REVIEW: ZERO DARK THIRTY

CAST

Jessica Chastain (The Huntsman)
Jason Clarke (Dawn of The Planet of The Apes)
Jennifer Ehle Fifty Shades Darker)
Kyle Chandler (Super 8)
Mark Strong (John Carter)
James Gandolfini (KIllThem Softly)
Harold Perrineau (Constantine)
Mark Duplass (Greenberg)
Fredric Lehne (Lost)
John Barrowman (Arrow)
Jessie Collins (Revolution)
Édgar Ramírez (Joy)
Fares Fares (KIll Your Darlings)
Scott Adkins (X-Men Origins)
Joel Edgerton (Exodus: Gods and Kings)
Chris Pratt (Jurassic World)
Callan Mulvey (300: Rise of an Empire)
Taylor Kinney (The Forest)
Mike Colter (Luke Cage)
Frank Grillo (The Purge 2 & 3)
Christopher Stanley (Argo)
Stephen Dillane (Game of Thrones)
Mark Valley (Human Target)

In 2003, Maya, a young U.S. Central Intelligence Agency analyst, has spent her entire brief career, since being recruited for the agency, focused solely on gathering intelligence related to al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, following the terrorist organization’s September 11 attacks on the United States in 2001. She is reassigned to the U.S. embassy in Pakistan to work with a fellow officer, Dan. During the first months of her assignment, Maya often accompanies Dan to a black site for his continuing interrogation of Ammar al-Baluchi, a detainee with suspected links to several of the hijackers in the September 11 attacks. Dan subjects the detainee to approved torture interrogation techniques, i.e., stress positions, hooding, subjection to deafening noise, sleep deprivation, waterboarding, and humiliation.After failing to get al-Baluchi to give up information on an attack in Saudi Arabia, he and Maya eventually trick Ammar into divulging that an old acquaintance, who is using the alias Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, is working as a personal courier for bin Laden. Other detainees corroborate this, with some claiming Abu Ahmed delivers messages between bin Laden and a man known as Abu Faraj al-Libbi. In 2005, Abu Faraj is apprehended by the CIA and local police in Pakistan. Maya is allowed to interrogate him, but he continues to deny knowing a courier with such a name. Maya interprets this as an attempt by Faraj to conceal the importance of Abu Ahmed.Maya spends the next five years sifting through masses of data and information, using a variety of technology, hunches, and sharing insights. She concentrates on finding Abu Ahmed, theorizing that he is the best way to find bin Laden. In 2008, she is caught up in the Islamabad Marriott Hotel bombing. Dan, departing on reassignment, warns Maya about a possible change in politics, suggesting that the new administration may prosecute those officers who had been involved in interrogations. Maya’s fellow officer and friend Jessica is killed in the 2009 Camp Chapman attack. That same day, a grieving Maya receives an interrogation video of a Jordanian detainee, who claims the man previously identified from a photograph as Abu Ahmed is a man he personally buried in 2001. Several CIA officers – Maya’s seniors – conclude the target who could be Abu Ahmed is long dead, and that they have searched a false trail for nine years.Sometime later, a fellow analyst researching Moroccan intelligence archives comes to Maya and suggests that Abu Ahmed is Ibrahim Sayeed, a suspect who had come to CIA attention shortly after 9/11. Realizing her lead may still be alive, Maya contacts Dan, now a senior officer at the CIA headquarters. She theorizes that the CIA’s supposed photograph of Abu Ahmed was actually of his brother, Habib, as he was said to bear a striking resemblance to Ibrahim and was known to have been killed in Afghanistan, and points out that Abu Ahmed’s death in 2001 contradicts Ammar’s account.Dan uses CIA funds to purchase a Lamborghini for a Kuwaiti prince in exchange for the telephone number of Sayeed’s mother. The CIA traces calls to the mother and quickly identifies one suspicious caller who persistently uses tradecraft to avoid detection. Maya concludes that the caller is Abu Ahmed, and with the support of her supervisors, numerous CIA operatives are deployed to search for and identify the caller. They locate him in his vehicle and eventually track him to a large urban compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, near the Pakistan Military Academy. As Maya leaves her residence one morning, she is attacked by multiple gunmen, but the bullet-proof glass in her car saves her. Knowing that she has been blacklisted by al-Qaeda and there will be more attempts on her life if she stays, her superiors remove her from the field and send Maya home to Washington, D.C.The CIA puts the compound under heavy surveillance for several months, using a variety of methods. Although they are confident from circumstantial evidence that bin Laden is there, they cannot prove this photographically. Meanwhile, the President’s National Security Advisor tasks the CIA with producing a plan to capture or kill bin Laden if it can be confirmed that he is in the compound. An agency team devises a plan to use two top-secret stealth helicopters (developed at Area 51) flown by the Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment to secretly enter Pakistan and insert members of DEVGRU and the CIA’s SAD/SOG to raid the compound. Before briefing President Barack Obama, the CIA Director holds a meeting of his top officials, who assess only a 60–80% chance that bin Laden, rather than another high-value target, is living in the compound. Maya, also in attendance, states the chances are 100%.The raid is approved and is executed on May 2, 2011. Although execution is complicated when one of the helicopters crashes, the SEALs gain entry and kill a number of people within the compound, among them a man on the compound’s top floor who is revealed to be bin Laden. They bring bin Laden’s body back to a U.S. base in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, where Maya visually confirms the identity of the corpse. Maya is last seen boarding a military transport to return to the U.S. and sitting in its vast interior as its only passenger. The pilot asks her where she wants to go, but she does not reply. As the plane’s hangar door closes, Maya begins to cry softly.Considering the subject matter of Zero Dark Thirty, a film that follows the CIA’s decade-long hunt for Osama Bin Laden, it’d be little surprise were Hollywood to knock the edges off a little to make it easier for a broader audience. But director Kathryn Bigelow makes no such concession. Off the back of her Oscar-winning feature The Hurt Locker, her movie is a pulls-no-punches, under-your-skin drama. As such, it’s not always the easiest film to watch, but it is an utterly compelling one.

