REVIEW: DAMAGES – SEASON 1

MAIN CAST

Glenn Close (Guardians of The Galaxy)
Rose Byrne (Bad Neighbors 1 & 2)
Željko Ivanek (Heores)
Noah Bean (Nikita)
Tate Donovan (Argo)
Ted Danson (The Good Place)

Glenn Close in Damages (2007)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Philip Bosco (The Savages)
Anastasia Griffith (Shadow of The Sword)
Peter Riegert (The MasK)
Marlyne Barrett (The Wire)
Maya Days (Blue Bloods)
Peter Facinelli (Twilight)
Donnie Keshawarz (Homeland)
Michael Nouri (The O.C.)
Casey Siemaszko (Back To The Future)
Zachary Booth (South of Hell)
David Costabile (Suits)
Carmen Goodine (Alter Egos)
Tom Aldredge (Cold Mouintain)
Victor Arnold (The Seven-Ups)
Todd A. Kessler (Bloodline)
Elliot Korte (Just Another Story)
Garret Dillahunt (12 Years A Slave)
Robin Thomas (Pacific Rim)
Mario Van Peebles (Highlander 3)
Donal Logue (Gotham)
Donna Murphy (Spider-Man 2)
Peter McRobbie (Lincoln)

Rose Byrne in Damages (2007)No grandstanding or overwrought speeches. Hardly any impassioned objections. No interchangable characters. No cases that are wrapped up in a neat, tidy bow before the end credits for each episode make their upward crawl. FX’s Damages shatters every preconceived notion viewers have been trained to expect from a legal drama, and its critically acclaimed first season is now making its bow in high definition on Blu-ray. MV5BMjc4MjU1Nzg1N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTA1NzQ2MjE@__V1_The series opens as a young woman — half-naked, spattered with blood, and shellshocked — slips out of a high rise apartment building and frantically darts through the streets of New York. Damages then cuts to the exhausted, disheveled woman in an interrogation booth as a couple of detectives almost disinterestedly look on. Far too deep in shock to speak, the only clue as to who this devastated young woman is or what happened to her is a bloodied business card she was carrying, and as the camera closes in, a title card reading “Six months earlier” quickly splashes across the screen.It may only be a difference of six short months, but the Ellen Parsons (Rose Byrne) we see when the clock rolls back is an unrecognizably different person. This wide-eyed idealist is in the middle of being courted by one of Manhattan’s most prestigious law firms. Even though an offer is slid in front of her with more zeroes than the prospective first year associate would ever have thought possible, Parsons blurts out that she has an interview scheduled with Patty Hewes later in the week, and the cheery atmosphere abruptly turns cold. Hewes has carved out a reputation for herself as one of the most powerful and unrelenting forces in high stakes litigation, and taking it as a foregone conclusion that Hewes will offer Parsons a position that she’ll eagerly accept, Hollis Nye (Philip Bosco) warns her that Hewes will irrevocably change who she is.Rose Byrne in Damages (2007)As Parsons starts to see each and every one of her dreams suddenly lurch within arms’ reach, some five thousand former employees of billionaire Arthur Frobisher (Ted Danson) have seen their hopes savagely ripped away from them. His corporate empire collapsed after the SEC caught onto his Enron-like shell game, costing his employees their entire retirement fund — upwards of a billion dollars — while Frobisher himself escaped with his checkbook intact. The government was immediately leery of the timing, with Frobisher pocketing hundreds of millions of dollars by cashing out his stock just before a catastrophic SEC report revealed the company’s underhanded accounting practices, but an intensive three year investigation was unable to turn up any convincing trace of wrongdoing. The criminal trial may have been a total failure, but Patty Hewes (Glenn Close) has been tapped to spearhead a colossal class action law suit against the billionaire on behalf of his thousands of financially devastated employees, and she’s hellbent on fleecing this corporate bully of every last cent. As it turns out, Parsons may be the linchpin to shattering Frobisher’s carefully constructed facade, but at least at first glance, that has nothing to do with the neophyte’s legal prowess.Glenn Close in Damages (2007)Part of what Damages such an infectiously addictive series also leaves it tougher than usual to review. Nothing — nothing — can be taken at face value, and there are so many twists, turns, deceptions, and double-crossings in the plot that any attempt at describing what happens even from the second episode would spoil more than I’d like. Just to be clear, this isn’t Anatomy of a Murder; the courtroom is overly familiar territory, and Damages has no interest in retreading it. Tossing aside legal maneuvers and precedents in dusty books, the season prefers instead to pull back the curtain into the extensive prepwork behind an investigation of this scale, including Hewes’ deft manipulation of everyone and everything around her, Parsons clawing her way through months of backstabbing and mistrust, and Frobisher’s stubborn determination to reclaim his family’s name and clear himself of any wrongdoing.Rose-in-Damages-1x02-Jesus-Mary-Joe-Cocker-rose-byrne-16722887-500-281With hundreds of millions — and potentially a hell of a lot more — at stake, it’s an agonizing journey for everyone involved, riddled with blackmail, assassination threats, subterfuge, abortions, bomb threats, murder, blackmail, kidnapping, infidelity, media manipulation, suicide, deranged stalking, toothless, bloody nightmares, and…oh, just for good measure, a book deal. Damages strikes an extremely effective balance in being lurid enough to stay interesting without veering too far over the edge and coming across as some sort of Prison Break-like cartoon. It also gets a hell of a lot more free reign than I’d expect from basic cable, which is made clear early on when Frobisher is screwing a random blonde in the back of an SUV, snorts a line of coke off her hand, and makes a call to have a witness in the wrong place at the wrong time gunned down. The language isn’t neutered either, with a “bullshit” or “shit” spat out several times each episode, used sparingly enough that the profanity still carries a substantial impact.Rose-in-Damages-1x02-Jesus-Mary-Joe-Cocker-rose-byrne-16722572-500-281Unlike most legal dramas, Damages is an intensely serialized series, focusing squarely on a single case for the entirety of these first thirteen episodes. The writers have a knack for lobbing out a big revelation in each installment, continually maintaining the momentum set into motion in the premiere. Damages has a unique structure that suits the material particularly well. For one, no meandering subplots creep in as filler. Virtually everything that happens is either essential to the Frobisher case or to understanding these characters. There are really only three subplots in the entire season: one involving a mentally unhinged stalker, another following the drastic measures Hewes takes to rein in her rebellious teenaged son, and a third swirling around her number two’s possible defection from the firm. The writing mixes in these stories deftly enough, ensuring that the pacing of the Frobisher case doesn’t stumble along the way and that the audience doesn’t get overly distracted. The only of these plot threads that’s ineffective revolves around Tom Shayes’ loyalty to Hewes and the firm; its inevitable resolution is the only particularly predictable element in the entire first season and the only time the writers seem to be fumbling to fill time.D_EP_105_206Damages also effortlessly juggles two separate timelines. There are brief stretches in each episode set in the here and now, revealing tantalizingly vague clues as to what it is that’s left Parsons drenched in blood and shellshocked: a bloodstained shoe, a disappearing corpse, and a garish bookend caked in