REVIEW: THE PAPERBOY

Starring

Matthew McConaughey (Magic Mike)
Zac Efron (17 Again)
John Cusack (Runaway Jurys)
David Oyelowo (The Butler)
Nicole Kidman (Aquaman)
Macy Gray (Brotherly Love)
Scott Glenn (Daredevil)
Ned Bellamy (Terminator: TSCC)
J.D. Evermore (Cloak & Dagger)

Matthew McConaughey in The Paperboy (2012)Anita, the chain-smoking maid of the Jansen family, recounts to an unseen reporter the events of the summer of 1969, when idealistic reporter Ward Jansen came back to his hometown of Lately in Moat County, Florida, to investigate the events surrounding a murder in an effort to exonerate a man on death row, Hillary Van Wetter. In 1965, swamp-dwelling alligator hunter and small-time criminal Van Wetter was jailed for the murder of a violent and unscrupulous local sheriff, Thurmond Call. Four years later, Charlotte Bless, a woman from Mobile, Alabama, whom Van Wetter has never met but who has fallen in love with him after exchanging correspondence, is now determined to prove his innocence and have him released so they can marry.John Cusack in The Paperboy (2012)Charlotte requested the help of Ward and his colleague, Englishman Yardley Acheman, who are both investigative reporters from The Miami Times. Ward’s younger brother, Jack Jansen, is hired as their driver. Ward has mixed feelings about returning home to his estranged father, who runs a local newspaper and distributes The Miami Times in their town. Both Jansen brothers dislike their father’s latest girlfriend, Ellen. Jack now works as a paperboy for his father’s business after having been expelled from college for vandalism, ending his prospective career as a professional swimmer. His only real friend is Anita, who brought him and Ward up after their mother left them.Matthew McConaughey and Zac Efron in The Paperboy (2012)The evidence against Van Wetter is inconsistent and Ward and Yardley are confident they can expose Van Wetter as a victim of redneck justice. Meanwhile, Jack has fallen in love with Charlotte, who only desires Van Wetter. During a day at the beach, Jack gets stung by a jellyfish and has a life-threatening allergic reaction. Charlotte saves his life by urinating on him, an embarrassing circumstance that his father promptly exploits for an article in his newspaper. Anita suggests that Jack can never stop thinking of Charlotte as she is his first true love.Nicole Kidman and Zac Efron in The Paperboy (2012)Van Wetter is hostile to the reporters at first, and contrary to the romantic portrayal he had painted of himself in his letters to Charlotte, he reveals himself to be a racist, a sexist and, in general, rude. One day, after finally acquiring some useful information from Van Wetter, the Jansens travel to meet Van Wetter’s uncle, Tyree. Tyree is the only one who can corroborate Van Wetter’s alibi, since, according to Van Wetter, the two men were stealing sod from a golf course in Ormond Beach the night of the murder. Tyree, who lives in pitiful conditions in the middle of the swamp with his “white trash” family, is initially ill-disposed and wary of admitting his own crime to save his nephew’s life, but finally caves in. In the meantime, Yardley and Charlotte have visited the golf course to verify that side of the story; Yardley comes back claiming to have tracked the developer who bought the sod stolen by Hillary and Tyree, but the man only agreed to talk upon a guarantee of anonymity, so Yardley refuses to disclose his name even to Ward. Satisfied with his findings, Yardley goes back to Miami to start writing the article.John Cusack and Matthew McConaughey in The Paperboy (2012)Suspicious of Yardley’s motives, Ward decides to go check the truth in Ormond Beach himself, with Jack and Charlotte in tow. During the trip, Ward gets drunk, approaches two black men in a bar, and takes them to his motel room. During the night, Charlotte wakes up Jack after hearing alarming sounds from Ward’s room, and the two find Ward naked, beaten, and hogtied and gagged. As Ward is taken to the hospital, Jack does not resent him for secretly being a homosexual or for “what he was into”, but just for keeping from him this side of his adult life.Zac Efron in The Paperboy (2012)While Ward is still in the hospital, Jack goes to Miami to try and convince Yardley not to publish the article in his brother’s name without checking all the facts first. During the confrontation, Yardley reveals he’s actually an American pretending to be English to escape discrimination. He also reveals he had given Ward sexual favors in the past, which was the beginning of Ward’s guilty, self-hating infatuation with black men. After the article is published, Van Wetter obtains a pardon and is released from prison, and Yardley leaves for New York with a deal to write a book on the Van Wetter case. Van Wetter takes Charlotte away to the swamp to live with him. Months later, she is unhappy with the demeaning lifestyle she has to endure, and sends a letter to Jack telling him she now realizes she made a mistake and plans to reunite with him at his father and Ellen’s wedding reception. However, Jack only finds out about the letter one month later, on the very day of the wedding, when Anita, who has been fired from the Jansen household, gives the letter to him and reveals Ellen decided to hide it from Jack.Since Charlotte is not there, a worried Jack leaves the party to go find her, followed by Ward, who has lost an eye due to the incident at Ormond Beach and is now an alcoholic. When Jack and Ward confront Van Wetter, Charlotte has already been killed after Van Watter refused to let her leave to attend the wedding. A fight ensues, and Van Wetter kills Ward as well, by slashing his throat with a machete (the same weapon the sheriff was murdered with), but Jack manages to evade Van Wetter by diving into the swamp; the next morning, he retrieves Ward and Charlotte’s bodies and leaves. Anita finishes narrating by revealing Van Wetter was later convicted for the murders of Ward and Charlotte and sent to the electric chair, yet the identity of the sheriff’s murderer was never ascertained. Jack would later meet his mother at Ward’s funeral, but he would never get over Charlotte.Nicole Kidman and Zac Efron in The Paperboy (2012)The cinematography is excellent as Roberto Schaefer’s camera gets so close to the characters that you can almost smell their body odour in the immense heat. Yes, I told you this film would make you feel dirty. A great example of this is where Charlotte meets Wetter for the first time. They are sat apart in the prison meeting room; Charlotte spread her legs and begins to masturbate. This scene wouldn’t have been so bad if they were alone, but Yardley, Ward and Jack are also in the room. Take that as you will… Even though The Paperboy is an uneven thriller, what it excels in is placing the audience in uncomfortable positions. A Haneke film this is not, but by doing this the whole issue of morality and senses in the cinema is raised. As such, Daniels new feature is a sweaty, sexy and visceral experience, which needed to take some more pointers from other more complete films. All in all, you may have to scrub yourself clean, but you won’t forget the experience for quite some time.

