REVIEW: THE PACT

CAST

Caity Lotz (Legends of Tomorrow)
Casper Van Dien (Starship troopers)
Kathleen Rose Perkins (Gone Girl)
Haley Hudson (Freaky Friday)
Sam Ball (13 Going on 30)
Mark Steger (I Am Legend)
Agnes Bruckner (The Woods)

Nicole Barlow is finalizing preparations for her mother’s funeral at her childhood home in San Pedro, California. Her sister, Annie does not want to attend, reminding Nicole of the way their mother used to treat them. Nicole tries to contact her cousin, Liz and her daughter Eva via video call. After losing the connection, Nicole sees an open door, leading into a dark room and walks inside. Annie arrives, having been informed that Nicole is missing, and finds Nicole’s phone along with a photo. That night, she awakens from a bad dream and finds a photo of two pregnant women—her mother and a woman in a floral dress. The next day, Annie attends her mother’s funeral, and it is shown that Annie has one blue eye and one green eye, but her mother didn’t.After the funeral, Annie meets Liz and Eva, and the three return to Annie’s mother’s house. Later, Annie dreams of a shirtless man crying, and, while she sleeps, her phone shows a map, pinpointing an address. When Annie awakens and sees a figure in the hall, she enters Liz’s room and finds her bed empty. An unseen force tries to attack Annie, but she is able to escape the house with Eva. The police don’t believe Annie’s story, with one officer, Bill Creek, implying her guilt in the disappearances. In a motel, Annie notices the address on her phone, finding a blurred picture of a figure in a floral dress. That night, she dreams of the crying man again, as well as a decapitated woman in a floral dress; still in the dream, Annie tries to flee from the room but the door slams shut.In the morning she wakes up, extremely agitated. Annie, accompanied by Bill Creek, return to her mother’s house where they discover a hidden room, one which Annie has absolutely no recollection of. When nobody else will take her seriously, she recruits her psychic friend, Stevie. Stevie, Annie, and Stevie’s protective brother Giles go to the house. In the hidden room, Stevie has a hysterical fit, repeating the name “Judas”. They then see the corpse of a woman in a floral dress floating above them, and Annie realizes that it is not her mother haunting the house. Outside, Giles blasts Annie for putting his sister Stevie in harm’s way. They have a brief altercation, and Giles angrily drives away with Stevie, leaving Annie all by herself. Researching Judas online, Annie finds a serial killer, dubbed the “Judas Killer”, who decapitated a woman in a floral dress, Jennifer Glick. Annie also discovers that her mother has a brother, and that both had connections with Glick.Creek investigates the house after finding a mysterious photo pointing to a cupboard, where there is a secret door leading into the hidden room. Creek is then murdered by an unknown assailant. Desperate for answers, Annie uses a makeshift Ouija board to contact Glick, who confirms her suspicions that Glick was murdered by her uncle, the Judas killer. Annie sees Judas come up from a secret hatch, and hides, discovering the bodies of Creek and Nicole. While Judas cries, Annie takes Creek’s gun but is overpowered by Judas and knocked unconscious. She awakens to find herself tied up and imprisoned in the closet, but manages to escape, stabbing Judas with a coat hanger. Before Judas can kill her, Glick’s spirit pulls her away, to Creek’s gun. Annie shoots Judas, killing him, noting that he has heterochromia as well. In the aftermath, Annie is awarded custody of Nicole’s daughter, Eva. With Liz and Nicole dead, the house has been sold and is under renovations. In the final scene, which may or may not be a part of Annie’s dream, Judas’ eye opens, and he looks around.Most horror movies either insult the audience a little by over-explaining, or they leave many elements simply unexplained (which can be a plus too.) This one actually gives you all the clues you need to put it together and get the answers. Really, it’s all there – if you are observant, you don’t need the characters to spell it out for you. I found the characters and dialog very believable (for a horror film, of course.). A decent Horror and a must see for fans of Caity Lotz.

 

 

 

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REVIEW: MURDER BY NUMBERS

CAST

Sandra Bullock (The Heat)
Ben Chaplin (Cinderella)
Ryan Gosling (Drive)
Michael Pitt (The Dreamers)
Agnes Bruckner (Blood and Chocolate)
R. D. Call (Waterworld)
Chris Penn (After The Sunset)
Tom Verica (Red Dragon)

Richard Haywood (Gosling) and Justin Pendleton (Pitt) are high school classmates; Richard is wealthy and popular, while Justin is a brilliant introvert. After months of planning a “perfect crime”, they abduct a woman at random, strangle her, and plant evidence implicating Richard’s marijuana dealer, janitor Ray Feathers (Chris Penn). Detective Cassie Mayweather (Bullock) and her new partner, Sam Kennedy (Chaplin) investigate. Cassie sleeps with Sam early on—as she has with previous partners—but won’t let him see her chest, and curtly sends him home afterward.

