SMALLVILLE: LAZARUS – The CW Network
The Season 10 premiere of SMALLVILLE was a decidedly mixed bag. The were some really good moments, and some disappointing ones, along with a number of incidents that might make you say :“Huh?”
Picking up where the season nine finale, Salvation left off, Lazarus lives up to its title, with a number of resurrections. Clark Kent (Tom Welling) is saved from a state between life and death by Lois Lane (Erica Durance), who removes the Blue Kryptonite dagger from Clark’s side. This took away all his powers, and yet he fell off the roof of a building and was not splattered. Nor was the street cracked or showing signs of blood. But never mind, I don’t really expect science fiction-level logic; on this show fantasy logic and lapses of probability are more common, and forgivable. Lois hides herself, choosing not to reveal that she knows Clark secret.
Tess Mercer (Cassidy Freeman) wakes up from being pronounced dead, taken to Cadmus Labs, her severe facial burns healed. There she discovers a young boy named Alexander (Jakob Davies), who explains that the many deformed or otherwise unready creatures growing in tanks are his “brothers”, clones of the (allegedly dead) Lex Luthor. She’s caught by surprise by one of the “bad” ones, out of the tank and seeking revenge. This Luthor (Mackenzie Gray) is an aged version, claiming all of Lex’s memories.
Chloe Sullivan (Alison Mack) is on the trail of the missing Oliver Queen (Justin Hartley), whose kidnapping seems to be the work of Earth humans, even though their sudden arrival in Salvation suggested teleportation or some other exotic means. The blindfolded Oliver, the Green Arrow, is being tortured (by guest star Ted Whittall, possibly to be seen again) for information about recent events that the Kandorians were responsible for last season. He refuses to talk.
Desperate to learn where he’s being held, Chloe goes to the Justice Society headquarters, and dons the helmet of Doctor Fate, despite warnings from the spirit of Nabu against that act. She falls to the floor, unconscious or dead.
The Lex clone has kidnapped Lois, and she awakens to find herself strapped to a cruciform object in the same cornfield where, in the series’ very first episode, a young, more innocent and less embittered Lex Luthor found Clark in a similar condition. But instead of rescue, this Luthor intends to use her to hurt Clark, setting the field ablaze.
Chloe is revived by Clark and Dr. Hamilton (Alessandro Juliani of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA). She has had visions of the present and future, some of which she reveals.
Clark arrives to challenge the Lex clone, who berates him for arrogance and pride, “forcing” that Luthor to act against him as a danger to the world. This is not what Clark wants to hear, and he nearly kills the clone, which would be proving his point. The already dying “Luthor” proposes to force Clark make an impossible choice: Save the woman he loves or save dozens in Metropolis, where he’s triggered an explosion that topples the giant metal globe atop the Daily Planet.
In a iconic scene, Clark uses his powers to save Lois in a super-speed comic book fashion, then races to Metropolis where he leaps the tall building in a single bound, catches the sphere and restores it to the top. It’s a great moment and Clark enjoys the cheers of the crowd, feeling he’s finally become the hero everyone’s been pushing him to be for the past few years.
Buoyed by this, he returns to the Kent farm, considering donning the classic Superman uniform given to him by his mother last season. But Jor-El (voice of Terrance Stamp) teleports him to the Fortress of Solitude, and chastises him severely, essentially saying the Luthor clone is correct; Clark is prideful and reckless, and will never be the hero Earth needs.
This is one of the frustrating things about SMALLVILLE; Clark Kent is never allowed to be happy for more than a short while.
We see that Olivier is let loose from his captivity, and that Chloe seems to have willingly taken his place –- I think. It’s a slightly confused scene.
Back at the Kent farm, and already downcast Clark discovers that Lois has taken off for Egypt (a possibility from last year) after all. But then he sees what appears to be his dead Earth father, Jonathan Kent (John Schneider). He seems to be real enough, and acknowledges his own passing, also giving the stricken Clark affection and encouragement.
Regarding becoming a hero, the elder Kent assures him he is on that path, and that he should do what he always does: “Prove Jor-El wrong.” Which is all very uplifting, but the Jor-El A.I. — though sometimes cold, unyielding, and prone to harrowing tests and harsh penalties — is almost always right.
Somewhat comforted, though plagued by doubt and guilt, Clark is surprised to see his father is gone, without telling him the exact nature of the terrible danger that is coming. The audience is given a creepy foretaste of what that menace is, and also shown Jor-El’s punishment, that the red and blue Superman outfit has been taken away, sealed in ice or crystal in the Fortress of Solitude.
I’ve given a much more detailed synopsis here than I usually do —and I’ve left a number of incidents out intentionally— because this episode is literally crammed full of plot and incidents, somewhat to it’s detriment, I thought. It feels noticeably rushed. (Especially since the running time seems shorter than ever; supposedly they’re 42 minutes sans commericals, but it seemed more like 40, though I was only casually counting time spent on station breaks.)
