REVIEW: INTO THE DARK – TREEHOUSE

 

Into the Dark (2018)

Starring

Jimmi Simpson (Westworld)
Michael Weston (Garden State)
Amanda Walsh (Disturbia)
Nancy Linehan Charles (Bram Stoker’s Dracula)
Julianna Guill (Friday the 13th)
Stephanie Beatriz (The Lego Movie 2)
Shaunette Renée Wilson (Black Panther)
Maggie Lawson (Two and a Half Men)
Mary McCormack (1408)

Peter Rake (Jimmi Simpson) is a bullying celebrity chef of considerable success. He has an 11-year-old daughter Riley (Kylie Rogers) from a failed marriage, plus some unspecified legal troubles. While he hasn’t been able to bond with Riley, he has named his restaurant and cutlery line after her while stating that he “needs her.” The weekend of his ex-wife’s remarriage, he drives to his family estate where he’ll stay with a lone servant, the elderly Agnes (Nancy Linehan Charles). On the trip, he runs into an old high school classmate named Lonnie (Michael Weston), who operates a bait shop, and also meets with his estranged sister Gwen (Amanda Walsh) who is a district attorney working on an important case and whom Lonnie has a crush on. As the siblings catch up, it is mentioned that Peter wasn’t invited to his father’s funeral.Jimmi Simpson in Into the Dark (2018)One evening, a woman from across the canyon, Kara (Julianna Guill), stops by to say the power went out in the middle of their bachelorette party and asks to borrow some candles. Peter obliges, though Kara seems at first reluctant to follow him into his house. While jogging near his old treehouse the next day, Peter runs into Kara with her friends, including the bride-to-be, Marie (Shaunette Renée Wilson). Peter offers to cook dinner for them. Arriving for Peter’s dinner are Kara, Marie, Elena (Stephanie Beatriz), Morgan (Sophia Del Pizzo), and Lilith (Mary McCormack). For much of the evening, Peter is charming, but he makes occasional cringe-worthy and sexist comments, especially after downing several glasses of wine. For example, he makes joking references to Agnes’ age and to Elena’s (Puerto Rican) and Morgan’s (English) ancestry. Before retiring for bed, he makes a crack about “spooning” with the women. He also notices during the dinner that all of the women have the same Celtic symbol tattooed on their wrists, which they tell him is symbolic for sisterhood.Sophia Del Pizzo in Into the Dark (2018)When Peter awakes later that night, strange things transpire. He is startled to see Morgan asleep next to him. Hearing old-timey music downstairs, he investigates and finds a peacock in his house. Several figures in odd costume invade the home, who are soon revealed to be Kara and her friends. Peter is partially paralyzed and chained to a bed by the women. They threaten him in various ways, including Morgan pointing a bow and arrow aimed at his crotch and the others dressing him up in women’s clothing and makeup. When a defiant Peter calls them “fucking bitches,” they reply “we’re fucking witches,” and explain that they are punishing him for his past sins against women. These include his role in the suicide of Kara’s sister Rebecca (Maggie Lawson) who Peter once dated before she died using heroin and Peter’s cutlery, the sexual harassment of Lilith’s daughter who nobody believed, and the firing of Elena’s mother who was given unequal wages.Jimmi Simpson in Into the Dark (2018)Peter escapes but is re-captured when he passes out after trying to call 911 and Lonnie. Lonnie comes over and is suspicious of Kara’s claims that they are all just having a nice dinner. Agnes shows up and tells Lonnie to go home, which he reluctantly does as it is revealed that he is Agnes’ son from an affair that Peter’s dad had with her. Kara is surprised by this, but Agnes tells her to finish what she started. Peter is then released to be chased by the witches. He runs to the treehouse, the inside of which is decorated with photos and articles about his crimes. When his sister Gwen arrives in her car in an apparent rescue attempt, Peter discovers that she is actually working with the witches, though Gwen implies that she didn’t know they’d take it that far. However, Gwen reminds Peter that he once raped her best friend Rebecca in the treehouse, revealing the reason for a bloody chess table and mattress next to the articles he saw in there earlier. He tries to excuse his action by saying he was a drunk teenager at the time. Meanwhile, the witches arrive and Gwen’s car window explodes as the women surround the car, dragging out Gwen and Peter separately. Peter is tied up again with his hands apparently nailed down.When Peter awakes the next morning, everything seems normal as he is in the clothes he originally slept in and his hands aren’t injured. Initially believing yesterday’s events were a nightmare, he receives a phone call from Kara warning him that he’ll suffer if he ever hurts another woman again, followed by the burners suddenly erupting in flames. Bedraggled, Peter leaves the estate after seeing that the painting of Rebecca has been replaced with a portrait of an elk he previously saw on the hill. He then goes to his ex-wife’s house to see Riley. Kneeling before Riley, he tells her she is “precious” and asks him to never let him or any man take her for granted. He then apologizes to his ex-wife for his past behavior. Before Peter leaves, an Atlas Parcel Service delivery woman (Cass Bugge) he has never met greets him while delivering for the wedding and flashes the same Celtic tattoo that the bachelorette party women had while claiming that she is watching him. Peter considers heeding Kara’s threat.Meanwhile, Kara, Gwen, Marie, Elena, Morgan, and Lilith reconvene at the house as they celebrate their victory. It turns out, however, that the women are not witches. The witchcraft was ordinary practical trickery and, with the help of Agnes, they drugged Peter’s food to cause partial paralysis and hallucinations as well as using explosive charges and fake stakes to put on his hands. Gwen was involved in the ploy as well, as she intended to teach her brother a lesson.Gorgeously filmed. Great use of color, sets, scenery. Loved the actors, the twists. Fun horror movie to watch on a Rainey afternoon. Delivered in every way. Very cathartic too!

