REVIEW: CAPRICA – PART 1

Starring

Eric Stoltz (The Butterfly Effect)
Esai Morales (Titans)
Paula Malcomson (The Hunger Games)
Alessandra Torresani (The Big Bang Theory)
Magda Apanowicz (You)
Sasha Roiz (Grimm)
Brian Markinson (Sanctuary)
Polly Walker (Pennyworth)Eric Stoltz and Paula Malcomson in Caprica (2009)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

William B. Davis (The X-FIles)
Sina Najafi (Stargate SG.1)
Hiro Kanagawa (Izombie)
Genevieve Buechner (The Final Cut)
Anna Galvin (Unspeakable)
Karen Elizabeth Austin (The Eye)
Scott Porter (Speed Racer)
Avan Jogia (Shaft)
Françoise Yip (The Predator)
Anita Torrance (Smallville)
James Pizzinato (Godzilla)
Michael Eklund (Bates Motel)
Patton Oswalt (Veronica Mars)
Kendall Cross (X-Men 2)
Peter Wingfield (Highlander: The Series)
Luciana Carro (Helix)
Teryl Rothery (Stargate SG.1)
Alex Arsenault (Tucker and Dale vs Evil)
Panou (Flash Gordon)
Eve Harlow (Bitten)
James Marsters (Buffy: TVS)
John Pyper-Ferguson (The Last Ship)
Leah Gibson (Jessica Jones)
Richard Harmon (The 100)
Patrick Sabongui (The Flash)
Jill Teed (Battlestar Galactica)
Zak Santiago (Shooter)
Ryan Robbins (Sanctuary)
Kacey Rohl (Hannibal)

 

Paula Malcomson in Caprica (2009)Creators Ronald Moore and David Eick relied on three key components for their hit SyFy series, Battlestar Galactica, to stay fresh and compelling for as long as it did: complex ideas behind evolved sentient lifeforms, religious parables, and the fondness for the characters’ home worlds — especially that of Caprica. The characters all look back at their previous lives almost as ghosts; Admiral Bill Adama painfully drudges up memories of his ex-wife and lawyer father, while Kara “Starbuck” Thrace carries memories of her small, ramshackle apartment and Samuel Anders yearns for the thrill of a sports stadium. Seems like such a rich mythos created just to be the ruminants of a past life, doesn’t it? The Moore-Eick team also sees this potential, now capitalizing on the gap left by Battlestar Galactica’s end to create the appropriately-titled Caprica. Though it moves slowly at first while constructing an involved narrative framework in its predecessor’s shadow, this mythos-rich offshoot eventually finds the footing needed to fall in-line with the original series’ current of storytelling.Patton Oswalt in Caprica (2009)The story revolves around the polytheistic, technologically-advanced colony of Caprica roughly sixty years before “the downfall”, focusing on the conflict between, and within, two families: The Graystones, and the Adamas Adams. Lawyer Joseph Adams (Esai Morales) lives a somewhat normal life with his wife and two children, Tamara and Billy, attempting to juggle his high-profile stature in the legal realm with his domestic life. He fights a bit with keeping himself as distanced as he can from his unsavory lineage, the Tauron mob Ha’la’tha, though it’s hard since the organization funded his education and requires his services regularly — usually by messages delivered through his brother, Sam (Sasha Roiz). BSG devotees with get a jolt in seeing the blossoming of young “Billy” in this environment early on, watching the growth of the semi-troubled youth that’d transform into the disquieting, powerful Galactica commander Bill Adama.Hiro Kanagawa in Caprica (2009)Caprica’s central draw, however, is the Graystones. Daniel Graystone (Eric Stoltz) heads a tech development firm working on a mechanized super-soldier that’s just not cutting the mustard, all the while generating profit (60% of net, to be exact) with virtual reality headsets — holobands — that connect to a network of fully-interactive, realistic digital worlds. Graystone’s seemingly safe digital construct quickly broke down into a laissez-faire underground, filled with hacked sections that exploit sex, drug-use, and violence. Daniel’s daughter, a silver-tongued high-school student named Zoe (Alessandra Torresani) who battles with her mother Amanda (Paula Malcomson) over authority, frequents the holoband V-Club with boyfriend Ben (Avan Jogia) and timid best friend Lacy (Magda Apanowicz), yet they’re beyond the carnal satisfaction that the place has to offer. Instead, they’ve found purpose in monotheistic religious belief within an activist organization, the Soldiers of The One (STO), and, in the process, created an exact digital copy of Zoe who will somehow aid the resistance.Alessandra Torresani in Caprica (2009)Observant fans will see where Caprica’s going with the duplicate Zoe, coming together in an introductory pilot that realizes the germ of an idea behind the genesis of the Cylon race, but it certainly doesn’t leave newcomers in the cold. Moore and Eick, with this freshness in mind, go in a startling direction with the content surrounding the Cylon conception; a murderous STO-related terrorist attack on a train rattles the city of Caprica, leaving the Graystones without their daughter and Joseph with only his son, Billy. The grief they endure becomes a convincing dramatic catalyst for what’s to come, breaking a floodgate for aggressive decision-making regarding family memories and Daniel’s technological advancement — with the idea of an exact digital replication of both mind and memory, such as the avatar of Zoe that lingers after her death, propelling it forward. It’s a thought-provoking launch that tackles some rather challenging concepts, including that of the human psyche as raw data and the extent that open-minded intellectuals might go to preserve those they’ve lost. And, of course, the narcissistic power behind potential immortality.Eric Stoltz and Esai Morales in Caprica (2009)Upon the second episode, “Rebirth”, one fact becomes very clear: Caprica isn’t cut from the same cloth as its inspiration, instead existing as a compelling new creation with its own hurdles to cross. In retrospect, the reimagined Battlestar Galactica painlessly continued the momentum from its original two-part miniseries, thrusting forward with space warfare and political components into the dazzling episode “33”. With Caprica, a shrewd character-driven thriller with complexity surrounding terrorism and family grief, the carry-over isn’t as easy. Thankfully, the Moore-Eick team never shies away, hitting the gas with some rather incisive writing as they drive deeper into Caprica’s unraveling and the Graystone company’s waning success in the wake of the terrorist attack. Along the way, they also grapple with themes of Tauron racism (“dirt eaters”) and religious extremism through the STO and one of its leaders, Zoe’s teacher Sister Clarice (Polly Walker), that correlate to actual issues, while also cleverly using the concept of a digital underground — especially in the anarchistic “New Cap City” game simulation, a mix of World of Warcraft and Grand Theft Auto — as a way of escape and purpose-finding.Esai Morales and Sasha Roiz in Caprica (2009)Yet as Caprica focuses on these modern analogous ideas while its characters develop into a mixture of morally desolate entities, the first batch of six or so episodes move at a deliberate, slow-burning tempo that shifts between intrigue and sluggishness. The harsh chemistry between Daniel and Joseph as scorned parents electrifies, driven by Eric Stoltz and Esai Morales in two stark, authentic performances, and the pacing focuses on the causal events that unfold around their family-affecting decisions. But focusing on this calculated slow-burn can, at times, temper the series’ manner and cause the multiple plot threads to stray from the course, weaving intuitive dramatic performances around a lot of existential meditation and shots of neo-religious content without the right energy to propel it forward. I still find it compelling; the depth of Daniel’s egotism reaches a genuine depth that’s unexpected, while offering a cluster of explosive moments — such as the board meeting in “There is Another Sky” that actually starts the Cylon race — spliced within the persistent, astute drama.Polly Walker and Magda Apanowicz in Caprica (2009)Then, as Caprica approaches “Ghosts in the Machine” and the mid-season finale “End of Line”, the gradual tension sees a much-needed outburst. These prior episodes extend into what’s essentially a rather lengthy fuse leading to this batch of dynamite, using brewing family turmoil and growing suspicions into an emotionally-taxing, brilliantly-realized culmination point. “Ghosts in the Machine” plays with the intensity of psychological torment in a staggering rush of emotion, while “End of Life” finds the first episode of the series to use the familiar “__ Hours Before” time mechanic frequently used in Battlestar Galactica. Quite simply, the build-up becomes worth the time at this point, igniting the series with the narrative outbreak it desperately lacked to become fully involving. Whether Caprica can maintain this momentum still remains to be seen, but the succession of these explosive developments that derive from subtly-evolving plot points — Amanda’s weakening sanity, Daniel’s obsession with meeting the development deadline, and the presence of the STO as violent radicals — satisfies with evocative, edge-of-your-seat chills at this midpoint, finally achieving that addictive science-fiction adrenaline that hallmarked its predecessor.

