REVIEW: X-MEN: DARK PHOENIX

Starring

James McAvoy (Split)
Michael Fassbender (Shame)
Jennifer Lawrence (Joy)
Nicholas Hoult ((The Favourite)
Sophie Turner (Game of Thrones)
Tye Sheridan (Ready Player One)
Alexandra Shipp (Shaft)
Kodi Smit-McPhee (Let Me In)
Evan Peters (Kick-Ass)
Jessica Chastain (IT: Chapter Two)
Ato Essandoh (Garden State)
Andrew Stehlin (King Kong)
Scott Shepherd (Jason Bourne)
Brian d’Arcy James (First Man)
Halston Sage (The Orville)
Lamar Johnson (Kings)
Summer Fontana (THe Originals)
Hannah Emily Anderson (Jigsaw)

Jennifer Lawrence in Dark Phoenix (2019)In 1975, eight-year-old Jean Grey and her parents get into a car accident that kills her mother. Shortly afterward, Professor Charles Xavier takes her to Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters.Jessica Chastain and Sophie Turner in Dark Phoenix (2019)In 1992, nine years after the worldwide chaos caused by En Sabah Nur, the X-Men are seen as heroes by the public. The President summons them for assistance during a crisis and responds to a distress signal from the space shuttle Endeavour, which is critically damaged by a solar flare-like energy during the STS-49 mission. While the X-Men save all of the astronauts, Jean is stranded and is struck by the energy which she absorbs into her body to save the X-Men’s aircraft from destruction. Jean survives the event and her psychic powers are greatly amplified as a result, but they become uncontrollable and she accidentally unleashes her power on the mutants celebrating at Xavier’s school.Jennifer Lawrence and Sophie Turner in Dark Phoenix (2019)It is revealed that Xavier had placed mental walls in Jean’s mind as a little girl to protect her psychic mind from experiencing trauma. These mental walls are destroyed by Jean’s enhanced power and the trauma slowly returns, resulting in her being full of desire, rage, and pain. She then travels to her childhood hometown after finding out that her father is still alive and learned that he abandoned her. Jean recovers her complete memory of the car accident and remembers that she had inadvertently caused it rendering her mother unconscious at the wheel with her telepathy, which causes her to develop post-traumatic stress disorder. The X-Men arrive and attempt to take Jean home but she injures Quicksilver and accidentally kills Mystique before flying away.Sophie Turner in Dark Phoenix (2019)Jean travels to the mutant refugee island of Genosha to seek assistance from Magneto in controlling her rage, but is turned away by Erik after she engages in combat with U.S. military forces tasked with her arrest. Jean meets Vuk, the leader of a shape-shifting alien race known as the D’Bari, who explains to her that she has been possessed by a force of cosmic power which wiped out the D’Bari home planet years ago. The power had consumed all those it came across until it was drawn to Jean. Meanwhile, Hank McCoy (Beast), mad with grief by Raven’s death, allies with Erik and the mutant refugees in an attempt to kill Jean in New York City and avenge Raven.Sophie Turner in Dark Phoenix (2019)Upon learning of Erik’s plan, the X-Men try to stop him and his faction of mutants. As they battle, Erik manages to enter the building and confront Jean, only to fall to her amplified powers. Xavier then enters the building with Nightcrawler. Jean attacks them until Xavier convinces her to read his memories—allowing her personality to resurface. Feeling remorseful, Jean offers to let Vuk take the force from her; however, it is revealed that doing so would kill Jean, as well as revealing that Vuk also intends to use the force to conquer Earth. Xavier and Scott are able to prevent Vuk from fully absorbing the force from Jean, though Jean loses consciousness from the ordeal. Troops sent by the U.S. government, who use stun weapons and power-inhibiting collars, attack and subdue both mutant factions, who are placed on a train headed towards a containment facility.Sophie Turner in Dark Phoenix (2019)On the train, a remorseful Xavier admits to a seething Hank that the latter was right in his earlier accusations of violating Jean’s mind. The train is attacked by Vuk and her D’Bari forces. When the soldiers are overpowered by the shape-shifters, the mutants are freed from their restraints to combat the threat. The mutants deal with most of the D’Bari attackers, but Vuk arrives and heads for Jean, defeating each mutant who attempts to stop her. Xavier confers with Jean within his mind, allowing Jean to gain control of her power. After forgiving Xavier, Jean saves the mutants from Vuk’s attacks and the ensuing train wreck before proceeding to easily disintegrate the remaining D’Bari when they attack her. Vuk once again attempts to drain Jean of the force, but Jean takes Vuk into outer space, retakes the power that Vuk had received earlier, and then kills her. Jean then disappears in a burst of energy in the form of a phoenix.Jessica Chastain in Dark Phoenix (2019)In the aftermath of the incident, Xavier’s school is renamed the “Jean Grey School for Gifted Youngsters”, and Hank becomes their new dean with Xavier having retired after decades of fighting for mutant rights. While settling himself in Paris, Xavier is reunited with Erik and reluctantly agrees to play a game of chess with him. As they start playing, a flaming phoenix appears in the sky.Sophie Turner in Dark Phoenix (2019)This movie is NOT a masterpiece nor is it the best X-men movie,  But if all you want is a decent enjoyable theater experience where you can momentarily forget a somewhat uneventful life and focus on some effective PG-13 fantasy, then Dark Phoenix won’t be a bad recommendation