 

REVIEW: TWO AND A HALF MEN – SEASON 12

Starring

Ashton Kutcher (The Ranch)
Jon Cryer (Supergirl)
Conchata Ferrell (Krampus)
Amber Tamblyn (Girlfriend’s Day)
Marin Hinkle (Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle)
Edan Alexander (Irreplaceable You)
Holland Taylor (D.E.B.S.)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Kris Iyer (Buffy: TVS)
Michael Bolton (Teen Titans Go To The Movies)
Mimi Rogers (Ginger Snaps)
Courtney Thorne-Smith (Melrose Place)
Maggie Lawson (Santa Clarita Diet)
Ryan Stiles (Hot Shots)
D.B. Sweeney (Ice)
Clark Duke (Kick-Ass)
Alessandra Torresani (Caprica)
Melanie Lynskey (Heavenly Creatures)
Richard Riehle (Office Space)
Deanna Russo (Burning Love)
David Denman (Power Rangers)
Bill Smitrovich (Ted)
Gary Anthony Williams (Batman: The Dark Knight Returns)
Vernee Watson (The Big Bang Theory)
Judy Greer (Jurassic World)
Angus T. Jones (Bringing Down The Hous)
April Bowlbry (Doom PAtrol)
Missi Pyle (Gone Girl)
Arnold Schwarzenegger (The Terminator)
John Stamos (Full House)
Jennifer Taylor (Shameless)
Christian Slater (True Romance)
Sophie Winkleman (Chronicles of Narnia)
Emmanuelle Vaugier (Human Target)
Jessica Lu (God Friended Me)

Jon Cryer and Ashton Kutcher in Two and a Half Men (2003)Walden has a near-death experience, which causes him to take a good, long look at his life. Realizing his life has amounted to a whole lot of nothing so far, he tells Alan that he would like to adopt a child in order to add some meaning to his life. Walden soon discovers that it is next to impossible to adopt a child as a single dad, so he proposes to his roommate and long-time friend, Alan, and the two pose as a gay couple and ultimately adopt Louis. Of course, it wouldn’t be a season of Two and a Half Men if our guys didn’t behave badly, so it’s not long before Walden and Alan are scrambling to keep their secret while figuring out how to have some manly fun with the women in their lives!Ashton Kutcher in Two and a Half Men (2003)The Season story is mostly about the adoption of Louis, its a nice heartfelt story of two men trying t oraise an adoptive child, whilst trying to hide the fact they are both straight. When we get to the last few episodes we see both men in happy relationships, but the main event is obviously the last episode which features great guest stars such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Christian Slater, and a whole host of returning cast members including, Jake. after 12 season the show still surprises and the final episode is a worth while conclusion to a show that has been on the air for 12 years.

