“CHARMED” RETROSPECT: (6.17) “Hyde School Reunion”

 

“CHARMED” RETROSPECT: (6.17) “Hyde School Reunion”

”Hyde School Reunion” is an episode from Season Six of the TV series, ”CHARMED” (1998-2006). It is viewed as controversial by many fans of the show. I wish I could say that its controversy revolved around any innovative storytelling. I wish I could say this . . . but I cannot. Because ”Hyde School Reunion” is without a doubt one of the worst ”CHARMED”episodes to air on television.

In this episode, Phoebe (Alyssa Milano) inadvertently cast a spell – written in her high school yearbook – that allowed her wild personality from her “troubled” adolescent to take over her. And this all happened at her tenth high school reunion. At the same time, Piper (Holly Maries Combs) is trying to figure out why Chris (Drew Fuller), who had recently been revealed as her son from the future, has been avoiding her. She recruits the help of her dad Victor Bennett (James Read) to delve into the big mystery. In the end, Piper and Victor learned that Chris is wary of Piper’s presence, because she is destined to die fourteen years in the future. Ugh. Also, Chris is being hunted by Scabber demons. As for Phoebe . . . oh God, it resulted in one big mess.

In a nutshell, younger Phoebe or ”Freebie” – as one of her old schoolmates had nicknamed her – wrecked havoc with magic by plotting the escape of an old classmate named Rick Gittridge (Rodney Rowland) from jail. When Rick realized that his former classmate can use magic, he wants her – namely Phoebe – to help him rob an armored car. I would loveNOT to go into details of how this all unfolds. Must I? Must I do this? Sigh! I suppose I must. Anyway, the other two Halliwells whisked Phoebe back to the Manor before she could do anything about Rick. When she returned to Rick, Phoebe learned that one of her old school mates, Ramona, is missing. Rick had kidnapped her to secure Phoebe’s help. They robbed an armored car, but Phoebe cast a spell upon Rick, making him believe that the cops are almost upon them. They fled back to the Manor, where Rick ended up insisting that Phoebe give him a new face before he tells her where Ramona is. Paige appeared and Phoebe suggested that the younger sister give Rick Chris’ face. Chris – who is being hunted by Scabber demons. Rick ended up pleased – until the Scabber demons show up and killed him.

The positive aspects of ”Hyde School Reunion” came in the subplot involving Chris, Piper and Victor. Although I could not understand why Chris could warn his grandfather to stop smoking in order to avoid emphysema and prevent Paige from being killed by Titans (see ”Oh Goddess!” from late Season 5), prevent Wyatt from turning evil, yet could not warn his mother that she will be dead in fourteen years for fear of changing the timeline? What the hell? What saved this subplot were the performances of Chris Fuller, Holly Marie Combs and James Read.

Unfortunately, the major plotline for ”Hyde School Reunion” revolved around Phoebe’s high school reunion and her messy little ”flashback” to her adolescent past. There was so much wrong with this story that I had to make a list:

*Phoebe graduated from high school in 1994? In 1994, she was eighteen, going on nineteen. What happened? She had to repeat a grade?

*Alyssa Milano and Rose McGowan’s outfits at the reunion – questionable. Poor Rose looked as if her jacket was made from the fur of a dead animal that had the bad luck to be dyed in a garish turquoise blue. Alyssa’s boobs looked as if they threatened to pop out any minute. Even worse, her nipples are so obvious that they seemed toshout at the television screen.

*In the previous episode, ”The Courtship of Wyatt’s Father”, Leo finally managed to boink Piper and plant baby Chris in her. Yet, in the following episode – namely this one – Piper is “months” pregnant. How many months had passed between the two episodes? I realize that Holly Marie Combs was pregnant at the time, but talk about ill timing!

*Why do nearly every Halliwell sister either seemed to possess that hideous hairstyle that consisted of long hair and bangs, braces or all? Do you think I am exaggerating? Take a gander at the photos below –

Prue transformed back to her seventeen year-old self in “Be Careful What You Witch For”

Piper’s high school yearbook photo in “Coyote Piper”

Phoebe’s high school yearbook photo in “Hyde School Reunion”

Paige transformed back to her seventeen year-old self in “A Paige From the Past”

*Phoebe wrote a poem in her high school yearbook . . . that turned out to be a spell? My God, how lame!