 

25 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS REVIEW: ARROW – DARK WATERS

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DARK WATERS
CAST
Stephen Amell (Screamer 2)
Katie Cassidy (Black Xmas)
David Ramsey (Dexter)
Willa Holland (Legion)
Paul Blackthorne (The Dresden Files)
Emily Bett Rickards (Brooklyn)
John Barrowman (Torchwood)
GUEST CAST

Neal McDonough (Agent Carter)
Eugene Byrd (Bones)
Charlotte Ross (Drive Angry)
Echo Kellum (Dead People)
Ryan Robbins (Sanctuary)
Parker Young (Enlisted)
Elysia Rotaru (Mortal Kombat Legacy)
Lynda Boyd (Power Rangers In Space)
Janet Kidder (Bride of Chucky)
James Kidnie (Smallville)

Oliver encourages citizens to clean up the bay, prompting Darhk to send a drone attack. Felicity takes it down, but many are injured. In retaliation, Oliver reveals Darhk’s photo, declaring him the leader of the Ghosts, on television and sets up a hotline for anyone who has any information about him. Darhk, watching on television with other HIVE members, is visibly enraged and breaks the television with his magic. Milo Armitage makes a sarcastic remark. Reluctantly, they go through with a Christmas party to show they are not afraid.

Andy Diggle continues to be uncooperative with his brother Meanwhile, Felicity’s mother discover’s Oliver’s engagement ring and shows her daughter. At the Christmas party, Felicity learns that her mother is dating Quentin Lance. Later, she and Oliver meet Curtis’s husband. During their discussion, Felicity realizes Oliver was going to propose the night Laurel and Thea came to get their help. Felicity asks Oliver why and he says that everything changed and he wasn’t sure he could anymore. Darhk breaks in despite high security, knocks out Oliver, and kidnaps Diggle, Thea and Felicity. Oliver and Laurel go out to beat on the Ghosts to get a location, but come up with nothing.Malcolm arrives in the Arrowcave, surprising Quentin, and provides a communicator that the Ghosts use. Oliver offers himself up to Darhk, who takes him back to HIVE HQ. Laurel and Malcolm, who is dressed as the Green Arrow, follow, using a nanotracker in Oliver’s bloodstream. Darhk demonstrates algae that HIVE is growing in the bay, which they are trying to adapt to make breathable. They test it on humans, who they put in a gas chamber. He lets Oliver have one last conversation with Felicity who says she would have agreed to marry him. Darhk decides that, although Oliver is agreeing to work with him now, it is easier to remove all motivation for resistance and kill Thea, Diggle, and Felicity in the gas chamber. Laurel and Malcolm arrive, with Laurel’s Canary Cry breaking the glass and freeing the captives. The other members of HIVE escape, while Malcolm and Oliver go after Darhk. After a fight, Malcolm leaves Damien pinned to the ground with arrows and right next to an exploding arrow. Quentin and a squad of cops help the others escape from the many HIVE pledges and later Oliver holds another tree lighting where he proposes. As the new fiances return home, their limo is attacked by Ghosts. The driver is killed and Oliver leaves Felicity in the back as he drives them to safety.Meanwhile, Damien enjoys decorating his Christmas tree with his wife and young daughter. Oliver opens the door to the limo and finds an unresponsive Felicity with blood coming out of her mouth.Image result for ARROW dark watersAnother classic Christmas outing for Arrow and one that leaves the viewer without a dry eye. Having to wait till January to find out Felicity’s fate is heart wrenching. The not knowing is what will keep viewers hooked. hopefully wont be long before we see some hurt on the big bad this season for what he did to Felicity.