REVIEW: SMALLVILLE – SEASON 2

Starring

Tom Welling (Lucifer)
Kristin Kreuk (Beauty and The Beast)
Michael Rosenbaum (Impastor)
Sam Jones III (Glory Road)
Allison Mack (Wilfred)
Annette O’Toole (The Punisher)
John Schneider (The Haves and the Have Nots)
John Glover (Shazam)

Kristin Kreuk and Tom Welling in Smallville (2001)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Tom O’Brien (The Accused)
Rekha Sharma (Star Trek: Discovery)
Julian Christopher (Elysium)
Jerry Wasserman (Watchmen)
Krista Allen (Feast)
Mitchell Kosterman (Stargate SG.1)
Sarah-Jane Redmond (Disturbing Behaviour)
Joe Morton (God Friended Me)
Andrew Jackson (Earth: Final Conflict)
Michael Kopsa (Fantastic Four)
Sara Downing (Roswell)
Garwin Sanford (Arrow)
Sean Faris (Never Back Down)
Gwynyth Walsh (Star Trek: Generations)
Richard Moll (Batman: TAS)
Maggie Lawson (Santa Clarita Diet)
George Coe (The Stepford Wives)
Jesse Hutch (Arrow)
Fulvio Cecere (Valentine)
Neil Grayston (Wonderfalls)
Patrick Cassidy (Lois & Clark)
Blair Brown (Space Cowboys)
Ryan Kelley (Teen Wolf)
Martin Cummins (Dark Angel)
William B. Davis (The X-Files)
Mark Gibbon (The 6th Day)
Jonathan Taylor Thomas (Home Improvement)
Emmanuelle Vaugier (Two and a Half Men)
Robert Wisden (Highlander: The Series)
David Richmond-Peck (V)
Amara Zaragoza (Perfect Stranger)
Gordon Tootoosis (Lone Star)
Eric Johnson (Flash Gordon)
Lizzy Caplan (Cloverfield)
Byron Mann (Arrow)
Colin Cunningham (Elektra)
Jill Teed (Godzilla)
Eileen Pedde (Juno)
Jason Connery (Wishmaster 3)
Eric Keenleyside (Dreamcatcher)
Barclay Hope (Paycheck)
Rob LaBelle (Jack Frost)
Shaun Sipos (Texas Chainsaw)
Haig Sutherland (The Flash)
Luciana Carro (White Chicks)
Paul Wesley (The Vampire Diaries)
Craig Veroni (Dark Angel)
Christopher Reeve (Superman)
Anson Mount (Inhumans)
Michael Adamthwaite (Horns)
Camille Mitchell (Izombie)
Zachery Ty Bryan (Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift)
Neil Flynn (Scrubs)
Jodelle Ferland (Case 39)
Ingrid Torrance (Scooby Doo 2)
David Lewis (Man of Steel)
Terence Stamp (Superman II)

 

Sam Jones III and Tom Welling in Smallville (2001)The first season of Smallville got off to a bit of a rocky start, as the program didn’t really find its footing until midway through the season. The show suffered from what fans called “Freak of the Week” syndrome, in which a new Kryptonite-mutated supervillain would emerge in every episode with some pretty weak storylines. The “Bug Boy” and “Coach Firestarter” episodes come to mind pretty quickly, and it makes me shudder just thinking about them. However, the show gradually shifted into telling more stories that advanced Clark Kent’s overall storyline, with multipart episodes that focused on slowly revealing Clark’s origin as Kal-El and his “immigration” to Earth, as well as the ongoing storylines of the supporting cast. Not to say that the show still doesn’t have an occasional “Freak of the Week”, but when they do they are either (1) fewer in frequency or (2) somehow related to the overall show’s story arc.Sam Jones III and Tom Welling in Smallville (2001)With that out of the way, let’s talk about the cast. Tom Welling is pitch-perfect as the teenage Clark Kent. With his tall stature and ripped physique, he certainly looks the part, but he also captures the insecurity and awkwardness of youth while portraying an inner nobility and morality for which his character will eventually become renown. As Lana Lang, Clark’s childhood crush and current on-again, off-again love interest, Kristin Kreuk is about as superhumanly lovely as one could imagine. She’s the “girl next door” multiplied by about three million, not only because of her phenomenal physical beauty but also due to her bright-eyed, compassionate, down-to-earth demeanor. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see why Clark loves her, or why it rips him apart when he has to push her away in order to keep his powers a secret and keep her from being harmed (people who tend to learn about Clark’s powers generally end up dead or insane.)Kristin Kreuk and Tom Welling in Smallville (2001)Michael Rosenbaum brings young Lex Luthor to life in what has become my favorite character of the show. Making Lex Luthor and Clark Kent childhood friends is a novel (and daring) conceit by the show’s creators, and it pays off handsomely. Lex adds a darker, more cynical dynamic to Clark’s teenage development that was missing in previous iterations of the character. Rosenbaum, who rather ironically provides the voice for the DC superhero “The Flash” on the Justice League animated series, makes Luthor a dark, sympathetic, and conflicted figure. He’s charismatic enough to make one want to like him, Machiavellian enough to make one worry if they can trust him, and – since we know his eventual fate – an overall tragic figure. We know he’s going to “go bad”; his slow transition from Clark’s trusted friend to worst enemy makes for some truly compelling material.Annette O'Toole and John Schneider in Smallville (2001)The cast is rounded out by John Schneider as Jonathan Kent, Academy Award-nominated songwriter Annette O’Toole (and a former Lana Lang herself from Superman III) as Martha Kent, John Glover as Lionel Luthor, Sam Jones III as Clark’s childhood friend Pete Ross, and Allison Mack as Chloe Sullivan, whose unrequited love for Clark has emerged as a critical subplot in the development of the series. The group makes for an attractive ensemble, and there’s not a bad apple in the bunch. My only real complaint about the cast could be the little screen time Pete Ross gets (which gets worse in Season Three). As Clark’s best friend since childhood, his relationship with Clark gets laid by the wayside in favor of the Clark/Lex dynamic. Every now and then he turns up to provide some expository dialogue, and while he is featured prominently in a few episodes (especially “Duplicity”), his role in the show has slowly diminished over time.John Glover and John Schneider in Smallville (2001)Smallville: The Complete Second Season picks up from the cliffhanger ending that ended Season One, and slowly grows into a stronger and more self-assured show. Over the course of the season we get introduced to heat vision, red Kryptonite, a trip to Metropolis (with a cameo by The Daily Planet), and, in the episode “Rosetta”, an appearance by the former Man of Steel Christopher Reeve which stands out as one of the series’ best episodes. When I heard bits of John Williams’s amazing film orchestrations woven into the show’s score, I had goose bumps everywhere.Tom Welling and Amara Zaragoza in Smallville (2001)While still a little bumpy at times, Smallville’s second season is a huge step above the first, and remains one of the most entertaining shows on television.

