REVIEW: THE GIFTED – SEASON 1

MAIN CAST

Stephen Moyer (True Blood)
Amy Acker (Angel)
Sean Teale (Reign)
Natalie Alyn Lind (Gotham)
Percy Hynes White (Rupture)
Coby Bell (Burn Notice)
Jamie Chung (Office Christmas Party)
Blair Redford (Satisfaction)
Emma Dumont (Aquarius)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Hayley Lovitt (Ant-Man)
Toks Olagundoye  (The Neighbors)
Joe Nemmers (American Crime)
Jeff Daniel Phillips (Westworld)
Elena Satine (Revenge)
Garret Dillahunt (12 Years a Slave)
Sharon Gless  (Cagney & Lacey)
Jeffrey Nordling  (Nashville)
Zach Roerig (The Vampire Diaries)
Michelle Veintimilla  (Gotham)
Frances Turner (The Exes)
Danny Ramirez (Assassination Nation)
Skyler Samuels (Scream Queens)
Raymond J. Barry (Falling Down)
Ray Campbell (Breaking Bad)
David Norona  (The Mentalist)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble)

What ingredients are necessary for a successful show about powered individuals? Cool abilities? Flashy visuals? Likable characters? Interestingly, Fox’s The Gifted manages to have them all despite following some formulaic paths to tell its story. Any worries viewers might have about the young, good-looking, CW-like cast should be tossed aside. Everyone from the headstrong but calculating mutants to the strangely sympathetic government enforcers to the argumentative but caring siblings in the Strucker family have levels of complexity not often seen in comic book shows.It helps that there are powers on display right away that we haven’t seen on previous superhero-as-outcast shows. Of particular interest is Jamie Chung’s character, Claire a.k.a. Blink, whose ability involves creating writhing purple portals that allow her to travel instanteously from one point to another. Having her character join the Mutant Underground as someone still new to her abilities is something we’ve seen in shows like The Tomorrow People or Alphas, but that trope is usually reserved for the main character. Here, her burgeoning powers and escape from the law are merely used to set up one of the big motivations for the mutants to come out of hiding.The Gifted’s main story, arguably, revolves around the Struckers, who live in a world where anti-mutant laws are in effect and the X-Men and the Brotherhood of Mutants have gone off the grid. Public fear of the dangers of super-powered individuals has led to strict government control and prejudice in the form of derogatory terms like “mutey.” Reed Strucker, played powerfully by Stephen Moyer of True Blood, helps prosecute those mutants who use their power to break the law, and the initial concern that he and his wife (Amy Acker of Person Of Interest) share centers around their son Andrew, who’s being bullied at school almost to the breaking point.Viewers can probably guess what happens next, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable to watch unfold. The irony of Reed working against mutants and then finding out about his son’s powers being awakened by the strong emotions associated with abuse by his peers is richly nuanced and informs everything the family does afterwards. There are some surprises for the family along the way as well to sweeten the pot, but as Reed seeks help from the Mutant Underground, his discoveries concerning the Magneto-like Lorna a.k.a. Polaris (Emma Dumont of Aquarius) provide a pleasantly paradoxical reluctance and incentive for Lorna’s boyfriend, the light-manipulating Marcos a.k.a. Eclipse (Sean Teale of Reign), to help the Struckers.What they’re escaping from is the Sentinel Services, a group of elite enforcers who apparently go after those with particularly destructive or potentially game-changing abilities. Two things stand out about the introduction of these mutant hunters. First, the lead agent, Jace Turner (Coby Bell of Burn Notice), is oddly sympathetic while being coldly rigid in rounding up mutants; and second, the Sentinel Services have mysterious ways of tracking the seemingly untrackable and bring a lot of high-tech toys to take down those with powers. The combination makes for a very interesting, dynamic enemy opposite quite flawed protagonists — just how we like it.Characters in the background felt strong and full of promise as well. Although Acker’s Caitlin Strucker didn’t have quite enough to do in the pilot, her screen presence has always been unmatched and as the season goes on she becomes a more prominent character and crucial to the mutant underground, her daughter Lauren (Natalie Alyn Lind of The Goldbergs), who could have easily disappeared into the background as just another pretty face, is wonderful both when she was fighting with her brother and when she was supporting him with secrets of her own. And a mutant to keep an eye on, just from the sheer awesomeness of his powers, is John (Blair Redford of Satisfaction), who has a number of abilities hinted at by his alias “Thunderbird” that will not be spoiled here.The Gifted has what it takes to be another “X-Men adjacent” hit for Fox Television alongside FX’s Legion. The latter is much more esoteric but does have several things in common with this new mutant offering, including the manner in which Andy Strucker’s (Percy Hynes White of Murdoch Mysteries) powers manifest. The series builds towards a great finale that changes the entire dynamic of the show and leads into what should be an awesome Season 2 later in the year.