 

25 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS REVIEW: ARROW – THE CLIMB

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THE CLIMB

CAST
Stephen Amell (Screamer 2)
Katie Cassidy (Black Xmas)
David Ramsey (Dexter)
Willa Holland (Legion)
Paul Blackthorne (The Dresden Files)
Emily Bett Rickards (Brooklyn)
John Barrowman (Torchwood)
Colton Haynes (Teen Wolf)

GUEST CAST

Brandon Routh (Superman Returns)
Kelly Hu (X-Men 2)
Matt Nable (Riddick)
Katrina Law (Spartacus)
Karl Yune (Reel Steel)
Rila Fukushima (The Wolverine)
Alex Kingston (Flashforward)

You can draw a lot of parallels between season 1’s Flash mid season finale and Arrow season 3’s. Both served as mid-season finales. Both prominently featured a major villain who had only appeared briefly in the past. There were many similarities, but the overall impact in this episode was stronger. Arrow needed a bigger, bolder villain this season, and it got one in Ra’s al Ghul. Even the opening of “The Climb” paralleled “The Man in the Yellow Suit,” as we were treated to a brief flash-forward of Ollie surmounting a cliff before the episode flashed back 48 hours earlier. This framing device was repeated several times throughout the episode, always serving to heighten the tension and the build-up to the final showdown between the Arrow and the Demon’s Head.
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There was a definite sense of increased momentum this week. The mystery behind Sara Lance’s murder again became the focus, with Ollie and the gang now given a strict 48-hour ultimatum to either turn over her killer or face the League’s wrath. After two months of build-up, we finally learned the killer’s identity. I can’t say I was surprised to learn it was Thea, between the DNA almost matching Ollie’s and the footage of her accompanying Malcolm Merlyn. But that wasn’t really the point. The conflict quickly became more about Ollie trying to understand why Thea could have committed such an act, and choosing how far he would go to defend his last living family member. This became a much more emotionally stirring conflict than a mere whodunit.
I was almost disappointed that Thea’s actions were explained away by the magical brainwashing root. It would be far more interesting if she had fired the arrows of her own free will and was forced to be held accountable for her actions. Though maybe Thea needed that level of sympathy to her actions given how much Ollie gave up for her in the end. In any case, it was cool to see Ollie and Thea briefly battle it out in their apartment. His stunned reaction upon realizing that his sister had become a martial arts whiz was pretty great. This conflict culminated on a great note as Ollie decided that he would rather throw himself to the wolves and be devoured rather than risk turning the League’s wrath on Thea. He definitely played right into Merlyn’s hand, but he didn’t have much choice. Any chance that Merlyn might have softened since his defeat two years ago is clearly gone. Having already manipulated Ollie and wormed his way out of the League’s crosshairs, Merlyn is free to carry out whatever the next stage of his plan might be. You have to wonder if he’ll prove to be the true villain of the season rather than Ra’s.
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Ollie bidding farewell to his friends was easily one of the most emotionally stirring moments of the season. It was pretty clear that he knew he was going to his death and acted accordingly. His goodbye to Felicity was powerful stuff. The confrontation with Ra’s didn’t disappoint either. In a lot of ways, Matt Nable is an odd choice to play the iconic villain. He’s more rugged and scruffy than you’d expect of the character, and even his accent is less refined than what we’ve seen in the past. But Nable does bring charisma and danger to the part. He also has the physicality to pull off a shirtless sword fight with a guy who spends 90% of his free time on a salmon ladder. Nable doesn’t look or sound much like Ra’s, but he manages to be Ra’s all the same. The sword duel was definitely a highlight of the episode. From Ra’s story about his first kill (“I replaced great evil with death.”) to his choice to fight without a blade of his own, it was clear how badly outmatched Ollie was. And even though our hero nearly got the drop on Ra’s at the end, death finally came him, as promised.
Now, obviously the writers aren’t going to kill off the show’s main character halfway into the third season. Ra’s offhand remark about Ollie being the first person in 67 years to challenge him was full with meaning. It all but confirms that Lazarus Pits exist in this universe and that Ra’s uses them. The writers also found time for several subplots in between all the League business. Laurel continued to mourn her sister’s death, with the added complication that her mother briefly returned to town. Laurel’s confession was nonetheless another key emotional moment in an already emotional episode. Arrow never disappoints when it comes to finales (mid-season or otherwise). This episode offered a steady stream of tension and emotional drama as Ollie learned the truth about his sister and chose to confront his own death. Both Ra’s al Ghul and Malcolm Merlyn emerged as clear and present threats to Starling City.

