REVIEW: HIGHLANDER: THE SERIES – SEASON 1

Starring

Adrian Paul (Arrow)
Alexandra Vandernoot (Pret-a-Porter)
Stan Kirsch (Shallow Ground)
Amanda Wyss (A Nightmare On Elm Street)

Adrian Paul and Alexandra Vandernoot in Highlander (1992)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Christopher Lambert (Mortal Kombat)
Richard Moll (Scary Movie 2)
Wendell Wright (The Howling)
Peter DeLuise (Stargate SG.1)
J.E. Freeman (Alien: Resurrection)
Tamsin Kelsey (The Commish)
Matthew Walker (Alone In The Dark)
Dustin Nguyen (Legend Is Alive)
Soon-Tek Oh (Mulan)
A.C. Peterson (Shooter)
Vincent Schiavelli (Ghost)
John Novak (War)
Victor A. Young (Nemesis Game)
Garry Chalk (Arrow)
Jay Brazeau (Bates Motel)
Joan Jett (Light of Day)
Leslie Carlson (Videodrome)
Andrew Divoff (Wishmaster)
Gary Jones (Stargate SG.1)
Wes Studi (Mystery Men)
Marc Singer (V)
Brent Stait (Andromeda)
Doug Abrahams (Sanctuary)
Joe Pantoliano (The Matrix)
Catherine Lough Haggquist (Fifty Shades Freed)
Stephen Macht (Trancers 4)
Johannah Newmarch (When Calls The Heat)
John Tench (Watchmen)
Scott McNeil (Beast Wars)
Adrian Holmes (Smallville)
Vanity (The Last Dragon)
Tim Reid (IT)
Kevin McNulty (Snakes on A Plane)
J.G. Hertzler (Staragte SG.1)
Fulvio Cecere (Valentine)
Tom Butler (Blade: The Series)
Werner Stocker (The White Rose)
Peter Howitt (Defying Gravity)
Roland Gift (Brakes)
Dee Dee Bridgewater (The Brother From Another Planet)
Fay Masterson (Eyes Wide Shut)
Elizabeth Gracen (Marked For Death)
Jason Isaacs (Star Trek: Discovery
Martin Kemp (The Krays)
Nigel Terry (Excalibur)
Peter Guinness (Sleepy Hollow)
Anthony Head (Buffy: TVS)
Marion Cotillard (Inception)
Roger Daltrey (Tommy)
Peter Hudson (Lockout)

