REVIEW: SAVAGES

CAST

Taylor Kitsch (John Carter)
Blake Lively (Green Lantern)
Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Nocturnal Animals)
John Travolta (The Punisher)
Benicio del Toro (Guardians of The Galaxy)
Salma Hayek (Dogma)
Demián Bichir (The Heat)
Sandra Echeverría (The Secret Life of Pets)
Emile Hirsch (alpha Dog)
Joaquín Cosío (Hot Pursuit)
Mia Maestro (Alias)
Shea Whigham (Agent Carter)
Joel David Moore (Julia X)
Trevor Donovan (Takers)
Ali Wong (American Housewife)
Leonard Roberts (Mom)

Best friends Chon (Taylor Kitsch) and Ben (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) are marijuana growers in Laguna Beach, California. Chon, a former Navy SEAL, smuggled the seeds for the plants out of Afghanistan. Ben, a University of California, Berkeley graduate in business and botany, cultivates the marijuana. The seeds yield a particularly potent strain, which develops a wide customer base. Chon and Ben become wealthy, and Ben devotes time and money to charity work in Africa and Asia. They are both openly in a relationship with Ophelia Sage (Blake Lively).The trio receives a video from Mexican drug-cartel enforcer Miguel “Lado” Arroyo (Benicio del Toro) of severed heads and a chainsaw, and Arroyo demands a meeting at which the cartel offers a partnership. Although Chon and Ben offer to hand over their network and get out of the business, the cartel wants their expertise and insists on a partnership. Chon and Ben make plans with Ophelia to go to Indonesia for a year, not telling her that they are fleeing the cartel. They speak to corrupt DEA agent Dennis Cain (John Travolta), who is on the take from them and who urges them to join the cartel. Ophelia is kidnapped by Lado’s gang; Chon and Ben are notified of the kidnapping by a video call from cartel leader Elena Sánchez (Salma Hayek), who threatens to harm Ophelia if they decline the partnership.They discuss the situation with Dennis, who tells them that Elena is facing the loss of her political connections in Mexico (foiling her efforts to move into the US). Since she has already lost most of her family, Dennis says that he has nothing on her that can help them. Chon stabs Dennis in the hand and demands DEA intelligence so they can attack Elena. With help from Chon’s Navy SEAL friends, he and Ben attack a cartel money convoy and kill seven of Elena’s men.Ophelia, held in horrible conditions, demands to speak to whoever is in charge. Lado drugs and rapes her in retaliation for going over his head. Elena, traveling to the US to visit her daughter and deal with the escalating situation, has Ophelia brought with her. Chon and Ben frame high-ranking cartel member Alex (Demián Bichir) as an agent of Elena’s rival, El Azul. With Dennis’ help, they falsify evidence and give it to Lado. Lado tortures Alex to force a confession. After Alex confesses, Lado covers him with petrol and forces Ben to ignite the petrol; Ophelia is forced to watch. Lado double-crosses Elena and begins working with El Azul.Ben and Chon pay Dennis $3 million for information about Elena’s daughter, Magda (Sandra Echeverria), and the name of his informant in Elena’s cartel. They kidnap Magda and video-call Elena to establish that they are now in control. With Elena at their mercy, they arrange a desert meeting to exchange Ophelia and Magda at which snipers from both sides are in position. Elena asks who revealed her daughter’s location, and Chon tells her it was Lado. She tries to kill Lado, but he shoots her first; a firefight erupts, and Chon is shot several times. Lado is shot in the back by Ben, but shoots him in the neck before Ophelia kills him. Ben is mortally wounded, and Chon injects him, Ophelia and himself with a fatal overdose so they can die together.Ophelia wakes from a nightmare. At the meeting, Lado steals Elena’s car and escapes as Dennis leads DEA agents to the scene. Everyone but Lado and Magda are arrested. Because Ben has incriminating information about Dennis, Dennis identifies Ben and Chon as his informants in the cartel and they are released. Elena is sentenced to thirty years in prison, and El Azul and Lado create a new cartel called the Azulados. Ben, Chon and Ophelia leave the country and live in a beachside hut, possibly in Indonesia. Ophelia wonders if they are living like savages.Savages was an excellent movie. Plain and simple. It was filled with the perfect amount of action and drama. I thought the acting was very good and the storyline was phenomenal.

 

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REVIEW: AMERICAN SNIPER

CAST

Bradley Cooper (Joy)
Sienna Miller (Foxcatcher)
Luke Grimes (All The Boys Love Mandy Lane)
Jake McDorman (Limitless TV)
Cory Hardrict (Crazy/Beautiful)
Navid Negahban (Charlie Wilson’s War)
Keir O’Donnell (Wedding Crashers)
Kyle Gallner (Veronica Mars)
Sam Jaeger (Hart’s War)
Sammy Sheik (Nikita)
Mido Hamada (Homeland)
Eric Close (Dark Skies)
Brian Hallisay (The Client List)
Leonard Roberts (Buffy)
Marnette Patterson (Starship Troopers 3)
Max Charles (The Neighbors)

Growing up in Texas, Chris Kyle is taught by his father how to shoot a rifle and hunt deer. Years later, Kyle has become a ranch hand and rodeo cowboy, and returns home early, to find his girlfriend in bed with another man. After telling her to leave, he is mulling it over with his brother when he sees news coverage of the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings and decides to enlist in the Navy. He qualifies for special training and becomes a U.S. Navy SEALs sniper.Kyle meets Taya Studebaker at a bar, and the two soon marry. He is sent to Iraq after the September 11 attacks. His first kills are a woman and boy who attacked U.S. Marines with a Russian made RKG-3 anti-tank grenade. Kyle is visibly upset by the experience but later earns the nickname “Legend” for his many kills. Assigned to hunt for the al-Qaeda leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Kyle interrogates a family whose father offers to lead the SEALs to “The Butcher”, al-Zarqawi’s second-in-command. The plan goes awry when The Butcher captures the father and his son, killing them while Kyle is pinned down by a sniper using a Romanian PSL sniper rifle. This sniper goes by the name Mustafa and is an Olympic Games medalist from Syria. Meanwhile, the insurgents issue a bounty on Kyle.Kyle returns home to his wife and the birth of his son. He is distracted by memories of his war experiences and by Taya’s concern for them as a couple – she wishes he would focus on his home and family.Kyle leaves for a second tour and is promoted to Chief Petty Officer. Involved in a shootout with The Butcher, he helps in killing him. When he returns home to a newborn daughter, Kyle becomes increasingly distant from his family. On Kyle’s third tour, Mustafa seriously injures a unit member, Ryan “Biggles” Job, and the unit is evacuated back to base. When they decide to return to the field and continue the mission, another SEAL, Marc Lee, is killed by gunfire.Guilt compels Kyle to undertake a fourth tour, and Taya tells him that she may not be there when he returns. Back in Iraq, Kyle is assigned to kill Mustafa, who has been sniping U.S. Army combat engineers building a barricade. Kyle’s sniper team is placed on a rooftop inside enemy territory. Kyle spots Mustafa and takes him out with a risky long distance shot at 2,100 yards (1,920 m), but this exposes his team’s position to numerous armed insurgents. In the midst of the firefight, and low on ammunition, Kyle tearfully calls Taya and tells her he is ready to come home. A sandstorm provides cover for a chaotic escape in which Kyle is injured and almost left behind.After Kyle gets back, on edge and unable to adjust fully to civilian life, he is asked by a Veterans Affairs psychiatrist if he is haunted by all the things he did in war. When he replies that it is “all the guys he couldn’t save” that haunt him, the psychiatrist encourages him to help severely wounded veterans in the VA hospital. After that Kyle gradually begins to adjust to home life. Years later, on February 2, 2013, Kyle says goodbye to his wife and family as he leaves in good spirits to spend time with a veteran at a shooting range. An on-screen subtitle reveals: “Chris Kyle was killed that day by a veteran he was trying to help”, followed by archive footage of crowds standing along the highway for his funeral procession. More are shown attending his memorial service.This film, contrary to some reviews, does not glorify war nor killing. It doesn’t hide the horrors of war, and certainly doesn’t romanticize it, nor the toll it takes on the man and his life, his relationship with the civil world. It is brutal and ugly, because that’s what war is. Something one forgets about, the reality of it, the real men who fight for everyone’s safety and liberty. Bradley Cooper is remarkable in his portray of Chris Kyle, especially the way he holds his jaws, mouth and lips.

