REVIEW: BLOOD DIAMOND

CAST

Leonardo DiCaprio (Titanic)
Djimon Hounsou (Guaridans of The Galaxy)
Jennifer Connelly (Hulk)
Kagiso Kuypers  (Elalini)
Arnold Vosloo (The Mummy)
David Harewood (Supergirl)
Basil Wallace (Marked For Death)
Jimi Mistry (The Guru)
Michael Sheen (Underworld)
Stephen Collins (No Ordinary Family)
Ntare Mwine (Heroes)
Adetokumboh M’Cormack  (Lost)

It is 1999 and Sierra Leone is ravaged by major political unrest. Rebel factions such as the Revolutionary United Front frequently terrorize the countryside, intimidating Mende locals and enslaving many to harvest diamonds, which fund their increasingly successful war effort. One such unfortunate local is fisherman Solomon Vandy (Djimon Hounsou) from Shenge, who is separated from his family and assigned to a workforce overseen by Captain Poison (David Harewood), a ruthless warlord.One morning, Vandy discovers an enormous pink diamond in the riverbank. Captain Poison tries to take the stone, but the area is suddenly raided by government troops. Vandy buries the stone before being captured. Both Vandy and Poison are incarcerated in Freetown, along with Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio), a white Rhodesian gunrunner jailed while trying to smuggle diamonds into Liberia. They were intended for Rudolph van de Kaap, a corrupt South African mining executive.Hearing of the pink diamond in prison, Archer arranges for himself and Vandy to be freed from detention. He travels to Cape Town to meet his employer: Colonel Coetzee (Arnold Vosloo), an Afrikaner formerly with the apartheid-era South African Defence Force, who now commands a private military company. Archer wants the diamond so he can sell it and leave the continent forever, but Coetzee wants it as compensation for Archer’s botched smuggling mission. Archer returns to Sierra Leone, locates Vandy, and offers to help him find his family if he will help recover the diamond.Meanwhile, RUF insurgents escalate hostilities; Freetown falls to their advance while Vandy’s son Dia (Kagiso Kuypers) is among those rounded up to serve as a child soldier under a liberated Captain Poison. Archer and Vandy narrowly escape to Lungi, where they plan to reach Kono with an American journalist, Maddy Bowen (Jennifer Connelly); in exchange, Archer will provide evidence on the illicit diamond trade. The trio arrive in Kono after a harrowing journey, where Coetzee and his private army — contracted by the Sierra Leone government — prepares to repulse the rebel offensive.While Maddy gets out with her story, the two men set out for Captain Poison’s encampment. Dia, stationed with the RUF garrison there, is confronted by Vandy, but having been brainwashed he refuses to acknowledge his father. Archer radios the site’s coordinates to Coetzee, who directs a combined air and ground assault on the camp; Vandy finds Captain Poison and beats him to death with a shovel as the mercenaries overwhelm the RUF defenders. Coetzee then forces Vandy to produce the diamond, but is killed by Archer, who realizes Coetzee would eventually kill them both. Dia holds the pair briefly at gunpoint, but Vandy confronts him again and renews their bond. Pursued by vengeful mercenaries, Archer discloses he has been mortally wounded and entrusts the stone to Vandy, telling him to take it for his family. Vandy and his son rendezvous with Archer’s pilot, who flies them to safety while Archer makes a final phone call to Maddy; they share final farewells as he asks her to assist Vandy, and gives her permission to finish her article. Archer finally takes in the beautiful African landscape before (presumably) dying.Vandy arrives in London and meets with a van de Kaap representative; he exchanges the pink diamond for a large sum of money and being reunited with his entire family. Maddy takes photographs of the deal to publish in her article on the diamond trade, exposing van de Kaap’s criminal actions. Vandy appears as a guest speaker at a conference on “blood diamonds” in Kimberley, and is met with a standing ovation. 

