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Tag Archive: Life


haught-clexacon

ClexaCon is a new convention this year featuring stars and creators of LGBTQ characters across all genres of television and film.  It’s happening this Friday through Sunday at the Bally’s & Paris hotel convention centers in Las Vegas.  This first ClexaCon is featuring several well-known genre headliners from series past and present.

Celebrity guests at ClexaCon 2017 from last year’s new hit Syfy Channel series Wynonna Earp include Dominique Provost-Chalkley (Waverly Earp) and Katherine Barrell (Nicole Haught).  Lost Girl’s Zoie Palmer (Lauren), Rachel Skarsten (Tamsen), and Ali Liebert (Crystal) will appear along with Lost Girl and Wynonna Earp showrunner Emily Andras.  Palmer also appeared in Dark Matter, Skarsten has appeared in Birds of Prey, Fifty Shades of Grey, and Reign, and Liebert has appeared in iZombie, Fringe, Legends of Tomorrow, and Psych.  Amy Acker, star of Angel, Person of Interest, and Con Man is also a guest of the show, along with Life, Person of Interest, and Fairly Legal star Sarah Shahi.

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Other media guests include Elise Bauman (Carmilla), Lynn Chen (Saving Face), Gabrielle Christian (South of Nowhere), Aasha Davis (South of Nowhere, Pariah), Elizabeth Hendrickson (All My Children), producer Hanan Kattan (I Can’t Think Straight), Elizabeth Keener (The L Word), Michelle Krusiec (Saving Face), Mandy Musgrave (South of Nowhere), Natasha Negovanlis (Carmilla), Jasika Nicole (Fringe, Suicide Kale), Eden Riegel (All My Children), writer/director Shamim Sarif (I Can’t Think Straight), and writer/director Alice Wu (Saving Face).

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sb2017-moon

Every year the Super Bowl means new movie trailers.  Surprisingly the most exciting of all the movie trailers that aired during Sunday’s 51st Super Bowl game may be the all-star cast assemblage in The Fate of the Furious, the eighth film in the Fast and the Furious series.  Vin Diesel, Charlize Theron, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Jason Statham, and many more make for a great cast, and the action scenes look very big indeed.

But we got plenty of new previews, too.  Two movies of the bunch are not big franchise sequels, one we have seen a trailer for previously, Ghost in the Shell, and the other is a Ryan Reynolds mainstream space flick called Life.  Co-starring Jake Gyllenhaal, it looks like several episodes of spaceship disaster episodes we’ve seen from decades of Doctor Who.  The next Passengers?  Hopefully not.

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Of the sequels, we have previews for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (proving again you can’t beat using a Johnny Cash song for your trailer), Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, Transformers (5): The Last Knight, and the next X-Men movie, Logan.

Check out all these movie trailers, after the break:

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Almost Human partners

This year’s TV series Almost Human had the potential to be a big hit, with movie star Karl Urban as one of the two lead actors, and a classic sci-fi plot that looked like it would mix RoboCop, Alien Nation, Blade Runner, and Total Recall.  After a fun but uncertain pilot episode, it has managed to deliver each week the kind of science fiction stories that are stuff of classic TV.  Almost Human isn’t just sci-fi, it’s a full-blown police procedural drama, and a good old-fashioned buddy cop show to boot.

The series centers on megastar-film actor Karl Urban’s future cop, Detective John Kennex.  Kennex is a grumpy guy with baggage, a past encounter gone bad resulted in the death of his partner and the need for a cybernetic leg.  Early detractors of the series likened his Kennex too much to his similarly gruff Doctor McCoy from the new Star Trek movies.  It’s a fair comparison.  But we don’t care.  They are both great characterizations and the miserable, tough guy routine is separable and fun to watch, especially Kennex’s banter with co-star Michael Ealy as almost human robot cop Dorian, an android of a decommissioned type who has become Kennex’s partner.  In fact, the buddy cop routine will make you think of your favorite buddy cop shows, in the league of Alien Nation, Adam-12, Life on Mars, Hot Fuzz, Dragnet, Life, White Collar, and Starsky and Hutch.