REVIEW: SMALLVILLE – SEASON 1-10

CAST

Tom Welling (The Fog)
Kristin Kreuk (Beauty and the Beast)
Michael Rosenbaum (Urban Legend)
Eric Johnson (Flash Gordon)
Sam Jones III (Glory Road)
Allison Mack (Superman/Batman: Public Enemies)
Annette O’ Toole (IT)
John Schneider (Desperate Housewives)
John Glover (Robocop 2)
Erica Durance (The Butterfly Effect 2)
Jensen Ackles (Supernatural)
Aaron Ashmore (The Skulls 2)
Justin Hartley (Chuck)
Laura Vandervoort (Bitten)
Cassidy Freeman (Yellowbrickroad)
Sam Witwer (Being Human)
Callum Blue (Dead Like Me)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Sarah-Jane Redmond (V)
Chad Donella (Final Destination)
Gabrielle Rose (Catch and Release)
Jason Connery (Wishmaster 3)
Hiro Kanagawa (Heroes Reborn)
David Paetkau (Flashpoint)
Lizzy Caplan (Cloverfield)
Mitchell Kosterman (White Noise)
Michael Coristine (Get Over It)
Eric Christian Olsen (Tru Calling)
Jackie Burroughs (The Dead Zone)
George Murdock (Star Trek V)
Amy Adams (Batman V Superman)
Malcolm Stewart (Timecop)
Joe Morton (Terminator 2)
Robert Wisden (Watchmen)
Tony Todd (Chuck)
Kelly Brook (The Italian Job)
Azura Skye (Red Dragon)
Rick Peters (Veronica Mars)
Kevin McNulty (Elektra)
Tom O’Brien (The Accused)
Shawn Ashmore (X-Men)
Kavan Smith (Stargate SG.1)
Evangeline Lilly (Lost)
Corin Nemec (Parker Lewis Can’t Lose)
Cameron Dye (Valley Girl)
Eric Breker (Walking Tall)
Jud Tyler (That 70s Show)
Nicki Clyne (Saved)
Ryan Kelley (Teen Wolf)
Brandy Ledford (Andromeda)
Rekha Sharma (Dark Angel)
Tiffany Lyndall-Knight (Wolf Creek: The Series)
Marguerite Moreau (Easy)
Shonda Farr (Crossroads)
Adam Brody (The OC)
Kevan Ohtsji (Godzilla)
Aaron Douglas (Battlestar Galactica)
Krista Allen (The Final Destination)
Sara Downing (Roswell)
Sean Faris (The Brotherhood 2)
Richard Moll (Scary Movie 2)
Gwynyth Walsh (Star Trek: Generations)
Maggie Lawson (Two and a Half Men)
George Coe (The Entity)
Richard Gant (Rocky V)
Neil Grayston (Wonderfalls)
Patrick Cassidy (Lois & Clark)
Martin Cummins (Dark Angel)
William B. Davis (The X-Files)
Jonathan Taylor Thomas (Home Imporvement)
Emmanuelle Vaugier (Two and a Half Men)
David Richmond-Peck (V)
Tamara Feldman (Hatchet)
Gordon Tootoosis (Legends of The Fall)
Byron Mann (Arrow)
Adrianne Palicki (Agents of Shield)
Colin Cunningham (Elektra)
Jill Teed (Highlander: The Series)
Paul McGillion (Stargate: Atlantis)
Rob LaBelle (Jack Frost)
Paul Wesley (The Vampire Diaries)
Cristopher Reeve (Superman: The Movie)
Camille Mitchell (Caprica)
Steve Bacic (Andromeda)
Michael Adamthwaite (Sucker Punch)
Zachery Ty Bryan (Fast and Furious 3)
Neil Flynn (Scrubs)
Jodelle Ferland (Kingdom Hospital)
Terence Stamp (Superman 1 & 2)
Rutger Hauer (Blade Runner)
Ryan Robbins (Arrow)
Francoise Yip (Robocop: Prime Directives)
Jesse Metcalfe (Dallas)
Katharine Isabelle (Ginger Snaps)
Christopher Shyer (V)
John DeSantis (The New Addams Family)
Michael McKean (This Is Spinal Tap)
Lorena Gale (Battlestar Galactica)
Kendall Cross (X-Men 2)
Michael Dangerfield (Catwoman)
Ian Somerhalder (The Vampire Diaries)
Missy Peregrym (Heroes)
Meghan Ory (Dark Angel)
Ryan Merriman (Final Destination 3)
Sarah Carter (D.O.A.)
Lynda Boyd (Power Rangers In Space)
Tahmoh Penikett (Battlestar Galactica)
Gary Hudson (Mutant X)
Teryl Rothery (Stargate SG.1)
Nathaniel Arcand (Pathfinder)
Amber Rothwell (Andromeda)
Brandon Jay McLaren (Power Rangers SPD)
Margot Kidder (The Amityville Horror)
Ona Grauer (V)
Michael Ironside (Scanners)
Amanda Walsh (Disturbia)
Kyle Gallner (Veronica Mars)
Trent Ford (The Island)
Jane Seymour (Wedding Crashers)
Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother)
John Pyper-Ferguson (Caprica)
Derek Hamilton (Ripper)
Peyton List (The Flash)
Chris Carmack (Into The Blue 2)
John Novak (Wishmaster 3 & 4)
Nolan Gerard Funk (Arrow)
Peter Wingfield (Highlander: The Series)
Beatrice Rosen (Chasing Liberty)
Kandyse McClure (Battlestar Galactica)
Jonathan Bennett (Veronica Mars)
Tom Butler (Blade: The Series)
Steven Grayhm (White Chicks)
David Orth (The Lost World)
James Marsters (Buffy)
Leonard Roberts (Heroes)
Alana De La Garza (Scorpion)
Kenny Johnson (Bates Motel)
Johnny Lewis (Felon)
Alan Ritchson (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Carrie Fisher (Star Wars)
Erica Cerra (The 100)
Brooke Nevin (Infestation)
Top Wopat (Django Unchained)
Noah Danby (Bitten)
Alisen Down (Case 39)
Adrian Holmes (Arrow)
Jorge Vargas (Power Rangers Ninja Storm)
Annie Burgstede (CSI)
Sarah Lind (Wolfcop)
Denise Quinones (Aquman 2006)
Lee Thompson Young (Flashforward)
Nichole Hiltz (Bones)
Mackenzie Gray (Man of Steel)
Emily Hirst (Blade: The Series)
Anne Marie Deluise (Goosebumps)
Callum Rennie (Legends of Tomorrow)
Ian Tracey (Bates Motel)
Alex Scarlis (8mm 2)
Jody Thompson (Flash Gordon)
Pascale Hutton (Sanctuary)
Lochlyn Munro (Little man)
Amber McDonald (Gloria)
Lucas Grabeel (Milk)
Bow Wow (Like Mike)
Dave Bautista (Guardians of The Galaxy)
Mike Dopud (Stargate Universe)
Phil Morris (Meet The Spartans)
Tori Spelling (Scary Movie 2)
Matthew Walker (Alone In The Dark)
Greyston Holt (Bitten)
Benjamin Ayres (The Vampire Diaries)
Lynda Carter (Wonder Woman)
Emily Holmes (Dark Angel)
Gerard Plunkett (Sucker Punch)
Anna Galvin (Caprica)
Michael Cassidy (Batman V Superman)
Tom McBeath (Bates Motel)
Peter Bryant (Dark Angel)
Kim Coates (The Amityville Curse)
Christina Milian (be Cool)
Christopher Jacot (Mutant X)
Helen Slater (Supergirl)
Christopher Heyerdahl (Sanctuary)
Elyse Levesque (Stargate Universe)
Tim Guinee (Stargate SG.1)
Marc McClure (Superman: The Movie)
Alaina Huffman (Painkiller Jane)
Gina Holden (Flash Gordon)
Anne Openshaw (The Grey)
Robert Picardo (Star Trek: Voyager)
Ari Cohen (Gangland Undercover)
Donnelly Rhodes (Battlestar Galactica)
Sara Canning (The Vampire Diaries)
Jessica Parker Kennedy (The Secret Circle)
Charlotte Sullivan (Defendor)
Anna Williams (Blonde and Blonder)
Kyle Schmid (Arrow)
Ryan Kennedy (Caprica)
Alexz Johnson (Devil’s Diary)
Calum Worthy (Daydream Nation)
Dario Delacio (War)
Ty Olsson (Izombie)
Alessandro Juliani (Man of Steel)
Ted Whittall (Beauty and The Beast)
Chris Gauthier (Watchmen)
Stephen Lobo (Painkiller jane)
Serinda Swan (Tron Legacy)
Connor Stanhope (American Mary)
Dominic Zamprogna (Odyssey 5)
Nels Lennarson (Sanctuary)
Brendan Flecther (Bloodrayne 3)
Anna Mae Wills (2012)
Monique Ganderton (American Ultra)
Sharon Taylor (Stargate: Atlantis)
Brian Austin Green (Termiantor: TSCC)
Steph Song (War)
Elise Gatien (Izombie)
Emilie Ullerup (Sanctuary)
Julian Sands (Gotham)
Dean Cain (Lois & Clark)
Allison Scagliotti (Warehouse 13)
Dylan Neal (Arrow)
David Gallagher (Super 8)
Anita Torrance (Caprica)
Pam Grier (jackie Brown)
Michael Shanks (Stargate SG.1)
Brent Stait (Androemda)
Britt Irvin (V)
Wesley MacInnes (Warcraft)
Jim Shield (Final Destination 3)
Roger Haskett (Paycheck)
Ken Lawson (Descendants)
Erica Carroll (Apollo 18)
Crystal Lowe (Poison Ivy 4)
Sean Rogerson (Bitten)
Odessa Rae (Hard Candy)
Jonthan Walker (Red)
Gil Bellows (Flashforward)
Blu Mankuma (Robocop: The Series)
Keri Lynn Pratt (Cruel Intentions 2)
Bradley Stryker (The Lizzie Borden Chronicles)
Sahar Biniaz (Watchmen)
Lexa Doig (Andromeda)
Christine Willes (Dead Like me)
Steve Byers (Mutant X)
Teri Hatcher (Lois & Clark)
Lindsay Hartley (All My ChildreN)
Michael Hogan (Battlestar Galctica)
James Kidnie (Arrow)
Aleks Paunovic (Mutant X)
Sebastian Spence (First wave)
Aliyah O’Brien (If I Stay)

