Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Supernatural: The Complete Fourth Season

Written by Pirata Hermosa

When Supernatural first started, it was about two estranged brothers, Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) Winchester. Sam was going to college and trying to forget about the death of their mother, while Dean was busy following their father and trying to hunt down the demon that killed her. But everything changed when their father went missing and the demon that killed Mrs. Winchester killed Sam’s girlfriend. Vowing to track down the demon and find their father, the two set off for an adventure that would bring them face to face with monsters, demons, and creatures of ancient lore.

While the first two seasons served up storylines more along the monster-of-the-week mindset, seasons three and four made a more dramatic turn bringing the Winchester back-story to the forefront. Dean had a year to live as he traded his soul in order to save his brother’s life. Most of season three covered their attempts to find the demon that owned the contract to his soul and how they might find a way out of the deal. In the season finale, they failed to find an answer and Dean was dragged to hell by the demon Lilith.

Season four starts off four months later. Dean has been in Hell for what has seemed to him like forty years, and suddenly finds himself back on Earth. He remembers every moment of the torment that he suffered, but has no memory of how he managed to escape. Having a hard time dealing with the loss of his brother, Sam turns to the demon Ruby (Genevieve Cortese), who Sam believes is trying to help them. Not only does he become romantically entangled with her, but he is consuming her blood to give himself powers. While Dean is occupied on finding out how and why he escaped from Hell, Sam is finding it harder and harder to keep his newfound powers under control and hidden from his brother.

But what is the one thing that can save a man from Hell? It’s not another demon or blind luck that saved him. The angel Castiel (Misha Collins) was sent down to pluck him from unending torture. Dean has a destiny to fulfill. He is the only person who can stop Lilith from breaking the seals that bind Lucifer to Hell and stop the oncoming apocalypse.

It may seem like the cavalry has arrived to help the brothers combat the forces of evil, but the angels aren’t those written in fairy tales with fluffy white wings overflowing with love and good thoughts. No, these angels are Old Testament, feel-the-wrath-of-God, smite-your-enemies-by-wiping-out-the-entire-city angels. They have their own hidden agenda and they don’t mess around. And when they learn of Sam playing around with dark forces and demon blood, it’s all Dean can do to protect his brother.

Even though season four has a pretty heavy feel to it with the main overall thread, there are still a number of independent episodes that break up the tension rather nicely.

Some of my favorites were:

“Wishful Thinking” is about a town with a real wishing well. Wishes are coming true, but they aren’t exactly what the wisher asked for and are slightly perverted. You’ll never look at your stuffed animals the same way again after watching this one.

“Monster Movie” takes place in a small town during Oktoberfest. It’s filmed in black and white, which fits in perfectly with the fact that Hollywood’s most classic film monsters are prowling the streets.

“After School Special” brings the Winchesters back to one of their former high schools. It contains a number of flashbacks to their childhood and gives you an inside look of how they grew up to be the men they are now.

The Special Features on the DVD are:

1. The Mythologies of Supernatural: From Heaven to Hell is the most interesting extra feature on the DVD. It’s divided into three sections: Paradise, Purgatorio and Inferno. Each section has several small documentaries on how the writers came up with their storylines, and also involves scholars, and authors on Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Hinduism. It discusses issues about free will, angels, miracles, the war between good and evil, and the origin of Lilith.

2. Creator Commentary on “In The Beginning,” “When The Levee Breaks,” “Lucifer Rising.”

3. Extended Unaired Scenes from “Lazarus Rising,” “In The Beginning,” “Heaven And Hell,” “On The Head of a Pin,” “The Monster At The End of This Book,” “The Rapture,” and “Lucifer Rising.”

4. The Gag Reel is a rather long set of clips from the show. There are a couple of practical jokes, a lot of farting, and then a lot of random laughing during the middle of takes.

Supernatural is one of the better shows currently on the air. It’s a well-written show that does an excellent job of balancing its darker moments with just the right amount of levity and inside jokes. It reminds me of a Joss Whedon show, slightly more serious and just a little cooler. Some of the episodes are as good as or better than any horror film you might see in the theatres.

I don’t want to spoil the cliffhanger for anyone, but I can’t wait for Season Five to start because Lucifer and the Apocalypse are coming.

earth (2009)

Written by Fantasma el Rey

Disneynature is the United States distributor for the fascinating earth, a companion piece to the 2006 television series Planet Earth. Using state-of-the-art technology and a skilled staff, the shots of animals and landscapes appear flawless, timeless, and as if a camera and man were never around to follow them as they migrate from place to place while James Earl James narrates.

Earth features many animals in their native lands, but it is three families that the spotlight shines on the most. The first are polar bears, a mother and her playful cubs as well as a look at the father. The father is off on his own hunting a meal while the mother looks after her cubs and tries to provide for them as she ensures their survival. There are some wonderful shots as they emerge from their den and the young get their footing on a slippery slope. We watch as they hunt the fragile, frozen-over bays, looking for the first meal after the long winter. These hunting grounds on frozen water begin to dissolve faster each year which is the real danger to their survival. There is a tragic, yet beautifully shot scene of the father desperately swimming to find solid ground.

Next, a mother elephant and her calf face dust storms, exhaustion, and lions as they head to summer watering holes. It’s a harsh life and the cameras stay focused as the blinding dust swirls and the lions pounce. With some great aerial shots, we can watch as the mother and calf push on after they have become separated from the herd and take days to catch up. Also caught on film here are other hunters such as the cheetah, who uses its speed to run down a gazelle.

The last family portrait is that of a mother humpback whale and her calf as they head to warmer water and plentiful feeding areas to spend the season. We get a good look at the way the whale “traps” its food as they force shrimp up toward the surface in a circle allowing the whale to glide through, mouth open, and scoop up its meal. There is some nice underwater footage and a nice shot of a great white shark as it lunges up through the water to nab a seal in its massive jaws.

All along the way the cameras caught many others images, including some great planetary shots from space. Monkeys and exotic birds doing crazy dances are brought to us in all their unique glory. Flowers in bloom and changing landscapes are breathtaking and shown through time-lapse photography as they change from season to season. We watch as snow melts to provide massive waterfalls in a scope and fashion not seen this clearly before. Special cameras that move in all directions with the flick of a switch were mounted to helicopters to make this film even better. The latest in multi-image capturing cameras where also employed to snap shots of speedy land creatures as well as high-breeching, quick-diving, massive sea beasts.

The Blu-ray disc contains “exclusive filmmaker annotations” while both Blu-ray and DVD include the 45-minute making of documentary “Earth Diaries,” a good look at how the film was made but may give away a bit too much of its “Hollywood magic” tricks as at times its revealed that some scenes of animals may not be the same family that we are lead to believe we are following. The Blu-ray is presented in 1080p, with a 1.78:1 aspect ratio and 5.1 DTS HD sound.

Earth is good and entertaining with some humorous moments along with tragic ones. There are lots of scenes with youngsters being picked off by predators but that is the way life goes and we forget that some times being removed from those primitive dangers. The overall message is clear that we may never be able to see these creatures in this form again as their native lands are being lost for whatever reasons, be it man, man-made destruction, or simply our Earth going though another one of its own changes. A film easily enjoyed on an evening with family around to share it.