 

REVIEW: SANTA CLARITA DIET – SEASON 3

Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant in Santa Clarita Diet (2017)

MAIN CAST

Drew Barrymore (Charlies Angels)
Timothy Olyphant (Hitman)
Liv Hewson (Inhumans)
Skyler Gisondo (The Amazing Spider-Man)

Santa Clarita Diet (2017)
RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Natalie Morales (Powerless)
Goran Visnjic (The Girl In The Dragon Tatoo)
Leo Howard (Conan The Barbarian)
Zachary Knighton (Flashforward)
Maggie Lawson (Two and a Half Men)
Joel McHale (Happy Time Murders)
Jonathan Slavin (Speechless)
Ethan Suplee (The Ranch)
Shalita Grant (Bones)
Alan Tudyk (Doom Patrol)
Thomas Lennon (The Order)
Matthew Glave (Argo)
Ramona Young (Legends of Tomorrow)
Linda Lavin (Wanderlust)
Malcolm Barrett (Swimfan)
Mary Elizabeth Ellis (New Girl)
Kerri Kenney (Anger Management)
Eric Nenninger (The Flash)
Matt Shively (American Housewife)

17362723_340606059674192_6261011132851321202_nThere are few things more joyful than the sight of Drew Barrymore having fun. I always feel she’s earned it. And never does she seem to have more fun than as undead suburban mum – or “mombie”, if you will – in zombie sitcom – or “zomcom”, if you will – Santa Clarita Diet, whose third series has just dropped with a bloody squelch on Netflix.santa-clarita-dietFans will recall that we left Sheila (Barrymore) and Joel (Timothy Olyphant) Hammond after they had just blown up the clam farm responsible for turning Sheila and others into undead flesh-eaters and had been discovered harbouring a still-talking decapitated head in their basement by their police officer neighbour Anne. That’s Gary, whom Sheila killed when she was still learning to curb her new murderous instincts, but who came back to life, because, well, it’s a zomcom.17800340_348027332265398_4751450473229260878_nThe third series expands the Hammonds’ and the show’s universe. Anne is cleaving close, having decided that the resurrected Sheila is a divine instrument and that Anne’s purpose is to help her to murder Nazis. For her, it’s God’s work, news of which is to be shared with her church. For Sheila, it’s the most ethically securable lunch, and very much to be kept to themselves. Rival realtors Chris and Christa Caldwell – magnificently vicious creations both – are back, Gary’s decomposing head (they forgot his serum) is full of ideas for the Hammonds’ estate agency, and the relationship between Abby (Liv Hewson) and Eric (Skyler Gisondo, who has all the command of Michael Cera without the tics) is deepening without losing any of its almost heartbreaking charm or laughs.993877_493271127545501_7030441332169042474_nThe Hammonds are still on a fairly tight murder schedule, but rather than it forming the centrepiece of every episode, this season is letting the Serbian mythology, which seems to hold the key to explaining Sheila’s predicament, take a more prominent role. I hope it takes a while to unlock, because one of the people from that vampire-’n’-assorted-other-lore-rich country who has arrived in California to track Sheila and her ilk down is played by Goran Višnjić, displaying the kind of comic chops you never dreamed of when he was poor, tormented Dr Luka Kovač in ER.9244cf84-fa2c-4528-9492-20fabb04d5aa-scd_108_unit_00291_r_cropSo there are changes (the gore remains a constant, and still not quite cartoonish enough to stop me needing a sick bucket), but Santa Clarita Diet’s core strength remains: the portrait of a marriage under comic but emotionally resonant strain. It’s played for laughs – and one-liners, visual gags, callbacks and fleeting asides abound (“And there’s so many more of them around these days!” says a delighted Joel as they rejoice briefly in their Nazis-as-lobster-tank-for-Sheila idea) – but it asks us what we’d do for love and how far we’d go for our partners. Joel has just about got used to his new husbandly role as accessory to multiple murder, but in season three the couple begin to realise the other ramifications of Sheila’s condition. Her immortality means she will outlive her entire family – unless she bites them and they join her in her bloodthirsty ways. Santa Clarita Diet remains a gorgeously flavourful one. Fill up.

