REVIEW: LUKE CAGE – SEASON 2

Mike Colter in Luke Cage (2016)

 

MAIN CAST

Mike Colter (Zero Dark Thirty)
Simone Missick (K-Town)
Theo Rossi (Red Sands)
Gabrielle Dennis (Bring It On 5)
Mustafa Shakir (The Deuce)
Finn Jones (Game of Thrones)
Jessica Henwick (Star wars: The Force Awakens)
Stephen Rider (The Butler)
Alfre Woodard (Star Trek: First Contact)

Mike Colter in Luke Cage (2016)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Rosario Dawson (Sin City)
Reg E. Cathey (Fantastic Four)
Thomas Q. Jones (Being Mary Jane)
Elden Henson (The Butterfly Effect)
Rob Morgan (Stranger Things)

Rosario Dawson and Mike Colter in Luke Cage (2016)Is it ever okay to do the wrong thing for the right reason?” That line, spoken by Misty Knight (Simone Missick) in episode six, is the key to the excellent second season of Luke Cage. Every one of its major characters is playing a game without rules, a game to save the district of Harlem, and there’s no way to win by playing clean. The constant interest comes from watching how dirty they’re prepared to get.Mike Colter in Luke Cage (2016)Since we last saw him, Cage (Mike Colter) has become a huge celebrity. The public track him via an app. Everyone wants selfies. He is as famous as it gets, but he’s flat broke (helping the helpless doesn’t pay) and he can’t save everyone. Luke’s a plaster over Harlem’s problems, not a cure. He can’t really help Harlem unless he can bring down Mariah Dillard (Alfre Woodard), whose fingerprints stain almost every crime in the neighbourhood. Cage is not the only one looking to bring Dillard to justice. John McIver, aka Bushmaster (Mustafa Shakir), has arrived in town with an old grudge to settle and some dark magic that could help him defeat Cage.Alfre Woodard and Mustafa Shakir in Luke Cage (2016)The introduction of Bushmaster, who can match Cage punch for punch with the help of some herbal witchcraft, may sound like the show is heading back to Diamondback territory, but that’s not the case. Bushmaster isn’t really here to serve as an adversary to Cage, but to Dillard, who is as much a series lead as Cage. And thank God. You can never have too much Alfre Woodard. Mariah is the best kind of villain because she thinks she’s doing the right thing and doing what she has to do to achieve it. She’s building hospitals and safe homes for single mothers, but she’s selling guns, blackmailing officials and having people murdered to achieve it. If she’s only hurting bad people to help good people, is she really so wrong? Her family’s history of betraying others is what brings Bushmaster after her. He’s the only man she can’t negotiate with.Simone Missick and Mike Colter in Luke Cage (2016)Most of Marvel’s superhero series suffer a mid-season sag, without enough plot to fill their episode quota. This season never succumbs to that because it’s not rooted in plot but character. There are episodes where little happens in terms of event, but characters deepen and crack, becoming less who they want to be and more who they have to be, even Luke. Luke Cage could now remove any superhero elements almost entirely and still function as a series. It’s become Game Of Thrones-esque in its battle for Harlem, and like that show, whoever claims the prize will do so with bloodied hands.

REVIEW: FANTASTIC FOUR (2015)

