REVIEW: LORD OF THE ELVES

CAST

Bai Ling (The Breed)
Christopher Judge (Stargate SG.1)

dungeonsiegeboxartJoseph J. Lawson directs this fantasy action adventure starring Christopher Judge and Bai Ling. When a peaceful village of hobbits is raided by fearsome, dragon-riding cannibals known as the Java Men, youthful hobbit Goben (Sun Korng) is distressed to find that his mother is among those who have been kidnapped. With a band of fellow hobbit survivors he sets out to try and rescue his mother. However, pitted against such tough adversaries, Goben will surely be happy to receive assistance in his quest from the giant human Anthar (Judge). 4864487_l4Most of The Asylum movies are terrible, but I keep watching them because there is something compulsively entertaining in how bad they are that you have to keep watching. Lord of the Elves or Age of the Hobbits (as it was meant to be titled) is not particularly good as a movie, but Asylum have done far worse than this. The scenery is spectacular, some of the best of any movie to come out from Asylum, and the camera work is at least orchestrated competently. 8023853364_92ca18d74c_zChristopher Judge’s resonant voice and Shakespeare-like delivery of lines makes for a nicely enigmatic performance. Bai Ling, as beguiling as she looks, is too subdued however, and the rest of the cast are significantly hindered by the truly cheesy dubbing. The dubbing also makes the dialogue awkward and not very easy to understand. The special effects are a mixed bag, the giant spiders and lizards look good and are well above average for Asylum but the flying lizard-dragons and enormous rhino are less good, the rhino actually was rendered very badly. The story is thinly structured and unexciting, never really getting a chance to properly open up. The choreography for the fight sequences is lacking in tightness and the performing of it likewise. The music is on the generic side, the characters are rather cardboard and never really developed enough to make us care for them and the direction shows a director not putting enough of his own style into the movie, coming across as rather flat and characterless instead. To conclude, could have been much worse and has the scenery and Judge’s performance to thank for that, but while somewhat entertaining really rises above mediocre in my opinion.

 

 

REVIEW: CHAIN LETTER

CAST

Nikki Reed (Twilight)
Keith David (Pitch Black)
Brad Dourif (Child’s Play)
Betsy Russell (Saw III)
Cody Kasch (Asylum)
Michael J. Pagan (The Gospel)
Noah Segan (Cabin Fever 2)
Bai Ling (The Breed)

The film opens in a garage with an unconscious young woman having her head wrapped in duct tape and her legs chained to the back of two cars. A man and woman walk to their cars on their way to work. As the couple start their cars they exit the driveway. The woman in the car notices the victim, but as she exits her car to warn the man, he drives off. Neil Conners (Cody Kasch) receives a chain letter from an anonymous person telling him that he is the first person who links the chain, and instructing him to forward it to five people or else he will die. His sister Rachael (Cherilyn Wilson) forwards the letter, but to only four recipients. Neil then adds his sister to the list and sends it.

Rachael’s best friend, Jessica “Jessie” Campbell (Nikki Reed), gets the letter and forwards it to five friends. Johnny Jones (Matt Cohen) also receives it but refuses to send it, believing it to be ridiculous. While he is getting a drink of water at the fountain in the gym, a black hooded figure slams his head on the fountain, knocking two of his teeth out. Unconscious, he is chained by his arms to a gym set and has his ankles sliced open. After which the killer uses the chains to slice his face open, killing him. Jessie becomes suspicious as more people start to die. While taking a bath, Rachael becomes suspicious of a possible intruder inside the house. She investigates and is attacked by the killer who whips her with the chain several times as she runs through the house to escape. Re-entering the bathroom, she locks the door and looks for a weapon, pacing back and forth with a cistern lid, waiting for him to attack. She walks up to the door and places her face next to it, listening. Suddenly realizing the killer is on the other side doing exactly the same thing, she rapidly backs away. Seconds later, the killer breaks through a side wall into the room, hitting her on the top of her head with the lid, splitting it open.