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REVIEW: THE DOUBLE

CAST

Richard Gere (Brooklyns Finest)
Topher Grace (That 70s Show)
Martin Sheen (The West Wing)
Tamer Hassan (24: Live Another Day)
Stephen Moyer (The Gifted)
Chris Marquette (Fanboys)
Odette Annable (Supergirl)
Stana Katic (Castle)
Jeffrey Pierce (The Tomorrow People)
Nicole Forester (Guiding Light)

Two FBI agents are conducting surveillance at a warehouse. As a U.S. senator Dennis Darden (Ed Kelly) walks out of the door, he is approached by an assassin from behind who slits his throat and escapes. The agents rush to the scene to find the man dead. However, they could not identify the assassin as he committed the murder in darkness. Later, CIA officers arrive on the scene and take charge. Retired operative Paul Shepherdson (Richard Gere) is summoned by CIA director Tom Highland (Martin Sheen) to look into the murder. He is introduced to a young FBI agent, Ben Geary (Topher Grace) who is an expert on a former Soviet operative known as Cassius. Geary reasons that Cassius is the assassin due to his signature throat-slitting method.Paul and Ben visit Brutus (Stephen Moyer), one of Cassius’s proteges, who is locked up in prison, to learn the whereabouts of Cassius. They provide him with a radio and leave. The prisoner then swallows the batteries from the radio and fakes a poisoning/upset stomach. Upon arriving at a hospital, he regurgitates and spits out the batteries, overpowers the medical staff, and escapes. In the basement’s garage, he is attacked by Paul, who reveals himself to be Cassius himself, the very operative who had previously trained the fugitive. Cassius slits his throat. He then moves to eliminate young FBI agent Ben too, only stopping when interrupted by Ben’s wife – he’s unable to murder him in face of his family. Upon investigating the crime scene, Ben grows increasingly suspicious of Paul. Meanwhile, a Russian terrorist and murderer, Bozlovski (Tamer Hassan), has entered the U.S.As the investigation deepens, Paul warns Ben to pull out, due to the possibility of harm not only to himself but his family. Ben, who has become obsessed with the idea that Paul is Cassius, starts his own parallel investigation. Meanwhile, Paul tries to contact Bozlovski in a factory where he escapes after an intense firefight. Ben examines another throat-slitting murder of Bozlovski’s associate at the same site and is now convinced Paul is indeed Cassius. Ben pieces together the events of Paul’s life and determines that not only is Paul actually Cassius, but also that he is systematically murdering the people involved in the death of his wife and child, who were assassinated by Bozlovski.Paul has now tracked down Bozlovski to a shipyard warehouse. A while later, Ben also arrives at the building. After being confronted with the evidence, Paul confesses everything. Paul then confronts Ben with the fact that Ben is a Russian spy, which Paul learned at one of Ben’s informant drop-offs. He is able to convince Ben that Bozlovski is the actual threat. When Ben reveals that he has plans to return to Russia after this is over, Paul tries to convince him to stay in the FBI and with the family he has grown to love. Together they hunt down Bozlovski inside the shipyard’s warehouse. Bozlovski attacks Paul and Ben, and in the ensuing struggle, a mortally wounded Paul slits Bozlovski’s throat using his garrote-watch. However, Paul himself later succumbs to his own injuries. As the only witness, FBI agent Ben relays the incident to his superiors and claims that Bozlovski was Cassius, thereby securing Paul’s reputation and recognizing his heroism. As Ben departs, the CIA director Highland asks him whether he would ever consider working at the CIA. The film ends with Ben returning to his home as a now defected no longer double agent.maxresdefaultThere are some pretty good action scenes in this, but to its credit the movie doesn’t go overboard on action. It tends to focus mostly on the relationship between Shepherdson and Geary. It’s a pretty decent effort.

