Defiance: The SyFy Drama that Grows on You

Julie Benz, mayor of Defiance
Starting in 2013 Defiance, the SyFy channel’s science fiction drama, slowly grows on you. Not being too overly impressed with the first two seasons, it was surprising to see the series approved for a third season. A mini-binge was in order to see where the series was going and how long Terminator icon Linda Hamilton was going to last in the show. Looking at the show’s rating history on Rotten Tomatoes and its current ranking on IMDb it is interesting to note that after a shaky start, the second season garnered a staggering 100 percent from the former website and now has a 7.0 rating on the latter.

Perhaps tuning in for the first season was a mistake that could have been rectified by sticking with the show for its next run, as fans of the series did. Certainly SyFy had enough faith in the show to keep bringing it back and it could be that the development of so much alien language, that initially feels like a rip off of the Star Trek verse (Klingon or Romulan anyone?) was off putting for new viewers.

It was decided that season two of Defiance could be missed, despite the presence of Buffy the Vampire Slayer actress Julie Benz and character actor Graham Greene and the introduction of Linda Hamilton as the crazy as a bedbug grandma.

So not being an overt fan-boy of the show it was a total lack of anything remotely entertaining on television, and therefore Hulu, that season three of Defiance was watched; all three episodes, to see what the series brings to the table.

Without going to the trouble of binging from its first airing, which would have included watching the poorly rated season one, the experiment was to see if not having a backstory would affect the enjoyment of the show. Quick answer is…It does not.

Despite the writing being a little too slap-dash for this reviewer’s tastes, the show was self explanatory enough to pull the viewer in with no real knowledge of previous events. The fact the show’s writers felt the need to have Linda Hamilton’s character, Pilar the craaaazy and homicidal granny, say, “Come with me if you want to live,” did annoy but not so much so that it detracted from their intent. (Which was obviously an OTT remember of just who Hamilton is, forgetting or overlooking her Beauty and the Beast days. A series where Linda made her name while the first Terminator worked on becoming a cult favorite. Shame on you writer guys, or gals.)

Of course this could be on par for the writing team. Notice that Julie Benz, who played vampire gal Darla in both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spin-off Angel, plays the mayor in a town that has just had a father-daughter team of vampire-like Votan aliens show up. Did Benz groan a bit when that was introduced? Hopefully not as it is kind of cool…Just saying.

For one who has not followed the show, it was with something approaching delight to see solid performer Graham Greene on board, only to be dismayed when his character was killed pretty quickly in season three. Hamilton lasted a bit longer, although her death was brilliant, “There is no way you’ll shoot this baby’s grandma right in front of him,” was her last line. Pilar proved that she was no Sarah Connor in this science fiction world so it was “sic transit gloria Linda.”

The world of Defiance is set in the shattered remains of the US, specifically, it seems, in the midwest, Pilar mentions the “Ass end of Oklahoma” and the St Louis arch is blown up, the arch is a symbol of Defiance the mining town. The show is set in the future and while some of the dialogue leaves a bit to be desired and the “made-up” linguistics of an alien race or two feels a little hokey, the show does become addictive viewing after a few episodes.

The third episode of season three leaves things up in the air and ends with a bit of a mini cliff hanger. John Nolan and his daughter Irisa, who shared a life support pod for seven months in the bottom of the mine, were connected with some sort of umbilical cord attached to their temples. When the Omec pair release the two, they rip out the cords, leaving two comma shaped scars on John’s and his kid’s foreheads. In Dead Air, both John and Irisa have been getting increasing painful headaches and by the end of the episode, Nolan is lying in floor in agony. The rescued vet says John needs treatment because he’ll die if he doesn’t, and Nolan’s daughter has been left in the snow back in Defiance, presumably dying as well, while the lawmaker there walks off, not on her way to get help one presumes.

This impressive “leave” at the end of the show is promising. Certainly at least one viewer wondered about those scars and the cord that attached father and daughter in that life pod. A small thing compared to the overall plot of the show, but one that someone decided was worthy of making a significant plot thread in the show. End result? One new fan who will be tuning in next Friday to the SyFy channel to catch episode four.

