REVIEW: ON BECOMING A GOD IN CENTRAL FLORIDA – SEASON 1

Kirsten Dunst in On Becoming a God in Central Florida (2019)

Starring

Kirsten Dunst (Spider-Man)
Théodore Pellerin (Family FIrst)
Mel Rodriguez (Better Call Saul)
Beth Ditto (Nocturnal Animals)
Ted Levine (The Silence of The Lambs)

Kirsten Dunst in On Becoming a God in Central Florida (2019)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Alexander Skarsgård (Straw Dogs)
Usman Ally (Star Trek Into Darkness)
Julie Benz (Angel)
Melissa De Sousa (One on One)
Sharon Lawrence (Solace)
Mary Steenburgen (Elf)
Josh Fadem (Better Call Saul)
Kevin J. O’Connor (Widows)
Billy Slaughter (Focus)
David Paymer (Drag Me To Hell)
Shari Headley (Goosebumps 2)
John Earl Jelks (True Detective)
Da’Vine Joy Randolph (Office Christmas Party)
Eric Allan Kramer (Mike & Molly)
Cooper Jack Rubin (Cold Moon)
Lois Smith (Lady Bird)

Kirsten Dunst in On Becoming a God in Central Florida (2019)“On Becoming a God in Central Florida” is such a clever, compelling, and thorough evisceration of American capitalism it’s shocking Elizabeth Warren isn’t listed as an executive producer. Created by Robert Funke and Matt Lutsky, Showtime’s new hourlong black comedy does feature a few well-known progressive producers in EPs George Clooney and Grant Heslov, but the ’90s-set story of lower-middle class Floridians put to ruin by a pyramid scheme isn’t solely a political statement; it chronicles a tragedy in action, as the promise of the American dream is ripped away from those who believe in it — and need it — the most. Like any great satire, you won’t be able to tell if you’re laughing so hard it hurts, or if you’ve just been punched in the gut.Kirsten Dunst and Théodore Pellerin in On Becoming a God in Central Florida (2019)The awesome Kirsten Dunst (also an EP) is the story here, bringing a captivating vitality and unflinching veracity to her lead character, Krystal Stubbs. A the beginning, however, the starry-eyed dreamer is embodied by none other than a mullet-sporting, profusely sweaty (like, Justin Theroux-level sweaty), and stunningly unfashionable Alexander Skarsgård. Travis Stubbs, husband to Krystal, is a frustrated insurance salesman who’s become discontented with his one-story house, compact car, and average lifestyle. His wife clocks in and out at the local water park while he slaves away at two jobs: his nine-to-five desk gig and spearheading his own company — well, not exactly his own company.Kirsten Dunst in On Becoming a God in Central Florida (2019)Though his FAM brethren would remind Travis he’s absolutely his own boss, the tall, lanky, former football star still spends his nights making door-to-door deliveries, stocking boxes in his garage, or recruiting new “downlines” — aka “independent contractors” who give part of their profits to Travis, who in turns gives part of his cut to his “upline,” and so on and so forth. They’re all hocking Founders American Merchandise, which is, of course, a pyramid scheme. It’s a cultish, multibillion-dollar pyramid scheme, but a pyramid scheme nonetheless. Sitting at the top is Obie Garbeau II (Ted Levine), a mustachioed millionaire whose deep voice fills the motivational tapes his FAM family is required to purchase. Obie is only accessible to those Jefferson-level members, and only then via crowded retreats where each FAM couple does a song and dance in the hopes of five minutes with the company founder.Kirsten Dunst in On Becoming a God in Central Florida (2019)If that sounds like a lot for anyone to take, rest assured the series depicts the obsessive fandom surrounding Obie quite well, illustrating a thorough and convincing mass brainwashing where there’s an answer to every question and an encouragement for every doubt. Even those who’ve avoided recruitment have a hard time keeping their brains from dreaming of the rewards these hucksters promise, in