TV review: ‘Touch’ S2 EP13 “Leviathan” – SERIES FINALE

Touched no more…

Starring:  Kiefer Sutherland as Martin Bohm, David Mazouz as Jake Bohm, Maria Bello as Lucy Robbins, Greg Ellis as Trevor Wilcox, Saxon Sharbino as Amelia Robbins.

Series created by:  Tim Kring

Episode directed by:  Nelson McCormick / written by:  Tim Kring / aired in the UK:  25/06/13 on Sky 1

What’s the series about?

From Heroes creator Tim Kring, Touch follows the exploits of widower Martin Bohm and his gifted autistic son Jake who via his fascination with numerical patterns is capable of predicting events…

The story so far…

Following the events of the first season finale, Martin and Jake ‘team up’ with Lucy Robbins who has been searching for her missing daughter Amelia for three years.  Martin learns that Amelia is also gifted and is being held by a corporation known as Aster Corps, who are exploiting Amelia in order to discover the ‘God Sequence’ – a numerical sequence that would allow the prediction of future events.

Their journey to find Amelia is fraught with danger as Martin tries to protect Jake from Aster Corps and the murderous Guillermo Ortiz (Said Taghmaoui), a former priest on a mission to kill the ‘Righteous 36’ – those with talents like Jake.

Episode review

Well, another one bites the dust as they say, yet another series given the chop by the powers that be.  I actually quite liked Touch, granted I couldn’t have envisaged it running beyond four (possibly five) seasons but the show’s second season presented us with a more dynamic and serialised storyline, bolstered by the addition of some new recurring cast members and guest stars (including quasi love interest Maria Bello and the enjoyably quirky Avram Hader, played by Bodhi Elfman).

However, even from its first season Touch was the welcome antithesis of darker and grittier shows of contemporary times (as great as they are) and had a life affirming quality with the ‘story of the week’ centric first season often reminding me of Quantum Leap in this respect.

“Leviathan“ opens with Martin waking in hospital (following the car crash at the end of the previous episode) and finding that Jake and Amelia are missing.  Together with Trevor, Martin begins a relentless search for his son and sets about putting a stop to Aster Corps once and for all.

Attempts to ramp up the tension are made and succeed to an extent although there are a couple of moments where you’d be forgiven for thinking you were watching (Sutherland’s certain other Fox show) 24 including an unnerving scene in which Martin presses Aster Corp thug Joseph Tanner (D.B. Sweeney) for information, employing – shall we say – Jack Bauer-esque methods.

Luckily there is some closure to the series as the episode offers a conclusion to the Aster Corps focused storyline with the company exposed and its CEO arrested (played wickedly by Frances Fisher), along with former employee Calvin Norburg (Lukas Haas).  Unfortunately it’s not all tied up neatly, as the curtain fall approaches we are left with a couple of tantalising threads (hints at Jake’s destiny as the guardian of the 36 for example) that if you’ve enjoyed the series will leave you salivating for more.

The episode flows consistently with the pace of the rest of the season and although the show doesn’t quite go out with a bang it is a fitting and relatively satisfying conclusion (more so than say, Stargate Universe).

It’s hard to recommend Touch to new viewers given the cancellation of the series but if you’ve stuck with it up until now, you may as well see it through to the end if you haven’t yet caught up with the whole season.

The bottom line:  Touch was too short-lived at just 26 episodes, an unfortunate trend over recent years with American produced genre shows.  It was an enjoyable series which improved with the second season’s tweaked format and edgier pace and one can only wonder where it might have gone in subsequent seasons.

Did you know?

As well as being the new voice (and face) of Solid Snake in the forthcoming Metal Gear Solid V video game, Kiefer Sutherland will reprise the role of Jack Bauer in next year’s limited event series 24: Live Another Day.

Touch Season 1 is out on DVD now, there is no release date set for Season 2 at present.

The tension mounts as Martin Bohm (played by Kiefer Sutherland) Touch reaches its finale.

The tension mounts as Martin Bohm (played by Kiefer Sutherland) Touch reaches its finale.

What did you think of the ‘Touch’ finale and the series in general? Leave a comment below!

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Have you seen…’Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol’?

The films you may not have seen that are definitely worth a look…

Year: 2011

Starring:  Tom Cruise, Paula Patton, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Michael Nyqvist

Director:  Brad Bird

What’s it about?

On a mission to prevent the terrorist Kurt Hendricks from acquiring Russian nuclear launch codes, Ethan Hunt and his Impossible Mission Force (IMF) team are framed for the bombing of the Kremlin.  Disavowed by the U.S. government, Hunt and his team must rely on their own resourcefulness and stop Hendricks from launching a nuclear attack against the United States.

