REVIEW: WORLD WAR Z

CAST

Brad Pitt (Fight Club)
Mirelle Enos (The Killing)
Daniella Kertesz (AfterDeath)
James Badge Dale (Iron Man 3)
Ludi Boeken (Train of Life)
Matthew Fox (Lost)
David Morse (Contact)
Peter Capaldi (Doctor Who)
Ruth Negga (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D)
David Andrews (Terminator 3)

Former UN employee Gerry Lane, his wife Karin and their two daughters are in heavy Philadelphia traffic when the city is attacked by zombies. As chaos spreads, the Lanes escape to Newark, New Jersey and take refuge in an apartment, home to a couple with a young son, Tommy. UN Deputy Secretary-General Thierry Umutoni—an old friend of Gerry’s—sends a helicopter that extracts the Lanes and Tommy to a U.S. Navy vessel in the Atlantic where scientists and military personnel are analyzing the worldwide outbreaks. Dr. Andrew Fassbach posits that the plague is a virus, and that development of a vaccine depends on finding the origin. Gerry reluctantly agrees to help Fassbach find the outbreak’s source after it is made clear that he and his family will be removed from the ship if he does not.Gerry and Fassbach fly to Camp Humphreys, a military base in South Korea, where they are attacked on arrival by zombies. Turning to re-enter the aircraft, Fassbach slips, falls and accidentally discharges his gun, killing himself. After being rescued by the base’s surviving personnel, led by Captain Speke, Gerry learns that the infection was introduced to the base by its doctor, who was ultimately incinerated by a soldier with a lame leg who the infected ignored. A former CIA operative, imprisoned at the base, tells Gerry to go to Jerusalem, where he says a safe zone has been maintained by the Israeli Mossad since before the outbreak’s official acknowledgement. As Gerry and his team bike back to their aircraft, zombies attack, kill several soldiers and infect Captain Speke, who commits suicide to prevent himself from turning. Gerry and his pilot escape.In Jerusalem, Gerry meets Mossad chief Jurgen Warmbrunn, who explains that months earlier, the Mossad had intercepted an Indian military message claiming that Indian troops were fighting the rakshasa, or “dead spirits”. Israel had thereupon quarantined Jerusalem, erecting huge walls around it. Just as Jurgen shows Gerry that Israel is allowing survivors to take refuge in the city, loud celebratory singing from refugees prompts zombies to scale the walls and attack. Jurgen orders some Israeli soldiers to escort Gerry back to his plane. On the way, Gerry notices zombies ignoring an emaciated boy. Soon after, one of Gerry’s escorts, a soldier who identifies herself only as “Segen”, is bitten in the hand, which Gerry quickly amputates to stop her turning. Gerry and Segen escape on a commercial airliner as Jerusalem is overrun, and Israel seeks to protect its remaining borders.Gerry contacts Thierry, and the airliner is diverted to a World Health Organization (WHO) facility outside Cardiff, Wales. When a stowaway zombie attacks in mid-air, Gerry uses a grenade to blow the infected out of the aircraft, but this also causes them to crash. Gerry is injured, but both he and Segen survive. They proceed to the WHO facility, where Gerry loses consciousness. He awakens three days later and explains to the remaining WHO staff a theory he has, based on the people he has seen the zombies ignore: the infected do not bite the seriously injured or terminally ill, since they would be unsuitable hosts for viral reproduction. He suggests that they test this by deliberately infecting somebody with a pathogen from the facility, but the pathogens are stored in a wing already overrun by zombies. Gerry, Segen and the lead WHO doctor go to get a pathogen. As they fight their way through, they are separated; Gerry continues to the pathogen vault while Segen and the doctor return to the main building. A zombie corners Gerry inside the vault, prompting him to inject himself with an unknown bacteria and open the vault, thereby testing his theory. The zombie ignores him, as do those he encounters while returning to the main building. Everybody rejoices at Gerry’s success.Gerry and his family are reunited in a safe zone at Freeport, Nova Scotia. A “vaccine”, derived from deadly pathogens, is developed and issued to troops battling the infected, acting as a kind of camouflage. The vaccine also helps survivors to reach quarantine zones. Human offensives begin against the zombies, and hope is restored. “This isn’t the end,” Gerry comments, “Not even close. Our war has just begun.” This is one of those films that gets better the more you watch it.  Brad Pitt was good as always and with a possible sequel in the making this may not be the last we see of this War.

