REVIEW: BIRDS OF PREY

MAIN CAST

Ashley Scott (Into The Blue)
Dina Meyer (Starship Troopers)
Rachel Skarsten (Reign)
Shemar Moore (Criminal Minds)
Ian Abercrombie (Army of Darkness)
Mia Sara (Legend)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Chris Ellis (The Dark Knight Rises)
Shawn Christian (Las Vegas)
Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
AJ Michalka (Super 8)
Maggie Baird (Eragon)
Silas Weir Mitchell (My Name Is Earl)
Brent Sexton (Flightplan)
Joe Flanigan (Stargate: Atlantis)
Robert Patrick Benedict (Waiting)
Autumn Reeser (The American Mall)
Riley Smith (Eight Legged Freaks)
Michael Welch (Twilight)
Brody Hutzler (Angel)
Lori Loughlin (Full House)
Stephen McHattie (300)
Shane Johnson (Behind Enemy Lines)
Sarah Brown (VR Troopers)
Kristoffer Polaha (Dollhouse)
Brian Thompson (Hired To Kill)
Annie Wersching (The Vampire Diaries)
Sung Hi Lee (The Girl Next Door)
Brad Bufanda (Veronica Mars)
Neil Hopkins (Lost)
Mitch Pileggi (The X-Files)
Bob Papenbrook (Jeepers Creepers 2)
Llia Volok (Power Rangers Wild Force)
J.P. Manoux (Euro Trip)
Bob Clendenin (That 70s Show)
Ian Reed Kesler (2 Broke Girls)
Kirk Baltz (Natural Born Killers)
Steve Hytner (Roswell)

Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad)

untitled-3-copyLoosely based on DC Comics and a variety of other sources with a touch of Marvel’s the X-Men thrown in, the series continues the legend of The Batman. We enter the future, dark and fantastic world of New Gotham City. Long after The Batman has driven himself into exile, his legacy lives on in the form of the Birds of Prey – Black Canary, Oracle, and the Huntress. From the creators of the CW hit Smallville, Birds of the Prey was produced in 2002 for the now defunct WB, but had only 13 episodes before cancellation. Since then, its devoted fan base worked tirelessly to have the series released on DVD. It was a really exciting action show, breaking new ground because ALL of the lead characters were women.This boxed set collects all 13 episodes and a never-collected-on-DVD before Flash-animated series “Gotham Girls.” Awesomely, it also includes the unaired pilot, which featured Sherilyn Fenn (Twin Peaks) in the role of Dr. Quinzel. Mia Sara was later cast as Quinzel in the series. She also appeared in the AIRED pilot. Interestingly, all of the scenes featuring the character in the AIRED pilot were reshot with Sara, word-for-word. Also of note, the aspect ratio of the episodes in the set will be full frame, but will have dark bars on top and on bottom to mimic widescreen. While normal citizens slept, the Birds of Prey flocked together to fight crime on the streets of New Gotham City. Several years after the city was abandoned by Batman, the awesome threesome of Huntress (Ashley Scott), Oracle (Dina Meyer), and Black Canary (Rachel Skarsten) was formed. Huntress is the daughter of Batman and Catwoman, and can smell danger from miles away. Black Canary has the gift of clairvoyance and Oracle leads the team through her cyber experience, despite being wheelchair bound by Batman’s nemesis, the evil Joker.When the series opens, we learn that New Gotham’s Batman has disappeared leaving behind a daughter from his long-time love Catwoman. Her name is Helena Kyle, who transforms herself into the mysterious superhero known as “The Huntress.” Helena has hypersensitive senses and agility, but uses her gifts selfishly. Fate brings her face-to-face with her choices as well as a wheel-chair-bound Barbara Gordon, the hero Oracle, who befriends her but agrees to train her only if she uses her powers for good.splash_780-1376-720x340She teams up with Barbara, who had been “Batgirl” prior to being paralyzed by the Joker. By day, Barbara is a teacher at New Gotham High, but by night she fights crime from her secret lair in the New Gotham Clock Tower. The two meet a determined Dinah Redmond, a young woman who was drawn to New Gotham to learn more about her powers. Dinah is a touch-telepath and psychic who had terrifying dreams about Batgirl’s brutal incident that resulted in her paralysis. The Huntress resists working with Dinah, but Oracle convinces her to give the younger woman a chance. Now, they must learn not only how to work together as New Gotham’s protectors, but also as a family.Special recognition goes to Mark “Star Wars” Hamill who briefly reprises his award-winning voice role as the Joker from the iconic classic, Batman: the Animated Series. In Birds of Prey, “Mister J” on-camera is portrayed by actor/stuntman Roger Stoneburner but Hamill’s voice was dubbed over Stoneburner’s performance.  During the course of the series, the women are often confronted with schemes masterminded by the Joker’s on-and-off girlfriend, psychiatrist Dr. Harleen “Harley Quinn” Quinzel (Mia Sara), but they always prevail and eventually beat her at her own game.jsyjp3Other characters of note are: Alfred Pennyworth (Ian Abercrombie), who serves Helena as heir to the Wayne estate, and Police Detective Jesse Resse (Shemar Moore), confronted with crimes and abilities he cannot explain. A central feature of the series is the concept of metahumans: Individuals born with powers that cannot be explained. No two metahumans have the same specific ability (or set of abilities) and there exists a whole sub culture of metahuman society that the outside world knows nothing about. It is this world that Detective Reese is drawn into, reluctantly teaming up with Huntress and the Birds of Prey to defeat metahuman criminals. At first, he is disapproving of Helena’s vigilantism, even trying to arrest her, but eventually he realizes there is a need for the Birds of Prey to take down criminals the police can’t handle. Episodes in this four-disc collection are: the Pilot; Slick; Prey for the Hunter; Three Birds and a Baby; Sins of the Mother; Primal Scream; Split; Lady Shiva; Nature of the Beast; Gladiatrix; Reunion; Feat of Clay; and Devil’s Eyes. Very popular theme song “Revolution” was performed by Aimee Allen.

