REVIEW: NEMESIS GAME

CAST

Carly Pope (Arrow)
Ian McShane (Hercules)
Adrian Paul (Highlander)
Rena Owen (The Last Witch Hunter)
Brendan Fehr (Roswell)
Jay Baruchel (Fanboys)

MCDNEGA EC005Sara Novak is an introverted college student with a few skeletons in her closet. Shying away from classmates, she prefers to spend time with Vern, an older comic store owner who shares her passion for mind games and riddles. But when the riddles she solves lead to the deaths of those around her, she realizes the riddles are more than a simple game.CarlycopyIf you enjoy riddles and suspense, you will enjoy this movie. Truth be told it was mostly the Adrian Paul part that got me to pick it up, I knew almost nothing about the movie beforehand.  All in all, I thought the movie was pretty well done. And it’s definitely an original concept, a rare find these days! I personally happen to like riddles and puns, so while most of them weren’t very difficult, it was still a fun movie. Well worth a watch.

 

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REVIEW: TWO FOR THE MONEY

CAST

Al Pacino (Simone)
Matthew McConaughey (EDTV)
Rene Russo (Thor)
Armand Assante (Judge Dredd)
Carly Pope (Arrow)
Jeremy Piven (Mr. Selfridge)
Jaime King (Sin City)
Ralph Garman (Yoga Hosers)

Brandon Lang (McConaughey) is a former college football star who, after sustaining a career-ending injury, takes a job handicapping football games. His success at choosing winners catches the eye of Walter Abrams (Pacino), the slick head of one of the biggest sports consulting operations in the United States. Walter takes Brandon under his wing, and soon they are making tremendous amounts of money.

Lang’s in-depth knowledge of the game, leagues and players brings in big winnings and bigger clients. Abrams’ cable television show, The Sports Advisors, skyrockets in popularity when he adds Lang’s slick “John Anthony” persona to the desk, infuriating Jerry Sykes (Jeremy Piven), who up to now has been Walter’s in-house expert. Lang’s total image is remade — new car, new wardrobe and a new look with the assistance of Walter’s wife, Toni (Russo), a hair stylist.

Things suddenly go south, however, when Lang begins playing his hunches instead of doing his homework. He loses his touch and is even physically assaulted by the thugs of a gambler (Armand Assante) who lost a great deal of money following Lang’s advice. Lang and Abrams’ once-solid relationship sours. Lang’s new high-rolling lifestyle depends entirely on his ability to predict the outcomes of the games. Millions are at stake by the time he places his last bet, and Abrams grows increasingly unstable. (Abrams is a recovering gambling addict and alcoholic, among other things. Toni tells Lang early on that Walter’s life is “held together by meetings; if there’s an ‘anonymous’ at the end of it, he goes. He has to.”). He secretly begins gambling all of his own money on Lang’s picks and becomes suspicious that Lang is having an affair with his wife.

The film concludes with Lang’s predictions coming true for the last game, both of which he allegedly determines by flipping coins in a bathroom, as he leaves New York and takes a job as coach of a junior league football team.

Not a great movie by any means, but some truly fine acting from the trio of stars. The supporting cast also gives solid roles despite the skimpy script. If gambling of any sort, and sports gambling in particular, is of interest to you, then this is a movie to recommend. Otherwise see it for the actors, not the story.

12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS REVIEW: ARROW – WHAT WE LEAVE BEHIND

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MAIN CAST

Stephen Amell (The Vampire Diaries)
David Ramsey (Con Air)
Willa Holland (Legion)
Emily Bett Rickards (Brooklyn)
Echo Kellum (Ben and Kate)
Josh Segarra (Trainwreck)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Rick Gonzalez (Pulse)
Joe Dinicol (Scott Pilgrim vs The World)
Maddison McLaughlin (Chicago P.D.)
Tyler Ritter (The McCarthys)
Carly Pope (Popular)
Katie Cassidy (Black Xmas)
Audrey Marie Anderson (The Unit)
Michael Dorn (Ted 2)