In review

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is the fourth and most recent entry (and certainly not the last – a fifth instalment is currently slated for a 2015 release) in the blockbuster Tom Cruise ‘Spy-Fi’ action franchise (based on the classic television series created by Bruce Geller) and safely qualifies as the best.

The plot is relatively uncomplicated yet smart with some neat twists and turns and allows for a number of exciting and tense action sequences, the obvious highlight being Hunt’s vertigo-inducing excursion outside the 830m high, 163 floor Burj Khalifa (all the more effective given Tom Cruise’s commitment to doing most of his own stunts) as well as the final face off with Hendricks (played with appropriate villainy by Nyqvist) in an automatic high rise car park.

Cruise, like him or loathe him (forgetting issues of his personal life, I happen to think he’s a good actor and a top action star), puts in another reliable performance as Ethan Hunt and is joined by new teammates Agent Jane Carter (the beautiful Patton) and Brandt (Renner, star of The Hurt Locker) and re-unites with pal Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg, enjoying a rightfully enlarged part following his cameo in Mission Impossible III).  The group have great chemistry and is a key part of the film’s success.

Brad Bird, director of Pixar’s The Incredibles and Ratatouille makes his live action feature film debut here and it doesn’t show as he handles proceedings with skill and expertise.  Bird keeps things flowing at an appropriate pace, never becoming overwhelmed with the big scale action set-pieces.

Tying things together nicely is another exciting score from Michael Giacchino (who also scored Mission: Impossible III), incorporating Lalo Schifrin’s original themes from the television series.

Why you should watch it

Ghost Protocol is the best in the Mission: Impossible film series, it features engaging characters, edge of the seat thrills and even a measure of humour.  Seeing it is a mission you should definitely choose to accept.

Standout moment

Planning to intercept the launch codes from Hendricks the IMF team arrive at the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.  Part of their plan requires access to the building’s servers which they can only reach undetected from the outside – the team volunteer Hunt as the man for the job…

Did you know?

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is not only the most financially (as well as critically) successful in the series but is Tom Cruise’s biggest hit, grossing almost $700 million world-wide.

Watch it if you like…

Mission: Impossible III, The Bourne Legacy

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is currently available on Blu-ray and DVD from Paramount Home Entertainment.

Tom Cruise's commitment to his own stunt work adds to the excitement of the Mission: Impossible film series.

Tom Cruise’s commitment to his own stunt work adds to the excitement of the Mission: Impossible film series.

Was ‘Iron Man Three’ a missed opportunity?

This article contains a minor SPOILER

Tony Stark returns…

So, some weeks have passed since the release of Iron Man Three (and two other highly anticipated blockbusters have been released – Star Trek Into Darkness and Man of Steel), getting Marvel’s ‘Cinematic Phase Two’ under way and quickly passing the $1 Billion mark, becoming the fifth highest-grossing film of all time.  Despite overall critical acclaim and general audience approval I can’t help but feel that Iron Man Three was a disappointment and a missed opportunity to deliver a truly great Iron Man film.

I’ve been a fan of Iron Man since my pre-teens in the early 1990s – long before the big screen debut of the character in 2008.  Admittedly it took a couple of viewings before I fully accepted the first Iron Man, I had misgivings initially – the light tone and quick fire one-liners I really didn’t expect considering that the comic books at the time were dark and serious, infused with post 9/11 angst and weren’t afraid to tap deep into Tony Stark’s demons.

Robert Downey Jr. won me over.  An actor whose performances I had always enjoyed, his take on Stark whilst not quite the character I quite knew from the comics was a very personal one (given RDJ’s troubled past) and I eventually got this and surrendered to this new approach.  Plus, it was Iron Man on the big screen with plenty of moments to be excited and geeky about!

Iron Man 2 came about with even more witty quips but again, many cool Iron Man moments (armour in a suitcase!) and despite its flaws I still found it to be highly enjoyable.  Avengers Assemble not only fully lived up to its promise but provided Robert Downey Jr’s best performance in the role thus far.

But, deep down I always wanted to see a more serious exploration of Tony Stark and for him to face a darker threat that would truly challenge him to be a hero.  The trailers for Iron Man Three seemed to promise all this and more – a troubled Stark, struggling to reconcile the events of Avengers Assemble, the shadowy emergence of a new threat from a powerful villain and pulse-pounding excitement all the way as Stark’s world crumbles around him.