Alexandra Vandernoot in Highlander (1992)400-year-old Scottish Immortal Duncan MacLeod (Adrian Paul) has spent the last twelve years living a quiet life with his mortal girlfriend, sculptor Tessa Noel (Alexandra Vandernoot). Unfortunately, when young punk Richie Ryan (Stan Kirsh) breaks into their antiques store, he stumbles upon another uninvited guest- Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert), also an immortal Highlander. Connor insists Duncan return to The Gathering- an ongoing battle where immortals fight each other to the death by beheading their opponent to take their Quickening. Friendly immortals like the Parisian monk Darius (Werner Stocker) have no interest in the violence and remain on Holy Ground to avoid the evil, corrupt, insane, angry, and power hungry immortals Duncan must face. All this, however, is in addition to Duncan’s daily hiding of his secrets from pesky cops and nosey reporters like Randi MacFarland (Amanda Wyss).Adrian Paul and Soon-Tek Oh in Highlander (1992)I always find it tough to summarize the scenario that establishes the Highlander universe, even though it is a fairly simple fantasy once you get to know it. Longtime franchise producers Peter Davis and Bill Panzer and creative consultant David Abramowitz don’t have to waste much time in setting up The Series’ introductory mythology like most shows do thanks to its parent 1986 film, but that does not mean this First Season isn’t without its flaws. Highlander: The Series spends most of the 1992 debut here trying to adhere to the original film whilst also attempting to appeal to other compatriot shows of the time like Renegade. Sometimes, Duncan is an immortal who also just happens to get kidnapped, Tessa just happens to witness an immortal murder, Richie just happens to get caught up in some immortal romance or crime.Season 1 seems to meander between reopening its fantastical roots- which actually concluded at the end of the first film- and finding an audience with one off action plotlines and crazy guest star immortals. Toss in some ho-hum police investigations and one annoying journalist, and it feels like you have bits of every other nineties television program. It also seems like the filmmakers were light on material early on, for a slew of slow and dated musical montages about absolutely nothing also have not stood the test of time. Adrian Paul in Highlander (1992)I’ve complained, yes- but the irony is, Highlander as a series and its Season 1 still work damn fine. So they had to iron out a few special effects and immortal explanations. Maybe there is an uneven mix of normal real world crime storylines and charming, even glorious, period piece flashback sequences. Yes, they have to mimic the first movie while trying to establish episodic material. Yet somehow, all this and more gets done in fun, entertaining, stylized television. A few of the guest immortals do seem a bit interchangeable and even hokey in their maniacal ways, but that’s part of the bemusement. The lovely counterbalance of the tragedies, consequences, and ill desires of living forever are well played along with the beauty and value of morality, artistry, and time for those who inevitably grow old and die. Highlander: The Series may have lured audiences in the door with promises of nineties cool and wicked swordfights, but its intelligent core of immortal drama, heart, and soul win out today.Adrian Paul and Vanity in Highlander (1992)Although Adrian Paul (Tracker, Relic Hunter) has some big sneakers to fill in following Christopher Lambert, he quickly makes Duncan MacLeod his own with the perfect mix of fearless fighter and moral convictions. Yes, part of his fighting skills, suave ponytail, and immortal sexual buffness is meant to be dreamy for the ladies. However, Mac’s kickass ruthlessness against those who do wrong-whether they be mortal or immortal- combined with his sensitive ways and 400 year old hang ups appeal to all. Paul wonderfully expresses the love, loss, humor, and intelligence as well as the anger, vengeance, and violence each episode as needed. There’s no doubt MacLeod is our hero- and yet he is usually the one handing out killing blows. It’s a complicated mix with plenty of fine drama- and Alexandra Vandernoot (The Five Obstructions) is the perfect compliment to Adrian Paul. Though she can seem kind of uppity and European pissy to start, once you come to know Tessa’s artistic heart and moral fulcrum you can’t help but enjoy her and Mac’s relationship. The two have wonderful chemistry, but then you throw in illicit immortal love with mortal women growing old and dying to that romantic design and it’s dynamite. Such juicy and angst still has plenty of relatable, powerful stuff that never fades, wow, almost 20 years on.Still of Adrian Paul and Amanda Wyss in Highlander and See No EvilStan Kirsh (Invincible) is in the precarious hot young thing role as Richie Ryan, but he also proves himself more likeable then annoying here in Season 1. Despite some of the stereotypically juvenile, young love, and crime storylines in which he finds himself, Richie’s fun place within Mac and Tessa’s lives does a lot of good. He is in a way, their kid- always needing to be bailed out or protected in the ways of the world or waxing philosophical from his humorous spot in the backseat. Even over the course of these 22 episodes, however, Richie also becomes a useful ally and sounding board for each of the leads when immortality or mortality gets in the way. Sadly, the ill-used Amanda Wyss (A Nightmare on Elm Street), doesn’t fair so well. Her brief and needlessly stuck in the opening credits reporter Randi is absolutely unrealistic as a journalist and completely annoying in her attempted antagonizing and snooping. Perhaps more could have been done with the character in time, but thankfully, the role was dropped in favor of some  policemen and detectives. Wendell Wright’s (Benson) Sgt. Powell, Tim Reid’s (Sister, Sister) Bennett and Hugues Leforestier as Inspector LeBrun come and go too much in Season 1, but any one of them could have been fine continuing foil for MacLeod. You do have to wonder how the authorities haven’t discovered all these beheaded bodies!Adrian Paul in Highlander (1992)In addition to the lovely guest appearance by Lambert as Connor “same clan, different vintage” MacLeod in ‘The Gathering’, Season 1 offers an array of sweet guest stars. Critical immortals such as Elizabeth Gracen’s (later of the spinoff Highlander: The Raven) Amanda and Fine Young Cannibals’ singer Roland Gift as Xavier St. Cloud appear in ‘The Lady and the Tiger’ and ‘For Tomorrow We Die’ respectively. We don’t get to see the late Werner Stocker’s Darius as much as I would have liked, but he and Roger Daltry’s Hugh Fitzcairn are also wonderful pieces in Highlander: The Series’ repertoire, comparing the potential of pacifism for immortals to their apparent zest for women. As much as I love Joan Jett, her appearance as the first female immortal we see in ‘Free Fall’ is one of the woefully dated examples this season. Several other guest villains and street thugs of the week do seem a little the same- especially the maniacal and crazy, if no less understandable, immortals. Again, it’s tough to not have an over the top bad guy when it is your hero befrickingheading someone per episode. A few of the French supporting players also suffer; so many seemed poorly dubbed that you don’t wonder if it would have been better to just have some French dialogue. All in all however, the guests add debut credibility this season whilst laying the ground work for the series to establish itself beyond the films: the plots and players in the Season 1 finale ‘The Hunters’ directly lead to the events in Season 2 and beyond.Adrian Paul and Christian van Acker in Highlander (1992)Although the actors do their part, the designs of Season 1 could have used some…tweaking. The Quickening effects are definitely touch and go to start. Honestly, the lightning shows generally coming at the end of each episode waver from looking extremely painful and capable of powering a village to limp, sputtering light bulbs and quasi orgasmic shuddering. Women seriously seem to get the short end of the stick regarding Quickenings, and the fashions of the time have not been kind. Oh, the unflattering gaudy shoulder pads, pleated pants, and high-waisted jeans! Richie fairs no better, with some woefully colorful New Edition and Color Me Badd cast-offs. At least most of the immortal men seem to have classic, swanky style- except some of Duncan’s sweaters, vests, and colorful blazers are a miss. However, any men who can carry off such a variety of period fashion earn a plus in my book. The Leather jackets, cozy turtlenecks, tuxedos, and fedoras here are as timeless as the kilts, cavalier coats, French uniforms, and kimonos.Adrian Paul in Highlander (1992)While the MacLeod and Noel Antiques store, loft, and workshop design look just as good as the period production, it also seems a little too high end and unrealistic today. I know he is immortal and she is a sculptor, but real people could not live in such a pricey and overly designed museum. By contrast, Season 1’s opening Seacouver location seems obvious and bland- again looking like it’s a random warehouse back lot used by every other show made at the time. Thankfully, MacLeod’s barge on the Seine is just a little bit cooler. These French locations add a touch of Old World European class to Highlander. Even if I can’t quite figure the logistics of the barge, (How can one just park his boat on the Seine? What kind of codes and regulations are there for a refurbished ship? Where in the heck does Richie sleep if there’s one bed?!) it’s still a neat and unique set. Yes, Highlander: The Series’ location splits and prominence for French casting is thanks to French financing and production, but it also gives Season 1 a chance to correct its early flaws- including adjusting the opening credits and spending more time in our immortals’ pasts. Subtle connections to the original film are all that’s needed for Season 1 to find its footing- and those motifs largely come from the perfect use of Queen’s soundtrack. You can’t not love the ‘Princes of the Universe’ theme. Be honest, sometimes you just tune into Highlander just to hear the song! The somber ballad ‘Who Wants to Live Forever’ also makes a few appearances- however; it’s the nonchalant use of the titular question by unknowing mere mortals that adds extra zing and panache.Fans of the Highlander franchise surely already know and love these DVDs back to front, but 21st Century newcomers will be pleasantly surprised by the exhaustive amount of features for the Season 1 set. The interface is cumbersome, I grant; but the Watcher Chronicles’ menus, additional scenes, bloopers, commentary options, full script CDs, and behind the scenes features are almost obsessive in shear amount, variety, and content. Almost every episode contains some form of extras- and more is included as the season sets progress. I can even forgive the lack of subtitles here, because someone obviously took his time in making Highlander: The Series as complete as possible on DVD. New fans, however, should be forewarned, as there are often spoilers for the entire series within the features. In fact, all the extras from the Complete Series DVDs are probably best left in a marathon viewing all their own. Adrian Paul and Martin Kemp in Highlander (1992)Highlander: The Series is best when it is about the trials of immortality- not the contemporary messes into which an immortal could get himself. Season 1 falters some when it tries for the latter, but there’s plenty of immortal angst and juicy action established here to enjoy. Longtime fans can delight anytime, and audiences looking for action, adventure, fantasy, and romance can certainly find it here. Some scenes and storylines might be too saucy or complicated for younger tween viewers, but a show that matures in its mythos and quality along with its audience while also staying young forever is tough to find. Yes, just think, Highlander: The Series only gets better from here. Start anew or travel back with Season 1 today.