CAST
Miles Teller (Divergent)
Michael B. Jordan (Creed)
Kate Mara (Iron Man 2)
Jamie Bell (King Kong)
Toby Kebbell (Dawn of The Planet of The Apes)
Reg E.Cathey (Seven)
Tim Blake Nelson (The Incredible Hulk)
Dan Castellaneta (The Simpsons)
Wayne Pére (Cloak & Dagger)
Friends Reed Richards and Ben Grimm have worked together on a prototype teleporter since childhood, eventually attracting the attention of Professor Franklin Storm, director of the Baxter Foundation, a government-sponsored research institute for young prodigies. Reed is recruited to join them and aid Storm’s children, scientist Sue Storm and the somewhat reckless technician Johnny Storm, into completing a “Quantum Gate” designed by Storm’s wayward protégé, Victor von Doom, who begrudgingly agrees to help due to his unrequited feelings for Sue.
The experiment is successful, and the facility’s supervisor, Dr. Allen, plans to send a group from NASA to venture into a parallel dimension known as “Planet Zero”. Disappointed at being denied the chance to join the expedition, Reed, Johnny, and Victor along with Ben use the Quantum Gate to embark on an unsanctioned voyage to Planet Zero, which they learn is a world filled with otherworldly substances. Victor attempts to touch the green-lava like substance, causing the surface they are on to collapse and the ground to erupt. Reed, Johnny, and Ben return to their shuttle just as Sue brings them back to Earth. Victor is left behind after he falls into the collapsing landscape. The machine explodes, altering Reed, Sue, Johnny, and Ben on a molecular-genetic level, affording them superhuman conditions and abilities beyond their control: Reed can stretch like rubber, Sue can become invisible and generate force fields of energy, Johnny can engulf his entire body in flames and fly, and Ben becomes bigger and develops a rock-like hide which gives him enhanced strength and durability. They are then placed in government custody and confinement to be studied and have their conditions and abilities tested. Blaming himself for the accident, Reed escapes from the facility and tries to find a cure for their changes.
Miles Teller in Fantastic Four (2015)
One year later, Reed is now a fugitive and has built a suit that is able to adapt to his body’s plasticity and also helps him control his ability. Hiding in Central America, he is eventually found by the United States military with Sue’s help and captured by Ben, who has become a military asset along with Johnny and Sue. Johnny and Sue have been outfitted with specialized suits designed to help them stabilize and control their abilities. Reed is brought to Area 57, where Dr. Allen conscripts him to open another portal to Planet Zero in exchange for giving Reed the necessary resources to find a cure. Arriving in Planet Zero, Dr. Allen’s explorers find Victor, who has been fused to his spacesuit and can now control the elements, as well as having telekinetic abilities, and bring him back to Earth. Believing the human race needs to be destroyed so he can rebuild Planet Zero in his image, Victor kills scientists and soldiers in the base including Dr. Allen and Professor Storm and returns to Planet Zero using the Quantum Gate, with Ben, Johnny, Reed, and Sue in pursuit.
Miles Teller in Fantastic Four (2015)
Now dubbing himself “Doom”, Victor activates a portal on Planet Zero using a structure he made while in the realm, that begins consuming the landscape of the Earth. He is confronted by the four and, after a destructive battle, Ben punches Doom into the portal’s energy beam, disintegrating him, while Johnny closes the portal. Returning to Earth, the group is rewarded for their heroics by being given a new base of operations by the US military. They decide to use their powers to help people and adopt the mantle of the “Fantastic Four”.

It’s certainly different from the comics, so if you go into it with an open mind you may find a better experience than if you want it to remain the same. It’s inventive, there’s an engaging cast, the Marco Beltrami/Philip Glass score is wonderful, but ultimately it goes against a lot of the superhero conventions. The big action setpieces had to be scrapped due to budgetary concerns and it shows. It’s a slow moving film but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth checking out. It’s notably darker with some elements of Cronenberg-esque body horror, yet it still has elements of humour and the ending isn’t really that bad. Some aspects could have been developed better and some of the reshoots are laughably bad – like with Reed asking Sue if she’s adopted. But it’s definitely worth watching even just to see what aspects didn’t work so well or to see the elements that do work. Because the elements that work are really gripping, and it’s very interesting to see superheroes reduced to test subjects in Area 57 and government stooges. It’s just unfortunate the good elements are often only glimpses. But if you can put up with that it’s a nice contrast to Marvel Studios’ output.

