REVIEW: HIGHLANDER: THE SERIES – SEASON 3

Starring

Adrian Paul (Arrow)
Stan Kirsch (Shallow Ground)
Jim Byrnes (Sanctuary)
Philip Akin (Robocop 2014)
Lisa Howard (Earth: Final Conflict)
Michel Modo (The Troops Get Married)

thesamurai0

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Tamlyn Tomita (The Day After Tomorrow)
Stephen McHattie (Watchmen)
Robert Ito (Quincy M.E.)
Hiro Kanagawa (Heroes Reborn)
Randall ‘Tex’ Cobb (Raising Arizona)
Chandra West (White Noise)
Michelle Thrush (Pathfinder)
Miguel Fernandes (Trancers)
Liliana Komorowska (Screamers)
Andrew Kavadas (Ninja Turtles: Next Mutation)
John Novak (Wishmaster 3 & 4)
Elizabeth Gracen (Marked For Death)
Brion James (Blade Runner)
Jason Gray-Stanford (Bones)
Rob Stewart (Painkiller Jane)
Gabrille Miller (Corner Gas)
Alan Scarfe (Andromeda)
John Pyper-Ferguson (Caprica)
Mark Acheson (Elf)
Peter Bryant (Legends of Tomorrow)
Catherine Lough Haggquist (The Flash)
Jonathan Scarfe (Van Helsing)
Myles Ferguson (Edgemont)
Jesse Moss (Ginger Snaps)
Cameron Bancroft (Legends of Tomorrow)
Sherry Miller (The Virgin Suicides)
Laura Harris (Dead Like Me)
Garwin Sanford (Stargate SG.1)
Frank C. Turner (IT)
Anthony De Longis (Masters of The Universe)
Vincent Gale (Van Helsing)
Tamara Gorski (Hercules: TLJ)
Stella Stevens (The Poseidon Adventure)
Barry Pepper (True Grit)
Vivian Wu (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III)
Richard Lynch (Puppet Master III)
David Robb (Downtown Abbey)
Eugene Lipinski (Arrow)
Lynda Boyd (Sanctuary)
John Tench (Andromeda)
Roger Daltrey (Tommy)
Peter Wingfield (Sanctuary)
Kim Johnston Ulrich (Passions)
Ben Pullen (Prince Valiant)
Paudge Behan (Love/Hate)
Robert Cavanah (Pimp)
Roland Gift (Brakes)
George Harris (Layer Cake)

Highlander - The Samurai 55After a few growing pains and struggles to find its footing and players in its first two seasons, Highlander: The Series’ third year sends the heads rolling with plenty of fine drama, sweet action, and immortal style.239560Duncan MacLeod (Adrian Paul) once again faces Kalas (David Robb) – an evil immortal enemy from his past- in a battle that threatens to expose the existence of Immortals and the secret Watcher organization to the world. Watcher Joe Dawson (Jim Byrnes) struggles between his oath to not interfere with immortal confrontations and his continuing friendship with Mac. Richie (Stan Kirsch) takes up bike racing- a risky prospect despite his immortality while 1,200-year-old thief Amanda (Elizabeth Gracen) just can’t stay on the right side of the law. However, is Dr. Anne Lindsey’s (Lisa Howard) budding romance with Duncan just as dangerous or is it the exact solace he needs?Highlander The Cross of St Antoine 68At last, Season 3 establishes some internal consistency for Highlander: The Series and the result is a damn fine season with nary a bad episode in sight. The mortal crimes and drama in “Blackmail” and “Take Back the Night” are fresh and dynamic, tying in nicely with the immortal deceptions and relationship angles presented in “Line of Fire” and “Shadows.” The Watchers are made useful and brought into the forefront, particularly in “Those Who Serve,” where we get a chance to see the Immortal Game from their supposedly uncolored perspective. Consequences to one’s actions and inactions are investigated wonderfully this season with immortals debating their ability to change for good or evil.MV5BNzY3NTI4MjAyOV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODg0NTEzMjE@._V1_Can worthwhile redemption for horrid past doings be found for them? Whose place is it to forgive and judge immortals? Religion, spiritual motifs, and even immortal drug use are examined in “Courage,” “Blind Faith,” and “Mortal Sins.” Normal life issues such as parenting and the difficulty with computers also carry through Season 3, along with thoughts on the extreme price of perpetual youth in “The Lamb.” While die-hard Highlander fans may know an episode title when they see it- even if you don’t recognize the titles, almost every show had me saying, ‘Oh yeah! I remember this one!’MV5BNzY3NTI4MjAyOV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODg0NTEzMjE@._V1_We learn a lot about our titular Highlander this season, beginning with the 1994 opener “The Samurai” and going straight through to the two-part “Finale.” Paul shows plenty of layers in Duncan through his past loyalties and contemporary justices. The sword fights and kick ass are without a doubt kick ass indeed, but there’s plenty of time for questioning immortality and space for 400 years of melancholy to get to someone. While he’s often shown enjoying himself in the flashbacks, Mac is afraid to open up again to another mortal girlfriend like Anne Lindsey. Of course, the audience knows there will be trouble thanks to all those pesky immortal secrets! While some may not like Anne simply because she follows Tessa in Duncan’s heart, its nice to have someone unaware who can be good for MacLeod.