REVIEW: DEVIL’S KNOT

CAST

Reese Witherspoon (Walk The Line)
Colin Firth (The King’s Speech)
Alessandro Nivola (American Hustle)
Bruce Greenwood (Star Trek)
Martin Henderson (The Ring)
Elias Koteas (Shutter Island)
Dane DeHaan (Life After Beth)
Kevin Durand (Dark Angel)
Kristoffer Polaha (Ringer)
Amy Ryan (Gone baby Gone)
Matt Letscher (Legends of Tomorrow)
Stephen Moyer (True Blood)
James Hamrick (Dive)
Seth Meriwether (The Duff)
Kristopher Higgins (In Time)
Mirelle Enos (World War Z)

In 1993, in the working class community of West Memphis, Arkansas, three eight-year-old boys – Stevie Branch, Christopher Byers, and Michael Moore – go missing from their neighborhood. After an extensive search, their bound and beaten bodies are found the next day. The community and the police department are convinced that the murders are the work of a satanic cult, due to the violent and sexual natures of the crime.A month later, three teenagers – Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley Jr. – are arrested after Misskelley confesses following approximately 12 hours of interrogation. They are taken to trial, where Baldwin and Misskelley are sentenced to life, and Echols to death, all the while still proclaiming their innocence.Overall, the movie is a good, well-constructed drama and a reasonably fair representation of the case–albeit far from a perfect one. It’s worth seeing and entertaining but not a film for kids to see because of the subject matter.

 

REVIEW: PRIEST

CAST

Paul Bettany (Avengers: Age of Ultron)
Karl Urban (Dredd)
Cam Gigandet (Easy A)
Maggie Q (Divergent)
Lily Collins (Mirror Mirror)
Brad Dourif (Curse of Chucky)
Stephen Moyer (True Blood)
Christopher Plummer (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo)
Alan Dale (Lost)
Mädchen Amick (Sleepwalkers)

