REVIEW: IZOMBIE – SEASON 1

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MAIN CAST

Rose McIver (Power Rangers RPM)
Malcolm Goodwin (The Bellman)
Rahul Kohli (Happy Anniversary)
Robert Buckley (Killer Movie)
David Anders (Alias)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Aly Michalka (Two and a Half Men)
Molly Hagan (No Good Nick_
Ty Olsson (Battlestar Galactica)
Nick Purcha (Cold Zone)
Daran Norris (Team America)
Hiro Kanagawa (Heroes Reborn)
Elysia Rotaru (Arrow)
Sarah-Jane Redmond (Disturbing Behavior)
Devon Gummersall (Roswell)
Elise Gatien (Smallville)
Serge Houde (50/50)
Carrie Anne Fleming (Supernatural)
Aleks Paunovic (Van Helsing)
Ben Cotton (Stargate: Atlantis)
Bradley James (Merlin)
Ryan Hansen (2 Broke Girls)
Trezzo Mahoro (Van Helsing)
Chris Gauthier (Watchmen)
Jesse Moss (Final Destination 3)
Fulvio Cecere (Valentine)
Barclay Hope (paycheck)
Teryl Rothery (Stargate SG.1)
Chad Rook (The Flash)
Sunita Prasad (UnREAL)
Enid-Raye Adams (Riverdale)
Britt Irvin (Hot Rod)
Erica Cerra (Power Rangers)
Aaron Douglas (Battlestar Galactica)
Erica Luttrell (Westworld)
Percy Daggs III (Veronica Mars)
Andrea Brooks (Supegirl)
Bryce Hodgson (Kid Cannabis)
Bex Taylor-Klaus (Scream: The Series)
Brian Markinson (Tribal)
Leanne Lapp (Grave Encounters 2)
Steven Weber (2 Broke Girls)

I’ve been impressed with Rob Thomas (Veronica Mars’ creator) and Diane Ruggiero’s adaptation of iZombie. The comic of the same name by Chris Roberson and Michael Allred inspired the world on The CW show, but the series used the existing story as a launching pad. Thomas and Ruggiero developed the plot and world in new directions and executed one of the best first seasons of a television series in recent memory.One aspect that contributed to the success was how the stakes kept moving. When we first met Liv, life as a functioning zombie didn’t seem like the worst thing ever. The overall tone was more humorous, Liv was more introspective. She learned more about living and embracing existence by being undead. But then, things shifted. Different types of zombies were introduced, character paths started converging, and the stakes grew higher and higher — and much bigger than Liv and her self-actualization.The show followed a case of the week formula, which a tricky thing to manage, but it often worked to the benefit of the series. The new cases added consistency and allowed the relationships between Liv and Clive and Liv and Ravi to breathe. Though some of the cases didn’t particularly resonate, they occasionally tied into the larger story arc. When those tie-ins happened, they didn’t feel forced; they were a natural extension that helped grow the mystery or pushed characters into new territory. And oh boy, were the characters pushed. Liv went through a slew of personalities, sure, but additionally, she dealt with mortality, gaining and losing someone she loved, seeing her friends in danger, and the list goes on. Rose McIver rose to the challenge of portraying not only Liv, but Liv as several people. She did fantastic work keeping a thread of Liv present through all of the character’s various meals.McIver also communicated the weight and struggles of Liv’s problems in a way that was human. Liv put brains in all her food regularly (and I so appreciate how Liv changes up her methods of brain consumption), but she rarely came across as a monster. The entire cast played well together. Each relationship was the right amount of comfortable at the right time. Example: Liv took a little while to warm up to Lowell — as she should have — and then they were in the new couple phase where they were extremely adorable. Ravi and Liv is one of my favorite friendships on television, but then again, so is the Ravi and Major pairing. Clive’s more serious, get the job done personality is a wonderful complement to the group, and Blaine is the ideal villain.When you create a world where zombies are real, telling people the news and seeing how they react to it is a big part of the story. iZombie surprised me in this regard. I expected Clive to find out long before Peyton — and I do think Clive should know by now because he’s too smart and observant to not realize something’s off with Liv — and I didn’t think Major would be the person to react violently to the news. They showed varying responses, which is how it should be. It wouldn’t have been believable if everyone was as accepting as Ravi. Back to Major briefly, he went on the most unexpected journey. Transforming the nicest guy into a gun-toting zombie killer seems like an impossible task, but they accomplished it and made it believable. They found just the right hook to make the turn work.Seattle has a zombie problem, and the first season made us understand the extent of the issue without dumping it into our lap like a memo. We learned slowly as Liv learned, and the reveal of each puzzle piece made the severity of the situation hit home. With Blaine’s enterprising business presumably closed down and Max Rager employees potentially on the hunt for zombies, the pieces are lined up for a second season full of possibilities.iZombie had an incredibly strong first season. It was intricate and smooth in a way most series don’t come close to achieving in their initial episodes. Though a lighthearted tone was consistent throughout, they regularly upped the stakes and delivered emotional moments. The performances were top notch, and I look forward to seeing what this cast can do together in the years to come.

