REVIEW: GODZILLA (2014)

CAST

Aaron Taylor-Johnston (Kick-Ass 1 & 2)
Elizabeth Olsen (Avengers: Age of Ultron)
Ken Watanabe (Batman Begins)
Bryan Cranston (Argo)
Carson Bolde (Mansfield Path)
Sally Hawkins (Layer Cake)
Juliette Binoche (The English Patient)
David Strathairn (Lincoln)
Richard T. Jones (Terminator: TSCC)
Patrick Sabongui (The Flash)
Garry Chalk (Beast Wars)
Hiro Kanagawa (Heroes Reborn)
Kevan Ohtsji (Dreamcatcher)
Terry Chen (Jessica Jones)
Ty Olsson (War For The Planet of The Apes)
Peter Shinkoda (Daredevil)
Jill Teed (X-Men 2)
Eric Breker (Stargate SG.1)
Aaron Pearl (Man of Steel)

In 1954, Godzilla, an ancient alpha predator, is lured to an island in an attempt to kill it with a nuclear bomb. In 1999, Project Monarch scientists Ishiro Serizawa and Vivienne Graham investigate a colossal skeleton unearthed in a collapsed mine in the Philippines. They find two giant spores; one dormant and one hatched with a trail that leads to the sea. In Japan, the Janjira Nuclear Power Plant experiences unusual seismic activity; Supervisor Joe Brody sends his wife Sandra with a team of other technicians into the reactor. A tremor breaches the reactor, leaving Sandra and her team unable to escape while the plant collapses.Fifteen years later in 2014, Joe’s son Ford, a U.S. Navy explosive ordnance disposal officer, returns from a tour of duty to his family in San Francisco but has to immediately depart for Japan after Joe is detained for trespassing in the Janjira quarantine zone. Joe is determined to find out the cause of the Janjira meltdown, and he persuades Ford to accompany him to their old home in the quarantine zone to retrieve vital data while discovering that the zone is not toxic. They successfully retrieve the data but are discovered by soldiers and taken to a secret facility in the power plant’s ruins. After several power failures, a giant winged creature emerges and escapes, destroying the facility. Joe is severely wounded and dies as he and Ford are taken by helicopter to the U.S.S. Saratoga. The incident is reported around the world as an earthquake.
Serizawa, Graham, and Ford join a U.S. Navy task force led by Admiral William Stenz to search for the creature, called a “MUTO” (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism). Serizawa and Graham reveal to Ford that a 1954 deep sea expedition triggered the appearance of Godzilla and nuclear tests in the 1950s were really attempts to kill him. Project Monarch was established to secretly study Godzilla and other similar creatures such as the MUTO, which traveled from the Philippine mine to Janjira and caused the meltdown, and how they are connected with each other. Ford reveals that Joe had monitored echolocation signals that indicated the MUTO was communicating with something.
The MUTO attacks a Russian submarine and drops it on land in Hawaii to eat the sub’s nuclear material. Godzilla arrives, causing a tsunami in Honolulu and briefly engages the MUTO in battle, until it flees. Meanwhile, a second, larger, wingless MUTO emerges from the other spore in Nevada and devastates Las Vegas. The scientists deduce the second MUTO is female, the female was the one the male was communicating with, and that the two MUTOs will meet to breed in San Francisco. Over the scientists’ objections, Stenz approves a plan to use nuclear warheads to lure and destroy the monsters. Ford returns to the U.S. and ends up joining the team delivering the warheads by train, but the female MUTO intercepts the train and devours most of the warheads. The single remaining warhead is airlifted with Ford to San Francisco and is activated after a confrontation between the military and Godzilla at the Golden Gate Bridge. The male MUTO steals the warhead and takes it to the female, who forms a nest around it in the Chinatown area.
While Godzilla and the MUTOs battle, a strike team, including Ford, enters the city via HALO jump to find and disarm the warhead. Unable to access the timer, the rest of the team sets the warhead on a boat for disposal at sea. The MUTOs are eventually able to get the upper hand, but Ford blows up the MUTO nest, ultimately distracting the MUTOs enough to allow Godzilla to emerge victorious in the end, killing the male MUTO by slamming him with his tail into the side of an office building and the female by firing his atomic breath down her throat, beheading her. Godzilla then collapses on the city shore. With the rest of the team wiped out, Ford uses the last of his energy to get the boat with the warhead out to sea. He is rescued before the warhead explodes and reunites with his family at the Oakland Coliseum emergency shelter the following morning. Godzilla awakens, rising from the destroyed San Francisco, and returns to sea while the media hails Godzilla as “King of the Monsters – savior of our city?”.It’s a good solid and well made big screen action disaster monster movie that deserves multiple viewings.

