Falling Skies Final Season: An Impressive Run (review)

Tom Mason (Noah Wyle) in Falling Skies
Watching the final season of Falling Skies, number five to be exact, it is plain to see; the show has had an impressive run and watching the first two episodes of the series at its end, the reason for its success is clear. On top of the Steven Spielberg beginnings the verse populated by Noah Wyle, Will Patton and more lately Mira Sorvino and professional chameleon Doug Jones along with talented guest stars like Terry O’Quinn, has a feel of reality. The dirt looks earthy, clinging and muddy. The guns run out of ammo just as they would in real life and do not have magazines with never-ending rounds in each one.

In Episode 5:1 three teams head out to kill the invaders and in at least one firefight, the one with Tom Mason (Wyle) and his crew, as they shoot their weapons, the rounds run out all too soon, just as they do in reality. Later on, in the high school Skitter-shoot in the gymnasium, the weapons, a combination of man-made and alien, the magazines do not run out quite so quickly, but that is a well known device used by film and television to bolster the effect of the shootout and is forgivable.

Episode 5:2 offered up a scenario where constant Skitter attacks lay Mason, Weaver and the rest of the survivors under siege. Titled Hunger Pains the segment focusses on the lack of food and just how desperate people are to eat. One camp defender tries the Skitter leg that is being roasted in the hopes that the alien flesh is edible.

Cue some excellent FX where it looks like the diner who tries a piece of the limb has his lower jaw and mouth disintegrate in a mass of bloody tissue. After finding some cans of pineapple in the wreckage of a building, that turns out to be local produce, a small team go out to retrieve more in the hopes of saving the starving camp members.

In the same episode there is the splendid irony of the search team finding junk food that may just save the camp from starving. The loading of the food is interrupted by someone who has prior claim on the Ding Dongs, beef jerky and chips that the group have found and the team are locked in and forced to lay down their weapons.

A large door behind the women begins trembling as something big starts banging on it. “That’s my brother” says the girl who got the drop on them, “He doesn’t like it closed too long.” A great moment where the team have to talk their captor into releasing them.

Two episodes and thus far Tom Mason seems to be the “vision master.” Where he gets some sort of warning about upcoming events although he does not always understand their meaning in time to be of real help. He has several visions in season five and he is learning to heed their warnings.

The aliens that the 2nd Mass face in season five are called Skitters, there are other aliens that seem to be working in an alliance with the humans, and they are pretty creepy. Arachnid in nature, with several legs and able to skitter like a spider but with a tall body and no thorax, these things are a brilliant touch. Again, not having watched the show from season one, it is not known if these have been there from the beginning but they make an excellent “big bad.”

On top of that, there are “Skitter-ized” humans which sound a little like a Hulked out Tasmanian-Devil. This was the “brother” behind door number one at the depot. At the end of the show, a “wasp” that stung Mason earlier is put under a makeshift microscope and they discover it is a hybrid with Skitter feet and human eyes. The creature turns out to be alive and it escapes.

Mason and Anne (Moon Bloodgood) follow the “wasp” and find that there are a lot more of them along with some other, bigger winged-creatures; not far from the 2nd Mass camp.

The cast list for Falling Skies has some quality names on it, Will Patton as the hardened and grizzled Captain Weaver and Noah Wyle as Mason head up a sterling group of actors. Mira Sorvino may look different from her Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion and The Replacement Killers days but she still has those impressive acting chops.

While it is annoying to stumble onto what looks to be a very entertaining science fiction show during its last season, there are enough avenues to binge back to the beginning and catch up. In the meantime, season five continues to air Sundays on TNT. Fans of Noah Wyle will love it and won’t have to wait for the next season of The Librarians to get their fix.

No Tears for the Dead (2014): South Korean Bloody Redemption

Film poster for No Tears for the Dead
Very few filmmakers can do bloody redemption like South Korean cinema, although the Pang Bros do a cracking job, and the 2014 feature No Tears for the Dead is the perfect example of an almost soap opera style thriller/drama where a hitman tries to make amends for an accidental killing at the very start of the film.

Written and directed by Jeong-beom Lee, it is his third film, and starring The Warrior’s Way Gong-Don Jang, Min-Hee Kim (Hellcats, Helpless) and Brian Tee (Jurassic World, The Wolverine) No Tears for the Dead follows the journey of Gon, an American trained Korean hitman who works for a Triad organization.

At the start of the film, a group of gangsters are in the back room of a casino, or club, and a little Korean girls sits on her own with an origami stork on the table in front of her. She is listening to a singer. Back n the room, a man forces his way in and begins killing everyone with a silenced pistol. As he finishes up there is a noise at the room’s exit. The man fires blindly though the closed door and when he opens it, an origami bird is on the floor and the little girl has been shot through the chest.

Later, the Triad boss he works for tells the hitman, Gon, to kill the child’s mother once they retrieve a file her deceased husband sent her via an email. Gon, (Gong-Don Jang) is overcome with guilt and remorse at his inadvertent murder of an innocent. The gang have to break into his house to find him and once there they discover he has drunk himself into a stupor and Gon has passed out covered in vomit.

Gon is sent to Korea, a country he has not been to since he and his mother left years ago. The hitman’s mother tried to desert him in America and later kills herself. The hitman goes to the country of his birth and as he attempts to recover the file; he breaks into Mo-Kyoeng’s (played by Min-Hee Kim) house, he is surrounded by the essence of little Yumi, the girl he killed earlier. The child’s growth chart, art work from her school and, because Gon has cloned the mother’s cell phone, he sees pictures and videos of the dead girl.

When the Korean mob boss, who works for the Triads, learns that Mo-Kyeong has accessed the file, Gon is ordered to kill the grieving mother. Entering her house, he finds the woman unconscious on her couch having taken several bottles of pills. He fires his gun at the arm of the settee, over her head, and calls 911.

When Mo-Kyeong is in the hospital, a group of assassins, colleagues of Gon, are hired to kill them both. His old friend and mentor Chaoz (Lee) heads up the deadly gang and it becomes a battle of wits, bullets, blood and betrayal as Gon tries to make up for murdering the woman’s daughter by saving her life. My-Yeong must also fight and she almost loses to the killers more than once.

While this could be seen as a sort of “pot boiler” drama set around a hitman, the film is not too dissimilar from the 1998 Chinese film The Replacement Killers with Yun-Fat Chow and Mira Sorvino or even the Pang Bros 2000 film Bangkok Dangerous.

*On a sidenote, the latter film was remade with Nicolas Cage in 2008; avoid this shabby and abysmal film at all costs.*

There are prolonged shootouts with a variety of weapons, some brilliantly choreographed fights between Gon and the bad guys and a fair few good twists and turns to the plot. Add in some great little ironic events and a few touching moments of backstory and No Tears for the Dead becomes a 5 out of 5 star film.

Partially subtitled; with the Chinese gangsters and Gon conversing in English throughout the film, this South Korean film cracks on at a rapid pace and makes the run time of just under two hours feel much shorter. As this is just Jeong-beom Lee’s third film keep an eye on this filmmaker and expect to see much more of his work. Do not miss this one.