HALLOWEEN OF HORROR REVIEW: THE CELL

CAST

Jennifer Lopez (Gigli)
Vincent D’Onofrio (Dardevil TV)
Vince Vaughn (Wedding Crashers)
Colton James (Jurassic Park 2)
Dylan Baker (Spider-Man 2 & 3)
Marianne Jean-Baptiste (Robocop 2014)
Gerry Becker (Angel)
Musetta Vander (Wild Wild West)
Patrick Bauchau (Panic Room)
Catherine Sutherland (Power Rangers Turbo)
James Gammon (The Iron Giant)
Jake Weber (Medium)
Dean Norris (Under The Dome)
Jack Conley (Fast & Furious)
Kamar de los Reyes (Sleepy Hollow)
Pruitt Taylor Vince (Heores Reborn)
Jake Thomas (A.I.)
Peter Sarsgaard (An Education)

Child psychologist Catherine Deane (Jennifer Lopez) is an expert in an experimental treatment for coma patients: a virtual reality device that allows her to enter into the minds of her patients and attempt to coax them into consciousness. When serial killer Carl Rudolph Stargher (Vincent D’Onofrio) falls into a coma before the FBI can locate his final victim, Agent Peter Novak (Vince Vaughn) persuades Deane to enter Stargher’s mind and discover the victim’s location. Stargher’s victim is imprisoned in a cell in the form of a glass enclosure that is slowly filling with water by means of an automatic timer.

Deane enters Stargher’s twisted mind, where she is confronted by both the violent and the innocent parts of the killer’s psyche. The innocent half shows her the abuse he suffered at his father’s hands and the birth of his pathology when he drowned an injured bird as a mercy killing. Deane attempts to nurture the innocent side of Stargher’s mind, but his murderous half thwarts her at every turn.

Despite Deane’s best efforts, she becomes trapped in Stargher’s dark dreamscape. Novak volunteers to enter Stargher’s mind and attempts to rescue her. He breaks Deane from Stargher’s hold and discovers clues to the whereabouts of his victim. Novak relates his revelations to his team and they are able to track down the location of Stargher’s victim (Stargher had been entrusted by a company to take care of an advanced water pump, which he used to fill the cell with water). Novak discovers Stargher’s secret underground room and saves Stargher’s victim just in time. Meanwhile, Deane decides to reverse the process and pull Stargher’s mind into her own. She presents Stargher’s innocent side with a paradise, but his murderous side is always present and manifests as a serpent. This time, however, Deane has all the power; she attacks the serpent/Stargher but discovers she cannot destroy one half without killing the other. Stargher’s innocent side reminds her of the bird he drowned, and she kills Kyu to put him out of his misery. She adopts Stargher’s dog and successfully uses her new technique on her other coma patient (Colton James).

This film is visually amazing – the exploration of what goes on psychologically shown visually like a dream.  I would not recommend this film for sensitive viewers, or those who become can be easily disturbed,

 

REVIEW: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (1987) – SEASON 2

MAIN CAST

Ron Perlman (Hellboy)
Linda Hamilton (The Terminator)
Roy Dotrice (Game of Thrones)
Jay Acovone (Stargate SG.1)

26aefdfe75e396171a91adf55d86b177

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

David Greenlee (Fame)
Armin Shimerman (Buffy: TVS)
Tony Jay (Lois & Clark)
Joseph Campanella (Hangar 18)
Adrian Paul (Highlander: The Series)
Katy Boyer (The Island)
Tim Russ (Star Trek: Voyager)
Bill Calvert (Spider-Man)
Cyd Strittmatter (Gone Girl)
Bruce Abbott (The Net)
Remy Ryan (Robocop 3)
Don Stark (That 70s Show)
Piper Laurie (Carrie)
John McMartin (No Reservations)
Elyssa Davalos (MacGyver)
Kelli Williams (Lie To Me)
Rosemary Dunsmore (Orphan Black)
Edward Albert (Power Rangers Time Force)
Dean Norris (Breaking Bad)
Gary Hudson (Road House)
Richard Roundtree (Shaft)

26aefdfe75e396171a91adf55d86b177Though set in the late-1980s, Beauty and the Beast plays like something from another era. There’s no irony, cynicism, or hip quips to break the spell of the fantasy (though a little humor would’ve been nice). Catherine (Linda Hamilton) loves the beastly, if beneficent Vincent (Ron Perlman) with all her heart–and vice versa. Together, they’re TV’s most soft-hearted crime fighters. To the show’s credit, however, they aren’t infallible, and there are a few problems they’re unable to solve, whether the issue is drug addiction (“Chamber Music”), infectious disease (“Ashes, Ashes” with Highlander‘s Adrian Paul), or murder (“The Hollow Men”).

