REVIEW: VERONICA MARS – SEASON 4

Kristen Bell in Veronica Mars (2004)

 

Starring

Kristen Bell (The GOod Place)
Jason Dohring (Izombie)
Enrico Colantoni (Flashpoint)

Kristen Bell in Veronica Mars (2004)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Percy Daggs III (American son)
Francis Capra (Heroes)
Ryan Hansen (2 Broke Girls)
Max Greenfield (New Girl)
Ken Marino (Agent Carter)
Daran Norris (Izombie)
David Starzyk (Bring it On 5)
Adam Rose (Santa Clarita Diet)
Ryan Devlin (Big Shots)
Julie Gonzalo (Freaky Friday)
James Jordan (Wind River)
Dawnn Lewis (Izombie)
Kirby Howell-Baptiste (The Good Place)
Patton Oswalt (Two and a Half men)
Clifton Collins Jr. (Westworld)
Izabela Vidovic (Supergirl)
J. K. Simmons (Whiplash)
Hiro Kanagawa (Heroes Reborn)
Tyler Alvarez (American Vandal)
Mary McDonnell (Battlestar Galactica)
Mido Hamada (Unknown)
Kyle Secor (The Flash)
François Chau (The Tick)
Logan Miller (Escape Room)
Josh Duhamel (Transformers)
Patrick Cox (2 Broke Girls)
Rodney Rowland (Legacies)
Barry Livingston (Argo)
Clark Duke (Kick-Ass)
Jacqueline Antaramian (Side Effects)
Paul Karmiryan (In The Vault)
Lukas Gage (American Vandal)
Christopher B. Duncan (Legacies)
Patrick Wolff (Starship Troopers)

Chino and the ManIn Hulu’s revival of Veronica Mars, the title character (Kristen Bell) visits one of the many men she put behind bars as a teenager. Realizing that she’s still working as a private investigator, he snipes, “That was your job in high school, right?” Television shows are a product of a particular time in the lives of their characters, creators, and audiences. One of the biggest problems with the recent trend of belated-sequel seasons is that they try to act like nothing has changed for any of those groups when, say, a 32-year-old Rory Gilmore shouldn’t still be acting like a 20-year-old. This issue should be especially acute for Veronica Mars, which in its original run drew much of its power and verve from presenting a hard-boiled gumshoe who looked like she had just quit the school dance team. (She had, actually, in the wake of her best friend’s murder.)Chino and the ManBut the new eight-episode Hulu season is keenly aware that its heroine is stuck in neutral. It’s less surprising for her as an adult to be doing stakeouts and fending off gangsters at gunpoint. But it’s also sad and self-destructive — in a very film-noir kind of way — that she’s retreated to the role she had before she was old enough to vote. When her high school frenemy Weevil (Francis Capra) asks what’s wrong with her, she cracks, “You know, there are a range of opinions.” She spends as much of her narration beating herself up for mistakes and character flaws as she does helping us follow the complicated case that’s brought her back to television. And Bell is just as charismatic, vulnerable, and slick with the banter as she was when she could pass for an 11th-grader.newgirl-ep708_sc9-ray_1203_originalVeronica creator Rob Thomas presciently set the original series in a California beach town with no middle class — only the ultrarich and the people who work for them. The setting works even better amid our present-day class warfare, and the plot involves a series of bombings that may be connected to a movement to drive out the city’s few remaining mom-and-pop businesses. Chief among the early suspects: “Big Dick” Casablancas (David Starzyk), a real-estate mogul (and holdover from the original series; he’s the father of Ryan Hansen’s Dick) publicly insisting that “we need to get back to a better time.” There’s a healthy mix of new faces, including Patton Oswalt enjoying his celebrity as witness to the first bombing; J.K. Simmons at his most charming as an ex-con now working as Big Dick’s enforcer; Kirby Howell-Baptiste as a bar owner Veronica befriends; and Izabela Vidovic as a teen reminiscent of Veronica back in the UPN days. And Veronica of course works the case with her beloved father, Keith (Enrico Colantoni, appealingly relaxed as ever, even as Keith battles health issues), while still trying to make things work with high school flame Logan (Jason Dohring, who apparently lives at the gym now).9a8851bc-3c87-458d-9481-8e4ea386bca3-vmars_101_md_2021r_fThis is the second time Bell and Co. have returned to this world: A 2014 movie introduced us to Veronica as an adult. Perhaps because the film was funded by Kickstarter, Thomas and Diane Ruggiero-Wright (who also co-wrote the new season) leaned hard into fan service, with a mystery that was largely an excuse to bring back as many old favorites as possible. It was fun in spots, but a violation of the bleak noir ethos of the original series, which was at its best when it denied the audience what it wanted and gave them what the story demanded. The Hulu version also features a host of familiar faces, like Max Greenfield as Veronica’s ex Leo (now an FBI agent looking into the bombings), but they turn up only when the plot calls for them. And the ending to this new mystery feels satisfying both to the narratives and to the themes of Veronica’s life as a woman who can’t stop looking for the truth, no matter how much it hurts.Keep Calm and Party OnThe conclusion is darker than some fans may want, but feels like a necessary corrective for this new phase of our heroine’s life. It’s a terrific return to form for one of television’s all-time great underseen gems