25 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS REVIEW: ARROW – YEAR’S END

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CAST
Stephen Amell (Screamer 2)
Katie Cassidy (Black Xmas)
David Ramsey (Dexter)
Willa Holland (Legion)
Paul Blackthorne (The Dresden Files)
Colin Donnell (Pan Am)
Susanna Thompson (Cold Case)
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YEARS END

GUEST CAST
Colin Salmon (Hex)
Byron Mann (Catwoman)
Sebastian Dunn (Blackwood)
Brian Markinson (Izombie)
Emily Bett Rickards (Brooklyn)
John Barrowman (Torchwood)
Adam Hunt is on the phone trying to raise money for a deal despite the fact that he was recently taken down by The Hood. An unseen figure, who Adam seems to recognize, makes an unexpected visit. Adam asks the visitor if he is here to extract another pound of flesh. The intruder responds by firing three arrows into Adam’s chest, killing him.
Oliver and John spar in the Arrowcave. John points out that Oliver has really thrown himself into his vigilante work since his breakup with Helena, having taken down three of the men on the list in a single week. He tells Oliver that he’s taking his nephew to the mall for Christmas shopping and Oliver realizes that it’s Christmas. He explains that on the island he was too busy trying to survive to keep track of things like holidays, and remembers how his father Robert, would put Christmas trees in every room of the manor. John tells Oliver that he deserves a break and to go spend time with his family on Christmas. Yao Fei unseals the cave and is surprised that Oliver is still alive. He leaves Oliver a jug of water and a rabbit for food. When Oliver inquires as to where he has been Yao brings in a surprise prisoner, Edward Fyers. Oliver’s first thought is to gain revenge on the man who tortured him, but Yao Fei tells him that he is more valuable to them alive, as they can use his private plane to return to civilization.
Oliver returns to Queen Manor and discovers Thea leaving their parents’ dinner party. He asks about the lack of Christmas decorations and Thea hesitantly says that everyone was just too busy to bother. Oliver then joins the dinner party where Moira and Walter are hosting several rich and important guests, including Malcolm Merlyn and Police Commissioner Brian Nudocerdo. They discuss The Hood and whether his actions are justified. While Brian voices his disapproval of vigilantes, Malcolm notes that the crime rate has gone down for the first time in 5 years. Brian insists that his new departmental policies are responsible, but Walter suggests that The Hood has put the fear in the criminal element. Malcolm asks Oliver his opinion. Feigning neutrality, Oliver says the vigilante needs a better codename than “The Hood.” Malcolm suggests “Green Arrow,” which Oliver snidely dismisses. Their conversation is interrupted when Walter gets a call from Felicity. He takes it in the other room and she tells him that seven of the men on the list have been taken down by The Hood. Walter is not surprised by this, but Felicity quickly gets his attention by revealing that Dr. Doug Miller, the head of Applied Sciences at Queen Consolidated, is also on the list. Felicity suspects that Doug may be the Hood’s next target. Meanwhile, Brian’s aide whispers a message to him and he tells the guests that arrow has struck again and killed Adam Hunt, his first victim. Oliver fakes a call from a contractor and promptly excuses himself.
Quentin Lance arrives at Adam’s apartment and meets with Brian Nudocerdo, while The Hood eavesdrops from a balcony. Brian suggests the vigilante is responsible, but Quentin disagrees; the arrows used to kill Adam were black instead of green, and The Hood had already shut down Adam’s Ponzi scheme and left him a broken man, killing him now would make no sense. He suggests a copycat is responsible. The next day, Oliver and John try to work out who killed Adam. Oliver points out the placing of the three arrows in Adam’s chest and figures that the killer is an expert archer. He figures the archer used custom arrows that can be traced and tells John that they’ll get one from the police. At the police station, Quentin receives a disposable cellphone, which begins ringing almost immediately after he picks it up. Using a voice distorter, Oliver tells Quentin The Hood is not a very good nickname for him. He then insists that he didn’t kill Adam, but he needs Quentin’s help to track the real killer. He insists that he can go places that the police can’t Quentin isn’t interested, but Oliver warns that the killer will likely strike again, and instructs him to call the pre-programmed number if he changes his mind.
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Walter calls Dr. Doug into his office and tells him that security red-flagged him as someone The Hood might come after. Doug claims that he has no idea why the vigilante would want him. Oliver and Thea are having lunch at Big Belly Burgers, and Oliver again inquires about the lack of Christmas celebration. Before she can answer, a young man named Shane Colvin comes in and asks if Thea wants to hang with him and his friends. She passes, explaining that she’s with her brother. After Shane leaves, Oliver returns to the topic and Thea explains that after Oliver and Robert disappeared at sea, no one felt like celebrating Christmas. After that they just kept avoiding it for the next 4 years. Thea doesn’t consider this a big deal, but Oliver clearly does. Later, Oliver gathers his family and expresses his desire to resume the annual Christmas party. He went without Christmas during his time on the island, and he knows that he was the reason they stopped celebrating, so now, he can be the reason they celebrate it again. “I know that I haven’t been the son, the step-son, or the brother that all of you deserve, especially lately, but this feels like the right moment to start making up for lost time”. Moira agrees and Oliver tells them that he’ll handle all of the arrangements. As the family leaves, Walter tells Oliver that he’s a good man.