REVIEW: FANTASTIC FOUR: WORLDS GREATEST HEROES

MAIN CAST

Hiro Kanagawa (Heroes Reborn)
Lara Gilcrhsit (Defying Gravity)
Christopher Jacot (Mutant X)
Brian Dobson (Dragon Ball Z)
Samuel Vincent (Totally Spies!)
Paul Dobson (Transformers: Armada)
Sunita Prasad (Bates Motel)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Mark Acheson (Elf)
Michael Adamthwaite (Stargate SG.1)
Andrew Kavadas (Ninja Turtles: Next Mutation)
Venus Terzo (Arrow0
Lee Tockar (Beast Wars)
John Novak (Wishmaster 3 & 4)

This series, which started in September of 2006, features the four core characters of the series: Reed Richards (a.k.a. Mister Fantastic, a scientist whose body can stretch like rubber and the brains behind the operation), his girlfriend Susan Storm (a.k.a. The Invisible Woman), her younger brother Johnny Storm (a.k.a. The Human Torch), and of course, Benjamin Grimm (better known as the ever lovin’ blue eyed Thing), a rock encrusted strong man. These four live inside the mammoth Baxter Building in the middle of Manhattan where they also have their base of operations and a wide array of technical gadgetry courtesy of Richards’ incessant inventing. They use their powers for good, to protect the people of not only New York but of the world against many different antagonists, specifically their arch-enemy, Doctor Doom.

Marvel, in conjunction with Moonstone Animation, has done a very good job with this series. While the animation is obviously very influenced by Japanese manga and anime, the show is very much in the spirit of the early Lee/Kirby comic book masterpieces and it turns out to be a lot of fun. The fact that the Fantastic Four do more than just square off against Doctor Doom each week leads to encounters with familiar villains such as The Mole Man, The Puppet Master, and even the Super Skrull! Guest appearances from instantly recognizable heroes such as The Hulk, Prince Namor The Submariner, and Iron Man add to the fun but what makes this series work is the way that the writers have nailed the team dynamic so important to the comic book’s success. The stories may be a little simple by some standards and you could make the argument that they’re geared towards a young audience than they maybe need to be but they really are in keeping with the early episodes of the comic books that inspired them and for that reason they turn out to be quite enjoyable doses of action and escapism.

As mentioned, the animation has been inspired by Japanese culture and so the characters don’t always look as Kirby-esqe as purists will probably want them to. Likewise, some of the CGI used in the backgrounds doesn’t blend as flawlessly as it could. That said, Kirby’s sense of grandeur and design is apparent throughout the series in the gadgets, the villains, and many of the backgrounds in the series. The voice actors suit the characters well with Brian Dobson as The Thing really standing out/p>
Ultimately this material isn’t going to blow your mind. It isn’t deep or particularly Earth shattering in any way but it does feel in tune with the source material and as far as superfluous bits of animated entertainment go, it’s just a lot of fun.

