REVIEW: CAPTAIN AMERICA (1979) II: DEATH TOO SOON

Cast
Reb Brown (Hercules: TLJ)
Len Birman (Silver Streak)
Connie Sellecca (Hotel)
Chrstopher Lee (The Hobbit)
Katherine Justice (Falcon Crest)
Christopher Cary (Watchers)
William Lucking (Sons of Anarchy)
Stanley Kamel (Domino)
Fortunately, the second film is a vast improvement over the first and wastes no time getting down to business. Steve Rogers is back and he still has a thing for painting and bashing punks…in that order. After a quick detour to take down some muggers who have it in for the senior citizens in Steve’s neighborhood, the film expands its scope to give us the genteel Christopher Lee as the stone-cold international terrorist Miguel. Miguel’s dastardly plan includes spraying major cities with an aging chemical unless his demands are met. As the name suggests the chemical can age someone at a rate of 38 days per hour. This does not bode well for the people of Portland who are the first to be targeted by Miguel.
I have to give the sequel a great deal of credit for rectifying the wrongs of the first film. The premise is outlandish and the action goofy as hell but I was entertained from start to finish. Every aspect of this film seems to have been beamed in from an alternate universe where ludicrousness is the norm. Muscle-bound blonde men who like to paint portraits of old ladies and cats…check. A brawl against evil forklifts in a shipyard…of course. A villain who intimidates you by defacing your artwork…why not? A motorcycle that transforms into a glider only to transform back into a motorcycle in service of chasing down a station wagon driven by  Miguel. The sequel only falters when it lets heart get in the way of all the straight-faced insanity. Completely dropping the relationship that was developed between Steve and Ms. Day in the first film, here we have a small town single mom who needs Steve’s help if she is to save her son and the other townsfolk from Miguel’s cronies. Of course, a chaste relationship develops between Steve and the mom (but what about Ms. Day?…screw it, Simon Mills will swoop in and pick up the pieces). Unfortunately this relationship doesn’t accomplish anything other than killing the film’s momentum. Thankfully this doesn’t happen too often and the climax returns to being all killer, no filler.
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The performances are a bit scattershot as the cast has a hard time pinning down a consistent tone. The films require Reb Brown to be muscular, athletic and (very) earnest in the titular role. He does all these things while keeping Steve Rogers as one-dimensional as possible. Len Birman fares a bit better as Simon Mills, the man behind the Captain. Birman keeps a straight face throughout the films and that is a true accomplishment indeed. Even Christopher Lee has some fun chewing the scenery as the slippery Miguel. Don’t get too attached to Heather Menzies in the role of Wendy Day because the character is recast with Connie Sellecca in the sequel. Sellecca turns Menzies’ smile upside down and plays the character much more seriously.
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It is rare that a sequel betters the first film in a series. Director Ivan Nagy’s sequel definitely qualifies. He improves upon director Rod Holcomb’s movie in every regard and gives half of this double feature a great deal of replay value.

REVIEW: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (1987) – SEASON 3

MAIN CAST

Ron Perlman (Hellboy)
Linda Hamilton (The Terminator)
Roy Dotrice (Game of Thrones)
Jay Acovone (Stargate SG.1)
Stephen McHattie (300)
Edward Albert (Power Rangers Time Force)
Jo Anderson (Roswell)

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RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Mitchell Laurance (Cop Rock)
Kenneth Kimmins (Lois & Clark)
Richard Roundtree (Shaft)
Bill Calvert (Spider-Man)
David Greenlee (Fame)
Stanley Kamel (Domino)
Patrick St. Esprit (Green Zone)
Lance Henriksen (The Terminator)
Armin Shimerman (Buffy: TVS)
Suzie Plakson (Disclosure)
Tony Plana (Ugly Betty)
Miguel Sandoval (Medium)
Fionnula Flanagan (Lost)
Jeff Corey (Little Big man)
John Pleshette (Rocky II)