I was pleasantly surprised by the film. Compelling characters and the skillful use of a truly gripping global issue as the plot line make this a satisfying viewing experience- one that I would happily see again. Definitely worth a watch

 

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REVIEW: STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE

CAST

William Shatner (TJ Hooker)
Leonard  Nimoy (Transformers: The Movie)
DeForest Kelley (Canon City)
James Doohan (Some Things Never Die)
George Takei (Heroes)
Majel Barrett (Earth: Final Conflict)
Walter Koenig (Babylon 5)
Nichelle Nichols (Scooby-Doo 4)
Persis Khambatta (Lois & Clark)
Stephen Collins (No Ordinary Family)
Grace Lee Whitney (60s Batman)
Mark Lenard (Planet of The Apes TV)

In 2273, a Starfleet monitoring station, Epsilon Nine, detects an alien force, hidden in a massive cloud of energy, moving through space towards Earth. The cloud destroys three of the Klingon Empire’s new K’t’inga-class warships and the monitoring station en route. On Earth, the starship Enterprise is undergoing a major refit; her former commanding officer, James T. Kirk, has been promoted to Admiral and works in San Francisco as Chief of Starfleet Operations. Starfleet dispatches Enterprise to investigate the cloud entity as the ship is the only one in intercept range, requiring her new systems to be tested in transit.

Kirk takes command of the ship citing his experience, angering Captain Willard Decker, who had been overseeing the refit as its new commanding officer. Testing of Enterprise’s new systems goes poorly; two officers, including the science officer, are killed by a malfunctioning transporter, and improperly calibrated engines almost destroy the ship. Kirk’s unfamiliarity with the new systems of the Enterprise increases the tension between him and first officer Decker. Commander Spock arrives as a replacement science officer, explaining that while on his home world undergoing a ritual to purge all emotion, he felt a consciousness that he believes emanates from the cloud.

Enterprise intercepts the energy cloud and is attacked by an alien vessel within. A probe appears on the bridge, attacks Spock and abducts the navigator, Ilia. She is replaced by a robotic replica, another probe sent by “V’Ger” to study the crew. Decker is distraught over the loss of Ilia, with whom he had a romantic history. He becomes troubled as he attempts to extract information from the doppelgänger, which has Ilia’s memories and feelings buried within. Spock takes a spacewalk to the alien vessel’s interior and attempts a telepathic mind meld with it. In doing so, he learns that the vessel is V’Ger itself, a living machine.

At the center of the massive ship, V’Ger is revealed to be Voyager 6, a 20th-century Earth space probe believed lost. The damaged probe was found by an alien race of living machines that interpreted its programming as instructions to learn all that can be learned, and return that information to its creator. The machines upgraded the probe to fulfill its mission, and on its journey the probe gathered so much knowledge that it achieved consciousness. Spock realizes that V’Ger lacks the ability to give itself a focus other than its original mission; having learned what it could on its journey home, it finds its existence empty and without purpose. Before transmitting all its information, V’Ger insists that the Creator come in person to finish the sequence. Realizing that the machine wants to merge with its creator, Decker offers himself to V’Ger; he merges with the Ilia probe and V’Ger, creating a new form of life that disappears into another dimension. With Earth saved, Kirk directs Enterprise out to space for future missions.This film has a great plot, great special effects, and excellent music and cinematography. Definitely see it if you are truly interested in taking a philosophical journey into the essence of what makes us human.

REVIEW: DRIVE ME CRAZY

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CAST

Melissa Joan Hart (Melissa & Joey)
Adrian Grenier (Harvard Man)
Stephen Collins (No Ordinary Family)
Mark Metcalf (Buffy)
Faye Grant (V)
Susan May Pratt (Adrift)
Ali Larter (Legalley Blonde)
Lourdes Benedicto (V 2009)
Keri Lynn Pratt (Cruel Intentions 2)

FILM: 'DRIVE ME CRAZY' BY JOHN SCHULTZ.