REVIEW: ABDUCTION

CAST

Taylor Lautner (Twilight)
Lily Collins (Mirror Mirror)
Alfred Molina (Spider-Man 2)
Jason Isaacs (Star Trek: Discovery)
Maria Bello (The Cooler)
Sigourney Weaver (Alien)
Michael Nyqvist (John Wick)
Dermot Mulroney (Young Guns)
Nickola Shreli (Hostel – Part III)
Elisabeth Röhm (Joy)
Ilia Volok (Power Rangers: Wild Force)
Denzel Whitaker (The Purge TV)

Denzel Whitaker and Taylor Lautner in Abduction (2011)Nathan Harper (Taylor Lautner) is an 18-year-old high school senior living in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with his parents Kevin (Jason Isaacs) and Mara (Maria Bello). He has troubles from recurring nightmares and has been seeing psychiatrist Dr. Geraldine “Geri” Bennett (Sigourney Weaver) to diagnose them. Nathan is teamed with Karen Murphy (Lily Collins) for a school research project on missing children. Nathan discovers he looks very much like an age-progression photo of a missing child, Steven Price. His investigations show that his parents are probably biologically unrelated. He approaches Mara and she confirms the truth. She goes off crying to get his father to help her explain it all to him. Two men claiming to be from the Department of Juvenile Justice arrive at Nathan’s home in the evening while Mara is on her way to get Kevin. Mara is suspicious and attacks the two, but is shot and killed by the intruders. Kevin is also killed, but not before subduing one agent, as well as yelling for Nathan to run. Nathan runs but returns for Karen, who is now captured by the remaining agent. Nathan overpowers the agent and rescues Karen, he attempts to find out who the man is, but is suddenly forced out of the house because a bomb planted there is about to detonate.Taylor Lautner and Lily Collins in Abduction (2011)The blast injures Karen, so Nathan takes her to the hospital and attempts to contact the police. His call is intercepted by CIA operative Frank Burton (Alfred Molina), who tells Nathan he is in danger and he will send two men to collect him. Nathan is suspicious and while he is trying to make sense of it all, Dr. Bennett appears and helps him and Karen escape. While driving away, Dr. Bennett explains that Nathan’s biological father, Martin (Dermot Mulroney), stole an encrypted list of 25 corrupt CIA operatives from the Serbian terrorist Nikola Kozlow (Michael Nyqvist) when Nathan was 3: Kozlow then planned on abducting Nathan to coerce Martin to hand over the list. Nathan had been given to his adoptive parents to protect him. Kozlow used the website to claim Nathan as the missing child Steven Price in order to find him. Dr. Bennett gives Nathan the address of a safe house in Arlington, Virginia and tells him to trust only his biological father Martin and a man named Paul Rasmus. Kozlow’s men follow them, but Bennett is able to help them escape. Meanwhile, Burton is warned by his superior to end the situation as soon as possible once he learns of the involvement of Bennett, who is revealed to be a former CIA operative.Taylor Lautner and Lily Collins in Abduction (2011)Arriving at the safehouse: the two obtain money, a gun, a photo of Nathan’s biological mother Lorna Price (Elisabeth Röhm), and a cell phone. Karen tries to call her family, but her call is intercepted by Burton and the CIA, forcing them to flee. Finding the address for his mother, the pair discover the address is a cemetery and that Lorna has died. Nathan and Karen visit her grave and find fresh flowers there, and, according to the graveyard attendant, the sender is Paul Rasmus, who lives in Nebraska. The two take an Amtrak passenger train to get there using fake IDs provided by their friend Gilly (Denzel Whitaker). En route they confess their feelings for each other and share a passionate kiss. They are unaware that they are being followed by Kozlow’s right-hand man who abducts Karen when she goes out for food. He leaves her bound and gagged with duct tape in a separate room, but she frees herself by using a piece of broken glass. Nathan fights the right-hand man and he throws him out the window. After the train stops the two make a run for it. Burton’s team finds Kozlow’s henchman and tracks them down.Taylor Lautner and Lily Collins in Abduction (2011)Burton explains the data that Martin had stolen contains Burton’s name on the list. As Burton tries to play that off, the agents are attacked by Kozlow’s snipers. Nathan and Karen take off in a car before they can be caught. As they flee, the cell phone from Kozlow’s man rings, the caller is Kozlow and he threatens to kill Karen’s parents if Nathan does not hand over the data. Nathan gets Kozlow to agree to make the transaction at a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball game at their home stadium, the PNC Park.Alfred Molina and Taylor Lautner in Abduction (2011)Nathan works with Gilly to obtain tickets and secures a gun to one of the seats with the intent to kill Kozlow. Martin calls Nathan and warns him off, but Nathan refuses to listen. When Kozlow arrives, Karen takes Kozlow’s photo so Nathan can recognize him. The two meet and Kozlow tells Nathan how he killed his mother when Nathan was 3 after she refused to give up Martin’s location. Kozlow grabs the gun from Nathan and demands the list, Nathan bolts and Kozlow gives chase, followed by CIA operatives who have seen them in the crowd. Nathan is able to escape and Kozlow is killed by Martin. Burton, his superior and his agents arrive. Burton asks for the cell phone, promising to give the decrypted results to his superior. However, Martin had warned his superior about Burton’s corruption and takes the phone himself while Burton is taken into custody. Martin calls Nathan, apologizing for not being the father he should have been, Nathan asks him to show himself but Martin refuses. Bennett arrives with Karen and says she has arranged for Nathan to live with her until he decides what to pursue in his life. As the movie ends, Nathan and Karen go on a date in the empty PNC Park.Taylor Lautner in Abduction (2011)OK, we got to face that Abduction is not a ground-breaking title, but it’s far from trash. It’s a fine movie besides some goofs that you will only notice if you are watch every single scene several times. There is no riddles, nothing to put you trying to figure it out. A fast pacing movie enjoyable after a day at work. Twilight haters are being too harsh on the reviews, Abduction was never supposed to win an academy awards, but it’s not a waste of time neither money if you are looking for a light action movie.