A centuries long war between humans and vampires has devastated the planet’s surface and led to a theocracy under an organization called The Church. They constructed giant walled cities to protect mankind and developed a group of elite warriors, the Priests, to turn the tide against the vampires. The majority of the vampires were killed, while the remainder were placed in reservations. With the war over, the Clergy disbanded the Priests. Outside the walled cities, some humans seek out a living, free from the totalitarian control of the Church.
Priest (Paul Bettany) is approached by Hicks (Cam Gigandet), the sheriff of Augustine, a free town. Priest learns that his brother and his wife, Shannon – Priest’s girlfriend before he entered the priesthood – were mortally wounded in a vampire attack, and Priest’s niece, Lucy (Lily Collins), was kidnapped. Hicks asks for Priest’s help in rescuing Lucy. Priest asks the Clergy to reinstate his authority, but Church leader Monsignor Orelas (Christopher Plummer) does not believe the vampire story and refuses. Priest defiantly leaves the city and Orelas sends three Priests and a Priestess to bring him back.
Priest and Hicks arrive at Nightshade Reservation where humans called Familiars, people infected with a pathogen that makes them subservient to the vampires, live alongside a number of the surviving vampires. After a fierce battle, the pair discovers that most of the vampires have taken shelter in Sola Mira, a vampire hive where Priest lost several of his comrades during a major battle. Priestess joins them at Sola Mira, revealing a bond with Priest. The trio destroys a Hive Guardian vampire, then discover that the vampires have bred a new army and dug a tunnel out of the mountain towards a town called Jericho. The other three Priests have arrived at Jericho just as night falls and an armored train arrives, unleashing hundreds of vampires upon the population. The vampires are led by a powerful and mysterious human wearing a black hat. When the three Priests reject Black Hat’s offer to join him, he kills them all.
The next morning, Priest, Priestess and Hicks arrive in Jericho and discover the town empty and the three dead Priests crucified. Priest and Priestess share an intimate moment where she makes her move, hoping that now that Shannon has died, he would no longer feel bound to her. Priest, who is clearly not over Shannon, gently refuses. Priest realizes that the vampires have been using the trains to travel by day and attack the free towns by night, with the walled cities at the end of the train line. Hicks believes an attack on the cities would be unwise because of the sun, but Priest reveals that factories, producing massive clouds of smoke and ash, have permanently deprived the city of sunlight, so the vampire attack would be a slaughter.
Hicks threatens Priest, claiming he will shoot him unless he promises to let Lucy live whether she’s been infected or not. (Priest had earlier revealed to Hicks, who is in love with Lucy, that if they discovered Lucy had been infected as a Familiar, he’d kill her.) Hicks doesn’t understand why Priest, who is basically a stranger to Lucy, cares so much about her. Priestess reveals that Lucy is actually Priest’s daughter, and that his brother, Owen stepped in as a husband and a father when Priest was taken by The Church.
While Priestess rushes ahead to plant a bomb on the railroad tracks, Priest and Hicks board the train to rescue Lucy. Battling vampires and Familiars, the two are finally overpowered by Black Hat just as they find Lucy. Black Hat is revealed as one of the Priests who was defeated in the final attack on Sola Mira and a close friend of Priest. After being captured, the vampire Queen gave him her blood, turning him into the first Vampire-Human hybrid who can survive the sun. As Priest fights Black Hat, Lucy discovers the truth about her parentage. Priestess battles several Familiars, finally placing the explosives on her motor bike and crashing it into the train engine. The explosion and subsequent derailment kills the vampires and engulfs Black Hat in fire, while Hicks, Priest, Priestess, and Lucy are able to escape.
Priest returns to the city and confronts Monsignor Orelas during Mass, telling him of the burnt train containing the vampires’ bodies, but not the queen’s. He proves this by throwing a vampire head onto the floor and shocking everyone in the room. Orelas still refuses to believe him, declaring that the war is over, while Priest says that is just beginning. Outside the city Priest meets Priestess and she reveals that the other Priests have been notified and will meet them at a rendezvous point. Priest sets off into the sunset.Scott Stewart has produced a brilliant picture with Priest. The CGI vampires are also suitably disgusting and resemble the eyeless denizens of hell seen previously in Constantine. The post-script epilogue suggests there is still a story to be told. Sadly with the film not doing sowell at the box office this is all we will get.

REVIEW: HIGHLANDER: THE RAVEN

 

MAIN CAST

Elizabeth Gracen (Marked For Death)
Paul Johansson (Van Helsing)
Patricia Gage (American Psycho)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Torri Higginson (Stargate: Atlantis)
Julian Richings (Man of Steel)
Carlo Rota (Stargate Universe)
James Kidnie (Arrow)
Carolyn dunn (Sweating Bullets)
Alan Van Sprang (Reign)
Hannes Jaenicke (Tatort)
Lawrence Dane (Bride of Chucky)
John Ralston (Bitten)
Philip Akin (Mutant X)
Shary Guthrie (Earth: Final Conflict)
Andrew Jackson (Smallville)
Michael Copeman (The Fly)
Anne Marie Deluise (Goosebumps)
Noam Jenkins (John Q)
Geordie Johnson (reign)
Peter Mensah (Spartacus)
Valentine Pelka (8mm 2)
Jim Byrnes (Andromeda)
Michelle Gomez (Gotham)
Ronan Vibert (Hex)
Robert Cavanah (Sahara)
Stephen Moyer (True Blood)

With Highlander: The Raven, it became quickly obvious that this show wasn’t as good as the predecessor. The writing wasn’t as good, and some episodes were clearly not well done. That much I’m in agreement with everyone else here. But I would ask other viewers to also try to see the positive aspects that H:TR had. For starters, the chemistry between Amanda and detective Wolf was great.

