REVIEW: ASSASSIN’S CREED

 

CAST

Michael Fassbender (Shame)
Marion Cotillard (La Vie En Rose)
Jeremy Irons (Justice League)
Brendan Gleeson (Edge of Tomorrow)
Charlotte Rampling (Gregory Girl)
Michael K. Williams (12 Years A Slave)
Denis Ménochet (Inglourious Basterds)
Ariane Labed (The Lobster)
Khalid Abdalla (Green Zone)
Essie Davis (Game of Thrones)
Matias Varela (Point Break)
Callum Turner (Queen and Country)
Carlos Bardem (Oliver’s Deal)
Javier Gutiérrez Álvarez (The Olive Tree)

Michael Fassbender in Assassin's Creed (2016)In 1492 Andalusia, during the Granada War, Aguilar de Nerha is accepted into the Assassins Brotherhood. He is assigned to protect Prince Ahmed de Granada from the Knights Templar. In 1986, adolescent Callum “Cal” Lynch finds his mother killed by his father, Joseph, a modern-day Assassin. Gunmen led by Alan Rikkin, CEO of the Templars’ Abstergo Foundation, arrive to capture Joseph, who convinces his son to escape.Jeremy Irons and Michael Fassbender in Assassin's Creed (2016)In 2016, Cal is sentenced to death for murdering a pimp, but his execution is faked by the Abstergo Foundation, which then takes him to their research facility in Madrid. He is told that the Templars are searching for the Apple of Eden, in order to eliminate violence by using the Apple’s code to control humanity’s free will. Sofia, Alan’s daughter and the head scientist, reveals that Cal is a descendant of Aguilar, the last person confirmed to be in possession of the Apple. She puts Cal in the Animus, a machine which allows him to relive (and the scientists to observe) Aguilar’s genetic memories, so that Abstergo can learn what he did with the Apple.Michael Kenneth Williams, Michael Fassbender, and Octavia Selena Alexandru in Assassin's Creed (2016)In 15th-century Spain, Aguilar/Callum and his partner Maria are deployed to rescue Ahmed, who has been kidnapped by the Templar Grand Master Tomas de Torquemada, to coerce Ahmed’s father, Sultan Muhammad XII, to surrender the Apple. Aguilar and Maria intercept the Templars, but are overpowered and captured by Torquemada’s enforcer, Ojeda. Cal is quickly pulled out of the Animus by Sofia. Cal encounters other Assassin descendants held captive at the facility, most of whom are suspicious of his motives, with the exception of Moussa, the descendant of an 18th-century Haitian Assassin named Baptiste and a key leader. Cal begins experiencing hallucinations, dubbed “the Bleeding Effect”, of both Aguilar and Joseph. Cal and Sofia build a rapport during their sessions; she confides that her mother was likewise murdered by an Assassin, sharing his hatred of the Brotherhood of which his father is a member.Marion Cotillard in Assassin's Creed (2016)Back in the Animus, Aguilar and Maria are scheduled for execution but he manages to free them, leading to a rooftop chase in which they escape through an Assassin “Leap of Faith”. Cal’s mind reacts violently to the session and he is temporarily paralyzed. When Cal learns that his father is also at the facility, he confronts Joseph over his mother’s death. Joseph informs him that the Bleeding Effect will allow modern Cal to possess Aguilar’s combat abilities. He also learns that his mother was an Assassin, and she chose to die by Joseph’s hand rather than be forced into the Animus. Unconvinced, Cal vows to destroy the Assassins by finding the Apple. Meanwhile, Alan is pressured by a Templar Elder, Ellen Kaye, to shut down the multibillion-dollar Animus Project because they have already “won… people no longer care about their civil liberties… they’re content to follow”, leading Sofia to question her father’s true intentions.Marion Cotillard and Michael Fassbender in Assassin's Creed (2016)Reaffirmed by his encounter with his father, Cal willingly enters the Animus once again, whereupon Aguilar and Maria ambush a meeting between Muhammad and Torquemada. They succeed in killing the Templars and retrieving the Apple, though Ojeda captures Maria in order to force Aguilar to surrender it. Instead, Maria chooses death, and stabs herself on Ojeda’s blade. Aguilar kills him and escapes through another Leap, the force of which causes the Animus to violently malfunction. Aguilar gives the Apple to Christopher Columbus, who promises to take it to his grave. When Moussa and the modern Assassin prisoners start a riot in order to escape, Alan orders the facility purged. Abstergo security kills Joseph and most of the other prisoners. Cal stands in the Animus chamber and is met with the projections of a number of his Assassin ancestors, including Aguilar, Arno Dorian, Joseph and his mother. Persuaded by his mother, Cal embraces his Assassins’ Creed and, having fully assimilated Aguilar’s memories and abilities, joins Moussa and two other surviving Assassins in escaping the facility.Having retrieved the Apple from Columbus’ burial vault, Alan and his followers converge at a ceremony in a Templar sanctuary in London to celebrate their triumph. Inside the sanctuary, a disillusioned Sofia meets with Cal, who has come to take the Apple, and she reluctantly allows him to act. Cal retrieves the Apple, but kills Alan to do it. While Sofia vows revenge against Cal, the Assassins depart, vowing to once again protect the Apple from the Templars.Michael Fassbender in Assassin's Creed (2016)Assassins Creed is by no means perfect, but I did enjoy it. The film has the classic setting from Assassins Creed games, a modern day protagonist enters the Animus to relive the memories of his ancestor. The film does a pretty good job explaining the series mythos to those unfamiliar with the games. Sadly, we don’t spend as much time with the ancestor Aquilar as we do with the present day Cal, and Aquilar feels under developed as a character. The movie also felt a bit short. It really could have benefited from a longer run time, to give more character development to the ancestors, and explain some of the characters motivations better. The action in this movie is great, the story is solid, and the characters (that are properly developed) are interesting. Both Fassbender and Irons play their roles well. Overall a decent movie any Assassins Creed fan would enjoy. The critics like to bash it because it’s a video game movie, and it’s cool to hate video game movies, but it’s not bad at all.