2In retrospect, it’s clear that Beauty and the Beast was a reaction to the “greed is good” era. Vincent and his cave-dwelling compatriots represent a more compassionate alternative to “topsider” corruption. Yet all is not harmonious below either. Seriously injured the previous year, Paracelsus (Tony Jay) becomes a Phantom of the Opera-type figure, who aims to destroy Vincent’s candle-lit utopia. In addition, a less civilized group of outcasts arrives in “The Outsiders.” Fortunately, Vincent has Father (Roy Dotrice), Mary (Ellen Geer), Mouse (David Greenlee), and Pascal (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine‘s Armin Shimerman) on his side.maxresdefaultUnfortunately, they won’t be able to prevent the tragedy that occurs in “The Rest Is Silence.” Suffice to say, the season finale sets the scene for a new direction (more is revealed in the third-season opener). Consequently, Beauty and the Beast was canceled the following year, but still managed to rack up 18 Emmy nominations (winning six), spawning a soundtrack, and even inspiring some Saturday Night Live spoofing–a sure sign it had struck a chord. While the first season was devoid of extras, Perlman and Hamilton introduce six key episodes on this set..2Being a big B&B fan, I can find no wrong with this Season 2. Loved every episode. This entire series has so much soul, that you will dwell on each episode long after they are over. Can’t go wrong with this one.

 

REVIEW: LOST – SEASON 5

Starring

Matthew Fox (Alex Cross)
Jorge Garcia (How I Met Your Mother)
Elizabeth Mitchell (V)
Evangeline Lilly (Ant-Man and The Wasp)
Jeremy Davies (Hannibal)
Terry O’Quinn (The Rocketeer)
Josh Holloway (Colony)
Naveen Andrews (The Brave One)
Michael Emerson (Arrow)
Rebecca Mader (Iron Man 3)
Daniel Dae Kim (Insurgent)
Yunjin Kim (Shiri)
Henry Ian Cusick (Hitman)
Ken Leung (Inhumans)

Naveen Andrews in Lost (2004)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Sam Anderson (Angel)
L. Scott Caldwell (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina)
Alan Dale (Ugly Betty)
William Mapother (The Mentalist)
Sonya Walger (Termiantor: TSCC)
Sean Whalen (Twister)
François Chau (The Tick)
Michelle Rodriguez (The Fast and The Furious)
Jeff Fahey (Texas Rising)
Cheech Marin (Machete)
Fionnula Flanagan (The Others)
Nestor Carbonell (Bates Motel)
Alexandra Krosney (Last Man Standing)
John Terry (Full Metal Jacket)
Raymond J. Barry (The Gifted)
Zuleikha Robinson (Homeland)
Saïd Taghmaoui (Wonder Woman)
Malcolm David Kelley (You Got Served)
Lance Reddick (Bosch)
Reiko Aylesworth (24)
Patrick Fischler (Happy!)
Doug Hutchison (Punisher: War Zone)
Sterling Beaumon (THe Killing)
Brad William Henke (Bright)
Eric Lange (Narcos)
Jon Gries (Taken)
Tania Raymonde (Texas Chainsaw)
William Sanderson (Blade Runner)
Kim Dickens (Hollow Man)
Dean Norris (Breaking Bad)
Marsha Thomason (The Haunted Mansion)
Alice Evans (The Vampire Diaries)
Andrea Gabriel (2 Broke Girls)
Mark Pellegrino (13 Reasons Why)
Titus Welliver (Argo)