Christopher Lee: An Almost Personal Memory

Sir Christopher Lee died yesterday and the worlds of horror and fantasy are reeling from the news. The 93 year-old actor made his name as Dracula in the Hammer films and worked more recently in The Lord of the Ring films and worked in iconic cult classic horror films like the 1973 The Wicker Man. I wanted to share my almost personal memory of one of the greatest actors the world has ever known. As Fangoria point out Lee was a versatile actor who appeared in various roles across genres.

Scaramanga, in The Man with the Golden Gun (an action film), Bailey, the gunsmith in Hannie Caulder (a western) and Dr. Wonka in Charley and the Chocolate Factory (comedy) are just three examples of different genres outside the fantasy and horror fields he is so associated with. Lee also did a lot of voice acting for video games, Kingdom Hearts II and GoldenEye: Rogue Agent (where he reprised his role as Scaramanga) are just two games that felt his presence.

He also worked in the field of mystery, appearing in Murder Story. He starred with a young American actor who would later become famous on television’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel as the very British Wesley Wyndham-Price, Alexis Densiof. Lee played Willard Hope in the 1989 film, a star author whom Denisof’s character idolizes and decides to emulate.

Murder Story was filmed in Holland and the company hired some local airmen and their kids from Soesterberg Air Base to be in the film. Ellstree Studios were making the film despite having just gone broke and having to restrict themselves to television. Ellstree produced the BBC soap Eastenders amongst a few other television shows that were all filmed in the studios.

After being hired to work on the show by a local casting company, along with a friend from the Armed Forces Radio Station down the hall, I was excited to be working on a film with Christopher Lee in it. Originally, both mine and the AFN chap’s roles were pretty big, we had lines and a bit of action as well. Not knowing much of the film’s plot or action, we were day players only, the idea that we may get to work with Dracula, or just “bump into him” on set was pretty heady stuff for two glorified extras.

That money was an issue became apparent “on the day.” Our initial roles had our Security Policemen talking and getting out of our base jeep to inspect damage done by the onscreen father of Alexis Denisof’s character. An accident caused by his son Tony (Alexis) driving in front of his car on a motorbike. By the time we got in front of the camera, our lines had been cut and we never left the jeep.

The second unit director, who filmed the action scene just prior to our bit, had excited us earlier in the day by suggesting that Sir Christopher Lee may indeed be around somewhere near by. The unit had started out filming in Soest, a small town near Soesterberg and Zeist where a lot of filming took place, and word was that Lee would be in the village.

If he was there, we missed him and a short time went to a section of woods in-between the village and the air base where we met Denisof, very briefly, and his love interest in the film; Stacia Burton (in her only film). The lovely young lady bummed a light off me, much to my second wife’s annoyance. We chatted a bit, which also got a bit of disapproval, and I am still surprised that this talented young lady has not appeared in any other projects.

After a long day, the scene was finished and we never met the legend. A year later, the same folks who cast me in the Ellstree film cast me in a commercial for American, and later British, television. Speaking to the woman who hired me, she spoke of meeting the iconic performer and how nice he was. She also revealed that he had been in Soest that day and that we’d only just missed him.

Sadly the film itself, which was something of a nine-day wonder as many of the high school scenes were shot at the base school and a good friend’s daughters got to meet and work with Denisof, went straight to video and died a quick death. This mystery movie gave Lee the chance to be something other than the villain and he was also able to show his mastery of languages as he did his own lines in Dutch.

As the world mourns the passing of an iconic entertainer, it felt right to share my own little “almost” experience with one of the most gifted actors to ever “wear the fangs” and become the ultimate Dracula to more than a few generations. Sir Christopher Lee gone at age 93, you will be long remembered and missed by a world of fans. R.I.P.

The Cabin in the Woods-Gate? Joss Whedon Sued

Somewhat amazingly, one of the most original thinkers in Hollywood, aka Joss Whedon, is being sued, along with Lionsgate and Drew Goddard, by an author who claims that the 2012 film Cabin in the Woods has infringed upon his own 2006 work. Cabin in the Woods-Gate begins with Facebook being deluged with links back to journalistic coverage of this alleged “crime.”

