REVIEW: V (2009) – SEASON 2

Starring

Elizabeth Mitchell (Lost)
Morris Chestnut (Kick-Ass 2)
Joel Gretsch (The Vampire Diaries)
Logan Huffman (Final Girl)
Laura Vandervoort (Bitten)
Morena Baccarin (Gotham)
Scott Wolf (Go)
Charles Mesure (The Magicians)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Jane Badler (Neighbours)
Christopher Shyer (J.Edgar)
Mark Hildreth (Planet Hulk)
Rekha Sharma (Dark Angel)
Roark Critchlow (Batman: Year One)
Scott Hylands (Decoy)
Bret Harrison (Orange County)
Keegan Connor Tracy (Bates Motel)
Chilton Crane (50/50)
Jonathan Walker (Red)
Oded Fehr (The Mummy)
Nicholas Lea (The X-FIles)
Martin Cummins (Dark Angel)
Ona Grauer (Elysium)
Peter Bryant (Sanctuary)
Zak Santiago (Shooter)
Adrian Holmes (Skyscraper)
Samantha Ferris (Stargate SG.1)
Charlie Carrick (Reign)
Marc Singer (Beauty and The Beast)

I loved the original 1984 miniseries (and the spin-off and short-lived TV series) that spawned this big-budget televised reboot of V. It was good old-fashioned cult sci-fi fun, layered with a surprisingly morose setting, dark political subtext, some hokey but amusing effects, and a great little story about a rather horrifying alien invasion.The reboot goes in a few new directions, taking the source material a bit more seriously. The show is layered with popular cult stars and seasoned with some pretty ambitious visual effects for a series of this budget. Alas, while the high concept series did earn praise from fans and critics, it just didn’t have much of an audience.Like so many network sci-fi series before it, V was doomed from the get-go. An expensive show must yield big ratings, otherwise an already wary network will cut you loose. V is yet another show that really didn’t have a chance to find its footing, or its audience. Many, admittedly, were probably turned off by the show simply because it’s a relaunch of a popular cult miniseries. While others are turned away for the same reason any sci-fi show fails on network TV – they fear it’ll be canceled after a few episodes.Joel Gretsch and Elizabeth Mitchell in V (2009)True, V did make it into its second season, and I commend the network for sticking with the series for as long as they did. The second season of V did show some improvement, too. The narrative was tightened in certain spots, with a better focus on character. The mythos and mystery of the series worked quite well. And there were some solid episodes throughout the show’s second run. But the writing was on the wall at the end of Season 1. V would not last. And it didn’t.

REVIEW: V (2009)- SEASON 1

Starring

Elizabeth Mitchell (Lost)
Morris Chestnut (Kick-Ass 2)
Joel Gretsch (The Vampire Diaries)
Logan Huffman (Final Girl)
Lourdes Benedicto (Drive Me Crazy)
Laura Vandervoort (Bitten)
Morena Baccarin (Gotham)
Scott Wolf (Go)

Laura Vandervoort and Logan Huffman in V (2009)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Charles Mesure (The Magicians)
Christopher Shyer (J.Edgar)
Mark Hildreth (Planet Hulk)
David Richmond-Peck (Pacific Rim)
Roark Critchlow (Batman: Year One)
Alan Tudyk (Doom Patrol)
Rekha Sharma (Dark Angel)
Scott Hylands (Decoy)
Lexa Doig (Andromeda)
Britt Irvin (Hot Rod)
Ingrid Kavelaars (Dreamcatcher)
Darcy Laurie (Chaos)
Derek Hamilton (Arrow)
Kyle Labine (Freddy vs Jason)
Michael Filipowich (Earth: Final Conflict)
Michelle Harrison (The Flash)
Ryan Kennedy (Blade: The Series)
Nicholas Lea (The X-FIles)
Samantha Ferris (Salvation)
Michael Trucco (Hush)
Jessica Parker Kennedy (The Flash)
Erica Carroll (When Calls The Heart)
Jim Byrnes (Highlander: The Series)
Ty Olsson (Battlestar Galactica)
Sarah-Jane Redmond (Disturbing Behavior)
Sonya Salomaa (Watchmen)
Kacey Rohl (Hannibal)
Paul McGillion (Stargate: Atlantis)

