HALLOWEEN OF HORROR REVIEW: RATTLESNAKE

Rattlesnake (2019)

Starring

Carmen Ejogo (Alex Cross)
Theo Rossi (Luke Cage)
Emma Greenwell (Duet)

AAAABULZxMNz4dwGosN3q7yOO6vezwA0XE1OOb8NXZFuzFalgQEgRh14b6_bf9xbQ53kz9rAz3c1voN_qX2Wl_xmKutQQIgV9ocB813jbXZSvID-qWEDb-oS66K9vLwjxAThe art of cutting trailers from a film surely deserves more mention, love and credit. More than just hinting to the audience what the film is about and what roles their favourite actors/actresses are playing, they also have the important task of creating sufficient intrigue and interest for the film. Show too little, and they won’t be interested in the first place. Show too much, and the audience loses interest. But, cut a key scene at precisely the right moment, and a discerning viewer may end up checking out your film himself for some answers. That’s just how the human mind works, and the folks who create a trailer from the stock length of the film seem to have an acute understanding of that.rattlesnake-netflix-image.jpgInvariably so, and this happens more often than we would all want to accept, the very well edited trailer of a film short-charges the film itself, and while you step in as an eager audience, you come out either exhausted or disenchanted, because the film barely lives up to that idea that drew you into the film in the first place. Netflix doesn’t put out the best of trailers necessarily, but the one they did for its latest survival thriller film ‘Rattlesnake’ particularly drew me to check it out this evening. The premise: that of a single woman making a deal with the devil to save her daughter’s life after she is bitten by a rattlesnake in the middle of the desert while travelling, and her race against time to keep her end of the deal, did seem just promising enough to have me spend 90 minutes not complaining about the pollution outside, while also making it plenty clear that like every year, with Halloween approaching, this was Netflix’s feeble attempt to cash in on the peeves of audiences to be spooked, thus the recent slew of semi-effective horror flicks every week. It is clear that given the mediocrity, the best chance these films have of working in the whole year is now. However, ‘Rattlesnake’ is a new low even within that very low bar set by Netflix.rattlesnake-netflix-movie-imageLike most Netflix releases, the idea in here presents itself and sets up the narrative forward within the first 20 minutes or so, after which its just irredeemably pummels, struggling to find coherence along the shallow roots laid by that very idea. I had a very similar complaint with ‘In The Tall Grass’, but even through its runtime, the idea of the killer tall grass and the mystery behind it is intriguing enough to atleast let you pace past the finishing mark. Unfortunately, in this case, the idea itself, of the rattlesnake, of the irreversible deal, and of the morality of the protagonist being questioned bears little intrigue to begin with. That the execution barely ties all of this together, and the unshakeable feeling every five minutes of the film having lost a sense of vision doesn’t help. Around the halfway mark, I struggled to even remind myself why this film was called ‘Rattlesnake’ in the first place.rattlesnake-carmen-ejogo-imageWhile the story has always been kind of a shaky terrain for Netflix films to traverse, they have always boasted of enviable production quality over the last decade since it started doing its own originals, beating out even some mid-budget feature length releases in the process. With this one, nearly all comes undone. There are no special effects in the film to begin with, but the editing is majorly off in a couple of places, and that affects the coherence of the film as a singular whole in a big, big way. It is true that editing, as I stated in the beginning of this write up, whether of a feature film, a short film, or even a trailer, is an invisible, underrated beauty when done right. But for the audience to truly notice that, it has to be done wrong for it to stick out like a sore thumb. That is more or less what happens here. Ditto for the sound mixing in several places. While these are some of the things that shouldn’t bother a regular, indiscernible viewer merely looking for a 90 minute escape, for those asking for a little more, the end result is that of alienation from the end product.

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I wouldn’t call it a saving grace, because it would take a lot more than that to bring this film beyond those borders, but Carmen Ejogo’s performance is uniformly adequate throughout. She is in nearly every frame of the film, and while it isn’t a knockout, her performance is one of the few things not terribly wrong with the film, keeping it going when the script too wanes in the final bits. My final verdict? Avoid it like you would a rattlesnake in the desert.

