12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS REVIEW: ARROW – WHAT WE LEAVE BEHIND

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MAIN CAST

Stephen Amell (The Vampire Diaries)
David Ramsey (Con Air)
Willa Holland (Legion)
Emily Bett Rickards (Brooklyn)
Echo Kellum (Ben and Kate)
Josh Segarra (Trainwreck)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Rick Gonzalez (Pulse)
Joe Dinicol (Scott Pilgrim vs The World)
Maddison McLaughlin (Chicago P.D.)
Tyler Ritter (The McCarthys)
Carly Pope (Popular)
Katie Cassidy (Black Xmas)
Audrey Marie Anderson (The Unit)
Michael Dorn (Ted 2)

The Mid-Season finale of Arrow was a great way to cap off the first half of a season that’s been all about rebuilding, regrouping and looking to the past in order to shape the future. There was plenty of progress on the Prometheus front, all of which fueled a suitably dark and depressing ending that suggests things are going to get a lot worse before that light at the end of the tunnel appears for Team Arrow.
One of the few things the Arrow producers have revealed about this year’s big villain is that he has ties to Oliver Queen’s past. Those ties became much more clear in this episode, which featured one of the more memorable uses of flashbacks in the show’s history. In the last couple seasons, there’s been an odd obsession with drawing as many direct parallels between past and present, usually to the detriment of the flashback scenes. But here that approach made sense. In effect, the flashbacks were giving us a glimpse of a lost, early Season 1-era episode, one that also served as the beginning of Prometheus’ origin story.

On one hand, it was fun just to go back and revisit that simpler time. All the details were recreated perfectly, from Ollie’s original, mask-less costume and lair to his goofy interplay with a pre-sidekick Felicity to Diggle being the nonplussed bodyguard. On another, these flashbacks really emphasized how much Ollie has changed as a person and a vigilante over the course of four years. He may flirt with killing now, but back then he was a veritable murder machine. It was chilling watching him mow down those guards with impunity. Enough so that you can’t help but empathize with Prometheus a bit. Maybe Ollie had all of this coming. The way in which this episode regularly bounced between past and present helped build the tension leading into Ollie’s final showdown with Prometheus.

But before getting to that, it’s worth discussing the lead-up to that final showdown. This episode built up an engaging mystery as Prometheus attacked Curtis and then sent Team Arrow on a quest to uncover his identity and motives. There’s still plenty we don’t know about this villain. The implication is that he’s the bastard son of Justin Clayborne (Get Carter’s Garwin Sanford), one of the Hood’s first victims, though even that can’t be taken for granted yet. But even if that is the case, Prometheus’ actual identity remains a mystery. What we do know is that he harbors a serious grudge, and not an entirely unwarranted one, at that. Whomever is under the mask, Prometheus is one who will force Ollie to atone for his mistakes he made when he was still a killer, not a hero.
So after much soul-searching and one early brawl with Prometheus, Ollie finally confronted his foe at the exact spot where he shot down Clayborne four years earlier. And that’s where Prometheus really upped his game. He delivered quite the blow by tricking Ollie into killing Billy. But again, you can see Ollie proving Prometheus point for him. If he wasn’t so reckless and so quick to pull the trigger, Ollie wouldn’t have fallen for that ruse. He tried the killing game again, and this is where it led him. All of this makes Prometheus a more compelling villain because it’s so easy to understand his point of view. He may not be the hero of this story, but he makes a strong case for the idea that Ollie isn’t either. That, more than anything, is what’s distinguishing Prometheus from the rest of the show’s major villains.

That dramatic twist led to a terrifically emotional scene as Ollie felt the crushing weight of his mistakes bearing down on him. To his credit, he didn’t try to hide the truth from Felicity, which is another sign of how much he’s matured in the past four years. But it was quite a depressing way to cap off the first half of the season. The montage where Ollie reflected on his knack for ruining lives while Curtis, Felicity and Diggle all dealt with their new tragedies was an extremely effective way of highlighting the darker turn the season is taking. Echo Kellum in particular gave a terrifically raw performance during Curtis’ breakup with his husband.  It’s funny to compare this episode to the mid season finale of Flash (Season 3). Both leaned pretty heavily on the Christmas motif towards the end, but where Flash tried to find room for hope and optimism in the midst of a dark new threat, Arrow just went all-in on the depressing darkness. But honestly, optimism probably would have felt forced given everything that happened tonight. The final scene was a shocking way to end the episode, seeing Laurel show up at the Arrowcave gives the episode one last WTF moment to see us into 2017.