Outside the house, Jessie is greeted by Detective Jim Crenshaw (Keith David), who tells her to forward the chain letter on to him. Jessie figures out they are being spied on using a virus embedded in the chain letter so meets with Neil, and Michael (Michael J. Pagan) planning to try to stop the murders. Later on, as more people send Neil the message, he panics and decides to delete all of them in order to confront the killer. The killer, however, is on the roof of Neil’s room, and sends a chain smashing through his ceiling. Neil dies as he gets dragged up to the roof of his house by chains with various sickles and a hook. It is revealed that the man behind all the killings was a soldier. During the war, he was tortured by the enemy because he had a government-issued cell phone. He returned to the United States severely disfigured and disappeared from a hospital, starting a cult of “anti-technology” followers marked by barcode tattoos. It is then revealed that the woman chained to the cars in the beginning of the film is Jessie, who is killed because she sent the chain letter to Detective Crenshaw without sending it to four other people. Michael tries to save her but is too late; when her father pulls out of the driveway, Jessie is ripped apart. As the film ends, Detective Crenshaw is shown chained to a table while the killer makes chains.Predictable some parts may be but with plenty of ‘jumps’ and with extended drawn out gory deaths it’s likely to please most slasher/gore fans and is never dull. Yes there are flaws, but what film in this genre doesn’t have them, it is after-all about entertainment and as such this merits.

REVIEW: THE CROW (1994)

CAST

Brandon Lee (Showdown In Little Tokyo)
Rochelle Davis (Hell House)
Ernie Hudson (Ghostbusters)
Michael Wincott (Alien: Resurrection)
Bai Ling (The Breed)
Sofia Shinas (Terminal Velocity)
Anna Levine (Unforgiven)
Michael Masse (The Amazing Spider-Man)
Tony Todd (Wishmaster)
Jon Polito (Miller’s Crossing)

On October 30, Devil’s Night in Detroit, Police Sergeant Albrecht (Ernie Hudson) is at the scene of a crime where Shelly Webster (Sofia Shinas) has been beaten and raped, and her fiancé Eric Draven (Brandon Lee) then died on the street outside, having been stabbed, shot, and thrown out of the window. The couple were to be married the following day, on Halloween. As he leaves for the hospital with Shelly, Albrecht meets a young girl, Sarah, who says that she is their friend, and that they take care of her. Albrecht tells her that Shelly is dying.

One year later, a crow taps on the grave stone of Eric Draven; Eric awakens and climbs out of his grave. Meanwhile, a low level street gang, headed by T-Bird (David Patrick Kelly), is setting fires in the city. Eric goes to his old apartment and finds it derelict. He has flashbacks to the murders, remembering that those responsible were T-Bird and his gang: Tin Tin, Funboy, and Skank. Eric soon discovers that any wounds he receives heal immediately. Guided by the crow, he sets out to avenge his and Shelly’s murders by killing the perpetrators.

The crow helps Eric locate Tin Tin; Eric kills him by stabbing him in each vital organ (in alphabetical order) with his own knives and then takes his coat. He then goes to the pawn shop where Tin Tin pawned Shelly’s engagement ring the year before. Eric forces the owner, Gideon, to return the ring. Eric then tosses rings telling Gideon each of them is a life, a life Gideon helped destroy. He lets Gideon live so that he can warn the others, but when Gideon calls Eric street grease, he says, “Is that gasoline I smell?”. Terrified, Gideon runs out and Eric blows up the shop, just as Gideon barely escapes. Eric finds Funboy getting high with Sarah’s drug-addict mother, Darla. After killing Funboy with an overdose of morphine, Eric talks to Darla, taking the drug out of her arm seemingly by magic and making her realize that Sarah needs her to be a good mother. He visits Albrecht, explaining who he is and why he is here. Albrecht tells him what he knows about Shelly’s death and that he watched as she suffered for thirty hours before dying. Eric touches Albrecht and receives from him the pain felt by Shelly during those hours. Sarah and her mother begin to repair their strained relationship. Sarah goes to Eric’s apartment and talks to him. She tells him that she misses him and Shelly. Eric explains that, even though they cannot be friends anymore, he still cares about her.

As T-Bird and Skank stop at a convenience store to pick up some supplies, Eric arrives and kidnaps T-Bird. Skank follows the pair to the docks and witnesses Eric kill T-Bird by tying him to the driver’s seat of his car and forcing him to drive it off the edge of the pier where it explodes and sinks into the harbour. Skank escapes and goes to Top Dollar, a top-level criminal who controls all the street gangs in the city. Top Dollar and his lover/half-sister Myca have become aware of Eric’s actions through various reports from witnesses. Top Dollar holds a meeting with his associates where they discuss new plans for their Devil’s Night criminal activities. Eric arrives looking for Skank. A gun fight ensures the deaths of nearly all present, and Eric kills Skank by throwing him out of a window. Top Dollar, Myca, and Grange, Top Dollar’s right-hand man, escape.

