REVIEW: WESTWORLD – SEASON 3

Westworld (2016)

Starring

Evan Rachel Wood (Frozen II)
Thandie Newton (Crash)
Jeffrey Wright (The Batman)
Tessa Thompson (Thor: Ragnarok)
Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad)
Ed Harris (The Abyss)
Luke Hemsworth (The Anomaly)
Simon Quarterman (The Scorpion King 2)
Vincent Cassel (Underwater)
Angela Sarafyan (1915)
Tao Okamoto (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice)

Evan Rachel Wood in Westworld (2016)

Recurring / Notable Guest cast

John Gallagher Jr. (10 Cloverfield Lane)
Tommy Flanagan (Sons of Anarchy)
Scott Mescudi (Meadowland)
Pom Klementieff (Avengbers: Endgame)
Russell Wong (Undoing)
Payman Maadi (6 Underground)
Lena Waithe (Ready Player One)
Rafi Gavron (A Star Is Born)
Phoebe Tonkin (The Originals)
Thomas Kretschmann (Jungle)
Gina Torres (Firefly)
Wayne Péré (Cloak & Dagger)
Michael Filipowich (Earth: Final Conflict)
Charmin Lee (Little Red Wagon)
Rodrigo Santoro (300)
Leonardo Nam (He’s Just Not That Into You)
Ptolemy Slocum (Hitch)
Michael Ealy (2 Fast 2 Furious)
Nadine Lewington (Bigger)
Katja Herbers (Suskind)
Hiroyuki Sanada (47 Ronin)
Jefferson Mays (Alfie)
Iddo Goldberg (A Little Trip to Heaven)
Enrico Colantoni (Veronica Mars)
Jimmi Simpson (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter)
Peter Mullan (Braveheart)
Jonathan Tucker (Charlie’s Angels)
Siena Goines (Jada)
Louis Ferreira (Stargate Universe)
Elizabeth Anweis (Batwoman)
Nelson Lee (Blade: The Series)
Clifton Collins Jr. (Star Trek)

Aaron Paul in Westworld (2016)One of the best sci-fi shows of all time and offers deeper thought than a philosophy or religious course. This show is utterly beautiful while also gritty, and even eerie at times. This show is a microcosm that represents what humans are capable of. Unpredictable, the script is intelligently written and pieced together. The filming is memorizing in cinematographic appeal.Among the many themes throughout Westworld, the nature of reality and the nature of humanity are at it’s core. This show’s plot, the logistical details of the AI, and the universe they exist in are well thought out and blend together nicely. Every character has a backstory and motives in such a way that builds interesting character depth. It is fun to see how characters adapt to the world as they learn. While multiple plot lines are intertwined, raw action and twists constantly occur in this crazy universe that is constantly on the verge of catastrophe.Thandie Newton and Simon Quarterman in Westworld (2016)This show addresses questions such as: What does it mean to be human? What does it mean to exist? What is my purpose? This is explored and searched for by the main characters. While these are introspective questions that can be explored internally; parallel to this musing, their search is embedded in the reality they find themselves in externally. Moreover, it is represented by the mysterious prodding and puzzles intrinsic to the immediate world in which they exist.Tessa Thompson in Westworld (2016)The sci-fi elements of the show touch on advanced AI, multiple realities, self awareness, machine learning, big data, and big tech privacy. This show is spot on by metaphorically addressing these concepts. These issues are becoming more relevant by the day in our lives by shaping the future of human society.Evan Rachel Wood in Westworld (2016)Without a doubt, sci-fi has never been done better, making movies such as the Matrix fall to the feet of Westworld and it’s unprecedented splendor.

REVIEW: WESTWORLD – SEASON 2

Westworld (2016)

Starring

Evan Rachel Wood (The Ides of March)
Thandie Newton (Crash)
Jeffrey Wright (The Batman)
James Marsden (X-Men)
Tessa Thompson (Thor: Ragnarok)
Fares Fares (Chernobyl)
Luke Hemsworth (The Anomaly)
Louis Herthum (What/If)
Simon Quarterman (THe Scorpion King 2)
Talulah Riley (Bloodshot)
Rodrigo Santoro (300)
Gustaf Skarsgård (Kidz in da Hood)
Ed Harris (The Truman show)
Ingrid Bolsø Berdal (Hercules)
Clifton Collins Jr. (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood)
Angela Sarafyan (The Immigrant)
Katja Herbers (Sonny Boy)
Shannon Woodward (Adult World)
Anthony Hopkins (Hannibal)
Zahn McClarnon (Doctor Sleep)

Thandie Newton in Westworld (2016)