REVIEW: VERONICA MARS – SEASON 1

Starring

Kristen Bell (The Good Place)
Teddy Dunn (Jumper)
Jason Dohring (The Originals)
Percy Daggs III (Detention)
Sydney Tamiia Poitier (Death Proof)
Francis Capra (Izombie)
Enrico Colantoni (Flashpoint)

Kristen Bell in Veronica Mars (2004)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Michael Muhney (The Young and The Restless)
Corinne Bohrer (The Flash 90s)
Amanda Seyfried (Les Miserables)
Lisa Thornhill (Agter The Sunset)
Kyle Secor (The Purge: Election Year)
Daran Norris (Izombie)
Brandon Hillock (Villains)
Bradley Joseph (Stone & Ed)
Patrick Wolff (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers)
Duane Daniels (Fashion House)
Jonathan Chesner (Bones)
Christian Clemenson (Apollo 13)
Aaron Ashmore (Smallville)
Wilmer Calderon (Fast & Furious)
Paris Hilton (House of Wax)
Ryan Hansen (2 Broke Girls)
Bobby Edner (The Amanda Show)
Paula Marshall (Murder In The First)
Alison MacInnis (Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue)
Kyla Pratt (Dr. Dolittle)
Adam Wylie (Child’s Play 2)
Robert Baker (Supergirl)
Sam Huntington (Superman Returns)
Melissa Reneé Martin (The Secret Craft)
Lisa Rinna (Days of Our Lives)
Jane Lynch (Glee)
Harry Hamlin (Clash of The Titans)
Amanda Noret (Bunny Whipped)
Jessica Chastain (Zero Dar Thirty)
Adam Kaufman (Buffy: TVS)
Steven Williams (Jason Goes To Hell)
Bonita Friedericy (Chuck)
Alona Tal (Cult)
Tina Majorino (Scorpion)
Erica Gimpel (God Friended Me)
Anastasia Baranova (Z Nation)
Jonathan Bennett (Mean Girls)
Chris William Martin (The Vampire Diaries)
Megalyn Echikunwoke (That 70s Show)
Kevin Sheridan (Heart of Dixie)
Emmanuelle Vaugier (Two and a Half Men)
Max Greenfield (New Girl)
Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad)
Christopher B. Duncan (Legacies)
Katie Leclerc (The Big Bang Theory)
Bridget Hoffman (Total Recall)
Anthony Anderson (Transformers)
Jowharah Jones (Ugly Betty)
Ken Merckx (Masked Rider)
Christine Lakin (Family Guy)
Adam Scott (Krampus)
Leighton Meester (The Roommate)
Alyson Hannigan (Buffy: TVS)
Cynthia LaMontagne (Austin Powers)
Zachery Ty Bryan (Home Improvement)
Erin Chambers (Stargate: Atlantis)
Ken Marino (Agent Carter)
Jonathan Taylor Thomas (Last Man Standing)
Theo Rossi (Luke Cage)
Joey Lauren Adams (Chasing Amy)
Roy Werner (Power Rangers Time Force)
Kyle Gallner (American Sniper)