HALLOWEEN OF HORROR REVIEW: THE PREDATOR

 

Starring

Boyd Holbrook (Logan)
Trevante Rhodes (12 Strong)
Olivia Munn (X-Men: Apocalypse)
Jacob Tremblay (Wonder)
Sterling K. Brown (Black Panther)
Keegan-Michael Key (Let’s Be Cops)
Thomas Jane (The Punisher)
Alfie Allen (Game of Thrones)
Augusto Aguilera (8)
Yvonne Strahovski (Chuck)
Jake Busey (Starship Troopers)
RJ Fetherstonhaugh (21 Thunder)
Peter Shinkoda (Daredevil)
Mike Dopud (Arrow)
Niall Matter (Watchmen)
Françoise Yip (Aliens vs Predator: Requiem)
Lochlyn Munro (Freddy vs Jason)
Garry Chalk (Dark Angel)

The Predator (2018)A Predator ship crash-lands on Earth. Army Ranger sniper Quinn McKenna and his team are attacked by the Predator on a hostage retrieval mission. McKenna incapacitates the Predator and has parts of its armor mailed off to prove the existence of extraterrestrial life. At the behest of government agent Will Traeger, he is captured and held for examination. Traeger also takes the Predator to a lab for experimentation and observation, recruiting evolutionary biologist Casey Bracket to study it. The Predator awakes, breaks out of its bonds, kills lab workers, but spares Bracket before leaving.The Predator (2018)McKenna is bussed off with a group of other government captives, including former Marines Gaylord “Nebraska” Williams, Coyle, Baxley, Lynch, and Army helicopter pilot Nettles. Seeing the Predator escape from the lab firsthand, they take over the bus. Taking Bracket with them, they head over to McKenna’s estranged wife, Emily, where he expects to find the Predator armor he mailed off. However, McKenna’s autistic son Rory has gone trick-or-treating while wearing this armor in hopes of avoiding detection from bullies. McKenna and the others find his son just in time to stop a pair of Predator Dogs from ambushing the boy. The Predator chases them into a nearby school. They start to give the Predator’s armor back when another, larger Predator arrives and kills the first. They flee, and the second Predator sets out to retrieve the lost technology.Olivia Munn and Jacob Tremblay in The Predator (2018)Bracket concludes that the Predators are attempting to improve themselves with the DNA of humans and, presumably, other planets’ inhabitants. The team flees to an abandoned barn, but Traeger finds them, captures them, and shares his theory that the Predators anticipate that climate change will end their ability to retrieve human DNA for further hybridization, so they are scrambling to retrieve it before it is too late. Seeing Rory drawing a map to the spaceship, Traeger takes the boy away to go to the ship. The team escapes and goes after him with the help of a brain-damaged Predator Dog.The Predator (2018)When all are at the crashed Predator ship, the second Predator arrives, kills Lynch, and explains through translation software that it will blow up the ship to keep it out of their hands and then give them all a head start before it hunts them down. The Predator quickly kills Coyle, Baxley, and several of Traeger’s soldiers. Traeger tries to use a Predator weapon on the alien but accidentally kills himself in the process.The Predator (2018)The Predator takes Rory because his autism reflects advancement in human evolution and is therefore worthwhile in the Predator hybridization, and flies away in his ship. McKenna, Nebraska, and Nettles land on the ship’s exterior, but the Predator activates a force field. This slices Nettles’ legs off, and he falls off of the ship to his death. Nebraska sacrifices himself and slides into the ship’s turbine, causing it to crash. McKenna sneaks into the ship as it crashes and attacks the Predator. After the crash, Bracket arrives, and the three manage to overpower and finish the Predator with its own weapons. They pay their respects to their fallen comrades with trinkets representing each one before heading off. After these events, McKenna and Rory are seen in a science lab watching the opening of cargo found on the Predator’s ship. A piece of technology floats out and attaches itself to a lab worker, working as a transformative “Predator killer” suit before deactivating.The Predator (2018)The Predator is definitely your typical Shane Black movie filled with typical Shane Black writing. However it is definitely not your typical Predator movie. Whether that’s good or bad, it’s entirely up to you.