blood and tangled with hair, to rattle off a few. The majority of the season takes place in the past, starting off six months earlier and inching forward to the present day from there. As Damages go on, we find out who the players are…what these visual teases mean…how entire lives were upended or butchered outright. The series would’ve been compelling and tense even if it had unfolded in a more linear, traditional way, but the additional layer of that second timeline really adds another layer of intrigue, making it that much more of a suspenseful mystery. For all of this to gel under a slew of different writers and directors shows how strong a hand was guiding the series, and the work in piecing it all together in editing is exceptional.Rose-in-Damages-1x05-A-Regular-Earl-Anthony-rose-byrne-16730966-500-281Damages lives and dies by the strength of its performances. As effective as the twists and turns of the investigation into Frobisher’s machinations are, this is inarguably a character-driven series. The centerpiece is, of course, Glenn Close as Patty Hewes. She’s a legal shark, and much like the great white in Jaws, the writers avoid overexposing her to ensure that every appearance — every line of dialogue — carries a dramatic impact. Essential for this sort of puppet master, Hewes remains impenetrable throughout. There are no weepy monologues or impassioned speeches in front of a sobbing courtroom. There’s a vulnerability she tries her damndest to mask — something that leaks through as the season draws to a close, despite her best efforts — but that steely veneer remains intact whenever someone else shares the scene. It’s an exceptional performance by Close, who infuses the character with a strength, intensity, and slightly elusive charm that make it instantly clear why Hewes so utterly dominates the field: beloved by her clients, at least when victory is in sight, cautiously admired by her associates, and terrified by any lawyer ambitious enough to sit on the other side of the aisle.damages7_0Hewes is far removed from any of the attorneys I’ve seen in dozens of other legal dramas. Hewes wants to give her clients what they deserve, of course, but it’s not about altruism or doing the right thing; this is a game to her, and Hewes is a damned good player. Being pitted against an arrogant bully like Frobisher just makes the battle that much more compelling, and Hewes is so determined to pull a win that the law itself is incidental. She’s not a do-gooder or a staunch heroine, and the steps she takes to ensure victory and to get her unwitting pawns to step in line are nearly as repulsive as the lengths Frobisher goes to in order to protect his bankroll. This intense character isn’t watered down to be more easily embraced by some particular TV viewing demographic. Hewes is humanized just enough to make her seem like a well-realized character and not a one-note force of nature, defined largely by her relationships with her family: her husband is a jet-setting financier who she barely sees, and Hewes’ son is a brilliant but rebellious teenager who resents his mother and is teetering on the brink of expulsion.Rose-in-Damages-1x09-Do-You-Regret-What-We-Did-rose-byrne-16752016-500-281Ellen Parsons too is defined in large part by her relationships. Parsons thinks she’s lost her shot at working under Hewes when her interview is inflexibly rescheduled to her sister’s wedding day, and she without hesitation chooses family over her budding career. Two of the driving forces this season are part of Parsons’ extended family: her fiancé David (Noah Bean), whose grueling hours as a surgical intern make any chance of spending time together that much more remote, and her best friend and future sister-in-law Katie (Anastasia Griffith). Parsons’ personal and professional lives are continually colliding, and there’s an instant level of intrigue by how in the space of six months she devolved from an upbeat, optimistic, naive law school grad eager to start her first day at a prestigious firm to an embittered, disheveled mess accused of murder…to see just how her short time at Hewes and Associates so profoundly and irrevocably transformed her. Rose Byrne does a marvelous job playing what at first glance looks like two entirely different characters, and it’s fascinating to think that she so seamlessly weaves the two together throughout the course of the season, despite these moments being shot far out of sequence and not even being entirely sure how these puzzle pieces connected together during filming.Ted Danson in Damages (2007)Ted Danson is another standout as billionaire executive Arthur Frobisher. One intriguing choice Damages makes is that Frobisher himself isn’t a worthy adversary for Hewes. His corporation may have been modeled after Enron, but Frobisher is hardly a Ken Lay. This isn’t the usual corporate stereotype: a balding, bespectacled man in his 60s who condescendingly sips a glass of $1,200 Scotch in some palatial office and barks out orders. No, he’s a reasonably down to earth guy — fit, trim, eager to sit down for a family barbeque, shoot hoops with his teenaged son, or grab a sandwich from a cart on the street corner. Nothing about the man, at least to those who don’t religiously tune into Court TV or Fox News, would point to a couple billion dollars at the bottom of his balance sheet. That said, Frobisher is fiercely protective of his fortune and his name. While it’s never in doubt that Frobisher is guilty of bilking his employees — or that he’s at the very least hiding something — he’s arrogant enough that he’s convinced he’ll be vindicated in court, no matter what his handlers say or suggest. Far from the calculating criminal mastermind these sorts of series are usually littered with, Frobisher is an impulsive screw-up. He stubbornly sticks to whatever game plan seems like a good idea at the time, backed by a big enough bankroll to pay someone to mop up whatever mistakes he makes along the way. The most intriguing villains are almost always the ones who sincerely don’t think they’re in the wrong, and Frobisher’s been lying to himself about his innocence so long that he even seems to buy the party line himself.untitledThere are a couple of other key roles worth noting as well. Even if Frobisher himself isn’t much of a capable opponent, his attorney Ray Fiske (Zeljko Ivanek) is as close to a match for Patty Hayes as they come. There’s a particularly intriguing relationship between Frobisher and Fiske — an uneasy friendship borne out of the fact that there’s not much of anyone else to whom either of them can relate. One of Hewes’ greatest assets is Tom Shayes (Tate Donovan), her instantly likeable second-in-command. Shayes is bright, talented, and doggedly loyal, but he doesn’t have what it takes to step out from Hewes’ shadow. The fact that he’s a quietly reluctant second fiddle makes him more compelling than someone who unquestionably follows orders with a smile.Rose-in-Damages-1x12-There-s-No-We-Anymore-rose-byrne-16757877-500-281I was thoroughly impressed by Damages. As frequently as the series teases and misleads viewers along the way, all of it seems logical and earned, not just a case of the writers lazily pulling the rug out from under the audience just to keep them off-guard. The season resolves all of the central conflicts before it’s over and done with, and although it doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, exactly, there’s a hell of a lead-in for season two and some tantalizing questions left dangling in front of viewers. It’s such an addictive show that I devoured the entire first season in a day, and there are very, very few series that have compelled me to do that. Tightly woven, wonderfully acted, and sharply written, Damages is a series that’s well worth discovering on Blu-ray for those who missed its first season.

