REVIEW: JACK OF ALL TRADES

 

CAST

Bruce Campbell (Ash vs Evil Dead)
Angela Marie Dotchin (Young Hercules)
Stuart Devenie (The Frighteners)
Stephen Papps (Brain Dead)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Kim Michalis (Hercules In The Underworld)
Charles Pierard (Shackleton’s Captain)
John Leigh (The Dark Horse)
Hori Ahipene (The Piano)
John Sumner (Power Rangers RPM)
Amy Morrison (The Tribe)
Verne Troyer (Austin Powers 2 & 3)
Mark Hadlow (The Hobbit)
Geoff Dolan (Wendy Wu)
Danielle Cormack (Wentworth Prison)
Michael Hurst (Hercules: TLJ)
Bruce Hopkins (Power Rangers Ninja Storm)
Jodie Dorday (Burying Brian)
Celia Nicholson (This Is Not My Life)
Asa Lindh (Xena)

Jack of All Trades is the direct creation of Eric Morris, who wrote much of the show himself, but largely the product of what some may call the “Holy Trinity” behind a cult favorite, the Evil Dead Trilogy: Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert (executive producers) as well as the star of the show, Bruce Campbell. It ran for two seasons and a total of 22-episodes in 2000, forming the latter half of the “Back2Back Action Hour” alongside Cleopatra 2525.

It’s 1801, and the American Revolution has just been won. As a result, Jack Stiles (Bruce Campbell) is assigned by Thomas Jefferson to thwart any and all attempts by French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte (Verne Troyer a.k.a. Mini-Me from the second and third parts of the Austin Powers Trilogy) to colonize the New World, particularly concerning the tiny East Indies island of Pulau Pulau. Here, he is teamed up with the stunning British secret agent and inventress Emilia Rothschild (Angela Dotchin) with the cover of being her personal attaché. In addition to playing the part of man-servant, Jack must occasionally take on the role of the legendary folk hero, the Daring Dragoon. This allows him more freedom in his thwarting of the French, although because the costume’s mask only covers up part of his face and his voice remains unchanged, it’s puzzling how the residing French Governor Croque and his compatriots time and again fail to uncover the masked hero’s true identity! An array of historical figures make appearances on Jack including, but not limited to: Thomas Jefferson, Blackbeard (the infamous pirate), Benjamin Franklin, the Marquis de Sade, Lewis & Clark, a relative of Leonardo Da Vinci and, of course, Napoleon Bonaparte himself, cleverly portrayed by Verne Troyer. While Jack is hardly historically accurate, its historical references make for entertaining subject matter for Jack and Emilia to interact with throughout the show in a myriad of situations.Jack of All Trades is a funny show, one which is enjoyable to watch. The cast seems natural, and the chemistry between Bruce (Jack) and Angela (Emilia) is particularly strong. Their back-and-forth banter coupled with the undeniable sexual tension between the two of them keeps the show going. Unfortunately, Jack’s series finale seems rather abrupt, leaving something to be desired. There is this lingering sense of a lack of closure; nevertheless, the show still manages to hold itself together in the end. It’s just too bad that the end had to come sooner than later.

REVIEW: MADDIGANS QUEST

MAIN CAST

Rose McIver (Izombie)
Jordan Metcalfe (Genie In The House)
Zac Fox (Scoial Suicide)
Olivia Tennet (Power Rangers RPM)
Rawiri Pene (This Is Not My Life)
Danielle Cormack (Xena)
Timothy Balme (Brain Dead)
Rachel House (Eagle vs Shark)
Hori Ahipene (Jack of All Trades)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Peter Daube (Power Rangers Samurai)
Michael Hurst (Hercules: TLJ)
Ross Duncan (Young Hercules)
Tandi Wright (Black Sheep)
Alison Bruce (Sylvia)
Milo Cawthorne (Deathgasm)
Tom Hern (Power Rangers Dino Thunder)

First created as a novel by our most famous young-adult author Margaret Mahy (winner of the Carnegie Medal and the Hans Christian Anderson award), “Maddigan’s Quest” is set in a post-apocalyptic world where the wilderness is dangerous and the roads still partially unmapped. Out of the ashes of what is known as “the Great Chaos”, was built Solis, the shining city. It is here that the circus troop known as Maddigan’s Fantasia spends the winter, before heading out each summer in order to explore new lands, collect lost knowledge, meet new people and spread some colour and joy.

But this year things are different. Solis is powered by the sun, and is in need of a new solar converter if the city is to remain the single bright beacon in a dark world. Missionaries have been sent out to retrieve one from the town of Newton, but none have returned. Thus the council turn to Maddigan’s Fantasia – since the circus head out every year anyway they are certain to be overlooked by any political spies or traitors that plot the demise of Solis.

And yet it becomes even more complicated when the troop is joined by two young boys and their baby sister, claiming that they are from a future in which the Fantasia have failed in their mission and Solis has come under the control of the treacherous Nennog. As such, Timon and Eden have been sent back in time by their parents in order to ensure the success of the Fantasia, using their prior knowledge of events to help.

So who are the Fantasia? A group of clowns, acrobats, magicians, fortune tellers and jugglers who form together a warm, cheerful, squabbling, and utterly loyal extended family. In fact, the family dynamic of the circus is perhaps the highlight of the show, comparable to the crew of Joss Whedon’s “Firefly” or the “X-Men” family franchise; a group of colourful characters who are all given unique and interesting relationships with each other, across generations, genders and family intrigues.

Out of the cast, it is the child-actors who provide the strongest performances. Rose McIver is our narrator, a fourteen year old acrobat who keeps track of their progress in her diary and is being groomed as the next ring-leader of the Fantasia. As the two boys from the future, Jordan Metcalfe and Zac Fox (Timon and Eden) come across as both capable and vulnerable, with Metcalfe in particular shining as a young teen given the huge burden of responsibility of protecting his younger siblings and seeing the mission is successful. A slow attraction between him and Garland is sure to appeal to romantics, made poignant by the fact that if they *are* successful in retrieving the solar converter, the two of them will be separated by almost one hundred years. Rawiri Pene plays Garland’s oldest friend Boomer, who is rather jealous of the sophisticated Timon and his growing bond with Garland, and Olivia Tennant provides the most laughs as the flighty, somewhat spoilt Lilth. Rounding out the adult cast is Garland’s parents Ferdy and Maddie, feuding couple Goneril and Tane, and the untrustworthy Yves (Lilith’s father), who has his eyes set on Garland’s beautiful mother.

Each episode deals with a different location on the way to Newton and back again, as well as conflict within the group, danger from marauding gangs and agents from the future out to prevent the successful return of the Fantasia. The individual circus talents of the troop are instigated in ingenious ways, the post-apocalyptic world is both threatening but full of hope and potential for the future, and the stories are exactly what one would expect to emerge from the imagination of Mahy.

 

It’s not all perfect; the material used is better suited for hour-long programming rather than a mere half-hour, and although the costumes, sets and props are vividly created, the special-effects often look rather fake. And don’t even get me started on a discussion on the tampering done with the fundamental ‘rules’ of time travelling. But for all this “Maddigan’s Quest” is a great show that may be aimed predominantly at kids, but is certainly not exclusively for them