REVIEW: INHUMANS: THE COMPLETE SERIES

MAIN CAST

Anson Mount (Safe)
Serinda Swan (Smallville)
Ken Leung (Lost)
Eme Ikwuakor (Ink)
Isabelle Cornish (Homeand Away)
Ellen Woglom (April Showers)
Iwan Rheon (Game of Thrones)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Mike Moh (Street Fighter: Assassin’s fist)
Sonya Balmores (Soul Surfer)
Henry Ian Cusick (Lost)
Jamie Gray Hyder (Voltron: Legendary Defender)
Chad Buchanan (Star)
Liv Hewson (Santa Clarita Diet)
Nicola Peltz (Bates Motel)
Marco Rodríguez (Nightcrawler)
Tom Wright (Creepshow 2)
Krista Alvarez (Wawaii Five-O)
Bridger Zadina  (Bosch)

… And Finally: Inhumans is done. Not officially, mind you — there’s always a chance that this sucker will scrape through to renewal somehow, so until you see a headline confirming its cancellation, assume nothing. Still, whether Marvel’s underwhelming series gets a second go-round or not, the series we saw at the end of September is done for. No more moon city. No more quiet room. No more magic wall face. No more minimalist, uncomfortable throne, at least until it’s revealed what the squiggly blue letters mean. That reveal will never come, because seriously, Inhumans is probably done.It’s tempting to dive into this review by cataloguing the miscalculations, wrongs turns, and missed opportunities that have plagued Inhumans since the beginning. It’s a total buffet of bad judgment, with options ranging from ‘takes the entire premise far too seriously’ to ‘spends too little time with the giant teleporting dog,’ but a roster of missteps isn’t particularly useful or interesting. Still, there are chronic problems worth digging into, because the issues that have most troubled this series are the same ones that sink what was surely meant to be a gripping finale. As it turns out, when you don’t invest at all in your characters, their motivations, and the consequences of their actions, you wind up with a dismal, easily forgettable slog.Some of the failure in this area comes down to casting. The Inhumans ensemble isn’t uniformly bad — despite being given basically nothing of sense to do, Ken Leung, Iwan Rheon, Ellen Woglom, and a few others work their asses off to make a few individual moments work. It should also be said that even highly capable performers can’t do much when they’re desperately miscast. Still, there’s no getting around the fact that Anson Mount’s apparent inability to emotionally engage with the other actors, with the story, with the camera, and with the audience tanks pretty much any scene in which he plays a part. That’s been a problem from the get-go, but it’s a more significant issue here. It’s right there in the title: this is meant to be the Black Bolt variety hour, and yet it’s likely that the biggest response he’ll get will come courtesy of the moment he taps Maximus right over his heart, and said response will probably come in the form of a snort.Mount’s fighting an uphill battle no actor could possibly win. Viola Davis couldn’t make this stuff work. “… And Finally: Black Bolt” centers on a relationship in which the show has not invested, made up of two people the show has taken no time to develop. As the episode meanders toward the scenes meant to make up its climax, it drops information by the wayside, hoping a confession to a crime might help up the stakes. It seems to hope that time spent wandering empty hallways can trick an audience into suddenly caring about the fates of people about whom they know almost nothing. If Inhumans aims to make Maximus a sympathetic character, that ship has long since sailed. If it wants to give Black Bolt some kind of emotional journey, the point at which we’re all supposed to begin to care remains unclear. And if it thinks Black Bolt choosing to break his silence is a powerful moment, its writers should probably have done more to set that up than simply having an actor stay quiet for seven long episodes.The moment Black Bolt whispers “Goodbye, brother” falls flat for any number of reasons. As stated above, there’s no reason to care about the relationship between the two brothers, and that failing alone pretty much dooms the scene. But there’s more to it than that. In fiction, the destruction of one’s home is often symbolic, representing a loss of identity or links to the past, or signalling a future in which old wounds and baggage are left behind. That seems to fit, but because there’s no sense of what Black Bolt’s journey has been, how his perspective has changed or how his beliefs have shifted, there’s no reason to believe the crumbling of that building is anything more than an easy way to block some doors. He doesn’t want to kill his brother, but he’s willing to condemn him to a life that will be lived entirely alone uncase some creepy space invaders show up. That’s a choice that could make sense for the character, but even if it did, we’d have know way of knowing, because Black Bolt lacks any kind of internal life. He’s just a guy who’s a king, a man with a wife and his own sign language. That’s what we’ve got.That’s one example of many — “And Finally” treats the motivations of its characters with a similar level of disinterest throughout its too-long running time. Why does Medusa ask Louise for help, and what’s the help she needs? The answer to the former seems to be that Louise is the only human she knows; the answer to the latter is most likely something along the lines of “oh who cares, just write the scene.” Why does Karnak want to keep Gorgon alive, despite Gorgon’s obvious misery and lack of control? Because it’s better than than Gorgon being dead, one assumes, despite some evidence to the contrary — and the emotional effect of that evidence on Karnak is unclear. Why does Auran make any of the choices she makes here? Absolutely no idea. It’s not even all that clear what those actions are. Medusa smashes the crystal, because that seems dramatic. Maximus reveals his role in the death of his parents, because that was something on the episode checklist.What all this stuff — the lack of development, the unanswered questions, the unexplored ideas, the plot holes, the inexplicable choices — what all these things have in common is total lack of thoughtfulness. It’s there in the uneven effects and the inconsistent tone and the lack of any kind of cohesive written or visual story. It’s evident in the lack of planning that leads to casting Henry Ian Cusack, giving him almost nothing to do for eight episodes, then killing his character to solve a plot problem that doesn’t actually even matter because of other developments to come. It’s even clear in the relative lack of Lockjaw. Failing all else, one should at least try to make a finale entertaining. Even if Inhumans doesn’t give a damn about the people in “… And Finally: Black Bolt,” the show could at least have given half a damn about the dog.

