REVIEW: REIGN OF FIRE

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CAST

Christian Bale (Batman Begins)
Mattehw McConaughey (Interstellar)
Izabella Scorupco (Exorcist: The Beginning)
Gerard Butler (300)
Alexander Siddig (Game of Thrones)
Alice Krige (Star Trek: First Contact)
Laura Pyper (Hex)

The film opens at an unspecified date in the early 21st century. During construction on the London Underground, workers penetrate an underground cave. A huge dragon emerges from hibernation, incinerating the workers with its breath. The only survivor is a boy, Quinn Abercromby (Ben Thornton), whose mother, Karen (Alice Krige)—the construction crew chief—is crushed to death protecting him. The dragon flies out of the Underground, and soon more dragons appear. It is revealed through newspaper clippings and the narration that dragons are the species responsible for the extinction of the dinosaurs. They are speculated to hibernate after destroying most living creatures until the planet repopulates. After the dragons reawaken, humanity resists with military force, including with nuclear weapons in 2010. This, however, only hastens the destruction, and within a few years, humans are nearly extinct.In 2020, Quinn (Christian Bale) leads a community of survivors in a Northumberland castle. They are starving while awaiting harvest. Although most trust Quinn, some are restless and defiant. Eddie (David Kennedy) and his group steal a truck to pick tomatoes, though it is too soon for harvest. They are attacked by a dragon; one man is killed, and the rest are surrounded by fire. Quinn, Creedy (Gerard Butler), and Jared (Scott Moutter) rescue them with old fire engines, but the dragon kills Eddie’s son before escaping. The Kentucky Irregulars, a group of Americans led by Denton Van Zan (Matthew McConaughey), arrive with a Chieftain tank and AgustaWestland AW109 utility helicopter, the latter of which is piloted by Alex Jensen (Izabella Scorupco). Van Zan has a system for hunting dragons and knows their weakness: poor vision before sunset. He and Quinn kill the dragon who destroyed the crops.

Van Zan tells Quinn all the dragons they have found have been female. The Americans believe there is only one male—if they kill it, the dragons can no longer reproduce. Although Quinn knows about the male dragon, which killed his mother, he refuses to help. Van Zan orders his soldiers to enlist the castle’s best men. Quinn argues that if they find the male, it will kill them and find the castle. Van Zan’s group is attacked by the dragon in the ruins of a town 66 miles (106 km) from London. The dragon then finds the castle and kills most of its inhabitants. Quinn tries to get the survivors to a bunker; Creedy saves him and is killed by the dragon in his place. Van Zan and Jensen return and free those in the bunker. Quinn tells Van Zan he will help them hunt the male dragon. They fly to London and find hundreds of dragons, with smaller ones cannibalized by the larger male. Van Zan tells Quinn about a plan to shoot explosives down the dragon’s throat with a crossbow. Van Zan fires, but the dragon destroys the arrow and eats Van Zan. Quinn and Alex lure the dragon to ground level, where Quinn fires into the dragon’s mouth, killing it.

Later, Quinn and Alex erect a radio tower on a hill overlooking the North Sea. There has been no dragon sighting for over three months. Jared arrives to say they have contacted a group of French survivors who want to speak to their leader. Quinn tells Jared he is now their leader and dedicates himself to rebuilding.

Overall it took time to get going and it never lives up to the marketing hype but it’s still enjoyable. Once you get past the first part then you’re free to enjoy the second half of the film and a really enjoyable climax.

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REVIEW: HEX – SEASON 1 & 2

MAIN CAST

Christina Cole (Jupiter Ascenmding)
Jemima Rooper (Urban Gothic)
Michael Fassbender (300)
Jamie Davis (Casulty)
Amber Sainsbury (Young Hercules)
Anna Wilson-Jones (Hotel Babylon)
Colin Salmon (Limitless TV)
Joseph Morgan (The Originals)
Zoe Tapper (Mr. Selfridge)
Laura Pyper (Reign of Fire)
Joseph Beattie (Brideshead Revisited)
Samuel Collings (Doctors)