HALLOWEEN OF HORROR REVIEW: DISTURBING BEHAVIOR

CAST

James Marsden (Superman Returns)
Katie Holmes (Go)
Nick Stahl (Terminator 3)
Tobias Mehler (Wishmaster 3)
Steve Railsback (Lifeforce)
Bruce Greenwood (Star Trek)
Katharine Isabelle (American Mary)
William Sadler (Roswell)
Ethan Embry (Eagle Eye)
Derek Hamilton (Arrow)
Chad Donella (Smallville)
Natassia Malthe (Elektra)
David Paetkau (Flashpoint)
Brendan Fehr (Bones)
Sarah-Jane Redmond (V)
Carly Pope (Popular)
Lynda Boyd (Power Rangers In Space)
Daniella Evangelista (Ripper)
A.J. Buckley (Pure)
Jay Brazeau (Bates Motel)
Garry Chalk (Dark Angel)

DisturbingBehavior1

Steve Clark (James Marsden) is a high school senior whose family moves to Cradle Bay, a picturesque coastal town in Washington state’s Puget Sound with his parents. It has been nearly one year since Steve’s older brother, Allen (Ethan Embry), committed suicide which traumatized the family. Steve’s parents tell him that they have relocated from Chicago to Cradle Bay as a fresh start to move on with their lives.

During Steve’s first day at his new high school, he meets and befriends three outcast students, Gavin Strick (Nick Stahl), U.V. (Chad Donella), and Rachel Wagner (Katie Holmes). Gavin tries to tell Steve that he believes there is something evil about the “Blue Ribbons”—a clique of students taking part in a “special program” led by the school psychologist, Dr. Caldicott (Bruce Greenwood). Steve is understandably skeptical. The following day at lunch, Gavin walks in looking like a Blue Ribbon. When Steve tries to confront Gavin, he gets punched in the stomach for his impertinence. Later, after being chased home, Steve finds Blue Ribbon member Lorna Longley in his living room, waiting to seduce him under the pretense of helping his younger sister study. However, her heightened arousal causes her to suddenly behave erratically and smash her head into a mirror, after which she is taken to a medical facility under Dr. Caldicott’s care. Now Steve and Rachel must find the source of the Blue Ribbons as well as try and save the rest of the school before it’s too late. They find a CD-R disc that Gavin hid for them in the boiler room, containing a video he made of himself before his “transformation”, telling them about the club and about the history that he learned about Dr. Caldicott.
disturbingbehaviornickstahlkatieholmesjamesmarsdenlsmgm
During this, Steve also befriends Dorian (William Sadler), the school janitor, who appears to be mentally handicapped and hunts rats for the city for some extra cash. Dorian demonstrates a device called an E-Rat-icator which emits a soft, high pitched whine that is supposed to be innocuous but annoying to rats, which is an abysmal failure. Steve discovers that Dorian is actually highly intelligent, and carries classical literature pieces with him, and that he’s hiding because he wishes to be left alone and does not trust society. Dorian also tells Steve that he suspects that the entire community of Cradle Bay is part of a massive conspiracy made up of nearly all of the parents, as well as the local police chief Cox, the school principal and entire school faculty, who hired Dr. Caldicott to “re-program” their own children to become the perfect people that they want them to be and not free-thinkers. A little later, during an encounter where a Blue Ribbon known as “Chug” (A.J. Buckley) assaults Rachel in the school basement, the E-Rat-icator goes off, and immediately sends the student into a psychotic fit, driving him away. During their personal investigation, Steve and Rachel try to find out what exactly has been happening to the Blue Ribbon kids, which leads them to a mental hospital called Bishop Flats following a lead on the disc that Gavin left behind. Here, they find out that mind control is being used to make depressed, awkward and unruly teens become perfect so they can function properly in life, but the programming has some glitches that lead to momentary relapses which cause violent fits. Also at Bishop Flats, they find Caldicott’s daughter, Betty (Julie Patzwald), a failed project who spends her time repeating the same phrase: “Meet the musical little creatures that hide among the flowers”.

After escaping from the hospital, Steve and Rachel have a run-in with the town’s police chief Cox (Steve Railsback) who is also involved in the conspiracy and he tries to arrest them after learning from Dr. Caldicott about their excursion to the mental hospital. But Dorian shows up under the pretense that he is disposing of dead rats when he subdues the police chief and tells Steve and Rachel to leave town and go public with what they know about Dr. Caldicott’s work. When Rachel and Steve return home, they plan to get out of town along with Steve’s younger sister, Lindsay (Katharine Isabelle), but when they arrive at Steve’s house, Steve’s parents (Terry David Mulligan and Susan Hogan) reveal that they are also part of the conspiracy and that they moved to Cradle Bay for the sole purpose to sign him up for Caldicott’s program. Steve and Lindsay try to get out but they get ambushed by a group of Blue Ribbons waiting for them outside the house. They drag Steve and Rachel to the programming center, but Steve escapes and rescues Rachel, killing the medical techs as well as Chug who has been left behind to guard them.

They try to get out of town again with Lindsay and U.V., but the Blue Ribbons and Caldicott are waiting for them on the road near the ferry out of town. When hope seems lost, Dorian drives up, his car hooked up with multiple E-Rat-icators that scramble the mind control tech inside the Blue Ribbons’ heads. They chase after Dorian and try to destroy the E-Rat-icators, but, having been fatally wounded after being shot by Caldicott, Dorian drives his car off a cliff with most of the Blue Ribbons hanging onto his car. This leads to a final battle between Steve and Caldicott, which Steve wins by kicking Caldicott off the cliff. Steve and Rachel then leave town on the ferry with Lindsay and U.V. to begin a new life elsewhere without their parents.