Some of this is due to the fact that Alison Mack’s Chloe is only going to be appearing in five episodes (barring stock or unused footage turning up in others). She’ll be the one missing, and Oliver will be looking for her, until her next episodes arrive. Well and good, one has to allow for outside pressures, but then there all the other plot elements jammed into the script. Lazarus could easily have been stretched to two episodes, and probably should have been.
The show continues its one step forward two steps back routine of giving the characters some good moments, and teasing the Superman mythos, then snatching these pleasurable developments away. It can be frustrating for the viewer. The scenes with Pa Kent and Jor-El both seemed slightly off, leading me to suspect that there may be more going on than appears on the surface. If not, then they were awkwardly written. Some of Jor-El ‘s dialog seems to imply that he would have been quite content to let Clark die, because he was ‘foolishly’ self-sacrificing—as if the computer mind was now vindictively and absurdly petulant.
Tom Welling and John Schneider give very good performances in their scene together, even if you were left wondering more about how and why the visitation happened, rather than its warmth and personal meaning.
So it’s a good premiere, in terms of resolving cliffhangers and setting up the multiple plot threads that will run this season. However, it’s not the rousing, audience-pleasing episode it could easily have been, if only they’d been willing and able to hold off turning so quickly to the darkside of things.
SMALLVILLE: LAZARUS (2010) — Warner Brothers Television
Written By Don Whitehead & Holly Henderson, Directed by Kevin Fair, Produced by Brian Wayne Peterson, Kelly Souders, and Tom Welling, among others.
SMALLVILLE: LAZARUS – The CW Network
According to Fancast.com, NBC Universal has worked out an extention deal with the actors on CAPRICA, prolonging their options. Set to expire this month, the contracts have been extended until November, in the hopes that SyFy will renew the BATTLESTAR GALACTIC spin-off for another season.
This gives the studio and fans some breathing room, although the cable channel recently revealed a new slate of planned series that might not leave room and budget for CAPRICA to return.
The science fiction network has been slow to renew before, supposedly putting off deciding to whether to renew the fantasy-detective series THE DRESDEN FILES for a second season until it became clear that star Paul Blackthorne had signed for another series, making continuing the popular show impossible.
Syfy has announced additional casting for its previously announced series pilot ALPHAS.
Azita Ghanizada (GHOST WHISPERER) will play a character named Rachel who has the ability to ” ‘hyper-intensify’ her senses, one at a time—vision, hearing, taste, and smell.”
“Her mother and father—who are conservative parents—thought she was cursed and discouraged this unique and amazing ability. Overly sensitive—literally—Rachel has always felt ashamed and rejected. With Dr. Rosen’s (David Strathairn) help and encouragement, she’s learning to appreciate her skill and grow increasingly confident and adventurous.”
Callum Keith Rennie —Cylon Leoben on BATTLESTAR GALACTICA—will play Don Wilson, “a Washington bureaucrat, and Lee Rosen’s superior and contact inside the Pentagon.”
SyFy’s press release describes the pilot as a “wry action-adventure project”. This kind of qualifier crops up so frequently that I have to wonder if writers and producers have some kind of fear of actually playing super-heroic productions straight. Are they afraid no one will take them seriously if they take their own productions seriously? Or is it a basic distrust and/or disdain for the material?
The 90-minute pilot in currently in production in Toronto, Canada.
Multichannel News reports from the TCA press tour that BBC America’s OUTCASTS will be “soft” sci-fi.
The series, described as a kind of space western, stars GALACTICA’s Jamie Bamber and Eric Mabius (RESIDENT EVIL, UGLY BETTY).
The premise is that Earth is no longer habitable, and shipload of refugees have come to a planet named Carpathia (which could be a reference to the ship that rescued Titanic survivors or the European mountain range). The plot is centered on the question of whether or not the colonists’ socio-political attitudes and ecological practices that destroyed the Earth will be repeated, and whether the indigenous inhabitants of this new world will be friendly.
Ben Richards (LIFE ON MARS), the writer/creator of OUTCASTS, said that despite the extraterrestrial setting, the series is more like a western than what’s normally expected from a sci-fi series, focusing more on human interactions than futuristic technology.
Of course, that’s a description of what most modern science fiction—outside of films and TV—has been for the last thirty or fourty years.
OUCASTS is currently shooting in South Africa for a premeire on BBC America in December of this year.
Also from The Chicago Tribune’s Watcher Blog, GALACTICA spin-off prequel CAPRICA promises to be more action and drama oriented in its second half, now that the basic premise has been established.
In Season ‘1.5″ viewers will see the return of James Marsters (ANGEL) as terrorist Barnabus Greeley, Scott Porter as polygamist Nestor Willow, and John Pyper-Ferguson will return as Tomas Vergis, the bitter business rival of Clyon creator Daniel Graystone (Eric Stoltz).
At CAPRICA’s Comic Con panel, Marsters said his character is “looking out on a society that’s eating itself alive, as far as he’s concerned… He’s disgusted.”