Arrow has steadily been building steam over the course of Season 5, and that trend continued in the mid-season finale. This episode capped off 2016 on a fittingly dark and gloomy note. Viewers were given more insight into Prometheus’ background and motivations, while also getting the chance to revisit the show’s Season 1 status quo. Things are looking up for the series as it moves into the new year.

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REVIEW: THE VIRGIN SUICIDES

CAST
Kirsten Dunst (All Good Things)
Josh Hartnett (Lucky Number Sleven)
James Woods (Another Day In Paradise)
Kathleen Turner (Serial Mom)
Michael Pare (Bloodrayne)
Scott Glenn (Daredevil lTV)
Danny DeVito (Batman Returns)
A.J. Cook (Wishmaster 3)
Hayden Christensen (Awake)
Sherry Miller (Bitten)
Melody Johnson (Goosebumps)
Andrew Gillies (Mutant X)
Giovanni Ribisi (Ted)
Joe Dinicol (Arrow)
The story takes place in the sleepy and decaying suburbs of Grosse Pointe, Michigan during the 1970s, as a group of neighborhood boys, now grown men acknowledging in voice-over (narrated by Giovanni Ribisi who speaks for the group as a whole) reflect upon their life-long obsession and memories of the five entrancing Lisbon sisters, ages 13 to 17, and whose beauty had bewitched them as teenagers. Strictly unattainable due to their Catholic and overprotective, authoritarian parents, math teacher Ronald (James Woods) and his homemaker wife (Kathleen Turner), the girls — Therese (Leslie Hayman), Mary (A. J. Cook), Bonnie (Chelse Swain), Lux (Kirsten Dunst), and Cecilia (Hanna R. Hall) — are the enigma that fill the boys’ conversations and dreams.
 The film opens in the summer with the suicide attempt of the youngest sister, Cecilia, as she slits her wrist in a bath. After her parents allow her to throw a chaperoned basement party intended to make her feel better, Cecilia excuses herself and jumps out her second story bedroom window, instantly dying when she is impaled on an iron fence below. In the wake of her act, the Lisbon parents begin to watch over their four remaining daughters even more closely. This further isolates the family from the community and heightens the intrigue and air of mystery about the girls to the neighborhood boys in particular, who long for more insight into the girls’ unfathomable lives. At the beginning of the new school year in the fall, Lux forms a secret relationship and short lived romance with Trip Fontaine (Josh Hartnett), the school heartthrob. Trip comes over one night to the Lisbon residence to watch television and persuades Mr. Lisbon to allow him to take Lux to the upcoming Homecoming Dance by promising to provide dates for the other sisters, to go as a group. After winning Homecoming king and queen, Trip persuades Lux to ditch the group and have sex on the school’s football field. Afterwards, Lux falls asleep and Trip, becoming disenchanted by Lux, abandons her. At dawn, Lux wakes up alone and has to take a taxi home. Several years later, Trip will admit to wrongfully abandoning Lux, but ironically confesses that he has never gotten over her.
Having broken curfew, Lux and her sisters are punished by a furious Mrs. Lisbon by being taken out of school and sequestered in their house of maximum security isolation. Unable to leave the house, the sisters contact the boys across the street by using light signals and sharing songs over the phone as a means of finally sharing their unrequited feelings. During this time, Lux rebels against her repression and becomes promiscuous, having anonymous sexual encounters on the roof of the house late at night; the neighborhood boys spy and watch Lux in action from across the street. Finally, after weeks of confinement, the sisters mysteriously leave a note for the boys, presumably asking for help to escape. When the boys arrive that night ready to run away with the girls, they find Lux alone in the living room, smoking a cigarette. She invites them inside to wait for her sisters, while she goes to start the car, leading the boys to believe they will soon elope with the girls. While they wait, the boys briefly fantasize the group of them driving blissfully away on a sun-soaked country road.
Curious, the boys wander into the dark basement after hearing a noise and discover Bonnie’s dead body hanging from the ceiling rafters. Horrified, they rush upstairs only to stumble across the dead body of Mary. The boys realize that the girls had all killed themselves in an apparent suicide pact moments before: Bonnie hanged herself; Mary died by sticking her head in the gas oven shortly after; Therese died by taking an overdose of sleeping pills and Lux, being the last one to go, died by Carbon monoxide poisoning, when she left the car engine running in the sealed garage. But there is no sole explanation why.
Devastated and puzzled by the suicides of all their children, Mr. and Mrs. Lisbon quietly flee the neighborhood, never to return. Mr. Lisbon had a friend clean out the house and sell off the family belongings, especially those belonging to the girls, in a yard sale; whatever didn’t sell was put in the trash, including the family photos, which the neighborhood boys collected as mementos. When the house is emptied, it is quickly sold to a young couple from the Boston area. Seemingly unsure how to react, the adults in the community go about their lives as if nothing happened or that the Lisbons ever lived there. But the boys never forget about the girls however much they try, though everyone else eventually does. And the girls will forever haunt them and remain a source of grief and lost innocence for them, long into adulthood. As the film closes, the men acknowledge in voice-over, saying that they had loved the girls. And that they will never find the pieces to put them back together, to understand why the Lisbon sisters went to be alone in suicide for all time.
This is a great film, despite the tragic end. Nicely shot and superb acting. The best film I’ve seen Kirsten Dunst in.

