Shades of Blue: Unforgiven – Game Changer (Review)

 Shades of Blue - Season 2

Season two of Shades of Blue starts off with a refresher on the events at the tail end of last season. Miguel, with that dramatic neck break courtesy of his ex, is now out of the picture and buried in the cemetery. Woz has settled into the role of Stahl’s dirty cop and Harlee is definitely unforgiven by her former boss and friend.

With Wozniak on the FBI agent’s side, he makes Harlee understand that there will be no forgiveness from his side ever. Woz explains that there will never be any level of trust between them again. Meanwhile he begins doing Stahl’s bidding in order to find out who the target really is.

Harlee burns the money she paid Miguel and tries to play both sides against the middle when learning that Stahl has no intention of letting her go. The FBI agent with the unhealthy fixation on Detective Santos goes after Gina the escort when he learns, from Woz, that his secret is out.

One theme that continues in this game changer season, where Woz is now the puppet on a string, is Harlee’s lying to Cristina about Miguel. Granted, the lie is a necessity since Santos snapped the ex-con’s neck like a brittle twig.

(It has to be said that this was one of the most satisfying moments in the first season and the recap, where they showed Miguel getting his just desserts once again was still a highpoint.)

Woz blames Harlee for his murder of Saperstein and turns everything around as he tries to make himself into the victim in this scenario.

Shades of Blue starts out of the gate without any of the errors apparent in season one. There are no continuity gaffes and the storyline manages to keep up the tension started in the series’ first outing.

Liotta continues to be spellbinding as the head of the dirty cop gang and Lopez may still be the best dressed detective on the NYPD’s rolls but the shift from stealing millions to setting up Julia Ayres as a target for Stahl loses nothing.

Warren Cole still manages to make Stahl disturbing, annoying and creepy as hell. This actor has tapped into something that makes his fixated FBI agent just this side of scary.  When the character handcuffs Gina to the radiator pipe in the room and tells the woman she will disappear, we feel her fear is justified.

When the local mobster is framed and arrested, he kills an underling right in front of Anna Gunn’s character. This seems to be a clear signal that death and murder will be just as prominent in the second season of the series.

It remains to be seen whether the show can maintain the tension and dance the same fine line as season one. Liotta’s character is, apparently, on a mission to punish Harlee while simultaneously going after Stahl. He may well wrest the show from Lopez this time around.

Shades of Blue airs Sundays on NBC.

Cast:

Guest starring Anna Gunn as Julia Ayres

APB: Hard Reset – RoboCop Meets Tony Stark (Review)

APB-s-1_103-sc9pt-36pt-PRO-MD_282_hires1

APB heads out of the gate with a great attitude and a few problems in the season one premiere “Hard Reset.” The whole thing feels a little like RoboCop meets Tony Stark. For instance, the cop who rises to detective by the end of the first episode, is named Murphy and Reeves is a billionaire engineer with a short attention-span.

There are other nods, or references, to other cop films. The district that Reeves takes over, as his pet project and personal mission to find his friend’s killer, is District 13. This is clearly a nod to the 2004 French film “Banlieue 13” (District 13.)

APB has even cast 71 year-old Ernie Hudson as another cop, albeit a senior one. Hudson has played a lawman more often than not in his long and prolific  career.

While Reeves, as played by Justin Kirk, is more geek than ultra-cool and less playboy than “gameboy” the idea is the same. Whereas Stark becomes a superhero by benefits of a crime personally affecting him, Reeves gets involved because a crime that should have affected him personally got his good friend killed.

Vive la différence, as the French would say. Reeves uses his billions to “buy” a police precinct in order to catch Sully’s killer. Along the way, he meets an officer who commiserates with him and empathizes. Later, she becomes a reluctant ally.

The first episode of APB also feels a tad like a prequel for another FOX “futuristic” (cancelled after one season) cop show Almost Human. It could also serve as the beginnings of a new world a’la Demolition Man.   The billionaire’s new “toys” for his personal police force are all non-lethal.

Demolition Man was all about a new world order where electric shock batons were used instead of lethal force.  (Although no one has yet asked “What’s your boggle…”)

Reeves outfits his new force with three new improved bullet-proof cars, new bullet-proof uniforms (that swamps Murphy at first) and powerful taser pistols. The cops on the beat also have drone backup that boasts taser capability as well.

This is all, except for the rookie who is shot going after Hatch, incredibly bloodless. It also feels a bit like an hour long 12 episode reaffirmation that one does not need experience to run a governmental office, a’la Trump, just money and a “can do” attitude.

The episode features futuristic tools for the Chicago cops to use, drones and a not-so-nice Mayor who takes the billionaire on.  APB shows promise. The characters are fairly interesting and Natalie Martinez  is still one of the most watchable actresses out there.

Kirk makes his uber-rich engineer likable yet flawed and his right hand woman Ada, as played by Aussie actress Caitlin Stasey, is someone who would be MVP on any team.

APB airs Mondays on FOX. Head on over and have a look. This one may last a bit longer than Almost Human.