 

REVIEW: STARGATE SG.1 – SEASON 9

Starring

Ben Browder (Farscape)
Amanda Tapping(Sanctuary)
Christopher Judge (The Dark Knight Rises)
Michael Shanks (Smallville)
Beau Bridges (My Name Is Earl)

Ben Browder in Stargate SG-1 (1997)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Claudia Black (Pitch Black)
Richard Dean Anderson (MacGyver)
Obi Ndefo (Star Trek: DS9)
Gary Jones (The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina)
Bill Dow (Izombie)
Matthew Walker (Alone In The Dark)
April Telek (Rogue)
Lexa Doig (Arrow)
Julian Sands (What/If)
Wallace Shawn (Young Sheldon)
Barclay Hope (Final Destination 3)
Maury Chaykin (My Cousin Vinny)
Louis Gossett Jr. (Enemy Mine)
Cliff Simon (Project Eden)
Kendall Cross (X-Men 2)
Peter Flemming (Staragte: Atlantis)
Sonya Salomaa (Watchmen)
Chilton Crane (The 4400)
Jason George (Fallen)
Jarvis W. George (Gamer)
William B. Davis (The X-Files)
Tony Todd (Candyman)
Neil Jackson (Blade: The Series)
Robert Picardo (The Orville)
Panou (Flash Gordon)
Ty Olsson (War For TPOTA)
Cameron Bright (Birth)
Garry Chalk (Arrow)
Don S. Davis (Twin Peaks)
Anna Galvin (Tin Man)
William Atherton (Ghostbusters)
JR Bourne (The 100)
Teryl Rothery (Arrow)
Reed Diamond (Agents of Shield)
Dakin Matthews (Child’s Play 3)
Veena Sood (Timecop)
Eric Breker (Scary Movie 3)
Matthew Bennett (Battlestar Galactica)
John Aylward (Alias)
Ernie Hudson (Ghostbusters)
Chelah Horsdal (You Me Her)
Peter Shinkoda (Daredevil)
Matthew Glave (Argo)
Eric Steinberg (Supergirl)
Tamlyn Tomita (The Eye)
Tim Guinee (Iron Man)
Daniella Evangelista (Ripper)
Michael Ironside (Total Recall)
John Noble (Sleepy HOllow)
Katharine Isabelle (Ginger Snaps)
Noah Danby (Bitten)

