REVIEW: HARVARD MAN

CAST
Sarah Michelle Gellar (Ringer)
Adrian Grenier (Drive Me Crazy)
Joey Lauren Adams (Chasing Amy)
Eric Stoltz (Caprica)
Rebecca Gayheart (Dead Like Me)
John Neville (Odyssey 5)
Polly Shannon (Lie With Me)
Cle Bennett (Heroes Reborn)
Peter Mensah (Sleepy Hollow)
Kristi Angus (Jason X)
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The story concerns Harvard student Alan Jensen, the point guard of the Harvard basketball team. When his parents’ house is destroyed by a tornado, Alan is desperate for $100,000 to replace their home. He is approached by his girlfriend Cindy Bandolino, whose father is an organized crime boss. Cindy convinces Alan to throw a game for the money. She tells Alan that her father is behind the deal, but actually she goes to her father’s associate, Teddy Carter, and Carter’s assistant, Kelly Morgan for funding. What she does not know is that Carter and Morgan are undercover FBI agents.
Alan throws the game, gives his parents the money, and then undergoes a psychedelic experience after he ingests a big dose of LSD, 15,000 micrograms. There follows a long stretch of the film during which morphing special effects demonstrate Alan’s altered state as he is pursued by Carter, while Cindy is collared by Morgan.
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Just when it looks like a toss-up as to what will prove his downfall first, the bad trip, the FBI, or the mob, Alan’s other girlfriend (who is also his philosophy lecturer), Chesney Cort (played by Adams), saves the day. Not only does she get Alan to a doctor who can bring him back to sobriety, she reveals that she is in a sexual threesome with Carter and Morgan. Once he gets some photographic evidence for blackmail, Alan is extricated from his problems.
With almost all the characters flawed by greed, sex or drugs, the one that comes across in the most sympathetic light is the mafia don. You know the good guys will probably win in the end but you’re not really sure who qualifies as good. Despite the special effects, the drug trip is rather too long and mostly fairly dull. Definitely a film for Gellar fans, but I’m not sure how much it would have going for it without her.

 

REVIEW: THE FIFTH ELEMENT

CAST

Bruce Willis (Sin City)
Gary Oldman (Batman Begins)
Ian Holm (The Hobbit)
Milla Jovovich (Resident Evil)
Chris Tucker (Rush Hour)
Luke Perry (Buffy: The Vampire Slayer)
Brion James (BLade Runner)
Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister (Jackie Brown)
Lee Evans (There’s Something About Mary)
John Neville (Odyssey 5)
Martin McDougall (Batman Begins)

In 1914, aliens known as Mondoshawans arrive at an ancient Egyptian temple to collect, for safekeeping, the only weapon capable of defeating a great evil that appears every 5,000 years. The weapon consists of four stones, representing the four classical elements, and a sarcophagus containing a fifth element in the form of a human, which combines the power of the other four elements into a divine light capable of defeating the evil. The Mondoshawans promise their human contact, a priest from a secret order, that they will come back with the element stones in time to stop the great evil when it returns.

In 2263, the great evil appears in deep space in the form of a giant ball of black fire, and destroys an attacking Earth spaceship. The Mondoshawans’ current contact on Earth, priest Vito Cornelius (Ian Holm), informs the President of the Federated Territories (Tom Lister Jr.) of the history of the great evil and the weapon that can stop it. As the Mondoshawans return to Earth they are ambushed by Mangalores, a race hired by the industrialist Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg (Gary Oldman), who has been instructed by the great evil to acquire the stones.

The Mondoshawans’ spacecraft is destroyed, though the stones are not on board; the only item recovered is a hand of The Fifth Element. Scientists take it to a New York City laboratory and use it to reconstruct a humanoid woman who takes the name Leeloo (Milla Jovovich). Terrified of the unfamiliar surroundings, she escapes confinement and jumps off a ledge, crashing into the flying taxicab of Korben Dallas (Bruce Willis), a former major in the special forces.