MV5BYTkzMDExNWItZGZkMC00ZWI1LWI3ZmEtMzlhNGZlODczNzI5XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjk3NDI3OTk@._V1_Howard (Earth: Final Conflict) keeps Anne independent, intelligent, confident, and likeable. But could the good doctor deal with immortality? Her job is to save lives, so a man devoid of a medical history and no immunization scars is just too much of a mystery for Anne. Fortunately, Elizabeth Gracen adds some spice and familiar fun as Amanda in “The Cross of St. Antoine” and the two-part season ender. Her duck and run immortal loyalty and devotion to MacLeod are perfectly at odds with her inability to go legit and not screw things up.kalasUnfortunately, once again Richie and Philip Akin as Charlie DeSalvo get the short end of the supporting stick. Charlie is written out of Season 3 nicely- not that his leaving is super good, but the episode “The Revolutionary” is sublime. The character should have been a guest player as necessary all along, rather than been squeezed in willy nilly. Likewise, Richie, despite being in the opening credits, only appears in half the episodes this year. While the youthful immortal needed to go off and explore, sure, it’s tough to care again when he does come around for some motorcycle action. The stock footage for the races and the intercut of Richie and his pals getting rough doesn’t help either. Why not let him have a season off so we can enjoy when he returns with heavy, living forever angst? Sometimes we see recurring players more than the folks actually in the opening credits. Despite such a cool opening scheme, Highlander: The Series never seems to balance its core players or its ensemble repertoire properly in its listings. Michel Modo’s lovable but often drunk chef Maurice is also downgraded to a guest star this season, and it’s wonderfully that his few special appearances give him respect and something to do.finalepart2cWatcher Joe Dawson again doesn’t appear as much as I might have liked, but the growth of the watchers as a help, hindrance, or detriment comes along wonderfully in Season 3. Dawson is there for MacLeod despite the rules, and Duncan likewise. Joe’s new bar is also a great place for mortals and immortals to mingle, and the neat introduction of Peter Wingfield (24) as Methos adds a separate watcher buddy angle for Dawson to explore. Thankfully, this crack team unites wonderfully against David Robb (Swing Kids, I Claudius) as the Highlander’s bane this season, Kalas. His midseason trilogy of “Song of the Executioner”, “Star-Crossed,” and “Methos” is perhaps when Highlander: The Series truly becomes great TV. There’s not a crappy Renegade knock off plot in sight- just awesome immortals like Hugh Fitzcairn and Xavier St. Cloud- both played by cool rockers Roger Daltry and Roland Gift. By time things get juicy for the two-part “Finale” there isn’t anything in this season of Highlander: The Series not to like.finalepart2aI dare say it, but even the styles this season are catching up, with toned down dojo action, great blues music, and sweet French locations. But my goodness they use that same Tudor house for every frickin’ thing! Anne dresses a little edgy for a doctor- with short skirts and tall boots; but hey, it looks good and is actually still in relatively recent fashion. Of course, the period piece scenes are top notch again, and we spend more time in the past- even having flashbacks within flashbacks. The times and places we visit also vary it up some, but a few return nicely to places and people we’ve already seen. The transitions to the flashbacks are also nicely done; sometimes they are set up in crafty ways but other times they know the viewer knows and just cut right to it. The audience isn’t underestimated with excessive montages and unnecessary action anymore. Although sometimes entire swordfights and quickening flashbacks from previous episodes are revisited, I’m glad they now put the dates, times, and places onscreen for the past storylines. Some of those orgasmic quickenings still amuse me – but there are some seriously good ones this season as well.
highlander0322Once again, the DVD features for Highlander: The Series Season 3 are packed to the gills with bloopers, deleted scenes, interviews, audio and video commentaries, scripts, and more. The interface is a little dated, but its fun to go through the embedded Watcher’s Chronicles and look for all their treats within the episodes. Again, new fans or those who wish to remain unspoilt are better served with rental or online options or a features marathon post- series. If you’ve been remiss on the first two seasons, new audiences can still jump in here as well. Honestly, there’s no reason for anyone not to give this season a chance.