Claudia Black and Ben Browder in Stargate SG-1 (1997)Avalon, Part 1 is a great season opener, introduces  new kid on the block Ben Browder,  as the season progresses the character is definitely fleshed out more and he soon fits in nicely with the tightly-knit S.G.1 team.Ben Browder and Michael Shanks in Stargate SG-1 (1997)However, the bottom line is that this is still a character who bares a striking similarity in disposition to Browder’s other well-known TV personality- Farscape’s John Crichton- with that same irreverent humor and easy-going attitude, but it’s a style that clearly works for Browder and it’s difficult not to find that likable. Beau Bridges’ introduction is made with equally good fanfare, his character is one who I found myself liking more readily- he approaches the role of the General of the base differently to Don S. Davis, with more of an every man approach, although he never hesitates to exert the full force of his office against unfriendly aliens, or humans when required.Mark Houghton in Stargate SG-1 (1997)Largely thanks to the development of this season’s main story-arc with the introduction of God-wannabes the Ori and their powerful minions known as Priors, this ninth season becomes surprisingly mesmerising in very short order. Beginning with the concluding part and then into episode 3- `Origin’, this season soon establishes itself as one of the best `Stargate: S.G.1′ offerings in years. The use of Arthurian legend in this season is spread pretty thickly in the beginning and had me worried that this fantasy element might not work in a predominantly science-fiction-oriented series, but very soon the parallels the writers draw between the Arthurian myth and the familiar Stargate set-up, become very inventive and come to work surprisingly well at contrasting against the new and growing force of evil spreading through the galaxy. In the first five episodes that other recognizable `Farscape’ regular Claudia Black and her seductively disobedient alter-ego Vala are another reason to be enchanted by this season. Vala brings such humor and life to the series that I was really disappointed when she parted company with S.G.1, despite the welcome return of Sam Carter following her brief career change. Thankfully Vala returns towards the end of the season and here’s hoping it’s not the last we see of her.Larry Cedar in Stargate SG-1 (1997)This season’s other major success is in its stand-alone stories that continue to present unique, punchy and creative sci-fi ideas to its audience. In particular episode 9- `Prototype’ and episode 13- `Ripple Effect’ are a couple of my favourites, the first of which concerns the discovery of a prodigy of Anubis frozen on a distant planet and the second has multiple S.G.1 teams pouring through the Stargate from diverse alternate realities , both of which had me glued to my seat

REVIEW: ANDROMEDA – SEASON 2

Starring

Kevin Sorbo( Hercules: TLJ)
Lisa Ryder (Jason X)
Keith Hamilton Cobb (All My Children)
Gordon Michael Woolvett (Bride of Chucky)
Laura Bertram (50/50)
Brent Stait (Blade: The Series)
Lexa Doig (Arrow)

Kevin Sorbo in Andromeda (2000)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Gerard Plunkett (Sucker Punch)
Anthony Lemke (Robocop: Prime Directives)
Peter Kelamis (Stargate Universe)
William B. Davis (The X-Files)
Anne Marie DeLuise (Strange Empire)
Enuka Okuma (Impulse)
Rachel Hayward (Jingle All The Way 2)
John DeSantis (Arrow)
Roger Cross (First Wave)
Kendall Cross (X-Men 2)
Steve Bacic (Flash Gordon)
Françoise Yip (The Order)
Sam Sorbo (Hercules: TLJ)
James Marsters (Runaways)
Jud Tylor (That 70s Show)
Alex Diakun (Agent Cody Banks)
Steven Grayhm (White Chicks)
Timothy Webber (North of 60)
Mark Hildreth (V)
Kimberly Huie (Deep Impact)
Kevin McNulty (Fantastic FOur)
Travis MacDonald (Highlander: The Series)
Kristin Lehman (The Loft)
Heather Hanson (G-Spot)
Costas Mandylor (Saw V)
Cynthia Preston (Carrie)
Sonya Salomaa (Watchmen)
Michael Hurst (Hercules: TLJ)
Christopher Judge (Stargate SG.1)
Andee Frizzell (stargate: Atlantis)
Matthew Walker (Highlander: The Series)
Dylan Bierk (Jason X)
Marion Eisman (Riverdale)
David Lovgren (Antitrust)
Ellie Harvie (The New Addams Family)