Yao Fei leads Edward and Oliver through the forest, and Edward tells Oliver that he can tell that he’s a good man, since he suffered torture rather than betray Yao Fei. Edward asks Oliver what he knows about Yao and explains that Lian Yu was a prison. The Chinese army kept the prisoners there that were too dangerous to imprison anywhere else. When they shut down the island 8 years ago, they sent Edward and his men in to purge the facility. Only two prisoners were spared. Yao Fei and Billy Wintergreen. When Oliver points out that Edward had Wintergreen torture him, Edward says that he only did it to find Yao, who had “slaughtered dozens of people,” and asks what Oliver would have done in his position. Moira meets with Malcolm at a secret location. He tells her that Doug reported to him, and that Walter knows more than he should about the list. Moira suggests she talk with him, but Malcolm says they are past the point of conversation. He recalls how she blackmailed him into staying away from her family. He has honored that agreement, but now it seems her family isn’t staying away from him. He wonders if they need to bring in their “associate” to clean things up. Moira nervously assures him that she will handle it.
A businessman, Nelson Ravich, is walking home when The Dark Archer kills him. Brian and Quentin arrive sometime later and close the crime scene. They know that The Hood terrorized Ravich into giving up his embezzlement funds a week ago. Brian tells Quentin to accuse The Hood of the two murders but Quentin refuses, pointing out that it doesn’t match The Hood’s normal pattern of leaving his victims alive once he gets what he wants from them. Brian takes Quentin off the case and leaves, while Quentin goes back to the station. After careful consideration, Quentin calls Oliver and tells him that he left one of the black arrows at a heating vent. However, he warns the Hood that he has until Christmas to find the killer, after that, he’ll come after him, “copycat or not”.
Oliver recovers the black arrow and goes over it with John. They confirm that it’s a custom job and that The Dark Archer is deliberately trying to call Oliver out. Oliver takes the arrow to Queen Consolidated and asks Felicity if she can confirm the point of origin so he can order more for a friend. She does so, and discovers that the company holding the patent on the arrow is called Sagittarius, after the famous archer on the Zodiac calendar. Felicity locates the address of the shipment and gives it to Oliver, who wishes her a happy Hanukkah and departs.
When Laurel comes home, she finds her father listening to Brian’s press statement on the news. She figures that The Hood isn’t the killer, reminding Quentin that the Hood protected her during the prison breakout. Tommy arrives at the apartment and Quentin rebuffs his attempts to impress him. Laurel reminds Tommy that she wanted to be with her father on Christmas, but he says that Christmas is a time for people to be together, and points out that she’s holding something back. When he invites her to the Queen holiday party, Laurel refuses and Tommy gives her his Christmas present and leaves. Quentin complains about how Tommy and Oliver are selfish and Laurel should stay away from both of them. She’s surprised and touched to discover that Tommy’s gift is an old photo of herself, Quentin, and Sara. Oliver dons his Hood costume and goes to the address that received the black arrows. A single black arrow is rammed into a table and as Oliver examines it, the door slams shut behind him. A bomb lights off and begins a countdown, and Oliver blasts the door open with an explosive arrow and gets out just in time. He goes back to the manor where the party is in full swing and tells John what happened. As they talk, Shane comes in with flowers for Moira. Oliver has his family pose for a Christmas party and then Thea goes off with Shane, Moira tells Walter that they’ll talk later and goes off. Tommy and Laurel arrive and Oliver goes to greet them. Tommy still thinks things are weird between Laurel and Oliver and goes off to get drinks.
When Walter finds Moira, she reminds him that he promised not to investigate any further. Walter reminds his wife that Robert was his oldest friend and that he had no intention of letting the murderers go free. He asks his wife if whatever she is protecting is worth the lies, and Moira explains that she salvaged the boat to use as leverage against the organization. Walter offers to help fight them, but Moira says that she is one of them, and that she hoped Walter’s love could save her. He accepts her explanation for the moment and tells her that the time for lies is over, and Moira promises to tell him everything after the party. Laurel and Oliver talk privately and she figures out that he’s still uncomfortable with the fact that she’s with Tommy. Oliver insists that he’s fine and Laurel admits that since Oliver was declared dead, she hasn’t been able to connect emotionally with anyone. She tells Oliver that Tommy is the first person that she has been with in 5 years, and Oliver assures her that he’s happy for them.