 

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REVIEW: TOWER HEIST

CAST

Ben Stiller (The Watch)
Eddie Murphy (Dr. Dolittle)
Casey Affleck (Gone Baby Gone)
Alan Alda (M*A*S*H)
Matthew Broderick (Election)
Téa Leoni (Jurassic Park III)
Michael Peña (American Hustle)
Judd Hirsch (Independence Day)
Željko Ivanek (Heores)
Gabourey Sidibe (Grimsby)
Nina Arianda (Win Win)
Stephen Henderson (Lady Bird)
Kate Upton (The Other Woman)
Jessica Szohr (Piranha 3D)
Heavy D (Bones)
Joan RIvers (Spaceballs)

Ben Stiller and Michael Peña in Tower Heist (2011)Josh Kovaks is the building manager of The Tower, an upscale apartment complex in New York City. Its employees include Josh’s brother-in-law, concierge Charlie Gibbs, who is expecting a child with Josh’s sister; Enrique Dev’Reaux, a newly hired elevator operator; Lester, the doorman nearing retirement; Odessa Montero, an immigrant maid from Jamaica threatened with deportation; and receptionist Miss Iovenko, who is studying to become a lawyer.Matthew Broderick, Eddie Murphy, Casey Affleck, and Ben Stiller in Tower Heist (2011)One morning Josh witnesses what he believes is Arthur Shaw, The Tower’s penthouse tenant, being kidnapped. Josh gives chase, but is tackled by FBI agent Claire Denham, who explains that Shaw was actually attempting to flee the country and resist arrest for masterminding a Ponzi scheme, embezzling $2 billion. Josh confesses to the Tower staff that he gave their pensions to Shaw to invest, and they have lost everything; Lester attempts suicide by stepping in front of a train, but survives. After visiting Lester in the hospital, Josh, Charlie, and Enrique confront Shaw, under house arrest in his penthouse apartment. Shaw expresses condolences, but is not sincere enough when he forgets to ask if Lester is all right, and out of anger, Josh smashes the windows of the 1963 Ferrari 250 GT Lusso displayed in Shaw’s apartment. Josh’s boss, Mr. Simon, fires him for his actions, as well as Charlie and Enrique, who were with him at the time of his actions.Ben Stiller and Gabourey Sidibe in Tower Heist (2011)Josh meets Denham at a bar where she drunkenly suggests that Shaw has concealed $20 million as a reserve, and that Josh should steal it. Josh, Charlie, Enrique, and evicted Tower tenant Mr. Fitzhugh conspire to find and steal the money from Shaw’s assumed safe. They supplement their inexperience by enlisting Josh’s childhood friend Slide, a petty criminal, and Odessa, who has locksmith experience that can help open the safe. Charlie is later rehired as the Tower’s new manager, and, uncomfortable with the plan, warns Josh to abandon it or Charlie will turn him over to the police. Subsequently, Denham informs Josh that Shaw is scheduled to attend court on Thanksgiving during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to avoid publicity, and that Shaw will be set free. Josh and his team decide to break into Shaw’s apartment during the parade.Matthew Broderick, Eddie Murphy, Casey Affleck, Ben Stiller, and Michael Peña in Tower Heist (2011)Slide attempts to betray the team by reaching the safe first, having tricked Odessa into giving him lessons. The team intercepts him at Shaw’s apartment, and during the ensuing altercation, they break down a false wall, revealing Shaw’s safe, which turns out to be empty. Slide and Fitzhugh fight over Slide’s gun; the gun goes off and the bullet hits the car, revealing gold underneath the Ferrari’s paint. They realize that Shaw used his money to buy gold, turn it into car parts, and assembled the car to hide the money in plain sight. Later, Josh finds a ledger of Shaw’s illegal finances in the car’s glove box.Eddie Murphy and Ben Stiller in Tower Heist (2011)As they reach the lobby, Denham and Shaw return, revealing the Thanksgiving court date as a ruse. Denham notes the missing car and Shaw’s safe and, for violating his bail by not declaring the latter, has him remanded back into federal custody until his real court date. Denham and the FBI arrest Josh and the crew (except Slide) as they walk outside the Tower. Miss Iovenko arrives, telling the FBI that she passed her bar exam three days ago and is acting as Josh’s attorney. She shows them Shaw’s ledger and tells them she will turn it over in exchange for everyone’s freedom. The FBI accepts on the condition that Josh, being the primary conspirator, must serve a minimal two-year sentence. Shaw pleads guilty and is sentenced to life imprisonment. The team retrieve the car and send various parts of it to Tower employees to compensate for their lost pensions. As Josh is led to his cell, a satisfied smile slowly forms on his face.Matthew Broderick, Casey Affleck, Ben Stiller, and Michael Peña in Tower Heist (2011)I didn’t expect too much from this movie after watching the trailer. Judging from the cast and the trailer I thought that it would be at the very least a little entertaining or just an okay movie. It is actually very entertaining and the performances from the entire cast are solid. I laughed a lot and more than I expected. It also has quite a few twists and turns which I wasn’t expecting and which should keep you interested. The chemistry between Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy is very good too and they both provide a couple of very memorable scenes. If you are looking for something to pass the time this movie would be a very good choice.

REVIEW: COURAGE UNDER FIRE

CAST

Denzel Washington (The Equalizer)
Meg Ryan (Anastasia)
Lou Diamond Phillips (Young Guns)
Matt Damon (The MArtian)
Bronson Pinchot (Lois & Clark)
Seth Gilliam (Oz)
Regina Taylor (Children of The Dust)
Michael Moriarty (Troll)
Željko Ivanek (Heores)
Scott Glenn (Daredevil)
Tim Guinee (Iron Man)
Sean Astin (Lord of The Rings)
Sean Patrick Thomas (Save The Last Dance)

While serving in the Gulf War, Lieutenant Colonel Serling (Denzel Washington) accidentally destroys one of his own tanks during a confusing night-time battle, killing his friend, Captain Boylar. The US Army covers up the details and transfers Serling to a desk job.Later, Serling is assigned to determine if Captain Karen Emma Walden (Meg Ryan) should be the first woman to receive a (posthumous) Medal of Honor. She was the commander of a Medevac Huey that was sent to rescue the crew of a shot-down Black Hawk. When she encountered a T-54, her crew destroyed it by dropping a fuel bladder onto the tank and igniting it with a flare gun. However, her own helicopter was shot down soon after. The two crews were unable to join forces, and when the survivors were rescued the next day, Walden was reported dead.Serling notices inconsistencies between the testimonies of Walden’s crew. Specialist Andrew Ilario (Matt Damon), the medic, praises Walden strongly. However, Staff Sergeant John Monfriez (Lou Diamond Phillips) claims that Walden was a coward and that he led the crew in combat and improvised the fuel bladder weapon. Sergeant Altameyer, who is dying in a hospital, complains about a fire. Warrant Officer One Rady, the co-pilot, was injured early on and unconscious throughout. Furthermore, the crew of the Black Hawk claim that they heard firing from an M16, but Ilario and Monfriez deny they had one.Under pressure from the White House and his commander, Brigadier General Hershberg (Michael Moriarty), to wrap things up quickly, Serling leaks the story to newspaper reporter Tony Gartner (Scott Glenn) to prevent another cover-up. When Serling grills Monfriez during a car ride, Monfriez forces him to get out of the vehicle at gunpoint, then commits suicide by driving into an oncoming train. Serling tracks Ilario down, and Ilario finally tells him the truth. Monfriez wanted to flee, which would mean abandoning Rady. When Walden refused, he pulled a gun on her. Walden then shot an enemy who appeared behind Monfriez, but Monfriez thought Walden was firing at him and shot her in the stomach, before backing off. The next morning, the enemy attacked again as a rescue party approached. Walden covered her men’s retreat, firing an M16. However, Monfriez told the rescuers that Walden was dead, so they left without her. Napalm was then dropped on the entire area. Altameyer tried to expose Monfriez’s lie at the time, but was too injured to speak, and Ilario was too scared of the court-martial Walden had threatened them with and remained silent.Serling presents his final report to Hershberg. Walden’s young daughter receives the Medal of Honor at a White House ceremony. Later, Serling tells the truth to the Boylars about the manner of their son’s death and says he cannot ask for forgiveness. The Boylars tell Serling he must put down the burden at some point and grant him their forgiveness. In the last moments, Serling has a flashback of when he was standing by Boylar’s destroyed tank and a medevac Huey was lifting off with his friend’s body. Serling suddenly realises Walden was the Huey pilot.Truly compelling direction and very special character portrayal make this an extremely enjoyable, very dramatic movie.