REVIEW: THE DEFENDERS

CAST

Charlie Cox (Stardust)
Krysten Ritter (Veronica Mars)
Mike Colter (Zero Dark thirty)
Finn Jones (Game of Thrones)
Élodie Yung (Gods of Egypt)
Sigourney Weaver (Avatar)
Rachael Taylor (The Loft)
Eka Darville (Power Rangers RPM)
Elden Henson (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay)
Deborah Ann Woll (Ruby Sparks)
Jessica Henwick (Game of Thrones)
Ramón Rodríguez (The Taking of Pelham 123)
Rosario Dawson (Sin City)
Scott Glenn (The Silence of The Lambs)
Simone Missick (K-Town)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Wai Ching Ho (Cadillac Man)
Carrie-Anne Moss (Chuck)
Peter McRobbie (16 Blocks)
Rob Morgan (Stranger Things)
Marko Zaror (Machete Kills)
Amy Rutberg (NCIS: New Orleans)

 

The Defenders is Marvel’s best Netflix show, hands down.  While the crossover between Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, and Luke Cage can occasionally veer into a fragmented set of mini-episodes early on, the awesome foursome eventually unites to form a show greater than the sum of its parts. The street-level superheroes provide a fantastic eight-episode run with high stakes, a frenzied pace and, most importantly, effortless chemistry.Things don’t start off that way, though. The opening pair of episodes read almost as a greatest hits collection of each hero’s respective shows before the narrative eventually relents and shoehorns the plot in a comically convenient way for the four to come together. The lack of instant gratification can be grating, but this is easily relieved by the fun interaction between fan-favourites that leads up to the team-up. Misty Knight and Jessica Jones’ brief scenes are worth the price of admission alone and there are a few, shall we say interesting, crossovers you won’t see coming. Without giving too much away, a cataclysmic event is unleashed upon New York and The Defenders, each following their own leads, stumble into each other’s paths in the same building. And then things get good. Really, really good. Unsurprisingly, The Hand are the villains of the season and are led by Sigourney Weaver’s Alexandra. Her performance is tempered by an unidentified terminal illness which spurs her character on and at least drives her away from the realms of cartoonish MCU villain as  she has an actual character arc rather than the bland go there, be evil trope of prior bad guys. When the show does focus on The Defenders (and, in fairness, that’s 90% of the time) the show is a rollercoaster of wisecracks, quips and, yup, Jessica Jones’ side-eye. It’s glorious fun and, for my money, feels like a much bigger event than The Avengers ever was. There’s a spine-tingling moment, complete with an inspirational score bubbling up in the background, where the four heroes unite to take on a foe at the midway point which ranks as an all-time great Marvel moment.Yes, The Defenders run is short, but those thinking a mere eight episodes won’t cut it can have their fears put to rest. Coupled with Game of Thrones season 7’s clipped seven-episode run, it feels like we’re reaching a watershed point in television where shows don’t need to be chained to a long episode run anymore. Barely a second is wasted in The Defenders: Every quiet character moment is poignant and fleshes out something or someone; every action sequence leads to something bigger, better, and more shocking; and every one-liner and on-the-nose dig at Iron Fist will make you laugh. Nothing outstays its welcome.

