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)

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: SANTA CLARITA DIET – SEASON 1

MAIN CAST

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

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Ricardo Chavira (Desperate Housewives)
Mary Elizabeth Ellis (Masterminds)
Richard T. Jones (Terminator: TSCC)
Joy Osmanski (Samantha Who?)
Natalie Morales  (Wall Street 2)
Thomas Lennon (Balls of Fury)
Grace Zabriskie (Drop Zone)
DeObia Oparei (Moulin Rouge!)
Portia de Rossi (Scream 2)
Nathan Fillion (Firefly)
Andy Richter (Elf)
Kaylee Bryant (Legacies)
Patton Oswalt (Agents of S.h.i.e.l.d.)
Ryan Hansen (2 Broke Girls)
Derek Waters (Hall Pass)
Ravi Patel (Grandfathered)
Patricia Belcher (Bones)
Ramona Young (Z Nation)

Santa Clarita Diet on Netflix is an odd and yet oddly simple series. Its creator, Victor Fresco, made his name with Better Off Ted, which played fast and loose with the conventions of the office comedy. In Santa Clarita, he attacks the family sitcom with the same stylized absurdity and mock naïveté. And zombies. Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant star as Sheila and Joel, married real estate agents with a teenage daughter, Abby (Liv Hewson). That changes when Sheila dies after an epic fit of vomiting and comes back to life full of energy, sexually supercharged and very, very hungry for human flesh.
drew-barrymore-timothy-olyphant-santa-clarita-dietIt’s a clever idea — zombification as the route to midlife rejuvenation. Rather than grow bitter and have affairs, Sheila sips human smoothies and gets happier. Her new joie de mourir even recharges her marriage with Joel, a former jock who has receded into a suburban ineffectualness symbolized by the flip-flops he wears around the cul-de-sac.
santa-clarita-diet-staffel-1-01-rcm992x0The first few episodes of “Santa Clarita Diet” do have a good amount of gore and the last third of the season fills out as the mystery and thriller. But there’s a stretch in the middle where Mr. Fresco and his writers have a lot of fun subverting the formulas of the suburban comedy. Family dinners require finesse (because Mom eats people). Abby is angry that her parents keep secrets (because Mom eats people). When told that a pedophile has moved in down the street, Sheila perks up, because she’s on the lookout for undesirable people she won’t feel guilty about eating.screen-shot-2017-01-24-at-10-05-38-amA funny premise and appealing performances take Santa Clarita Diet far. There are enough laughs to make this show bingeable.

REVIEW: THE BIG BANG THEORY – SEASON 1-8

CAST

Johnny Galecki (Hancock)
Jim Parsons (Garden State)
Kaley Cuoco (Killer Movie)
Simon Helberg (Dr. Horrible)
Kunal Nayyar (Trolls)
Sara Gilbert (Poison Ivy)
Kevin Sussman (Ugly Betty)
Melissa Rauch (I Love You, Man)
Mayim Bialik (Blossom)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Vernee Watson (Mike & Molly)
Brian Patrick Wade (Agents of Shield)
Laurie Metcalf (3rd Rock From The Sun)
Mark Harelik (Election)
Rachel Cannon (Fresh off the Boat)
Brooke D’Orsay (Two and a Half Men)
James Hong (Blade Runner)
Carol Ann Susi (Cats & Dogs)
Brian George (Ghost World)
Alice Amter (The Good Girl)
Sarayu Blue (Monday Mornings)
DJ Qualls (Road Trip)
Charlie Sheen (Hot Shots)
Octavia Spencer (Insurgent)
Riki Lindhome (The Muppets)
Sara Rue (Mom)
Michael Trucco (Battlestar Galactica)
John Ross Bowie (The Heat)
Christine Baranski (Into The Woods)
Summer Glau (Terminator: TSCC)
Valerie Azlynn (Julia X)
Jodi Lyn O’Keefe (The Vampire Diaries)
Will Wheaton (Powers)
Katee Sackhoff (Riddick)
Danica McKellar (The Wonder Years)
Yeardley Smith (The Simpsons)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble)
Judy Greer (Ant-Man)
Ally Maki (Wrecked)
Brian Smith (The Flip Side)
George Takei (Heroes)
Aarti Mann (The Monogamy Experiement)
Eliza Dushku (Dollhouse)
Eric Andre (2 Broke Girls)
Jesse Heiman (Chuck)
Keith Carradine (Dexter)
Rick Fox (Holes)
Jessica Walter (Dinosaurs)
Joshua Malina (Scandal)
LeVar Burton (Star Trek: TNG)
Katie Leclerc (Switched at Birth)
Brent Spiner (Star Trek: TNG)
Courtney Ford (Revenge)
Lance Barber (Gangster Squad)
Becky O’Donohue (Fast & Furious)
Peter Onorati (Goodfellas)
Leonard Nimoy (Star Trek)
Stephen Hawkings (Futurama)
Margo Harshman (Sorotiy Row)
Ken Lerner (The Running Man)
Howie Mandel (Gremlins)
Ryan Cartwright (Bones)
Casey Sander (16 Blocks)
Meagen Fay (Barton Fink)
Regina King (Ray)
Kate Micucci (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2012)
Bob Newhart (Elf)
Brian Posehn (New Girl)
James Earl Jones (Conan The Barbarian)
Carrie Fisher (Family Guy)
Tania Raymonde (Texas Chainsaw)
Laura Spencer (Bones)
Billy Bob Thornton (Bad Santa)
Stephen Root (King of the Hill)
Nathan Fillion (Firefly)
Kevin Smith (Daredevil)

