REVIEW: TRAINING DAY (2001)

CAST

Denzel Washington (The Taking of Pelham 123)
Ethan Hawke (The Purge)
Scott Glenn (Daredevil)
Tom Berenger (Platoon)
Harris Yulin (Ghostbusters 2)
Raymond J. Bary (Alias)
Cliff Curtis (Jubilee)
Snoop Dogg (Scary Movie V)
Eva Mendes (2 Fast 2 Furious)
Raymond Cruz (My Name Is Earl)
Fran Kranz (Dollhouse)
Terry Crews (Get Smart)

The film follows a day in the life of Los Angeles Police Department officer Jake Hoyt, who is scheduled to be evaluated by Detective Alonzo Harris, a highly decorated LAPD narcotics officer, for a possible promotion. Riding around in Alonzo’s car, they begin the day by catching some college kids buying cannabis from a street gang. Alonzo confiscates the drugs and tells Jake to smoke it – Jake refuses at first, only to comply when Alonzo threatens him at gunpoint, with the explanation that refusing an offer on the street could get him killed. After smoking it, Alonzo informs him that the weed was laced with PCP. They then pay a brief visit to Roger, an old friend of Alonzo’s who is also a drug dealer and former police officer. Back in the car, Jake notices a teenage girl being sexually assaulted and runs out to subdue the attackers while Alonzo watches. Alonzo tells the girl to leave and allows the men to go free, despite Jake’s disapproval. Jake finds the girl’s wallet on the ground and takes it.
Alonzo and Jake later apprehend a wheelchair-bound dealer named Blue, finding crack rocks and a loaded handgun on him. In exchange for his freedom, Blue reveals his associate: Kevin “Sandman” Miller, who is in prison. Alonzo takes Jake to Sandman’s home in Watts, where he uses a fake search warrant to steal $40,000 from the premises. However, Sandman’s wife realizes the scam and calls out to nearby gang members, who open fire. The two officers barely escape.
For lunch, the duo visit Alonzo’s Salvadoran mistress, Sara, and their young son at Baldwin Village. Afterwards, Alonzo meets with a trio of high-ranking police officials dubbed as the “Three Wise Men” – they tell Alonzo that they know the Russian Mafia is hunting him for an incident over the weekend in Las Vegas and suggest that he leave town, but he insists that he has control of the situation and gets permission to “cash in an account”. Alonzo thus gives them Sandman’s drug money for an arrest warrant.
Alonzo takes Jake and four other narcotics officers back to Roger’s house – using the warrant, they seize $4 million from underneath the floor of his kitchen, but Jake refuses to take his share of the cash. Alonzo then kills Roger and arranges for the scene to appear like a justified shooting. Jake refuses to cooperate and after being threatened, seizes Alonzo’s shotgun, prompting a Mexican standoff. However, Alonzo calms his associates and claims that the LAPD will run a blood test on Jake (identifying the PCP he smoked), the result of which he can falsify in exchange for Jake’s cooperation. Jake reluctantly gives in.
Alonzo drives Jake to the home of a Sureño named Smiley, allegedly to run an errand. He furtively abandons Jake as Jake reluctantly plays poker with Smiley and his fellow gang members. A tense conversation ensues in which Smiley reveals Alonzo’s situation: by midnight, Alonzo must pay $1 million to the Russian Mafia for killing one of their men in Las Vegas, or be killed himself. Jake realizes too late that Alonzo had paid Smiley to kill him, and is beaten and dragged to the bathtub for execution. The gang search Jake to find the wallet dropped by the teenage girl, who is revealed to be Smiley’s cousin. Smiley calls her, who confirms that Jake risked his life to defend her. In gratitude, Smiley lets Jake go.
Jake returns to Sara’s apartment and attempts to arrest Alonzo, but a gunfight and chase ensues, which ends with Jake subduing Alonzo in his escape vehicle. The local gang members and residents begin congregating to watch. Alonzo tries to get the crowd on his side by offering a reward to whoever kills Jake; but instead, they allow Jake to walk away with the money. Alonzo attempts to flee via Los Angeles International Airport, but is found and killed by Russian Mafia hitmen in a street shooting. Jake returns home with Alonzo’s money (having said earlier that the money will serve as his evidence corroborating Alonzo’s crimes of the day), and Alonzo’s death is broadcast over the news, touting him as a heroic officer serving a high risk warrant.The end result is nothing less than a brilliant thriller. Hawke and Washington make for a phenomenal double act and the pace only occasionally lets up to allow the characters time to breathe and establish the depth that makes you care for them more. Highly recommended.