 

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: DAREDEVIL – SEASON TWO

MAIN CAST

Charlie Cox (Stardust)
Deborah Ann Woll (Ruby Sparks)
Elden Henson (The Buttefly Effect)
Jon Bernthal (World Trade Center)
Élodie Yung (Gods of Egypt)
Rosario Dawson (Sin City)
Stephen Rider (Safe House)
Vincent D’Onofrio (Men In Black)

GUEST CAST
Scott Glenn (The Silence of The Lambs)
Michelle Hurd (Flashforward)
Royce Johnson (Jessica Jones)
Peter McRobbie (Lincoln)
Rob Morgan (Pariah)
Amy Rutberg (The Mansion)
Carrie-Anne Moss (Jessica Jones)
Wai Chang Ho (Robot Stories)
Peter Shinkoda (Masked Rider)
Matt Gerald (Terminator 3)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)
Daredevil is a character about contrasts. Matt Murdock practices as a lawyer by day, but beats criminals as a vigilante at night. He’s a practicing Catholic, but dresses up like the devil. Also, he’s blind, but he can see the world around him unlike anyone else. Coincidentally, it is the second season of Marvel’s Daredevil that chooses to really explore the dichotomies, not only in its title hero but in those around him and the world at large. Charlie Cox once again stars as the Man without Fear in the series, and brings the same amount of dashing charm and selflessness that makes Matt such a great character. Cox has transcended himself in the role, too. Much like Robert Downey Jr. and Iron Man or Ryan Reynolds and Deadpool, there is no separating the actor from the character; they are one. He provides the pivotal anchor for the rest of the cast, who also continue to hit home run after home run. Elden Henson’s Foggy Nelson is still the perfect Milhouse to Matt’s Bart, the right combination of endearing, annoying, and funny. A combo that personifies the comic book character to a T, and makes him integral to Matt’s story. Furthermore there’s Deborah Ann Woll as Karen Page, bringing a lightness to this supremely dark (in tone and lighting) series. Woll and Cox also work off of each other in perhaps the most believable romantic subplot of the MCU. Then there’s Frank Castle.
Jon Bernthal takes on the role of The Punisher for the series, and he brings the goods. This is a character that also has two sides at work, not simply inherent to his actions but in how he is written as a piece of the puzzle. Bernthal can handle the militaristic elements with ease. No one has looked more natural walking down a hall while aiming a shotgun with precision, but when the more sensitive aspects of the character and his background unfold, he’s got it covered. The Punisher is at his most satisfying for an audience as an unstoppable killing machine, always five moves ahead. At his most interesting and nuanced, however, The Punisher is a fatally-flawed and broken individual that is two steps behind. The good news is that you get to have your cake and eat it too. When Bernthal isn’t laying waste to criminals, he’s tasked with delivering Shakespearean monologues, which he hits like a headshot.
The second season of Daredevil also brings along Elodie Yung as Elektra Natchios, the perfect wrench for everything Matt Murdock. Though The Punisher may be at his most satisfying when he’s a human hurricane leaving a path of destruction, Matt Murdock is at his most satisfying when literally everything is going wrong for him, and Elektra is a guarantee for that. Yung embodies the spirit of Elektra that shines a light on the character’s personality in exciting ways. She brings duel ferocity and gentleness that made me recognize something I had never thought before – Elektra is like a cat; Playful when it suits her, but mysterious and often a supreme and bitter jerk when she doesn’t get her way. The same way that Charlie Cox and Deborah Ann Woll hold onto everything wholesome and good about love, Cox and Yung grab all of the dangerous and potentially hurtful parts and hang them out the window while speeding down the highway.
The true achievement of Marvel’s Daredevil Season 2 is not how in how it escalates the stakes from Season 1 or how it manages to properly juggle new and returning characters with satisfying arcs, it’s in its narrative composition as a whole. Season 2 is perhaps the most comic book-like series on TV, because it mirrors the structure of comics in a way that ceases to feel like television. While the first season held onto the framework of serialized TV, guiding us through every turn, Season 2 takes the graphic novel approach. Clusters of episodes form their own cohesive arc for a few hours, but when all combined they form the grander story at hand of the season. And that larger story? A further example of the two dividends of Daredevil. Daytime Matt and nighttime Matt get equal footing, which you need in order to make them both special.
As hard as it may be to believe, Daredevil‘s second season is a step up from the first. By embracing the comic book form, the series has further separated itself from the rest of the MCU and scratches an itch none of them can reach. It’s not all perfect though, as what worked the first time keeps working, and what didn’t work remains a drag, specifically the tired exposition wherein characters must explain to other characters the things the audience already knows. The drama screeches to a halt in these moments, but luckily they are few and far between.
If you were as enthusiastic about the first season of Marvel’s Daredevil, I hope you’re as pleased as I am with the new episodes. There’s an intensity and toughness in the storytelling that gets at the heart of the character and provides further proof why Daredevil is the one of the best heroes in comics. The new additions to the series are welcome and only enhance the storytelling in thrilling ways.