 

REVIEW: BONES – SEASON 5

Starring

Emily Deschanel (Boogeyman)
David Boreanaz (Angel)
Michaela Conlin (Yellowstone)
Tamara Taylor (Lost)
T. J. Thyne (Ghost World)
John Francis Daley (Game Night)

David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel in Bones (2005)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Cyndi Lauper (Here and There)
Patricia Belcher (Jeepers Creepers)
Michael Grant Terry (Grimm)
Christopher B. Duncan (Veronica Mars)
Michael Arden (Bride Wars)
Riki Lindhome (The Muppets)
Eugene Byrd (Arrow)
Tiffany Hines (Nikita)
Michael B. Jordan (Black Panther)
Kaitlin Doubleday (Empire)
Pej Vahdat (Shameless)
Leonardo Nam (Westworld)
Reggie Austin (Agent Carter)
Billy Gardell (Mike & Molly)
Cheryl White (Major Crimes)
Paula Newsome (Guess Who)
Josie Davis (The Hot Seat)
Amy Gumenick (Arrow)
Carla Gallo (Superbad)
Diedrich Bader (American Housewife)
Andy Umberger (Buffy: TVS)
Tracy Middendorf (Scream: The Series)
Joel David Moore (Avatar)
Stephen Fry (V For Vendetta)
Ryan Cartwright (Alphas)
Dan Castellaneta (The Simpsons)
Debbie Lee Carrington (Total Recall)
Wynn Everett (Agent Carter)
Martin Klebba (Scrubs)
Sarah Rafferty (Suits)
Lindsay Hollister (Get Smart)
Ralph Waite (The Waltons)
Nakia Burrise (Power Rangers Zeo)
Mickey Jones (Total Recall)
Zooey Deschanel (New Girl)
Ryan O’Neal (Love Story)
Dorian Missick (The Cape)
Dale Dickey (Iron Man 3)
Penny Johnson Jerald (The Orville)
Richard T. Jones (Terminator: TSCC)
Brendan Fehr (Roswell)
Dilshad Vadsaria (The Oath)
Fay Masterson (Eyes Wide Shut)
Robert Gant (Supergirl)
Joshua Malina (The Big Bang Theory)
Henri Lubatti (Angel)
Amanda Schull (Pretty Little Liars)
Rusty Schwimmer (Highlander 2)
Clea DuVall (Better Call Saul)
Eric Millegan (Phobic)
Megan Hilty (Smash)
Jenica Bergere (Rat Race)
Victor Webster (Mutant X)
Ben Falcone (New Girl)
Suzy Nakamura (Dead To Me)
Robert Englund (A Nightmare On Elm Street)
Ravil Isyanov (Transformers: Dark of The Moon)
Rena Sofer (Heroes)
Michael Des Barres (Poison Ivy 3)
Kate Vernon (Battlestar Galactica)
William Stanford Davis (A Lot Like Love)
Deirdre Lovejoy (The Blacklist)
Billy Gibbons (Two and a Half Men)