part because their enthusiasm is otherworldly. The most convincing member is Travis’ own upline, Cody (Théodore Pellerin), whose fanatical fandom over Obie and FAM is like seeing a DCEU Twitter troll spring to life: He’s so thoroughly bought into a sham, and yet he’s so impossibly joyous about his own gullibility.Kirsten Dunst in On Becoming a God in Central Florida (2019)Pellerin’s conviction is thrilling to behold, especially considering how much intensity he has to bring to each layer of Cody’s fragile psyche, just to keep his baseline state as a jubilant con man believable. The cast overall is working at a top level, with Skarsgård operating miles away from his Emmy-winning smooth talker on “Big Little Lies” and Mel Rodriguez mining new depths as the lovable, good-hearted family man audiences got to know in “The Last Man on Earth.” But this is Dunst’s series. From the start, you can tell there’s something special about her and Krystal; the latter doesn’t take any of Cody’s bullshit. She’s not some doting wife, worried about her husband’s work ethic while turning a blind (or oblivious) eye to the Sisyphean mountain he’s trying to climb. Krystal sees things clearly. She values what they already have and is trying to hold her family together while raising a newborn and making minimum wage. She speaks to Travis clearly and forcefully, telling him what he needs to hear in the only way he might be able to listen.Kirsten Dunst in On Becoming a God in Central Florida (2019)At one point in the premiere, Krystal says, “I will not be poor again,” and Dunst emphasizes the line so clearly, it defines her backstory and sets her path forward. You understand Krystal then, so that each choice that follows makes perfect sense. There are times when Dunst flaunts unexpected emotional nuance that deepens our ties to Krystal — in how she skins an alligator, for instance, or when she unveils a former, unparalleled dance routine — but the true power of her turn comes in how the actor is able to make the audience relate to Krystal as anyone and everyone. The fear of an indebted life — one controlled by lenders, collectors, and powerful institutions you can’t even put a face to — that’s a real fear, and Dunst acknowledges the trepidation while fighting tooth and nail against it every second of the way.Kirsten Dunst in On Becoming a God in Central Florida (2019)Set against the absurd splendor of the southeastern Sunshine State, “On Becoming a God in Central Florida” squeezes quite a bit of creative juice out of this particular orange. The locales are lively yet unexaggerated; the cast is quirky yet never to the point of distraction; the arcs are peculiar — at one point, a man wrestles a giant pelican with his bare hands — and yet they make a lot of sense as they’re happening. In that way, the series can resemble the very pyramid scheme its critiquing, but this story never feels like a lie. You don’t have to be well-acquainted with Florida, or to have just watched “The Florida Project” to see a struggling working class in this country.Kirsten Dunst in On Becoming a God in Central Florida (2019)Through some savvy narrative maneuvering, “On Becoming a God” connects the charlatans and con men of FAM to politicians, corporate overlords, and America’s 1 percent, as well — all the wealthy people up top, only working to keep their downlines in service. Showtime’s strong new series never forgets about the individuals who still think America is working for them, nor does it treat them with disdain. “Central Florida” understands how attractive the offer can look, and punches up at the liars instead of down at anyone eager to buy in. The surroundings might be pink and shiny, but the good folks like Krystal Stubbs, with their noses forever pressed to window of their dream home, are as real as they come. If only someone had a plan to fix things for ’em…

