REVIEW: HIS DARK MATERIALS – SEASON 1

James McAvoy, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ruth Wilson, and Dafne Keen in His Dark Materials (2019)

Starring

Dafne Keen (Logan
Ruth Wilson (The Lone Ranger)
Anne-Marie Duff (Enigma)
Clarke Peters (John Wick)
James Cosmo (Game of Thrones)
Ariyon Bakare as (The Dark Knight)
Will Keen (Victor Frankenstein)
Lucian Msamati (Game of Thrones)
Gary Lewis (Outlander)
Lewin Lloyd (Judy)
Daniel Frogson (The Devil Outside)
James McAvoy (IT: Chapter 2)
Georgina Campbell (Krypton)
Lin-Manuel Miranda (Mary Poppins Returns)
Ruta Gedmintas (A Street Cat Named Bob)
Lia Williams (The King is Alive)
Amir Wilson (The Secret Garden)
Nina Sosanya (Love, Actually)


RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Simon Manyonda (In Fabric)
Geoff Bell (Rogue One)
Mat Fraser (American Horror Story)
Kit Connor (Rocketman)
Helen McCrory (The Queen)
Joe Tandberg (The Innocents)
Omid Djalili (The Mummy)
David Suchet (Poirot)
Peter Serafinowicz (Spy)
Cristela Alonzo (Cars 3)
Morfydd Clark (Crawl)
Raffiella Chapman (The Theory of Everything)
Andrew Scott (Spectre)