REVIEW: INDEPENDENCE DAY

CAST

Will Smith (Suicide Squad)
Bill Pullman (The Grudge)
Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park)
Mary McDonnell (Battlestar Galactica)
Judd Hirsch (Tower Heist)
Robert Loggia (Psycho II)
Randy Quaid (Kingpin)
Margaret Colin (Gotham)
James Rebhorn (Meet The Parents)
Vivica A. Fox (Idle Hands)
Harvey Fierstein (Kull The Conqueror)
Adam Baldwin (Firefly)
Brent Spiner (Star Trek: TNG)
James Duval (Gone In 60 Seconds)
Lisa Jakub (Mrs. Doubtfire)
Giuseppe Andrews (Cabin Fever)
Mae Whitman (Boogeyman 2)
Bill Smitrovich (Iron Man)
Kiersten Warren (13 Going on 30)
Harry Connick Jr. (The Iron Giant)
Frank Welker (Transformers)
Erick Avari (Stargate)
Leland Orser (Daredevil)
Devon Gummersall (Roswell)
Raphael Sbarge (Risky Business)
Bobby Hosea (Xena)
Jay Acovone (Stargate SG.1)
Thom Barry (Cold Case)
Robert Pine (Red Eye)
Derek Webster (Stargate)
Rance Howard (Nebraska)
Kevin Cooney (Legally Blonde)
Jim Piddock (Mascots)
Tracey Walter (Batman)