As the series opens, into this world in walks Penny (Kaley Cuoco). She’s literally the beautiful girl next door since she moves into the apartment across the hall from Leonard and Sheldon. She’s an aspiring actress, which naturally means she’s making a living as a waitress. Most of the guys immediately develop crushes on her, but it’s Leonard who is the most serious about her.And despite how little they have in common, the five main characters form a friendship. But first, Penny has to deal with Sheldon and Leonard cleaning up her place for her while she slept. Sheldon gets fired for telling his new boss exactly what he thinks of him. Leonard and Sheldon stop speaking to each other after Leonard decides to present a paper they both authored. Sheldon tries to tell a sufficiently complex lie to Penny. And Penny must take care of a sick Sheldon. If there is any standout character that makes this show hilarious, it’s Sheldon. The guy may be brilliant when it comes to his job, but he is a complete idiot when it comes to interacting with anyone. His reaction to things, or lack of reaction, makes for some of the best jokes in the show.
The acting on the show is universally great. The main actors are great as breathing life into their characters and really rounding them out. Yes, even Simon Helberg is good as Howard. Special praise must go to Kunal Nayyar whose Raj is too terrified to talk to women. His facial expressions alone are priceless. But the undisputable star of the show is Jim Parsons. He makes anti-social Sheldon completely believable and funny without resorting to too many stereotypes. He was born for this role pure and simple.
Due to the writer’s strike of the fall of 2007, there were only 17 episode in the first season. All of them are here on three discs in widescreen and stereo sound. They look and sound great. There is one 17 minute behind the scenes type featurette that talks about the creation of the show and the characters.