Footprints at the crime scene lead to Richard, and vomit nearby implicates Justin. Both have alibis, and deny knowing each other, but Cassie is convinced that Richard is the murderer and Justin is involved. Sam criticizes her refusal to consider other suspects, as most of the physical evidence points away from the two boys. Cassie’s boss, Captain Rod Cody (R. D. Call), and her cuckolded ex, Assistant D.A. Al Swanson (Tom Verica), fearing Richard’s influential parents, take Cassie off the case. Sam, following the (planted) evidence, tracks down Ray. When Ray is found dead, apparently a suicide (actually killed by Richard), the woman’s murder appears solved; but Sam decides that Cassie may be right, and continues the investigation.

Justin, who has a crush on classmate Lisa Mills (Agnes Bruckner), works up the courage to ask her out. A jealous Richard seduces Lisa, then gives Justin a video clip of the two having sex. Justin is enraged, but regains control, knowing Sam is still watching them. Cassie begins receiving calls from her ex-husband, Carl Hudson, who went to prison for stabbing her in the chest 17 times. His parole hearing is coming up, and he wants her to speak on his behalf. Cassie confides to Sam that although she became a cop to prove to herself that she wasn’t a victim, she is terrified at the prospect of seeing Carl again. She also confesses that Richard reminds her of Carl—which is why she is convinced of Richard’s guilt, and obsessed with proving it.

Sam and Cassie bring Richard and Justin in for separate interrogations, trying to induce each to implicate the other, but neither will talk, and both are released. At the victim’s home, Cassie determines how the boys carried out the abduction and altered the physical evidence. Justin and Richard, knowing that Cassie is closing in on them, flee to an abandoned house, where Richard produces two pistols and proposes a mutual suicide. On the count of three, Justin shoots (into the air), but Richard does not. Justin demands to see Richard’s gun—which is unloaded. As a furious Justin is about to shoot Richard, Cassie arrives. Richard grabs Justin’s gun and shoots at Cassie, wounding Justin instead. Cassie gives chase and tackles Richard on a rickety balcony jutting out over a cliff. As Richard strangles Cassie, the balcony gives way and Richard falls to his death. Justin grabs Cassie, who is hanging on the edge of the balcony, and pulls her back into the house.

Cassie assures Justin that she will intercede on his behalf, since he was an innocent dupe, manipulated by the ruthless Richard. Then she notices a mark on her neck caused by Richard’s large ring, and realizes that the dead woman’s neck did not have a similar mark. Confronted with the evidence, Justin confesses that he strangled the victim to prove his “courage” to Richard. In the closing scene, Cassie faces her fears and enters the courtroom to testify at Carl’s parole hearing. The bailiff calls her to the stand by her legal name: Jessica Marie Hudson.

Schroeder does not build his film visually. It has a conventional TV movie feel to it and, despite being well played, Pitt’s nerdy all-knowing geek is a bit too formulaic. But the film holds you nevertheless. Schroeder displays a storyteller’s gift for how things should develop, And as the cock-of-the-walk arrogant yet vulnerable rich kid killer Ryan Gosling is the real McCoy. He can convey charm and menace in equal measure and often in the same moment and confirms his status as one of the best actors in movies.

REVIEW: VACANCY 2: THE FIRST CUT

CAST

Agnes Bruckner (The Woods)
David Moscow (Just Married)
Scott Anderson (Titanic)
Arjay Smith (Perception)
Nelson Lee (Blade: The Series0
Brian Klugman (Bones)
Gwendoline Yeo (American Crime)

Set three years before the first film, the action takes place in and around the Meadow View Inn, a small roadside motel in rural North Carolina. It opens with newlyweds driving and the bride wants to have sex in the car, which makes the groom stop. They are then stopped by a man, whose property they are on. The manager, Gordon (David Moscow), oversees an operation of using cameras within the motel to videotape the newlyweds having oral sex. Later, a serial killer (Scott G. Anderson), who checks into the motel as Smith brutally murders a woman he brought with him in one of the motel rooms. The horrified staff see the whole crime on videotape and then subdue the man. They, however, do not know what to do with him as they will endanger their operation if they call the police. Smith manages to convince Gordon and his staff to hire him to torture and murder the motel guests on videotape and then sell them as snuff films.

