REVIEW: EVIL NEVER SLEEPS

CAST

Heather Graham (The Hangover)
Lisa Zane (Freddys Dead)
Carrie-Anne Moss (Jessica Jones)
Paul Herman (American Hustle)
Rustam Branaman  (Iron Man 3)
Max Perlich (Blow)
Richard Lynch (Puppet Master 3)
Balthazar Getty (Alias)
Jack McGee (The Fighter)

terrified_001Traumatized after witnessing her jealous husband kill her adulterous lover and then himself, an unbalanced, nymphomaniac young woman finds herself stalked by an unknown assailant, but she cannot make anyone believe her desperate situation. MSDTERR EC001When I saw this, I felt like looking a little independent movie with potential for a little cult movie… Heather Graham gives a grippy performance… yes, the camera angles and cuts are really kinda culty, the costumes are very stylish (both a bit 60ies-like) and the story is , not although, but because it is confusing, quite exciting and suspense, with several surprising and unexpected turns…yeah, but the storyline doesn’t count that much, it’s how it is put in action… As far as the style is concerned, it reminds me a bit of a mix of “Carnival Of Souls” and “Blow Up

REVIEW: SHADOW HOURS

CAST

Balthazar Getty (Alias)
Peter Weller (Robocop)
Rebeca Gayheart (Dead Like Me)
Peter Greene (The Mask)
Frederic Forrest (Apocalypse Now)
Brad Dourif (Curse of Chucky)
Michael Dorn (Star Trek: DS9)

1

The devil feeds from your weaknesses and enstills good in temptation. “Shadow Hours” definitely understands this, and shows an interesting Lucifer who dwells in the seedy underworld of Los Angelos.  To say the least, I wasn’t blown away by the story’s originality, but director Isaac H. Eaton has some brilliant style tricks to keep it fun and intriguing. He is an adroit director working with a mediocre script, and the results are surprisingly good.

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Balthazaar Ghetty plays Michael Halloway, a recovering alcoholic who tries to support himself as well as his wife Chloe by working at a seedy gas station on graveyard shift. In this environment, he’s bound to see some interesting things. It seems everyone who comes through has exhausted themselves with something…most likely some sort of sin. They are all running on empty as they scurry through the night. There are wonderful sequences where gas meters rise as different things happen, communicating this theme perfectly.  Anyway, he runs into a mugger and a homeless man (who symbolizes his bottom of the barrel outlook), but most importantly, a writer named Stuart Chappell (played by Peter Weller, in easily one of his best performances). Chappell has a strange fixation on Michael, and he takes care of him, clothing him with nice suits, and giving him tons of money to gamble. From the start, it is obvious this guy’s a little shady, however. He neglects the fact that Michael is recovering on AA and influences him to start drinking again. Soon, he plunges Michael into a truly harrowing underworld of fight clubs, gambling, drugs and sex.

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In one of the most disturbing scenes of recent memory, they go to a bondage club where people get sadomasochistic pleasure from torture. At first, I was angry that Eaton would use this smut to manipulate his audience into feeling shocked (like how Todd Solondz did in his terrible film “Happiness”). Then I realized, Chappell, a satan figure, is indeed masochistic in that he feeds off his victim’s pain. Little did Michael know as he looked at these twisted acts, that he was being used as a partner to Chappell’s atrocity.  When Michael becomes closer with Chappell, he realizes how much of a lie this man really is. But the perks of being with him are too great, and soon Michael goes too deep into the dark side, hurting Chloe and damaging the new life he forged after leaving AA. I didn’t like how the film ends. It takes an easy (and largely taken) way out, keeping itself on a level of simplicity. I believe Eaton is a genius director, but he sells himself short in “Shadow Hours”.

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I did like a lot of things in this film. I loved the performances by Getty (who also produced), and more so Peter Weller. He plays Stuart as attractive, fun and seemingly caring, but always dark somewhere deep. I liked how the story was paced and told, but it is lacking in overall freshness.

