Favorite Episodes of “MONK” Season Two (2003-2004)

Below is a list of my favorite episodes from Season Two of the USA Network series, “MONK”. Created by Andy Breckman, the series starred Tony Shalhoub:

FAVORITE EPISODES OF “MONK” SEASON TWO (2003-2004)

1. (2.02) “Mr. Monk Goes to Mexico” – The mysterious death of a San Francisco college student at a Mexican resort leads Adrian Monk and his assistant Sharona Fleming to travel across the border and help the police solve the case. Tony Plana, Jorge Cervera Jr., and David Norona guest starred.

2. (2.16) “Mr. Monk Goes to Jail” – In the season finale, a condemned convict is poisoned to death hours before he is due to be executed. Monk is brought in to solve the case and finds himself as the prison’s newest resident. Tim Curry, Kathy Baker and Danny Trejo guest starred.

3. (2.01) “Mr. Monk Goes Back to School” – A high school English teacher falls to her death from a clock tower at the former school of Monk’s late wife. When he is summoned to investigate, Monk dismisses the police’s suicide theory and declares that her death was murder. Andrew McCarthy, David Rasche and Rosalind Chao guest starred.

4. (2.14) “Mr. Monk and the Captain’s Wife” – A sniper causes a car accident that nearly kills Captain Leland Stottlemeyer’s wife, Karen Stottlemeyer. Monk races to solve the case and prevent Stottlemeyer from seeking revenge. Gleanne Headley, Daniel Goddard and Geoff Pierson guest starred.

5. (2.11) “Mr. Monk and the Three Pies” – Convinced that his neighbor was murdered by her husband, Monk’s agoraphobic brother Ambrose Monk asks for the detective’s help. But the husband only seems focused on winning pies at a local fair. John Tuturro and Holt McCallany guest starred.

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Media Reaction to Zack Snyder’s Cut of “JUSTICE LEAGUE”

The following article was written back in May 2020, following the announcement by Warner Brothers that director Zack Snyder will be allowed to release his own version of the 2017 movie, “JUSTICE LEAGUE”, thanks to a campaign by fans who disiked the studio and Joss Whedon’s um . . . edited version:

MEDIA REACTION TO ZACK SNYDER’S CUT OF “JUSTICE LEAGUE”

What exactly is going on? Recently, director-producer Zack Snyder had announced via Zoom that Warner Brothers Studios had finally agreed to release his version or “cut” of the 2017 DCEU film, “JUSTICE LEAGUE” on HBO Max next year. As expected, this news was followed with mixed reactions from comic book movie fans. Many were thrilled and excited by the news. Others were either angry at the news or dismissive. What I find . . . interesting was the media’s reaction. At least the media on the Internet.

Most of the Internet media outlets had reacted to the news in a straightforward manner. I cannot recall any media outlet reacting to the news with any satisfaction or glee. But I did come across a good number of articles on the Internet that conveyed a negative response to the news. For example:

*Jessica Mason wrote a dismissive article for THE MARY SUE BLOG, conveying the idea that moviegoers should not care about this news. Ms. Mason seemed to believe that the Snyder Cut will not elevate the movie’s quality . . . period and that comic book movie fans should spend their time anticipating productions like “DOOM PATROL” (because it also features the character Victor Stone aka Cyborg).

*USA TODAY had posted an article written by the Associated Press announcing the release of the Snyder Cut in a straightforward manner. However . . . the media outlet included a video clip of the “Imagine” montage that had been kick-started by Gal Gadot, who portrayed Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman in the film. As many know, the “Imagine” video was dismissed by many people. So, why did “USA Today” include that video with a story about the Snyder Cut release … instead of an image of the cast from the movie? Why did it do that?

*To my utmost surprise, I had come across three articles that expressed this belief that Warner Brothers’ decision to release the Synder Cut was a sign that Hollywood was setting a dangerous precedent by giving in to “toxic fandom”. In other words, Hollywood is finally allowing certain fans to dictate the content of pop culture films. Now, I have complained about this subject in the past. I have also noticed how some television networks have given in to the desire of some fans to save television series like CBS’s “JERICHO” and NBC’s “CHUCK”. But I also know the difference between fans dictating the content of films and television shows and fans wanting to see the original version of a certain film – namely “JUSTICE LEAGUE” – whose content has been dictated by others – whether it is Snyder, director Joss Whedon or Warner Brothers. Apparently, the following authors of these article failed to see the difference:

– Paul Squire of “DIGITAL TRENDS”

– Drew Taylor of “COLLIER”

– Joanna Robinson of “VANITY FAIR”

I get the feeling that many of these journalists/critics are threatened by the idea of Zack Snyder’s vision of “JUSTICE LEAGUE” seeing the light of day. And I find this attitude mystifying for a movie that is suppose to be terrible. Why did they go out of their way to express such hostility toward this news?