*How is it that one of Phoebe’s old gym teacher, Miss Hickok, has no idea that Phoebe is now a famous columnist, whose mug is plastered on billboards all over San Francisco?

*I realize that in this episode, Freebie has adult Phoebe’s powers. Could someone please explain how she learned how to use magic? Please? Adult Phoebe knew nothing of magic until she was two months shy of her 23rd birthday? How did adolescent Freebie suddenly learn how to cast a spell and turn her old classmates into teenaged Neanderthals? Hell, the only magic that Phoebe knew around 22 and 23 were the old ”The Power of Three will set us free” chant and her premonitions, over which she had (and possessed) no control.

*Chris, who is the son of a chef, had no idea what mutton was? Being a vegetarian is no excuse. Unless mutton no longer exists in the 2020s.

*Why were Scabber demons after Chris? That story plot had evaded me.

*Could someone PLEASE explain how Freebie managed to shapeshift Rick, who was disguised as a guard, back to his old self with a flick of her wrist? HOW? Even adult Phoebe lacked this ability. She would have had to use a spell or chant to do this. Shapeshifting was not one of her psi abilities.

*Between the time Piper and Paige had teleported Phoebe from the warehouse to the Manor and back took less than a minute. How did Rick managed to tie up Todd – another Freebie classmate – and hide Ramona in that short space of time?

*Why didn’t Phoebe simply use a spell to coerce Rick into revealing where he had hidden Ramona . . . instead of aiding him in his so-called crime spree?

The major faux pas of ”Hyde School Reunion” centered around the death of Rick Gittridge. Many fans have commented on certain acts surrounding the unfolding events. One, why did Paige fail to teleport orb the shotgun from Rick’s hand? Two, why did Phoebe suggest that Paige turn Rick’s face into Chris’ face before Rick could verify where he had hidden Ramona . . . so that the Scabber demons would go after him? Why did she not do the dirty deed, herself?

Some member of a ”CHARMED” message board once commented that this entire scene lacked sense because as ”good witches”, the Charmed Ones would have never set up a human to be killed by demons. I say . . . bullshit to that! The Halliwells have proven in the past how murderous and self-righteous they could be. How many times has Prue – believing to be wronged – allowed her temper to get the best of her? In “P3 H2O”, a very self-righteous Phoebe had accused Sam Wilder – Mommy Dearest’s whitelighter and Paige’s dad – of failing to save Patty before the latter was killed by a water demon. Paige was stupid, murderous and self-righteous enough to attempt to kill Cole when he had finally given up on getting Phoebe back in ”Centennial Charmed”. ”Mortality Bites” is a prime example of how murderous and self-righteous the Halliwells can be. I will tell you exactly what really bothered me about ”Hyde School Reunion”:

Phoebe: How do we know you’re telling the truth?

Rick: You don’t. Now, my face. Make it different. Heartbreaking, charming, young.

(Phoebe gets an idea.)

Phoebe: You know, I’m thinking maybe you should use our nephew for inspiration.

Paige: “Who you were, you’re now another, take the face of Wyatt’s brother.”

(Rick turns into Chris. He looks in the mirror.)

Chris: Yeah, I like it. This’ll work.

Paige: Pheebs, watch out, this could get messy. (Phoebe and Paige hide behind a wall. Three Scabbar demons appear in the room. Rick shoots at them but doesn’t harm them. They spit the green acid goo at Rick which melts him to nothing. The demons disappear. Phoebe and Paige come out from behind the wall.) You okay?

Phoebe: Yeah.

Paige: You know you had to, right?

Phoebe: I know.

She had to? Phoebe had to give Chris’ face to Rick, knowing that her nephew was being hunted by Scabber demons? Why was it necessary for Phoebe to set Rick up to be murdered? Who in the fuck approved this episode? Oh yes, some joker named Brad Kern. If he is still producing television, the son-of-a-bitch should give up and take up a profession that suits his lack of talent. Moron. And I wonder if Alyssa Milano and Rose McGowan had expressed concerns about what Phoebe and Paige did to Rick. If they did not, they should be ashamed of themselves.