The Mid-Season finale of Arrow was a great way to cap off the first half of a season that’s been all about rebuilding, regrouping and looking to the past in order to shape the future. There was plenty of progress on the Prometheus front, all of which fueled a suitably dark and depressing ending that suggests things are going to get a lot worse before that light at the end of the tunnel appears for Team Arrow.
One of the few things the Arrow producers have revealed about this year’s big villain is that he has ties to Oliver Queen’s past. Those ties became much more clear in this episode, which featured one of the more memorable uses of flashbacks in the show’s history. In the last couple seasons, there’s been an odd obsession with drawing as many direct parallels between past and present, usually to the detriment of the flashback scenes. But here that approach made sense. In effect, the flashbacks were giving us a glimpse of a lost, early Season 1-era episode, one that also served as the beginning of Prometheus’ origin story.

On one hand, it was fun just to go back and revisit that simpler time. All the details were recreated perfectly, from Ollie’s original, mask-less costume and lair to his goofy interplay with a pre-sidekick Felicity to Diggle being the nonplussed bodyguard. On another, these flashbacks really emphasized how much Ollie has changed as a person and a vigilante over the course of four years. He may flirt with killing now, but back then he was a veritable murder machine. It was chilling watching him mow down those guards with impunity. Enough so that you can’t help but empathize with Prometheus a bit. Maybe Ollie had all of this coming. The way in which this episode regularly bounced between past and present helped build the tension leading into Ollie’s final showdown with Prometheus.

But before getting to that, it’s worth discussing the lead-up to that final showdown. This episode built up an engaging mystery as Prometheus attacked Curtis and then sent Team Arrow on a quest to uncover his identity and motives. There’s still plenty we don’t know about this villain. The implication is that he’s the bastard son of Justin Clayborne (Get Carter’s Garwin Sanford), one of the Hood’s first victims, though even that can’t be taken for granted yet. But even if that is the case, Prometheus’ actual identity remains a mystery. What we do know is that he harbors a serious grudge, and not an entirely unwarranted one, at that. Whomever is under the mask, Prometheus is one who will force Ollie to atone for his mistakes he made when he was still a killer, not a hero.
So after much soul-searching and one early brawl with Prometheus, Ollie finally confronted his foe at the exact spot where he shot down Clayborne four years earlier. And that’s where Prometheus really upped his game. He delivered quite the blow by tricking Ollie into killing Billy. But again, you can see Ollie proving Prometheus point for him. If he wasn’t so reckless and so quick to pull the trigger, Ollie wouldn’t have fallen for that ruse. He tried the killing game again, and this is where it led him. All of this makes Prometheus a more compelling villain because it’s so easy to understand his point of view. He may not be the hero of this story, but he makes a strong case for the idea that Ollie isn’t either. That, more than anything, is what’s distinguishing Prometheus from the rest of the show’s major villains.

That dramatic twist led to a terrifically emotional scene as Ollie felt the crushing weight of his mistakes bearing down on him. To his credit, he didn’t try to hide the truth from Felicity, which is another sign of how much he’s matured in the past four years. But it was quite a depressing way to cap off the first half of the season. The montage where Ollie reflected on his knack for ruining lives while Curtis, Felicity and Diggle all dealt with their new tragedies was an extremely effective way of highlighting the darker turn the season is taking. Echo Kellum in particular gave a terrifically raw performance during Curtis’ breakup with his husband.  It’s funny to compare this episode to the mid season finale of Flash (Season 3). Both leaned pretty heavily on the Christmas motif towards the end, but where Flash tried to find room for hope and optimism in the midst of a dark new threat, Arrow just went all-in on the depressing darkness. But honestly, optimism probably would have felt forced given everything that happened tonight. The final scene was a shocking way to end the episode, seeing Laurel show up at the Arrowcave gives the episode one last WTF moment to see us into 2017.