 

REVIEW: X-MEN: APOCALYPSE

CAST

James McAvoy (Wanted)
Michael Fassbender (Prometheus)
Jennifer Lawrence (joy)
Oscar Isaac (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)
Nicholas Hoult (Warm Bodies)
Rose Byrne (Bad Neighbours)
Evan Peters (Kick-Ass)
Tye Sheridan (The Forger)
Sophie Turner (Game of Thrones)
Olivia Munn (The Babymakers)
Alexandra Shipp (House of Anubis)
Lucas Til (Macgyver)
Josh Helman (Mad Max: Fury Road)
Ben Hardy (Eastenders)
Lana Condor (Patriots Day)
Hugh Jackman (Pan)
Tómas Lemarquis (Snowpiercer)
Željko Ivanek (Heroes)
Kodi Smith-McPhee (The King)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble)

En Sabah Nur, a powerful mutant believed to be the first of his kind, rules ancient Egypt until he is betrayed by his worshippers, who entomb him alive. His four lieutenants die preserving him. Awakening in 1983, he believes humanity has turned to “false gods” in his absence. Aiming to save the world by destruction and remake it, he recruits Cairo pickpocket Ororo Munroe, who can control weather, and upgrades her power.

In East Berlin, shape-shifting mutant Raven investigates an underground fight club and discovers mutant champion Angel, who possesses a pair of large feathered wings on his back, and Kurt Wagner, who can teleport. Raven rescues Kurt and employs the services of black marketeer Caliban to transport him to America. En Sabah Nur recruits Caliban’s enforcer, Psylocke, who leads him to Angel. En Sabah Nur enhances both their powers, transforming Angel’s wings into metal wings.

Alex Summers discovers that his younger brother, Scott, is manifesting his mutation for shooting optic beams. Alex takes Scott to Professor Charles Xavier’s educational institute in Westchester County, New York in hopes that Xavier and Hank McCoy will teach him how to control his abilities. Scott meets the telepathic and telekinetic Jean Grey, and the two develop an attraction. Raven brings Kurt to the institute. Apocalypse’s powers cause disturbances around the world, leading Xavier and Alex to consult with CIA agent Moira MacTaggert, who has been researching the legend of Nur.

In Communist Poland, the metal-controlling mutant Erik Lehnsherr lives with his wife and their young daughter, Nina. He uses his powers to save a coworker, prompting militia to come capture him. When they accidentally kill Erik’s family, he retaliates by murdering them. En Sabah Nur later approaches the devastated Erik and tells him,”Come and see”. Next, Apocalypse takes him to Auschwitz where Erik’s power first manifested. Apocalypse reveals himself as the one true god variously dubbed “Elohim, Shen, Ra.” Erik destroys the camp and joins him.

En Sabah Nur enters Xavier’s mind while Xavier is using the mutant-locating computer Cerebro and, co-opting Xavier’s powers, forces all global superpowers to launch Earth’s entire nuclear arsenal into space to prevent interference. He and his new lieutenants arrive at the mansion and kidnap Xavier. Attempting to stop them, Alex accidentally causes an explosion that destroys the mansion. Peter Maximoff — having learned that he is Erik’s son, and hoping that Xavier can help to find him—arrives in time to use his super-speed to evacuate the students just before the explosion destroys the building, but Alex is presumed dead. Colonel William Stryker’s forces subsequently capture Hank, Raven, Peter, and Moira, and take them to a military facility for interrogation. Scott, Jean and Kurt covertly follow and liberate their comrades using Stryker’s mind-controlled and brainwashed experiment, Weapon X, whose memories Jean partially restores.

At En Sabah Nur’s behest, Erik uses his powers to control Earth’s magnetic poles, causing widespread destruction across the planet and mass casualties. En Sabah Nur plans to transfer his consciousness into Xavier’s body and use Xavier’s power to enslave the minds of every person on earth. Xavier secretly sends a telepathic distress call to Jean, and the others travel to Cairo to battle Apocalypse and his horsemen. They rescue Xavier, but he loses his hair as the process nears completion. Angel is defeated and incapacitated in the battle. Erik and Ororo are convinced to turn on En Sabah Nur and, with the help of Scott, they keep him occupied physically while Xavier fights him telepathically in the astral plane. Finally, Xavier encourages Jean to unleash the full extent of her powers, incinerating En Sabah Nur. In the ensuing chaos, Psylocke flees.

Xavier and Moira rekindle their relationship. Erik and Jean help reconstruct the school, but Erik refuses Xavier’s offer to stay and help teach. Peter decides not to tell Erik yet that he is Erik’s son. As the new X-Men, Hank and Raven train new recruits Scott, Jean, Ororo, Kurt and Peter.

In a post-credits scene, men in suits visit the Weapon X facility to retrieve data on Stryker’s mutant research, including an X-ray and a blood sample marked “Weapon X”, on behalf of the Essex Corporation.For some reason X men Apocalypse has taken a beating from critics and fans and to be honest I don’t really no why. I went to see this film with slightly lowered expectations following the early reviews and maybe that helped because I thoroughly enjoyed it. The cast was great. The old and the new the story was interesting and the villain serviceable. Perhaps it’s because now we get so many comic book movies that people compare too much but I wouldn’t compare the X men to anything else out there. It’s another solid entry in the franchise.