In season two, the laughs continue as the goofy cast gets into many hilarious situations, as the combined brain power of The Big Bang Theory is no match for normal life. This season continues to build upon the romance between Leonard and Penny, which has its ups and downs. Leonard also dates a couple girls and Howard has his eye on both. Sheldon’s neurotic and weird portrayal of life continues to be the butt of almost every joke, as he is far from normal. Raj has his fifteen minutes of fame, which go to his head. Overall, it is a strong season.
The season premiere episode is “The Bad Fish Paradigm”. Leonard and Penny have their first date. Unfortunately, it is their only date. At first, Leonard thinks the date went well. However, his odd friends convince him that things did not go as he thought. Penny confides in Sheldon. She does not feel smart enough for Leonard and fears he will get bored with her. She forces him to keep it a secret, which causes Sheldon to move out of the apartment, staying with Raj and Howard. Eventually Leonard learns about Penny’s fear and only makes it worse. The episode is fun way to start the season with Sheldon’s neurotic behavior stealing the spotlight.In the next episode “The Codpiece Topology”, Leonard is jealous of Penny who is dating again. He considers his options, which are slim. Oddly enough, Leslie Winkle (Sara Gilbert) has her eyes on him. They had a brief romance in the past, but Leslie was only looking for short-term fun. Now, she wants to settle down and thinks Leonard might be Mr. Right. The new relationship causes complications for Sheldon and Penny. The episode is really fun. Gilbert and Galecki have great chemistry together, which is a rehash from their time together on Roseanne. Gilbert shows up in additional episodes this season and has a romance with Howard.“The Griffin Equivalency” is a fun episode where Raj gets put in the spotlight. He is listed by People magazine on their ’30 Under 30 to Watch’ for his contributions to science. When Raj tells his friends about it, they do not give supportive reactions. Sheldon attacks him for getting lucky. Leonard and Howard decide to take him out to dinner to celebrate his accomplishment. However, the tables turn when Raj is given special treatment by the university, which causes jealous amongst his friends. He invites them to a party and they refuse. Penny agrees to go with him and it turns out to be a little more than she bargained for… Penny meets Raj’s parents and it does not go well for anyone.
In “The Barbarian Sublimation”, Penny is feeling down about not accomplishing any substantial with her life and turns to Sheldon for comfort. He gets her hooked on online gaming, which is a real fun sight to see. Penny takes on an odd persona and even scares Leonard. It is a classic and geeky episode. In “The Euclid Alternative”, everyone is tired of Sheldon leeching off of them for rides and force him to get his driver’s license, which he is apparently incapable of. Sheldon, again, steals the spotlight with his neurotic physical comedy and turns this very common situation into a bunch of laughs.
“The Lizard-Spock Expansion” introduces a multi-episode story arc and Stephanie Barnett (Sara Rue), a new love interest for Leonard and Howard. Howard uses his access to the Mars Rover to pick up Stephanie, but when he crashes it, he calls on his friends for help. Leonard and Stephanie hit it off and start dating, behind Sheldon’s back. Oddly enough, Howard thinks they’re together. The Leonard-Stephanie-Howard threesome produces a lot of laughs. Stephanie also appears in “The White Asparagus Triangulation”, Sheldon tries to help Leonard’s relationship, but only dampens his style, and “The Vartabedian Conundrum”, Leonard realizes Stephanie is living with him.As for the rest of the season, there are many more fun episodes, such as “The Cooper-Nowitzki Theorem”, Sheldon gets a girlfriend (sort of) and no one understands what is happening, “The Bath Item Gift Hypothesis”, Penny dates Dr. David Underhill (Michael Trucco), Leonard’s better looking counterpart, “The Friendship Algorithm”, Sheldon befriends someone at work to everyone’s amazement, “The Maternal Capacitance”, Leonard’s mother visits and her personality is identical to Sheldon, ” The Terminator Decoupling”, the guys run into Summer Glau (Firefly, Serenity, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) on a train, and “The Hofstadter Isotope”, Penny goes with the guys to the comic book store and exchanges phone numbers with someone, and it eats away at Leonard.Overall, The Big Bang Theory’s second season continues to be very strong. The cast has a great dynamic together. The leading males’ geeky views of life provide neurotic and hilarious situations. Cuoco is a good balance to them, and also provides her own silliness. However, Parsons repeatedly steals the spotlight with physical comedy and excellent delivery of dialogue. He manages to turn many common situations, as he interacts with the other cast members, into a riot. The show’s writing is also topnotch. It provides witty dialogue that leaves you laughing. The plotlines can be simplistic, but they work and never fail to draw in your attention. In the end, The Big Bang Theory is a major success with its second season.

At the end of season 2, Leonard, Sheldon, Raj and Howard were leaving for a three month expedition to the North Pole to test one of Sheldon’s theories. Leonard was sad to be leaving Penny behind, though they weren’t dating and surprisingly, Penny was upset to be away from Leonard too. As this season opens the group has just gotten back from the far north and when Leonard knocks on Penny’s door to inform her of their return she leaps into his arms and kisses him passionately.  Turns out Penny really missed Leonard, and they go into her apartment and close the door.
The Big Bang Theory continues to remain one of the funniest sitcoms on network television today. eason 3 showed us exactly why this is the case bringing us some of the funniest BBT episodes yet to date. This show is at its very best when its five main characters, rather than being shoehorned into conventional sitcom devices like hook-ups and infighting, are simply allowed to be their smart, socially awkward, idiosyncratic selves. And for the most part, they were.

One of the pleasures of this show is that you can throw together practically any two characters and have a unique, unpredictable and funny dynamic. Forget Leonard and Penny — perhaps the best odd-couple pairing we got all season was Sheldon and Penny, who despite all odds, have figured out that they enjoy each other’s company. Something about his smug childishness gels perfectly with her unsinkable good humor and ability to deliver a zinging comeback. “The Adhesive Duck Deficiency” showcased Sheldon and Penny’s unique chemistry to great effect on multiple levels — not only did Sheldon have to tolerate hours alone with Penny, but he was forced to adopt the role of caretaker while the other guys were off getting stoned in the desert. The episode culminated in a newfound trust between the two, who by the end of the season grew to think of each other as friends.

Speaking of Sheldon, he continues to be an amazing comic force. Jim Parsons shone this season, and the writers wisely showcased him at every possible opportunity. It’s hard to imagine this actor ever playing any other role. We followed Sheldon from the North Pole to his home state of Texas (where Laurie Metcalf did a very funny turn as his uber-conservative mother), learned the back story of his friendship with Leonard, and best of all, saw him face off against his sixth most hated rival, Wil Wheaton. Wheaton’s guest appearance in “The Creepy Candy Coating Corollary” was so well received that the show brought him back a second time, in “The Wheaton Recurrence.” Sometimes you can tell when actors are really enjoying themselves onscreen and this always seemed to be the case when Wheaton showed up, so hopefully he’ll continue to play himself on a semi-regular basis. Season 3 also introudced us in the finale to  Amy Farrah Fowler, (played by Mayim Bialik) who would become a regular in season 4.