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REVIEW: BROOKLYN’S FINEST

CAST

Richard Gere (Pretty Woman)
Don Cheadle (Iron Man 2)
Ethan Hawke (The Purge)
Wesley Snipes (BLade)
Vincent D’Onofrio (Daredevil)
Brían F. O’Byrne (Flashforward)
Will Patton (Armageddon)
Michael K. Williams (Ghostbusters)
Lili Taylor (The Conjuring)
Shannon Kane (The Originals)
Ellen Barkin (Ocneas Twelve)
Raquel Castro (Jersey Girl)
Sarah Thompson (Angel)
Twany Cypress (Heroes)

Bobby “Carlo” Powers and Detective Salvatore “Sal” Procida are having a conversation in a car when Sal unexpectedly shoots Carlo, grabs a bag of money from Carlo’s lap and flees, then confesses to a priest, asking for help with his dire situation-his wife is pregnant with twins and they live in a house that’stoo small for their four children which has wood mold which jeopardizes his family’s health. Desperate to move, Sal has arranged to purchase a larger home through a woman who owes him a favor. The down payment is due the following Tuesday, and Sal is still short. Sal is a highly skilled and accomplished narcotics detective, but has begun to pocket drug money from raids.
Officer Edward “Eddie” Dugan is a week from retirement after 22 years of unremarkable service to the force. He is assigned to oversee rookies in the tough neighborhoods. His life in shambles; he swills whiskey in the morning to get out of bed and his only friend is Chantal, the prostitute he frequents. Detective Clarence “Tango” Butler is an undercover cop working the drug beat. After losing himself in his role as a drug dealer, he is tired of the kind of attention that a black man in a black car attracts. Having been promised a promotion and a desk job for years, he is finally offered a way out by betraying a close friend Casanova “Caz” Phillips, a known criminal recently released from federal prison. Federal Agent Smith instructs Tango to set up the drug deal that will ensure the arrest of Caz and his return to federal prison.
Eddie’s first rookie assignment is a former Marine, who becomes disgusted with Eddie’s lack of professionalism and cynical outlook, and asks to be reassigned only to be killed on his next assignment. Eddie takes a liking to his second rookie assignment, who then accidentally fires his gun near a teenager during a petty theft investigation causing him to go deaf, leaving the NYPD facing a public relations nightmare. During the investigation, Eddie is remorseful for what happened, but refuses to play along with his superiors’ attempts to imply that the teenager was a drug dealer. When Tango goes to warn Caz to abort their upcoming drug deal, they are ambushed and Caz is shot, under orders from Red, a gangster Tango had humiliated previously. After Agent Smith makes a racist remark and refuses to pursue Red, Tango lunges at her, but is restrained by fellow officers.
Sal’s latest raid on the complex was cancelled, but he decides to go to the location and rob the money he needs for his house. One of his team members, Detective Ronny Rosario, tries to stop him but fails. As he approaches the building, Sal passes Tango, who has come there to kill Red. Sal raids the apartment. After killing three drug dealers and discovering their stockpile of cash, Sal is shot and killed by a young man who became suspicious when he noticed Sal enter the building. Tango gets his vengeance on Red, but is mistaken for a gangster and is shot by Rosario. Only after shooting Tango does Rosario realize he has shot another law officer. Rosario, still determined to stop Sal, is forced to continue his search for him. He witnesses the young man who shot Sal running away from the crime scene and is devastated when he finds Sal’s body in the drug dealers’ apartment.
Eddie retires and visits Chantal, who declines his offer to move to Connecticut. On his way home, Eddie sees a woman, who was reported missing, being shoved into a van. He follows the van to the Van Dyke housing projects, where he locates a sex slave dungeon in the basement. Eddie apprehends one of the men and is confronted by a second one. Eddie tells the second man to get down, but is forced to shoot him in the chest, resulting in a violent fight that ends with Eddie strangling his opponent with a zip tie. Eddie finds redemption by rescuing the missing girls.A steady-paced, involving thriller definitely worth a gander.

REVIEW: TAKING LIVES

CAST

Angelina Jolie (The Changeling)
Ethan Hawke (The Purge)
Kiefer Sutherland (Pompeii)
Gena Rowlands (The Notebook)
Oliver Martinez (S.W.A.T.)
Paul Dano (Looper)
Justin Chatwin (War of The Worlds)
Shawn Ronerts (Resident Evil: Afterlife)

