REVIEW: POLTERGEIST (2015)

CAST

Sam Rockwell (Iron Man 2)
Rosemarie DeWitt (Rachel Getting Married)
Saxon Sharbino (I Spit On Your Grave)
Kyle Catlett (The Angry Birds Movie)
Kennedi Clements (Jingle All The Way 2)
Jared Harris (Allied)
Jane Adams (Last Holiday)
Nicholas Braun (Red State)
Susan Heyward (Powers)
Patrick Garrow (Robocop)

1Eric and Amy Bowen are a married couple looking to buy a house for themselves and their three children: 16-year-old daughter, Kendra, their 9-year-old son, Griffin, and 6-year-old daughter, Madison. Eric was recently laid off, but they are shown a house that has recently come on the market that fits their price range, so they purchase it and move in.2The first night, they hear strange noises in the walls, and Griffin finds a box of clown dolls that were left at the house. In the middle of the night, lights and electronic devices start turning on and off, as some unseen force appears to move through the home. The commotion wakes Griffin, and he goes downstairs and finds Maddie talking to an unknown presence inside the television. She tells Griffin someone is coming, and he attempts to unplug the TV, causing the lights to go out of control. Maddie then tells the family: “They’re here” while touching their TV screen that has the ghost’s hands pressing against the other side of the screen. The following evening, Eric and Amy go to dinner with their friends, leaving the three children at home. They learn that their house was built on an old cemetery, but the bodies were moved to a better neighbourhood.3At the house, Kendra’s phone begins emitting strange sounds and a glitching screen, and as she traces the noise and enters the garage, the floor cracks and a corpse’s hand emerges and begins pulling at her foot. Griffin notices the clown dolls seem to be moving by themselves. One clown doll attacks him, but he destroys it and escapes from his bedroom. He finds Maddie in her room, scared, crouching in a corner, and tells her to stay while he goes to find Kendra. Maddie is then lured into her closet and becomes lost in an unending void. As she sees her bedroom drifting away further, she is dragged into the darkness by ghosts. Griffin, while running around the house, is grabbed by the branches of the old tree outside their house, which pulls him out to be hanging on the tree. Amy and Eric arrive home to see Griffin being tossed around in the tree branches, which releases its grip when they come close, while Kendra tells them she can’t find Maddie.5The family hears Maddie’s voice emanating from the television. Amy reaches at the television’s screen while Maddie’s static hand is seen to be touching Amy’s hand on the other side of the screen. Amy and Griffin visit the Paranormal Research department for help. The staff sets up equipment in the house, and install GPS devices on everyone in the house. While trying to contact Maddie, Eric is ambushed in the closet by a ghost resembling her. Angered, he breaks down the closet wall, throwing a chair into the darkness inside the closet, and as the chair falls back into the living room of the house, it reveals a possible portal Maddie can escape through. The investigators realize that this haunting is a poltergeist. The lead investigator, Dr. Brooke Powell, decides to call occult specialist and television personality Carrigan Burke (revealed, much later, to be Powell’s ex).4Carrigan explains that Maddie is a possible psychic, able to communicate with spirits. He reveals that the ghosts are trapped and are angry because only the headstones were moved to the new cemetery, but the bodies remained, and plan on using Maddie “to free them from their purgatory”. Carrigan comes up with a plan to get Maddie back. He anchors a rope in Maddie’s room and tosses it into the vortex. They attempt to use Griffin’s toy drone to guide Maddie out, but it is immediately destroyed by the ghosts when inside the portal. Griffin, guilt-ridden over leaving Maddie alone in the first place, goes through the portal himself. When he finds Maddie, the ghosts attempt to destroy the rope to trap them, but Griffin and Maddie grab onto the rope and are brought back through the portal.The family get in their car and begin to take their leave from the house, but the ghosts drag them back into the house and attempt to abduct Maddie again. The family saves her from being sucked into the portal, and Carrigan decides that as the only other psychic, he must go into the vortex and lead the spirits into the light. The Bowens flee as the house is destroyed by the spirits soaring into the sky as a beacon of light. The investigative team run to their equipment, looking for a sign that Carrigan managed to get back. As the Bowens look for a new house, the realtor shows them a house with lots of closet space and an old tree in the backyard; the Bowens drive away laughing. During the end credits, it’s revealed that Carrigan survived the incident and is back filming his ghost program, now hosting the show with Dr. Powell.6Being a huge fan of the original, I was pleasantly surprised that this remake respects and echoes the original in the main, but adds twists and effects and tech that we use everyday to make it comfortably contemporary. .