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REVIEW: TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION

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CAST

Mark Wahlberg (Ted)
Stanley Tucci (The Hunger Games)
Kelsey Grammer (X-Men: The Last Stand)
Nicola Peltz (Bates Motel)
Jack Reynor (Macbeth)
Titus Welliver (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D)
Sophia Myles (Outlander)
Li Bingbing (Resident Evil: Retribution)
T.J. Miller (Deadpool)
James Bachman (Paddington)
Thomas Lennon (17 Again)
Peter Cullen (Dungeons & Dragons)
John Goodman (Red State)
Ken Watanabe (Godzilla)
Robert Foxworth (Beyond The Stars)
John DiMaggio (Futurama)
Mark Ryan (Robin of Sherwood)
Reno Wilson (Mike & Molly)
Erika Fong (Power Rangers Samurai)
Richard Riehle (Buffy: The Vampire Slayer)
Cleo King (The Hangover)

Sixty five million years ago, an alien race known as the “Creators” used devices called Seeds to terraform planet Earth, effectively wiping out the dinosaurs and covering it with an alloy called Transformium. In the present day, geologist Darcy Tirrel excavates the Transformium for K.S.I. Industries, which uses it to build man-made artificial Transformer drones.Five years after The Battle of Chicago, the humans have begun to view the Transformers as a threat, leading the U.S government to terminate all human-Autobot joint programs. Although the public believes that the Autobots have been granted sanctuary, they are being hunted by a rogue, vengeful and xenophobic CIA black ops division known as Cemetery Wind, led by opportunistic government official Harold Attinger, who believes that all Transformers should be exterminated regardless of their faction. They are aided by Lockdown, a Cybertronian bounty hunter working for the Creators, promising to give Attinger a Seed if his division manages to capture Optimus Prime. Cemetery Wind locates Ratchet in Mexico City and Lockdown kills him when he refuses to give up the whereabouts of Optimus Prime.Optimus, damaged in Mexico City and disguised as a rundown semi-truck, is discovered in an abandoned theater by Cade Yeager, a financially struggling Texan inventor, and brings him back to the farm. While his teenage daughter Tessa and business partner Lucas Flannery encourage him to turn Optimus over to the authorities after realizing what he really is, Cade instead fixes Optimus, hoping to understand his technology and unexpectedly revives him. Still skeptical of Optimus and worried about Cade’s safety, Lucas calls Cemetery Wind, who attacks and destroys the farm, but Optimus and Tessa’s boyfriend, Irish rally car driver Shane Dyson, come to the family’s aid.While on the run from Cemetery Wind and Lockdown, Lucas is killed by one of Lockdown’s grenades. After escaping from their attackers, they take refuge in an abandoned gas station. Later, Optimus scans a passing truck and turns into a Western Star 5700 Phantom Custom truck with the original red and blue paint with flames. Afterwards, Optimus summons the surviving Autobots – Bumblebee, Hound, Drift, and Crosshairs – who have come to distrust humans due to Cemetery Wind constantly hunting them down. Using a CIA drone which he stole during the home invasion, Cade discovers K.S.I.’s involvement in the attacks on the Autobots. Bumblebee later assumes an alternate form after scanning a passing car, while Optimus vows to personally kill Attinger for his actions against his brethren.Infiltrating K.S.I.’s headquarters in Chicago, Cade discovers the remains of Autobots and Decepticons are being melted down to make the drones. Joshua Joyce, the ambitious company CEO, is in league with Attinger to revolutionize global defenses and improve human society using the Seed. He has captured Brains and is using him and Megatron’s head to create prototype Transformer soldiers Galvatron and Stinger. In a fit of rage, the Autobots storm the building where they rescue Brains and destroy the laboratory, but they