Michaela Conlin, Emily Deschanel, Tamara Taylor, and T.J. Thyne in Bones (2005)At the beginning of the fifth season of the wildly popular forensic drama “Bones,” many viewers tuned in trepidatiously after the spectacularly strange fourth season finale. Thankfully, all fears were allayed and relieved when the fifth season kicked into high gear in the very first episode and maintained that pace throughout the season; “Bones”‘ fifth season is perhaps its greatest yet.David Boreanaz, Emily Deschanel, and Randy Oglesby in Bones (2005)The one thing that has always set “Bones” apart from the countless other procedurals on the airwaves right now is the focus on the characters solving the crimes rather than the crimes themselves, and the strength of this approach shines through brilliantly in every episode of this season.David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel in Bones (2005)David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel return to the roles of Booth and Bones and deliver their strongest performances yet as each character is shaken to their core. As Booth struggles to regain his sense of self, he has to confront the knowledge of his feelings for his partner, while Bones herself goes through a whirlwind of emotion as the emotional barriers she has erected around her heart begin to crumble down, leaving her questioning not only herself but her relationship with Booth as well as her work at the Jeffersonian itself. The tension between the two has never been more delicious or more addictive, and both lead actors knock their roles absolutely out of the park.David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel in Bones (2005)But while the relationship between Booth and Brennan becomes increasingly more complex, the wonderful supporting cast of engaging characters at the Jeffersonian keep the show moving along briskly and lightly. Cam (Tamara Taylor) must run the lab while dealing with the challenge of being a good mother, guiding the team effectively toward each conclusion; Sweets (John Francis Daley) continues to provide invaluable insight into the minds of the team; Angela (Michaela Conlin) remains the emotional heart and soul of the team as she opens her heart to love’s possibilities; and Hodgins (TJ Thyne) struggles with his feelings for Angela as he returns to his abrasive, loveable self.David Boreanaz, Dan Castellaneta, and Emily Deschanel in Bones (2005)The cases themselves have regained a fascinating light as the mysteries the team confronts become more complex, and the special effects department has outdone themselves in the gore and goop department this year as Booth and Bones investigate some of the most gruesome crime scenes in history, all moved along by the brisk black humor the show excels at; the team investigates a possible secret agent locked in a truck for days, a would-be rocker torn to pieces by an industrial washer/dryer, a gamer literally melted in a vat of fast-food grease, and a dozen more cheerfully disgusting cases where the outcomes of the mysteries hold the power to shock and surprise the audience; the writers have once again caught the perfect balance between the whodunnit and the drama to craft a truly unique show.David Boreanaz and Ralph Waite in Bones (2005)But it’s not merely the cases that hold the viewers’ attention this season; season five is full of true powerhouse episodes: heartbreaking cases like “The Plain in the Prodigy”; darkly comical shows like “The Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”; truly shocking mysteries like “The Proof in the Pudding,”; and even a historically fascinating case written by the author of the original Temperance Brennan novels Kathy Reichs herself (“The Witch in the Wardrobe”) — however, all of these merely lead up to the three knockout moments of the season:David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel in Bones (2005)In the fifth season, “Bones” reaches its 100th episode, “The Parts in the Sum of the Whole.” Likely the most beloved and most contested episode in the show’s history, the 100th episode completely redefined Booth and Brennan’s relationship as it showed the viewers the pair’s first meeting, something never before revealed, and circles around to one of the most hearbreaking and yet most powerfully hopeful moments of the series. “Parts” was also directed by David Boreanaz, one of the series’ leads, and the sheer emotion wrung out of Boreanaz and Deschanel by the end speaks volumes to the talent of the show’s leads.David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel in Bones (2005)As the series continues, however, the characters were shocked to their cores as they were forced to come face-to-face with their most terrifying adversary yet: the cunningly frightening sociopath dubbed The Gravedigger, in “The Boy with the Answer,” a nail-bitingly tense hour of television that had viewers’ hearts pounding as Heather Taffet, the Gravedigger, proved that her true arena was the courtroom, tearing apart her victims and throwing the entire future of Brennan’s life into question.David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel in Bones (2005)This only segues into the season’s amazingly dramatic finale, “The Beginning in the End.” As the team investigates the home of a hoarder, Bones questions what she truly wants to do with her life, Booth’s past comes calling, and Angela’s father blows back into town, all leading to a truly shocking season ender, a masterful finale that not only redefined the very foundations of the show and the characters but also continued to set the show on a rising point, ensuring that every faithful viewer of “Bones” will be frantically waiting for the sixth season to premiere in the fall.