The show will also return to virtual world ‘New Cap City’, where the physically deceased character Tamara Adama (Genevieve Buechner) lives on.
Asked if CAPRICA will get a second season on SyFy, executive producer/co-creator Ronald D. Moore, said that he firmly believed that it will— although that decision will not be made for some time.
The second half of the first season of CAPRICA is expected to begin airing in January of 2011.
According to The Chicago Tribune , Syfy’s developing an online BATTLESTAR GALACTICA series, to be called BLOOD AND CHROME, to feature a young William Adama, set during the first Cylon War.
SyFy’s executive vice president of original programming (and the co-head of original content for Universal Cable Productions), Mark Stern told them that GALACTIC and CAPRICA’s Michael Taylor is set write the the script for the new web feature.
BLOOD & CHROME would be made up of nine or ten ‘webisodes’, each running nine to ten minutes. The series, if all goes as planned, would be shot mainly using actors against green screen, to be be composited into CGI sets (as was initially done on SANCTUARY).
The article explains that highlly detailed scans were made of the BSG physical sets before that series ended, with the idea already in mind that future projects might make use of them as virtual sets.
Writer/producer Michael Taylor told the Tribune that the web series isn’t going to shy away from R-rated “blood and guts and sex”.
“Because this is initially meant to air online, we pretty much have no restrictions in that department.”
It’s not yet known if BLOOD & CROME will star Nico Cortez (pictured), who played young Bill Adama in RAZOR, the Direct-to-DVD Galactica movie. The web series will likely feature new actors & characters, though one other character from RAZOR may appear.
If BLOOD & CHROME is greenlit and successful, it could be the springboard for more projects of a similar nature—or even a new cable series for SyFy.
Battlestar Galactica 4.5, Torchwood Season 2, Dr. Who, Repulsion Criterion Collection, Dollhouse, The 10th Victim, Dragonball Evolution, Big Man Japan & more
Tuesday is a busy day for horror, fantasy, and science fiction titles on DVD and Blu-ray disc, with several exciting releases – some new and some classic. No doubt the big seller will be BATTLESTAR GALACTICA 4.5, available in both formats. The four-disc DVD features approximately ten hours of bonus material:
- Longer versions of three episodes: “A Disquiet Follows My Soul”, “Islanded In A Stream of Stars,” and “Daybreak”
- “Battlestar Galactica: The Plan”
- Six Minutes of Deleted Scenes
- Featurette: “A Look Back”
- Featurette: “Evolution of a Cue”
- Featurette: “What the Frak is Going on with Battlestar Galactica?”
- Featurette: “And They Have A Plan”
- Featurette: “The Journey Ends: The Arrival”
- Featurette: “The Musicians of Daybreak”
- Video Blogs by David Eick
- Ronald D. Moore Podcast Commentaries
- Edward James Olmos Commentary on “Stream of Stars”
- David Eick, Director Michael Rymer and Ronald Moore commentary on the extended version of “Daybreak”
The three-disc Blu-ray set offers the same features, plus BD-Live Functionality, MY SCENES Bookmarking, and U-Control Features (two interactive tracks that offer facts and trivia that can be viewed with each episode).
And of course, what would a new DVD box set be without a mega-box set that packages the new box set with all the old stuff that preceded it? That right: this week also sees the release of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: THE COMPLETE SERIES. The Blu-ray version costs a whopping $209.99 on Amazon; the DVD version is a relative bargain at $171.99.
Speaking of TV box sets, TORCHWOOD – THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON is available on DVD and Blu-ray. This is the DR. WHO spin-off that inverted the old formula of an asexual alien in favor of a bisexual human hero. Available separately is the episode “Children of Earth,” on both formats. Just in case you’re yearning for the good Doctor himself, the “Planet of Death” episode of DR. WHO (starring David Tenant and Michelle Ryan) is also available on DVD and Blu-ray. And for fans of Josh Whedon, there’s DOLLHOUSE: SEASON ONE, also available on both formats.
As for recent movies coming out on home video, this week’s offerings are limited to two Fant-Asia titles, DRAGONBALL Z: EVOLUTION and BIG MAN JAPAN. The former is a live-action version of the popular anime title; it disappeared from theatres even faster than SPEED RACER, but now you can catch up with it on DVD and/or Blu-ray. The later is a Japanese cult comedy, filmed in a faux documentary style, about a second-rate superhero who grows to giant size to fight monsters; it played art house theatres earlier this year, and now you can see it on DVD. Between the two of them, BIG MAN JAPAN is definitely worth a rental; the film itself does not always live up to the humorous potential of its HANCOCK-like premise, but it hits the target often enough to be enjoyable, especially once you get past the slow opening that introduces the guy going about his daily life, waiting for a call to action.
There are also a few classic and cult titles coming out. The most high-profile is the Criterion Collection version of Roman Polanski’s classic psychological horror film, REPULSION, which (like almost everything this week) is on DVD and Blu-ray. This director-approved special edtioin features a new, restored high-def digital transfer with uncompressed monaural sound on the Blu-ray disc; audio commentary by Polanski and Catherine Deneuve; a making-of documentary from 2003; a 1964 TV documentary film on the set; original trailers; a booklet featuring an essay by scholar Bill Horrigan.