Nicole Maris (Melissa Joan Hart) and Chase Hammond (Adrian Grenier) live next door to each other. Nicole lives with her divorced mother and Chase’s mother died of cancer, making them two teens living with their single parents. However, they are worlds apart. Nicole is up on the latest fashions; Chase, on the latest protest. She wouldn’t miss a pep rally or basketball game with her scheming socialite friends; he can usually be found in a dark coffee room with his friends who don’t care what they wear.
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Nicole wants a dream date with the star basketball player, but right before it was certain they were going together, he falls in love with a cheerleader. Meanwhile, Chase’s “non-conformist” girlfriend, Dulcie (Ali Larter) dumps him for another man. Now that they have something in common, Nicole and Chase reluctantly join forces to navigate the land mines of high school love.Their scheme: date each other to attract the interest and jealousy of their respective romantic prey. It works all right: they both get the person they wanted. But in the midst of planning a gala centennial celebration, Nicole and Chase find that the one they always wanted is closer than they ever realized. Finally, they dump their original dates and fall in love with each other. There is still one big twist that could ruin their relationship forever in the end. After the celebration ends, they go back home only to find out that their parents have fallen in love and will move in together, which would make them step-siblings. However, the movie ends with the feeling that they aren’t going to let that fact stop their relationship.
Drive Me Crazy (1999)
With a screenplay that owes more than a nod to Clueless, Heathers and Pump Up The Volume, original it is not, but as popcorn pictures go, Drive Me Crazy is slick, entertaining and full of youthful exuberance. It manages to charm without affectation, and will leave you with a smile on your face even if your teenage years are just a memory

REVIEW: NO ORDINARY FAMILY

MAIN CAST
Michael Chikilis (Gotham)
Julie Benz (Angel)
Kay Panabaker (Two and a Half Men)
Jimmy Bennett (The Amityville Horror)
Autumn Reeser (Human Target)
Romany Malco (Blades of Glary)
Stephen Collins (Star Trek: The Motion Picture)
RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST
Christina Chang (28 Days)
Tate Donovan (Argo)
Jamie Harris (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)
Josh Stewart (The Dark Knight Rises)
Jason Antoon (Minority Report)
Reggie Lee (Drag Me To Hell)
Joanna Walsh (Faster)
Guillermo Diaz (The Terminal)
Jonathan Adams (Bones)
Rahcel Miner (The Butterfly Effect 3)
Max Greenfield (New Girls)
Amy Gumenick (Arrow)
Jackson Rathbone (Twilight)
Cybill Shepherd (Moonlighting)
Bruce McGill (Collateral)
Amy Acker (Dollhouse)
Mimi Kennedy (Mom)
Katelyn Tarver (Dead on Campus)
Annie Wersching (The Vampire Diaries)
Jason Wiles (Zodiac)
Luke Kleintank (Bones)
Rebecca Mader (Lost)
Joanne Kelly (Mutant X)
Katrina begin (Zookeeper)
Betsy Brandt (Breaking Bad)
Ethan Suplee (My Name Is Earl)
Anthony Michael Hall (The Dead Zone)
Tricia Helfer (Battlestar Galactica)
Eric Balfour (Skyline)
Lucy Lawless (Ash vs Evil Dead)
Robert Picardo (Star Trek: Voyager)
Michael Maize (Eagle Eye)

The Powells are a typical American family living in fictional Pacific Bay, California, whose members gain special powers after their plane crashes in the Amazon. The show is very light hearted and manages to mix comedy with action and drama extremely well. The family are quite cliché and the powers aren’t exactly ‘original’ but they make it work.The cast do a great job portraying their characters, Michael Chiklis (Star of The Shield and Fantastic Four) does a brilliant job as the father while Julie Benz (formerly Rita Morgan in Dexter) puts on a strong performance as the mother of the family. You also have Kay Panabaker and Jimmy Bennett as the kids.

The character development in this series is great and the story is  highly entertaining. The characters relationships are believable and very engrossing. I think the pairing of Jim Powell (Michael Chiklis) and George St. Cloud (Romany Malco) is brilliant. The second prize for most hilarious character in this show has to go to Stephanie Powells best friend and work colleague Katie Andrews (Played by Autumn Reeser), she is incredibly geeky and so socially awkward, hilarious to watch.