Dallas delivers Leeloo to Cornelius and his apprentice, David (Charlie Creed-Miles), whereupon Cornelius learns that the Mondoshawans entrusted the four element stones to the alien Diva Plavalaguna (Maïwenn Le Besco), an opera singer. Zorg kills many of the Mangalores because of their failure to obtain the stones, but their compatriots determine to seize the artifacts for themselves. Upon learning from the Mondoshawans that the stones are in Plavalaguna’s possession, General Munro (Brion James), Dallas’ former superior, recommissions Dallas and orders him to travel undercover to meet Plavalaguna on a luxury intergalactic cruise; Dallas takes Leeloo with him. Meanwhile, Cornelius instructs David to prepare the ancient temple designed to house the stones, then stows away on the space plane transporting Dallas to the cruise liner.MV5BZDNjYTJiMzYtM2RhOC00NGY3LWE1ZjEtZjFjZDU1MjM4MjZkXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMDc2NTEzMw@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1427,1000_AL_

Plavalaguna is killed when the Mangalores attack the ship, but Dallas succeeds in retrieving the stones. During his struggle with the Mangalores he kills their leader. After shooting and seriously wounding Leeloo, Zorg finds a carrying case which he presumes contains the stones, and takes it back to his spacecraft, leaving behind a time bomb that forces the liner’s occupants to evacuate. Discovering the case to be empty, Zorg returns to the ship and deactivates his bomb, but a dying Mangalore sets off his own device, destroying the ship and killing Zorg. Dallas, Cornelius, Leeloo, and talk-show host Ruby Rhod (Chris Tucker) escape with the stones aboard Zorg’s spacecraft.

The four join up with David at the weapon chamber in the Egyptian temple as the great evil approaches. They activate the stones, but having witnessed and studied so much violence, Leeloo has become disenchanted with humanity and refuses to cooperate. Dallas confesses his love for Leeloo and kisses her. In response, Leeloo combines the power of the stones and releases the divine light; the great evil, now dormant, becomes another moon in Earth orbit.Luc Besson has created a visually stunning piece of work. The cinematography is vibrant and colourful and the costumes (designed by Jean Paul Gaultier) have to be seen to be believed; the special effects are of the quality you would expect and add to the whole experience. This is a fast paced movie that grabs you and doesn’t let go from start to finish.

REVIEW: THE SILVER SURFER

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CAST

Paul Essiembre (Chloe)
James Blendick (Tommy Boy)
Colin Fox (Goosebumps)

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RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Dennis Akayama (Wild Roses)
Lawrence Bayne (Muatnt X)
Christopher Birtton (X-Men:TAS)
Alyson Court (Elvis Meets Nixon)
David Hemblen (Earth: Final Conflict)
Don Francks (La Femme Nikita)
John Neville (Odyssey 5)
Cedric Smith (Mutant X)

Image result for silver surfer cartoonOne of Marvel’s best ever in the animated arena. Yes, they only made one season and it ended on a cliff-hanger, but that had precious little to do with the series itself. Apparently it rated rather well. The problem was never with the show, but with the company that made it. Unfortunately that went belly-up.For the purists, it is true that this show isn’t strictly in accordance with cannon. But then, what superhero cartoon is? Like most animated shows derived from comic books, this production re-imagines the universe on which it is based in accordance with its own needs. While it can’t match the sheer intricacy and detail of the comic book universe with its decades of backstory, it does make good use of the time and space available.

My only real issue with the show’s departures from cannon is that for some reason its creators decided to make Thanos a worshipper of Chaos rather than of Death. I’m not sure if the worship of Death was considered a bit too strong for what was at least nominally a children’s show, but from an adult perspective, I do consider that a mistake. That one issue aside, the story can hold its own when compared to Marvel’s comic book epics. I’ve always loved the way Marvel does cosmic, and this show does not disappoint. It positively explodes with all the electrifying energy, godlike power, and inhuman solemnity and portent that makes all of Marvel’s best cosmic epics what they are. When you’re watching this show, you do buy into the idea that these are indeed cosmic beings whose deeds shape and destroy worlds, thence echo throughout their universe, and even perhaps throughout other universes as well.iron-manBut where this show really excelled was on a visual level. Although the CGI may be technically a bit on the crude side by today’s standards (remember, this is a show made in the late 90’s), on an artistic level it is a triumph. The show’s creators did a magnificent job of integrating Jack Kirby’s original vision with the latest technology available at the time of the show’s creation. The integration isn’t as seamless as that to be found in more modern efforts, but then, it doesn’t try to be. The 2D and 3D artwork are at all times clearly distinguishable from one another, but the overall effect is still glorious.