REVIEW: THE BOURNE LEGACY

CAST
Jeremy Renner (The Avengers)
Rachel Weisz (The Mummy)
Scott Glenn (Daredevil TV)
Stacy Keach (Two and a Half Men)
Edward Norton (Fight Club)
Donna Murphy (Spider-Man 2)
Michael Chernus (Men In Black 3)
Corey Stoll (Ant-Man)
David Strathairn (Alphas)
Albert Finney (Big Fish)
Joan Allen (The Notebook)
Oscar Isaac (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)
Michael Papajohn (Spider-Man)
Elizabeth Marvel (Homeland)
The CIA lost track of Jason Bourne’s whereabouts in Moscow six weeks ago. Meanwhile, Aaron Cross is a government operative assigned to Operation Outcome, a Department of Defense black operation program using experimental pills known as “chems” to enhance the physical and mental abilities of their users. Aaron is assigned to Alaska for a training exercise, where he must survive weather extremes and traverse rugged terrain in order to arrive at a remote cabin. The cabin is operated by an exiled Outcome operative, Number Three, who informs Aaron that he has broken the mission record by two days.
Reporter Simon Ross of The Guardian, who has been investigating the CIA programs Treadstone and Blackbriar, is assassinated at London Waterloo station. When the illegal adaptation of the programs is exposed by Jason, the FBI and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence investigate CIA Director Ezra Kramer, Deputy Director Pamela Landy, Blackbriar supervisor Noah Vosen and Treadstone medical director Dr. Albert Hirsch.After the mayhem in New York and Jason’s escape, Kramer requests help from Mark Turso, a retired United States Navy admiral, who runs the National Research Assay Group (NRAG). Turso informs Eric Byer, a retired Air Force colonel overseeing NRAG’s research and development of various clandestine enhancement programs used by the CIA and Defense. Byer discovers a potentially scandalous video on the Internet showing Hirsch socializing with Dr. Dan Hillcott, Outcome’s medical director. To prevent the Senate investigation from learning about Outcome, Byer orders everyone associated with the program killed. He sees the sacrifice as acceptable in order to protect NRAG’s next-generation “Beta programs”, including the supersoldier program LARX.Byer deploys a drone to eliminate Outcome agents Number Three and Five (Aaron) in Alaska. Aaron hears the drone’s approach and leaves moments before a missile destroys the cabin with Number Three inside. Aaron removes the Radio-frequency identification implanted in his thigh and force-feeds it to a wolf which is then blown up by a missile, tricking Byer into believing Aaron is dead. Hirsch dies of an apparent heart attack before he can testify before the Senate. Dr. Donald Foite, a researcher at a bio-genetics laboratory, uses a pistol to kill all but one of his top-level colleagues employed by Outcome. When security guards enter his lab, Foite turns his gun on himself, leaving biochemist Dr. Marta Shearing as the sole survivor.[3] Meanwhile, other Outcome agents are eliminated when their handlers give them poisoned chems. When four elite “D-Track” assassins ambush Marta at her country house and attempt to fake her suicide, they are eliminated by Aaron. He saves her life as she is his last link to the chems so that he can retain his enhanced capabilities and avoid withdrawal symptoms. Marta reveals that Cross has been genetically modified by a tailored virus to retain the physical benefits without needing the green chems anymore. He still requires regular doses of blue chems to maintain his intelligence, but he is running out. Aaron confides to her that he is Private First Class Kenneth J. Kitsom (reportedly killed by a roadside bomb in the Iraq War) and that his recruiter added 12 points to his IQ, enabling Aaron to meet the United States Army’s requirements. Without his enhanced intelligence, Aaron believes they stand no chance of survival. Aaron and Marta travel to Manila, where the chems are manufactured, to try to infect him with another virus so he will not need the blue chems.Aaron and Marta bluff their way into the chem factory. Marta injects Aaron with the live virus stems. Byer alerts the factory security, but Aaron and Marta evade capture. Byer orders LARX-03, a chemically-brainwashed supersoldier, to track down and kill them. Aaron recovers from the flu-like symptoms but hallucinates about his Outcome training Police surround their shelter while Marta is buying medicine; she warns Aaron by screaming. Aaron rescues her and steals a motorbike. They are pursued by both the police and LARX-03. After a lengthy chase through the streets and marketplaces of Manila to Marikina, they lose the police, but not the assassin. Both Aaron and LARX-03 are wounded by bullets. LARX-03 is killed when Marta causes his motorcycle to crash into a pillar. Marta persuades a Filipino boatman to help them escape by sea. They sail away, while back in New York, Vosen lies to the Senate that Landy committed treason by trying to sell Treadstone secrets to the press and by assisting Jason, the only reason why Blackbriar existed
This is not meant to be an extension to the Matt Damon franchise and doesn’t try to be. It is very good in it’s own right and has to be viewed as a stand-alone, parallel story that uses references to the on-going Bourne saga to place it in context. Very well paced and filled with detail, it should more than satisfy any follower of the ‘Bourne’ trilogy and makes a worthwhile addition to the series.