Laura Bertram in Andromeda (2000)Andromeda starred Kevin Sorbo (Hercules: The Legendary Journey’s) in a science fiction series created by Gene Roddenberry (Star Trek) with a variety of executive producers Robert Hewitt Wolfe (The 4400, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Majel Rodenberry (Earth: Final Conflict), Allan Eastman (Star Trek: Voyager), Robert Engels (seaQuest DSV), Jay Firestone (Mutant X, La Femme Nikita), and Adam Haight (Mutant X, Highlander: The Raven). With its diverse crew of producers with extensive experience in science fiction and drama productions, Andromeda put in five solid seasons from 2000 to 2005 and totaled one-hundred and ten episodes. The premise of Andromeda is about the adventures of the crew the Andromeda and their efforts to rebuild a massive civilization that spanned the universeLexa Doig in Andromeda (2000)In season two, Dylan’s quest becomes more of a reality. The Renewed Systems Commonwealth represents more than just the unity and peace Dylan envisions; it is, as Dylan hunt says, a necessity. In the season one finale “It’s Hour Come ‘Round at Last”, Harper took a look around inside Andromeda’s code and found a backup copy of Andromeda’s core. He accidentally restored the backup. Andromeda went out of control and took the crew on a top secret mission. To make matters worse, the mission takes the crew deep into Magog territory, where the Andromeda runs into a Magog Worldship. The Worldship is a transportable solar system, with multiple planets and an artificial sun.Keith Hamilton Cobb in Andromeda (2000)The Worldship houses trillions of Magog and gives them the power to destroy stars. The Magog are traveling towards the known worlds with plans of conquest and destruction. In the close of the episode, the Magog have overrun the Andromeda and the crew’s fate is desperate: Trance, Beka, and Dylan are unconscious and near death, Tyr and Harper are being held by the Magog, Rommie had a pike shoved in her stomach, Rev Bem is being converted to the Magog cause, and the Andromeda Ascendant is in critical condition.Laura Bertram in Andromeda (2000)The second season premiere episode “The Widening Gyre” continues where season one left off. Despite the direness of the situation, they overcome their individual situations and manage to free themselves of capture. The real excitement introduced in this story is the notion of the Magog and the Worldship. The Spirit of the Abyss, a being that acts as the Magog’s God, is leading the Magog on a quest of utter destruction. This threat becomes a staple for the Andromeda crew to fight off. A Renewed Systems Commonwealth is a necessity. Fortunately for the crew, they have some time until the Worldship reaches space of the known world–two or three years. In the fourth and fifth seasons, the Spirit of the Abyss and the Magog are a major port of the season story arcs. In the meantime, season two has an episode “Into the Labyrinth” with another assassin sent by the Abyss that runs into the crew.Laura Bertram in Andromeda (2000)The Magog still are at the front of the stories and a key reason for the new Commonwealth. And Dylan works feverishly to recruit planets to his cause. In the episode “Home Fires”, Dylan receives a message from his long dead fiance. After the initial fall of the Commonwealth, a group sought refuge on a planet called Tarazed and for three hundred years, they have survived as the last remnants of the old way of life. Dylan learns that the people of Tarazed and goes to the planet to get them to join the new Commonwealth. They, however, do not. When he arrives at the planet, he finds a familiar face, that of his former first officer Gaheris. But it is a genetic clone named Telemachus Rhade. Dylan and Rhade are hesitant to trust each other. The story takes an interesting turn in the development of the relationship Dylan had with Gaheris, as well as introduces Rhade, who joins the cast in season four.Sonya Salomaa in Andromeda (2000)The episodes “Into the Labyrinth”, “Bunker Hill”, and “The Prince” are more episodes focused on the restoration of the Commonwealth with the cast in diplomatic missions, facing with spies, political corruption, and other such things. “Into the Labyrinth” sees a Nietzschean clan Saber-Jaguar joining the Commonwealth. In “Bunker Hill” the Saber-Jaguar clan invokes the Mutual Defense Pact, which requires the Andromeda join their side in combat against the Dragan clan. At the same time, Dylan sends Harper and Rommie to Earth to join the resistance movement to free human slaves under Dragan control. In “The Prince”, the crew travel to Ne’Holland to save what is left the royal family from being slaughtered. Dylan wants the planet to join the Commonwealth because it is in a key position to defend against the upcoming Magog onslaught. However, in order to get them to join, he has to save its leaders from its own people. But what Dylan did not know was that the royal family’s actions have not always been just.Lisa Ryder in Andromeda (2000)“Ouroboros” is a major episode in the series. It is the first major cast and crew changes. Rev Bem leaves the series as a regular cast member. He apparently went away to find himself. Stait, who plays Rev Bem, talks about the reason he left in his interview featurette. Another change deals with Trance. Harper builds a machine he hopes will help rid him of the Magog larvae that was implanted in him in the season premiere. The machine works, but it also does a little more and bends space and time. The crew is able to glimpse into future versions of themselves. Trance, in particular, meets her future self, who proclaims the future unfolded very badly. The present and future Trance’s switch places in hope future Trance can set the timeline in the right direction. The new Trance is physically different, without a tail and has golden skin. The other major change is in the crew. Robert Hewitt Wolfe was released because the direction he envisioned for the series was much different than wanted.Michael Hurst in Andromeda (2000)In “Knight, Death, and the Devil”, the crew are on the verge of completing the first stage in restoring the Commonwealth. Beka and Harper negotiate with the fiftieth planetary world to join the cause. Dylan, Tyr, and Rommie also find a decommissioned high guard ship. When they interact with the ship’s AI Ryan (Michael Hurst), they find out there is a solar system with over fifty other relic ships in hiding. Dylan goes to the solar to convince the ships to rejoin the Commonwealth (remember some AI’s have emotions and they were abandoned long ago). Christopher Judge guest stars as one of the AI’s.Kevin Sorbo and Laura Bertram in Andromeda (2000)The season finale “Tunnel at the End of the Light” is a literally explosive episode. Representatives from fifty worlds come to the Andromeda to sign the Commonwealth charter. It is an exciting time to see the Commonwealth officially come back into power. Unfortunately, there are forces that would rather not see the chartered signed. Sabotage hits the Andromeda and the charter signing goes up in flames. It is up to the crew to make necessary sacrifices to see it through.Laura Bertram in Andromeda (2000)Overall, I was pretty happy with the second season of Andromeda. Like the first season, I was not in love with this season. The fact remains the show has a cast who over-performs and spouts cheesy dialogue. The storylines from episode to episode offer some enjoyable content, but nothing you should think too hard about. In addition, the story arcs that span the episodes offer intriguing aspects with the formation of the Commonwealth, the Magog, and the Spirit of the Abyss. In the end, I think season two makes for a good watch if you enjoy science-fiction/fantasy oriented shows.