 

REVIEW: SANTA CLARITA DIET – SEASON 2

Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant in Santa Clarita Diet (2017)

MAIN CAST

Drew Barrymore (Charlies Angels)
Timothy Olyphant (Hitman)
Liv Hewson (Inhumans)
Skyler Gisondo (The Amazing Spider-Man)

scd_201_unit_00282_r

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Jee Young Han (Why Him?)
Zachary Knighton (Flashforward)
Maggie Lawson (The Ranch)
Ramona Young (Z Nation)
Nathan Fillion (Firefly)
Joel McHale (Spider-Man 2)
Andy Richter (Elf)
Natalie Morales (The Grinder)
Richard T. Jones (Terminator: TSCC)
Adam Rose (Veronica Mars)
Mary Elizabeth Ellis (Masterminds)
Thomas Lennon (17 Again)
Sarah Baker (The Campaign)
Jonathan Slavin (My Name Is Earl)
Matt Shively (American Housewife)

santa-clarita-diet-season-2-joel-mchale-castSeconds are seldom as good as the initial meal. You’ve already eaten. Your stomach is beginning to fill. The mystery of the menu is gone. And because a food analogy isn’t strong enough to encompass a television show, the same thing about seconds can also be said with zombie films. There are rare occasions where the sequel is stronger than the original movie, but there’s usually a diminishing return the more you see zombies. These are areas where the “second course” is inevitably disappointing in comparison to the first, however Santa Clarita Diet season 2 rises above these expectations. If anything this new season will leave the audience hungry for more rather than feeling full from these undead antics. When the last season of Santa Clarita Diet ended, the series started to finally find a fitting groove and the tone. Santa Clarita Diet’s second season overpowers season one in practically every way possible.t5sbiwdabipjop4ures7The biggest strengths from the first season of Santa Clarita Diet came from Victor Fresco’s (Better Off Ted, Andy Richter Controls the Universe) irreverent, fearless comedy that was allowed to inject itself into an outrageous premise. All of that is still present and some of the rougher patches from the series’ freshman year like Barrymore’s broad performance or the show’s inconsistent tone during its beginning are now smoothed out. The series also benefits from everyone going into “rescue mode” over Sheila and her condition rather than the whole “let’s hide the central story” aspect that dominates so much of the first season. The training wheels are now off and this show really starts to get creative and have fun with its premise.6ccb292a-6ab9-4760-8a4d-dbdcec443b43Much of Santa Clarita Diet season 2 focuses on the Hammond family’s attempts to normalize their situation. For instance, if Sheila is chained up in the basement, then why not dress up the basement and slap a fresh coat of paint on the ugly situation? Right from the jump of the season there may be people who are anxious that Sheila should just be murdered, but clearly the family is in for the long haul. Joel, Abby, and even Eric are all blissfully hopeful towards their unique situation. Curiously enough, in spite of all the high stakes life and death undead material, Joel and Sheila still worry about their real estate job and it occupies a reasonable part of the season. That might seem like a considerably less important aspect of the series, but it’s encouraging to see the show try to embrace this normalcy, for better or worse. Meanwhile, Joel and Sheila’s murder-happy misadventures still go down under the nose of Deputy Ann, who’s only a few doors away. The ways in which they both squirm out of conversations with Ann and proceed to make matters worse for themselves is always the best kind of awkward mess. Sheila and Joel also find themselves in the weird situation where murder seems to be the best way to handle their problems, but they don’t just want to resort to murder whenever they’re caught in a bind, regardless of how good they may have gotten at it.Skyler Gisondo and Liv Hewson in Santa Clarita Diet (2017)At the same time, these middle-aged parents also realize that without these adrenaline-pumping murders in their lives they’re pretty boring people who don’t have much game. At one point Joel laments, “We’re realtors, so killing people and stuffing them in our fridge doesn’t come naturally.” That’s basically this show in a nutshell. Sheila’s “condition” is an obvious problem, but this season is just as interested in the fact that that Joel and his wife haven’t been able to have a date night, build a bookshelf, or write a yelp review since all of this undead business started. Santa Clarita Diet season 2 also starts to expand the show’s world in bigger ways. There are more undead individuals that are out there in addition to organizations that are on the hunt for a cure or a means to exterminate this epidemic. These secret factions begin to come out of the woodwork this season and it’s a good creative move on the show’s part. Joel and Sheila’s secret life continues to intersect with their job and social lives in interesting ways, all of which make the two of them continue to ponder whether they’re good people or not. It’s great to see Joel and Sheila use death and horror as a prop for comedy. You really don’t see that perspective anywhere else in this context—it’s almost like a suburban Dexter or The Walking Dead. Sure there are programs like Ash Vs the Evil Dead or Stan Against Evil, but this is so deeply entrenched in its family dynamic and is a comedy first and horrorsecond.santa-clarita-diet-season-2-netflix-feature