Veronica Mars is set in Neptune, California, a town without a middle-class. Everyone’s either a millionaire or works for one, and the man largely responsible for Neptune’s unparalleled success is Jake Kane (Kyle Secor), the resident billionaire software mogul. Kane and his family are still reeling from the murder of his daughter Lilly (Amanda Seyfried) some months earlier, and as if that loss wasn’t enough, the beloved Kane family was doggedly pursued by a county sheriff convinced that they were hiding something. Public sentiment turned against Sheriff Keith Mars (Enrico Colantoni), who was ousted from office and abandoned by his wife.Kristen Bell and Jessica Chastain in Veronica Mars (2004)Cue the title character. His daughter Veronica (Kristen Bell) had already lost her best friend with Lilly’s death, but standing by her father also cost Veronica her friends, her social status, her house…even her mother. Veronica had already been unceremoniously dumped by Lilly’s brother Duncan (Teddy Dunn) shortly before her friend’s murder, and a defiant visit to face her former friends at a party weeks later led to Veronica being drugged and raped. Despite having lost so much, Veronica is resilient enough to move on with her life, and as her father struggles to stay afloat as a private eye, Veronica puts her smarts and determination to work to help ease the caseload at Mars Investigations. She also puts her talents to use to help her classmates with their troubles — for a price, of course. To cap it all off, Veronica’s faced with a couple of her own mysteries to solve. What convinced Lianne Mars to abandon her family, and where is she now? Who was it who drugged and raped Veronica last December? Also, is her father right — did someone other than disgruntled Kane Software employee Abel Koontz murder Lilly? If there is, who orchestrated the conspiracy that led to Koontz’ confession and why?Kristen Bell in Veronica Mars (2004)The dialogue in Veronica Mars has the same sparkle as Joss Whedon’s work…arguably better, even, since Buffy sometimes sounded like a deliberate attempt to be hip, whereas Veronica Mars manages to be witty and clever without feeling quite so forced. The writing doesn’t skew as young as one might expect from a TV show set in a high school. If anything, the target audience seems to be twentysomething — I don’t know how many fifteen year olds would be able to appreciate references to Archie comics or 21 Jump Street, f’r instance. Characterization is another strength of the series, and part of the reason Veronica Mars works as well as it does is that the audience truly does care about the characters. Despite having a seemingly endless array of talents, Veronica isn’t some sort of idyllic Mary Sue. She’s not always right. Her investigations frequently take morally questionable turns. Things don’t always go the way she wants. Not every episode has a happy ending.Kristen Bell in Veronica Mars (2004)Along with the cases that are solved in the space of forty minutes and change every week, a couple of mysteries are introduced in the pilot that are gradually explored throughout the entire length of the season. That’s right — unlike the hydra that is Lost, where answering one question spawns ten more, all of Veronica Mars’ mysteries are resolved by the time the season finale rolls around. (The finale tosses out a couple questions of its own, but if a second season hadn’t gotten the green light, it still would’ve been a fitting end to the series.)Veronica Mars has a capable cast to match the quality of the writing. Veronica is strong and cynical…bright and sarcastic…and even though all of the trauma she’s suffered over the past year has aged her somewhat, she’s still an emotionally vulnerable teenage girl.Kristen Bell and Alona Tal in Veronica Mars (2004)That’s a lot to juggle, but Kristen Bell is talented enough to make such a colossal task seem effortless and captivating enough to carry a show on her shoulders. Of course, Bell is joined by a strong enough supporting cast that she doesn’t have to shoulder it all herself.VM-S2D2_04After cutting down Wallace (Percy Daggs III), the new kid at school, who’d been stripped naked and duct taped to a flagpole, he and Veronica become best friends. In teen-TV land, it’s an immutable rule that people of different genders can’t just be pals…there’s this endless temptation to couple everyone. Veronica Mars manages to resist, resulting in one of the few platonic friendships like this left on television.Enrico Colantoni, who plays Veronica’s father, is another fan favorite, able to shift from warm, loving, and borderline-goofy to secretive and deadly serious when the situation calls for it. There’s also Eli “Weevil” Navarro (Francis Capra), the leader of a local biker gang from the wrong side of the tracks who engages in some mutual backscratching with Veronica.Kristen Bell in Veronica Mars (2004)The character who stands out the most — aside from Veronica, of course — is Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring). Like Kristen Bell, Dohring is endlessly engaging. He’s introduced as an “obligatory psychotic jackass”, but as the season progresses, Logan’s humanized without being watered-down; even when he’s doing something as thoroughly loathesome as bribing a homeless vet to join in on his homebrew Bumfights video, there’s an undercurrent of understanding why Logan is the way he is. The character changes throughout the season, but the shift feels deserved and natural, not just because that’s what’s scrawled on the whiteboard in the writing room.Other guest stars throughout the season include Napoleon Dynamite’s Tina Majorino as computer whiz Mac, Aaron Ashmore as a love interest with a shady past, Logan’s movie star family (played by Harry Hamlin, Lisa Rinna, and Alyson Hannigan), Anthony Anderson, Zachary Ty Brian, Joey Lauren Adams, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, and, in a shameless bit of stuntcasting, Paris Hilton. Kristen Bell and Francis Capra in Veronica Mars (2004)The fact that the second episode of Veronica Mars manages to be really good despite a Paris Hilton guest spot really is a testament to how good a series this is. Oh, and, in true Laura Palmer fashion, just because Lilly Kane is dead doesn’t mean that Amanda Seyfried can’t rear her head in nearly every other episode.The conclusion to most of the mysteries caught me by surprise. Throughout the entire season, the only time I correctly guessed the culprit was in “Lord of the Bling”, and even then, the motivation and execution were well out of my reach. The many twists the stories take are clever, and watching these episodes a second time, I could spot all sorts of clues and hints that didn’t seem that important the first time through. Veronica Mars is a series that’s easy to dive into as a marathon, but for viewers catching these episodes for the first time, I’d recommend drawing it out a bit.