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RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Geraldine James (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo)
Jessica Oyelowo (Sleepy Hollow)
Stephen Wright (Highlander: The Source)
Sam Troughton (Robin Hood)
Ronan Vibert (The Panist)
Laura Donnelly (Sugar Rush)
Leon Ford (East West 101)
Anatole Taubman (Band of Brothers)
Jemuna Avey (Eastenders)
Katrine De Candole (X-Men: First Class)
Jemma Powell (The Hole)

Hex is set at a remote English school, Medenham Hall, which occupies the former manor house and grounds of the McBain estate. It was the site of an 18th-century witchcraft scandal in which the female members of the line, the Medenham Witches, were tried and executed. Cassie, who raised herself in a single-parent household caring for her mentally unstable mother, has latent telekinetic, pyrokinetic and clairvoyant abilities that are awakened when she touches an antique vase that had been used in Voodoo rituals by the Medenham Witches. Her roommate, Thelma (who harbors an ill-concealed crush on Cassie), discovers that Cassie is a descendant of the Medenham Witches. Cassie has startling visions and dreams that she strives to interpret, and also struggles with controlling her growing telekinetic and pyrokinetic powers, which she is only able to summon in times of stress.

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Cassie is stalked by a “dangerous looking” stranger who calls himself Azazeal. Initially glimpsed fleetingly, he becomes increasingly bold, even entering into the student’s rooms later in the series without warning or permission. Azazeal is revealed to be the leader of the biblical Nephilim, fallen angels, and he claims to be in love with Cassie. He has had previous relationships with schoolmistress Jo Watkins and Cassie’s own mother, which may have contributed to her mental illness.

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Frustrated by his inability to convince Cassie that his claims are sincere, Azazeal kills Thelma before Cassie’s eyes as a sacrifice to increase his power and prove that he is truly who he says he is. This act has two unintentional consequences: his power over Cassie is initially weakened by the shock, and Thelma thereafter continues to share Cassie’s room as a ghost that only Cassie, Azazeal and other ghosts can see. Thelma never forgives Azazeal for her own death, and is a strong voice against him to Cassie, who has grown to have feelings for him. Thelma is unable to touch the living, but she can touch other ghosts and presumably manipulate inanimate objects (including clothing, artifacts, books, doors, window sashes, and vending machines) and eat, which she does constantly (since ghosts cannot gain weight). Thelma works behind the scenes to spy on Azazeal and gather evidence from places where Cassie cannot enter. Cassie, while horrified by some of Azazeal’s behaviour, ultimately finds herself drawn into his power. Azazeal possesses Cassie, and while under his power, she gives herself to him and they conceive a child.

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Thelma learns from Peggy, the ghost of a woman who died in the 1918 influenza pandemic, that the gestation of Azazeal’s child is weakening the veil between worlds, allowing more ghosts to appear to the living. If the child is born, the veil will be torn, allowing the rest of the Nephilim to enter our world. If the pregnancy is terminated, the veil will heal, preventing the Nephilim from returning and leaving Azazeal the only one of his kind in our world. But there is a side effect: ghosts will also vanish from this world. Cassie, after much convincing from Thelma decides that her fetus must be aborted, although it is growing at an alarming rate. A week after conception, the doctors believe she is nearing the end of her second trimester. Thelma assists Cassie, without telling her that success means that she may never see Cassie again. Azazeal tries to interfere and save his son, but Cassie goes through with the abortion…or so she thinks. When Thelma realizes that Cassie can still see her, Thelma knows that something has not gone right. Cassie discovers weeks later that the doctor who performed her procedure has been influenced by Azazeal, and that the baby is alive and in Azazeal’s care.

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Hex is sometimes compared to Joss Whedon’s classic Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and it’s easy to see why a surface connection can be made. Both shows focus on pretty young women with supernatural powers, who face all sorts of strange demons and creatures. There’s even some scenes set at a local club, where Cassie encounters some foes, that will evoke memories of The Bronze for Buffy fans.

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However, the shows aren’t truly identical. Hex is a much more somber affair, playing almost everything very straight and without the knowing comic edge Buffy had. This isn’t a bad thing in and of itself, but it does lead to the show sometimes straining to not become too campy, as some of the plot points are pretty out there, and more of an acknowledgement of that within the show would be nice. Also, in the early episodes, there are some redundant moments that nearly become comical – note how many times we cut to Fassbender ominously standing and watching from afar. Thankfully Rooper is present, as her character, who goes through some rather huge changes early on, adds some much needed sarcasm and humor, and the actress is a very quirky and appealing presence.