Slightly less respectacle than REPULSION, but much more fun, is another piece of European cinefantastique, THE 10TH VICTIM.The premise of this tongue-in-cheek film is that in the future you can play a game of legalized murder in which you participate in ten hunts, five as hunter and five as hunted. Marcello Mastoianni and Ursula Andress star as the game’s two biggest winners, who end up pitted against each other but find themselves falling in love. (For you AUSTIN POWERS fans out there, Ursula’s first kill in this film is achieved with gunshots fired from her bra, an image re-used in the Michael Myers spy spoof.)
And if you’re into ’70s Italian exploitation cinema, here’s one for you: ISLAND OF THE FISHMEN. This one was retitled SCREAMERS for its U.S. release way back when, and given a misleading ad campaign (“You will see a man turned inside out”). This one has a relatively high-profile cast of people who probably spent the whole movie wondering where their careers went wrong: Joseph Cotten (PORTRAIT OF JENNY, THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES), Richard Johnson (THE HAUNTING), and Barbara Back (THE SPY WHO LOVED ME). The Americanized version added additional footage, shot in Bronson Cave with Mel Ferrer and Cameron Mitchell. Now at last U.S. viewers can see the original cut, with its “artistic integrity” intact.
The final season of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA is scheduled to arrive on DVD and Blu-ray disc this July 28. Along with it will be a box set of the complete four seasons. Both the DVD will be loaded with featurettes, audio commentaries, and other bonus features that will be duplicated on the Blu-ray discs, which also feature exclusive extras not available on the DVD, such as interactive guides and the ability to edit together your own montage of clips.
The BATTLESTAR GALACTICA Season 4.5 release follows the DVD release of CAPRICA, the BG prequel that came out today.
From the press release for BATTLESTAR GALACTICA Season 4.5:
The epic story of survival that
redefined science-fiction television for a new generation comes to a
breathtaking finish when Battlestar Galactica: Season 4.5 arrives on
Blu-rayTM Hi-Def and DVD on July 28, 2009 from Universal Studios Home
Entertainment. The must-own home entertainment release of the year,
Battlestar Galactica: Season 4.5 features over 13 hours of explosive extras,
including three extended episodes of the series finale that never aired on
television, never-before-seen deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes featurettes,
and commentary and podcast interviews with Executive Producers Ronald D.
Moore and David Eick. The Blu-rayT Hi-Def edition also includes Universal’s
acclaimed U-Control and BD-Live features, providing the ultimate way to
enjoy this thrilling, contemporary classic television series.
And if just one season isn’t enough, fans can also relive all the drama,
intensity and action with Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Series. The
ambitious 20-disc Blu-rayT Hi-Def set and a 25-disc standard DVD set
contains every episode of television’s most original, thought-provoking
series, together with extensive bonus materials delving deep into the richly
imagined world of the hit SCI FI Channel original show.
BATTLESTAR GALACTICA SEASON 4.5 DVD
- Price: $49.98 SRP
- Layers: Dual Layer
- Aspect Ratio: AW 1.78:1
- Rating: Not rated
- Languages/Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
- Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1
- EVOLUTION OF A CUE: Composer, Bear McCreary takes us step by step
through his process of creating the music of Battlestar Galactica.
- What the Frak is Going On With Battlestar Galactica? A recap of
Battlestar Galactica’s first three thrilling seasons – in only eight
- AND THEY HAVE A PLAN: What do they mean every episode when the
opening sequence on the Cylons states “And They Have A Plan?” All will be
revealed in the upcoming movie The Plan.
- THE JOURNEY ENDS: THE ARRIVAL: Battlestar Galactica has traveled
full circle. The journey has concluded never to be revisited. But how did
we arrive at the end?
- A LOOK BACK
- SO SAY WE ALL: Executive Producer Ron Moore and the cast and crew
reveal their personal insights on Battlestar Galactica.
- MANIFESTO DESTINY: It all began with this manifesto. Why was it
written and what was the response?
- BATTLE-STYLE GALACTICA: Those behind the camera delve into their
approach to visual style of Battlestar Galactica.
- MARTYR TO A CAUSE: As the only actor to appear in both the original
and reimagined series, Richard Hatch offers his unique perspective on
- THE SINS OF THE FORGIVEN: Insights on the curious religious aspects
of Battlestar Galactica.
- BATTLESTAR REVELATIONS: Firsthand accounts from those on the
Battlestar for the past five years.
- AUDIO COMMENTARIES BY RONALD D. MOORE, DAVID EICK, AND EDWARD JAMES
- RonALD d. Moore’s Podcast Commentaries
- David Eick’s Video Blogs
- DELETED SCENES
BATTLESTAR GALACTICA SEASON 4.5 BLU-RAY
- Price: $69.98 SRP
- Layers: BD-50
- Aspect Ratio: Widescreen 2.35:1
- Rating: Not rated.