The BBC and HBO co-production of His Dark Materials got off to a strong start this fall, with an opening hour that set an epic tone and impressive visual standard for what was to follow. But the thematically-bare 2007 adaptation had those things going for it as well; the real question this new adaptation faced was whether the showrunners would finally bring the story to life with the same sense of danger, maturity, and grandiosity provided by Philip Pullman’s prose. In that respect, with some storytelling stumbles and concessions made so the story could thrive on a TV budget, the first season of His Dark Materials is largely a success.The show does a remarkable job in keeping a number of different stories moving forward simultaneously – Lyra’s central quest of rescuing her best friend Roger from the clutches of the Magisterium, Mrs. Coulter’s hunt to recover Lyra, Lord Asriel’s experiments, Lord Boreal’s world-walking machinations – the show smartly chooses how and when to highlight these various stories and by the end, weaves all those threads together into an intriguing web that we’re only just beginning to understand by the end of the first season.His Dark Materials hits the ground running by building out a rich, textured fantasy world in a relatively short amount of time. Lyra’s alternate reality of daemons, dust, aeronauts, witches, panserbjorn, and aleithiometers never comes at you too quick to understand what you’re being faced with, and some of the mysteries still surrounding the more out-there elements (like a compass that tells the truth) end up making the series all the more engrossing. His Dark Materials is content to show its hand at its own pace and that kind of confidence keeps the show worth coming back to.Dafne Keen in His Dark Materials (2019)What makes Lyra’s fantasy world work especially well is the inspired choice to pull forward story elements from the series’ second novel, The Subtle Knife. His Dark Materials makes no secret of the fact that other worlds exist in the same space at the same time, and that means that our “real world” (tragically devoid of daemons as it is) is also connected to Lyra’s. That brings us to Will Parry. The series’ second protagonist, not introduced until the Subtle Knife, is a huge presence throughout Season 1, a move that will pay dividends later on in terms of storytelling economy. Will’s struggle to maintain a home life with a mentally ill mother ends up grounding the story through its many discussions of souls and prophecies, but in a way that adds perspective to those bigger conflicts.His Dark Materials (2019)Of course, Lord Boreal’s ability to walk between Lyra and Will’s worlds and his obsession with Will’s missing father John suggest that Will may have a part to play in the show’s overarching prophecy himself. With a few of the key players all seemingly through the looking glass by the end of the season finale, how the events in each of these worlds relate to each other is one of the more exciting mysteries left to unravel as the show moves forward.His Dark Materials is certainly aimed at a more general audience than HBO’s other recently-concluded fantasy epic, but it never flinches in its bleaker moments. This is a show where children are not safe from soul-destroying kidnappers, where a person can be killed by crushing their adorable animal avatar in the palm of your hand, where a religious government can claim any violation of human decency in the service of an almighty Authority. Like the books, this show may feature kids as lead characters, but that doesn’t make the world(s) they’re moving through any less dangerous.Dafne Keen does an excellent job of rolling with the emotional ups and downs of Lyra’s journey, channeling both her good humor and her fury in equally compelling measure. Amir Wilson’s Will Parry is far more understated, a kid just trying to do the right thing and keep his family together, but given that Lyra and Will’s paths are destined to cross, these opposing personalities could provide material for some great interplay between Keen and Wilson going forward.Dafne Keen and Joe Tandberg in His Dark Materials (2019)The adult cast are fantastic foils for their younger counterparts. Ruth Wilson has the heaviest lifting to do and her intensity has kept Mrs. Coulter feeling like the most fearsome woman in any world. The hypocrisy of how Coulter treats children other than her own has made Lyra’s disgust with her all the more palpable. James McAvoy is clearly having a blast playing Lord Asriel’s righteous wrath and entitlement, and we accept his radical motivations in part because of how committed McAvoy is to making them feel real. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Lee Scoresby provides great comic relief – a smartass Texan Han Solo who genuinely respects Lyra’s spunk and cares about her safety.His Dark Materials’ first season impresses throughout with its gorgeous production design, visual effects, and music. From the scholarly warmth of Jordan College to the technicolor dreamscape of the frozen North, every locale Lyra travels to feels alive and beautifully realized. Lorne Balfe’s orchestrations give the already grand world of His Dark Materials an even more sumptuous feel, with every faction of characters getting a distinct musical voice. The all-important daemons always feel like real and present characters, as do Iorek Byrnison and the other armored bears.The daemons do, however, see His Dark Materials straining against its budget in the most obvious way. For as crucial as these second-halves are to the characters of Lyra’s world, there are times when their conspicuous absence distracts, no doubt due to the price it costs to render a VFX animal for each human in a shot. On top of that, the rules of daemons are left murky enough to be convenient to the plot when necessary (like when Lyra needs Pan to become a bird to see over a ridge), but not clear enough to help us understand why Pan couldn’t just transform into an elephant and stomp Mrs. Coulter’s creepy gold monkey to death when they fight.James McAvoy and Dafne Keen in His Dark Materials (2019)And while many of His Dark Materials’ successes come from how accurately it adapts the novels, that devotion to the text does lead to some pacing issues. The season’s penultimate episode, “The Fight to the Death,” somewhat derails the stakes after the exciting battle at Bolvangar, and the sea-faring Gyptians that aid Lyra through much of the season don’t really come into their own until episode 5, “The Lost Boy.”Dafne Keen in His Dark Materials (2019)His Dark Materials’ first season is a confident, exciting fantasy adventure, full of weighty threats to its lead characters and stakes that reverberate through its multiple worlds. Even though there are times when the scope of the story slightly exceeds the bounds of what its budget is capable of, the BBC and HBO have done an impressive job giving Lyra’s (and Will’s) adventures the adaptation they deserve.

 

REVIEW: SPY

CAST

Melissa McCarthy (Ghostbusters)
Jude Law (A.I.)
Rose Byrne (X-Men: Apocalypse)
Jason Staham (Fast & Furious 7)
Miranda Hart (Miranda)
Jessica Chaffin (The Heat)
Allison Janney (Mom)
Morena Baccarin (Gotham)
Will Yun Lee (The Wolverine)
Bobby Cannavale (Ant-Man)
Peter Serafinowicz (Shaun of The Dead)
Ben Falcone (Tammy)
50 Cent (Southpaw)
Paul Feig (Sabrina: TTW)
Richard Brake (3 From Hell)

Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) is a desk-bound CIA analyst guiding her partner Agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law) on a mission to Varna from a CIA office in the Washington, D.C. area. Fine kills Tihomir Boyanov after he sneezes without first finding a suitcase nuke whose location is known only to Boyanov. Meanwhile, the agency learns that Boyanov’s daughter Rayna (Rose Byrne) might know the location of her father’s device, so they send Fine to infiltrate her home. However, Rayna shoots Fine dead while Susan watches online. Rayna knows the identities of all the agency’s top agents, including Fine and Rick Ford (Jason Statham). Susan, who is unknown to Rayna, volunteers to become a field agent, and her boss, Elaine Crocker (Allison Janney), agrees. Ford quits in disgust over Susan being chosen for the assignment.
Susan is sent to Paris to spy on Sergio De Luca (Bobby Cannavale). Later that night, Ford appears in the hotel Susan is staying at and insists that she will ruin the mission due to being an inexperienced field agent. The next morning, Susan sees an assassin working for De Luca, and one of his contacts, exchanging Ford’s bag for one with a bomb inside it. Susan warns Ford, then catches up to the assassin, but he is killed when they fight. Susan follows De Luca to Rome, where she meets her contact Aldo (Peter Serafinowicz), a suave Italian informant who makes inappropriate advances towards her. Susan meets Rayna in a casino, prevents Rayna’s assassination, and becomes part of her inner circle. When they fly in her private plane to Budapest, the steward kills the bodyguard and pilots and tries to kill Rayna, but Susan subdues him and lands the plane in Budapest.
Rayna believes Susan to be a CIA spy, but Susan convinces Rayna that her father hired her to be Rayna’s bodyguard. In Budapest, the two encounter Susan’s best friend Nancy B. Artingstall (Miranda Hart), who is sent by Crocker to provide back-up. After being shot at in the street, Susan orders Nancy to get Rayna to safety while she pursues the shooter’s vehicle. The shooter turns out to be CIA double agent Karen Walker (Morena Baccarin), who sold Rayna the names of the agents. As she is about to shoot Susan, Walker is killed by an unknown sniper. Later that night, Susan and Nancy accompany Rayna to a party. The contact is De Luca’s associate, Lia (Nargis Fakhri). Nancy creates a diversion so Susan can fight Lia, who is a skilled assassin. Just as Susan is about to arrest Lia, she is fatally stabbed in the chest by an unknown assailant, who turns out to be Bradley Fine. Susan is captured and is told that Fine faked his death so he could become Rayna’s lover.
Jason Statham and Melissa McCarthy in Spy (2015)
After Susan is imprisoned with Aldo in a bunker, Fine appears and reveals to Susan that the real reason he faked his death was to gain intelligence on the device’s location, which could only happen if he gained Rayna’s trust. Fine also reveals that he was the one who assassinated Karen. Susan and Aldo escape after subduing two bodyguards. Eventually, Susan accompanies Rayna and Fine at De Luca’s mansion while posing as a double agent. Chechen terrorist Solsa Dudaev (Richard Brake) and his men arrive to purchase the device for a suitcase full of diamonds. Rayna then reveals the location of the device. However, De Luca, now in possession of the device and doubting that Dudaev can safely smuggle it into the United States, kills him and his men and keeps the diamonds. De Luca intends to sell the device to someone who can transport it to New York City within a week. As De Luca is about to kill Rayna, Ford appears and distracts him, allowing Susan to save Rayna’s life again.
Melissa McCarthy and Nargis Fakhri in Spy (2015)
De Luca escapes with the device and diamonds on his helicopter, with Susan and Ford clinging to the landing gear. Ford loses his grip, causing him to falls into the lake ocean, leaving Susan to confront De Luca in the helicopter alone. After Nancy and Aldo arrive in a helicopter and help Susan kill De Luca, Crocker shows up to recover the device. Rayna is arrested, but it is implied that she has come to like Susan as a friend. After Aldo reveals to Susan that his real name is Albert and he is an MI6 agent, he invites her to dinner should they ever cross paths in London, which Susan accepts. Susan declines a similar offer from Fine and instead opts for a girls’ night out with Nancy. The next morning, Susan is shown screaming after waking up amidst empty champagne bottles, realizing that she has slept with Ford.
I thought Spy would be just another parody of the James Bond-type of movies, cheap and cringy. But I was wrong! This is a highly entertaining and intelligent film. The leading lady Melissa McCarthy excels in this clever action-comedy galore. The ensemble of actors, the script, director’s work all makes for a great film.

