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.

25 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS REVIEW: DAREDEVIL – A COLD DAY IN HELL’S KICTHEN

 

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)

GUEST CAST

Scott Glenn (The Silence of The Lambs)
Rob Morgan (Pariah)
Carrie-Anne Moss (Jessica Jones)
Peter Shinkoda (Masked Rider)
Royce Johnson (Jessica Jones)

MV5BY2QwY2U3ZmMtNTYxNy00MjVlLTkxYjgtNTU4Zjc3YjZlNDM5XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjUzODAxMTA@._V1_

Nobu Yoshioka plans to lure Daredevil into a trap by abducting twenty people Daredevil has either brought to justice or saved from harm. Tyler hands him a list which was taken from Detective Sergeant Brett Mahoney. The Hand then abducts all twenty people, including Turk Barrett, Karen Page, and the veteran Jerry. While being transported, Page discovers that Barrett is under house arrest, and wearing a device which transmits his location. He has tampered with him so that it won’t work. However, after Tyler shoots and kills Jerry, Barrett turns the device back on. Meanwhile, Matt Murdock restraints Stick in a chair, telling him that he and Elektra Natchios will take on the Hand alone. Murdock admits that he doesn’t have a plan yet. On the roof, he and Natchios decide that the best plan is to take Yoshioka down, leaving him alive so that his followers can see that he’s just a man.At a restaurant, Jeri Hogarth offers Foggy Nelson a job, suggesting that should he play his cards right, he could be made partner. He is stunned by the starting salary, and intrigued when Hogarth says there is a future in defending vigilantes. At Melvin Potter’s Workshop, Potter fits Natchios for body armor and presents Daredevil with a billy club of his own design. Murdock is touched and admits that he doesn’t know what to say to thank him enough, but Potter brushes this off, saying that there are those in Hell’s Kitchen who know who is really looking out for them. At the same time, Frank Castle returns to his home, which he has not been in since his family’s deaths. He sadly walks through the house before sitting at the dining room table and looking at a newspaper article about his supposed death, with the X-ray of his skull on front page. Inspired, he takes his body armor to the garage, where he listens to a police radio while he spray paints the image of his skull on the armor.Back at Murdock’s apartment, Natchios and Murdock prepare to look for Yoshioka when Murdock’s phone rings. It’s Nelson, calling from the police department. He reports that Mahoney has been roughed up by people looking for information on Daredevil. Murdock appears at the fire escape at the 15th precinct in his Daredevil armor, prompting Mahoney to comment that the masked vigilante is the only person he can trust. He admits that he gave the files on Daredevil’s actions to the people who had roughed him up because they threatened to kill his mother. When Mahoney tells him the file included all the people he had ever helped, Murdock rushes to Page’s apartment, only to find it disheveled, and her gone.MV5BNjE1MDQ5OGUtMGZhZi00ODJhLThmN2EtYjVlODhjZDcyYTM1XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNzc0MjU3NDE@._V1_On his rooftop, Murdock desperately tries to listen to clues as to where the Hand has taken their prisoners, but he is frustrated. Panicking, he tells Natchios that he can’t block out the extraneous noise. Natchios talks him through blocking out every sound that isn’t relevant so that he can find the prisoners, especially Page. Murdock is finally able to hear the sounds of the bus that is transporting them.The Hand has transported the prisoners to an unknown location, but the police, alerted that Barrett had broken house arrest, arrive. Tyler tells her subordinates to take care of the police while she alerts Yoshioka to the news. Hand archers kill the police officers, but not before one is able to radio for help. Murdock and Natchios arrive at the Hand’s location, and Murdock descends from the rooftop to save the hostages, although Natchios stays behind, convinced that it is a trap. She suggests that the people inside, although innocent, are a much smaller group than the people who would suffer