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REVIEW: CONVICTION

MAIN CAST

Hayley Atwell (Agent Carter)
Eddie Cahill (CSI: NY)
Shawn Ashmore (Smallville)
Merrin Dungey (alias)
Emily Kinney (The Flash)
Manny Montana (Graceland)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Daniel Franzese (Mean Girl)
Bess Armstrong (Jaws 3D)
Cassandra Freeman (Inside Man)
Mike Doyle (Green Lantern)
Teri Polo (Meet The Parents)
Tim Guinee (Stargate SG.1)
Susan Hayward (Powers)
Carlo Rota (Stargate Universe)
Matthew Bennett (Battlestar Galactica)
Richard Thomas (IT)
Jordan Hayes (Helix)
Shawn Parsons (Containment)
Martin Donovan (Ant-Man)
Rob Stewart (Painkiller Jane)
Mark Moses (Platoon)

In Conviction Hayley Atwell plays Hayes Morrison, a complex character with obvious flaws. She is the daughter of an ex-President and a politician running for Senator. First an attorney, then a law professor, she was always a rebel and a liability for her parents due to her “extremely controversial lifestyle” and run-ins with the law. She is blackmailed into heading the CIU, a new department in the DA’s office dedicated to investigating possibly wrongful convictions. She has all of the necessary tools, including a dedicated staff, but she lacks the Conviction.The pilot moves quickly, allowing Hayes to experience many emotions. You will not see a finer job of acting in a pilot. Atwell is remarkable. Her character is uncaring, self-indulgent and the product of years of political posturing (by her family) and being in the spotlight. She knows how to paint on a smile, but she shows us so many levels beneath it. Her character might seem unlikable and this might look like just another crime solving drama, but the writers have given the viewer plenty of hints at how this show might develop, along with the characters in it.
The supporting actors are also excellent, including Shawn Ashmore, Merrin Dungey,  Emily Kinney, Eddie Cahill, and Manny Montana. Her team of investigators have diverse backgrounds and very different perspectives.
The twist is that they only have five days to investigate each case–a factor that sounds contrived but it fits the story. In the first episode, they investigate an 8-year old conviction and Hayes has a crisis of conscience, proving she has one. Other Episode Highlights are(2) Bridge and Tunnel Vision

Hayes decides to go after one of Wallace’s career-making cases, the Prospect 3. They were three boys charged with raping and assaulting a woman, Zadie Daniels, on her way from work. Zadie was hit in the head by a brick, so she does not remember the attack, but the media called her a hero. None of the members of the group—Mike, Brian, and Seamus—was a DNA match for the semen in the rape kit, but they confessed after exhaustive interrogations, each one blaming the others. After learning that the timelines did not match up, the CIU discovered that Zadie had sex with a married man the night of the assault, the source of the semen. They also learn that Brian had previously attacked other females, including his foster sister, which is why Wallace was sure that the three boys were the culprits. Hayes gets Brian to admit that he was the only person responsible for the assault, freeing Mike and Seamus. Although she proves two people innocent, Hayes feels depressed, as Zadie’s reputation is now ruined.