Almost Human buddy cops

This week’s episode was emblematic of why the series is destined to continue as long as the network will let it.  The writers basically took the plot from a classic episode of Law and Order about pacemakers being refurbished and placed in new people.  Here, that concept is blended with a current political item: what happens if there is no Affordable Care Act in the future, and a current element of technology some people use every day: the prepaid cell phone.  So how did the writers put it all together?

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I watched two movie trailers this week for films coming out in 2013 and they prompted me to have several discussions with friends about Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone.

Some things you might not know that I learned this week:

Stallone was born in July 1946.  Arnold in July 1947.  That makes Stallone 66 years old and Arnold 65 years old.

Both of these guys are mega-action stars.  OK, you knew that.  At age 20 Arnold won the Mr. Universe competition.  He went on to win Mr. Olympia seven times.  Not an award winning bodybuilder, Stallone is no slouch, claiming to have reached a personal best of a 2.8% body fat percentage to film Rocky III.

Both of these guys have relied on their muscles in their action roles for years, making them literally seem bigger than life.

 

So I watched the preview for The Last Stand this week.  Check out the preview I posted earlier here.  If you missed it, check it out and come right back.  Arnold is playing a tough guy.  An older tough guy who seems like he is in his sixties.  So then I saw this trailer for Bullet to the Head.  Now check this out:

The movie seems pretty standard action fare for Stallone, similar to something like Tango and Cash from 1989 when Stallone was 43.  The thing is, Stallone looks like he’s in his late forties.  Maybe fifties.  But his late sixties?  Is this really Stallone?  He looks almost as good as he did in Tango and Cash.

Maybe Arnold is just playing old in The Last Stand.  After all it is about “acting” isn’t it?  Yet I can’t help wonder if the governor gig didn’t allow him to keep in shape so much and maybe lose pace with his long-time blockbuster competitor, Mr. Stallone.  Stallone is in better shape than everyone I know in their forties, so a big “bravo” to him for keeping so fit.

OK, so enough about comparing Stallone and Arnold.  This trailer doesn’t look too bad, but probably something I would wait for Netflix for.  One odd thing is the bullet coming from the movie screen at the audience.  Seems like something they might have adjusted in light of recent events.  The biggest redeeming quality of the trailer?  For me, seeing Sarah Shahi at last coming to the big screen.  Shahi gets some real face time in this trailer as the daughter of Stallone’s character.  Heck they even have coordinating tattoos.  As Shahi’s first foray into a big movie role, this role will hopefully do great things for her career.  She has been stellar in both the TV series Life, as a cop, and Fairly Legal, as a lawyer.

Bullet to the Head hits theaters February 1, 2013.  That’s 2 weeks after The Last Stand premieres.  So we will get to see which movie audiences want to see, and it will be fun seeing these two stars go head to head once again.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

If you missed Season One of Showtime’s TV series Homeland, now is a good time to catch up, as Season 2 begins September 30, 2012.  I didn’t watch Homeland until the season wrapped, but once I started, it was really hard to walk away.  It’s nothing like anything I normally like–it’s a real-life drama, which usually I find boring and not “escapist” enough for me.  But tight writing and good actors made this one stand out.  Like Django Unchained this year, Homeland was last year’s biggest promoted new thing at Comic-Con–its banners were almost billboard sized and could be found everywhere you looked.  Why promote something that is not “genre” at Comic-Con then?  I think it goes back to the actors.

The lead is Damian Lewis, star of the short-lived but brilliant two-year series Life, where he co-starred with Sarah Shahi, who went on to star in USA Network’s successful series Fairly Legal.  Lewis is British, but you wouldn’t know it from his roles in Life or Homeland.  In Life he was a cop wrongly convicted of a crime and jailed for it, to later get off and come back to the force after winning a giant settlement against the state.  In Homeland, he is an American soldier held captive in war in the Middle East.  In captivity he converted to Islam, and when he returns to the States he is a hero, but was he “turned” to become a double agent?  We find out answers to several questions in Season One.