If you’re old enough, you remember the original incarnations of V and V: The Final Battle. Me? I used to stay up late to watch them when they were re-run as a child. I was fascinated by the Visitors and when I learned ABC has rebooting the show, I was on-board for, at the very least, the beginning. Did I want to stay after that? Find out after the jump.For those not old enough, or not nerd enough, to be familiar with the original V series, you needn’t worry as this series stands on its own legs. Planet Earth is in turmoil. We starve. We struggle. We fight. We repeat that pattern ad nauseum. You’re all too familiar with the drill. Imagine one day, you looked up to the sky and saw massive spaceships. It’s not you alone, either; it’s the whole world. My first thought, of course, would be “oh expletive!” because I’ve seen enough science fiction, but now imagine that a very pretty, and very human looking face, assures you that these newcomers are “Of peace… always.” Add to that an offer of cures and technologies to raise us up from our daily struggles. Sounds too good to be true, right? A small group of people start to peel back the layers and find the cold, reptilian heart beating beneath. Season One of V tracks the arrival of the Visitors and the formation and first steps of defiance of the resistance.Joel Gretsch and Elizabeth Mitchell in V (2009)This series rests on the shoulders of two mothers duking it out (not literally, at least not yet…) for the fate of their two respective worlds. Bringing it home for Team Earth, Elizabeth Mitchell (Lost, The Lyon’s Den) in the role of Erica Evans, a counterterrorism agent who stumbles into the V conspiracy. Not only is she an actual mother, to Logan Huffman’s Tyler, but she also plays the part of our Earth Mother. With her on Team Earth, conflicted priest Father Jack Landry (Joel Gretsch – The 4400, Taken), a human-friendly, Fifth Column member Visitor Ryan Nichols (Morris Chestnut – Boyz in the Hood, Like Mike) and gun-for-hire Kyle Hobbes (Charles Mesure – Crossing Jordan, Xena: Warrior Princess). Fronting Team V, Morena Baccarin (Firefly, Serenity) in the role of Anna. Mother to Tyler‘s love interest Lisa, portrayed by Laura Vandervoort (Smallville, Instant Star), Anna is the face of her people. It is the duplicitous nuances that make Baccarin’s performance so special. Christopher Shyer (The Practice, Whistler) plays Marcus, Anna’s second in command. The children, Tyler and Lisa, are caught in the middle with their budding romance. Sitting on the fence between the Vs and the resistance is Chad Decker, played by Scott Wolf (Party of Five, Go). Chad is a reporter with a direct line to Anna and becomes her main PR man. He’s also apparently “healed” of a brain ailment discovered by V technology. Because he owes his life and his career to the Visitors, he’s willingly kept in Anna’s pocket. His loyalties come into question as the season progresses. NERD ALERT – look for cameos from Lexa Doig (Andromeda) and Alan Tudyk (Firefly, I, Robot) in the deliciously nastiest role I’ve seen him play.The strength of the series comes in the humanity of the interactions, even amongst the aliens. The season ends with Anna getting a taste of human emotion and the consequences that brings for humanity. Thankfully, mystery continues as we still don’t know why the Visitors have come to Earth. We just know, it doesn’t bode well for the planet’s current residents.Elizabeth Mitchell in V (2009)Accessible for newbies yet also interesting for the old-timers, I’ll be with this show until they translate a Visitor book as “To Serve Man.” This collection allows anyone who missed it on-air, or anyone who wants a refresher, to get up to speed before Season 2.