This season also digs into the bigger questions, like how Sheila became infected in the first place. Joel and company assume that if they figure this out then they can reverse engineer the rest of this mystery. The show’s mythology explodes in a big way here and the story turns into something that’s so much more interesting than simply a comedic take on zombies, which the show could be guilty of during its first season. The show’s lore goes to some fascinating places that touch on territory like the Knights of the Templar and all sorts of things that you wouldn’t expect. One of the best things about Santa Clarita Diet is its phenomenal cast and in the show’s second season everyone’s only more comfortable in these roles. There’s seriously such chemistry between the reluctantly murderous Hammond family. Their dynamic really clicks this year and they all feel more natural in a way that was absent last season. Timothy Olyphant’s Joel continues to play unhinged and flustered in the best way possible. The wide-eyed, beleaguered way in which he does comedy is perfect for this universe.santa-clarita-diet-season-2-trailerDrew Barrymore does an even better job as Sheila this season now that she’s acclimated to the role a little better. She plays the role with the glee of a puppy who’s just found a new toy. The show also really explores the beauty in how becoming undead can allow people to finally become the people that they wanted to be in life. It just happens to be something that comes with the awful side effect of needing to consume human flesh. Some of the best work from this season comes from the younger half of the show’s cast. Skyler Gisondo really gets to step up his game as the hapless Eric Bemis and he finds himself overwhelmed in a whole new way this year. His burgeoning relationship with Abby continues to make for believable tension between the two of them as well. On that note, this season is also a real showpiece for Abby’s Liv Hewson. The character goes through a metamorphosis that is a lot of fun to watch. Abby redefines who she is in both school and real life and it’s a fascinating arc for her character. Sometimes your mom turning into a zombie can be just as life changing as turning into the zombie yourself.20190221-PAGEONE-SANTA-CLARITASanta Clarita Diet’s second season features strong storytelling and performances, but it also doesn’t disappoint when it comes to the extreme visuals and gore. This season features gruesome sights like broken thumbs, the lesson of what microwave settings to apply to frozen body parts, spider balls, and explosions of blood that make it seem like humans are carbonated soda that are just waiting to burst. In this sense, the show’s humor is still particularly on point and many conversations should make audiences laugh out loud, such as the prospect of sprucing up a kill room so it doesn’t so obviously look like a kill room or the debate of whether it’s discriminatory to kill a Nazi who’s in a wheelchair and the moral relativism of such a murder. Santa Clarita Diet proves that it has a sustainable vision and that this show is more than just some one-season fad. If anything the show is only getting better and it doesn’t suffer from the usual problems that can afflict Netflix shows, such as the season’s pacing. Admittedly, some of the show’s fight scenes play out a little awkwardly and look low budget, but it’s hardly a big deal. This isn’t Daredevil. The show’s second season snowballs and culminates in an impressive way where the year ends on a huge note that once more questions the status quo of the series. The bottom line here is that it’s consistently compelling and enjoyable to see if Joel and Sheila can continue to keep all of their blood-soaked balls in the air.