REVIEW: HUMAN TARGET – SEASON 1

Starring

Mark Valley (Zero Dark Thirty)
Chi McBride (Hawaii Five-O)
Jackie Earle Haley (Watchmen)

Jackie Earle Haley, Chi McBride, and Mark Valley in Human Target (2010)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Tricia Helfer (Battlestar Galactica)
Donnelly Rhodes (Tron: Legacy)
Adrian Hough (The Fog)
Danny Glover (Lethal Weapon)
Adrian Holmes (smallville)
Hiro Kanagawa (Heores reborn)
Peter Kent (Total Recall)
Alvin Sanders (Riverdale)
Courtney Ford (Legends of Tomorrow)
Ali Liebert (Wonder)
Alessandro Juliani (Man of Steel)
David Nykl (Arrow)
Sean Maher (Firefly)
Emmanuelle Vaugier (Two and a Half Men)
Aleks Paunovic (Van Helsing)
Alex Fernandez (Devious Maids)
Christie Laing (Izombie)
Sam Huntington (Superman Returns)
William Mapother (Lost)
Peter Bryant (Legends of Tomorrow)
Sarah Smyth (Supergirl)
Kristin Lehman (The Loft)
William B. Davis (The X-Files)
Chris Mulkey (Cloverfield)
Dylan Neal (Arrow)
Brandon Jay McLaren (Power Rangers SPD)
Ted Whittall (Suicide Squad)
Kevin Weisman (Runaways)
Autumn Reeser (Sully)
Zak Santiago (Caprica)
Mitch Pileggi (Stargate: Atlantis)
Leonor Varela (Blade II)
Kris Marshall (Love Actually)
Kim Coates (Goon)
Samantha Ferris (The Tall Man)
Lennie James (The Walking Dead)
Eric Breker (X-Men Origins)
Dash Mihok (Gotham)
Kenneth Welsh (Miracle)
Grace Park (Hawaii Five-0)
Peter Wingfield (Highlander: The Series)
Ken Kirzinger (Freddy vs Jason)
Moon Bloodgood (Termiantor: Salvation)
Ty Olsson (Battlestar Galactica)
Vincent Gale (Bates Motel)
Daniel Bacon (Stargate SG.1)
Steve Makaj (Arrow)
Craig Veroni (Dark Angel)
Christina Cole (JHex)
Erick Avari (Stargate)
Kavan Smith (When Calls The HEart)
Christopher Heyerdahl (Sanctuary)
Mackenzie Gray (man of Steel)
Lee Majors (Ash vs Evil Dead)
Amy Acker (The Gifted)
Timothy Omundson (Xena)
Armand Assante (Judge Dredd)
Fiona Vroom (Power Rangers)

Mark Valley and Emmanuelle Vaugier in Human Target (2010)Human Target was definitely one of the most surprising new series this season. Comic book stories don’t often translate well to the small screen, but this one bucked all the trends and exceeded expectations by consistently producing hot action, fascinating characters, and a good number of laughs too.Mark Valley in Human Target (2010)It started out with a pilot episode that wasted no time getting into the action. Fast paced events on a runaway train got things started with a bang. Right away, the series showed the kind of amazing action scenes that would make it an exciting watch every week. The second episode, “Rewind”, kept the pedal to the metal in an episode that had high-flying action on a plane, although things did get a little ridiculous with the plane flying upside down for an extended time.Peter Bryant and Mark Valley in Human Target (2010)The main characters quickly became fan favorites, thanks to witty dialogue and excellent acting work by the great trio of Mark Valley, Chi McBride, and Jackie Earle Haley. While Chance takes the lead in these episodes, his buddies (with shady pasts of their own) do a lot in their supportive roles. Winston and Guerrero have unique skills that are always employed in clever ways in the series, and they have a special kind of friendly-yet-combative relationship that provided most of the comedy relief in the show. The series also featured a number of intriguing guest stars, including many familiar faces from the sci-fi world. We saw Battlestar Galactica stars Tricia Helfer, Alessandro Juliani, Grace Park, and Donnelly Rhodes, along with two stars from The X-Files – Mitch Pillegi and a surprising appearance from William B. Davis (the infamous Cigarette Smoking Man).Mark Valley in Human Target (2010)At first, Human Target focused on a string of unrelated stories that followed the same effective formula—show the client, show the bad guys, have Chance and his pals save the day. But, although the standalone stories were entertaining, the “rescue of the week” routine quickly started to get tired, and the show often made heavy use of TV tropes and cliches (hot babes of the week, one dimensional antagonists, and slow motion explosions just to name a few). Fortunately, the show’s producers were aware of the limits of their plot devices and developed an overarching mythology that started to be revealed a few episodes into the season.Mark Valley in Human Target (2010)The story slowly started to turn into a tale of redemption, friendship, and life choices as the show gradually revealed bits and pieces of the backgrounds of the characters. In the beginning, there were just casual mentions of what the cast of main characters used to do. Then, in “Sanctuary”, the series mythology kicked into full gear with a side-story featuring Guerrero spying around in Chance and Winston’s files for a mysterious employer. This plot accomplished two things: it revealed a serious threat to Chance, and displayed Guerrero as ruthless when it comes to his job and his friends. Guerrero in general is a very different take on the “geeky computer spy” role, and his moment in the spotlight at the end of that episode really helped define the character. It’s a standout role that Jackie Earle Haley nailed every time.Further character development came in the form of a “bromance” between Winston and Chance that was detailed in “Corner Man”, and a personal vendetta with a former friend, coworker, and assassin named Baptiste that gave us our deepest look yet into what personally drives Chance.All of this buildup led us perfectly into the season finale, which exposed the history of the Christopher Chance name, and revealed all the players behind Chance’s past work and his change of heart. This was a well-crafted story that ended with a great cliffhanger. It’s a great setup for a second season, and let there be no doubt that this series does indeed deserve to be renewed. It’s interesting, exciting, and if it continues to improve, it could become a prime candidate to replace 24 as Fox’s top action show.