REVIEW: AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. – SEASON 2

CAST

Clark Gregg (When A Stranger Calls)
Ming-Na Wen (Stargate Universe)
Brett Dalton (Killing Lincoln)
Chloe Bennet (Nashville)
Ian De Caestecker (Filth)
Elizabeth Henstridge (Reach Me)
Nick Blood (Identicals)
Adrianna Palicki (G.J. Joe: Retaliation)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Hayley Atwell (Cinderella)
B.J. Britt (Veronica Mars)
Neal McDonough (Arrow)
Reed Diamond (Dollhouse)
Henry Simons (No Good Deed)
Patton Oswalt (Blade: trinity)
Lucy Lawless (Ash Vs Evil Dead)
Adrian Pasdar (Heroes)
Kenneth Choi (Street Kings)
Simon Kassianides (Quantum of Solace)
Brian Patrick Wade (The Big Bang Theory)
Ruth Negga (World War Z)
Maya Stojan (Castle)
Dylan Minnette (Goosebumps)
Kyle MacLachlan (Dune)
Brian Tee (Jurassic World)
Monique Gabriela Curnen (The Dark Knight)
Joel Gretsch (V)
Tim DeKay (Swordfish)
Dichen Lachman (Dollhouse)
Lou Ferrigno Jr. (The Young and The Restless)
Jamie Harris (Rise of The Planet of The Apes)
Blair Underwood (Gattaca)
Christine Adams (Batman Begins)
Edward James Olmos (Green Hornet)
Luke Mitchell (Home and Away)
J. August Richards (Angel)
Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother)
Jaimie Alexander (The Last Stand)
Eddie McClintock (Bones)
Kirk Acevedo (Arrow)