Maybe it is that Superman is truly indestructible or that the Man of Steel, who was picked recently as one of the Top 10 American pop culture icons, is so respected that not even Hollywood would dare tug on his cape, because “Smallville” is another successful small screen version of the strange visitor from another planet. Of course, the great irony is that this time around there is no cape to tug on because this television series is about Clark Kent, years before he put on the suit with the big red “S,” when he was still in high school, his powers were just starting to kick in, and the girl in his life with the double L name was Lana Lang.


Keep in mind that when Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel created the Man of Steel in 1939 there was no Superboy until 1949, when he began part of the futuristic Legion of Super-Heroes. All we knew about the early days is that just before the doomed planet Krypton exploded to fragments, a scientist placed his infant son within an experimental rocket ship, launching it toward earth. When the vessel reached our planet, the child was found by an elderly couple, the Kents. They adopted the super tyke and with love and guidance shaped the boy’s future. As he grew older Clark Kent learned to hurdle skyscrapers, leap an eighth of a mile, raise tremendous weights, run faster than a streamline train, and that nothing less than a bursting shell could penetrate his skin. When his foster parents passed away, Clark decided he must turn his titanic strength into channels that would benefit mankind. The key part of “Smallville” is that creators Alfred Gough and Miles Millar go back to the simple beginning, with young Clark (Tom Welling) growing up on the Kent farm with Martha (Annette O’Toole) and Jonathan (John Schneider). From the “Superboy” comic books the series borrows the characters of girl next-door Lana Lang (Kristin Kreuk) and best buddy Pete Ross (Sam Jones III). But in addition to covering the basics, Gough and Millar come up with a key triad of additions to the original Smallville mythos.


First, they add young Lex Luthor (Michael Rosenbaum) to the mix, knowing that he and Superman are fated to be (im)mortal enemies, but that for the present he and Clark are friends (after Clark saves Lex’s life in a car accident that should have killed them both). The key thing is that they truly are friends and that “Smallville” is as much about how Lex would become a super villain as it is about how Clark would become a super hero. Throw into the mix Daddy Dearest in the form of Lionel Luthor (John Glover), and Lex would have already pulled all of his hair out if it were not for what happened that fateful day in Smallville.


Second, is the brilliant reconceptualization of Superman’s arrival on earth where the small spacecraft shows up in the middle of a shower of glowing green meteors that are all that remains of the planet Krypton. As much as the little boy in that spaceship, those meteors change Smallville forever, turning a little girl into an orphans and a young boy bald, and the small Kansas town into the self proclaimed meteor capital of the world. More importantly, those little green rocks will have continue to have an impact as they cause a series of mutations with which young Clark will have to contend. This also accounts for the great in-joke that Clark always becomes a bumbling idiot around Lana because she wears a locket made of kryptonite. Third, there is the multi-purpose character of Chloe Sullivan (Allison Mack). The driving force of the Smallville High School student newspaper her “Wall of the Weird” documents all the strange things that have happened around Smallville since the meteor shower, making her the show’s resident mistress of exposition.

But she is also the tragic figure who longs for Clark the way he casts puppy dog glances at Lana, creating a nice example of teenage love triangle pathos. Overall, Miller and Gough had created an extremely solid premise for their series, which creates multi-dynamics for all of the plotlines. The first season (2001) is book ended by some great special effects, with the devastating arrival of the meteors in the pilot and the three twisters becoming one in the thrilling cliffhanger finale. My only serious complaint is that Schneider’s Jonathan Kent has too much of an angry edge, which takes away from his font of parental wisdom. Martha really needs to mellow him out so that he cuts Clark some slack. I understand that Jonathan is motivated by fears and concerns about his son, but I always liked the gentle influence personified by Glenn Ford in the first Christopher Reeve “Superman” film. Turning adolescent traumas into mutant monsters of the week is a hit and miss proposition, but that was true of the first season of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” as well, and look at how well that series turned out. Yes, we can also throw into the mix that Clark and Lana are played by a couple of cute young actors. Welling is not too serious as the kid who is going to grow up to be the hero who stands for truth, justice, and the American way, and I was going to say Kruek was the WB’s new Katie Holmes except after her soft-core Lana scene in the school swimming pool goes way beyond the world’s biggest collection of midriff revealing tops. But the bottom line here is that either the Clark-Lana or the Clark-Lex would be enough to make this a good show and “Smallville” has both of them and a lot more, including the brilliant metaphor of the scarecrow immortalized in the DVD collection’s cover shot.

Starting a moment after the season one finale Smallville continues the story of Clark’s younger years. This season really stands out in memory, the sheer quality of the episodes is amazing, there are more memorable episodes in this series than in any other combined. Furthermore there is a movement away from “freak of the wekk” episodes, with several episodes reveolving around the characters and their backstory, not monsters and threats to them. Clark’s identity (as Kal-Ell is revealed to him, as is the fate of Krypton), Pete find oout about Clark’s secret, Red K causes havoc turning Clark into a moralless teenager, secrets about Clark’s adoption and Lex’s brother are revealed, Clark lays on his deathbed and Clark is told to leave Smallville and complete his father’s quest to rule the planet.

Along with these arks, there is the continuing storyline of Chloe and Clark, that was left hanging in Tempest, this slops both Clark and Lana coming closer as Chloe looks on sadly. Clark’s adoption is revealed to have been organised by Lionel Luthor (who is also blinded at the beginning of the season), Lionel and Lex jokel against each other as Lionel quashes Lexcorp, and Clark is appauled by the intrustions of his father. This is one of my favourite season, as it was for the viewing figures (check wiki), characters continue to eveolve and change, and leaving a fantastic cliifhanger which I won’t spoil. If you liked Season 1 you’ll love this, if you loved season 1 you’ll be overjoyed

Season 3 veers constantly between dark and light – light: Perry White arrives in Smallville – played fabulously and hilariously by Annette O’Toole’s real-life husband Michael McKean (note that they have no scenes together), the fact that Jor-El chose the Kents to raise his son; dark: Clark’s antics on Red Kryptonite resulting in serious health issues for Jonathan Kent, Lex’s forays into insanity and back again. There are mainly stand-alone stories this year, although there is the double-headed cliffhanger of Chloe’s apparent death and Clark being stripped of his humanity to be reborn as Kal-El. The actors continue to raise their game, although Sam Jones III seems to be phased out as the season progresses: a sure sign of his departure before the finale.

Also this year Terence Stamp features more prominently as “The Voice of Jor-El” – an intense presence whose determination to enforce his will over his son clashes with the mortal man who raised him. The only drawback of this season is the lingering Clark & Lana love story – will-they, won’t they is fast becoming do they have to? This DVD set features a couple of commentaries although the blooper reel doesn’t contain as many gems as the one featured on series 2. Favourite episodes: Phoenix, Extinction, Perry, Relic, Whisper, Delete, Hereafter, Crisis, Truth, Memoria & Talisman.

In this season there are no stand-alone stories as all 22 episodes provide a piece of the puzzle which is finally revealed in the finale. Tom Welling transcends his previous work on the show as he begins to build his most successful on-screen partnerships – with Allison Mack’s Chloe who returns from the dead to become privy to Clark’s powers and takes the inital steps towards becoming his sidekick and confidante, and Erica Durance’s Lois Lane who crashes into his world and turns it completely upside down.

There are sparks aplenty between Welling & Durance – her face when confronted with her naked co-star in the opening episode is priceless – but the enduring Clark & Lana storyline continues to flare so the viewers have to make do with their hilarious banter and feigned dislike of each other. The only lowlight as far as Welling is concerned this year is Clark’s bewilderment that Lana could possibly move on from him – a trait resumed in Seasons 5 and 6 as Lana moves on yet again and Clark remains stuck in the “Clana mud”. Annette O’Toole also shines this year as Martha Kent steps into the spotlight to save her son. The rest of the cast also continue to shine and the calibre of guest stars keeps on rising, particularly in the season premiere when actress Margot Kidder cameos – ironically in the same episode Smallville’s incarnation of Lois Lane is launched. Favourite episodes: Crusade, Gone, Facade, Devoted, Bound, Pariah, Recruit, Krypto, Lucy, Blank & Commencement.

