REVIEW: NEW GIRL – SEASON 2

Starring

Zooey Deschanel (Bridge to Terabithia)
Jake Johnson (Jurrasic World)
Max Greenfield (Veronica Mars)
Lamorne Morris (Game Night)
Hannah Simone (Oldboy)

Zooey Deschanel in New Girl (2011)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Parker Posey (Superman Returns)
Rachael Harris (Lucifer)
Nelson Franklin (Captain Marvel)
David Walton (Bad Moms)
Raymond J. Barry (Falling Down)
Josh Gad (Murder on The Orient Express)
Kali Hawk (Bridesmaids)
Rebecca Reid (I Live With Models)
Carla Gugino (Watchmen)
Molly Cheek (American Pie)
Rob Riggle (21 Jump Street)
Jamie Lee Curtis (Halloween)
Rob Reiner (This Is Spinal Tap)
Lauren Dair Owens (Astrid Clover)
June Diane Raphael (Year One)
Jeff Kober (Buffy: TVS)
Olivia Munn (X-Men: Apocalypse)
Dennis Farina (Get Shorty)
Nate Corddry (Mom)
Brenda Song (Dads)
Brooklyn Decker (Battleship)
Satya Bhabha (Sense8)
Michael Vlamis (Roswell, New Mexico)
Odette Annable (Supergirl)
Margo Martindale (Sneaky Pete)
Ellen Albertini Dow (Wedding Crashers)
Nick Kroll (Sing)
Dermot Mulroney (Young Guns)
Ron Funches (Powerless)
Merritt Wever (Signs)
Johnny Pemberton (Son of Zorn)
Curtis Armstrong (American Dad)
Mary Lynn Rajskub (2 Broke Girls)
Taylor Swift (The Giver)
Ajay Mehta (Anger Management)
Ariela Barer (Runaways)

Zooey Deschanel in New Girl (2011)The first season of New Girl established the will-they-won’t-they pairing of Nick and Jess and the they-did-will-it-last coupling of Schmidt and CeCe, so the second season is all about raising the stakes for them. For Nick and Jess this takes the form of bad relationships keeping their minds off messing with the loft dynamic by dating a roommate. Though each has some legitimate opportunities for happiness, be it Jess’ commitment-phobic Dr. Sam or Nick’s sexually adventurous stripper girlfriend (played by Olivia Munn.) However knowing that there remains a chance they could end up together leads to frequent self-sabotage.Zooey Deschanel and David Walton in New Girl (2011)As much as Deschannel is the star of the show, Johnson has quietly become just as integral, as Nick grows and discovers himself, with the help of his future self and a water-massaging elderly Asian gentleman (the show can get weird sometimes.)For Schmidt and CeCe, reality is far less promising, as CeCe begins to sense her biological clock is ticking, and finds herself on a course for an arranged marriage to a pleasant man who just isn’t Schmidt. Meanwhile, the one true Schmidt seeks to alleviate the impending loss of his caramel queen by running back to his one true love, Elizabeth, a girl he dated in college, when he was hundreds of pounds heavier. It sets up a troubling love triangle, as the real Schmidt is just right for Elizabeth, but the Schmidt he wants to be is a perfect match for CeCe.Zooey Deschanel, Maria Thayer, and Jake Johnson in New Girl (2011)While there’s a grimy aspect to Schmidt keeping two women secret from each other, on the other hand, Greenfield makes it work by showing Schmidt cares about both women and is, oddly, doing it to not hurt either of them, rather than out of some sort of romantic greed. It’s an unusual situation, and one the show handles well.The focus on Schmidt and CeCe this season unleashes the show’s secret weapon, as Simone proves to be one of the most consistently funny performers in the series, popping in a look or a delivery that’s just perfect for the situation. Many of the show’s best moments this season grow out of CeCe’s on and off again connection with Schmidt, with the season’s home-stretch existing only thanks to the culture clash that grows from her arranged marriage, Part of what makes her so entertaining is how her exotic beauty gets betrayed to hilarious effect by her ability to be wonderfully silly. (The other benefit of having CeCe around is the presence of her Russian modeling pal Nadia (Rebecca Reid), who is economically hysterical, with a higher laugh to word ratio than anyone on TV.)Jamie Lee Curtis, Zooey Deschanel, Max Greenfield, and Hannah Simone in New Girl (2011)The mix in the loft is why the show works so well, as the quartet of roomies and friends behaves realistically, no matter how offbeat the situation may be or how odd the four may sometimes get. So whether it’s Schmidt feeling old thanks to some hipsters who have imoved in and befriended Jess, the exploration of the group’s most annoying aspects (a.k.a. “pogos”) or Winston struggling with his period, they mercilessly tease each other, but have each other’s back to the end. This is never more clearly illustrated than in “Virgins,” where the crew one-up each other with their horrible tales of their first sexual experiences. The way they interact is as close to real friends as anything on TV.Zooey Deschanel and Hannah Simone in New Girl (2011)With the series expanding upon the world created in the first season, we get to meet more of the people in the lives of the four roommates, and those additions were rather impressive, to go with returning speicial guests, like June Diane Raphael (playing Jess’ lesbian gynocologist.) The late Dennis Farina had a great turn as Nick’s con-man father, while Margot Martindale plays his brassy mom, Nick Kroll is his dim-witted brother and Bill Burr is his Beantown cousin. Meanwhile on Jess’ side, they snagged Rob Reiner and Jamie Lee Curtis to play her feuding parents (and Reiner should become a series regular as her dad). Add in Rob Riggle as Schmidt’s brother, Carla Gugino as his sexually-aggressive boss and Brenda Song as Winston’s new lady friend, and the show managed to cultivate a fine ensemble outside of the core five, expanding and improving the series.Zooey Deschanel, David Walton, Olivia Munn, and Jake Johnson in New Girl (2011)The natural progression of the relationships between Nick and Jess and Schmidt and CeCe, along with the changes in the world around them, made for an entertaining season that balanced silly fun with genuine emotion.