Recurrin / Notable Guest Cast

Betty Gabriel (Unfriended: Dark Web)
Jimmi Simpson (White House Down)
Ben Barnes (The Punisher)
Peter Mullan (Hostiles)
Jonathan Tucker (Pulse)
Leonardo Nam (He’s Just Not That into You (film))
Ptolemy Slocum (Hitch)
Martin Sensmeier (Yellowstone)
Tao Okamoto (Batman v Superman)
Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad)
Neil Jackson (BLade: The Series)
Fredric Lehne (lost)
Currie Graham (Agent Carter)
Rinko Kikuchi (Pacific Rim)
Hiroyuki Sanada (The Wolverine)
Kiki Sukezane (Heroes Reborn)
Masayoshi Haneda (Edge of Tomorrow)
Lili Simmons (The Purge TV)
Erica Luttrell (Stargate: Atlantis)
Sidse Babett Knudsen (Inferno)
Gina Torres (Firefly)
Julia Jones (Jonah Hex)
Booboo Stewart (Descendants)
Sela Ward (Gone Girl)
Jack Conley (The Cell)

Evan Rachel Wood in Westworld (2016)The first season of Westworld, and maybe the second, can be encapsulated by an exasperation-inducing exchange in Sunday night’s premiere, in which William (Ed Harris, but Jimmi Simpson plays him, too) encounters an android boy (Oliver Bell) modeled after Ford (Anthony Hopkins, whose character died last season). The boy, in quaint pedal pushers, speaks in digital tongues to William, teasing and prodding him to participate in the park’s games now that the stakes are real. When William grouses about his riddles, the boy reproaches the man in the black hat: “Everything is code here, William.” Soon after, bullets fly.Thandie Newton and Simon Quarterman in Westworld (2016)Maybe I’m being too harsh. Yes, it’s obvious—but for the viewer, his words have deeper implications than they do for ol’ Black-Hat Bill. It’s true that everything in Westworld is code—artificial, semiotic, programmed, significant. In the first season, the audience was introduced to an adult playground, populated with fleshy androids designed for human gratification. As the hosts gained sentience and found a path to liberation, they became stand-ins for human fears: the silent omnipresence of technology, the exploitation of the oppressed, the struggle for self-actualization, and/or the horrifying immortality of creation. They are also, in Season 2, scattered across time and space, broken into contingents of unlikely pairings and shaky alliances, trying to survive within the parameters of the sandbox created last season.If a prestige drama is a complex machine, what’s unique about Westworld is how willing the show is to depict that machine without explaining the processes that comprise it. It’s committed to the endpoint of its fantasies, and surprisingly vague on process, which is one of the reasons Season 1 could be so frustrating. It often feels as if Westworld works backwards—first presenting a scenario, then spending endless future scenes explaining how that scenario came to exist. (I await an explanation for why Evan Rachel Wood’s Dolores is clearly wearing cream foundation and blush in her initial close-ups this season; perhaps we’ll learn that the robot women, freed from their masters, have started experimenting with lipstick feminism.)