REVIEW: HIGHLANDER: THE SERIES – SEASON 1

Starring

Adrian Paul (Arrow)
Alexandra Vandernoot (Pret-a-Porter)
Stan Kirsch (Shallow Ground)
Amanda Wyss (A Nightmare On Elm Street)

Adrian Paul and Alexandra Vandernoot in Highlander (1992)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Christopher Lambert (Mortal Kombat)
Richard Moll (Scary Movie 2)
Wendell Wright (The Howling)
Peter DeLuise (Stargate SG.1)
J.E. Freeman (Alien: Resurrection)
Tamsin Kelsey (The Commish)
Matthew Walker (Alone In The Dark)
Dustin Nguyen (Legend Is Alive)
Soon-Tek Oh (Mulan)
A.C. Peterson (Shooter)
Vincent Schiavelli (Ghost)
John Novak (War)
Victor A. Young (Nemesis Game)
Garry Chalk (Arrow)
Jay Brazeau (Bates Motel)
Joan Jett (Light of Day)
Leslie Carlson (Videodrome)
Andrew Divoff (Wishmaster)
Colleen Winton (Van Helsing)
Gary Jones (Stargate SG.1)
Wes Studi (Mystery Men)
Marc Singer (V)
Brent Stait (Andromeda)
Doug Abrahams (Sanctuary)
Joe Pantoliano (The Matrix)
Catherine Lough Haggquist (Fifty Shades Freed)
Stephen Macht (Trancers 4)
Johannah Newmarch (When Calls The Heat)
John Tench (Watchmen)
Scott McNeil (Beast Wars)
Adrian Holmes (Smallville)
Vanity (The Last Dragon)
Tim Reid (IT)
Kevin McNulty (Snakes on A Plane)
J.G. Hertzler (Staragte SG.1)
Fulvio Cecere (Valentine)
Tom Butler (Blade: The Series)
Werner Stocker (The White Rose)
Peter Howitt (Defying Gravity)
Roland Gift (Brakes)
Dee Dee Bridgewater (The Brother From Another Planet)
Fay Masterson (Eyes Wide Shut)
Elizabeth Gracen (Marked For Death)
Jason Isaacs (Star Trek: Discovery
Martin Kemp (The Krays)
Nigel Terry (Excalibur)
Peter Guinness (Sleepy Hollow)
Anthony Head (Buffy: TVS)
Marion Cotillard (Inception)
Roger Daltrey (Tommy)
Peter Hudson (Lockout)

