REVIEW: ANNIHILATION

Starring

Natalie Portman (Thor)
Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight)
Gina Rodriguez (The Star)
Tessa Thompson (Westworld)
Tuva Novotny (Borg vs McEnroe)
Oscar Isaac (Star wars: The Last Jedi)
Benedict Wong (Doctor Strange)
Sonoya Mizuno (Maniac)
David Gyasi (Maleficent: Mistress of Evil)

Natalie Portman and Tessa Thompson in Annihilation (2018)Cellular biology professor and former U.S. Army soldier Lena (Portman) is under interrogation. Previously she was part of an expedition to an anomalous zone known as “the Shimmer”, but she was the only one to return. The Shimmer emerged three years prior from a meteor that landed in a lighthouse in St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge (called Blackwater National Park in the film) in Florida, and is gradually expanding and increasing its boundaries.Natalie Portman and Gina Rodriguez in Annihilation (2018)Many exploratory expeditions were organized, but only Lena’s husband Kane (Isaac) returns home after a year of absence. Kane cannot explain where he was and how he came back, and his condition quickly deteriorates. Lena calls an ambulance, but she and Kane are intercepted by security forces and taken to a secret facility. As Kane is put in intensive care, psychologist Dr. Ventress (Leigh) prepares a new scientific expedition into the Shimmer, with Lena joining her. Three other women participate in the expedition: physicist Josie Radek (Thompson), geomorphologist Cassie “Cass” Sheppard (Novotny) and paramedic Anya Thorensen (Rodriguez).Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tuva Novotny, Gina Rodriguez, and Tessa Thompson in Annihilation (2018)The group enters the Shimmer. Communication equipment does not function within the Shimmer’s territory, and the expedition encounters unusually mutated plants and animals: Josie is attacked by an albino alligator with many rows of shark-like teeth. At an abandoned military base, the group finds a video message from Kane’s previous expedition. The video shows Kane using a knife to cut open the abdomen of another soldier to reveal his slithering intestines. The group finds the soldier’s corpse, which has turned into an overgrown colony of lichens. At night, the base is attacked by a mutant bear that drags Cass away, and Lena later finds her mutilated body.Natalie Portman in Annihilation (2018)Within an abandoned village, Josie studies plants that have taken on a human-like form, and theorizes that the Shimmer functions as a prism for DNA, distorting and transforming everything that falls within its boundaries, including the expedition members’ own bodies. Anya, overcome with paranoia after watching her fingerprints change, disarms the other members and ties them to chairs, and accuses Lena of murdering Cass. The bear returns and lures Anya away by emitting a cry for help in Cass’ voice. The bear kills Anya, while Josie manages to free herself and shoots the bear.Natalie Portman in Annihilation (2018)Ventress leaves the group and heads for the lighthouse, the center of the Shimmer. Josie believes Cass’ dying mind was “refracted” into the bear, and allows herself to “refract” into a human-shaped plant to avoid a similar fate. Lena follows Ventress to the lighthouse, where she discovers Kane’s remains and a videotape. In the footage, Kane commits suicide with an incendiary grenade, but after the explosion, a doppelgänger of Kane steps into frame. Within the hole created by the meteor, Lena finds Ventress, who says something is inside her, but she cannot tell what it is or whether it wants anything. Ventress then disintegrates into a shimmering cloud alien that absorbs a drop of blood from Lena’s face and changes into a faceless humanoid being. Lena attacks it and leaves the hole, but the figure teleports outside.Natalie Portman and Oscar Isaac in Annihilation (2018)It switches between copying Lena’s movements and attacking her. Just as the humanoid shapeshifts into Lena, Lena tricks it into igniting one of Kane’s leftover grenades. The being sets the lighthouse ablaze as Lena flees, and the Shimmer dissipates. Lena visits the Kane doppelgänger, and asks if he is really Kane; he replies, “I don’t think so.” He asks if she is Lena, and she does not answer. Kane’s doppelgänger and Lena embrace, and their irises shimmer.Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tuva Novotny, Gina Rodriguez, and Tessa Thompson in Annihilation (2018)After watching this film I read the reviews voted “most helpful,” which all were long lists of plot holes and logical inconsistencies. They are absolutely right. I didn’t think about it while watching the film, but when it’s pointed out, yeah, nothing in this movie makes much sense. But I still really liked it. It’s creepy and atmospheric and more concerned with the psychology of people on a suicide mission than on the nuts and bolts of scientific investigation. It’s often intense , usually beautiful, well acted, and had some really weird and mesmerizing moments.  I won’t argue that you should forgive it for its plot holes, or that it has any deep meaning, or anything like that. In fact, it’s probably easier to make a convincing argument against the movie than for it. I’m just saying, I really liked it.