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Hex is a very attractive show, and not just because its stars are easy on the eyes – There’s a good deal of sex going on throughout the series, which never quote pins down just how old these kids are. The show is very well shot and cinematic, with the beautiful grounds of the school looking ominous and impressive. The soundtrack is also very cool.

Thelma discovers that Azazeal is raising the child, who is walking already, in an abandoned nearby church. She and Cassie decide that they must somehow get the child, whom Azazeal has named “Malachi”, but are clueless as to how to accomplish this. Azazeal becomes aware that they are watching him and tries to convince Cassie that he only wants her to join them so that they can be a “real family”. Cassie, still partially under his spell, is obviously attracted by the prospect but retains enough of herself to know that this is something she should not want.

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While Cassie and Thelma strategize, new characters are introduced at the school while old ones depart. Troy, convinced that Cassie’s child is his, left the school at the end of the first series. Jo Watkins, having “really let herself go,” is seldom seen at school as she has become Azazeal’s live-in nurse and nanny. The school gains a new chaplain, Jez Heriot, who doesn’t “wear the uniform” except when conducting services and also teaches Ethics. When Jo effectively disappears, David Tyrel asks Jez to take her classes as well. The students don’t initially realize that he is a priest, and Roxanne is quite taken with him, so much so that she can’t help but seduce him even after the truth is known. A new student arrives at Medenham: Ella Dee. Her wardrobe instantly wins her points with the boys, evokes jealousy in the girls, and makes the faculty uncomfortable. Thelma is mildly attracted until she realizes that Ella can see her. There are other anomalies: Ella’s tuition is paid by a corporation and her family background is unknown. She also seems to know entirely too much about Cassie… and Azazeal.

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Ella (Laura Pyper) drawing a magical Hexagram in order to protect Cassie (Christina Cole) in the episode “Death Takes the Mother.”  It is quickly revealed that Ella is definitely not what she seems. She is 445 years old and the daughter of John Dee. Ella is also a witch and has been hunting Azazeal for centuries. So far, she has been very successful in preventing Azazeal from begetting a son by a mortal witch. This time, however, Ella was too late. Her mission: kill Malachi.

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Ella instantly takes charge of both Cassie and Thelma, and formulates a plan to kidnap Malachi and sacrifice him in the school chapel. They are successful in grabbing the child, but Azazeal follows them and a series of alternately foolish and selfish decisions leads the girls inexorably to tragedy. With Azazeal present, Cassie loses her resolve and throws her body between Ella and Malachi. She dies instantly when Ella can’t stop her killing blow, and Azazeal regains Malachi and retreats.

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Ella tries to devise a new strategy while Thelma tries to deal with her deep sense of loss, but Ella loses her edge as she feels herself falling for Leon. Azazeal appeals to Thelma’s own selfish desires and convinces her to steal and give him the Stone of Belial, one of Ella’s objects of power, in exchange for a last meeting with Cassie. Jez is revealed to be Ramiel, another Nephilim and Azazeal’s “right-hand entity”. With the Stone in their possession, Azazeal and Ramiel conspire to drive Ella insane by forcing her to relive the 17th century witch trial in which she was found guilty and nearly executed. Azazeal uses the Stone of Belial on Thelma, who travels back to Ella’s witch trial and rescues her from execution in the past. Ramiel’s scheming and manipulation leads to Ella’s commitment in an insane asylum, where a triumphant Azazeal seemingly abandons her.
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Ella rapidly ages as she is stripped of her powers, but after Leon is brought in on her secret and is granted the power to see Thelma, he helps to revive her using the Volta. A friend of Leon’s who helped him get Ella out of the hospital (where she was cared for by Azazeal’s lover Perie the Faerie) is tortured by Azazeal and the now teenaged Malachi, who kills him out of pity. Azazeal is asked to leave by “higher powers” and enlists Malachi at Medenham Hall. He and Ella say their goodbyes; with Malachi born, Ella has no desire to kill him, and Azazeal leaves the Stone of Belial in Malachi’s possession. Ella kills Jez and makes it look like suicide, precipitated by the revelation that he was having an affair with a student, which deeply affects Roxanne, who felt responsible because she had seduced him.
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Ella and Malachi romance one another magically and otherwise, and their respective mentors, the Archangel Raphael and the demon Mephistopheles, both use psychological tactics to get them to do as they wish. Ella and Malachi eventually have sex, as the evil side had wanted, and by fulfilling Ella’s true desire (to be normal), she is made a slave to Malachi – his succubus. Malachi kills a lesbian girl named Maya so that her ghost can consort with Thelma and give him leverage. Ella’s enslavement to Malachi is ended by Thelma, who invaded her dreams and invoked her greatest fear: fire. Leon attempts to kill Malachi, but is betrayed by Thelma (in hopes of keeping her and Maya together in the living world) and saved by Ella after Malachi sends a fallen Archangel, Sariel, to attack him. Mephistopheles betrays the cause of evil by helping Ella save Leon, who he feels did not need to die, and is subsequently punished and has his eyes removed. Raphael falls from grace by trying to rape Ella, who announces at this point that she no longer works for Raphael’s master, God, and is a freelance agent at last.

