REVIEW: UPLOAD – SEASON 1

Starring

Robbie Amell (The Flash)
Andy Allo (Chicago Fire)
Zainab Johnson (American Koko)
Kevin Bigley (Stretch)
Allegra Edwards (Briarpatch)
Owen Daniels (The Office)
Andrea Rosen (Stella)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

William B. Davis (The X-Files)
Elizabeth Bowen (Resident Alien)
Chloe Coleman (My Spy)
Chris Williams (Silicon Valley)
Jessica Tuck (Judging Amy)
Julian Christopher (88 Minutes)
Hilary Jardine (Van Helsing)
Barclay Hope (Stargate SG.1)
Teryl Rothery (Arrow)
William MacDonald (Riverdale)
Fiona Vroom (Power Rangers)
Elizabeth Thai (Man of Steel)
Khaira Ledeyo (Beauty and The Beast)
Christine Ko (Dave)
A.J. Rivera (Another Life)
Noel Johansen (Somewhere Between)

Andy Allo in Upload (2020)The Office’ veteran Greg Daniels takes a darkly satirical look at capitalism and the afterlife in his new Amazon rom-com/mystery. In addition to being a great show in its own right, Parks & Recreation has proven to be an unexpected breeding ground for funny, emotionally resonant comedies about the afterlife. It would be easy, then, to lump Greg Daniels’ new Amazon comedy Upload in with Mike Schur’s The Good Place and Alan Yang and Matt Hubbard’s Forever. And I’m sure I will.Robbie Amell and Owen Daniels in Upload (2020)When it comes to comparisons with comedies from former Daniels collaborators, though, it’s possible that Upload actually has more in common with King of the Hill cohort Mike Judge’s Idiocracy. Yes, Upload is focused on life after death and all of that high-minded stuff, but it’s primarily a satire about late-stage capitalism, scathing and hilarious in some moments, sloppy and formless in others.Zainab Johnson and Andy Allo in Upload (2020)Upload is set in 2033, when technology has made it possible to upload your entire consciousness and be inserted into the digital afterlife of your choice or, rather, the digital afterlife that best fits your finances and your data plan — one in which the deceased can remain in constant contact with living loved ones. Nathan (Robbie Amell), a computer programmer hustling to sell his big project, is nearly killed in an automated car accident and his wealthy girlfriend Ingrid (Allegra Edwards) offers him the chance, facing death, to be uploaded into Lakeview, a ritzy afterlife he never could have afforded otherwise. Nathan takes the offer even though he isn’t sure that he especially likes the superficial Ingrid.Andy Allo in Upload (2020)In no time, Nathan is discovering the highs and lows of virtual heaven, from the massage showers and easy availability of maple bacon donuts to the frustrating in-app purchases and personally tailored in-death advertisements. Nathan strikes up a friendship with his “angel,” basically a customer service rep, Nora (Andy Allo), who offers afterlife assistance and brings out the best in him. Oh, and Nathan’s memories of his real life are unexpectedly glitchy. He doesn’t remember that he and his business partner were working on developing a free digital afterlife program and doesn’t know that that concept is threatening to enough people that his accident might not have been so accidental at all.Robbie Amell and Kevin Bigley in Upload (2020)Narratively, there’s a lot happening in Upload, which explains why the running time for episodes ranges from as long as 45 minutes — for the pilot, which has a daunting amount of backstory to convey — to as short as 23 minutes. Since the show is three or four different things at once, it isn’t surprising that it does those different things with wildly different levels of effectiveness.Robbie Amell in Upload (2020)For example, Upload isn’t all that great as a murder mystery, especially not when it wants us to take that mystery seriously, though Elizabeth Bowen has a funny arc as Nathan’s aspiring gumshoe cousin. The show, which invests in so many different kinds of minutiae, barely explores what Nathan and his partner are working on or what it would represent other than a free thing that won’t make less-than-altruistic companies happy. In some versions of this story, the mystery would be a series spine. Upload, thankfully, is a series that doesn’t require a spine — much like how I remember countless individual jokes in Idiocracy, but if you asked me what the movie’s plot is, I couldn’t tell you anything.Robbie Amell in Upload (2020)What keeps the show going as more than just a joke-fest is that it’s also a fairly sweet, budding love story between Nathan and Nora, one trapped in a virtual world and one living in the real world. Amell isn’t actually funny, but he’s a very good straight man, struggling to process his new home. Allo, primarily a musician previously, is shockingly natural on-camera playing out this atypical romance and also selling the spiritually interesting subplot with Nora trying to convince her father (Chris Williams) that he wants to take the virtual afterlife rather than rolling the dice on reuniting with his late wife in a more traditional heaven. Allo is the breakout here. Much of the laughter comes from supporting players, including an effectively frivolous Edwards; Daniels’ son (and Upload writer) Owen Daniels, as an AI clone who performs a number of services in Lakeview; and Zainab Johnson as Nora’s best friend and customer service colleague.The futuristic details in Lakeview and in the outside world are sometimes wonderful and often aggressively layered to reward repeat viewing, screen pausing and the rest, with a template established by Daniels’ direction in the opening episodes. There are big, broad jokes, like when “Nokia Taco Bell” wants all of the angels to pitch their afterlife denizens a Virtual Gordita Crunch; tossed off punchlines, like the different merged corporations that survive in this future world; and ultra-nerdy targeted gags about the frame rates and pixel counts in this artificial world. The world-building is smart and cynical, approaching the afterlife from a haves/have-nots economic perspective that makes Upload completely different in tone from The Good Place.Where The Good Place looked at heaven in the ethical terms of lives well-lived and who does or doesn’t deserve a positive outcome, Daniels just looks at heaven as a thing you can afford, regardless of the morality of the life you lived. The show’s amusing anger is in the disparity between what a Koch Brothers-esque billionaire gets and the pathetic “2 Gigs” underground space where poorer people are forced to live on reduced data and have to dine in a Lean Cuisine-sponsored cafeteria. So maybe The Good Place, in its optimistic moments, offers an idea of heaven as we wish it might be and Upload, in its more pessimistic moments, offers an idea of the afterlife as we fear it might be. It’s probably not as good as The Good Place, but it’s got plenty of laughs and ideas to make you think.