 

REVIEW: SUPERMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES – VOLUME 3

Starring

Tim Daly (Madam Secretary)
Dana Delany (Desperate Housewives)
David Kaufman (Stargate SG.1)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)

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Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Sharon Lawrence (The Ranch)
Lauren Tom (Bad Santa)
Miguel Ferrer (Robocop)
Renée Taylor (The Nanny)
Jack Carter (McCloud)
Brad Garrett (Christopher Robin)
Michael Ironside (Total Recall)
Steve Sandor (The Yellow Rose)
Joseph Bologna (Big Daddy)
Bruce Weitz (Half Past Dead)
Victor Brandt (The Batman)
Mike Farrell (Patch Adams)
Shelley Fabares (Coach)
Joanna Cassidy (Blade Runner)
Michael Dorn (Star Trek: TNG)
Sherman Howard (Superboy)
Carolyn Seymour (Congo)
Nicholle Tom (Gotham)
Edward Asner (Elf)
Scott Menville (Teen Titans)
Diane Delano (Jeepers Creepers 2)
Andrea Martin (My Big Fat Greek Wedding)
Diane Michelle (Robotech: The Movie)
Clyde Kusatsu (Midway)
Peri Gilpin (Frasier)
William H. Macy (Fargo)
Peter Gallagher (The Gifted)
Dennis Haysbert (24)
Gregg Berger (Transformers)
Kevin Conroy (Batman: TAS)
Mathew Valencia (The New Batman Advntures)
Roddy McDowall (Planet of The Apes)
John Glover (Smallville)
Paul Williams (Smokey and The Bandit)
Henry Silva (Above The Law)
Bob Hastings (The Poseidon Adventure)
Charity James (Space Jam)
Corey Burton (Critters)
Jason Priestley (Tru Calling)
Jason Marsden (Hocus Pocus)
Chad Lowe (Unfaithful)
Melissa Joan Hart (No GOod Nick)
Joely Fisher (The Mask)
Bud Cort (Harold and Maude)
Townsend Coleman (The Tick)
Tress MacNeille (Futurama)
Gilbert Gottfried (Critters: A New Binge)
Frank Welker (Transformers)
Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight)
Ron Perlman (Hellboy)
Carl Lumbly (Supergirl)
Sarah Douglas (Superman 1 & 2)
Ted Levine (The Silence of The Lambs)
Michael P. Greco (Bleach)
George Dzundza (Crimson Tide)
Peter Mark Richman (Defenders of The Earth)
Melissa Disney (Superman vs The Elite)
Malcolm McDowell (Star Trek: Generations)
Billy West (Futurama)
Stephen Root (Barry)
Miguel Sandoval (Medium)
Brian George (The Big Bang Theory)
David Warner (Tron)
Olivia Hussey (Black Christmas)
Michael Horse (Roswell)
Efrem Zimbalist Jr. (Hot Shots)
Jeff Bennett (Enchanted)
Lisa Edelstein (House)
Charles Napier (The Silence of The Lambs)