REVIEW: LOST – SEASON 2

Starring

Matthew Fox (Alex Cross)
Terry O’Quinn (The Rocketeer)
Jorge Garcia (How I Met Your Mother)
Josh Holloway (Colony)
Evangeline Lilly (Ant-Man and The Wasp)
Michelle Rodriguez (The Fast and The Furious)
Daniel Dae Kim (Insurgent)
Yunjin Kim (Shiri)
Naveen Andrews (The Brave One)
Dominic Monaghan (Flashforward)
Cynthia Watros (Finding Carter)
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Suicide Squad)
Emilie de Ravin (Operation: Endgame)
Harold Perrineau (Constantine)
Maggie Grace (Taken)
Malcolm David Kelley (Deriot)

Matthew Fox in Lost (2004)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Henry Ian Cusick (Hitman)
John Terry (Full Metal Jacket)
Julie Bowen (Modern Family)
Anson Mount (Star Trek: Discovery)
Tamara Taylor (Bones)
Saul Rubinek (Warehouse 13)
Kevin Tighe (My Bloody Valentine)
Katey Sagal (Futurama)
François Chau (The Tick)
L. Scott Caldwell (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina)
Sam Anderson (Angel)
Marguerite Moreau (Wet Hot American Summer)
DJ Qualls (Road Trip)
Kimberley Joseph (Hercules: TLJ)
Brittany Perrineau (Felon)
Ian Somerhalder (The Vampire Diaries)
Brett Cullen (Ghost Rider)
Rachel Ticotin (Total Recall)
Michael Cudlitz (The Walking Dead)
Rick Overton (Willow)
Fredric Lehne (Men In Black)
Beth Broderick (Sabrina: TTW)
Lindsey Ginter (Argo)
Adetokumboh M’Cormack (Gods & Heroes)
M.C. Gainey (Breakdown)
Neil Hopkins (D-Sides)
Robin Atkin Downes (Babylon 5)
Kim Dickens (Gone Girl)
Kevin Dunn (Transformers)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)
Mira Furlan (Babylon 5)
Michael Emerson (Arrow)
Theo Rossi (Luke Cage)
William Mapother (THe Mentalist)
Tania Raymonde (Texas Chainsaw)
Andrea Gabriel (2 Broke Girls)
Evan Handler (Californication)
Bruce Davison (X-Men)
Wayne Pygram (Farscape)
Gabrielle Fitzpatrick (MMPR: The Movie)
Nick Jameson (Frozen)
Oliver Muirhead (The Social Network)
Michael Bowen (Kill Bill)
April Grace (A.I.)
Alan Dale (Ugly Betty)
Sonya Walger (Flashforward)

Daniel Dae Kim, Josh Holloway, and Harold Perrineau in Lost (2004)

Attempting to build on the strength of Season One, Lost Season Two introduces several new characters and a new mysterious group to keep viewers enthralled. The introduction of the tail section characters does serve a purpose early in the season as it reinforces the Others as formidable villains. While the survivors on the beach have had it relatively easy, the tailies experience 48 days of hell in which their numbers shrink to a handful. Beyond that, Libby slides into a cute love story with Hurley while Ana Lucia stands around and takes up space until she is shot to death by Michael. Neither contributes a substantial amount to the season or the series besides being canon fodder for Michael.Harold Perrineau in Lost (2004)As for Mr. Eko, he does have a couple of good flashback episodes but it also feels like the writers are never quite sure what to do with him. At some points he’s a passive observer to events unfolding and the later he actively gets involved in the pressing of the button. Those last few episodes in which he finds himself destined to push the button almost seem as if the were a scramble to give the character something substantial to do. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of Eko but I feel as if his character was completely mismanaged from the outside.Only Bernard, who really doesn’t do much himself, feels like a relevant addition from the tail section as he ties up the loose end regarding Rose’s husband.Daniel Dae Kim and Josh Holloway in Lost (2004)Their reunion alone makes his introduction worth the effort. The best new addition to the Lost cast is the person we see the least throughout the season – Desmond David Hume. His appearance in the first couple of episodes of the season were used solely to introduce the concept of the button but his flashback and story in the two hour finale presented an intriguing new character. He’s a hopeless romantic on a quest to regain his honor and reunite with his true love. Desmond’s story is leaps and bounds more exciting than the rest of the new cast.Locke’s journey this season doesn’t really start to get interesting until the introduction of Henry Gale. For the first half of the season we get to see Locke at his most confident. He’s finally opened his hatch and discovered a bevy of new treasures inside to support his claims that the island and his connection to it are part of some much larger destiny. However, Gale’s arrival brings with it seeds of doubt as John’s world begins to fall apart. This culminates in the discovery of the Pearl Station and Locke’s complete loss of faith in the button and the island. It’s a good journey that has a great conclusion in the finale.Michelle Rodriguez and Cynthia Watros in Lost (2004)I really enjoyed Sawyer’s return to form midway through this season. Sure it didn’t make much sense for Sawyer to turn the entire camp against him in “The Long Con” but it was one of my favorite story lines of the season. His return to a nastier, less fan-friendly Sawyer was short lived however as he fairly quickly crept back into the good graces of the rest of the group.Michael’s battle to get Walt back from the Others had him depart midway through the season but his return in the final few episodes of the season were thoroughly entertaining. His murder of Ana Lucia and Libby gave way to an interesting game of deception as Michael is forced to convince the survivors that Henry was behind their deaths. His absolutely disgust in himself for taking a life mixed with the continued desperation he has to reunite with his son makes for some of the best character moments of the entire season. Harold Parrineau does a fantastic job of portraying Michael’s spastic range of emotions in those final few episodes.The real gem of this season and my favorite story arc is the introduction of Michael Emerson as Henry Gale.Naveen Andrews in Lost (2004)He spends most of his time confined in the Swan Station but that doesn’t stop him from being a formidable foe for the survivors of Flight 815. With the survivors fractured and keeping secrets from one another, Henry frequently manages to turn one survivor against the other. He’s favorite prey is John Locke who we already know is quite susceptible to snide comments and underhanded suggestions. Henry turns Locke inside out and uses him against Jack causing the group of survivors to lose focus. Its brilliant to watch unfold and Emerson brings a lot of weight to the role.

REVIEW: BONES – SEASON 2

Starring

Emily Deschanel (Boogeyman)
David Boreanaz (Angel)
Michaela Conlin (Yellowstone)
Eric Millegan (The Phobic)
Tamara Taylor (Lost)
T. J. Thyne (Ghost World)