REVIEW: THE SIMPSONS – SEASON 30

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CAST

Dan Castellaneta (Super 8)
Julie Kavner (Dr. Dolittle)
Yeardley Smith (Dead Like Me)
Nancy Cartwright (Kim Possible)
Hank Azaria (The Smurfs)
Harry Shearer (This Is Spinal Tap)
Pamela Hayden (Recess)
Tress MacNeille (Futurama)
Russi Taylor (Babe)

The Simpsons (1989)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Emily Deschanel (Bones)
Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman)
Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show)
Rhys Darby (Yes Man)
George Segal (2012)
H. Jon Benjamin (Wet Hot Ameircan Summer)
Jon Lovitz (Happiness)
Kristen Schaal (Gravity Falls)
Tracy Morgan (Cop Out)
Maggie Roswell (Pretty In Pink)
Ksenia Solo (Lost Girl)
RuPaul (But I’m a Cheerleader)
Scott Thompson (The Kids In The Hall)
Peter Serafinowicz (The Tick)
J.K. Simmons (Justice League)
Jane Lynch (Glee)
Bryan Batt (Scream: The Series)
Patti LuPone (Witness)
Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of The Water)
Wallace Shawn (Young Sheldon)
Ken Jeong (The Hangover)
Natasha Lyonne (American Pie)
Awkwafina (Ocean’s 8)
Nicole Byer (Tuca & Bertie)
Chelsea Peretti (Game Night)
John Lithgow (3rd Rock From The Sun)
Josh Groban (The Crazy Ones)
Will Forte (The Lego Movie)
Jackie Mason (The Jerk)
Liev Schreiber (The 5th Wave)
Illeana Douglas (Ghost World)
Jenny Slate (The Secrets Life of Pets)
Werner Herzog (Jack Reacher)

The Simpsons (1989)It’s hilarious comedy, funny, and one of my all time favorite T.V shows .. The series is a satirical depiction of a middle class American lifestyle epitomized by the Simpson family, which consists of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie. The show is set in the fictional town of Springfield and parodies American culture, society, television, and many aspects of the human condition. Modern Simpsons episodes are often both overstuffed and under-imagined, resulting in two indifferent, inadequately realized stories. Even though the show has dropped in creativity and in the joke department, it’s still worthy.Nancy Cartwright, Pamela Hayden, and Tress MacNeille in The Simpsons (1989)

Season 30 Highlights are…

The Simpsons (1989)

Bart’s Not Dead

Bart ends up in the hospital after taking a dare and lies about going to heaven to cover it up, but is forced to confess after Homer takes a deal with Christian producers to make a movie about the whole thing.

Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Dan Castellaneta, and Yeardley Smith in The Simpsons (1989)

Heartbreak Hotel

Marge and Homer travel to a tropical island and go on Marge’s favorite reality competition program to win a million dollars.

Yeardley Smith in The Simpsons (1989)

My Way or The Highway to Heaven

While God and St. Peter discuss who will get into heaven, the citizens of Springfield recall divine encounters.

Julie Kavner and Dan Castellaneta in The Simpsons (1989)

Baby You Can’t Drive My Car

A self-driving car company comes to Springfield, poaching all of the power plant employees with their fun work environment.

Julie Kavner and RuPaul in The Simpsons (1989)

Werking Mom

In search of a job, Marge gets one selling plastic food storage containers – as a drag queen; Lisa tries to make the world better.