REVIEW: THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS

CAST

Anthony Hopkins (The Mask of Zorro)
Jodie Foster (The Beaver)
Scott Glenn (Daredevil)
Ted Levine (Evolution)
Anthony Heald (Deep Rising)
Brooke Smith (Interstellar)
Diane Baker (A Mighty Wind)
Frankie Faison (Luke Cage)
Charles Napier (Maniac Cop 2)
Tracey Walter (Batman)
Obba Babatunde (John Q)
Cynthia Ettinger (Gilmore Girls)

It’s always interesting to reflect on The Silence of the Lambs and remember that, though terribly iconic and singular, it’s a follow-up of sorts to Micheal Mann’s 1984 thriller, Manhunter, and an adaptation of Thomas Harris’ novel “The Silence of the Lambs”, a sequel to the original novel “Red Dragon”. Hannibal Lecter existed long before Anthony Hopkins took the reins, first given a more debonair cinematic air by a criminally-overlooked turn from Brian Cox, while the primary protagonists in this story arc was Will Graham at first, brought to life by the likes of William Petersen and Edward Norton. Lecter’s legacy of secondhand FBI assistance and cat-and-mouse psycho play with its agents has understandably taken many tones over the years.Jodie Foster in The Silence of the Lambs (1991)But when we think about Hannibal Lecter, we instantly think of Anthony Hopkins toying with Jodie Foster’s Clarice like a predacious cat with its victim. There’s a reason for that: The Silence of the Lambs brings a director adept at communicating human emotion under dire circumstances together with the haunting inhumanity penned by story adapter Ted Tally. We’re introduced to Clarice Starling (Foster), an up-and-coming FBI student who has fallen into a dense and disturbing case involving psychotic serial killer Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine). She begins her involvement by innocently interviewing Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Hopkins) about his knowledge of Bill, but it slowly evolves into a “quid pro quo” dance with the macabre as Lecter points her into specific directions that will allow her — and only her — to solve the paramount case.It takes the viewer into a world teeming with bizarre psychoses, one that drives us to feel compelled to relish in its shiver-inducing nature. Jonathan Demme not only appreciates the partition between fear and indulgence, but he takes his involvement with character nuance and clashes it all together into a bleak yet thoroughly engaging atmosphere. The Silence of the Lambs exists in a shadowy, antithetic environment filled with the slaughterings of innocent women and the bloodthirsty nature of the criminally insane, yet it never forgets to open doors that allow us to comprehend exactly what’s going on in their minds — and not in a blatantly monstrous way, but more in a contorted humanistic light that drives real fear into our bones. We get the quakes from mythical monsters that go “bump” in our dreams, but the true fright we feel exists in the monsters that walk the earth with us.As Starling begins her trip down the rabbit hole by way of Lecter’s profiling of Buffalo Bill, it’s clear that all of these odd underlying layers will largely rely on the dynamic that the FBI student develops with them. A few years out of her show-stealing (and show-making, to be frank) performance in The Accused, Jodie Foster takes her plummet into the mind of a serial killer and delivers a performance filled with lamb-like jitters and compelling ambiguity between masculinity and femininity. Her Clarice Starling is strong enough to back as a heroine, yet there’s coyness behind her strained vigor that makes her dance with Lecter compelling and, more importantly, involving enough to cement her post-Taxi Driver and Accused status as a powerhouse actress.

