REVIEW: BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (2004) – SEASON 2

Starring

Edward James Olmos (Blade Runner)
Mary McDonnell (Donnie Darko)
Katee Sackhoff (Riddick)
Jamie Bamber (Marcella)
James Callis (Flashforward)
Tricia Helfer (Powers)
Grace Park (Hawaii Five-0)
Michael Hogan (Red Riding Hood)
Aaron Douglas (Chaos)
Nicki Clyne (Saved!)
Tahmoh Penikett (Dollhouse)
Kandyse McClure (Mother’s Day)
Paul Campbell (Knight Rider)
Alessandro Juliani (Smallville)

Tahmoh Penikett and Katee Sackhoff in Battlestar Galactica (2004)Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Samuel Witwer (Smallville)
Donnelly Rhodes (Legends of Tomorrow)
Rekha Sharma (V)
Callum Keith Rennie (Impulse)
Lucy Lawless (Ash vs Evil Dead)
Matthew Bennett (Stargate SG.1)
Dean Stockwell (Quantum Leap)
Rick Worthy (The Vampire Diaries)
Richard Hatch (InAlienable)
Amber Rothwell (White Noise)
Lorena Gale (The Exorcism of Emily Rose)
Michael Trucco (Sabrina: TTW)
Michelle Forbes (Powers)
Graham Beckel (The Loft)
Leah Cairns (Interstellar)
Bodie Olmos (Walkout)
Luciana Carro (Helix)
Kate Vernon (Heores)
Alonso Oyarzun (Reindeer Games)
Jen Halley (Red Riding Hood)
Ty Olsson (War of TPOTA)
Aleks Paunovic (Van Helsing)
Malcolm Stewart (Jumanji)
Dominic Zamprogna (Stargate Universe)
James Remar (BLack Lightning)
Patricia Idlette (Ginger Snaps 2)
Benjamin Ayres (The Vampire Diaries)
Don Thompson (Watchmen)
Fulvio Cecere (Valentine)
John Pyper-Ferguson (Caprica)
Sebastian Spence (First Waves)
Mike Dopud (Arrow)
Vincent Gale (Bates Motel)
Colm Feore (Thor)
David Richmond-Peck (Sanctuary)
Claudette Mink (Paycheck)
Bill Duke (Black Lightning)
Christopher Jacot (Slasher)
John Heard (Home Alone)
Kavan Smith (Staragte Atlantis)
Stefanie von Pfetten (Cracked)
Erica Cerra (Power Rangers)
Alisen Down (Smallville)
Heather Doerksen (Van Hesling)
David Kaye (Beast Wars)
Colin Lawrence (Watchmen)