Jeremy Davies and Nestor Carbonell in Lost (2004)Last season, Lost successfully made the transition into the realm of science fiction with classic episodes like “The Constant” and of course, making the island literally disappear in “There’s no Place Like Home.” Season 5 dives head first into weighty science fiction concepts with time travel playing a major role in the narrative for the entire year. There are inherent risks with introducing time travel into a story that is already as complex as the one Lost has become over the past few years. For the most part, the writers do a good job of keeping the time travel aspect of the story from becoming too complicated, but there is no dispute that it is the driving force of the season’s narrative.The first half of the season is comprised of two very distinct storylines.Jeremy Davies, Ken Leung, and Rebecca Mader in Lost (2004)One of those being Jack Shephard’s desperate attempt to reunite the Oceanic Six in order to return to the island and the other being the journey of those left behind as they find themselves inexplicably traveling through time. The Oceanic Six storyline is definitely the weaker of the two. The story of the Six, hours before they return to the island was weakened by a slow start with the somewhat Hurley-centric “The Lie.” This is an episode that featured a little too much of Hugo Reyes’ wacky exploits as he transports an unconscious Sayid around Los Angeles. The rest of the Oceanic Six story is essentially a waiting game as we watch the pieces fall into place so that these characters can return to where we really want them to be – on the island. In fact, their return to the island in “316” feels rushed, almost as if the writers realized that the best place for these characters is back on the island.The aptly named “The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham” is the best episode that takes place almost entirely off the island.Terry O'Quinn and Rebecca Mader in Lost (2004)The story chronicles John Locke’s attempt to convince the Oceanic Six that they need to return to the island in order to save those left behind. It’s a tragic story for John Locke who has spent the last four seasons in the belief that the survivors of Flight 815 are tied by a single destiny but only in death does he finally make people believe. It’s a well-scripted story and wonderfully acted by Terry O’Quinn who does a great job of portraying an interesting transition for Locke on screen.Locke isn’t the only one who goes through a transition this season as Benjamin Linus is forced into a situation that is quite surprising for the character.Daniel Dae Kim and Melissa Farman in Lost (2004)Without delving into too much detail, the dynamic between Locke and Ben changes quite a bit but the great chemistry between O’Quinn and Michael Emerson is still as exceptional as it has always been. Linus fans should not be disappointed by some of the great developments for the character this season. On the island, Sawyer and the rest of the survivors left behind are forced to cope with the fact that they are constantly flashing through time, either to the past or the future. The approach taken here is straightforward and clearly laid out in the first episode of the season; you cannot change events in the past – whatever happened, happened and couldn’t of happened any other way. Faraday acts as the mouth piece for much of the technobabble in the early part of the season with Sawyer playing the part of the ‘everyman’ who constantly questions why things are happening the way they are. This allows the writers an opportunity to ease the audience into this shift of events without making things too complex to follow. There is plenty of exposition,Matthew Fox in Lost (2004)but with Sawyer’s classic charm to offset Faraday’s jargon, it makes it a lot easier to swallow.Time travel is utilized to its fullest here to reveal some of the island’s back-story over the last 50 years. Sawyer and co. pay a visit to the Others of the 1950s and are introduced to past leaders of the mysterious group. We also see some much-needed loose ends tied up as we finally learn more about Rousseau and her research team and we also discover why Richard Alpert visited a young Locke just one season ago. As secrets are revealed and key puzzle pieces are slid into place it’s surprising to see just how well everything fits together. Some of this is certainly due to the asset of knowing how many episodes you have left to tell your story in, but I’m hard pressed to find many plot holes in any of the explanations given. Cuse and Lindelof deserve credit for maintaining a watertight narrative throughout most of the season.

REVIEW: BONES – SEASON 4

Starring

Emily Deschanel (Boogeyman)
David Boreanaz (Angel)
Michaela Conlin (Yellowstone)
Tamara Taylor (Lost)
T. J. Thyne (Ghost World)
John Francis Daley (Game Night)

David Boreanaz, Michaela Conlin, John Francis Daley, Emily Deschanel, Tamara Taylor, and T.J. Thyne in Bones (2005)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Eugene Byrd (Heroes)
Sean Blakemore (Star Trek Into Darkness)
Andrew Buchan (All The Money In The World)
Indira Varma (Game of Thrones)
Carla Gallo (Superbad)
Scoot McNairy (Argo)
Elizabeth Lackey (Heroes)
Jill Wagner (Blade: The Series)
Michele Greene (LA Law)
Brennan Elliott (Curse of Chucky)
Richard Gant (Rocky V)
Dean Norris (Breaking Bad)
Devon Graye (The Flash)
Adam Rose (Veronica Mars)
Demetrius Grosse (Rampage)
Eric Millegan (Phobic)
Michael Grant Terry (Grimm)
Joel David Moore (Avatar)
David Gallagher (Super 8)
Ryan Cartright (Alphas)
Bruce Thomas (Army of Darkness)
Blake Shields (Heroes)
Patricia Belcher (Jeepers Creepers)
Jonathan LaPaglia (Seven Days)
Nichole Hiltz (Smallville)
Eric Lange (lost)
Brendan Fehr (Roswell)
William R. Moses (JAG)
Ryan O’Neal (Love Story)
Gina Torres (Firefly)
Molly Hagan (No Good Nick)(
Aisha Hinds (Cult)
Sterling Beaumon (The Killing)
Mageina Tovah (Spider-Man 2)
Stephen Lee (Robocop 2)
Andy Richter (Scary Movie 2)
Bianca Lawson (Buffy: TVS)
Nathan West (Not Another Teen Movie)
Noel Fisher (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Deirdre Lovejoy (The Blacklist)
Marisa Coughlan (Super Troopers)
Oliver Muirhead (Like Crazy)
Betsy Rue (Halloween II)
Zachary Knighton (Flashforward)
Christine Lakin (Hollywood Darlings)
Spencer Breslin (The Happening)
Pej Vahdat (Arrow)
Kayla Ewell (The Vampire DIaries)
Dana Davis (Prom Night)
Audrey Wasilewski (Red)
John Pyper-Ferguson (Caprica)
P.J. Byrne (Black Lightning)
Mayim Bialik (The Big Bang Theory)
Stephen Fry (V For Vendetta)
Tania Raymonde (Lost)
Brian Tee (Jurassic World)
Ally Maki (Cloak & Dagger)
Bumper Robinson (Sabrina: TTW)
Jaimie Alexander (Thor)
Rick Peters (Dexter)
Edwin Hodge (The Purge)
Lorna Raver (Drag Me To Hell)
Jeff Yagher (V)
Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy)