P.S. . . . “ZACK SNYDER’S JUSTICE LEAGUE” was finally released on the streaming channel, HBO Max in March 2021 and proved to be a big hit.

“JUSTICE LEAGUE” (2017) Review

 

“JUSTICE LEAGUE” (2017) Review

The D.C. Comics Extended Universe (DCEU) released its fifth film utilizing several characters that were either featured or hinted in its previous four films during the fall of 2017. Directed by Zack Snyder (well, most of it), “JUSTICE LEAGUE” proved to be an even more controversial entry than two of its previous films. Only for different reasons.

Set some time after the present-day events of “WONDER WOMAN”“JUSTICE LEAGUE” begins with the Gotham City costumed vigilante Batman aka Bruce Wayne attempting to arrest a thief. However, his efforts are interrupted by the arrival of an alien creature known as a parademon. Realizing that he had dreamed of a similar creature in “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE”, Batman realizes that Earth is about to face another alien threat. Before he can summon Wonder Woman aka Diana Prince, she learns of an even bigger threat from her mother, Queen Hippolyta of Themyscira. A former foe known as Steppenwolf has arrived on Earth to acquire the three Mother Boxes, sentient, miniaturized, portable supercomputers from his homeworld of Apokolips. One of the boxes had been guarded by the Amazons of Themyscira for thousands of years. The pair decides to find the other metahumans – Barry Allen aka the Flash, Victor Stone aka Cyborg (whose body was cured by a Mother Box) and Arthur Curry aka Aquaman – and form a team to fight against Steppenwolf. Bruce manages to easily recruit the Flash, but is unable to recruit Aquaman. And Diana encounters difficulty in recruiting Cyborg. But when Steppenwolf manages to acquire the second Mother Box in Aquaman’s world of Atlantis, the “King of the Seven Seas” decides to join the newly formed Justice League to defeat the alien from Apokolips. However, it is not long before the League realizes they need a sixth member to help them defeat Steppenwolf – namely the recently deceased Superman.

Ever since the release of “MAN OF STEEL” in 2013, critics and some moviegoers have been highly critical of the DCEU. With the exception of “WONDER WOMAN”, the franchise’s movies have either received mixed reviews or panned. In the case of “JUSTICE LEAGUE”, it has been panned . . . perhaps even more so than the other four films. Personally, I have been a major fan of the DCEU films before “JUSTICE LEAGUE”. Do I believe the movie deserved to panned? Honestly? No. But I do feel that “JUSTICE LEAGUE” is probably the first DCEU film toward which I felt some disappointment.

There was a good deal from “JUSTICE LEAGUE” that I enjoyed. The creation of the Justice League began when Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman formed a team to battle Lex Luthor’s creation, Doomsday, in “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE”. This creation continued with Bruce Wayne and Diana Prince’s recruitment of the Flash, Cyborg and Aquaman. And if I must be honest, I enjoyed how the movie’s screenplay took its time in fusing these characters into the League. I found this especially satisfying, since both Cyborg and Aquaman proved rather difficult to recruit. What finally drove them all together as a team proved to be the threat of Steppenwolf.

This leads me to something else I enjoyed about the film. Steppenwolf’s acquisition of two Mother Boxes provided some first-rate action sequences featuring the Amazons on Themyscira and the Atlantis inhabitants’ efforts to stop him. And they did not make it easy for him. I especially enjoyed the sequence featuring Steppenwolf’s theft of the Mother Box on Themyscira. There were other action sequences that enjoyed. One of them included the League’s first encounter with Steppenwolf inside an abandoned facility near the Gotham City Harbor. I also enjoyed the League’s second attempt to defeat Steppenwolf and his Parademon army at a small Russian village, where the Apokoliptian planned to fuse the three Mother Boxes and terraform the Earth’s surface. I also enjoyed an early action sequence that featured Wonder Woman’s confrontation with a group of terrorists in London. But for me, my favorite action sequence featured the League’s confrontation with a recently resurrected and amnesiac Superman. Although I found it rather scary, thanks to Henry Cavill’s chilling performance, there was a comedic moment that I found very funny.