Cast:

Santa Clarita Diet: So Then a Bat or a Monkey – You Are (Review)

Drew Barrymore in Santa Clarita Diet

Netflix have joined the zombie craze with their latest offering, Santa Clarita Diet. The first episode, “So Then a Bat or a Monkey” starts things off with a major character dying by throwing up what looks suspiciously like an organ. A vital one mixed with the “insane” amount of vomit that comes jetting out of Sheila’s mouth.

Sheila and Joel Hammond are estate agents who live and sell houses in Santa Clarita, CA.  Their seemingly idyll existence is disrupted when she dies in the middle of showing the Peterson house. After spending hours at the local hospital’s emergency room, Sheila and Joel head home.

Despite being dead, Sheila feels great. She has focus and is, in Joel’s words, exuberant. Their teenage daughter Abby is not overjoyed to learn of her parent’s sexual escapades and suggests seeing a local “nerd” to find out what is happening.

The new real estate agent from Sacramento Gary West makes moves on Sheila and ends up being consumed by his recently deceased co-worker in the back garden. Joel walks in on the grisly scene and is justifiably horrified.

Santa Clarita Diet is an interesting, and funny, comedy horror offering on Netflix. Is it blazingly original? Not necessarily, iZombie got there first, although so far Sheila is not craving brains and eating West did not change her.

In many ways this new series could be seen as “iZombie with grownups.” The idea also seems to be a comic re-imaging of  the 2006 horror film “The Hamiltons.” (Or at the very least a comic riff on the theme of the film.)

In Santa Clarita Diet both Sheila and Joel, in the beginning, are quite boring in their little real estate lives. (And nothing equates to being a grownup quite like boring…) The sudden death of Sheila changes the formulaic existence of the couple dramatically.

Joel’s wife becomes more exuberant, as he tells their daughter, not just with sex but everything. She is more confident, assertive and impulsive. Her husband has trouble keeping up with the new Sheila. After she kills and eats Gary, it looks like Joel’s problems are just beginning.

It was interesting to see Nathan Fillion as a character who is, to say the least, a bit of a bully. He forces himself on Sheila and threatens, somewhat inanely, Joel: “You are.” One wonders whether his casting was in response to the “Castle” rumors that flooded the Internet when the show was cancelled.

(Fillion was said to be very unkind to his co-star Stana Katic and his cryptic and somewhat taciturn Twitter post when she left the show did not help his tarnished image.)

The character being played by Fillion was a deviation from his normal roles, apart from Monsters University in 2013. He voiced a character that was also a bully. In this instance Fillion managed to make his douche character amusing, which is his gift as an actor.

“That was an insane amount of vomit!”

Regardless of the rationale behind Nathan’s playing a somewhat dislikable character, it was brilliantly funny. (Showing yet again that Fillion has still got those comic chops that he displayed early in his career.)

Fillion was not alone, this series is full of comic performers who have got chops for days. Barrymore, Olyphant, Mary Elizabeth Ellis (a personal favorite) and guest star Ramona Young filled out a cast full of actors who know how to do comedy.

This 13 episode series is available to stream or download in its entirety on Netflix. Stop by and check this one out, it may not be overly original but it is pretty funny. It also has a lot of familiar faces in it.

Cast:

Guest starring Nathan Fillion as Gary West and Ramona Young as Ramona.

Powerless: Wayne or Lose – Alan Tudyk and Vanessa Hudgens (Review)

 Powerless - Season Pilot

Powerless on NBC feels a bit like “reality” mixing uneasily with the comic book verse of Batman, Superman and all those caped heroes who frequent Gotham City, Metropolis and so on. “Wayne or Lose” follows Emily on her first job at an insurance company run by Bruce Wayne’s cousin Van.

Centering primarily on a world where “normal” people are in constant danger of being hurt when super heroes and super villains engage,  Powerless and its female protagonist feels like an extension of the audience.

Emily is, in essence, us; she represents our “everyman” existence but she is in a world where super heroes are a fact of life. Where Ms. Locke comes from, super heroes are flyovers only and never stop in to battle evil. Now in her new job, they are common enough to be mundane.

Hudgens is the “hayseed” who travels to the big city to make a change. She wants to leave big footprints wherever she works and the insurance company gives her a chance.

Emily is the only one impressed by all the super activity going on in the big city. On the subway, when the Crimson Fox saves the train from crashing and killing numerous innocent citizens, only Ms. Locke finds the incident exciting.

Her new company’s think tank and developers are only copying other products and changing the name and colours of their versions. Emily comes in and tries to motivate the bunch but unfortunately they have seen it all before. Four times before in fact.

Locke confronts Wayne when she learns that there were four predecessors who all left. Although Emily is less upset when she finds that they left after being injured as bystanders to a super battle. It seems that her position at Wayne Security will be short-lived.

Van learns that his cousin has fired them all and he will be absorbed into the Gotham branch of the company, something Van has dreamed of. Emily pulls out all the stops and invents, with the help of her team, a product completely different from the competition’s.