Despite delivering some adrenalin inducing action set-pieces, when finally seeing the film, I felt cheated.  The tone remained light with the one liners coming a bit too thick and fast, Stark’s turmoil uneasily and unevenly dealt with (moments of anxiety attacks sprinkled here and there, quickly shrugged off) and most of all the unforgiveable handling of the “Mandarin”.  This is my main problem with the film, he could have been as memorable and as threatening as the Joker and Bane and as I’ve said, a real challenge to Stark – all that promise built up in the first hour of the film fizzling out once THAT twist comes, killing the possibility of us ever seeing Iron Man’s most iconic nemesis as a true, engaging threat.

I’m not saying that Iron Man Three needed to be The Dark Knight Rises but it really could have been their best film to date, delivering a slight tonal shift that wouldn’t alienate the established audience but draw on the more weightier dramatic elements teased in the film’s marketing, without sacrificing the fun we’ve come to expect from a Marvel film.

News emerged on Thursday of Marvel’s two picture deal with Robert Downey Jr. for Avengers 2 and 3.  I am looking forward to seeing Robert Downey Jr. continue as Tony Stark and honestly believe that Iron Man’s finest cinematic hours are yet to come and perhaps that will be in those two Avengers sequels.  That said the truth is that RDJ has set his portrayal of the character and sadly that truly great Iron Man film (I ponder) may require another take by another actor and an eventual (inevitable?) fourth solo Iron Man will be the perfect opportunity for this to happen.

All in all, despite some good action I maintain that Iron Man Three missed the mark considering what it could have been (and what the fanboy in me was screaming to see).  This rant aside, I’ll still buy the Blu-ray (lest there be any gaps in the collection!) and I hope that I might reappraise Iron Man Three much as I did the first one so let’s see how it holds up then.

Iron Man Three is released on Blu-ray and DVD in September (look out for my review in due course).

Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark - a very personal take on the character

Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark – a very personal take on the character.

What are your thoughts on Iron Man Three and Robert Downey Jr‘s take on Tony Stark? Leave a comment below!

Terminator 5…really?

He always said he’d be back…

The long mooted Terminator 5 is moving ahead with Arnold Schwarzenegger poised to return as our favourite killer cyborg.  But, I have to ask, should there be a fifth Terminator film?

Firstly, I am a huge fan of the Terminator franchise in general (and enjoy a good Arnie film as much as anyone), James Cameron’s The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day rate highly amongst some of my all-time favourite films and I really enjoyed the overlooked short-lived small screen spin-off Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines had its moments and is generally entertaining but just wasn’t the same (imagine if Cameron had done a third film) but director McG’s Terminator Salvation totally missed the mark, promising a lot but delivering very little resulting in an uncertain and convoluted mess.  That was it for me, I was content to let the franchise retire, be nostalgic and relive happy memories by periodically revisiting T1 and T2.

Cue Arnie’s return to Hollywood following the conclusion of his political career and I doubt few were surprised that Terminator 5 was one of the first (if not THE first) projects being discussed.  The production rights to the franchise were secured by Annapurna Pictures with Fast & Furious director Justin Lin attached, only for him to subsequently drop out due to his commitments to Fast & Furious 6.

It seemed that T5 would languish in development hell but now news has emerged that Paramount Pictures are in talks to acquire distribution rights and it looks like the project is (more or less) set to go again with sights set on a January start date for production.

I’m glad that Arnie is back in town, his role in The Expendables 2 was fun (if a little cringe inducing at times) and The Last Stand showed potential.  Having grown up spending many late Saturday nights watching and loving his films (and I still do), it’s like welcoming back an old friend.  I’m certainly looking forward to seeing him team up with pal (and once box office rival) Sylvester Stallone in The Expendables 3 and the forthcoming Escape Plan and not even his age is really an issue so far as T5 is concerned (the wonders of modern digital effects – just look at what was accomplished in Tron Legacy with the post de-ageing of Jeff Bridges), it’s the fact that if T3 triggered a decline in the quality of the Terminator films then Terminator Salvation damn well secured it.  What if T5 is another ill-conceived embarrassment?  Is it really worth the risk of building up the hopes of audiences?  I appreciate it’s too early to tell but I’m not confident that it is, I’d love to be proven wrong and nothing would please me more than to report that Terminator is back on form but I’d sooner see Arnie move on to other (hopefully great) things and let be what once was (unless James Cameron fancies another crack).

What are your thoughts on Terminator 5?  Leave a comment below!