The film opens in early 1980s Canada where teenager Martin Asher (Paul Dano) is seen ambling about a bus station, seemingly uncertain of his destination. He befriends another teen on the bus, Matt Soulsby (Justin Chatwin) and the two talk about their plans for the future. When their bus breaks down, the two acquire a car from a nearby garage. While Martin is driving, a tire blows. Matt struggles to change the tire and Martin comments on how he and Matt are both about the same height, and kicks Matt into the path of an oncoming truck. He is last seen toting Matt’s guitar and walking away singing in a voice similar to Matt’s.
Twenty years later, a successful FBI profiler, Illeana Scott (Angelina Jolie), is summoned to help out Canadian law enforcement in Montreal, to apprehend Asher, who has been killing people for years and assuming their identities as he travels across North America. Scott has to adjust to working in a strange city with a police team that she does not really fit in with. On a ferry to Quebec City, Martin’s mother (Gena Rowlands) recognizes her son. After docking she locates a police officer and tells him that she saw her son on the ferry. Upon telling the officer her son died 19 years ago, she discusses the matter with a city official. She is convinced the man she saw was her son, and exclaims to the officer that her son is “dangerous”. Based on Mrs. Asher’s statement, the body believed to be that of her son is exhumed for an autopsy.
The team meets with art salesman James Costa (Ethan Hawke), an eyewitness who saw Asher kill his last victim. Costa makes a drawing of Asher and, within a couple of days, Asher’s apartment is found. Scott discovers Asher’s next target is Costa, so protecting him is priority number one. During the time they spend together, Scott and Costa begin to develop feelings for each other, though Scott refuses to become involved with him because of the ongoing case.
Asher flees with Costa as a hostage and Scott pursues them. Scott sees Asher die in a car accident and the case is closed. As Scott is packing up, preparing to return home, Costa visits her in her hotel room. Without saying anything, he undresses her and they make passionate love on a chest of drawers and the bed, surrounded by gruesome crime scene photos. The next morning, Scott awakes to find herself partly covered in Costa’s blood. At first, she fears he is dead, but then he awakes and they discover he had merely popped the stitches in his arm that he received after the auto accident.
As Costa’s stitches are repaired in the hospital, Scott is called down to the morgue as Mrs. Asher has come to identify the burned body of her son, killed in the accident. She says the body is not her son. Mrs. Asher and Scott realize that Asher is still alive. Mrs. Asher is shocked, leaves the morgue, and goes to the elevator, and Scott chases after her. Before Scott can reach her, the elevator door closes. Scott descends the stairs, hoping to intercept Mrs. Asher on the ground floor. When the elevator door opens, Scott sees Costa covered in blood, having killed Mrs. Asher – who Scott realizes is Costa’s mother. The police try to capture Asher who escapes the hospital. Scott returns to her hotel room and frantically washes herself, in a state of manic disgust. An investigation shows that the man who died in the car accident, who the real Asher had identified as Asher, was actually Christopher Hart (Kiefer Sutherland), a drug dealer and art thief to whom Asher owed $80,000, and whom Asher murdered. The Montreal police chase Asher, but he escapes in a train station and boards a train headed east of Montreal, meanwhile setting up his next victim, a sports talent scout. After that, he calls Scott on the phone and taunts her. Scott admits to having consensual sex with Asher, and is consequently fired from the FBI.
Seven months later, Scott is living in an desolate farmhouse by herself in Carlisle, Pennsylvania and looking heavily pregnant with Asher’s twin boys. One day as she sits alone in her home, she discovers Asher has broken into her house. She frantically tries to escape, but Asher quickly overpowers her and then reveals he has found all the guns she had hidden throughout the house. Asher makes her tea and tells her they could start over and live together as a family, but a disgusted Scott tells him she does not want to. Enraged, Asher begins beating and choking her and eventually stabs her in her belly with a pair of scissors. Scott, seemingly unharmed by the stabbing, shocks Asher by quickly stabbing him in the heart with the same scissors. As Asher is on his knees looking at her in disbelief, Scott removes a prosthetic pregnant belly, and tells him the past seven months have been a carefully planned trap. He falls over, dead. The film ends with Scott calling the police, saying “It’s over”, and staring out her window.Those of us who see many of these types of movies will probably see most of the twists before they happen. Many of them well before they happen. Some of you will know everything that’s going to happen before it happens, such as I did, but I still think it was a good story and was entertained.