(3) Dropping Bombs

To spite Wallace after his comment about “the new Hayes Morrison,” Hayes digs up the case of bigoted activist Rodney Landon, convicted of planting a bomb in a mosque office and killing four men, including the Imam. The CIU team finds Landon was primarily a suspect because of an illegal search by the Counter-Terrorism Unit and that, although he didn’t plant the bomb, he was planning a far more deadly attack. Because the illegal search would throw out most of the evidence against Landon and get him released, Sam talks to a skinhead in prison. Hayes is notified that Landon was attacked due to rumors of his being a snitch and stabbed his attacker with a shiv. By committing a felony on camera, he will remain in prison. The actual bomber turns out to be the wife of the Imam, who was angry because of his multiple affairs. Hayes’ cocaine arrest becomes public when a video of her in jail is released to the media.(4) Mother’s Little Burden

The CIU works on the case of Penny Price, a stay-at-home mom who vlogged about taking care of her violent autistic son, Owen. Penny was charged with second degree murder via leaving a bottle of soy sauce outside, which Owen drank in its entirety. However, Frankie finds out from the case’s toxicologist that Owen did not die from a sodium overdose, but from a lack of sugar due to a deliberately administered insulin shot. They go to Penny’s husband, Greg Price, a pharmacist who was having an affair, as well as Owen’s caretaker, Eduardo, whose sister had dangerously low insulin levels on the day of Owen’s murder. Hayes realizes that the only person with means and motive was Penny’s daughter, Emily. Penny tells Emily to keep quiet and says that she will take the blame, telling Hayes that her daughter deserves a life. Meanwhile, Hayes must juggle solving the case and working with her brother, Jackson, to prepare for a “mea culpa” television interview. Jackson drills her on what to wear (the right suit and her mother’s pearls), what to say, and how to say it. During the interview, she uses her charm and the rehearsed responses, but eventually her lies and the pearls begin to choke her. She then candidly explains that she got her do-over and job as a result of her privilege and that she is now attempting to use some of it to free innocent people. Although this decision earns her immediate public approval, it severely hurts her mother’s campaign and throws Wallace under the bus. The night after solving the case, Hayes goes home to Jackson’s apartment, only to find that he has kicked her out.(6) #StayWoke

After a black teenager is killed by a cop which causes an argument among the team, Hayes decides to choose the case of Porscha Williams, a black activist who was convicted of the shooting murder of Sergeant Kelsey Blake during a protest. Maxine feels conflicted as she is both black with a son and an ex-cop. Meanwhile, Hayes meets with Naomi, Wallace’s lawyer, who flirts with Hayes. Tess tells Frankie about being an eyewitness to her aunt’s murder at age 12 and identifying the wrong man. The man, Matty Tan, was cleared by DNA after five years in prison and that she has been going to his coffee-cart frequently without him knowing her connection. The team finds that one eyewitness lied under oath and that other witnesses may have confused Porscha with another woman. Then they discover that the Medical Examiner’s van was near the scene longer than necessary, and that the entry and exit wounds may have been mixed up, meaning that Kelsey may have been shot from behind. Using the new angle, the team discovers that one of the other witnesses, George Stayner, was responsible. George, when confronted, says it was an accident and then commits suicide. After Porscha is released, Hayes finds Naomi and Wallace kissing each other.(7) A Simple Man

The CIU team investigates the case of a man with a low IQ, Leo Scarlata, who was convicted of setting a fire in his family’s restaurant. The fire killed one man and injured another. Wallace approves a documentary film crew who have been working on Scarlata’s case, to follow the team around. The investigation finds that the fire didn’t start the way previously believed and that, although Leo was responsible, he just “followed the rules”. Those “rules” had been deliberately altered to cause the fire for the insurance payout. Leo is released.bountykiller01(8) Bad Deals

The CIU team takes on the case of Josh Fleck, a teacher convicted of kidnapping and murdering his high school student, Sierra Macy, ten years before. The reason for the case is because Sierra is alive and had just escaped from her basement prison only to find her captor dead. Sam was the prosecutor on the case and though the murder conviction will be dropped, he still insists that Fleck was involved in the kidnapping. The team finds that the waitress eyewitness lied, that the blood evidence could be explained away, and that Sierra was hauled away in a car trunk while Fleck drove a pickup. When Sam visits the waitress, Melissa, he hears the chimes that Sierra remembers. Melissa points a gun at him but the police burst in and rescue him. Fleck is released. The Justice Department drops its case against Wallace after Hayes provides information.bountykiller01(9) A Different Kind of Death