REVIEW: TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES – SEASON 2

Starring

Lena Headey (Game of Thrones)
Thomas Dekker (The Secret Circle)
Summer Glau (Firefly)
Richard T. Jones (Santa Clarita Diet)
Brian Austin Green (Anger Management)
Garret Dillahunt (12 Years a Slave)
Leven Rambin (The Hunger Games)
Shirley Manson (Top Wing)

Thomas Dekker in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

James Urbaniak (Suicide Squad: Hell To Pay)
Carlos Sanz (Runner Runner)
Max Perlich (Beautiful Girls)
Dean Winters (John Wick)
Dean Norris (Breaking Bad)
Zack Ward (Transformers)
Busy Philipps (White Chicks)
Sonya Walger (Lost)
Leah Pipes (The Originals)
Mackenzie Brooke Smith (A Winter Rose)
Jillian Armenante (Bad TEacher)
Jon Huertas (Castle)
Jonathan Jackson (Nashville)
Will Rothhaar (Battle Los Angeles)
Dorian Harewood (Full Metal Jacket)
Shane Edelman (Flightplan)
Stephany Jacobsen (Star-Crossed)
Derek Riddell (Gunpowder)
Emilio Rivera (Venom)
Richard Schiff (Man of Steel)
Adam Busch (Buffy: TVS)
Eddie Shin (Westworld)
Eric Steinberg (Stargate SG.1)
Todd Stashwick (The Originals)
Rebecca Creskoff (Bates Motel)
Samantha Krutzfeldt (A Mann’s World)
Carlos Jacott (Big Love)
Ned Bellamy (Twilight)
Barry Livingston (Argo)
Laura Regan (Dead Silence)
Connor Trinneer (Star Trek: Enterprise)
Jamison Jones (Hollywood Homicide)
Chad Lindberg (The Fast and The Furious)
Alanna Masterson (The Walking Dead)
Adam Wylie (Child’s Play 2)
Cyd Strittmatter (Gone Girl)
Michelle Arthur (Goldeneye)
Manny Montana (Conviction)
Julie Ann Emery (Better Call Saul)
Alex Carter (Out of Time)
Theo Rossi (Luke Cage)
Chad L. Coleman (The Orville)
Yuri Lowenthal (Young Justice)
Sabrina Perez (American Exit)
Joshua Malina (The Big Bang Theory)

Summer Glau in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008)I enjoyed the first season of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, despite its shortened season which fell victim to the writer’s strike, I was looking forward to what they had in store for Season Two. The first season had excellent performances and action sequences, appealing storylines, and show runner Josh Friedman was performing his job well. I expected things to fall in line for Season Two, however I had a small bit of apprehension: the addition of Shirley Manson, normally the lead singer of the band Garbage, to the cast.Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008)I thought this was a dicey proposition. Manson had not done any real acting work before, and Friedman might have been overreaching. Granted, his casting masterstroke in Season One was Brian Austin Green, formerly of Beverly Hills 90210, now appearing as Derek Reese, brother of Kyle. As a brief overview for those unfamiliar with the mythology, Kyle is father to John Connor (Thomas Dekker, A Nightmare on Elm Street), leader of the resistance against Skynet and the cyborg army of terminators. John’s mother Sarah is played by Lena Headley (300). And of course, it wouldn’t be a show about terminators without one as a cast regular; enter Summer Glau (Firefly) as Cameron. More on all of them in a minute.Shirley Manson in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008)Back to the risky decision. Manson plays Catherine Weaver, CEO of a high-powered technology corporation called ZeiraCorp. Manson is a T-1000, similar to Robert Patrick in T2, and she assumes the life of the real Weaver, who died in a helicopter crash with her husband. Their daughter is still alive, which presents a unique challenge, as a terminator hasn’t been placed in a truly maternal role before. Oddly enough, Manson’s role as an emotionless being trying to figure out how to be a mother is one of the season’s better performances (in “The Tower Is Tall But The Fall Is Short”), and she proves to be a capable actress. This introspection from non-feeling machine against a motherly disposition is fascinating in how Manson can show her emotions and yet not reveal her hand, as it were.Summer Glau in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008)Fortunately, we see similar stories behind other characters. In the episode “Allison From Palmdale,” not only do we discover Cameron’s origins but also why her physical traits were used as a model for a terminator. The performance is not as deep as Manson’s, but Glau does admirably. The self-evaluation continues with John as he gets involved in a relationship with Riley (Leven Rambin), which is almost like the last part of teenaged life he’ll enjoy before his imminent future with the resistance, of which Sarah dutifully reminds him. Sarah continues to struggle with her mortality because of a possible illness, and Derek has a particular conflict with Jesse (Stephanie Jacobsen, Life on Mars), who also came back from the future with motives that appear to differ from Derek’s. The quality of guest stars improved as well: Dean Winters (Oz) and Garret Delahunt (No Country For Old Men) reprise their roles as Charley and Cromartie, respectively. As Agent Ellison, Richard T. Jones is a guy who questions his spirituality and later rationalizes it to believe that what he does is right, though we know otherwise. Some of the other faces in Season Two include former West Wing regulars Richard Schiff and Joshua Malina, and Dorian Harewood (Full Metal Jacket) plays a psychiatrist whose work affects several cast regulars, and has long-lasting impacts for future episodes.Brian Austin Green, Lena Headey, and Dean Winters in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008)But it’s not like any Terminator project is known for its ensemble work. This has the requisite amount of action sequences and visual effects, and that action helps emphasize the points the story is trying to tell. For a good CG illustration, Manson kills the staff of a warehouse before blowing it up, but normally most of the stunts are done practically and look convincing as a result.Brian Austin Green, Lena Headey, and Summer Glau in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008)Sadly though, I have to think that there weren’t enough people willing to take a leap of faith and give the show a chance because it wasn’t a big-budget action film. It told stories with each of its characters and did so well. I’m guessing that wasn’t appreciated. Additionally, the release of the fourth Terminator film in the summer of 2009 probably gave the show an over saturation point with the public which hampered any acceptance of it. So now the show’s gone from our televisions, and while we have a new crop of reality shows and sitcoms with retread stars to pore over, I’d encourage people to give The Sarah Connor Chronicles a second view. It’s funny, smart, suspenseful, intriguing and artistic. And yes, it’s a science fiction show. Further proof that the genre has some quality creative minds contributing to it.