David Boreanaz, Emily Deschanel, Indira Varma, and Andrew Buchan in Bones (2005)World-renowned forensic anthropologist Temperance “Bones” Brennan is as brusque and tactless as ever, as confounded by the subtleties of social decorum as ever (or as Sweets exclaims: “She is wicked literal!”). Bones is still very much that intimidating icy intellect, still a wounded soul, and still solving murders. FBI Special Agent Seeley Booth is still the one with the people skills and that well-developed bump of intuition. More onions are peeled in this season as we learn even more about the underpinnings of our core characters. The absolute big draw of this show is that sizzle between David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel, their fabulous interplay tantalizing and frustrating the viewers. Could this be the season that they get together? Well, kind of, sort of. Taking what the show is giving, I wallow in their ever evolving relationship.David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel in Bones (2005)Staying on the personal, Hodgins and Angela are trying to move past their break-up. “The Skull in the Sculpture” demonstrates that Angela is more ready to move on than Hodgins, and if you thought Angela was a free spirit before, well, now… This episode also has Sweets demonstrating the best way ever to fire someone. Young FBI psychologist Lance Sweets, by the way, becomes a regular cast member in this season, and I like him more and more as each episode progresses, even if Booth and Bones continually treat him like a pesky little brother. Even Dr. Saroyan’s past is delved into.Emily Deschanel and Cesar Millan in Bones (2005)Zack Addy, apprentice to the Gormagon Killer, has been institutionalized, which doesn’t keep him from strolling out to help the squints on a baffling case. Still, this gives rise to a running theme, that of the rotating roster of interns as Saroyan and Bones attempt to fill Zack’s spot, and the fun thing is that each of these interns comes with baggage. There’s the morbid one, the excessively chirpy one, the one constantly dispensing trivia, etc. The most martyred one may well be that repressed intern who insists on keeping things professional at all times – except that, the squints being a tight bunch, he keeps getting exposed to a deluge of innuendo and gossip in the workplace.David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel in Bones (2005)There isn’t really a running mystery arc to tie these episodes together – no one like the Gormagon Killer running around, for example. But that doesn’t mean that the cases aren’t gripping; some of them are really interesting. The season opens with “Yanks in the U.K.” which plants Brennan and Booth in jolly old England, investigating a murder and running into a British version of themselves. In “The Passenger in the Oven” Bones and Booth are on a flight bound to China and have only four hours to solve a murder before the plane lands and Booth loses jurisdiction. “Double Trouble in the Panhandle” has Booth and Bones infiltrating the Big Top as “Buck & Wanda and their Knives of Death,” and their circus act is actually fraught with more suspense than in just about any other scene in this season.David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel in Bones (2005)Some other favorites? In “The Double Death of the Dearly Departed,” Bones and Booth steal a corpse due for cremation from a funeral home, Bones believing that the body had been “translated,” which is Booth’s made-up code for murder. “Mayhem on a Cross” unveils some dark stuff about Sweets’ past, this episode also featuring the return of the awesome Stephen Fry as FBI shrink Gordon Gordon Wyatt. It also had me cracking up whenever Bones insisted on correctly pronouncing “skalle” (the Norwegian word for “skull”). “The Hero in the Hold” features the return of the Grave Digger serial killer. “The Princess and the Pear” plonks Bones and Booth’s temp replacement in the world of comic book conventions, and Bones finally gets another chance to flash her martial arts mojo.The-Critic-in-The-Cabernet-Screencaps-bones-10968392-653-435In “The Critic in the Cabernet” Bones drops a bomb on Booth and Booth gets advice from a cartoon character, a frivolous conceit which goes on to have a terrifying payoff. Finally Season 4 closes with a quirky fantasy episode featuring a re-shuffling of roles. In this reality, Dr. Saroyan and Booth’s brother are homicide detectives and Booth and Bones are a married couple who run a nightclub and who end up as suspects in a murder case. It’s neat that just about everyone is in this one.