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REVIEW: WARCRAFT: THE BEGINNING

CAST

Travis Fimmel (Vikings)
Paula Patton (Mission Impossible 4)
Ben Foster (The Punisher)
Dominic Cooper (Dracula Untold)
Toby Kebbell (Dawn of The Planet of The Apes)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)
Ruth Negga (Agents of SHIELD)
Anna Galvin (Caprica)
Callum Keith Rennie (Legends of Tomorrow)
Ryan Robbins (Arrow)
Michael Adamthwaite (Stargate SG.1)
Anna Van Hooft (Flash Gordon)
Elisabeth Rosen (Bles The Child)
Patrick Sabongui (The Flash)
Mackenzie Gray (Man of Steel)
Wesley MacInnes (Smallville)
Eugene Lipinski (Goosebumps)
Glenn Close (Guardians of The Galaxy)

Draenor, the homeworld of the orcs, is being torn apart by a mysterious force known as fel magic. Gul’dan, a powerful orc warlock, unites the orc clans and forms the Horde, and creates a portal to the world of Azeroth. The orcs begin to use fel magic to drain the life out of captive draenei in order to sustain the portal. Once it is operational, Gul’dan leads a small warband to capture prisoners on Azeroth and sacrifice them to bring the rest of the Horde through the portal. Despite their doubts, Durotan, the chieftain of the Frostwolf Clan, his pregnant mate Draka, and his friend Orgrim Doomhammer join this initial warband. While crossing through the portal, Draka goes into labor. When the orcs arrive on Azeroth, Gul’dan assists Draka with giving birth, but the baby is stillborn. Gul’dan then drains the life out of a nearby deer to revive and infuse fel magic into the baby, which Durotan later names Go’el.

The orcs raid several settlements throughout Azeroth. Anduin Lothar, the military commander of the human forces in the Stormwind Kingdom, looks over some of the men that were killed, and finds a trespassing mage named Khadgar, who explains that he was investigating the dead bodies because they contained traces of fel magic. Khadgar persuades Stormwind’s king, Llane Wrynn, to consult Medivh, the renowned Guardian of Tirisfal, and Llane sends Anduin and Khadgar to Medivh’s stronghold, Karazhan, to inform him of the fel magic’s presence on Azeroth. In the Karazhan library, a ghostly shadow leads Khadgar to a mysterious book, which he takes.

Anduin, Khadgar and Medivh join a scouting team following traces of fel magic, but are ambushed by orcs. Medivh uses a spell to kill the fel-corrupted orcs, leaving the Horde’s warchief, Blackhand to flee along with Durotan and Orgrim. Khadgar restrains a half-orc slave, Garona, and the soldiers take her prisoner. King Llane frees Garona in exchange for loyalty to Stormwind, and she leads the humans to spy on the orc camp, where they learn of Gul’dan’s plan to bring the Horde to Azeroth. Meanwhile, Durotan realizes that the fel magic is responsible for the destruction of Draenor, and if Gul’dan is not thwarted, Azeroth will suffer the same fate. Despite Orgrim’s objections, Durotan invites Llane to a secret meeting so that the Frostwolf Clan and the humans can unite to defeat Gul’dan. While studying the book he took from Karazhan, Khadgar learns that Gul’dan could not have opened the portal on his own; he had help from someone on Azeroth. He is confronted by Medivh, who burns Khadgar’s research when Khadgar offers to help him with his work.