REVIEW: BLACK HAWK DOWN

 

CAST

Josh Hartnett (30 Days of Night)
Ewan McGregor (Mortdecai)
Eric Bana (Hulk)
William Fichtner (The Dark Knight)
Tom Sizemore (Dreamcatcher)
Ewen Bremner (Trainspotting)
Hugh Dancy (Hannibal)
Ioan Grufford (Ringer)
Jason Isaacs (Peter Pan)
Brian Van Holt (House of Wax)
Tom Hardy (Mad MAx( Fury Road)
Orlando Boom (Lord of The Rings)
Matthew Marsden (DOA)
Michael Roof (XXX)
Sam Shepard (True West)
Kim Coates (Goon)
Željko Ivanek (Heroes)
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones)
Jeremy Piven (Kiss Teh Girls)
Ty Burrell (Muppets Most wanted)

Following the ousting of the central government and start of a civil war, a major United Nations military operation in Somalia was authorized with a peacekeeping mandate. Following the withdrawal of the bulk of the peacekeepers, Mogadishu-based Mohamed Farrah Aidid militia loyalists declare war on remaining UN personnel. In response, U.S. Army Rangers, Delta Force counter-terrorist operators, and 160th SOAR aviators are deployed to Mogadishu to capture Aidid, who has proclaimed himself president. To cement his power and subdue the population in the south, Aided’s militia, led by Yousuf Dahir Mo’alim (Razaaq Adoti), is shown seizing Red Cross food shipments, killing anyone who get in their way.  A patrolling Black Hawk helicopter (‘Super Six-Four’ piloted by CWO Michael Durant played by Ron Eldard) requests permission to engage the militia after witnessing the massacre but he is told to stand down and return to base as the UN has jurisdiction. Outside Mogadishu, Delta Force operators capture Osman Ali Atto (George Harris), a faction leader selling arms to Aidid’s militia and bring him to their main base at the Mogadishu Airport.

Atto is interrogated by MG William F. Garrison (Sam Shepard) who states that they will not leave Somalia until they find Aidid. A mission is planned to capture Omar Salad Elmi and Abdi Hassan Awale Qeybdiid, two of Aidid’s top advisers, the US force including experienced men as well as new recruits, including the young and naive PFC Todd Blackburn (Orlando Bloom), SPC John Grimes (Ewan McGregor) a desk clerk going on his first field mission. SSG Matthew Eversmann (Josh Hartnett) is given his first command – Ranger Chalk Four – by commanding officer CPT Mike Steele (Jason Isaacs) after his Lieutenant, 1LT Beales (Ioan Gruffudd), suffers an epileptic seizure. In Mogadishu, a paid informant gives the location of Aidid’s advisors to Garrison, who soon gives the code word (Irene) thus commencing the operation. Delta Force operators, led by SFC Norm “Hoot” Gibson (Eric Bana) and SFC Jeff Sanderson (William Fichtner), capture Aidid’s advisers inside the target building, but the Rangers and helicopters escorting the ground-extraction convoy take heavy fire, while Eversmann’s Chalk Four is dropped a block away in error.


Blackburn is severely injured after falling from one of the Black Hawk helicopters, so three Humvees led by SSG Jeff Struecker (Brian Van Holt) are detached from the convoy to return Blackburn to base. With many Rangers occupied by incoming militia forces, Hoot and his Delta Team volunteer to escort the Humvees. SGT Dominick Pilla (Danny Hoch) is shot and killed just as Struecker’s column departs while manning one of the humvees’ M2 Browning .50-caliber machine gun, and shortly thereafter Black Hawk Super Six One, piloted by CWO Clifton “Elvis” Wolcott (Jeremy Piven), is shot down by a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG), crashing deep within the militia-controlled city. Both Wolcott and his co-pilot are killed on impact and both crew chiefs critically injured. Delta Force sniper SSG Daniel Busch (Richard Tyson) pulls himself out of the wreckage and attempts to defend the crash site from incoming militia, but is severely wounded by gunfire. Eversmann and the rest of Chalk Four reach the crash site on foot, providing covering fire while Busch is evacuated by a Little Bird scout/attack helicopter. Meanwhile, a vehicle convoy rerouted to evacuate them is stopped by militia roadblocks. Somali forces inflict heavy casualties, but two more Ranger units manage to reach the site on foot and occupy several nearby houses, awaiting evacuation.
Durant is ordered to Super Six One’s previous position but it is also shot down by an RPG. Having witnessed the crash, Mo’alim leads an enormous mob, consisting of his own militiamen and many angry locals, to the second crash site. Durant, sole survivor of the crash, attempts to exit the downed helicopter, but discovers that his leg is broken and he is unable to escape, so defends himself from incoming militia as best he can with his MP5. With CPT Steele’s Rangers pinned down and sustaining heavy casualties no ground forces can reach Super Six-Four’s crash site, nor reinforce the Rangers defending Super Six One. Onboard Super Six Two, a pair of Delta Force snipers, SFC Randy Shughart (Johnny Strong) and MSG Gary Gordon (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), volunteer to defend the crash site for the time being. Their requests are denied by command, as Mo’alim’s mob has massed into the hundreds and there is no guarantee when reinforcements will arrive. Eventually, their third request is approved and the pair are landed at the site, where they find Durant still alive. Pulling him from the wreckage, Shughart and Gordon hold off the incoming Somali insurgents until Gordon is killed with a shot to the head. Shughart hands Gordon’s CAR-15 to Durant, then kills several more insurgents before he is surrounded and shot to death by the mob when one gets close enough to dump his entire pistol magazine into Shughart. Durant is then found and nearly beaten to death before Mo’alim arrives to have the mob stand down so he can take Durant alive as a prisoner of war.McKnight’s column gives up the attempt to reach the first crash site, returning to base with their prisoners and the casualties. Garrison begins assembling a second convoy to rescue those still trapped in Mogadishu, this time including tanks and APCs from Malaysian and Pakistani UN forces operating with the 10th Mountain Division. As night falls, Aidid’s militia, led again by Mo’alim, launch a sustained assault on the trapped Americans at the first crash site. On route to Super Six One, Gibson receives an update on the status of the second crash site and is given permission to secure it, taking his Delta Team and a single Ranger with him. When he reaches Durant’s crash site, he finds and scares away the remaining members of the mob, who have begun to strip the crashed helicopter of its parts as well as any remaining gear and ammunition on board. While they are unable to find the bodies of Gordon, Shughart and the rest of Six-Four’s crew, Hoot finds a badly damaged Delta helmet and takes a brief moment to mourn his fallen comrades before destroying the remains of the helicopter to ensure the classified equipment on board cannot be salvaged by Aidid’s militia.

Meanwhile, a badly beaten Durant is being interrogated by one of Aidid’s lieutenants, Firimbi (Treva Etienne), who, when Durant insists that the U.S. government will never trade him for Aidid’s captured advisors, tells him even if Aidid himself is taken or killed, nothing will stop the killing. Throughout the night, militia attacks are fended off by strafing runs and rocket attacks from AH-6J Little Bird helicopter gunships of the Nightstalkers. The next morning, a joint Pakistani-Malay-American relief column is able to reach and save the American forces. Hoot and his team eventually regroup with Eversmann’s “Chalk-Four”, finally killing Mo’alim in the process with one of his own technicals. While casualties are evacuated inside the armored vehicles, a handful of Rangers and Delta Force soldiers are forced to run from the crash site back to the Pakistani compound, a sports stadium inside the UN Safe Zone, while under fire from the militia as they retreat back to friendly territory. The closing credits detail the results of the raid. Nineteen American soldiers were killed; over 1,000 Somali militants and civilians died. After 11 days of captivity Durant was released; Delta Force snipers Gordon and Shughart were the first soldiers to be awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously since the Vietnam War, and two weeks later President Bill Clinton withdrew Delta Force and the Rangers from Somalia. Major General William F. Garrison accepted full responsibility for the outcome of the raid. On August 1, 1996, Aidid was killed in a battle with a rival faction. General Garrison retired the following day.Black Hawk Down is a great movie that is both an eye opener that sticks to the facts as well as a quality film. I recommend this movie to any war-film fan, as well as anyone that likes watching movies in general.