Wallace gives the CIU the case of Earl Slavitt (Richard Thomas), a death-row inmate who was convicted of the murder of Tom Simon, a federal prosecutor and Wallace’s friend. Earl was originally prosecuted by Tom for embezzling money from his job. After he was released from prison he made threats against Tom. Wallace asks Hayes to review the case, as Tom was against the death penalty and Earl is to be executed in five days. While the CIU reviews the case in New York, Hayes and Wallace go to Indiana to try and stop Earl’s execution. They have to deal with Bill Newton, the Assistant U.S. Attorney who was on the prosecution’s side for both cases and who gets in their way. The team finds that an ex-con was hired to kill Tom, and that Earl’s boss was the actual embezzler. Someone in the U.S. Attorney’s office was taking bribes. Hayes, after talking to Earl’s former co-worker, Nina, learns that Bill ordered the hit on Tom to cover his tracks. Hayes tries to contact Wallace to stop the execution but is too late. After hearing the news, Sam catches Maxine taking pain-killers.JORDAN HAYES, HAYLEY ATWELL(10) Not Okay

The team takes the case of Sophie Hausen, convicted of murdering Travis Carter, the college student whom she claimed raped her. Retesting the DNA on the murder weapon shows only a partial match and a recreation of the crime shows a potentially hazardous exit. While checking out other possible suspects the team finds out there were other victims who hadn’t reported the rapes because of Sophie’s treatment by officials. But they had all talked to a rape counselor, Elyse Salmon, who had decided to take matters into her own hands. Elyse confesses and Sophie is released. On a personal angle, Tess finally tells Matty about their connection and he doesn’t take it well. Plus Hayes, with a boost from Jackson, and Wallace decide to attempt their relationship againConviction - Series 01(11) Black Orchid

A current case ties back to an old one. A woman is found beaten to death. Her physical description, the manner of death, and the “Black Orchid” lipstick smeared on her mouth match the M.O. of a convicted serial killer, Clark Sims, from ten years before. The CIU team doesn’t know if Sims is innocent or if there is a copycat. They are able to explain away the fingerprint evidence against Sims. They also find that the man arrested for the recent murder couldn’t have done it. Figuring in the ten-year hiatus between crimes they speculate the killer was in prison. A search of inmates fitting the parameters locates a suspect, Donald Cutler, who was in the vicinity of the recent murder. Cutler goes after the woman who survived his attack years ago and she kills him. Sims is released.145458_5409_feat-770x433(13) Past, Prologue & What’s to Come

Hayes takes on the case of Gerald Harris, a man she unsuccessfully defended in Chicago nine years earlier against charges that he murdered his wife, Claire. Wallace prosecuted the case. As the team struggles to find a suspect who could have committed the murder, Hayes learns that Sam will be forced to testify during a trial for Rodney Landon, which will effectively discredit the CIU and subject all of its cases to review. Sam informs her that he intends to take the fifth, ending his career but keeping the CIU intact. Frankie eventually confirms that Claire died from a heart attack before she fell, the evidence of which was not found at her original autopsy. Although the subpoena against Sam is dropped, Wallace orders Hayes to fire him for going “rogue”. But she deliberately kisses Sam, committing sexual harassment in view of a witness, meaning he can’t be fired without her being forced to resign.EMILY KINNEY, EDDIE CAHILL, MANNY MONTANA, HAYLEY ATWELL, MERRIN DUNGEY, SHAWN ASHMORE

With all 13 episodes aired, this could be the end of the show, with the ratings not doing so hot, the show was not given a back order of episodes. It’s a shame as I really enjoyed the show, Hayley Atwell is as brilliant as ever and the cases were interesting, some were a little political but that was okay. It will certainly be missed if this is truly the end of the show.