Alexandra Vandernoot in Highlander (1992)400-year-old Scottish Immortal Duncan MacLeod (Adrian Paul) has spent the last twelve years living a quiet life with his mortal girlfriend, sculptor Tessa Noel (Alexandra Vandernoot). Unfortunately, when young punk Richie Ryan (Stan Kirsh) breaks into their antiques store, he stumbles upon another uninvited guest- Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert), also an immortal Highlander. Connor insists Duncan return to The Gathering- an ongoing battle where immortals fight each other to the death by beheading their opponent to take their Quickening. Friendly immortals like the Parisian monk Darius (Werner Stocker) have no interest in the violence and remain on Holy Ground to avoid the evil, corrupt, insane, angry, and power hungry immortals Duncan must face. All this, however, is in addition to Duncan’s daily hiding of his secrets from pesky cops and nosey reporters like Randi MacFarland (Amanda Wyss).Adrian Paul and Soon-Tek Oh in Highlander (1992)I always find it tough to summarize the scenario that establishes the Highlander universe, even though it is a fairly simple fantasy once you get to know it. Longtime franchise producers Peter Davis and Bill Panzer and creative consultant David Abramowitz don’t have to waste much time in setting up The Series’ introductory mythology like most shows do thanks to its parent 1986 film, but that does not mean this First Season isn’t without its flaws. Highlander: The Series spends most of the 1992 debut here trying to adhere to the original film whilst also attempting to appeal to other compatriot shows of the time like Renegade. Sometimes, Duncan is an immortal who also just happens to get kidnapped, Tessa just happens to witness an immortal murder, Richie just happens to get caught up in some immortal romance or crime.Season 1 seems to meander between reopening its fantastical roots- which actually concluded at the end of the first film- and finding an audience with one off action plotlines and crazy guest star immortals. Toss in some ho-hum police investigations and one annoying journalist, and it feels like you have bits of every other nineties television program. It also seems like the filmmakers were light on material early on, for a slew of slow and dated musical montages about absolutely nothing also have not stood the test of time. Adrian Paul in Highlander (1992)I’ve complained, yes- but the irony is, Highlander as a series and its Season 1 still work damn fine. So they had to iron out a few special effects and immortal explanations. Maybe there is an uneven mix of normal real world crime storylines and charming, even glorious, period piece flashback sequences. Yes, they have to mimic the first movie while trying to establish episodic material. Yet somehow, all this and more gets done in fun, entertaining, stylized television. A few of the guest immortals do seem a bit interchangeable and even hokey in their maniacal ways, but that’s part of the bemusement. The lovely counterbalance of the tragedies, consequences, and ill desires of living forever are well played along with the beauty and value of morality, artistry, and time for those who inevitably grow old and die. Highlander: The Series may have lured audiences in the door with promises of nineties cool and wicked swordfights, but its intelligent core of immortal drama, heart, and soul win out today.Adrian Paul and Vanity in Highlander (1992)Although Adrian Paul (Tracker, Relic Hunter) has some big sneakers to fill in following Christopher Lambert, he quickly makes Duncan MacLeod his own with the perfect mix of fearless fighter and moral convictions. Yes, part of his fighting skills, suave ponytail, and immortal sexual buffness is meant to be dreamy for the ladies. However, Mac’s kickass ruthlessness against those who do wrong-whether they be mortal or immortal- combined with his sensitive ways and 400 year old hang ups appeal to all. Paul wonderfully expresses the love, loss, humor, and intelligence as well as the anger, vengeance, and violence each episode as needed. There’s no doubt MacLeod is our hero- and yet he is usually the one handing out killing blows. It’s a complicated mix with plenty of fine drama- and Alexandra Vandernoot (The Five Obstructions) is the perfect compliment to Adrian Paul. Though she can seem kind of uppity and European pissy to start, once you come to know Tessa’s artistic heart and moral fulcrum you can’t help but enjoy her and Mac’s relationship. The two have wonderful chemistry, but then you throw in illicit immortal love with mortal women growing old and dying to that romantic design and it’s dynamite. Such juicy and angst still has plenty of relatable, powerful stuff that never fades, wow, almost 20 years on.Still of Adrian Paul and Amanda Wyss in Highlander and See No EvilStan Kirsh (Invincible) is in the precarious hot young thing role as Richie Ryan, but he also proves himself more likeable then annoying here in Season 1. Despite some of the stereotypically juvenile, young love, and crime storylines in which he finds himself, Richie’s fun place within Mac and Tessa’s lives does a lot of good. He is in a way, their kid- always needing to be bailed out or protected in the ways of the world or waxing philosophical from his humorous spot in the backseat. Even over the course of these 22 episodes, however, Richie also becomes a useful ally and sounding board for each of the leads when immortality or mortality gets in the way. Sadly, the ill-used Amanda Wyss (A Nightmare on Elm Street), doesn’t fair so well. Her brief and needlessly stuck in the opening credits reporter Randi is absolutely unrealistic as a journalist and completely annoying in her attempted antagonizing and snooping. Perhaps more could have been done with the character in time, but thankfully, the role was dropped in favor of some  policemen and detectives. Wendell Wright’s (Benson) Sgt. Powell, Tim Reid’s (Sister, Sister) Bennett and Hugues Leforestier as Inspector LeBrun come and go too much in Season 1, but any one of them could have been fine continuing foil for MacLeod. You do have to wonder how the authorities haven’t discovered all these beheaded bodies!Adrian Paul in Highlander (1992)In addition to the lovely guest appearance by Lambert as Connor “same clan, different vintage” MacLeod in ‘The Gathering’, Season 1 offers an array of sweet guest stars. Critical immortals such as Elizabeth Gracen’s (later of the spinoff Highlander: The Raven) Amanda and Fine Young Cannibals’ singer Roland Gift as Xavier St. Cloud appear in ‘The Lady and the Tiger’ and ‘For Tomorrow We Die’ respectively. We don’t get to see the late Werner Stocker’s Darius as much as I would have liked, but he and Roger Daltry’s Hugh Fitzcairn are also wonderful pieces in Highlander: The Series’ repertoire, comparing the potential of pacifism for immortals to their apparent zest for women. As much as I love Joan Jett, her appearance as the first female immortal we see in ‘Free Fall’ is one of the woefully dated examples this season. Several other guest villains and street thugs of the week do seem a little the same- especially the maniacal and crazy, if no less understandable, immortals. Again, it’s tough to not have an over the top bad guy when it is your hero befrickingheading someone per episode. A few of the French supporting players also suffer; so many seemed poorly dubbed that you don’t wonder if it would have been better to just have some French dialogue. All in all however, the guests add debut credibility this season whilst laying the ground work for the series to establish itself beyond the films: the plots and players in the Season 1 finale ‘The Hunters’ directly lead to the events in Season 2 and beyond.Adrian Paul and Christian van Acker in Highlander (1992)Although the actors do their part, the designs of Season 1 could have used some…tweaking. The Quickening effects are definitely touch and go to start. Honestly, the lightning shows generally coming at the end of each episode waver from looking extremely painful and capable of powering a village to limp, sputtering light bulbs and quasi orgasmic shuddering. Women seriously seem to get the short end of the stick regarding Quickenings, and the fashions of the time have not been kind. Oh, the unflattering gaudy shoulder pads, pleated pants, and high-waisted jeans! Richie fairs no better, with some woefully colorful New Edition and Color Me Badd cast-offs. At least most of the immortal men seem to have classic, swanky style- except some of Duncan’s sweaters, vests, and colorful blazers are a miss. However, any men who can carry off such a variety of period fashion earn a plus in my book. The Leather jackets, cozy turtlenecks, tuxedos, and fedoras here are as timeless as the kilts, cavalier coats, French uniforms, and kimonos.Adrian Paul in Highlander (1992)While the MacLeod and Noel Antiques store, loft, and workshop design look just as good as the period production, it also seems a little too high end and unrealistic today. I know he is immortal and she is a sculptor, but real people could not live in such a pricey and overly designed museum. By contrast, Season 1’s opening Seacouver location seems obvious and bland- again looking like it’s a random warehouse back lot used by every other show made at the time. Thankfully, MacLeod’s barge on the Seine is just a little bit cooler. These French locations add a touch of Old World European class to Highlander. Even if I can’t quite figure the logistics of the barge, (How can one just park his boat on the Seine? What kind of codes and regulations are there for a refurbished ship? Where in the heck does Richie sleep if there’s one bed?!) it’s still a neat and unique set. Yes, Highlander: The Series’ location splits and prominence for French casting is thanks to French financing and production, but it also gives Season 1 a chance to correct its early flaws- including adjusting the opening credits and spending more time in our immortals’ pasts. Subtle connections to the original film are all that’s needed for Season 1 to find its footing- and those motifs largely come from the perfect use of Queen’s soundtrack. You can’t not love the ‘Princes of the Universe’ theme. Be honest, sometimes you just tune into Highlander just to hear the song! The somber ballad ‘Who Wants to Live Forever’ also makes a few appearances- however; it’s the nonchalant use of the titular question by unknowing mere mortals that adds extra zing and panache.Fans of the Highlander franchise surely already know and love these DVDs back to front, but 21st Century newcomers will be pleasantly surprised by the exhaustive amount of features for the Season 1 set. The interface is cumbersome, I grant; but the Watcher Chronicles’ menus, additional scenes, bloopers, commentary options, full script CDs, and behind the scenes features are almost obsessive in shear amount, variety, and content. Almost every episode contains some form of extras- and more is included as the season sets progress. I can even forgive the lack of subtitles here, because someone obviously took his time in making Highlander: The Series as complete as possible on DVD. New fans, however, should be forewarned, as there are often spoilers for the entire series within the features. In fact, all the extras from the Complete Series DVDs are probably best left in a marathon viewing all their own. Adrian Paul and Martin Kemp in Highlander (1992)Highlander: The Series is best when it is about the trials of immortality- not the contemporary messes into which an immortal could get himself. Season 1 falters some when it tries for the latter, but there’s plenty of immortal angst and juicy action established here to enjoy. Longtime fans can delight anytime, and audiences looking for action, adventure, fantasy, and romance can certainly find it here. Some scenes and storylines might be too saucy or complicated for younger tween viewers, but a show that matures in its mythos and quality along with its audience while also staying young forever is tough to find. Yes, just think, Highlander: The Series only gets better from here. Start anew or travel back with Season 1 today.