The writers introduced two female characters to the regular cast this year, although both did show up in season three. Melissa Rauch returns as Howard’s girlfriend Bernadette. And Mayim Bialik, who appeared in the final few moments of season three, is back as Amy Farrah Fowler, Sheldon’s not girlfriend but friend who is a girl. Since both either have doctorates or are going for doctorates, that still leaves Penny as the only non-super smart person of the cast. However, everyone has trouble relating to us mere mortals, and that’s where Penny really shines. Her heart comes through in every moment she is on screen..
Over the course of the season, Sheldon breaks up with Amy Farrah Fowler over scientific differences and buys a bunch of cats to ease his loneliness. Howard’s past mistake comes out when the FBI investigate him for a security clearance. The guys enter a New Year’s Eve costume contest with some surprising additions to their group. Leonard’s idea for a smartphone app gets out of hand when Sheldon gets involved. Raj begins to have feelings for Bernadette while Leonard starts seeing Raj’s sister Priya (guest star Aartia Mann). Everyone winds up at an out of town science convention where friendships get tested. And in one of my favorites, Amy Farrah Fowler and Sheldon decide to experiment with gossip by starting rumors and seeing how long it takes the entire group to find out.

Of course, with this show, some of the sub-plots can be just as great as the main plot. I’m especially fond of one involving Howard performing a magic trick that Sheldon can’t figure out. Another memorable one involves Sheldon and his new three person chess game.
The new additions haven’t dampened the acting at all. The original cast knows their characters and invests everything they have in bringing them to life every week. Melissa Rauch and Mayim Bialik slip into the cast seamlessly and feel like they’ve been playing these characters just as long. Jim Parsons went into this season having just won a well-deserved Emmy for Lead Actor in a Comedy, and his work is just as impressive here.

Season 5 picks up exactly where season 4 left off. Penny (Kaley Cuoco) has just spent a drunken night with Raj (Kunal Nayyar). While it wasn’t quite what it appeared, they quickly go back to normal, which isn’t hard when Raj will only talk to women when he’s drunk.
Meanwhile, Leonard (Johnny Galecki) tries to maintain a long distance relationship before putting his relationship with Penny back in a beta test. Sheldon (Jim Parsons) is forced to take his relationship with Amy (Mayim Bialik) to the next level – and he insists they both sign a relationship agreement. Leonard finds a loophole in his relationship with Sheldon when he voids the friendship clause. And Howard (Simon Helberg) gets ready for a trip into space and his marriage to Bernadette (Melissa Rauch).
That’s just a few of the bigger storylines of the season. Each episode is filled with laughs. Some people complain the show isn’t as funny as it used to be, but I find it hysterical just about every week. Yes, they have one or two weeks that fall flat, but they are by far the exception rather than the rule. And even then, there are some great lines and classic moments. Howard and Bernadette have the biggest story arcs of the season, and I must say I love watching the two of them interact. Usually, they are so sweet together, although when they fight it can be pretty funny as well. Howard used to annoy me like crazy, but now I actually find I like him.As far as guest stars we’ve got Wil Wheaton, Brent Spiner, and Dr. Stephen Hawkins appear as themselves, and Leonard Nimoy voices a Spock doll. The show pasted the 100 episode mark this season, and that means the cast is very familiar with their characters. It shows, too, in the acting. Everyone is believable and comfortable with their parts, and it’s easy to just sit back and laugh as the show plays.
Season 6 starts off with 5 overarching plot episodes based around Howard’s trip to space and return to Earth with a less than warm welcome. These are some very good episodes, the premiere has some nice moments during Amy and Sheldon’s anniversary. Another highlight in the first 5 is when Game night turns into Men vs Women. These episodes put quite a bit of spotlight onto Howard and his accomplishment that no one else acknowledges, and I enjoyed them immensely, some character developing episodes for him.The season has some great highlight episodes. We get a very good dramatic episode (rare for TBBT) called “The Closet Reconfiguration” where Sheldon being Sheldon, he cleans out Howard’s closet and comes across an unopened letter sent to Howard from his father who abandoned him. They all get to show off their acting chops in this episode (especially Helberg). We get another appearance from Wil Wheaton in “The Habitation Configuration” (Which Jim Parsons just won an Emmy for his work in) that turns into another fantastic episode when Sheldon has to choose between his friend or his girlfriend. “The Closure Alternative” involves one of Sheldon’s favorite shows being cancelled, and lastly “The Proton Resurgence”, which features Bob Newhart in an Emmy award winning guest appearance as Sheldon’s childhood hero, Professor Proton.