Eric, having finished his quest, returns to his grave. Sarah goes to say goodbye to him and he gives her Shelly’s engagement ring. She is abducted by Grange, who takes her into the church where Top Dollar and Myca are waiting. Through the crow, Eric realizes what has happened and goes to rescue her. Grange shoots the crow as it flies into the church, making Eric lose his invincibility. Myca grabs the wounded crow, intending to take its mystical power. Albrecht arrives, intending to pay his respects to Eric, just after Eric is shot and wounded. Top Dollar grabs Sarah and climbs the bell tower as a fight ensues, and Grange is killed by Albrecht. The crow escapes Myca’s grip, pecking her eyes out and sending her down the bell tower to her death. When Albrecht is wounded, Eric climbs to the roof of the church on his own. There, Top Dollar admits ultimate responsibility for what happened to Eric and Shelly. In their fight, Eric, despite being fatally stabbed in the back, gives Top Dollar the thirty hours of pain he absorbed from Albrecht; the sensation sends Top Dollar over the roof of the church to be impaled on the horns of a gargoyle. Sarah and Albrecht go to the hospital, and Eric is reunited with Shelley at their graves. Sarah ends the film with a narration: “If the people we love are stolen from us, the way to have them live on is to never stop loving them. Buildings burn, people die, but real love is forever.”Alex Proyas milks the plot for all its worth and places The Crow beyond an average thriller and into the realm of motion picture brilliance. A heart warming tale backed up with enough gore and action to keep hard core violence fanatics interested. This stands The Crow as a masterpiece of cinematic wizardry, that is sure to impress even the most critical of viewers.

REVIEW SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW

CAST

Angelina Jolie (Tomb Raider)
Gwyneth Paltrow (Iron Man)
Jude Law (Spy)
Giovanni Ribisi (Ted)
Michael Gambon (Sleepy Hollow 1999)
Bai Ling (Southland Tales)
Omid Djalili (The Mummy)
In a technologically advanced 1939, the zeppelin Hindenburg III arrives in New York City, mooring atop the Empire State Building. Aboard the airship is Dr. Jorge Vargas (Julian Curry), a scientist who arranges for a package containing two vials to be delivered to Dr. Walter Jennings (Trevor Baxter). Moments later, as the courier looks back while leaving with the vials, Dr. Vargas is nowhere to be seen.
Polly Perkins (Gwyneth Paltrow), a newspaper reporter for The Chronicle, is looking into the disappearances of Vargas and five other renowned scientists. She receives a cryptic message telling her to go to Radio City Music Hall. Ignoring the warning of her editor, Mr. Paley (Michael Gambon), she meets Dr. Jennings during a showing of The Wizard of Oz. Dr Jennings tells Polly that Dr. Totenkopf is coming for him next. Suddenly, air raid sirens go off as giant, seemingly indestructible robots attack the city. Clearly outmatched, the police and other authorities call for “Sky Captain” Joe Sullivan (Jude Law). Joe commands a private air force based in New York State known as the Flying Legion.
Polly shows little regard for her personal safety as she photographs the action from the street. Meanwhile, Joe engages the robots with his highly modified Curtiss P-40 pursuit fighter and eventually manages to disable one robot. The rest of the robots leave soon after. News reports show similar attacks around the globe. The disabled robot is taken back to the Legion’s air base so that its science and technology expert, Dex (Giovanni Ribisi), can examine it. Polly follows, hoping to get information for her story. She and Joe are ex-lovers who broke up three years earlier in China, where Joe was serving with the Flying Tigers. Since it appears Polly has useful information, Joe reluctantly agrees to let her in on the investigation. Her lead takes them to the ransacked laboratory of Dr. Jennings, with the scientist himself near death. The mysterious female assailant (Bai Ling) escapes. Just before he dies, Jennings gives Polly the two vials from Vargas, and says they are crucial to Dr. Totenkopf’s plans. Polly hides the vials and withholds the information from Joe. They return to the Legion’s base just before it comes under attack from squadrons of ornithopter drones. Dex manages to track the origin of the robot control signal, but is then captured. However, he leaves behind a part of a map marking the location of Dr. Totenkopf’s base.
Joe and Polly find Dex’s map and fly to Nepal. Traveling into the Himalayas and Tibet, they discover an abandoned mining outpost and meet up with Joe’s old friend Kaji (Omid Djalili). Two guides who turn out to be working for Totenkopf force Polly to turn over the vials and then lock her and Joe in a room full of explosives. The guides light fuses to the dynamite but Joe and Polly narrowly escape and are knocked unconscious by the explosion, which also destroys most of Polly’s camera film. They wake up together in the mythical Shangri-La. The Tibetan-speaking monks there tell of Dr. Totenkopf’s enslavement of their people, forcing them to work in the uranium mines. Most were killed by the radiation, but the final survivor (who was suffering from radiation poisoning) provides a clue to where Dr. Totenkopf is hiding. This leads them to another of Joe’s ex-flames, Commander Franky Cook (Angelina Jolie), who commands a Royal Navy flying aircraft carrier with submarine aircraft.
Franky leads the attack on Dr. Totenkopf’s island lair while Joe and Polly enter through an underwater inlet. After surfacing, Polly notices that the reflection in the water of the identification number on Joe’s aircraft reads “Polly” when viewed upside-down. Joe and Polly find themselves on an island with dinosaur-like creatures, which Polly hesitates to photograph as she has only two shots left on her camera. They head to a mountain and find a secret underground facility, where robots are loading animals, as well as the mysterious vials, onto a large “Noah’s Ark” rocket. Joe and Polly are detected and nearly killed. Dex, piloting a flying barge, arrives in the nick of time with three of the missing scientists. Dex explains that Dr. Totenkopf has given up on humanity and seeks to start the world over again: the “World of Tomorrow”. The vials are genetic material for a male and female human: a new Adam and Eve.
As the group attempts to enter Dr. Totenkopf’s lair, one scientist is electrocuted to death and ends up as a skeleton by the defense system. A hologram of Dr. Totenkopf (Laurence Olivier) appears and speaks about his hate for humanity and his evil plans to rebuild it as a new master race. Dex disables the defenses and the group discovers Dr. Totenkopf’s mummified corpse inside with a scrap of paper reading “forgive me” still clutched in his hand. He had died 20 years prior, but his machines continued his plan. Joe decides to sabotage the rocket from the inside while the others escape. Polly tries to tag along, but Joe kisses her and then knocks her out. Polly recovers and follows Joe, arriving in time to save him from Dr. Jennings’ mysterious female assassin, who turns out to be a robot. Joe and Polly then manage to board the rocket. Before the rocket reaches 100 km, when its second stage is scheduled to fire and thereby incinerate the Earth, Polly pushes an emergency button that ejects all the animals in escape pods. Joe tries to disable the rocket only to be interrupted by the same robot. He jolts the robot with its electric weapon and then uses it on the controls, disabling the rocket. They use the last pod to save themselves as the rocket safely explodes.
Joe and Polly watch the animal pods splash down around their escape pod. Polly then uses the last shot on her camera to take a picture of Joe rather than the animal pods. Joe grins and says: “Polly—lens cap.”
One of the first movies to be shot completely via blue screen and a joy to behold on dvd. With a nod to german expressionism, the shadows and mise-en-scene of 30s/40s Hollywood film noir, and a plot reminiscent of the Flash Gordon/Buck Rodgers adventure serials this is terrific entertainment and a feast for the eyes.