The final scene shows a classroom in an urban high school with kids playing loud music, cursing, and acting up. They are informed that they have a new teacher. The well-groomed substitute turns around, and it’s Gavin, with the blue ribbon “twinkle” still active in his eye.Disturbing Behavior has essentially received much unfair criticism for what is a solid science fiction teen horror film.

REVIEW: GODZILLA (2014)

CAST

Aaron Taylor-Johnston (Kick-Ass 1 & 2)
Elizabeth Olsen (Avengers: Age of Ultron)
Ken Watanabe (Batman Begins)
Bryan Cranston (Argo)
Carson Bolde (Mansfield Path)
Sally Hawkins (Layer Cake)
Juliette Binoche (The English Patient)
David Strathairn (Lincoln)
Richard T. Jones (Terminator: TSCC)
Patrick Sabongui (The Flash)
Garry Chalk (Beast Wars)
Hiro Kanagawa (Heroes Reborn)
Kevan Ohtsji (Dreamcatcher)
Terry Chen (Jessica Jones)
Ty Olsson (War For The Planet of The Apes)
Peter Shinkoda (Daredevil)
Jill Teed (X-Men 2)
Eric Breker (Stargate SG.1)
Aaron Pearl (Man of Steel)

In 1954, Godzilla, an ancient alpha predator, is lured to an island in an attempt to kill it with a nuclear bomb. In 1999, Project Monarch scientists Ishiro Serizawa and Vivienne Graham investigate a colossal skeleton unearthed in a collapsed mine in the Philippines. They find two giant spores; one dormant and one hatched with a trail that leads to the sea. In Japan, the Janjira Nuclear Power Plant experiences unusual seismic activity; Supervisor Joe Brody sends his wife Sandra with a team of other technicians into the reactor. A tremor breaches the reactor, leaving Sandra and her team unable to escape while the plant collapses.Fifteen years later in 2014, Joe’s son Ford, a U.S. Navy explosive ordnance disposal officer, returns from a tour of duty to his family in San Francisco but has to immediately depart for Japan after Joe is detained for trespassing in the Janjira quarantine zone. Joe is determined to find out the cause of the Janjira meltdown, and he persuades Ford to accompany him to their old home in the quarantine zone to retrieve vital data while discovering that the zone is not toxic. They successfully retrieve the data but are discovered by soldiers and taken to a secret facility in the power plant’s ruins. After several power failures, a giant winged creature emerges and escapes, destroying the facility. Joe is severely wounded and dies as he and Ford are taken by helicopter to the U.S.S. Saratoga. The incident is reported around the world as an earthquake.
Serizawa, Graham, and Ford join a U.S. Navy task force led by Admiral William Stenz to search for the creature, called a “MUTO” (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism). Serizawa and Graham reveal to Ford that a 1954 deep sea expedition triggered the appearance of Godzilla and nuclear tests in the 1950s were really attempts to kill him. Project Monarch was established to secretly study Godzilla and other similar creatures such as the MUTO, which traveled from the Philippine mine to Janjira and caused the meltdown, and how they are connected with each other. Ford reveals that Joe had monitored echolocation signals that indicated the MUTO was communicating with something.
The MUTO attacks a Russian submarine and drops it on land in Hawaii to eat the sub’s nuclear material. Godzilla arrives, causing a tsunami in Honolulu and briefly engages the MUTO in battle, until it flees. Meanwhile, a second, larger, wingless MUTO emerges from the other spore in Nevada and devastates Las Vegas. The scientists deduce the second MUTO is female, the female was the one the male was communicating with, and that the two MUTOs will meet to breed in San Francisco. Over the scientists’ objections, Stenz approves a plan to use nuclear warheads to lure and destroy the monsters. Ford returns to the U.S. and ends up joining the team delivering the warheads by train, but the female MUTO intercepts the train and devours most of the warheads. The single remaining warhead is airlifted with Ford to San Francisco and is activated after a confrontation between the military and Godzilla at the Golden Gate Bridge. The male MUTO steals the warhead and takes it to the female, who forms a nest around it in the Chinatown area.
While Godzilla and the MUTOs battle, a strike team, including Ford, enters the city via HALO jump to find and disarm the warhead. Unable to access the timer, the rest of the team sets the warhead on a boat for disposal at sea. The MUTOs are eventually able to get the upper hand, but Ford blows up the MUTO nest, ultimately distracting the MUTOs enough to allow Godzilla to emerge victorious in the end, killing the male MUTO by slamming him with his tail into the side of an office building and the female by firing his atomic breath down her throat, beheading her. Godzilla then collapses on the city shore. With the rest of the team wiped out, Ford uses the last of his energy to get the boat with the warhead out to sea. He is rescued before the warhead explodes and reunites with his family at the Oakland Coliseum emergency shelter the following morning. Godzilla awakens, rising from the destroyed San Francisco, and returns to sea while the media hails Godzilla as “King of the Monsters – savior of our city?”.It’s a good solid and well made big screen action disaster monster movie that deserves multiple viewings.