As for the relationships, this season was a huge one. Leonard and Penny finally take the next step in their relationship. Sheldon and Amy continue to move forward at a Snails pace, with Sheldon finally considering more. Raj gets some much needed character development when he finally finds a girlfriend, who is essentially A reflection of himself, named Lucy. The cast is as great as ever, with their chemistry remaining tip top…Parsons again steals the show with his excellent physical comedy and strong delivery of his dialogue. Galecki plays off perfectly against Jim. Simon Helberg gets some meat to chew on this season and he kills it, especially the episode where he finds the letter from his father that was sent years earlier. The writing remains witty and top notch, that is conveyed perfectly on screen through the excellent performers. The writers need to continue with this great writing, The Big Bang Theory proves here why it’s still one of the funniest shows on TV.

This season picks up exactly where the last one left off. Leonard (Johnny Galecki) is on a ship in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean on a research trip. Back at home, the gang must learn to deal with his absence, especially his roommate Sheldon (Jim Parsons) and his girlfriend Penny (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting). However, when he comes back, his desire to spend some time with Penny over Sheldon shows the beginnings of the first changes in the group, a theme that actually echoed through the season.

Following up on the sixth season finale, Raj (Kunal Nayyar) is now able to talk to girls even when he’s sober. What didn’t change there is that he still isn’t a lady’s man, although it does open up a few new relationship possibilities for him. Speaking of relationships, Sheldon and Amy (Mayim Bialk) wind up taking what for them is a huge step forward in their relationship on a romantic train ride up to the Napa Valley. Penny makes a huge change to forward her career as an actress and finds herself in a less than desirable roll opposite a surprising co-star. I would argue that the only main characters not to have major changes this season are Howard (Simon Helberg) and Bernadette (Melissa Rauch), but since they adjusted to married life last season, maybe that’s for the best. They still get some great stories, like Howard’s drastic change after trying to help out his mother and how they deal with having Raj has a house guest for a week.

And the geekiness continues. Stuart (Kevin Sussman) and his comic book store regularly appear in the series. When the guys don’t get into Comic Con, Sheldon decides to start his own, leading to a day with James Earl Jones. Speaking of which, the show finally celebrates Star Wars day in what is a touching and funny episode featuring the third appearance of comedy legend Bob Newhart.

Relationships are a key element of the season, which starts with the socially-awkward Sheldon stuck in an Arizona railroad station without any pants, the victim of poorly-received changes in his life. What exactly is going on between him and Amy, as well as what is happening with Penny and Leonard and their extended engagement, are the engine of this run of episodes, as Sheldon faces the need to overcome his off-putting personality, and Leonard has to overcome Penny’s new-found success. After seven seasons, the show hasn’t felt the need to artificially change its main characters and their lives, instead going in a more organic direction, choosing to highlight change that happens naturally in a relationship. That evolution also powers an impactful cliffhanger of a season finale.

The series did have a sudden change to cope with though, when Carol Ann Susi, the actress who gave voice to Howard’s unseen harpy of a mother, died, and her passing was written into the series, creating more change for Howard and giving a bit of a goose to the other characters, who took from her death in different ways.

Season 8 once again had excellent guest stars such as  Laurie Metcalf, Christine Baranski, Billy Bob Thornton, Nathan Fillion, Wil Wheaton and Stephen Hawking. The Shocking Cliffhanger leaves fans wondering where certain relationships will end up.

REVIEW: DR. HORRIBLE’S SING-ALONG BLOG

CAST

Neil Patrick Harris (The Smurfs)
Nathan Fillion (Firefly)
Felicia Day (The Guild)
Simon Helberg (The Big Bang Theory)
Liz Vassey (Two and a Half Men)

 