The trucker confirms that this is indeed a functional market and Gordon agrees under the conditions that he is the leader of the operation. Smith mockingly agrees. A couple of days later, a young couple, Jessica (Agnes Bruckner), Caleb (Trevor Wright), and their friend Tanner (Arjay Smith) check into the Meadow View Inn for a night’s rest, unaware of the inn’s sick-minded employees and their nefarious intentions. As the killers begin to terrorize the hotel guests, it quickly becomes apparent that Smith is a loose-cannon, with no intention of following Gordon’s lead. He fashions a crude mask out of wire and proceeds to murder two of the hotel’s three guests. They capture and stab Caleb in the stomach until he dies, while Jessica and Tanner hide in the woods and then to a nearby house. It is revealed that the man who stopped the newlyweds lives in the house with his wife. It is revealed his name is Otis. They let Jessica and Tanner in. They tell the couple about the killers, but Otis does not believe them. Smith and the others come in, telling the man that Jessica and Tanner stole from them, which Otis believes. But his wife does not, as she takes the phone and is about to call the police. Quickly, Smith shoots Otis then his wife and runs after Jessica and Tanner.

They catch both and torture Tanner first. Smith calls the others off, since he wants to kill Jessica himself. The others are watching on tape what Smith is going to do. But one of them does not want to kill anymore and Gordon says to let it play out then they will call the cops and blame the whole thing on Smith. Smith leaves the room to check on Gordon and the others. Jessica found a way to untie herself. Smith comes back and is about to kill Jessica. Jessica manages to stab him in the jaw, but Smith survives. Jessica escapes and Gordon and the others run to see what happened to Smith. Jessica hides and finds dead bodies. She then finds Caleb dead and Tanner, dying while choking on his blood. Meanwhile, Smith (who took care of the wound) and the others desperately search for Jessica. One of the staff go to the place where Jessica hid, but she hides under Caleb’s body and pushes it upward, killing the employee (since it had low ceiling with nails sticking out of it). Jessica takes his gun and runs to the truck and rummages through the glove box, then she goes underwater in the lake. Gordon goes to the lake and searches for her.

He finds a sweater sticking out of the water, thinking it is her. Jessica, underwater, pulls out the gun out of the water. Gordon turns around to see it as Jessica pulls the trigger, killing him. Smith hears the gunshot and runs to the lake. Jessica gets out quickly and hides in Smith’s trailer. He finds her and tries to stab her, but she burns him and runs. The next day, the cops arrive and Jessica tells the story. But they are skeptical of her story because the cameras and bodies have disappeared. At another hotel (it is disputed as to whether or not this is the Pinewood Hotel seen in the first film), a badly scarred Smith informs the trucker that he will have the motel up and running in a few weeks just as soon as the cameras are set. Smith gives the trucker the very first snuff film that features one of the guests he murdered at the Meadow View Inn. He tells the trucker that he will make more copies as soon as he can.Overall this is one of the better horror thrillers I’ve seen recently and is well worth checking out even if you’re not a fan of the first film. I was very surprised at how good this film was.

REVIEW: BLOOD & CHOCOLATE

CAST

Agnes Bruckner (The Woods)
Hugh Dancy (Hannibal)
Oliver Martinez (S.W.A.T.)
Katja Riemann (Bandits)
Bryan Dick (Master and Commander)

