‘The Originals’ finest season yet falters and ends more like a series finale

The fourth season of ‘The Originals’ just came to a close and it had been, up to a point, the best season the show has had storytelling wise. The Mikaelson siblings had all been on the same page for the first time in so long, Hayley and Elijah were finally being given their chance to truly be together and grow as a couple, Klaus was finally finding his place as a father, Vincent was finally being treated as the powerful ally he is, Marcel had broken free of the constant cycle of pain caused by the Mikaelson’s and Freya had finally been granted a dynamic love interest.

The Hollow and all the drama that came with it had been genuinely entertaining and interesting to watch at all points. Then episode ten came (which in and of itself wasn’t actually a bad episode, just a catalyst for the lackluster end of the season) and you could almost pinpoint the very scene where Julie Plec returned to a more active role in the show instead of strictly focusing on the final season of “The Vampire Diaries.”

Tonight’s finale felt less like a season finale and more like the end of a series. And if it were just the end of the series I’d probably have loved it. No, the concept of the Mikaelson’s (especially Klaus and Elijah) being separate forever doesn’t sit that well with me, but if it were the end I could learn to live with it. However, the beautiful emotions of the finale were sullied by the fact that it is coming back next season.

Splitting them up is actually a devastatingly beautiful end for this show, but now it’s no longer an option. Because they’ve done it and the emotion of it will be lost when the series returns next year finding an inevitable way to reunite the Mikaelson’s together again in New Orleans; all curses, spells and amnesia broken.

Instead Plec has opted to use what could have been a suitable series finale as a season finale that justifies yet another time jump. Time jumps have become a crutch for Plec, so much so that by the time “TVD” came to a close I didn’t even know what year it was supposed to be.

A time jump for this show now means years lost of Rebekah and Marcel’s epic romance, heartbreaking separation we won’t see any of and most notably the loss of young actress Summer Fontana. Considering their casting for a love interest for Hope, it’s doubtful Fontana will be returning next season seeing as seven-year-olds don’t have love interests. Child actors coming into a show in the middle tend to not go well, but Fontana stood out all season long as a stellar performer and will be missed.

And then there’s Elijah. Beautiful, kind and flawed Elijah; again were this the end of the series I could be pleased with him getting to start completely fresh, even if it’s technically the worst trope in the world amnesia, and have a peace this life has never granted him. I’d be at peace with it even though it means splitting up Klaus and Elijah, whose relationship has been the ultimate standout of the shows entire run for me (nothing quite gets me in tears like the two of them sharing an emotional brotherly moment). Instead he’ll only experiences a few years of peace till it all comes crashing down around him.

And then of course there’s his relationship with Hayley. The relationship ending is one thing, Elijah wasn’t wrong they truly were doomed from the start, but Plec’s reasoning behind splitting them up, the hypocrisy of her calling it toxic after an incident that was entirely out of Elijah’s control while she allowed so many other actually toxic couples to receive happy endings (i.e. Delena, Kolvina, Klaroline one day inevitably). She did to them the similar thing that she did to actually healthy couple Josh and Aiden a few seasons back and to Steroline and Bonenzo on “TVD.” She allowed them to be given endless foreshadowing to a happily ever after, a way out and then blew it up for no actual apparent reason. But instead of killing off one half of this couple, she called him a monster and gave him amnesia. Elijah as a character deserves better than that.

But you can’t not give props to Daniel Gilles for working with the material he was given. That man never ceases to act the hell out of all he has, even if it’s nonsense.

The season was incredible to a point, but then Plec’s focus came back and Michael Narducci was already halfway out the door and instead of the story he spent all season crafting Plec set up a finale that felt too final for her fifth season. Narducci will be deeply missed next season that’s for sure.

I won’t quit watching it, I’ve loved too many of these characters for too long to do that, but I do hope that next season is its final. The end won’t be as satisfactory as this one could have been as an end, but at least then it’s only 13 more episodes where Plec can bulldoze over everything that’s good.

REVIEW: ‘Wonder Woman’ lives up to and exceeds the hype

“Wonder Woman” is not only the superhero movie the world needs, but also the superhero movie DC has needed for years.

DC’s recent films have expanded their universe, which is great, but the films have been either disappointing, crowded or a combination of both. “Wonder Woman” is the complete opposite of all of those things.

Gal Gadot shines in her leading role as Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman.  Gadot manages to bring a life to Diana that her male DC predecessors have failed to accomplish with their characters. Gadot’s Diana is strong, hopeful and personable in a way that lights up the screen.  Also let’s give thanks that they allowed Gadot to use her real accent and gave all the ladies of Themiscyra accents to match. Diana Prince is the strong, brilliant woman that has deserved a shining big screen light for years because of Gadot’s performance.