REVIEW: TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES – SEASON 1

Starring

Lena Headey (Game of Thrones)
Thomas Dekker (The Secret Circle)
Summer Glau (Firefly)
Richard T. Jones (Santa Clarita Diet)

Thomas Dekker and Lena Headey in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Owain Yeoman (Supergirl)
Sonya Walger (Lost)
Nick Wechsler (Roswell)
Charlayne Woodard (Glass)
Dean Winters (Rough Night)
Tony Amendola (Annabelle: Creation)
Sasha Roiz (Caprica)
Jonathan Sadowski (Cherbnoyble Diaries)
Sabrina Perez (Rebel)
Brendan Hines (Lie To Me)
Jesse Garcia (The Green Ghost)
Adam Godley (Breaking Bad)
Catherine Dent (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)
Alessandra Torresani (The Big Bang Theory)
Floriana Lima (Supergirl)
Brian Bloom (The A-Team)
Andy Umberger (Deja Vu)
Lee Thompson Young (Smallville)
Garret Dillahunt (12 Years a Slave)
Kristina Apgar (90210)
Neil Hopkins (The Net 2.0)
Brian Austin Green (Anger Management)
Jonathan Jackson (Nashville)
Peter Mensah (Spartacus)
Bruce Davison (X-Men)
Karina Logue (Scream: The Series)
Craig Fairbrass (Cliffhanger)
Skyler Gisondo (The Amazing Spider-Man)
Ryan Kelley (Teen Wolf)
James Urbaniak (Suicide Squad: Hell To Pay)