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Ella loses all her feelings for Malachi, who quickly moves on to romancing Alex and other girls in the school. He eventually seduces the entire student body, creating an army of succubi and incubi that makes him too powerful for Ella to kill. The only students who are not converted are Roxanne (who becomes a “pure soul” in her quest for forgiveness from God for seducing Jez and causing his apparent suicide), Tom (who is secretly gay, in love with Leon, and impossible to convert because Malachi cannot make Leon love him back), Thelma (because after Ella later kills Maya, he has no hold over her), and Ella herself, who had already been freed from Malachi’s spell. Ella digs up Maya’s corpse and beheads it, which destroys Maya’s lingering presence on Earth. Leon tries to kill Alex but cannot go through with it, leaving him feeling inferior to Ella. Jo Watkins, Cassie’s former teacher and Azazeal’s former lover, returns as Malachi’s new emissary from the “higher powers” and restores her position as headmistress by framing David Tyrel for embezzlement of school funds. Malachi cannot convert Tom, so he fakes the “mark of Malachi” on his neck and ensures that Leon will see it. Fooled by the false mark, Leon kills Tom, but by doing so, he achieves his greatest desire (not being inferior to Ella) and becomes an incubus of Malachi’s.

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Leon almost kills Ella with knowledge gained from the Book of Orokiah, but Thelma helps to save her. He is locked in a cage and sedated, at which point Thelma saves him from Malachi by invoking his greatest fear (having his penis amputated). Returned to normal, he still ends his relationship with Ella and leaves the school. Roxanne is given the ability to see ghosts, and Thelma pretends to be an angel to get her to steal the Stone of Belial back from Malachi. Ella uses the Stone to travel back in time and attempts to kill Malachi while he is still a baby (at the end of Series 1), but she is attacked by Perie the Faerie and receives a mortal wound to the chest. Ella returns to Medenham Hall where she confesses her love for Leon as she lies dying under the watchful eyes of Thelma. Rejected by Hell, Mephistopheles convinces Leon to return, where he saves Ella by cauterizing her wound. Malachi sacrifices the pure-of-heart Roxanne to “enrage God” by killing one of “His creatures.” The school is set ablaze and Thelma, Ella, and Leon escape from it to a field somewhere. As Malachi has started the “End of Days,” described by Mephistopheles as the final battle between good and evil, the series ends with blood pouring from a rock bearing the mark of Azazeal, similar to Malachi’s.

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The pacing of these episodes are much quicker compared with the first season, New character  Ella is dark, interesting, unpredictable and can fight like the best of them! Leon is also brought to the forefront and undergoes a great deal of character development; which was nice to see. Thelma is as always a joy to watch, and manages to get herself into some considerably grey moral areas. Over the course of the season a lot changes and we see these characters attempt to deal with the events that take place with varying degrees of success. This leads to a lot of character growth and dark subject matter. Hex as a show is very dark, not just in the way its lit, but in its tone and ambiance. Which is partly what I enjoy the most, that while its a very dark almost adult show, it retains a great deal of realism at the same time.