It’s light hearted, fun and easy to watch. Yes it has the sci-fi/fantasy element to it which is akin to shows like Chuck, Heroes, Supernatural, Buffy, Smallville etc. But it also has a more family oriented feel to it at times and what this show does brilliantly is applying super powers to every day events. A lot of people have been comparing it heroes but I find it far to light hearted to be compared to heroes. It’s nowhere near as dark and serious and has far more comedy integrated throughout. I’d say it’s more like Chuck than Heroes. It was cancelled after only 1 season but still its very much worth a watch.

REVIEW: BATMAN BEYOND – SEASON 1-3

 

 

CAST (VOICES)

Will Friedle (Boy Meets World)
Kevin Conroy (Batman: TAS)
Teri Garr (Young Frankenstein)
Ryan O’Donohue (A Bug’s Life)
Lauren Tom (Futurama)
Cree Summer (Inspector Gadget)
Seth Green (Family Guy)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Michael Gross (Tremors)
Sherman Howard (Superboy)
George Takei (Star Trek)
Sam McMurray (Drop Dead Gorgeous)
CCH Pounder (Avatar)
Clyde Kusatsu (The Interpreter)
Frank Welker (Transformers)
Marc Worden (Ultimate Avengers)
Rino Romano (The Batman)
Corey Burton (Transformers)
Shannon Kenny (7th Heaven)
Stockard Channing (Grease)
Kevin Michael Richardson (The Clevland Show)
Melissa Dinsey (In A World..)
Scott McAfee (Midnight Run)
Bill Smitrovich (Ted)
Pauley Perrette (The Ring)
Linda Hamilton (Chuck)
Michael Ansara (Star Trek)
Tress Macneille (Futurama)
Chris Mulkey (Whiplash)
Olivia d’Abo (Conan The Destroyer)
Amanda Donahue (Liar Liar)
George Lazenby (Gettysburg)
Scott Cleverdon (The Prophecy 3)
Brian George (The Big Bang Theory)
Ian Ziering (Sharknado)
Larry Drake (Firefly)
Jon Cypher (Masters of The Universe)
Vernee Watson (The Big Bang Theory)
Dorian Harewood (Gothika)
William H. Macy (The Cooler)
Kimmy Robertson (Stuart Little)
Paul Winfield (The Termiantor)
Miguel Sandoval (Medium)
Ice-T (Tank Girl)
Lindsay Sloane (The Other Guys)
Stephen Collins (No Ordinary Family)
Ethan Embry (Eagle Eye)
Rider Strong (Cabin fever)
Stacy Keach (Two and a Half Men)
Carl Lumbly (Alias)
Daphne Zuniga (Spaceballs)
Sarah Douglas (Superman)
Jason Marsden (Full House)
Michael Rosenbaum (Smallville)
Henry Rollins (Wrong Turn 2)
Kate Jackson (Charlie’s Angels)
Shiri Appleby (Roswell)
Dan Castellaneta (The Simpsons)
Tim Curry (IT)
John Ritter (bride of Chucky)
Rachael Leigh Cook (Antitrust)
Adam Wylie (Superman Doomsday)
Michael McKean (This Is Spinal Tap)
Andy Dick (Dude, Where’s My Car?)
Gary Cole (Chuck)
Kerrigan Mahan (Power Rangers)
Johnny Galecki (The Big Bang Theory)
Chris Demetral (Lois & Clark)
Patton Oswalt (Caprica)
Mitch Pileggi (Stargate: Atlantis)
Curtis Armstrong (American Dad)
Bumper Robinson (Sabrina: TTW)
Eli Marienthal (American Pie)
Angie Harmon (Agent Cody Banks)
Robert Patrick (Terminator 2)
Olivia Hussey (Black Christmas)
David Warner (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2)
Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
Adrienne Barbeau (Swamp Thing)
Farrah Forke (Lois & Clarke)
Christopher McDonald (Fanboys)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)
Alexlis Denisof (Angel)
Diedrich Bader (Batman: TBATB)
Julie Nathanson (The Zeta Project)
Kurtwood Smith (That 70s Show)
Keone Young (Crank)
Keith Szarabajka (The Dark Knight)
Sean Marquette (13 Going on 30)