Arrow has steadily been building steam over the course of Season 5, and that trend continued in the mid-season finale. This episode capped off 2016 on a fittingly dark and gloomy note. Viewers were given more insight into Prometheus’ background and motivations, while also getting the chance to revisit the show’s Season 1 status quo. Things are looking up for the series as it moves into the new year.

REVIEW: ORANGE COUNTY

CAST

Colin Hanks (King kong)
Jack Black (Goosebumps)
Schuyler Fisk (Snow Day)
Bret Harrison (V)
Kyle Howard (Royal Pains)
Catherine O’ Hara (Beetlejuice)
John Lithgow (3rd Rock From The Sun)
Lily Tomin (I Heart Huckabees)
Carly Pope (Elysium)
Chevy Chase (Chuck)
Fran Kranz (Dollhouse)
Sarah Hagan (Buffy)
Leslie Mann (This is 40)
Harold Ramis (Year One)
Lizzy Caplan (Cloverfield)
Sandra McCoy (Power Rangers Wild Force)
Ben Stiller (Zoolander)

Shaun Brumder (Colin Hanks) is a teenager from affluent Orange County, California. Although bright and intelligent, he has very little interest in education or studying, instead trying to lead a carefree SoCal lifestyle of surfing, drinking, and partying. A turning point comes when Shaun’s best friend Lonny (Bret Harrison) is killed in a surfing accident, causing Shaun to rethink his own life. One day, he finds a novel on the beach by the author Marcus Skinner, which quickly inspires him to become a writer. Upon learning that Skinner is an English professor at Stanford University, Shaun makes it his goal to attend Stanford and study under him, seeing it as an opportunity to escape from his superficial life in Orange County.

Shaun dramatically improves himself academically, obtaining high grades and SAT scores as well as becoming the president of his graduating class. Following the advice of his guidance counselor, Ms. Cobb (Lily Tomlin), who tells him that he is a “shoo-in” for acceptance, Shaun applies only to Stanford. This severely backfires as Shaun later finds out that he is rejected from Stanford, ironically because Ms. Cobb mixed up his academic transcript with that of a much less intelligent student. Shaun then reaches out to his wealthy father Bud (John Lithgow), who had left his wife and family to marry a much younger woman (Leslie Mann), pleading him to donate money to Stanford in order to increase his chances of being accepted. Bud, however, disapproves of Shaun’s dream of being a writer and refuses. In an attempt to help him, Shaun’s animal rights activist girlfriend Ashley (Schuyler Fisk) successfully convinces her friend Tanya (Carly Pope) to allow Shaun to be interviewed at his home by Tanya’s grandfather, a Stanford board member, so Shaun can explain his situation. Unfortunately, the antics displayed during the interview by his dysfunctional family members, including his alcoholic, emotionally fragile mother Cindy (Catherine O’Hara) and his dim-witted stoner brother Lance (Jack Black), cause Shaun’s interviewers to storm out in anger and disgust.

In a last-ditch effort to get him accepted, Ashley and Lance convince Shaun to drive to Palo Alto and plead his case directly to Stanford Admissions Director Don Durkett (Harold Ramis). By the time the trio arrive on campus, it is nighttime and the admissions building is already closed. While Lance distracts (and seduces) the secretary on duty in the office, Shaun and Ashley steal the address to Durkett’s house. They arrive at his home, where Shaun shows him his real high school transcript. Although impressed with Shaun’s credentials, Durkett is reluctant to admit him, as it is already very late in the admissions process. After much groveling, Shaun finally convinces Durkett to go back to his office in the Admissions Building and give it a second thought. Disaster strikes again, however, when Ashley drugs Durkett by accident with Lance’s ecstasy, stored in an Excedrin bottle, thereby causing Durkett to become high. Things go from bad to worse when Shaun and Ashley arrive at the Admissions Building and find it engulfed in flames, caused by Lance starting a fire while he was seducing the receptionist to distract her; Lance is now wanted for arson. They abandon the hallucinating Durkett and flee the scene to avoid being arrested.