Once Laurel leaves, Oliver goes to find Thea and discovers her in bed with Shane. He kicks Shane out and demands to know why Thea is skipping the party. She angrily explains that the party is something he’s doing to make himself feel better and that all it’s doing is digging up old memories that she rather forget. Oliver wonders why she wants to forget, and Thea tells him that things will never again be as they were before his disappearance. As she walks away, John comes in to tell Oliver that the copycat situation has escalated. They turn on the news and discover that The Dark Archer has captured five hostages and is holed up at an abandoned warehouse. One of the hostages reads a statement from The Dark Archer, accusing the police of lacking the will do what justice demands. He will execute one hostage every hour unless The Hood faces him alone. John suggests that the police handle it, but Oliver insists that it’s his responsibility and assures his partner that he handled much worse on the island.
Image result for ARROW YEAR'S ENDYao Fei tells Edward to radio his troops and instruct them to bring the plane. Edward tells them that won’t be necessary, as they should be arriving any minute. “Do you not think it convenient to capture me so easily”? As Yao and Oliver realize they’ve been lured into a trap, Wintergreen emerges from the jungle, flanked by two mercenaries armed with AK-74 assault rifles. As Wintergreen draws his ninjato, Yao engages him in melee combat while Oliver draws the gunmen away. Oliver manages to lose the gunmen, but Wintergreen overpowers Yao, who is forced to surrender as more troops arrive. The police gather outside the warehouse but quickly discover that The Dark Archer has booby-trapped all of the doors. As Quentin arrives, the police see The Hood slide into the warehouse through a window. He quickly frees the hostages and gets them to the roof, and then goes down to find the archer. The Dark Archer, wearing a mask which disguises his voice, tells The Hood that he’s eager to see which one of them is the better archer, and took hostages because he knew it would take something dramatic to lure him out. The two archers duel throughout the bowels of the warehouse, they seem to be evenly matched, but The Dark Archer Catches him by surprise. The Hood is brought down by two arrows to the back. As he mercilessly kicks the vigilante in the ribs, The Dark Archer reveals that he knows about the list, and the man who wrote it wants “the Hood” dead. As The Dark Archer moves in to unmask his prey, the Hood stabs him in the leg with one of his arrowheads. and knocking him out cold with a single punch as The Dark Archer flees shortly after that, Oliver radios John for help, and then passes out.
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When Oliver wakes up, he’s in the hospital with John at his side. John explains that he cleaned up the evidence and carried Oliver away. Oliver’s injuries include a collapsed lung, a few cracked ribs, and a concussion. Walter, Thea, and Moira, arrive and John tells them that Oliver was in a motorcycle accident. They’re all relieved to see that he’s okay and they admit that they weren’t at their best during the party. However, they’re all there now for Oliver and that’s what matters. Thea stays behind to apologize to Oliver, she realizes he is not the same person that he was 5 years ago, but neither is she. They agree to accept each other as they are now and share a hug. The Dark Archer returns to his hideout and removes his mask, revealing his identity as Malcolm Merlyn. Walter checks in at his office. After taking a call from Felicity, he gets into the elevator and the other passenger injects him with a sedative. Moira demands a meeting with Malcolm, well aware that he’s had Walter abducted. Malcolm promises that Walter won’t be harmed and that he will never know that Moira is involved. When she complains, Malcolm reminds her that the Tempest Organization is only six months away from rebuilding the city to their dreams. Moira realizes that Malcolm feels nothing despite the fact that their plans will cost thousands of people their lives, but Malcolm tells her that he’ll feel a sense of accomplishment, and Walter will be returned to her when it’s over.
In the hospital room, Oliver admits to John that he failed the city, because he almost didn’t win the fight, and he let The Dark Archer live, but John reminds him that he saved five lives. He figures that Oliver will capture The Dark Archer, but Oliver believes that the author of the list is the true threat, and resolves to find him.
The first Arrow Christmas set the trend for the last few years, making sure the Christmas episode is a good hour of television and making sure it leaves fans on a mid-season cliff-hanger to bring you back into the new year. The big reveal of the season 1 big bad was brilliant and set the tone for the last part of the season, Arrow season 1 got better and better with each episode during its opening year and by the time Christmas came along it showed just how far the show came along. Year’s end is an outstanding bit of television