soon leave after Joshua announces that they are no longer needed. Attinger forces Joshua to deploy Galvatron and Stinger to attack the Autobots. During the battle, Galvatron’s behavior becomes slightly erratic when he starts destroying vehicles. As Galvatron battles Optimus, it frees itself from control and speaks to Optimus. Lockdown then arrives and abducts Optimus while Galvatron and Stinger retreat; Tessa is inadvertently captured alongside Optimus in the midst of the chaos, leaving Cade and Shane devastated.While Lockdown’s large prison spacecraft hovers over Chicago to hand over the Seed, Cade, Shane, and the Autobots use this opportunity to sneak on board and rescue Optimus and Tessa. They hijack a smaller ship, containing a number of other Autobots called the Dinobots, just before Lockdown leaves Earth. The Autobots reveal to Cade that “Galvatron” is in fact Megatron, who had transferred his consciousness into the Galvatron drone after K.S.I. officials had accidentally revived him. They realize that Galvatron is plotting to use the Seed and the K.S.I. drones to conquer the world, by detonating the Seed in Hong Kong. K.S.I.plans to use the Seed in the remote Mongolian desert to create vast amounts of usable Transformium. Cade informs Joshua of Megatron’s presence, causing him to have a change of heart and agreeing to hand over the Seed with help from Darcy and his Chinese business associate Su Yueming. Meanwhile, Lockdown discovers that Optimus has escaped and stole a part of his ship, forcing him to return to Earth to retrieve them. Back at the facility, Joshua gets into a disagreement with Attinger when the former becomes aware of the latter’s nefarious activities, whilst Attinger gradually deduces Joshua’s plot to betray him. Galvatron unexpectedly reactivates himself and promptly takes control of the K.S.I. drones, and a battle follows in Hong Kong’s streets between Cade’s group, the Autobots, Cemetery Wind, Galvatron, and his drones. During the fight, Optimus gains the alliance of the Dinobots, who become essential to the Autobots’ victory while Bumblebee kills Stinger.Lockdown returns to capture Optimus and the Dinobots, using a large magnet in his ship that picks up and drops metal objects, causing destruction to the city. After disabling the magnet, Optimus fights Lockdown at an abandoned factory. In the ensuing duel, Optimus kills Attinger (who still deems all Cybertronians aside from Lockdown as a threat) to save Cade, and avenging the deaths of his fellow Autobots. However, this allows Lockdown to pin Optimus down by impaling his chest with his own sword, damaging his spark. Cade, Bumblebee, Tessa, and Shane fight Lockdown, with Cade ending up fighting him one-on-one while Tessa and Shane use a tow truck to free Optimus, who kills Lockdown before using one of his grenades to finish off the remaining drones. Galvatron, the only surviving Decepticon, retreats with Lockdown’s ship, vowing to return. Optimus tells the Autobots to protect the Yeagers (with Joshua offering to help the Yeagers build a new home) and lets the Dinobots go, before flying away into space with the Seed, sending a message to the Creators that he is coming for them.Tucci is always funny in tense situations, and comedian T.J. Miller gets some laughs as Cade’s borderline annoying best friend. Wahlberg is different he gives a committed performance here, and makes the dialogue believable. I like that Bay and company made Cade a single dad, and Peltz’s Tessa is surprisingly not annoying. The first hour, set at the Yeager homestead in Texas, is my favorite. I enjoyed watching Cade and Tessa meet Optimus and flee from Cemetery Wind. Scenes on Lockdown’s imposing prison ship are also good.  This was intended to be the first film in a new trilogy,with transformers 5 already in the pipeline. The last scene opens the transformers cinematic universe, leaving it open for the fifth to explore further the transformer mythology.