REVIEW: HEROES: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION (BLU-RAY)

CAST
Milo Ventimiglia (Gotham)
Hayden Panettiere (Bring it on 3)
Jack Coleman (Kingdom Hospital)
Tawny Cypress (Supergirl)
Leonard Roberts (Buffy: The Vampire Slayer)
Santiago Cabrera (Merlin)
Masi Oka (Get Smart)
Greg Grunberg (Alias)
Adrian Pasdar (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D)
Noah Gray-Cabey (My Wife and Kids)
Ali Larter (Final Destination 1 & 2)
Sendhil Ramamurthy (Beauty and the Beast)
NOTABLE / RECURRING GUEST CAST
James Kyson Lee (Hawaii Five-O)
Zachary Quinto (Hitman: Agent 47)
Ashley Crow (The Secret Circle)
Jimmy Jean-Louis (Arrow)
Cristine Rose (How I Met Your Mother)
Thomas Dekker (Terminator: TSCC)
Lisa Lackey (Bones)
Matthew John Armstrong (American Dreams)
Christopher Eccleston (Doctor Who)
Nora Zehetner (Brick)
Clea DuVall (The Lizzie Borden Chronicles)
Randall Bentley (Upside)
Missy Peregrym (Smallville)
Danielle Savre (Boogeyman 2)
Eric Roberts (The Dark Knight)
Adair Tishler (Dollhouse)
Rena Sofer (Traffic)
Malcolm McDowell (Halloween 1 & 2)
George Takei (Star Trek)
Jayma Mays (Ugly Betty)

Heroes Season 1 is an ensemble cast show that became a very large success based on how well it translated the comic book world to the small screen. Set on present day Earth, the show details how a growing number of people are developing special abilities outside of government control with a variety of consequences to them and the population at large. Unlike the truncated second season, the first had a full 23 episodes to explore the concept, resulting in a number of smaller, multi-episode arcs that all built toward a bigger picture as the season progressed. Unlike the old style of comic books though, the cast is made up of all sorts of regular people that start to notice they are”special, some of whom learn to increase their abilities with concentration or training, stumbling at times but honing said powers in numerous ways.

In overall terms, the story uses the Human Genome Project as something of a starting point, using scientist Mohinder Suresh (Sendhil Ramamurthy) as a focal point for identifying gifted people as he follows a trail set forth by his father, a formerly distinguished geneticist that chased what were considered crazy ideas about human evolution until he was killed. Mohinder discovers that certain trace markers in human DNA predict people with abilities and having observed firsthand exactly how gifted some of these people are, he ends up trying to warn them of a serial killer named Sylar (Zachary Quinto) and what appears to be secret agents out to capture them. Needless to say, his efforts are not universally appreciated and he himself is cast into the mix as a pawn, forced to face both powered and mundane humans out to stop him. The show also uses a dozen or so other main characters that either have powers or interact heavily with them, many seemingly patterned after specific comic book characters in terms of abilities, though not so much in terms of their personalities.

Take Hiro Nakamura (Masi Oka) for example, he can bend the space time continuum if he concentrates hard enough, the Japanese office worker slaving away at his father’s corporation while dreaming of his special destiny. The guy is a stereotypical science fiction/comic book nerd too, wanting more than anything to become a hero rather than follow the path laid out for him by his father Kaito (George Takei of Star Trek fame). His hit or miss attempts to control his powers provide some of the comic relief of the show but he also serves as someone genre fans can identify with as he tries to uncover his own future with the help of his best friend, the mundane Ando Masahashi (James Kyson Lee). Then there was Claire Bennet (hotty Hayden Panettiere), a gal with Wolverine-like healing powers who figures out she will regenerate no matter what happens to her, the gal finding out her adopted father Noah (Jack Coleman) is working for an agency with special plans for anyone with her kind of talents. The Texas high school cheerleader becomes an integral part of the main picture as she is stalked by Sylar, a man with the ability to take special powers by decapitating those he encounters, their showdown predicted long before by Isacc Mendez (Santiago Cabrera), a precognitive that draws the future while under the influence of heroin.

The cast also included internet stripper Niki Sanders (hotty Ali Larter) whose multiple personality disorder grants her alias Jessica super strength, Nathan Petrelli (Adrian Pasdar) a district attorney running for Congress that can fly, his brother Peter (Milo Ventimiglia) that finds out his ability is especially powerful as time moves forward, Matt Parkman (Greg Grunberg) a street cop that can read minds, and DL Hawkins (Leonard Roberts) who can become intangible at will. Some of them try to keep their secret, like Nathan since he is running for office, while others are on the run from the agency searching such folks out (their point man being Noah with the aid of a Haitian that can negate powers and erase minds played by Jimmy Jean Louis), the conspiracy something straight out of shows like The X-Files, Jericho, or Angel. The interactions of the cast make the show quite special too, capturing the spirit of modern comic books better than anything else I have seen to date.Particularly appealing is the manner in which most of the powers are not overly flashy, the dramatic elements allowed to keep the science fiction elements present but downplayed so that a larger audience won’t be alienated.

CAST
Milo Ventimiglia (Gotham)
Jack Coleman (Kingdom Hospital)
Masi Oka (Get Smart)
Greg Grunberg (Alias)
Adrian Pasdar (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D)
Hayden Panettiere (Bring it on 3)
Noah Gray-Cabey (My Wife and Kids)
Ali Larter (Final Destination 1 & 2)
Sendhil Ramamurthy (Beauty and the Beast)
David Anders (Izombie)
Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars)
Dania Ramirez (American Pie: Reunion)
Dana Davis (Prom Night)
James Kyson Lee (Hawaii Five-O)
Zachary Quinto (Hitman: Agent 47)
NOTABLE / RECURRING GUEST CAST
Jimmy Jean-Louis (Arrow)
Adair Tishler (Dollhouse)
Stephen Tobolowsky (Groundhog Day)
Shalim Ortiz (Silver Case)
Nicholas D’Agosto (Gotham)
Katie Carr (Dinotopia)
Eriko (Dragon Evolution)
Ashley Crow (The Secret Circle)
Randall Bentley (Upside)
Cristine Rose (How I Met Your Mother)
Dianna Agron (I Am Number Four)
Mark Christopher Lawrence (Chuck)