REVIEW: SCOTT PILGRAM VS THE WORLD

CAST

Michael Cera (Youth In Revolt)
Mary Elizabeth Winstead (10 Cloverfield Lane)
Chris Evans (Captain America: The First Avenger)
Alison Pill (Milk)
Ellen Wong (The Carrie Diaries)
Kieran Culkin (Igby Goes Down)
Anna Kendrick (The Voices)
Brie Larson (21 Jump Street)
Aubrey Plaza (Life After Beth)
Nelson Franklin (New Girl)
Brand Routh (Legends of Tomorrow)
Jason Schwartzman (I Heart Huckabees)
Kristina Pesic (The Vow)
Mark Webber (13 Sins)
Mae Whitman (Independance Day)
Johnny Simmons (Jennifer’s Body)
Bill Hader (Superbad)
Clifton Collins Jr. (Pacific Rim)
Thomas Jane (The Punisher)
Joe Dinicol (Arrow)

In Toronto, 22-year-old Scott Pilgrim is a bass guitarist in Sex Bob-Omb, a floundering garage band. To the disapproval of his friends, he is dating Knives Chau, a high school student. Scott meets an American Amazon.ca delivery girl, Ramona Flowers, having first seen her in a dream, and loses interest in Knives. When Sex Bob-Omb plays in a battle of the bands sponsored by record executive G-Man Graves, Scott is attacked by Ramona’s ex-boyfriend Matthew Patel. Scott defeats Patel and learns that, in order to date Ramona, he must defeat the remaining six evil exes.

Scott breaks up with Knives, who blames Ramona and swears to win him back. Scott defeats Ramona’s second evil ex, Hollywood actor and skateboarder Lucas Lee, by tricking him into performing a dangerous stunt. He defeats her third ex, vegan Todd Ingram, who is dating Scott’s ex-girlfriend, Envy Adams, by tricking him into drinking dairy. He defeats Ramona’s fourth ex, Roxy Richter, by prodding the spot behind her knee, which Ramona tells him is her weak point.

Scott becomes upset with Ramona’s dating history and Ramona breaks up with him. At the next battle of the bands, Sex Bob-Omb defeats Ramona’s fifth and sixth evil exes, twins Kyle and Ken Katayanagi, earning Scott a 1-up. Ramona gets back with her seventh evil ex, Gideon, also known as G-Man Graves, the sponsor of the event. Sex Bob-Omb accept Gideon’s record deal, except for Scott, who leaves the band in protest.

Gideon invites Scott to his venue, the Chaos Theater, where Sex Bob-Omb is playing. Resolving to win Ramona back, Scott challenges Gideon to a fight for her affections, earning the “Power of Love” and a sword. Knives fights Ramona over Scott, and Scott accidentally reveals that he dated them concurrently. After Gideon kills Scott, Ramona visits him in limbo and reveals that Gideon has implanted her with a mind control device.

Scott uses his 1-up to restore his life. He makes peace with his friends and challenges Gideon again, this time for himself. He gains the “Power of Self-Respect” and disarms Gideon with the sword it grants him. He apologizes to Ramona and Knives for cheating on them, and Scott and Knives join forces to defeat Gideon.

Free from Gideon’s control, Ramona prepares to leave. Knives accepts that her relationship with Scott is over. At her encouragement, he follows Ramona.

This movie has everything. Action, love, geek background… The plot is great, a good reflection of the comics. But the camera, special effects and music are absolutely awesome. For me, this is one of the best movies in history.