Ashley finally becomes frustrated with Shaun’s obsession of only getting into Stanford, and points out that his attending would mean they would be separated, thus ending their relationship. She then angrily leaves Shaun on his own. Depressed, Shaun wanders the campus and meets a female student who invites him to a frat party. There, he witnesses the behavior of the Stanford coeds and is disappointed to learn that they are just as vapid and ditzy as the girls he knew from Orange County. After leaving the party with a more cynical view of college, Shaun, by chance, runs into Professor Skinner (Kevin Kline) and is invited to his office to chat. Skinner is amused with Shaun’s belief that he must study and work in a highly intelligent environment in order to become successful, pointing out that many famous authors such as James Joyce and William Faulkner grew up in places that were not intellectually stimulating, but still became great writers. Having an epiphany, Shaun realizes his previous misguided intentions and seeks out Ashley to apologize to her. After catching up with her, the two also pick up Lance (who is still hiding from the police) and drive home.

Back in Orange County, Shaun’s parents seek out each other to determine how to deal with Shaun’s problem. They end up reconciling, realizing that they are much happier together than with their respective new spouses. They also conclude that they have not been very good parents to Shaun and, in an attempt to make amends, Bud donates enough money to Stanford for the construction of a brand new Admissions Building (ironically, to replace the one that Lance burned down). This action gets Shaun accepted into Stanford. Although Shaun is initially ecstatic, he then remembers the things that both Ashley and Professor Skinner had told him. Shaun finally decides to stay in Orange County with Ashley and his family because he loves them too much to leave them, and he is now able to view living in Orange County as a positive influence for his writing career, rather than a detriment. The film ends with Shaun going surfing with his friends again for the first time since Lonny’s death.

There is nothing groundbreaking in Orange County. It’s a pretty straightforward teen movie with a realistic plot and great performances. with emphasis on the goofiness, this movie would’ve been a low-grade teen sex flick. Instead we have a real story about ambition and teen life with a few falls off of roofs and vases falling on heads

REVIEW: DISTURBING BEHAVIOR

CAST

James Marsden (Superman Returns)
Katie Holmes (Go)
Nick Stahl (Terminator 3)
Tobias Mehler (Wishmaster 3)
Steve Railsback (Lifeforce)
Bruce Greenwood (Star Trek)
Katharine Isabelle (American Mary)
William Sadler (Roswell)
Ethan Embry (Eagle Eye)
Derek Hamilton (Arrow)
Chad Donella (Smallville)
Natassia Malthe (Elektra)
David Paetkau (Flashpoint)
Brendan Fehr (Bones)
Sarah-Jane Redmond (V)
Carly Pope (Popular)
Lynda Boyd (Power Rangers In Space)
Daniella Evangelista (Ripper)

Steve Clark (James Marsden) is a high school senior whose family moves to Cradle Bay, a picturesque coastal town in Washington state’s Puget Sound with his parents. It has been nearly one year since Steve’s older brother, Allen (Ethan Embry), committed suicide which traumatized the family. Steve’s parents tell him that they have relocated from Chicago to Cradle Bay as a fresh start to move on with their lives.

During Steve’s first day at his new high school, he meets and befriends three outcast students, Gavin Strick (Nick Stahl), U.V. (Chad Donella), and Rachel Wagner (Katie Holmes). Gavin tries to tell Steve that he believes there is something evil about the “Blue Ribbons”—a clique of students taking part in a “special program” led by the school psychologist, Dr. Caldicott (Bruce Greenwood). Steve is understandably skeptical. The following day at lunch, Gavin walks in looking like a Blue Ribbon. When Steve tries to confront Gavin, he gets punched in the stomach for his impertinence. Later, after being chased home, Steve finds Blue Ribbon member Lorna Longley in his living room, waiting to seduce him under the pretense of helping his younger sister study. However, her heightened arousal causes her to suddenly behave erratically and smash her head into a mirror, after which she is taken to a medical facility under Dr. Caldicott’s care. Now Steve and Rachel must find the source of the Blue Ribbons as well as try and save the rest of the school before it’s too late. They find a CD-R disc that Gavin hid for them in the boiler room, containing a video he made of himself before his “transformation”, telling them about the club and about the history that he learned about Dr. Caldicott.