 

REVIEW: GAMER

CAST

Gerard Butler (300)
Michael C. Hall (Dexter)
Amber Valletta (The Spy Next Door)
Logan Lerman (Fury)
Terry Crews (Scary Movie 5)
Kyra Sedgwick (Man on a Ledge)
Alison Lohman (Drag Me to Hell)
Ludacris (2 Fast 2 Furious)
Aaron Yoo (Friday the 13th)
John Leguizamo (Spawn)
Zoë Bell (The Hateful Eight)
Milo Ventimiglia (Heroes)
Jonathan Chase  (Egale Eye)
Keith David (Pitch Black)
Johnny Whitworth (Ghost Rider 2)
Maggie Lawson (Two and a Half Men)
Sam Witwer (Smallville)
Lloyd Kaufman (Terror Firmer)
Michael Weston (Home Before Dark)
Noel Gugliemi (Street Kings)
Jarvis W. George (Stargate SG.1)
Maggie Lawson (Two and a Half Men)

In 2034, inventor and professional computer programmer Ken Castle unveils self-replicating nanites that, by acting like brain cells, allow one person to completely sense the environment and interact with it using another person’s body. Castle’s first application of this technology, dubbed Nanex, is a game called Society, which allows gamers to control a real person in a pseudo community (much like The Sims or Second Life). This allows players to engage in all manner of debauchery, such as deliberately injuring their “characters” and engaging in rough sex with random people. People who work as “characters” in Society (having nanites in their brain) are very well compensated.
Castle amasses a fortune that surpasses that of Bill Gates virtually over-night, and soon follows up his success with Slayers, a first-person shooter where the “characters” in this game are death-row or life imprisoned inmates, who use real weapons to fight televised battles on specially created arenas. Any inmate who survives 30 matches earns his freedom. The player controls the character’s movement, while the character decides when to shoot, and no communication is allowed between the two. The game is known for a lag problem, called the “ping”, a small but dangerous delay between the player’s command and character’s action. John “Kable” Tillman is the crowd’s favorite, having survived a record 27 matches, where all others have only managed to survive ten matches at most. He is exclusively controlled by Simon, a seventeen-year-old superstar gamer from a wealthy family. The technology and the games are not without controversies, and an activist organization called “Humanz” claims that Castle will one day use Nanex to control people against their will. During a talk-show interview, Castle is confronted with questions about a potentially rigged vote which gave Castle control over the U.S prison system and allowed him to operate the Slayers game. In the middle of the broadcast, the network is hacked by the Humanz, which Castle finds amusing. Later, Society is also hacked and gameplay is interrupted, which costs Castle millions, but even then Castle sees it as trivial. However, Castle feels threatened by Kable’s pending release, and introduces a new “character” into Slayers named Hackman, who committed several murders and then surrendered in order to be able to participate in Slayers, in the hopes he will get rid of Kable and become the new fan champion of Slayers.
Meanwhile, Kable’s wife Angie is working as an “actress” (someone who voluntarily becomes a “character”), and attempts to gain custody of their daughter Delia, but is denied and informed that she has been placed with a wealthy family. Hackman taunts Kable, saying he has no player to control him, and threatens to kill Kable’s wife and daughter once he is freed. Kable is warned by a Humanz activist that Castle has no intention of letting him survive his last match, and that escaping is the only option. The activist takes a sample of his blood. Meanwhile, Simon is contacted by the activist, who provides him with illegal mods allowing him to talk to Kable during the game and to relinquish control over his character. In Kable’s 30th game, he convinces Simon to let him control himself, and escapes the arena. News outlets report that Kable has been fragged, which puts Simon in a difficult position: he is labelled a “cheater”, locked out of his bank account, and under police investigation for helping Kable escape.
Tillman is found by Humanz activist Trace, the person contacting him in prison. She takes him to the Humanz leader Brother and Dude. They explain to him the danger of Castle’s technology, as acceptance of the Nanex technology will eventually grant Castle unlimited power over the populace. Tillman refuses to aide them in their fight against Castle, but Brother informs him of his wife Angie’s location as a character in Society. Tillman goes to rescue Angie and becomes involved in a fire-fight with Hackman and Society’s security forces. At the last minute Tillman and Angie are rescued by Gina, a talk-show host/reporter who wishes for Tillman and the Humanz reveal the truth about Castle. They return to the Humanz who deactivate the nanites in Angie’s brain as well as Tillman’s. It is then revealed that Tillman was part of the original Nanex experiments while in the military, being told it was to replace brain matter with synthetic tissue to improve mental function. Using experimental technology to view Tillman’s memories, they learn that in a session designed to test Nanex’s capacity for control, Tillman (controlled by Castle) fatally shot his friend and ended up on death row. Tillman volunteered for “Slayers”, hoping to earn his freedom.
Upon learning that Castle adopted Delia, Tillman infiltrates his mansion to get her back. He locates Castle, who taunts him and reveals that his henchmen have killed Trace, Brother and Dude. He then controls several inmates to attack Tillman, who kills them all. Castle reveals that he replaced 90% of his own brain with Nanex, but his allows him to control others who are “wired” as long as they are within the range of his control. He plans to release an air-borne version of Nanex which will infect the entire population within six months, giving him ultimate control. Tillman then faces Hackman, now under Castle’s control, and easily kills him. However, Castle explains his men have reactivated both his and Angie’s Nanex, and savagely beats him while Tillman forced to remain defenseless. Angie and Delia are brought in to witness the scene. Castle tries to force Tillman to kill his own daughter, but he resists the command. Unbeknownst to Castle, Trace and Gina escaped his henchmen, and broadcasts their confrontation across the country, exposing Castle and his plans. Simon witnesses the broadcast and his control over Tillman is returned. At the last second, Simon forces Tillman to drive his knife into the floor before trying to attack Castle. Castle wrestles for control over Tillman, but Tillman tells Castle to imagine the knife going into his own stomach. Castle unconsciously does so, and it allows Tillman to kill him. Before they leave, Tillman convinces Castle’s men to deactivate Nanex, one of them commenting “Well played, Kable”. The film closes with the Tillman family taking a trip down a country road, ending with the words “Game Over”.The effects are decent, the acting is pretty cheesy and the story is utterly implausible. And I don’t care, because this film is great fun. It’s mindless entertainment, and sometimes that’s what were all in the mood for.