 

REVIEW: VAN HELSING – SEASON 2

CAST

Kelly Overton (Beauty and The Beast)
Jonathan Scarfe (Into The West)
Christopher Heyerdahl (Sanctuary)
Vincent Gale (Battlestar Galactica)
Rukiya Bernard (Colossal)
Trezzo Mahoro (Izombie)
Paul Johansson (Highlander: The Raven)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Laura Mennell (Watchmen)
Aleks Paunovic (Kindergarten Cop 2)
Gia Crovatin (Billy & Billie)
Andrea Ware (Zoo)
Hannah Cheramy (The Hollow Child)
Ryan Robbins (Arrow)
Duncan Ollerenshaw (Hell on Wheels)
Caroline Cave (Power Rangers)
Michael Kopsa (Dark Angel)
Phil Burke (This Is 40)
Shane Symons (The 100)
Bzhaun Rhoden (Dragged Across Concrete)
Donny Lucas (Wayward Pines)
John DeSantis (Thirteen Ghosts)
Panou (Caprica)
Missy Peregrym (Reaper)
John Reardon (Scary Movie 4)
Hilary Jardine (Somewhere Between)
Ona Grauer (V)
Macie Juiles (Finding Father Christmas)
Tom McBeath (Stargate SG.1)
Nels Lennarson (War)
Colleen Winston (Big Eyes)
Emily Haine (Deadpool)
Michael Adamthwaite (War For The Planet of The Apes)
Jessie Fraer (Zoo)
Andee Frizzell (Stargate Atlantis)
Naika Toussaint (Deadpool)
Rowland Pidlubny (Ace on Fire)
Christina Jastrzembska (Warcraft)
Daniel Cudmore (X-Men 2)
Jennifer Cheon Garcia (The Drive)
Christopher Rosamond (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina)
Colleen Winton (Van Helsing)

 