Some cynical individual, at some time, blurted out that “there’s always room for improvement” about an accomplishment or achievement that was fine in its own right. In the spectrum of film and television, it’s true that all material can be tightened, focused, and made even more compelling with practice; but oftentimes creative teams fall back into comfort zones and neglect to spit-shine where improvement is needed. Ronald Moore and David Eick, the creators of the reimagined Battlestar Galactica series, understand this concept. They accomplished something intriguing, thrilling, and dramatically magnetic with their initial 2003 miniseries and, later, a full subsequent season that grappled the structure of the three-hour introduction — characters, mythos, and stunning production merits through striking photography and convincing computer effects — and ran with it. However, there’s always room for improvement, and Battlestar Galactica’s second season finds a deeper focus and more thrill-inducing pace that fully ratchets the series into the stratosphere of superb science-fiction creations.Nicki Clyne and Aaron Douglas in Battlestar Galactica (2004)The first season constructs a “reboot” of the highest accord, taking the original content from the 1978 television series and shaping it into an edgy and modern production in the vein of “West Wing … in space”. Grecian mythology, military-heavy hierarchal bickering, and the relationships between people on the space ship Galactica — both tender and volatile — are all sparked into action when the Cylons, humanity’s slave-like machines evolved into enlightened yet vengeful beings, attack their creators after 40 years of recoiled hibernation. These attacks, which left around 50,000 humans alive, wiped out sixteen of the individuals in-line for the presidency over the “colonies”, which left Secretary of Education Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell, Dances With Wolves) as the next in line. Somehow, this all gyrates around the weasel-like scheming of Dr. Gaius Baltar (James Callis, Bridget Jones’ Diary), who inadvertently fell for the whims of a blonde-haired Cylon (Tricia Helfer) and revealed humanity’s defense secrets — and, now, follows orders from the sultry “machine” in the confines of his own mind, with her as little more than an illusion reminding him of his “importance” as one of God’s pawns. Monotheistic God, not polytheistic, but that’ll become important later on.After its thrilling two-part miniseries and a handful of tense cat-and-mouse episodes at the start, the first season (which should be viewed before continuing this review, as the context here relies on the fact that you’ve seen the first season) coasts along a stream of dynamic back-and-forths between Galactica’s Commander Bill Adama (Edward James Olmos, Blade Runner) and President Roslin — leading to a point where Adama is stretched out on the ship’s command center deck, bleeding from gunshot wounds incurred by an assassination attempt. Season Two picks up directly after the shooting, showing how the military hierarchy moves its pieces around Adama’s incapacitation. His XO (second in command) Saul Tigh (Michael Hogan) wrestles with his alcohol addiction as he tries to juggle an unwanted leadership position, shrug off his wife Ellen’s (Kate Vernon) passenger-seat manipulation of the Galactica’s workings, and make the colonies understand why President Roslin has been arrested for subordination. On top of that, we’re also watching the way Adama’s ailment affects his son, Captain Lee Adama (Jamie Bamber), as his allegiance to the Colonial fleet sways between loyalty to his father and his belief in what the theologically-focused President Roslin is trying to accomplish.Richard Hatch and Michael Hogan in Battlestar Galactica (2004)But, as Battlestar Galactica veterans know, that core quarrel really only scoops up the top layer of the conflicts that lie underneath the Colonial fleet’s hunt for a safe, habitable planet — whether it be the fabled planet Earth, the newly-discovered planet of Kobol, or beyond. Season Two also finds a deeper focus on Kara Thrace (Katee Sackhoff, “Nip/Tuck”), aka Starbuck, as more than a novel imitation of the classic series’ character, concentrating on the depth of her belief in the gods, her bull-headedness giving way to a need for deeper connections with others, and a particular point where she’s, dare I say it, made hopelessly vulnerable in the episode “The Farm”. This happens on Cylon-occupied Caprica, the colonies’ once-thriving central metropolis, where she and Lieutenant ‘Helo’ Agathon (Tahmoh Penikett, “Dollhouse”) are attempting to locate a way off the planet and back to Galactica with the “Arrow of Apollo” in their possession. There, they interact with a second version of the “Sharon” model of Cylon (Grace Park), pregnant with Helo’s child and rebellious against her kind. Along those same lines, we also see how the cluster of Colonial soldiers stranded on Kobol — deck chief Galen Tyrol (Aaron Douglas) and his “knuckledragger” subordinates, as well as Vice President Baltar — find a way to survive until they’re able to make an escape attempt.Mary McDonnell and Katee Sackhoff in Battlestar Galactica (2004)Though the introductory season of Battlestar Galactica triumphs for establishing the storyline’s intricacies, a broad spectrum of characters, and suspenseful density, Ron Moore and David Eick still had a handful of creaks in the series’ bow that needed repair — such as tighter concentration on the political banter and more focused balancing between space warfare and non-CIC dramatics. Though intriguing to some, including myself, those elements also tended to bog down the pacing to a degree that could deter some from its deliberate concentration on policy. It’s important, and necessary, for a lengthy story to grow beyond its limitations, and the Moore / Eick team hone the introductory season’s successes into a poised, pulsating blend of drama and thrills that bolsters its initial successes forward two-fold. Everything that underscores the series’ quality — superb, straight-faced acting, slickly detailed cinematography ranging from cold and dark to acidic and overblown, and some of the best music on television, period — persists into the second season, now attached to a sense of obvious plot refinement.Jamie Bamber and Katee Sackhoff in Battlestar Galactica (2004)