Summer Glau in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008)When I heard that a TV series based on the Terminator franchise was in the works, I didn’t holding out much hope that it would be very good. Don’t get me wrong, I like the franchise. I was blown away by Terminator when I saw it during the original theatrical release and was astounded that the second film was as good, if not better, than the original. The third film was wretched however, and I just couldn’t see how they could work a TV series around the premise without it getting silly. After a bumpy first episode however, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles surprised me. It turned out to be an intelligent yet fun look at the Terminator universe that works quite well.Summer Glau in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008)Starting a while after the events that took place in Terminator 2, Sarah (Lena Headey) and her son John Connor (Thomas Dekker), the boy who will end up being mankind’s only hope in the future have still not settled down. After running for years and years Sarah doesn’t know how to stop. When her current boyfriend proposes she takes John and runs away, one more time.Lena Headey in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008)John ends up in yet another new school where he meets Cameron (Summer Glau) a cute girl who seems to genuinely like him. It turns out that she doesn’t have the hots for him so much as that she’s been programmed to protect him. Yes, she’s a Terminator sent from the future, and where there’s a good Terminator, there’s a bad version too, sent to kill John. With Cameron’s help John escapes from a substitute teacher/Terminator but he’s one the run once more.Luis Chávez and Summer Glau in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008)Cameron has a unique idea to get away from the Terminator that’s been assigned to John once and for all: They rob a bank. Inside a series of safety deposit boxes are the ingredients for a time machine. In Cameron’s time, a group of resistance scientists were sent in the past to fabricate a time travel device and hide it in the bank for just such an escape. The small group of Sarah, John, and Cameron lock themselves inside the vault while the robot from the future creates the device and a T-800 Terminator tries to break in. They manage to leap to the year 2007 just at the last moment, but unbeknownst to them the head of the Terminator travels with them.Thomas Dekker, Lena Headey, and Summer Glau in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008)Neatly bypassing the events of T-3, the series jumps to the present time where Sarah is still alive and John isn’t a drug addict but the war with the robots still impending. Of course there are still dangers. The head that came into the present with them goes about trying to refashion a body for itself. There’s also a group of fighters sent into the past to aide John and Cameron, but when they are located, it’s too late; all but one of their number has been slaughtered by a Terminator.Summer Glau in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008)With several interesting subplots that carry through the season, included finding the maker of a chess computer that may have started the great war and staying one step ahead of an FBI agent who has been chasing the Connors for years, this show packs a lot of excitement into the nine episodes (the season was cut short by the writer’s strike.) It definitely gets better as it goes along too. The writers become more familiar with the characters and the writing gets tighter and the show more enjoyable.The acting is very good across the board. Lena Headey isn’t a Linda Hamilton look-alike but she manages to capture the strengths of the character as Hamilton did and still make it her own. Over the course of the series she manages to show Sarah’s vulnerable side, something that surely exists but rarely peaked out in the movies. Though Sarah’s name is in the title, the show would have crumbled without a good actor playing John, and Thomas Dekker manages to pull off the difficult role. He has to be strong and independent, but not fool-hardy. Dekker gives John those traits, while still making him act like a teenager with an over protective mother. Some of the best scenes are where John is trying to deal with his mother, something that every teenager has problems with.Thomas Dekker in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008)Summer Glau will be instantly recognized from Firefly. I loved her in that show, but was a bit disappointed that she basically plays the same role in this series. She has the same “not sure what’s going on” look as River did, and I was hoping to see her play a different role here. Even if it is the same character essentially, Summer pulls it off well. Though not at all Summer’s fault, the writers did put the “small waif-like girl kicks the big burly man’s ass” scene in the series a bit too often. Yeah, it’s funny, but after a while it becomes trite.Lena Headey in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008)I wasn’t expecting much from this show. After all, how could you make a weekly series that could compete with the first two movies? The creators managed to pull it off and made a show with some intelligent plots and interesting stories. There are a few surprises along the way that add a lot to the show, and make this a must-buy for fans of the Terminator franchise.

REVIEW: SANTA CLARITA DIET – SEASON 2

Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant in Santa Clarita Diet (2017)

MAIN CAST

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

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RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Jee Young Han (Why Him?)
Zachary Knighton (Flashforward)
Maggie Lawson (The Ranch)
Ramona Young (Z Nation)
Nathan Fillion (Firefly)
Joel McHale (Spider-Man 2)
Andy Richter (Elf)
Natalie Morales (The Grinder)
Richard T. Jones (Terminator: TSCC)
Adam Rose (Veronica Mars)
Mary Elizabeth Ellis (Masterminds)
Thomas Lennon (17 Again)
Sarah Baker (The Campaign)
Jonathan Slavin (My Name Is Earl)