REVIEW: CHILLING ADVENTURES OF SABRINA – PART 2

Kiernan Shipka, Ross Lynch, and Gavin Leatherwood in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018)

Starring

Kiernan Shipka (Mad Men)
Ross Lynch (Muppets Most Wanted)
Lucy Davis (Wonder Woman)
Chance Perdomo (Killed By Debt)
Michelle Gomez (Bad Education)
Jaz Sinclair (Slender Man)
Tati Gabrielle (The 100)
Adeline Rudolph
Richard Coyle (5 Day of War)
Miranda Otto (Lord of The Rings)
Lachlan Watson (The Ultimate Life)

Kiernan Shipka in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Jedidiah Goodacre (The ORder)
Christopher Rosamond (Van Helsing)
Jaz Sinclair (Paper Towns)
Darren Mann (Giant Little Ones)
Ty Wood (The Haunting In Connecticut)
Emily Haine (Deadpool)
Liam Hall (Arrow)
Alessandro Juliani (Smallville)
Gavin Leatherwood (Wicked Enigma)
Alexis Denisof (Buffy: TVS)
Adrian Hough (The Fog)
Spencer Treat Clark (Unbreakable)
Ray Wise (Robocop)
William B. Davis (The X-Files)
Luke Cook (Guardians of The Galaxy Vol. 2)

Kiernan Shipka and Ross Lynch in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018)Netflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina hammered feminist themes in its first season, with Sabrina Spellman challenging the patriarchy at every turn, facing off with the principal and jocks at her high school, the leadership of her coven, and even Satan himself. The teenage witch embraced supernatural forces, even as she fought against them, and ultimately sacrificed her principles — not to mention her immortal soul — to save her town, and her family and friends. It’s reminiscent of the path begun by Buffy Summers more than two decades earlier.Kiernan Shipka, Tati Gabrielle, Abigail F. Cowen, Gavin Leatherwood, Chance Perdomo, and Adeline Rudolph in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018)If the similarities to Buffy the Vampire Slayer weren’t apparent last season, it’s probably because the show, and the audience, was so immersed in the mythology and history of witches in not-so-sleepy Greendale, and with Sabrina’s struggle to hold on to her mortal life, even as it slipped away from her. But with the heavy lifting of world-building out of the way, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is free to go full-Buffy in its second season, which arrives Friday on the streaming service.Lucy Davis and Alessandro Juliani in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018)That shouldn’t be read as a criticism. After just one season, and a winter special, Sabrina’s world is already richer, and more nuanced, than Buffy’s was after seven. With the characters, rules and stakes firmly established, the show’s writers can throw into Sabrina’s path rebellious Kings of Hell, a jealous werewolf, a murder conspiracy, the schemes of the Dark Lord and, worst of all, Valentine’s Day. And that’s only in the first five episodes made available for review.Tati Gabrielle, Abigail F. Cowen, and Adeline Rudolph in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018)Picking up shortly after the events of “A Midwinter’s Tale,” whose ending ties directly into “The Epiphany,” Season 2 finds Kiernan Shipka’s Sabrina seemingly settle into life at the Academy of Unseen Arts, only to upend one of the school’s oldest traditions by challenging Nicholas Scratch (Gavin Leatherwood) for the position of Top Boy. The shot across the bow of the patriarchal structure held dear by Father Blackwood (Richard Coyle), and the three challenge of witchcraft that follow, would be plenty for the premiere, except Sabrina — in the finest of Buffy traditions — also has demon troubles, which hints at the season’s overarching plot. Of course, the angry, entitled Plague Kings are perhaps the least of Sabrina’s problems, given that the Dark Lord also comes calling to collect what’s owed him, and the intentions of Michelle Gomez’s delightfully manipulative Mary Wardwell remain as inscrutable as ever. That’s all complicated by Sabrina’s determination to make a go at the Academy, which includes a new romance with Nick, but her inability to leave Baxter High, and her mortal friends, behind.Lucy Davis in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018)Those friends, who had relatively little to do until the Season 1 finale, flourish in these new episodes, with Lachlan Watson’s bullied Susie Putnam emerging as the show’s heart as he musters the courage to tell his friends, father and tormentors who he’s always been: Theo Putnam. Harvey Kinkle (Ross Lynch) and Roz Walker (Jaz Sinclair) are also given lives separate from Sabrina’s that, nevertheless, test her commitment to the Academy, and to Nick. So too is Sabrina’s family given room to develop beyond their (admittedly entertaining) roles as protectors and moral support. Lucy Davis’ quirky Aunt Hilda, who pinballed in between comic relief and (repeated) murder victim in Season 1, here reveals the depth of her ferocity and devotion. Although cracks had already appeared in the chilly facade of Aunt Zelda (Miranda Otto), in Season 2 she displays a willingness to waltz into danger for the sake of the Spellman family. And cousin Ambrose? Let’s just say that Chance Perdomo’s fan-favorite character experiences a complicated arc.Ross Lynch, Jaz Sinclair, and Lachlan Watson in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018)With more room to breathe in its second season, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina settles in for a little fun, bouncing between the (yes) Buffy-like “The Epiphany” and the holiday-themed “Lupercalia” before drawing influence from The Twilight Zone with “Doctor Cerberus’s House of Horror,” in which a mysterious stranger tells the key characters their fortunes. The latter could be easily dismissed as a throwaway episode, except that the twisted visions of the future hold elements of truth.https___blogs-images.forbes.com_merrillbarr_files_2018_12_CAS_102_Unit_00166RThrough the shifts in influence and tone, and the side trips into the stories of secondary characters, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina doesn’t lose sight of what made the first season so enjoyable: the moral choices, and failings, of a teen witch who wants to do what’s right, but is frequently forced to follow a dark path. Season 2 underscores that, with witchcraft having unintentional consequences, and those around Sabrina suffering because of her decisions.