 

REVIEW: WATCHMEN – THE DIRECTORS CUT

CAST

Malin Ackerman (The Heartbreak Kid)
Billy Crudup (Almost Famous)
Matthew Goode (Match Point)
Jackie Earle Haley (Human Target)
Jeffrey Dean Morgan (The Losers)
Patrick Wilson (The Conjuring)
Carla Gugino (Sin City)
Matt Frewer (Jailbait)
Stephen McHattie (300)
Rob Labelle (Jack Frost)
Garry Chalk (Dark angel)
Chris Gauthier (Smallville)
Patrick Sabongui (The Flash)
Agam Darshi (Sanctuary)
Danny Woodburn (Mirror Mirror)
Laura Mennell (Van Helsing)
Robert Wisden (Highlander: The Series)
Jerry Wasserman (I, Robot)
Don Thompson (Slither)
Michael Kopsa (Fantastic Four)
Fulvio Cecere (Valentine)
Mark Acheson (Elf)
Jay Brazeau (Bates Motel)
Niall Matter (The Predator)
Apollonia Vanova (Man of Steel)
Carrie Genzel (Jennifer’s Body)
Frank Cassini (Timecop)
Sonya Salomaa (The Collector)
Michael Eklund (Arrow)
John Tench (Andromeda)
Jason Schombing (Sanctuary)
Colin Lawrence (Virgin River)
Alessandro Juliani (Smallville)
Sahar Biniaz (Blade: The Series)
Tom McBeath (Stargate SG.1)
Kevin McNulty (Snakes on a Plane)
Michael Adamthwaite (Supergirl)

Malin Akerman and Patrick Wilson in Watchmen (2009)In the latter half of the 1980s, three illustrated novels challenged the mainstream perception of comic books. While the Pulitzer Prize-winning ‘Maus’ by Art Spiegelman introduced emotionally complex subject matter and established the genre as a viable literary format, Frank Miller’s ‘Batman: The Dark Knight Returns’ scaled national bestseller lists and demonstrated that superheroes struggle with the conditions of the world they feel destined to protect. When the 12-issue limited series of ‘Watchmen’ by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons was published as a novel-length comic, it stunned audiences with its commercial success and its innovative structure layout. The book’s narrative also took a radical approach, scrutinizing the concept of superheros and offering a sort of “deconstruction” of their being, one which has pervaded the comic book world, including film adaptations, ever since. Over twenty years later, director Zack Snyder finally brings to the screen what so many once thought could never be filmed.Matthew Goode in Watchmen (2009)Taking place in an alternate reality of America, where Richard Nixon is serving his fourth term as president after winning the Vietnam War. The Keene Act of 1977 has outlawed all acts of masked vigilantism, forcing many into retirement. One October night, the murder of Edward Blake interests Rorschach, a masked avenger seen by the public as more a psychotic criminal than a hero. His investigation leads him to discover that Blake was the man behind The Comedian, a fellow crime fighter turned government operative. Fearing a conspiracy against costumed adventurers, he sets out to warn his former comrades: the Batman-esque Dan Dreiberg/Nite Owl, the successful businessman Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias, an angst-ridden Laurie Juspeczyk/Silk Spectre, and the only true superhero of the bunch Dr. Jon Osterman/Doctor Manhattan. As the investigation progresses, the band of superhero outcasts uncovers a plot more sinister and gruesome than they initially expected, revealing an enemy no one would’ve anticipated.Matthew Goode and Jeffrey Dean Morgan in Watchmen (2009)At the time of its theatrical release, the film version of the popular graphic novel was seen as a mild success, never coming close to expected box office figures. It was also heavily criticized by fans on internet boards around the globe for failing to truly capture the spirit of the series. Being one of those critics (yes, I am that kind of a nerd), the 162-minute adaptation felt rushed and heavily cluttered, as a wealth of information was quickly thrown at the audience with little time to digest it all. Those unfamiliar with the novel were alienated by the onscreen events, while the core fans saw a large amount of exposition skimmed over for the sake of time. Ultimately, what is now considered the theatrical cut seemed more concerned with reverence for its source, rather than a commitment to acting as a legitimate film that stood on its own. Much of the novel’s power and depth was lost in the translation.Jackie Earle Haley in Watchmen (2009)Now, in this Director’s Cut, Snyder is allowed to thicken the plot and create a better flow within the already-trimmed narrative. Arguably, Snyder shows more style over substance, seemingly imitating the original look of the comic rather than offering his own interpretation. But with 24 minutes of footage now added to the story, the film captures the comic’s dark, gritty appeal nicely, giving it more of a realistic feel and creating more human fascination. These masked vigilantes are confronted with contemporary real-world events, where they are frequently made aware of the Cold War reaching the breaking point and the fact that nuclear holocaust is imminent. As gloomy and pessimistic as that may sound, the idea posits these would-be superheroes against issues of power and the failure of salvation. They must cope with the world as it truly is: a dark and unpredictable existence, driven by fear and uncertainty of the future.This band of costumed avengers challenges what normally typifies the superheroics of their peers. They are flawed humans and deeply haunted by their pasts, primarily a shared experience of feeling unwanted from The Keene Act. Their interactions with one another and society at large expose questions about the limitations inherent to the superhero archetype trying to save humanity from itself. It’s the reason why fans are attracted to the two most complex characters in the series: Rorschach and The Comedian. While one idealizes his fight against injustice as a battle that must be won, the other possesses a harshly cynical worldview of civilization doomed beyond repair. The narrative also opens doors to discussions on power relations and politics, issues of certainty and doubt, metaphysics and existential nihilism, moral ambiguity, and Ozymandias’s actions bring to mind Nietzsche’s central theme of the “Master-slave morality”.Coming in at 186 minutes, ‘Watchmen: Director’s Cut’ may be daunting to some viewers, but for fans, this will be the closest we’ll ever come to seeing a faithful adaptation of the ragtag group of outcasts. Some of its drawbacks, I feel, are quickly outweighed by the overall sense that the comic book’s central conceit is maintained and clearly expressed with a genuine approach. Granted, certain aspects are still missing, but I admit they are necessary alterations to make the transition into film a success. As a long time fan of the illustrated novel, this director’s cut of ‘Watchmen’ easily bests the theatrical version, making it worthy of multiple viewings to take in its dense and complex implications.
After twenty years of hardcore fans hearing that the ‘Watchmen’ comics are “unfilmable”, Zack Snyder defies logic and gives audiences the closest we’ll ever come to experiencing the novel on film. In the ‘Watchmen: Director’s Cut’, Snyder is allowed to flesh out the details better and create a smoother narrative flow, offering an improved vision of this alternate reality.