REVIEW: ANCHORMAN 2: THE LEGEND CONTINUES

 

Starring

Will Ferrell (The Lego Movie)
Steve Carell (Little Miss Sunshine)
Paul Rudd (Ant-Man)
David Koechner (Get Smart)
Christina Applegate (Dead To Me)
Dylan Baker (The Good Wife)
Meagan Good (Minority Report TV)
James Marsden (Superman Returns)
Fred Willard (Fifty Shades of Black)
Kristen Wiig (Ghostbusters)
Josh Lawson (Free Birds)
Chris Parnell (Goosebumps 2)
Greg Kinnear (As Good As It Gets)
Wilbur Fitzgerald (Robocpop 3)
Harrison Ford (Indiana Jones)
Sacha Baron Cohen (Grimsby)
Marion Cotillard (The Dark Knight Rises)
Will Smith (Men In Black)
Kirsten Dunst (Spider-Man)
Jim Carrey (Kidding)
Tina Fey (30 Rock)
Liam Neeson (Taken)
Amy Poehler (Sisters)
John C. Reilly (Cyrus)
Vince Vaughn (The Internship)
Kanye West (The Cleveland Show)
June Diane Raphael (Year One)

Will Ferrell, David Koechner, and Paul Rudd in Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013)In 1980, Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) and Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) are married and are both co-anchors for a prestigious news network in New York City. One day, Mack Tannen (Harrison Ford), the most famous nightly news anchor in New York, reveals that he is retiring. He intends to promote Corningstone, making her the first female nightly news anchor in the history of television, and to fire Burgundy due to his continuously sloppy performance on air. Burgundy grows jealous of Corningstone’s success and storms out of the house, leaving Corningstone and his six-year-old son Walter (Judah Nelson).Christina Applegate and Will Ferrell in Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013)Six months later, Burgundy is back in San Diego, but barely able to hold a job due to his depression. After being fired from SeaWorld and botching a suicide attempt, Burgundy accepts a job offered to him by Freddie Shapp (Dylan Baker) with GNN (Global News Network), the world’s first 24-hour cable news network, for GNN’s official launch. He reassembles his news team, finding Champ Kind (David Koechner), who owns a fried chicken store (that sells bats secretly to cut down on costs), Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), now a famous cat photographer, and Brick Tamland (Steve Carell), who is presumed dead but appears at his own funeral. They are assigned the unpopular late-night timeslot while obnoxious rival anchorman Jack Lime (James Marsden) is put in a primetime slot. Meanwhile, Burgundy finds that Corningstone has started dating another man, a psychologist named Gary (Greg Kinnear).Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, David Koechner, and Paul Rudd in Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013)As GNN launches, Burgundy decides to broadcast what the people want to hear, rather than what they need to hear. He and his team devise a sensationalist and attention-grabbing newscast. Their new approach proves to be a hit, beating Lime in ratings by a massive margin, and the other news networks scramble to emulate them. Burgundy and his team are promoted to primetime, where they enjoy fame and fortune. Burgundy’s success excites GNN’s manager, Linda Jackson (Meagan Good), and they begin a romantic relationship. Tamland meets a similarly eccentric GNN office worker named Chani (Kristen Wiig) and immediately falls in love. Burgundy lets his newfound fame get to his head and neglects his parental obligations to Walter, angering Corningstone. He also alienates Fantana, Kind, and Tamland, claiming he is tired of carrying them.Christina Applegate and Will Ferrell in Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013)During a party celebrating GNN’s success, Lime causes Burgundy to slip and suffer a head injury, resulting in him becoming temporarily blind. Unable to read the news, Burgundy isolates himself in a lighthouse, unable to adjust to his loss of sight. Corningstone arrives with Walter for a visit and Burgundy bonds with his family, gradually overcoming his disability. Burgundy and his son rehabilitate a small shark, naming him Doby before setting him free. Burgundy finds out that Corningstone was hiding messages from his eye doctor about an experimental procedure. He leaves angrily, gets his sight restored, and returns to GNN.Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, David Koechner, and Paul Rudd in Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013)Back in New York, returning to work, Burgundy is once again approached by Corningstone, who pleads with him to attend Walter’s piano recital. At the same time, an exclusive news story comes in, requiring Burgundy to cover it. On live TV, Burgundy instead goes on a rant criticizing news networks, including GNN, for focusing on ratings rather than the news. He leaves for Walter’s recital but is intercepted by an angered Lime and his team and other angered teams from news networks, including Tannen, all of whom want to kill him due to his fame. Burgundy’s friends arrive to defend him and a massive free-for-all battle ensues. Burgundy’s old arch-rival Wes Mantooth (Vince Vaughn) threatens to blow up Lime’s news crew and is accidentally blown up by Tamland instead before Tannen, Lime, and all the other teams retreat from the fight in defeat. Burgundy manages to reach Walter’s recital in time. Burgundy and his friends later attend Tamland’s and Chani’s wedding on the beach.Will Ferrell and Steve Carell in Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013)This movie is both funny and a great piece of satire. There are plenty of laughs and very silly situations but there is also a message about how news reporting has changed in the last 30 years thanks to powerful men who own the media. The Australian owner of GNN is obviously Rupert Murdoch .