Terminator-2-judgement-day

Film review: Man of Steel (spoiler free)

Superman returns (again)…

 

Starring:  Henry Cavill, Michael Shannon, Russell Crowe, Amy Adams

Directed by:  Zack Snyder / Written by:  David S. Goyer / 143 minutes

What’s it about?

With the planet Krypton on the verge of destruction, scientist Jor-El places his infant son aboard a spacecraft and sends him to safety on a planet called Earth.

Raised by a kind farmer and his wife, Clark Kent grows to discover he has incredible abilities and when Krypton’s former military leader and traitor General Zod emerges from imprisonment in the ‘Phantom Zone’ he finds that he must confront his true heritage and rise to become Earth’s greatest protector…

In review

Man of Steel comes seven years (yes, it’s been that long!) after the titular superhero’s last cinematic outing, Superman ReturnsX-Men director Bryan Singer’s enjoyable yet over nostalgic love letter to Richard Donner’s Superman: The Movie (1978).  It failed to capture the hearts and minds of audiences being viewed as too reverential without breaking new ground for the character and making him relatable in the 21st Century.

Singer’s contract for a sequel expiring, Warner Brothers and DC Comics- with their fingers poised over the ‘reset’ button – actively pursued a fresh approach under the aegis of the Dark Knight trilogy’s director Christopher Nolan (serving as Producer and sharing a ‘Story By’ credit with screenwriter David S. Goyer) with Watchmen and 300 director Zack Snyder at the directorial reins.

So, then was Man of Steel worth the wait?  Most definitely!  It does all that Superman Returns didn’t and more, presenting the most iconic superhero in a modern and relatable manner and placing him firmly at the centre of the DC Comics cinematic universe.

Henry Cavill evokes every facet of Krypton’s Last Son giving us a conflicted and uncertain Clark Kent who grows as he uncovers his true heritage and destiny.  Once he dons that suit and cape (sans trunks thankfully) there is no doubt that he IS Superman, equally adept at sharing romantic chemistry with the feisty Amy Adams (Lois Lane) as he is at grappling physically and verbally with Michael Shannon’s maniacal General Zod (more than capable of going toe-to-toe with Terence Stamp).  Cavill totally inhabits the part.

Russell Crowe has stature and strength as Jor-El and Kevin Costner and Diane Lane (Jonathan and Martha Kent respectively) instil the morals and humanity that form Clark Kent’s character as he tries to find his place in the world.

Man of Steel is by far Zack Snyder’s best film, able to handle fast pace and epic CGI filled action set-pieces (including some exhilarating flight AND fight scenes) just as well as he does the more intimate, dramatic moments.  With some striking cinematography, the look and tone of the film is grounded with a sense of heightened reality (well, as real as you can make a Superman film) in a similar vein to Nolan’s Batman films, dark and gritty without betraying the optimism of the man in red and blue.

But amongst all the action and excitement (and there is a lot of visual excitement and destruction on a scale that puts even the mighty Marvel’s Avengers Assemble to shame) there is a rich and layered story with heart and emotional resonance that holds it all together.  Screenwriter David S. Goyer (co-writer of the Dark Knight trilogy) clearly understands the characters and their universe and how to place the fantastic elements of a super being into the real world.  With Clark Kent’s back-story neatly peppered throughout as a series of flashbacks we are given an insight into the ‘human’ aspects of the character.

The film is generally well-paced although it does struggle a little at first, the opening scenes on Krypton feeling a little rushed.  Hanz Zimmer’s wonderful score (at times reminiscent of The Dark Knight Rises – by no means a negative point) rounds out the package nicely adding that extra layer of mystery, excitement and emotion.

In terms of viewing preference Man of Steel needs to be seen on the biggest screen possible.  The 3D post conversion doesn’t add all that much to the film but it is certainly worthy of the extra cost of an IMAX ticket.

The bottom line:  Man of Steel ticks all the boxes.  It is a breathtaking, well-conceived and well executed superhero blockbuster with a heart and holds much promise for sequels whilst setting audiences on the right path for the inevitable Justice League film.  Once again you WILL believe a man can fly…

See it if you like… Superman, Batman Begins

Man of Steel is in cinemas now.

What do you think of Man of Steel?  Leave your spoiler-free comments below!

henry-cavill-man-of-steel

Comic book review: Superman Unchained #1 (spoiler free)

A new funny book for the Man of Steel…

What’s it about?

In “The Leap”, eight satellites mysteriously come crashing down to Earth in a single day, seven – including a secret American/Japanese/Russian co-venture – are brought down safely by Superman.  Suspecting that Lex Luthor is responsible, the plot thickens as Clark Kent discovers that someone else has diverted the eighth satellite, bringing it down into the Andaman Sea…

In review

Superman Unchained sees the launch of the hotly anticipated new monthly Superman title from DC Comics by current New 52 Batman writer Scott Snyder and fan favourite artist (and DC Comics Co-Publisher) Jim Lee (Justice League).