Heroes Season 2 picked up four months after the events of Season One with the characters having moved on from the explosive finish. The prophecy thwarted at great cost and Sylar stopped, the clock was reset in many ways for those that survived. Peter is missing, Nathan has become a recluse, Hiro is stuck in Medieval Japan, and the Bennett family is on the run from the Company. Some characters die off-screen or are greatly downplayed and new people are introduced, the major players added in being Maya and Alejandro from Central America. Maya has an uncontrollable ability to infect people with some form of fast acting disease and only her brother seems able to calm her down to reverse the effects. They are on the run for murder (the authorities are not really particular about “how” the deaths occurred so much as “who” was responsible) and head to New York City to meet Dr. Suresh in hopes of finding a cure, not knowing he was murdered. Along the way, they pick up a helpful hitchhiker named Gabriel (guess who) and trouble ensues but that is only one thread of many the show goes back to.Image result for heroes season 2Of much greater interest to me was the Bennett family, particularly Noah in his efforts to destroy the Company, and Claire, as she struggles with her powers, puberty, and origins. Hiro’s trip to Japan circa the Seventeenth century where he meets his childhood hero, Takezo Sensei, proves to be a disaster when he screws up the timeline and must repair it lest the fate of the world be irreparably altered. Sadly, the quirky journey he goes through was arguably the most impacted part of the WGA writer strike that shortened the season to a mere eleven episodes  Takezo finding out that he is special too, though no explanation given. How he deals with his father upon his return and his own shame at his betrayal of his hero provided some relief from the admittedly weak storyline but not nearly enough to compensate for some of the worst writing seen on the show that has just started season three.

Another new chapter in the saga revolved around a relative of Micah named Monica, the Katrina refugee with an uncanny ability to mimic anything she watches on television. This was a thread that had a bit of potential, largely because it contained Micah and Niki, but felt the sting of the shortened season as well, the gal trying to become a heroine and falling short of the mark out of stupidity. Parkman has lost his wife and identity only to start over again in New York, having learned to keep quiet about his abilities and use them serendipitously to advance himself to detective. He and Suresh take in Molly but soon have to face a powerful telepath that is hurting her, the piece of the puzzle unveiled to the bigger picture of a long time conspiracy by the founders of the Company that include the parents of most of the players currently focused on in the series. Suresh ends up working directly for the company too, racing to uncover the secrets of the genetic component that gives the cast their powers but also an engineered virus (the Shanti Virus) that threatens not only the metahumans but the rest of the populace as well.

Perhaps most curious in the season for me, aside from the arcs starring Peter and Sylar of course, are those leading to Bob (the current head of the organization) and his daughter Elle, a gal with electrifying powers that shows what Claire would have become had Noah truly been unattached to her as he was supposed to have been. A psychopathic killer on a short leash, Elle does the dirty work to seek her father’s approval, the contrast between her and Claire referred to time and again by those around them. The introduction of “Adam”, the first person with powers and a founding member of the Company with a huge grudge against humanity, was also kind of abrupt and his use of Peter to try and destroy the world (“resetting the clock on humanity”) had a lot of untapped potential too.

To me, the writers should have pared down the new characters and tied up things like the Hiro saga much sooner given the strike and shortened season. They should have also kept in mind the show has a devoted following so making the characters act outside of their established norms or contrary to what they would have done given the way they acted in the first season weakened it as well. That the major threads employed cheap plot devices used in the past certainly did not help either  but this was indicative of the major problem of the season for me, the pacing. Every book, television show, and movie has an internal rhythm and pace that fans get used to. The WGA strike forced the slowly escalating pace of the show to be accelerated well beyond normal and leave off all the suspense of Season One behind it.

CAST
Milo Ventimiglia (Gotham)
Adrian Pasdar (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D)
Jack Coleman (Kingdom Hospital)
Sendhil Ramamurthy (Beauty and the Beast)
Cristine Rose (How I Met Your Mother)
Zachary Quinto (Hitman: Agent 47)
Hayden Panettiere (Bring it on 3)
James Kyson Lee (Hawaii Five-O)
Masi Oka (Get Smart)
Greg Grunberg (Alias)
Ali Larter (Final Destination 1 & 2)
NOTABLE / RECURRING GUEST CAST
Brea Grant (Battle Planet)
Ashley Crow (The Secret Circle)
Zeljko Ivanek (The Bourne Legacy)
Jamie Hector (Lie To Me)
Ntare Mwine (Blood Diamond)
Blake Shields (Carnivale)
Robert Forster (Jackie Brown)
David H. Lawrence XVII (Lost)
Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars)
Randall Bentley (Upside)
Jessalyn Gilsig (Nip/Tuck)
Jimmy Jean-Louis (Arrow)
Malcolm McDowell (Halloween I & II)
David Anders (Children of the Corn)
Alan Blumenfeld (In Her Shoes)
George Takei (Star Trek)
Dan Byrd (Firestarter 2)
Francis Capra (Veronica Mars)
Noah Gray-Cabey (My Wife and Kids)
Lisa Lackey (Bones)
Eric Roberts (The Dark Knight)
Adair Tishler (Dollhouse)
Stephen Tobolowsky (Groundhog Day)

The first volume of the third season, Villains, brought back what made the show so good in its first season, with shadowy bad guys and intricate conspiracies, in a storyline that explored what the line is between a hero and a villain. The return of the Petrelli patriarch Arthur (played with quiet badass-ness by Robert Forster) created an us-or-them scenario where characters had to choose sides and decide how far they would go to get what they want

The other key storyline surrounds Mohinder (Sendhil Ramamurthy) and his efforts to understand where the Heroes’ powers come from. The race to discover how to give and take away powers, which involves a hidden formula and an element known as the catalyst, which is key to the granting of special powers. Mohinder grants himself powers, which creates what could be gently described as an homage to The Fly and the distribution of powers becomes sctattershot, as powers change and mutate with each episode, creating characters who suffered from the Superman syndrome, as they were simply too powerful to be defeated in a realistic way.

The newcomers from season 2 have mostly disappeared, with only Elle and Maya sticking around, with Maya in  a somewhat minor role. The additions this time around are much better, including the ultra-creepy Puppet Master; Daphne, the morally-ambivalent Flash of the Heroes universe, and Utusu, an African version of Isaac Mendez, capable of painting the future on big rocks. Though they are, in some ways, repetitions of other characters, they bring enough to the show to be interesting, especially Brea Grant’s speedster, who has a memorable conflict with Hiro (Masi Oka) and a starcrossed relationship with Matt (Greg Grunberg.) There are a handful of other newcomers, including some thuggish bad guys and yet another  role for Ali Larter.


The first arc ended with a bit of a thud, as is probably the only way a battle with a ruthless, all-powerful villain can end, but it was followed up with the Fugitives arc, which tried a bit too hard to have real-world relevance. Guided by a questionably-motivated Nathan (Adrian Pasdar), the government has begun to round-up super-powered people for Guantanamo Bay-style imprisonment, including all our favorite heroes. It puts all the big-names wither in shackles or on the run, a situation that could have been promising, but instead just peters out, as the motivation for each character’s actions is no wildly different from what we know of them that it makes sense. Nathan is all over the ballfield in how he conducts his hunt for his fellow kind, while Sylar has more personality changes than could be explained by the supposed psychotic break he’s experiencing.