- Languages/Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
- Sound: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
- TECHNICAL INFORMATION
- Includes all DVD bonus features plus these exclusive-to-Blu-ray bonus items
- U-CONTROL: Universal’s exclusive signature feature puts viewers one
click away from going deeper into the making of the film without ever
leaving the movie.
- THE ORACLE: An interactive guide including ships and characters.
- BATTLESTAR ACTUAL: A glossary of all the unique Battlestar Galactica
- WHAT THE FRAK HAPPENED TO YOU? Explore the history and connections
of your favorite characters through video clips and relevant facts.
- BD-LIVET: Access the BD-LiveT Center through your Internet-connected
player to get even more content, watch the latest trailers, and more!
- BATTLESTAR GALACTICA ULTIMATE BATTLE: Players can battle their
friends as Colonials or Cylons using strategy and luck to achieve victory.
- MY SCENES: Pick your favorite scenes from the film to create your
own video montage.
- THE MUSICIANS BEHIND DAYBREAK: Composer Bear McCreary interviews and
explains how many unique musicians have contributed the show and
specifically the series finale, Daybreak.
BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: THE COMPLETE SERIES DVD
- Price: $279.98
- Selection Number: 61106532
- Layers: Dual Layer
- Aspect Ratio: AW 1.78:1
- Rating: Not rated.
- Languages/Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
- Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1
BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: THE COMPLETE SERIES BLU-RAY BOX SET
- Blu-rayTM Hi-Def
- Price: $349.98
- Layers: BD-50
- Aspect Ratio: Widescreen 2.35:1
- Rating: Not rated
- Languages/Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
- Sound: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Brilliant and frustrating by turn, executive producer Ronald D Moore’s retooling of the beloved but clunky Battlestar Galactica had been (according to its creators) hard wired with a 4-year life span. This “ticking clock” element infused it with a sense of narrative urgency that helped reel in the show runners when the plot seemed to wander (as it did many times during its final 2 seasons) but also gave the Sci-Fi Channel a giant hole in their schedule that loomed closer and closer. Not that they worried about filler; checking out the programming at almost any given moment showed a network consisting almost entirely of filler, ranging from unwatchable original series (The Dresden Files, anyone?) to ultra cheap DTV movies that would have to aspire to be considered dreck. Battlestar Galactica gave the network real cultural cache for the first time ever – a genuine case of appointment television that the network couldn’t have been looking forward to seeing end. Moore had been planning a series that would take place in the 12 Colonies of the Galactica universe, but Universal (Sci-Fi’s parent company) had dragged it’s feat, fearing the story-arc heavy concept would be off-putting without the strong space-action elements of Galactica to lure unsure viewers. The Caprica pilot film was finally greenlit, and production commenced just as the final season of Galactica was being completed, with the Sci-Fi Channel liking what they saw enough to order a full season of the show that will begin airing early next year.
Caprica follows the fortunes of two families some 50 years prior to the destruction of the 12 Colonies at the hands of the Cylons. Technology magnate Daniel Graystone (Eric Stoltz) and criminal attorney Joseph Adams (Esai Morales) both lose their teenage daughters in a suicide bombing aboard a commuter train in Caprica City. The bomb was set off by Ben Stark, a classmate of Daniel’s daughter, Zoe (Alessandra Toressani) and a member of a mono-theistic religious sect that opposes the traditional Gods of the 12 Colonies, resulting in the group being driven underground. Zoe and best friend Lacy Rand (Magda Apanowicz) are brought into the group by Ben, and hold their meetings inside a virtual world called ‘V Club’, a non-stop rave where all the hedonistic desires of Caprican teens are lived out. Ben convinces the girls to travel with him off the less tolerant Caprica to one of the outer Colonies, though at the last minute Lacy decides to remain just as Ben and Zoe board the doomed train. Zoe has no idea what Ben has planned until he lifts his shirt to reveal a bomb strapped to his chest, which kills everyone on the car instantly, including Shannon Adams (Anna Galvin) and daughter Tamara (Genevieve Buechner). Joseph and Daniel first meet outside of a press conference announcing the identity of the group responsible for the blast; united by loss, Daniel befriends Joseph, inviting him and his 11 year old son, William, to his seaside home. While William plays, Daniel confides in Joseph that he has found the avatar used by his daughter to enter the V Club, an avatar that Zoe had programmed herself using every scrap of the electronic trail that she had left in cyberspace throughout her life. Daniel promises Joseph that he could do the same for his wife and daughter, and convinces him to steal the required technology from one of Graystone’s competitors for a government contract for an AI combat prototype. A native of Tauron (occasionally derided by Capricans as “earth eaters”), Adams seeks the aid of the Taurnese organized crime family to steal the technology, putting him in their debt; however, a virtual reality encounter with the avatar of his daughter – now a conscious entity yet not actually alive, and terrified that she can’t feel her heart beating – convinces him that the approach is unnatural and an affront to the natural order. Leaving Graystone’s home, he feels pride in his Tauron heritage reawakened and tells his son that their family name, Adama, was changed upon his arrival on Caprica and that William should always remember it with pride. Undeterred, Graystone attempts to download Zoe’s avatar into his newly created combat robot; after taking a few short steps (and uttering Zoe’s voice) the robot falls lifelessly to the floor, Zoe’s data gone. We leave Graystone presiding over a successful demonstration for the Caprican military, the stolen technology having been adapted perfectly to the robot’s combat AI. The contract secure, the defense secretary asks him what the robot’s name is – “It’s a cybernetic life-form node” replies a still-despondent Graystone, “But we call it a Cylon”.