I’m not sure why exactly, but these two were just perfect together, in both dialogue, thought processes and acting. I think that the writers here were trying to bring the world of immortals to deal with the point of view of a mortal, ie, Wolf, thus where we saw a mortal protagonist taking the heads of two immortals in the only season that this show was alive, the first by shooting at glass that decapitated his foe and the second (a very well-done episode) where Wolf used a sword to decapitate the immortal who was killing people for their organs.

That was basically the act of allowing a mortal to interact with immortals as their equal for the first time, instead of always running to a friendly immortal to do his bidding when another immortal was a villain who needed to be dealt with (ala Joe Dawson with Duncan). Here, a mortal took charge. There were other episodes that were truly gems to watch, the best being the one where Amanda had robbed a soldier during WW1 and inadvertently caused the deaths of 120 of his `brothers’, as that character stated in such a charming way. The one with father Liam and his doubts about his centuries-long faith in the priesthood was also a very good one, with Amanda baiting him to place himself between her sword and the woman journalist she pretended to wish to kill.

The very first episode where Wolf’s former partner had placed herself in between Amanda and a bullet, whereas basically leaving Amanda’s facial expression almost screaming out `WHAT DID YOU DO?!’ because she knew it was a sacrifice done for nothing, also leading her to possibly reconsider her values because someone who was dedicated to stopping her when she was a thief was still placing herself in harm’s way to protect her life. And, last but not least, the last episode where we found out that Wolf himself was an immortal now, and the science of immortality was clearly explained, at least to me, when he confronted Amanda about it. Just too bad we never got to see a second season to this cool show, thus allowing detective Wolf to be an immortal himself. But this will always be one of my favorite shows. Not as good as the great Highlander: The Series , but definitely one that was a joy to see every Saturday afternoon.

REVIEW: QUILLS

CAST

Kate Winslet (Divergent)
Geoffrey Rush (The King;s Speach)
Joaquin Phoenix (Gladiator)
Michael Caine (The Dark Knight)
Billie Whitelaw (Hot Fuzz)
Stephen Moyer (True Blood)

Quills begins in Paris during the Reign of Terror, with the incarcerated Marquis de Sade penning a story about the libidinous Mademoiselle Renard, a ravishing young aristocrat who meets the preeminent sadist in her executioner.  Several years later, the Marquis is confined to the asylum for the insane at Charenton, overseen by the enlightened Abbé du Coulmier. The Marquis has been publishing his work through laundress Madeleine “Maddy” LeClerc, who smuggles manuscripts through an anonymous horseman to a publisher. The Marquis’ latest work, Justine, is published on the black market to great success. Emperor Napoléon I Bonaparte orders all copies of the book to be torched and the author shot, but his advisor, Delbené, tempers this contentious idea with one of his own: send alienist Dr. Royer-Collard to assess Charenton and silence the Marquis. Meanwhile, the Abbé teaches Madeleine to read and write and resists his growing attraction to her. Madeleine reads the Marquis de Sade’s stories to her fellow workers. Whilst Madeleine is fascinated by the Marquis de Sade she remains reluctant to give into his advances. The Abbé and Marquis converse on the Marquis’ inappropriate advances on young women.

Dr. Royer-Collard arrives, informing the Abbé that the Marquis’ “therapeutic writings” have been distributed for public consumption. He presents the Abbé with the ultimatum of silencing the Marquis or Charenton will be shut down by order of the Emperor. The Abbé rejects Royer-Collard’s offers of several aggressive archaic “treatments” and asks to speak with the Marquis himself, who promptly swears obedience (winking at Madeleine through a peephole). Royer-Collard takes his leave for the time being and travels to the Panthemont Convent in Paris to retrieve his promised bride, the underage orphan Simone. They are given a run-down chateau by the Emperor, with a handsome young architect, Prouix, on hand for its renovation.