REVIEW: SOUTHLAND TALES

CAST

Dwayne Johnson (G.I. Joe: Retaliation)
Seann William Scott (American Pie)
Sarah Michelle Gellar (Ringer)
Mandy Moore (Saved)
Justin Timberlake (The Social Network)
Miranda Richardson (Sleepy Hollow)
Wallace Shawn (The Princess Bride)
Bai Ling (The Breed)
Nora Dunn (Bones)
John Larroquette (Chuck)
Kevin Smith (Dogma)
Holmes Osborne (Donnie Darko)
Cheri Oteri (Scary Movie)
Jon Lovitz (The Simpsons)
Amy Poehler (Mr. Woodcock)
Curtis Armstrong (New Girl)
Beth Grant (Child’s Play 2)
Christopher Lambert (Highlander)
Will Sasso (Happy Gilmore)

On July 4th, 2005, in a fictionalized United States alternate history reality, two towns in Texas: El Paso and Abilene were destroyed by twin nuclear attacks that triggered a catastrophe of unimaginable proportions, sending America into a state of anarchy and hysteria, as well as a Third World War (a fictionalized perspective of what the War on Terror would’ve escalated to). The PATRIOT Act has extended authority to a new agency known as US-IDent, which keeps constant surveillance on citizens—even to the extent of censoring the Internet and requiring fingerprints to access computers and bank accounts. In response to the recent fuel shortage in the wake of global warfare, the German company Treer designs a generator of inexhaustible energy, which is propelled by the perpetual motion of ocean currents, called “Fluid Karma”. However, its inventor Baron von Westphalen and his associates are hiding the fact that the generators alter the ocean’s currents and cause the Earth to slow its rotation, and that the transmission of Fluid Karma to portable receivers (via quantum entanglement) is ripping holes in the fabric of space and time.
In near-future 2008, Los Angeles (referred to as “The Southlands” by locals) is a city on the brink of chaos overshadowed by the growth of the underground neo-Marxist organization. The film follows the criss-crossed destinies of Boxer Santaros (Dwayne Johnson), an action film actor stricken with amnesia; Krysta Now (Sarah Michelle Gellar), a psychic ex-porn star in the midst of creating a reality TV show; and twin brothers Roland and Ronald Taverner (both Seann William Scott), whose destinies become intertwined with that of all mankind. The Taverner twins are revealed to be the same person by the engineers of Treer, duplicated when Roland traveled through a rift in space-time, while Boxer has become the most wanted man in the world despite his political ties and his having the fate of the future, in the form of a prophetic screenplay foretelling the end of the world, in his hands.