Almost impossible to classify, the feature-length pilot for Caprica debuts on DVD in a form that works surprisingly well as both a stand-alone movie and as the launching pad for a series. The edit included on the DVD is considerably more lusty that will likely air on the Sci-Fi Network when the series begins early next year, with a large amount of nudity (contained almost entirely in the virtual “Club V” sequences) that would reek of desperation in a less successful show. As a Sci-Fi show (the genre, not the network) Caprica is unusually daring – a multi-character family drama dressed elegantly in a futuristic trappings, a setting that will not be new to Battlestar Galactica devotees.
We’ve seen glimpses of Caprican life on Battlestar – both in the series opener and through flashbacks during the course of its 4 year run – but we were impressed by how show runner Moore has fleshed-out the society, from the ultra wealthy Graystone family to the working-class Adamas.
Easi Morales is a good choice to play Joseph Adama; a strong actor who we lost track of after a superb performance in Gregory Nava’s Mi Famila, a film in which he co-starred withEdward James Olmos, the actor who has (or will) play his son William in the future (or past). There’s a dark side only hinted at when we see Adama’s ties to the Taurian underworld, and we look forward to seeing what Morales does with the character next year.
Morales’ co-star Stoltz, however, has some trickier character aspects to play: Graystone is a brilliant software developer driven to an unethical extreme in a quest to bring his daughter back to life (we also hope to see Paula Malcomson’s role as Graystone’s wife enlarged once the show goes to series, so memorable was she as Trixie from the beloved and lamentably cancelled Deadwood.) We thought that Stoltz was a bit dry in the early scenes, but the turn that his character takes into Dr. Frankenstein territory seemed to energize the performance – in spite of having to deal with the already hoary concept of virtual reality.
Exploited well in Strange Days after nearly being taken to the grave yard in Virtuosity, the concept of virtual reality has had a rough ride in the mass media, turning quickly from a supposed cutting edge technology into a B movie plot contrivance; fortunately, Jane Espenson and Ryan Mottesheard’s sharp screenplay convincingly ties the technology into Caprica’s recognizable world and in the process nearly erases two decades of narrative snake oil. Morales’ scene with the virtual avatar of his daughter carries an undeniable emotional charge and becomes genuinely chilling.
The show has a cleaner look than the deliberately grainy Galactica Obviously, digital trickery is responsible for much of Caprica City’s ever present skyline, but smaller details represent an interesting mix of practical future-tech and retro ’50s era fashions. We weren’t thrilled to see a return of the religious overtones that became the guiding light of all Cylon storylines during Galactica’s final two seasons, but producers Moore and David Eick have done a truly amazing job turning an iffy concept into a riveting launching point, so we figure they’ve earned the benefit of the doubt.
Universal’s unrated DVD hits shelves on the 21st with a sparkling anamorphic 1.78×1 transfer that highlights the Caprica‘s bright, clean aesthetic – only with a fiber optic cable connection will the show look better when broadcast on the Sci-Fi Channel, a notorious repository for highly compressed programming on our dreaded Cablevision system.
Extras include a commentary with director Jeffrey Reiner and producers Moore and Eick, along with several deleted scenes and video blogs, similar to what we saw supplied for Galactica season sets. We found ourselves disappointed to learn that the series proper wasn’t going to begin until 2010, but it’s probably a good idea to let Battlestar Galactica pass further into memory in order to give its prequel the breathing room that it deserves. Recommended.
Looking for something to buy with that Amazon gift certificate you got for Christmas? The New Year launches with a handful of interesting science fiction, fantasy, and horror titles on Blu-ray and DVD. Read on to see which ones are worth your holiday dollars.