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)
Colleen Winton (Van Helsing)
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.

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.

REVIEW: ANDROMEDA – SEASON 1

Starring

Kevin Sorbo( Hercules: TLJ)
Lisa Ryder (Jason X)
Keith Hamilton Cobb (All My Children)
Gordon Michael Woolvett (Bride of Chucky)
Laura Bertram (50/50)
Brent Stait (Blade: The Series)
Lexa Doig (Arrow)

Kevin Sorbo and Steve Bacic in Andromeda (2000)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Steve Bacic (X-Men 2)
John Tench (Watchmen)
Amber Rothwell (Battlestar Galactica)
Paul Johansson (Van Helsing)
Dylan Bierk (Jason X)
Marion Eisman (Riverdale)
Cameron Daddo (Hope Island)
Brian George (The Big Bang Theory)
Sam Sorbo (Hercules: TLJ)
Alex Diakun (Agent COdy Banks)
Kimberley Warnat (Freddy vs Jason)
Claudette Mink (Alfie)
Malcolm Stewart (Jumanji)
John de Lancie (Star Trek: TNG)
Peter Kelamis (Stargate Universe)
Ty Olsson (Battlestar Galactica)
Monika Schnarre (Junior)
Nathaniel DeVeaux (The Core)
Douglas O’Keeffe (Sanctuary)
Noel Fisher (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Nels Lennarson (The Cabin In The Woods)
Alex Zahara (Horns)
Ralf Moeller (Gladiator)
Mackenzie Gray (Man of Steel)
Kim Hawthorne (Rake)
Chapelle Jaffe (The Dead Zone)
Kevin Durand (Swamp Thing)
Rachel Hayward (Jingle All The Way 2)
John DeSantis (Arrow)
David Palffy (Blade: The Series)
Kimberly Huie (Deep Impact)
Michael Shanks (Stargate SG.1)
Gerard Plunkett (Sucker Punch)