David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel in Bones (2005)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Christine Estabrook (Spider-Man 2)
Ray Wise (Robocop)
Ann Cusack (Stigmata)
Sam Witwer (Supergirl)
Alex Hyde-White (Pretty Woman)
JoNell Kennedy (Dreamgirls)
Jessica Capshaw (Valentine)
Leah Pipes (The Originals)
Kathleen Gati (Arrow)
Heath Freeman (Skateland)
Christie Lynn Smith (The Crazies)
Jim Jansen (A.I.)
Keri Lynn Pratt (smallville)
Lamont Thompson (Evan Almighty)
Danny Woodburn (Watchmen)
Carlos Lacamara (Heroes Reborn)
John Kassir (Pete’s Dragon)
Cerina Vincent (Power Rangers Lost Galaxy)
Kali Rocha (Man With A Plan)
Lisa Thornhill (After The Sunset)
Kyle Gallner (Veronica Mars)
Amanda Carlin (Superhero Movie)
Grace Fulton (Shazam!)
John Marshall Jones (Con Air)
Nelson Lee (Blade: The Series)
Theo Rossi (Luke Cage)
Benito Martinez (Sons of Anarchy)
Julie Ann Emery (Better Call Saul)
Charles Mesure (V)
Salli Richardson-Whitfield (I Am Legend)
Kristoffer Polaha (Ringer)
Amanda Fuller (Last Man Standing)
Joshua Leonard (Bates Motel)
Michael Trevino (Roswell, New Mexico)
Ryan O’Neal (Love Story)
Loren Dean (Apollo 13)
Patricia Belcher (Jeepers Creepers)
Ryan Cutrona (Changeling)
Ty Panitz (Because I Said So)
Stephen Fry (V For Vendetta)
Eddie McClintock (No Good Nick)
Alex Winter (Bill & Ted)
Eric Jungmann (Not Another Teen Movie)
Ernie Hudson (Ghostbusters)
Meredith Monroe (Dawson’s Creek)
James Earl (The Lazarus Effect)
Jonathan Slavin (Santa Clarita Diet)
Chris Conner (Walk of Shame)
Steve Braun (The Trip)
James Hong (Blade Runner)
Deborah Theaker (A Mighty Wind)
Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family)
George Coe (Kramer vs Kramer)
Wendy Braun (Atypical)
David Burke (The Tick)
Johnny Lewis (Sons of Anarchy)
Tom Everett (Dances with Wolves)
Derek Webster (Stargate)
Ian Anthony Dale (The Event)
Glenn Morshower (Transformers)
Brian Hallisay (American Sniper)
Hillary Tuck (Life as a House)
A.J. Buckley (SEAL Team)
Roxanne Hart (Highlander)
Joe Nieves (How I Met Your Mother)
Cleo King (Mike & Molly)
Billy Gibbons (Two and a Half Men)

David Boreanaz, Jessica Capshaw, and Ty Panitz in Bones (2005)The start of the season sees a new boss, Cam, arrive at the Institute. Not only is she very hands on, she is a former love of Booth, and Tempe and Cam do not hit it off in the early episodes. The new character is well written and softens as the season progresses until it is hard to imagine the team without her input. Meantime Zac undergoes a make-over in order to secure a permanent place on the staff once he gains his doctorate, and Hodkins and Angela begin a tentative office romance.David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel in Bones (2005)Booth and Brennan continue to spar verbally with each other and some of their exchanges will have you laughing out loud. When a fellow agent, Sully, begins a relationship with Tempe, Booth’s feelings are confused – but as is observed, Tempe “is rubbish at being a girl” and her own complicated life does not bode well for a permanent relationship. Tempe continues to put her foot in it socially, particularly when a case involves Booth’s Catholic religion.David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel in Bones (2005)Among the classy episodes are ‘The Girl with the Curl’ about child beauty Queens, (with a wonderful scene of Tempe trying to talk to a group of 8 year olds at a dance class!), ‘Aliens in a Spaceship’ which has Tempe and Hodgkins buried alive by a serial killer, and ‘The Headless Witch in the Woods’ which has more than a nod to The Blair Witch Project. David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel in Bones (2005)Guest stars this season include Stephen Fry as a laid back, insightful Psychiatrist whom Booth must see after he shoots an ice cream van, and Ryan O’Neal as Tempe’s estranged and mysterious father whose elusive character comes into his own when Booth is targetted by the Mob. And, once again, Angela’s instantly recognisable father – from ZZ Top – pops up!

REVIEW: TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES – SEASON 2

Starring

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

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

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

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

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

REVIEW: LUKE CAGE – SEASON 2

Mike Colter in Luke Cage (2016)

 

MAIN CAST

Mike Colter (Zero Dark Thirty)
Simone Missick (K-Town)
Theo Rossi (Red Sands)
Gabrielle Dennis (Bring It On 5)
Mustafa Shakir (The Deuce)
Finn Jones (Game of Thrones)
Jessica Henwick (Star wars: The Force Awakens)
Stephen Rider (The Butler)
Alfre Woodard (Star Trek: First Contact)

Mike Colter in Luke Cage (2016)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Rosario Dawson (Sin City)
Reg E. Cathey (Fantastic Four)
Thomas Q. Jones (Being Mary Jane)
Elden Henson (The Butterfly Effect)
Rob Morgan (Stranger Things)

Rosario Dawson and Mike Colter in Luke Cage (2016)Is it ever okay to do the wrong thing for the right reason?” That line, spoken by Misty Knight (Simone Missick) in episode six, is the key to the excellent second season of Luke Cage. Every one of its major characters is playing a game without rules, a game to save the district of Harlem, and there’s no way to win by playing clean. The constant interest comes from watching how dirty they’re prepared to get.Mike Colter in Luke Cage (2016)Since we last saw him, Cage (Mike Colter) has become a huge celebrity. The public track him via an app. Everyone wants selfies. He is as famous as it gets, but he’s flat broke (helping the helpless doesn’t pay) and he can’t save everyone. Luke’s a plaster over Harlem’s problems, not a cure. He can’t really help Harlem unless he can bring down Mariah Dillard (Alfre Woodard), whose fingerprints stain almost every crime in the neighbourhood. Cage is not the only one looking to bring Dillard to justice. John McIver, aka Bushmaster (Mustafa Shakir), has arrived in town with an old grudge to settle and some dark magic that could help him defeat Cage.Alfre Woodard and Mustafa Shakir in Luke Cage (2016)The introduction of Bushmaster, who can match Cage punch for punch with the help of some herbal witchcraft, may sound like the show is heading back to Diamondback territory, but that’s not the case. Bushmaster isn’t really here to serve as an adversary to Cage, but to Dillard, who is as much a series lead as Cage. And thank God. You can never have too much Alfre Woodard. Mariah is the best kind of villain because she thinks she’s doing the right thing and doing what she has to do to achieve it. She’s building hospitals and safe homes for single mothers, but she’s selling guns, blackmailing officials and having people murdered to achieve it. If she’s only hurting bad people to help good people, is she really so wrong? Her family’s history of betraying others is what brings Bushmaster after her. He’s the only man she can’t negotiate with.Simone Missick and Mike Colter in Luke Cage (2016)Most of Marvel’s superhero series suffer a mid-season sag, without enough plot to fill their episode quota. This season never succumbs to that because it’s not rooted in plot but character. There are episodes where little happens in terms of event, but characters deepen and crack, becoming less who they want to be and more who they have to be, even Luke. Luke Cage could now remove any superhero elements almost entirely and still function as a series. It’s become Game Of Thrones-esque in its battle for Harlem, and like that show, whoever claims the prize will do so with bloodied hands.

REVIEW: LUKE CAGE – SEASON 1

CAST

Mike Colter (Ringer)
Mahershala Ali (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay)
Simone Missick (A Taste of Romance)
Theo Rossi (Cloverfield)
Alfre Woodard (Star Trek: First Contact)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Rosario Dawson (Sin City)
Frank Whaley (Broken Arrow)
Sônia Braga (Alias)
Frankie Faison (The Silence of The Lambs)
Rob Morgan (Stranger Things)
Sean Ringgold (American Gangster)
Parisa Fitz-Henley (Even Money)
Karen Pittman (The Ameircans)
Erik LaRay Harvey (Twister)
Ron Cephas Jones (Mr. Robot)
Sonja Sohn (The Originals)
Rachael Taylor (Jessica Jones)

Netflix’s latest drama may not be a great superhero series, but it’s searingly relevant and entertaining. Premiering on Friday, Sept. 30, Luke Cage is vital and alive and of-the-moment. It sings with the rhythms and swagger of Harlem and it’s a genre show that wears its intellectual curiosities like a badge. It’s so satisfying as badass street poetry and muscular urban renewal parable that after watching the seven episodes made available for critics, I barely cared that as a superhero show, Luke Cage is often repetitive and a little underwhelming. It’s the logical extension of Marvel’s niche-y approach to its Netflix offerings, a specificity that has yielded shows that are far more provocative, but far less universally accessible than the company’s blockbuster movies.The Marvel movies try to tick every box, but staying true to Netflix’s general business model, their comic book shows have just gone after one or two boxes aggressively. Jessica Jones used a snarky heroine and a mind-controlling bad guy to craft a story about consent and the power of sisterhood. Daredevil was using blindness and the darkness of Hell’s Kitchen as a platform for a story of Catholic guilt and challenged faith. Run by Cheo Hodari Coker, Luke Cage is the Harlem Renaissance intersecting with the comic book renaissance, a confrontational act of all-too-real wish fulfillment imagining a young black male as bulletproof.