Vivian (Agnes Bruckner) is a nineteen-year-old werewolf born in Bucharest, Romania to American parents who then moved back to America. When Vivian was nine years old, her parents and two siblings were killed by two hunters who then proceeded to burn down their house. She then moved back to Bucharest to live with her aunt Astrid (Katja Riemann), who was the mate of the pack’s leader, Gabriel (Olivier Martinez) at that time. To Astrid’s distress, Gabriel left her after seven years in accordance with pack law to choose a new mate. The culmination of another seven years is only a few months away and Gabriel wants the reluctant Vivian as his.This is not, however, what she wants. She begins a romance with a graphic novelist Aiden (Hugh Dancy) who is researching for his latest book. Though he is human, he knows much about her kind, the Loups-Garoux (werewolves). Their romance is closely watched by her cousin Rafe (Bryan Dick) and his friends Ulf (Chris Geere), Gregor (Tom Harper), Finn (John Kerr), and Willem (Jack Wilson), together known as The Five. Believing that she is telling him all their secrets- as seen by a drawing he did of her and wolves because he knew her as “The Wolf Girl”- and may grow to be a danger to their pack, Rafe tells Gabriel of them. Gabriel then tells Rafe that Aiden must leave or he must be dealt with.Rafe lures Aiden to an abandoned church with the ruse that Vivian wanting to reconnect and attempts to scare him away. When this doesn’t work, Rafe attacks and underestimates Aiden who defends himself and forces him back into a table where he cuts himself. Aiden, who did not know prior what Vivian and her friends were, sees the golden glow of the Loups-Garoux and realizes what he’s been dating. The two fight, with Aiden attacking Rafe with a silver pendant and Rafe turning to a wolf, until Aiden eventually gains the upper hand and sends both over the rail, killing Rafe.Afterwards, Aiden confronts Vivian about what she is, tempting her with his blood. She does not give in but is hurt that Aiden would think she was such a monster. Not long after, Aiden is captured by the pack to answer for killing Rafe, Gabriel’s son. He is made to run through the forest while being chased by the pack. If the pack catches him, he dies. If he makes it to the river and crosses it, he lives. Vivian is scared for him and changes into her wolf form, a white wolf, to save him from the rest of the pack. Aiden makes it to the river by confusing the pack, using his blood to spread his scent and make it harder for the pack to track him. Gabriel, however, is angry that Aiden made it to the river and attempts to follow him anyway, to kill him. Vivian helps to protect Aiden by throwing Gabriel off. Aiden, not realizing that the white wolf is Vivian, strikes her with a silver knife causing her to slowly die unless she gets an antidote.After hiding from the pack, Aiden and Vivian find the pharmacist who has the antidote for the silver poisoning and steals it from him, but not before he calls the rest of the pack. After being chased, Vivian tells Aiden to save himself and is captured by the pack. She is held in a cage and taunted by the rest of the five while Gabriel attempts to curve her to his way of thinking. Aiden comes to Vivian’s rescue and in the end Vivian has to kill Gabriel.Aiden and Vivian go towards the age of hope. Driving past other Loups-Garous, the wolves are shown to bare their necks in respect to Vivian and Aiden, showing Vivian to possibly be the new leader of the pack.Not necessarily the most original plot or delivery but the locations in the film are stunning, the transformation into wolves (and use of real wolves) is simple and effective and the soundtrack wraps it all up together, creating a beautiful film in my opinion. If you like a love story mixed with the supernatural set in a gorgeous location then I would definitely recommend this film.

31 DAYS OF HORROR REVIEW: THE WOODS

CAST

Agnes Bruckner (Blood and Chocolate)
Emma Campbell (The Aviator)
Bruce Campbell (Ash vs Evil Dead)
Patricia Clarkson (Shutter Island)
Lauren Birkell (Cast Away)
Rachel Nichols (Alias)
Gordon Currie (Puppet Master 4)

In 1965, after burning down a tree in her yard, rebel teenager Heather Fasulo (Agnes Bruckner) is sent to the boarding school Falburn Academy in the middle of the woods by her estranged mother Alice Fasulo (Emma Campbell) and negligent father Joe Fasulo (Bruce Campbell). The headmistress, Ms. Traverse (Patricia Clarkson), accepts Heather in spite of her father’s bad financial condition. The displaced Heather becomes close friends with Marcy Turner (Lauren Birkell), while they are maltreated by their abusive classmate Samantha Wise (Rachel Nichols). During the night, Heather has a nightmare of a student named Ann, covered in blood, and hears voices that seem to be coming from the woods. The next day, Marcy tells Heather that Ann was taken to a mental institution after attempting to commit suicide, and that she’d been covered in blood.