Keith Hamilton Cobb in Andromeda (2000)Andromeda starred Kevin Sorbo (Hercules: The Legendary Journey’s) in a science fiction series created by Gene Roddenberry (Star Trek) with a variety of executive producers Robert Hewitt Wolfe (The 4400, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Majel Rodenberry (Earth: Final Conflict), Allan Eastman (Star Trek: Voyager), Robert Engels (seaQuest DSV), Jay Firestone (Mutant X, La Femme Nikita), and Adam Haight (Mutant X, Highlander: The Raven). With its diverse crew of producers with extensive experience in science fiction and drama productions, Andromeda put in five solid seasons from 2000 to 2005 and totaled one-hundred and ten episodes.Lexa Doig in Andromeda (2000)The back story to Andromeda is about the adventures of the crew the Andromeda and their efforts to rebuild a massive civilization that spanned the universe. Thousands of years ago a technologically advanced species called the Vedrans in the Andromeda galaxy developed a method of near-instantaneous travel between star systems. The technology was called the slipstream. After the development of the slipstream, the alien race began to form a united federation of planets (similar to Star Trek) with a different cultures and races across six galaxies. This new massive government was called the Systems Commonwealth, or simply the Commonwealth.Keith Hamilton Cobb in Andromeda (2000)After signing a treaty with one of its most feared enemies the Magog, a race known as the Nietzscheans, genetically engineered humans who believe in survival of the fittest, opposed the Commonwealth and plunged the massive federation of races into a civil war that resulted in the downfall of the Commonwealth. For three hundred years, the universe went into “The Long Night”, a period of darkness with no peace and anarchy. But despite the dissolution of the Commonwealth, one of its most dedicated military officers Dylan Hunt (Kevin Sorvo) survived for three hundred years frozen in time. He returns to rebuild the Commonwealth.The first season begins with a two-part story “Under the Night” and “An Affirming Flame” about the formation of Dylan and his new crew. Gerentex, a nightsider, hires the crew of the Eureka Maru: Beka, Harper, Trance, and Rev. Gerentex wants them to do a salvage operation and find the fabled Andromeda Ascendant. The ship is worth a lot of money. After a long effort by the crew, they find the Andromeda and tow it from the black hole singularity.Laura Bertram in Andromeda (2000)When Beka, Harper, Trace, and Rev board the ship, they find Dylan on board. Gerentex sends a secret assault team, led by Tyr, to kill Dylan. Suddenly, the mission changes and Beka’s crew have a change of heart. They want to leave the ship to Dylan, because it is his ship after all. Gerentex does not react happy to the news and he only leaves the ship when it is sucked back into the singularity. Of course, he leaves Beka’s crew and the assault team to perish. Dylan inspires the crew to work together to get out of the situation. He saves them, and later reveals to them his desire to rebuild the Commonwealth. Reluctantly, everyone joins him. Not because they believe in his cause, but because it is better than smuggling.Kevin Sorbo in Andromeda (2000)The two-part story is a pretty exciting introduction to the series. Some of the characters’ performances are a bit over-the-top and their ability to instantaneously adapt to using the Andromeda’s advanced computer systems and having security codes to launch the massive nova bombs (think nukes in space) is little on the unreasonable side. But, if you do not take the show too seriously, the introductory two-part story is quite fun. Another part I enjoyed about it was the mysterious hints about Trance. She was shot and killed, but miraculously recovered without any medical attention. While she seems like an innocent character with a small part, the writers have some big plans for her as the series progresses.However, despite the promising two-part series premiere episode, the remaining season one episodes are a mixed bag. For instance, in the immediately following episode “To Loose the Fateful Lighting”, I had to force myself to stay awake. The Andromeda finds a High Guard space station. When Dylan, Beka, and Harper board the station, they find a ragtag band of kids in charge. The kids are decedents of the station’s original High Guard and they have been taught to kill all enemies of the Commonwealth. They have lots of nova bombs and the radiation from the bombs has student their growth and made them sick. The kids have been waiting for the day to unleash holy warriors (kamikaze pilots with nova bombs) on their enemies, which they call the Day of Lighting. They believe Dylan’s arrival is a sign of that day. Dylan has to teach them right from wrong. The story is pretty hokey. The notable portion of this episode is the introduction of the computer AI Andromeda into the humanoid android form Rommie.Kevin Sorbo in Andromeda (2000)Basically, what it comes down to is episodic storylines versus story arcs. When the episodes focus on episodic storylines, they are not as enthralling or exciting as the season’s story arcs. There are some exceptions like “Star-Crossed”, where Michael Shanks guest stars as Rommie’s robot lover, and “The Mathematics of Tears”, where the Andromeda finds its sister ship the Pax Magellanic. Episodes like those tend to be enjoyable. However, what really grabs your attention is the season story arc that can be found throughout the episodes. It is about Dylan trying to restore the Commonwealth. This storyline ties into some bigger, grander plot happening with the Andromeda crew tends to be a lot better than the standalone episodes. There are episodes that tie in a super duper bad guy called the Abyss. In “Harper 2.0”, the Abyss sends an assassin into the known world to erase its existence. In the season finale “It’s Hour Come ‘Round at Last”, the crew run into a huge ship filled with millions of Magogs. It becomes a very interesting story.Brent Stait in Andromeda (2000)There are also some interesting stories with detailed background into the characters like “Angel Dark, Demon Bright”, where the Andromeda accidentally travels back in time to a major turning point in the battle against the Commonwealth and Nietzscheans. Dylan is in a position to change the future forever, but decides against toying with fate. Then there is “The Banks of the Lethe”, which puts Dylan back his fiance Sara (Sam Jenkins). Episodes like theses offer insight to the characters, their backgrounds and personalities, and the relationships they have with each other. These developments become a fairly intriguing part of season one (at least more so than some of the episodic storylines). For instance, Tyr is a Nietzschean and cares more about his wellbeing than those he serves with. In several instances, his loyalty and duty to the crew is questionable. Like in the episode “Double Helix”.Keith Hamilton Cobb in Andromeda (2000)Overall, the first season of Andromeda offers viewers a decent science-fiction series filled with action, some corny dialogue, over-the-top performances, decent stories, and a cast of likeable characters. While I did not fall in head over heels with the show, I still enjoyed it enough that I think it is worth sitting down. The story arc introduces in the season finale gets pretty exciting. The inaugural season of Andromeda puts the former half-Greek God Kevin Sorbo in an adventure against all odds with a misfit crew. And the show turns out to be pretty in its first season. The writing is not topnotch and the acting is slightly over-the-top, but it is done in a way that is hard not to like. Andromeda’s first season has a likeable, goofy cast and watching them in get accustomed to each other and their overly do-gooder captain. The season also features some engaging story arcs. While Andromeda is not my favorite science fiction series, it is quite fun.