Given that DC’s other current monthly New 52 Superman titles (Action Comics and Superman) have been receiving a mixed response from both critics and fans (I dropped Action Comics after around #4 myself and haven’t even read Superman) a lot has been riding on Superman Unchained and thankfully Snyder and Lee have delivered the goods.

Superman is a difficult character to get right, he’s an awesome character with plenty to appreciate but for every decent Superman comic book story there always seems to be two or three mediocre ones.  Snyder gets the nuances of the Superman/Clark Kent dichotomy and doesn’t reinvent the character, he just reminds us of what is so great about the world’s premier superhero.  Yes he has amazing abilities that every boy (and geeky man-boy) dream of but it’s also the strength of his moral code and the ‘human’ aspects of Krypton’s last son that make him interesting and relatable.  Snyder also realises the importance of Superman’s supporting cast and there’s some fun little moments with Perry White, Lois Lane and Jimmy Olson.

Of course this wouldn’t be Superman without the action to complement proceedings.  There’s a pulse-pounding opening sequence that sees our hero grapple with the colossal A.I. enhanced satellite known as the ‘Lighthouse’ and Jim Lee’s art (together with his long time collaborators, inker Scott Williams and colourist Alex Sinclair) is, as you would expect, nothing short of sublime – detailed, rich and epic.

Following a tantalising cliff-hanger, the issue is rounded off with a back-up epilogue story by Snyder and artist Dustin Nguyen and an insightful “5.2 questions with Scott Snyder and Jim Lee”.

The bottom line:  Superman Unchained is off to a good start, nicely building anticipation for issues to come with a potentially epic storyline that’s only just beginning.  It’s the Superman comic you’ve been waiting for!

Superman Unchained #1 is out now in print and digital formats from DC Comics.

SU1

Bond 24: is Sam Mendes worth waiting for?

For a time it almost seemed like we’d never see another James Bond film.  Of course, that all changed last October when the most commercially and critically successful entry in the Bond film series (so far) was released a long, hard four years (call me impatient) after 2008’s Quantum of Solace.

Bond 23 aka Skyfall, as you no doubt know (who doesn’t?) was helmed by American Beauty’s Oscar Winning Director Sam Mendes and whilst I personally wouldn’t declare it as the best Bond film of all (a close tie between From Russia With Love and Goldfinger?  I’ll save that debate for another time) as many have I would certainly rank it as one of the best.  Mendes definitely brought a touch of class and sophistication that eased the pain of the franchise’s cinematic low points (Die Another Day – I’m looking squarely at you).

So, Skyfall is released and the box office tills ring to the tune of $1 Billion and the film enjoys much adulation from critics and fans alike.  It seemed only natural that Bond producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson would do all that they could to repeat that level of success, the same would be true of any film franchise and can only (at least potentially) be a good thing – right?

Unfortunately, a director of Mendes’ stature with a body of quality and varied work may want to pursue other things (despite the lure of an enticingly hefty fee).  Earlier in the year negotiations came to a close with Mendes’ busy schedule forcing him to withdraw graciously without any notion of directing the next Bond, despite a genuine desire to do so.

The search for a new director commenced with a vow from Broccoli and Wilson to bring Mendes back for a future Bond outing.  Christopher Nolan was among the names churned out by the rumour mill (unlikely as he is currently working on his first post-Batman film project, Interstellar – due for release in November 2014), but – wait – current word on the grapevine is that Mendes could very well be returning for Bond 24…in 2016.  So, it’ll result in another four year wait – if we end up with another high quality Bond film then so be it but the big question really would now seem to be can Daniel Craig pull it off?  He’s the best 007 since Sean Connery but by 2016 Craig will be approaching 50, by no means ancient in today’s society but it’s hard not to think back to Roger Moore’s later adventures.

So in the quest for an answer to the question that headlines this post (thanks for sticking with me) I would say yes…and no.  I most definitely would like to see where else Bond could be taken under the guidance of Sam Mendes but why not bring him back for Bond 25 (and round out Daniel Craig’s tenure on a high)?  There could be an equally exciting director out there, eager and ready to go who could provide their own flavour to the series, safe in the knowledge that Skyfall screenwriter John Logan has been tapped to write Bond 24 and 25?

Either way I look forward to Bond 24 but wish it was sooner rather than later…

skyfall