REVIEW: NATURAL BORN KILLERS

CAST
Woody Harrelson (The Hunger Games)
Juliette lewis (Some Girl)
Tom Sizemore (Black Hawk Down)
Rodney Dangerfield (Casper)
Jared Harris (Sherlock Holmes 2)
Pruitt Taylor Vince (Heroes Reborn)
Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man)
Balthazar Getty (Alias)
Tommy Lee Jones (Batman Forever)
Mickey Knox and his wife Mallory stop at a roadside café in the New Mexico desert. A group of rednecks arrive and one begins sexually harassing Mallory. She briefly encourages him before beating him to a pulp. Mickey and Mallory then murder all but one of the diner’s patrons, culminating in a morbid game of Eeny, meeny, miny, moe to decide who lives and dies. After executing the waitress Mabel, the couple ensures that the only survivor remembers their names before they embrace and declare their undying love.
Mickey and Mallory camp out in the desert, and Mallory reminisces about when they first met. A flashback (done in the style of a TV sitcom, including a laughtrack) shows Mickey as a deliveryman who came to the house where Mallory lived with her sexually abusive father, her neglectful mother, and her younger brother, Kevin. Mickey and Mallory fall in love instantly and leave together, as Mickey steals a car that belongs to Mallory’s father. Soon Mickey is arrested and imprisoned for grand theft auto, but he subsequently escapes from a prison work farm during a tornado and returns to Mallory’s house. The two kill Mallory’s parents, but spare Kevin, and go on the road together and get “married” on the side of a bridge, celebrating by taking a hostage. Furious with Mickey’s notion that they have a threesome, Mallory drives to a nearby gas station, where she flirts with the mechanic. They begin to have sex on the hood of a car, but Mallory kills him when he recognizes her as a wanted killer. During this time, Mickey rapes the hostage.
The pair continue their killing spree, ultimately claiming fifty-two victims in New Mexico, Arizona, and Nevada. Pursuing them is Detective Jack Scagnetti, who became obsessed with mass murderers after witnessing his mother being shot and killed by Charles Whitman when he was eight. Beneath his heroic facade, he is a violent psychopath, once strangling a prostitute to death. The killers are also followed by self-serving tabloid journalist Wayne Gale. Gale profiles Mickey and Mallory on his show, American Maniacs, soon elevating them to cult hero status.
Mickey and Mallory become lost in the desert and encounter Warren Red Cloud, a Navajo Indian, and his young grandson. After the two fall asleep, the Navajo, hoping to expel the demon he perceives in Mickey, begins chanting beside the fire, invoking nightmares in Mickey about his abusive parents. Mickey wakes up in a rage and fatally shoots Red Cloud before he realizes what he is doing. It is the first time Mallory and Mickey feel guilty for a murder. Fleeing from the scene through the desert, they stray onto a field of rattlesnakes and are both bitten.
They drive to a drugstore to find snakebite antidote, but the pharmacist sets off the silent alarm before Mickey kills him. Soon police cars arrive and Mallory is captured and subsequently beaten by the police. A gunfight breaks out between Mickey and the others. Scagnetti arrives and tells Mickey that unless he surrenders, he will cut off Mallory’s breasts. Mickey gives up his guns, but attacks Scagnetti with a knife. The police taser him and the scene ends with Mickey and Mallory being beaten by a group of vengeful policemen as a Japanese news crew fronted by a female reporter films the action.
The story picks up one year later: the homicidal couple have been imprisoned, and are due to be moved to a mental hospital after being declared insane. Scagnetti arrives at the prison and encounters Warden Dwight McClusky, with whom he plans to murder the two criminals. McClusky will arrange for Scagnetti to be the driver for the Knoxes’ transfer. Alone with the pair, Scagnetti will murder them, then claim that they tried to escape.
Meanwhile, Gale has persuaded Mickey to agree to a live interview that will air immediately after the Super Bowl. Mallory is held in solitary confinement elsewhere in the prison, awaiting her transport to the mental hospital. During the interview, Mickey gives a speech about how murder provides enlightenment and declares himself a “natural born killer”. His words inspire the other inmates (who are watching the interview on TV in the recreation room) and incite them to riot. McClusky, upon learning of the riot, orders the interview terminated despite Gale’s vehement protests. Mickey is left alone with Gale, the film crew and several guards. Using a lengthy joke as a diversion, Mickey overpowers a guard and grabs his shotgun. He kills most of the guards with it and takes the survivors hostage, leading them through the prison riot. Gale follows, giving a live television report as people are beaten and killed around him.
Scagnetti enters Mallory’s cell and attempts to seduce her. Mallory, feigning to reciprocate at first, rebuffs his efforts, smashing his face against the wall and breaking his nose, before two guards subdue her, and Scagnetti sprays her face with tear gas in revenge. Still live on national television, Mickey arrives at Mallory’s cell, where he kills all the guards and engages in a Mexican standoff with Scagnetti, eventually feigning a concession. Mallory then approaches Scagnetti from behind and slashes his throat with a shank. To Scagnetti’s horror, Mickey tells him that he was out of shotgun shells during the standoff. Mallory then picks up Scagnetti’s gun and kills him.
Mickey and Mallory continue to escape through the riot torn prison, with Gale’s entire TV crew getting killed. Gale himself snaps, succumbing to Stockholm syndrome as well as indulging in his own longtime fascination for murder, and begins to shoot at the guards with a pistol that he has taken from one of the dead guards, but gets so frenzied that Mickey prefers to disarm him. After being rescued by a mysterious prisoner named Owen Traft, the trio of Mickey, Mallory, and Gale run into McClusky and a heavily armed posse of guards. The trio takes cover in a blood-splattered shower room. McClusky threatens to storm the shower room; Mickey, in turn, threatens to kill both Gale and a guard on live TV, and the prisoners walk out the front door, to McClusky’s utter dismay, as he helplessly threatens to hunt them down. McClusky and his guards are then quickly massacred by hordes of inmates.
Mickey and Mallory steal a van and kill the last guard; Owen’s fate is unknown. Escaping to a rural location, they give a final interview to Gale, whose ear they have seemingly removed (implied, but as a camera track reveals), before they tell him he must die also. He attempts various arguments to change their minds, finally appealing to their trademark practice of leaving one survivor; Mickey informs him they are leaving a witness to tell the tale, his camera. Gale accepts his fate and extends his arms as if on a cross as they shoot him dead while his unattended camera continues to roll. The couple is shown several years later, in an RV, with Mickey driving and a pregnant Mallory watching their two children play.
Natural Born Killers is Oliver Stone’s “take-no-prisoners” assault on the media that is cinematic eye-candy to the teeth. It’s an uneasy satire to watch, but it is an extremely effective film that is both thrilling and funny.