As much as I enjoyed most of the film’s action sequences, I found a good deal of its comedic and dramatic moments even more satisfying. It seemed pretty obvious to me that the film’s two comedy relief characters were Barry Allen aka the Flash and Arthur Curry aka Aquaman. And I found both characters more than satisfactory, thanks to Ezra Miller and Jason Momoa’s performances. Miller’s Barry Allen was an extroverted and nervous personality that was at odds with his inability to easily befriend others. This was especially apparent in one scene that featured the initial meeting between Barry and Bruce Wayne at the former’s abode and his attempts to befriend Victor Stone aka Cyborg. But the one scene that truly made me appreciate Miller’s comedic talent occurred when the League clashed with a resurrected, yet amnesiac Superman and the Flash attempted to attack the Man of Steel from behind . . . and failed. Jason Momoa’s portrayal of Arthur Curry also provided a good deal of the movie’s comedic moments. Momoa’s portrayal of the blunt and cynical King of the Seven Seas practically had me in stitches. But I especially enjoyed that moment when Aquaman unexpectedly went into a comedic spiel about fighting Steppenwolf and his appreciation for Wonder Woman . . . unaware that he was sitting on her Lasso of Truth.

However, there were many dramatic moments that made me happily realize that “JUSTICE LEAGUE” was not all comedy and action. The movie’s opening credits featured a poignant montage that revealed the world’s grief over Superman’s death. One particular scene – a homeless man holding a “I TRIED” sign next to him – really resonated within me. I thought Martha Kent’s visit to Lois Lane in Metropolis and the two women’s shared grief over Clark/Superman’s demise was particularly poignant, thanks to Diane Lane and Amy Adams’ performances. I particularly enjoyed one scene that featured a tense conversation between Cyborg and his father, Dr. Silas Stone over the latter’s decision to use a Mother Box to save the former’s life. May I be frank? Both Ray Fisher, who portrayed the superhero and Joe Morton, who portrayed his father, really knocked it out of the ballpark in this scene. I was not that impressed by the CGI used for the Steppenwolf character. But I must admit that I enjoyed Ciarán Hinds’ voice performance for the villain. The actor projected a good deal of style and menace into the character.

I enjoyed Clark’s reunion with both Lois and Martha. Although I feel that it was a bit too brief for my tastes, I cannot deny that I found it emotionally satisfying. And I enjoyed the tense conversation between Aquaman and future love interest, Mera of Atlantis. The scene seemed to give audiences a preview of the screen dynamics between Momoa and Amber Heard, who portrayed Mera. But if I had to pick my favorite dramatic moment in “JUSTICE LEAGUE”, it would have to be the scene that featured Bruce Wayne and Diana Prince’s conversation regarding his continuing guilt over his past attempt to kill Superman and her lingering grief over the death of her former lover/colleague, Steve Trevor. Thanks to superb and subtle performances from Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot, the scene was a tense and angst-riddled moment that I truly enjoyed.

Zack Snyder had collaborated with cinematographer Larry Fong on four films – “300” (2007)“WATCHMEN” (2009)“SUCKER PUNCH” (2011) and especially, “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE” (2016). For “JUSTICE LEAGUE”, Synder ended up collaborating with Fabian Wagner, who had previously spent most of his career in television – especially HBO’s “GAME OF THRONES”. However, I am not that familiar with Wagner’s previous work. But I must admit that I was impressed by his work in “JUSTICE LEAGUE”. His work proved to be a bit brighter than Fong’s work in “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN”. This is not that surprising, considering that the movie’s narrative is slightly less angsty than the 2016 film. But I was especially impressed by his photography of the film’s protagonists, as shown below:

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One would be inclined to wonder why I had regarded “JUSTICE LEAGUE” as something of a disappointment, due to my positive comments on it. Well . . . I had problems with the film. Hell, I have expressed quibbles for about every comic book movie I have seen. My first problem with “JUSTICE LEAGUE” there were times when it seemed I was viewing a movie with two directors . . . with two different styles. Well of course the movie seemed to possess two different directors. As everyone knows, Zack Snyder had experienced a family tragedy while dealing with the film’s post-production. Unable to continue, he asked Joss Whedon, who had directed the two Avengers films for Marvel/Disney, to complete the post-production reshoots, using his notes. Well . . . Whedon did more than that. At the behest of the Warner Brothers executives, he chopped out a good deal of Snyder’s work, re-shot and re-wrote at least 30 percent of the movie in a similar style he had used for the Avengers films. In the end, there were times when “JUSTICE LEAGUE” seemed like a DCEU film trying to look like a Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movie. I found this very confusing – especially in the film’s third and final act.