Fifty years after Batman: The Animated Series came to a close, Gotham City is without a protector. Failing health and a chilling act of desperation prompted Bruce Wayne to give up Batman’s cape and cowl, and the corporation that had stayed in his family for generations has been wrest from him by a corporate raider named Derek Powers. Never married and abandoned by his sidekicks, the elderly, embittered Wayne lurks inside a sprawling mansion that seems more like a mausoleum than the stately manor of old. Derek Powers is using the remnants of WayneCorp to illegally manufacture an endlessly destructive but extremely profitable nerve gas, a secret that Wayne/Powers employee Warren McGinnis stumbles upon and pays for with his life. His troubled son Terry blames himself for the murder, but a chance encounter with Bruce Wayne results in the theft of a Batman suit brimming with cutting-edge technology and the revelation of the man truly responsible for his father’s death. By the time the two-part episode “Rebirth” is over, Bruce Wayne has agreed to guide Terry as the new Batman, and an irradiated Derek Powers is a walking fusion reactor.batman-beyondBatman: The Animated Series, Superman, and Justice League all drew heavily from the established mythos, but Batman Beyond is a largely original creation. Sure, there are quite a few nods to the original series — it’s still set in Gotham City, Barbara Gordon has taken the mantle of police commissioner, and there are winks to fans like the Grey Ghost costume in the Batcave.
Terry McGinnis is a very different lead character than Bruce Wayne was in Batman: The Animated Series. In the previous series, it seemed more as if Batman was who this man really was and Bruce Wayne was just an occasionally convenient mask for him to wear. Terry is seen out of costume much more frequently than Bruce ever was and feels like more of a fleshed-out character. He has friends, he has family, and he has a life outside of the pointy-eared hood. Gotham City is still teeming with bad guys, but even though Batman has been transplanted to the future, he’s not squaring off against Joker II or The Riddler Redux. The rogue’s gallery of this futuristic Batman doesn’t lift much from the previous animated series or even from the comics. The only familiar faces are Mr. Freeze, The Royal Flush Gang, and, briefly and unrecognizably, Bane. The other villains are original creations with some striking character designs, such as the amorphous corporate saboteur Inque, sound-engineer-with-a-power-suit Shriek, and the hypnotic Spellbound. This season also doesn’t rehash the same villains over and over again, with Inque being the only badnik other than Derek Powers’ Blight to strike more than once.

 


Several of the supervillains aren’t costumed-threats-of-the-week, but ordinary people in extraordinary situations: Willie Watt in “Golem” is a nerdy high schooler who seizes control of a two-story-tall construction robot to exact revenge on the bullies who torment him, and “The Winning Edge” is about high school athletes using steroids yet deftly avoids playing like ‘a very special episode of Batman Beyond’. One thing Batman’s adversaries, costumed and plainclothes alike, have in common is their origins. Nearly all of the villains in Batman Beyond are born of tragedy or greed, and that gives these episodes more of a resonance than something like The Joker pumping Gotham City with laughing gas for no reason in particular.

Another stand-out is “Shriek”, pitting Batman against an enemy whose technology enables him to manipulate sound. One of the most inventive sequences in the entire run of the series is set in a car factory where Batman starts setting off every piece of equipment in arm’s reach as a distraction. Shriek uses his technology to block out the noise and isolate Batman’s movements, resulting in an almost entirely silent battle with no dialogue, few sound effects, and a sparse, subtle score.

This first season of Batman Beyond is remarkably consistent, offering perhaps the strongest debut of any DC animated series to date.