In the fifth season of Smallville, one chapter ends as another new and exciting chapter begins as Smallville is taken to new heights as the DC Universe is finally blown open as new characters make their appearances felt.


In season five, Clark’s relationship with Lana is at its peak, his friendship with Chloe has never been stronger, and he is finally coming to terms with the discovery of his Kyptonian heritage. But things in Smallville are about to change with the arrival of the mysterious Milton Fine (James Marsters) along with 2 Kryptonians bearing the symbol of ZOD. Whilst his relationship with his friends has never been stronger, Clark finds himself in direct confrontation with Lex Luthor as he is now forced to question whether he and the younger Luthor were ever friends.


Alongside the great continuity drama with the regular leads, this season also sees the arrival of 2 familiar faces from the DC Universe in form of Aquaman and Cyborg who cameo in this season alongside DC villain Brainiac.


James Marsters is a very welcome addition to the cast and plays Fine with confidence and arrogance while Michael Rosenbaum continues to steal the show. The pinnacle moment of the season also sees the very sad departure of a long staning term cast member in what still rates as Smallville’s saddest moment and greatest tear-jerker.

They say timing is everything, and for me the timing of watching season 6 of Smallville for the first time was perfect. Why is that? Because this was the season that introduced their take on Oliver Queen, aka Green Arrow, and I got hooked on the new show about him this last season on TV.

Of course, before we can get to new characters, we have a few cliffhangers to resolve. While all kinds of chaos is reigning down on the citizens of Earth thanks to the evil force that has taken over Lex Luther’s body (Michael Rosenbaum), Clark Kent (Tom Welling) can’t do much about it since he’s trapped in the Phantom Zone. While he does escape and manage to save the day, he unwittingly releases the evil prisoners from the Phantom Zone and must spend some time tracking them down this season. As things return to normal, characters explore new options. Lois Lane (Erica Durance) and Chloe Sullivan (Allison Mack) become roommates and Lois starts a new career as a reporter for a tabloid. They also both get new boyfriends in the two new characters that are introduced. Lois starts dating the previously mentioned Olive Queen (Justin Hartley) while Chloe falls for Jimmy Olsen (Aaron Ashmore), a young photographer at The Daily Planet. Lana Lang (Kistin Kreuk), meanwhile, has moved in with Lex and their relationship becomes more serious when she finds out she is pregnant. Chloe learns a very surprising secret and is reunited with her mom as played by TV’s Wonder Woman herself, Lynda Carter.

Other storylines of the season involve Clark and Oliver’s clashes over how to use their powers for good. Lex is collecting and hiding people with abilities. Those storylines clash when we see the first glimpse of the Justice League Smallville style.
This season is really about the young adults. No one is in college any more (did they all drop out after one season or did they all graduate at lightning speed?) While Lionel Luther (John Glover) is still around being unclear in his intensions, Martha Kent (Annette O’Toole) is given very little to do. And before the season is over, one character makes an exit from the show.

Season 7 demonstrates a real maturity in terms of the characters and the wider Smallville universe. For the characters themselves we obviously have to start with Clark and Lex.

What I love about this series is that you don’t notice subtle changes that are going – its only when there is a sudden abrupt change that you realise that it had been going on for ages and you find yourself saying “Ah!”. Clark in this season is gradually waking up to the fact that his old life is practically gone – most friends and family have moved on. This really hits home with an episode that sees the (thankfully brief) return of Pete. This was a subtle episode that demonstrated that Pete and Clark are very different now – they are friends but have both moved on. Clark towards his greater destiny – Pete to his, well, lesser destiny. But the real tear jerker that forces Clark to face the changes is the video left by Lana in the series finale. Understated and brief – its all the more powerful. Lana functioned as a sort of bubble for Clark – a link back to his carefree past – her leaving all but cuts this.

For Lex – wow. Smallville always managed to avoid having him as a cartoon baddie. What really took off on this season was Lex rushing towards his destiny as the powerful enemy of the “Traveller”. We get to see the childhood of Lex and his inner struggles. The moment that he and Lionel have their final encounter – powerful stuff. But what really hits viewers is Lex’s view of what his destiny was. The link he has with the Traveller, the impact that has had on his life and how it will ultimately play out – this was biblical stuff.

For the overarching storylines of the series. Well a special mention goes to the Veritas saga. Debate rages on message boards across the land about whether or not writers had planned this from the start of the series. Regardless if they did – the Veritas storyline weaves together almost 7 years of storylines. Smallville has always managed to pull of the secret legends stories, particularly in Season 4 and 7. But there is a real epic storylines going in season 7. Other storylines worthy mention: the return of Brainiac – always a joy. Bizzaro is also great fun. Tom welling clearly enjoys playing a baddy instead of straight-laced Clark. That and he gets to wear a blue jacket and red tshirt, instead of vice versa. And Lionel finally meets his maker.

Technically this season shouldn’t have worked; the show’s main villain and arguably most popular character, Lex Luthor (Michael Rosenbaum) has now departed; secondly they were introducing a villain which was virtually impossible to bring to the big screen never mind a television series in Doomsday. However whilst a massive void had been created by Rosenbaum’s departure, it was filled suprisingly very well by the main cast of heroes who finally come into their own this season with performances and stories which intelligently test those who have big destinies to embrace in the Superman era to come. Tom Welling finally begins to take his final steps to becoming Superman and is starting to demonstrate how capapble as lead he is while bringing a new found presence to Clark Kent. There is also an increased number of on-screen scenes between Welling and Erica Durance’s Lois Lane and the result is a relationship which is as funny as it is touching and believable.

Likewise other support characters like Chloe and Jimmy are tested by the new villain in town, Sam Witwer’s Davis Bloome who is a great unique character to the series who undergoes a menacing and horrific transformation as the season unfolds. There is also a welcome return from Justin Hartley’s Oliver Queen who now becomes a series regular after a successful stint in the sixth season and a brief cameo in the seventh. Queen’s character is also successful to the season’s story as his questionable methods bring him into conflict with Clark who is now trying to figure out what sort of hero he wants to become.
The Doomsday story is a well written one in itself and Doomsday is interpreted in a way which is both unique in style yet never undermines the characters standing in the mythology. Sam Witwer is more than capable playing the villain, he lacks perhaps the charisma and flair of Rosenbaum, but the horror given off by his transformations is more than projected out of the screen. The same cannot be said for Cassidy Freeman whose Tess Mercer is terribly aimless and lacking in focus, in terms of a series villain, Rosenbaums absence is felt though not quite fatal.


The season is very well executed in tone, humour and story. There are many episodes which take the series much further and there are some more characters from the D.C Universe in episodes such as ‘Instinct’, ‘Legion’ and ‘Hex’. ‘Bride’, ‘Eternal’ and ‘Beast’ are also exceptional drama episodes featuring Doomsday which keeps building up the season to a final climatic battle.


It is unfortunate therefore that what prevents the season from achieving pure greatness is a series of misjudged stories which threaten to undermine every bit of progress Smallville made this season. The brief reintroduction of an old character in ‘Power’ and ‘Requiem’ was a terrible mistake and unpopular with viewers, as was the apparent demise of another important character. Also while the season does a sensational job in building up the tension towards the final episode, the final episode of the season itself is very weak and sadly anti-climactic. This is a shame since many may feel cheated by a poor resolution but on the plus side, the drama remains top notch throughout and the themes explored this season are never forgotten and never betrayed, even in the finale. Smallville has enjoyed a fantastic return to form overall this season and many fans will be left feeling hopefull of the action and drama to come in the ninth season. Well worth buying though this eighth season.

Season nine is the single greatest season Smallville has ever produced. The show has fully reached its potential and has created a tense, exciting, beautifully shot, clever and romantic season. One with interesting villains; conflicting needs; searching for the right questions; searching for the truth; love and hate and the fine line between it all; finding yourself and finding others. All with the strong undercurrent of destiny. There are around two ‘not so well executed’ episodes that fall short of their goals, but even those are not awful. The four or so main arcs of the season are: the return of a weirdly attractive and charismatic Zod, the blossoming relationship between Lois and Clark, the development of the Blur and the Justice Society. This is a season of triangles. Many carefully subtle and symbolic in nature: triangles between friends, triangles between enemies, the triangle for two. There was a distinct sense of care to this season, unlike the others — it actually felt as if the writers paid close attention to the small things which made the writing feel more cohesive. It’s certainly the case, because something as small as a hand gesture in one episode became a very significant thing later on.

The season opens with ‘Saviour’, as Lois miraculously returns without memory of where she’s been. The only thing hinting at a darker side to this is random flashes and visions, confusing memories. Are they dreams? Visions of a not-so-distant future? This is one of the mysteries of the first half of the season. I love this show but they I’ve never been so engaged as I have when Lois had those first flashes. It was well done and it was gratifying to see Smallville put together a coherent story arc which flowed into other arcs as the previous ones drew to a close. First time ever that I’d been excited to see where the mainplot went!