DC’s genius decision to nab the last of the Chris’ before Marvel could really paid off. Chris Pine makes Steve Trevor the man you want him to be, ignorant enough for the time but also endlessly supportive of Diana. Pine makes you believe in him and his cause.

The plot perfectly combines Diana’s Greek Mythological background with a mix of her canon comic origin stories. The story is gripping in its fantasy, but also in its reality with a striking and unique score behind it.

The story also manages, like so many things do intentionally or not, to be incredibly timely. A powerful woman leading a change and a charge for a fight she believes in. It’s a bold and timely statement about fighting for your home, yourself and your people whether those around you are in your corner or not. It’s also important with its social commentary specifically with its secondary characters, unlike so many films “Wonder Woman” manages to actually remember that not everyone was white in the past. The character Sami particularly stands out in a moment when he tells Diana that he never wanted to be a soldier, but because of the color of his skin it’s the only job he could get.

And all of these things don’t come together as beautifully as they do without director Patty Jenkins. Jenkins lens into the male dominated world Diana is walking into is incredibly well done. The fight scenes are enthralling and manage to be shot both realistically and fantastically with the Amazonian powers in play. Having a woman behind the camera for this female driven film was the best possible decision. he was no gamble (@ Hollywood Reporter, she directed an OSCAR WINNING FILM).

Overall “Wonder Woman” is the best solo superhero film to reach the big screen to date.

‘Sense8’ and ‘The Get Down’ are the Netflix shows you’re probably not watching but need to

“Sense8” and “The Get Down” are two very different shows in terms of plot, but the thing they have most in common is that they’re Netflix’s greatest offerings that are severely underrated.

Both shows made their return to Netflix recently with incredible episode runs and yet if it weren’t for following the main accounts for the shows, there’d be next to no buzz about the shows anywhere. When new episodes of “Orange is the New Black” or “Stranger Things” drop everyone seems to talk about them, dress up in costume and scream from the rooftops about how good the shows are.

Meanwhile “Sense8” and “The Get Down” only get the recognition of the little fanbases that exist for them, even though they are just as good, if not better than those popular hits. Both shows feature diverse casts, interesting storylines, diverse LGBT rep, well written characters and a range of dynamic onscreen relationships both platonic and romantic.

Created by the minds behind the “Matrix” films “Sense8” is one of the most original, and unexpectedly sense making, sci-fi shows available right now. Its quality could probably only be rivalled by “Orphan Black” and its cast may not be well known, but they’re putting out Emmy worthy performances every episode. The concept of eight strangers being psychically connected across the globe seems like a far-fetched concept, but it’s presented in a visually stunning and deeply human way that makes the series an easy one to fall into.

“The Get Down” is likely the most well written musically based show to ever air on any platform. Unlike most musical shows that fail to deliver in story, but constantly deliver in music “The Get Down” delivers constantly on both with an incredible young cast who will hopefully go on to have long and impressive careers. Set in the late 1970’s the series spotlights a neighborhood and a community that’s never been shown before all through the lens of the fall of disco and the rise of hip-hop.

Both shows are timely, even if one is set in the past, visually gratifying and completely unique. In a time where there are literally hundreds of television shows available these two are standouts that everyone should give a chance to.

So if you’re willing to watch kids chase after monsters, you should also be willing to watch kids struggle to rise up in a tumultuous music industry. And if you’re willing to watch a show about a women’s prison with a boring lead, then you should be willing to watch a relatable sci-fi show with a dynamic lead cast.

‘The Get Down’ Part’s I & II and ‘Sense8’ seasons 1 & 2 are currently available to stream on Netflix.

We need to talk about how good ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D’ is right now

Anyone who’s watched the Marvel series “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D” since the beginning will be the first to tell you that the series has always had an incredible cast of characters but not so incredible overarching storylines. The only time it found itself truly living up to its potential was near the end of the first season when it was affected by the cataclysmic events of “Captain America: The Winter Solider.”

Then at the end of their third season “AOS” made their greatest creative decision to date, they finally dropped the dead weight villainy of Ward and embarked on a new, fresher journey. Now in its current fourth season “AOS” is the best it’s ever been by far, especially here in its second half.

The Ghost Rider portion of the season was strong, but then the introduction of a little android named Aida changed the entire landscape of the series. The LMD (Life Model Decoy) storyline took off and for the first time “AOS” became something it’s never been before, consistently compelling. The LMD lead to the Framework which lead to where we are now one week before the season finale.