REVIEW: WATCHMEN

 

CAST

Malin Ackerman (The Heartbreak Kid)
Billy Crudup (Almost Famous)
Matthew Goode (Match Point)
Jackie Earle Haley (Human Target)
Jeffrey Dean Morgan (The Losers)
Patrick Wilson (The Conjuring)
Carla Gugino (Sin City)
Matt Frewer (Jailbait)
Stephen McHattie (300)
Rob Labelle (Jack Frost)
Garry Chalk (Dark angel)
Chris Gauthier (Smallville)
Patrick Sabongui (The Flash)
Agam Darshi (Sanctuary)
Danny Woodburn (Mirror Mirror)
Laura Mennell (Van Helsing)
Robert Wisden (Highlander: The Series)
Jerry Wasserman (I, Robot)
Don Thompson (Slither)
Michael Kopsa (Fantastic Four)
Fulvio Cecere (Valentine)
Mark Acheson (Elf)
Jay Brazeau (Bates Motel)
Niall Matter (The Predator)
Apollonia Vanova (Man of Steel)
Carrie Genzel (Jennifer’s Body)
Frank Cassini (Timecop)
Sonya Salomaa (The Collector)
Michael Eklund (Arrow)
John Tench (Andromeda)
Jason Schombing (Sanctuary)
Colin Lawrence (Virgin River)
Alessandro Juliani (Smallville)
Sahar Biniaz (Blade: The Series)
Tom McBeath (Stargate SG.1)
Kevin McNulty (Snakes on a Plane)
Michael Adamthwaite (Supergirl)

66262-ycoiuhbnkq-1503295178Watchmen was easily the most hotly awaited picture of the first half of 2009, and I’ll readily admit that the dynamic yellow-and-red poster billboards around town generated a charge of anticipation that Savant hasn’t felt in years. That the film was not considered a runaway success doesn’t surprise me. A movie about superheroes that is neither consistently feel-good nor entertainingly funny is a hard sell. Other writers have noted that the Watchmen are relative unknowns in comparison to icons like Spiderman and Superman; there’s less of a built-in audience for them. Describing the Watchmen movie also suggests expressions like “intellectual puzzle” and “non-linear”. Large segments of the audience have little use for narrative complexities and historical irony.

What movie audiences do care about is action, and to compensate Watchmen ratchets up the graphic novel’s considerable violence. Bloody content limited to a single comic panel or two, looks like gore porn when turned into a film sequence.  Even with a few subplots deleted, Watchmen is so complicated that it bears comparison with David Lynch’s noble 1984 attempt to film Dune. Lynch got lost in wall-to-wall exposition and characters reduced to walk-ons. Watchmen avoids the same fate by closely following the original’s highly cinematic structure. Moore and Gibbons’ comic book panels made heavy use of devices familiar to moviegoers — parallel cutting, associative transitions.Watchmen is a multi-generational story of costumed superhero crime fighters. They got their start in the 1940s as “The Minutemen”, later formed another association called “The Watchmen” and then were outlawed in the early 1980s. Most have kept their anonymity in retirement. Nite Owl (Patrick Wilson), Silk Spectre (Malin Ackerman), Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley), Ozymandias (Matthew Goode) and The Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) have no super-powers. The one Watchman who does is Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup), an “atomic man” who glows a soft blue color. A research scientist transformed into a near demigod by an experiment gone wrong, Dr. Manhattan wins the Vietnam War for Richard Nixon, allowing the President to run for a third term by popular demand. Most of Watchmen plays out as a science fiction alternate history tale, although the film drops a major Sci-Fi element from the final act.In 1985 an unknown assailant murders The Comedian. Defying the ban on costumed vigilantes, Rorschach warns the other Watchmen and puts pressure on the underworld to find out who is responsible. Dr. Manhattan breaks up with Laurie Jupiter (secretly the Silk Spectre) and abandons humanity to meditate on Mars. The Cold War goes into panic mode, as the U.S. and the Soviets are already at the brink of nuclear war, and Dr. Manhattan was America’s defense insurance policy. Laurie and Dan Dreiburg (secretly the Nite Owl) become an item. Frustrated by all the bad news, they ignore the ban and reassume their roles as crime fighters. Laurie and Dan spring Rorschach from prison and begin an investigation that leads to the activities of the millionaire technocrat Adrian Veidt, formerly Ozymandias.That synopsis doesn’t begin to touch the intricacies of Watchmen or its pleasing assortment of superheroes, that collectively flesh out a pantheon of comic book traditions. The Nite Owl is a kinder Batman type, a quiet millionaire who has engineered a flying vehicle and other crime-fighting gadgets. He’s actually following in the footsteps of the original Nite Owl, a two-fisted hero from the 1940s. The Silk Spectre is a Wonder Woman- like beauty with identity issues. She was pushed into her role by her flamboyant mother, the Silk Spectre of the Minuteman years. The corrupt Comedian lost sight of his crimefighting ethics and became a murderer, war criminal, rapist and dirty ops agent for Dick Nixon. The highly intelligent Ozymandias is also a fabulously wealthy international businessman under the name Adrian Veidt; he’s put his crime-fighting past on the public record and even sells Ozymandias toy action figures. Veidt considers himself a modern Alexander the Great.The most interesting Watchman is Rorschach, a seedy misanthrope who wears a strange mask that forms mysterious symmetrical patterns identical to a psychologist’s inkblot test. Now considered an outlaw vigilante, Rorschach keeps a bitter Travis Bickle-like diary and refuses to compromise on his mission to slay criminals. Between them the Watchmen cover numerous approaches to the concept of “masked crusaders” trying to function in a complex world. Director Zack Snyder  epitomizes the modern director who prepares computerized pre-visualization sequences, directs the live action, and waits for his technician-artisans to deliver test composites to critique. Elements that the director once had to make “come together” before a real camera on a real set can now be added, subtracted or altered almost indefinitely; the director of an effects-heavy film now functions as a creative manager. Snyder openly admits that his goal is to faithfully replicate the visions of other artists, which has prompted some to question exactly what he contributes artistically to the show. To the extent that Snyder still casts and directs the actors and decides when and when not to follow the graphic novel, he is actually much more “involved” than were many old-school studio directors. Even the biggest Hollywood names sometimes worked from locked scripts and often had little contact with projects before or after the actual filming. Considering how little opportunity for personal expression the Watchmen assignment afford, Snyder’s done a fine job.In this case, closely following the original was Snyder’s only choice. CGI allows the presentation of almost any visual, and the leagues of Watchmen fans wouldn’t have tolerated detours from their story. Most of Snyder’s adjustments are good ones. The strange sidebar tangent involving a “Black Freighter” horror comic has wisely been spun off into a separate direct-to-video production. To get out from under a mountain of plot complications, Snyder drops Adrian Veidt’s elaborate hoax on humanity that involves murdering an army of technicians that mock up the corpse of a gigantic space alien.Watchmen was somewhat overpowering in the movie theater, precisely because it is so close to the original. Instead of being taken in a new direction, I felt like Snyder was holding the book in front of my eyes and turning the pages for me. But movies of this kind are no longer made to be seen only once, and on a second viewing it was easier to simply watch what was happening, admire the classy designs and marvel at the excellent casting.