On July 2, 1996, an enormous alien mothership that has one fourth the mass of the Moon enters orbit around Earth, deploying 36 smaller spacecraft, each 15 miles (24 km) wide, that take positions over some of Earth’s major cities and military bases. David Levinson, an MIT-trained satellite technician, decodes a signal embedded in the global satellite transmissions that he determines is a timer counting down to a coordinated attack. With the help of his former wife, White House Communications Director Constance Spano, Levinson, and his father Julius, gain access to the Oval Office and warn President Thomas J. Whitmore that the aliens are hostile. Whitmore orders large-scale evacuations of New York City, Los Angeles, and Washington D.C., but it is too late; the timer reaches zero and the ships activate devastating directed-energy weapons, killing millions. Whitmore, the Levinsons, and a few others, narrowly escape aboard Air Force One as the capital is destroyed, along with other locations over which the ships are positioned.On July 3, international military leaders begin ordering individual counterattacks. Their aviation forces attack destroyer ships positioned above the ruins of the cities, but they are protected by force fields. Each destroyer launches a swarm of attack fighters, which wipe out the human fighter squadrons. Captain Steven Hiller, a pilot with the Marine Corps squadron VMFA-314 based out of Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, survives by luring his attacker to the enclosed spaces of the Grand Canyon and sacrificing his plane, forcing the alien to crash-land. He subdues the injured alien pilot and flags down a convoy of refugees, hitching a ride with former combat pilot Russell Casse. They transport the unconscious alien to nearby Area 51 where Whitmore’s group has landed. Through Secretary of Defense Albert Nimzicki, they learn that a faction of the government has been involved in a UFO conspiracy since 1947, when one of the invaders’ attack fighters crashed in Roswell. Area 51 houses the refurbished alien fighter and three alien corpses recovered from the crash.When eccentric scientist Brackish Okun examines the alien captured by Hiller, it regains consciousness and attacks. It telepathically invades Okun’s mind and uses his vocal cords to communicate with Whitmore before launching a psychic attack against him. Whitmore sees visions of the alien’s plans: their entire civilization travels from planet to planet, exterminating all indigenous life and harvesting the planet of all natural resources. After Secret Service agents and military personnel kill the alien, Whitmore reluctantly authorizes a nuclear attack; a B-2 Spirit fires a nuclear cruise missile at an alien destroyer positioned above Houston, but the ship remains intact.On July 4, Levinson demonstrates that the key to defeating the aliens lies in deactivating their force fields, and devises a way to do so by uploading a computer virus into the mothership. He proposes using the refurbished alien fighter to implement the plan, which Hiller volunteers to pilot. The two are able to implant the virus and deploy a nuclear weapon on board the mothership. With military pilots in short supply, Whitmore enlists the help of volunteers with flight experience, including Casse, and leads an attack on a destroyer ship bearing down on Area 51. With the alien’s shields deactivated, the fighters are able to inflict damage but their supply of missiles is quickly exhausted. As the destroyer prepares to fire on the base, the last missile, equipped on Casse’s plane, jams, and Casse decides to sacrifice his own life. He flies his plane kamikaze-style into the directed-energy weapon port, which results in an explosion that destroys the ship. Human resistance forces around the world successfully destroy the other craft using this vulnerability. As humankind is rejoicing in victory, Hiller and Levinson return to Area 51 unharmed and reunite with their families. They and military officers nearby accompany Whitmore and his daughter in watching the wreckage from the mothership burn up, resembling a fireworks display as it enters Earth’s atmosphere.Independence Day is arguably one of the greatest SF disaster movies of all time. With REM’s ‘It’s the end of the world’ sampled near the beginning of the movie, you definitely know that Roland Emmerich’s view about alien encounters is more akin to War of the Worlds than E.T. Filled with stunning special effects, stirring music, unpretentious sentimentality and laced with good natured humour there is no need to bemoan the lack of character development or obvious narrative coincidences. There is no pretence at being a great cinematic masterpiece examining deep philosophical themes. This is a two hour long, ludicrously enjoyable, preposterously pompous, unbelievably incredible ‘backs against the wall’ slice of SF fantasy which still entertains after numerous viewings.

REVIEW: DONNIE DARKO

CAST

Jake Gyllenhaal (Zodiac)
Jena Malone (Saved)
Mary McDonnell (Scream 4)
Holmes Osborne (Bring It On)
Katharine Ross (Hellfighters)
Maggie Gyllenhaal (The Dark Knight)
Daveigh Chase (S.Darko)
James Duval (May)
Drew Barrymore (Poison Ivy)
Patrick Swayze (Dirty Dancing)
Noah Wyle (ER)
Beth Grant (Wonderfalls)
Fran Kranz (The Cabin In The Woods)
Seth Rogen (Paul)
Ashley Tisdale (Scary Movie 5)

