HALLOWEEN OF HORROR REVIEW: APOLLO 18

CAST

Warren Christie (This Means War)
Lloyd Owen (Miss Potter)
Ryan Robbins (Arrow)
Michael Kopsa (Dark Angel)
Andrew Airlie (Final Destination 2)
Kurt Max Runte (X-Men 2)
Ali Liebert (Bomb Girls)
Erica Carroll (Smallville)

 

In December 1974, astronauts Nate Walker (Lloyd Owen), Ben Anderson (Warren Christie) and John Grey (Ryan Robbins) embark on top secret Department of Defense mission Apollo 18 to place missile detectors on the moon to guard against USSR attacks. Grey remains in orbit aboard the Freedom, while Walker and Anderson take the Liberty Lunar Module to the moon’s surface. The pair plants the detectors and takes soil samples but begins to notice interference and unexplained movement in their equipment. Soon after, the men discover strange footprints and an empty Soviet lander with traces of blood inside.

Apollo 18 saw its release date pushed back several times before limping into theaters with little accompanying marketing. Even so, the lunar setting seemed ripe for eerie tension and jolting scares. Unfortunately, Apollo 18 is mostly a bore. Director Gonzalo López-Gallego, making his English-language debut, nails the film’s intended look by mimicking the images of period-appropriate cameras, but these stationary, low-resolution shots lead to much squinting. One camera is located outside the parked lunar lander and is set to detect motion, but even this view is unimpressive, as it is often difficult to tell if anything is actually happening.  The best thing about Apollo 18 is its stark disconnect from Earth. NASA is but a voice over the radio, and the film excels at making the astronauts feel completely alone. The divide between the men on the surface and Grey above in orbit is also deep. When communications are disrupted, instructions from NASA are ignored and tension rises among the astronauts. The acting is just OK, and it seems like the men playing the astronauts tried a bit too hard to make their performances feel improvised. The men also lack the chemistry that must come from experiencing the rigorous training for a space mission together.

Since Apollo 18 is technically a horror film, the bits of intriguing drama are not enough to keep it from spinning off course. I am not sure what I wanted the film’s big reveal to be, but the answers Apollo 18 provides are unsatisfying. Perhaps the film gives too much explanation, as what little tension there is quickly dissipates when the unknown becomes known. Mostly, though, Apollo 18 is 86 minutes of two astronauts walking around the lunar surface and sleeping in the lunar lander.

Apollo 18 follows three astronauts aboard a secret 1974 mission to the Moon that goes awry. The otherworldly setting is spoiled by a lack of tension and an ultimately silly reveal, and Apollo 18 ends up a bore

REVIEW: HUMAN TARGET – SEASON 1

Starring

Mark Valley (Zero Dark Thirty)
Chi McBride (Hawaii Five-O)
Jackie Earle Haley (Watchmen)

Jackie Earle Haley, Chi McBride, and Mark Valley in Human Target (2010)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Tricia Helfer (Battlestar Galactica)
Donnelly Rhodes (Tron: Legacy)
Adrian Hough (The Fog)
Danny Glover (Lethal Weapon)
Adrian Holmes (smallville)
Hiro Kanagawa (Heores reborn)
Peter Kent (Total Recall)
Alvin Sanders (Riverdale)
Courtney Ford (Legends of Tomorrow)
Ali Liebert (Wonder)
Alessandro Juliani (Man of Steel)
David Nykl (Arrow)
Sean Maher (Firefly)
Emmanuelle Vaugier (Two and a Half Men)
Aleks Paunovic (Van Helsing)
Alex Fernandez (Devious Maids)
Christie Laing (Izombie)
Sam Huntington (Superman Returns)
William Mapother (Lost)
Peter Bryant (Legends of Tomorrow)
Sarah Smyth (Supergirl)
Kristin Lehman (The Loft)
William B. Davis (The X-Files)
Chris Mulkey (Cloverfield)
Dylan Neal (Arrow)
Brandon Jay McLaren (Power Rangers SPD)
Ted Whittall (Suicide Squad)
Kevin Weisman (Runaways)
Autumn Reeser (Sully)
Zak Santiago (Caprica)
Mitch Pileggi (Stargate: Atlantis)
Leonor Varela (Blade II)
Kris Marshall (Love Actually)
Kim Coates (Goon)
Samantha Ferris (The Tall Man)
Lennie James (The Walking Dead)
Eric Breker (X-Men Origins)
Dash Mihok (Gotham)
Kenneth Welsh (Miracle)
Grace Park (Hawaii Five-0)
Peter Wingfield (Highlander: The Series)
Ken Kirzinger (Freddy vs Jason)
Moon Bloodgood (Termiantor: Salvation)
Ty Olsson (Battlestar Galactica)
Vincent Gale (Bates Motel)
Daniel Bacon (Stargate SG.1)
Steve Makaj (Arrow)
Craig Veroni (Dark Angel)
Christina Cole (JHex)
Erick Avari (Stargate)
Kavan Smith (When Calls The HEart)
Christopher Heyerdahl (Sanctuary)
Mackenzie Gray (man of Steel)
Lee Majors (Ash vs Evil Dead)
Amy Acker (The Gifted)
Timothy Omundson (Xena)
Armand Assante (Judge Dredd)
Fiona Vroom (Power Rangers)