REVIEW: JAWBREAKER

CAST
Rose McGowan (Planet Terror)
Rebecca Gayheart (Urban Legend)
Julie Benz (No Ordinary Family)
Judy Greer (Jurassic World)
Chad Christ (Gattaca)
Ethan Erickson (Buffy: The Vampire Slayer)
Tatyana Ali (Kiss The Girls)
Charlotte Ayanna (Training Day)
Jeff Conaway (Babylon 5)
William Katt (Super)
P.J. Soles (Halloween)
Marilyn Manson (Sons of Anarchy)
Carol Kane (Gotham)
Pam Grier (Jackie Brown)
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The “Flawless Four” are the most beautiful and popular girls in Reagan High School in Los Angeles. The clique consists of Courtney Shayne (Rose McGowan), Marcie Fox (Julie Benz), Julie Freeman (Rebecca Gayheart), and Elizabeth Purr (Charlotte Ayanna), the “Princess Di of Reagan High.” Of the four, only Liz is genuinely kind-hearted to everybody regardless of their social rankings and loved by the entire school; Julie was popular because of her beauty and being best friends with Liz, while cold-blooded queen bee Courtney and her airheaded right-hand girl, Marcie, demanded respect through terror. Courtney, Marcie, and Julie decide to play a mindless prank on Liz the morning of her 17th birthday, by performing a fake kidnapping. They surprise Liz in bed, bind her with ropes, and Courtney rams a jawbreaker into her mouth to gag her, before sealing her mouth with duct tape. The girls then lock Liz in the trunk of a car and drive off, actually planning to take her to a restaurant for breakfast. Upon opening the trunk, however, they are greeted with the grisly sight of Liz dead, having choked on the jawbreaker.
Julie wants to go to the police, but Courtney forbids her. Courtney calls the school pretending to be Liz’s mother and tells them Liz is ill and cannot attend school, then the three go to school as though nothing had happened. When Principal Sherwood (Carol Kane) sends school outcast and ardent admirer of Liz, Fern Mayo (Judy Greer), to deliver Liz’s homework at the end of the day, she stumbles upon the three girls and Liz’s mangled body. Out of jealousy, Courtney fabricates an elaborate story that Liz died at the hands of a rapist, and plots to tarnish Liz’s good reputation by spreading false rumors that she was actually a rebellious, promiscuous girl, who drank and did drugs and was not the perfect angel she made herself out to be.
Fern, who had hero-worshipped Liz, attempts to flee the house. The girls catch her and Courtney buys her silence by accepting her into the clique, telling her to take Liz’s place, despite Julie’s protests. Courtney and Marcie give Fern a makeover, transforming her from plain and awkward to elegant and beautiful. The transformation is so complete, Courtney introduces Fern as the beautiful exchange student “Vylette”.
Julie, overwhelmed by guilt at her part in Liz’s death, breaks away from the clique, only to be tormented by her former friends, and as her popularity dissolves, she becomes a new target for abuse and contempt throughout the school. Her only real friend during this time is her boyfriend and drama student, Zack. As Vylette’s popularity soars, Julie watches in silence as Courtney spins an endless web of lies to cover up the murder and maintain her popularity. Julie threatens to go to the police and tell them the truth, but Courtney retorts that she, Marcie, and now Vylette will claim Julie killed Liz if she attempts to expose them. To her disgust, Julie learns that, after they had returned Liz’s corpse to her house, Courtney went out that same night and seduced a stranger (Marilyn Manson) at a sleazy bar and had sex with him in Liz’s bed, making it seem as though he had raped Liz.
Vylette becomes intoxicated with her new-found popularity, which has eclipsed Courtney’s own. Courtney orders Vylette to learn her place, but Vylette vows that if Courtney does not watch her step, then she will reveal the truth behind Liz’s death. In response, Courtney and Marcie post enlarged yearbook photos of Fern Mayo all over the school with the message “Who is Vylette” written on them, revealing Vylette’s true identity and leaving her humiliated by the entire school. Julie takes pity on Fern and forgives her for being corrupted by Courtney.
Feeling no remorse for the lives she has destroyed, the heartless Courtney attends the senior prom with jock Dane Sanders (Ethan Erickson), Julie is at home going through a bag of Liz’s belongings that were given to her. Upon finding a recordable greeting card she was fiddling with when Courtney was faking Liz’s death scene, Julie discovers it has recorded Courtney’s admission to the killing. Armed with this evidence, Julie, Fern and Zack hurry to the prom.
When Dane and Courtney are announced as Prom King and Queen, Zack sneaks backstage and broadcasts the card’s message over the sound system. Disgusted, Dane quickly abandons Courtney while Marcie hides under a table. Horrified that her scheme has unraveled, Courtney tearfully races for the exit as the rest of the furious students pelt her with corsages and call her a murderer. Julie snaps a picture of her former friend’s anguished face to immortalize the occasion. As Courtney’s photo ends up in the yearbook, the film closes with one of Fern Mayo’s quotes to Detective Vera Cruz: “This is high school, Detective Cruz. What is a friend, anyway?”
A sweet and sour brightly packaged look at youth-filled America where the ugly resonates just as strongly underneath, where fitting into something horrible is everything to survive high school, and that certainly is true of much of America. A great dark comedy not to be missed.