Westworld this season is a story about games. The park is supposed to be a hermetically sealed playground that allows participants to safely pursue anything without consequence, but the series itself emphasizes that this notion is actually impossible. Season 2 introduces two new parks; one, as hinted at in the trailers and in details of Season 1, is a facsimile of shogunate Japan, starring Hiroyuki Sanada and Rinko Kikuchi. The other, which I won’t spoil, is such a pointed fantasy of white male entitlement that it leads the viewer to see all of Westworld’s illusions as fantasies designed for that exact viewer. Both underscore one of Westworld’s most disturbing details: practically every female host has been designed to be some kind of whore.Ed Harris in Westworld (2016)The series is not subtle with these thematics, even as it revels in the fantasies it presents. When we get to Shogun World, it’s hard to tell if the show means to comment on orientalism, or if it’s just showcasing samurai and geishas because they look cool. All of its portentous conversations between hosts and humans about android consciousness exist somewhere in the space between an aha moment and an eye roll—without fully committing to either. The spoken discourse is a red herring that distracts from what’s really at play in the show. The hosts aren’t human, and the human characters aren’t interesting. What instead pulsates with life is the sandbox itself: the potential energy of this playground, with its unexplored easter eggs yet to be discovered.James Marsden, Evan Rachel Wood, and Talulah Riley in Westworld (2016)Which is why it is so satisfying—if still rather confusing—that in Season 2, the show has committed to spinning out, sending its sprawling cast on side quests as though they were Dungeons and Dragons campaigners. And as it unfolds, this iteration of Westworld becomes less a story about games than it is a series of games about story. Stakes, climax, and continuity are just tools to be tweaked and adjusted; characters’ personalities and motivations are little more than quirks, drawn from a deck or determined by a die. As the show posited in its first season finale, the hosts’ backstories—the things they keep forgetting and remembering—are both pre-programmed methods of control and pathways to deeper meaning. Westworld follows both avenues, simultaneously. As a result, it’s a scrambled, tabletop R.P.G. of a season, in ways that are both supremely satisfying and incredibly frustrating. Many adventures in Season 2 have the quality of a dungeon master inventing a plotline on the fly, after a few rolls in a row have landed the campaign somewhere unexpected.Evan Rachel Wood and Jeffrey Wright in Westworld (2016)It’s a feeling that other shows might try to avoid. But Westworld is instead embracing it, leaning into chaos, actively doing all of the things that it’s sowing distrust in: producing a mythology, playing a game, telling a story. Its deep ambivalence toward the stuff it’s made of is ultimately what matters about the show, more than the thing itself. Just as Arnold (Jeffrey Wright) installed reveries into the hosts to provide them with a pathway to self-consciousness, Westworld itself is a collection of reveries, seeking to locate its own center. This might be why Bernard (also Wright)—the host version of Arnold—becomes the viewer’s surrogate in the second season. Wright is a criminally overlooked performer in general, but in Season 2 he is the emotional register that the rest of the show is calibrated around. A human consciousness turned digital, he is a part of both worlds—both the watchmaker and the watch. Through him and characters like him, the narrative takes on the structure of the maze metaphor from Season 1—a convoluted, repetitive path towards the middle.Ed Harris in Westworld (2016)Westworld encourages the viewer to see its animated puzzles from every angle. It seems less and less that the show knows what it wants to be about, which will always be a knock against it. But with much more centripetal force than last season, it also draws the audience towards its own center, in its own vivid journey toward self-consciousness. It’s easy to get sucked in to Westworld’s reveries. It’s harder to convince yourself that its dark fantasies are just a game.

REVIEW: THE FLASH – SEASON 4

 

The_Flash_season_4_poster_-_Let_the_Mind_Games_Begin

Starring

Grant Gustin (Glee)
Candice Patton (The Guest)
Danielle Panabaker (The Crazies)
Carlos Valdes (Vixen)
Keiynan Lonsdale (The Turning)
Neil Sandilands (The 100)
Tom Cavanagh (Scrubs)
Jesse L. Martin (Injustice)

Grant Gustin in The Flash (2014)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Kim Engelbrecht (Dominion)
Danielle Nicolet (Central Intelligence)
Britne Oldford (God Friended Me)
Jessica Camacho (Watchmen: The Series)
Dominic Burgess (The Good Place)
Richard Brooks (The Crow: City of Angels)
Sugar Lyn Beard (Sausage Party)
Violett Beane (God Friended Me)
Chelsea Kurtz (Scandal)
Hartley Sawyer (The Young and The Restless)
Vito D’Ambrosio (Bones)
Danny Trejo (Machete)
Emily Bett Rickards (Brooklyn)
Katee Sackhoff (Battlestar Galactica)
Stephen Amell (Arrow)
Victor Garber (The Orville)
John Wesley Shipp (Dawson’s Creek)
Caity Lotz (The Pact)
Morena Baccarin (Gotham)
Chyler Leigh (Not Another Teen Movie)
Franz Drameh (See)
Paul Blackthorne (The InBetween)
Jeremy Jordan (The Last Five Years)
Juliana Harkavy (Last Shift)
Melissa Benoist (Whiplash)
Wentworth Miller (Underworld)
Russell Tovey (Being Human)
Max Adler (Into The Dark)
Patrick Sabongui (Power Rangers)
Kendrick Sampson (Relationship Status)
Mark Valley (Human Target)
Corinne Bohrer (Tellers)
Devon Graye (13 Sins)
Bill Goldberg (Santa’s Slay)
Jessica Parker Kennedy (Cam)
Derek Mears (Swamp Thing)
Kendall Cross (Another Life)
Paul McGillion (Stargate: Atlantis)
Leonardo Nam (Westworld)
Bethany Brown (The 100)
Kevin Smith (Clerks)
Jason Mewes (Mallrats)
Arturo Del Puerto (For All Mankind)
Katie Cassidy (Taken)
Ryan Alexander McDonald (Izombie)
Mark Sweatman (Uncut)
David Ramsey (Dexter)