does it differ? Well, this season knows when and how to play its cards, where the initial season struggles in knowing exactly what to do with the substantially impressive content that it’s generating. The thematic density that it crams into this season is staggering; the complications of martial law (military control of the government), delicateness around following an idealist (dying) leader with religion as their driving force, technology’s advancement and control over our everyday activity, the necessity of black market trade, and, eventually, the power of government-mandated control over population control. All of these elements are timely and meaningful, even allegorical to conflicts present in modern society, and they’re handled with a specific panache in this second season that remains vigilant throughout. But they’re not overtly heavy-handed; sly incorporation allows us to view these elements merely on the surface for service of the story or as deeper insights — whichever suits the viewer.James Remar and Jamie Bamber in Battlestar Galactica (2004)On top of that, Moore and Eick have set sights on how to tie these heady elements in with the bustling activity of operatic space battles, and they’ve succeeded in a way that maintains the series’ accessibility. The hyper-elaborate technobabble prevalent in other series — such as bits and pieces about a ship that “made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs” and about “trionic initiators in the warp coil” — gets tossed aside to allow for a direct focus on human interactions, such as ebbs and flows between father and son in authoritative positions, the fear and fatigue within a crew that’s never given much of a chance to relax, and an affinity with Laura Roslin as she succumbs to terminal breast cancer. Emotion-heavy episodes, such as the excellent “Flight of the Phoenix” where Chief Tyrol finds distraction and a sense of hope in building a new fighter ship from scraps, are there solely for that purpose. They even work in cliché taglines like, “They can run, but they can’t hide”, and hokey plot points like a bona-fide love triangle to convincing degrees — well, with their own spins on the material. In that, the creators rope us into the emotional fabric as if we’re members of the crew, sharing their plights. We’re not forced to try and comprehend scientific jargon, aside from a few scattered discussions about firewalls, viruses, and FTL drives, but instead asked to unswervingly, and powerlessly, hold our focus on the shifts in power aboard the Galactica.Mary McDonnell, Edward James Olmos, Jamie Bamber, and Katee Sackhoff in Battlestar Galactica (2004)Then, with a flick of the writers’ wrists, they change the way that we perceive just about everything in the series with the episode “Pegasus”. Out of nowhere, another one of the colonial fighter bases, the Battlestar Pegasus, arrives unexpectedly within the proximity of Galactica’s location. Once both have confirmed that they’re friendly ships, we’re introduced to Admiral Helena Cain (Michelle Forbes) — a strong, bloodthirsty woman with a very tight, dictatorial grip on her ship. Unlike the Galactica, the Pegasus is competitive, hardened, chauvinistic and far more stringent on policy, which creates a world of conflict once the two commanders begin comparing notes on Galactica’s personnel issues, power rankings, and the lenience in handling a Cylon prisoner. More importantly, Admiral Cain is Adama’s superior officer, and her iron-fist reclaim of power decidedly tears the fleet apart. In a matter of forty-some-odd minutes, the entire power structure of Battlestar Galactica is rearranged and tossed into volatile disarray, left for our characters to plot around and sort out. And it makes for thoroughly gut-swelling television because of it, stretching over an impressive three-episode arc (“Pegasus”, “Resurrection Ship” Parts One and Two).Lucy Lawless and Patrick Harrison in Battlestar Galactica (2004)It’s at this point, once the dust clears from the Pegasus incidents, that Battlestar Galactica begins to really claim a place in the annals of science-fiction as one of its finest creations — even with a few stumbling blocks that it still fights against. Ellen Tigh’s manipulation of Saul while he’s in command of the Galactica borders on the unbelievable, though one can certainly understand the swaying power of a significant other. A few character moments feel shoehorned into the mix, such as Lee’s character history revelations in “Black Market”, where the desire to beef up each and every character overreaches their bounds. And, quite simply, one or two of the episodes still fall a tad flat, whether they’re because of an unattractive character coming into focus, such as the hot-rod stem junkie pilot Kat in the ho-hum filler ep “Scar”, or the show simply attempting to do things that it can’t pull off, like the meandering MTV reality show style footage in “Final Cut”. Each of these faults are minor blemishes on otherwise successful, and thought-provoking, installments into the story arc, proving that even weak Battlestar Galactica episodes can be compelling to a middling degree.James Callis and Tricia Helfer in Battlestar Galactica (2004)With its continual and newly-sprung ideas bubbling at the cusp, Moore and Eick reach a conclusion to the second season, the masterful two-parter “Lay Down Your Burdens”, that focuses on the much-anticipated presidential race alluded to in the first season. Restoration of complete democracy and humanization become the weighty element at play, as the candidates — surprises aplenty — duke it out with the fleet’s concerns of safe planetary habitat and population boom as key driving forces. The interplay between all of the individuals is brilliant; however, it’s the outcome, and the legitimately shocking twist at the end of the finale, that’ll likely send one on a contemplative tailspin. With no less than three cliffhanger episodes in this season, it’s only expected that the finale in itself would be a weighty one, and Syfy’s heavy-hitting series doesn’t disappoint in that regard. It’s a brilliant way to swirl the entire season together, even if everything is turned upside down once again. That’s part of Ron Moore and David Eick’s game, a sci-fi neo-political chessgame that’s well worth playing.

 

REVIEW: ANDROMEDA – SEASON 1

Starring

Kevin Sorbo( Hercules: TLJ)
Lisa Ryder (Jason X)
Keith Hamilton Cobb (All My Children)
Gordon Michael Woolvett (Bride of Chucky)
Laura Bertram (50/50)
Brent Stait (Blade: The Series)
Lexa Doig (Arrow)

Kevin Sorbo and Steve Bacic in Andromeda (2000)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Steve Bacic (X-Men 2)
John Tench (Watchmen)
Amber Rothwell (Battlestar Galactica)
Paul Johansson (Van Helsing)
Dylan Bierk (Jason X)
Marion Eisman (Riverdale)
Cameron Daddo (Hope Island)
Brian George (The Big Bang Theory)
Sam Sorbo (Hercules: TLJ)
Alex Diakun (Agent COdy Banks)
Kimberley Warnat (Freddy vs Jason)
Claudette Mink (Alfie)
Malcolm Stewart (Jumanji)
John de Lancie (Star Trek: TNG)
Peter Kelamis (Stargate Universe)
Ty Olsson (Battlestar Galactica)
Monika Schnarre (Junior)
Nathaniel DeVeaux (The Core)
Douglas O’Keeffe (Sanctuary)
Noel Fisher (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Nels Lennarson (The Cabin In The Woods)
Alex Zahara (Horns)
Ralf Moeller (Gladiator)
Mackenzie Gray (Man of Steel)
Kim Hawthorne (Rake)
Chapelle Jaffe (The Dead Zone)
Kevin Durand (Swamp Thing)
Rachel Hayward (Jingle All The Way 2)
John DeSantis (Arrow)
David Palffy (Blade: The Series)
Kimberly Huie (Deep Impact)
Michael Shanks (Stargate SG.1)
Gerard Plunkett (Sucker Punch)

