REVIEW: HEROES – SEASON 4

Starring

Hayden Panettiere (Nashville)
Robert Knepper (Izombie)
Jack Coleman (Spawn)
Zachary Quinto (Star Trek)
Milo Ventimiglia (This Is Us)
Masi Oka (Get Smart)
Greg Grunberg (Alias)
Cristine Rose (How I Met Your Mother)
Adrian Pasdar (Supergirl)
James Kyson Lee (Sleepy Hollow)
Ali Larter (Final Destination)
Sendhil Ramamurthy (Beauty and The Beast)

Robert Knepper in Heroes (2006)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Dawn Olivieri (The Vampire Diaries)
Madeline Zima (Crazy Eyes)
Ray Park (G.I. Joe)
Deanne Bray (Universal Signs)
Elisabeth Röhm (Angel)
Ashley Crow (Minority Report)
Jimmy Jean-Louis (Arrow)
Lisa Lackey (Planet of The Apes)
Rachel Melvin (Sleepy Hollow)
Saemi Nakamura (The Truman Show)
Zeljko Ivanek (The Event)
Louise Fletcher (Star Trek: DS9)
Rick Worthy (Duplicity)
Swoosie Kurtz (Mike & Molly)
Tessa Thompson (Westworld)
Christine Adams (BLack Lightning)
Ernie Hudson (Ghostbusters)
Candice Patton (The Flash)
Jayma Mays (Paul Blart: Mall Cop)
Danielle Savre (Boogeyman 2)
Santiago Cabrera (Big Little Lies)
Danica Stewart (Passions)
Andrew Connolly (Patriot Games)
Ravi Kapoor (Bones)
Todd Stashwick (The Originals)
David H. Lawrence XVII (Lost)
Kate Vernon (Battlestar Galactica)
Tamlyn Tomita (The Eye)
David Anders (Izmbie)
Sasha Pieterse (Pretty Little Liars)
Eric Roberts (The Finder)
K Callan (Lois & Clark)

Deanne Bray in Heroes (2006)

The first season of Heroes remains a landmark moment in television. Taking Watchmen’s ‘if superheroes existed’ thesis to its natural conclusion, the show’s realisation of the ultimate nerd fantasy of ordinary people with extraordinary powers and subtle nods to comic book tropes was a revelation, producing one of TV’s all time great villains, the delightfully menacing Sylar. Then it all fell apart.Masi Oka in Heroes (2006)The fun, frenetic pace of the first season was almost completely absent from its follow-up. In a jarring and completely misjudged shift of tone, the show became more about the nefarious dealings of the mysterious ‘Company’ and less about character development and the simple joy of watching a cheerleader mend her own bloody and broken shinbone. (The season also introduced the worst superpower ever: the ability to kill by dilating your pupils.) Admittedly, this was partially as a result of the 07/08 US writers’ strike, but the show never recovered critically, haemorrhaging viewers at an alarming pace. In following this unmitigated disaster, Tim Kring and co attempted to return to the heart of what made the show such a blast in the first place and, a handful of ridiculous plot points aside, they have been reasonably successful. However, viewers had lost faith and THE show was officially axed by NBC.Robert Knepper in Heroes (2006)However, with the fourth and final season going back to basics, as well as injecting some much needed warmth and depth into several previously underdeveloped characters, Heroes definitely went out with a bang. Season four follows the characters attempts to return to normality following the tragic events of Nathan Petrelli’s death at the hands of Sylar. In an attempt to keep his death a secret, psychic ex-cop Matt Parkman enters an unconscious and powerless Sylar’s mind, convincing him he is Nathan. All does not go to plan, however, as Sylar’s subdued consciousness worms its way into Matt’s head, taunting him and attempting to force Parkman to restore his identity by any means necessary.Robert Knepper and Zachary Quinto in Heroes (2006)Hiro Nakamura, previously just a loveable, if highly one-dimensional, comic book nerd, is finally given some depth, after discovering he is terminally ill with a brain tumour. Following a mysterious encounter with shadowy carnival owner Samuel Sullivan (played to creepy perfection by Prison Break’s Robert Knepper), Hiro decides to use his time travelling powers to change tragic or regretful moments in his past, often to destructive effect. The majority of the plot revolves around the arrival of Samuel’s peculiar fair. As self-healing cheerleader-turned-fresher Claire Bennet soon discovers, it is much more than a travelling freak show. The carnival is a tight knit group of ‘heroes’ travelling under the radar. However, as Samuel tries to convince Claire to join his family, things may not be as they appear.Hayden Panettiere and Madeline Zima in Heroes (2006)With season four, the creators have finally realised what it is viewers loved about Heroes in the first place. Like all good comic books, the series is a rollercoaster ride, with an engaging (if a tad stupid) plot, and a plethora of dastardly villains. Characters are given conflict that, for a change, is genuinely thrilling. Hiro’s awful dilemma is particularly heartbreaking, bringing some essential empathy to what was previously the show’s increasingly tired comic relief. Although it may have proven too little, too late for casual viewers, the season is a worthy farewell to what deserves to be remembered as one TV’s most enjoyable shows.