His co-star is the award-winning actress Claire Danes (Stardust, Terminator 3, Princess Mononoke, Shopgirl), who is brilliant as a CIA agent who is tracking a message from an informant that she believes points to Lewis’s character as a spy.  She is a mess.  She has a mental disorder that she takes medicine for and this contributes to what may be paranoia or an incredible insight into the reality of what is happening.  She uses illegal and uncommon methods to make her case, which land her out of the system and left to sign up for electric shock therapy to try to repair herself.

Then you get to the two key supporting actors.  None other than Inigo Montoya from Princess Bride, Mandy Patinkin (Alien Nation, Castle in the Sky) plays Danes’s character’s boss, who looks after her but only so far, has his own life problems by being overly devoted to his job, and commits a strange and unthinkable act toward the end of Season One.  Firefly’s own Morena Baccarin (V, Stargate SG-1, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Justice League) plays Lewis’s character’s wife, who waited for her MIA husband to return before becoming romantically involved with his best friend, leading to much of the conflict at home for Lewis’s character.

So the actors alone–familiar in several ways to genre fans–are enough to give Homeland a try.  Once you do, you will probably get hooked, too.  And if you don’t believe me, trust Jonathan Frakes, who recently commented that he and his wife get excited about each episode of the series.

Here is a brief trailer for Season Two of Homeland, released by Showtime (the original version was pulled by Showtime from YouTube for some reason):

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

After months of vigorous publicity, USA Network’s latest buddy cop dramedy Common Law debuted Friday night, with mixed results.  USA has long been teasing viewers with hints at the show’s premise: two quibbling homicide detectives attend couple’s counseling to work out their differences.  Starring Michael Ealy (Barbershop, Underworld: Awakening) and Warren Cole (24) and featuring veteran character actor Jack McGee as their lieutenant and Sonya Walger (Lost, The Sarah Connor Chronicles) as the therapist, Common Law is an uneven mix of action, comedy, and police drama.  With the USA pedigree behind it, it has a long way to go to catch up to network winners like White Collar and Burn Notice.

Let’s start with the premise.  It’s good!  It’s funny, it’s got a great hook, and the framework of the rocky relationship is something that can easily span multiple seasons of a series (unlike, say, Prison Break).  We first meet our heroes in the middle of their first group therapy session, filling out personality questionnaires to prove how well the “partners” know each other.  The jokes initially hinge on the double entendres, but do manage to rise above the obvious, delivering a few funny moments and revealing some depth to both leads.  Therapist Walger is competent, although the pilot didn’t give her much opportunity to shine in the role; we’ll be watching to see if she becomes a memorable character in her own right like the late Stanley Kamel of Monk.

As a cop drama, the pilot was lackluster.  Again, remember twenty years of Law & Order, seven seasons of The Closer, and the short but brilliant Life.  This is a genre with savvy viewers who expect standout scripts and performances.  The murder was forgettable (literally; it’s been less than twenty-four hours, and I’m having trouble remembering it), the writing just average, and the guest performances all lacked spark.  They’ll need to raise the mystery and casting to the level of the premise for the show to keep my interest.

Strong performances by leads Travis (Ealy) and Wes (Kole) helped the pilot rise above its draggy plot and uninspired dialogue.  Both were nicely developed, with complex backstories.  Travis was raised in foster care, and Wes is a disillusioned former lawyer (although I would have liked to see those somewhat stereotypical histories reversed).  Travis is a freewheeling ladies’ man, Wes an uptight perfectionist, and the two have landed themselves in hot water when Wes drew his gun on Travis over an argument.  Enter Captain Sutton (McGee), who believes the same couple’s therapy that saved his marriage will do wonders for his best detectives.  Ealy and Kole have great chemistry (or, at the moment, an entertaining lack thereof) and set the tone for the show.  But McGee somehow feels out of step with the rest, adding an element of farce to an otherwise fairly dark humor.  There was something off there that didn’t quite work for me.

However, some standout moments give this viewer hope for the series.  A couple of really great action sequences featured clever twists on familiar police drama scenes (a convenience store holdup, the foot pursuit of a suspect).  The foot pursuit, in particular, combined great filming/editing and some truly awe-inspiring synchronized stunt work by Wes and Travis.  If Common Law features more of that in coming episodes, I will have a good reason to keep tuning in.