Keith Hamilton Cobb in Andromeda (2000)Andromeda starred Kevin Sorbo (Hercules: The Legendary Journey’s) in a science fiction series created by Gene Roddenberry (Star Trek) with a variety of executive producers Robert Hewitt Wolfe (The 4400, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Majel Rodenberry (Earth: Final Conflict), Allan Eastman (Star Trek: Voyager), Robert Engels (seaQuest DSV), Jay Firestone (Mutant X, La Femme Nikita), and Adam Haight (Mutant X, Highlander: The Raven). With its diverse crew of producers with extensive experience in science fiction and drama productions, Andromeda put in five solid seasons from 2000 to 2005 and totaled one-hundred and ten episodes.Lexa Doig in Andromeda (2000)The back story to Andromeda is about the adventures of the crew the Andromeda and their efforts to rebuild a massive civilization that spanned the universe. Thousands of years ago a technologically advanced species called the Vedrans in the Andromeda galaxy developed a method of near-instantaneous travel between star systems. The technology was called the slipstream. After the development of the slipstream, the alien race began to form a united federation of planets (similar to Star Trek) with a different cultures and races across six galaxies. This new massive government was called the Systems Commonwealth, or simply the Commonwealth.Keith Hamilton Cobb in Andromeda (2000)After signing a treaty with one of its most feared enemies the Magog, a race known as the Nietzscheans, genetically engineered humans who believe in survival of the fittest, opposed the Commonwealth and plunged the massive federation of races into a civil war that resulted in the downfall of the Commonwealth. For three hundred years, the universe went into “The Long Night”, a period of darkness with no peace and anarchy. But despite the dissolution of the Commonwealth, one of its most dedicated military officers Dylan Hunt (Kevin Sorvo) survived for three hundred years frozen in time. He returns to rebuild the Commonwealth.The first season begins with a two-part story “Under the Night” and “An Affirming Flame” about the formation of Dylan and his new crew. Gerentex, a nightsider, hires the crew of the Eureka Maru: Beka, Harper, Trance, and Rev. Gerentex wants them to do a salvage operation and find the fabled Andromeda Ascendant. The ship is worth a lot of money. After a long effort by the crew, they find the Andromeda and tow it from the black hole singularity.Laura Bertram in Andromeda (2000)When Beka, Harper, Trace, and Rev board the ship, they find Dylan on board. Gerentex sends a secret assault team, led by Tyr, to kill Dylan. Suddenly, the mission changes and Beka’s crew have a change of heart. They want to leave the ship to Dylan, because it is his ship after all. Gerentex does not react happy to the news and he only leaves the ship when it is sucked back into the singularity. Of course, he leaves Beka’s crew and the assault team to perish. Dylan inspires the crew to work together to get out of the situation. He saves them, and later reveals to them his desire to rebuild the Commonwealth. Reluctantly, everyone joins him. Not because they believe in his cause, but because it is better than smuggling.Kevin Sorbo in Andromeda (2000)The two-part story is a pretty exciting introduction to the series. Some of the characters’ performances are a bit over-the-top and their ability to instantaneously adapt to using the Andromeda’s advanced computer systems and having security codes to launch the massive nova bombs (think nukes in space) is little on the unreasonable side. But, if you do not take the show too seriously, the introductory two-part story is quite fun. Another part I enjoyed about it was the mysterious hints about Trance. She was shot and killed, but miraculously recovered without any medical attention. While she seems like an innocent character with a small part, the writers have some big plans for her as the series progresses.However, despite the promising two-part series premiere episode, the remaining season one episodes are a mixed bag. For instance, in the immediately following episode “To Loose the Fateful Lighting”, I had to force myself to stay awake. The Andromeda finds a High Guard space station. When Dylan, Beka, and Harper board the station, they find a ragtag band of kids in charge. The kids are decedents of the station’s original High Guard and they have been taught to kill all enemies of the Commonwealth. They have lots of nova bombs and the radiation from the bombs has student their growth and made them sick. The kids have been waiting for the day to unleash holy warriors (kamikaze pilots with nova bombs) on their enemies, which they call the Day of Lighting. They believe Dylan’s arrival is a sign of that day. Dylan has to teach them right from wrong. The story is pretty hokey. The notable portion of this episode is the introduction of the computer AI Andromeda into the humanoid android form Rommie.Kevin Sorbo in Andromeda (2000)Basically, what it comes down to is episodic storylines versus story arcs. When the episodes focus on episodic storylines, they are not as enthralling or exciting as the season’s story arcs. There are some exceptions like “Star-Crossed”, where Michael Shanks guest stars as Rommie’s robot lover, and “The Mathematics of Tears”, where the Andromeda finds its sister ship the Pax Magellanic. Episodes like those tend to be enjoyable. However, what really grabs your attention is the season story arc that can be found throughout the episodes. It is about Dylan trying to restore the Commonwealth. This storyline ties into some bigger, grander plot happening with the Andromeda crew tends to be a lot better than the standalone episodes. There are episodes that tie in a super duper bad guy called the Abyss. In “Harper 2.0”, the Abyss sends an assassin into the known world to erase its existence. In the season finale “It’s Hour Come ‘Round at Last”, the crew run into a huge ship filled with millions of Magogs. It becomes a very interesting story.Brent Stait in Andromeda (2000)There are also some interesting stories with detailed background into the characters like “Angel Dark, Demon Bright”, where the Andromeda accidentally travels back in time to a major turning point in the battle against the Commonwealth and Nietzscheans. Dylan is in a position to change the future forever, but decides against toying with fate. Then there is “The Banks of the Lethe”, which puts Dylan back his fiance Sara (Sam Jenkins). Episodes like theses offer insight to the characters, their backgrounds and personalities, and the relationships they have with each other. These developments become a fairly intriguing part of season one (at least more so than some of the episodic storylines). For instance, Tyr is a Nietzschean and cares more about his wellbeing than those he serves with. In several instances, his loyalty and duty to the crew is questionable. Like in the episode “Double Helix”.Keith Hamilton Cobb in Andromeda (2000)Overall, the first season of Andromeda offers viewers a decent science-fiction series filled with action, some corny dialogue, over-the-top performances, decent stories, and a cast of likeable characters. While I did not fall in head over heels with the show, I still enjoyed it enough that I think it is worth sitting down. The story arc introduces in the season finale gets pretty exciting. The inaugural season of Andromeda puts the former half-Greek God Kevin Sorbo in an adventure against all odds with a misfit crew. And the show turns out to be pretty in its first season. The writing is not topnotch and the acting is slightly over-the-top, but it is done in a way that is hard not to like. Andromeda’s first season has a likeable, goofy cast and watching them in get accustomed to each other and their overly do-gooder captain. The season also features some engaging story arcs. While Andromeda is not my favorite science fiction series, it is quite fun.