At the end of the episode they learn that Batman has used a variation of their super villain warning system and they are all excited. Emily has been accepted, somewhat, and it looks like she will be staying on at the company.

Powerless, despite featuring the more than capable Alan Tudyk, Danny Pudi and a grown up Vanessa Hudgens, is more cute than funny. NBC have opted for a humorous take on the comic book craze by poking gentle fun at the premise of super heroes and super villains endangering innocent civilians.

It may work, although the network have stated that they will not be entering the same DC verse as CW; with Supergirl, Arrow and The Flash. This series is focusing mainly on the Gotham/Batman verse and creator Ben Queen (Cars 2, Drive) is gently easing the audience into this new verse.

With a hero known as the Crimson Fox and a villain called Jack-O-Lantern this was not a promising start to an offshoot of the Wayne family caped crusader. There is a mention of the Joker and in teasers for the show it appears that Emily does date one of the Riddler’s henchmen but this feels like a pallid nod to the “real deal.”

With the blackly comic Gotham already poking fun at the genre with its prequel story of the legend of Batman, this feels like a G rated knock off, somewhat akin to the products that Van’s apathetic insurance company have blandly copied in the series.

Powerless may well turn out to be a barrel of laughs. However the pilot was not overtly funny. It relied instead upon unlikeable two dimensional characters and Hudgens’ “Pollyanna” performance for a few chuckles. Tudyk was pretty much wasted in the premiere and considering his penchant for comedy could have brought a lot more to the role.

NBC have brought us a cute-sy type comedy that needs to up its game if it wants to succeed against the competition. The vastly superior, and damned funny, Superstore may well lead a few viewers to this new show but unless things improve, they will not stick around.

Powerless  airs Thursdays on NBC. Head on over and see what you think. Will this be a hit for Vanessa Hudgens and Alan Tudyk or a miss?

Cast:

The Expanse: Season Two Premiere – Space Is Still Dirty (Review)

The Expanse - Season 2

Season two’s premiere of The Expanse takes up after the wholesale slaughter that took place on Eros in the season one finale. Holden and Miller are being treated for their exposure and after a long period are given injections by Naomi. These “patch” injections will need to be taken for the rest of their lives and neither man will be able to procreate, she says.

The Phoebe organism turns out to be in that locked device. Amos and Naomi work together to open the thing and they they hide the stuff in the middle of an abandoned asteroid mine.

Miller and Amos work out their issues with one another. Joe is still angry at Amos killing his friend but after Burton almost strangles the life out of the former cop, aka Star Helix, things settle down.

Back on Earth the U.N.N. quickly proves that space is still dirty, but this time around it is the political double-dealing, war mongering and back stabbing that makes the atmosphere so bad. Avasarala almost dies, hires a spy and struggles to stop the war before it can begin.

Avasarala not only hires a spy, she orders him to put her in contact with Col. Johnson (an act of treason). Johnson actually joins Holden’s crew to invade the space station and learn the secret of the alien virus.

We meet a new character, one Gunny Draper; a tough and nigh on unstoppable Martian bad-arse who looks to be a force to be reckoned with this season.  She does not get to do too much in this two hour premiere but  it is clear that she will be going up against Holden’s team sooner or later.

The big shock, and a move that almost pushes the Earth and Mars into full scale war, was the Martian move to blast Phoebe Space Station into space debris. The missiles, which just missed the U.N.N. vessel, were used to destroy any evidence of the parasitic experiments that took place there.

Once the crew board the vessel, they learn that the parasitic creature, considered to be A) proof of alien existence and B) “the first shot,” was released to help develop a cure.  As the lead scientist pleads his case to continue the work, Johnson looks close to agreeing with the man.

The Expanse - Season 2
Miller and Johnson

Miller cuts the discussion short by shooting the scientist mid argument.

The brilliance of this two episode premiere of The Expanse, was its execution. The first half of the open was pretty much expository in nature. We are brought up to speed on where everyone is at and the discovery of just how close this world is to war.

The second half, aka episode two, built up the suspense of the Roci being used to breech the space station. It allowed the colonel to join forces with Holden and his crew and gave Miller a chance to get a bit of payback and closure.

The former cop also shows that he can lead just fine. Although his followers in the infiltration operation are a bit trigger happy. This was an excellent start to season two of The Expanse.

We are shown the relationship developments between Holden’s group and Kamal’s progress as a pilot. The scenes with the simulation training and then the actual battle between the Roci, the stealth fighter and that cannon, were spot on and resulted in some edge of the seat viewing.

Thomas Jane, Steven Strait, Cas Anvar, Dominique Tipper, Wes Chatham and newcomer Frankie Adams are killing it in space. While back on Earth, Shohreh Aghdashloo rules supreme as Chad L. Coleman wears his rebel hat brilliantly.

The Expanse - Season 2
Chrisjen Avasarala

Season two looks to be as addictive as season one. The Expanse airs Wednesdays on SyFy. Do not miss this outstanding science fiction mystery.

Cast: