12 Monkeys Season Two: Short a Few Bananas (Review)

 12 Monkeys - Season 2

Having missed the first season of 12 Monkeys, for no other reason than having issues with it being put on the small screen, starting season two of the SyFy  series left at least one viewer feeling a few bananas short a full load.  As the series does not start “properly” until April 25, there is still time to do a spot of binge watching to catch up.

Probably a good idea if, like this viewer, the first run was missed; whatever the reason.

There are a good deal of things different from the 1995 Terry Gilliam film Twelve Monkeys. More players for a start and the lack of Bruce Willis, Brad Pitt or Madeline Stowe.  Blue people appear to be in charge and a dead woman can be sent through time, forward, in order to save her life.

Another addition is “the witness.”

Regardless  of these oddities or “extensions,”  there is the presence of  personal favorite; Kirk Acevedo who leapt to this reviewer’s attention in Fringe. He is the “partner” of James Cole  (Aaron Stanford stepping in for Bruce Willis) one José Ramse.  Thus far Kirk has been in a great many scenes which is a definite plus.

Other changes includes Jeffrey Goines (Brad Pitt’s character) being  replaced by Jennifer Goines (played by Emily Hampshire). Madeline Stowe’s Kathryn Railly has a name change, she is now Cassandra Railly and being played by Amanda Schull.

Gone too are the little group of scientists who monitored Cole’s every move in the film. These blue men has taken their place and they are “monkeys.” Part of the group who attempt to kill Cole an Ramse on a bridge in Budapest, 2016.

It has to be said that while Jeffery was changed to Jennifer in the Goines role, Hampshire comes across as a grade ‘A’ fruit loop (with a little help from ADR looping) but even without it the character comes across as being days behind on her meds.

There are plenty of flashbacks; red infused visions colored by copious amounts of blood apparently,  and it seems that the Army of the 12 Monkeys is determined to keep sending more monkeys back in time to make sure that the virus is spread.

The tech in the series is pretty impressive stuff, mush better than the jury-rigged mechanics of Gilliam’s world.  Although that does not detract from the storyline too much. It may be that the first season should be viewed before getting too invested in this second season.

To give the show’s creators credit however it is not really necessary. Watching the second season premiere might leave one feeling a tad confused once or twice but the writing is tight enough that the storyline can be followed.

12 Monkeys may deviate from the big screen version but it still entertains, even without Willis and Stowe.  It appears that the next installment, on April 25, the two will travel back even further in time to the 1940s.

12 Monkeys - Season 2
Amanda Schull as Cassandra Railly

Interestingly, Cassie Railly is much more of a strong character than Stowe’s big screen heroine was. There are peripheral characters like Deacon (Todd Stashwick) and Katarina Jones (Barbara Sukowa) who appear to be allies and help Cassie to continue her mission. 

12 Monkeys appears interesting enough that binge watching the first season is a real necessity. With just over two weeks away from the show’s start date, now might be  good time to head over to Hulu and catch up.

12 Monkeys airs  25 April on SyFy..

Fresh Off the Boat: Jessica Place – Pools and Parodies (Review)

IAN CHEN, CHELSEY CRISP, CONSTANCE WU

Fresh Off the Boat places the viewer right smack in  primetime ’90’s with Jessica Place. It turns out that suburban Orlando, or at least the Huang’s neighbors, all love Melrose Place and when it ends, Jessica is distraught.  Suddenly, #FOB turns into a parody of the drama (primetime soap opera) all because of a pool.

Once again, the writers of the show pull out all stops to deliver some brilliant comedy and clever plot lines, a’la Melrose Place.  While the episode presented all the twists, turns and backstabbing necessary for self respecting soap opera parody, the presence of Ray Wise, as Marvin,  providing commentary while eating various snacks was the icing on the cake.

A subplot dealt with Emery’s meltdown in the pool at Eddie’s cheating (a breath holding contest instigated by Louis who then ignores the proceedings when distracted by a neighbor wearing a striped vest). This involved “scream jars” and a promise from Louis to help the middle son (Forrest Wheeler)  deal with issues in a more “healthy way.”

The entire episode was filmed with references to the 1990s primetime soap.  Montages, music, framing of scenes and the multi-layered subplots and schemes were set up perfectly in sync with the original.

The self-awareness of Jessica (Constance Wu) – who is delighted to be living in a real-life Melrose Place (“Jessica Place” she says with wonder and delight) is joined by Wise’s character’s reference, “I love this show.” He is approached, at the end, by a Melrose Place Alumnus (Courtney Thorne-Smith). Both characters are aware that they are “watching Melrose” although Marvin has been in on it (the reference)  from the beginning.

One of the funnier gags of this Fresh Off the Boat parody was the unlikely alliance of Evan (Ian Chen) and Honey (Chelsey Crisp).  Evan as master-mind (“It was all about the moo-box all along,”  says Marvin.) who turns out to be manipulating the manipulator (Honey) was just brilliant.