if the Hand got their hands on the Black Sky. Inside, the Hand discover Barrett’s location device and begin to take a knife to his ankle to remove it, when Daredevil crashes into the room and stops them. He is able to free all the hostages, taking a moment to ask Page if she is all right before hurrying her out of the room. More Hand ninjas arrive and he fights them, assisted by Natchios, who cooly tells him that she got bored waiting for him. They realize that the only way out of the building is up on the roof, so they head upstairs. Near the rooftop, he reports that there is an army of Hand ninjas waiting for them, and they both accept that they might not make it out alive.Natchios is ready to meet her fate, but Murdock stops her before they go up to the rooftop, removing his mask and telling her that if they make it out alive, he wants to go with her, leaving New York City behind. She tries to convince him that he belongs in New York but he responds by saying there was only thing that made him feel more alive than New York, and it was her. Meanwhile, Page and the other hostages emerge from the building to find Mahoney and a squadron of police waiting for them. Page tells Mahoney that the abduction was just a trap to lure out Daredevil. Mahoney orders lights to be shone on the building. Nelson arrives, and is shocked when Page tells him about the trap set for Daredevil. On the rooftop, Natchios and Murdock battle with Hand ninjas led by Yoshioka. They are able to defeat many of the ninjas but Yoshioka proves to be a formidable opponent, hitting Murdock so hard that he knocks his mask off. Just as Yoshioka is about to kill Murdock, Natchios attacks him, and Yoshioka inadvertently stabs her. She dies in Murdock’s arms, after telling him that this was not the end.MV5BNTljZjFjZmYtYmU1YS00Zjc1LWI5NDUtNDAxOWY3ZWY0OTViXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjkzNjQzODI@._V1_Yoshioka, upset about losing the Black Sky, orders the ninjas to kill Murdock. Murdock, enraged, fights then, and is surprised when gunfire takes some of the ninjas down. He turns to see Frank Castle on a nearby rooftop, using his sniper skills to dispatch some of Daredevil’s opponents. Page looks up at the sound of the gunfire and sees Castle, wearing his Punisher body armor. Murdock does battle with Yoshioka and is victorious, using his billy club to fling him off the roof. Yoshioka, however, survives the fall, only to be killed by Stick, who decapitates him and declares that this time he will stay dead. A month later, at a cemetery, Stick and Murdock stand before Natchios’s gravesite. Murdock wants to say a few words but doesn’t have any. Stick asks Murdock if it was worth it to love her, and Murdock says that despite Stick’s warning to cut himself off from humanity, it was worth it.At Josie’s Bar, Page and Nelson have drinks together. She remarks on how sad it feels with Murdock not with them, but then congratulates Nelson on his new job. He promises her they will always be friends before settling Nelson and Murdock’s tab with Josie. At the New York Bulletin office, Mitchell Ellison is surprised to find Page there, since it’s Christmas Eve. She still has writer’s block. He convinces her to write a story only she can, from her point of view. He gives her a bottle of Scotch and then leaves. Page writes a story about heroes, suggesting that her readers look in the mirror, because all New Yorkers are heroes. Meanwhile, Castle returns to his house one last time, retrieving a CD with the word “Micro” written on it before setting the house on fire. Murdock asks Page to meet him at the Nelson and Murdock offices. She is reluctant, but is waiting for him when he arrives there. He tells her he has something to show her and pulls out his Daredevil helmet. As she watches in shock, he finally reveals to her that he is Daredevil. Meanwhile, Nachios’s grave is dug up, and her body is placed in the stone sarcophagus that Yoshioka had been preparing. As Hand ninjas respectfully lower the lid over it, a heartbeat is faintly heard.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. Ending season 2 at Christmas was a surprise but all in all the final was excellent leaves us wanting more.