The Frostwolf Clan meets with the humans to negotiate an alliance, but the group is ambushed by Blackhand. As the humans retreat, Medivh forms a magical barrier to protect them, but Lothar’s son Callan is separated from the rest of the group and killed by Blackhand. Medivh is severely weakened, and Garona and Khadgar take him back to Karazhan to recover. After noticing Medivh’s eyes shine green, showing that he is infected by fel magic, Khadgar returns to his former home, Dalaran, to seek help from the Kirin Tor, the authority of human and high elven mages. The Kirin Tor facilitate a meeting with Alodi, revealed to be the shadow who led Khadgar to the book; she confirms that Medivh has indeed been corrupted by fel magic and possessed by an unknown demon. At the orc camp, Blackhand purges the Frostwolf Clan. Orgrim helps Draka to escape, and she sends Go’el down a river in a basket, but is then found and killed by another orc. Durotan challenges Gul’dan to Mak’gora, a traditional orcish duel to the death for leadership of a clan – in this case, all of the orcs. During the fight, Gul’dan violates the honorable combat rules by draining the life out of Durotan with his magic, killing him and earning the disapproval of the orcs watching, and he empowers Blackhand with the same magic. Medivh, now in a half-demonic state, starts to open the portal to Draenor, and Gul’dan begins sacrificing the captured human villagers to allow the rest of the Horde to enter Azeroth.

Llane leads the human army in an assault on the orc camp, while Anduin and Khadgar fight Medivh and destroy the demon that had begun to manifest on the outside. Medivh is left mortally wounded, and uses the last of his strength to close the portal to Draenor and instead open a portal to Stormwind, allowing Llane to evacuate most of the freed prisoners. When Medivh eventually dies, the portal closes, leaving Llane, Garona and a small number of human soldiers to fight the orcs. Llane secretly orders Garona to kill him, bringing her honor among the orcs and putting her in a position of power to bring peace between the two races. Garona reluctantly does so, and is welcomed into the Horde by Gul’dan. As the orcs celebrate, Lothar arrives to retrieve King Llane’s body and discovers Garona’s knife in the body, realizing that it was she who had killed their king. Blackhand challenges Lothar to Mak’gora, and Lothar quickly disposes of him. Against Gul’dan’s demands, the orcs, bound by tradition, allow Lothar to depart with Llane’s body. At Llane’s funeral in Stormwind, the leaders of the other human nations, along with the high elves and dwarves, proclaim an alliance against the orcs and rally behind Lothar as the leader of the Alliance forces. Elsewhere, Orgrim takes one of Durotan’s tusks to one day give to Go’el, and the basket containing Go’el is found by a human.Having never played the game i went into this blind, and as a high fantasy epic i found it to be pretty agreeable. The special effects were generally very good. The use of Magic was novel and added a definite element to proceedings. The story was fairly generic for this genre, but there were enough surprises for me to make it worthwhile. The cast were good without a standout star, which in my opinion did help matters as you were never sure who was going to make it in the end. Overall it was an enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours.

REVIEW: AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. – SEASON 2

CAST

Clark Gregg (When A Stranger Calls)
Ming-Na Wen (Stargate Universe)
Brett Dalton (Killing Lincoln)
Chloe Bennet (Nashville)
Ian De Caestecker (Filth)
Elizabeth Henstridge (Reach Me)
Nick Blood (Identicals)
Adrianna Palicki (G.J. Joe: Retaliation)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Hayley Atwell (Cinderella)
B.J. Britt (Veronica Mars)
Neal McDonough (Arrow)
Reed Diamond (Dollhouse)
Henry Simons (No Good Deed)
Patton Oswalt (Blade: trinity)
Lucy Lawless (Ash Vs Evil Dead)
Adrian Pasdar (Heroes)
Kenneth Choi (Street Kings)
Simon Kassianides (Quantum of Solace)
Brian Patrick Wade (The Big Bang Theory)
Ruth Negga (World War Z)
Maya Stojan (Castle)
Dylan Minnette (Goosebumps)
Kyle MacLachlan (Dune)
Brian Tee (Jurassic World)
Monique Gabriela Curnen (The Dark Knight)
Joel Gretsch (V)
Tim DeKay (Swordfish)
Dichen Lachman (Dollhouse)
Lou Ferrigno Jr. (The Young and The Restless)
Jamie Harris (Rise of The Planet of The Apes)
Blair Underwood (Gattaca)
Christine Adams (Batman Begins)
Edward James Olmos (Green Hornet)
Luke Mitchell (Home and Away)
J. August Richards (Angel)
Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother)
Jaimie Alexander (The Last Stand)