Mark Valley and Emmanuelle Vaugier in Human Target (2010)Human Target was definitely one of the most surprising new series this season. Comic book stories don’t often translate well to the small screen, but this one bucked all the trends and exceeded expectations by consistently producing hot action, fascinating characters, and a good number of laughs too.Mark Valley in Human Target (2010)It started out with a pilot episode that wasted no time getting into the action. Fast paced events on a runaway train got things started with a bang. Right away, the series showed the kind of amazing action scenes that would make it an exciting watch every week. The second episode, “Rewind”, kept the pedal to the metal in an episode that had high-flying action on a plane, although things did get a little ridiculous with the plane flying upside down for an extended time.Peter Bryant and Mark Valley in Human Target (2010)The main characters quickly became fan favorites, thanks to witty dialogue and excellent acting work by the great trio of Mark Valley, Chi McBride, and Jackie Earle Haley. While Chance takes the lead in these episodes, his buddies (with shady pasts of their own) do a lot in their supportive roles. Winston and Guerrero have unique skills that are always employed in clever ways in the series, and they have a special kind of friendly-yet-combative relationship that provided most of the comedy relief in the show. The series also featured a number of intriguing guest stars, including many familiar faces from the sci-fi world. We saw Battlestar Galactica stars Tricia Helfer, Alessandro Juliani, Grace Park, and Donnelly Rhodes, along with two stars from The X-Files – Mitch Pillegi and a surprising appearance from William B. Davis (the infamous Cigarette Smoking Man).Mark Valley in Human Target (2010)At first, Human Target focused on a string of unrelated stories that followed the same effective formula—show the client, show the bad guys, have Chance and his pals save the day. But, although the standalone stories were entertaining, the “rescue of the week” routine quickly started to get tired, and the show often made heavy use of TV tropes and cliches (hot babes of the week, one dimensional antagonists, and slow motion explosions just to name a few). Fortunately, the show’s producers were aware of the limits of their plot devices and developed an overarching mythology that started to be revealed a few episodes into the season.Mark Valley in Human Target (2010)The story slowly started to turn into a tale of redemption, friendship, and life choices as the show gradually revealed bits and pieces of the backgrounds of the characters. In the beginning, there were just casual mentions of what the cast of main characters used to do. Then, in “Sanctuary”, the series mythology kicked into full gear with a side-story featuring Guerrero spying around in Chance and Winston’s files for a mysterious employer. This plot accomplished two things: it revealed a serious threat to Chance, and displayed Guerrero as ruthless when it comes to his job and his friends. Guerrero in general is a very different take on the “geeky computer spy” role, and his moment in the spotlight at the end of that episode really helped define the character. It’s a standout role that Jackie Earle Haley nailed every time.Further character development came in the form of a “bromance” between Winston and Chance that was detailed in “Corner Man”, and a personal vendetta with a former friend, coworker, and assassin named Baptiste that gave us our deepest look yet into what personally drives Chance.All of this buildup led us perfectly into the season finale, which exposed the history of the Christopher Chance name, and revealed all the players behind Chance’s past work and his change of heart. This was a well-crafted story that ended with a great cliffhanger. It’s a great setup for a second season, and let there be no doubt that this series does indeed deserve to be renewed. It’s interesting, exciting, and if it continues to improve, it could become a prime candidate to replace 24 as Fox’s top action show.