Tom Welling is now an executive producer so having more creative control over his character is obvious this season — it has a very positive impact on Clark. Clark finds himself being tested. Learning to cope with juggling an overly-inquisitive Lois, an alter-ego as the Blur whilst swiftly returning to his desk at the bullpen. But ultimately, a key theme of this season is his struggle to maintain a balance between who he is and what he could become. This season firmly asks: who will he become? There was some fantastic development for Clark as a character and his relationship with Lois Lane is centre stage the entire time. The writing for them is careful, precise, intimate and is wonderfully nuanced thanks to the actors. It was well established last season that Lois is in love with Clark, and Clark spends this season rightly demonstrating that he loves her back. The Lois and Clark relationship is one of my favourite arcs in season nine. It was so satisfying to see their romantic relationship moved forward without a painfully slow draw-out. There’s a lot of beautiful scenes shared between them and the writers do a brilliant job of showing (yes ‘showing’, not telling) exactly why Lois is the one for Clark.

Zod (Callum Blue) is a fantastic and compelling villain. His dalliances with Tess Mercer are mesmerising to watch. Oliver Queen returns, having hit rock bottom and kept going since the previous finale. There’s a triangle early in the season between Clark, Lois and Oliver. It’s very subtle and one can only be picked up on in a few frames a lot of the time — not something I’ve come to expect from Smallville, whose usual idea of ‘subtle’ is huge honking anvils landing on you when trying to convey something. It peeters away as Oliver grows and changes out of this darker period in his life. Lois develops as a reporter and finds a purpose in life she didn’t dream of before; her character arc was excellent and benefitted from Erica Durance appearing in 18 episodes instead of the usual 13 (yay!). We see the return of many superheroes as well as meet some new ones. I loved this as it’s one of my favourite parts of the series. I liked seeing Bart and Black Canary back in particular. Star Girl was awesome! The superhero epic Absolute Justice (two episodes smooshed together as one) was a highlight of the season and will surely make comic book fans happy. The finale, ‘Salvation’ was a fast paced good quality closing chapter. It set up the next season and moved the story forward at the same time as closing it. The finale fight scene also did not disappoint! For once! Salvation was very much a juggernaught of emotion which wasn’t cheap and empty like Doomsday, but had the weight of a great season of storytelling behind it. It really made all the difference.

This season is well structured with a fascinating story arc which sees time travel as a central concept. In many ways this plotline held far more tension and anticipation than the whole of the Doomsday arc did. I enjoyed feeling fascinated by Zod, insanely wanting answers as to what had happened to Lois when she disappeared, and could barely contain myself when all was revealed in the episode ‘Pandora’. Truly one of the best episodes of the series.

Smallville Season 10 is the culmination of a 10 year journey which set out to follow the life of a young Clark Kent as he accepts his destiny and becomes Superman. So did Smallville go out with a bang or a whimper?

I for one love the final season of Smallville….whenever you are trying to finish off a story it can be difficult especially with a character as iconic as Superman and with the weight of 10 years of expectation but amazingly it manages to produce an end that is befitting of a superman. This season really is all about how Clark Kent finally becomes Superman and almost every episodes deals with this acceptance of destiny. The season kicks of where season 9 ended with Clark Kent falling to his apparent death….this episode kicks off the season on the right note, with nods to the past seasons as well as hints for what the future holds. This season has so many memobrable episodes such as Homecoming, the 200th episode that is one of the best episodes have ever produced, other highlights include: Supergirl, Harvest, Abandoned, Luther, Icarus, Fortune (one of the funniset Smallville episodes ever!), Kent and Booster. You can see just by the number of episodes listed just how good the final season was.


However, what could make of break this season was the two part Finale in which we fianlly see Clark Kent embrace his destiny. I believe that this episode is one of the best finales ever produced, it is important to remember that Smallville is more about Clark Kent then Superman and as such this character takes the focus for the majority of the episode and it benifits for it. These episodes also include the return of Lex Luthor and I think that the scenes between him and Clark are perfect. Also, when Clark finally puts on the suit we get to see more Superman action then I’m sure anyone was expected. And the final scene is a perfect way to finsih the story.


Tom Welling has played Clark Kent for 10 years and every season we have seen him grow as and actor and a director and I think that he has managed to bring new life into this character and took him in a truely unique direction. Although, this show wouldn’t be what it is/was if it wasn’t for the rest of the supporting cast especially Erica Durance who in my mind is the best Lois Lane that the screen has seen and thanks to her acting she has become just as much of the Smallville story as Clark Kent himself.Thank you Smallville for 10 great years and for breathing new life into a an inconic character…you will be missed!

REVIEW: RED SANDS

CAST

Shane West (Nikita)
Leonard Roberts (Heroes)
Aldis Hodge (Leverage)
Callum Blue (Smallville)
Brendan Miller (Project X)
Theo Rossi (Luke Cage)
Noel Gugliemi (Training Day)
Mercedes Mason (The Finder)
J.K. Simmons (Spider-Man)

In 2002, Jeff Keller, who mysteriously survived the slaughter of his troops during a mission, is debriefed by an officer. The facts gathered indicate that he and his soldiers had been ambushed by al-Qaeda fighters who killed them all, leaving Keller for dead. Two weeks before, in September 2002, Keller’s crew gets a mission assignment and is set out to an isolated farmhouse where a family had been slaughtered days before. Their mission is to monitor a road as a sting to catch militants using it to transfer supplies. However, after an unintended stop at a mysterious shrine, a bored member of their group, Chard Davies, fires a few rounds at a stone idol, causing it to shatter. The squad’s interpreter Wilcox believes that it was a shrine to a Djinn, a powerful deity made from a smokeless flame, which in mythology matched the legend of a genie.
They return to their convoy and go to the farmhouse. While there, a series of bizarre events unfold. A sandstorm comes up and the group catches an unnamed Afghan woman running in, seeking shelter. Unable to speak her language they are unable to understand what she is saying, though dubious to her arrival, they keep her in case there are more. During the following days, tension begins to mount in the group. Staff Sergeant Howston is unable to reach any of their allies by radio; when Wilcox attempts to, he hears a strange distress call stating that their sergeant has gone AWOL which Howston cannot hear. Paranoia begins to get the better of them when Howston receives word that they missed a car on the road which they cannot see, and their truck’s ignition system is destroyed one night. Meanwhile, Howston and Wilcox are being haunted by gruesome images of people they had killed in the past.
Wilcox goes missing, and the only witness seems to be team member Tino Hull, who sees another member, Jorge Wardell, giving off a terrifying roar before him. That night, Wilcox’s dead body is found with his eyes removed and his face in a frozen expression of terror, and after a series of vivid and bizarre dreams Hull grabs another member Trevor Anderson and holds him at gunpoint as he accuses Wardell of killing Wilcox. Hull opens fire on Wardell and Davies is forced to retaliate, killing Hull. Howston orders them to take the bodies outside, and the next morning, the group is shocked to find that they are missing. Howston, slowly losing his grip on his sanity, orders Keller and Anderson to keep guard outside while he himself watches to make sure nothing else goes missing. While they are gone, Davies attempts to rape the Afghan girl, and in a heated moment calls Howston a “fucking nigger”, prompting Howston to hit him. In anger, Davies attempts to attack Howston, and Howston finally cracks, killing Davies and ordering Anderson and Keller to stash his body outside.
Afterwards, Howston goes missing, as does the girl as the remaining two attempt to make radio contact, Keller realizes that the voice he heard on the radio was that of Anderson when he makes the same radio call he had heard days prior. The pair plan to make a break for the rest of their group, but the girl appears briefly in the house and Keller goes to find her. Meanwhile, Anderson is confronted by the dead Wilcox who reveals himself to be a hideous creature. Before Anderson can react, however, he is killed by a shot to the head from the stalking Howston. Howston prowls the farm looking for Keller and is shocked when he comes across the same creature that Anderson had seen. His defenses lowered after running, Keller manages to gain the upper hand and slits the Sergeant’s throat. Keller then encounters the Afghan girl, who turns out to be the Djinn, and manages to escape by throwing a grenade into the ammo-filled farmhouse. The following morning, Keller is grabbed by something from underneath the sand and pulled down, disappearing under the desert. The first scene then recaps, and after the commanding officer tells him that he will be returned to the United States, he leaves. Keller then looks toward the camera, his eyes turning black revealing he is in fact the Djinn. As the screen pans out to the desert again it is revealed to the audience that Keller is dead, half buried in the sand, his eyes removed and his mouth open wide in terror. The screen then goes dark, and the credits roll.
Red Sands is a claustrophobic and tense psychological horror movie, with a great surrealistic story that can be interpreted as a madness process of a group of soldiers stranded in a place that they do not understand the culture and the language. Worth Watching for Smallvile’s Callum Blue.