REVIEW: TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES – SEASON 2

Starring

Lena Headey (Game of Thrones)
Thomas Dekker (The Secret Circle)
Summer Glau (Firefly)
Richard T. Jones (Santa Clarita Diet)
Brian Austin Green (Anger Management)
Garret Dillahunt (12 Years a Slave)
Leven Rambin (The Hunger Games)
Shirley Manson (Top Wing)

Thomas Dekker in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

James Urbaniak (Suicide Squad: Hell To Pay)
Carlos Sanz (Runner Runner)
Max Perlich (Beautiful Girls)
Dean Winters (John Wick)
Dean Norris (Breaking Bad)
Zack Ward (Transformers)
Busy Philipps (White Chicks)
Sonya Walger (Lost)
Leah Pipes (The Originals)
Mackenzie Brooke Smith (A Winter Rose)
Jillian Armenante (Bad TEacher)
Jon Huertas (Castle)
Jonathan Jackson (Nashville)
Will Rothhaar (Battle Los Angeles)
Dorian Harewood (Full Metal Jacket)
Shane Edelman (Flightplan)
Stephany Jacobsen (Star-Crossed)
Derek Riddell (Gunpowder)
Emilio Rivera (Venom)
Richard Schiff (Man of Steel)
Adam Busch (Buffy: TVS)
Eddie Shin (Westworld)
Eric Steinberg (Stargate SG.1)
Todd Stashwick (The Originals)
Rebecca Creskoff (Bates Motel)
Samantha Krutzfeldt (A Mann’s World)
Carlos Jacott (Big Love)
Ned Bellamy (Twilight)
Barry Livingston (Argo)
Laura Regan (Dead Silence)
Connor Trinneer (Star Trek: Enterprise)
Jamison Jones (Hollywood Homicide)
Chad Lindberg (The Fast and The Furious)
Alanna Masterson (The Walking Dead)
Adam Wylie (Child’s Play 2)
Cyd Strittmatter (Gone Girl)
Michelle Arthur (Goldeneye)
Manny Montana (Conviction)
Julie Ann Emery (Better Call Saul)
Alex Carter (Out of Time)
Theo Rossi (Luke Cage)
Chad L. Coleman (The Orville)
Yuri Lowenthal (Young Justice)
Sabrina Perez (American Exit)
Joshua Malina (The Big Bang Theory)

Summer Glau in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008)I enjoyed the first season of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, despite its shortened season which fell victim to the writer’s strike, I was looking forward to what they had in store for Season Two. The first season had excellent performances and action sequences, appealing storylines, and show runner Josh Friedman was performing his job well. I expected things to fall in line for Season Two, however I had a small bit of apprehension: the addition of Shirley Manson, normally the lead singer of the band Garbage, to the cast.Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008)I thought this was a dicey proposition. Manson had not done any real acting work before, and Friedman might have been overreaching. Granted, his casting masterstroke in Season One was Brian Austin Green, formerly of Beverly Hills 90210, now appearing as Derek Reese, brother of Kyle. As a brief overview for those unfamiliar with the mythology, Kyle is father to John Connor (Thomas Dekker, A Nightmare on Elm Street), leader of the resistance against Skynet and the cyborg army of terminators. John’s mother Sarah is played by Lena Headley (300). And of course, it wouldn’t be a show about terminators without one as a cast regular; enter Summer Glau (Firefly) as Cameron. More on all of them in a minute.Shirley Manson in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008)Back to the risky decision. Manson plays Catherine Weaver, CEO of a high-powered technology corporation called ZeiraCorp. Manson is a T-1000, similar to Robert Patrick in T2, and she assumes the life of the real Weaver, who died in a helicopter crash with her husband. Their daughter is still alive, which presents a unique challenge, as a terminator hasn’t been placed in a truly maternal role before. Oddly enough, Manson’s role as an emotionless being trying to figure out how to be a mother is one of the season’s better performances (in “The Tower Is Tall But The Fall Is Short”), and she proves to be a capable actress. This introspection from non-feeling machine against a motherly disposition is fascinating in how Manson can show her emotions and yet not reveal her hand, as it were.Summer Glau in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008)Fortunately, we see similar stories behind other characters. In the episode “Allison From Palmdale,” not only do we discover Cameron’s origins but also why her physical traits were used as a model for a terminator. The performance is not as deep as Manson’s, but Glau does admirably. The self-evaluation continues with John as he gets involved in a relationship with Riley (Leven Rambin), which is almost like the last part of teenaged life he’ll enjoy before his imminent future with the resistance, of which Sarah dutifully reminds him. Sarah continues to struggle with her mortality because of a possible illness, and Derek has a particular conflict with Jesse (Stephanie Jacobsen, Life on Mars), who also came back from the future with motives that appear to differ from Derek’s. The quality of guest stars improved as well: Dean Winters (Oz) and Garret Delahunt (No Country For Old Men) reprise their roles as Charley and Cromartie, respectively. As Agent Ellison, Richard T. Jones is a guy who questions his spirituality and later rationalizes it to believe that what he does is right, though we know otherwise. Some of the other faces in Season Two include former West Wing regulars Richard Schiff and Joshua Malina, and Dorian Harewood (Full Metal Jacket) plays a psychiatrist whose work affects several cast regulars, and has long-lasting impacts for future episodes.Brian Austin Green, Lena Headey, and Dean Winters in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008)But it’s not like any Terminator project is known for its ensemble work. This has the requisite amount of action sequences and visual effects, and that action helps emphasize the points the story is trying to tell. For a good CG illustration, Manson kills the staff of a warehouse before blowing it up, but normally most of the stunts are done practically and look convincing as a result.Brian Austin Green, Lena Headey, and Summer Glau in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008)Sadly though, I have to think that there weren’t enough people willing to take a leap of faith and give the show a chance because it wasn’t a big-budget action film. It told stories with each of its characters and did so well. I’m guessing that wasn’t appreciated. Additionally, the release of the fourth Terminator film in the summer of 2009 probably gave the show an over saturation point with the public which hampered any acceptance of it. So now the show’s gone from our televisions, and while we have a new crop of reality shows and sitcoms with retread stars to pore over, I’d encourage people to give The Sarah Connor Chronicles a second view. It’s funny, smart, suspenseful, intriguing and artistic. And yes, it’s a science fiction show. Further proof that the genre has some quality creative minds contributing to it.