REVIEW: THE PURGE

CAST
Ethan Hawke (Training Day)
Lena Headey (Game of Thrones)
Max Burkholder (Daddy Day Care)
Adelaide Kane (Reign)
Edwin Hodge (Red Dawn)
Rhys Wakefield (The Black Balloon)
Arja Bareikis (One Life to Live)
On March 21, 2022, James Sandin (Ethan Hawke) returns to his home in an affluent Los Angeles suburb to wait out the night with his wife, Mary, (Lena Headey) and their two children, Zoey (Adelaide Kane) and Charlie (Max Burkholder). James is the top salesman for elaborate security systems designed specifically for Purge Night, and the family is assured that the security system manufactured by James’ company will keep them safe. Their neighbors attribute the size and fittings of the newly extended Sandins’ house to his success in selling security products to them for Purge Night.
While the family awaits the start of the Purge, Zoey sees her boyfriend Henry (Tony Oller), an older boy whom James dislikes. James enables the security system, and as the Purge begins, the family disperses in their home to go about their normal routines. Zoey returns to her room to unexpectedly find Henry, who managed to sneak back in before the security system was engaged, and says that he plans to confront her dad about their relationship. Meanwhile, Charlie watches the security monitors and sees a wounded man calling for help. He temporarily disables the system to allow the man (Edwin Hodge) into the house. James races to re-engage the system and holds the man at gunpoint as Henry comes downstairs and pulls a gun on James. Henry fires at James and misses, but James fires back, mortally wounding and eventually killing Henry. During the chaos, the man disappears and hides. James takes Mary and Charlie back to the security control room.
As James is reprimanding Charlie for letting the man into their home, they view over the surveillance cameras a gang of masked young adults armed with guns, axes and hammers coming up to the front lawn. Their leader (Rhys Wakefield) removes his mask and compliments the Sandins on their support of the Purge, and then tells them that if they do not give them the homeless man, they will be forced to “release the beast”, implying they will forcefully enter the house and kill everyone inside. Mary asks James if the security system will help protect them, but James admits the system is only supposed to discourage potential invaders and would not actually protect them against heavy force. The gang cuts the power to the house, and Zoey disappears but then goes to Charlie’s remote control live stream camera car. Zoey finds Charlie’s toy car and speaks to the camera, as she knows Charlie is watching, and tells him that she will hide in his secret hiding place. The man takes her hostage, but James and Mary subdue him. The family realizes that they are no better than the gang that is waiting outside, and they decide not to turn the man over, but to fight back instead.
With their deadline having passed, the gang uses a truck to rip the metal plating off the front door and enter the house. James kills four of them before he himself is fatally stabbed by the leader. Charlie views the surveillance cameras and notices the family’s neighbors leaving their homes, and fatally shooting some of the Purging gang waiting outside. Just as the gang is about to kill Mary, several of the family’s neighbors arrive and kill most of the Purge gang. The leader attacks the family, but Zoey steps out from a hallway and shoots him dead. Mary thanks the neighbors for their support, but the neighbors reveal that they are angry at the Sandins for their wealth acquired by the money the neighbors paid the Sandins with for various security products. They tie Mary, Charlie and Zoey up with duct tape, pulling them out into the hallway to kill them.
As the neighbors make final preparations for the murder, the homeless man from earlier appears, shoots a neighbor to death and holds Grace Ferrin (Arija Bareikis), another neighbor, hostage. He forces the other neighbors to cut the Sandins’ ties, freeing them. He asks for Mary’s call to kill the neighbors, but Mary decides to leave them alive, instructing the neighbors there will be no more killing for the remainder of the night. As dawn arrives, a few minutes before the Purge ends, Grace attempts to grab a shotgun off a table, but Mary pulls the gun away and uses the stock of the gun to hit Grace in the nose, and then throws her face down into the glass table and breaks her nose. Mary strictly reminds her there will be no more killing for the rest of the Purge in the house. After some time, the sirens go off, announcing the end of the annual Purge. The neighbors leave for their own homes. After the man leaves, Mary, Zoey and Charlie wait and watch as emergency services come to retrieve the dead. During the credits, news reports state this year’s Purge is the most successful Purge to date.
Visceral and violent, the movie is also articulate and thought-provoking – but most of all it is extremely unsettling. All of which adds up to a great film.

REVIEW: TOTAL RECALL (2012)

CAST

Colin Farrell (Daredevil)
Kate Beckinsale (Underworld)
Jessica Biel (The A-Team)
Bryan Cranston (Drive)
Bokeem woodbine (The Breed)
Bill Nighy (Hot Fuzz)
John Cho (Sleepy Hollow)
Steve Byers (Smallville)
Will Yun Lee (Elektra)
James McGowan (Bitten)
Michael Therriault (Reign)
Emily Chang (the Vampire Diaries)
Ethan Hawke (The Purge)

