a psychotic fit, driving him away. During their personal investigation, Steve and Rachel try to find out what exactly has been happening to the Blue Ribbon kids, which leads them to a mental hospital called Bishop Flats following a lead on the disc that Gavin left behind. Here, they find out that mind control is being used to make depressed, awkward and unruly teens become perfect so they can function properly in life, but the programming has some glitches that lead to momentary relapses which cause violent fits. Also at Bishop Flats, they find Caldicott’s daughter, Betty (Julie Patzwald), a failed project who spends her time repeating the same phrase: “Meet the musical little creatures that hide among the flowers”.

After escaping from the hospital, Steve and Rachel have a run-in with the town’s police chief Cox (Steve Railsback) who is also involved in the conspiracy and he tries to arrest them after learning from Dr. Caldicott about their excursion to the mental hospital. But Dorian shows up under the pretense that he is disposing of dead rats when he subdues the police chief and tells Steve and Rachel to leave town and go public with what they know about Dr. Caldicott’s work. When Rachel and Steve return home, they plan to get out of town along with Steve’s younger sister, Lindsay (Katharine Isabelle), but when they arrive at Steve’s house, Steve’s parents (Terry David Mulligan and Susan Hogan) reveal that they are also part of the conspiracy and that they moved to Cradle Bay for the sole purpose to sign him up for Caldicott’s program. Steve and Lindsay try to get out but they get ambushed by a group of Blue Ribbons waiting for them outside the house. They drag Steve and Rachel to the programming center, but Steve escapes and rescues Rachel, killing the medical techs as well as Chug who has been left behind to guard them.

They try to get out of town again with Lindsay and U.V., but the Blue Ribbons and Caldicott are waiting for them on the road near the ferry out of town. When hope seems lost, Dorian drives up, his car hooked up with multiple E-Rat-icators that scramble the mind control tech inside the Blue Ribbons’ heads. They chase after Dorian and try to destroy the E-Rat-icators, but, having been fatally wounded after being shot by Caldicott, Dorian drives his car off a cliff with most of the Blue Ribbons hanging onto his car. This leads to a final battle between Steve and Caldicott, which Steve wins by kicking Caldicott off the cliff. Steve and Rachel then leave town on the ferry with Lindsay and U.V. to begin a new life elsewhere without their parents.

The final scene shows a classroom in an urban high school with kids playing loud music, cursing, and acting up. They are informed that they have a new teacher. The well-groomed substitute turns around, and it’s Gavin, with the blue ribbon “twinkle” still active in his eye.Disturbing Behavior has essentially received much unfair criticism for what is a solid science fiction teen horror film.