Then, there’s Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter, who’s only on-screen for a nudge over sixteen minutes in The Silence of the Lambs. It’s amazing to think that such a seminal entity could be so transient in the film that made him an everyday name alongside horror greats like Patrick Bateman and Jack Torrance. But his time on screen never feels short-lived, that’s for certain; as he gazes through his acrylic glass screen and mutters to us of eating a man’s liver with a “can of fava beans and a nice Chianti”, he shatters that fourth wall separating him from the audience in a way that gives us direct, eye-to-eye interaction with a well-mannered psychopath. It’s a cinematic luxury that we don’t get to indulge in very often, especially in a natural and effective fashion. His glances and bone-chilling words, though fleeting as they might be, float in our minds across the entire film as the contained, docile voice of one of many possible variations of Buffalo Bill’s psyche — a killer on the loose in the backwater crevices of southern America, potentially right around the corner of anyone’s neighborhood.Though Foster faultlessly captures the essence of an intelligent rookie FBI agent on the prowl and Hopkins, well, “makes” Hannibal Lecter, it’s the times when they’re face-to-face that transcends The Silence of the Lambs into a lasting piece of filmmaking. Their characters, when separate, are compelling in their own right, but it’s in the ways that they make slight alterations in their personalities that create the film’s signature sensations of vagueness in character archetypes. Each element surrounding Demme’s design in capturing their dialogue, from Badlands cinematographer Tak Fujimoto’s photography to the stellar emphasis on long pauses in Craig McKay’s editing, are impeccable, but it’s the actors’ subtle shifts in power struggle that grips us repeatedly in their startling-captured exchanges.


Once we follow Starling outside of the confines of Lecter’s cell, there’s a tense, blood-curdling air about her chase for Buffalo Bill that reinforces a sense of graspable danger. As we watch her combine forensic talent with Lecter’s clues, it becomes a downright thrilling procedural that never feels formulaic and remains exhilarating up until its expertly executed conclusion. All along the way, The Silence of the Lambs adorns her trials and tribulations with a medley of characters to play off of, from the sagely tutelage of FBI bigwig Jack Crawford (Scott Glen) to the quirky acts of sexual aggression from Dr. Chilton (Anthony Heald). They emphasize the near-androgynous nature of Starling’s persona, painting her dual-edged innocuous demeanor into an intriguing character study.The Silence of the Lambs taps heavily into a parallel between Starling and the “lamb” that she speaks of during arguably the most prolific character moment in the film, one that gives us a subtle reminder that she’s something of an puerile entity transforming into an investigator. It’s not the only splash of symbolism used in the film to illustrate the characters, as the metamorphosis of a demented mind repeatedly stands out with the focus on Death’s Head Moths later in the film. They circulate around Buffalo Bill’s character, a perfect example of the danger that arises when a deviant blossoms into a perverse serial killer. Yet the metamorphosis concepts also circle around Starling as the film presses forward, which continues the nerve-racking mechanic of balancing humanity with the killer’s mental instability.There’s a world of depth at your fingertips underneath The Silence of the Lambs — about as deep as you really want to dive into the criminal mind — but it’s first and foremost an exercise in skillfully crafted suspense. An innocent-yet-adept protagonist, a worthy villain, and a series of aptly strung-together clues wind tightly around the dangerously hypnotic presence of Dr. Hannibal Lecter, building into one of cinema’s more unique dynamics. Diving into the ominous mind of a killer isn’t the most pleasant experience in the world, but it’s certainly captivating in the eyes of a daring, young FBI agent willing to weave through a thrill-a-minute labyrinth to stop one. It’s Jonathan Demme’s call-to-fame, and a tour de force in the horror genre that’ll hold on to its unnerving presence for years to come.

REVIEW: DAREDEVIL – SEASON ONE

 

MAIN CAST

Charlie Cox (Stardust)
Deborah Ann Woll (Ruby Sparks)
Elden Henson (The Buttefly Effect)
Rosario Dawson (Sin City)
Toby Leonard Moore (John Wick)
Vondie Curtis-Hall (Die Hard 2)
Bob Gunton (The Lincoln Lawyer)
Ayelet Zurer (Man of Steel)
Vincent D’Onofrio (Men In Black)

Charlie Cox and Deborah Ann Woll in Daredevil (2015)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Peter McRobbie (Spider-Man 2)
John Patrick Hayden  (Yin/Yang)
Nikolai Nikolaeff (Power Rangers Jungle Fury)
Peter Shinkoda (Masked Rider)
Rob Morgan (Stranger Things)
Scott Glenn (The Silence of The Lambs)
Wai Chang Ho (Robot Stories)
Amy Rutberg (Recount)
Royce Johnson (Ghost in the Graveyard)
Matt Gerald (Terminator 3)

 

Daredevil was a fun, ferocious look at Marvel’s own city-saving vigilante. Similar to DC’s Batman and Green Arrow, Matt Murdock loves his city. Even more so, the neighborhood of Hell’s Kitchen which was hit hard by the Chitarui attack – one of the show’s only mentioned connections to the MCU. In place of a crime-ravaged Irish immigrant-heavy neighborhood (as per the 60s/70s Daredevil comics), the choice was made to portray the square mile of crowded city as “mostly good people on hard times due to recent alien events.” Still folksy, but more modern. A smart move that helped tie Daredevil to the rest of the MCU happenings, despite the fact that the show is the grittiest, most violent entry into Marvel’s TV/movie canon so far. Strong, grounded performances, smart writing, and hard-hitting fight scenes immediately helped elevate Daredevil above fans’ expectations (which were already quite high). Buffy/Angel alums Drew Goddard and Steven S. DeKnight (who took over as showrunner early on after Goddrad left for the ill-fated Sinister Six) delivered a taught, thoughtful, and appreciatively earnest take on Matt Murdock – one of Marvel’s most complex, hard-to-get-a-handle-on characters (and one of the most religious). A hero no movie would ever be able to get quite right.