REVIEW: CONTAGION (2011)

CAST

Gwyneth Paltrow (Iron Man)
Laurence Fishburne (Hannibal TV)
Kate Winslet (Divergent)
Marion Cotillrd (La Vie En Rose)
Jude Law (Spy)
Matt Damon (Jason Bourne)
John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone)
Monique Gabriela Curnen (Lie to Me)
Jennifer Ehle (The Ides of March)
Elliott Gould (OCean’s Eleven)
Enrico Colantoni (Veronica Mars)
Bryan Cranston (Godzilla)
Chin Han (Arrow)
Sanaa Lathan (Blade)
Kara Zediker (Rock Star)
Jim Ortlieb (Roswell)

Returning from a Hong Kong business trip, Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow) has a layover in Chicago to have sex with a former lover before returning to her family in suburban Minneapolis. She appears to have contracted a cold during her trip. Her six-year-old son from a previous marriage, Clark, also becomes symptomatic and is sent home from school. Beth’s condition worsens and two days later she collapses with severe seizures. Her husband, Mitch (Matt Damon), rushes her to the hospital, but she dies of an unknown cause.

Mitch returns home and finds that Clark has also died from a similar infection. Mitch is put in isolation but seems to be immune to the disease. He is released and returns home to his teenaged daughter Jory, who had been living with Mitch’s former wife and her husband and has decided to stay with Mitch since he’s now all alone. They face decaying social order and rampant looting of stores and homes. Mitch is unsure if Jory has inherited his immunity and he struggles with the frustration of quarantine, his desire to protect his daughter and learning that his wife was cheating on him immediately prior to both her death and that of his stepson.

In Atlanta, representatives of the Department of Homeland Security meet with Dr. Ellis Cheever (Laurence Fishburne) of the CDC and express fears that the disease is a bio weapon intended to cause terror over the Thanksgiving weekend. Dr. Cheever dispatches Dr. Erin Mears (Kate Winslet), an Epidemic Intelligence Service officer, to Minneapolis to begin investigating. Mears traces the outbreak back to Emhoff while negotiating with local bureaucrats initially reluctant to commit resources for a proper public health response to the virus. Dr. Mears later becomes infected and dies.

At the CDC, Dr. Ally Hextall (Jennifer Ehle) determines the virus is a mix of genetic material from pig and bat viruses. Work on a cure stalls because scientists cannot discover a cell culture within which to grow the newly identified Meningoencephalitis Virus One (MEV-1). UCSF professor Dr. Ian Sussman (Elliott Gould) violates orders from Cheever (relayed through Hextall) to destroy his samples, and identifies a usable MEV-1 cell culture using bat cells. Hextall uses the breakthrough to work on a vaccine. Other scientists determine the virus is spread by fomites, with a basic reproduction number of four when the virus mutates, with projections of one in twelve of the population being infected, and a 25-30% mortality rate.

Conspiracy theorist Alan Krumwiede (Jude Law) posts videos about the virus on his popular blog. In one video, he shows himself sick and later claims he recovered using a homeopathic cure derived from forsythia. In a panic, people seeking forsythia overwhelm pharmacies, spreading and accelerating the contagion as the infected come into contact with healthy people. Krumwiede’s claims attract national attention. During a television interview he discloses that Dr. Cheever had secretly informed friends and family to leave Chicago just before the city was quarantined. Cheever is then informed the government will investigate and may charge him for leaking information. Later it is revealed Krumwiede had faked being infected by the virus in an attempt to increase profits for shareholders in companies producing and selling forsythia. Krumwiede is arrested for conspiracy and securities fraud, only to walk free when his many supporters successfully raise funds to provide for his bail.