Neil Patrick Harris, Nathan Fillion, and Felicia Day in Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog (2008)In July of 2008 something special premiered exclusively on the Internet — for free! The three-part web series Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog is an absolutely wonderful gem of a comedy.Neil Patrick Harris in Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog (2008)Horrible showcases the talent of Joss Whedon & company. As Whedon explains in his commentary, industry professionals immediately asked if the show could be extended into a TV series length, or be adapted to some other commercial format. Strike rules put a limit on the show’s commercial prospects, but that’s beside the point. Dr. Horrible was purposely made for free, to get mass visibility and enlarge the careers of the talent involved: Maurissa Tancharoen and the collective Whedon genius of the Joss, Jed & Zack variety.Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog (2008)The story is frivolous genre joy from the very first rushed stack of title cards. The ambitious, sensitive Billy (Neil Patrick Harris) strives for success as the nefarious Dr. Horrible, his Holy Grail being to gain entry into the exclusive Evil League of Evil. Billy remains undeterred despite the fact that, even when his outrageous Evil schemes succeed, they are thwarted by the smug, conceited & oversexed superhero Captain Hammer (Nathan Fillion of Firefly). Hammer repeatedly humiliates Dr.Horrible in public. Complicating matters is Billy/Horrible’s crush on Penny (Felicia Day), the Sweetheart of the Laundromat and an activist for homeless shelters. Our lovesick arch-villain is crushed to discover that Penny is dating the insincere womanizer Captain Hammer. Horrible’s sidekick Moist (Simon Helberg) delivers a final warning letter from “Bad Horse”, the chairman of the Evil League of Evil: Dr. Horrible must assassinate somebody if he expects to pass the entrance exam. And who better to kill than Captain Hammer?Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog (2008)Perfectly cast and performed, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog has the sparkle that comes when talented people do what they love: put on a show! When we’re not dazzled by Neil Patrick Harris’s spot-on delivery and great singing, we have the charming Felicia Day to admire.   Fillion pulls off the he-man posing and sings well enough to make Captain Hammer deliciously hiss-able. Felicia Day, a completely non-standard beauty, is several times more effective for it, and sings like angel. At only 43 minutes, one might be tempted to think that the makers couldn’t sustain the fun. That length is actually perfect for Horrible.

REVIEW: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY

 

CAST

Chris Pratt (Jurassic World)
Zoe Saldana (Avatar)
Dave Bautista (Riddick)
Vin Diesel (The Fast and The Furious)
Lee Pace (The Hobbit)
Bradley Cooper (Joy)
Michael Rooker (The Walking Dead)
Karen Gillan (Oculus)
Djimon Hounsou (Stargate)
John C. Reilly (Step Brothers)
Glenn Close (Hoodwinked!)
Benicio Del Toro (Traffic)
Lauda Haddock (Luther)
Peter Serafinowicz (Spy)
Gregg Henry (Payback)
Brendan Fehr (Roswell)
Nathan Fillion (Firefly)
Alexis Denisof (Angel)
Ophelia Lovibond (4.3.2.1.)
Rob Zombie (Super)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble)
John Brotherton (Fuller House)
Josh Brolin (Jonah Hex)
Seth Green (Family Guy)

Lee Pace in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)Guardians of the Galaxy stars are a loosely shaped band of intergalactic scoundrels who go from being bad guys to heroes despite their own penchant for greed and self-preservation. Amongst them is a cosmic kidnapping victim who goes by Star-Lord, a terrible alias, which is why most folks call him by his Earth name, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt, Parks and Recreation). Stolen from his parents in the movie’s prologue, Quill has become a spacefaring thief and scavenger. He has recently struck off on his own, betraying his adopted crew to sell a mysterious metal orb and pocket the profits. This action sets off reverberations, angering the orb’s intended recipient, a brutal thug called Ronan (Lee Pace, Pushing Daisies), and landing a rather large bounty on Quill’s head. Ronan dispatches one of his minions, Gamora (Zoe Saldana, Star Trek), to get him the object. Blows are exchanged. Chris Pratt manages the physicality with a surprising ease, while also making it okay for those of us sick of Andy Dwyer to like the perfomer again. Zoe Saldana is at her most badass, continuing to prove that she should be the star of her own action franchise. (She was the only thing good in Colombiana). Further complications arise, however, when her efforts are derailed by the presence of the aforementioned raccoon and tree.Chris Pratt and Zoe Saldana in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)Rocket Raccoon and Groot (voiced by Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel, respectively) are misfit bounty hunters who intend to collect on Quill’s head. Rocket is a violent little bastard who is the product of some sinister experiments, and Groot is a kindly wood creature who comes from parts unknown. These two steal the movie, I promise you. Cooper’s vocal performance has a glee and abandon I’d like to see from him in the flesh, and those who remember how Diesel tugged at our heartstrings doing similar work in The Iron Giant will be pleased to have him work his magic here, too. Groot can only say one phrase, “I am Groot,” and like Woo shouting out a certain obscenity when talking to Al Swearengen in Deadwood, how he says it is indicative of its meaning. The computer effects team for Guardians easily bests even Dawn of the Planet of the Apes for creating believable, fully realized creatures that simply should not be.Lee Pace in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)The four bad guys tussle on a peaceful planet, and end up arrested. It’s in prison that they find their fifth Guardian, a shirtless bruiser called Drax the Destroyer (wrestler Dave Bautista) who has a grudge against Gamora’s former employer. He agrees to stave off killing her and go along with their prison break if it means they’ll take him to Ronan. And so an unlikely group of heroes is born.Chris Pratt in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)The basic plot of Guardians of the Galaxy, which was co-written by Nicole Perlman and director James Gunn (Slither, Super), follows the Guardians as they first try to keep the orb out of Ronan’s hands and then, after they simultaneously lose it and discover what it really holds, get it back before he begins a path of destruction across the universe. The main genre is more adventure than sci-fi, and the tone lighter and more comic than a lot of recent superhero movies, but that’s what makes Guardians of the Galaxy so refreshing.