Vincent D’Onofrio’s Wilson Fisk  served the show well. Fisk was portrayed as a very vulnerable man. A seriously dangerous one, no doubt, but also one who came with his own formative backstory and current web of lies and betrayals. Also…a love story. Fisk’s moments spent, early on, wooing and doting upon Ayelet Zurer’s art gallery curator Vanessa was a daringly wonderful way to introduce us to the character. Especially since Fisk had remained off-screen for a few episodes while the show built him up. D’Onofrio performance as Fisk was, simply put, one of the best parts of the show. As a man who almost seemed to be learning the actual mechanics of how to speak to other people every time he opened his mouth, Fisk’s shyness/awkwardness helped not only separate him from most crime boss cliches, but also helped us understand why a man as lonely and isolated as he was would become so lethally attached to Vanessa. While also seeing someone like Wesley, his right hand man, as a “true friend.” Despite them never showing any real bonds of brotherhood. Just an intense, loyal employer/employee relationship.

Charlie Cox’s Matt Murdock was no slouch either, of course. As Matt constantly wrestled with how far he should morally go as a vigilante, Cox handled things with care and relatable concern. Of course, even with the act of killing as a point of spiritual debatelaire, Matt was willing to do just about most everything else under the sun to achieve his goals – including maiming, torturing, and knocking people into comas. He even, on a few occasions, threatened to kill villains via not saving them from their serious injuries. It was enough make one easily believe that all of this would weigh heavy on a Catholic’s conscience. The supporting cast was great as well. I really liked that this season didn’t go the trite, soapy “love triangle” route with Matt, Foggy, and Karen. There was some flirting, and a few seeds planted here and there for possible romantic tension – but the show politely waved at the idea while graciously passing it by. Deborah Ann Woll’s Karen was to be no one’s prop. And she wouldn’t seek solace “in the arms” of another. And she’d fight back, on whatever level was available to her. Also, Elden Henson’s Foggy Nelson was able to equally provide humor and drama in his fresh take on the “sidekick” role.

This praise also goes for Rosario Dawson’s Claire Temple and Vondie Curtis-Hall’s Ben Urich – both important characters here (though Claire had never been tied to Daredevil in the comics) in their own right, given unique (and sometimes surprising) treatments. The fight scenes are, naturally, worth noting. You’ll find most folks raving over a sequence in the second episode, “Cut Man” (one of the show’s best entries), as well as a few others. And again, expert choreography aside, it’s the fact that Matt quite often takes an extreme shellacking that gives these battle sequences extra “oomph.” It really draws you in when you can almost feel how hard it is for Matt to face down a squad of thugs. When every blow to his body rocks yours. Daredevil was a thrilling, ultra-starisfying take on Daredevil’s material and lore. One that, like Favreau’s first Iron Man film, helped breathe new life and fandom into a somewhat B-tier Marvel character.

REVIEW: SUCKER PUNCH

 

CAST

Emily Browning (Sleeping Beauty)
Abbie Cornish (Limitless)
Jena Malone (Donnie Darko)
Vanessa Hudgens (Spring Breakers)
Jamie Chung (Once Upon A Time)
Carla Gugino (Watchmen)
Oscar Isaac (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)
Jon Hamm (Mad men)
Scott Glenn (The Silence of The Lambs)
Monique Ganderton (Smallville)
Peter Bryant (Dark Angel)
Patrick Sabongui (The Flash)
Chrstine Willes (Dead Like Me)
Ian Tracey (Bates Motel)
Gerard Plunkett (Travelers)
A.C. Peterson (Shooter)
Michael Adamthwaite (Stargate SG.1)

 