REVIEW: HEROES – THE UNAIRED PILOT

Image result for heroes tv logo
CAST
Milo Ventimiglia (Gotham)
Hayden Panettiere (Bring it on 3)
Jack Coleman (Kingdom Hospital)
Tawny Cypress (Supergirl)
Leonard Roberts (Buffy: The Vampire Slayer)
Santiago Cabrera (Merlin)
Masi Oka (Get Smart)
Greg Grunberg (Alias)
Adrian Pasdar (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D)
Noah Gray-Cabey (My Wife and Kids)
Ali Larter (Final Destination 1 & 2)
Sendhil Ramamurthy (Beauty and the Beast)
Image result for heroes SEASON 1
GUEST CAST
Ashley Crow (The Secret Circle)
Cristine Rose (How I Met Your Mother)
Thomas Dekker (Terminator: TSCC)
Richard Roundtree (Shaft)
watching the unaired pilot of Heroes was like watching a different episode, except not entirely.
I’m glad they didn’t stick with the terrorist storyline, it would’ve been too intense for an introductory of a new show, considering there are plenty of other shows out there that deal with terrorism head-on and Heroes isn’t one of those kinds of shows. Besides, the connection of a man with radioactive abilities and him being in a terrorist group would’ve been too obvious. Although, I have to say the setup was certainly interesting. Then again, too powerful and intense for a pilot episode. The show does have the prophecy of the explosion in New York and some mentioning of terrorism here and there, but it’s not blatantly obvious like what was shown here. I’m not saying that there aren’t people in such organizations or situations that won’t have abilities, but Heroes essentially is a show about hope, and having a terrorism tie-in wouldn’t really give the audience much comfort in that regard. So yeah, I’m glad that got replaced with the Ted Sprague storyline.
Though, another tie-in was Matt Parkman. Originally he wasn’t introduced until the second episode, with the Walker family crime. The unaired pilot showed him finding a hiding terrorist from hearing his Arabic thoughts instead of Molly Walker hidden away in fear. This also shows that Matt wanted to be on the S.W.A.T. team instead of becoming a detective, which is plausible if they’d kept with the terrorist storyline. I find it interesting that they kept how he approached his abilities in both versions: on a crime scene, hears the thoughts of someone, enters crime scene without authorization and finds the person hiding, but ends up getting questioned for his act of heroism. So they had the idea of what to do with Matt’s character from the start, it was the matter of getting the right storyline in. Also, I liked the surprised interaction between him and the radioactive man. They knew each other, and now we’ll never know how or why.
There was also the trouble with Matt’s marriage, which seemed a bit more unbearable for either of them as they were going to marriage counseling. Watching this, I’ve concluded I like his current wife better than the original one. But then again, I’ve always liked her on the show. She does have her flaws but overall is sweet and supportive of Matt, whereas this woman seen here is just bitchy. Now, there’s the Sylar storyline, which I have to admit freaked me out. I knew that they originally wanted Sylar to be a middle-aged man who was deeply religious and once being contacted by Chandra was conflicted and questioning whether his ability was a gift from God (or the Devil) and started using it for that purpose. But actually watching it all unfold in this really made a different impression on me, because as soon as Mohinder walked (er, more like broke into through the window) into Sylar’s apartment I just…I was like “whoa…” Definitely different from Gabriel Gray, which I am so happy they changed Sylar’s storyline. And in the end with Mohinder about to leave and then suddenly a dark-claded figure with a hat stood before him, and Mohinder uttering the word, “Sylar” in somewhat surprise and fear…I freaked the hell out. Seriously, it was a “Frak me!” moment, the same with the audio-recording of Sylar and Chandra talking, again completely different from their interaction we see later and just the deep and hoarseness of Sylar’s voice really scared me (besides, we now know why Chandra called him Mr. Sylar, because originally his name was supposed to have been Paul E. Sylar, not Gabriel Gray who just took the alias from the watch he’d been working on.
I liked, however, that they kept the religious undertone with Sylar’s character, as we revisit that scene with the “Forgive Me; I have sinned” writing in blood in the third episode when Mohinder and Eden enter his apartment, then again with he visits his mother. It’s still there, just subtly, which I think was a good thing. Adds the complexity of his character I think, instead of letting it known that he is just this whacked out religious dude trying to justify his actions on God. Other than that, nothing much else was changed. There were some extended scenes as seen in the pilot episode we know, such as Peter’s dream featuring him falling off the building and Nathan appearing there (which would’ve given it away from the beginning), an extended conversation between Claire and Zach along with Claire seeing the truck with terrorist hidden inside, which had to be taken out because that storyline was being cut indefinitely from the show; more of the Simone and Isaac interaction, including him going cold turkey from using the drugs and later cutting off his own hand. There was also a minor change with the Sanders’ scenes, mainly Micah taking $300 and leaving to visit his father in prison, although they decided to not go that route.
So the unaired pilot really was interesting, and makes me wonder what kind of show it would’ve turned out to be if they’d stuck with the things they didn’t change, especially keeping the original ideas for Sylar and the terrorist storylines in particular. The show would’ve gone in a completely different direction, and I don’t know whether good or bad. They had some heavy religious themes, and I don’t think it would’ve been received well by audiences. It was interesting nonetheless, but still I think too intense for a beginning episode and thankfully they tamed it and took out the unnecessary points which would’ve been questionable. Because really, there are so many terrorist plotpoints in other shows as I mentioned before, that it would’ve been cliche to add it to Heroes.

REVIEW: HEROES: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION (BLU-RAY)

CAST
Milo Ventimiglia (Gotham)
Hayden Panettiere (Bring it on 3)
Jack Coleman (Kingdom Hospital)
Tawny Cypress (Supergirl)
Leonard Roberts (Buffy: The Vampire Slayer)
Santiago Cabrera (Merlin)
Masi Oka (Get Smart)
Greg Grunberg (Alias)
Adrian Pasdar (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D)
Noah Gray-Cabey (My Wife and Kids)
Ali Larter (Final Destination 1 & 2)
Sendhil Ramamurthy (Beauty and the Beast)
NOTABLE / RECURRING GUEST CAST
James Kyson Lee (Hawaii Five-O)
Zachary Quinto (Hitman: Agent 47)
Ashley Crow (The Secret Circle)
Jimmy Jean-Louis (Arrow)
Cristine Rose (How I Met Your Mother)
Thomas Dekker (Terminator: TSCC)
Lisa Lackey (Bones)
Matthew John Armstrong (American Dreams)
Christopher Eccleston (Doctor Who)
Nora Zehetner (Brick)
Clea DuVall (The Lizzie Borden Chronicles)
Randall Bentley (Upside)
Missy Peregrym (Smallville)
Danielle Savre (Boogeyman 2)
Eric Roberts (The Dark Knight)
Adair Tishler (Dollhouse)
Rena Sofer (Traffic)
Malcolm McDowell (Halloween 1 & 2)
George Takei (Star Trek)
Jayma Mays (Ugly Betty)

Heroes Season 1 is an ensemble cast show that became a very large success based on how well it translated the comic book world to the small screen. Set on present day Earth, the show details how a growing number of people are developing special abilities outside of government control with a variety of consequences to them and the population at large. Unlike the truncated second season, the first had a full 23 episodes to explore the concept, resulting in a number of smaller, multi-episode arcs that all built toward a bigger picture as the season progressed. Unlike the old style of comic books though, the cast is made up of all sorts of regular people that start to notice they are”special, some of whom learn to increase their abilities with concentration or training, stumbling at times but honing said powers in numerous ways.

In overall terms, the story uses the Human Genome Project as something of a starting point, using scientist Mohinder Suresh (Sendhil Ramamurthy) as a focal point for identifying gifted people as he follows a trail set forth by his father, a formerly distinguished geneticist that chased what were considered crazy ideas about human evolution until he was killed. Mohinder discovers that certain trace markers in human DNA predict people with abilities and having observed firsthand exactly how gifted some of these people are, he ends up trying to warn them of a serial killer named Sylar (Zachary Quinto) and what appears to be secret agents out to capture them. Needless to say, his efforts are not universally appreciated and he himself is cast into the mix as a pawn, forced to face both powered and mundane humans out to stop him. The show also uses a dozen or so other main characters that either have powers or interact heavily with them, many seemingly patterned after specific comic book characters in terms of abilities, though not so much in terms of their personalities.

Take Hiro Nakamura (Masi Oka) for example, he can bend the space time continuum if he concentrates hard enough, the Japanese office worker slaving away at his father’s corporation while dreaming of his special destiny. The guy is a stereotypical science fiction/comic book nerd too, wanting more than anything to become a hero rather than follow the path laid out for him by his father Kaito (George Takei of Star Trek fame). His hit or miss attempts to control his powers provide some of the comic relief of the show but he also serves as someone genre fans can identify with as he tries to uncover his own future with the help of his best friend, the mundane Ando Masahashi (James Kyson Lee). Then there was Claire Bennet (hotty Hayden Panettiere), a gal with Wolverine-like healing powers who figures out she will regenerate no matter what happens to her, the gal finding out her adopted father Noah (Jack Coleman) is working for an agency with special plans for anyone with her kind of talents. The Texas high school cheerleader becomes an integral part of the main picture as she is stalked by Sylar, a man with the ability to take special powers by decapitating those he encounters, their showdown predicted long before by Isacc Mendez (Santiago Cabrera), a precognitive that draws the future while under the influence of heroin.