REVIEW: VERONICA MARS – SEASON 1

Starring

Kristen Bell (The Good Place)
Teddy Dunn (Jumper)
Jason Dohring (The Originals)
Percy Daggs III (Detention)
Sydney Tamiia Poitier (Death Proof)
Francis Capra (Izombie)
Enrico Colantoni (Flashpoint)

Kristen Bell in Veronica Mars (2004)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Michael Muhney (The Young and The Restless)
Corinne Bohrer (The Flash 90s)
Amanda Seyfried (Les Miserables)
Lisa Thornhill (Agter The Sunset)
Kyle Secor (The Purge: Election Year)
Daran Norris (Izombie)
Brandon Hillock (Villains)
Bradley Joseph (Stone & Ed)
Patrick Wolff (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers)
Duane Daniels (Fashion House)
Jonathan Chesner (Bones)
Christian Clemenson (Apollo 13)
Aaron Ashmore (Smallville)
Wilmer Calderon (Fast & Furious)
Paris Hilton (House of Wax)
Ryan Hansen (2 Broke Girls)
Bobby Edner (The Amanda Show)
Paula Marshall (Murder In The First)
Alison MacInnis (Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue)
Kyla Pratt (Dr. Dolittle)
Adam Wylie (Child’s Play 2)
Robert Baker (Supergirl)
Sam Huntington (Superman Returns)
Melissa Reneé Martin (The Secret Craft)
Lisa Rinna (Days of Our Lives)
Jane Lynch (Glee)
Harry Hamlin (Clash of The Titans)
Amanda Noret (Bunny Whipped)
Jessica Chastain (Zero Dar Thirty)
Adam Kaufman (Buffy: TVS)
Steven Williams (Jason Goes To Hell)
Bonita Friedericy (Chuck)
Alona Tal (Cult)
Tina Majorino (Scorpion)
Erica Gimpel (God Friended Me)
Anastasia Baranova (Z Nation)
Jonathan Bennett (Mean Girls)
Chris William Martin (The Vampire Diaries)
Megalyn Echikunwoke (That 70s Show)
Kevin Sheridan (Heart of Dixie)
Emmanuelle Vaugier (Two and a Half Men)
Max Greenfield (New Girl)
Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad)
Christopher B. Duncan (Legacies)
Katie Leclerc (The Big Bang Theory)
Bridget Hoffman (Total Recall)
Anthony Anderson (Transformers)
Jowharah Jones (Ugly Betty)
Ken Merckx (Masked Rider)
Christine Lakin (Family Guy)
Adam Scott (Krampus)
Leighton Meester (The Roommate)
Alyson Hannigan (Buffy: TVS)
Cynthia LaMontagne (Austin Powers)
Zachery Ty Bryan (Home Improvement)
Erin Chambers (Stargate: Atlantis)
Ken Marino (Agent Carter)
Jonathan Taylor Thomas (Last Man Standing)
Theo Rossi (Luke Cage)
Joey Lauren Adams (Chasing Amy)
Roy Werner (Power Rangers Time Force)
Kyle Gallner (American Sniper)