REVIEW: BREAKING BAD – THE FINAL SEASON

STARRING

Bryan Cranston (Power Rangers)
Anna Gunn (Sully)
Aaron Paul (Central Intelligence)
Dean Norris (The Big Bang Theory)
Betsy Brandt (Magic Mike)
RJ Mitte (Final Recall)
Bob Odenkirk (Operation: Endgame)
Giancarlo Esposito (Money Monster)
Jonathan Banks (The Lizzie Borden Chronicles)
Laura Fraser (In The Cloud)
Jesse Plemons (The Post)

Bryan Cranston and Dean Norris in Breaking Bad (2008)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Matt L. Jones (Mom)
Charles Baker (Abysm)
Lavell Crawford (American Ultra)
Michael Bowen (Lost)
Bill Burr (Date Night)
Emily Rios (Snowfall)
Adam Godley (Powers)
Jessica Hecht (Dan In Real Life)
Carmen Serano (Next Friday)
Robert Forster (Jackie Brown)
Louis Ferreira (Stargate Universe)

Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad (2008)Since the beginning of Breaking Bad, there was always the question of if and when Walter White (Bryan Cranston) would be caught. His brother in law Hank Schrader (Dean Norris) was a DEA agent, so there were so many ways for his work as a meth cooker/drug kingpin to go south. And as the final eight episodes of Breaking Bad began, Hank had finally caught on to his brother in law. It was the start of the end, and it couldn’t end well, at least for the characters. For the audience, it ended spectacularly. Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad (2008)First off “The Final Season” is what the packaging says, but that would surely include the episodes from the first half of the fifth season, but season five was divided into two eight episode chunks, even though they were shot and aired nearly a year apart. It must be some sort of contractual thing. The second half kicks off seconds after the last episode with Hank finding a book of poetry that the late Gale Boeticher gave to Walter. Hank puts it all together, and goes home to do research, struggling with a panic attack as his world comes crushing down. But the great thing about the show is that this tension of Hank knowing could have dragged on for episodes. By the end of the first, he and Walter confront each other. Meanwhile Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) has five million dollars and all he wants to do is give it to the family of the boy whose child was murdered by Todd (Jesse Plemons). He’s too emotionally distraught to make any rational decisions and is eventually arrested for throwing his money away.Aaron Paul in Breaking Bad (2008)Skyler White (Anna Gunn) is confronted by Hank shortly thereafter, and though both love her sister Marie (Betsy Brandt), Skyler doesn’t know what to do, and doesn’t want to incriminate herself so she stays mute. Walter raises the stakes on Hank – who knows his career is ruined the minute he tells his coworkers that his brother is a meth kingpin – to keep him at bay, but Hank is not the sort of officer who backs down because of threats. Meanwhile Todd and his crew are now making meth, and their work doesn’t make Lydia (Laura Fraser) all that happy because their purity levels are far below Walter’s and their meth isn’t even blue. Walter gets Jesse to Saul Goodman’s (Bob Odenkirk), and the plan is to take him to the long spoke of Disappearer, but though Jesse goes along with this, it’s at this time he realizes that Walter was the one who stole the ricin cigarette for him, and he wants revenge. Eventually, he teams up with Hank.Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul in Breaking Bad (2008)When it all goes down, it goes down in interesting ways that might not be predicted, but feel right for just about everyone. That’s led to problems because it’s a pretty neat package in the end. But that won’t stop Breaking Bad for being revered as one of the greatest accomplishments in television history, up there with (though not on the same level as) The Wire.Dean Norris and Betsy Brandt in Breaking Bad (2008)If it’s not as good as The Wire, it’s only because at some point Breaking Bad stopped being about the exterior world, and became focused on the human drama. In that way the series peaked in Season 2, when it showed the real world collateral damage of Walter’s pursuit of wealth and power. But the show always had pulp fiction roots, and in comparison to The Shield or The Sopranos, what’s most impressive is how tight the