REVIEW: NO ORDINARY FAMILY

MAIN CAST
Michael Chikilis (Gotham)
Julie Benz (Angel)
Kay Panabaker (Two and a Half Men)
Jimmy Bennett (The Amityville Horror)
Autumn Reeser (Human Target)
Romany Malco (Blades of Glary)
Stephen Collins (Star Trek: The Motion Picture)
Michael Chiklis in No Ordinary Family (2010)
RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST
Christina Chang (28 Days)
Tate Donovan (Argo)
Jamie Harris (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)
Josh Stewart (The Dark Knight Rises)
Jason Antoon (Minority Report)
Reggie Lee (Drag Me To Hell)
Joanna Walsh (Faster)
Guillermo Diaz (The Terminal)
Jonathan Adams (Bones)
Rachel Miner (The Butterfly Effect 3)
Max Greenfield (New Girls)
Amy Gumenick (Arrow)
Jackson Rathbone (Twilight)
Cybill Shepherd (Moonlighting)
Bruce McGill (Collateral)
Amy Acker (Dollhouse)
Mimi Kennedy (Mom)
Connor Leslie (Titans)
Katelyn Tarver (Dead on Campus)
Annie Wersching (The Vampire Diaries)
Jason Wiles (Zodiac)
Luke Kleintank (Bones)
Rebecca Mader (Lost)
Joanne Kelly (Mutant X)
Katrina Begin (Zookeeper)
Betsy Brandt (Breaking Bad)
Ethan Suplee (My Name Is Earl)
Anthony Michael Hall (The Dead Zone)
Tricia Helfer (Battlestar Galactica)
Eric Balfour (Skyline)
Lucy Lawless (Ash vs Evil Dead)
Robert Picardo (Star Trek: Voyager)
Michael Maize (Eagle Eye)
Tom Amandes (Arrow)
Jonathan Adams (Bones)
James Earl (Scream Queens)
Jonna Walsh (Couples Retreat)
Shaun Parkes (The Mummy Returns)
Mercedes Colon (The Fosters)
Raphael Sbarge (Risky Business)
John Rubinstein (Angel)

The Powells are a typical American family living in fictional Pacific Bay, California, whose members gain special powers after their plane crashes in the Amazon. The show is very light hearted and manages to mix comedy with action and drama extremely well. The family are quite cliché and the powers aren’t exactly ‘original’ but they make it work.The cast do a great job portraying their characters, Michael Chiklis (Star of The Shield and Fantastic Four) does a brilliant job as the father while Julie Benz (formerly Rita Morgan in Dexter) puts on a strong performance as the mother of the family. You also have Kay Panabaker and Jimmy Bennett as the kids.

The character development in this series is great and the story is  highly entertaining. The characters relationships are believable and very engrossing. I think the pairing of Jim Powell (Michael Chiklis) and George St. Cloud (Romany Malco) is brilliant. The second prize for most hilarious character in this show has to go to Stephanie Powells best friend and work colleague Katie Andrews (Played by Autumn Reeser), she is incredibly geeky and so socially awkward, hilarious to watch.no-ordinary-familyIt’s light hearted, fun and easy to watch. Yes it has the sci-fi/fantasy element to it which is akin to shows like Chuck, Heroes, Supernatural, Buffy, Smallville etc. But it also has a more family oriented feel to it at times and what this show does brilliantly is applying super powers to every day events. A lot of people have been comparing it heroes but I find it far to light hearted to be compared to heroes. It’s nowhere near as dark and serious and has far more comedy integrated throughout. I’d say it’s more like Chuck than Heroes. It was cancelled after only 1 season but still its very much worth a watch.