REVIEW: YOUNG GUNS 1 & 2

CAST

Emilio Estevez (Bobby)
Kiefer Sutherland (24)
Lou Diamond Phillips (Stargate Universe)
Charlie Sheen (Two and a Half Men)
Dermot Mulroney (The Grey)
Casey Siemaszko (Stand By Me)
Terence Stamp (Superman 1 & 2)
Jack Palance (Batman)
Terry O’Quinn (Lost)

John Tunstall (Terence Stamp), an educated Englishman and cattle rancher in Lincoln County, New Mexico, hires wayward young gunmen to live and work on his ranch. Tunstall is in heavy competition with a well-connected Irishman named Lawrence Murphy (Jack Palance), who owns a large ranch; their men clash on a regular basis. Tunstall recruits Billy (Emilio Estevez) and advises him to renounce violence saying that “He who sows the wind will reap the whirlwind.” Tensions escalate between the two camps, resulting in the murder of Tunstall. Billy, Doc Scurlock (Kiefer Sutherland), Jose Chavez y Chavez (Lou Diamond Phillips), Richard M. “Dick” Brewer (Charlie Sheen), “Dirty” Steve Stephens (Dermot Mulroney), and Charlie Bowdre (Casey Siemaszko), consult their lawyer friend Alexander McSween (Terry O’Quinn), who manages to get them deputized and given warrants for the arrest of Murphy’s murderous henchmen.
Billy quickly challenges Dick’s authority as leader, vowing revenge against Murphy and the men responsible for killing Tunstall. The men call themselves The Regulators and arrest some of the murderers, but hot-headed Billy is unable to wait for justice. He guns down unarmed men and goes on to kill one of his fellow Regulators (later arrival J. McCloskey) in the paranoid (but correct) belief that he was still in league with Murphy. The men are stripped of their badges, which they find out about by reading a newspaper. That same paper also confuses Dick for Billy, showing a picture of Dick labeled Billy the Kid, a nickname to which Billy takes an immediate liking.
While the local authorities begin their hunt for Billy and the boys, the Regulators argue about continuing with their warrants or to go on the run. One of the men on their list of warrants, Buckshot Roberts (Brian Keith), tracks them down, barricades himself in an outhouse, and Dick dies in an intense shootout. Billy appoints himself as the new leader, the gang becomes famous and the U.S. Army is charged with bringing them to justice under Murphy’s corrupt political influence.
The gang eludes attention for some time, and Charlie gets married in Mexico. While attending the wedding, Billy meets Pat Garrett (Patrick Wayne) who is not yet a sheriff, but warns Billy of an attempt on Alex’s life by Murphy’s men that will happen the next day. Thus the gang packs up and heads off to save Alex. Back in Lincoln, Murphy’s men, led by George W. Peppin, surround Alex’s house, trapping the Regulators, and a shootout begins. A ceasefire is called for the night. In the morning, accompanied by Murphy, the army comes in and torches the house, but Chavez escapes out the back. While the house is burning, the men come up with an escape plan. They begin throwing Alex’s possessions out the windows of the second floor. Billy places himself inside of a large trunk, and when it lands in front of the house, he leaps out and begins to open fire.Meanwhile, Doc bursts out of the side stairway, followed by Charlie and Steve. Everyone makes it to the lawn, but Billy is shot twice in his arms. Charlie challenges the bounty hunter John Kinney (Allen Keller); Kinney shoots Charlie and Charlie fires back, killing each other.
Chavez comes from behind the army on horseback, and jumps the barricade to get extra horses to the Regulators. Billy jumps on one horse, but Doc is shot trying to get on another. Doc still manages to pick up his girlfriend Yen Sun (Alice Carter), Murphy’s Chinese sex-slave, and they ride off. Chavez tries to get Steve on a horse, but is wounded and falls to the ground. Steve helps Chavez on to a horse, but is left alone and unarmed. The Army and Murphy’s men shoot and kill Steve. Alex cheers on the boys as they ride away. The army opens fire on him with a Gatling gun and he is killed. As the remaining men ride away, Murphy hurls threats and curses after them, but is stunned when Billy turns back and shoots Murphy right between the eyes, killing him. The final scene is a voice-over of Doc explaining what happened afterwards: Alex’s widow caused a congressional investigation into the Lincoln County War. Chavez took work at a farm in California. Doc moved east to New York and married Yen Sun, whom he had saved from Murphy. Billy continued to ride until he was found and shot dead by Pat Garrett. Billy was buried next to Charlie Bowdre at Fort Sumner. A stranger went to the grave of Billy the Kid late one night and made a carving in the headstone. The epitaph read only one word: “PALS”.
The film toils with emotions throughout and brings a slight comic relief. Emilio Estevez shone as the major star, although packed out with many big names Charlie Sheen, Lou Diamond Phillips, Kiefer Sutherland, Dermot Mulroney, Terence Stamp and Jack Palance. Deserved more awards when released and holds as a great film all these years later. Westerns usually become dated very quick but this holds tension throughout.