With the help of Marcy, Heather eventually learns to adjust to her new school, even having fun at times and making more friends. Ms. Traverse subjects Heather to special tests to see if she is “gifted,” telling her that it is all part of her scholarship to the academy. The girls tell Heather a spooky story about the history of Falburn, which includes three young redheaded sisters who arrived at the school and turned out to be witches, killing the headmistress before leaving to the woods. Meanwhile, Samantha continues to torment Heather, who comes to despise her and fights back. Ann returns from the mental institution, and Heather finds her one day, rocking in her bed. Ann reveals that she is afraid she will be taken by the witches. She says she is cold, so Heather climbs on a trunk to try and close the open window over Ann’s bed. A low fog rushes into the room and knocks Heather down, twisting her ankle, and she is taken to the infirmary. The next day, Heather finds Ann’s bed empty, her place filled with dead leaves. She witnesses the headmistress lying to the police about Ann’s disappearance, remarking that she is being taken care of.
This leads her to become suspicious and she tries to talk to Marcy about it. But Marcy acts strangely, and is shadowed by one of the teachers. Soon after, Heather finds Marcy’s bed empty and covered in leaves. Later, she is confronted in the woods by Samantha, who reveals that she has actually been trying to protect Heather with her antics. She tells Heather that the school is led by a coven of witches who want to take all of the girls away. Samantha explains that she has called Heather’s father to help her escape and that the milk is poisoned. The girls are both caught by a school mistress, who promptly takes Samantha away. Samantha is later found hanging from a long noose in the cafeteria. When a police officer comes to investigate, Heather tells him of the missing students. The officer confronts the headmistress, but she claims that the girls ran away. Another mistress “leads” the officer into the woods to find the girls, where he is killed by the living vines of a tree.
Heather’s parents show up to take her home, though the headmistress tries to persuade them otherwise. On the way home, their car is mysteriously flipped and Heather is knocked unconscious. Alice is dragged out of the car by a living vine and kicks Joe in the head, knocking him out. Heather and Joe wake up in a nearby hospital. Before they can reach each other, Ms. Traverse has Heather dragged away, then slits her own hand and forces her black blood down Joe’s throat, which puts him into a catatonic state. Heather returns to the school in despair. She drinks the milk that evening, but later vomits it back up, finding tree bark in it. Back at the hospital, Joe wakes up and vomits up Ms. Traverse’s black blood, which also has tree bark in it. He quickly escapes and goes to find Heather. That night, Heather begins to hear voices again, and when she attempts to leave, a living vine captures her.
When she awakens, she is wrapped in vines in a large foggy room, next to Ann and Marcy, who are also held captive. All of the teachers appear and reveal themselves to be witches. Ms. Traverse is their leader, and she explains that their spirits have been trapped in the woods all these years, and they need to inhabit the bodies of young women to escape their imprisonment. Heather appears to be the centerpiece of her plan because she has the strongest powers among the gifted students. Heather is coerced into completing the ritual, and the vines begin to mummify all of the girls in the school. Before it can complete itself, Joe breaks into the room with an ax and begins to kill the witches. Heather breaks free from the vines and grabs the ax, proceeding to chop all of the witches into pieces. Heather and Joe then leave with all of the girls, walking down the road into the daylight as the school burns in the distance behind them.
The end of the movie states that Falburn Academy burned to the ground in 1965, while the surrounding woods were strangely left untouched.
Sony have released some interesting films straight to dvd in 2006, but this film is by far and away the best, great acting, location, atmosphere, sound design and Bruce Campbell with his finest performance since Bubba ho-tep. Though it seems to have been influenced by films like suspiria and evil dead it is in no way imitative of either and I am willing to stake a large wad of cash that this becomes a true cult classic, though it deserves to be more popular than that!