At the end of the 21st century, Earth is devastated by chemical warfare. What little habitable land remains is divided into two territories, the United Federation of Britain (UFB, located on mainland Europe) and the Colony (Australia). Many residents of the Colony travel to the UFB to work in factories via “the Fall”, a gravity elevator running through the Earth’s core. A Resistance operating in the UFB seeks to improve life in the Colony, which the UFB views as a terrorist movement.
Colony citizen Douglas Quaid[8] has been having dreams of being a secret agent, aided by an unknown woman. Tired of his factory job building police robots with friend Harry, he visits Rekall, a virtual entertainment company that implants artificial memories. Among the choices Rekall salesman Bob McClane offers Quaid are the memories of a secret agent. An emblem of rekall is stamped onto his arm. Just as Quaid is starting to be implanted, McClane discovers that he already has real memories of being a covert operative. As McClane starts to question Quaid about the memories, UFB police officers burst in, killing the Rekall crews and attempt to arrest Quaid. Quaid instinctively reacts and kills the officers before escaping. Upon returning home his wife Lori attempts to kill him, revealing that she is an undercover UFB agent who has been monitoring him for the past six weeks. After Quaid escapes, Charles Hammond, a “friend” Quaid does not recognize, contacts him and directs him to a safe-deposit box. Quaid finds a recorded message from his former self with the address of a UFB apartment.
While being pursued by Lori and other human and robot police, Quaid meets Melina, the woman from his dreams. At the apartment Quaid finds another recording, revealing that his name is actually Carl Hauser, an agent working for UFB Chancellor Vilos Cohaagen. After defecting to the Resistance, Hauser was captured by the UFB and implanted with false memories. The recording reveals that Cohaagen will use robots to invade the Colony so the UFB will have more living space. Hauser, however, has seen a “kill code” that would disable the robots. The code can be recovered from his memory by Resistance leader Matthias. Melina reveals that she was Hauser’s lover before Hauser was captured; she proves that they knew each other by showing that they have matching scars from a time they were both shot whilst holding hands. The police surround the apartment building and Harry appears. He tries to convince Quaid that he is still in a Rekall-induced dream and that killing Melina is the only way out. Quaid is conflicted, but notices a tear on Melina’s cheek and shoots Harry instead. Lori pursues the pair inside the building’s lifts, but fails to capture them.
Quaid and Melina meet with Matthias. While Matthias searches Quaid’s memories, Lori and Cohaagen storm the Resistance base. Cohaagen reveals that Hauser was in fact working for him without Quaid even knowing it due to the memory alteration, using the kill code as a trap. Cohaagen kills Matthias and arranges to restore Hauser’s memory before leaving with Melina as a prisoner. As the officers are about to inject Quaid, Hammond (revealed to be one of the police officers involved in the raid) sacrifices himself to help Quaid escape.
Cohaagen begins his invasion of the Colony, loading the Fall with his army of robots. Quaid sneaks on board, setting timed explosives throughout the ship while searching for Melina. After freeing her, they climb atop the Fall as it arrives at the Colony. As they fight the soldiers and Cohaagen, Quaid’s explosives detonate. Quaid and Melina jump off before the ship plummets back into the tunnel and explodes underground, killing Cohaagen and destroying his army and The Fall itself. Waking up in an ambulance, Quaid is greeted by Melina. When he notices that she is missing her scar, he realizes that she is Lori using a holographic disguise; they fight and Lori is killed. Quaid finds the real Melina outside the ambulance and they embrace. As the news channels declare the independence of The Colony, Quaid notices that the emblem of Rekall that was stamped on his arm has disappeared. He looks up to find an advertisement of Rekall on an electronic billboard. Just before Quaid can kiss Melina, the screen cuts to black, making it open to interpretation whether Quaid was actually living the memory of a spy at rekall.
I love the first Total Recall film and put off watching this version due to the negative reviews and uncomplimentary comparisons with Paul Verhoeven’s original, but when I finally got around to watching this movie I was more than pleasantly surprised. Undoubtedly more dour and lacking the humour of its predecessor this is nevertheless an entertaining, action-packed, adrenalin-fuelled, visually spectacular SF movie.