REVIEW: 2 BROKE GIRLS – SEASON 4

Starring

Kat Dennings (Thor)
Beth Behrs (The Neighbourhood)
Garrett Morris (Ant-Man)
Jonathan Kite (Black Dynamite)
Matthew Moy (No Strings Attached)
Jennifer Coolidge (American Pie)

Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs in 2 Broke Girls (2011)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Kim Kardashian West (Disaster Movie)
Natalie Dreyfuss (The Originals)
Jesse Metcalfe (Dead Rising)
Josie Totah (No Good Nick)
Diane Delano (Popular)
Sammi Hanratty (A Christmas Carol)
Danielle Macdonald (Patti Cakes)
Valerie Harper (Rhoda)
John Brotherton (Fuller House)
Ian Reed Kesler (The Finder)
Patrick Cox (Aquaman)
Sandra Bernhard (One Hell of A Guy)
Austin Falk (Tales of Halloween)
Ilia Volok (Power Rangers Wild Force)
Caroline Rhea (Sabrina: TTW)
Laura Kightlinger (Lucky Louie
Nico Santos (Superstore)
Kaliko Kauahi (Superstore)
Deborah Baker Jr.(The Neighbourhood)

In Season Four Kim Kardashian pays the cupcake shop a visit, Caroline starts using an abandoned bike to make deliveries, but Max is unable to do her share because she cannot ride a bicycle, Max and Caroline rent their apartment via Airbnb to some models in town for the annual Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, the girls find out two rich high school girls are selling knock-offs of their cupcake T-shirts.

Other Highlights are –

Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs in 2 Broke Girls (2011)

And The Childhood Not Included

When Caroline accidentally loses Han’s expensive fish while cleaning the tank, Max considers selling a sentimental gift she just received from her mother in order to pay for a new one.

 

Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs in 2 Broke Girls (2011)

And The Brand Job

Max and Caroline’s partnership – and friendship – is almost torn apart when Caroline drags Max to a seminar to help brand their cupcake business.

Kat Dennings, Beth Behrs, Lily Aldridge, and Martha Hunt in 2 Broke Girls (2011)

And the Model Apartment

In an attempt to make some extra money, Max and Caroline decide to rent out their apartment on airbnb. Sophie finds new ways to test Oleg’s faithfulness and commitment to their relationship.

And the Past and the Furious

Caroline is shocked when she receives a Lamborghini for her birthday, which her father ordered for her four years ago. Meanwhile, Oleg has something big planned for Sophie.

Kat Dennings, Jean Grae, Beth Behrs, and Sherry Mandujano in 2 Broke Girls (2011)

And the Crime Ring

Max and Caroline are arrested for breaking into a cute guy’s apartment to recover the rings Caroline left behind after she spent the night.