One of the results of this hack job by Whedon and Warner Brothers was the decision to change the film’s composer. They tossed out Junkie XL (who had co-written the “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN” score with Hans Zimmer)’s score and hired Danny Elfman to replace it. Now . . . I have been a fan of some of Elfman’s work for years. But what he did for this film’s score? As far as I am concerned . . . nothing. Elfman fell back on the nostalgia factor by utilizing his old score from the two Batman films directed by Tim Burton. Worse, there was a moment following Superman’s resurrection – I do no know if this happened or not, but I could have sworn that right after the resurrection or when the Man of Steel confronted Steppenwolf for the first time – Elfman even used a few bars from John Williams’ score for the 1978 film, “SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE”. All I can say that it was a very cringe-worthy moment for me.

Speaking of Superman . . . what in the hell happened? Granted, I really enjoyed the sequences featuring his resurrection, his clash with the League’s other members and his reunions with Lois and Martha. But once Superman joined the League’s battle against Steppenwolf . . . I just do not know what happened. It seemed as if someone – I suspect it was Whedon – tried to transform him into Christopher Reeve’s version of the Man of Steel. Ugh! Look, Chris Reeve’s Superman was fine for the late 20th century. But we are nearing the end of the 2010s. Henry Cavill had managed to establish his own version of Superman. There was no need to force him to copy another actor’s style. One other fact bothered me. I am referring to the questionable CGI that tried to hide the mustache he was sporting, while filming “MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT”. Apparently, Paramount Studios refused to allow Cavill to shave the moustache for the “JUSTICE LEAGUE” re-shoots. Between the cringe-worthy grinning, the cheesy dialogue and that ridiculous race against the Flash in the first post-credit scene, I simply found myself feeling sorry for Henry Cavill. In fact, either Snyder or Whedon (I suspect the latter) tried to lighten up Affleck’s performance as Batman by forcing the latter to spew some pretty lame jokes. Poor man. In their attempt to transform the movie into an Avengers film, the Warner Brothers suits damn near sabotaged both the Man of Steel and the Dark Knight.

But for me, the real problem proved to be the film’s last act. It brought back bad memories of the last act of the 2015 movie, “THE AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON”. The entire sequence featuring the Justice League’s battle against Steppenwolf and the latter’s parademon army at some Russian village struck me as simply confusing. It was beyond confusing. Between the questionable editing, the unattractive lighting, and the rushed action, I simply found the entire sequence hard to swallow. I can only thank God that Russian village was not rising in the sky, while the Justice League battle Steppenwolf. That shit would have been even more difficult to swallow. The first post-credit scene featuring Superman and the Flash’s race to see who was the fastest did not help. Why is it so damn important in a D.C. Comics movie or television production to show a Kryptonian (whether it was Superman or Supergirl) in a race with the Flash? I disliked it in this movie and I disliked it in a Season One episode of the Arrowverse’s “SUPERGIRL”. Fortunately, the second post-credit scene nearly made up for the film’s last thirty minutes or so. I will say that it involved Lex Luthor and one of Batman’s former foes, Slade Wilson aka Deathstroke. It proved to be a great surprise.

So, there you have it. Do not get me wrong. “JUSTICE LEAGUE” provided some great action scenes and dramatic moments. It also featured some excellent performances, as well. However, it is quite obvious that the Warner Brothers executives and Joss Whedon made a serious mistake in ignoring Zack Snyder’s post-production instructions and trying to transform the movie into their own version of a Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) film. In a way, they did. “JUSTICE LEAGUE” strongly reminded me of Marvel’s 2015 movie, “THE AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON” – both the good and the bad.

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“JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK” (2016) Review

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“JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK” (2016) Review

Four years after the release of the 2012 hit, “JACK REACHER”, Tom Cruise starred in a second movie featuring the main character in “JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK”. The movie is an adaptation of Lee Childs’ 2013 novel, “Never Go Back”

Directed by Edward Zwick, who worked with Cruise in the 2003 movie “THE LAST SAMURAI”“JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK”begins with former Army officer-turned vigilante drifter setting up a small town law officer to be arrested for human trafficking. It turns out that this latest case was one of several in which he had been assisting an Army officer named Major Susan Turner. When he finally arrives in Washington D.C. to meet her, Reacher discovers from a Colonel Sam Morgan that Turner had been accused of espionage and arrested. Turner’s attorney, Colonel Bob Moorcroft, later reveals that Turner might be involved in the murder of two soldiers in Afghanistan. Reacher believes that Turner has been framed. He also learns from Moorcroft that an old acquaintance named Candice Dayton has filed a paternity suit against him, claiming that he is the father of her 15 year-old daughter Samantha.

