Tag Archive: Neal McDonough


Review by C.J. Bunce

Previewed with an elaborate display at last year’s San Diego Comic-Con, Project Blue Book at last has made it to television as the latest supernatural TV drama.  It got off to a slow start with its premiere episode this week, but it has potential, beginning with the performance of the series lead, Irish actor Aiden Gillen.  Gillen, known for roles in The Wire, The Dark Knight Rises, Game of Thrones, and Bohemian Rhapsody, plays real-life Dr. Allen Hynek, a college professor brought into the U.S. Air Force’s Project Blue Book program to help debunk the existence of UFOs beginning in the 1950s (he would later be a technical advisor on Close Encounters of the Third Kind–he actually coined the term “close encounter”).  Gillen plays the role like the lead in a John La Carré novel, and he’s a ringer for a younger Gary Oldman (think Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy).  He is partnered with British actor Michael Malarkey as Captain Michael Quinn (an amalgam of several figures from the history books), the skeptic charged with quashing any idea that UFOs exist under the orders of General James Harding, played by Neal McDonough (Captain America: The First Avenger, Walking Tall, Star Trek: First Contact, Arrow, Quantum Leap).  

A twist for the series is its effort to show a non-fiction side to The X-Files motif.  It’s one of History Channel‘s rare efforts (along with Vikings) to get back to its educational roots.  This includes a smartly added In Search Of -inspired coda citing specific data points used as background for the episode.  And it has a big name attached to it–Robert Zemeckis–as executive producer.  The two women leads may pull in even more viewers–Laura Mennell (The Man in the High Castle, Haven, Watchmen) as Hynek’s wife, and Ksenia Solo (Lost Girl, Orphan Black, Black Swan) as a newcomer to Hynek’s neighborhood.

The production looks good, a typical Vancouver production with a moderate budget, but what’s there is quality–something in the vibe of Wayward Pines.  So look for plenty of good vintage nostalgia–some pretty 1950s cars, a solid wardrobe from costumer Carla Hetland (In the Name of the King, Butterfly Effect, Garage Sale Mystery) and a believable era from the past put onto the screen from production designer Ross Dempster (Wayward Pines, Lost in Space).

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New Speedy Willa Hollans on Arrow

Time flies when you’re having fun.  Seems like yesterday we were up all night on the street in San Diego waiting to see the world premiere of the pilot for CW’s Arrow.  It’s hard to believe Season 4 begins tonight.  Arrow has done something pretty amazing–taking a 70-year-old character and upending his backstory and surrounding characters in a way that stays true to the spirit of the original.  This season the story of Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) is getting even closer to his roots.

Tonight Oliver’s sister, Thea (Willa Holland), will take over the Speedy mantle, donning the above slick new supersuit.  Some credit is due to my pal and fellow Iowa boy Phil Hester and Kevin Smith, co-creators as writer and artist, respectively of Mia Dearden, the first woman Speedy in the pages of DC Comics’ second long-running Green Arrow monthly.  This new look borrows much from their original.  It’s not the first time CW’s Arrow has dipped back into the archives to bring out good ideas from the past, and that is what helps make the series so well-received by fans of the superhero genre.

What can we expect from Season 4?

Queen

For one, Starling City will be renamed Star City, one of the comic book homes of Oliver Queen throughout the years.

John Barrowman will return but now as the new Ra’s Al Ghul.  The power will undoubtedly go to his head, but how far, and will he take Thea down into the darkness with him?

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Public Morals gangsters

Timothy Hutton.  Brian Dennehy.  Christopher Eccleston.  Paul Bettany.  Neal McDonough.  Tom Hardy.  David Thewlis.  Tara Fitzgerald.  Robert Knepper.  Chazz Palminteri. 

That’s a pretty impressive roster of actors taking to mobster stories this year, in only two productions.  One a television series, the other a big screen release.  What draws us to gangster stories anyway?  Even before the film classics The Godfather and The Godfather Part II, Hollywood was pumping out–and audiences were devouring–movies about gangsters back to black and white pictures starring screen legends like James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart.  More recent, modern classics like Goodfellas and Donnie Brasco have defined what we all look for in a mob story.  Coming 2015 releases continue to look at this popular sub-genre.