Using an attenuated virus Dr. Hextall identifies a possible vaccine. To cut out the lengthy time it would take to obtain informed consent from infected patients, Dr. Hextall inoculates herself with the experimental vaccine and immediately visits her gravely ill father, who has been infected with MEV-1. The doctor does not contract MEV-1 and the vaccine is declared a success. The vaccine’s production is rapidly increased, but due to limited production, the CDC awards vaccinations by lottery based on birth date. Inoculations take place for one full year until every survivor is vaccinated. First responders, doctors and others designated by the government are declared exempt from the lottery. Dr. Cheever gives his fast-tracked MEV-1 vaccination to the son of Roger (John Hawkes), a CDC janitor who had overheard Dr. Cheever’s phone call warning his girlfriend to leave Chicago.

Dr. Leonora Orantes (Marion Cotillard), a WHO epidemiologist, travels to Hong Kong to follow the Beth Emhoff lead. She collaborates with Sun Feng (Chin Han) and other local epidemiologists and public health officials; they identify Emhoff as patient zero. As the virus spreads, Feng kidnaps Orantes to use her as leverage to obtain MEV-1 vaccine doses for his village. Orantes spends months living with the villagers until the vaccine is announced. Feng exchanges Orantes for the vaccine doses. Her colleague mentions that the exchanged doses were placebos and Orantes rushes away to warn them. The death toll reached 2.5 million in the U.S. and 26 million worldwide. Dr. Hextall places samples of MEV-1 in cryogenic storage, alongside samples of H1N1 and SARS.

The source of the virus is revealed to viewers. A bulldozer (coincidently, operating for the company Emhoff works for) knocks down a palm tree disturbing some bats, with one finding shelter and food in a banana tree. That bat then flies over a pig pen, dropping a chunk of banana from its mouth, which was then eaten by a piglet. Chinese chefs later collected pigs from the pen and took them to a casino where one chef was called away from his preparations of the piglet, casually wiping his hands on his apron. The chef then shook hands with Beth Emhoff, giving her the mix of bat and pig viruses that makes her patient zero and the origin of the MEV-1 virus.

This was an interesting film. It is very realistic and while there is no major action plot, the realism keeps you hooked.

 

REVIEW: BIG FISH

CAST
Ewan McGregor (Mordecai)
Albert Finney (Skyfall)
Billy Crudup (Watchmen)
Jessica Lange (Cape Fear)
Helena Bonham Carter (Sweney Todd)
Alison Lohman (Drag Me To Hell)
Robert Guillaume (Benson)
Marion Cotillard (The Dark Knight Rises)
David Denman (Power Rangers)
Missi Pyle (Gone Girl)
Steve Buscemi (Ghost World)
Ada Tai (Rush Hour)
Arlene Tai (Painkiller Jane)
Danny DeVito (Batman Returns)
Deep Roy (Star Trek Into Dasrkness)
Miley Cyrus (Hannah Montana)
At his son Will’s wedding party, Edward Bloom recalls the tale of the day Will was born, claiming he successfully caught an enormous catfish using his wedding ring as bait. Will, having heard these stories all his life, believes them to be lies and falls out with his father. Three years on, Edward has fallen ill with terminal cancer, Will returning to his childhood home, accompanied by his pregnant wife Joséphine. Edward’s life is told through flashbacks, beginning with his encounter with a witch in his hometown Ashton, who shows him his death but he reacts no fear to it. As he grows into adulthood, he found his home too small and set out with a misunderstood giant Karl.
Edward and Karl find a fork in the road and travel down separate paths. Edward follows a path through a swamp and discovers the secret town of Spectre, the cheery locals claiming he was expected. There, he befriends Ashton poet Norther Winslow and the mayor’s daughter Jenny. However, Edward leaves Spectre, unwilling to settle down but promises Jenny he will return. In the present day, Joséphine speaks to the bed-ridden Edward and asks him to tell her the story of how he met his wife Sandra, with Will listening outside the door. Edward reunites with Karl and they visit the Calloway Circus, where Edward falls in love with a beautiful woman. Along with Karl, Edward gets a job in the circus where the ringmaster Amos Calloway reveals to him trivia about the woman at the end of every month.
MV5BMjE3NjU1MjU1NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMTE2ODUyMw@@__V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1552,1000_AL_Three years on, Edward discovers Amos is secretly a werewolf but shows no ill-will towards his employer. Amos, upon returning to normal, reveals the woman is Sandra, and she attends Auburn University. Edward confesses his love to Sandra but she declines his wedding proposal despite numerous romantic gestures. He then learns she is already engaged to Don Price, a fellow Ashton citizen. Don beats Edward, prompting Sandra to break off their engagement and she marries Edward. Shortly after, Edward is conscripted into the army and sent to fight in the Korean War. He parachutes into the middle of a North Korean military show, steals important documents, and convinces Siamese twins Ping and Jing to help him go home in exchange for making them celebrities.
Upon returning home, Edward becomes a travelling salesman and crosses paths with Winslow, unwittingly helping him rob a failing bank, inspiring the poet to work on Wall Street. In the present, Will investigates the truth behind his father’s tales and travels to Spectre. He meets an older Jenny, who explains Edward rescued the town from bankruptcy and rebuilt it with help from his friends. Will suggests Jenny had an affair with his father, but she reveals while she loved Edward, he remained loyal to Sandra. Will returns home but learns Edward has had a stroke and stays with him at the hospital.
Edward wakes up but, unable to speak much, asks Will to narrate how his life ends. Though struggling, Will tells his father of their imagined daring escape from the hospital to the nearby lake, where everyone from Edward’s past is there to see him off. Will takes Edward into the river, where he transforms into the giant catfish and swims away. A satisfied Edward passes away, knowing Will understands his love for storytelling. At the funeral, Will and Joséphine are surprised when all the people from Edward’s stories come to the service, though less fantastical than described. Will, understanding his father’s love for life, passes on Edward’s stories to his own son.
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Big Fish is a truly marvelous film, a tear-jerking, smile-inducing journey through a whole bag of fairy-tales, all wrapped up in the evolving relationship between a good son and his larger-than-life father.