3447328-absolute-powerSuperman is everywhere. He’s also been everywhere; for nearly seventy years now the character has been inspiring us with his tales of heroism, adventure, and fantasy. Seventy years is a long time and with a character as popular as Superman it equates to a lot of different interpretations. From the original comic books to a radio series to a handful of television shows, it seems that the Last Son of Krypton has done it all. We are very lucky then to have these DVDs, because in all of that time, throughout all the years, the stories found in Superman: The Animated Series are his best. The fifty-four cartoon episodes (spread across three boxed sets) that make up the complete run of Superman: The Animated Series aren’t just the best take on the character because they’re faithful. Nor is it because they’re animated, for all ages, or very imaginative. It’s for all of these reasons. And several more.3447300-little_big_head_manThe creative team behind the series has plundered the rich mythology of the character and come up with a fantastic take on each and every piece of the Superman universe. For starters, their Clark Kent and Lois Lane interpretation is spot-on. Clark isn’t too much of a goof, nor is he too simple. Similarly, Lois is fiery, funny, and lovely. Seeing the characters come together at the end of Legacy, Part 2 makes for a great cathartic moment. Superman has saved Lois a countless number of times, it is only fitting then that Lois save him when he needs it. The main arc of this season borrows from the comic book universe and brings Darkseid and his homeworld to the forefront. Hinted at earlier in the show, it’s in this third volume that the Lord of Apokolips finally gets his payoff – and his payback. In a trio of two-parters, Apokolips… Now!, Little Girl Lost, and Legacy, Superman fights one of his most ruthless foes in a series of episodes that offer some excellent action, drama, and science fiction fun.maxresdefault (1)While these episodes are very faithful to the mythos, we’ve also got a great selection of original stories that go to prove that with a character like Superman, there is no limit to the stories that you can tell. One of my favorites is Knight Time. When Batman goes missing, Superman pays a visit to Gotham City and tries to find out where his friend has gone. Supes inadvertently ends up masquerading as Batman – dressing up in the Dark Knight’s costume and everything! – and teams up with Robin to solve the mystery of the missing Bruce Wayne. Not only is the episode entertaining, but it’s also got a great sense of humor. Seeing Superman do his best impersonation of Batman is wonderful – Clark doesn’t know which utility pockets contain what, and his attempts at being grim (nodding his head instead of speaking) are great.stas-legacy7Watching these shows you get the feeling that it was during this final stretch of episodes that the show’s producers were finding new ways of playing with the formula that they had designed, and perfected, with both Batman: The Animated Series and Superman: The Animated Series. Not only do these Superman episodes have a lot of two-parters, but we’ve also got some great guest-stars; it seems that this show is the precursor to Justice League. We’ve got heroes, Kyle Rayner from In Brightest Day, and villains, Ra’s Al Ghul in The Demon Reborn, and everyone in between – everyone’s favorite master of the sea, Aquaman in Fish Story. We also get an expansion of the Superman supporting cast when Supergirl makes a welcome appearance in the Little Girl Lost two-parter.Superman_TAS_2x27_001The animation is somewhat more limited when compared to the fancy digital effects that more modern shows exhibit, but the handcrafted style gives the show a wonderful atmosphere. If you pay close attention you’ll notice that a lot of effort has gone into the design of the animation – much more so than most animated series. The framing here is frequently packed. Helping flesh out the world are all of the voice actors; everyone from Tim Daly (as Superman/Clark) to Clancy Brown (as Lex Luthor) is perfect in his or her role. The only thing holding the show back, and this is a small point, is the fact that the stories, due to their child-friendly animated nature, are a little more limited than the best television shows tend to be. Even so, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better adventure series – animated or live action.Superman_meets_SupergirlIn one of the episodes found in this collection, Superman pays his final respects to a recently departed friend. In the graveyard, Superman comes to realize something very important: “In the end, the world didn’t really need a Super man. Just a brave one.” This show gives us a character who is both brave and super. It gives us a real hero. It gives us Superman… as good as he’s ever been.