REVIEW: SMALLVILLE – SEASON 3

Starring

Tom Welling (Lucifer)
Kristin Kreuk (Beauty and The Beast)
Michael Rosenbaum (Impastor)
Sam Jones III (Glory Road)
Allison Mack (Wilfred)
Annette O’Toole (The Punisher)
John Schneider (The Haves and the Have Nots)
John Glover (Shazam)

Kristin Kreuk and Tom Welling in Smallville (2001)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Terence Stamp (Superman)
Rutger Hauer (Blade Runner)
Ryan Robbins (Sanctuary)
Emmanuelle Vaugier (Two and a Half Men)
Jill Teed (Battlestar Galactica)
Françoise Yip (The Predator)
Camille Mitchell (Izombie)
Jesse Metcalfe (Dead Rising)
Katharine Isabelle (Ginger Snaps)
Christopher Shyer (The Core)
John DeSantis (Thirteen Ghosts)
Michael McKean (This Is Spinal Tap)
Lorena Gale (Traitor)
Patrick Gallagher (Glee)
William B. Davis (TheX-Files)
John Mann (Dark Angel)
Kendall Cross (The Butterfly Effect)
Tim Henry (88 Minutes)
Kevin Zegers (Dawn of The Dead)
Patrick Bergin (Lawnmower Man 2)
Michael Daingerfield (Sausage Party)
Ian Somerhalder (The Vampire Diaries)
Jonathan Taylor Thomas (Home Improvement)
Shawn Ashmore (X-Men)
William MacDonald (Riverdale)
Missy Peregrym (Van Helsing)
Martin Cummins (Bates Motel)
Chris Gauthier (Watchmen)
Meghan Ory (Once Upon A Time)
Ryan Merriman (Final Destination 3)
Moneca Delain (Trick ‘r Treat)
Sarah Carter (The Flash)
Lynda Boyd (Sanctuary)
Jerry Wasserman (I Robot)
James Kirk (She’s The Man)
Tahmoh Penikett (Man of Steel)
Julian Christopher (Elysium)
Terry Chen (Jessica Jones)
Aaron Pearl (Godzilla)
Christopher Reeve (Superman)
Gary Hudson (Fifty Shades Freed)
Alisen Down (Stargate SG.1)
Andrew Airlie (Fifty Shades of Grey)
Gordon Tootoosis (Lone Star)
Nathaniel Arcand (Pathfinder)
Neil Flynn (Scrubs)
Amber Rothwell (Whoite Noise)
Adrianne Palicki (The Orville)
Sarah Deakins (Andromeda)
Robert Wisden (Highlander: The Series)
Brandon Jay McLaren (Power Rangers SPD)

Michael Rosenbaum and Tom Welling in Smallville (2001)Season Three begins three months after the cliffhanger that ended Season Two – with Clark under the influence of Red Kryptonite, which doesn’t hurt him – but does bring out his darker side. Clark has left Smallville because he feels responsible for his mother’s miscarriage at the end of Season Two, and the first two episodes – Exile and Phoenix – deal with Clark’s coming to terms with what he has done and where he belongs.Much like The X-Files and other sucessful science-fiction programs, Smallville has both “mythology” episodes and “stand-alone” shows, with the former moving along the overall story, and the latter tending to be more “fun” – generally focusing on someone in town who has a special ability or power that Clark has to deal with. Season Three is also peppered with some great guest-starring roles for notable actors, including Rutger Hauer playing criminal mastermind Morgan Edge; Michael McKean (who happens to be the real-life husband of Smallville star Annette O’Toole) guest-starring as Perry White; and the return of Christopher Reeve as Dr. Swann in Legacy in what would sadly be Reeve’s final appearance on the show.John Schneider and Tom Welling in Smallville (2001)Perhaps more than any previous season, there’s a lot of context to the ongoing storyline in this third season, which may be why many fans (including some right here at DVD Talk) got so frustrated with some of the episodes. Because of the ongoing storyline involving Clark’s biological father, Jor-El (voiced by Terrance Stamp) and his connection to some mysterious caves in Smallville, the chant of “Another Cave Show” and “No More Caves!” became a frequent one on forums here and elsewhere on the Net.John Glover and Michael Rosenbaum in Smallville (2001)But all in all, this is a quite satisfying season of one of the more underrated (and under appreciated) series on TV. Smallville is easily the best incarnation of the Superman legend since Christopher Reeve’s theatrical films, and any fan of The Man of Tomorrow will want to add this boxed set to their collection – assuming you’ve seen the first two seasons first, of course! Entertaining, well-written, well-acted and featuring some impressive special effects, television programs don’t get much better than Smallville. While this may be the weakest season of the first three, it’s still better than most seasons of any hour drama that is currently on the air. This one’s an easy call: fly (don’t walk!) to your local store or online retailer and pick a copy up.

REVIEW: SMALLVILLE – SEASON 2

Starring

Tom Welling (Lucifer)
Kristin Kreuk (Beauty and The Beast)
Michael Rosenbaum (Impastor)
Sam Jones III (Glory Road)
Allison Mack (Wilfred)
Annette O’Toole (The Punisher)
John Schneider (The Haves and the Have Nots)
John Glover (Shazam)