REVIEW: ALIAS – SEASON 1-5

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MAIN CAST

Jennifer Garner (Elektra)
Ron Rifkin (Gotham)
Michael Vartan (Bates Motel)
Bradley Cooper (Joy)
Merrin Dungey (Edtv)
Carl Lumbly (The Alphabet Killer)
Kevin Weisman (Clerks 2)
Victor Garber (Legends of Tomorrow)
Greg Grunberg (Heroes)
David Anders (Izombie)
Lena Olin (Mystery Men)
Melissa George (Triangle)
Mia Maestro (Poseidon)
Rachel Nicols (G.I. Joe)
Balthazar Getty (Young Guns 2)
Elodie Bouchez (Reality)
Amy Acker (Angel)
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RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Edward Atterton (Firefly)
Angus Scrimm (Phantasm)
Ric Young (The Transporter)
Evan Parke (King Kong)
Ravil Isyanov (The Jackal)
Sarah Shahi (Old School)
John Aylward (Armageddon)
Gina Torres (Serenity)
Keone Young (Men In Black 3)
Miguel Sandoval (Medium)
Faran Tahir (Iron Man)
Arabella Holzbog (Across The Universe)
Tom Everett (Air Force One)
Lori Heuring (Mulholland Drive)
Yvonne Farrow (The Hard Truth)
Tristin Mays (The Vampire Diaries)
John Hannah (Spartacus)
Maurice Godin (Boat Trip)
James Hong (Blade Runner)
Derek Mears (Friday The 13th)
Tobin Bell (Saw)
Aharon Ipale (The Mummy)
James Handy (Jumanji)
Quentin Tarantino (The Hateful Eight)
Joey Slotnick (Nip/Tuck)
Agnes Bruckner (Blood and Chocolate)
Patricia Wettig (City Slickers)
Jennifer Tung (Masked Rider)
James Lew (Traffic)
Amy Irving (Carrie)
Michelle Arthur (The Number 23)
Roger Moore (Octopussy)
Lindsay Crouse (Buffy)
Derrick O’Connor (End of Days)
Terry O’Quinn (Lost)
Peter Berg (Collateral)
Tony Amendola (Stargate SG.1)
Marisol Nichols (Riverdale)
Ira Heiden (A Nightmare On Elm Street 3)
Derek de Lint (Deep Impact)
James Lesure (Las Vegas)
Marshall Manesh (How I Met Your Mother)
Faye Dunaway (Supergirl)
Courtney Gains (Children of The Corns)
Rutger Hauer (Blade Runner)
Olivia d’Abo (Conan The Destroyer)
Ethan Hawke (The Purge)
Christian Slater (True Romance)
Lindsey Ginter (S.W.A.T.)
Tracy Middendorf (Scream: The Series)
Ahmed Best (Star wars – Episode I)
Bonita Friedericy (Chuck)
Richard Lewis (Drunks)
Stacey Scowley (The Brotherhood 2)
Danny Trejo (Machete)
Robert Joy (The Hills Have Eyes)
Jonathan Banks (The Lizzie Borden Chronicles)
Amanda Foreman (Super 8)
Kurt Fuller (Ghostbusters 2)
Brad Greenquist (Pet Sematary)
Ilia Volok (Power Rangers Wild Force)
Mark Bramhall (Vanilla Sky)
Justin Theroux (American Psycho)
Clifton Collins Jr. (Pacific Rim)
Djimon Hounsou (Stargate)
Alec Mapa (Ugly Betty)
George Cheung (Rush Hour)
Erick Avari (The Mummy)
Pruitt Taylor Vince (Heroes Reborn)
Richard Roundtree (Shaft)
Erica Leerhsen (Wrong Turn 2)
David Cronenberg (Resurrection)
Isabella Rossellini (Death Becomes Her)
Arnold Vosloo (G.I.Joe)
Francois Chau (lost)
James Kyson (Heroes)
Vivica A. Fox (Idle Hands)
Stana Katic (Castle)
Griffin Dunne (After Hours)
Ricky Gervais (The Invention of Lying)
Raymond J. Barry (Training Day)
Peggy Lipton (The Mod Squad)
David Carradine (Kill Bill)
Angela Bassett (Green Lantern)
Rob Benedict (Birds of Prey)
Rick Yune (The Fast and The Furious)
Kelly Macdonald (Brave)
Jim Pirri (3rd Rock From The Sun)
Julie Ann Emery (Fargo)
Sebastian Roche (Odyssey 5)
Jason Segel (How I Met Your Mother)
Sonia Braga (Angel Eyes)
Kevin Alejandro (Arrow)
Robin Sachs (Buffy)
Michelle Forbes (Powers)
Joel Grey (Cabaret)
Michael McKean (Smallville)
Jeff Yagher (V)
Andrew Divoff (Wishmaster)
Tyrees Allen (Robocop)
Larry Cedar (Deadwood)
Kevin Cooney (Roswell)
Patrick Bauchau (Secretary)
Angus Macfadyen (Chuck)
Michael Masse (Flashforward)

Alias is the creation of “Felicity” creator J.J Abrams and stars Jennifer Garner (“Dude, Where’s My Car”). The choice of Garner as Sydney Bristow is one of those things where most will likely not imagine anyone else in the role. Able to portray a natural sweetness and likability, Garner turns Sydney into a highly engaging character with complex and conflicting emotions, as well as one who is an expert in martial arts.

At the opening of the show, Sydney works for a top-secret organization called SD-6, who is searching for a mysterious device by a scientist named Rambaldi. It’s not long before Sydney realizes that SD-6 isn’t the branch of the CIA that it says it is, leading Sydney to work as a double agent for the real CIA to investigate SD-6. It’s not long before Sydney finds herself in the midst of double-and-triple crosses, not to mention surprises, as she finds out her father (a terrific Victor Garber) is an agent, as well.

The show does take a bit from previous efforts such as “Mission: Impossible” and “La Femme Nikita” (the latter was also turned into a well-liked TV show), while also running on the techno-pulse of a “Run Lola Run”. Still, the show manages to add its own twists and turns on a familiar genre. The show’s production design, cinematography and costumes are all first-rate, while the occasional jump to a foreign location or new gadget intro make the show fun and compelling. As with “Felicity”, Abrams and the show’s music supervisors make interesting choices that fit with the show rather than showcase certain artists. Quentin Tarantino makes a great guest appearance in “The Box”; while he might not win an Oscar for acting, Tarantino is never less than a fun, unpredictable presence in any acting appearance, and this is no different.

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Sydney Bristow (Jennifer Garner) is back as the double agent who works for the CIA and the evil organization known as SD-6. Sloane (Ron Rifkin) is the leader of SD-6, and Agent Vaughn (Michael Vartan) is Sydney’s handler. He’s also her would-be lover. Add to the mix another double agent who happens to be Sydney’s father (Victor Garber), and you have a show that seems like it would be too weird to work. But it does.

