REVIEW: DARK ANGEL -SEASON 1

Starring

Jessica Alba (Machete)
Michael Weatherly (Bull)
John Savage (American Romance)
Valarie Rae Miller (Crank)
J. C. MacKenzie (The Wolf of Wall Street)
Richard Gunn (Hemlock Grove)
Alimi Ballard (Sabrina: TTW)
Jennifer Blanc (The Victim)

Jessica Alba in Dark Angel (2000)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Stanley Kamel (Domino)
Kristin Bauer van Straten (True Blood)
Paul Popowich (Rupture)
Douglas O’Keeffe (The Andromeda Strain)
Sarah-Jane Redmond (Smallville)
Lauren Lee Smith (Mutant X)
Kim Hawthorne (Greanleaf)
Stephen Lee (Robocop 2)
Hiro Kanagawa (Heroes Reborn)
Garry Chalk (Arrow)
Eileen Pedde (Juno)
Fulvio Cecere (Valentine)
Robert Lewis (Stargate SG-1)
Natassia Malthe (Elektra)
Steve Makaj (Two for The Money)
Tyler Labine (Tucker and Dale vs Evil)
Alessandro Juliani (Smallville)
Ty Olsson (X-Men 2)
Ryan Robbins (Sanctuary)
Peter Bryant (Legends of Tomorrow)
Emily Tennant (Jennifer’s Body)
Christine Chatelain (Final Destination)
Abraham Benrubi (ER)
Byronn Mann (Arrow)
A.C. Peterson (Shooter)
Tony Perez (Once Upon a Time)
Lisa Rodríguez (Next Friday)
Brenda James (Slither)
William Gregory Lee (Xena)
Rodney Rowland (Veronica Mars)
George Cheung (Rush Hour)
Mike Weinberg (Home Alone 4)
Nicole Bilderback (Clueless)
Robert Gossett (Batman Returns)
Harsh Nayyar (Gandhi)
Brian Markinson (Wolf)
Lucia Walters (Stargate: Atlantis)
James Kidnie (Robocop: The Series)
Patrick Kilpatrick (Eraser)
Alex Zahara (Horns)
Mark Gibbon (Man of Steel)
Jodelle Ferland (Silent Hill)
Zahf Paroo (The Good Doctor)
Susan Hogan (Warehouse 13)
Lawrence Pressman (American Pie)
Samantha Smith (Supernatural)
Rekha Sharma (The Core)
Craig Veroni (Cedar Cove)
Lisa Ann Cabasa (Buffy: TVS)
Rob LaBelle (Watchmen)
Shireen Crutchfield (House Party 3)
Ashley Crow (Heroes)
David Kaye (Siren)
Mark Rolston (Aliens)
Ian Tracey (Sanctuary)
Alex Carter (The Island)
Jensen Ackles (Supernatural)
Robert Floyd (Cold Hearts)
Nana Visitor (Star Trek: DS9)
James Kirk (She’s The Man)
Rainn Wilson (Star Trek: Discovery)
Kevin McNulty (Snakes on a Plane)
Sebastian Spence (First Wave)
Lorena Gale (Traitor)
Steve Bacic (Andromeda)
Kris Pope (Josie and The Pussycats)
Joshua Alba (Alpha Dog)
Nicki Aycox (Jeepers Creepers 2)

Jessica Alba in Dark Angel (2000)Dark Angel stars Jessica Alba (Idle Hands) as Max, a genetically-engineered supersoldier who escaped from an expectedly top-secret government facility as a child. Despite the passing of a full decade, the agents of Manticore, led by Donald Lydecker (John Savage), remain determined to retrieve their multi-million dollar killing machine. Max ekes out a living in a scarcely-recognizable 21st century Seattle, avoiding capture while trying to locate the brothers and sisters that fled from Manticore with her. Max’s search brings her in contact with underground cyberjournalist Logan Cale (Michael Weatherly), and together, they try to make Seattle a more palatable place while unveiling the secrets of Max’s past.Jessica Alba, William Gregory Lee, and Michael Weatherly in Dark Angel (2000)Just as Max is a genetically-engineered hybrid of various people and creatures, Dark Angel has been stitched together from the remnants of various other genre television series and movies. The most obvious point of comparison is Buffy the Vampire Slayer, with its beautiful, sassy, headstrong, ass-kicking female lead, a predominately female supporting cast, and an older male mission-dispensing mentor with an answer to every question and a solution to every problem. Hell, both series have even had a recurring character named Kendra. Similarities can also be drawn to The Pretender, which features a gifted child raised in an isolated institutional setting and pursued in adulthood. Both series take every available opportunity to flash back to childhood and draw parallels to the present. The X-5s also bear a passing resemblance to the powerful young aliens of Roswell. Toss in a dollop of a Mad Max post-apocalyptic future for good measure, and you’re in the general ballpark.Jessica Alba in Dark Angel (2000)By the time I’d waded through the 90-minute pilot and the other two episodes on disc one, I was fully prepared to write Dark Angel off as a loss, resigning myself to wading through another thirteen hours of mediocrity. The feature-length pilot carried a hefty price tag, touted at the time as the most expensive ever produced. I’m not sure how much of that reported $10 million made it on-screen or was siphoned off to line James Cameron’s wallet, but the end result is plodding and dull. Thankfully, Dark Angel improves after these early fumbles, though the quality remains uneven throughout. For every decent episode, there’s one as dismal as Red or Haven. Douglas O’Keeffe has been cast in enough movies and TV series that someone out there seems to think he has some modicum of talent, but not a glimpse of it is on display in his embarrassingly inept performance as Bruno in Red. Bruno isn’t the only carryover from the pilot. A disturbing amount of footage appears in flashback form, making it the most shameless rehash outside of a Silent Night, Deadly Night sequel. Haven consists of 43 of the most painfully boring minutes I’ve spent in front of my television this year, and even the most staunch fans of the series seem to consider it pretty dreadful.Jessica Alba and Douglas O'Keeffe in Dark Angel (2000)Dark Angel was, at least in part, a victim of Fox’s determination to air sci-fi programming on Friday night, a timeslot that has claimed such genre casualties as Firefly, The Lone Gunman, M.A.N.T.I.S., Harsh Realm, Strange Luck, and VR.5. Despite not attracting enough viewers to warrant a third season, Fox’s home video arm has enough confidence in Dark Angel’s fan base to release both seasons of the series in relatively quick succession.Jessica Alba in Dark Angel (2000)Established fans of the series ought to find Dark Angel to be well-worth the modest asking price. As for the uninitiated, I wouldn’t recommend this set as a blind purchase. I’d suggest checking out at least a couple of episodes first, which admittedly might prove to be fairly tough seeing as how Dark Angel has been off the air for years now. If the premise sounds intriguing and you never got around to watching the series during its original run on Fox, I’d recommend this set.