REVIEW: IZOMBIE – SEASON 2

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MAIN CAST

Rose McIver (Power Rangers RPM)
Malcolm Goodwin (The Bellman)
Rahul Kohli (Happy Anniversary)
Robert Buckley (Killer Movie)
David Anders (Alias)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Steven Weber (2 Broke Girls)
Molly Hagan (No Good Nick)
Nick Purcha (Cold Zone)
Adam Rose (IUp In The Air)
Leanne Lapp (Grace Encounters 2)
Bryce Hodgson (Kid Cannabis)
Carmen Moore (Arrow)
Robert Knepper (Cult)
Justin Prentice (13 Reasons Why)
Carrie Anne Fleming (Supernatural
David Starzyk (Veronica Mars)
Brian Markinson (Tribal)
Aly Michalka (Two and a Half Men)
Serge Houde (50/50)
Ona Grauer (V)
Lucia Walters (Stargate Atlantis)
Anne Marie DeLuise (Smallville)
Raphael Sbarge (Once Upon A Time)
Jessica Harmon (The 100)
Robert Salvador (Arrow)
Eddie Jemison (Waitress)
Steven Williams (21 Jump Street)
Rick Fox (Oz)
Kevin McNulty (Timecop)
Natalie Brown (Bitten)
Emy Aneke (The Predator)
Greg Finley (The Flash)
Brooke Lyons (2 Broke Girls)
Anna Galvin (Tin Man)
Ben Lawson (No Strings Attached)
Lee Garlington (Cobra)
Daniella Alonso (The Hills Have Eyes II)
Fiona Vroom (Power Rangers)
Kristen Bell (The Good Place)
Colin Lawrence (Watchmen)
Patrick Gallagher (Glee)
Bradley Stryker (Smallville)
Michael Kopsa (Fantastic Four)
Enrico Colantoni (Veronica Mars)
Kacey Rohl (Arrow)
Genevieve Buechner (Caprica)
Ali Liebert (Wonder)
Zak Santiago (Shooter)
Chasty Ballesteros (The Internship)
Sarah Grey (The Order)
Wesley MacInnes (Power Rangers)
Andrea Savage (Veep)
Ken Marino (Agent Carter)

Consistently offering clever, witty and fun episodes, iZombie solidified itself as one of the most entertaining series on TV in its second season. Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero-Wright had already created an offbeat yet inviting world in Season 1 and in Season 2 they built upon it, putting the characters into more intense and involving situations, all while still maintaining the show’s crucial, knowing sense of humor.The cast continue to be one of the most likeable you’ll find, anchored by the excellent Rose McIver. Okay, it’s one of the show’s reaches that pretty much every brain Liv eats is a very focused, specific type of person, but that’s just part of the deal here. And it gives McIver so much to work with, as she goes all in playing Liv taking on personas as varied as a coach, a stalker, a costumed vigilante or a tough stripper. Every week, McIver is given something different to play and she consistently nails it, with ongoing mileage gotten out of how out there and uncharacteristic Liv gets, depending on her latest brain meal.After his heartbroken ex-fiancé character take a surprising (and awesome) turn at the end of Season 1, Robert Buckley’s Major got a great storyline in Season 2, as he found himself working for Vaughn Du Clark (Steven Weber), tasked with assassinating zombies – all while actually locking them up instead, which put him in a very precarious position both with Du Clark and the cops and the FBI, who were getting closer and closer to him for his actions in both Season 1 and 2.The fact that those investigating Major’s crimes were Clive (Malcolm Goodwin) and his FBI partner/love interest Dale Bozzio (Jessica Harmon) only increased the tension, even while Clive and Dale made a great pairing – with Harmon effortlessly fitting in on the show, as the somewhat goofy Dale provided a great foil for the somewhat stoic Clive. And in the midst of this, having Clive begin to slowly notice the things that were off about Liv was continually intriguing, since it was inevitable that Clive would one day find out The Secret.Blaine (David Anders) in the meantime had to adjust to life as a human again – for awhile at least, as he never kept his nose clean and eventually became one of the undead again, with Anders always bringing a wonderfully quirky/funny approach to the character. McIver and Rahul Kohli continued to be a delightful duo in all the scenes between Liv and Ravi and Kohli shined throughout the season, though I do hope Season 3 can perhaps give Ravi more of his own storyline at some points beyond the ongoing search for a cure or the burgeoning love triangle between Ravi, Peyton (Aly Michalka) and Blaine. The end of the season, as Ravi began to suspect Major was up to no good – and their big confrontation about it – showed how strong it can be to use the usually comic presence of Ravi in a dramatic manner that would be interesting to explore again.As Season 2 progressed, one really strong element was how it began to bring together several storylines. We began to see Major’s growing interaction with Blaine begin to bring him even more in focus as a suspect for Dale and Clive, while Peyton’s return — it was good to see Michalka, who also fits in great with this cast, get more to do — had her wrapped up with Blaine (in more ways than one) and helping lead us to a new villain on the show, Stacey Boss (Eddie Jemison).