RAY WISE, COURTNEY THORNE-SMITH
RAY WISE, COURTNEY THORNE-SMITH

The scream jars of Emery get a final reference when Louis (Randall Park) and two of the boys arrive to get in the pool to learn that the eye-sore has been removed. Jessica explains that it was tacky and had to go. Louis’s face squirms, holding back a plethora of bad feelings. Emery suggests the jars and Louis replies that he knows where they are as he rushes off.

All of the characters in the show this week had hidden grudges against other members of the HOA (homeowner association) that stemmed from resentment; Honey marrying Marvin, jealousy, perfect “fake” hair and aesthetics, the dislike of the “moo-box.”  Out of all the characters only Jessica, Marvin and Louis were “without” sin.

On a sidenote here, did anyone else note that Ian Chen has suddenly shot up in height?

There were many comic moments, although Marvin’s delighted commentary almost stole the entire thing, but Evan’s headlong flight down the cut-de-sac road was priceless especially after Jessica tells Honey:

“Let him go! He’s afraid to cross the street by himself.”

Once again, the Huang children played by Wheeler, Chen and Hudson Yang knocked it out of the park with their performances.   It was, however, Constance Wu who took her Jessica to heights of brilliance.

Although each member of the cast made this primetime soap parody work because of their deadpan, in most instances, delivery.  With the notable exception being Wise’s character.

Standout Moment:

The flashback of a distraught Deidre (Rachel Cannon) discovering that she has been played which was narrated by Jessica was comedy gold…”Meow.” 

Final Thoughts:

This Fresh Off the Boat “Melrose Place” parody felt spot on, in many ways rivaling the sort of clever and cultural parodies on The Simpsonsanother FOX program which Melrose was.

Fresh Off the Boat airs Tuesdays on ABC.

Stitchers: Hack Me If You Can – A Hacking Ninja (Recap/Review)

Kirsten and the team are still adjusting to her new-found emotions in Stitchers: Hack Me If You Can. Camille makes a move to learn self-defense, Fisher is back on form and Cameron is undergoing a second childhood/midlife crisis thing since his return from the dead. The team get their first “proper” stitch since Goodkin’s death defying stunt.

SALLI RICHARDSON-WHITFIELD, KYLE HARRIS, EMMA ISHTA, ALLISON SCAGLIOTTI, RITESH RAJAN

Kirsten and the team are still adjusting to her new-found emotions in Stitchers: Hack Me If You Can. Camille makes a move to learn self-defense, Fisher is back on form and Cameron is undergoing a second childhood/midlife crisis thing since his return from the dead.  The team get their first “proper” stitch since Goodkin’s death defying stunt.

A man, who was blackmailing a “cheating website” is murdered by someone hacking into his  insulin pump  causing him to pass out in front of a moving  car.

Linus has moved out of his parent’s house and into his own “high tech” place. Cameron wants a Harley and Kirsten is mulling over what Stinger (her father) meant about moving the asset.  Cameron urges her to give it a rest  and  the two go through a bit of calling each other by  “love” names for the saleslady at the motorcycle shop.

Getting a call from the lab, Cameron asks the sales clerk to put the bike on hold. Back at the NSA facility  the team, sans Camille and Fisher, learn about the death and Les Turner’s boss who wants to meet  with Maggie.

Linus and Cameron have their bro-thing going again as evidenced with their little “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” gag.  The team want to meet the new big boss, Mitchell Blair (John Billingsley),  but Maggie says no.  

Fisher offers teach Camille how to take care of herself although he questions why. She points out that he was shot and Turner is dead. Camille then goes out to hack their first suspect in the insulin murder and she is surprisingly effective in the field.

Blair turns up and Maggie pulls a gun on him and Turner’s boss congratulates her on being promoted into the vacancy left by Les’ death. She asks Mitchell about Stinger killing Turner and Blair evades the question.

The team work out that the murdered man’s insulin pump was hacked by an expert via cellular connection.   As the investigation continues, it boils down to Kirsten versus the killer;  a woman in the dead man’s life.

Ellie (Cassidy Freeman) is the murdered man’s ex-wife who takes the whole team on. She depletes Cameron’s bank accounts and credit cards, sends the police to Kirsten’s to arrest her for prostitution and almost kills Linus in his new app controlled apartment. 

Kirsten calls Ellie a hacking ninja and she  enters  into the dead man’s memories again and learns that he cheated on his wife, who reacted badly.

This episode, which had  an impressive  number of comic/amusing moments features a villain whose life was ruined by her husband’s infidelity. Ellie has an accident which leaves her partially paralyzed and alone.