Battlestar Galactica Season 4.0
The second half of the final season of Battlestar Galactica is set to air on the Sci-Fi Channel in a few weeks, giving enough time for a mini-marathon of the first half on DVD. This reincarnation of the clunky but beloved series of the late ’70s leapt beyond nearly everyone’s expectations when it first premiered in 2004. Recasting the Cylons as having been created by humans – rather than just an evil, conquering race of machines – the show took a page from Frank Herbert and came up with a backstory that had the Cylons rebelling against their human inventors and beginning a bloody war. The ’04 Galactica opens with a decades long truce between the humans and Cylons broken when Gaius Baltar (a huge performance by James Callis) unknowingly betrays Caprica and the other 11 Colonies with a very un-robotic Cylon agent (Tricia Helfer). After the Cylons launch an apocalyptic nuclear attack, the handful of survivors gather on the last remaining Battlestar commanded by the just-about-to-be-scrapped-along-with-his-ship Admiral Adama (Edward James Olmos) which was saved from destruction because its antiquated circuitry resisted the crippling Cylon computer virus. Other character holdovers from the previous incarnation include Apollo (Jamie Bamber), the brash Starbuck (Katee Sackhoff, who finally toned down the macho posturing of the early shows to create a more fully realized character) and the sensible Boomer (the stunning Grace Park) and the McCain lookalike Col. TIgh (Michael Hogan). New characters include President by default Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell, finally looking comfortable in a role), the dependable Chief Tyrol (Aaron Douglas), and a host of Cylon agents that are able to take convincing human form. From that point 4 seasons ago, showrunner Ronald D. Moore has crafted the most exciting, intelligent Sci-Fi shows ever produced. Thanks to a gritty, documentary style that definitely owes a debt to the industrial-dark look of Alien, the show’s futuristic touches are made easier to swallow by couching them in familiar surroundings (mechanics fix the ships with wrenches and metal welders rather than magic beams of light). The space combat scenes effectively utilize a Bourne-style panning and zooming that combine with an unusually complex sound mix to create a stunning experience when viewed with a decent home theater setup. The only disappointment in the new SD DVD is that there is no HD version being released as well; the first season was released on the now defunct HD-DVD format and if ever a show cried out for the HD treatment it’s this one. No word on extras yet, but typically the Battlestar Galactica season sets include Moore commentary tracks and webisodes.
Dexter: The First Season (Showtime Blu-ray)
Showtime’s first real (and frankly, only) “watercooler” series gets a Blu-ray upgrade this week. We weren’t able to sample the quality of the discs themselves, but the show – shot on digital video on location in Miami – has always looked fabulous in HD (even in the artifact-rich world of compressed cable broadcast) and the Blu-ray should look even better. Dexter is currently in its third season and is sustained by consistently sharp writing and a top-notch supporting cast, but it’s Michael C Hall in the title role that holds the difficult premise (that of a forensics expert who moonlights as one of the very serial killers that he is supposed to be catching) together. The Blu-ray carries over the commentaries from the SD edition and adds several BD Live features, including “Academy of Blood – A Killer Curse,” “Witnessed in Blood – A True Murder Investigation,” the first episode of Season 3 (though the first episode of season 2 would have been somewhat more helpful), and the first two episodes of another Showtime series, The United States of Tara.
Babylon A.D. (Fox Bluray double/single disc)
Diesel. Depardieu. Babylon A.D. $70,000,000 budget. Greenlit by 20th Century Fox. No kidding.
For some reason, this week sees a trio of previously available classic horror films released – in some cases for the umpteenth time – on DVD: HAXAN, CITY OF THE DEAD, and THE WICKER MAN. The first two of these, from A2ZCDS.com, violate the traditional Tuesday release date for home video, in that they will not be available until Saturday, January 10.
Haxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages/The Witches (Remastered Edition)
This is the classic silent documentary from writer-director Benjamin Christiansen, which uses dramatic recreations to depict belief in witchcraft over the centuries. The film is already available on an excellent Criterion Collection DVD from 2001, which included the original silent version, titled HAXAN, and the shorter sound re-edit, re-titled WITCHCRAFT THROUGH THE AGES (for which the subtitles were replaced with narration read by author William S. Burroughs). The film was re-issued last year by Triad productions, so a new edition is not exactly a necessity. Amazon.com lists a 77-minute running time for A2ZCDS.com’s new disc, indicating that this is the shortere version of the film. Perhaps the only selling point for the new release is that it is is an all-region disc.
City of the Dead/Horror Hotel(Remastered Edition)
A2ZCDS.com’s second all-region remastered classic is the moody 1960 film starring Christopher Lee as a professor of witchcraft who sends a beautiful blond student to a strange little town to to research, resulting in a plot twist that parallels PSYCHO. Released in its native England as CITY OF THE DEAD, the film was retitled to HORROR HOTEL for distribution in American, where it was shorn of a few minutes of footage. Both versions have previously been released on DVD, but the only one currently still available is VCI’s restoration of the original CITY OF THE DEAD, complete with some nice bonus features, including on-camera interviews and two audio commentaries (one with Lee and one with director John Moxey, who went on to direct THE NIGHT STALKER for TV). Click here to read our review of the film and VCI’s DVD presentation.