As one Facebook comment noted, on the special features portion of the DVD for said film, both Joss and Drew talk about writing the screenplay back in 1998. For those with math issues, that is eight years before the published work by Peter Gallagher.

The book, titled “The Little White Trip: A Night in the Pines” has a plot where five young friends, two girls and three guys, go to a “remote” cabin and find that a killer, who murdered the buildings previous inhabitants, is stalking and killing this new group. Later in the book, it turns out that the whole thing is being filmed as “entertainment.”

No mention of old, terrible “Gods,” the end of the world…or weed. The self-published book was done in two 7,500 “runs” which the author flogged on the street in Venice, Santa Monica, etc. Gallagher states that he finds portions of the book “identical” with the film and he is asking for $10 million in damages.

Unfortunately for Gallagher, if Goddard and Whedon did actually write the initial screenplay in 1998 (and can prove it) then he has no legal leg to stand on. Despite his claim of registering the tale with the Writers Guild of America in 2007, the predated screenplay makes his charges of “copyright infringement” null and void.

Another comment on the social platform mentions, “why did Gallagher wait so long to file?” Good question.

Surely, these charges should have been made at the time of the film’s release. If, as the author stated, the similarities were so obvious, why take so long to lay the claim? Could this delay be down to no one else feeling there was a case?

In “The Wrap” the actual complaint states that the “plots, characters, sequence of events, stories, dialogue and incidents are virtually identical.” If the intent of these claims was to have fans rushing out to read the book to see for themselves Gallagher may have to point out a few of the more specific “similarities.”

In any other case of alleged “infringement” the author stands a good chance of being, at the very least, heard. In this case time and evidence may stop the lawsuit in its legal tracks. Certainly the idea of Goddard and Whedon working on the screenplay to Cabin in the Woods back in the days of ‘Buffy’ and Angel has a sort of logistical sense.

Both men have worked together for years on both shows and, if memory serves, on other Whedon projects as well, i.e. “Dollhouse” and “Firefly,” although I could be wrong. Joss had the services of many a talented writer on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” and “Angel,” and all are a very talented lot.

This could be a case of wishful thinking, and I believe that is indeed the case, that will fade quietly into the background. Chronology will settle this claim and it is doubtful that anyone with real intelligence will think for one moment that Joss Whedon copied anyone else’s work when he and Drew Goddard penned “The Cabin in the Woods.” In fact, in my own review of the film, I stated that it felt like a big screen adaptation of Wolfram and Hart from Angel, which came out much earlier than 2006.

Just saying.

15 April 2015

‘Grimm’ Season Four: Alexis Denisof Back in TV World of the Supernatural

‘Grimm’ Season Four: Alexis Denisof Back in TV World of the Supernatural

TV audience members who have only just discovered the splendid supernatural world of Grimm, season four, will have noticed that a somewhat heavier, and older, Alexis Denisof is back in the land of fantasy and horror, this time on NBC. This modern day version of Grimm’s fairy tales has been around since 2011 and viewers who tuned in back then will notice that a lot has changed since a bald and dying Kate Burton (Daughter of the Welsh icon that was Richard Burton.) drove into Portland, Oregon and her nephew Nick Burkhardt’s life. Burton’s character departs the show by the end of the second episode of season one leaving her nephew the next in line of Grimm’s who can see creatures who inhabit human bodies and who must now “take care” of the ones who misbehave

Eliza Dushku: Faith in Comic Con Rattled by Theft

Eliza Dushku: Faith in Comic Con Rattled by Theft

Not even Faith, that other vampire Slayer from the Buffy verse, is apparently safe from the crime of theft which is what happened to the rattled Eliza Dushku at the Rhode Island Comic Con when she was checking into a local hotel for the upcoming event. The 33 year-old actress, shot to prominence as the “naughty” wild-child slayer Faith in Joss Whedon’s award winning television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997 – 2003). She went on to work with Whedon again on Angel, the Buffy spin-off and The Dollhouse, the second “cursed” television series of The Avengers director to be cancelled before it could really begin. The actress had her $4000 Louis Vuitton duffel bag taken from her side while unloading her car before going into her hotel room.