For many, Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD in its first season  became a forgotten and/or overlooked series, which was too bad, and yet understandable. This was Marvel’s first TV series, coming off of an amazing run of movies and it just didn’t deliver when it debuted. The initial episodes felt unfocused and badly paced,but many people people felt the show improved when SHIELD notably improving in the wake of Captain America: The Winter Soldier’s events.In season 2 the pacing was hugely improved, with storylines no longer taking forever to bubble up again and secrets no longer being kept both from the audience and the characters that no one on screen seemed in a hurry to deal with. Instead, there was payoff to big plot threads happening consistently, as both lingering questions from Season 1 and newly introduced plotlines were deftly dealt with and tied up, while paving the way for new mysteries. On the villain front, there was some nicely done twisting and turning regarding who the Big Bad would be in Season 2. We began with a focus on Hydra leader Whitehall and while Reed Diamond had fun in the role, Whitehall rarely had moments that made him feel like a truly credible threat. When he was killed in the midseason finale, it seemed Kyle MacLachlan’s Cal would take center stage as SHIELD’s main foe… but there was yet another swerve in store.The fact that Skye’s mother, Jiaying (Dichen Lachman), was alive at all was a surprise and we soon saw that she was the leader of the Inhumans and could be pretty strict and cold when it came to doing what she felt was right to protect her people… but that was all hiding just what a zealot she had become, convinced war with humanity was inevitable and willing to begin it herself (via a staged attack) to get all her people on her side. The fact that Jiaying was the true main villain of the season was a subtle, slow reveal and much appreciated for how it was pulled off. We understood the tragic events that had changed her, even as we came to see she, and not Cal, who was the most dangerous.Oh, and did I say Inhumans? This was also a huge part of the season, which was especially notable because it indicated that behind the scenes, Marvel had decided Agents of SHIELD could lead the way in a much more notable way than before, rather than being simply reactive to the events of the films. We know an Inhumans film is coming in a few years, but now this series has already introduced the concept into the MCU. Presumably the film will focus on the Royal Family and a very different group of Inhumans than the ones we met here, but this show was still allowed to be the first part of the MCU to give us Terrigen Mist, the Kree origins and all the major background elements of the Inhumans.
In general, SHIELD felt less restrained this season. The first couple of episodes utilized the notable Marvel villain Absorbing Man, while the reveals that Cal and Skye were, respectively, Mr. Hyde and Daisy Johnson/Quake, rooted this show much more into its Marvel Comics roots.While it began in the latter half of Season 1, SHIELD: Season 2 also benefited from much stronger characterization. While there were so many characters they all didn’t get as much time as might have been ideal, they still all felt much more distinct and specific than the show’s early days, and the fact that several members came and went and shifted allegiances kept things interesting. Ming-Na Wen was always a great presence on the show, but Melinda May was given a lot more depth, as we met her ex-husband, Andrew (Blair Underwood) and finally got the dark details of that incident in Bahrain that we kept hearing about in Season 1. The rift between Fitz and Simmons added a lot more textures to both of them, and was beautifully played by Iain De Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge, while Coulson, now the director of SHIELD, had to reevaluate his approach, making much harsher decisions that pained him, but felt more involving and believable than the overly sappy, often naive approach that he began the series with.As for Skye, the writers and producers certainly still were determined to make her the most important and revered character on the show, but this season, it actually felt like they were earning her that position. Sure, we had to accept that she’d apparently gotten one hell of a crash course in being a badass fighter from May between seasons, but it felt good to see her actually be such a formidable presence in the action scenes – and Chloe Bennet really rose to the challenge of her characters new dynamic. And by making Skye both an Inhuman and Daisy/Quake, we at least had tangible reasons she would be important to us as viewers, beyond Coulson simply saying she was awesome over and over again. Bennet and Kyle MacLachlan also were able to build a strong rapport together as the estranged father/daughter duo. Speaking of MacLachlan, what a job he did. While Dichen Lachman brought the perfect pained righteousness to Jiaying, who truly believed what she was doing was right, MacLachlan had the freedom to go absolutely crazy as the absolutely crazy Cal and wow, was he fun. He expertly conveyed his character’s wish to be a happy, doting husband and father intermixed with his violent rage and gave the season some of its best moments – goofy Mr. Hyde makeup/visuals in the season finale aside.The new additions to the SHIELD crew were also appreciated, with Nick Blood’s Lance Hunter, Henry Simmons’ Mack and Adrianne Palicki ‘s Bobbi Morse/Mockingbird all fitting in very well. With such a big group of agents, someone was bound to be overlooked, and unfortunately, that was Trip (B.J. Britt), who never really got a storyline of his own – except to be the big midseason death. Which wasn’t as impactful as it could have been because he felt like a character with potential that was never fully utilized in any capacity (Remember when he and Simmons were flirting?).The “Other SHIELD” storyline was an interesting inclusion, with Edward James Olmos bringing exactly the gravity you’d expect him to as Gonzales. I liked the idea of he and Coulson being so opposed and yet very respectful of one another, in their own ways. I just wish we’d gotten a bigger payoff to that, as Gonzales was killed by Jiaying before he and Coulson really came to any sort of conclusion in their own conflict except on the “very begrudging/wary allies” level.I went into Season 2 very concerned about Grant Ward’s continuing presence on the series. His betrayal was a shot of Adrenalin the bland SHIELD crew needed and his actions had been too extreme and lethal to be forgiven or excused – but this is TV, where it seems any character can be redeemed. And I really didn’t want to see Ward redeemed, especially since Brett Dalton really found the character when he was allowed to play him as a villain. Thankfully, Season 2 didn’t try to bring Ward back onto the SHIELD team – in fact, by the end, he was more delightfully despicable than ever, torturing Bobbi and setting a trap to kill any SHIELD agent that attempted to rescue her and shooting and killing May, point blank, the first chance he had.SHIELD: Season 2 benefited from a show now unafraid to shake up the dynamic. Perhaps having to completely change everything about the series two thirds into the first season served as an inspiration, but from Simmons’ double agent status, to Gonzales’ crew taking over, the show rarely felt stagnant. The show’s always been in a difficult scenario – people love the interconnectivity of the MCU, but because the movie’s have the big superheroics covered, SHIELD felt hindered by not being able to deal with a lot of the bigger name heroes, in a way a series like The Flash (which isn’t connected to DC’s movies at all) doesn’t have to deal with. The decision to have Coulson and Skye begin to form a team of superpowered members seems to indicate those involved have decided its time to bring some more ongoing flash  to the series, even if it won’t be with the biggest name characters. Things will no doubt change in a big way again as a result, but right now, it’s exciting to ponder what’s coming next.