REVIEW: ODYSSEY 5

MAIN CAST

Peter Weller (Robocop)
Sebastian Roche (The Originals)
Christopher Gorham (Ugly Betty)
Tamara Marie Watson (Cold Squad)
Leslie Silva (Fools Rush In)
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RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Gina Clayton (Degrassi: TNG)
John Neville (The Fifth Element)
Kenneth Mitchell (Star Trek: Discovery)
Lindy Booth (Kick-Ass 2)
Sonja Smits (American Gods)
Damon D’Oliveira (Earth: Final Conflict)
Barry Flatman (Just Friends)
Philip Akin (Highlander: The Series)
George Buza (Mutant X)
Andrew Gillies (Orphan Black)
Vladimir Jon Cubrt (Hannibal TV)
Rick Worthy (The Vampire Diaries)
Clé Bennett (The Tick)
Jonathan Potts (Jason X)
Ted Raimi (Ash vs Evil Dead)
Fiona Highet (Bitten)
Michèle Duquet (The Virgin Sucides)
Fulvio Cecere (Valentine)
Sherry Miller (Open Heart)
Geoffrey Lewis (The Devil’s Rejects)

Kyle Schmid (Arrow)

Michael Flipowich (Earth: Final Conflict)

Dominic Zamprogna (Stargate Universe)
Bronson Picket (Wild Card)

Image result for odyssey 5Before Manny Coto took over as head writer of Enterprise in the fourth season, he had his own SF show on the air. Odyssey 5 was Coto’s brain child, and it was an intriguing program that lasted for only one season on Showtime. (Less actually… it took Showtime a couple of years to broadcast the last four episodes which are included in this set.) It certainly deserved to go on longer. This show about a group of five astronauts who have only five years to save the Earth from destruction was creative and engrossing and had some wonderful actors in the lead roles. The US space shuttle Odyssey was performing a routine mission, snagging a satellite for repairs before docking with the international space station when something very unexpected happened. The Earth imploded. In a matter of moments the Earth went from a blue/green planet to a swirling cloud of dust. The only people who were left alive were the five members of the Odyssey: Commander Chuck Taggert (Peter Weller) and his son Neil (Christopher Gorham), Nobel Prize winning geneticist Kurt Mendel (Sebastian Roche), newscaster Sarah Forbes (Leslie Silva) and shuttle pilot, Angela Perry (Tamara Crag Thomas.) With no place that they can go to they resign themselves to their fate and wait to run out of oxygen.

Moments before the end comes however, the Odyssey is taken aboard an alien spaceship. There they meet The Seeker, an ancient being (machine?) that has been searching for intelligent life. He’s found evidence of many advanced cultures, but whenever he gets to the planets he’s detected, all that’s left is a swirling cloud of dust. The Seeker offers to send the five astronauts back in time five years, so that they will have a chance of averting whatever it was that caused the Earth to die. Naturally they accept but five years isn’t a long time, and they have very little to go on.

They soon discover that there are incredibly intelligent entities living in the internet called Sentients. They have no bodies, since they are just computer code, but they have designed artificial people to carry out their bidding. These ‘Synthetics’ are stronger and faster than real people and can be programmed just like a computer. The only external difference from humans is that they are cold blooded. Trying to discover what the Sentients and Synthetics are up to is hard and dangerous, but it’s even worse than that; there’s no evidence that they are responsible for the Earth’s destruction. It could very well be related to a military project that was on the satellite the shuttle was adjusting, related to the covert group inside NASA known as the Cadre, or something else all together.Image result for odyssey 5This is one of those shows that starts off a little slow, but really draws you in. One of the things I really liked about the show was that they didn’t forget that the Odyssey 5 have home lives. When Taggart skips out on a party his wife had been wanting to go to (in order to stop a Synthetic plot), he not only ends up in the dog house but she also thinks that he has a mistress. Sarah spends a good amount of time taking her son to doctors so they can cure the stomach cancer that killed him in the original time-line. The only thing is that it hasn’t shown up yet and her husband and doctors think she’s crazy. It’s touches like these that add a lot to the feel of the show.

Image result for odyssey 5The ensemble cast is responsible for that to a large extent. All five of the main characters do a very good job portraying their idiosyncratic characters and make them seem like real people. Peter Weller (Buckaroo Banzai, Robocop) has the temperament and attitudes of a military pilot down pat, probably because his father was a pilot (as he discusses in the commentary), but in any case he really nails the part and gives the show it’s focal point. Sebastian Roche also does well as the goofy but brilliant scientist, walking that fine line between making him a caricature and a believably irreverent character. The one person in the cast who impressed me the most though was Leslie Silva. She was magnificent as a mother who had seen her child waste away and die, only to get him back again. You could tell what she was thinking by just a look, and the scenes where she would break down were heart wrenching. This is an enjoyable show. The acting is very good and the plots are engrossing. Though there isn’t a lot of continuity in the first few episodes they refer to past events more and more as the show goes on, which makes the program even more interesting. A fun show that deserved a longer run.