The cast also included internet stripper Niki Sanders (hotty Ali Larter) whose multiple personality disorder grants her alias Jessica super strength, Nathan Petrelli (Adrian Pasdar) a district attorney running for Congress that can fly, his brother Peter (Milo Ventimiglia) that finds out his ability is especially powerful as time moves forward, Matt Parkman (Greg Grunberg) a street cop that can read minds, and DL Hawkins (Leonard Roberts) who can become intangible at will. Some of them try to keep their secret, like Nathan since he is running for office, while others are on the run from the agency searching such folks out (their point man being Noah with the aid of a Haitian that can negate powers and erase minds played by Jimmy Jean Louis), the conspiracy something straight out of shows like The X-Files, Jericho, or Angel. The interactions of the cast make the show quite special too, capturing the spirit of modern comic books better than anything else I have seen to date.Particularly appealing is the manner in which most of the powers are not overly flashy, the dramatic elements allowed to keep the science fiction elements present but downplayed so that a larger audience won’t be alienated.

CAST
Milo Ventimiglia (Gotham)
Jack Coleman (Kingdom Hospital)
Masi Oka (Get Smart)
Greg Grunberg (Alias)
Adrian Pasdar (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D)
Hayden Panettiere (Bring it on 3)
Noah Gray-Cabey (My Wife and Kids)
Ali Larter (Final Destination 1 & 2)
Sendhil Ramamurthy (Beauty and the Beast)
David Anders (Izombie)
Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars)
Dania Ramirez (American Pie: Reunion)
Dana Davis (Prom Night)
James Kyson Lee (Hawaii Five-O)
Zachary Quinto (Hitman: Agent 47)
NOTABLE / RECURRING GUEST CAST
Jimmy Jean-Louis (Arrow)
Adair Tishler (Dollhouse)
Stephen Tobolowsky (Groundhog Day)
Shalim Ortiz (Silver Case)
Nicholas D’Agosto (Gotham)
Katie Carr (Dinotopia)
Eriko (Dragon Evolution)
Ashley Crow (The Secret Circle)
Randall Bentley (Upside)
Cristine Rose (How I Met Your Mother)
Dianna Agron (I Am Number Four)
Mark Christopher Lawrence (Chuck)

Heroes Season 2 picked up four months after the events of Season One with the characters having moved on from the explosive finish. The prophecy thwarted at great cost and Sylar stopped, the clock was reset in many ways for those that survived. Peter is missing, Nathan has become a recluse, Hiro is stuck in Medieval Japan, and the Bennett family is on the run from the Company. Some characters die off-screen or are greatly downplayed and new people are introduced, the major players added in being Maya and Alejandro from Central America. Maya has an uncontrollable ability to infect people with some form of fast acting disease and only her brother seems able to calm her down to reverse the effects. They are on the run for murder (the authorities are not really particular about “how” the deaths occurred so much as “who” was responsible) and head to New York City to meet Dr. Suresh in hopes of finding a cure, not knowing he was murdered. Along the way, they pick up a helpful hitchhiker named Gabriel (guess who) and trouble ensues but that is only one thread of many the show goes back to.Image result for heroes season 2Of much greater interest to me was the Bennett family, particularly Noah in his efforts to destroy the Company, and Claire, as she struggles with her powers, puberty, and origins. Hiro’s trip to Japan circa the Seventeenth century where he meets his childhood hero, Takezo Sensei, proves to be a disaster when he screws up the timeline and must repair it lest the fate of the world be irreparably altered. Sadly, the quirky journey he goes through was arguably the most impacted part of the WGA writer strike that shortened the season to a mere eleven episodes  Takezo finding out that he is special too, though no explanation given. How he deals with his father upon his return and his own shame at his betrayal of his hero provided some relief from the admittedly weak storyline but not nearly enough to compensate for some of the worst writing seen on the show that has just started season three.

Another new chapter in the saga revolved around a relative of Micah named Monica, the Katrina refugee with an uncanny ability to mimic anything she watches on television. This was a thread that had a bit of potential, largely because it contained Micah and Niki, but felt the sting of the shortened season as well, the gal trying to become a heroine and falling short of the mark out of stupidity. Parkman has lost his wife and identity only to start over again in New York, having learned to keep quiet about his abilities and use them serendipitously to advance himself to detective. He and Suresh take in Molly but soon have to face a powerful telepath that is hurting her, the piece of the puzzle unveiled to the bigger picture of a long time conspiracy by the founders of the Company that include the parents of most of the players currently focused on in the series. Suresh ends up working directly for the company too, racing to uncover the secrets of the genetic component that gives the cast their powers but also an engineered virus (the Shanti Virus) that threatens not only the metahumans but the rest of the populace as well.

Perhaps most curious in the season for me, aside from the arcs starring Peter and Sylar of course, are those leading to Bob (the current head of the organization) and his daughter Elle, a gal with electrifying powers that shows what Claire would have become had Noah truly been unattached to her as he was supposed to have been. A psychopathic killer on a short leash, Elle does the dirty work to seek her father’s approval, the contrast between her and Claire referred to time and again by those around them. The introduction of “Adam”, the first person with powers and a founding member of the Company with a huge grudge against humanity, was also kind of abrupt and his use of Peter to try and destroy the world (“resetting the clock on humanity”) had a lot of untapped potential too.

To me, the writers should have pared down the new characters and tied up things like the Hiro saga much sooner given the strike and shortened season. They should have also kept in mind the show has a devoted following so making the characters act outside of their established norms or contrary to what they would have done given the way they acted in the first season weakened it as well. That the major threads employed cheap plot devices used in the past certainly did not help either  but this was indicative of the major problem of the season for me, the pacing. Every book, television show, and movie has an internal rhythm and pace that fans get used to. The WGA strike forced the slowly escalating pace of the show to be accelerated well beyond normal and leave off all the suspense of Season One behind it.

CAST
Milo Ventimiglia (Gotham)
Adrian Pasdar (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D)
Jack Coleman (Kingdom Hospital)
Sendhil Ramamurthy (Beauty and the Beast)
Cristine Rose (How I Met Your Mother)
Zachary Quinto (Hitman: Agent 47)
Hayden Panettiere (Bring it on 3)
James Kyson Lee (Hawaii Five-O)
Masi Oka (Get Smart)
Greg Grunberg (Alias)
Ali Larter (Final Destination 1 & 2)
NOTABLE / RECURRING GUEST CAST
Brea Grant (Battle Planet)
Ashley Crow (The Secret Circle)
Zeljko Ivanek (The Bourne Legacy)
Jamie Hector (Lie To Me)
Ntare Mwine (Blood Diamond)
Blake Shields (Carnivale)
Robert Forster (Jackie Brown)
David H. Lawrence XVII (Lost)
Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars)
Randall Bentley (Upside)
Jessalyn Gilsig (Nip/Tuck)
Jimmy Jean-Louis (Arrow)
Malcolm McDowell (Halloween I & II)
David Anders (Children of the Corn)
Alan Blumenfeld (In Her Shoes)
George Takei (Star Trek)
Dan Byrd (Firestarter 2)
Francis Capra (Veronica Mars)
Noah Gray-Cabey (My Wife and Kids)
Lisa Lackey (Bones)
Eric Roberts (The Dark Knight)
Adair Tishler (Dollhouse)
Stephen Tobolowsky (Groundhog Day)

The first volume of the third season, Villains, brought back what made the show so good in its first season, with shadowy bad guys and intricate conspiracies, in a storyline that explored what the line is between a hero and a villain. The return of the Petrelli patriarch Arthur (played with quiet badass-ness by Robert Forster) created an us-or-them scenario where characters had to choose sides and decide how far they would go to get what they want

The other key storyline surrounds Mohinder (Sendhil Ramamurthy) and his efforts to understand where the Heroes’ powers come from. The race to discover how to give and take away powers, which involves a hidden formula and an element known as the catalyst, which is key to the granting of special powers. Mohinder grants himself powers, which creates what could be gently described as an homage to The Fly and the distribution of powers becomes sctattershot, as powers change and mutate with each episode, creating characters who suffered from the Superman syndrome, as they were simply too powerful to be defeated in a realistic way.

The newcomers from season 2 have mostly disappeared, with only Elle and Maya sticking around, with Maya in  a somewhat minor role. The additions this time around are much better, including the ultra-creepy Puppet Master; Daphne, the morally-ambivalent Flash of the Heroes universe, and Utusu, an African version of Isaac Mendez, capable of painting the future on big rocks. Though they are, in some ways, repetitions of other characters, they bring enough to the show to be interesting, especially Brea Grant’s speedster, who has a memorable conflict with Hiro (Masi Oka) and a starcrossed relationship with Matt (Greg Grunberg.) There are a handful of other newcomers, including some thuggish bad guys and yet another  role for Ali Larter.