CAST

Emilio Estevez (Bobby)
Kiefer Sutherland (24)
Lou Diamond Phillips (Stargate Universe)
Christian Slater (Interview With The Vampire)
William Petersen (CSI)
Alan Ruck (Speed)
R.D. Call (Waterworld)
James Coburn (The Great Escape)
Balthazar Getty (Brothers & Sisters)
Robert Knepper (Cult)
Viggo Mortensen (Lord of The Rings)
Leon Rippy (Stargate)
Tracey Walter (Conan The Destroyer)
Jenny wright (NEar Dark)
Richard Schiff (The Cape)
Ginger Lynn (The Devil’s Rejects)

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In 1950, attorney Charles Phalen is contacted by an elderly man named “Brushy Bill” Roberts. Brushy Bill tells Phalen that he is dying and wants to receive a pardon that he was promised 70 years before by the Governor of New Mexico. When asked why he wants the pardon, Brushy Bill claims that he is really William H. Bonney aka “Billy The Kid”, whom “everyone” knows to have been shot and killed by Pat Garrett in 1881. Phalen then asks if Bill has any proof that he is the famous outlaw. Brushy Bill’s story begins with the remaining Regulators having gone their separate ways. Billy has become part of a new gang with “Arkansas” Dave Rudabaugh (Slater) and Pat Garrett (Petersen). The New Mexico governor has issued warrants for the arrests of those involved in the Lincoln County Wars, including Billy, Doc Scurlock (Sutherland), and Jose Chavez y Chavez (Phillips), who are dragged into town and imprisoned to await hanging.
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Meanwhile, Billy meets with the new governor Lew Wallace who agrees to pardon Billy if he testifies against the Dolan-Murphy faction. Billy soon finds out that he was tricked into being arrested with no chance of testifying against his old enemies. After escaping, Billy along with the help of Rudabaugh and Garrett, pose as a lynch mob to spring Doc and Chavez from jail. When the gang successfully escape Lincoln, Billy mentions the Mexican Blackbird (a broken trail only he and few others know that leads down to Mexico). Garrett decides not to go with the gang and, instead, open a boarding house. As they make a run for the border along with farmer Henry William French (Alan Ruck) and 14-year-old Tom O’Folliard (Balthazar Getty), cattle baron John Simpson Chisum (James Coburn) and Governor Wallace approach Garrett to offer him the job as Lincoln County Sheriff and $1000 to use whatever resources he needs to hunt Bonney down and kill him. Garrett agrees and, forming a posse, begins his pursuit of the gang.
Billy and the gang soon come to the town of White Oaks where they meet up with former companion, Jane Greathouse (Jenny Wright) who runs a local bordello. Later that night, the town lynch mob comes for the gang and are intent on a hanging. Deputy Carlisle tries to negotiate a deal, “the Indian” (Chavez) for a safe rideout. Billy refuses the offer and pushes the Deputy out the door, who is then accidentally killed by the lynch mob. Garrett soon tracks Billy to the bordello, but is too late. Billy and his gang are continuously tracked by the posse, narrowly evading capture, but Tom (being mistaken for Billy) is soon shot dead by Garrett. As they hideout, Billy admits that the Mexican Blackbird doesn’t exist; it was just a pawn to get the gang back together and to keep riding. Doc is angered and tries to leave for home, but he is shot by one of Garrett’s men and sacrifices himself to enable his friends to escape. Billy the Kid is soon brought back into Lincoln by Garrett and is sentenced to death by hanging. He is visited by Jane Greathouse, who arranges to leave a pistol in an outhouse. Billy uses the pistol to kill two guards and escapes to Old Fort Sumner. By the time he arrives, Dave has abandoned the group to make his way to Mexico, and Chavez is dying from a