REVIEW: THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE

CAST

Dave Franco (Bad Neighbours)
Michael Peña (Ant-Man)
Kumail Nanjiani (The Five-Year Engagement)
Abbi Jacobson (The Master)
Zach Woods (Veep)
Fred Armisen (The Ex)
Jackie Chan (Rush Hour)
Justin Theroux (The Girl On The Train)
Olivia Munn (X-Men: Apocalypse)
Randall Park (Swx Tape)
Retta (Ringmaster)
Constance Wu (Crazy Rich Asians)
Charlyne Yi (This is 40)

A young boy ventures into an old relic shop, where he meets the mysterious owner, Mr. Liu, who begins to tell the boy the legend of Ninjago. Ninjago is a city within the Lego Universe that is frequently attacked by the evil Lord Garmadon, who is the father of Lloyd Garmadon and ex-husband of Misako (AKA Koko). Ninjago despises Lloyd for being Lord Garmadon’s son, which puts Lloyd under emotional stress. They do not know that Lloyd is part of the secret ninja force, consisting of Nya, Zane, Jay, Cole, Kai and their master named Wu, who always stop Garmadon from taking over the city by fighting with mechs. On Lloyd’s birthday, Garmadon attacks the city once again only to be defeated. He escapes and fires nine generals of his Shark Army for failing to help him. He then begins to plan a big attack to conquer Ninjago, and his GIT`s show him plans to build a gigantic mech that is immune to weapons.Dave Franco in The LEGO Ninjago Movie (2017)Meanwhile, Lloyd and his friends see the return of Master Wu, back from a long trip he took. Master Wu tells them they aren’t real ninjas if they use only mechs to fight, and discusses with Lloyd that his element is green, confusing Lloyd. Master Wu tells Lloyd he must not be angry at Garmadon; he must use his mind to fight. Wu mentions an Ultimate Weapon, giving Lloyd the hope of defeating Garmadon once and for all, despite being forbidden to use the weapon.Fred Armisen, Michael Peña, Dave Franco, Zach Woods, Abbi Jacobson, and Kumail Nanjiani in The LEGO Ninjago Movie (2017)The next day Garmadon attacks the city with his giant mech and defeats Lloyd. As Garmadon declares his rule over Ninjago, Lloyd returns with the Ultimate Weapon. He fires it, revealing it to be a laser that attracts a real-life cat named Meowthra. Meowthra starts destroying the city while trying to get the laser. Garmadon points the laser to make the cat destroy the other mechs, before Lloyd breaks it. As Garmadon celebrates his victory, Lloyd reveals that he is the Green Ninja, and tells Garmadon that he wishes he wasn’t his father, leaving Garmadon confused.Justin Theroux and Dave Franco in The LEGO Ninjago Movie (2017)Lloyd meets up with his friends and Master Wu, who are all upset with him for using the weapon. Wu tells them they must use an Ultimate, Ultimate Weapon to stop Meowthra from destroying the city, which they would reach by crossing the Forest of Dangers, the Canyon of Death, and the Temple of Fragile Foundations. Garmadon overhears Wu talking about the weapon and follows close behind. He meets up with Wu and fights him, only to end up in a cage, defeated. However, Wu loses his balance and falls off a bridge into a river, telling Lloyd he must use inner peace before getting swept away.Fred Armisen, Michael Peña, Dave Franco, Zach Woods, Abbi Jacobson, and Kumail Nanjiani in The LEGO Ninjago Movie (2017)The ninjas decide to continue on, with Garmadon leading them much to Lloyd’s disappointment. They are caught by the Shark Army, who want revenge for being fired by Garmadon and shot out of his volcano lair. The ninjas try to fight, but are easily defeated. They retreat leaving Lloyd and Garmadon behind to be caught by the Shark Army. The Shark Army begin to fire Lloyd and Garmadon into a volcano, but the rest of the ninjas save the day using stealth fighting. They all work together with Garmadon to escape the angry Shark Army by building a makeshift helicopter, and Lloyd and Garmadon bond together in the process.Fred Armisen, Michael Peña, Dave Franco, Zach Woods, Abbi Jacobson, and Kumail Nanjiani in The LEGO Ninjago Movie (2017)They eventually crash down onto the Temple of Fragile Foundations. Garmadon reveals that it is his home, as well as Koko formerly being a ninja warrior herself. He tells Lloyd that he wishes he had stayed with him and his mom after deciding to conquer Ninjago, but he couldn’t change so he had to stay behind. The ninjas find the Ultimate Ultimate Weapon, consisting of a set of trinkets, only to have it stolen by Garmadon who still wants to take over the city. He offers for Lloyd to be his general, but Lloyd rejects his offer. Out of fury, Garmadon locks all of them in the temple as it begins to collapse. Lloyd realizes that inner peace means for them to unleash their power within, and they successfully do this,using their elemental powers and escaping from the collapsing temple. As they fall of a cliff, Wu saves them with his ship,the Destiny`s Bounty and they head towards Ninjago.Dave Franco in The LEGO Ninjago Movie (2017)Garmadon arrives and tries to control Meowthra with the weapons but Meowthra eats Garmadon instead. Lloyd and the crew arrive and begin fighting Garmadon’s army. As Lloyd approaches Meowthra, he reveals to everyone that he is the green ninja, and realizes that green means life, which brings everything together. He comforts Meowthra and tells Garmadon he forgives him and that he’s sorry. Garmadon cries tears of fire, which causes Meowthra to spit him out. After reconciling, Garmadon moves in with Lloyd and Koko, Meowthra becomes the mascot of Ninjago, and Lloyd is hailed as a hero. As the story concludes, Mr. Liu tells the boy that he will start to train him as a ninja. A mid-credits scene also shows a gag reel of a cup stunt performed by Chan as Liu at the film’s opening.Fred Armisen, Michael Peña, Justin Theroux, Dave Franco, Abbi Jacobson, and Kumail Nanjiani in The LEGO Ninjago Movie (2017)This movie likely isn’t for everyone. And I doubt it was intended to be. It’s a kids film and stays comfortably in that realm while not boring adults to death – which is more than can be said about a number of other films for ‘grown ups’ in 2017.