REVIEW: ALIAS – SEASON 1-5

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MAIN CAST

Jennifer Garner (Elektra)
Ron Rifkin (Gotham)
Michael Vartan (Bates Motel)
Bradley Cooper (Joy)
Merrin Dungey (Edtv)
Carl Lumbly (The Alphabet Killer)
Kevin Weisman (Clerks 2)
Victor Garber (Legends of Tomorrow)
Greg Grunberg (Heroes)
David Anders (Izombie)
Lena Olin (Mystery Men)
Melissa George (Triangle)
Mia Maestro (Poseidon)
Rachel Nicols (G.I. Joe)
Balthazar Getty (Young Guns 2)
Elodie Bouchez (Reality)
Amy Acker (Angel)
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RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Edward Atterton (Firefly)
Angus Scrimm (Phantasm)
Ric Young (The Transporter)
Evan Parke (King Kong)
Ravil Isyanov (The Jackal)
Sarah Shahi (Old School)
John Aylward (Armageddon)
Gina Torres (Serenity)
Keone Young (Men In Black 3)
Miguel Sandoval (Medium)
Faran Tahir (Iron Man)
Arabella Holzbog (Across The Universe)
Tom Everett (Air Force One)
Lori Heuring (Mulholland Drive)
Yvonne Farrow (The Hard Truth)
Tristin Mays (The Vampire Diaries)
John Hannah (Spartacus)
Maurice Godin (Boat Trip)
James Hong (Blade Runner)
Derek Mears (Friday The 13th)
Tobin Bell (Saw)
Aharon Ipale (The Mummy)
James Handy (Jumanji)
Quentin Tarantino (The Hateful Eight)
Joey Slotnick (Nip/Tuck)
Agnes Bruckner (Blood and Chocolate)
Patricia Wettig (City Slickers)
Jennifer Tung (Masked Rider)
James Lew (Traffic)
Amy Irving (Carrie)
Michelle Arthur (The Number 23)
Roger Moore (Octopussy)
Lindsay Crouse (Buffy)
Derrick O’Connor (End of Days)
Terry O’Quinn (Lost)
Peter Berg (Collateral)
Tony Amendola (Stargate SG.1)
Marisol Nichols (Riverdale)
Ira Heiden (A Nightmare On Elm Street 3)
Derek de Lint (Deep Impact)
James Lesure (Las Vegas)
Marshall Manesh (How I Met Your Mother)
Faye Dunaway (Supergirl)
Courtney Gains (Children of The Corns)
Rutger Hauer (Blade Runner)
Olivia d’Abo (Conan The Destroyer)
Ethan Hawke (The Purge)
Christian Slater (True Romance)
Lindsey Ginter (S.W.A.T.)
Tracy Middendorf (Scream: The Series)
Ahmed Best (Star wars – Episode I)
Bonita Friedericy (Chuck)
Richard Lewis (Drunks)
Stacey Scowley (The Brotherhood 2)
Danny Trejo (Machete)
Robert Joy (The Hills Have Eyes)
Jonathan Banks (The Lizzie Borden Chronicles)
Amanda Foreman (Super 8)
Kurt Fuller (Ghostbusters 2)
Brad Greenquist (Pet Sematary)
Ilia Volok (Power Rangers Wild Force)
Mark Bramhall (Vanilla Sky)
Justin Theroux (American Psycho)
Clifton Collins Jr. (Pacific Rim)
Djimon Hounsou (Stargate)
Alec Mapa (Ugly Betty)
George Cheung (Rush Hour)
Erick Avari (The Mummy)
Pruitt Taylor Vince (Heroes Reborn)
Richard Roundtree (Shaft)
Erica Leerhsen (Wrong Turn 2)
David Cronenberg (Resurrection)
Isabella Rossellini (Death Becomes Her)
Arnold Vosloo (G.I.Joe)
Francois Chau (lost)
James Kyson (Heroes)
Vivica A. Fox (Idle Hands)
Stana Katic (Castle)
Griffin Dunne (After Hours)
Ricky Gervais (The Invention of Lying)
Raymond J. Barry (Training Day)
Peggy Lipton (The Mod Squad)
David Carradine (Kill Bill)
Angela Bassett (Green Lantern)
Rob Benedict (Birds of Prey)
Rick Yune (The Fast and The Furious)
Kelly Macdonald (Brave)
Jim Pirri (3rd Rock From The Sun)
Julie Ann Emery (Fargo)
Sebastian Roche (Odyssey 5)
Jason Segel (How I Met Your Mother)
Sonia Braga (Angel Eyes)
Kevin Alejandro (Arrow)
Robin Sachs (Buffy)
Michelle Forbes (Powers)
Joel Grey (Cabaret)
Michael McKean (Smallville)
Jeff Yagher (V)
Andrew Divoff (Wishmaster)
Tyrees Allen (Robocop)
Larry Cedar (Deadwood)
Kevin Cooney (Roswell)
Patrick Bauchau (Secretary)
Angus Macfadyen (Chuck)
Michael Masse (Flashforward)

Alias is the creation of “Felicity” creator J.J Abrams and stars Jennifer Garner (“Dude, Where’s My Car”). The choice of Garner as Sydney Bristow is one of those things where most will likely not imagine anyone else in the role. Able to portray a natural sweetness and likability, Garner turns Sydney into a highly engaging character with complex and conflicting emotions, as well as one who is an expert in martial arts.

At the opening of the show, Sydney works for a top-secret organization called SD-6, who is searching for a mysterious device by a scientist named Rambaldi. It’s not long before Sydney realizes that SD-6 isn’t the branch of the CIA that it says it is, leading Sydney to work as a double agent for the real CIA to investigate SD-6. It’s not long before Sydney finds herself in the midst of double-and-triple crosses, not to mention surprises, as she finds out her father (a terrific Victor Garber) is an agent, as well.

The show does take a bit from previous efforts such as “Mission: Impossible” and “La Femme Nikita” (the latter was also turned into a well-liked TV show), while also running on the techno-pulse of a “Run Lola Run”. Still, the show manages to add its own twists and turns on a familiar genre. The show’s production design, cinematography and costumes are all first-rate, while the occasional jump to a foreign location or new gadget intro make the show fun and compelling. As with “Felicity”, Abrams and the show’s music supervisors make interesting choices that fit with the show rather than showcase certain artists. Quentin Tarantino makes a great guest appearance in “The Box”; while he might not win an Oscar for acting, Tarantino is never less than a fun, unpredictable presence in any acting appearance, and this is no different.