During this, Steve also befriends Dorian (William Sadler), the school janitor, who appears to be mentally handicapped and hunts rats for the city for some extra cash. Dorian demonstrates a device called an E-Rat-icator which emits a soft, high pitched whine that is supposed to be innocuous but annoying to rats, which is an abysmal failure. Steve discovers that Dorian is actually highly intelligent, and carries classical literature pieces with him, and that he’s hiding because he wishes to be left alone and does not trust society. Dorian also tells Steve that he suspects that the entire community of Cradle Bay is part of a massive conspiracy made up of nearly all of the parents, as well as the local police chief Cox, the school principal and entire school faculty, who hired Dr. Caldicott to “re-program” their own children to become the perfect people that they want them to be and not free-thinkers. A little later, during an encounter where a Blue Ribbon known as “Chug” (A.J. Buckley) assaults Rachel in the school basement, the E-Rat-icator goes off, and immediately sends the student into a psychotic fit, driving him away.

 
During their personal investigation, Steve and Rachel try to find out what exactly has been happening to the Blue Ribbon kids, which leads them to a mental hospital called Bishop Flats following a lead on the disc that Gavin left behind. Here, they find out that mind control is being used to make depressed, awkward and unruly teens become perfect so they can function properly in life, but the programming has some glitches that lead to momentary relapses which cause violent fits. Also at Bishop Flats, they find Caldicott’s daughter, Betty (Julie Patzwald), a failed project who spends her time repeating the same phrase: “Meet the musical little creatures that hide among the flowers”.

After escaping from the hospital, Steve and Rachel have a run-in with the town’s police chief Cox (Steve Railsback) who is also involved in the conspiracy and he tries to arrest them after learning from Dr. Caldicott about their excursion to the mental hospital. But Dorian shows up under the pretense that he is disposing of dead rats when he subdues the police chief and tells Steve and Rachel to leave town and go public with what they know about Dr. Caldicott’s work. When Rachel and Steve return home, they plan to get out of town along with Steve’s younger sister, Lindsay (Katharine Isabelle), but when they arrive at Steve’s house, Steve’s parents (Terry David Mulligan and Susan Hogan) reveal that they are also part of the conspiracy and that they moved to Cradle Bay for the sole purpose to sign him up for Caldicott’s program. Steve and Lindsay try to get out but they get ambushed by a group of Blue Ribbons waiting for them outside the house. They drag Steve and Rachel to the programming center, but Steve escapes and rescues Rachel, killing the medical techs as well as Chug who has been left behind to guard them.

They try to get out of town again with Lindsay and U.V., but the Blue Ribbons and Caldicott are waiting for them on the road near the ferry out of town. When hope seems lost, Dorian drives up, his car hooked up with multiple E-Rat-icators that scramble the mind control tech inside the Blue Ribbons’ heads. They chase after Dorian and try to destroy the E-Rat-icators, but, having been fatally wounded after being shot by Caldicott, Dorian drives his car off a cliff with most of the Blue Ribbons hanging onto his car. This leads to a final battle between Steve and Caldicott, which Steve wins by kicking Caldicott off the cliff. Steve and Rachel then leave town on the ferry with Lindsay and U.V. to begin a new life elsewhere without their parents.

The final scene shows a classroom in an urban high school with kids playing loud music, cursing, and acting up. They are informed that they have a new teacher. The well-groomed substitute turns around, and it’s Gavin, with the blue ribbon “twinkle” still active in his eye.

Disturbing Behavior has essentially received much unfair criticism for what is a solid science fiction teen horror film.