26aefdfe75e396171a91adf55d86b177The 3rd season of Beauty and the Beast definitely takes the series in a very different direction. As the new opening reveals, once Vincent gets past Catherine’s murder he will dedicate his life to avenging injustice – in other words, he has been recast here as a sort of beastly Batman, searching the skies for the Beast Signal which will let him know that his services are needed. Much of the first five or six episodes are focused more on the gritty world Above than on Vincent’s world in the tunnels – the photography is very different, with a sharper, darker overcast (much of the warmth associated with the tunnel worlds is lost). Additionally, character inconsistencies (especially with Roy Dotrice’s “Father”) undermine the overall fabric of the story for those of us who followed it closely the first two seasons. This is a much more violent show now, and it’s much more “black and white.” The new villain, Gabriel, who dominates many of the episodes, is simply evil personified – there is no development of his character, no understanding of his motivations. He is simply evil, and Vincent becomes the force of good which will win in the end. Gabriel is Paracelsus without the poetry, without the history that made his demonic persona work. There was always a hint with Paracelsus that what he really wanted was to be part of the tunnel community again, but he just couldn’t figure out a way to do it. The only thing we know about Gabriel is that he’s a monster.screen-shot-2011-12-30-at-7-38-41-pm.pngCatherine’s death itself is not what changed this series – actually, Diana’s character could very easily have become a new “Beauty” for Vincent, had the relationship been given a chance to develop. The problem is the new tone, the darker perspective, the shift away from the tunnel community that had dominated the second season, and the fans’ resistance to anything that even suggested that Vincent could move beyond his bond with Catherine and love another woman. The message of the first two seasons is clearly the power of love to conquer hate and fear; this would imply that Catherine’s love for Vincent should enable him to love again – after all, that’s what he always told her about the nature of love. Here, in Season Three, Vincent’s grief is palpable, and Ron Perlman does an amazing job demonstrating what it is to feel loss. But there are subtle moments between him and Diana that are hopeful and beautiful – and I, as a fan of the series, find solace in such hope.1202175761_1While watching the first episode (Though Lovers be Lost) is not easy, know that there are things beyond it of great value. Elliot Burch’s character, especially, is given both a chance to redeem himself and chance to give Catherine a beautiful gift. Diana becomes a fascinating and original character whose own connection to Vincent is believable and real – she is not Catherine, but rather an independent and introspective woman who may have much more in common with Vincent spiritually than Catherine ever did. It would be so easy to see Diana becoming a part of Vincent’s world. So, suffer through the difficult death and grieving scenes, be prepared for the shift in focus, but enjoy the new stories being told here about Vincent and the two worlds in which he lives. Yes, it’s flawed – but there is still enough beauty to justify a return visit.

REVIEW: THE INCREDIBLE HULK (1977) – SEASON 3

Starring

Bill Bixby (My Favorite Martian)
Lou Ferrigno (I Love You, Man)
Jack Colvin (Child’s Play)

Bill Bixby in The Incredible Hulk (1978)

 

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Katherine Cannon (Magnum P.I.)
Gary Graham (Alien Nation)
Marc Alaimo (Star Trek: DS9)
Robert Davi (The Goonies)
Ray Walston (Star Trek: Voyager)
Joan Leslie (High Sierra)
Scatman Crothers (The Shining)
Robert Alda (Secret File, U.S.A.)
Bob Hastings (Batman: TS)
Fred Ward (Tremors)
Diana Muldaur (Star Trek: TNG)
Guy Boyd (Bones)
Stanley Kamel (Domino)
Anne Lockhart (Battlestar Galactica)
Mark Lenard (Star Trek)
Allan Rich (Quiz Show)
Paul Koslo (Stargate SG.1)
Mickey Jones (V: The Final Battle)
Melendy Britt (She-Ra)
Gerald McRaney (Focus)
Henry Polic II (Might Max)
Sheila Larken (The X-Files)
Dennis Haysbert (Far From Heaven)
Peter Jason (Mortal Kombat)