Never underestimate a mother in pursuit of her child. In one of the most poignant and frightening season-ending cliffhangers, last year’s finale of SyFy’s Van Helsing finds Vanessa standing face to face with the daughter she’s devoted every waking hour to finding amidst the chaos raining down on the Pacific Northwest. Unfortunately, for Vanessa, as one journey ends, another more arduous one begins.The season two premiere of Neil LaBute and Simon Barry’s reimagining of the traditional vampire tale, opens with a brief yet necessary scene that reminds us the fight waged by Vanessa (Kelly Overton), Flesh, and Mohamad represents the human race’s tenacity for survival even in the darkest of times. Of course, vampires can likely read so the wisdom of sending out balloons with maps to a human safe haven can be questioned, but more importantly, the visual of this retreat nestled atop a scenic mountain pass presents a tangible goal for our hero to attain. One of the most fascinating qualities of this series lies in the knowledge that while innumerable horrific acts routinely take place in the background, it’s the relentless emotional horror Vanessa faces that provides the true drama. Finally reunited, Dylan (Hannah Cheramy) reminds her mother that she abandoned her, paving the way for Rebecca to assume the role of surrogate parent. The season one fight scene featuring Vanessa and Rebecca remains one of my favorite encounters, and throughout its run, Van Helsing has deftly handled action sequences in a way that we don’t feel bombarded by the histrionics of the scene to the point that the deeper meaning is lost.There’s a lot going on this season which adds alot more to the mythos of the show. Vanessa’s physical transformation becomes apparent after her introduction to the benefits of blood consumption. There’s a certain unmistakable poetry that takes over when these two go toe to toe, and even though Vanessa begins the fight overmatched, she quickly adapts to her nascent power. Ironically, the bloodlust here is all Vanessa. But there’s a lot of subtext to be considered, and as often happens in real life, the child gets caught in the middle and reacts in a not totally unexpected way. Viewing the situation through Dylan’s eyes, yes, Vanessa has a lot to atone for, but we know there’s much more to the story.This season brings many reunions and man ysad fates of beloved characters, we get many new ones includeing Scarlet, Vanessas Sisster. With Kelly OVerton away for a few episodes due to preganancyit’s nice to see Missy Peregrym take the reigns in Vanessas absence. Scarlet is a great addition and here’s hopeing she gets bumped up to regular for season 3. Season 2 is bigger and better than season 1, the women kick ass, the stories are more in depth, it leaves you hooked episode after episode and leaves your in anticipation for Season 3 later in the year.

REVIEW: VAN HELSING – SEASON 1

MAIN CAST

Kelly Overton (Beauty and The Beast)
Jonathan Scarfe (Into The West)
Christopher Heyerdahl (Sanctuary)
David Cubitt (Arrow)
Vincent Gale (Battlestar Galactica)
Rukiya Bernard (Colossal)
Trezzo Mahoro (Izombie)
Hilary Jardine (Camera Shy)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Tim Guinee (Iron Man)
Hannah Cheramy (Summer Love)
Anne Openshaw (American Mary)
Paul Johansson (Highlander: The Raven)
Marci T. House (Godzilla)
Alison Wandzura (Mistresses)
Aleks Paunovic (Kindergarten Cop 2)
John DeSantis (The 13th Warrior)
Laura Mennell (Alphas)
Avery Konrad (The Killing)
Terry Chen (Bates Motel)
Sarah Desjardins (Wayward Pines)
Naika Toussaint (Deadpool)
Ben Cotton (Stargate: Atlantis)
Jennifer Copping (Slither)
Chris Ippolito (The Revenant)
Ryan Robbins (Sanctuary)
Gwynyth Walsh (Star Trek Generations)
Tom Cavanagh (The Flash)
Jennifer Spence (Stargate Universe)
Kirby Morrow (Ninjago)
Fiona Vroom (Power Rangers)
Rowland Pidlubny (Continuum)
Christina Jastrzembska (Stargate Atlantis)
Gia Crovatin (Billions)
Macie Juiles (Finding Father Christmas)
Catherine Lough Haggquist (Fifty Shades Freed)
Mark Acheson (Elf)
Christopher Russell (Land of The Dead)