REVIEW: SMALLVILLE – SEASON 4

Starring

Tom Welling (Lucifer)
Kristin Kreuk (Beauty and The Beast)
Michael Rosenbaum (Impastor)
Allison Mack (Wilfred)
Jensen Ackles (Supernatural)
Annette O’Toole (The Punisher)
John Schneider (The Haves and the Have Nots)
John Glover (Shazam)

Tom Welling and Erica Durance in Smallville (2001)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Erica Durance (Supergirl)
Margot Kidder (Superman)
Ona Grauer (V)
Rekha Sharma (Dark Angel)
Michael Ironside (Scanners)
Robert Wisden (Highlander: The Series)
Brianna Brown ((Hollywood Homicide)
Eric Johnson (Flash Gordon)
Julianne Christie (Encino Man)
Amanda Walsh (Disturbia)
Lisa Marie Caruk (Final Destination)
Moneca Delain (Trick r Treat)
Chelan Simmons (Good Luck Chuck)
Kyle Gallner (American Sniper)
Benjamin Ratner (Wonder)
J.P. Manoux (Veep)
Terence Stamp (Superman II)
Trent Ford (The Island)
Jane Seymour (Wedding Crashers)
Claudette Mink (Children of The Corn 7)
Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother)
Malcolm Stewart (Jumanji)
Heather Doerksen (Van Hesling)
John Novak (Dr. Dolittle 3)
Jerry Wasserman (Watchmen)
Samantha Ferris (The Tall Man)
Sarah Carter (The Flash)
John Pyper-Ferguson (Caprica)
Derek Hamilton (Arrow)
Camille Mitchell (Izombie)
Chris Carmack (Shark Night
Nolan Gerard Funk (Arrow)
Diego Klattenhoff (Mean Girls)
Alvin Sanders (Tin Man)
Byron Mann (Dark Angel)
Peyton List (Gotham)
Peter Wingfield (Highlander: The Series)
Erica Cerra (Power Rangers)
Jesse Hutch (Arrow)
Kandyse McClure (Battlestar Galactica)
Beatrice Rosen (2012)
Jonathan Bennett (Mean Giels)
Tom Butler (Blade: The Series)
Pascale Hutton (Sanctuary)
David Orth (The Lost World)
Craig Veroni (The Net)
Colin Ford (Daybreak)

Kristin Kreuk, Tom Welling, and Erica Durance in Smallville (2001)

All my dreams are on the ground
Crawling’ round and round and round
Somebody saaaaaaaaaave me
Let your waters break right through
Somebody saaaaaaaaaave me
I don’t care how you do it
Just saaaave me, saaaave me
I’ve made this whole world shine for you
Just save, save
Come on, I’m still waiting for you