For many, Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD in its first season  became a forgotten and/or overlooked series, which was too bad, and yet understandable. This was Marvel’s first TV series, coming off of an amazing run of movies and it just didn’t deliver when it debuted. The initial episodes felt unfocused and badly paced,but many people people felt the show improved when SHIELD notably improving in the wake of Captain America: The Winter Soldier’s events.In season 2 the pacing was hugely improved, with storylines no longer taking forever to bubble up again and secrets no longer being kept both from the audience and the characters that no one on screen seemed in a hurry to deal with. Instead, there was payoff to big plot threads happening consistently, as both lingering questions from Season 1 and newly introduced plotlines were deftly dealt with and tied up, while paving the way for new mysteries. On the villain front, there was some nicely done twisting and turning regarding who the Big Bad would be in Season 2. We began with a focus on Hydra leader Whitehall and while Reed Diamond had fun in the role, Whitehall rarely had moments that made him feel like a truly credible threat. When he was killed in the midseason finale, it seemed Kyle MacLachlan’s Cal would take center stage as SHIELD’s main foe… but there was yet another swerve in store.The fact that Skye’s mother, Jiaying (Dichen Lachman), was alive at all was a surprise and we soon saw that she was the leader of the Inhumans and could be pretty strict and cold when it came to doing what she felt was right to protect her people… but that was all hiding just what a zealot she had become, convinced war with humanity was inevitable and willing to begin it herself (via a staged attack) to get all her people on her side. The fact that Jiaying was the true main villain of the season was a subtle, slow reveal and much appreciated for how it was pulled off. We understood the tragic events that had changed her, even as we came to see she, and not Cal, who was the most dangerous.Oh, and did I say Inhumans? This was also a huge part of the season, which was especially notable because it indicated that behind the scenes, Marvel had decided Agents of SHIELD could lead the way in a much more notable way than before, rather than being simply reactive to the events of the films. We know an Inhumans film is coming in a few years, but now this series has already introduced the concept into the MCU. Presumably the film will focus on the Royal Family and a very different group of Inhumans than the ones we met here, but this show was still allowed to be the first part of the MCU to give us Terrigen Mist, the Kree origins and all the major background elements of the Inhumans.
Hayley Atwell in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2013)In general, SHIELD felt less restrained this season. The first couple of episodes utilized the notable Marvel villain Absorbing Man, while the reveals that Cal and Skye were, respectively, Mr. Hyde and Daisy Johnson/Quake, rooted this show much more into its Marvel Comics roots.While it began in the latter half of Season 1, SHIELD: Season 2 also benefited from much stronger characterization. While there were so many characters they all didn’t get as much time as might have been ideal, they still all felt much more distinct and specific than the show’s early days, and the fact that several members came and went and shifted allegiances kept things interesting. Ming-Na Wen was always a great presence on the show, but Melinda May was given a lot more depth, as we met her ex-husband, Andrew (Blair Underwood) and finally got the dark details of that incident in Bahrain that we kept hearing about in Season 1. The rift between Fitz and Simmons added a lot more textures to both of them, and was beautifully played by Iain De Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge, while Coulson, now the director of SHIELD, had to reevaluate his approach, making much harsher decisions that pained him, but felt more involving and believable than the overly sappy, often naive approach that he began the series with.As for Skye, the writers and producers certainly still were determined to make her the most important and revered character on the show, but this season, it actually felt like they were earning her that position. Sure, we had to accept that she’d apparently gotten one hell of a crash course in being a badass fighter from May between seasons, but it felt good to see her actually be such a formidable presence in the action scenes – and Chloe Bennet really rose to the challenge of her characters new dynamic. And by making Skye both an Inhuman and Daisy/Quake, we at least had tangible reasons she would be important to us as viewers, beyond Coulson simply saying she was awesome over and over again. Bennet and Kyle MacLachlan also were able to build a strong rapport together as the estranged father/daughter duo. Speaking of MacLachlan, what a job he did. While Dichen Lachman brought the perfect pained righteousness to Jiaying, who truly believed what she was doing was right, MacLachlan had the freedom to go absolutely crazy as the absolutely crazy Cal and wow, was he fun. He expertly conveyed his character’s wish to be a happy, doting husband and father intermixed with his violent rage and gave the season some of its best moments – goofy Mr. Hyde makeup/visuals in the season finale aside.The new additions to the SHIELD crew were also appreciated, with Nick Blood’s Lance Hunter, Henry Simmons’ Mack and Adrianne Palicki ‘s Bobbi Morse/Mockingbird all fitting in very well. With such a big group of agents, someone was bound to be overlooked, and unfortunately, that was Trip (B.J. Britt), who never really got a storyline of his own – except to be the big midseason death. Which wasn’t as impactful as it could have been because he felt like a character with potential that was never fully utilized in any capacity (Remember when he and Simmons were flirting?).The “Other SHIELD” storyline was an interesting inclusion, with Edward James Olmos bringing exactly the gravity you’d expect him to as Gonzales. I liked the idea of he and Coulson being so opposed and yet very respectful of one another, in their own ways. I just wish we’d gotten a bigger payoff to that, as Gonzales was killed by Jiaying before he and Coulson really came to any sort of conclusion in their own conflict except on the “very begrudging/wary allies” level.I went into Season 2 very concerned about Grant Ward’s continuing presence on the series. His betrayal was a shot of Adrenalin the bland SHIELD crew needed and his actions had been too extreme and lethal to be forgiven or excused – but this is TV, where it seems any character can be redeemed. And I really didn’t want to see Ward redeemed, especially since Brett Dalton really found the character when he was allowed to play him as a villain. Thankfully, Season 2 didn’t try to bring Ward back onto the SHIELD team – in fact, by the end, he was more delightfully despicable than ever, torturing Bobbi and setting a trap to kill any SHIELD agent that attempted to rescue her and shooting and killing May, point blank, the first chance he had.SHIELD: Season 2 benefited from a show now unafraid to shake up the dynamic. Perhaps having to completely change everything about the series two thirds into the first season served as an inspiration, but from Simmons’ double agent status, to Gonzales’ crew taking over, the show rarely felt stagnant. The show’s always been in a difficult scenario – people love the interconnectivity of the MCU, but because the movie’s have the big superheroics covered, SHIELD felt hindered by not being able to deal with a lot of the bigger name heroes, in a way a series like The Flash (which isn’t connected to DC’s movies at all) doesn’t have to deal with. The decision to have Coulson and Skye begin to form a team of superpowered members seems to indicate those involved have decided its time to bring some more ongoing flash  to the series, even if it won’t be with the biggest name characters. Things will no doubt change in a big way again as a result, but right now, it’s exciting to ponder what’s coming next.