REVIEW: AFFLUENZA


CAST

Grant Gustin (The Flash)
Ben Rosenfield (6 Years)
Gregg Sulkin (Avalon High)
Nicola Peltz (Bates Motel)
Steve Guttenberg (Police Academy)
Samantha Mathis (American Psycho)

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Suburbia, 2008. Swept up in a heady pre-recession world of absentee parents, plentiful booze and casual sex, aspiring photographer Fisher Miller escapes his middle-class life for the moneyed mansions of the young, beautiful elite. With a stash of high-quality weed and a vintage camera, he gains access to his gorgeous cousin Kate’s circle of wealthy and indulged friends, just as their entitled reality is about to spin out of control. A revealing take on the hidden perils of privilege.Affluenza works simply to re-introduce the same themes to a younger audience, preferring that great author’s voice to any echo of its own. But if The Great Gatsby had to be (slightly) updated to reflect our times, at least the end product is a film with good performances, effective direction and a satisfying bite.accused-17

REVIEW: BATES MOTEL – SEASON 1-3

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CAST

Vera Farmiga (The Conjuring)
Freddie Highmore (Finding Neverland)
Max Thieriot (House at The End of The Street)
Olivia Cooke (Ouija)
Nicola Peltz (Trasformers 4)
Nestor Carbonell (Lost)
Kenny Johnson (Cold Case)
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RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

W. Earl Brown (Deadwood)
Keegan Connor Tracy (Final Destination 2)
Mike Vogel (Cloverfield)
Terry Chen (Almost Famous)
Vincent Gale (Battlestar Galactica)
Brittney Wilson (Rogue)
Peter Bryant (Dark Angel)
Ian Hart (Michael Collins)
Aliyah O’Brien (If I Stay)
Ian Tracey (Sanctuary)
Jere Burns (Justified)
Ben Cotton (Stargate: Atlantis)
Hiro Kanagawa (Heroes Reborn)
Alexander Calvert (Arrow)
Keenan Tracey (Rags)
Michael O’Neill (Sebiscuit)
Rebecca Creskoff (Quintuplets)
Michael Eklund (Watchmen)
Brendan Fletcher (Smallville)
Paloma Kwiatkowski (Perry Jackson)
Martin Cummins (Dark Angel)
Michael Vartan (Alias)
Andrew Airlie (Final Destination 2)
Agam Darshi (Sanctuary)
Kathleen Robertson (Hollywoodland)
Tracy Spiridakos (Revolution)
Kevin Rahm (Mad Men)
Ryan Hurst (Saving Private Ryan)
Joshua Leonard (The Blair Witch Project)
Peter Stebbings (Never Cry Werewolf)
Tom McBeath (Stargate SG.1)