REVIEW: THE SUPER HERO SQUAD SHOW – SEASON 1-2

CAST (VOICES)

Charlie Adler (Wall-e)
Alimi Ballard (Sabrina: TTW)
Steven Blum (Wolverine and the X-Men)
Dave Boat (Ultimate Spider-Man)
Jim Cummings (Darkwing Duck)
Grey DeLisle (The Fairly Oddparents)
Mikey Kelley (Gravity Falls)
Tom Kenny (The Batman)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble)
Tara Strong (Batman: The Killing Joke)
Travis Willingham (Dragon Ball Z)

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RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Shawn Ashmore (X-Men)
Dee Bradley Baker (American Dad)
John Barrowman (Arrow)
A.J. Buckley (Disturbing Behavior)
Ty Burrell (Muppets Most Wanted)
LeVar Burton (Star Trek: TNG)
Taye Diggs (Private Practice)
Michael Dorn (Ted 2)
Suisan Eisenberg (Justice League)
Carl Lumbly (Alias)
Robert Englund (A Nightmare on Elm Street)
Jonathan Frakes (Star Trek: TNG)
Greg Grunberg (Heroes)
Nika Futterman (Futurama)
Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
Lena Headey (Game of Thrones)
Tricia Helfer (Powers)
Cheryl Hines (The Ugly Truth)
Josh Keaton (Justice League: Gods and Monsters)
Wayne Knight (3rd rock from The Sun)
Maurice LaMarche (Futurama)
Phil LaMar (Free Enterprise)
Jane Lynch (Glee)
Jason Marsden (Full House)
James Marsters (Smallville)
Jennifer Morrison (Urban Legends 2)
Scott Menville (Teen Titans)
Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory)
Adrian Pasdar (Heroes)
Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show)
Katee Sackhoff (Battlestar Galactica)
Kevin Sorbo (Hercules: TLJ)
Ray Stevenson (Divergent)
Fred Stoller (Little Man)
George Takei (Star Trek)
Cree Summer (Batman Beyond)
Michelle Trachtenberg (17 again)
Hynden Walch (The Batman)
Jim Ward (Danny Phantom)
Adam West (Batman 60s)
Nina Dobrev (The Vampire Diaries)