What surprises me most about this series is the fact that the action, and the reason for the action, is often the least important aspect of any particular episode. Sure, it gets all the glory, but the whole idea of chasing Rambaldi artifacts is nothing more than Hitchcock’s McGuffin. These chases are a means to get the characters in motion. What matters, however, is how the characters react and grow.

Season two continues the trend of letting the secondary characters in on the big picture. They’re not around just to give Sydney someone to talk with when she’s not at work. Instead, they have a life of their own; a life that is vitally important to the show, with intrigues that really drive the show’s emotion. In season two, Will (Bradley Cooper) gets a bigger roll, and it’s plausible and exciting. Francie (Merrin Dungey) even gets in on the act. These “smaller characters,” and many others, are used and developed throughout the show, an idea that other television shows can learn from.

Season two also features more humor, and this can only mean one thing. Yep, more Marshall. Lots more. This character, played perfectly by Kevin Weisman, adds the much-needed comic relief to the show, and at times, he’s outright hilarious. Add some subtle humor provided by Will, Vaughn, Weiss (Greg Grunberg), and even Jack, and you have some great stuff.

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But that doesn’t mean this season turns its back on the bread and butter of the series. If anything, the action and excitement have multiplied. Sydney goes on 33 missions, many with counter-missions for the CIA. That’s an awful lot of action and suspense for 22 one-hour episodes. Lena Olin joins the cast as Sydneys Mother who turns her self into the CIA, and it becomes a question of can she be trusted.

In the episode Phase One the entire Alias world is  turned upside down, beginning with the mysterious disappearance of Sloane that brings Anthony Geiger, the new head of SD-6 into Jack and Sydney’s life. As the Bristows struggle to stay one step ahead of having their secret blown wide open by Geiger, Will and Francie make a startling discovery of their own as she prepares to open her new restaurant. After an airborne mission to recover something called a Server 47 dive, Sydney uncovers a crucial weakness, one that could bring down the entire Alliance. But to put her plan into action, she must tell Dixon the truth about everything when Jack is captured, and Dixon has to make the decision to reveal the security code… enabling the CIA to launch a world-wide offensive against all SD cells to bring down. This allows Sydney to no longer be a double agent and just work for the CIA to take down Sloane.

The third season of Alias continues to bring an interesting mix of high-paced and intense action, drama, mystery, and suspense. This season picks up right at the end of the second season. For that reason, if you’ve missed the earlier seasons in this series, you should most definitely check them out before viewing the third season.


In the third season, the show focuses upon a major mystery, covering the details about Sydney Bristow’s past. At the end of the second season, she awakens without memory of the last two years. This season uncovers the truth of those missing two years and the truth is far from what Bristow expected. There are also some stories that touch upon the previous seasons. But it’s not specifically these stories that make the season entertaining, but rather the characters.

The cast of the previous season is the same, with the addition of Lauren Reed (Melissa George). But since this season is set two years after the previous season, the characters return with slightly different roles. Nothing is the way it was before. I enjoyed this change, because it gave this season a slightly different pace from the previous seasons. There’s also a lot of focus on these characters, which give new insights, making old enemies friends, and friends enemies. In a few cases, old enemies who became friends once again become enemies, which shouldn’t be too much of an eye-opener. This is done in a manner that makes it almost difficult to like or trust most of the cast. For this reason, you’re repeatedly left in suspense, wondering if this character will backstab our hero or someone close to her.

Some of the stories covered a sordid and twisted love affair. There’s also the introduction of the National Security Council’s (NSC) involvement with daily interactions of the CIA. This adds an interesting development, simply because the CIA and NSC do not always “play” well together. It’s your basic struggle for power. There’s also the development of older characters with new faces. The big bad guy of the previous two seasons, Arvin Sloane (Ron Rifkin) isn’t such a bad guy anymore. The development of his character adds a new layer of mistrust. With the earlier seasons seeing the major terrorist organization in the can, some new faceless bad guys have surfaced. It’s no surprise that the weasel of the earlier seasons, Julian Sark (David Anders) makes his bed with them. This pretty much gives the season a purpose to continue. Someone has to stop them and it might as well be Sydney and her friends at the CIA.

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The third season of Alias brings another strong season, filled with action, drama, and suspense for the fans. It’s pretty much extension of the previous seasons, with a few subtle changes to the overall format. The character roles are slightly different and there are new faces, new bad guys, new missions, and new gadgets. I found that it was solid with plenty of entertainment.

In season four we see the cast Alias come back together as one happy family. In the earlier seasons the cast worked together in an odd mish of double agents between SD6 and CIA. Now we find them all working together on the same team for a black ops CIA organization called APO, which stands for Authorized Personnel Only. It is an odd arrangement to see Sidney, Jack, Vaughn, Weiss, Marshall, Dixon, and a few others working along side each other and under the command of none other than Sloane.