REVIEW: ELYSIUM

CAST
Matt Damon (The Bourne Identity)
Jodie Foster (The Brave One)
Sharlto Copley (Powers)
Alice Braga (I am Legend)
Diego Luna (The Terminal)
Wagner Moura (Elite Squad)
William Fichtner (The Dark Knight)
Brandon Auret (Chappie)
Emma Tremblay (The Judge)
Jose Pablo Cantillo (Disturbia)
Carly Pope (Popular)
Ona Grauer (Arrow)
Michael Shanks (Stargate SG.1)
Christina Cox (Mutant X)
Terry Chen (Bates Motel)
Pauline Egan (Sanctuary)
In 2154, Earth is overpopulated and polluted. Most of the earth’s citizens live in poverty, on the edge of starvation, and with little technology and medical care. The rich and powerful live on Elysium — a gigantic, terraformed space habitat located in Earth’s orbit. Elysium is technologically advanced with some of its technology including Med-Bays: medical machines that can cure all diseases, reverse the aging process and regenerate new body parts. A long-running feud exists between the wealthy residents of Elysium and the citizens of Earth, who want Elysian technology to cure their medical ailments.
Max Da Costa (Matt Damon), a former car thief on parole lives in the ruins of Los Angeles, and works at an assembly line for Armadyne Corp, a company run by John Carlyle (William Fichtner), who originally designed Elysium, and now supplies its weaponry as well as the robots that police Earth. During an industrial accident at the factory, Max is trapped in a chamber and is hit by a lethal dose of radiation. After being rescued he is informed that he has five days to live before succumbing to radiation poisoning. Desperate for a cure, he and his friend Julio (Diego Luna) seek help from a human smuggler named Spider (Wagner Moura) to get him to Elysium; his only chance for survival is using a Med-Bay.
Meanwhile, when a trio of ships full of illegal immigrants from Earth attempts to reach Elysium and its Med-Bays, Elysian Secretary of Defense Delacourt (Jodie Foster) orders a sleeper agent, Kruger (Sharlto Copley), to destroy the shuttles. While two of the shuttles are shot down in space, killing everyone on board, the third shuttle makes it but once on Elysium, everyone on board is either killed or arrested and deported. Elysian President Patel (Faran Tahir) reprimands her for her immoral and unsubtle methods, and threatens to fire her unless she tones down her actions. Regarded as a loose cannon, Kruger is dismissed from service. Delacourt, vowing to protect Elysium and her own power, bargains with John Carlyle to create a program that can override Elysium’s computer core to give her the Presidency. Carlyle stores the reboot program in his brain for transport to Elysium and encrypts it with a lethal protection program.
Spider agrees to get Max to Elysium if he can steal financial information from Carlyle. To assist him, Spider’s men surgically attach a powered exoskeleton to Max. With Julio and a team of Spider’s men, Max shoots down Carlyle’s ship, and in the ensuing firefight with Carlyle’s security droids, Carlyle is fatally wounded. Max downloads the program to his suit’s neural implant, but realizes that the encryption makes it unusable. Alerted to the data theft by Carlyle’s medical implant, Delacourt secretly reinstates Kruger and deploys him to recover the program. In the ensuing firefight, Julio is killed, and Max is wounded. He reaches out to his childhood friend Frey (Alice Braga), now a nurse, whose daughter Matilda has leukemia. Frey begs Max to take Matilda to Elysium to be cured, but Max refuses in order to protect them. Soon after Max leaves, Kruger arrives and takes Frey and Matilda prisoner aboard his ship, while his drones hunt for Max. Delacourt orders an airspace lockdown over Los Angeles to buy enough time to recover Carlyle’s program.
Max delivers the program to Spider, who discovers that the program can be used to make all Earth residents Elysian citizens. However, because the lockdown makes it impossible to leave Earth, Max bargains with Kruger to be taken to Elysium, not knowing that Kruger has already found out that Frey assisted Max and is holding her and Matilda hostage on the ship. As Kruger’s ship leaves Earth, Spider and his men take advantage of the lockdown lift and also board a ship towards Elysium. Meanwhile, in Kruger’s ship, a fight ensues and Kruger is grievously wounded by a grenade blast, which also disables the ship’s engines. After Kruger’s ship crashes on Elysium, Max, Frey and Matilda are arrested and taken to Delacourt, who orders the download of the program, despite the fact that it will kill Max.
After being restored in a Med-Bay by his lackeys Drake and Crowe, a defiant Kruger kills Delacourt after she chastises him for his recklessness. On Kruger’s orders, Drake and Crowe exterminate the Elysian political officers in order to seize control for themselves. Meanwhile, having escaped his confinement, Max, knowing that Med-Bays only work for Elysian citizens, resolves to use Carlyle’s program to give everyone on Earth Elysian citizenship. He rescues Frey and Matilda, killing Drake and Crowe on the way. He then meets Spider and heads for Elysium’s core but is ambushed by Kruger, now equipped with a military-grade exoskeleton far superior to Max’s. In the ensuing fight, Max manages to rip out Kruger’s neural implant, rendering his suit immobile. However, Kruger tethers himself to Max’s suit and arms a grenade with the intent of killing them both. Max rips off the tether and hurls Kruger over a ledge to his death.
Spider and Max reach Elysium’s computer core, where Spider realizes that the program’s activation will kill Max. Max personally activates the program, having spoken a last time with Frey via radio. As Max dies, Elysium’s computer core reboots and registers every Earth resident as an Elysian citizen. President Patel arrives with security guards but the robots refuse to arrest Spider, whom they now recognize as a citizen. Matilda is cured by a Med-Bay and Elysium’s computer dispatches a huge fleet of medical ships to begin treatment of the citizens of Earth.
Neil Blomkamp, who dazzled audiences with district nine 4 years prior, does a fantastic job once again with this flick. His vision made the story very real to movie goers everywhere