Tim Hutton Public Morals

First up is Public Morals, an in-your-face, no-holds-barred series showing all the ugliness of a 1960s New York City, and a police division with corrupt a corrupt force led by show creator and star Edward Burns.  Public Morals is TNT’s latest effort to produce a show to compete with the sex and violence you’d find on HBO or Showtime.

You’ll find top-notch genre actors Hutton, Dennehy, McDonough, and Knepper on this series.

Tom Hardy Legend poster

Next up is a British movie, Legend, which tells the true story of twin brother mobsters Reggie and Ronald Kray, played by The Dark Knight Rises and Mad Max: Fury Road’s Tom Hardy.

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Green Arrow Stephen Amell SDCC 2015

DC Entertainment and the CW released a first look at the new costume for Oliver Queen’s superhero incarnation the Arrow at the DC panel at San Diego Comic-Con Saturday night.  This suit was crafted by Maya Mani, who also crafted supersuits for Arsenal (Colton Haynes), Black Canary (Katie Cassidy), Speedy (Willa Holland), and Ray Palmer’s Atom.  The original costumes for the series had been designed by Academy Award winning costumer Colleen Atwood.

The new look seems to pull more from the New 52 look at the Smallville supersuit more than any classic look for the character.  Those football pad shoulder pieces are going to take a bit to grow accustomed to.

Sunday the cast appeared again, this time with Amell in the new garb claiming the “Green” in the Green Arrow title, and mentioning the change from Starling City to the classic Star City.

New Arrow costume from Stephen Amell

The panel showed a video (below) recapping the series highlights from 2015 so far.  What it really does is emphasize that Ra’s Al Ghul has the worst name in comicdom and that no one at Warner Bros. must have any idea how it is intended to be pronounced (your guess is as good as ours, but just look at each cast member to see how many different ways it can be said).

Neal McDonough joins CW’s Arrow this season as villain Damien Darhk (sometimes DC Comics seems like it attended the George Lucas school of character naming, doesn’t it?).  McDonough crosses the divide from the Marvel universe, formerly playing the awesome Dum Dum Dugan in Captain America: The First Avenger, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and Agent Carter.  We’ve also been fans of his work in everything from Quantum Leap to Star Trek: First Contact, from The X-Files to Timeline, and Walking Tall to RED 2.

Oliver Queen Arrow new supersuit SDCC 2015 costume panel shot

Here’s the video montage from the panel at Comic-Con:

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Red 2 long banner

Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s interesting that the publicity folks for RED 2 have stressed in their latest movie trailer no Robots, Monsters, or Superheroes.  Although we’re not so sure RED 2 isn’t chock full of its own breed of superhero, it’s true you’ll find no monsters or robots here.  RED 2, previewed at borg.com here, is definitely not like any other film creating waves this summer.  But it is the most fun you’ll have at any movie this year.

You don’t need to ask, for example: Were too many people killed in the movie’s finale (as with Man of Steel)?  Or lower your normal standards a bit to allow yourself to just plain have fun watching a giant robot take on a giant monster from the ocean’s depths (as with Pacific Rim).  Or struggle with friends over whether or not Benedict Cumberbatch was cast appropriately as a sci-fi villain (as with Star Trek Into Darkness).  With RED 2, you don’t have to think about all those things that distract you from just having a good time.  Do the heroes kill a lot of people in RED 2?  You bet, and we like it that way.

Red 2 clip A

What RED 2 will make you do is think about where it stands in the line-up of the best of Bruce Willis’s movies.  When was the last time you saw such a good Bruce Willis film that made you work through that analysis?  The reality is that Bruce Willis’s performance as retired spy Frank Moses in RED 2 is up there with his first run as John McClane in the original Die Hard, and we haven’t seen him play a character this cool since Pulp Fiction.  Pull up your Netflix queue and take a second look at him in Striking Distance, Twelve Monkeys, and The Fifth Element and you might just add RED 2 to your list of Best of Bruce keepers.

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