Grant Gustin in The Flash (2014)For the last three years, “The Flash” has proven itself to be one of the very best  superhero shows on television. With its incredible mix of compelling characters, intricate storytelling, and tense thrills, it has continued to deliver a wonderful blend of drama, comedy, action, and even a little romance. Heading into season four, the show has shown no signs of slowing down, and coming off of a particularly excellent season, expectations remain quite high. Now, at last, it’s time to see if “The Flash” continues its “streak” of greatness, or if the show has at last run its course.Neil Sandilands in The Flash (2014)At the end of season three, Barry Allen/The Flash (Grant Gustin) found himself with no other choice but to go into the speed force itself to save Central City. This left the rest of Team Flash, including Iris (Candice Patton), Cisco (Carlos Valdes), and Wally (Keiynan Lonsdale), to pick up the slack in regards to fighting crime in the city. However, they find that not only do they miss Barry, but that their team just isn’t the same without him, which eventually leads Cisco to devise a way to free him from the speed force.Grant Gustin and Hartley Sawyer in The Flash (2014)Their happiness at being reunited is short-lived however, as they quickly discover that the rift they opened to free Barry also unleashed a massive amount of dark matter that changed a dozen civilians into meta-humans with extraordinary powers. Meanwhile, a new brilliant foe by the name of Clifford DeVoe, aka “The Thinker” (Neil Sandilands) has emerged with a mysterious plan that involves collecting the powers of these recently-created meta-humans. It’s up to Team Flash (including new team member Ralph Dibney/”The Elongated Man” (Hartley Sawyer)) to discover how all of it is connected, and what DeVoe’s ultimate goal is before he can carry it out, all while trying to protect the people of Central City from the continuous onslaught of criminals.One of the most impressive things about “The Flash,” aside from everything mentioned so far, has been the remarkable ability of the writing staff to fill its lengthy 23-episode season. In an age where TV shows are moving away from the older model of having epic-sized seasons of 20+ episodes and moving towards more streamlined lengths of about 10-13 episodes, it’s quite something to see a show continue to utilize so many AND be able to actually fill it with quality material. Sure, some episodes aren’t an actual part of the season’s main arc, but even when they don’t further the main plot, the writers usually still manage to deliver consistently fun and exciting episodes.Grant Gustin in The Flash (2014)It’s rather satisfying to say that season four is no exception. Once again, we have a compelling storyline that sees the entire city put in danger, forcing our group of heroes to use every means at their disposal to take down “The Thinker.” That actually brings us right to the main reason this season stands out as being particularly special: for once, the villain is not an evil speedster, but rather a man with an insanely-advanced intellect. In the first three seasons, we saw our heroes go up again The Reverse Flash, Zoom, and Savitar, but now, in a refreshing change of pace, we have a villain who uses sheer brainpower (and eventually several neat powers) to challenge Flash and co., literally forcing them to have to try and out-think their foe.Kim Engelbrecht and Neil Sandilands in The Flash (2014)In the same vein, the showrunners have also made the wise decision to get rid of certain characters that hadn’t been working particularly well. Most notably, Wally West leaves early on, and actually joins the Legends on “Legends of Tomorrow.” His character never really found a satisfying place on “The Flash,” so it made perfect sense to put him with other b-characters on one of the weaker superhero shows on the network. He still pops in every now and again for important events, but for the most part, he’s been removed. It’s also worth noting that this season doesn’t feature an appearance from the silliest villain in the show’s repertoire, Gorilla Grodd. Perhaps after the misguided arc in the previous season, they’ve finally learned that the character was just a bad idea.Grant Gustin and Violett Beane in The Flash (2014)As far as complaints about this latest season, I suppose the somewhat simple ending was a little bit of a drawback. After all of the buildup, it seemed a little too easy to get to the end result, but still, it worked well enough for the show’s purposes. That being said, it hardly seems worth mentioning with everything that went so well this season. Once again, we had 23 episodes that flew by at top speed, delivering everything that fans have come to expect from this fast-paced and remarkably entertaining show. As usual, we’re left with another cliffhanger that shows that yet another wild season will probably be in store for Team Flash. What kind of villain will we get this time? Another speedster? Another brainiac of sorts? Or will it be something entirely new and surprising? Just like everyone else, I can’t wait to find out.