At the end of the episode Kirsten asks Ellie how to find her father and, just like the earlier Star Trek reference Ellie makes, both women have  indeed developed a grudging respect for one another.

Pop Culture references:

Cameron calls Kirsten “easy rider” after the Harley scene and before the first stitch, referencing the cult film of the same name.

He also  references the  I Love Lucy show, and Desi Arnaz  with his “Lucy’s got some ‘splainin’ to do.

Ellie references the old Star Trek episode Balance of Terror (1966), where Kirk and a Romulan commander battle each other and develop a grudging respect for one another at the end of the episode,   to Kirsten who states that she has no idea what the woman is on about. Cameron, listening in on the conversation nods his head and says, “I do.”

Cameron outside the elevator tells Camille to “Release the Kraken.” which is from Clash of the Titans (1981) and Norse mythology.

Comic moments:

Cameron tackles Linus in his new apartment (Ellie has turned on the gas so the whole place would explode when he accessed his app tablet) and he asks Linus:

Cameron: “Do you smell gas?”

Linus: “Well you startled me.”

R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

Linus and Cameron’s reaction to Kirsten’s “ideas in the shower” question and Camille’s reaction to them.

The Harley buying scene.

The whole NSA secret facility gag along with the windowless van reference…Twice.

Honorable Mentions:

Linus’ parents and the apartment tour.

Camille brushing Linus aside, muttering “get out of the way” as she goes to hug his mother.

Camille, again, hacking the owner of the cheating website via his phone.

Linus having to explain that he owns stock in the cheating  website.

Final thoughts:

The writing on this episode was tight and offered a “baddie” with depth and a sadness that was touching. Stitchers this season is slowly allowing us the chance to get used to Kirsten’s new emotions and the “new” Cameron.

All the humor from season one is there and, as mentioned in interviews with the cast and show creator Jeff Schechter, a darker feel is also there. Camille wanting to learn self-defense after the violence and death of season one is a perfect example of that.

Clearly there is no love lost between Maggie (Salli Richardson-Whitfield) and Blair.  Also, while Maggie is in charge officially over the whole Stitchers program, Kirsten still  pushes hard against authority when she feels it necessary. 

Thus far season two is offering the same sort of top notch performances from the first season and the writing is tighter than ever. We have the cases themselves to focus upon but there is also the whole “Stinger” issue and an interesting new “big bad” in the organization, aka Mitchell Blair.

Stitchers airs Tuesdays on Freeform.

Gotham: Prisoners – Murder Most Fowl – (Review)

 Gotham-ep216_scn52_53_54_6406_f_hires1

In Gotham: Prisoners Jim Gordon is moved into the general populace. Harvey Bullock searches for ways to help his friend while Oswald Cobblepot bonds with his father and Gordon gets back up after being beaten down with a little help from a prisoner named Puck.

Jim Gordon’s life in prison takes a bad turn when Warden Grey (Ned Bellamy) zeroes in on the framed detective after telling him that former commissioner Loeb sends his regards.  Gordon’s world has collapsed. Lee has lost the baby and is living somewhere “down south” and no one can contact her. 

Grey tells his pet prisoner that he wants Jim dead before the week is out.  Cobblepot has no idea that he has landed in a compony of wolves who are all out for Van Dahl’s blood and money.  Elijah (Paul Reubens) has a hole in his heart and his wife and two other children are trying to kill him for their inheritance.

After Oswald find’s his father sleepwalking and confesses his life as the Penguin the two men grow closer. The rehabilitated King of Gotham suffers from nightmares but his treatment seems to be success.  Jim Gordon warns Puck (Peter Mark Kendall) to stay away from him after the young man comes to his aid.

When both men are returned to the general population, Puck is beaten badly and returned to the infirmary.  Before they leave the medical treatment area, Grey tells Gordon that he knows everything.  The detective’s response infuriates the warden.

Gordon: “I know something you don’t know.”

Grey: “Yeah, what’s that?”

Gordon: “I know what kind of man you are.”

The Dahl family attempt to turn Elijah against his long lost son.  Dahl reveals that he knew about Oswald’s criminal past.  Elijah reassures his scheming family that her son is rehabilitated  but they  are not happy. Grace Van Dahl (Melinda Clarke) then sends Sasha (Kaley Ronayne) up to seduce Oswald. 

Cobblepot is horrified and scrambles from underneath the young woman telling her to get a grip:

“Restrain yourself  woman. I’m practically your brother! What are you thinking?”

Comically, after Sasha fails, the brother Charles (Justin Mark) asks if he should try. Sasha replies that he should not bother as she believes that Cobblepot is “simple.” 

Harvey (Donal Logue) turns to Don Falcone (John Doman) for help getting Jim out of prison and the Van Dahl’s turn to poison to get rid of Elijah. 