Veronica Mars is set in Neptune, California, a town without a middle-class. Everyone’s either a millionaire or works for one, and the man largely responsible for Neptune’s unparalleled success is Jake Kane (Kyle Secor), the resident billionaire software mogul. Kane and his family are still reeling from the murder of his daughter Lilly (Amanda Seyfried) some months earlier, and as if that loss wasn’t enough, the beloved Kane family was doggedly pursued by a county sheriff convinced that they were hiding something. Public sentiment turned against Sheriff Keith Mars (Enrico Colantoni), who was ousted from office and abandoned by his wife.Kristen Bell and Jessica Chastain in Veronica Mars (2004)Cue the title character. His daughter Veronica (Kristen Bell) had already lost her best friend with Lilly’s death, but standing by her father also cost Veronica her friends, her social status, her house…even her mother. Veronica had already been unceremoniously dumped by Lilly’s brother Duncan (Teddy Dunn) shortly before her friend’s murder, and a defiant visit to face her former friends at a party weeks later led to Veronica being drugged and raped. Despite having lost so much, Veronica is resilient enough to move on with her life, and as her father struggles to stay afloat as a private eye, Veronica puts her smarts and determination to work to help ease the caseload at Mars Investigations. She also puts her talents to use to help her classmates with their troubles — for a price, of course. To cap it all off, Veronica’s faced with a couple of her own mysteries to solve. What convinced Lianne Mars to abandon her family, and where is she now? Who was it who drugged and raped Veronica last December? Also, is her father right — did someone other than disgruntled Kane Software employee Abel Koontz murder Lilly? If there is, who orchestrated the conspiracy that led to Koontz’ confession and why?Kristen Bell in Veronica Mars (2004)The dialogue in Veronica Mars has the same sparkle as Joss Whedon’s work…arguably better, even, since Buffy sometimes sounded like a deliberate attempt to be hip, whereas Veronica Mars manages to be witty and clever without feeling quite so forced. The writing doesn’t skew as young as one might expect from a TV show set in a high school. If anything, the target audience seems to be twentysomething — I don’t know how many fifteen year olds would be able to appreciate references to Archie comics or 21 Jump Street, f’r instance. Characterization is another strength of the series, and part of the reason Veronica Mars works as well as it does is that the audience truly does care about the characters. Despite having a seemingly endless array of talents, Veronica isn’t some sort of idyllic Mary Sue. She’s not always right. Her investigations frequently take morally questionable turns. Things don’t always go the way she wants. Not every episode has a happy ending.Kristen Bell in Veronica Mars (2004)Along with the cases that are solved in the space of forty minutes and change every week, a couple of mysteries are introduced in the pilot that are gradually explored throughout the entire length of the season. That’s right — unlike the hydra that is Lost, where answering one question spawns ten more, all of Veronica Mars’ mysteries are resolved by the time the season finale rolls around. (The finale tosses out a couple questions of its own, but if a second season hadn’t gotten the green light, it still would’ve been a