Beth Behrs in And the Zero Tolerance (2015)

And the Zero Tolerance

When Caroline notices the girls’ bank balance is less than zero, she and Max desperately look for ways to make enough money for the payments on their T-shirt loan. Soon after, John (“Big Mary”) from Max’s pastry school comes by to say he’s working as a pastry chef at “The High”, a new upscale restaurant in Manhattan. He encourages Max to apply for the other pastry chef position that needs to be filled, and Caroline tags along to apply for a waitress job.

And the High Hook-Up (2015)

And the High Hook-Up

Joedth finds a hot, young Irish man named Nashit (Austin Falk) on a bench outside The High, and hires him, asking Caroline to train him as a waiter. Max is smitten and vows to get Nashit into bed, but doing so would violate Joedth’s strict “no hook ups among employees” policy. After the two are caught, Han hires Nashit to work as a dishwasher at the diner.

And the Grate Expectations

At Oleg’s bachelor party, Han inadvertently discloses a secret that leads Sophie to cancel the wedding. The girls and Big Mary open up a new branch of The High that, much to their dismay, is located in an airport.

Jennifer Coolidge in 2 Broke Girls (2011)

And the Disappointing Unit

Sophie and Oleg get married, despite some challenges on their wedding day. Disappointing sales at the airport branch of The High put the girls’ future there in doubt. The Girls then end up going to Paris using the tickets they got to get into the airport to kidnap Nash. The episode ends with Max and Caroline drinking champagne from their cabin crew friends.

Another great season, with some great laughs, the show gets better and better every season and am looking forward to season 5.

REVIEW: THE PUNISHER – SEASON 2

Jon Bernthal in The Punisher (2017)

Starring

Jon Bernthal (The Accountant)
Ben Barnes (Westworld)
Amber Rose Revah (The Devil’s Double)
Jason R. Moore (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice)
Josh Stewart (No Ordinary Family)
Floriana Lima (Supergirl)
Giorgia Whigham (13 Reasons Why)
Deborah Ann Woll (Mother’s Day)

Ben Barnes in The Punisher (2017)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Royce Johnson (Demolition)
Tony Plana (Ugly Betty)
Alexa Davalos (Clash of The Titans)
Corbin Bernsen (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang)
Annette O’Toole (Smallville)
Ilia Volok (Power Rangers Wild Force)

Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (Limitless TV)

Rob Morgan (Stranger Things)