REVIEW: PUSH (2009)

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CAST

Chris Evans (Captain America)
Dakota Fanning (War of The Worlds)
Camilla Belle (10,000 BC)
Djimon Hounsou (Stargate)
Joel Gretsch (V)
Ming-na Wen (Agents of SHIELD)
Cliff Curtis (Deep Rising)
Neil Jackson (Alexander)
Corey Stoll (Ant-Man)
Colin Ford (Daybreak)

Chris Evans and Dakota Fanning in Push (2009)An organization within the United States government called the Division has been secretly hunting down and experimenting on people with psychic abilities since 1945. Two “Movers”, Nick Gant (Colin Ford) and his father Jonah (Joel Gretsch), are running from Agent Carver (Djimon Hounsou), a Division “Pusher”. Jonah tells Nick of a vision he received from a “Watcher” about a young girl he must help in the future in order to take down Division. Jonah helps Nick escape as Carver arrives and kills Jonah.Camilla Belle and Djimon Hounsou in Push (2009)Ten years later, Carver tests a power boosting drug that has killed all previous test subjects on a Pusher named Kira (Camilla Belle). Rendering her doctor unconscious, Kira steals an augmentation drug-filled syringe before escaping. In Hong Kong, Nick (Chris Evans) is hiding as an expatriate. A young girl, Cassie Holmes (Dakota Fanning), arrives at Nick’s apartment, explaining that she is a Watcher and that they are going to find a mysterious case that will help them take down the Division. The case is also sought by the Pop Family, psychic Triads composed of Pop Father (Haruhiko Yamanouchi) and his two sons (Kwan Fung Chi and Jacky Heung) who are “Bleeders”, and his daughter Pop Girl (Xiao Lu Li), who is a Watcher like Cassie.PUSHFollowing Cassie’s predictions, they go to a nightclub to meet Nick’s friend Hook, who is a “Shifter”. He tells them to go to a “Sniff” named Emily (Ming-Na Wen), one of many Sniffs Carver and his right hand Mover, Victor (Neil Jackson), are trying to enlist to find Kira. With Emily’s help, Nick finds Kira; the two had a romantic relationship prior to Kira’s capture by Division. Kira hid the syringe inside the case, then had a “Wiper” erase her memories to keep the Division Watchers off her trail. Nick recruits a “Shadow” named Pinky (Nate Mooney) to “shade” Kira from psychic detection. Cassie finds a key in Kira’s shoe to a locker in a construction building that is shaded by a powerful Shadow, indicating Kira hid the case there.Ming-Na Wen, Cliff Curtis, Chris Evans, Dakota Fanning, and Nate Mooney in Push (2009)Nick devises a complex plan by giving his allies instructions in envelopes to open at specific times, while having a Wiper erase his memories of the grand plot to obstruct the Watchers’ efforts to discern the entire plan. Meanwhile, Hook retrieves the case and creates a duplicate to match the real case with the syringe. As part of the plan, Kira surrenders herself to Carver, who introduces himself to Kira as a friend. Pushing his thoughts into her, Carver convinces Kira that she is actually a Division agent who volunteered to take the augmentation injection and suffered amnesia as a side effect.Pop Girl hunts Cassie and corners her at a secluded spot but The Wiper appears at the right moment to dispatch Pop Girl with a massive memory wipe. Nick meets with Carver, Victor and Kira to trade the drug for Kira’s freedom but Kira tells him their past relationship when Nick revealed his love at Coney Island was a false memory she pushed into his mind. The three force Nick to take them to the construction site that contains the locker holding the case, where the Triads lie in wait to ambush them. Victor kills several Triads before Pop Bleeder unleashes a powerful scream that kills Victor but also kills Pop Bleeder in a wave of collapsing debris.Chris Evans in Push (2009)Nick surprises Carver and grabs the syringe from him. Unable to convince Kira that their relationship was real, Nick jams the syringe into his arm, apparently killing himself. After Carver and Kira leave Nick for dead, he wakes up. Cassie appears and retrieves the true case with the syringe, revealing that Nick took the duplicated case and injected himself with soy sauce. Cassie plans to exchange the syringe to Division for releasing Cassie’s mother, a powerful Watcher who foretold her vision to Nick’s father and set the preceding events in motion even before Cassie’s birth to ensure her and Nick’s eventual success.Flying back to America with Carver, Kira opens her purse and finds the envelope from Nick. Inside is photograph of Nick and herself together at Coney Island with a message: “KILL HIM. See U soon – Nick.” Kira pushes Carver to put his gun in his mouth and fire; the screen fades to black and a single gunshot is heard.I was really surprised by how entertained I was by this.  I found the plot complex but understandable. To dismiss it as a heroes knock-off is also unfair. It’s a sci-fi film but that doesn’t mean all sci-fi films are the same. The film makes good use of its Hong Kong location more so than any recent film I’ve seen and the characters were memorable. The special effects were there for the story and not the other way around.