Anyone with even a passing affection for WB’s Smallville knows that song inside and out, upside and down … and they probably hear it while they’re trying to fall asleep, too.Jensen Ackles, Kristin Kreuk, and Tom Welling in Smallville (2001)When I hear that tune (recorded by Remy Zero, btw) I know I’m in for some good, goofy, Superman-sized fun. Yes, TV geeks, it’s true: The cold-hearted and perpetually cynical Scott Weinberg harbors a deep and devoted affection for the goofball X-Files / comic book amalgam known as Smallville. For all its pedantic plot twists, overbaked dialogue, and “aw-shucks” corn-pone-osity — I’m actually a big fan of the show. To me, Smallville is like a big bowl of Cool Whip; you’ll eat it because it’s really tasty, even though you should probably be spending your time on something a little more substantial or nutritious.Kristin Kreuk in Smallville (2001)But hey, I’m a sucker for the Superman mythology, plus there’s something quaintly endearing about the young Supes stories and the way they’ve been wedged into a fairly convention teen-centric soap-opera story. Plus, Smallville is one of those “comfort” shows, the kind in which you always know that things will turn out OK and that the few dangling character threads will always be tabled for another day. The story’s simplicity itself: Teenager Clark Kent is forever trying to juggle “normal” adolescence while discovering his own amazing powers. Needless to say, our hero must deal with snooping pals, protective parents, and a whole host of dangerous doings in one of TVdom’s most villain-producing burgs. (Second only to Buffy’s hometown, of course.) It’s all very broad and corny and cartoony … and all of it works exceedingly well in the context of “Superman.” Whenever the show gets too outlandish or sappy or (yes, even) silly, the Superfans can always sit back and think “Yeah, it’s cheesy, but it’d still fit well within the pages of a comic book.”Allison Mack, Tom Welling, and Erica Durance in Smallville (2001)Clark’s gang consists of the lovely Lana Lang, the ever-inquisitive Chloe Sullivan, Chloe’s sassy cousin Lois (yes, Lois Lane!), and the devilishly duplicitous Lex Luthor. Toss in a few doting parents, Lex’s perpetually scheming papa, Lana’s bland ol’ boyfriend, a few recurring characters, and an ever-fresh supply of colorful villains … and there’s your cast of players. Hardcore fans will find plenty to enjoy in Smallville’s fourth season, but I say there was way too much time devoted to Lana’s boyfriend, Jason, a lumbering subplot involving witchcraft got way too much screen time, and that the already well-established crush-triangles between Clark, Lana, and Chloe have, by now, been run effectively into the ground. But while I’d absolutely contend that Smallville’s fourth season is its “weakest” one yet, it’s still just comfy enough to keep the fans satisfied. The relatively weakest and somewhat repetitive fourth season of a series that I consider a goofily enjoyable good time, this collection exists mainly for those who already own Seasons 1, 2, and 3. There’s four or five episodes here that have real revisit value; the rest are perfectly watchable, but nothing more than that.

REVIEW: EARTH: FINAL CONFLICT – SEASON 1

Starring

Kevin Kilner (Dollhouse)
Lisa Howard (Highlander: The Series)
Von Flores (Never Cry Werewolf)
Richard Chevolleau (Hannibal)
Leni Parker (Screamers)
David Hemblen (La Femme Nikita)

Earth: Final Conflict (1997)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Michael Filipowich (24)
Lisa Ryder (Andromeda)
John Evans (Street Legal)
Majel Barrett (Star Trek: TNG)
Miranda Kwok (Jane Doe)
Shary Guthrie (Highlander: The Raven)
Malin Akerman (Watchmen)
Emily Hampshire (12 Monkeys)
Peter Krantz (Exotica)
David Calderisi (Flashpoint)
Richard McMillan (Cube Zero)
Patrick Gallagher (Sideways)
Colette Stevenson (Mutant X)
Anita La Selva (Dead End Road)
Jonathan Potts (Rupture)
Claudette Mink (Paycheck)
Nigel Bennett (The Shape of The Water)
Maurice Dean Wint (Cube)
Damon D’Oliveira (Relic Hunter)
Sonia Dhillon Tully (Taken)
Kari Matchett (Cypher)
Jody Racicot (Flash Gordon)
Shauna MacDonald (Hemlock Grove)
Kristin Lehman (The Chronicles of Riddick)
Peter Mensah (Sleepy Hollow)
Blu Mankuma (2012)
Patricia Gage (American Psycho)
William deVry (Stargate SG.1)
Kate Trotter (Covert Affairs)
Paul Johansson (Van Helsing)

Horizon_zero_01I started watching this with rather low expectations — everything with Roddenberry’s name on it, other than Star Trek , has been a bit of a flop. So I was pleasantly surprised that this story of alien contact with a hidden ulterior motive is done quite well.efe2f80f2d4219ea2683df4e134d1cb1--kevin-oleary-finalsThe Taelons arrived on Earth three years ago, and have helped eliminate much poverty and hunger. Selected members of their race — Companions — live on earth, and are aided by human agents implanted with a CVI, an alien virus that increases intelligence and has a motivational imperative to be loyal to the Taelons. But the Taelons are secretive, and not all humans are convinced of their good intentions. A Resistance sets up, and they place an agent, William Boone, with a modified CVI that has no such motivational imperative. The series follows Boone’s adventures as he tries to find out what the Taelons are up to, without blowing his cover.61e9bec633b987021515c8c2da512249That the Talons do have a secret purpose becomes clearer as the season progresses, but what it is precisely remains a mystery. The uncovering of the secrets, and the story arcs, are well handled. The Taelons come across as an interestingly conflicted race, some more pro-human, and less happy with whatever it is they are up to, than others. And the Resistance is nicely complex, too — sometimes seeming to be irrationally fanatic, sometimes seeming to be Earth’s last best hope for freedom. Boone does the agonised man trapped between two worlds bit quite well.maxresdefaultThere is thankfully very little techno-babble, although some implausible technology rears its head (yet another case of whipping up an antidote to a disease in less than an episode — and a DNA sequence alone is not sufficient to recreate an adult person — and if the Taelons simply monitored Boone’s video phone, they’d get a nasty shock!) Yet, minor quibbles aside, this has been a fun journey.