REVIEW: POWERS – SEASON TWO

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MAIN CAST

Sharlto Copley (Chappie)
Susan Heyward (Poltergeist)
Olesya Rulin (Greek)
Adam Godley (Battleship)
Max Fowler (Rage)
Michael Madsen (Kill Bill)

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RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Andrew Sensenig (Stray)
Logan Browning (Summerland)
Justin Leak (Insurgent)
Shelby Steel (The Friendless Five)
William Mapother (Lost)
Tricia Helfer (Battlestar Galactica)
Enrico Colantoni (Veronica Mars)
Michelle Forbes (True Blood)
Teri Wyble (Terminator Genisys)
Wil Wheaton (The Big Bang Theory)
Robin Spriggs (Containment)
Image result for powers season 2Powers’ first season was acceptable, but it was also noticeably faulty in many respects. For the first PlayStation Original Series, the show was a fair adaptation of its source comics, published initially by Image Comics, and later by Marvel’s Icon imprint, but it was also a show that pretty clearly established that PlayStation was nowhere near becoming the new television heavyweight. Fortunately, the second season of Powers is overall an improvement over the first (especially since, unlike Season One, it actually released here in Canada on time!), being founded on a decent mystery, and increasing some of the production values, complete with the show now having a proper intro for the opening credits, rather than just a lame title call like in Season One.Image result for powers season 2
Despite some of its improvements though, Season Two of Powers still feels like it’s trailing most primetime television shows, let alone many Netflix shows that are also vying for the streaming attention of 18-49 audiences. It’s also trailing even some lesser comic book shows on primetime syndication in its second season, though at least the show is moving in a forward direction, and a potential third season, which Sony hasn’t confirmed one way or the other as of this writing, could have the show better keeping pace with some of its competition on other TV platforms.
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First, let’s start with what the second season of Powers really did right; Its sense of mystery and intrigue. The season’s initial springboarding from the murder of Retro Girl led to two very enjoyable premiere episodes of three, even though the third premiere episode was a bit less interesting. The Retro Girl mystery was one that had a lot of angles, and its twist resolution, of the murder being a rather trivial act by a toy maker that wanted to sell a hot commemoration figure, was actually pretty solid too, and unfolded in another of this season’s best episodes. Compared to the Wolfe conflict from Season One, the Retro Girl murder felt tighter and more satisfying, especially when it could more closely utilize the same story arc from the Powers source comics.
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Another element of this season that was particularly strong were the individual arcs of Walker and Pilgrim, Walker especially. Walker’s past arrogance and fall as Diamond was effectively expanded upon this season, beyond the tutelage of Wolfe, and Walker’s connection to the now-absent Johnny Royalle, and the way that this tied into the present, with Walker having to be a begrudging mentor to a new team of superheroes, New Unity, was also pretty inspired. Likewise, Pilgrim’s connection to her father also had some interesting developments, with Pilgrim’s values especially being tested when she ends up falling for Kutter, who is critically injured later in the season by one of the principal villains, Morrison, a character with a big connection to Michael Madsen’s brand new legacy Power, SuperShock. Everything ending with Pilgrim getting her own abilities, and immediately seeming to be corrupted by them, is one of many things with solid promise for a potential third season of Powers as well.
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It’s at that latter point however that Powers’ second season especially runs into problems. For whatever reason, the show awkwardly changes gears just over the halfway point of Season Two, completely wrapping up the Retro Girl mystery, and instead moving into another conspiracy involving a mentally-degrading SuperShock. This would be fine on paper, though it sweeps way too many elements from earlier in the season under the rug, and makes most of the new character and story developments from the early episodes end up being completely pointless in the end. Another problem is that, while the idea of SuperShock being the downfall of himself and his own world, much to the delight of his fading arch-nemesis, Morrison, is great on paper, it shouldn’t have been crowbarred at the tail end of a season. It just leads to SuperShock’s sudden mental breakdown and murder spree feeling rather rushed and contrived. Michael Madsen was a cool addition to the cast for sure, but after a while, he sort of stopped trying in his performance, since even Madsen clearly knew that SuperShock’s storyline wasn’t given nearly enough room to be properly fleshed out, especially with SuperShock seemingly throwing himself and Walker into the sun at the end of the season.
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One lingering problem that the show almost completely failed to fix in Season Two as well is the same horrible lack of focus from the first season. The first season felt like it was very spread thin in trying to develop all of these many story arcs that didn’t always go together, and when you only have ten-episode seasons of Powers, especially when the episodes clock in at a mere forty minutes or so each, you can’t afford to get distracted with too much unnecessary world-building. The later portions of Season Two did tighten the focus a bit, in fairness, but the front half of the season especially jumped around way too much, and needed to pick a more consistent direction, especially considering the weird storyline shift from the Retro Girl murder to the SuperShock breakdown. Fortunately, making Zora, Calista, Krispin, and new addition, Martinez into one team in New Unity, could be a good way to fix some of the focus problems in Season Three, if Powers is renewed for a third season.
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Despite Powers still doing its best to be raw, mature and sometimes harshly violent, there still isn’t too much to dig into in Season Two, with the show clearly wanting to appeal to adults and fans of the source comics, but mostly still coming off like it’s primarily targeting adolescents. That said though, Powers still improved in its second season, however slightly, and could keep improving nicely in a third season, if it gets one. Like I’ve said more than once, you can only expect so much from a PlayStation Original Series, but Powers is still respectable, and has glimmers of brilliance, especially in some of Season Two’s better episodes.
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With a tightening of story focus and slightly deeper character arcs, a third season could finally start standing with the many other successful comic book shows of the current television era, even if Powers will probably never be in the same league as comic book series darlings like The Flash or Marvel’s Netflix shows. As a neat little bonus for PlayStation Plus subscribers that love superhero media though, Powers is becoming noticeably more worth your time in its second season, even if there’s still plenty of room to further improve.