Southland Tales is not for everybody and while some may find it pretentious, I personally found it extremely engaging and thought provoking and in my opinion is a misunderstood masterpiece

REVIEW: ANGEL – SEASON 1-5

 

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MAIN CAST

David Boreanaz (Bones)
Charisma Carpenter (Scream Queens)
Glenn Quinn (R.S.V.P)
Alxis Denisof (Dollhouse)
J. August Richards (Agents of SHIELD)
Amy Acker (The Cabin In The Woods)
Vincent Kartheiser (Mad Men)
Andy Hallett (Chance)
James Marsters (Smallville)
Mercedes McNab (The Addams Family)

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RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Tracy Middendorf (Scream: The Series)
Christian Kane (Just Married)
Josh Holloway (Lost)
Sarah Michelle Gellar (Ringer)
Michael Mantell (The Ides of March)
Elisabeth Rohm (Joy)
Obi Ndefo (Stargate SG.1)
Johnny Messner (Anacondas)
Jennifer Tung (Masked Rider)
Seth Green (Family Guy)
Andy Umberger (Deja Vu)
Tushka Bergen (Mad Max 3)
Beth Grant (Wonderfalls)
Bai Ling (The Crow)
Jesse James (Blow)
J. Kenneth Campbell (Mars Attacks)
Henri Lubatti True Blood)
Christina Hendricks (Mad Men)
John Mahon (Zodiac)
Kristin Dattilo (Intolerable Cruelty)
Carlos Jacott (3rd Rock From The Sun)
Lee Arenberg (Once Upon A Time)
Jeremy Renner (Avengers Assemble)
Ken Marino (Veronica Mars)
Stephanie Romanov (Thirtten Days)
Tamara Gorski (Man With The Screaming Brain)
Julie Benz (Punisher: Warzone)
Eliza Dushku (Tru Calling)
Alastair Duncan (The Batman)
Sam Anderson (Lost)
Todd Stashwick (The Originals)
Justina Machado (Final Destination 2)
Matthew James (American Crime)
J.P. Manoux (Birds of Prey)
Tony Amendola (Stargate SG.1)
David Herman (Futurama)
Edwin Hodge (The Purge)
Daisy McCrackin (Halloween 8)
Juliet Landau (Ed Wood)
Brigid Brannagh (Army Wives)
W. Earl Brown (Bates Motel)
Tony Todd (Wishmaster)
Jim Piddock (The Prestige)
Julia Lee (A Man Apart)
Gerry Becker(Spider-Man)
Eric Lange (Lost)
Leah Pipes (The Originals)
Thomas Kopache (Catch Me If You Can)
Brody Hutzler (Days of Our Lives)
Persia White (The Vampire Diaries)
Daniel Dae Kim (Lost)
Mark Lutz (Bitch Slap)
Alyson Hannigan (How I Met Your Mother)
Keith Szarabajka (The Dark Knight)
Frank Salsedo (Power Rangers Zeo)
David Denman (Outcast)
Justin Shilton (Little Miss Sunshine)
Rance Howard (Chinatown)
Kristoffer Polaha (Ringer)
Jack Conley (Payback)
Jim Ortlieb (Roswell)
Laurel Holloman (Boogie Nights)
Jeffrey Dean Morgan (The Losers)
Sunny Mabrey (Snakes On A Plane)
Summer Glau (Firefly)
John Rubinstein (Red Dragon)
Alexa Davalos (Clash of The Titans)
Kay Panabaker (No Ordinary Family)
Joel David Moore (Bones)
Adrienne Wilkinson (Xena)
Gina Torres (Hannibal)
Annie Wersching (The Vampire Diaries)
Danny Woodburn (Watchmen)
Sarah Thompson (Cruel Intentions 2)
Jonathan M. Woodard (Firefly)
T.J. Thyne (Bones)
John Billingsley (Star Trek: Enterprise)
Simon Templeman (Black Road)
Roy Dotrice (Beauty and the Beast)
Brendan Hines (Lie to Me)
Tom Lenk (Argo)
Navi Rawat (Feast)
Roy Werner (Power Rangers Time Force)
Alec Newman (Dune)
Adam Baldwin (Chuck)
Jaime Bergman (Soulkeeper)
Stacey Travis (Easy A)
Dennis Christopher (Django Uncahined)