REVIEW: STARGATE SG.1 – SEASON 10

Starring

Ben Browder (Farscape)
Amanda Tapping (Sanctuary)
Christopher Judge (The Dark Knight Rises)
Michael Shanks (Smallville)
Beau Bridges (My Name Is Earl)
Claudia Black (Pitch Black)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Tony Amendola (Annabelle)
Robert Picardo (The Orville)
Matthew Glave (Argo)
Tim Guinee (Iron Man)
Eric Steinberg (Supergirl)
Gary Jones (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina)
Garry Chalk (Arrow)
Jodelle Ferland (Kingdom Hospital)
Robin Mossley (Elf)
David Hewlett (Rise of TPOTA)
Joe Flanigan (Thoughtcrimes)
Torri Higginson (Dark Water0
Sarah Strange (Men In Trees)
David Nykl (Arrow)
Matthew Walker (Highlander: The Series)
Chuck Campbell (Jason X)
Cliff Simon (Project Eden)
Peter Flemming (The X-Files)
Bill Dow (Izombie)
Keegan Connor Tracy (Bates Motel)
Eric Breker (Scary Movie 3)
Richard Dean Anderson (MacGyver)
Willie Garson (Hawaii Five-0)
Peter DeLuise (21 Jump Street)
Isaac Hayes (South Park)
Jill Teed (Battlestar Galactica)
Morena Baccarin (Gotham)
David Andrews (Fight Club)
Don Stark (That 70s Show)
Adrian Holmes (Smallville)
Sonya Salomaa (Watchmen)
Rudolf Martin (24)
Scott McNeil (Beast Wars)
Aisha Hinds (Mr. Brooks)
Aaron Craven (The Predator)
Kavan Smith (Mission To Mars)
Kendall Cross (X-Men 2)
Anne Marie DeLuise (Strange Empire)
David Lovgren (Antitrust)
Joshua Malina (The Big Bang Theory)
Ron Canada (Wedding Crashers)
Craig Fairbrass (London Heist)
John Tench (Andromeda)
Lexa Doig (Arrow)
Peter Kent (Total Recall)
Fred Willard (Anchroman)
Fulvio Cecere (Valentine)
Jonathan Walker (Flash Gordon)

Sarah Strange in Stargate SG-1 (1997)Largely thanks to Vala (Claudia Black) who’s as charming as she is side-splittingly, ingeniously, flirtatiously funny and who now becomes a credited member of the main cast, season ten gets off to a brilliant start as the action picks up right where the previous season left-off with episode 1- Flesh and Blood and doesn’t decrease in pace.Claudia Black, Ben Browder, Michael Shanks, and Amanda Tapping in Stargate SG-1 (1997)It explores the continued threat of the Ori and their ever-increasing capture and control of worlds unable to mount any effective resistance against such a seemingly omnipotent foe. Episode 3- The Pegasus Project is also very gripping with a finale that’s both surprising and tantalizing.Richard Dean Anderson and Willie Garson in Stargate SG-1 (1997)episodes 10- The Quest, Part I and 11- The Quest, Part II both of which work well in continuing SG-1’s discovery & unravelling of Arthurian-inspired mysteries surrounding their search for a weapon capable of destroying their enemy. Episode 14- The Shroud sees Daniel in a unique position to deal a crippling blow to the Ori, which is also solid.While episode 20- Unending is a wonderful episode- with a story that’s not just dramatic, but explores sides to the main characters never seen before, it ends the season with so much unresolved that it’s difficult to appreciate this tenth season as it should be appreciated as the final outing of SG-1. Obviously a great deal has been withheld to be used in the TV movie The Ark of Truth.