fitting end to the series.)Veronica Mars has a capable cast to match the quality of the writing. Veronica is strong and cynical…bright and sarcastic…and even though all of the trauma she’s suffered over the past year has aged her somewhat, she’s still an emotionally vulnerable teenage girl.Kristen Bell and Alona Tal in Veronica Mars (2004)That’s a lot to juggle, but Kristen Bell is talented enough to make such a colossal task seem effortless and captivating enough to carry a show on her shoulders. Of course, Bell is joined by a strong enough supporting cast that she doesn’t have to shoulder it all herself.VM-S2D2_04After cutting down Wallace (Percy Daggs III), the new kid at school, who’d been stripped naked and duct taped to a flagpole, he and Veronica become best friends. In teen-TV land, it’s an immutable rule that people of different genders can’t just be pals…there’s this endless temptation to couple everyone. Veronica Mars manages to resist, resulting in one of the few platonic friendships like this left on television.Enrico Colantoni, who plays Veronica’s father, is another fan favorite, able to shift from warm, loving, and borderline-goofy to secretive and deadly serious when the situation calls for it. There’s also Eli “Weevil” Navarro (Francis Capra), the leader of a local biker gang from the wrong side of the tracks who engages in some mutual backscratching with Veronica.Kristen Bell in Veronica Mars (2004)The character who stands out the most — aside from Veronica, of course — is Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring). Like Kristen Bell, Dohring is endlessly engaging. He’s introduced as an “obligatory psychotic jackass”, but as the season progresses, Logan’s humanized without being watered-down; even when he’s doing something as thoroughly loathesome as bribing a homeless vet to join in on his homebrew Bumfights video, there’s an undercurrent of understanding why Logan is the way he is. The character changes throughout the season, but the shift feels deserved and natural, not just because that’s what’s scrawled on the whiteboard in the writing room.Other guest stars throughout the season include Napoleon Dynamite’s Tina Majorino as computer whiz Mac, Aaron Ashmore as a love interest with a shady past, Logan’s movie star family (played by Harry Hamlin, Lisa Rinna, and Alyson Hannigan), Anthony Anderson, Zachary Ty Brian, Joey Lauren Adams, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, and, in a shameless bit of stuntcasting, Paris Hilton. Kristen Bell and Francis Capra in Veronica Mars (2004)The fact that the second episode of Veronica Mars manages to be really good despite a Paris Hilton guest spot really is a testament to how good a series this is. Oh, and, in true Laura Palmer fashion, just because Lilly Kane is dead doesn’t mean that Amanda Seyfried can’t rear her head in nearly every other episode.The conclusion to most of the mysteries caught me by surprise. Throughout the entire season, the only time I correctly guessed the culprit was in “Lord of the Bling”, and even then, the motivation and execution were well out of my reach. The many twists the stories take are clever, and watching these episodes a second time, I could spot all sorts of clues and hints that didn’t seem that important the first time through. Veronica Mars is a series that’s easy to dive into as a marathon, but for viewers catching these episodes for the first time, I’d recommend drawing it out a bit.