When she last left us at the end of last season’s finale of the USA Network TV series Fairly Legal, Sarah Shahi’s character Kate Reed shouted defiantly “I’ll be back!” challenging the network to not renew for another season.  Luckily for all of us, she was right, as the series continues Friday, March 16.

Fairly Legal was a great series all season long last year, and here are 5 reasons why you should catch up on episodes online or on demand and get ready for the season two premiere:

(1) Sarah Shahi.  So many actors and actresses get boring over the course of a weekly TV series.  Likely the brutal production schedules wear people down, especially for leading roles such as the one Shahi plays as lawyer Kate Reed where Shahi is in pretty much every minute of production.  This often makes it to the screen.  Not so for Sarah Shahi.  She is like a bottle of pure energy.  She has an infectious smile and sells the role as a put-upon, modern lawyer trying to juggle professional duties and private life in the modern world.  If you want to see Shahi in another great series, check out the two seasons of Life, co-starring the brilliant Homeland star Damian Lewis.

(2) Gerald McRaney.  Not since he starred in Simon & Simon has McRaney played such a likeable character as his decidedly unlikeable Judge David Nicastro. McRaney drove Kate relentlessly through the first season not for the sake of keeping Kate in line, but to bring out her best.  McRaney’s Judge is very real–practical in his needs and not the textbook black and white executioner type that appears in so many legal dramas.

(3) Good writing.  Kate Reed is probably the most realistic depiction of a working lawyer that has ever appeared on a TV legal drama.  Unlike district attorneys Jack McCoy and Ben Stone from the original Law and Order, who, to be sure, were characters that all lawyers aspire to, Kate doesn’t deliver perfect advice her first time out.  She does not come off as polished.  She deals with hostile conditions.  She has to be both juggler, policeman, and fire fighter.  And that means prioritizing, and like most lawyers she over-commits her time, resulting in the need to make quick decisions.  Kate illustrates that the number one of job of any lawyer is problem solving, and like most real lawyers, she doesn’t spend the day arguing in court, but instead trying to settle disputes, attempting always to reach the coveted “win-win.”

(4) San Francisco.  Let’s face it, San Francisco is one of the most beautiful cities to film a TV series.  Over the years countless stories have been filmed there, including Bullitt, Streets of San Francisco, Dirty Harry, Monk, Sneakers, Star Trek IV, Vertigo, and So I Married an Axe Murderer, and the bustling but sunny and vibrant downtown with iconic filming locations make San Francisco come off as not a big city full of dangers, but a place you can see Kate making her mark.

(5) Supporting cast.  If you are a fan of the reboot Battlestar Galactica, you will remember actor Michael Trucco, who plays Kate’s on again-off again husband on Fairly Legal.  He plays the typical lawyer you’d see in any other legal drama, which, in contrast to Kate, allows us to see how exceptional her skills really are.  Baron Vaughn’s character Leonardo Prince is Kate’s also-put-upon assistant.  He is hilarious as a legal assistant who behind the scenes is a big pop culture junkie, and over the course of the first season showed that Kate, even as chaotic as she seems, may very well be a good mentor.

So what’s the series all about?  Kate Reed’s father died, living his law firm to Kate and his second wife, Lauren, played icily by Virginia Williams.  Kate decided not to be a traditional lawyer, but instead be a mediator–here a lawyer hired by two parties to a dispute to resolve their differences, much like a dual agent.  Kate and Lauren barely tolerate each other, and Lauren actually fires Kate from the firm at the end of season one.  Once Kate takes a case she is fiercely passionate and is willing to tear up her own personal life to get to a happy result for her disputing clients.  In one superbly crafted scene last season, Kate encounters a bicyclist and a taxi driver in an altercation.  Although she is a mere bystander, she bends the world to fit her logic, practically strong-arming both of them to resolve their differences and move along.  And she lives on a boat.