 

REVIEW: HEROES – SEASON 2

Starring

Milo Ventimiglia (This Is Us)
Jack Coleman (The Vampire Diaries)
Masi Oka (The Meg)
Greg Grunberg (Alias)
Adrian Pasdar (Agents of Shield)
Hayden Panettiere (I Love You, Beth Cooper)
Noah Gray-Cabey (My Wife and Kids)
Ali Larter (Obsessed)
Sendhil Ramamurthy (Beauty and The Beast)
David Anders (Izombie)
Kristen Bell (The Goood Place)
Dania Ramirez (Mojave)
Dana Davis (10 Things I Hate About You)
James Kyson Lee (Sleepy Hollow)
Zachary Quinto (Star Trek)

Masi Oka in Heroes (2006)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Jimmy Jean-Louis (Arrow)
Adair Tishler (Dollhouse)
Stephen Tobolowsky (Groundhog Day)
Shalim Ortiz (Grand Hotel)
Kiernan Shipka (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina)
Nicholas D’Agosto (Gotham)
Katie Carr (A Perfect Man)
Eriko Tamura (Dragonball Evolution)
Cristine Rose (How I Met Your Mother)
Ashley Crow (Cake)
Dianna Agron (Glee)
Barry Shabaka Henley (The Terminal)
Holt McCallany (Justice League)
Lyndsy Fonseca (Agent Carter)
George Takei (Star Trek: TOS)
Dominic Keating (Star Trek: Enterprise)
Randall Bentley (Upside)
Adetokumboh M’Cormack (Lost)
Nichelle Nichols (Star Trek: TOS)
Tohoru Masamune (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Mark Christopher Lawrence (Chuck)
Alan Blumenfeld (Wargames)
Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Mortal Kombat)
Elya Baskin (Spider-Man 2)
Leonard Roberts (Smallville)
Rena Sofer (Traffic)
Sabrina Perez (Terminator: TSCC)
Saemi Nakamura (The Wolverine)
Joanna Cassidy (Blade Runner)
Jaime Ray Newman (The Punisher)