The first two episodes “Authorized Personnel Only” parts 1 and 2 has the cast being put back together with Sloane acting as director, Jack the second in command, Marshall in charge of tech, and Sydney in the field with Dixon. Vaughn and Weiss also return to take a more active role. No longer are they the voice behind the microphone as we have seen them in the past. Instead we find them along side Sydney and Dixon more often than not. There is also an episode when Marshall gets put in the field and the combination of his comical geeky personality and the high pace seriousness of the situation make it pretty entertaining to see him working along side Sydney in this fashion. The major addition to the cast this season is Nadia Santos, who was introduced at the end of season 3 as Sydney’s half-sister (Sloane and Irena’s daughter) in season three. She joins the rest of the crew working for APO.

There is still plenty of action, suspense, and drama to keep you tuned in. This season uses the same tact previous seasons do, plenty of misdirection and dramatic shifts. The episodes do well keeping the characters, whether from the main cast or supporting roles, hard to make out. You just can’t tell if they are good or bad. Their loyalties seem to shift enough throughout the stories to keep you second guessing who will betray who and whether or not the betrayal really happened. Mix that well worked angle of suspense with plenty of action, some corny drama, and the ever-so-goofy Marshall and you’ve a pretty exciting addition to the Alias series.

Since Nadia is a new character, a majority of the season is about her relationship forming with the rest of the cast. It is a slightly odd setup as Sydney is her step-sister, Sloane is her father, and Jack is the man who was married to her mother. The back stories that tie into Nadia are. She becomes an integral part to the Rambaldi dream and there are a few other great tie-ins to other stories. The Rambaldi story found in the previous seasons comes to the fore and plays a big role in the season with the Derevko sisters acting as the villains. There are also familiar faces like Sark and Doren who make several appearances. We also see another back story with Vaughn trying to unravel mysteries about his father. This season has many other stories to keep you hooked and they do a pretty good job at building suspense and leaving you on the edge of your seat!

Season five sees several changes in the cast and how APO does their business. First off, Vaughn leaves the show. In season four’s cliffhanger, it was revealed that Vaughn was not exactly who he said he was. He was someone named Andre Michaux. Vaughn has a back story that ties into the bigger picture. After the season premiere, his character disappears after being shot several times in the chest by agents from the Shed, a rogue operation that is similar to SD-6 in nature. Another change is Weiss. While he has been a main character for the past two seasons, in the early parts of season five announces he was offered a job in Washington, D.C. heading covert ops for the NSC. He decides to take the job. Without Vaughn and Weiss, some new faces are brought into APO to replacement them.

There are two new characters in APO. Thomas Grace (Balthazar Getty) joins the cast in the season’s second episode. Grace is not your average going guy. He is tough, has a temper, and we first meet him as he is getting his ass kicked in a bar fight. Everyone in APO is hesitant to accept him into their ranks. Grace has his own back story that includes his family and an assassin. Rachel is a computer genius who has been in a situation much like Sydney. She has been working for the Shed, a criminal organization that pretends it is a black ops division of the CIA. Rachel had been working with the impression she was on the good guy’s side. When she found out the Shed was not part of the real CIA, she turned coat. Rachel and Sydney connect on a personal level, because Sydney understands the torment she is going through.

Another new face to this season is a well-known criminal named Renee Rienne (Elodie Bouchez). She is number eight on the CIA’s most wanted list. Vaughn has been working with her to gain information about his father and Prophet Five, which is the main season five storyline. Renee unofficially works with APO in their efforts against Prophet Five. Her back story ties directly into Prophet Five and she has sworn on her life to see it end. Kelly Peyton (Amy Acker) is the final addition to the season five line up. In the later half of the season, she is listed as a main character. Kelly worked with Rachel at the Shed under Gordon Dean. While Rachel did not know about the Shed’s true intentions, Kelly did. She is a bad girl.
As for the storylines, the season five introduces Prophet Five, which is filled with lots of mysterious and intrigue tied into all of the old and new players. Prophet Five is a criminal organization that is much like the Alliance. It houses smaller cells like the Shed. The APO team sets their sights on Prophet Five and stopping them from reaching their endgame. Another interesting aspect that continues to bring intrigue to the show is Sloane and his story. In season four, he was imprisoned for his crimes. He cuts a deal with some bad guys to be a mole in APO, which continue to give his character intrigue as you never know whose best interests he has in mind. Other storylines revolve around the characters, Rachel getting accustomed to her new life as an APO field agent, Grace fitting into the group, Sydney overcoming the loss of Vaughn and being pregnant.