santa-clarita-diet-season-2-joel-mchale-castSeconds are seldom as good as the initial meal. You’ve already eaten. Your stomach is beginning to fill. The mystery of the menu is gone. And because a food analogy isn’t strong enough to encompass a television show, the same thing about seconds can also be said with zombie films. There are rare occasions where the sequel is stronger than the original movie, but there’s usually a diminishing return the more you see zombies. These are areas where the “second course” is inevitably disappointing in comparison to the first, however Santa Clarita Diet season 2 rises above these expectations. If anything this new season will leave the audience hungry for more rather than feeling full from these undead antics. When the last season of Santa Clarita Diet ended, the series started to finally find a fitting groove and the tone. Santa Clarita Diet’s second season overpowers season one in practically every way possible.t5sbiwdabipjop4ures7The biggest strengths from the first season of Santa Clarita Diet came from Victor Fresco’s (Better Off Ted, Andy Richter Controls the Universe) irreverent, fearless comedy that was allowed to inject itself into an outrageous premise. All of that is still present and some of the rougher patches from the series’ freshman year like Barrymore’s broad performance or the show’s inconsistent tone during its beginning are now smoothed out. The series also benefits from everyone going into “rescue mode” over Sheila and her condition rather than the whole “let’s hide the central story” aspect that dominates so much of the first season. The training wheels are now off and this show really starts to get creative and have fun with its premise.6ccb292a-6ab9-4760-8a4d-dbdcec443b43Much of Santa Clarita Diet season 2 focuses on the Hammond family’s attempts to normalize their situation. For instance, if Sheila is chained up in the basement, then why not dress up the basement and slap a fresh coat of paint on the ugly situation? Right from the jump of the season there may be people who are anxious that Sheila should just be murdered, but clearly the family is in for the long haul. Joel, Abby, and even Eric are all blissfully hopeful towards their unique situation. Curiously enough, in spite of all the high stakes life and death undead material, Joel and Sheila still worry about their real estate job and it occupies a reasonable part of the season. That might seem like a considerably less important aspect of the series, but it’s encouraging to see the show try to embrace this normalcy, for better or worse. Meanwhile, Joel and Sheila’s murder-happy misadventures still go down under the nose of Deputy Ann, who’s only a few doors away. The ways in which they both squirm out of conversations with Ann and proceed to make matters worse for themselves is always the best kind of awkward mess. Sheila and Joel also find themselves in the weird situation where murder seems to be the best way to handle their problems, but they don’t just want to resort to murder whenever they’re caught in a bind, regardless of how good they may have gotten at it.Skyler Gisondo and Liv Hewson in Santa Clarita Diet (2017)At the same time, these middle-aged parents also realize that without these adrenaline-pumping murders in their lives they’re pretty boring people who don’t have much game. At one point Joel laments, “We’re realtors, so killing people and stuffing them in our fridge doesn’t come naturally.” That’s basically this show in a nutshell. Sheila’s “condition” is an obvious problem, but this season is just as interested in the fact that that Joel and his wife haven’t been able to have a date night, build a bookshelf, or write a yelp review since all of this undead business started. Santa Clarita Diet season 2 also starts to expand the show’s world in bigger ways. There are more undead individuals that are out there in addition to organizations that are on the hunt for a cure or a means to exterminate this epidemic. These secret factions begin to come out of the woodwork this season and it’s a good creative move on the show’s part. Joel and Sheila’s secret life continues to intersect with their job and social lives in interesting ways, all of which make the two of them continue to ponder whether they’re good people or not. It’s great to see Joel and Sheila use death and horror as a prop for comedy. You really don’t see that perspective anywhere else in this context—it’s almost like a suburban Dexter or The Walking Dead. Sure there are programs like Ash Vs the Evil Dead or Stan Against Evil, but this is so deeply entrenched in its family dynamic and is a comedy first and horrorsecond.santa-clarita-diet-season-2-netflix-feature