REVIEW: THE MASK

 

CAST

Jim Carrey (Liar Liar)
Cameron Diaz (Sex Tape)
Peter Riegert (Local Hero)
Amy Yasbeck (Wings)
Richard Jeni (Open Mic)
Peter Greene (Pulp Fiction)
Reg E. Cathey (Fantastic Four)
Kevin Grevioux (Underworld)
Robert O’Reilly (Star Trek: DS9)
Jeremy Roberts (Veronica Mars)
Ben Stein (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off)

Stanley Ipkiss is a shy and unlucky bank clerk working at the local Edge City bank. He is frequently picked on by everyone around him like the Bank President’s son Mr. Dickey, his ruthless landlady Mrs. Peenman, and the mechanics Irv and Burt Ripley who ripped him off. The only exception of this is his Jack Russell Terrier Milo and his co-worker and best friend Charlie Schumaker. Meanwhile, gangster Dorian Tyrell operates a nightclub called the Coco Bongo while plotting to overthrow his boss Niko. One day, Tyrell sends his singer girlfriend Tina Carlyle into Stanley’s bank to record its layout, in preparation to rob the bank.
mask-the-1994-001-jim-carreyStanley is attracted to Tina, and she seems to reciprocate. After being denied entrance to the Coco Bongo, he finds a wooden mask near the city’s harbor. Placing it on his face transforms him into a zoot-suited, green-faced, bizarre trickster known as the Mask, who is able to cartoonishly alter himself and his surroundings at will. After surprising his landlady, Stanley scares off a street gang that attempts to rob him by turning a balloon into a Tommy gun, and he then exacts revenge on the auto mechanics.The next morning, Stanley encounters detective Lieutenant Kellaway and newspaper reporter Peggy Brandt investigating the Mask’s activity of the previous night. Stanley even stands up to Mr. Dickey. To attend Tina’s performance and, despite being sought by the local police, he again becomes the Mask to raid the bank, inadvertently foiling Tyrell’s plan in the process. At the Coco Bongo, Stanley ogles Tina, transforms the band members and puts them under his control, having them play the 1943 fast-paced jazz piece “Hey Pachuco!” and eventually dances exuberantly with Tina, whom he ends up kissing. Following a confrontation with Tyrell, Stanley flees leaving behind a scrap of cloth from his suit that transforms back into his pajamas as Tyrell is taken away by the arrival of the police.
Kellaway implicates Stanley in the bank-robbery based on his pajamas, but Stanley flees and later consults an expert on masks named Arthur Neuman, who tells him that the object is a depiction of Loki, the Norse god of darkness and mischief. Stanley attempts to show Arthur his Mask persona, but it only works as an ordinary mask. That night, Stanley transforms into the Mask and meets Tina at the local Landfill Park, but the meeting is interrupted by Kellaway, who attempts to arrest him. Stanley tricks a large group of police officers into joining him in a mass-performance of the Desi Arnaz song “Cuban Pete”. Stanley takes off the mask and flees with Peggy, but she betrays him to Tyrell for a $50,000 bounty. Tyrell tries on the mask and becomes a malevolent green-faced being. Forced to reveal the location of the stolen money, Stanley is kept hostage in one of the mob’s cars while Tyrell’s henchmen reclaim the money. Stanley is later given to Kellaway, along with a rubber green mask, to be detained.MV5BNzQ5OGQ3MGItNTQwZS00MjJkLWI2ZTAtZjBmNGE3YWE5NzNmXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTAyNDQ2NjI@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,999_AL_When Tina visits Stanley in his cell, he urges her to flee the city. Tina thanks Stanley for treating her with respect and tells him that she knew that he was the Mask all along. She attempts to leave the city, but is captured by Tyrell’s enforcer Orlando and taken to a charity ball at the Coco Bongo hosted by Niko and attended by the city’s elite, including the mayor Mitchell Tilton. Upon arrival, the masked Tyrell kills Niko, and prepares to destroy both the club and Tina. Milo helps Stanley escape, and Stanley brings Kellaway as a cover and hostage in a desperate attempt to stop Tyrell.
After the brief, initial success of securing the assistance of Charlie, Stanley is spotted by Orlando and captured. Tina tricks Tyrell into taking off the mask, which is recovered and donned by Milo, turning the dog into a cartoonish pitbull who defeats Tyrell’s men, while Stanley fights Tyrell himself. After recovering the mask, Stanley uses its abilities to save Tina by swallowing Tyrell’s bomb and flushing Tyrell down the drain of the club’s ornamental fountain. The police arrive and arrest Tyrell’s remaining henchmen, while Kellaway attempts to arrest Stanley once again. Tilton arrives and debunks Kellaway’s statements, announcing to everyone that Tyrell was The Mask all throughout, and orders Kellaway to release Stanley. He then goes on to tell Stanley that he is a hero and thanks him for saving lives, and all charges against Stanley are dropped. Tilton then tells Kellaway that they will have a talk in his office in the morning.
film__3014-the-mask--hi_res-ed83f754As the sun rises the following day, Stanley, Tina, Milo, and Charlie take the mask back down to the harbor. Tina throws the mask into the water, and she and Stanley celebrate their victory as they kiss. Charlie attempts to retrieve the mask for himself, only to find Milo swimming away with it.This is Jim Carrey on top form: restrained but manic as Stanley Ipkiss, and totally unstoppable as The Mask. The plot is fairly simple, and all the better for it. The bad guys are disposable but their presence is felt nonetheless. And Cameron Diaz is undeniably smoldering in her debut role. The one liners are zany, and for fans of cartoon humour this is a must