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Sydney Bristow (Jennifer Garner) is back as the double agent who works for the CIA and the evil organization known as SD-6. Sloane (Ron Rifkin) is the leader of SD-6, and Agent Vaughn (Michael Vartan) is Sydney’s handler. He’s also her would-be lover. Add to the mix another double agent who happens to be Sydney’s father (Victor Garber), and you have a show that seems like it would be too weird to work. But it does.

What surprises me most about this series is the fact that the action, and the reason for the action, is often the least important aspect of any particular episode. Sure, it gets all the glory, but the whole idea of chasing Rambaldi artifacts is nothing more than Hitchcock’s McGuffin. These chases are a means to get the characters in motion. What matters, however, is how the characters react and grow.

Season two continues the trend of letting the secondary characters in on the big picture. They’re not around just to give Sydney someone to talk with when she’s not at work. Instead, they have a life of their own; a life that is vitally important to the show, with intrigues that really drive the show’s emotion. In season two, Will (Bradley Cooper) gets a bigger roll, and it’s plausible and exciting. Francie (Merrin Dungey) even gets in on the act. These “smaller characters,” and many others, are used and developed throughout the show, an idea that other television shows can learn from.

Season two also features more humor, and this can only mean one thing. Yep, more Marshall. Lots more. This character, played perfectly by Kevin Weisman, adds the much-needed comic relief to the show, and at times, he’s outright hilarious. Add some subtle humor provided by Will, Vaughn, Weiss (Greg Grunberg), and even Jack, and you have some great stuff.

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But that doesn’t mean this season turns its back on the bread and butter of the series. If anything, the action and excitement have multiplied. Sydney goes on 33 missions, many with counter-missions for the CIA. That’s an awful lot of action and suspense for 22 one-hour episodes. Lena Olin joins the cast as Sydneys Mother who turns her self into the CIA, and it becomes a question of can she be trusted.

In the episode Phase One the entire Alias world is  turned upside down, beginning with the mysterious disappearance of Sloane that brings Anthony Geiger, the new head of SD-6 into Jack and Sydney’s life. As the Bristows struggle to stay one step ahead of having their secret blown wide open by Geiger, Will and Francie make a startling discovery of their own as she prepares to open her new restaurant. After an airborne mission to recover something called a Server 47 dive, Sydney uncovers a crucial weakness, one that could bring down the entire Alliance. But to put her plan into action, she must tell Dixon the truth about everything when Jack is captured, and Dixon has to make the decision to reveal the security code… enabling the CIA to launch a world-wide offensive against all SD cells to bring down. This allows Sydney to no longer be a double agent and just work for the CIA to take down Sloane.

The third season of Alias continues to bring an interesting mix of high-paced and intense action, drama, mystery, and suspense. This season picks up right at the end of the second season. For that reason, if you’ve missed the earlier seasons in this series, you should most definitely check them out before viewing the third season.


In the third season, the show focuses upon a major mystery, covering the details about Sydney Bristow’s past. At the end of the second season, she awakens without memory of the last two years. This season uncovers the truth of those missing two years and the truth is far from what Bristow expected. There are also some stories that touch upon the previous seasons. But it’s not specifically these stories that make the season entertaining, but rather the characters.

The cast of the previous season is the same, with the addition of Lauren Reed (Melissa George). But since this season is set two years after the previous season, the characters return with slightly different roles. Nothing is the way it was before. I enjoyed this change, because it gave this season a slightly different pace from the previous seasons. There’s also a lot of focus on these characters, which give new insights, making old enemies friends, and friends enemies. In a few cases, old enemies who became friends once again become enemies, which shouldn’t be too much of an eye-opener. This is done in a manner that makes it almost difficult to like or trust most of the cast. For this reason, you’re repeatedly left in suspense, wondering if this character will backstab our hero or someone close to her.

Some of the stories covered a sordid and twisted love affair. There’s also the introduction of the National Security Council’s (NSC) involvement with daily interactions of the CIA. This adds an interesting development, simply because the CIA and NSC do not always “play” well together. It’s your basic struggle for power. There’s also the development of older characters with new faces. The big bad guy of the previous two seasons, Arvin Sloane (Ron Rifkin) isn’t such a bad guy anymore. The development of his character adds a new layer of mistrust. With the earlier seasons seeing the major terrorist organization in the can, some new faceless bad guys have surfaced. It’s no surprise that the weasel of the earlier seasons, Julian Sark (David Anders) makes his bed with them. This pretty much gives the season a purpose to continue. Someone has to stop them and it might as well be Sydney and her friends at the CIA.

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The third season of Alias brings another strong season, filled with action, drama, and suspense for the fans. It’s pretty much extension of the previous seasons, with a few subtle changes to the overall format. The character roles are slightly different and there are new faces, new bad guys, new missions, and new gadgets. I found that it was solid with plenty of entertainment.