REVIEW: IRON MAN 2

 

CAST

Robert Downey Jr. (Sherlock Holmes)
Gwyneth Paltrow (Contagion)
Don Cheadle (Traffic)
Scarlett Johansson (Lucy)
Sam Rockwell (Galaxy Quest)
Mickey Rourke (Sin City)
Samuel L. Jackson (Jackie Brown)
Clark Gregg (When A Stranger Calls)
John Slattery (Mad Men)
Garry Shandling (Over The Hedge)
Paul Bettany (Legion)
Kate Mara (Fantastic Four)
Leslie Bibb (The Skulls)
Jon Favreau (Swingers)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble)_
Olivia Munn (Zoolander 2)
Seth Green (Family Guy)
Helena Mattsson (Guns, Girls and Gambling)

Robert Downey Jr. and Scarlett Johansson in Iron Man 2 (2010)After the initial trepidation followed by the overwhelming box office success of the first Iron Man film, a second was a foregone conclusion. However as part of a larger trilogy, not to mention a subsequent Avengers film, the challenge of advancing some of those storylines along with giving people what they liked in the first one would be difficult, to say the least.Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man 2 (2010)Jon Favreau returns to direct the second film, based on Justin Theroux’s (Tropic Thunder) screenplay. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr., Sherlock Holmes) and his businesses continue to thrive, in part because as Iron Man, he’s promoted the longest stretch of global peace in quite some time. There is a small cottage industry that tries to capitalize on Stark’s success, with the main one being Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell). Hammer tries to mimic Stark’s technology and gain an advantage over it, but the results seem to wind up being disastrous. It’s as if he’s the Wile E. Coyote of defense contractors who want to make their own Iron Men. However the biggest threat to Stark’s Iron Man may be Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler), a Russian whose father worked with Stark’s, and may be as familiar with the technology of Iron Man as Tony is.Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow in Iron Man 2 (2010)Not knowing of Vanko, Tony continues to live the good life. He continues to get along well with his assistant Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow, Se7en), despite the addition of the younger and equally attractive Natalie (Scarlett Johansson, He’s Just Not That Into You) into the fold. Despite these women sparring for Tony’s affections, he has bigger things to be concerned about. The arc reactor device in Tony’s chest is slowly turning his blood toxic and in effect, killing him. He doesn’t tell the women, or his best friend Lt. Col. Rhoades (Don Cheadle, replacing Terrence Howard from the first film). And when Vanko confronts Tony, in Monaco of all places, it leaves Tony with a sense of doubt and a lack of purpose that might have long-lasting ramifications.Iron Man 2 (2010)With Favreau juggling the different storytelling balls, including an increased role from Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson, Pulp Fiction), he gives the audience new and different ways to enjoy the action and fighting sequences. And I have to admit, they’re exciting and damned fun to watch, starting from the opening sequence when Tony jumps out of a military plane into his “Stark Expo” highlighting his company’s ware. He twists and turns through the night sky, avoiding fireworks and other air obstacles to make his grand entrance. The confrontation with Vanko is also entertaining and keeps you on the edge of your seat.Don Cheadle and Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man 2 (2010)It’s ambitious in what it wants to accomplish, and it succeeds on many levels.