This season also digs into the bigger questions, like how Sheila became infected in the first place. Joel and company assume that if they figure this out then they can reverse engineer the rest of this mystery. The show’s mythology explodes in a big way here and the story turns into something that’s so much more interesting than simply a comedic take on zombies, which the show could be guilty of during its first season. The show’s lore goes to some fascinating places that touch on territory like the Knights of the Templar and all sorts of things that you wouldn’t expect. One of the best things about Santa Clarita Diet is its phenomenal cast and in the show’s second season everyone’s only more comfortable in these roles. There’s seriously such chemistry between the reluctantly murderous Hammond family. Their dynamic really clicks this year and they all feel more natural in a way that was absent last season. Timothy Olyphant’s Joel continues to play unhinged and flustered in the best way possible. The wide-eyed, beleaguered way in which he does comedy is perfect for this universe.santa-clarita-diet-season-2-trailerDrew Barrymore does an even better job as Sheila this season now that she’s acclimated to the role a little better. She plays the role with the glee of a puppy who’s just found a new toy. The show also really explores the beauty in how becoming undead can allow people to finally become the people that they wanted to be in life. It just happens to be something that comes with the awful side effect of needing to consume human flesh. Some of the best work from this season comes from the younger half of the show’s cast. Skyler Gisondo really gets to step up his game as the hapless Eric Bemis and he finds himself overwhelmed in a whole new way this year. His burgeoning relationship with Abby continues to make for believable tension between the two of them as well. On that note, this season is also a real showpiece for Abby’s Liv Hewson. The character goes through a metamorphosis that is a lot of fun to watch. Abby redefines who she is in both school and real life and it’s a fascinating arc for her character. Sometimes your mom turning into a zombie can be just as life changing as turning into the zombie yourself.20190221-PAGEONE-SANTA-CLARITASanta Clarita Diet’s second season features strong storytelling and performances, but it also doesn’t disappoint when it comes to the extreme visuals and gore. This season features gruesome sights like broken thumbs, the lesson of what microwave settings to apply to frozen body parts, spider balls, and explosions of blood that make it seem like humans are carbonated soda that are just waiting to burst. In this sense, the show’s humor is still particularly on point and many conversations should make audiences laugh out loud, such as the prospect of sprucing up a kill room so it doesn’t so obviously look like a kill room or the debate of whether it’s discriminatory to kill a Nazi who’s in a wheelchair and the moral relativism of such a murder. Santa Clarita Diet proves that it has a sustainable vision and that this show is more than just some one-season fad. If anything the show is only getting better and it doesn’t suffer from the usual problems that can afflict Netflix shows, such as the season’s pacing. Admittedly, some of the show’s fight scenes play out a little awkwardly and look low budget, but it’s hardly a big deal. This isn’t Daredevil. The show’s second season snowballs and culminates in an impressive way where the year ends on a huge note that once more questions the status quo of the series. The bottom line here is that it’s consistently compelling and enjoyable to see if Joel and Sheila can continue to keep all of their blood-soaked balls in the air.

 

REVIEW: SANTA CLARITA DIET – SEASON 1

MAIN CAST

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

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

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

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

REVIEW: COLLATERAL

 

CAST

Tom Cruise (Mission Impossible)
Jamie Foxx (Django Unchained)
Jada Pinkett Smith (Gotham)
Mark Ruffalo (Avengers Assemble)
Peter Berg (Alias)
Bruce McGill (Lincoln)
Barry Shabaka Henley (Heroes)
Debi Mazar (Batman Forever)
Javier Bardem (Skyfall)
Richard T. Jones (Terminator: TSCC)
Jason Statham (Fast & Furious 7)
Emilio Rivera (Venom)
Wade Williams (Gangster Squad)
JoNell Kennedy (Dreamgirls)

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On a random night in Los Angeles, a cabbie named Max (Jamie Foxx) is parked in front of a building, studying the business card he’s just been given by Annie (Jada Pinkett-Smith). Max and Annie had a brief but intimate conversation about stress and relaxation while he drove her into the city, and even though he didn’t open his mouth in time to get her number, she came back and gave it to him anyway. Max is so distracted, he almost ignores the guy who walks up to his cab and asks to know if he’s on duty, but Max snaps out of it, sticks the card in his window shade where his photograph of the Maldives used to be — the business card might as well be his new mental vacation spot — and calls the guy back before he gets in a different cab.

The man in question is sharply-dressed in a silver suit that matches his hair, carrying a slick, expensive briefcase. His name is Vincent (Tom Cruise), he offers to buy the services of Max’s cab for the rest of the evening, for five stops plus an early-morning drop-off at the airport. Max hesitates, but lets Vincent talk him into it anyway, and doesn’t seem to regret it for fifteen whole minutes before a dead body drops from a window onto the hood of the cab, and it becomes clear almost immediately that Vincent was the cause of death, although he claims otherwise. “You killed him?” Max asks. “No, I shot him,” Vincent replies. “Bullets and the fall killed him.”

Made just over a year before Tom Cruise’s public fall from grace, and back before Jamie Foxx was an acclaimed, Academy Award-winning actor and bona fide movie star. Anyone who missed out on the movie initially will probably go in with an entirely different set of expectations than viewers in 2004, but both then and now it was clear that both of them are at the top of their game, and the sparks that fly between these two performers makes the movie work.