Frank Castle doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who gets out to the movies very often, so we’ll probably never know what he thought about Star Wars: The Last Jedi. But you have to assume he’d identify with Kylo Ren’s infamous monologue, “Let the past die. Kill it, if you have to. It’s the only way to become who you were meant to be.” That pretty much sums up Frank’s struggle since losing his family in a hail of bullets and transforming himself into a remorseless vigilante.Amber Rose Revah in The Punisher (2017)That same struggle takes on a new form in The Punisher Season 2. Having finally tracked down and punished every single person responsible for the deaths of his family, Frank is finally a free man. But can someone who spent so long being defined by hate and a thirst for revenge actually find peace? Can Frank let his past die and rebuild his life, or is he doomed to forever be defined as the Punisher? It’s a compelling dilemma. But ironically, it’s only when Season 2 clings to the past that it becomes the show it was meant to be.Jon Bernthal in The Punisher (2017)Initially, Season 2 comes across as a major departure from its predecessor. The premiere touches base with Frank (Jon Bernthal) as he aimlessly wanders the Midwest and finds his true calling as a Shooter Jennings groupie. It’s a slow start to the new season, but one that sets the mood nicely. We see Frank coming so close to remembering how to live as a normal human being again, to the point where he even develops a romance with a local bartender. But the fact that Frank so quickly and recklessly throws himself into the first fracas he can find shows that he was only ever waiting for a new mission to come along. If the driving question of Season 2 is whether Frank Castle can find peace, the first episode alone makes it pretty clear that it’ll only be with a gun in his hand.Josh Stewart in The Punisher (2017)The first few episodes of the season attempt to make a fairly clean break from the events, characters, and setting of Season 1. Sure, the show touches base with old favorites like Dinah Madani (Amber Rose Revah) and Billy Russo (Ben Barnes), but the focus in this early part of the season is fixed more on newcomers like wayward teen grifter Amy Bendix (Giorgia Whigham) and former Neo-Nazi-turned-God-fearing assassin, John Pilgrim (Josh Stewart).Jon Bernthal and Jason R. Moore in The Punisher (2017)Unfortunately, it’s here where one of the fundamental flaws of Season 2 becomes apparent. These newcomers struggle to measure up to the strong supporting cast seen in Season 1. Amy initially comes across as an obnoxious, conniving brat, as well as a crude attempt to replace both Karen Page and Micro in one new character. It’s a good four or five episodes into the season before she finally begins to gain some semblance of depth and forges a more believable bond with Frank.Jon Bernthal in The Punisher (2017)Pilgrim (who’s loosely based on a character from the comics called The Mennonite) often shows potential as a man whose struggle to leave his dark past behind him mirrors Frank’s own journey. But both Pilgrim and his handlers, the nefarious right-wing billionaires Anderson (Corbin Bernsen) and Eliza Schultz (Annette O’Toole) are badly underdeveloped. This season creates the impression that showrunner Steve Lightfoot wanted to create a conflict that could rip from as many headlines as possible. You’ve got your right-wing extremists, your shady Russians blackmailing politicians, and your rampant gun violence plaguing Middle America. But none of this material seems especially well thought-out or ever comes together as a satisfying whole. By the time the focus shifts back to New York and the renewed feud between Frank and Billy, the Schultzes and their dirty dealings become a light afterthought.Ben Barnes and Charles Brice in The Punisher (2017)Fortunately, at least Season 2 capitalizes on the foundation established in Season 1 where Billy is concerned. We see Billy Russo, handsome businessman, transform into Jigsaw, psychologically tormented killer. The series only loosely adapts the Jigsaw from the comics, however. Rather than depicting him as a hideously scarred supervillain out for blood the moment he escapes police custody, Season 2 takes a more understated approach to Billy. His scarring is less dramatic. Early on, he wants only to understand his sad lot in life and the skull-clad demon that haunts his dreams.Jon Bernthal and Jason R. Moore in The Punisher (2017)The result of all of this is that Billy remains a sympathetic figure throughout the season. Even when his dark, depraved side begins to burst forth again, we understand the pain and trauma fueling his actions and the profound sense of loss that plagues him. Barnes’ performance improves leaps and bounds over that of Season 1. At times it’s bigger and flashier, but often Barnes is able to bring a wounded subtlety to the character. In some cases, Barnes is even required to act from behind a mask for prolonged periods, showing a gift for using body language and voice to make up for his concealed features. Jigsaw may not quite rival the likes of Wilson Fisk and Kilgrave as the best of Netflix’s Marvel villains, but he’s close enough.The new season also further cements Bernthal’s Frank Castle as the best live-action incarnation of the character to date. To be fair, Bernthal has had far more time to make the character his own than actors like Thomas Jane and Ray Stevenson. Regardless, the show really benefits from that crucial combination of nuanced characterization and Bernthal’s captivating performance. This season is careful never to paint Frank as either hero or villain. If anything, it’s preoccupied with the narrow line separating a soldier like Frank from a craven mercenary like Billy. Bernthal brings a wide range to the role, playing Frank as a roaring powerhouse of rage, a grieving survivor, and various degrees in between those two extremes. Season 2 is also kind to both Revah’s Dinah Madani and Jason R. Moore’s Curtis Holt. Both characters are able to take a more active role in the conflict, including directly joining Frank in his war against Billy. Dinah’s emotional gauntlet is one of the highlights of the season, as she continuously grapples with her profound betrayal from Season 1. As for Curtis, we see his loyalties tested and his life begin to buckle under the weight of being Frank’s friend, culminating in his decision to forge his own path and choose for himself what he believes to be the greatest good.Ben Barnes in The Punisher (2017)Season 2’s fundamental flaw is that it forces viewers to accept the good with the bad. It makes some significant improvements to Season 1’s formula in terms of pacing and action. Following the methodical “Roadhouse Blues,” the season’s narrative quickly builds momentum. Whereas it seemed like Season 1 was content to go multiple episodes without giving Frank a chance to do some punishing, pretty much every chapter of Season 2 includes at least one significant action sequence. There’s also a greater variety to the action this time around, with some fights unfolding as raw, gritty, hand-to-hand brawls and others ending with hundreds of bullets littering the streets of New York. Honestly, the best thing that can be said for Season 2 is that, unlike its predecessor, it didn’t seem overly drawn out at 13 episodes.Jon Bernthal and Giorgia Whigham in The Punisher (2017)But the flip side to this is that Season 2 leaves me wanting so much more in some areas. Again, so much involving the Schultzes, John Pilgrim, and that whole halfhearted conspiracy feels poorly developed. These characters disappear for multiple episodes at a stretch and even when they return, they connect to Frank’s struggle only in the most tenuous ways. More often than not, Pilgrim comes across as a refugee from a completely different show. This season may be more eventful than its predecessor, but it’s also far less focused. Krista Dumont (Floriana Lima) may be the biggest offender of all. This is a character who is obviously a villain lurking in plain sight from her very first appearance. Yet never do the writers make more than the most rudimentary effort to flesh out her background or justify her erratic behavior. She functions in her capacity as someone to shine a brief, fleeting light into Billy Russo’s demented life, and that’s it.Ben Barnes in The Punisher (2017)Looking back at Season 2 as a whole, it was like watching two completely different story pitches being crudely grafted together. And that’s to say nothing of some of the other questionable storytelling choices made over the course of the season. However little this season succeeded in tying together these loose narrative threads, it did at least manage to give characters like Frank, Dinah, Amy, and Billy’s story the closure they needed. “The Whirlwind” is both the most action-packed and most emotionally charged installment of the season. It’s here we see Frank take those final steps toward becoming the Punisher through and through. With little prospect of a Season 3, it’s heartening to see the series end on such a definitive note. The Punisher Season 2 improves on the first in some key ways, establishing a stronger sense of narrative momentum and giving fans much more action. At the same time, the series also falters in other areas. Its narrative is more unfocused, and its new characters struggle to measure up to the old guard. This season does capitalize on the foundation established by Season 1 in terms of the Punisher/Jigsaw rivalry, however, and it leaves Frank Castle in a good place in the finale.