REVIEW: EARTHSEA (2004)

CAST

Shawn Ashmore (X-Men)
Kristin Kreuk (Smallville)
Isabella Rossellini (Death Becomes Her)
Danny Glover (Lethal Weapon)
Sebastian Roché (The Originals)
Chris Gauthier (Watchmen)
Jennifer Calvert (Stargate SG.1)
Emily Hampshire (Earth: FInal Conflict)
Mark Hildreth (V)
Alan Scarfe (Andromeda)
Alessandro Juliani (Battlestar Galactica)
Erin Karpluk (Being Erica)
Amanda Tapping (Sanctuary)
Katharine Isabelle (Hannibal)
Dave ‘Squatch’ Ward (Pucca)
Mark Acheson (Elf)
John Tench (Andromeda)
Neil Grayston (Wonderfalls)
John DeSantis (Arrow)
Peter Kent (Total Recall)
Peter Williams (Stargate SG.1)
Alex Diakun (Andromeda)
Frank C. Turner (IT)

In the land of Earthsea, a young wizard named Ged has visions about a girl and doors opening. Meanwhile, King Tygath wants to rule the land and release the Nameless Ones, demons from whom he hopes to learn the secret of immortality. He sends men to attack Ged’s village, in search of the wizard of prophesy (Ged). Ged learns his first spell from an elderly woman. When the invasion comes, Ged uses a mist spell and lures the invaders over a cliff, saving the village. However, Ged also falls off the cliff.  Tygath tries to convince High Priestess Thar to release the Nameless Ones, but she refuses. She is poisoned by Rosa, her attendant who has been tricked by the king’s lover, Kossil, every time she has tea.

A magus named Ogion arrives at Ged’s village and revives Ged. He tells Ged his true name and takes him for training, but Ged is too impatient; he is sent to the magic school on Roke. There he meets the bully, Jasper, and befriends a student named Vetch. Ged shapeshifts into a hawk to show off. Jasper then challenges him to raise a spirit from the dead, leading him to accidentally release a Nameless One. The demon attacks Ged before being driven away by the Archmagus, who tells him that this Nameless One will hunt Ged down and try to possess him, using Ged’s power for further destruction. Ged must go somewhere in hiding until he can find its true name and destroy it.With the help of Jasper, King Tygath takes control of the magic school. He throws a knife at the Archmagus, apparently killing him and making Jasper the new Archmagus.

With the help of Ogion, Ged confronts the Gebbeth and attempts to drown him using a rock, however, it escapes with Ged’s likeness and voice. Ged’s impersonator becomes a murderer, and Vetch, a magus himself, chases Ged until he realizes Ged is not possessed by the Gebbeth and they decide to hunt it together. They are attacked by the dragon, Orm Embar, but Ged uses the dragon’s true name to bind him and ask three questions. He wastes his first question, but with his second, he learns the Gebbeth’s location. The dragon tells him where to find the two pieces of the Amulet of Peace, which when reunited would save Earthsea, but Ged could have asked the true name of the demon. Meanwhile, Thar appoints a successor, Tenar, and tells her the incantation to release the Nameless Ones. Kossil strangles Rosa and frames Tenar, leading to her imprisonment.


Ged and Vetch return to Roke for help in decoding the dragon’s riddle. The Archmagus survived Tygath’s attack and made the real Jasper into a village fool as punishment. He sends Ged and Vetch to unseal the Nameless Tombs on Atuan, but Ged is captured and brought before Thar, who mistakes him for an evil wizard. In the labyrinth, Ged is locked in the cell next to Tenar. They break free and recognize each other from their visions. Thar realizes her mistake right before her death. Kossil tries to force Tenar to reveal the incantation and fails, so Tygath kills Kossil and follows Tenar to the gate of the Nameless Ones.  Vetch finds the tomb first and is taken by the Gebbeth. Ged encounters Tygath in the labyrinth and fights him but then escapes into the tomb. He encounters the Gebbeth and realizes its true name is his own, because it is the darkness in himself. The demon is absorbed into Ged, making him whole again and strengthening him to strike Tygath in the tomb. Tygath forces Tenar to release the Nameless Ones with the incantation. The Nameless Ones are released and take Tygath into the sky before flying off. Ged reveals part of the key is the second half of the amulet. The Amulet of Peace is made whole, dispelling the Nameless Ones with a bright light and restoring peace to Earthsea. Ged is seen victorious with Tenar and they kiss.I haven’t read the books, But this is very decent fantasy film. The story and charecterisation was strong throughout.