 

REVIEW: SWAMP THING (2019)

Derek Mears and Crystal Reed in Swamp Thing (2019)

Starring

Crystal Reed (Gotham)
Virginia Madsen (Better Watch Out)
Andy Bean (Transformers: The Last Knight)
Henderson Wade (Riverdale)
Maria Sten (Channel Zero)
Jeryl Prescott (The Skeleton Key)
Jennifer Beals (Lie To Me)
Will Patton (Silkwood)
Kevin Durand (Resident Evil: Retribution)
Derek Mears (Sleepy Hollow)

Kevin Durand and Derek Mears in Swamp Thing (2019)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Leonardo Nam (Westworld)
Ian Ziering (Sharknado)
Michael Beach (Aquaman)
RJ Cyler (Power Rangers)
Macon Blair (Logan Lucky)
Elle Graham (Mile 22)
Given Sharp (The Gifted)
Tim Russ (Star Trek: Voyager)
Selena Anduze (Venom)
Adrienne Barbeau (The Fog)
Justice Leak (Supergirl)
Jake Busey (Starship Troopers)

Swamp Thing (2019)Say what you will about DC Universe, but original series-wise the still-young streaming service is on the same trajectory as Superman himself: Up, up, and a-way better than Titans. That first series had its fans and certainly improved as it went along,  Then came Doom Patrol, which started out solid as Brendan Fraser‘s bare backside and gradually became one of the most wonderfully absurd delights on all of television.Crystal Reed in Swamp Thing (2019)That put a lot of pressure on the big mossy shoulders of original series #3, Swamp Thing, to keep up the quality, especially in the wake of the backstage wonkiness that cut its originally-ordered 13 episodes to 10. Well, I’m here to report that Swamp Thing, at least in its first two episodes, not only ups the ante, it’s also a triumph on pretty much every level, a nasty, gleefully disturbing bit of body horror on the Louisiana bayou that evokes everything from John Carpenter‘s The Thing to executive-producer James Wan‘s work with the Trench in Aquaman. It’s 2019, man, and it looks like it’s officially time to go green.Derek Mears and Crystal Reed in Swamp Thing (2019)Len Wiseman—the director behind the pilots for Sleepy Hollow and Lucifer—also helmed the pilot here, an extremely on-brand choice considering Swamp Thing follows a similar formula: Straight-laced professional woman partners up with a quirky man who has a supernatural twist. In Sleepy Hollow, it was a sheriff’s lieutenant and the actual Ichabod Crane. In Lucifer, it was a detective and the literal Christian Devil. Here, it’s a member of the CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service named Abby Arcane (Crystal Reed) and biologist Alec Holland (Andy Bean), the latter who—spoilers—eventually morphs with a sentient swamp to become a giant moss-monster played under heavy prosthetics by former Jason Voorhees Derek Mears. Again, it’s a formula, but the formula really does work to charming effect.Swamp Thing (2019)Arcane has been called back to her hometown of Marais, Louisiana to investigate a strange disease that’s seemingly emanating from the nearby swamp, causing locals to collapse, cough up gooey leaves into their hospital beds, and—in much more extreme cases—devolve into mossy, decaying statues straight out of a biologist’s worst fever dreams. (Think the gory artwork of Hannibal meets, like, a fucked-up Ent.) Butting into her investigation is disgraced scientist Holland, who discovered abnormal mutagens in the swamp that may just be the key to finding a cure. But the deeper Arcane and Holland dig, the more it smells like a rotten conspiracy, a conspiracy the swamp itself seems intent on violently stopping.Derek Mears in Swamp Thing (2019)It’s in that violence and rot that this show truly shines as a no-joke horror story, not a surprise given Wan’s involvement and a pilot script co-written by Gary Dauberman (IT, The Nun) and Mark Verheiden (Ash vs. Evil Dead). Wiseman, who also directed episode 2, shoots Marais’ swamp like a dark fairy tale, all twisted trees and moonlit ponds. The effect makes it that much more jarring in the moments that almost primordial darkness invades Abby Arcane’s world of science. There’s a scene set in a morgue that floored me in its creepiness; the swamp disease brings a corpse back to profane “life”, the body standing up off the operating table even as it’s ripped apart by twisting vines and probing branches. It’s gross, it really does have serious The Thing vibes, and most importantly, it appears to be mostly practical.

Derek Mears in Swamp Thing (2019)Those practical set-pieces throughout elevate Swamp Thing a good deal. Maybe it’s the Jaws fanatic in me, but I love seeing a boat actually lifted out of the water by some unseen monstrosity. But Fractured FX—the minds behind the Lipstick-Face Demon in Insidious and every ghoul in The Conjuring franchise, among many other abominations—worked overtime to make sure the monstrosities we do see are equally impressive. I don’t think Swampy fans could ask for a more pitch-perfect live-action take than the one we get here. The suit plastered on Mears oozes and shines in all the right, rotten ways; there’s a moment where he pulls off a piece of his own head and you can see the strands of goo between his fingers. It’s disgusting. It’s great. (And yes, Swamp Thing is ripped af, and I expect certain corners of the internet to react accordingly, as is their right.)Derek Mears in Swamp Thing (2019)But the real miracle here is that Swamp Thing still manages to feel like a human show. Abby Arcane is an effective entry point into the madness; she brings back to her hometown a dark secret from her past that Reed manages to tease out through haunted looks and sentences cut just short. She has an easy chemistry with a pre-monster Bean, whose oddball charisma makes you sad that he has to turn into Swamp Thing on a show literally called Swamp Thing. But of course, it’s Mears pulling the real magic trick here. He doesn’t speak a single word over the first two episodes because he doesn’t need to. Mears injects a potent dose of rage, confusion, and sadness into Swamp Thing with his face, the way he stands, the way he stumbles against a tree.Sadly Swamp Thing got cancelled due to a high budget, so one season is all we get, but it sure as hell is one hell of a season