Kristin Kreuk and Tom Welling in Smallville (2001)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Tom O’Brien (The Accused)
Rekha Sharma (Star Trek: Discovery)
Julian Christopher (Elysium)
Jerry Wasserman (Watchmen)
Krista Allen (Feast)
Mitchell Kosterman (Stargate SG.1)
Sarah-Jane Redmond (Disturbing Behaviour)
Joe Morton (God Friended Me)
Andrew Jackson (Earth: Final Conflict)
Michael Kopsa (Fantastic Four)
Sara Downing (Roswell)
Garwin Sanford (Arrow)
Sean Faris (Never Back Down)
Gwynyth Walsh (Star Trek: Generations)
Richard Moll (Batman: TAS)
Maggie Lawson (Santa Clarita Diet)
George Coe (The Stepford Wives)
Jesse Hutch (Arrow)
Fulvio Cecere (Valentine)
Neil Grayston (Wonderfalls)
Patrick Cassidy (Lois & Clark)
Blair Brown (Space Cowboys)
Ryan Kelley (Teen Wolf)
Martin Cummins (Dark Angel)
William B. Davis (The X-Files)
Mark Gibbon (The 6th Day)
Jonathan Taylor Thomas (Home Improvement)
Emmanuelle Vaugier (Two and a Half Men)
Robert Wisden (Highlander: The Series)
David Richmond-Peck (V)
Amara Zaragoza (Perfect Stranger)
Gordon Tootoosis (Lone Star)
Eric Johnson (Flash Gordon)
Lizzy Caplan (Cloverfield)
Byron Mann (Arrow)
Colin Cunningham (Elektra)
Jill Teed (Godzilla)
Eileen Pedde (Juno)
Jason Connery (Wishmaster 3)
Eric Keenleyside (Dreamcatcher)
Barclay Hope (Paycheck)
Rob LaBelle (Jack Frost)
Shaun Sipos (Texas Chainsaw)
Haig Sutherland (The Flash)
Luciana Carro (White Chicks)
Paul Wesley (The Vampire Diaries)
Craig Veroni (Dark Angel)
Christopher Reeve (Superman)
Anson Mount (Inhumans)
Michael Adamthwaite (Horns)
Camille Mitchell (Izombie)
Zachery Ty Bryan (Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift)
Neil Flynn (Scrubs)
Jodelle Ferland (Case 39)
Ingrid Torrance (Scooby Doo 2)
David Lewis (Man of Steel)
Terence Stamp (Superman II)

 

Sam Jones III and Tom Welling in Smallville (2001)The first season of Smallville got off to a bit of a rocky start, as the program didn’t really find its footing until midway through the season. The show suffered from what fans called “Freak of the Week” syndrome, in which a new Kryptonite-mutated supervillain would emerge in every episode with some pretty weak storylines. The “Bug Boy” and “Coach Firestarter” episodes come to mind pretty quickly, and it makes me shudder just thinking about them. However, the show gradually shifted into telling more stories that advanced Clark Kent’s overall storyline, with multipart episodes that focused on slowly revealing Clark’s origin as Kal-El and his “immigration” to Earth, as well as the ongoing storylines of the supporting cast. Not to say that the show still doesn’t have an occasional “Freak of the Week”, but when they do they are either (1) fewer in frequency or (2) somehow related to the overall show’s story arc.Sam Jones III and Tom Welling in Smallville (2001)With that out of the way, let’s talk about the cast. Tom Welling is pitch-perfect as the teenage Clark Kent. With his tall stature and ripped physique, he certainly looks the part, but he also captures the insecurity and awkwardness of youth while portraying an inner nobility and morality for which his character will eventually become renown. As Lana Lang, Clark’s childhood crush and current on-again, off-again love interest, Kristin Kreuk is about as superhumanly lovely as one could imagine. She’s the “girl next door” multiplied by about three million, not only because of her phenomenal physical beauty but also due to her bright-eyed, compassionate, down-to-earth demeanor. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see why Clark loves her, or why it rips him apart when he has to push her away in order to keep his powers a secret and keep her from being harmed (people who tend to learn about Clark’s powers generally end up dead or insane.)Kristin Kreuk and Tom Welling in Smallville (2001)Michael Rosenbaum brings young Lex Luthor to life in what has become my favorite character of the show. Making Lex Luthor and Clark Kent childhood friends is a novel (and daring) conceit by the show’s creators, and it pays off handsomely. Lex adds a darker, more cynical dynamic to Clark’s teenage development that was missing in previous iterations of the character. Rosenbaum, who rather ironically provides the voice for the DC superhero “The Flash” on the Justice League animated series, makes Luthor a dark, sympathetic, and conflicted figure. He’s charismatic enough to make one want to like him, Machiavellian enough to make one worry if they can trust him, and – since we know his eventual fate – an overall tragic figure. We know he’s going to “go bad”; his slow transition from Clark’s trusted friend to worst enemy makes for some truly compelling material.Annette O'Toole and John Schneider in Smallville (2001)The cast is rounded out by John Schneider as Jonathan Kent, Academy Award-nominated songwriter Annette O’Toole (and a former Lana Lang herself from Superman III) as Martha Kent, John Glover as Lionel Luthor, Sam Jones III as Clark’s childhood friend Pete Ross, and Allison Mack as Chloe Sullivan, whose unrequited love for Clark has emerged as a critical subplot in the development of the series. The group makes for an attractive ensemble, and there’s not a bad apple in the bunch. My only real complaint about the cast could be the little screen time Pete Ross gets (which gets worse in Season Three). As Clark’s best friend since childhood, his relationship with Clark gets laid by the wayside in favor of the Clark/Lex dynamic. Every now and then he turns up to provide some expository dialogue, and while he is featured prominently in a few episodes (especially “Duplicity”), his role in the show has slowly diminished over time.John Glover and John Schneider in Smallville (2001)Smallville: The Complete Second Season picks up from the cliffhanger ending that ended Season One, and slowly grows into a stronger and more self-assured show. Over the course of the season we get introduced to heat vision, red Kryptonite, a trip to Metropolis (with a cameo by The Daily Planet), and, in the episode “Rosetta”, an appearance by the former Man of Steel Christopher Reeve which stands out as one of the series’ best episodes. When I heard bits of John Williams’s amazing film orchestrations woven into the show’s score, I had goose bumps everywhere.Tom Welling and Amara Zaragoza in Smallville (2001)While still a little bumpy at times, Smallville’s second season is a huge step above the first, and remains one of the most entertaining shows on television.