Jake Gyllenhaal and Jena Malone in Donnie Darko (2001)
On October 2, 1988, Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal), a troubled teenager living in Middlesex, Virginia, is awakened and led outside by a figure in a monstrous rabbit costume, who introduces himself as “Frank” and tells him the world will end in 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes, and 12 seconds. At dawn, Donnie returns home to find a jet engine has crashed into his bedroom. His older sister, Elizabeth (Maggie Gyllenhaal), informs him the FAA investigators do not know where it came from.
Donnie tells his psychotherapist, Dr. Thurman (Katharine Ross), about his continuing visits from Frank. Acting under Frank’s influence, he floods his school by damaging a water main. He also begins dating new student Gretchen Ross (Jena Malone), who has moved to town with her mother under a new identity to escape her violent stepfather. Conservative gym teacher Kitty Farmer (Beth Grant) blames the flooding on the influence of the short story “The Destructors”, assigned by dedicated liberal English teacher Karen Pomeroy (Drew Barrymore), and begins teaching attitude lessons taken from motivational speaker Jim Cunningham (Patrick Swayze). Donnie rebels against these motivational lessons, leading to friction between Kitty and Donnie’s mother Rose (Mary McDonnell).
Donnie asks his science teacher, Dr. Kenneth Monnitoff (Noah Wyle), about time travel after Frank brings up the topic, and is given the book The Philosophy of Time Travel, written by Roberta Sparrow (Patience Cleveland), a former science teacher at the school who is now a seemingly senile old woman. The book explains that time travel is possible when there is a disruption of the time continuum of the Primary Universe. The disruption creates a fragile Tangent Universe, which can only exist for a few weeks before collapsing into a black hole which will utterly destroy the Primary Universe. When a Tangent Universe is created, a metal Artifact will mysteriously appear there. It must be returned to the Primary Universe to re-establish the original time construct and dispel the danger of complete destruction. The book describes the roles of the Living Receiver, who receives Fourth Dimension powers to ensure the Artifact is returned so that the Primary Universe continues, as well as the Manipulated Living and Dead. Those who die in the Tangent Universe (the Manipulated Dead) can time travel to appear in that universe before their deaths. They must guide the Living Receiver and create an Ensurance Trap, which forces the Living Receiver to use Fourth Dimension powers and return the Artifact to the Primary Universe. Once time is restored, people will probably have no memory of what happened in the Tangent Universe, though they may have disturbing dreams. Donnie reads the book but doesn’t understand how it applies to him. (The book is available on the DVD of the film and is essential to understanding what happens and why.)
Thurman tells Donnie’s parents that he is detached from reality, and that his visions of Frank are “daylight hallucinations”, symptomatic of paranoid schizophrenia. Donnie disrupts a speech being given by Jim Cunningham by insulting him in front of the student body, then burns down Cunningham’s house on instructions from Frank. When police find evidence of a child pornography operation in the house’s remains, Cunningham is arrested. During a hypnotherapy session, Donnie confesses his crimes to Dr. Thurman and says that Frank will soon kill someone. Rose agrees to replace Kitty as chaperone for her daughter Samantha’s (Daveigh Chase) dance troupe in Los Angeles, so Kitty can testify in Cunningham’s defense; with her husband Eddie (Holmes Osborne) in New York on business, her older children are home alone.
Donnie and Elizabeth take the opportunity to throw a Halloween party to celebrate her acceptance to Harvard. Gretchen arrives, distraught that her mother has disappeared. Realizing that only hours remain before Frank’s prophesied end of the world, Donnie takes Gretchen and two friends to seek Roberta Sparrow at her house. They are attacked by two school bullies (Alex Greenwald and Seth Rogen) who are attempting to rob Sparrow’s house, and the fight spills into the street. An oncoming Pontiac Trans Am car swerves to avoid Sparrow who went for her daily walk to check her mailbox, but runs over Gretchen, killing her. The driver is Elizabeth’s boyfriend Frank (James Duval), wearing the same rabbit costume as the Frank of Donnie’s visions. Donnie shoots him in his eye with his father’s gun, killing him.
As a vortex forms in dark clouds above his house, Donnie drives into the hills and watches as an airplane descends from above. The plane, carrying Rose and the dance troupe, is wrenched violently as one of its engines detaches and falls into the vortex. Events of the previous 28 days recapitulate in reverse order and action, propelled by Donnie’s powers, until Donnie finds himself in bed in the early hours of October 2. The Ensurance Trap has worked. He sits laughing uncontrollably, knowing that his fate is to die – so that his mother, sister, Gretchen and Frank may live and the black hole will be averted. Suddenly, the jet engine (Artifact) crashes through his room, killing him – as it should have done and now does in the Primary Universe. Others with whom Donnie had interacted in the 28 Tangent World days awaken, some looking disturbed. Gretchen rides by Donnie’s house and learns of his death from a neighborhood boy (Scotty Leavenworth), but says she did not know him. Gretchen and Rose exchange a glance and wave as if they know one another, but cannot remember from where.
This is one of the best cult classics of all time which is very bizarre and complex with a great lead by Jake Gyllenhall and is Richard Kelly’s one hit wonder which has a very sad ending.