REVIEW: ONE FOR THE MONEY

CAST

Katherine Heigl (Roswell)
Jason O’Mara (Resident Evil: Extinction)
Daniel Sunjata (The Dark Knight Rises)
John Leguizamo (Spawn)
Sherri Shepherd (Precious)
Debbie Reynolds (In & Out)
Fisher Stevens (Short Circuit)
Patrick Fischler (Happy!)
Leonardo Nam (Westworld)
Louis Mustillo (Mike & Molly)

 

Katherine Heigl and Jason O'Mara in One for the Money (2012)Stephanie Plum, out of work and out of cash, turns in desperation to her disreputable cousin Vinnie, of Vinnie’s Bail Bonds, for work. Despite having no equipment, training or particular skill she becomes a bail enforcement agent, chasing after Vinnie’s highest stakes bail jumper: Joe Morelli, a former vice cop who is wanted for murder, who also happened to seduce and dump Stephanie back in high school after taking her virginity.
Katherine Heigl in One for the Money (2012)In the midst of the chase, Stephanie has to deal with her meddling family, a problematic tendency of witnesses who die when she gets too close, and lessons in bounty hunting from the mysterious Ranger. When she finally catches up to Morelli, she realizes that the case against him doesn’t add up and that the old flame from their school days may just be rekindling.Katherine Heigl and Daniel Sunjata in One for the Money (2012)This adaptation of Janet Evanivich’s book is well done and a lot of fun. Katherine Heigl is excellent in the role of Stephanie Plum. Apparently the author considered Katherine perfect for this role after seeing her in another movie. This is light entertainment with a few quirks and unpredictable points of view,  and overall a very enjoyable hour and a half.

REVIEW: BONES – SEASON 5

Starring

Emily Deschanel (Boogeyman)
David Boreanaz (Angel)
Michaela Conlin (Yellowstone)
Tamara Taylor (Lost)
T. J. Thyne (Ghost World)
John Francis Daley (Game Night)

David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel in Bones (2005)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Cyndi Lauper (Here and There)
Patricia Belcher (Jeepers Creepers)
Michael Grant Terry (Grimm)
Christopher B. Duncan (Veronica Mars)
Michael Arden (Bride Wars)
Riki Lindhome (The Muppets)
Eugene Byrd (Arrow)
Tiffany Hines (Nikita)
Michael B. Jordan (Black Panther)
Kaitlin Doubleday (Empire)
Pej Vahdat (Shameless)
Leonardo Nam (Westworld)
Reggie Austin (Agent Carter)
Billy Gardell (Mike & Molly)
Cheryl White (Major Crimes)
Paula Newsome (Guess Who)
Josie Davis (The Hot Seat)
Amy Gumenick (Arrow)
Carla Gallo (Superbad)
Diedrich Bader (American Housewife)
Andy Umberger (Buffy: TVS)
Tracy Middendorf (Scream: The Series)
Joel David Moore (Avatar)
Stephen Fry (V For Vendetta)
Ryan Cartwright (Alphas)
Dan Castellaneta (The Simpsons)
Debbie Lee Carrington (Total Recall)
Wynn Everett (Agent Carter)
Martin Klebba (Scrubs)
Sarah Rafferty (Suits)
Lindsay Hollister (Get Smart)
Ralph Waite (The Waltons)
Nakia Burrise (Power Rangers Zeo)
Mickey Jones (Total Recall)
Zooey Deschanel (New Girl)
Ryan O’Neal (Love Story)
Dorian Missick (The Cape)
Dale Dickey (Iron Man 3)
Penny Johnson Jerald (The Orville)
Richard T. Jones (Terminator: TSCC)
Brendan Fehr (Roswell)
Dilshad Vadsaria (The Oath)
Fay Masterson (Eyes Wide Shut)
Robert Gant (Supergirl)
Joshua Malina (The Big Bang Theory)
Henri Lubatti (Angel)
Amanda Schull (Pretty Little Liars)
Rusty Schwimmer (Highlander 2)
Clea DuVall (Better Call Saul)
Eric Millegan (Phobic)
Megan Hilty (Smash)
Jenica Bergere (Rat Race)
Victor Webster (Mutant X)
Ben Falcone (New Girl)
Suzy Nakamura (Dead To Me)
Robert Englund (A Nightmare On Elm Street)
Ravil Isyanov (Transformers: Dark of The Moon)
Rena Sofer (Heroes)
Michael Des Barres (Poison Ivy 3)
Kate Vernon (Battlestar Galactica)
William Stanford Davis (A Lot Like Love)
Deirdre Lovejoy (The Blacklist)
Billy Gibbons (Two and a Half Men)