whole thing is – there are no seasons, no episodes, and only a few plot strands that didn’t pay off or add up, and that’s pretty amazing. Much of that had to do with the first season. Had they not had a shortened order for the first year, they might have pushed Walter too far along in his journey into crime, but the way it plays out now, there are 62 episodes and about forty eight hours of a near-seamless narrative that is mostly broken up into acts. And, as series creator Vince Gilligan said from the outset, this was about turning Mr. Chips into Scarface and so each season saw Walter fall further from sympathy, and further from his initial goals of simply taking care of his family. As the character says in the finale, only then can he finally admit he did it for himself.Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad (2008)What the final eight episodes do is unravel everything, with “Ozymandius” the standout episode, as directed by Rian Johnson. To that point, the tension has been raised, and things have to explode, and so explode they do, with no one left uninjured. It’s one of the most harrowing and brilliant episodes of television ever filmed, and it’s amazing how well it pays off so much of what’s been building over the years. But the nice thing about television is that the show had two more episodes to unravel everything else, and gave Walter White a glimpse of Hell, and a moment to make things maybe a little less bad.Dean Norris and Steven Michael Quezada in Breaking Bad (2008)At this point, everyone on the show knew what they were doing, and so there are no bum performances, and everyone is doing career-best work, with a deep bench of great supporting players. Kevin Rankin and Michael Bowen play two of the head Neo Nazis, and though both had played toughs before, this isn’t just guest of the week stuff, these characters have lives and feel lived in. It’s weird how great Bowen is, many might know him from Valley Girl, or Jackie Brown (or a small part in Kill Bill), but he transforms himself into another person, and that’s just one of the minor characters in the season. Bryan Cranston is amazing in these episodes as he reveals the worst of the character and then tries to show empathy while doing the worst possible things. That people still like Walt, that people misguidedly champion him has everything to do with how good Cranston plays it. And it’s no surprise that Aaron Paul is moving on to a big screen career, because he and the creators took a nothing part and transformed the character (who was supposed to get killed off in the first season) into the heart and soul of the series.Michael Bowen, Bryan Cranston, and Dean Norris in Breaking Bad (2008)But then there’s also Anna Gunn, who many fans grew to hate, but who brilliantly played a conflicted woman who was in a relationship she couldn’t get out of, and would occasionally vacillate into accepting the evil around her. And RJ Mitte as Walter White Jr., the one person who fully believes in his father until he finally sees the monster within. And then there’s someone like Bob Odenkirk, who is mostly comic relief, but manages to bring a reality and empathy to his shyster lawyer, and that’s not to mention Jesse Plemmons great work as Todd, whose baby face is a perfect counterbalance to his sociopathic nature.Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad (2008)It’s also worth noting that the show was shot on 35mm, and that mixed with the directors means this is one of the most cinematic shows on television. The camera moves in ways that advance the story, and where most TV shows can be enjoyed without watching the picture the whole time, here there is so much going on in terms of visual storytelling. If you watch “Ozymandius” a second time, during the flashback opening, a key prop is placed prominently in the frame, as if to set up its role later in the episode. You don’t get that from most TV shows.Ultimately, Breaking Bad is a great work, a great story, and it’s easy to see why people champion it as being as good as the best of cinema. Though that’s apples and oranges –it’s pointless to compare the greatness of Jaws to the greatness of Moby Dick, or Hamlet to The Beatles. That said, one wishes there were more than a handful of shows on this level. Hopefully Breaking Bad will spawn them.