If Alfred Hitchcock were alive today, I’ve got a feeling he’d enjoy Bates Motel. This kinda-sorta prequel re-imagines the story of Norman Bates, his equally unbalanced mom Norma and their relationship at the business that bears their name, mixing the ordinary and the bizarre with unpredictable, broad strokes in a more modern setting. Hitchcock always intended his classic film as a pitch-black comedy…and from that perspective, Bates Motel shares a few similarities beyond its central characters and the all-too-familiar motel grounds.Filmed in British Columbia, the show’s foggy appearance and small-town backdrop will immediately remind viewers of landmark shows like Twin Peaks and The X-Files. It feels like a perfect fit, reminding us that we’re either in the midst of trouble…or it’s just around the corner. More often than not, however, Bates Motel is just as much “comedy” as it is “pitch-black”, piling on mountains of over-the-top absurdity that, for unknown reasons, feels kinda normal within the series’ unusual boundaries. As a total package, this is compulsively watchable, suspenseful, goofy, dramatic and, above all else, unpredictable television.Such unpredictability can be a massive gamble…but much like Psycho (and by extension, Robert Bloch’s original novel), Bates Motel has been designed to keep its audience perpetually off-balance. At the same time, there’s a constant cloud of guilt, paranoia and dread floating above this season, magnified by the unpredictable behavior of Norman (Freddy Highmore) and his mother Norma (Vera Farmiga) in the face of several horrifying events: one leads them to White Pines Bay, and the others happen after they arrive. The immediate and focused suspicion of watchful sheriff Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell) makes us wonder if he’s just extremely good at what he does…or if, in fact, he’s secretly pulling the strings. As the initial story arc gradually shifts midway through this first season, lies multiply, layers of mystery keep us interested in this small town and, eventually, we realize that just about everyone’s a villain here.

This first season of Bates Motel includes ten episodes and several new characters, from Dylan Bates (Norman’s rebellious half-brother, played by Max Thieriot) to the amusingly named junior detective Emma Decody (Olivia Cooke) and popular student Bradley Martin (Nicola Peltz), who is substantially more feminine than her name implies. The casting and performances are universally excellent, especially our unpredictable leads and the countless scenes they have with each other and outsiders. Vera Farmiga is especially impressive from start to finish, consistently stealing her scenes with reckless abandon and deliciously black humor. It’s just one more reason why Bates Motel is more than the sum of its parts.

Season Two expands on these characters and, not surprisingly, adds in a few more for good measure; it makes Bates Motel feel more complex without being overcrowded. Standouts include Caleb (Kenny Johnson, The Shield), Norma’s estranged brother; Zane Morgan (Michael Eklund), the new drug kingpin whose hot-blooded personality leads to an all-out war; Jodi Wilson (Kathleen Robertson), Zane’s sister and the real mastermind of the operation; Christine Heldens (Rebecca Creskoff), an exhausting social butterfly who takes Norma under her wing; George Heldens (Michael Vartan, Alias), Christine’s brother and a potential love interest for Norma; Nick Ford (Michael O’Neill), a “friend” of the Heldens’ with deep political connections; and Cody Brennen (Paloma Kwiatkowski), a rebellious girl who helps Norman come out of his shell, for better or worse. What’s more is that, despite their shared running time with Bates Motel’s established cast, there are very few lags during this ten-episode season. Even Emma Decody, who felt like an afterthought during the first year—and Season Two’s first half, especially—is given more to do in later episodes, and she’s all the better for it.

On the whole, then, this character-driven season path gives Bates Motel even more potential for future seasons. Much like NBC’s Hannibal, this series builds on an established franchise successfully and, as a result, plays out much better than expected. Production values are high, giving Bates Motel a potent, effective atmosphere from start to finish.

Soon after the events of the second season, Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) begins his senior year at school. He experiences hallucinations there, so his mother, Norma Louise (Vera Farmiga), decides to homeschool him. After Norma’s mother dies, her brother Caleb (Kenny Johnson) returns to town, seeking to bond with Dylan (Max Thieriot). Norman takes a liking to new guest, Annika Johnson (Tracy Spiridakos), but she later goes missing. When searching Annika’s motel room, Norma finds an invitation to a gentlemen’s club. She infiltrates the club, but Sheriff Romero (Nestor Carbonell) catches her and promises to look for Annika. Romero later asks Norma to identify a woman’s body, and she is relieved that it is not Annika.