Fairly Legal airs this spring along with the equally brilliant In Plain Sight Friday nights on USA Network.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

To tell you the truth, I really wasn’t looking forward to House M.D. this season, so much so that I actually forgot to watch the season premiere.  After the departure of Amber Tamblyn and last year’s bizarre, Clockwork Orange musical dream sequence, I was pretty sure that House’s antics had lost both their power to shock his co-workers, and to entertain audiences.

Well, after getting caught up on the first two episodes of Season 8, I’m happy to announce that I was wrong.  But you can understand where I was coming from; after all, if House in rehab wasn’t that interesting, and House in a mental institution wasn’t that interesting, and House in a relationship with Cuddy wasn’t that interesting, how was House in prison going to be any different?  It was, and I’m almost sorry Hugh Laurie’s going to be back at Princeton Plainsboro for the rest of the season.

With “Twenty Vicodin,” the writers clearly capitalized on what has always been one of the show’s top assets: fresh cast members.  From House’s spooky, silent, hulking cellmate (Michael Bailey Smith (Charmed, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Star Trek Voyager) as Sullivan), to the dilettante prison physician (new series regular Odette Annable (Monk, Cloverfield, Life on Mars (U.S.)), as Dr. Jessica Adams), “Twenty Vicodin” was peppered with engaging characters to challenge House.  The plot hinges on House’s efforts to earn parole (after crashing his car into Cuddy’s house in last season’s finale) by keeping his nose clean on his last five days in prison.  That requires him to stockpile and hand over the eponymous twenty vicodin to prison gangleader Mendelson (Jude Ciccolella, Life, Medium, Monk, Burn Notice, Law and Order, Star Trek: Nemesis); avoid pissing off fellow inmates; really avoid pissing off the infirmary supervisor; and somehow simultaneously (of course) solve a medical mystery.  Fellow inmate Nick (Sebastian Sozzi, Law and Order) has mysterious symptoms, and House must circumvent every prison regulation in place to diagnose him.  And by the way?  It’s not lupus.

Episode 2, “Transplant” doesn’t quite pick up where “Twenty Vicodin” left off, because while House did save the guy’s life, he also annoyed enough folks in prison to get another 8 months tacked onto his sentence.  Enter new Dean of Medicine Dr. Foreman (Omar Epps), in a fairly inevitable if ho-hum choice with an offer: come back to Princeton Plainsboro to diagnose a “dream patient”– a pair of already-harvested lungs slated for a transplant to Dr. Wilson’s (Robert Sean Leonard) dying cancer patient.  The medical puzzle in this episode is House at its best–intriguing, impossible, desperate, and totally innovative.  With his original team long gone (is it mean to say “Yay!”?), House must work with disgraced neurology intern Dr. Chi Park (Charlene Yi), who is not quite Amber Tamblyn, but held her own as well as any House fellow can be expected to.  We’re definitely looking forward to watching her character grow this season.

But the heart of “Transplant,” as it always is, was Wilson, carrying the emotional plotline for both the lungs and for House’s return to the hospital.  House’s and Wilson’s relationship has always been the sort of subtle backbone to the series, explored in varying depths through the years, but with this episode you got the sense that everyone finally got that, and that we may see that relationship explored in even greater depths this season.  Robert Sean Leonard’s performance was top-notch, particularly in the painfully satisfying scene of Wilson finally telling House that he just doesn’t care anymore.  You truly had the sense that he meant it; he just seemed done.  We also had a sense that just maybe House might have finally changed, too, expressed in the beautifully-written and deceptively simple line, “We save the lungs.  Wilson needs them.”  Of course, they’re House and Wilson and this is episodic TV, so too much can’t change between them, and it was nice to see them heading off into the sunset together for a steak.

After these promising first two episodes, can Season 8 keep up the momentum?  I have to admit, the teasers don’t look promising.  More Princeton Plainsboro, more old team.  I’m tempted to yawn, but my DVR is still firmly tuned to Fox Mondays at 8/7.