Jim is attacked while the prisoners watch what looks to be Seven Brides for Seven Brothers  and “killed.” The one prison guard not on Grey’s payroll orders a body bag and they take Gordon out of the prison. He returns to save Puck who tells Jim once more that he is a hero.

Oswald learns of his father’s plan to leave him everything and the scheming Van Dahl’s manage to poison the eccentric Elijah.   Gordon meets with Don Falcone to thank him and when  Jim goes to check on Puck, the young man has died from his injuries.

Paul Reubens is brilliant as the sad, ill and odd Elijah Van Dahl.  The Pee Wee Herman creator proves once again that he really can act without the quirky character that he has outgrown.   Elijah may feel a bit like a rich Mr Rogers but the sick tycoon is grounded in his desire to make things up to just one of his “children.”

The death of Puck felt a bit like a Thunderbolt and Lightfoot ending, sans Jeff Bridges and the Cadillac, and that is perhaps the only letdown in the episode.

By the end of Gotham: Prisoners Gordon has gotten back up after being beaten down and Oswald looks to have lost his benefactor. On the ominous side, it looks like the death of Elijah may set Oswald back to his Penguin days and Don Falcone returning to the city may cause major problems for Butch and Tabitha.

Gotham airs Mondays on FOX.

 

 

Daredevil Season Two: Darkness, Violence & Gore – Netflix Scores Again

Coming late to the Daredevil verse on Netflix meant cramming all of season one into a mind numbing binge and then following up with season two. Each of these offerings had some things in common: Darkness, violence and gore.

Netflix Daredevil

Coming late to the Daredevil verse on Netflix meant cramming all of season one into a mind numbing binge and then following up with season two.  Each of these offerings had some things in common: Darkness, violence and gore. Score a big win for the streaming service that bought us the other “darker and edgier” character from Marvel, Jessica Jones.

Binge watching two whole seasons was a little overwhelming but worth it in the end, sore eyes and all.

Show creator Drew Goddard (If the name sounds familiar it should. This guy cut his teeth on Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer series and then moved to Angel before leaving that verse and getting back  with Joss for  The Cabin in the Woods; which he also directed.) brings us a Matt Murdock who has less to do with radiation and more to do with special training.

This Daredevil is more Frank Miller and less Stan Lee; edgier and taught everything he knows from a mysterious Zatôichi type figure called “Stick.”  This hero is less super and more prone to wear his battle scars on his face and hands as well as getting pretty f***ed up in the process of protecting “his city.”

Season two of Daredevil brings a lot of things full circle and while doing so drenches the screen in enough blood to make Takeshi Miike pay attention.  While there are not buckets of claret splashing about there is enough hacking of limbs, cutting of throats and slashing of bodies to guarantee a good arterial spray on a regular basis.

Foggy (Elden Hensonis still along for the ride, although a character from Jessica Jones’ verse arrives to offer the whinging partner of Murdoch a job.  In all honesty  it would be nice to see him take the job. Matt’s partner has continually bleated about his displeasure at Murdoch’s vigilantism for so long it would be nice to have a break.

Considering that Murdoch’s hunter for justice does not kill anyone, it is hard to work out exactly what Foggy’s whole problem is.

In terms of body count season two  is on par, if not a tad higher, with season one.  Although with the Punisher (aka Frank Castle who is played spectacularly by Jon Bernthal), Elektra (Elodie Yung) and Stick (veteran character actor Scott Glenn) running around and dispatching ninja’s at a rapid rate it could easily bypass the first season’s body bag collection. 

There are a number of twists and turns that, once again, are much more  in tune with  Frank Millar’s vision of the blind vigilante.  There is the “re-emergence” of Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio) as a player in the Hell’s Kitchen control stakes and what appears to be an undead faction of fanatical Yakuza…

In the romance department Murdoch loses  a couple of admirers only to regain his “true love”  Elektra.  Speaking of Matt’s deadly love interest, kudos are in order for Elodie Yung, the actress has made the character interesting, real and more than a match for Cox’s Murdoch.

Canadian actor Peter Shinkoda plays Nobu in the second season and his character is the major antagonist that Murdoch has to face.  

Overall it would not hurt to watch the entire season in one, or two sittings.  Although the time factor may make it difficult. Whichever way one choses to watch this brilliantly dark version of Daredevil it must be done.

If for no other reason than to see Bernthal kill it as the Punisher. This is not to imply that the rest of the cast are shirking, far from it,  but The Walking Dead alumni  was the perfect choice for this role and should not be missed.

Netflix are doing an excellent job presenting the darker side of Marvel. TVLine reported back in January the streaming site was woking on a Punisher spin-off. Jessica Jones has been approved for another outing, Luke Cage is premiering in September this year and rumor has it that more Marvel’s “edgier”  characters are being brought to Netflix as well.

Daredevil season two is now streaming on Netflix. Come join the darkness.