The hasty marriage incites much gossip at the asylum, prompting the Marquis to write a farce to be performed at a public exhibition, which Dr Royer-Collard and his young wife attend. The audacious play, a shockingly straightforward parallel of the good doctor’s own misogynist domination of his virginal bride, is titled “The Crimes of Love”. The performance is interrupted when the inmate Bouchon molests Madeleine off-stage, prompting her to hit him in the face with an iron. The Abbé is seen publicly comforting Madeleine. Royer-Collard shuts down the public theater and demands that the Abbé do more to control the Marquis, or he will inform the ministry that the inmates are running the asylum. Infuriated, the Abbé confiscates the Marquis’ quills and ink. The Marquis’s wife visits him and he takes out his frustration at not being able to write on her; she retaliates by asking a surprised Dr Royer-Collard that the Marquis be entombed forever. They discuss that the ill-gotten gains from the Marquis’s books could be used to effect his salvation, in other words, provide forms of restraint. The lack of writing implements results in more subversive behaviour from the Marquis, including a story written in wine on bedsheets and in blood on clothing. This results in further deprivation, eventually leaving the Marquis naked in an empty cell. Charlotte, one of the maids, reveals that Madeleine has been helping the Marquis. Madeleine is whipped on the order of Dr. Royer-Collard until the Abbé stops him by offering himself instead and declaring that she will be sent away. That night she visits his chamber to beg him to reconsider sending her away and confesses her love for him in the process, prompting him to kiss her passionately. They abruptly break away at the realization of what they are doing. Madeleine runs off and Charlotte catches the Abbé calling after her.

Meanwhile, Royer-Collard violently raped Simone on their wedding night, and continues to keep her as a virtual prisoner. She purchases a copy of Justine, seduces Prioux, and the young lovers run off to England together. She leaves behind a letter explaining her actions and her copy of Justine. Upon finding this, Royer-Collard seizes on the Marquis as the source of his troubles and embarks upon a quest for revenge, by having him tortured.

About to be sent away from Charenton for her role in assisting the Marquis, Madeleine begs a last story from him, which is to be relayed to her through the asylum patients. Bouchon, the inmate at the end of the relay, is excited by the story, breaks out of his cell, and attacks Madeleine. Royer-Collard hears Madeleine’s screams but chooses to ignore them and she is killed by Bouchon. The asylum is set afire by the pyromaniac Dauphin and the inmates break out of their cells.

Madeleine’s body is found by her blind mother and the Abbé in the laundry vat. The Abbé is devastated by Madeleine’s death and Bouchon is captured and imprisoned inside an iron dummy. The Abbé blames the Marquis for Madeleine’s death and prods him into a fury. The Marquis claims he had been with Madeleine in every way imaginable, only to be told she had died a virgin. The Abbé has the Marquis’ tongue cut out as punishment for his involvement, but is riddled with remorse and physically punishes himself. The Abbé then has a dream in which Madeleine comes alive and they have sex, but ultimately it ends with him holding her corpse. The Marquis’ health declines severely, but he remains perverse as ever, decorating his dungeon with a story, using faeces as ink. As the Marquis lies dying, the Abbé reads him the last rites and offers him a crucifix to kiss. The Marquis defiantly swallows the crucifix and chokes to death on it.

A year later, the new Abbé arrives at Charenton and is given the grand tour by Royer-Collard. During the tour they meet the maid Charlotte and through the exchange between herself and Royer-Collard it is apparent that there is a connection. The asylum has been converted into a print shop, with the inmates as its staff. The books being printed are the works of the Marquis de Sade. At the end of the tour, the new Abbé meets his predecessor, who resides in the Marquis’ old cell. Yearning to write, he begs paper and a quill from the new Abbé, and tries to strangle Royer-Collard when he ventures to close the peephole. The Abbé is herded off by Royer-Collard before he can hear anymore from his predecessor. However, the peephole opens, and Madeleine’s mother thrusts paper, quill, and ink through. The Abbé begins to scribble furiously, with the Marquis providing the narration.

Even if the the historical facts are a bit off in places. It’s touching, raw and a brutally honest depiction of madness, sexual desire, emotion and what it means it be human (flaws and all). The acting is first rate and kept me hooked throughout. It might not be for everyone but i’d recommend it all the same.