When Joss Whedon pitched Angel: the Series, he described it as a detective-style film-noir-themed take on the supernatural, much in the same way Buffy was pitched as a look from the viewpoint of the Horror genre. Buffy’s style took some time to get right, but the aesthetics of this show in its first year are well thought out and crafted; darkness and emotive shadow creep over, tense musical swells linger, and the picture is shot in a large resolution to provide just a bit of grain. I’d be damned if it didn’t seem intentional. Joss also said that where Buffy looked, metaphorically, at the hell of High School, Angel’s show would look at life past it in your early adulthood and the life and relationship issues of that unique, big city world. This metaphor is dominant in the first season, and is one of the main themes.

Angel, as a series, is always and will always be about redemption, but the themes of its respective seasons are about the different facets to it. Exploring what it is, losing the chance at it or the responsibility one pledges to it is all covered over the duration of the show. With season one, it was most direct: How do you get it? At the start of the season we see Angel arrive in LA, see him save lives, but we also watch him slip deeply into apathy about his goal. To understand the importance and worth of a human and life and soul, Angel learns in “City of” (1×01) that one must have a human connection; friends and allies that make his life worth living so his mission can be worth fighting for, and most importantly so that he doesn’t become detached from (and even dangerous to) those he hopes to save.

The season, as I mentioned, does lack a cohesive arc, but it also has a tremendous amount of hugely entertaining and well-written standalones. Many of them focus on Angel’s mission: “helping the helpless.” Angel makes it his goal to not only save lives, but save souls and make life worth living for others, and as a result of this his connections are solidified as he carries this out. He and his group slowly form into a legitimate investigation team which takes cases and makes money off of them, and many of the seasons situations out of which the characters are developed are a result of these cases. Cordelia, who in “Rm w a Vu” (1×05) is still defining herself by her possessions, searches for a place to live. Instead what she finds is a stronger sense of self, and in that a connection to the world of humans rather the one of plastic. Doyle and Wesley both find their own connections, as well. Episodes such as these are the season’s order, in every one of which something new happens that alters the main or supporting characters, or teaches the audience something about them.

This is, in my opinion, what sets shows like Buffy and Angel apart: relevance. More than any other show, each episode contains progressive, ongoing development that charts development in a very realistic way. On a more specific level, this particular season has an extremely strong episode to episode consistency, with each individual showing striking its own tone and exploring the main theme in different ways. A few larger, more exciting events may have helped, but at the same time I appreciate this season for what it is and how it does something a bit different from most other seasons of Buffy or Angel. There’s a lot more to talk about, including the metaphorical basis’ used and what we’re being fed through them, as well as the general ups and downs. The strongest suit this season has is its extremely fluid use of theme. Though the ponderings on connection, redemption and starting a new life are not as intricately detailed, subtle or socially penetrating as the themes of any other season, the careful and consistent way they’re used to develop characters and give the stories real world relevance is masterful. Angel made it his mission to save souls, and we were shown him connecting with people by helping them, failing to help them, or losing them altogether. All the supporting characters followed, gaining their own redemption through helping Angel and the helpless.

With the exception of Wesley being overly bumbling at times, nothing felt out of character this season, and that’s extremely impressive considering the length of a season. Doyle’s sacrifice in “Hero” (1×09), Angel’s re-ignited belief in himself in “To Shanshu in LA” [1×22] or Kate’s decision to see Angel kiss daylight in “Sanctuary” [1×19] were all thematically conclusive, resonant and well built up to.