Best of all, the “brain of the week” storylines began to becoming increasingly tied into the main stories as well. And yes, this meant sometimes you had to accept a bit more coincidence on the show, but it still was exciting and gratifying to see how all the different elements were intersecting in different ways and how Liv could learn new info thanks to a new murder victim connected in ways that were sometimes not apparent on the surface.When it came to Big Bads, Vaughn Du Clark certainly delivered. Stephen Weber seemed to be having a ball in the role and was delightfully awful as the energetic, confident mega-douche of a sports drink company CEO. He was also given a great foil in Gilda (Leanne Lapp), his daughter, who was just as corrupt as her dad. Gilda has no qualms about manipulating Major, Liv or anyone else and Lapp brought just the right attitude to the character – even as we saw just how awful Du Clark was as a dad, giving us a tinge of sympathy, or at least understanding, about why she was the way she was, even as it was clear she needed to be stopped. The season also ended in an epic, satisfying manner, with Clive finally finding out the truth, an all-out “Romero Zombie” attack and both Du Clark and Gilda being taken out – all while we met a huge new player on the scene that looks to be upending the show in a huge way.Nearly every week, iZombie continued to deliver in its second season and the show easily overcame any sophomore slump worries. The creators and cast seem to know exactly the right  tone to go for here, offering up a show that has a fun, accessible vibe but can get suitably intense, dramatic and gory when need be. When the CW gave all of their series early renewals last year, iZombie was one of the ones I know I was celebrating the most. Bring on Season 3!

 

REVIEW: DEAD LIKE ME – SEASON 1

MAIN CAST

Ellen Muth (Hannibal)
Mandy Patinkin (The Princess Bride)
Callum Blue (Smallville)
Jasmine Guy (The Vampire Diaries)
Rebecca Gayheart (Urban Legend)
Laura Harris (Severance)
Greg Kean (Black Xmas)
Britt McKillip (Trick ‘r Treat)
Christine Willes (Red Riding Hood)
Cynthia Stevenson (Tiger Eyes)
Ellen Muth in Dead Like Me (2003)
NOTABLE / RECURRING GUEST CAST

Jodelle Ferland (The Cabin In The Woods)
Blu Mankuma (Robocop: The Series)
Jackie Burroughs (The Dead Zone)
Gary Jones (Stargate – SG.1)
Erica Cerra (Blade: Trinity)
Lorena Gale (Smallville)
Tygh Runyan (Snakes on a Plane)
A.J. Cook (Final Destination 2)
Kevin Durand (Dark Angel)
Susan Saullivan (Castle)
Fulvio Cecere (Valentine)
Ben Bass (Bride of Chucky)
Sarah Lind (Blade: The Series)
Harold Perrineau (Constantine TV)
Ali Liebert (Legends of Tomorrow)
Sonya Salomaa (Andromeda)

Ellen Muth in Dead Like Me (2003)What if life really begins only after you die? Georgia Lass never really lived in her 18 years before being killed by the toilet seat from the de-orbiting space station MIR. Sullen, bored, and apathetic, it is in death that she finds meaning and purpose in her life as she becomes a grim reaper, responsible for the transition of souls from death to their particular afterlife. In this series, death gives people like Georgia who never really lived their life to have a do-over and serve as a grim reaper. Of course they still are visible by the living, have to get jobs to support themselves, and can be stuck as reaper from decades, but this adds to the poetry of the premise. Overall the show is sarcastic,dark and subversive, but makes for highly entertaining television and included any number of laugh out loud moments.

Created by Brian Fuller, the genius behind Wonderfalls, Dead Like Me stars a wonderful cast headed by the note perfect Ellen Muth as Georgia and Mandy Patinken as Rube, the head of a small crew of Grim Reapers working the Seattle area. The supporting cast is solid, including Callum Blue as Mason, Laura Harris as Daisy A’dair, and Jasmine Guy as Roxy. Rebecca Gayheart appeared for a few episodes in the season. So being dead and stuck in a job that she didn’t choose and doesn’t particularly want, Georgia has to find meaning in an existence that is quite different from the one she had. She learns that she has to learn to let go of her family and little sister. She learns that friendship and family can be found in strange places, even the temp agency she works in, and that ultimately death has a purpose and a poetry for everyone, even her. What that purpose is, I don’t quite know yet, but I think it is to learn how to live and do-over the years she was alive. The backstory of reapers and death is explained slowly over the first season, but begins to connect the pieces by season’s end.

Rebecca Gayheart is written out of the show early on, this was because she accidentally hit and killed someone with her in real life, The network did not think it would be a good idea having someone portray a Grim Reaper who killed someone in real life.This is a highly entertaining show that will appeal to fans of shows like Wonderfalls, Hannibal and others that were way too smart to be on TV. This was a cable produced show so there are no restrictions on the language, but that in a way is refreshing. Highly recommended