The storylines have been poignant, timely (hello commentary on the U.S. political landscape) and well-written every single week. Each week you’re left on the edge of your seat eagerly awaiting what comes next.

And because of that quality writing the actors have all been on fire this season. Clark Gregg and Ming-Na Wen have always had incredible chemistry, but it’s seemingly increased tenfold this year. Chloe Bennett has added more layers to the enigma that is Daisy Johnson. Henry Simmons has finally been given the chance to build Mack’s backstory, including his relationship with his brother and the heartbreaking loss of his infant daughter. Elizabeth Henstridge more than proved her acting chops last season when Jemma found herself trapped on a planet alone, but has brought her ability in emotional scenes to even more heightened levels this season.

And then there are the two biggest standouts of the year. The two who frankly could win awards for their performances this season if the Emmys would every actually acknowledge a show like this: Iain De Caestecker and Mallory Jansen. For years we’ve seen De Caestecker play the sweet, monkey obsessed genius Fitz, this year however he was tasked with playing a version of Fitz that was cold, ruthless and downright evil. A task he achieved chillingly well. Watching the Fitz of the Framework has almost been like watching a completely different actor take on the part.

Jansen on the other hand has been evolving a character that could have been nothing more than a robot into a terrifying creature all season long. From Aida the seemingly simple LMD to Agnes the completely kind and normal human to Aida the threatening, overpowering LMD to Madame Ophelia Hydra and now to the terrifyingly human and destructive Ophelia, Jansen has been an evolving revolution to watch. In one season on the series Jansen has managed to create a more dynamic and interesting villain than Ward was in three entire seasons. The woman has given a more than Emmy worthy performance all year long.

Next week the epic season comes to a close, though I’d say it’s a safe bet some things may be left on the cliffhanger, with what will likely be the best season finale it’s had to date. “AOS” has yet to be renewed for a fifth season, which would be a bad call on ABC’s part if it doesn’t. Hopefully it’ll receive renewal in the next few days before upfronts and if you’re one of those people who dropped the series during its slower times take the summer to get back into it; it’s more than worth it.

“Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D” airs its season four finale Tuesday, May 16 @ 10/9c.

UPDATED: A fangirl’s definitive ranking of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has become known for their amazing films since 2008’s “Iron Man.” But we all know that some have been better than others and some have just fallen flat. So let’s rank the movies so far from worst to best.

Now updated to include this weekend’s latest Marvel release, which nearly drops all the films in the MCU down a notch.

*Authors note: in complete honesty I never could be bothered to even watch ‘Doctor Strange’ hence it’s absence from this list.

14. ‘Iron Man 3’

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I know people love this movie and it made all the money but the third Iron Man stand-alone tried a lot of things and most of them didn’t work. The film’s villains fell flat compared to the first two films and it didn’t seem to know just how to handle Tony’s world post “Avengers.” The biggest problem was the new director; Jon Favreau was sorely missed behind the camera.

13. ‘The Incredible Hulk’

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While Mark Ruffalo has mastered the character, Edward Norton’s turn as Bruce Banner was enjoyable. The story was solid and didn’t try to simply redo the first film, which we should never ever speak of. The film successfully redeemed the Hulk name in the MCU, but wasn’t a stand out worthy of a higher spot.

12. ‘Thor: The Dark World’

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This sequel wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t as good as its predecessor either. Loki yet again stole the show, but supporting characters like Lady Sif and Fandral deserved more screen time than they were allotted. Jane could have used more to do than damsel it for the better part of the movie as well.

11. ‘Iron Man’

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The movie that started it all started it all with a bang. Tony’s enigmatic personality was brilliantly played with the utmost perfect casting decision of Robert Downy Jr. Because of the incredible director/actor duo of Downey and Favreau Marvel’s new era was reigned in pretty perfectly.

10. ‘Ant-Man’

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“Ant-Man” could have been a trainwreck. When the longtime connected director and screenwriter dropped out of the film fans were worried, but the tiny hero rose above the negativity. Paul Rudd perfectly combines humor and hero as Scott Lang and the movie proved itself to be a standout in the MCU. Ant-Man is a lesser known Marvel hero and the movie gave the character a well-deserved spotlight.

9. ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’

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While not everyone loved the Avengers follow up you can’t deny its awesome villain and witty dialogue. Also for those long suffering Hawkeye fans like me this movie finally gave him some well-deserved screen time. Not a perfect film, but a solid ending to Joss Whedon’s time with the MCU.

8. ‘Thor’

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Chris Hemsworth was another perfect casting choice by Marvel and no one expected this film to be as good as it was. “Thor” could have been ridiculous, draped in too much out of this world mythology, but it wasn’t. And of course we can’t overlook the fact that this movie graced the world with the rise of Tom Hiddleston who stole every scene he was in as Loki, Thor’s mischievous little brother.