REVIEW: AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. – SEASON 1

CAST

Clark Gregg (When A Stranger Calls)
Ming-Na Wen (Stargate Universe)
Brett Dalton (Killing Lincoln)
Chloe Bennet (Nashville)
Ian De Caestecker (Filth)
Elizabeth Henstridge (Reach Me)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

J. August Richards (Angel)
Shannon Lucio (True Blood)
Ron Glass (Firefly)
Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother)
Leonor Varela (Blade II)
Samuel L. Jackson (Jackie Brown)
David Conrad (Roswell)
Ian Hart (Finding Neverland)
Ruth Negga (World War Z)
Cullen Douglas (Scandal)
Titus Welliver (Lost)
Saffron Burrows (Troy)
Maximiliano Hernández (Warrior)
Ilia Volok (Power Rangers Wild Force)
Charles Halford (Constantine)
Peter MacNicol (Ghostbusters II)
Dylan Minnette (Goosebumps)
Christine Adams (Pushing Daisies)
Maiara Walsh (The Starving Games)
Carlo Rota (Stargate Universe)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble)
Bill Paxton (Apollo 13)
Elena Satine (Revenge)
B.J. Britt (Veronica Mars)
Jaimie Alexander (The Last Stand)
Dylan Bruno (Carrie 2)
Brad Dourif (Child’s Play)
Patton Oswalt (Two and A Half Men)
Amy Acker (The Cabin In The Woods)
Adrian Pasdar (Heroes)
Glenn Morshower (Supergirl)

