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: THE ORVILLE – SEASON 2

Scott Grimes, Penny Johnson Jerald, Seth MacFarlane, Peter Macon, Adrianne Palicki, J. Lee, Mark Jackson, and Halston Sage in The Orville (2017)

Starring

Seth MacFarlane (Sing)

Adrianne Palicki (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)

Penny Johsnon Jerald (Star Trek: DS9)

Scott Grimes (American Dad)

Peter Macon (Shameless)

Halston Sage (Goosebumps)

J. Lee (Family Guy)

Mark Jackson (The Royal Today)
Jessica Szohr (Piranha 3D)

Seth MacFarlane and Adrianne Palicki in The Orville (2017)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Will Sasso (Mom)
Mike Henry (The Cleveland Show)
Chris Johnson (The Vampire Diaries)
Jason Alexander (Shallow Hal)
Rachael MacFarlane (American Dad)
Chad L. Coleman (Arrow)
Lesley Fera (Pretty Little Liars)
Candice King (The Vampire Diaries)
Robert Picardo (Star Trek: Voyager)
John Billingsley (Star Trek: Enterprise)
Kerry O’Malley (Annabelle: Creation)
Patrick Warburton (Ted)
Molly Hagan (No Good Nick)
Norm MacDonald (Dr. Dolittle)
Michaela McManus (SEAL Team)
Fred Tatasciore (Hulk Vs)
Ted Danson (The Good Place)
John Rubinstein (Angel)
Kevin Daniels (Atypical)
Wren T. Brown (Whoopi)
Bruce Willis (Glass)
Nick Chinlund (Training Day)
Mackenzie Astin (The Magicians)
Leighton Meester (The Roommate)
Tim Russ (Star Trek: Voyager)
Sarah Scott (The Artist)
F. Murray Abraham (Amadeus)
Rena Owen (Siren)
Kelly Hu (Arrow)
Tony Todd (Candyman)
Marina Sirtis (Star Trek: TNG)

The Orville has really surprised me in how great it has become. Already at Season 2, the show has totally found itself. I was skeptical at first I remember… thinking, meh, comedy in space? Yeah that’s been done before, and it’s failed. But while the show has comedic elements, I don’t really think I would classify it as a comedy sci-fi as much as I would a sci-fi built on a comedic base which somehow successfully delivers complex science fiction ideas with sometimes very serious overtones.Seth MacFarlane in The Orville (2017)While it does not take itself seriously at all in the broad sense, it actually does to a degree in other areas. It explores complex philosophical topics. It delivers nail biting action sequences. It has a sense of humor that’s really casual and easy to digest, and sometimes awkward but overall positive. Perhaps the best thing about the Orville are the characters. They are all quite fascinating, and I feel that they are explored in a way that brings depth and keeps me wanting to know more about them and follow them on their journey. I think that while it is largely influenced by Star Trek the next generation, the world it explores seems fresh and interesting.Penny Johnson Jerald and Mark Jackson in The Orville (2017)The storytelling is episodic so you can enjoy one show and one show only, but there are several threads that weave their way through multiple episodes. Again, the show really succeeds here in being episodic yet really glued together as a complete whole. They didn’t spare budget too… in Season two, you can clearly see they’ve gone all out in the special effects budget. While it is ‘made for TV’ quality, it’s very good ‘made for TV’ quality.Seth MacFarlane and J. Lee in The Orville (2017)Overall, I would recommend this series with great enthusiasm to anyone who loves science fiction. Orville, while heavily influenced by Star Trek, has become its own thing… a unique blend that just works. Watch it and enjoy!

REVIEW: THE ROOMMATE

 

CAST

Leighton Meester (Gossip Girl)
Minka Kelly (500 Days of Summer)
Cam Gigandet (Easy A)
Aly Michalka (Izombie)
Danneel Ackles (Fired Up!)
Frances Fisher (Titanic)
Tomas Arana (Gladiator)
Billy Zane (Zoolander)
Nina Dobrev (The Vampire Diaries)
Matt Lanter (90210)
Kat Graham (Honey 2)
Nathan Parsons (The Originals)

Sara Matthews (Kelly) is starting her freshman year of college. She meets Tracy (Michalka), Stephen (Gigandet) – her love interest, and Rebecca (Meester) – her college roommate, the girls begin to bond and Rebecca learns that Sara had an older sister, Emily, who died when Sara was 9, and an ex-boyfriend, Jason (Lanter), who keeps calling her in attempts to reconcile. As time goes on, Rebecca’s obsession with Sara grows, which causes her to drive away anyone who could come between them.Rebecca attacks Tracy in the shower, pinning her down and ripping out her belly-button ring, and threatens to kill her unless she stays away from Sara. Tracy moves to another dorm, fearful of Rebecca. An old friend of Sara’s named Irene (Harris), who is a lesbian, invites Sara to move in with her when Sara’s cat Cuddles is discovered. Rebecca then kills Cuddles by putting her in the dryer. She then lies to Sara that the cat ran away. Rebecca then inflicts injuries upon herself and says she was assaulted by a thug. Sara feels bad for her and decides to spend the Thanksgiving with Rebecca. When Sara’s philandering fashion design professor, Roberts (Zane), kisses her, Rebecca plans to get the professor out of the picture by seducing him while recording their dialogue on a tape recorder to make it sound like he was trying to rape her.During her stay, Sara overhears a conversation between Rebecca and her father (Arana), hinting Rebecca has had trouble making friends in the past. Rebecca’s mother (Fisher) mentions that Rebecca is supposed to be taking medication. She and Stephen later find a bottle of Zyprexa pills, used to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. But the bottle is full, implying that Rebecca hasn’t been taking the pills. Sara, worried about what would happen, decides to move in with Irene. Irene goes to a club where she sees Rebecca. They make out in the club’s bathroom and Irene, not knowing that Rebecca is Sara’s roommate, takes Rebecca back to her place. The following morning, Sara goes to Irene’s apartment but she’s not there.Rebecca gets Sara’s sister’s name tattooed in the same place on her breast as Sara, saying that Sara can now think of Rebecca as her sister. A shocked Sara realizes that Rebecca is obsessed with her and packs all her things, except her sister’s necklace, which she can’t find (being later revealed that the necklace had been stolen from her by Rebecca). Jason arrives at Sara’s dorm and slips a note under her door, saying that he wants to see her. Rebecca reads the note, impersonates Sara with her sister’s necklace and tattoo, and dyes her hair to look like Sara. She then goes to Jason’s hotel room and stabs him to death.Later, Sara gets a text from Irene, saying she needs her right away. Sara informs Stephen she will be at Irene’s place. When she gets there, she finds Irene held hostage by Rebecca with a revolver. Rebecca reveals that she was responsible for what happened to Tracy, Cuddles, Professor Roberts, and Jason and that she did it all to win Sara’s friendship. Rebecca wants to kill Irene in order to finally have Sara all to herself. Stephen arrives just in time to help stop Rebecca from pulling the trigger on Irene. Sara reaches for the revolver to shoot Rebecca, however, the cartridge is empty. Enraged at this, Rebecca picks up Sara and tries to strangle her to death, but Sara stabs Rebecca in the back with a boxcutter, which kills her.Sara moves back into her dorm and moves the extra bed out of her room with the help of her boyfriend Stephen, proclaiming that she does not want a roommate for a while.This is a fairly enjoyable, though predictable, thriller, very much in the style of Single White Female (Bridget Fonda. It’s an average thriller that will pass the time.