Michaela Conlin, Emily Deschanel, Tamara Taylor, and T.J. Thyne in Bones (2005)At the beginning of the fifth season of the wildly popular forensic drama “Bones,” many viewers tuned in trepidatiously after the spectacularly strange fourth season finale. Thankfully, all fears were allayed and relieved when the fifth season kicked into high gear in the very first episode and maintained that pace throughout the season; “Bones”‘ fifth season is perhaps its greatest yet.David Boreanaz, Emily Deschanel, and Randy Oglesby in Bones (2005)The one thing that has always set “Bones” apart from the countless other procedurals on the airwaves right now is the focus on the characters solving the crimes rather than the crimes themselves, and the strength of this approach shines through brilliantly in every episode of this season.David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel in Bones (2005)David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel return to the roles of Booth and Bones and deliver their strongest performances yet as each character is shaken to their core. As Booth struggles to regain his sense of self, he has to confront the knowledge of his feelings for his partner, while Bones herself goes through a whirlwind of emotion as the emotional barriers she has erected around her heart begin to crumble down, leaving her questioning not only herself but her relationship with Booth as well as her work at the Jeffersonian itself. The tension between the two has never been more delicious or more addictive, and both lead actors knock their roles absolutely out of the park.David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel in Bones (2005)But while the relationship between Booth and Brennan becomes increasingly more complex, the wonderful supporting cast of engaging characters at the Jeffersonian keep the show moving along briskly and lightly. Cam (Tamara Taylor) must run the lab while dealing with the challenge of being a good mother, guiding the team effectively toward each conclusion; Sweets (John Francis Daley) continues to provide invaluable insight into the minds of the team; Angela (Michaela Conlin) remains the emotional heart and soul of the team as she opens her heart to love’s possibilities; and Hodgins (TJ Thyne) struggles with his feelings for Angela as he returns to his abrasive, loveable self.David Boreanaz, Dan Castellaneta, and Emily Deschanel in Bones (2005)The cases themselves have regained a fascinating light as the mysteries the team confronts become more complex, and the special effects department has outdone themselves in the gore and goop department this year as Booth and Bones investigate some of the most gruesome crime scenes in history, all moved along by the brisk black humor the show excels at; the team investigates a possible secret agent locked in a truck for days, a would-be rocker torn to pieces by an industrial washer/dryer, a gamer literally melted in a vat of fast-food grease, and a dozen more cheerfully disgusting cases where the outcomes of the mysteries hold the power to shock and surprise the audience; the writers have once again caught the perfect balance between the whodunnit and the drama to craft a truly unique show.David Boreanaz and Ralph Waite in Bones (2005)But it’s not merely the cases that hold the viewers’ attention this season; season five is full of true powerhouse episodes: heartbreaking cases like “The Plain in the Prodigy”; darkly comical shows like “The Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”; truly shocking mysteries like “The Proof in the Pudding,”; and even a historically fascinating case written by the author of the original Temperance Brennan novels Kathy Reichs herself (“The Witch in the Wardrobe”) — however, all of these merely lead up to the three knockout moments of the season:David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel in Bones (2005)In the fifth season, “Bones” reaches its 100th episode, “The Parts in the Sum of the Whole.” Likely the most beloved and most contested episode in the show’s history, the 100th episode completely redefined Booth and Brennan’s relationship as it showed the viewers the pair’s first meeting, something never before revealed, and circles around to one of the most hearbreaking and yet most powerfully hopeful moments of the series. “Parts” was also directed by David Boreanaz, one of the series’ leads, and the sheer emotion wrung out of Boreanaz and Deschanel by the end speaks volumes to the talent of the show’s leads.David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel in Bones (2005)As the series continues, however, the characters were shocked to their cores as they were forced to come face-to-face with their most terrifying adversary yet: the cunningly frightening sociopath dubbed The Gravedigger, in “The Boy with the Answer,” a nail-bitingly tense hour of television that had viewers’ hearts pounding as Heather Taffet, the Gravedigger, proved that her true arena was the courtroom, tearing apart her victims and throwing the entire future of Brennan’s life into question.David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel in Bones (2005)This only segues into the season’s amazingly dramatic finale, “The Beginning in the End.” As the team investigates the home of a hoarder, Bones questions what she truly wants to do with her life, Booth’s past comes calling, and Angela’s father blows back into town, all leading to a truly shocking season ender, a masterful finale that not only redefined the very foundations of the show and the characters but also continued to set the show on a rising point, ensuring that every faithful viewer of “Bones” will be frantically waiting for the sixth season to premiere in the fall.