David Anders and Masi Oka in Heroes (2006)Initially, I wasn’t watching Heroes when it aired on TV, though I did manage to catch the first season when it came out on video, and I was amazed. I think it did a couple of things exceptionally well. Combining the nature of a hero and villain into the framing of a comic book, it managed to capture the feeling of serialized television at a level that not many shows reach. Almost every week, you were left with a scene that made you immediately want the next seven days to go by as fast as humanly possible. Additionally, creator Tim Kring made the heroes global. While many were in America, one was located in Japan and spoke Japanese with his friend. I don’t recall a prime-time show devoting an entire storyline to one foreign-speaking character in awhile, but I don’t watch as much as others to know for sure.Katie Carr and Milo Ventimiglia in Heroes (2006)Nevertheless, Heroes has captured the hearts and minds of many, and Season Two was full of expectations following the Season One cliffhanger, where Nathan Petrelli (Adrian Pasdar, Judging Amy saved his brother Peter (Milo Ventimiglia, Rocky Balboa) from blowing up the world by grabbing him and flying the brothers into the atmosphere while Peter’s niece/Nathan’s biological daughter Claire (Hayden Panettiere, Remember The Titans) watched from below. The first episode of Season Two found the characters in many different positions. Peter was alive but severely burned. Claire was starting school in California, away from the comforts of Odessa, Texas, but under the watchful eye of her father Noah (Jack Coleman) and away from the mysterious yet diabolical “Company.” Nathan’s friend Matt Parkman (Greg Grunberg, Alias) was becoming a New York Police Detective and staying with Mohinder (Sendil Ramamurthy) while the two raised Molly (Adair Tishler, Pop Star). Niki (Ali Larter, Legally Blonde) seemed to have her power under control and has D.L. (Leonard Roberts, Drumline) and Micah (Noah Gray-Cabey, Lady in the Water) with her as well. Finally, remember that Japanese character I spoke of earlier? Well Hiro (Masi Oka, Get Smart) is in 17th century feudal Japan, wondering what it is exactly that he’s doing there. And Sylar (Zachary Quinto, Star Trek) was last seen crawling into a sewer, never to be seen again?Dania Ramirez and Shalim Ortiz in Heroes (2006)It’s from here that things get a little complicated. Kring, Executive Producer Jeph Loeb and the rest of the show’s cast and crew listen to fan feedback and truly take it to heart, and I’d be remiss to not mention Kring’s interview with Entertainment Weekly in which he seemed to creatively say “My bad!” when discussing the viewers’ reaction to the second season. Among the things discussed were the character development of new heroes and villains, which might work in other places, but not when you have an already established cast of characters. To borrow from another show for a second (specifically Lost), if the fanbase is there, you can get away with dropping in a new character or two, and bring character development along at your own pace. Do we know all there is to know about Ben’s backstory? And he’s been on the island for a couple of seasons now. The balance between keeping a new character fresh while advancing the older characters’ arcs is a challenge, but maybe virtual abandonment wasn’t the best way to go for Kring. It also didn’t help Kring that Maya and Alejandro were his version of Nikki and Paolo either. With the exception of Elle (Kristen Bell, Veronica Mars), Kring would have been better suited to keep the familiar faces more at the forefront. But hey, what’s done is done.Kristen Bell in Heroes (2006)There were other elements of the show that Kring rued over as well, but one other thing that occurred that impacted the show and was out of his control was the Writers’ Guild Strike which forced Kring to curtail the season, along with a story arc that would have had apparently significant ramifications, if the supplements on this set are any indication. The main stories for Season Two surrounded the characters’ physical and emotional states after their initial mammoth confrontation, but also for several older cast members who were being stalked and eventually eliminated by a hero with a grudge. And hovering over everyone’s heads was a virus that, if released, would have wiped out the world, as Peter finds out in a flash forward of sorts.David Anders in Heroes (2006)Upon further review, perhaps Season Two of Heroes doesn’t deserve as much scorn and ridicule as it’s received. If we were to examine the season as a living breathing figure, it would be comparing it to someone who committed murder, but in the time after the act, showed remorse for the act and the loss. When it starts to take tangible steps on the road to recovery, the townspeople put down their pitchforks and torches, but the murderer gets hit by lightning before the townspeople can accept or forgive him. As a post-script to all of this, the moral of the story appears to be that you can learn from your mistakes, and Kring debuted the Season Three episode at the 2008 Comic Con in San Diego. The show hit the ground running after nine months in creative cold storage, but there are still components of it that make revisiting Season Two a slight prerequisite, so spend the time in doing so.Eriko Tamura in Heroes (2006)One of the reasons why I devoted so many words to Heroes is that, well, there’s a lot to talk about. It’s worth revisiting Season Two not only for what happened, but for what might have been as well. The storylines are decent, and the band came back for another tour so to speak, and with this presentation you get solid technical specs and a multitude of extra material. Fans of the show should snap this up promptly.