When Moorcroft is murdered by an unknown assassin, Reacher is blamed, arrested and transported to the same prison where Turner is being detained. Assassins arrive to kill her, but Reacher rescues Turner and the pair escape and make their way to Morgan’s home upon realizing that he is a part of the conspiracy. Unfortunately, following their meeting with Morgan, the latter is murdered by the assassin. Worse, Reacher and Turner’s enemies become aware of Samantha and try to use her as a means to control the former. Reacher and Turner intervene before the adolescent girl could be snatched. With Samantha in tow, the pair set out to discover the details behind the conspiracy that has framed both of them; and evade an Army unit led by one Captain Anthony Espin, who was under Turner’s command.

After watching this movie in the theaters, I had overheard another theater patron claim that the 2012 movie was better. Apparently, many critics seemed to share the guy’s feelings since the movie had garnered mixed reviews. And yet . . . I personally found it hard to share their views. I would not say that “NEVER GO BACK” was better than “JACK REACHER”. But I do not believe it was inferior to the other film. However, I am not going to waste my time in examining why others believe it was the inferior of the two films. After all, what is the point?

I certainly had no problem with the film’s production values. “JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK” was set in Washington D.C. and New Orleans. As someone who has always enjoyed visiting both cities, I must say that Oliver Wood’s sharp and colorful photography did justice to both cities. I also impressed by Billy Weber’s film editing. I thought his work was especially impressive in the sequence that featured Reacher breaking Turner out of a military jail and the pair’s attempt to save Samantha from the mysterious assassin during a Mardi Gras parade on the streets of New Orleans.

But like the 2012 movie, “JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK” had a well-written plot that I found intriguing. What I found interesting about this story is that the actual crime(s) that kick-started the story had occurred before the movie’s first reel – namely the murder of two U.S. Army soldiers in Afghanistan, who had been investigating a military contractor on her unit’s behalf. Thanks to the script written by Zwick, Richard Wenk and Marshall Herskovitz; I came to the conclusion that the movie had been set up to resemble a cold case. While Reacher and Turner struggle to evade arrest by a pursuing Captain Espin or murder by the mysterious assassin . . . and take care of the young Samantha, they also investigate the two soldiers’ murders. The entire scenario seems to be one balancing act.

If I must be brutally honest, I do have one problem with the story. “NEVER GO BACK” started with Reacher helping Turner arrest a lawman for human trafficking. I never understood why an Army officer would be involved in such a case in the first place. It seemed like one for the F.B.I. More importantly, Reacher and Turner had yet to meet face-to-face. Unless a piece of dialogue had evaded me, the movie never explained how the pair became acquainted with each other in the first place. I understand that they had first became aware of each other in one of Lee Childs’ previous “Jack Reacher” novels. But I wish the movie’s screenplay had been more clear about the matter in this film.

The performances featured in “JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK” struck me as pretty first-rate. Tom Cruise did his usual excellent job in portraying the ex-military vigilante. He was ably supported by Cobie Smulders’ excellent performance as Army officer Major Susan Turner, who seemed outraged by the criminal charges against her. Both Cruise and Smulders had one great scene in which their characters argued over who would remain in their New Orleans hotel to guard Samantha, while the other conduct their investigation. I found their performances rather entertaining to watch.

The movie also featured solid performances from Aldis Hodge, who portrayed the pursuing young and intense Army officer Captain Anthony Espin; Patrick Heusinger as the ruthless and barely stoppable assassin; Holt McCallany as the corrupt Colonel Sam Morgan; Austin Hebert as former soldier-turned-homeless drug addict Daniel Prudhomme; and Robert Catrini as Turner’s attorney, Colonel Bob Moorcroft. There were two performances that really caught my attention, but for different reasons. Robert Knepper, of whom I am usually a fan, seemed a bit over-the-top to me as a military contractor named former General James Harkness. On the other hand, I was very impressed by Danika Yarosh’s performance as the embittered adolescent Samantha Dayton, who may or may not be Reacher’s biological daughter.

Well . . . I cannot dictate the opinions of movie critics or any filmgoers. I can express my own view of “JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK”. And although I feel that the movie’s beginning was a little shaky about Jack Reacher’s acquaintance with Susan Turner, I cannot deny that overall, I was very impressed with the film. And I believe that Edward Zwick’s top-notch direction, along with a pretty solid script and a talented cast led by Tom Cruise, made this movie just as enjoyable as its 2012 predecessor.