Batman Beyond—Season Two would be ambitious and further expand the adventures of Terry McGinnis, the new Dark Knight of the Gotham City’s future, but it would also be quite different from the first season in several ways. For one thing,  the creators had killed off Terry arch nemesis Derek Powers (a.k.a. Blight) at the end of season and despite having a cliffhanger ending, the character never returned for season two, or season three for that matter. In fact, the fundamental change between the two seasons was that the network requested more episodes be written around Terry and the kids he interacted with in his high school, instead of focusing on a corporate espionage subplot like in the previous season. The producers did not argue with this as it was more or less the direction they were interested in going too. The network also wanted the show to introduce a stronger female character that could assist Terry in his mission as Batman. The not led to the creation of new supporting character Maxine “Max” Gibson, a beautiful and intelligent girl at Terry’s high school who would discover his secret in her first episode and would become one of his allies for the rest of the series. She was always intended to be her own character and not a placeholder for Robin, Batgirl, Alfred or anyone from the classic Batman supporting cast. Most of Terry’s teenage peers like Dana Tan, Chelsea Cunningham, Blade Summer and Nelson Nash came back in this season and is some cases got slightly more prominent roles. But there was also at least one more friend of Terry’s introduced named Howard Groote, a nerdy comic relief who design was, amusingly, inspired by producer/writer Paul Dini.

As for villains this season, many characters like the Jokerz gang, Ten of the Royal Flush Gang, Spellbinder, Willie Watt, Shriek and Curare return for further episodes. But there were also several new villains introduced, though unfortunately many of them were only one-time threats and did not become members of terry’s recurring rogues gallery. The three major recurring villains introduced this season were the Stalker, a cybernetically-enhanced big-game hunter who sees Batman as his ultimate prey, the insanely liberal bomber Mad Stan, and the terrorist snake cult known as Kobra). Memorable one-shot villains include gene splicer Dr. Able Cuvier, the A.I. ‘ghost’ of a former corporate mogul who takes control of the Batsuit, a rat boy named Patrick that kidnaps Dana, the father of one of Terry’s friends who becomes a supervillain named Armory, a burly woman named Mom Mayhem and her two sons, a snobby gossip reporter using invisibility technology, and a vigilante named Payback who takes his revenge against tormentors of troubled teenagers too far.

Overall, Batman Beyond—Season Two is twice and big as the first season, and just as strong.

The episodes in this final release aren’t as dark as some of the great shows in the first box, but they’re still very exciting. The villains don’t have that tragic quality which translated so well from the regular Batman universe, but this lack of atmosphere is made up for with a great sense of adventure and fun.

“The Call”, for example, is a fantastic two-parter that sees Batman team-up with a future Justice League – it’s probably too much to assume that this “Justice League Unlimited” was a conscious forbearer to the actual series, but it’s certainly a great cartoon-geek moment. In the episode, Terry McGuiness uproots a villain who conspires to take over the JLU  in a suspenseful story that has a great connection to the original comic book origin of the League.

But the champion episode of the box – and perhaps the series – is “Out of The Past” (would it surprise you to learn that it’s penned by Paul Dini?). Not only does the episode bring back two excellent characters from Bruce Wayne’s past, Ra’s Al Ghul and Talia, and not only does it do it in a way that resonates with both Batman and Bruce, but it’s got, hands down, one of the best tongue-in-cheek moments in the entire DC Animated Universe. It is the stories, and their execution, where the true appeal of these episodes lies. Sure there’s a great setting and a great character, but each of these mini sci-fi/fantasy stories is a very fun and exciting peak into a great imaginary world. Sure, one that happens to borrow a lot from the Batman mythology, but it’s the show’s imaginative qualities that make it a unique world that translates perfectly to the cartoon form.

While the traditional episode structure does tend to bore, it also does its job. Furthermore, the imaginative fight scenes – whether they be with a villain who is physically untouchable, or a fight in a giant wind tunnel – will keep your attention long after more kinetic, but ultimately rote new series have lost their appeal.


A major sticking point to this set is the lack of a satisfactory conclusion. The series was rather abruptly put to a stop after its checkpoint 52-episode run in 2001. It wasn’t until Justice League Unlimited’s Season Four finale, “Epilogue”, that Batman Beyond was given a proper send-off. But what a send-off it was! After you finish this set it is highly recommended that you seek out the aforementioned episode. While this box’s closer, “Unmasked”, is a nice story, it’s not the series finale that, ironically – yet thankfully – another series would provide.  Batman Beyond was born out of a WB executive’s desire to cash in on a popular and recognizable franchise. Because of the fantastic people behind the show, what might have been a hollow concept was turned into something fresh, imaginative, and very worthwhile.