7. ‘Iron Man 2’

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Easily the best of the Iron Man stand-alone films, this one brought us a new side to Tony and the romance we all saw coming. The introduction of Black Widow was in its own way overdue since she should be in everything since the beginning of the creation of all things Marvel. Sam Rockwell, while a ridiculous villain, was brilliant as he tends to be in every role he tackles. The return of Nick Fury and Phil Coulson also made this movie the finest of the Iron Man films.

6. ‘ Captain America: Civil War’

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“Civil War” isn’t a great Captain America movie but it is a well done Avengers movie if we’re being honest. While Steve and Bucky’s relationship still takes center stage in the film, it could have been focused on even more. Because of that it’s amazing. The Steve/Bucky dynamic is one of the most intriguing and deeply emotional connections in the whole of the Marvel Universe and Sebastian Stan and Chris Evans continued to portray it perfectly in this film. Black Panther’s introduction also set’s up for what is hopefully an incredible future onscreen for the character.

5. ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’

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He’s the first Avenger for a reason, because he’s awesome. Steve Rogers is the everyman, nice guy that everyone can get behind. You root for him at every turn and his first major movie is an excellent portrayal of the hero origin story. With a supporting cast comprised of brilliant actors, like the most kick ass woman in the MCU, Hayley Atwell nothing about this movie falls short. Captain America’s first major on-screen appearance proved why he is the man known to always lead the Avengers.

4. ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’

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Let’s be honest, you put Andy Dwyer in space with a talking tree and a gun toting raccoon you expect it to turn out as a cheesy laugh-riot comedy. That wasn’t the case, though the film is definitely funny it’s also a surprising space epic for the ages. “Guardians” was an unexpected hit with an amazing ensemble cast and a story that was oddly relatable. No one expected to shed tears over a tree and a raccoon, but this movie made us all do that.

3. ‘The Avengers’

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No matter how many Avengers movies they make the first one will always be the best one. It was the first time a superhero team-up had been successfully done in a major film and it was executed brilliantly. Whedon perfectly encapsulated the struggle of bringing together a team of unlikely heroes with a great story and script that was portrayed with the stellar performances from the entire cast. The reality is every Avengers movie will have to live in the shadow of the original triumph.

2. ‘Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2’

The second installment of the “Guardians” franchise isn’t just amazing because of the cutest dancing tree in the universe, much like it’s predecessor it maintains humor throughout but also brought new depth to the beloved crew of characters. It also continues to benefit from it’s separation from the rest of the MCU, no pop up appearances of Tony Stark taking over or anything of the like allow the film to just be about this ragtag group of heroes we’ve grown to love. Great music, witty dialogue, excellent performances all around and an unexpectedly poignant commentary of what it means to be family all made up for not only an incredible Marvel film, but just an incredible film overall.

1. ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’

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The second stand-alone film for Cap very nearly put every prior MCU movie to shame. Winter Soldier gets everything right. Every actor is perfect, especially Sebastian Stan who gives an incredibly emotional performance without saying a word for the better part of the movie. The action is thrilling, the story takes the superhero movie to new political thriller heights and the direction from the Russo brothers is compelling and holds your attention from start to finish. Just as every future Avengers film will live in the shadow of the original, it’s safe to say that every stand-alone Marvel film will have to live in the shadow of “The Winter Soldier.”

 

 

REVIEW: ‘Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2’ gets to the heart of what it means to be a family

When the first “Guardians of the Galaxy” film came out my knowledge of the team was essentially at zero. I went in thinking it would be ridiculous to see a talking raccoon and tree fight across the galaxy; I came out crying over the friendship between and loving that talking raccoon and tree.

The first film quickly became a favorite of mine and remains so to this day, the same can definitely be said for the second installment.

Much like the first “Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2” has a lot of humor , but this time around director/writer James Gunn managed to find a perfect balance between the humor and a more serious plot as well. The beauty of the “Guardians” franchise is that unlike most of the other Marvel properties they can remain separate, aka there’s not unnecessary cameos and Tony Stark can’t come in and take over 80% of the film. “Guardians” at its heart is about the core group of characters they have, core characters that all received a bit more depth this time around in a surprisingly poignant commentary on what it means to be a family. The laughs were there, because what family doesn’t make jokes and insult each other, but so were the moments of honesty between the characters. Blood doesn’t make a family and this second volume was all about this family admitting and realizing that.