The Wicker Man
Last of the three cult-classic re-releases is is the original 1973 version of THE WICKER MAN, starring Christopher Lee and Edward Woodward. This is at least the second DVD release for the title since since Anchor Bay put out a wonderful two-disc limited edition set back (packed ina wooden box) in 2001. Anchor Bay’s subsequent two-disc special edition was timed to tie in with the release of the remake starring Nicolas Cage, but this latest single-disc release from Lions Gate has an almost random quality to it. The only possible reason for releasing this movie again would be to give fans a chance to own the film as it appeared when released in U.S. theatres in 1979. Unfortuantely, the DVD listing is for an 88-minute running time, indicating that this disc contains the shorter version, trimmed from the original 99-minute cut. Although identified as “theatrical,” this shorter version never really saw release, at least in the United States; it test-screened in a handful of theatres at most before going into distribution limbo. When the film finally received a genuine U.S. release in 1979, it was served up in a third cut that restored some key scenes but wisely omitted unnecessary filler that had been deleted from the 88-minute version. Both the 88-minute and the 99-minute versions were provided on the earlier two-disc DVDs, but the 1979 compromise – probably the best version of the film – remains unavailable.
Speaking of Nicolas Cage remakes brings us to a film from the makers of the original version of THE EYE. Although their latest effort is not horror, fans may be interested, so we include it here…
Bangkok Dangerous (Lionsgate Bluray, double/single disc)
The Pang Brothers, Danny and Oxide (who probably walked away very unhappy from the personalized license plate rack at Disney World) were one of the higher profile HK poaches – filmmakers whose breakneck, take no prisoners style earned them the attention of Hollywood, only to have that same style muted by studio notes and test screenings. Bangkok Dangerous is actually a remake of the brothers’ own 1999 Thai language film of the same name; however, the presence of producer-star Nicholas Cage ensured that the deaf-mute assassin would now be in possession of his full array of senses – robbing the story of the very plot point that differentiated it from the massive number of HK shooters made each year. Bangkok Dangerous is available in both single and double disc SD DVD sets and a two disc Blu-ray edition (the second disc on both sets is identical, holding a free digital copy of the film). Other extras on the two disc sets include an alternate ending, a pair of production featurettes and a trailer, all presented in HD on the Blu-ray set.
Righteous Kill (Starz/Anchor Bay Blu-ray, single disc)
When Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino finally appeared onscreen together in Michael Mann’s 1995 masterpiece, Heat, there was some rather ridiculous grumbling that the actors only shared the screen for a few moments. The ads for Heat touted the pair as “America’s two most electrifying actors” and 13 years ago is would have been hard to disagree with that. But the ensuing years have seen DeNiro either selling out in groaners like The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle and Meet the Parents, or lower profile duds like 15 Minutes or Hide and Seek. And while Pacino has been somewhat more selective, efforts like S1m0ne and The Recruit haven’t done much for his leading man mystique. We missed Righteous Kill during its brief theatrical run last fall, and it was sad to see that the re-pairing of these two giants of contemporary cinema couldn’t generate a ripple of interest. DeNiro and Pacino play, respectively, “Turk” and “Rooster” (I know, I know), a pair of NYPD detectives who fear that they may have put the wrong man in prison years earlier when a local pimp is found dead and a telltale clue is found next to the body that ties the murder to their previous case. The serial killer storyline puts this on the borderline of the horror genre, but the film mostly aims for a hard-boiled police procedural tone, and the screenplay’s sole reason for existence seems to be its attempt to provide an unguessable twist ending to the mystery (although if you manage to keep your eyes open through the whole running time, it should not be hard to figure out). The SD DVD and Bluray case feature the same bored looking images of the two stars as the original theatrical posters and resemble a low-res bootleg more than a major studio release.
The Last Emperor (Criterion Bluray)
This is totally off-topic for Cinefantastique Online, but we could not resist opening this particular can of worms. What should be the week’s premier release unfortunately carries over a blemish from the previous Criterion DVD issue. The Last Emperor was shot by director Bernardo Bertolucci and cinematographer Vittorio Storaro in the Technovision ratio of 2.35×1, and that’s how it was shown in theaters the year that it won the Oscar for Best Picture of 1987. While the previous DVD release from Artisan did contain the longer 220min edit, the colors were dark, poorly saturated, and the disc was non-anamorphic. Fans rejoiced in 2007 when it was announced that Criterion had acquired the rights to the film and would issue a mammoth 4-disc set that would feature both the 163min theatrical edition and the longer cut in a brand new transfer approved by Storaro. But when the set arrived last February, the ratio of the film had been altered by Storaro to 2.0×1, his now preferred format for the viewing of widescreen films at home. And while it was certainly true that back in the 80s and early 90s when we were watching non-enhanced, letterboxed movies on 4×3 tube sets (William Friedkin insisted that Sorcerer be presented full frame on laserdisc and DVD for the same reason) in the era of widescreen HD televisions and 1080p resolution, that argument becomes an epic fail. We give Criterion credit for respecting the intentions of the artist, but that doesn’t salve the burn of losing a sizeable chuck of picture information. What picture remains, however, is absolutely stunning. The Bluray uses the same sparkling 1080p master used for their previous DVD edition and ports over the same set of comprehensive extras, but does not include the 220min cut (and while we prefer the roomier version, Bertolucci has stated the theatrical cut was indeed his final cut).
Steve Biodrowski contributed to this article.