Like many men, when I saw the trailers appear for the film a number of things caught my eye immediately. First and foremost was the cast of hot scantily clad young women with cool sounding names like Baby Doll, Sweet Pea, Rocket, Amber, and Blondie. The next thing noticed was that it seemed to blend fantasy with a lot of ridiculously over the top action that involved zombie Nazis, fire-breathing dragons, robot samurai, and other entirely bizarre and irrational things that would surely only come out of the imagination of a weirdo who has a strong affection for anime, video games, and everything else considered genuinely bizarre: this was not the kind of thing I expected to see for a big-budget spectacle showpiece. The end result was that Sucker Punch ultimately looked to me like something that would only appeal to young men looking for thrills or pop-culture junkies. It seemed like it would have plenty of pretty images and little substance whatsoever. What could possibly be worthwhile about the film beyond some mere thrills.MV5BODk0MDI3NDI5N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNzc2MjA3NA@@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,825_AL_Sucker Punch begins with what essentially adds up to being a music video stylized opening that aims to bring audiences into the start of the story. Prepare to see a lot of this throughout the entire experience. I actually embraced it because it’s in part the kind of thing I always felt Snyder should be doing: making music videos or commercials. By placing an emphasis on the music and striking imagery I felt allowed to have a visceral experience that actually grabbed on to me and wouldn’t let me go. We discover early on that the girl we would soon know as Baby Doll (Emily Browning) was being sent to a mental institution by her stepfather. It’s no fault of her own mental health – she witnesses the murder of her younger sister who I presumed was also raped beforehand. The stepfather doesn’t stop there as he tries to rape and murder them both, and when Baby Doll fights back he somehow arranges it so that they believe the murder of her sister was why she was being committed into the mental institution in the first place.MV5BMTg1MjM1ODk3N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwOTc2MjA3NA@@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,828_AL_Upon entering the mental institution Baby Doll enters a fantasy-world she creates where the storyline of Sucker Punch allows her to enter a dream within another dream state of mind (and this really made me wonder if this had anything to do with why Christopher Nolan picked Snyder for the Superman reboot). She visualizes the mental intuition as actually being a dance hall – but the truth of the fantasy is that the director of the asylum, Blue (Oscar Isaac), is really trying to prostitute the girls out to clients in his role as the owner of the dance hall. The doctor of the mental institution, Dr. Vera Gorski (Carla Gugino), is now seen as the dance instructor and every time one of the characters ‘dances’ they are actually entering a deeper fantasy world where all of the crazy video-game/anime like qualities truly step in to play (such as the dragons and robots – oh my!). The dancing in the film is never visualized in the way most men probably want or expect – there isn’t a lot of ‘sexy moves’ on display in these moments and to my disappointment I have heard some complaints about this as a detractor. The dances in this movie are not ordinary dances at all but are in fact moments when Baby Doll enters her deeper fantasy state.MV5BMjA1MzYxNDUwOV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNDY2MjA3NA@@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,829_AL_Baby Doll has met the other girls Rocket (Jena Malone), Amber (Jamie Chung), Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish), and Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens). Eventually, the girls team up in each of these sequences. During the first ‘deep dream’ sequence Baby Doll encounters a seemingly wise old man (Scott Glenn) while alone. He informs her that in order to become free she must collect five items: a map, knife, fire, key, and another item that she must discover on her own. He also gives her a handgun and sword that can be used while inside her dream world. Over the course of the story, Baby Doll convinces the other girls that following this plan of action is the only way for them to escape. Some of the girls are on board with the idea while others (mainly Sweet Pea) seem against it.MV5BMTM0NjM2MjgxN15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDc3ODIxNA@@._V1_SX1500_CR0,0,1500,999_AL_I realized at some point that there began to be a correlation between the first layer of the fantasy world and the second one. Actions taking place within the dream-world fantasy affected the other. Characters died unexpectedly and the result was their death and removal from both of the fantasy plot-lines taking place. Towards the end of the film the items gathered are used for the last surviving girls to escape and they are used in the film . In concluding the story, Baby Doll realizes that the fifth thing needed for her to escape was simply her, and then she helps one of the other girls to find freedom while she stays behind. Upon entering into the reality of the situation – in the mental hospital – we find that Baby Doll is about to have a lobotomy. Dr. Gorski enters the room and talks to the man performing the lobotomy (Jon Hamm). She questions why such a thing is happening, and soon realizes that a forgery was done of her signature for someone to make the lobotomy occur. Yet it was already far too late as the operation had just been completed.Baby Doll is led away by some guards to a room where Blue awaits her. He tells her that he can now do anything with her that he wants to do. The guards seem reluctant; saying something about being sick of letting him do what he wants to these girls. Dr. Gorski breaks into the room and stops whatever was about to happen. In a scene that appears as an epilogue thereafter, we see the lone girl who escaped get onto a bus with the same old man from Baby Dolls dream world as the driver.The audience just got sucker punched. The conversation held between Dr. Gorski and the man performing the lobotomy revealed that Baby Doll had actually done some of the things the audience witnessed in the fantasy world she created. In other words, the film blends reality and fantasy in a way that makes it hard to state what moments were real and what moments weren’t. Some will call this a cop out. I actually disagree for once. It had my own imagination going rather wild.