REVIEW: POWERS – SEASON ONE

CAST

Sharlto Copley (District 9)
Susan Heyward (Poltergeist)
Noah Taylor (Game of Thrones)
Olesya Rulin (Urban Legends 3)
Adam Godley (Terminator: TSCC)
Max Fowler (Rage)
Michelle Forbes (Battlestar Galactica)
Eddie Izzard (Hannibal)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Logan Browning (Bratz)
Claire Bronson (Containment)
Aaron Farbs (42)
Justin Leak (Insurgent)
Mario Lopez (Nip/Tuck)
Bianco Amato (The Big C)
Andrew Sensenig (Beyond The Farthest Star)
Hayley Lovitt (The Originals)
Shelby Steel (Sleepy Hollow)

As the first original scripted show for the ‘PlayStation Network’ this show presents an original take on a genre that’s in abundance at the moment but also in high demand, from a renowned comics writer. It’s hard to imagine even the most ardent fans of this genre going out to buy a costly PlayStation for the sake of being able to watch this, even if they really enjoyed the pilot. This example therefore not only shows that a series like this has a large and clear potential audience, but also on the flip-side proves that this could have done much better had it been a network show or even on netflixs.Christian Walker was once a superhero with strength and flight, but losing his powers to super-villain Wolfe has left him grounded and now a detective with the ‘Powers’ division of the LAPD who police the many super-powered who live in the city. Partnered with inexperienced Deena Pilgrim they investigate the new threat of a designer drug killing many in the community, discovering unexpected links to old foes.
I like Sharlto Copley, and there are moments in which I felt he was well-suited for the role as he looked the part as an ex-superhero and begrudging cop. Villain-wise there’s one stroke of genius in the casting, that of Eddie Izzard as Wolfe, an incredibly powerful incarcerated villain who started out as a philosopher. With Izzard’s elocution and speech he fits the role very well.The story arc for season 1 is rounded off in the final episode, whilst ending on a cliffhanger to lead you into season 2. the second season wont air till 2016 so there is quite a wait.