REVIEW: NATURAL BORN KILLERS

CAST
Woody Harrelson (The Hunger Games)
Juliette Lewis (Some Girl)
Tom Sizemore (Black Hawk Down)
Rodney Dangerfield (Casper)
Jared Harris (Sherlock Holmes 2)
Pruitt Taylor Vince (Heroes Reborn)
Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man)
Balthazar Getty (Alias)
Tommy Lee Jones (Batman Forever)
Kirk Baltz (Face/Off)
Saemi Nakamura (Heroes)
Carl Ciarfalio (Casino)
Mark Harmon (Chasing Liberty)
Mickey Knox and his wife Mallory stop at a roadside café in the New Mexico desert. A group of rednecks arrive and one begins sexually harassing Mallory. She briefly encourages him before beating him to a pulp. Mickey and Mallory then murder all but one of the diner’s patrons, culminating in a morbid game of Eeny, meeny, miny, moe to decide who lives and dies. After executing the waitress Mabel, the couple ensures that the only survivor remembers their names before they embrace and declare their undying love.
Mickey and Mallory camp out in the desert, and Mallory reminisces about when they first met. A flashback (done in the style of a TV sitcom, including a laughtrack) shows Mickey as a deliveryman who came to the house where Mallory lived with her sexually abusive father, her neglectful mother, and her younger brother, Kevin. Mickey and Mallory fall in love instantly and leave together, as Mickey steals a car that belongs to Mallory’s father. Soon Mickey is arrested and imprisoned for grand theft auto, but he subsequently escapes from a prison work farm during a tornado and returns to Mallory’s house. The two kill Mallory’s parents, but spare Kevin, and go on the road together and get “married” on the side of a bridge, celebrating by taking a hostage. Furious with Mickey’s notion that they have a threesome, Mallory drives to a nearby gas station, where she flirts with the mechanic. They begin to have sex on the hood of a car, but Mallory kills him when he recognizes her as a wanted killer. During this time, Mickey rapes the hostage.
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The pair continue their killing spree, ultimately claiming fifty-two victims in New Mexico, Arizona, and Nevada. Pursuing them is Detective Jack Scagnetti, who became obsessed with mass murderers after witnessing his mother being shot and killed by Charles Whitman when he was eight. Beneath his heroic facade, he is a violent psychopath, once strangling a prostitute to death. The killers are also followed by self-serving tabloid journalist Wayne Gale. Gale profiles Mickey and Mallory on his show, American Maniacs, soon elevating them to cult hero status.
Mickey and Mallory become lost in the desert and encounter Warren Red Cloud, a Navajo Indian, and his young grandson. After the two fall asleep, the Navajo, hoping to expel the demon he perceives in Mickey, begins chanting beside the fire, invoking nightmares in Mickey about his abusive parents. Mickey wakes up in a rage and fatally shoots Red Cloud before he realizes what he is doing. It is the first time Mallory and Mickey feel guilty for a murder. Fleeing from the scene through the desert, they stray onto a field of rattlesnakes and are both bitten. They drive to a drugstore to find snakebite antidote, but the pharmacist sets off the silent alarm before Mickey kills him. Soon police cars arrive and Mallory is captured and subsequently beaten by the police. A gunfight breaks out between Mickey and the others. Scagnetti arrives and tells Mickey that unless he surrenders, he will cut off Mallory’s breasts. Mickey gives up his guns, but attacks Scagnetti with a knife. The police taser him and the scene ends with Mickey and Mallory being beaten by a group of vengeful policemen as a Japanese news crew fronted by a female reporter films the action.
The story picks up one year later: the homicidal couple have been imprisoned, and are due to be moved to a mental hospital after being declared insane. Scagnetti arrives at the prison and encounters Warden Dwight McClusky, with whom he plans to murder the two criminals. McClusky will arrange for Scagnetti to be the driver for the Knoxes’ transfer. Alone with the pair, Scagnetti will murder them, then claim that they tried to escape.
Meanwhile, Gale has persuaded Mickey to agree to a live interview that will air immediately after the Super Bowl. Mallory is held in solitary confinement elsewhere in the prison, awaiting her transport to the mental hospital. During the interview, Mickey gives a speech about how murder provides enlightenment and declares himself a “natural born killer”. His words inspire the other inmates (who are watching the interview on TV in the recreation room) and incite them to riot. McClusky, upon learning of the riot, orders the interview terminated despite Gale’s vehement protests. Mickey is left alone with Gale, the film crew and several guards. Using a lengthy joke as a diversion, Mickey overpowers a guard and grabs his shotgun. He kills most of the guards with it and takes the survivors hostage, leading them through the prison riot. Gale follows, giving a live television report as people are beaten and killed around him.
Scagnetti enters Mallory’s cell and attempts to seduce her. Mallory, feigning to reciprocate at first, rebuffs his efforts, smashing his face against the wall and breaking his nose, before two guards subdue her, and Scagnetti sprays her face with tear gas in revenge. Still live on national television, Mickey arrives at Mallory’s cell, where he kills all the guards and engages in a Mexican standoff with Scagnetti, eventually feigning a concession. Mallory then approaches Scagnetti from behind and slashes his throat with a shank. To Scagnetti’s horror, Mickey tells him that he was out of shotgun shells during the standoff. Mallory then picks up Scagnetti’s gun and kills him.
Mickey and Mallory continue to escape through the riot torn prison, with Gale’s entire TV crew getting killed. Gale himself snaps, succumbing to Stockholm syndrome as well as indulging in his own longtime fascination for murder, and begins to shoot at the guards with a pistol that he has taken from one of the dead guards, but gets so frenzied that Mickey prefers to disarm him. After being rescued by a mysterious prisoner named Owen Traft, the trio of Mickey, Mallory, and Gale run into McClusky and a heavily armed posse of guards. The trio takes cover in a blood-splattered shower room. McClusky threatens to storm the shower room; Mickey, in turn, threatens to kill both Gale and a guard on live TV, and the prisoners walk out the front door, to McClusky’s utter dismay, as he helplessly threatens to hunt them down. McClusky and his guards are then quickly massacred by hordes of inmates.
Mickey and Mallory steal a van and kill the last guard; Owen’s fate is unknown. Escaping to a rural location, they give a final interview to Gale, whose ear they have seemingly removed (implied, but as a camera track reveals), before they tell him he must die also. He attempts various arguments to change their minds, finally appealing to their trademark practice of leaving one survivor; Mickey informs him they are leaving a witness to tell the tale, his camera. Gale accepts his fate and extends his arms as if on a cross as they shoot him dead while his unattended camera continues to roll. The couple is shown several years later, in an RV, with Mickey driving and a pregnant Mallory watching their two children play.
Natural Born Killers is Oliver Stone’s “take-no-prisoners” assault on the media that is cinematic eye-candy to the teeth. It’s an uneasy satire to watch, but it is an extremely effective film that is both thrilling and funny.