bullet wound. During the night Garrett finds Billy unarmed. Billy asks Garrett to let him run to Mexico and tell the authorities that he killed him. Garrett declines because he believes Billy would not be able to resist coming back to the United States (which would lead to Garrett’s death for lying). Billy turns around, forcing Garrett to have to shoot him in the back, which he does not. In the morning, a fake burial is staged for Billy and Garrett’s horse is seen being taken by an unknown figure (implied to be Billy). Brushy Bill admits he never stole a horse from someone he didn’t like, and further admits he didn’t like Garrett; he loved him. Phalen, convinced that Brushy Bill is Billy the Kid, agrees to help him.
The epilogue reveals that Arkansas Dave was beheaded once he reached Mexico to discourage more outlaws from crossing the border; Garrett’s book detailing his pursuit of Billy was a dismal failure and he is eventually shot and killed in 1908; Brushy Bill met with the Governor of New Mexico but despite corroboration from several surviving friends of The Kid, he was discredited and died less than a month later; whether or not Brushy Bill was Billy the Kid remains a mystery. The final shot shows Billy pointing his gun at an off screen target, saying to the target “I’ll make you famous”.
Not only does Young Guns 2 have some explosive action scenes, it has some great drama, you will really feel for Billy and his pals as they meet their maker one by one. Christian Slater provides some brilliant humor in the role of ‘Arkansas’ Dave Rudabaugh – His comic foreplay with Emilio Estevez provides the film with some of it’s most memorable scenes.

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.

 

REVIEW: TRAFFIC – THE MINISERIES

 

CAST

Elias Koteas (Crash)
Cliff Curtis (Blow)
Balthazar Getty (Alias)
Martin Donovan (Legends of Tomorrow)
Mary McCormack (Deep Impact)
Ritchie Coster (The Tuxedo)
Nelson Lee (Blade: The Series)
Justin Chatwin (War of The Worlds)
Amanda Tapping (Stargate SG.1)

It’s easy to get confused about what, exactly, is Traffic: The Miniseries, considering that there’s a feature film of the same name, and a British miniseries called Traffik that’s regarded as having inspired both the film and the U.S. miniseries. But the only thing that Traffic: The Miniseries has in common with these productions is its use of drug trafficking as the central plot point, and its use of an ensemble cast and multiple, interwoven story threads. Other than that loose connection, Traffic: The Miniseries stands on its own… and it stands very solidly indeed.

Four main stories are at the core of Traffic: Mike McKay (Elias Koteas) a DEA agent working to track down heroin delivery routes in Afghanistan; his wife Carole (Mary McCormack) and teenaged son Tyler (Justin Chatwin) who have just moved to Seattle; an ambitious businessman (Balthazar Getty) who discovers the shady but profitable world of smuggling; and a Russian taxi driver (Cliff Curtis) who is waiting for the arrival of his wife and daughter through the network of smuggled “illegals.” In one way or another, all four stories connect to the mysterious sinking of a ship off the coast of Seattle, to the drug trade, and potentially also to a global terrorist network.

Traffic runs a total of four hours and 23 minutes, but its pace is so gripping that you could almost watch it in one sitting; certainly after you watch the first half you’ll be dying to see the second half. The stories are deftly laid out and intriguingly developed: in each case, we see the characters getting more and more entangled in the larger web of the story. Each story thread has its own impetus, so even before we sense any connections between them, we’re completely hooked to find out what’s going to happen in each case.