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When I saw a preview of The Super Hero Squad Show back in February of 2009, I thought it looked pretty interesting, but certainly aimed at the kiddies, and as it aired on Cartoon Network, I never saw an episode. In fact, I forgot all about it, and when I got my hands on this disc, I thought it was an animated take on the old Fisher-Price Marvel kiddie figures. So I had no expectations coming in. Well, my only expectation being that it would be bad. So it was with a good deal of shock that I found it to be a pretty entertaining action-comedy series, if you don’t mind the cheese-level of many of the jokes.MV5BMTY4MzMzMzM2OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTE2OTc3MjE@._V1_The Super Hero Squad (sort of a loose version of the Avengers) is made up of an assortment of Marvel heroes, including Iron Man (as the leader), Captain America (who provides aid on a regular basis), Wolverine (adding the X-Men’s popularity,) The Hulk, Thor, a spacey surfer-dude version of the Silver Surfer, and Falcon (obviously added to bring some diversity.) Joining them is the mostly unknown Reptil (a dinosaur-powered bit player from the Avengers comics) who is both a young guy and Hispanic, helping fill out the P.C. scorecard a bit more and give younger viewers a stand-in.  They go up against Doctor Doom and his legion of bad guys (and ineffective henchmen), as he searches for the Infinity fractals, shards of the Infinity Sword (which seems connected to the Infinity Gems of the Infinity Gauntlet. Infinity.)MV5BMTUwMzc1OTEzNV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjU3MDg3MjE@._V1_Though the storylines are pretty solid and offer big action-packed battles, the bulk of the show is comedy, with the character’s out-sized personalities carrying the jokes, be it Thor’s overwhelming concern about his appearance or Captain America being stuck in the ’40s. Maybe I don’t give kids a lot of credit, but I can see a large portion of these gags flying over their heads, which will make the show far more enjoyable for adults than one would have expected. There was more than one joke that got a genuine laugh out of me, though many of them rely on bodily functions or pratfalls for the punchline. The wordplay and character-generated jokes are much more entertaining and fun, especially Thor’s Asgardian versions of modern language, the Silver Surfer’s alien view of Earth life, and anything involving the always-ridiculous floating head known as M.O.D.O.K. (voiced hilariously by Tom Kenny.) One joke about the Hulk swallowing a yo-yo is technically genius. The only thing about the show that doesn’t really work is Reptil, who feels like the Poochie of the show, coming off as a bone tossed to kids, with his dino-focused power, youthful role and extreme behavior.MV5BNzQ1MjI0NzUzOV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzk1OTc3MjE@._V1_This version of the Marvel Universe smartly keeps the same look for its characters, giving long-time Marvel fans an in for the series, but presents them in a super-deformed style (squat bodies, large heads and feet, four fingers) that’s kid-cartoon friendly and which easily separates it from any other version of the Universe you’ve ever seen. That way, there are no issues with continuity or previous incarnations, and the show can be enjoyed on its own merits (allowing them to do something like make Dr. Strange a complete lunatic.) That’s a good thing, because the show is loaded to the gills with fan-service goodies, like the episode titles (which reference famous comic titles) and title cards which replicate memorable cover art. The show also pulls characters from the depths of the Marvel roster, like Screaming Mimi and the Melter, and having silly cartoon fun with them. Taken simply as a silly, almost What The–?! treatment of the characters, it’s well worth a look for comic-book fans out of grade school.MV5BMjM1ODQ2NDUxNl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNjk1OTc3MjE@._V1_On a non-story note, the theme song, provided by Parry Gripp of Nerf Herder, is an energetic blast, while the voice cast for this series has to be one of the best for a non-prime time animated series, with tons of veterans of the cartoon industry, like Kenny, Tara Strong, Jess Harnell, Grey DeLisle, Cree Summer and Charlie Adler, along with plenty of genre stars, including Robert Englund, Tricia Helfer, Jennifer Morrison and Adrian Pasdar. It’s rare to see a show like this pull this kind of voice cast.MV5BNzQ1MjI0NzUzOV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzk1OTc3MjE@._V1_The overall plot of the cycle will feature the villain Thanos seeking the six stones of the Infinity Gauntlet, a powerful cosmic weapon. Opposing him will be the titular Super Hero Squad, which is made up of goofball takes on Iron Man, Thor, Falcon, Wolverine, Hulk, Ms. Marvel, original character Reptil, Scarlet Witch, and sometimes Captain America. While the first two shows focus specifically on the Thanos plot, other episodes detour into one-off excursions. For instance, “World War Witch!” takes the heroes back in time to when Cap was fighting the Red Skull alongside the Invaders in WWII, while “Support Your Local Sky-Father!” pits Olympus vs. Asgard, and it features the Marvel Universe rendition of Hercules.