REVIEW: THE DARK KNIGHT RISES

CAST

Christian Bale (The Machinist)
Gary Oldman (Robocop)
Tom Hardy (Inception)
Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Looper)
Anne Hathaway (Interstellar)
Marion Cotillard (La Vie En Rose)
Morgan Freeman (High Crimes)
Michael Caine (Quills)
Matthew Modine (Full Metal Jacket)
Aidan Gillen (Game of Thrones)
Nestor Carbonell (Ringer)
Juno Temple (Horns)
Josh Stewart (The Punisher)
William Devane (Lois & Clark)
Joey King (Oz The Great and Powerful)
Liam Neeson (Taken)
Cillian Murphy (Red Eye)
Desmond Harrington (Wrong Turn)
Ben Mendelsohn (Rady Player One)
Burn Gorman (Game of Thrones)
Daniel Sunjata (Gone)
Thomas Lennon (17 Again)
Glen Powell (Scream Queens)
Ian Bohen (Young Hercules)
Noel Gugliemi (Training Day)
Patrick Cox (2 Broke Girls)
Wade Williams (Ganster Squad)
Josh Pence (Battleship)
Christopher Judge (Staragte SG.1)
Michael Papajohn (Spider-Man)

The story takes place eight years after the events of the second film in the Christopher Nolan Batman film series. The Dent Act, dedicated to the late district attorney Harvey Dent, grants the Gotham City Police Department powers which nearly eradicate organized crime. Police Commissioner James Gordon (Gary Oldman) feels increasingly guilty for covering up Dent’s crimes. He writes a resignation speech confessing the truth but decides not to use it.

Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has become a recluse, broken by the death of Rachel Dawes. Batman, whom Bruce deems no longer necessary, has disappeared. Cat burglar Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) obtains Bruce’s fingerprints from his home and kidnaps congressman Byron Gilley (Brett Cullen). She hands the fingerprints to Phillip Stryver (Burn Gorman), an assistant to Bruce’s business rival John Daggett (Ben Mendelsohn). In return, she asks him to have her criminal record erased. Stryver double-crosses Selina, but she uses the Gilley’s phone to alert the police to their location. Gordon and the police arrive to find the congressman, and then pursue Stryver’s men into the sewers while Selina flees. Bane (Tom Hardy), a masked mercenary, captures Gordon and finds his resignation speech. Gordon escapes and is found by John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a patrol officer. Gordon promotes Blake to detective, with Blake reporting directly to him. Bane attacks the Gotham Stock Exchange, using Bruce’s fingerprints in a transaction that bankrupts Bruce. Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine) reveals that Rachel had intended to marry Dent before she died. Alfred then resigns in an attempt to convince Bruce to move on from being Batman.

Wayne Enterprises is unprofitable after Bruce discontinued his fusion reactor project when he learned that the core could be weaponized. Fearing that Daggett, Bane’s employer, would gain access to the reactor, Bruce asks Wayne Enterprises board member Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard) to take over his company. Catwoman agrees to take Batman to Bane but instead leads him into Bane’s trap. Bane reveals that he intends to fulfill Ra’s al Ghul’s (Liam Neeson) mission to destroy Gotham with the League of Shadows remnant. He engages Batman and delivers a crippling blow to his back, before taking him to a foreign, well-like prison where escape is virtually impossible. There, the inmates tell Bruce the story of Ra’s al Ghul’s child, born in the prison and cared for by a fellow prisoner before escaping—the only prisoner to have ever done so. Bruce assumes the child to be Bane.
Bane lures Gotham police underground and traps them there. He kills Mayor Anthony Garcia (Nestor Carbonell) and forces Dr. Leonid Pavel (Alon Abutbul), a Russian nuclear physicist he kidnapped from Uzbekistan six months prior, to convert the reactor core into a nuclear bomb. Bane uses the bomb to hold the city hostage and isolate Gotham from the world. Using Gordon’s stolen speech, Bane reveals the cover-up of Dent’s crimes and releases the prisoners of Blackgate Penitentiary, initiating anarchy. The wealthy and powerful have their property expropriated, are dragged from their homes, and are given show trials presided over by Dr. Jonathan Crane (Cillian Murphy), where all are sentenced to death.

After spending months recovering and re-training, Bruce escapes from the prison. He enlists Selina, Blake, Tate, Gordon, and Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) to help stop the bomb’s detonation. He hands the Batpod to Selina, tasking her with helping people evacuate and saving herself. She asks him to come along, leaving Gotham to its fate, but he refuses. While the police and Bane’s forces clash, Batman overpowers Bane. He interrogates Bane for the bomb’s trigger, but Tate intervenes and stabs him. She reveals herself to be Talia al Ghul, Ra’s al Ghul’s daughter. Bane is her protector, who aided her escape from the prison. She uses the detonator, but Gordon has successfully approached the bomb and blocks her signal, preventing remote detonation. Talia leaves to find the bomb while Bane prepares to kill Batman, but Catwoman returns on the Badpod and kills Bane. Batman and Catwoman pursues Talia, hoping to bring the bomb back to the reactor where it can be stabilized. Talia’s truck crashes, but she remotely destroys the reactor before dying. With no way to stop the detonation, Batman uses the Bat to haul the bomb over the bay, where it detonates. In the aftermath, Batman is presumed dead and is honored as a hero. With Bruce Wayne also presumed dead, Wayne Manor becomes an orphanage, and Bruce’s remaining estate is left to Alfred. Fox discovers that Bruce had fixed the Bat’s autopilot, Gordon finds the Bat-Signal refurbished and Alfred sees Bruce and Selina together while visiting Florence. John Blake resigns from the police force and inherits the Batcave.Christian Bale in The Dark Knight Rises (2012)A great end to the Dark Knight trilogy, this along with the first two will always remain three of my favorite films.