REVIEW: CHARLIE WILSON’S WAR

 

CAST

Tom Hanks (Catch Me If You Can)
Julia Roberts (Mirror Mirror)
Philip Seymour Hoffman (Doubt)
Amy Adams (Man of Steel)
Ned Beatty (Superman)
Christopher Denham (Duplicity)
Emily Blunt (Into The Woods)
Omn Purri (London Dreams)
Ken Stott (The Hobbit)
John Slattery (Ant-Man)
Denis O’Hare (Derailed)
Daniel Eric Gold (Ugly Betty)
Jud Tylor (That 70s Show)
Brian Markinson (Arrow)
Rachel Nichols (Conan The Barbarian)
Wynn Everett (Agent Carter)
Shiri Appleby (Roswell)
Cyia Batten (Killer Movie)
Ilia Volok (Power Rangers Wild Force)
Erick Avari (Stargate)
Anthony Azizi (Lost)

Faran Tahir (Iron Man)

Shaun Toub (Iron Man)
Michelle Arthur (Lost)
Rizwan Manji (The Dictator)
P.J. Byrne (Rampage)
Navid Negahban (Legion)
Jim Jansen (Death Becomes Her)
Kevin Cooney (Roswell)
Spencer Garrett (Yes Man)
Nazanin Boniadi (How I Met Your Mother)
Lara Flynn Boyle (Men In Black 2)

In 1980, Congressman Charlie Wilson is more interested in partying than legislating, frequently throwing huge galas and staffing his congressional office with young, attractive women. His social life eventually brings about a federal investigation into allegations of his cocaine use, conducted by federal prosecutor Rudy Giuliani as part of a larger investigation into congressional misconduct. The investigation results in no charge against Charlie.

A friend and romantic interest, Joanne Herring, encourages Charlie to do more to help the Afghan people, and persuades Charlie to visit the Pakistani leadership. The Pakistanis complain about the inadequate support of the U.S. to oppose the Soviet Union, and they insist that Charlie visit a major Pakistan-based Afghan refugee camp. Charlie is deeply moved by their misery and determination to fight, but is frustrated by the regional CIA personnel’s insistence on a low key approach against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Charlie returns home to lead an effort to substantially increase funding to the mujahideen.

As part of this effort, Charlie befriends maverick CIA operative Gust Avrakotos and his understaffed Afghanistan group to find a better strategy, especially including a means to counter the Soviets’ formidable Mi-24 helicopter gunship. This group was composed in part of members of the CIA’s Special Activities Division, including a young paramilitary officer named Michael Vickers. As a result, Charlie’s deft political bargaining for the necessary funding and Avrakotos’ careful planning using those resources, such as supplying the guerrillas with FIM-92 Stinger missile launchers, turns the Soviet occupation into a deadly quagmire with their heavy fighting vehicles being destroyed at a crippling rate. The CIA’s anti-communism budget evolves from $5 million to over $500 million (with the same amount matched by Saudi Arabia), startling several congressmen. This effort by Charlie ultimately evolves into a major portion of the U.S. foreign policy known as the Reagan Doctrine, under which the U.S. expanded assistance beyond just the mujahideen and began also supporting other anti-communist resistance movements around the world. Charlie states that senior Pentagon official Michael Pillsbury persuaded President Ronald Reagan to provide the Stingers to the Afghans.

Charlie follows Gust’s guidance to seek support for post-Soviet occupation Afghanistan, but finds no enthusiasm in the government for even the modest measures he proposes. In the end, Charlie receives a major commendation for his support of the U.S. clandestine services, but his pride is tempered by his fears of the blowback his secret efforts could yield in the future and the implications of U.S. disengagement from Afghanistan.
Charlie Wilson’s War is a very good film in my opinion, that is compelling, clever and entertaining.