REVIEW: THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS: TOKYO DRIFT

CAST

Lucas Black (Jarhead)
Zachery Ty Bryan (The Rage: Carrie 2)
Bow Wow (Like Mike)
Nikki Griffin (The OC)
Sung Kang (Die Hard 4.0)
Brian Tee (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: OOTS)
Nathalie Kelley (The Vampire Diaries)
Lynda Boyd (Sanctuary)
Jason Tobin (Jasmine)
Keiko Kitagawa (Paradise Kiss)
Vin Diesel (XXX)
Amber Stevens West (22 Jump Street)
Vincent Laresca (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang)
Nathalie Kelley (The Vampire Diaries)
Leonardo Nam (Westworld)

In Oro Valley, Arizona, 17-year-old high school students Sean Boswell and Clay race their cars to win the affections of Clay’s girlfriend Cindy. When Sean cuts through a structure and catches up to Clay, Clay hits Sean’s car repeatedly until they reach a high-speed turn, which causes both cars to crash; Sean’s car is totaled. Clay and Cindy’s wealthy families help them escape punishment, but Sean is sent to live in Tokyo with his father, a U.S. Navy officer, in order to avoid juvenile detention or jail.While in Tokyo, Sean befriends Twinkie, a military brat who introduces him to the world of drift racing in Japan. Sean has a confrontation with Takashi — the Drift King (DK) — over Sean talking to Takashi’s girlfriend, Neela. Though forbidden to drive, Sean decides to race against Takashi, who has ties to the Yakuza. He borrows a Nissan Silvia from Han Lue, now a business partner to Takashi, and loses, totaling the car due to his inability to drift.To repay his debt for the car he destroyed, Sean agrees to work for Han. This leads to the duo becoming friends, with Han agreeing to teach Sean how to drift. Han also loans him another car for future races, explaining that he is helping him as Sean is the only person willing to stand up to Takashi. Sean moves in with Han and soon masters drifting, gaining some repute after defeating DK’s right-hand man, Morimoto. Sean soon asks Neela out on a date, and learns that after her mother died, she moved in with Takashi’s grandmother, which resulted in their relationship. Takashi beats up Sean the next day, telling him to stay away from Neela; Neela subsequently leaves Takashi and moves in with Sean and Han.

Takashi’s uncle Kamata, the head of the Yakuza, reprimands Takashi for allowing Han to steal from him. Takashi and Morimoto confront Han, Sean, and Neela about the thefts. Twinkie causes a distraction, allowing Han, Sean, and Neela to flee, who are then pursued by Takashi and Morimoto. During the chase, Morimoto is killed in a crash, leaving Takashi to pursue the trio on his own. Han allows Sean to overtake him in order to hold Takashi off, but the chase ends when Sean and Neela crash. Meanwhile, moments after escaping from Takashi, Han is critically injured when his Mazda RX-7 is rammed by another car. Han’s car explodes, killing him just seconds before Sean has a chance to save him.

Takashi, Sean, and his father become involved in an armed standoff which is resolved by Neela agreeing to leave with Takashi. Twinkie gives his money to Sean to replace the money Han stole, which Sean then returns to Kamata. Sean proposes a race against Takashi, with the loser having to leave Tokyo. Kamata agrees to the challenge, but on the condition that the race take place on DK’s mountain. With all of Han’s cars impounded, Sean and Han’s friends then build a 1967 Ford Mustang that Sean’s father was working on, with a Nissan Skyline engine salvaged from Han’s Silvia that was totaled by Sean in his first drift race, and other spare parts. That night, on the mountain, crowds gather to see the race; Takashi takes the lead initially, but Sean’s training allows him to catch up. Determined to win, Takashi resorts to ramming Sean’s car, eventually missing and driving off the mountain while Sean crosses the finish line. Kamata keeps his word, and lets Sean remain in Tokyo and is now christened the new Drift King. The next night, Sean is challenged by and races Dominic Toretto who claims Han was family.

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift is the least popular of the Fast and Furious franchise but it’s also the most underrated. it was still a great movie in its own right and one that can stand alone without the others.