REVIEW: CHILDREN OF THE CORN 7: REVELATION

CAST
Claudette Mink (Paycheck)
Kyle Cassie (Andromeda)
Michael Ironside (Total Recall)
Troy Yorke (Scary Movie 3)
Michael Rogers (Sanctuary)
Crystal Lowe (Final Destination 3)
Michael J Rogers (Siren)
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Jamie (Claudette Mink) comes to Omaha, Nebraska after numerous phone calls to her grandmother have gone unanswered. Her grandmother’s apartment building, which is built next to a cornfield, appears to be empty, except for two young, mysterious children who roam about. Jamie discovers that her grandmother has received a notice of eviction. She goes to see Det. Armbrister, who is not much help. While at the local grocery store, Jamie has an encounter with the children from the building, but they do not speak to her. Outside, she sees a priest standing in the street, staring at her. She returns to her grandmother’s apartment to discover a message: “Jamie go home.”
 Jamie questions the building manager, Jerry, who is of no help. Jamie investigates in the basement and finds a crop of carrots and tomatoes. She flees when she hears a group of children laughing. She runs into a man with a gun, who tells her to keep out of the basement. She later meets two more tenants, an old man in a wheelchair who swears at everyone and a young woman named Tiffany (Crystal Lowe), a stripper. Jerry invites Jamie to a BBQ on the roof, she agrees. On the roof, Jerry takes a bite of corn and discovers there is blood inside. He is then shoved off the roof by the two children. When Jamie arrives, he is nowhere to be found, and she sees the priest watching her from the ground.
 Jamie has a nightmare in which her grandmother was lured from her house by a strange voice to railroad tracks. The next day, Jamie goes to see Det. Armbrister who reveals Jamie’s grandmother was part of a religious cult when she was a child. The kids, who were led by a boy-preacher named Abel, committed suicide by entering a tent and setting it ablaze. Only Jamie’s grandmother survived. Jamie’s grandmother’s apartment is built upon the site of the fire. This is ironic, because Jamie’s parents were killed in a house fire.
Tiffany returns home and, while taking a bath, she is attacked by one of the children who uses corn to strangle her, before taking her body. Det. Armbrister and Jamie arrive at the apartment, but don’t notice Tiffany’s body lying nearby in the cornfield. Later, after Det. Armbrister leaves, the old man in the wheelchair is attacked by the kids and is pushed through a stair balcony and falls to his death. Jamie returns to the grocery store, which is ransacked. She spots a girl wearing her grandmother’s hat and chases after her, failing to notice the storeowner’s severed head inside a drink cooler. Jamie returns to the apartment, where she runs into the man with the gun. He reveals that everyone else has disappeared and that he is leaving. As he makes his escape, the kids trap him in an elevator and scare him so much, that he has a heart attack and dies. The kids then drag off his body.
The priest arrives and explains about Gatlin, and He Who Walks Behind the Rows, who is apparently the devil. The priest tells Jamie that her grandmother is dead and that if she does not leave, she too will be killed. The priest then leaves. Some of the children arrive and take Jamie down to the basement, where there are now rows of corn growing. Abel appears and the children close in on her. One of the children reveals herself to be Jamie’s grandmother and though she is a child, speaks in the voice of an old woman. Jamie flees, but Abel uses his power to prevent her from leaving. Cornered, Jamie faces Abel and the children, who ask her to join them. Jamie agrees, but it is only a distraction and she causes a gas explosion, but Abel is unscathed. Abel uses corn stalks to tie down Jamie, but she is rescued by Det. Armbrister. They both manage to escape before the apartment explodes and destroys the corn as well. It is implied that the souls of the children were freed and Abel was killed.
The seventh entry of the “Children of the Corn” series, this one titled “Revelation” was released in 2001. While it isn’t cinematic brilliance, I found Children of the Corn: Revelation to be a decent sequel. They try to do something different with the film series and for the most part it works.

REVIEW: CONAN THE ADVENTURER (1997)

MAIN CAST

Ralf Moeller (The Scorpion King)
Danny Woodburn (Watchmen)
Robert McRay (Legend of The Phantom)
Jeremy Kemp (A Bridge To Far)
T.J. Storm (VR Troopers)
Andrew Craig (The Toxic Avenger)

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RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Ally Dunne (V.I.P.)
Andrew Divoff (Wishmaster)
Edward Albert (Power Rangers Time Force)
Arthur Burghardt (Transformers)
Mickey Rooney (Nationel Velvet)
Vernon Wells (Mad Max 2)
Brad Greenquist (Alias)
Andrew Bryniarski (Batman Returns)
Paul Le Mat (Puppet Master)
Matthias Hues (Star Trek VI)
Ali Landry (Eve)
Brooke Burns (Baywatch)
Lou Ferrigno (The Incredible Hulk)
Eric Steinberg (Stargate SG.1)
Anthony De Longis (Masters of The Universe)
Angelica Bridges (Mystery Men)
Scott MacDonald (Jack Frost)
Claudette Mink (Children of The Corn 7)
Justina Vail (Seven Days)

xb3aghiq2wii23iaSyndicated television is often called the last bastion of poor writers in this modern age, much like the pulp fiction writers of years gone by were back in their day. This is not to say that syndicated television is always bad, just that the odds greatly favor such a global statement. The first example that comes to mind would be Black Scorpion but I’m sure you’re familiar with other shows like Sinbad, Robin Hood, and Lost World (an admittedly guilty pleasure). The 1990’s were the best years for fantasy shows in syndication due in large part to the success of Hercules and Xena; both of which proved profitable beyond the imagination of their creators. Is it any wonder that other producers sought to cash in as well? Such was the case with a single season show by the name of Conan The Adventurer, based on the writings of famed 1930’s pulp fiction writer, Robert E. Howard, a young man from the desolate plains of Texas.