The Simpsons (1989)

Mad About The Toy

Motivated by a PTSD episode Grampa had while babysitting the kids, the Simpsons take a journey to Grampa’s past as a post-WW2 toy model for plastic army men, and Abe finally faces his on confused sexuality.

The Simpsons (1989)

The Girl On The Bus

Lisa tries to live a double life when she makes a new friend and gets a taste of what it would be like to live with a more cultured family.

Hank Azaria, Julie Kavner, Dan Castellaneta, and Yeardley Smith in The Simpsons (1989)

I’m Dancing as Fat as I Can

Homer tries to make amends for binging his and Marge’s favorite show without her; Bart prepares for “Krusty’s Holiday Trample”

Wallace Shawn and Dan Castellaneta in The Simpsons (1989)

I Want You (She’s So Heavy)

When a romantic night ends in injury for Homer and Marge, Lisa turns to an unlikely source to fix their strained relationship.)

The Simpsons (1989)

E My Sports

Homer discovers a passion for coaching Bart in video game competitions; Lisa’s plan to bring Homer back to reality creates chaos.

J.K. Simmons and Yeardley Smith in The Simpsons (1989)

Girl’s in the Band

Homer works extra shifts at the plant so Lisa can play in the Capitol City Youth Philharmonic.

The Simpsons (1989)

I’m Just a Girl Who Can’t Say D’oh

Marge becomes Director of Springfield’s local theater, armed with Lisa’s script resembling “Hamilton”; Homer joins a baby class with Maggie, and takes a liking to supervisor Chloe.

Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Dan Castellaneta, Yeardley Smith, and Awkwafina in The Simpsons (1989)

D’oh Canada

Lisa is mistakenly given political asylum in Canada during a family trip to Niagara Falls.

Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Dan Castellaneta, and Yeardley Smith in The Simpsons (1989)

Crystal Blue-Haired Persuasion

Marge starts a business selling healing crystals and other New Age products to the naive mothers of Springfield when Homer’s work cuts children’s health-care benefits, leading Marge to use the crystals as a cheaper solution for Bart’s ADD.