REVIEW: STILL WAITING…

Still Waiting... (2009)

CAST

Adam Carolla (Family Guy)
John Michael Higgins (Bad Teacher)
Rob Benedict (Birds of Prey)
Steve Howey (Bride Wars)
Alanna Ubach (Legally Blonde)
Chi McBride (Pushing Daises)
Luis Guzmán (Boogie Nights)
Tania Raymonde (Texas Chainsaw)
Justin Long (Jeepers Creepers)
Danneel Ackles (one Tree Hill)
Maggie Lawson (Two and a Half Men)
J.D. Evermore (Cloak & Dagger)
Janet Varney (Catwoman)
Missi Pyle (Gone Girl)

The film describes the misadventures of the staff at the fictional chain restaurant Shenaniganz as they cope with competition from a Hooters-esque restaurant called Ta-Tas Wing Shack.
On the last night of the fiscal quarter, Dennis, Shenanigan’s manager, will be promoted to district manager if they have a $9000 day. To motivate the crew, he tells them the restaurant will close if they don’t meet this goal. His competition is next door: Ta-Ta’s, a bar with scantily clad waitresses, managed by the newly self-confident Calvin, from the original movie. At Ta-Ta’s, it’s Allison’s first day; she’s nervous. At Shenanigan’s, Mason, a cook, is trying his best to be cool, without success. As the shift wears on, each employee faces his worst fears, and Dennis tries to learn how to attract women. Next door, Calvin and Allison make self discoveries. It all ends at the post-shift party.the film is still enjoyable, if not a bit redundant. Luis Guzman, Chi McBride, David Koechner, Rob Benedict, Andy Milonakis, Max Kasch and Vanessa Lengies all return, but it is Alanna Ubach — reprising the role of the in-conquerable Naomi — who really steals the show. Thankfully, she’s a big character in the film, and if it weren’t for her return, this movie wouldn’t be half as great as it is. Justin Long, pops in briefly to drag down the mood, but to also take a jab at the character he played in the first film, as well as any other film he’s been in. The film is filled with plenty of food-service in-jokes and enough gross-out humor to satisfy, even if it drops the ball on telling an interesting story with it’s new characters. Thanks to a returning cast, as well as solid direction by Jeff Balis (who served as a producer for the first film), “Still Waiting…” is a worthy refill. It’s nowhere near as potent as “Waiting…” but in comparison to other DTV fair, it’s worth watching.