The preceding season was,strong and coherent. While looking at the tribulations of life after High School in the big city, it managed to do so in a way that developed the characters within another major theme: Connection; Human emotions and growth that make us a part of the world, make us human. By the end of the season, Angel had been given a purpose, both short and long term, and a mission to fight for: Fighting in the final battles and surviving to be made a breathing human being again. Season Two, with a much broader theme, builds logically on that, and asks our vampire hero just what it means to really be human. Much of the season’s development is split in that way, with Angel increasingly being led off into his own world, with his friends developing entirely in a place away from him.screen-shot-2016-09-09-at-10-18-22-am-e1473430782777While he and the fate that ties him to Darla explore the complexities of human existence, Cordelia, Wesley and Gunn become forced to suffer through and succeed in it on their own. Though not as characterized by pain and hopelessness as much as S3 post “Sleep Tight” [3×16] through to the end of the series is, there’s much darkness and suffering abound, especially for Angel. His epic trials and will for revenge separate him harshly from humanity, only for him to realize that his worst actions are indeed wholly human, and that this is what humanity really can be. Season Two has such interesting ideas in spades, and its theme looks at all the best (“Untouched” [2×04], “Guise Will Be Guise” [2×06], “Epiphany” [2×16]) and worst (“Reunion” [2×10], “Reprise” [2×15]) sides of our existence: forgiveness, self-control, image, obsession, revenge, victory, belonging and the very nature of evil itself. By the time the season closes, Angel’s re-examined entirely what his mission is and how he’s to fight it, and goes from a champion vampire-with-a-soul to simply a genuinely good human being who helps people.fake-dwarvesWith the exception of the brilliant period piece Are You Now or Have You Ever Been?, and a few rare others, the season doesn’t have quite as much use for pure standalones. Its arc employs its best metaphors and situations in the interest of exploring all sides of the characters’ journey, and as such, the season gives the impression that more happens this year than last because of the depth of each phase of the arc: the four episode standalone period, the first part of the Darla arc (“Dear Boy” [2×05] to “Reunion” [2×10]), the second part of the Darla arc (“Redefinition” [2×11] to “Epiphany” [2×16]), another couple of standalones (“Disharmony” [2×17] and “Dead End” [2×18]) and the Pylea arc (“Belonging” [2×19] to “There’s No Place Like Plrtz Glrb” [2×22]).

This is likely why the season finds such a strong and undivided following. While some dispute the worth of the standalones or the Pylea arc, others like them, and everyone loves the story arc; there’s something for everyone. The best aspect of this year of the character’s journey in L.A. is how broad and all encompassing the season is. With the exception of Season Five, I find this to be the best season of the show. It has a few great metaphors, an engaging, unpredictable story arc, fun standalones, important character development, strong drama, and some of the most intelligent moral and social considerations I’ve ever seen on a TV show or in a movie.

Like at the start of Season Two, the writers seemed to have a clear direction in mind at the start of Season Three, and they wisely picked up the story at the logical introductory point: With Angel having conquered his innermost doubts about his own humanity. He begins to live a truly human life. He’s accepted his role in the world as a good person rather than a champion, and recognizes the world as a wide-open, random place with no greater destiny or order about it. It’s the kind of world where even the smallest acts of kindness mean everything, because they mean someone is able to shrug off the horrible burdens of life long enough to make another life better.screen-shot-2016-09-09-at-10-18-22-am-e1473430782777It opens with a six episode prelude looking at various facets of the responsibilities and obligations of normal human life, and then really begins with “Offspring” [3×07] when Darla returns to L.A. in a very, very pregnant state. Like “Dear Boy” [2×05] was for S2, this is where the beginning of S3 truly lies. With Darla’s death and the birth of baby Connor (“Lullaby” [3×09]) as the emotional forces driving the season, the writers used the question of responsibility and all the ideas that fall under it (justice, deserving, chaos and guilt) to create some truly, gut-wrenchingly impossible situations for our characters to face. If I have to commend this year for one thing alone, it’s the painstaking drama that the writers plunge the characters into throughout the main arc and in the mini-arcs that follow. Although there’s not nearly as much thematic depth as S2 or as much consistency as S1, the tragedies and difficult moral situations our beloved Angel Investigations team members are forced to face moved me deeper than a lot of other episodes in the series.

Aesthetically, S3 also has a much more sprawling scope than the previous two seasons. While the first six episodes were essentially standalones, everything that followed “Offspring” [3×07] was in some way tied to the main plot arc of the show, even when some of its key players disappeared following the epic tragedy of “Sleep Tight” [3×16]. Just when it seemed the story was about to move in another Pylea-like offshoot after the main storyline concluded, Connor and Holtz returned and the plot kept on chugging. This led to some problems, of course, as all season-long arcs eventually do. Tension sometimes tried to take the place of real content and it often showed. It also led to there being an uncomfortable setup/payoff ratio on the episode list. But on the plus side, S3 (and S4, which moves even further in this direction) had a feeling of epic scope that no other seasons manage, so to even think of the better aspects that lie within strikes me. Such a sprawl is one of the reasons many people love S3 even if they haven’t looked very deeply at it.Image result for angel forgiving“Forgiving” [3×17] was another gem, as it looked at the human need to assume we live in an ordered world where someone is responsible for everything that happens. But it’s never that easy, and watching Angel struggle with that was fascinating. The final three episodes (“A New World” [3×20], “Benediction” [3×21], “Tomorrow” [3×22]) made up another interesting stretch where we saw how our characters could be motivated by pain, hatred or love and the effects of all those things.