 

 

REVIEW: SUPER

CAST

Rainn Wilson (The Office)
Ellen Page (Juno)
Liv Tyler (jersey Girl)
Kevin Bacon (A Few Good Men)
Gregg Henry (PaybacK)
Michael Rooker (Guardians of The galaxy)
Linda Cardellini (Scooby-Doo)
Nathan Fillion (Slither)
Andre Royo (Empire)
Sean Gunn (Gilmore Girls)
Stephen Blackehart (Death Racers)
Mikaela Hoover (The Guest Book)
Rob Zombie (House of 1000 Corpses)
Lloyd Kaufman (The Litch)
William Katt (Carrie)

1Frank (Rainn Wilson), a not-that-bright, not-that-handsome guy who can count the good things that have happened to him on one hand and who works as a cook at the greasiest spoon you’ve ever seen, has lost his recovering-addict wife (Liv Tyler, The Lord of the Rings)–one of those precious few good things–to a sleazy, drug-dealing club owner (Kevin Bacon). This unbearable injustice is the last straw for Frank, who has, to be sure, experienced no shortage of injustice in his time. After some surreal, hallucinatory soul-searching, and egged on by young, hyper Libby (Ellen Page)–a comics-shop clerk who nags her way into the role of his official sidekick–he becomes “The Crimson Bolt,” a fed-up DIY superhero who is going to not only save Frank’s wife and get them back together, but also make the world safe at long last for all the nice, mild-mannered people who have had enough of playing doormat for the world’s pushers (of all kinds) and shovers.Super_filmFrank is at the end of his rope; overstimulated Libby is terminally bored. They are in way over their heads, but they are too inspired to care, and The Crimson Bolt, accompanied by sidekick “Boltie,” can be heard to utter his catchphrase, “Shut up, crime!” as they use their trademark pipe wrench (for The Bolt) and Wolverine claws (Boltie) to whip violators into shape; whether you are a child molester or a smug, self-centered jerk who cuts in line at the movies, you had better watch out, because their adrenaline is pumping, and you are likely to end up in the emergency room with severe lacerations or a crushed skull. Gunn shies away from neither the ghastly injuries nor the pleas and cries of pain emanating from those on the receiving end of justice, Crimson Bolt-style. By now, we have been intentionally “shocked” often enough by movie violence, whether it be the flippant, choreographed Reservoir Dogs kind or in the devastating (and, I think, much more conscientious) Funny Games mode.super-movieIn the case of Super, though, the Taxi Driver comparisons Gunn has garnered for his film are apt; regardless of how many movies and TV programs may encourage cheering it on, “justified” violence is as ugly and difficult to stomach as any other kind, and it may even be more painful to watch a character whom you can relate to and whom you know to be acting out of conscience doing such unconscionable things. But Gunn’s film is quite different from Scorsese’s masterpiece in its willingness to wear its heart directly on its sleeve.Both Frank and Libby are damaged people whose emotions have been run roughshod over by life, they are rife with insecurities and uncertainties, and they want the reassurance of a fantasy world in which one’s moral certitude translates into real action and results. It is very, very easy for us to understand and sympathize with them…but then we cringe at the cruelty they rather randomly inflict as retribution for life’s crumminess (not to mention at the uneasy romantic tension that develops between the very married Frank and Libby, with her underfed emotional and sexual appetites). Gunn does not skimp on fully exploring either the righteousness of Frank and Libby’s rage or the unacceptable brutality that results from it; Libby’s comics-bred (over)enthusiasm might be able to override her less-than-fully-developed conscience, but Frank’s is too powerful not to impede his enjoyment of what they are up to, and he also seems burdened by the felt responsibility of being the older one, Libby’s role model and moral compass.
MV5BODNmODZmMTMtYTA0NS00ZDE1LThiZTQtMTQ4OWZhMTJlNTRjXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTIzOTk5ODM@._V1_A great deal of the credit for the film’s ability to move us belongs to its actors. When it comes to embodying Frank in all his poor, pathetic put-upon-ness. It would have been a tragic misfire to play such a character as a dismissable laughing stock, and Wilson fortunately avoids that entirely, making Frank a character whose feelings are very real and every bit as valid as any of ours would be. Page does the same for the misguided but charming Libby, with her fumbling but authentic sexuality and her game-for-anything attitude that is hard not to like even as it tips her right over the deep end. It grows into a real pleasure as the film goes on, seeing the actors match, scene for scene, the physical boldness necessary for all their maladroit running, jumping, and ass-kicking with the emotional courage required to sympathetically depict their characters’ social and romantic clumsiness. Tyler and Bacon shine in their smaller parts, too.thumbnail.24481.4Gunn has not only pulled off his risky idea with aplomb, but at the visual level alone, he and cinematographer Steve Gainer have used the red digital video camera with a great feel for the visuals it can provide and the way the images it can produce–distinct from film, but offering a full palette from which to work cinematically–are able to serve the film’s story and tone. They expertly create a world for Super that is not movie-“ordinary” but really ordinary, in the litter-on-the-streets, used-car, rundown-buildings kind of way; the walls of Frank’s workplace, Libby’s apartment, and the comic book shop appear to actually be sweating. (Gunn uses a lot of handheld camera to add to the inelegance of “real life,” and for once it is an actually suitable as opposed to merely cool choice, really contributing something important to the film’s feel.) That realism clashes with some of the more graphically poppy, self-conscious elements in the film such as comic-book titles appearing up now and then in the most unlikely circumstances and, of course, Frank’s and Libby’s brightly colored costumes standing out starkly against the drab environment), and the jarring shifts works quite well to complement, on the visual level.