The show consistently is one of the finest-looking series on TV, with gorgeous photography and special effects, and from time to time, there are bits of inspired creativity, like the origin story in “1961,” which makes a terrific call-back all the way to a small-bit of dialogue in the pilot, Larter’s character’s powerful outburst in “Cold Snap” and the realistic rage the otherwise moral Matt Parkman (Greg Grunberg) experiences in “Trust and Blood.” And maybe I’m a bit blind, but I didn’t see foresee the identity of the anonymous underground agent helping the heroes in Fugitive and found it a smart re-use of characters.

CAST
Hayden Panettiere (Bring it on 3)
Robert Knepper (Cult)
Jack Coleman (Kingdom Hospital)
Zachary Quinto (Hitman: Agent 47)
Milo Ventimiglia (Gotham)
Masi Oka (Get Smart)
Greg Grunberg (Alias)
Adrian Pasdar (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D)
James Kyson Lee (Hawaii Five-O)
Sendhil Ramamurthy (Beauty and the Beast)
Ali Larter (Final Destination 1 & 2)
NOTABLE / RECURRING GUEST CAST
Dawn Olivieri (The Vampire Diaries)
Madeline Zima (The Hand That Rocks The Cradle)
Ray Park (Star Wars – Episode I)
Deanne Bray (2 broke Girls)
Elisabeth Röhm (American Hustle)
Jimmy Jean-Louis (Arrow)
Lisa Lackey (Bones)
Todd Stashwick (The Originals)
David H. Lawrence XVII (Lost)
Ashley Crow (The Secret Circle)
Sasha Pieterse (X-Men: First Class)
Saemi Nakamura (Jury Duty)
Jayma Mays (Ugly Betty)
Tessa Thompson (Veronica Mars)
Rick Worthy (Collateral Damage)
Kate Vernon (Battlestar Galactica)
Louise Fletcher (Star Trek: DS9)
Ernie Hudson (Ghostbusters)
Željko Ivanek (Hannibal)
Swoosie Kurtz (Mike & Molly)
Richard Roundtree (Shaft)
George Takei (Star Trek)
Tamlyn Tomita (Highlander: The Series)

The big storyline this time out centers around Samuel Sullivan and his family of superpowered carnies. Samuel is busy building the group, recruiting various super-powered individuals to join them, in an effort to form a homeland of their own  As is usually the case with any story on Heroes, thanks to the need to add twists and turns to pad out episodes, it’s not that simple, and, of course, all of the show’s main characters will be drawn into the tale. It seems that the Heroes have the best contact system known to man, as no one misses an e-mail or call to get together. At some point, coincidence and contrived are very similar. Either way, the show tries to have it both ways with Samuel, attempting to make him both pure evil and a sympathetic soul, like they did with Sylar. While the inexplicably coincidental familial concerns of the Petrelli clan keep going for yet another run of episodes, adding in a new super-powered love interest for Peter, the relationship between Claire and her father Noah is the show’s secondary focus, as Claire goes off to college in an attempt to live a normal life, and ends up in a lesbian couple, while displaying her trademark poor judgment and weakly-motivated rebelliousness. Meanwhile, Dad’s whole world is falling apart in a super-midlife crisis.

The rest of the old crew are still around as well, including erstwhile samurai Hiro, who’s battling a terminal illness and trying his hand at being a hero-for-hire, and Matt Parkman and Sylar, who get closer than they’d really like to be in the aftermath of Season Three. Though the conflict between them is one of the better tales told, and Sylar  remains one of the most interesting characters in recent TV history.

The worst part of the season though has to be the ending. After you’ve sat through 18 episodes, Claire outs herself to the world on camera demonstrating her powers for all the world to see, then the iconic words to be continued appear….. The show was cancelled.

Perhaps the upcoming Heroes Reborn mini series will qive answers to what the aftermath will be.

REVIEW: HANNIBAL (2001)

CAST

Anthony Hopkins (The Mask of Zorro)
Julianne Moore (Carrie)
Gary Oldman (Batman Begins)
Ray Liotta (Killig Them Softly)
Frankie Faison (Luke Cage)
Giancarlo Giannini (Man on Fire)
Francesca Neri (Collateral Damage)
Željko Ivanek (Heroes)
Ajay Naidu (The Wrestler)

When Thomas Harris’s follow-up to “Silence of the Lambs” was announced, it was obvious that the filmed version would be soon announced. Yet, the pieces didn’t fall into place quite as easily as those involved would have hoped. Anthony Hopkins was in, but Jodie Foster was in and out and in, then out again – instead, she chose to direct her own feature and Julianne Moore was brought in. Original “Silence” director Jonathan Demme passed, so producer Dino De Laurentis (who was working on “U-571”) went a short distance to the “Gladiator” set, where director Ridley Scott said yes to the film. The screenplay was credited to two of the most highly regarded screenwriters in the business, Steven Zaillian and David Mamet, although apparently, Mamet’s work did not end up in the final draft – he received credit due to guild regulations.Although the final feature met with mixed reactions, it was a suprising success in this era of crackdowns on the “R” rating. Scott’s picture is a different creature altogether; a horror film wrapped in grand elegance. Scott brought two “Gladiator” collaborators to the party – cinematographer John Mathieson and editor Petro Scalia, and both do excellent work. The movie is also different in terms of set-up; where Clarice was the main character in “Silence”, she becomes a supporting figure here. As Hannibal himself has been let free, the story focuses on him instead. After Clarice (Moore) is demoted (her basement lab looks like Mulder’s from “The X-Files”, while Moore reminded me of Scully at times during the early scenes) after a botched drug bust, we are launched into the main story.A previous victim of Lecter who has escaped, Mason Verger (an uncredited Gary Oldman), wants revenge on Lecter. It’s Lecter himself though, that invites Clarice back into the game. The original picture had Lecter being simply evil, while here has gotten himself back out into the world – living in Florence, Italy he has become an art curator and occasionally stops off for a coffee. Yet, there’s another individual on the hunt already in the neighborhood. An Italian detective named Pazzi (Giancarlo Giannini) wants the reward for Hannibal’s capture, which turns out to be a predictably bad idea. Even though the result of his chase seems rather obvious, I’ll give Scott credit for maintaining a respectable amount of tension throughout these scenes.Also, I’ll give Scott credit for a terrific first half. The picture was not exactly what I’d been expecting from it; although there is some definite violence early in the picture, the film maintains a fine level of tension.The performances are generally excellent. Moore’s ability and range are once again remarkable, allowing herself to convincingly become a dark and lonely character – she does everything she can with a character that is less involved this time around. Hopkins is, as usual, an engaging villian who, now unleashed into the world, plans out his crimes, allowing the tension to build as to whether or not he’s going to go after his persuers.The film is impressive, with stunning cinematography, amazing production design, great editing and a typically great score from Hans Zimmer.  Hannibal is a fine sequel to the Silence of the Lambs and is a must see for any Hannibal fans