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Mr. Howard created the mythic hero Conan as a character that could help free him from the shackles of poverty.His character of Conan evolved from another, King Kull, set in the same age of Atlantis era of 10,000 years ago, in epoch known as the Hyborian Age. Conan was a thief, a liar, and a barbarian in every sense of the word. His code of conduct was generally considered less than chivalrous with a “me first” attitude befitting the wild imagination of his writer, a man caught in the trappings of his time. Howard’s own description of the character was: “Some mechanism in my subconsciousness took the dominant characteristics of various prizefighters, gunmen, bootleggers, oil field bullies, gamblers, and honest workmen I had come in contact with, and combining them all, produced the amalgamation I call Conan the Cimmerian.” The world-view of such a man can only be placed in the proper context by understanding the effects of where he lived and the conditions the entire country were in, making more understandable the type of anti-hero that later was popularized in the Marvel comic books and art of Frank Frazetta. I think the rise of the anti-hero in the 1960’s attributed much to reviving such characters as Conan, a being thought up in 1931 by Howard, who only wrote 22 short stories in his later years (before he killed himself). With this in mind, let me turn to the television series this review is about:

Keeping in mind that the original character was a thief, cutthroat, mercenary that did anything asked of him for a price and ignored all social conventions that didn’t suit him (similar to the original Hercules being a power mad rapist drunkard), the show started off on the wrong foot with me by suggesting his “destiny was to free the oppressed” in the opening monologue since there’s nothing further from the truth in the original stories or in the previous movies starring famed bodybuilder-turned-Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Given that a kinder and gentler version of the character would probably be the only way to get the series made, I started off watching the episodes a bit disgruntled but content that a watered down Conan might be better than no Conan at all, I figured how bad could it be considering all the other shows I enjoyed (even as guilty pleasures).
Conan (1997)
The show focused on Conan’s quest to find, and kill, a wizard, Hissah Zul (that was responsible for the death of his sweetheart and the guy responsible for all the ills in the world. Each week would find Conan and a mish mash of odd companions  fighting the minions of evil and cheap CGI effects as they continued on a path to dethrone the wizard. I watched the generic exploits of the cast as they went through the motions and about midway through the series; I actually started enjoying it way too much.
Conan (1997)
So, after watching the episodes as presented in the set (which were out of order from the air dates) and then as they were originally shown, I found the plot to make at least a little more sense in the DVD order they were aired in syndication. Keeping in mind that most, if not all, of the episodes borrowed heavily from the Marvel Comics versions as opposed to the pulp works of Howard. The show tried to be in line with a modern sensibility imposed on the age old character, an uneasy fit at times. While the humor was often as dry as Dilbert in its own way, I think this was what was lacking compared to the movies. Regardless, it was nice to see a show long lost into the archives of some vault given new life for fans of the genre, if not the actual character himself, and I doubt Robert E. Howard would’ve lost any sleep over the way his characters were evolved.

REVIEW: DEAD LIKE ME – SEASON 2

MAIN CAST

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

Steven Grayhm (White Chicks)
Tiffany Lyndall-Knight (I, Robot)
Teryl Rothery (Stargate SG.1)
Lochlyn Munro (Little Man)
Kristen Robek (Jingle All The Way 2)
John DeSantis (Thew New Addams Family)
Pascale Hutton (Sanctuary)
Ryan Robbins (Arrow)
Peter Williams (Catwoman)
Chris Gauthier (Watchmen)
Nicki Clyne (Battlestar Galactica)
Tom McBeath (Bates Motel)
Claudette Mink (Paycheck)
Robin Dunne (Species 3)
Emily Holmes (Snakes on a Plane)
Ty Olsson (I Zombie)
Eric McCormack (Free Enterprise)
Brett Kelly (Bad Santa)
Piper Laurie (Carrie)
Yeardley Smith (The Simpsons)
Anne Marie Deluise (Goosebumps)

Episode 203 "Ghost Story"

Again, we see both this life, and the afterlife though central character George. This season we also explore the other characters in more detail; especially Rube’s mortal life, and surprisingly vulnerable Mason, with the effects on him caused by his job.

My favourite character Daisy also gives hints on her living life, especially towards the end of the series. I enjoyed having the ‘Bimbo Blonde’ surface scratched away from this character, revealing someone we could all know.

On the living side: George works for a temp agency, Happy Time, ‘living’ under the guise of ‘Millie’. Some of the best comedic moments of the series take place in Happy Time. ‘Millie’s manager Delores is just too funny, and all viewers will see a little bit of their own managers in the character. George has now adjusted to the fact that her old life is over, and decides to make the most of this one. This will include boyfriends, and mingling with her co workers at Happy Time. Also, we once again follow George’s surviving family. Her parent’s are divorcing, and her younger sister Reggie is entering that frightful period known as puberty. George’s grandmother also appears this series.


While the final episode ‘Haunted’ is satisfying, and ties up the series nicely, there are still a few loose ends that are left hanging.