Having already been on the air for three years, Angel had more then enough time to establish its theme, characters, and relationships. It was in its fourth year that it would bring all of these elements to the forefront and then mix them up in a season that would come to be known for its complex twists and turns.The season begins with our title character trapped at the bottom of the ocean – put there by his son – with the rest of his gang broken up. From this grim beginning, things only get darker – literally. Enter the Beast, a rock-encrusted devil whose arrival is heralded by a rain of fire and promptly blocks out the sun over L.A. All signs are pointing to the apocalypse, and it’s up to Angel and the rest of his demon-fighting crew to put a stop to it. From a storytelling point of view things just keep getting worse and worse and it’s a credit to the writers that they somehow manage to end it all on a positive note.Since Season 2 Angel has been a very arc-heavy show, but in its fourth year it would approach almost 24 levels of continuity and follow-through. In addition to being very cool to watch, the interlinked episodes add up to a season that is one big experience unto itself. It’s as if the entire season is one episode with many chapters.This year we get to watch everything get shaken up. Wedges are slowly driven between certain relationships while jealousy quickly divides others. The great thing about it is that you get to see what has caused all of these problems. Despite their best efforts to hold together, these characters have no choice but to push each other apart. It makes for gripping television.Visually and stylistically the show is very well put together. The directing efforts of Joss Whedon (who is always excellent), Tim Minear (who has grown by leaps and bounds over the course of the series), and even Sean Astin (yes that Sean Astin) give the show a very polished and theatrical feel. The producers repeatedly stated that they were going for an ‘operatic’ feel to the season and they pulled it off very well. The use of darkness and shadow deserves special mention as does the great use of wide shots and the directors’ ability to fill each frame with as much information as possible. Wesley goes from bumbling dork to dark James Bond. Cool! While the twists and turns are great, the really cool thing to the season is the multiple layers that you’ll find within. Just when you think you know who the real ‘big bad’ is or in which direction the show is going, the rug is pulled out from under your feet. The entire season keeps you guessing from start to finish. Of course, our heroes win in the end — but everyone is left wondering if they did the right thing. And that’s what sets the show apart: It’s action with substance.

Nobody, not the producers, not the actors, and certainly not the fans could have predicted where this show would go. Where it could go. After all, this is an hour-long fantasy about a guy who spends so much time sitting in the shadows and brooding so much he would give Batman a run for his money. Or utility belt, as the case may be. So why is it that after five years and over a hundred episodes this show was still one of the freshest on TV? Simple: this is a story about something.

What started off as just a Buffy spin-off has ended up as a massive epic that challenges, if not surpasses, its parent show. Unfortunately, the WB didn’t think so. After giving the producers a hard time and insisting on several changes, the network decided to bring the show back for a fifth, and what would be its final year.

So, in previous seasons we’ve had operatic apocalypses, quests for meaning, and our hero even went evil for a while. There’s only one place left to go. Into the belly of the beast, into hell itself: a law firm. Based on the out-of-left-field plot twist that was thrown at Angel and the gang in previous season’s finale, the team is now in charge of wolfram and hart the evil law firm that they’ve spent the entire series battling. The trick then becomes changing the system from the inside, all the while making sure that it doesn’t change them.


Unfortunately when the network decided to renew the show for a fifth year, there were conditions. First and foremost, it had to be more stand-alone. No more back-to-back cliffhangers. Next, the budget was cut. And finally, to sweeten the deal, the producers decided to bring over Spike – who was barbequed in the Buffy finale – in the hopes that his fans would follow. Luckily the introduction of Spike worked out well. He added a nice flavor to the show and helped flesh out Angel’s character in a way that nobody else could have. The punky vampire brought out the worst in our hero, which ended up resulting in some great comedy. Even if this Spike was different from whom he became on Buffy, he made for a nice addition.

The most unwelcome change was the standalone mandate. Yes, it can work, but it’s just not as good. The greatest strength of this show has always been its own history and tying the hands of the writers was a mistake. It resulted in a bump in the show’s overall flow. Even though it seems rushed, things tie up nicely and the finale certainly puts the “grand” in grandiose; now there’s a balls-to-the wall showstopper for you. Most people will agree that the show finished with perfect thematic closure. These characters fight an impossible fight knowing they’ll probably lose, but that’s not the point. They fight, not to win, but because that’s who they are. They don’t give up. No matter what.