 

 

REVIEW:TRU CALLING – SEASON 1 & 2

MAIN CAST

Eliza Dushku (Wrong Turn)
Shawn Reaves (Shadowheart)
Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover)
A.J. Cook (Final Destination 2)
Jessica Collins (Lois & Clark)
Benjamin Benitez (True Detective)
Jason Priestley (Beverly Hills, 90210)

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RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Matthew Bomer (Chuck)
Kristopher Polaha (Ringer)
Hudson Leick (Xena)
Heath Freeman (Bones)
John Newton (Superboy)
Callum Rennie (Flashforward)
Michael Trucco (Battlestar Galactica)
Missy Peregrym (Heroes)
Cobie Smulders (How I Met YOur Mother)
Joe Flanigan (Stargate: Atlantis)
Leonard Roberts (Smallville)
Kal Penn (Van Wilder)
Alaina Huffman (Stargate Universe)
Brendan Fletcher (News Movie)
Evangeline Lilly (Lost)
Ryan Kwanten (True Blood)
Mary Elizabeth Winstead (10 Cloverfield Lane)
Garwin Sanford (Stargate SG.1)
Chris William Martin (The Vampire Diaries)
Christina Hendricks (Mad Men)
Emily Holmes (Dark Angel)
Jodi Lyn O’Keefe (The Vampire Diaries)
Jennifer Spence (Stargate Universe)
Devon Gummersall (Roswell)
Sarah Deakins (Andromeda)
Clare Kramer (Buffy)
Alexandra Holden (The Hot Chick)
Michelle Harrison (The Flash)
Erica Durance (Smallville)
Rachel Hayward (Jingle All The Way 2)
Cotter Smith (Alias)
Wade Williams (Gangster Squad)
Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Watchmen)
Agam Darshi (Sanctuary)
Alec Newman (Dune)
Jesse Moss (Ginger Snaps)
Derek Hamilton (Disturbing Behavior)
Nick Wechsler (Roswell)
Daivd Lipper (Full house)
John Reardon (The Killing)
Carly Pope (Arrow)
Liz Vassey (Two and a Half Men)
Eric Christian Olsen (Not Another Teen Movie)
Lizzy Caplan (Cloverfield)
Parry Shen (Hatchet)
Erick Avari (Stargate)
Dominic Zamprogna (Odyssey 5)
Maggie Lawson (Two and a Half Men)
William Sadler (Iron Man 3)