REVIEW: ST. VINCENT

CAST

Melissa McCarthy (Mike & Molly)
Bill Murray (Zombieland)
Naomi Watts (King Kong)
Chris O’ Dowd (This Is 40)
Terrence Howard (Iron Man)
Jaeden Lieberher (Midnight Special)
Nate Corddry (Mom)
Ann Dowd (Compliance)
Reg E. Cathey (Fantastic Four)
Kimberly Quinn (Hidden Figures)
Lenny Venito (War of The Worlds)
Greta Lee (Sisters)

Vincent MacKenna is a retired grumpy alcoholic Vietnam War veteran, living in Sheepshead Bay who smokes and gambles regularly. His wife, Sandy, developed Alzheimer’s years ago and can no longer recognize him, but he poses as a doctor to visit her and does her laundry. Vincent’s only close friends are a pregnant Russian sex worker named Daka and his cat, Felix. Despite his aggressive attitude toward strangers, Vincent has acquaintances who admire and care about him.
Vincent’s 30-year-old Chrysler LeBaron gets damaged by a tree branch felled by his new neighbors’ moving van. Maggie Bronstein, a radiology tech divorcee, and her son Oliver meet Vincent, who demands payment for the damage. Maggie does the best to provide for Oliver, who is ostracized and bullied at his Catholic school, but is a knowledgeable, friendly boy, welcomed warmly by his new teacher. On his first day at his school, Oliver’s phone, wallet and house keys are stolen by his classmate Robert. Oliver asks Vincent if he can stay at his home until his mother comes home from work. Vincent offers to continue babysitting for a fee.
Vincent picks up Oliver daily after school because Maggie often has late shifts. Vincent’s ideas of after-school activities involve visits to racetracks and bars. The mismatched pair begin to help each other mature, though Maggie is at first horrified by Vincent’s behavior. Vincent teaches Oliver how to defend himself, resulting in Oliver breaking Robert’s nose, who later apologizes and gives back what he stole. Oliver befriends Robert. Vincent and Oliver win a high odds bet on the horses, enabling Vincent to pay off some of his debts. But he gambles away the rest, hoping to make more to keep Sandy in her nursing home.
Vincent is confronted in his home by loan sharks Zucko and Antwan who attempt to take Sandy’s jewelry. Vincent suffers a stroke and Zucko and Antwan leave him on the floor. Vincent is hospitalized and has physical therapy. Oliver, Maggie and Daka help Vincent recover. Oliver’s father, a lawyer, finds out about Vincent and uses the information to get joint custody, with Maggie telling Vincent that he can no longer see Oliver. Vincent becomes depressed after finding out Sandy died while hospitalized. Oliver nominates Vincent, for his “Saints Among Us” school project and asks around the neighborhood about Vincent’s past. Oliver publicly declares Vincent his saint in front of the school’s assembly, who happily reconciles with Oliver. Some time later, Daka gives birth to a child, and she along with Maggie, Oliver and Robert go to Vincent’s house, where they eat and happily talk.St. Vincent is a sweet, lovable film that grows on you with each passing laugh.