The first arc ended with a bit of a thud, as is probably the only way a battle with a ruthless, all-powerful villain can end, but it was followed up with the Fugitives arc, which tried a bit too hard to have real-world relevance. Guided by a questionably-motivated Nathan (Adrian Pasdar), the government has begun to round-up super-powered people for Guantanamo Bay-style imprisonment, including all our favorite heroes. It puts all the big-names wither in shackles or on the run, a situation that could have been promising, but instead just peters out, as the motivation for each character’s actions is no wildly different from what we know of them that it makes sense. Nathan is all over the ballfield in how he conducts his hunt for his fellow kind, while Sylar has more personality changes than could be explained by the supposed psychotic break he’s experiencing.

The show consistently is one of the finest-looking series on TV, with gorgeous photography and special effects, and from time to time, there are bits of inspired creativity, like the origin story in “1961,” which makes a terrific call-back all the way to a small-bit of dialogue in the pilot, Larter’s character’s powerful outburst in “Cold Snap” and the realistic rage the otherwise moral Matt Parkman (Greg Grunberg) experiences in “Trust and Blood.” And maybe I’m a bit blind, but I didn’t see foresee the identity of the anonymous underground agent helping the heroes in Fugitive and found it a smart re-use of characters.

CAST
Hayden Panettiere (Bring it on 3)
Robert Knepper (Cult)
Jack Coleman (Kingdom Hospital)
Zachary Quinto (Hitman: Agent 47)
Milo Ventimiglia (Gotham)
Masi Oka (Get Smart)
Greg Grunberg (Alias)
Adrian Pasdar (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D)
James Kyson Lee (Hawaii Five-O)
Sendhil Ramamurthy (Beauty and the Beast)
Ali Larter (Final Destination 1 & 2)
NOTABLE / RECURRING GUEST CAST
Dawn Olivieri (The Vampire Diaries)
Madeline Zima (The Hand That Rocks The Cradle)
Ray Park (Star Wars – Episode I)
Deanne Bray (2 broke Girls)
Elisabeth Röhm (American Hustle)
Jimmy Jean-Louis (Arrow)
Lisa Lackey (Bones)
Todd Stashwick (The Originals)
David H. Lawrence XVII (Lost)
Ashley Crow (The Secret Circle)
Sasha Pieterse (X-Men: First Class)
Saemi Nakamura (Jury Duty)
Jayma Mays (Ugly Betty)
Tessa Thompson (Veronica Mars)
Rick Worthy (Collateral Damage)
Kate Vernon (Battlestar Galactica)
Louise Fletcher (Star Trek: DS9)
Ernie Hudson (Ghostbusters)
Željko Ivanek (Hannibal)
Swoosie Kurtz (Mike & Molly)
Richard Roundtree (Shaft)
George Takei (Star Trek)
Tamlyn Tomita (Highlander: The Series)

The big storyline this time out centers around Samuel Sullivan and his family of superpowered carnies. Samuel is busy building the group, recruiting various super-powered individuals to join them, in an effort to form a homeland of their own  As is usually the case with any story on Heroes, thanks to the need to add twists and turns to pad out episodes, it’s not that simple, and, of course, all of the show’s main characters will be drawn into the tale. It seems that the Heroes have the best contact system known to man, as no one misses an e-mail or call to get together. At some point, coincidence and contrived are very similar. Either way, the show tries to have it both ways with Samuel, attempting to make him both pure evil and a sympathetic soul, like they did with Sylar. While the inexplicably coincidental familial concerns of the Petrelli clan keep going for yet another run of episodes, adding in a new super-powered love interest for Peter, the relationship between Claire and her father Noah is the show’s secondary focus, as Claire goes off to college in an attempt to live a normal life, and ends up in a lesbian couple, while displaying her trademark poor judgment and weakly-motivated rebelliousness. Meanwhile, Dad’s whole world is falling apart in a super-midlife crisis.

The rest of the old crew are still around as well, including erstwhile samurai Hiro, who’s battling a terminal illness and trying his hand at being a hero-for-hire, and Matt Parkman and Sylar, who get closer than they’d really like to be in the aftermath of Season Three. Though the conflict between them is one of the better tales told, and Sylar  remains one of the most interesting characters in recent TV history.

The worst part of the season though has to be the ending. After you’ve sat through 18 episodes, Claire outs herself to the world on camera demonstrating her powers for all the world to see, then the iconic words to be continued appear….. The show was cancelled.

Perhaps the upcoming Heroes Reborn mini series will qive answers to what the aftermath will be.

REVIEW: AGENT CARTER – SEASON 1

MAIN CAST
Hayley Atwell (Cinderella)
James D’Arcy (Hitchcock)
Chad Michael Murray (House of Wax)
Enver Gjokaj (Dollhouse)
Shea Whigham (American Hustle)
RECURRING AND NOTABLE GUEST CAST
Dominic Cooper (Dracula Untold)
Lyndsy Fonseca (Kick-Ass)
James Frain (Gotham)
James Landry Hebert (Looper)
Meagen Fay (Species 4)
Ray Wise (Robocop)
Ralph Garman (Ted)
Bridget Regan (Beauty and the Beast 2012)
Jack Conley (Angel)
Neal McDonough (Arrow)
Leonard Roberts (Heroes)
Rick Peters (Veronica Mars)
Ralph Brown (Alien 3)
Toby Jones (The Hunger Games)
Considering it was a 1940s period piece starring an already-established, likable character and was created by the guys who wrote Captain America: The Winter Soldier, you’d think people would have been more excited going into Marvel’s Agent Carter. Not that I didn’t see plenty of excitement as well, mind you, but I also saw a lot of cynicism – stuff about how it was a “prequel” and thus “wouldn’t matter” and also about how because Peggy and the other characters didn’t have superpowers, “Who cares?”But Agent Carter didn’t need to succeed by setting up something to pay off in another film it just needed to be an entertaining, involving show. And boy, was it.
Yes, it only got better as it went along, but Agent Carter — which came from executive producers/showrunners Michele Fazekas & Tara Butters — was a lot of fun from the start. Hayley Atwell had already established how great she is as the character and easily slid into the lead role, and pairing her with Edwin Jarvis (James D’Arcy) was an inspired move. Atwell and D’Arcy had terrific, non-romantic, chemistry together, playing Peggy and Jarvis as an instantly lovable, quirky duo and making the scenes where Jarvis accompanied Peggy on missions really pop – even before Peggy got to beat up bad guys.
With only eight episodes, Agent Carter moved quickly, in a satisfying manner. Bridget Regan was introduced as Peggy’s neighbor, Dottie, and just a week later – with fans already speculating on what her character could really be – she’s killing a guy, leading into a really awesome reveal that Agent Carter was introducing the Black Widow program into the mix.

Agent Carter wasn’t tied into the modern Marvel movies in a direct way, but there were a ton of cool connections throughout, beyond Peggy’s important history with Captain America. Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper), while only appearing in three episodes, was crucial to the story, and we got an intriguing look into his psyche in the season finale.
Dum Dum Dugan and the Howling Commandos showed up, we got to see more than one Black Widow at work and then there was Dr. Ivchenko, AKA Fr. Fennhoff – who is also known as the Marvel villain Dr. Faustus and who turned out to be tied into the Winter Soldier by the end, via a cool Marvel-movie type final scene.
In general, all the characters were really clicked. It was surprising to see Lyndsy Fonseca play a non-action role here, but she made Angie incredibly likable and charismatic and the scenes between her and Peggy were very sweet, showing Peggy making a far more normal connection than her life usually allows. Early on, I was concerned by the portrayal of the men at the SSR. Except for Enver Gjokaj’s sympathetic Daniel Sousa, they all felt pretty one note. Yes, it was important and fitting, given the era the show was set in, to show just how dismissive the guys in the office, in general, were of Peggy, unable to see just how skilled she was and the contributions she could bring. But the first couple of episodes had Thompson (Chad Michael Murray), Dooley (Shea Wigwam) and Krzeminski (Kyle Bornheimer) all feeling pretty similar and one-note, in a way that could have quickly become grating. Fortunately, the most annoying of this bunch, Krzeminski, was soon dead and Dooley and Thompson became much more nuanced as the season continued.
Dooley doing his own investigating and seeing that things didn’t ad up as  Howard Stark being the culprit was a great touch, letting us see why this guy was in charge in the first place. And the mission in Russia in “The Iron Ceiling”(a standout episode) gave us a ton of insight into Thompson and who he really was versus the image he projected. The season culminated in a very satisfying manner, with Dooley’s noble sacrifice, the reason behind Fennhoff’s anger at Howard revealed and a big cathartic release for Peggy, who got to beat Dottie in combat and finally really and truly put Steve Rogers to rest. This latter part was especially handled well and reinforced something that had been occurring to me all season – that it was especially silly to dismiss Agent Carter as “a prequel” when, if anything, it worked as a pretty direct sequel to Captain America: The First Avenger, simply following what happened next for Peggy (and, to a lesser extent, Howard) after that film’s events, instead of Steve.