REVIEW: PUNISHER: WAR ZONE

CAST

Ray Stevenson (Divergent)
Dominic West (300)
Julie Benz Angel)
Colin Salmon (Arrow)
Doug Hutchison (Shaft)
Dash Mihok (Gotham)
Wayne Knight (3rd Rock From The Sun)
T.J. Storm (VR Troopers)
Keram Malicki-Sánchez (Texas Chainsaw)

MV5BMTMyNDYxMzAxNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwOTMwNDQwMg@@._V1_The film follows Frank Castle (Ray Stevenson), a man who was out for a picnic with his wife and son one day and who happened to witness a mob hit. The mob, never pleased with events like this, opened fire on the Castle family and sent all but Frank to their graves. With nothing else to live for, Frank decides to arm himself to the teeth and with the help of his friend and weapons supplier, Microchip (Wayne Knight), wage a war on crime. Taking care of the criminals who fall through the cracks of the legal system, Castle’s managed to accumulate a pretty massive body count, but the N.Y.P.D. tends to turn a blind eye to his activities until one night Castle accidently kills Nicky Donatelli (Romano Orzari), an undercover F.B.I. agent trying to infiltrate the gang run by Billy Russoti (Dominic West).When the feds learn that Castle has killed one of their own, they send Special Agent Paul Budiansky (Colin Salmon) to work with Detective Martin Soap (Dash Mihok) to bring Castle in for good. Meanwhile, Billy Russoti, whose face was mangled during the incident and who now calls himself Jigsaw, wants revenge. He springs his brother, James (Doug Hutchinson), better known as Loony Bin Jim, from the local asylum and decides he’s going to take out Donatelli’s widow, Angela (Julie Benz) and daughter, Grace (Stephanie Janusauskas) and then the Punisher himself. On top of that, Russoti is in the middle of a deal with the Russian mob involving some biological weapons, a deal that the feds and N.Y.P.D. alike absolutely do not want to happen.While the plot is fairly thin, there’s enough meat on the bones of the plot to work. Each of the central characters has sufficient motivation that their actions make sense and with the plot established and the characters set up, director Lexi Alexander wisely chooses to not waste anymore time and get on with the action. Sure there are a couple of sentimental flashbacks in the movie, but those serve to remind us that there is a living, breath, feeling human being underneath the skull emblazoned Kevlar armor.The real heart of this film is in its action scenes and it is in these scenes that the picture really excels. When Castle kills someone, he really kills them. A face is punched in (literally), throats are slit, a head is cut of, brains are blown out, there are squibs galore and in one remarkably ridiculous scene a balletic gang banger is blown up, mid maneuver, by a rocket launcher. The violence in the film is hard hitting and completely over the top – just as it should be!Equally as ridiculous are the film’s villains. Dominic West and Doug Hutchinson are having so much malicious fun as Jigsaw and Loony Bin Jim that, while you want the Punisher to take them down, you can’t help but want them to come back for a sequel. These guys play the parts with completely unwarranted but very welcome enthusiasm, playing everything to the hilt – the mannerisms, the New Yawk accents – to the point where they are literally comic book villains incarnate. Stevenson’s Frank Castle is perfect in the lead, bringing a nice sense of brooding menace to the character and scowling his way through the film just as you’d want him too.Helping the over the top performances and ultra violence immensely is some fantastic camerawork and lighting. There are large portions of the movie that are bathed in Bava-esque primary colors, really upping the comic book come to life aesthetic that Alexander was obviously going for here. It works, and it works well. Not only does the movie zip along at a great pace but it looks fantastic doing so.