REVIEW: LAWLESS

CAST

Tom Hardy (Legend)
Shia LaBeouf (Transformers)
Jessica Chastain (A Most Violent Year)
Gary Oldman (Robocop)
Jason Clarke (Dawn of The Planet of The Apes)
Guy Pearce (Prometheus)
Mia Wasikowska (Alice In wonderland)
Dane DeHaan (Life After beth)
Lew Temple (Waitress)
Noah Taylor (Powers)

Shia LaBeouf and Mia Wasikowska in Lawless (2012)In 1931, the Bondurant brothers—Forrest, Howard, and Jack—are running a successful moonshine business in the Piedmont region of Virginia. The brothers use their gas station and restaurant as a front for their illegal manufacturing business with the assistance of Jack’s disabled friend and engineer, Cricket. Jack witnesses infamous mobster Floyd Banner shoot dead a rival in broad daylight.Shia LaBeouf in Lawless (2012)Jack returns to the gas station, where Forrest hires dancer Maggie as a waitress. Shortly afterward, the gas station is visited by newly arrived U.S. Marshal Charley Rakes, accompanied by the Virginia state’s attorney Mason Wardell, the sheriff, and the sheriff’s deputy. Rakes demands a cut of profits from all bootleggers within the county, including Forrest, who refuses and threatens to kill Rakes if he returns. Forrest implores his fellow bootleggers to unite against Rakes, but they refuse.Tom Hardy in Lawless (2012)Meanwhile, Jack lusts after Bertha, daughter of the local Brethren preacher. He attends their church service drunk, embarrassing himself but piquing her interest. Jack walks in on a visit from Rakes to Cricket’s house, and is beaten by him as a message to his brothers. That night, Forrest beats and throws out two customers who had been harassing and threatening Maggie. After Maggie resigns and leaves, Forrest is ambushed by the two men, who slit his throat. Maggie returns looking for Forrest but is beaten and raped by the men. She decides to keep the assault from Forrest. While Forrest recovers at a hospital, Jack decides to cross the county line with Cricket to sell their remaining liquor. They too are ambushed by the mobsters, led by Banner, but are spared when Jack reveals he is a Bondurant, whom Banner admires for their stance against Rakes. Banner reveals to Jack the address of his brother’s assailants, who were previous employees of his and currently work for Rakes.Shia LaBeouf in Lawless (2012)Forrest and Howard later find, torture and kill the men and send one of their testicles to Rakes. Banner becomes a regular client of the brothers, who have expanded their operation with multiple large stills deep in the woods, increasing its profitability. Jack continues to court Bertha. Maggie decides to return to Chicago, but Forrest convinces her to stay and provides her with a spare room. They develop a romantic relationship. On a day trip, Jack decides to show Bertha the brothers’ secret operation, but they are followed and ambushed by Rakes and his men. Howard, Jack, Cricket and Bertha all flee. The police take Bertha home but leave Cricket to Rakes, who murders him.Tom Hardy and Jessica Chastain in Lawless (2012)After Cricket’s funeral, the sheriff of Franklin County warns the Bondurants that Rakes and his men are blockading the bridge out of town, with Wardell calling in Prohibition agents to shut down the county’s moonshine businesses. Jack speeds off in Cricket’s car to confront Rakes. Howard and Forrest quickly follow to provide backup for Jack, to Maggie’s chagrin. She reveals she had delivered him to the hospital after the attack and Forrest deduces that she had been assaulted as well. Jack arrives at the bridge but is wounded by Rakes. Howard and Forrest arrive and a shootout ensues, with Forrest and his driver also shot by Rakes. A large convoy of bootleggers then join the shootout on the brothers’ side. Rakes is about to finish off the wounded Forrest but is shot in the leg by Sheriff Hodges in an effort to halt the bloodshed. Rakes shoots Forrest several more times before trying to escape. Jack and Howard confront Rakes and execute him together.Shia LaBeouf and Mia Wasikowska in Lawless (2012)Following the end of Prohibition in 1933, Wardell is arrested on corruption charges while the Bondurants are all married — Jack to Bertha, Forrest to Maggie, and Howard to a Martinsville woman — and working in legitimate occupations. During a festive reunion at Jack’s house sometime later, Forrest drunkenly ambles to a frozen lake and falls into the freezing water. Although he drags himself out, he later dies of pneumonia, putting to rest the legend of his invincibility.Tom Hardy and Jessica Chastain in Lawless (2012)Overall this is a well acted and slightly over violent action drama with a good story.