This episode truly ranks as among the worst of the series’ eight year history. Honestly. And the fact that it climaxed into the murder of a human, thanks to the scheming of two of the three major characters really sticks in my craw. But what really pisses me off about ”Hyde School Reunion” is that Kern actually believed that the viewers would sit in front of a television set and accept that Phoebe and Paige’s murderous act was ”necessary”, is an insult not only to my intelligence, but to the intelligence of the series’ many other viewers and fans.

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“CHARMED” – Things That Make Me Go . . . Hmmm?

The following is a list of questions regarding storylines that have been featured in past episodes of “CHARMED”. If you have an answer to any of my questions, please feel free to reply.

“CHARMED” – Things That Make Me Go . . . Hmmm?

1. In Season 7’s “A Call to Arms”, how did Inspector Sheridan and nearly everyone else know about Chris’ death in the Season 6 finale, “It’s a Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad World II”, when just about everyone – except for Leo and the Halliwells – had lost their memories of that alternate dimension, following Gideon’s death?

 
2. Why did Vinceres tell Prue that her powers were no good, when she was using martial arts and not magic, against him in Season 3’s “Primrose Path”?

 
3. Why did Cole in S7’s “The Seven Year Witch” confess to deliberately impregnating Phoebe in late Season 4, when he was actually possessed by the Source at that time?

 

 

4. Why did warlocks in Season 1 morph into vampiric game faces? Are they not suppose to be witches (who are mortals) that had simply gone bad?

 
5. Speaking of warlocks, why were they portrayed as immortals? Was Constance Burge, Brad Kern and their writers trying to hint that when witches become warlocks, they become immortals?

 
6. Why do the Charmed Ones keep referring to their witch ancestors as the “Halliwell women” or the “Halliwell line” in their conversations and spells? According to family tree depicted in Season 2’s “Pardon My Past”, their mother, Patty, was the first in their family to be born as a Halliwell.

 

 

7. And why did Grams remind Prue and Piper in S3’s “Just Harried” that the women in their family kept their maiden names after marriage? She used the name of Halliwell, which belonged to her first husband. And her maiden name was Johnson.

 
8. And what was the first name of the Charmed One’s maternal grandfather – Jack (S2’s “Pardon My Past”) or Allen (S6’s“Witchstock”)?

 
9. Why did Leo claim in S3’s “Exit Strategy” that he was born in 1924? Does this mean that he was attending medical school at the age of 17, when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in December 1941?

 

 

10. Why would the BAY-MIRROR’s editor-in-chief, Elise Rothman, leave Phoebe, an advice columnist, in charge of the newspaper for a whole day in order to teach the witch a lesson in S7’s “Scry Hard”? Was she crazy?

 
11. Why did Leo tell Victor that the sisters were NOT mortals, when nearly every demon on the show has referred to them and other witches as mortals?

 
12. Both Cole and Vinceres had discussed that mortals (witches included) who were not natural empaths, could not handle an overload of emotions in “Primrose Path”. Yet, Prue had claimed demons could not handle such a large amount of emotions, despite the fact that Vinceres had carried Father Thomas’ empathy power for at least two years. Did the writer(s) of “Primrose Path” create a contradiction?

 

 

13. Why was the Source so contemptuous of Phoebe’s psychic abilities in Season 4’s “Charmed and Dangerous”, when he had relied so heavily upon seers like the Oracle and the Seer?

 
14. Why did Darryl take orders from Inspector Sheridan, when as a police lieutenant, he ranked higher?

 
15. How did Cole get his job back at Jackman, Carter and Kline at the beginning of Season 5?

 
16. Why are other witches on the show portrayed as helpless or semi-helpless?

 

 

17. Why did Leo assumed that Cole was automatically “good”, when the latter had lost his powers in S4’s “Black As Cole” and S7’s“Sympathy For the Demon”? Had he forgotten the evil humans that the sisters had confronted in the past?