Baby Groot and Rocket naturally steal the show, just as they did the first time around. Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper may only provide voice talents, but their presence is felt and the emotion they bring to these two characters and the dynamic they have really steal your heart. Mantis was a welcome addition to the team, providing a just as literal friend for Drax; Sean Gunn’s Kraglin was also a welcome addition in his more featured role this time around; Elizabeth Debicki was eerily calm but likely to be a more looming presence in the third installment and Kurt Russel was perfectly Kurt Russel.

But while all the actors really brought it all to the table the absolutely unexpected star of the film was Michael Rooker. Yondu was seemingly just a villain in the first film, but this time around they shaped him into something more, showed a side of him that was softer, more emotional and more damaged. Rooker was incredible in all of his scenes; his dynamic with Christ Pratt’s Peter Quill was so well done highlighting the father/son relationship they have as well as his unexpected dynamic with Rocket and Groot.

No spoilers on the end of the film but let’s just say I’ve now cried openly during both “Guardians of the Galaxy” films and I’m hoping they’ll go for the trifecta and get me again in the third one.

Overall “Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2” is just what you’d expect with the humor and the excellent soundtrack, but also just what you aren’t expecting with a deeper more emotional storyline. Also be sure to stay all the way to the end of the credits there are five, that’s right FIVE, after credit scenes you won’t want to miss.

‘iZombie’ and the Blaine situation

“iZombie” has been the best show the CW has to offer since it began. It’s mix of humor, drama and crime solving has always been flawlessly delivered by a stellar cast.

One member of that stellar cast is David Anders who has played the vicious, cold-hearted Blaine since the start. Blaine was established from the very beginning as a villain and his actions over the seasons have only solidified that he’s a villain meant to be a character you love to hate.

Near the end of last season however, “iZombie” made its first real story misstep giving Blaine amnesia and putting him in a relationship with Peyton. A story that’s continued into its current season.

This isn’t really about the Blaine/Peyton/Ravi love triangle, though not a fan I get that Peyton doesn’t deserved to be judged for sleeping with Blaine when she did. She didn’t know who he was really or what he’d done, she wasn’t with Ravi. (Though I could probably write a whole other piece about the nonsense of that love triangle: both Ravi and Peyton have made mistakes, but non so damning that Ravi, the man of color, is framed to be the mess up while Blaine, the white homicidal maniac, is alright). It’s such a CW plotline, a thing iZombie has usually been above and avoided.

This is more about the simple fact that by giving Blaine amnesia and having a woman who’s been fairly sensible and strong fall for him they’re actively trying to make us forget that he’s not a good person. Prior to his amnesia Blaine showed no regard for others nor any remote desire to redeem himself in any way. Then enter the amnesia and since he can’t remember he was horrible he tries to be less horrible.

Personally, amnesia storylines are one of the most overused and unnecessary trope storylines especially when used in this context. It’s similar to when “True Blood” gave Eric amnesia and had Sookie fall for the amnesia ridden version of him. Somehow amnesia made her also actively forget the terrible things he’d done.

Blaine DeBeers is a murderer and manipulator who’s used harming others for his own gains his whole life, but especially so since becoming a zombie. Now the show seems to be retconning these facts (or attempting to) for both the audience and the characters themselves, sans Ravi who’s not having any of it.

It’s not a personal desire to see Peyton with Ravi or anything of that nature (Ravi could do better honestly), it’s the simple fact that all these characters are smarter and deserve better than to seemingly forgive a man like Blaine just because he’s lost his memory.

He’s still the man who murdered kids that Major was in charge of looking after, he’s still the man who murder Lowell a man Liv loved, he’s still the man who’s largely responsible for Major being a zombie (remember how he tried to murder him?), he’s still the man who’s killed and turned and blackmailed an unknown number people. He did none of that for survival or self-defense, he did it all simply because it made him rich and he could. Amnesia doesn’t change that, and doesn’t change the personal crimes he’s commited against these characters.

Just because he’s charming, good looking and has been given amnesia doesn’t mean we the audience or the characters have to or should forgive him. He didn’t choose this ‘redemption’ and once he gets his memory back (if he does) it’s likely he’ll revert to his old ways, especially with his father and Don E threatening everything he’s built.

Where are Liv and Major warning Peyton and completely distrusting him as they always have? How is Liv expected to look a man in the eye who she watched murder her boyfriend in cold blood? Where’s Clive in general in this mess? Cause we know he’d be on Ravi’s side in holding onto good old fashioned distrust of Blaine.

Think of it this way if Ted Bundy suddenly got amnesia would all be forgiven and you start dating him?

Maybe this is too quick to judge, but it’s been done on so many shows before it’s hard not to recognize the pattern. “iZombie” airs on the CW on Tuesdays @ 9/8c.