Romero meets with Bob Paris (Kevin Rahm), who runs the gentlemen’s club, to get information about Annika. Norma meets psychology professor James Finnigan (Joshua Leonard), who offers her his assistance. Norman has a blackout and submerges himself in a bathtub, hoping to recall whether he had anything to do with Annika’s disappearance. Norma saves him from drowning, then goes to lock up the motel. Annika arrives with a gunshot wound, gives Norma a USB flash drive, and dies. Norma is determined to access the password protected flash drive, and asks Dylan to help decrypt it. Norman follows Dylan to his cabin one night, discovering Caleb. He threatens to tell their mother, but Dylan begs him not to spoil the good relationship he has been building with her. Bob ransacks the motel office in search of the USB drive. Later, a man runs Norma off the road and tells her to give Bob the flash drive. Dylan insists that Norma should give the USB to Romero. Norman becomes confused over recent events, thinking he has already told Norma about Caleb when he hasn’t. Romero meets with Bob again, who admits he wants the flash drive back but won’t reveal its contents. Dylan’s friend Gunner (Keenan Tracey) decrypts the USB, finding a financial ledger inside from the town’s illegal drug trade.Bob agrees to a motel billboard near the bypass in exchange for the USB. When Norma is told of Caleb’s return, she packs a suitcase and storms out. Arriving in Portland, she buys a new outfit, trades her car, and ends up at James’ house, where she confesses that Norman killed his father during one of his blackouts. Dylan struggles with Norman’s separation anxiety, which includes an episode where Norman assumes Norma’s personality and wears her robe. Romero is shot and hospitalized; Marcus Young (Adetomiwa Edun) visits and tells him that his time as sheriff is nearing an end. Romero follows Marcus to the parking garage and kills him. Norma realizes that she is still a mother and returns home. She honors her sons’ wishes to meet with Caleb, who breaks down and apologizes upon seeing her.

Dylan grows closer to Emma (Olivia Cooke), learning from her father that she is a lot sicker than she lets on. Romero discovers his mother’s name on the ledger and confrontations his father in jail. His father used his mother’s name in order to get drugs into the prison. After being attacked by Norman, James tells Norma that he needs help. Norma cooks a family dinner in order to get closer to Norman. She invites Caleb, whose presence angers Norman, and Dylan invites Emma. Bob abducts and tortures James to get information about Norma. He then tells Romero about Norma’s relationship with James, and that Norman killed his father. Romero ends his friendship with Norma when she maintains that her husband died in an accident.

James tells Norma that he told Bob everything, and skips town. Dylan takes a risky job in order to gain money for Emma’s lung transplant. Following a blackout, Norman discovers Bradley (Nicola Peltz) has returned to town. After finding out that her mother has quickly recovered after her “death”, Bradley initiates sex with Norman, but he envisions Norma there and leaves. Norma tells Bob she’ll give him the flash drive, but he states that she has nothing left to bargain with. Desperate, Norma ransacks Romero’s house to find the USB, only to learn from Romero that the DEA is investigating it. Their heated argument hinges on her stating the truth about her husband’s death. She ultimately says that they both know who killed him.

Before Caleb leaves town again, he tells Norma about Norman assuming her personality and attacking him. Dylan gives Emma’s father the money for her lung transplant, but later gets a call from him saying that Emma has disappeared. Dylan finds her, and she informs him of her fears about the surgery; the two then kiss. Romero calls Bob to warn him of his impending arrest. Bob goes to the marina and finds Romero there, who shoots him dead. Norman plans to leave town with Bradley and argues with his mother about his mental state. She knocks Norman unconscious and drags him to the basement. Norman escapes and runs off with Bradley. In Norma’s persona, he pulls Bradley out of the car and kills her. He then rolls the car into the bay, as he and his “mother” watch it submerge.Image result for bates motel UnconsciousI really loved all the seasons! this season is even better and more intense! Norman and Norma just keep getting better! The reunion with Norma’s brother was seriously touching! The hooker was great! Norman’s expressions get really psycho looking! Just such great, great acting! It is so much fun! It is funny, yet, disturbing and all at once!! This show is just phenomenal.