REVIEW: THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (2008)

CAST

Keanu Reeves (Speed)
Jennifer Connelly (Hulk)
Kathy Bates (Misery)
Jaden Smith (The Karate Kid)
John Cleese (Rat Race)
Jon Hamm (Mad Men)
Robert Knepper (Heroes)
James Hong (Blade Runner)
Sunita Prasad (Hardwired)
J.C. MacKenzie (Dark Angel)
Lorena Gale (Smallville)
Patrick Sabongui (The Flash)
Roger Cross (First Wave)
Hiro Kanagawa (Heroes Reborn)
David Richmond-Peck (V)
Ty Olsson (Izombie)
Kyle Chandler (Argo)
Rukiya Bernard (Van Helsing)
Alisen Down (Smallville)
David Lewis (Man of Steel)
Bill Mondy (Blade: The Series)
Brandon T. Jackson (Tropic Thunder)
Michael Hogan (Battlestar Galactica)
Ben Cotton (Stargate: Atlantis)

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The movie’s first act shows the most potential. Dr. Helen Benson (Jennifer Connelly) is swept away from her with a police escort, by flustered agents who inform her that even they don’t know why she’s being picked up. She’s rushed into a room crowded with other scientists and engineers and told that not only is something from outer space going to impact Earth in the middle of Manhattan, but it’s going to happen in less than 80 minutes. I always question the way government officials act in movies, but there’s a palpable sense of tension and paranoia, and even a few good character touches (. A better movie would have played out closer to real time; the concept that Earth might be destroyed with such little forewarning is a really great idea (although there’s a shade too much 9/11 imagery here). Sadly, it barely makes up the first twenty minutes. At the end of it, a giant swirling orb touches down in the middle of Central Park, and an alien creature steps out, only to be shot by an overzealous soldier.The creature is taken to a hospital, where its’ strange, placenta-like shell melts away to reveal what appears to be a human being. Instead it turns out to be Keanu Reeves, playing an alien creature named Klaatu who somberly informs the President’s first-hand aide (Kathy Bates) that he’d like to address the United Nations. Bates’ character is problematic. She plays it as reasonably as she can, but as written, she’s yet another trigger-happy, kill-all-the-aliens caricature straight out of endless alien invasion movies that prevents logical characters from doing logical things. She refuses his request, and they tell Helen to drug him so they can interrogate him. She fakes it instead, injecting him with saline instead of sedative, and Klaatu makes his escape.During the escape sequence, Scott Derrickson’s direction goes into hyperdrive, using flashy editing and CGI to amp up the excitement, but it feels forced and unnatural. It happens several times, all in isolated bursts (Robert Knepper’s thankless and stereotypical military commander is the worst offender, popping up occasionally to yell in a Texas accent). Only part of the spectacle, like the swarms of tiny bugs that eat up everything in their path (as seen in the misleading trailer), feel integrated with the story. The effects themselves are hit-and-miss. The giant orbs, shown on the movie poster, are stunning to look at, and those swarms of bugs are eye-poppingly cool, but most of the effects that integrate real actors look weak.I’ve always thought of Keanu Reeves as a more physical actor than an emotional one , and it’s almost endearing the way he doesn’t seem to “get” the joke in regards to his flat acting style, which the producers of Day 2008 have ably exploited in having him play an emotionless alien. I liked him in the movie, but those who already dislike him as an actor aren’t going to have their minds changed. Jennifer Connelly does a fairly good job during the first half of the film, but as the bits of characterization from the first act peter out, it’s like she’s acting into a vaccuum; she puts plenty of emotion out but none of it registers. Will Smith’s son Jaden plays her step-son, and his primary mode is “whiny”.The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)Klaatu’s goal in Day 2009 is to save the Earth, which is bad news for its inhabitants. “If the Earth dies, you die. If you die, the Earth survives,” he tells Helen. Yet the film doesn’t want to be a “message” movie, so no obvious examples are shown lest the audience get upset. I felt The Day the Earth Stood Still was better than expected but the commercial aspect of its existence overpowers its low-key successes. Derrickson’s version misses ample opportunities to explore the nature of meeting a creature from another planet, and the times it does breach the topic it doesn’t have anything to say.Keanu Reeves in The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)The 1951 original is a social landmark, and even won a Golden Globe for promoting International Understanding. The new version is entertaining, but the fact that it can’t emotionally connect to its audience, much less connect other people, is going to leave many fans rightfully disappointed.