One thing becomes abundantly clear three minutes into the pilot of SyFy’s latest genre offering Van Helsing; this is not your teenaged daughter’s vampire story. Gone is the inherent sexiness we’ve come to associate with the highly attractive creatures of the night, and in its place a gritty, grimy, visceral appearance that articulates the reality of an existence that revolves solely around securing basic human needs in the face of post-apocalyptic obstacles. Bloodthirsty vampires attempting to storm Seattle Valley General Hospital give 21st century viewers a unique re-imagining with all the prerequisite details: buckets of blood, ravaged body parts, frequent bouts of terror, and above all, characters that inspire concern.It’s 2019 as the series opens; “Three years since The Rising began. Civilization has fallen. Vampires rule the streets. Only whispers of a human savior have given mankind hope.” Let’s get this out of the way right now. Comparisons to The Walking Dead are unavoidable, and it remains to be seen what will set Van Helsing apart from being just another horror series with an attractive woman wearing black and kicking ass as she fights back against beings that have lost their humanity. Though we don’t see Vanessa Helsing in action until midway through the episode, Kelly Overton (True Blood) plays a young woman who wakes from a coma having missed the volcanic eruption that led to the vampire pandemic. We’re immediately struck by the strength of her performance as Overton dominates every scene she’s in. Disoriented and confused after being roused from her repose by a feral bite to the neck, she immediately springs into action revealing that she is not a woman to be trifled with. And in the first of LaBute’s plot twists, we learn that biting Vanessa not only fails to turn her into a creature, but produces the unexpected consequence of returning a vampire to a human state. However, we are also left to ponder whether she lay dead or merely comatose on the hospital table leading up to her resurrection.Axel (Jonathan Scarfe, Hell on Wheels) has been ordered to guard Vanessa without knowing why, and his stoic response to this situation embodies everything we expect from a U. S. Marine. Referring to Vanessa as Sleeping Beauty, it’s clear he’s developed an attraction to her, and now that she’s awake and determined to find her daughter, it seems rather obvious that they’ll be leaving the relative safety of the hospital. The friction between the two provides a perfect launch of the relationship these two will undoubtedly have as she searches not only for her daughter, but an understanding of what makes her inherently special.LaBute and director Michael Nankin (Defiance, Hell on Wheels) employ some character tropes, but these are used judiciously to establish how members of the small group react to self-serving motives along the way. It’s understandable that one man who’s narrowly made it inside the compound wants leave to find his wife from whom he’s been separated, but these are dire times when the well-being of the group takes precedence over the needs of the one. Like The Walking Dead, we have a group of individuals thrown together in a life or death situation, but Vanessa’s “magic bullet” status raises the game’s stakes.Van Helsing - Season 1All pilots face the same hurdle; can the writers lead viewers to care enough about the characters to return on a weekly basis? Are the stakes facing them high enough, and how can the writing team avoid simply presenting Vanessa on a quest to bring the world back from the brink of disaster one bite at at time? Interestingly, many pilots rely too heavily on narrative exposition and voiceover, but here, not only does the violent and oft times gruesome action demand the viewer’s attention, it forces the individuals to take sides in the approaching storm and provides viewers some necessary character motivation. One who does emerge as a potential dark horse is Sam (Christopher Heyerdahl, Sanctuary), a deaf man who steps forward as things begin spiralling out of control, lending a hand to Axel as the team leader faces a potential mutiny. Thou as the series progresses he hides a dark secret and could become a menacing threat.MV5BZTE0MGU3ODItZmVlYi00YTk3LTk5MTAtY2FjMWI2MTVmNjhhXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMjYwNDA2MDE@._V1_debuted on SyFy on September 23, the pilot showed a great unveiling reveals a show with a wealth of potential and a strong genre pedigree including Continuum’s Simon Barry and Jonathan Lloyd Walker. On the surface Van Helsing may appear to be just another post-apocalyptic survival tale, but as the series progresses through its first season it begins to raise questions about  Vanessa Helsing and her role as mankind’s savior to compel viewers to return and watch this reluctant messiah cope physically and emotionally with a role she didn’t ask for and doesn’t want. with season coming to an end I can’t wait for the second season. This first season has had me hooked and knowing early on not to get too attached to characters along way as this is a real no hold bards vampire series where anyone can be killed at anytime.