REVIEW: BREAKING BAD – SEASON 5

STARRING

Bryan Cranston (Power Rangers)
Anna Gunn (Sully)
Aaron Paul (Central Intelligence)
Dean Norris (The Big Bang Theory)
Betsy Brandt (Magic Mike)
RJ Mitte (Final Recall)
Bob Odenkirk (Operation: Endgame)
Giancarlo Esposito (Money Monster)
Jonathan Banks (The Lizzie Borden Chronicles)
Laura Fraser (In The Cloud)
Jesse Plemons (The Post)

Jonathan Banks, Bryan Cranston, and Aaron Paul in Breaking Bad (2008)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Jim Beaver (Deadwood)
Christopher Cousins (The Grudge 2)
Steven Michael Quezada (Girlfriend’s Day)
Matt L. Jones (Mom)
Emily Rios (Snowfall)
Charles Baker (Abysm)
Bill Burr (Date Night)
Louis Ferreira (Stargate Universe)
Michael Bowen (Lost)
Larry Hankin (Barry)
Michael Shamus Wiles (Lost Highways)

Jonathan Banks in Breaking Bad (2008)This is it – the beginning of the end. After four fantastic seasons that progressively made the series grow stronger and stronger, we’re just about there. I can’t say that I agree with the decision that AMC and Sony made to split the 16-episode fifth and final season into two parts, but I’m really excited for where it’s going. While this Blu-ray release labels itself as “The Fifth Season,” it’s really only the first half of season season five. I imagine that when the second half makes its way to Blu-ray, it will be labeled as “The Final Season.” The eight episodes contained in this set don’t quite function as a stand-alone season – there isn’t a complete arc – but it definitely sets itself up for what should be an intense finale. And with the show’s track record, it’s fair to assume that ‘Breaking Bad’ is going to end with a very loud bang.Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad (2008)Season four ended with Mr. Walter White (three-time Emmy-winner Bryan Cranston) and Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul, who also has two Emmys of his own) obtaining complete liberation from their smart, intimidating, and oppressive distributor – Gus Fring. Without a single obstacle in their way and with the best “cook” in the world, the sky is the limit for our anti-hero duo. There are so many juicy moments in the contained eight episodes, moments sure to make every fan of the series giggle with excitement, that I’m going to try my very best to keep the details vague for those of you who have not yet watched it.Aaron Paul in Breaking Bad (2008)There are three major results of Gus no longer being part of the picture: the DEA – including Walt’s brother-in-law Hank (Dean Norris) – are pushing hard to find every known member of Gus’ international operation; without a lab and distribution, Walt and Jesse must now find new methods of cooking and distributing their 99-percent pure crystal meth; and Walt’s ego is out of control. If you just took down biggest meth operation in North America, wouldn’t you have an inflated head as well?The Blu-ray cover art contains the text “All Hail the King” emboldened on the front. This isn’t a praise that we, the audience, give to Mr. White. No, it’s a praise that he gives to himself. Having defeated the one man that very well may have been smarter than himself, Walt is out of control. As we see, it’s his way or the highway. There isn’t a trace of Mr. White in Walt anymore – it’s all Heisenberg from here on out. It’s always been obvious that this series is all about the erosion of good man. At this point, the once-good man no longer exists and, in comparison, Jesse begins to look like a saint. Walter White may no longer have cancer, but he is a cancer. He brings death, ruining lives and families wherever he goes. His intentions were good in the start, but that’s no longer the case. The character that I once rooted for is becoming so evil that I cannot wait to see him meet his demise – assuming that’s where showrunner, creator, and writer Vince Gilligan is taking the series.Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad (2008)But just because Gus is gone, it doesn’t mean that other problems aren’t going to arise. As we saw in her last scene from season four, Walt’s wife Skylar (Anna Gunn) no longer views her husband the same way. She will continue to launder his dirty money through their car wash, but she’s no longer happily cooperating and she’s going to fight Walt’s will until his – or her – dying breath. Aside from past issues with competing cartels, Gus’ operation was functioning flawlessly until Walt and Jesse came around. His team was silent and tight, their loyalty and trust never in question – but now that the DEA is applying heat and Gus is out of the picture, how quiet do you think his pressured henchmen will be now. And as if Gus’ 10 major employees weren’t posing enough of a threat, how do you think Gus’ right-hand man Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) is going to take the news of the season four’s final events?Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad (2008)Season five doesn’t feel like a complete season (which I why I’m assuming the cover art doesn’t follow suit with the previous season releases by titling it ‘The Complete Fifth Season’), but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t filled with greatness. There are plenty of extremely memorable moments – for the good or bad of the characters – and it’s completely entertaining through and through. Starting with the season’s opening tease, there are plenty of puzzling twists and ominous foreshadowing. The episodes found on this Blu-ray set might have been strengthened by running fluidly with the final eight, but at least this set allows you to catch up and get refreshed prior to the final 8.