REVIEW: PUBLIC ENEMIES

CAST

Christian Bale (Batman Begins)
Johnny Depp (Dark Shadows)
Marion Cotillard (The Dark Knight Rises)
David Wenham (Van Helsing)
Jason Clarke (Dawn of The Planet of The Apes)
Christian Solte (Road To Perdition)
Stephen Dorff (Blade)
Channing Tatum (G.I. Joe)
Carey Mulligan (Wall Street 2)
Emilie De Ravin (Roswell)
Giovanni Ribisi (Ted)
Billy Crudup (Watchmen)
Shawn Hatosy (Alpha Dog)
Lili Taylor (The Conjuring)
Matt Craven (Timeline)
Leelee Sobieski (Roadkill)
Rory Cochrane (Argo)
Casey Siemaszko (Young Guns)
John Ortiz (Fast & Furious)
Stephen Lang (Don’t Breathe)

After killing Charles Floyd (Channing Tatum), FBI agent Melvin Purvis (Bale) is promoted by J. Edgar Hoover (Crudup) to lead the hunt for bank robber John Dillinger (Depp). Purvis shares Hoover’s belief in using scientific methods to battle crime, ranging from cataloging fingerprints to tapping telephone lines.
In between a series of bank robberies, Dillinger meets Billie Frechette (Cotillard) at a restaurant and woos her by buying her a fur coat. Frechette falls for Dillinger even after he reveals his identity, and the two become inseparable.
Purvis leads a failed ambush at a hotel where he believes Dillinger is staying, and an agent is killed by Baby Face Nelson (Graham), who escapes with Tommy Caroll (Garrett). Purvis requests that Hoover bring in professional lawmen who know how to catch criminals dead or alive, including Texan Charles Winstead (Lang).
Police arrest Dillinger and his gang in Tucson, Arizona, after a fire breaks out at the Hotel Congress, where they are staying. Dillinger is extradited to Indiana, where Sheriff Lillian Holley (Taylor) has him locked up in the Lake County Jail in Crown Point. Dillinger and other inmates use a fake gun to escape. Dillinger is unable to see Frechette, who is under tight surveillance. Dillinger learns that Frank Nitti’s (Camp) associates are unwilling to help because his crimes are motivating the FBI to prosecute interstate crime, which imperils Nitti’s bookmaking racket, thus severing his connections with the Mafia.
Carroll goads Dillinger into robbing a bank in Sioux Falls with Baby Face Nelson. During their escape, both Dillinger and Carroll are shot, and they have to leave Carroll behind. The group retreats to the Little Bohemia Lodge in Manitowish Waters, Wisconsin and realize their haul is significantly less than Nelson said it would be. Dillinger hopes he can free the rest of his gang from prison, including Pierpont (Wenham) and Makley (Stolte), but Red Hamilton (Clarke) convinces him this is unlikely.
Purvis and his men apprehend Carroll and torture him to learn the gang’s location. Purvis organizes an ambush at Little Bohemia. Dillinger and Hamilton escape separately from the rest of the gang. Agents Winstead and Hurt (Frye) pursue Dillinger and Hamilton through the woods, engaging in a gunfight in which Hamilton is fatally wounded. Trying to escape, Nelson, Shouse, and Van Meter hijack a Bureau car, killing Purvis’ partner Carter Baum (Cochrane) in the process. After a car chase, Purvis and his men kill Nelson and the rest of the gang. Hamilton dies that night. Dillinger meets Frechette, telling her he plans to commit one more robbery that will pay enough for them to escape together. When Dillinger drops her off at a tavern he thinks is safe, she is arrested. Frechette is beaten during interrogation to learn Dillinger’s whereabouts, which she does not reveal; Purvis and Winstead eventually arrive and intervene. Dillinger agrees to participate in a train robbery with Alvin Karpis (Ribisi) and the Barker Gang, intending to flee the country the next day. He receives a note from Billie through her lawyer, Louis Piquett (Gerety), telling him not to try to break her out of jail.
Through Zarkovich, Purvis enlists the help of madam and Dillinger acquaintance Anna Sage (Katić), threatening her with deportation if she does not cooperate. She agrees to set up Dillinger, who she believes will come to hide out with her. Dillinger and Sage see Manhattan Melodrama at the Biograph Theater. After the film, Purvis signals other agents upon seeing them leave. Dillinger spots the police but is shot before he can draw his gun. Winstead listens to Dillinger’s last words. Purvis goes to inform Hoover of Dillinger’s death. Winstead tells Frechette, still incarcerated, that he thinks Dillinger’s dying words were, “Tell Billie for me, ‘Bye bye Blackbird'”. Billie sheds a tear – ‘Bye Bye Blackbird’ was the song the houseband was playing when Billie and Dillinger first met each other and danced together in a dinner-club. The closing text reveals that Melvin Purvis quit the FBI in 1935 and died by his own hand in 1960, and that Billie lived out the rest of her life in Wisconsin following her release in 1936.
 Depp at his best. Not too be underrated,  A really enjoyable film.