HALLOWEEN OF HORROR REVIEW: SHAUN OF THE DEAD

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CAST
Simon Pegg (Star Trek)
Nick Frost (Snow White & The Huntsman)
Kate Ashfield (Spivs)
Lucy Davis (Ugly Betty)
Dylan Moran (Notting Hill)
Peter Serafinowicz (Spy)
Rafe Spall (Prometheus)
Bill Nighy (Underworld)
Martin Freeman (The Hobbit)
Matt Lucas (Alice In Wonderland)
Paul Kaye (Anna and The Apocalypse)
Shaun (Simon Pegg) is a 29-year-old electronics shop salesman with no direction in life. His younger colleagues show him no respect, he has a strained relationship with his stepfather, Phillip (Bill Nighy), and a tense one with his housemate Pete (Peter Serafinowicz) because of Ed (Nick Frost), Shaun’s other housemate and vulgar, unemployed best friend. Furthermore, Shaun’s girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield) dislikes their social life as they spend every date at the Winchester, Shaun and Ed’s favourite pub. Because Shaun always brings Ed, Liz is always forced to bring her flatmates, David (Dylan Moran) and Dianne (Lucy Davis). After a bad day at work, Shaun forgets to book a table at a nice restaurant, and after suggesting the Winchester again Liz breaks up with him. Shaun drowns his sorrows with Ed at the Winchester. While celebrating at home, an enraged Pete — suffering from a bite wound caused by “some crackheads” — confronts Shaun on his flaws, telling him to sort his life out.
The next morning, a zombie apocalypse has overwhelmed the city, but Shaun is too busy dealing with his hangover to notice. He and Ed discover a female zombie in their backyard, but assume she is just drunk until she survives being impaled on a pipe. Another zombie makes its way into the garden, and Shaun and Ed run back inside. They learn more about the outbreak by watching the news and kill the two zombies (and another zombie that slips in through the front door) with blows to the head. The two decide to rescue Shaun’s mother, Barbara (Penelope Wilton), and Liz so they can wait out the crisis in the Winchester.
Shaun and Ed escape in Pete’s car and pick up Barbara and Phillip — who has been bitten — and then switch vehicles after Ed deliberately crashes Pete’s car for Phillip’s Jaguar. They then head over to Liz, Dianne, and David’s flat and collect them. On their way to the Winchester, Phillip makes peace with Shaun, dies from his bites, and then reanimates — forcing them to abandon the vehicle and set off on foot. The streets surrounding the pub are overrun, so the group pretends to be zombies to sneak past them, but Shaun gets into an argument with Ed and breaks their cover. Shaun leads the horde away while the rest take refuge in the pub. Shaun rejoins them after losing the zombies.
shaun-of-the-dead
Several hours later, the zombies return; Shaun discovers the Winchester rifle above the bar is functional and the group uses it to defend themselves. Barbara reveals she was bitten along the way and dies, and a distraught Shaun is forced to shoot her after she reanimates. David is then pulled through a window and torn apart by the zombies, and Dianne frantically unbolts the front door to rescue him, disappearing into the advancing horde. Pete arrives as one of the zombies and bites Ed; Shaun kills Pete and sets fire to the bar, but also sets off the remaining rifle ammunition by accident. The survivors flee into the cellar and contemplate suicide, but discover a barrel hatch elevator that opens to the outside. Shaun and Liz escape on the elevator as Ed is left behind with the rifle. Back on the street, the British Army arrives and guns down the remaining zombies, rescuing the two. The couple approach the safety of the trucks, reconciled. Six months after the outbreak, civilization has returned to normal, but the living now use the zombies as cheap labour and entertainment. Liz has moved in with Shaun, and Shaun keeps Ed — now a zombie — tethered in the backyard shed so they can play video games together.
Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are both brilliant in this spoof of the zombie genre. If you are into zombie films, or comedy, then you will enjoy this film. It is a well made film that dosen’t fail to bring a smile to anybody who watches it.

REVIEW: JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2

Starring

Keanu Reeves (47 Ronin)
Riccardo Scamarcio (Burnt)
Ian McShane (Hellboy)
Ruby Rose (Batwoman)
Common (Terminator: Salvation)
Claudia Gerini (THe Poison Rose)
Lance Reddick (Jonah Hex)
Laurence Fishburne (Hannibal)
Tobias Segal (The Drop)
John Leguizamo (Spawn)
Bridget Moynahan (Battle: Los Angeles)
Thomas Sadoski (Wild)
Peter Stormare (Armageddon)
Peter Serafinowicz (The Tick)