REVIEW: THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON

CAST

Brad Pitt (World War Z)
Cate Blanchett (The Hobbit)
Tilda Swinton (Doctor Strange)
Taraji P. Henson (Date Night)
Julia Ormond (Resistance)
Jason Flemyng (Rob Roy)
Mahershala Ali (Luke Cage)
Phyllis Somerville (Little Children)
Jared Harris (Lincoln)
Elias Koteas (Crash)
Tom Everett (Die Hard 2)
Elle Fanning (Maleficent)
Josh Stewart (No Ordinary Family)
Ilia Volok (Power Rangers Wild Force)
Richmond Arquette (Zodiac)
Louis Herthum (Westworld)
Edith Ivey (Robocop 3)

In 2005, elderly Daisy Fuller is on her deathbed in a New Orleans hospital as Hurricane Katrina approaches; she asks her daughter, Caroline, to read aloud from the diary of Benjamin Button.

From the reading, it is revealed that on the evening of November 11, 1918, a boy was born with the appearance and physical maladies of an elderly man. The baby’s mother died after giving birth, and the father, Thomas Button, abandons the infant on the porch of a nursing home. Queenie and Mr. “Tizzy” Weathers, workers at the nursing home, find the baby, and Queenie decides to care for him as her own.

Benjamin learns to walk in 1925; he declares it a miracle, after which he uses crutches in place of a wheelchair. On Thanksgiving 1930, Benjamin meets seven-year-old Daisy, whose grandmother lives in the nursing home. He and Daisy become good friends. Later, he accepts work on a tugboat captained by Mike Clark. Benjamin also meets Thomas Button, who does not reveal that he is Benjamin’s father. In Autumn 1936, Benjamin leaves New Orleans for a long-term work engagement with the tugboat crew; Daisy later is accepted into a dance company in New York City under choreographer George Balanchine. In 1941, Benjamin is in Murmansk, where he begins having an affair with Elizabeth Abbott, wife of the British Trade Minister. That December, Japan attacks Pearl Harbor, thrusting the United States into World War II. Mike volunteers the boat for the U.S. Navy; the crew is assigned to salvage duties. During a patrol, the tugboat finds a sunken U.S. transport and the bodies of many American troops. A German submarine surfaces; Mike steers the tugboat full speed towards it while a German gunner fires on the tugboat, killing most of the crew, including Mike. The tugboat rams the submarine, causing it to explode, sinking both vessels. Benjamin and another crewman are rescued by U.S. Navy ships the next day.

In May 1945, Benjamin returns to New Orleans and reunites with Queenie. A few weeks later, he reunites with Daisy; they go out for dinner. Upon failing to seduce him afterward, she departs. Benjamin later reunites with Thomas Button, who, terminally ill, reveals he is Benjamin’s father and wills Benjamin his button company and his estate. In 1947, Benjamin visits Daisy in New York unannounced but departs upon seeing that she has fallen in love with someone else. In 1954, Daisy’s dancing career ends when her leg is crushed in an automobile accident in Paris. When Benjamin visits her, Daisy is amazed by his youthful appearance, but, frustrated by her injuries, she tells him to stay out of her life.

In spring 1962, Daisy returns to New Orleans and reunites with Benjamin. Now of comparable physical age, they fall in love and go sailing together. They return to learn that Queenie has died, then move in together. In 1967, Daisy, who has opened a ballet studio, tells Benjamin that she is pregnant; she gives birth to a girl, Caroline, in the spring of 1968. Believing he can not be a proper father to his daughter due to his reverse aging, Benjamin departs after selling his belongings, leaving a bank account book holding the proceeds behind for Daisy and Caroline; he travels alone during the 1970s. Benjamin returns to Daisy in 1980. Now married, Daisy introduces him, as a family friend, to her husband and daughter. Daisy admits that he was right to leave; she could not have coped otherwise. She later visits Benjamin at his hotel, where they again share their passion for each other, then part once more.

In 1990, widowed Daisy is contacted by social workers who have found Benjamin—now physically a pre-teen. When she arrives, they explain that he was living in a condemned building and was taken to the hospital in poor physical condition, and that they found her name in his diary. The bewildered social workers also say he is displaying early signs of dementia. Daisy moves into the nursing home in 1997 and cares for Benjamin for the rest of his life. In the spring of 2003, Benjamin dies in Daisy’s arms, physically an infant but chronologically 84 years of age. Having finally revealed the story of Caroline’s father to her, Daisy dies as Hurricane Katrina approaches.
It is an extremely graceful depiction of life, love, and the things we lose. After so much anticipation I was certainly not disappointed. This movie is probably not for everyone though. It’s not your average drama that spoon feeds it’s audience their emotions. It is something of awe and astonishment, an absolute gem. What makes our lives memorable are the moments we never seem to grasp long enough before letting go. Life in itself is indeed very, very curious and Benjamin Button is no less of a wonder.