Lou Ferrigno in The Incredible Hulk (1978)For the third season no multi-part episodes were included, so there really wasn’t much continuity here by comparison to the previous year. That serious tone that helped the series out in the second season was back for this one, but there were still some bits that just didn’t feel right. Having the Hulk freak out on an acid trip, party at a disco, and David fight his moustache wearing evil twin proved to be moments that were really hard to take. Little bits and pieces like this invaded just about every episode and some of the plots get downright ridiculous.Lou Ferrigno in The Incredible Hulk (1978)Even so there were still some good episodes all around this season, but they were slightly harder to find.Of the good stuff “Homecoming” definitely stands out as one of the best here. In this episode David goes home to his family for Thanksgiving. While there he spends a little time trying to help out with a problem on the farm, but that’s not what makes this episode so entertaining. For the entire time we’ve known David, we haven’t really learned much about his history prior to being big and green. This episode provides plenty of opportunity for the writers to explore his character and some of his background.Lou Ferrigno in The Incredible Hulk (1978)Another solid episode from this season include “The Snare” which has David being invited to an island where he’s hunted by a madman. “The Psychic” is an interesting episode that puts David’s morality on the line when he learns that Jack McGee is going to die. David’s life sure would be a heck of a lot easier if the nosey reported wasn’t around, but could he live with that? This episode really got into David’s head and we got a nice glimpse at how he ticks.Lou Ferrigno in The Incredible Hulk (1978)Aside from these episodes, most of the other ones here are simply passable. In all honesty it seemed as though by this point the show had already begun to slip though it still retained most of the quality.

REVIEW: DARK ANGEL -SEASON 1

Starring

Jessica Alba (Machete)
Michael Weatherly (Bull)
John Savage (American Romance)
Valarie Rae Miller (Crank)
J. C. MacKenzie (The Wolf of Wall Street)
Richard Gunn (Hemlock Grove)
Alimi Ballard (Sabrina: TTW)
Jennifer Blanc (The Victim)

Jessica Alba in Dark Angel (2000)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Stanley Kamel (Domino)
Kristin Bauer van Straten (True Blood)
Paul Popowich (Rupture)
Douglas O’Keeffe (The Andromeda Strain)
Sarah-Jane Redmond (Smallville)
Lauren Lee Smith (Mutant X)
Kim Hawthorne (Greanleaf)
Stephen Lee (Robocop 2)
Hiro Kanagawa (Heroes Reborn)
Garry Chalk (Arrow)
Eileen Pedde (Juno)
Fulvio Cecere (Valentine)
Robert Lewis (Stargate SG-1)
Natassia Malthe (Elektra)
Steve Makaj (Two for The Money)
Tyler Labine (Tucker and Dale vs Evil)
Alessandro Juliani (Smallville)
Ty Olsson (X-Men 2)
Ryan Robbins (Sanctuary)
Peter Bryant (Legends of Tomorrow)
Emily Tennant (Jennifer’s Body)
Christine Chatelain (Final Destination)
Abraham Benrubi (ER)
Byronn Mann (Arrow)
A.C. Peterson (Shooter)
Tony Perez (Once Upon a Time)
Lisa Rodríguez (Next Friday)
Brenda James (Slither)
William Gregory Lee (Xena)
Rodney Rowland (Veronica Mars)
George Cheung (Rush Hour)
Mike Weinberg (Home Alone 4)
Nicole Bilderback (Clueless)
Robert Gossett (Batman Returns)
Harsh Nayyar (Gandhi)
Brian Markinson (Wolf)
Lucia Walters (Stargate: Atlantis)
James Kidnie (Robocop: The Series)
Patrick Kilpatrick (Eraser)
Alex Zahara (Horns)
Mark Gibbon (Man of Steel)
Jodelle Ferland (Silent Hill)
Zahf Paroo (The Good Doctor)
Susan Hogan (Warehouse 13)
Lawrence Pressman (American Pie)
Samantha Smith (Supernatural)
Rekha Sharma (The Core)
Craig Veroni (Cedar Cove)
Lisa Ann Cabasa (Buffy: TVS)
Rob LaBelle (Watchmen)
Shireen Crutchfield (House Party 3)
Ashley Crow (Heroes)
David Kaye (Siren)
Mark Rolston (Aliens)
Ian Tracey (Sanctuary)
Alex Carter (The Island)
Jensen Ackles (Supernatural)
Robert Floyd (Cold Hearts)
Nana Visitor (Star Trek: DS9)
James Kirk (She’s The Man)
Rainn Wilson (Star Trek: Discovery)
Kevin McNulty (Snakes on a Plane)
Sebastian Spence (First Wave)
Lorena Gale (Traitor)
Steve Bacic (Andromeda)
Kris Pope (Josie and The Pussycats)
Joshua Alba (Alpha Dog)
Nicki Aycox (Jeepers Creepers 2)