REVIEW: MINORITY REPORT

 

CAST

Tom Cruise (Knight and Day)
Max Von Sydow (Conan The Barbarian)
Colin Farrell (The Lobster)
Samantha Morton (John Carter)
Steve Harris (The Rock)
Neal McDonough (Arrow)
Kathryn Morris (Cold Case)
Patrick Kilpatrick (Under Siege 2)
Jessica Capshaw (Valentine)
Frank Grillo (The Purge 2)
Karina Logue (Bates Motel)
Jim Rash (That 70s Show)
Tim Blake Nelson (Fantastic Four)
Ashley Crow (Heroes)
Joel Gretsch (V)
Peter Stormare (22 Jump Street)
Daniel London (Gotham)
William Mapother (Powers)
Paul Wesley (The Vampire Diaries)
Cameron Diaz (Sex Tape)
Kirk B.R. Woller (Hulk)
Victor Raider-Wexler (Dr. Dolittle 2)
Bonnie Morgan (Rings)
Anne Judson-Yager (Bring It On Again)
Meredith Monroe (13 Reasons Why)
Sumalee Montano (Justice League vs The Fatal Five)

MV5BMTkwNjM2MzI3N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNzIyOTAzMw@@._V1_It is the year 2054 and a team of 3 “pre cogs” (psychics) are sedated and sitting in a pool in Washington, DC. They see crimes before they happen, allowing the police force to see the images that they see and work to solve the crime from what images they are given. One of the heads of the pre-crime force is Chief John Anderton (Tom Cruise), a man who has understandably never recovered from the loss of his son a few years back. It doesn’t take particularly long for the film’s main plot to kick in: the pre-cogs, thought to be never wrong, send down another report of a possible crime: unfortunately, the criminal in the vision looks to be Anderton himself, with the victim a man that he’s never met. Much of the remainder of the nearly 150 minute picture involves Anderton going on the run to find out if either the pre-cogs are wrong or if someone’s somehow set him up.Spielberg’s visualization of the future is something incredible to behold and actually, far more enjoyable to be plunked down in than what’s presented usually in these kinds of films. The houses in this 2054 often look the same as they do now – however, most of the changes in technology – billboards that scan one’s eye to personally sell to them, highways that look like awfully smooth sailing in electronic cars – seem like possibilities.The film’s visual effects are truly phenomenal, capturing things like the highways with seemingly hundreds of electric cars quite convincingly. Even smaller effects seemed seamless and crisply rendered. The effects are also used appropriately; this is not a film where effects come first and story second.The performances are generally excellent. Cruise has always been a pretty good actor, Farrell (as a Government agent checking up on the pre-crime system), Max von Sydow (as head of the department) and others also offer fine support. The film’s screenplay (by Jon Cohen and Scott Frank) is also superb, with several thought-provoking twists and turns.