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: TRAINING DAY (2001)

CAST

Denzel Washington (The Taking of Pelham 123)
Ethan Hawke (The Purge)
Scott Glenn (Daredevil)
Tom Berenger (Platoon)
Harris Yulin (Ghostbusters 2)
Raymond J. Barry (Alias)
Cliff Curtis (Jubilee)
Snoop Dogg (Scary Movie V)
Eva Mendes (2 Fast 2 Furious)
Raymond Cruz (My Name Is Earl)
Fran Kranz (Dollhouse)
Terry Crews (Get Smart)
Denzel Whitaker (The Purge TV)
Macy Gray (Fuller House)
Nick Chinlund (Con Air)
Noel Gugliemi (The Fast and The Furious)
Peter Greene (The Mask)

The film follows a day in the life of Los Angeles Police Department officer Jake Hoyt, who is scheduled to be evaluated by Detective Alonzo Harris, a highly decorated LAPD narcotics officer, for a possible promotion. Riding around in Alonzo’s car, they begin the day by catching some college kids buying cannabis from a street gang. Alonzo confiscates the drugs and tells Jake to smoke it – Jake refuses at first, only to comply when Alonzo threatens him at gunpoint, with the explanation that refusing an offer on the street could get him killed. After smoking it, Alonzo informs him that the weed was laced with PCP. They then pay a brief visit to Roger, an old friend of Alonzo’s who is also a drug dealer and former police officer. Back in the car, Jake notices a teenage girl being sexually assaulted and runs out to subdue the attackers while Alonzo watches. Alonzo tells the girl to leave and allows the men to go free, despite Jake’s disapproval. Jake finds the girl’s wallet on the ground and takes it.
Alonzo and Jake later apprehend a wheelchair-bound dealer named Blue, finding crack rocks and a loaded handgun on him. In exchange for his freedom, Blue reveals his associate: Kevin “Sandman” Miller, who is in prison. Alonzo takes Jake to Sandman’s home in Watts, where he uses a fake search warrant to steal $40,000 from the premises. However, Sandman’s wife realizes the scam and calls out to nearby gang members, who open fire. The two officers barely escape.
For lunch, the duo visit Alonzo’s Salvadoran mistress, Sara, and their young son at Baldwin Village. Afterwards, Alonzo meets with a trio of high-ranking police officials dubbed as the “Three Wise Men” – they tell Alonzo that they know the Russian Mafia is hunting him for an incident over the weekend in Las Vegas and suggest that he leave town, but he insists that he has control of the situation and gets permission to “cash in an account”. Alonzo thus gives them Sandman’s drug money for an arrest warrant.
Alonzo takes Jake and four other narcotics officers back to Roger’s house – using the warrant, they seize $4 million from underneath the floor of his kitchen, but Jake refuses to take his share of the cash. Alonzo then kills Roger and arranges for the scene to appear like a justified shooting. Jake refuses to cooperate and after being threatened, seizes Alonzo’s shotgun, prompting a Mexican standoff. However, Alonzo calms his associates and claims that the LAPD will run a blood test on Jake (identifying the PCP he smoked), the result of which he can falsify in exchange for Jake’s cooperation. Jake reluctantly gives in.
Alonzo drives Jake to the home of a Sureño named Smiley, allegedly to run an errand. He furtively abandons Jake as Jake reluctantly plays poker with Smiley and his fellow gang members. A tense conversation ensues in which Smiley reveals Alonzo’s situation: by midnight, Alonzo must pay $1 million to the Russian Mafia for killing one of their men in Las Vegas, or be killed himself. Jake realizes too late that Alonzo had paid Smiley to kill him, and is beaten and dragged to the bathtub for execution. The gang search Jake to find the wallet dropped by the teenage girl, who is revealed to be Smiley’s cousin. Smiley calls her, who confirms that Jake risked his life to defend her. In gratitude, Smiley lets Jake go.
Jake returns to Sara’s apartment and attempts to arrest Alonzo, but a gunfight and chase ensues, which ends with Jake subduing Alonzo in his escape vehicle. The local gang members and residents begin congregating to watch. Alonzo tries to get the crowd on his side by offering a reward to whoever kills Jake; but instead, they allow Jake to walk away with the money. Alonzo attempts to flee via Los Angeles International Airport, but is found and killed by Russian Mafia hitmen in a street shooting. Jake returns home with Alonzo’s money (having said earlier that the money will serve as his evidence corroborating Alonzo’s crimes of the day), and Alonzo’s death is broadcast over the news, touting him as a heroic officer serving a high risk warrant.The end result is nothing less than a brilliant thriller. Hawke and Washington make for a phenomenal double act and the pace only occasionally lets up to allow the characters time to breathe and establish the depth that makes you care for them more. Highly recommended.

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: VERTICAL LIMIT

CAST

Chris O’Donnell (Batman &Robin)
Robin Tunney (Hollywoodland)
Stuart Wilson (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3)
Temuera Morrison (Spartacus: Gods of the Arena)
Nicholas Lea (Andromeda)
Scott Glenn (The Silence of The Lambs)
Bill Paxton (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)
Alexander Siddig (Game of Thrones)
Colon Moy (Xena)
Alistair Browning (Hercules: The Legendary Journeys)
Josephine Davison (Power Rangers S.P.D.)
Craig Walsh-Wrightson (Spartacus: Blood and Sand)
Ben Mendelsohn (Captain Marvel)
Izabella Scorupco (Reign of Fire)