REVIEW: INTERSTELLAR

CAST
Matthew McConaughey (Two For The Money)
Ellen Burstyn  (Mom)
Jessica Chastain (The Huntsman: Winter’s War)
Mackenzie Foy (The Conjuring)
John Lithgow (3rd Rock From The Sun)
Timothée Chalamet (Homeland)
David Oyelowo (Rise of The Planet of Rhe Apes)
Anne Hathaway (The Dark Knight Rises)
Wes Bentley (The Hunger Games)
William Devane (Stargate: Continuum)
Michael Caine (Inception)
Casey Affleck (Gone Baby Gone)
Topher Grace (That 70s Show)
Josh Stewart (The Punisher)
Matt Damon (The Bourne Identity
Bill Irwin (Legion)
Elyes Gabel (Game of Thrones)
A catastrophic crop blight has made farming increasingly difficult and threatens humanity’s survival. Joe Cooper, a widowed former NASA pilot, runs a farm with his father-in-law, son, and daughter Murphy, who believes her bedroom is haunted by a poltergeist. When the “ghost” creates a pattern in the dust, Cooper realizes someone is using gravity to communicate, and interprets the pattern as geographic coordinates, which Cooper and Murphy follow to a secret NASA facility.
There, they meet Dr. Brand, Cooper’s former professor. Brand reveals that a wormhole, apparently created by an alien intelligence, appeared near Saturn 48 years before and leads to a distant galaxy, with numerous potentially habitable planets. Twelve volunteers have gone through it, knowing only a few can be retrieved, each to assess a planet’s suitability as humanity’s new home. Miller, Edmunds and Mann have sent encouraging data from planets near Gargantua, a supermassive black hole. Brand recruits Cooper to pilot the spaceship Endurance to evaluate as many of the planets as possible, while he works on “Plan A”, a theory to harness gravity for propulsion, which would allow humanity to leave Earth. The Endurance also carries 5,000 frozen embryos as “Plan B”, to provide for humanity’s survival. Cooper agrees to go, alienating Murphy.
Cooper’s crew consists of scientists Romilly, Doyle, and Brand’s daughter Amelia and robots TARS and CASE. Traversing the wormhole, they head to Miller’s planet, an ocean world where time is severely dilated due to its proximity to Gargantua; for each hour there, seven years pass on Earth. While Romilly and TARS remain aboard, the rest descend to the surface, where they find only wreckage. Amelia retrieves Miller’s data, before a gigantic tidal wave kills Doyle. Cooper, Amelia, and CASE manage to return to Endurance, but 23 years have elapsed on Earth.
Murphy, now an adult, has been assisting Dr. Brand with his research. On his deathbed, he admits to her that he solved the gravity equation long before and deemed Plan A impossible, and that he lied to everyone, pinning his hopes on Plan B. Murphy notifies Amelia of her father’s death, then accuses her and Cooper of abandoning Earth. She continues working, believing Plan A might work if she could somehow get more data about singularities.
With limited fuel, Cooper decides to go to Mann’s planet, rather than Edmunds’, over Amelia’s opposition; both have sent promising data, but Mann is closer and Amelia admits to being in love with Edmunds. After being revived from cryosleep, Mann assures the crew that while the frozen planet has an ammonia-laden atmosphere, the surface is livable. However, when they are alone, Mann attempts to kill Cooper, revealing that he falsified the data so he would be rescued. Mann then heads for Endurance. Meanwhile, Romilly is killed by a booby trap. After Amelia rescues Cooper, they race to Endurance, where Mann is attempting to dock despite being locked out of the autodocking system. Mann ignores Cooper’s plea not to open the airlock, which fails catastrophically. Mann is killed and the severely damaged Endurance begins falling out of orbit. Cooper uses the landing craft to stabilize the ship.
Using Gargantua’s gravity as a slingshot, they head to Edmunds’ planet, but their nearness to the black hole means 51 years will elapse on Earth. To shed weight, Cooper jettisons himself and TARS towards the black hole, so that Amelia and CASE can complete the journey. Cooper and TARS pass the event horizon, but emerge in a tesseract, which appears as a stream of bookshelves that look into Murphy’s bedroom at different times. Cooper surmises that the tesseract and wormhole were created by five-dimensional beings to enable him to communicate with Murphy and that he is her “ghost”. He relays in Morse code quantum data that TARS collected from the black hole by manipulating the second hand of a watch he gave to Murphy before he left. Murphy is able to solve the remaining gravitational equation.
Cooper is ejected into normal space and awakens in a space habitat orbiting Saturn. He reunites with an aged Murphy, now near death. At Murphy’s urging, Cooper leaves to rejoin Amelia on Edmunds’ habitable planet, the future home of humanity.
Interstellar is a terrific film, and may come to be regarded as one of the best ever from this genre.