Image result for tru callingAfter the grant sponsoring her internship loses funding, an aspiring medical student (Tru Davies) takes a job at the local morgue. On her first day of work, incidentally the 10th anniversary of her mother’s death, one of the bodies from the crypt springs to life for a brief moment and asks her for help. Instantly, her day “rewinds” and she quickly realizes that it’s her responsibility to try and save the woman who called out to her from a death that should not have happened, all the while trying to repair the lives of her immature brother and drug-addicted sister. With the help of her clumsy but loveable boss at the morgue, Tru strives to put right what once when wrong and hoping each time that her next leap will be the leap home.

Eliza Dushku played prominent characters in a few popular films before Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but it was her portrayal of Faith in the 3rd season of the popular television show that helped set her on the path to becoming a star. It’s understandable, then, that fans of the show were not particularly happy with her when she turned down a chance for a television series based around the Faith character in favor of Tru Calling. However, it’s equally understandable that as an actor, she would want to try new things, and carrying an unproven series with a new character offered her that opportunity.

On the surface, Tru Calling is a formula show. Borrowing elements from Quantum Leap, Early Edition and Goundhog Day, each episode follows a similar pattern. A body arrives in the morgue and asks for help triggering a rewind before the opening titles, and Tru spends the rest of the episode trying to piece together what caused the death and how to prevent it. The premise sounds interesting enough, but without clever writing and entertaining characters, such a concept could get stale very quickly, especially over an entire television season. Thankfully, the show’s creators appear to recognize this early on and make efforts to tweak the formula just enough to keep the stories fresh and interesting.

As with any show that hopes to build an audience, Tru Calling is not just about the “Death of the Week.” While it is the focus of each episode, not every day is a rewind, and Tru still has a life of her own and a family she cares about. The death of their mother and subsequent remarriage and general absence of their father has made things difficult on the Davies family, and Tru is struggling to keep them together. This is not an easy task as her sister Meredith (Jessica Collins) is a fast-paced businesswoman in denial over her drug habit, and her brother Harrison (Shawn Reaves) has a bit of a responsibility problem. And what superhero story would be complete without the lead character’s romantic relationships suffering from the strains of a secret double-life? Certainly not this one. All the pieces are there, including the loveable but awkward mentor (Zach Galifianakis) who always seems to know just a little more than he lets on.

The character of Tru is likeable and well meaning, and as she comes to empathize with those she is trying to help, the audience cannot help but do the same. Offsetting much of the dramatic tension is quite a bit of humor with Shawn Reaves’s performance as Harrison. He’s a complete screw-up, but he’s so charming and creative (not to mention very loyal to Tru) that his misadventures are a continuing source of entertainment. Equally effective is Davis who, although clumsy in his interactions with others, serves as a surrogate older brother and sounding board for Tru, something she desperately needs considering the double burden she carries.

Tru Calling is an excellent example of a television series that can flourish if given time to grow. Many of the early episodes aren’t anything special. They’re a bit predictable and formulaic, but underneath them is a level of quality worth exploring. As they find their rhythm and tweak the show a bit, everything falls into place, and by the season finale, it’s a pretty darn good show. While Eliza Dushku is a capable actress and portrays Tru very well, much of the show’s quality can be attributed to outstanding performances by the supporting cast, most notably Zach Galifianakis and Shawn Reaves, as well as the addition of Jason Priestley, who elevates the show to another level. What he brings to the character and the show is both nuanced and compelling, and it’s fascinating to watch him on screen.

The second season only offered a very brief six episodes before being pulled.  Once again, the season continues to improve over the early goings, ratcheting up the tension between Jack and Tru, which is effective due to the chemistry between the two and the fact that Priestley’s menacing performance is his finest work. It’s really too bad that the series couldn’t have at least finished out this second season, as it continued to improve and the final episode here really isn’t much of a conclusion.