When Marvel’s cinematic universe first took off, the next move was to make the leap to television, Marvel turned to Avengers director Joss Whedon’s brother Jed and his wife/collaborator Maurissa Tancharoen, who took the popular Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase One character Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), the man who helped gather the heroes who became the Avengers, and made him the star of his own series, focused on his team at S.H.I.E.L.D., the international peacekeeping organization run by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson.) The hour-long drama would build off of the well-known heroics, and tell connected tales of espionage, as Coulson and his squad respond to threats to humanity around the world.Now, in case you haven’t seen The Avengers, you should know that in a climactic battle, Coulson was very badly injured, which became a rallying point for the heroes. Well, he’s back, but how he made it back is a large part of the series’ foundation, which is revealed in piecemeal over the course of the first season. Coulson’s search for the truth is intertwined with the arrival of the newest member of his team, a hacker known as Skye (Chloe Bennett), who has plenty of secrets of her own, in part due to her past as a rogue “hacktivist.” Trust is a massive theme in the series, as no one is sure about anyone else but they have to rely on each other if they are going to complete their missions, which remind one of Fringe in a big way, as the team investigates strange phenomena in order to keep humanity safe.Lorelei, Though certainly not a big-name Marvel character (her sister The Enchantress has a much higher profile) and not the first recognizable super-powered character on the show (that would be the cybernetic assassin Deathlok, whose origin is revealed over the course of the season), Lorelei tips the scales with her appearance because she, as an Asgardian, creates a direct link to the world of Thor, and also because she’s followed to Earth by Lady Sif (Jaimie Alexander), the Asgardian warrior from the two Thor films. Finally, fans exclaimed, there’s some honest to goodness superhero action to be enjoyed, and that was followed by direct ties into the new Captain America movie, picking up the plot from the theaters and bringing its effects home. This was the crossover dream that comics mastered decades ago, and now Marvel was making happen between movies and TV (and you didn’t really even need to see both sides to enjoy them separately.)After offering this cookie to the fans, the series shifted back to the spy game though, where it would stay for the rest of the season, introducing Bill Paxton and Saffron Burrows in major roles) as Coulson’s organization crumbled around him and the team shifted from saving the world to saving each other. Coulson’s team, which, aside from Skye, includes Ward (Brett Dalton), a perfect soldier; badass pilot May (Ming-Na Wen) and science specialists Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge), comes together quickly as a unit on the series, establishing their personalities right off the bat, with Skye serving as the show’s young star, showing the old guard how a new generation does the job (though still requiring saving and offering a hearty cry every now and then) and Fitz and Simmons serving as the audience’s tech-loving stand-ins, the most down-to-earth parts of a fantastical realm. May though, with her economy of words and excess of butt-kicking skill, is the “Wolverine” of the show, and her relationship with Coulson serves as a backbone for the series. Naturally, Gregg’s performance is integral to the show, and he continues to shine in the role of Coulson, giving us a smartass secret agent for the ages.While the show is a serial and does well at telling action-adventure arcs of mystery and intrigue, building the mythology and establishing a larger storyline, it could do one-offs as well, including two of the season’s best episodes, “FZZT” which ties into The Avengers while telling a standalone story that put a spotlight on Fitz and Simmons, and “T.R.A.C.K.S.”, which puts the team on a train and tries out some interesting storytelling structure. The show also has its humorous side, taking its tone from the Marvel films, which blend grits with grins (and though Patton Oswalt gets a featured role in one episode, for once, he’s not responsible for the laughs.) For the most part, this mix works well, as it helps illustrate the growing camaraderie between the teammates and keeps the tone light, but it can get out of hand very quickly. The final episode, where much of what’s been revealed over the course of the previous 21 episodes comes to a head, the lightheartedness (thanks to an appearance by a famous friend of the team) goes over the top.