Jessica Alba in Dark Angel (2000)Dark Angel stars Jessica Alba (Idle Hands) as Max, a genetically-engineered supersoldier who escaped from an expectedly top-secret government facility as a child. Despite the passing of a full decade, the agents of Manticore, led by Donald Lydecker (John Savage), remain determined to retrieve their multi-million dollar killing machine. Max ekes out a living in a scarcely-recognizable 21st century Seattle, avoiding capture while trying to locate the brothers and sisters that fled from Manticore with her. Max’s search brings her in contact with underground cyberjournalist Logan Cale (Michael Weatherly), and together, they try to make Seattle a more palatable place while unveiling the secrets of Max’s past.Jessica Alba, William Gregory Lee, and Michael Weatherly in Dark Angel (2000)Just as Max is a genetically-engineered hybrid of various people and creatures, Dark Angel has been stitched together from the remnants of various other genre television series and movies. The most obvious point of comparison is Buffy the Vampire Slayer, with its beautiful, sassy, headstrong, ass-kicking female lead, a predominately female supporting cast, and an older male mission-dispensing mentor with an answer to every question and a solution to every problem. Hell, both series have even had a recurring character named Kendra. Similarities can also be drawn to The Pretender, which features a gifted child raised in an isolated institutional setting and pursued in adulthood. Both series take every available opportunity to flash back to childhood and draw parallels to the present. The X-5s also bear a passing resemblance to the powerful young aliens of Roswell. Toss in a dollop of a Mad Max post-apocalyptic future for good measure, and you’re in the general ballpark.Jessica Alba in Dark Angel (2000)By the time I’d waded through the 90-minute pilot and the other two episodes on disc one, I was fully prepared to write Dark Angel off as a loss, resigning myself to wading through another thirteen hours of mediocrity. The feature-length pilot carried a hefty price tag, touted at the time as the most expensive ever produced. I’m not sure how much of that reported $10 million made it on-screen or was siphoned off to line James Cameron’s wallet, but the end result is plodding and dull. Thankfully, Dark Angel improves after these early fumbles, though the quality remains uneven throughout. For every decent episode, there’s one as dismal as Red or Haven. Douglas O’Keeffe has been cast in enough movies and TV series that someone out there seems to think he has some modicum of talent, but not a glimpse of it is on display in his embarrassingly inept performance as Bruno in Red. Bruno isn’t the only carryover from the pilot. A disturbing amount of footage appears in flashback form, making it the most shameless rehash outside of a Silent Night, Deadly Night sequel. Haven consists of 43 of the most painfully boring minutes I’ve spent in front of my television this year, and even the most staunch fans of the series seem to consider it pretty dreadful.Jessica Alba and Douglas O'Keeffe in Dark Angel (2000)Dark Angel was, at least in part, a victim of Fox’s determination to air sci-fi programming on Friday night, a timeslot that has claimed such genre casualties as Firefly, The Lone Gunman, M.A.N.T.I.S., Harsh Realm, Strange Luck, and VR.5. Despite not attracting enough viewers to warrant a third season, Fox’s home video arm has enough confidence in Dark Angel’s fan base to release both seasons of the series in relatively quick succession.Jessica Alba in Dark Angel (2000)Established fans of the series ought to find Dark Angel to be well-worth the modest asking price. As for the uninitiated, I wouldn’t recommend this set as a blind purchase. I’d suggest checking out at least a couple of episodes first, which admittedly might prove to be fairly tough seeing as how Dark Angel has been off the air for years now. If the premise sounds intriguing and you never got around to watching the series during its original run on Fox, I’d recommend this set.