Keanu Reeves and Common in John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)Four days after the events of the first film, former assassin John Wick retrieves his stolen 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 429 from a chop shop owned by Abram Tarasov, brother of Viggo and uncle of Iosef. John dispatches Tarasov’s men in a violent rampage that heavily damages the Mustang, but spares Tarasov under the auspices of peace and returns home, cementing his weapons into the ground once again.Keanu Reeves in John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)After car shop owner Aurelio takes John’s Mustang for repairs, John is visited by Italian crime lord Santino D’Antonio. It is revealed that to complete his “impossible task”, which allowed him to retire and marry Helen, John asked Santino for help. As a form of contract, Santino swore John to a “marker”, an unbreakable promise symbolized by a “blood oath” medallion. Santino presents the medallion to demand services from John, who declines, claiming that he is retired. In retaliation, Santino destroys John’s home with a ARWEN 37 nonlethal launcher modified to shoot incendiary ammunition.Keanu Reeves in John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)John travels to The Continental Hotel in New York City. Winston, the owner of the hotel, reminds John that if he rejects the marker, he will be violating one of the two unbreakable rules of the underworld: no blood on Continental grounds, and every marker must be honored. John reluctantly accepts his commitment and meets with Santino, who tasks him with assassinating his sister Gianna so he can claim her seat on the “High Table”, a council of high-level crime lords. Santino sends Ares, his mute personal bodyguard, to surveil John.Keanu Reeves in John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)In Rome, Italy, John infiltrates Gianna’s coronation party and confronts her in her dressing room. Faced with certain death, Gianna chooses to take her own life by slitting her wrists. As Gianna dies, John holds her hand and shoots her in the head. Cassian, Gianna’s bodyguard, recognizes John and, after realizing that John was sent to kill Gianna, attacks him. John escapes to the catacombs, where he is ambushed by Santino’s henchmen, who intend to “tie up loose ends” by killing him. After killing most of the henchmen, John is pursued by Cassian. Their battle is halted when they crash into the reception area of the Rome Continental, which—like the New York Continental—prohibits any “business” on its grounds. As the two share a tense drink, Cassian vows revenge for Gianna’s death.Keanu Reeves in John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)After John returns to New York City, Santino opens a $7 million contract for John’s death under the guise of avenging his sister, leading numerous assassins to unsuccessfully attack John. Eventually, Cassian confronts John once again in the subway. John wins the fight and badly wounds Cassian, but leaves him alive out of professional respect. Injured and desperate, John seeks help from an underground crime lord titled the Bowery King, whose subordinates treat John’s injuries and guide him to Santino’s location. John kills Santino’s bodyguards and defeats Ares in a knife fight, but Santino is able to escape to the Continental. Santino smugly makes it clear that he intends to remain indefinitely in its sanctuary. Despite Winston’s warnings, John shoots and kills Santino in the Continental lounge.Keanu Reeves in John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)The next day, Winston sends for John and explains that, per the High Table, the contract on John has been doubled and offered globally. As a consequence of killing Santino on Continental grounds, Winston declares John “excommunicado” from the Continental, losing all access and privileges to the Continental’s underworld resources. However, Winston delays announcing John’s excommunication and global bounty by one hour to give him a head start, and provides him with a marker for future use. Before leaving, John advises Winston to make it known that whoever tries to come after him will be killed. As John and his dog run through the park, dozens of cellphones around him ring, signaling that the global contract is about to be posted and offered.Keanu Reeves and Ian McShane in John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)John Wick 2 is an exciting joy ride for action fans and hopes to see more from this. I recommend seeing it, which you would not be disappointed.

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)
Wyatt Oleff (IT)

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: THE TICK – SEASON 2

The Tick (2017)

MAIN CAST

Peter Serafinowicz (Spy)
Griffin Newman (Draft Day)
Valorie Curry (Blair Witch)
Brendan Hines (Lie To Me)
Yara Martinez (Jane The Virgin)
Scott Speiser (6 Ways To Die)

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RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Happy Anderson (The Knick)
François Chau (Lost)
John Hodgman (Arthur)
Patricia Kalember (Signs)
Marc Kudisch (Smash)
Alan Tudyk (Doom Patrol)
Tom O’Keefe (The Gifted)
Joshua Schubart (After)
Adam Henry Garcia (Royal Pains)
Steven Ogg (The Walking Dead)
Lucas Dixon (A Picture of You)
Brian Faherty (Measure of a Man)
Grant Harrison (Snafu)
Jade Elysan (Bonding)
Clara Wong (Louie)
Liz Vassey (Two and a Half Men)
Clé Bennett (Heroes Reborn)