REVIEW: JUNO

CAST

Ellen Page (Super)
Michael Cera (Scott Pilgrim vs The World)
Jennifer Garner (Alias)
Jason Bateman (The Ex)
Allison Janney (Spy)
J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)
Olivia Thirlby (Dredd)
Eileen Pedde (Dar kAngel)
Rainn Wilson (The Office)
Emily Perkins (Ginger Snaps)
Candice King (The Vampire Diaries)
Eve Harlow (Heroes Reborn)
Emily Tennant (I, Robot)
Valerie Tian (Izombie)

Juno takes a thoughtful spin on an old cliché storyline revolving around unplanned parenthood. After spending a curious night together with her friend Paul Bleeker (Michael Cera, Superbad) in a big comfy chair a few months prior, Juno (Ellen Page, Hard Candy) discovers that she’s in for seven more months of paying for that mistake. Instead of slyly sneaking off to a clinic to change her pregnancy status, she has a change of heart and chooses to go through with the pregnancy. Instead of keeping the kid, however, Juno finds a picturesque, pseudo-surrogate family (Jason Bateman, Arrested Development, and Jennifer Garner, Alias) to adopt her and Bleeker’s child.

Reitman’s film, as sharply characteristic and biting as Thank You for Smoking, takes on the feel of a colorful mosaic as we follow through Juno’s remaining seven months of pregnancy. All the way through, she has plenty of support from her understated and supportive parents (J.K. Simmons, Spider-Man, and Allison Janney, 10 Things I Hate About You) and her loopy cheerleader friend Leah (Olivia Thirlby). Juno leads us through all the mundane occurrences, from ultrasounds to clothing modification, as well as through the more tongue-tied moments with her baby’s family-to-be. There’s a moment when Juno and her father meet with the adopting parents, and their lawyer, that’s priceless. It easily draws out and distinguishes the differences between the characters, both between the two families as well as the individual differences, and similarities, among all parties at the table.


Juno’s a great character narrative with exceedingly well-crafted personalities across the board, but the film’s impact hinges on the gallant performance from Ellen Page. It’s interesting to compare her talents here to her outstanding performance in Hard Candy, a ridiculously tense thriller about a renegade Little Red Riding Hood-esque figure with a penchant for revenge on a child molester. She’s an overwhelmingly talented satirist, especially at her age. Page’s Juno shares some interesting similarities to her Hard Candy character Haley Stark, points that echo through her quality as an actress. She can appear intelligent beyond her character’s years, while also latching firmly onto the age of the character with her mannerisms. Page doesn’t just sell maturity, she sells youthful maturity – meaning she can be both believably naïve and intelligent in the same breath.Ellen Page folds together with Diablo Cody’s wonderfully sharp script, the real star of the show, and crafts one of the most entertaining and touching films of the year. Cody’s pen handles different age groups in different ways, obviously, but she makes certain to keep a very even balance between quirk and sincerity. And, though it teeters along here and there, Juno’s still grin worthy even when it does lean a little over that line of absurdity. Most importantly, Juno’s barrage of one-liners and sarcastic swordfights between its characters can be downright hilarious in context.

It’s not just the scornful preggo hippie chick that gets to have all the fun, either; all of the fleshed characters have scathing humor written into their parts. As a matter of fact, some of the smaller character scenes, from Rainn Wilson’s little ignition of a one-liner to get the film started to Allison Janney’s lengthy reprimand on an ultrasound technician, provide some of the more memorable moments of the film. Where Juno really delivers a shot of believable impact, however, is within the maturing relationships between Juno and the adoptive parents – not as a cohesive unit, but as the individuals themselves. Juno, as a character, molds to each person that she interacts with in the film. As she states earlier in the film, she doesn’t really “know what kind of a girl” she is. Her character clearly grows throughout the film, which can be seen even through her steadfast and bull-headed charisma.


Juno’s a comically melancholy film, yet an attractive one to watch and listen to, as well. Jason Reitman’s directorial eyes and ears were obviously finely tuned during this production. His director of photography, Eric Steelberg, plays a major part in how great this film looks. He uses exaggerated color schemes, such as stark oranges and cold blues, to illustrate seasonal shifts that help pull us through the timeshifts in the narrative. There are a lot of quality details that he captures through his lens that gives Juno’s warm photography a lot of personality. When accompanied with the undertone lyrics from the assortment of indie music laced with Juno’s aesthetics, it keeps the film’s background as rhythmic and upbeat as the darting dialogue.