By Elizabeth C. Bunce

Our DVR broke this week.  I won’t go into the trauma of missing the last installment of Zen on Masterpiece Mystery, or of losing the final three (still unwatched) episodes of the now cancelled Men of a Certain Age.  The upside of this technological crisis, however, was that it spurred us to unearth old TV favorites on streaming video from Netflix and break out some DVDs.  There’s always something kind of bittersweet about that, though, especially running across old friends that were cancelled well before their prime, and in some cases even before they quite hit their stride.  And so, in memoriam, tonight borg.com will spotlight a few of our genre favorites that were cancelled too soon.

Life (2007-2009/NBC/21 episodes)
NBC’s short-lived quirky police procedural about a mild-mannered homicide detective wrongfully convicted of murdering his partner’s entire family starred English actor Damian Lewis (Assassin in Love, Showtime’s new series Homeland) and Sarah Shahi (USA’s Fairly Legal).  Its offbeat mix of gruesome murders and weird-but-lovable cast members was probably a little too offbeat for most viewers, but we loved Lewis’s Zen-meditating Charlie Crews and his efforts to fit back into his life and job after eleven years in prison and an undisclosed multimillion dollar settlement with the LAPD.  An intriguing series-long mystery plot (who really killed Crews’s partner?) might have made it more difficult for new viewers to join mid-season (although we had no trouble getting hooked after just one episode), but was thoughtfully resolved in the series finale.  Standout performances by Donal Logue and Adam Arkin only compound our sense of loss for this series.

The Riches (2007-2008/FX/19 episodes)
Before the days of Breaking Bad and Sons of Anarchy, FX broke every rule of tasteless TV in this outrageous series about a family of Travellers trying to make it as “buffers” in an upscale suburban neighborhood, after assuming the identities of a family killed in a car accident.  Starring standup comic Eddie Izzard as title character “Doug Rich,” and Minnie Driver (Phantom of the Opera), The Riches featured scams, drug abuse, murders, robbery, and a host of other illicit goings-on–and that’s just by the heroes!  Alternately appalling and hilarious, ultimately The Riches just couldn’t hold on to its early impressive ratings, and was cancelled after only 19 episodes, leaving loyal viewers without even a semblance of closure to the Riches’ compelling storyline.

Tru Calling (2003-2005/Fox/26 episodes)
Eliza Dushku’s first starring vehicle of her post-Buffy days, Tru Calling had an excellent sci-fi premise, sort of Medium meets Groundhog Day.  Medical student Tru (Dushku) gets a part-time job in the morgue and discovers that the recently deceased can ask for her help, causing her to relive their final days, in the hopes of saving their lives or solving their murders.  Co-starring The Hangover‘s Zach Galafianakis in a wonderful role as Tru’s morgue mentor, and White Collar’s and Chuck’s Matt Bomer as Tru’s love interest, Tru Calling was gearing up for great things, the mysteries surrounding Tru’s power only building, just as the series was unceremoniously axed by Fox.

Eleventh Hour (2008-2009/CBS/18 episodes)
This American adaptation of the even-shorter-lived BBC medical thriller (with Patrick Stewart) starred accomplished English actor Rufus Sewell (Zen, Knight’s Tale, Pillars of the Earth) as Dr. Jacob Hood, FBI consultant solving baffling scientific crimes.  Not an outstanding series by any standards, Eleventh Hour was nevertheless competent and entertaining, and one had the feeling that the performers were better than the material they had to work with.  I firmly believe the show could have gotten even better, but it was trapped in a dead-end timeslot (Thursdays at 10 pm) and ultimately failed to interest the CSI viewership the network hoped would bolster ratings.

The Dresden Files (2007/SyFy/12 episodes)
I’m still stinging from the cancellation of this great adaptation of Jim Butcher’s bestselling urban fantasy series. Starring the always-solid Paul Blackthorne (guest appearances in Burn Notice, Monk, Leverage, Warehouse 13, and others), the show featured excellent writing, engaging paranormal storylines, and an absolutely winning cast, but wasn’t given the same network or fan support of later SyFy hits like Warehouse 13 or Eureka. Fortunately, all twelve episodes are currently available via streaming video on Netflix.

Tomorrow, C.J. Bunce will continue the list with the rest of our list of TV series that ended too soon.

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