MV5BMTg3MjY1MDUxMV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzczNTU2NzM@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,675,1000_AL_Certain comedies get better as they go along, when the writers and the actors have all had a chance to gel and figure out what everyone’s strengths and weakness are. That’s certainly true of Amazon’s The Tick, as it feels almost like an entirely new show at the start of season 2. Some of that is certainly due to the show’s continued refinement of Tick’s (Peter Serafinowicz) suit (or is it his body?), The new suit is much more practical, and it allows for a greater range of motion for the man wearing it, which in turn lets The Tick worry less about how its title character looks and more about the level of self-awareness it wants to infuse into its ongoing story of hopelessly flawed superheroes fighting crime in a city called the City.The Dark Crystal_BreaAt times it felt as though season 1 of The Tick was an attempt for the show to find how it fit with the current glut of superhero films and TV series as much as it was about the effort of Tick and his nascent sidekick, Arthur (Griffin Newman), to root out evil and discover their place among the alleged pantheon of heroes sworn to protecting the City. Tone and pacing were common issues throughout the first season, which were then exacerbated by a protracted midseason break (almost six months). And still, even upon the series’ return, the balance between humor and superhero action felt off and the serialized nature of the series couldn’t quite turn a plot involving the return of the Terror (Jackie Earle Haley) into the kind of energized storytelling previous incarnations of The Tick enjoyed.the-tick-season-2-peter-serafinowiczThat isn’t an issue for season 2, which returns a funnier, faster-paced, and far more confident series than it was in season 1. From the first episode on, The Tick feels very much like the buddy comedy it was meant to be. Serafinowicz and Newman enjoy an easy chemistry with one another, which along with the self-aware, super-heroic dialogue, becomes key to the season’s early success. It helps that Arthur is fully committed to his role as a superhero, and that his family is (for the most part) supportive of his decision to pursue a life of crimefighting while also being an accountant. Removing the will they or won’t they from Tick and Arthur’s relationship gets the series off on the right foot, allowing the show to lean into the absurdity of its premise and its characters by making it all seem perfectly normal for these two heroes.dimsSeason 2 has some help in the normalizing department, as the defeat of the Terror has brought a huge influx of extremely weird (and often ridiculous) heroes and villains to the City, thanks in large part to A.E.G.I.S (The Tick’s cheeky riff on S.H.I.E.L.D.) re-opening a branch in Tick and Arthur’s neck of the woods. That opens the door for the series to get precisely as weird as it need to, introducing characters like Steve Ogg’s semi-retired Flexon (a Tick analogue to Marvel’s Mr. Fantastic), John Hodgman’s Hobbes, and Marc Kudisch as the hyper masculine, tough-as-nails head of A.E.G.I.S., Tyrannosaurus ‘Ty’ Rathbone. Part of what has made The Tick an enduring character since the 1980s is the ever-changing community of oddballs he is surrounded by. While Arthur is and will always be the Watson to his dim-bulb Sherlock Holmes, the franchise has proven adept at introducing new characters who are inherently ridiculous but just serious enough to work, and to keep things fresh, interesting, and funny.zUOS95Hv_400x400Season 2 also introduces a new plot line for Arthur’s sister Dot (Valerie Curry), as she begins to wonder whether or not Arthur’s the only one in the family destined to spend their spare time seeking justice. This thread works to give Tick and Arthur some breathing room, but it also spares Curry from being primarily relegated to reacting to the danger her onscreen sibling finds himself in. In her expanded role, Dot manages to get into some trouble and forge a bond with Overkill (Scott Speiser), which, in turn, offers that character a chance to be something more than a spoof on hyper-violent vigilante characters who rose to prominence in the ‘90s. The biggest improvements in season 2, however, are in how the season is structured. Though the overarching narrative of the season is still serialized, each episode functions on its own as a complete episode of television. Having a distinct beginning, middle, and end focuses the story and the comedy on more specific elements integral to the episode at hand. As a result, the jokes are funnier, the action livelier, and the story threads more compelling.the-tick-season-2-peter-serafinowicz-griffin-newman-interview-slice-600x200All in all, The Tick returns with the terrific new season of television. More heroes, more villains — all of them ridiculous in their own way — means more opportunities for laughs and for superhero action. Much like the Tick’s costume, the series received the right kind of upgrade in between seasons, and in doing so has become a real contender in the world of superhero TV.