In season four we see the cast Alias come back together as one happy family. In the earlier seasons the cast worked together in an odd mish of double agents between SD6 and CIA. Now we find them all working together on the same team for a black ops CIA organization called APO, which stands for Authorized Personnel Only. It is an odd arrangement to see Sidney, Jack, Vaughn, Weiss, Marshall, Dixon, and a few others working along side each other and under the command of none other than Sloane.

The first two episodes “Authorized Personnel Only” parts 1 and 2 has the cast being put back together with Sloane acting as director, Jack the second in command, Marshall in charge of tech, and Sydney in the field with Dixon. Vaughn and Weiss also return to take a more active role. No longer are they the voice behind the microphone as we have seen them in the past. Instead we find them along side Sydney and Dixon more often than not. There is also an episode when Marshall gets put in the field and the combination of his comical geeky personality and the high pace seriousness of the situation make it pretty entertaining to see him working along side Sydney in this fashion. The major addition to the cast this season is Nadia Santos, who was introduced at the end of season 3 as Sydney’s half-sister (Sloane and Irena’s daughter) in season three. She joins the rest of the crew working for APO.

There is still plenty of action, suspense, and drama to keep you tuned in. This season uses the same tact previous seasons do, plenty of misdirection and dramatic shifts. The episodes do well keeping the characters, whether from the main cast or supporting roles, hard to make out. You just can’t tell if they are good or bad. Their loyalties seem to shift enough throughout the stories to keep you second guessing who will betray who and whether or not the betrayal really happened. Mix that well worked angle of suspense with plenty of action, some corny drama, and the ever-so-goofy Marshall and you’ve a pretty exciting addition to the Alias series.

Since Nadia is a new character, a majority of the season is about her relationship forming with the rest of the cast. It is a slightly odd setup as Sydney is her step-sister, Sloane is her father, and Jack is the man who was married to her mother. The back stories that tie into Nadia are. She becomes an integral part to the Rambaldi dream and there are a few other great tie-ins to other stories. The Rambaldi story found in the previous seasons comes to the fore and plays a big role in the season with the Derevko sisters acting as the villains. There are also familiar faces like Sark and Doren who make several appearances. We also see another back story with Vaughn trying to unravel mysteries about his father. This season has many other stories to keep you hooked and they do a pretty good job at building suspense and leaving you on the edge of your seat!

Season five sees several changes in the cast and how APO does their business. First off, Vaughn leaves the show. In season four’s cliffhanger, it was revealed that Vaughn was not exactly who he said he was. He was someone named Andre Michaux. Vaughn has a back story that ties into the bigger picture. After the season premiere, his character disappears after being shot several times in the chest by agents from the Shed, a rogue operation that is similar to SD-6 in nature. Another change is Weiss. While he has been a main character for the past two seasons, in the early parts of season five announces he was offered a job in Washington, D.C. heading covert ops for the NSC. He decides to take the job. Without Vaughn and Weiss, some new faces are brought into APO to replacement them.

There are two new characters in APO. Thomas Grace (Balthazar Getty) joins the cast in the season’s second episode. Grace is not your average going guy. He is tough, has a temper, and we first meet him as he is getting his ass kicked in a bar fight. Everyone in APO is hesitant to accept him into their ranks. Grace has his own back story that includes his family and an assassin. Rachel is a computer genius who has been in a situation much like Sydney. She has been working for the Shed, a criminal organization that pretends it is a black ops division of the CIA. Rachel had been working with the impression she was on the good guy’s side. When she found out the Shed was not part of the real CIA, she turned coat. Rachel and Sydney connect on a personal level, because Sydney understands the torment she is going through.

Another new face to this season is a well-known criminal named Renee Rienne (Elodie Bouchez). She is number eight on the CIA’s most wanted list. Vaughn has been working with her to gain information about his father and Prophet Five, which is the main season five storyline. Renee unofficially works with APO in their efforts against Prophet Five. Her back story ties directly into Prophet Five and she has sworn on her life to see it end. Kelly Peyton (Amy Acker) is the final addition to the season five line up. In the later half of the season, she is listed as a main character. Kelly worked with Rachel at the Shed under Gordon Dean. While Rachel did not know about the Shed’s true intentions, Kelly did. She is a bad girl.
As for the storylines, the season five introduces Prophet Five, which is filled with lots of mysterious and intrigue tied into all of the old and new players. Prophet Five is a criminal organization that is much like the Alliance. It houses smaller cells like the Shed. The APO team sets their sights on Prophet Five and stopping them from reaching their endgame. Another interesting aspect that continues to bring intrigue to the show is Sloane and his story. In season four, he was imprisoned for his crimes. He cuts a deal with some bad guys to be a mole in APO, which continue to give his character intrigue as you never know whose best interests he has in mind. Other storylines revolve around the characters, Rachel getting accustomed to her new life as an APO field agent, Grace fitting into the group, Sydney overcoming the loss of Vaughn and being pregnant.