REVIEW: SWORDFISH

CAST

John Travolta (The Punisher)
Hugh Jackman (The Wolverine)
Halle Berry (X-Men)
Don Cheadle (Iron Man 2 & 3)
Sam Shepard (Black Hawk Down)
Vinnie Jones (Arrow)
Drea de Matteo (The Good Life)
Rudolf Martin (Buffy)
Carmen Argenziano (Stargate SG.1)
William Mapother (Powers)
Ilia Volok (Power Rangers Wild Force)
Kirk B.R. Woller (Hulk)
Timothy Omundson (Starship Troopers)
Tate Donovan (Argo)

MV5BMTM4ODEyMjUxNV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNjg5NTUyNw@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1533,1000_AL_Stanley Jobson (Hugh Jackman) is a hacker. Having served time for infecting the FBI’s Carnivore program with a computer virus, he is now on parole but forbidden from touching computers. His alcoholic ex-wife Melissa (Drea de Matteo), who married a rich porn producer and is currently a part-time porn actress has sole custody over their daughter Holly, and a restraining order preventing him from visiting the latter. One day, he is solicited by Ginger Knowles (Halle Berry), speaking for her boss Gabriel Shear (John Travolta), for his hacking skills. He goes to meet Gabriel in Los Angeles, where he is put on the spot to crack a secure government server within a minute while simultaneously held at gunpoint and receiving fellatio. Successful, Gabriel offers Stanley $10 million to program multi-headed worm, a “hydra”, to siphon $9.5 billion from several government slush funds.
MV5BMTM1MjY5Njk4Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODg5NTUyNw@@._V1_SX1500_CR0,0,1500,999_AL_Stanley begins work, learning that Gabriel leads Black Cell, a secret group created by J. Edgar Hoover to launch retaliatory attacks against terrorists that threaten the United States. He also privately discovers Ginger is a DEA agent working undercover, and further is surprised to discover a corpse that looks like Gabriel. He goes to see Holly home from school but finds he is being followed by FBI agent J.T. Roberts (Don Cheadle), who had previously caught Stanley. Roberts, though monitoring Stanley closely, is more interested in Gabriel as he does not appear on any government database, and after learning that another hacker, Axl Torvalds (Rudolf Martin), had been killed by Gabriel’s men, warns Stanley to be cautious. Stanley opts to secretly code a back door in his hydra that reverses the money transfer after a short period. Meanwhile, Senator Reisman (Sam Shepard), who oversees Black Cell, learns the FBI has started tracking Gabriel and orders him to stand down. Gabriel refuses, and narrowly avoids an assassination attempt ordered by Reisman. Gabriel personally kills Reisman in revenge and continues his plan.
MV5BMTQzMDA5MjEzOF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwNDEyNDE3._V1_Stanley delivers the hydra to Gabriel and leaves to see Holly, only to find that Gabriel has killed Melissa and her husband and kidnapped Holly, framing Stanley. Stanley has no choice but to participate with the bank heist to get Holly back. Gabriel and his men storm a Worldbanc branch, and secure its employees and customers as hostages and fitting each with ball-bearing-based explosives similar to Claymore mines. When police and FBI surround the branch, Gabriel takes Stanley to the coffee shop across the street to meet with Roberts, but Gabriel spends the time to discuss the film Dog Day Afternoon and the nature of misdirection. Once back in the bank, Gabriel has one of his men escort a hostage to demonstrate the situation. A sniper kills the man, and other agents pull the hostage away from the bank, causing the bomb to detonate, ravaging the buildings and vehicles on the street and killing several people, a scene shown in medias res at the start of the film.
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Gabriel instructs Stanley to launch the hydra, and turns Holly over to him once completed. However, Stanley’s back door triggers before they can leave the bank, and Stanley is recaptured while Holly is rescued. Gabriel threatens to kill Ginger, who he knows is a DEA agent, unless Stanley re-siphons the money back to a Monte Carlo bank. Despite doing so, Gabriel shoots Ginger. Gabriel and his men load the hostages on a bus and demand a plane wait for them at the local airport, but while en route, the bus is lifted off by a S-64 Aircrane and deposited on a roof of a local skyscraper. Gabriel deactivates the bombs and departs with his surviving men on a waiting helicopter, which Stanley shoots down using a rocket-propelled grenade from the bus.
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Roberts takes Stanley to verify the corpse they found, believing Gabriel was a Mossad agent while there was no record of a DEA agent named Ginger. Stanley recognizes the corpse as the one he discovered earlier and personally realizes that the whole scenario was misdirection. Gabriel had escaped a different route, and Ginger had been wearing a bulletproof vest and was working with Gabriel. Roberts arranges for Stanley to have full custody of Holly, and the two tour the US together. In Monte Carlo Gabriel and Ginger withdraw the money, and later watch as a yacht at sea explodes. Over the film’s credits, a news report describes the destruction of the yacht, carrying a known terrorist, as the third such incident in as many weeks.MV5BYzYyMDZhNTctY2EzZC00ZjA3LThmN2EtY2VmMDI5ZWYzYzVlXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNzc5NjM0NA@@._V1_Full of Slick Dialogue, cool Direction and the simply gorgeous Halle Berry, this turns out to be a very enjoyable Thriller, with some clever twists (some of which don’t quite work) but are forgivable anyway. Not a classic, but a good film none the less.