While climbing in Monument Valley, siblings Peter (O’Donnell) and Annie Garrett (Tunney) lose their father, Royce (Stuart Wilson). After two falling amateurs leave the family dangling, Royce forces Peter to cut him loose to save Peter and his sister. Peter has since retired from climbing, becoming a full-time wildlife photographer, and Annie has gone on to become a renowned mountain climber. Three years later, during a wildlife photo shoot for National Geographic in the lower Himalayas in Pakistan, Peter’s assistant falls and breaks his leg. Peter is dropped off at K2 Base Camp and searches for Annie who is planning a summit attempt on K2, the world’s second highest and most dangerous mountain. The expedition is funded by wealthy industrialist Elliot Vaughn (Paxton) who is also part of Annie’s expedition, with the help of renowned climber Tom McLaren (Nicholas Lea).71e8zk6t4LL._SL1500_

The climb turns out to be a disaster—as a storm closes in and the winds begin to wreak havoc, causing an avalanche. Annie, Vaughn, and Tom fall through a patch of ice and become trapped in a crevasse, while the other expedition members are killed. Peter, who initially radioed Tom to turn around, stands by the radio and begins to hear Annie using Morse code to inform base camp that they are alive. Peter manages to assemble a rescue mission with some of the climbers at base camp, including brothers, Cyril and Malcolm (Le Marquand and Mendelsohn), Monique Aubertine (Izabella Scorupco), Kareem Nazir (Alexander Siddig), and Skip Taylor (Robert Taylor). Skip and Peter also visit the reclusive Montgomery Wick (Glenn), reported to be the world’s best climber and foremost expert on K2, who agrees to join in the rescue attempt to reach the team before they die of pulmonary edema. Skip is unable to go as Wick says he needs someone he can trust at base camp directing the mission.10519267_743169505741924_3711826686541512601_nThe teams pair off: Malcolm and Kareem, Monique and Cyril, and Peter and Wick. Each team takes different entry points up the mountain to increase chances of success. Monique and Cyril enter trouble when Cyril loses his balance and clings to the side of a cliff. After Monique secures her harness to him, the peak cracks, and Monique also falls over the edge with the leaky nitro canisters exploding beneath them. Cyril is able to climb back up, but an avalanche throws him over the edge of a steep cliff. Monique pulls herself up and radios base camp that Cyril has been killed. Back at the military station, the nitroglycerine canisters come into contact with the sun and explode. Base camp tells the teams to get their cases of nitroglycerin into the shade. Kareem and Malcolm do so, but, while resting after covering the cases, the leaked nitroglycerin eventually gets into contact with the sun and explodes, killing the two.

Meanwhile, underground, Annie begins to suffer from pulmonary edema. Tom is in a more severe state, with his leg and ribs broken. Vaughn is the only one unharmed and possesses dexamethasone. Vaughn’s story from his first disastrous climb on K2 detailed that the dexamethasone was swept away, but Wick later discovers an empty box of dex, proving his assertions that Vaughn used it for himself and ultimately let Wick’s wife die from pulmonary edema to which Wick swears revenge on Vaughn.

Meanwhile, in the crevasse, Vaughn administers dex to himself and kills Tom with the syringe full of air to save the remaining dex for himself. Wick wakes up to find Peter and Monique gone, having continued climbing the mountain. He soon locates where Annie and Vaughn are trapped, and they use the nitroglycerin to blast a hole, enabling access to the survivors. Wick descends into the cave and harnesses Annie, and although a weakened Vaughn thinks he is about to attack him, Wick attaches a harness to him as well. Along with Peter, he attempts to pull Annie out of the crevasse, but an ice boulder falls, knocking Wick and Vaughn from the ledge in the crevice and pulling Annie and Peter down. Monique alone remains on the ledge holding the rope with the other four hang on to it. To save Annie and Peter, and to fulfill his revenge on Vaughn, Wick pulls a knife from his pocket, says a Buddhist prayer and cuts the rope holding himself and Vaughn (similar to Royce Garrett’s death) dropping the two to their deaths.

Recovering at base camp, Annie reconciles with Peter, who finally pays his respects at a memorial for those killed on K2, including Wick, Vaughn, Kareem, his cousin Ali, Cyril and Malcolm, Tom McLaren, and Wick’s late wife who was a guide.

This is a surprisingly well done little film, mixing the climber/mountain drama with some additional elements. Very good movie plenty of dramatic action, and a very good quality picture