REVIEW: SERENITY

CAST

Nathan Fillion (Slither)
Gina Torres (Angel)
Alan Tudyk (I Robot)
Morena Baccarin (Gotham)
Adam Baldwin (Chuck)
Jewel Staite (Stargate: Atlantis)
Ron Glass (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)
Sean Maher (Arrow)
Summer Glau (Arrow)
Chiwetel Ejiofor (The Martian)
David Krumholtz (Hail, Caesar!)
Sarah Paulson (What Women Want)
Tamara Taylor (Bones)
Glenn Howerton (The Strangers)

serenity-movie-image

“I’m not going to say it’s the best science fiction movie, ever. Oh wait, yes I am”. The words of Orson Scott Card himself, author of the award winning scifi novel “Ender’s game”, and many others.


Not only is this a very fine movie, made on a fraction of the budget of any other scifi film I can think of, it also captivates those who have previously had no interest in science fiction before. Which is far more than I can say about almost any SciFi movie I can think of, the only other being Ridley Scotts 80’s classic Bladerunner.

Even if you’ve never seen Joss Whedon’s critically acclaimed series “Firefly”, less than a quater of the way through this movie you’ll suddenly realize, I care about these people, I care about what happens to them, so rich are their characters. They have flaws & insecurities just like we all do.


You can do alot more in a 15 Episode TV series regarding character development than you can in a 2 hr movie, so the focus here is mostly on 2 main characters. The captain of the cargo ship Serenity, ‘Malcolm Reynolds’, and ‘River’, the extremely intelligent but mentally traumatized teenage sister of Dr Simon Tam who Reynolds agreed to give sanctuary aboard his ship some eight months or so earlier. Having said that though, all the characters are here, and they all do a fine job. The script is very witty, clever and often very powerful.


The soundtrack in Serenity quite wondrous in it’s self, with beautiful melancholic strings, echoing piano, and western and oriental influences. They work perfectly with Whedon’s stunning camera work and lighting. There are special effects in this movie a’ plenty, and they look fantastic, in fact they completely belie the fact that this film cost less than $40m to make. They really are quite beautiful but they are there to further a strong story, not to overcome it.


So emotionally powerful is this film that it has been described as ‘art’, and I really do think that it is, but will everybody like it? In the words of O.S.Card, “Not a chance…… it really is too strong for some people. Plus the story line is ‘smart enough’ and ‘mature’ enough that some people just won’t get it. Can’t be helped”. Serenity was indeed voted film of the year 2005, did it deserve the top spot? Possibly not, but it did deserve to be very close to it. It was certainly the “only” Scifi based movie that deserved to be anywhere near the top ten movies of 2005.


Serenity is a very unusual film, a tiny film that went by almost unnoticed and was a difficult film to market. There are no big names in the cast, and it is based on a short lived TV series that sadly too few know about. So when you see it for the 1st time, nay, the 2nd, 3rd and 4th time and so on, you’ll feel privileged that you did..