Mike Colter’s Luke Cage was introduced in Jessica Jones as a haunted love interest for the main character, where we learned about his powers, basically being super-strong and impervious to bullets (or pretty much anything that might pierce/penetrate/crush his skin). We pick up with Luke sweeping the floors at the neighborhood barbershop run by Frankie Faison’s Pop. It’s the sort of community institution where people sit around all day debating the coaching styles of Pat Riley and Phil Jackson or whether Easy Rawlins or Kenyatta was the better urban fiction hero. By night, he works as a dishwasher at Harlem’s Paradise, a nightclub with a tremendous talent booker and operated by mobster Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes (Mahershala Ali), cousin of local politician Mariah Dillard (Alfre Woodard). Immediately, we see a harsh contrast between the greedy capitalist renewal espoused by Cottonmouth and Dillard and the grassroots Harlem that Luke Cage wants to be a part of and wants to elevate. Naturally, conflict is a-brewing between the two Harlems.Like Wilson Fisk in Daredevil, Cottonmouth is a vicious, remorseless killer, but he’s also got a somewhat noble sense of how what he’s doing is good for the borough he grew up in. Cottonmouth’s ties are to family and also to the idea of legacy and the protection of a renowned family name, key details that Coker and his writers hit hard.The Marvel movies rely on outsized special effects to capture their heightened take on reality, but the Netflix shows don’t have the budget for that, so they opt for outsized thematics instead. Like Jessica Jones before it, Luke Cage is aggressively unsubtle, but it’s also aggressively smart. Sure, having Luke Cage wandering around, wearing a hoodie as an act of defiance, reading Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man feels a bit on the nose, but once you throw in the references to Walter Mosley and Donald Goines and Ta-Nehisi Coates, it becomes clear that this show doubles as a superlative summer reading list, which has value beyond computer-generated scenes of mass destruction or a really cool mocap villain.The early episodes are so charmingly brainy and move with such a light step — Paul McGuigan of Sherlock and Scandal knows his way around a flashy pilot — and the cinematography is so stylish — not surprisingly, everybody loves photographing Mike Colter — that you only sometimes realize that the things you expect to get out of a superhero show are largely missing. Luke Cage is, to his great detriment, initially much too powerful, and while he’s certainly a reluctant hero, when he actually goes to work on the bad guys, it’s pointless to try stopping him. The “Ruckus” set piece in the third episode stands out because nothing else even comes close in scope or action execution. Of the seven episodes, the one that was least successful for me, and by a wide margin, was the most comic book-y, an origin-story fourth episode that hews reasonably closely to Luke’s ’70s Marvel origins. It’s fitting that Luke would want to debate pulp and elevated pulp-fiction African-American heroes, because that’s the tradition Luke Cage operates best in, which is great if that’s what you’re looking for the show to be.Ali makes great use of a classic villain cackle, and he gives Cottonmouth a coiled, psychotic rage and disarming glimpses of reasonableness. Woodard’s Mariah is Cottonmouth’s opposite, all superficial gentility and then undercurrents of something unhinged that become more frequent. Faison and Ron Cephas Jones, as a barbershop chess wiz named (or nicknamed) Bobby Fish, offer grounded decency, and I’m enjoying what Theo Rossi is doing, skulking around the edges, as a criminal intermediary dubbed Shades. Simone Missick’s Misty Knight and Rosario Dawson’s Claire Temple are there half as proactive female leads, half as potential love interests for Luke, but sometimes are confusing reminders that Luke was mighty hung up on a deceased ex — and then on Jessica Jones — just one TV show ago and they feel like they ought to be mentioned.Just as Colter moves with purpose, Luke Cage moves with purpose, even if that purpose isn’t the same as what Civil War or Age of Ultron have led audiences to anticipate from Marvel. It’s a series infused by the conversations we’re having about race and gender and the American urban space in 2016, and it’s a series built to inspire additional conversations about black masculinity and representations of heroism in an age in which the news is too often focused on the tragic disposability of black masculinity. Luke Cage is another great staple for Marvel and its Cinematic Universe.