 
18. Why did Phoebe assume that she would die on the same date that her past self had died, back in 1924 in “Pardon My Past”? She made this assumption before acquiring any real proof.

 
19. And why did Phoebe say in the above episode that she was the same age in February 2000, as her past self – P. Russell – was in February 1924? Phoebe was 24 years and 3 months old at the time. Her past self was 29½ years old at the time of her death.

 
20. Why did the Charmed Ones and Leo had automatically assumed that using the Hollow made Cole the Source? He had the old Source’s powers when the sisters killed the latter. And possessing Piper and Paige’s powers did not make the Source two-thirds of the Charmed Ones.

 

 

21. Why didn’t the Source simply kill the Charmed Ones after he had failed to turn Paige in “Charmed Again II”?

 
22. Why did Cole have such difficulty fighting the Halliwells in S3’s “Power Outage”, when had had managed to kill the more formidable Triad so easily?

 
23. Why are whitelighters (guardian angels) given authority over witches?

 

 

24. Why does the show feature witches engaged in demon hunting/slaying ONLY?

 
25. Once they had discovered that Cole was the Source in late S4, why didn’t the Charmed Ones bother to investigate on how he had become the Source in the first place?

 
26. How did Darryl explain Andy’s death inside the Halliwell manor in Season 1’s “Déjà vu All Over Again” to his supervisor?

 

 

27. Why didn’t Paige simply orb the gun out of Rick’s hand in S6’s “Hyde School Reunion”?

 
28. When Phoebe was taken over by the spirit (karma) of Mata Hari in S6’s “Used Karma”, why was she speaking with a French accent, when the former spy had been born in Java to Dutch parents?

 
29. Why did Phoebe become hostile toward Cole between the S4 finale, “Witch Way Is Now” and the S5 premiere, “A Witch’s Tail” after he had saved her life from the witch hunter, F.B.I. Agent Jackman?

 

 

30. Why would the supernatural world depend ONLY upon the Charmed Ones to fight demonic activity? What about other witches and demon hunters who were around long before the sisters had first retrieved their powers in the S1 premiere, “Something Wicca Comes This Way”?

 
31. Why is pyrokinesis (fire power) regarded by Leo and the Charmed Ones as evil in most of the episodes, and neutral in S4’s “Lost and Bound”?

 
32. Why did Cole have to become increasingly demonic in order to kill another half-demon in S4’s “Black As Cole”, when he did not have to do so in order to form an energy ball strong enough to kill the Source in “Brain Drain”?

 
33. Why would the Vampire Queen’s death enable Paige to avoid remaining a vampire in S4’s “Bite Me”? This does not make sense. Surely she should have remained a vampire, once she had been bitten.

 

 

34. How can the Charmed Ones travel to or exist in the past and their powers cannot, especially since their powers are supposed to be a part of themselves?

 
35. How can the Charmed Ones be witches, when they have never taken oaths or taken part in an initiation ceremony to become one?
36. According to the show, a witch becomes a warlock in the first place when he/she breaks his/her oath as a witch. So, why are warlocks described as immortals on the show?

 
37. Why does the Halliwell Museum of Witchcraft in “Chris-Crossed” featured the outfit Phoebe wore as a mermaid and the outfits the sisters wore in “Witches in Tights” (shudder!) on display? All outfits should have no longer existed, since Phoebe reverted back to being a human and the superheroine outfits were figments of that kid’s imagination.

 

Top Ten Favorite TIME TRAVEL Television Episodes

Below is a list of my top favorite television episodes that feature time travel:

 

TOP TEN FAVORITE TIME TRAVEL TELEVISION EPISODES

1. “Future’s End” (“Star Trek Voyager”; 1996) – A 29th century timeship causes a time paradox when it accidentally sends itself and Voyager to two different periods in 20th century Earth.

2. “Tempus Fugitive” (“Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman”; 1995) – Lois Lane and Clark Kent are brought back to the past by H. G. Wells, in an attempt to stop the time-travelling villain Tempus from killing the infant Superman.

3. “Endgame” (“Star Trek Voyager; 2001) – Admiral Kathryn Janeway comes from the future to try and shorten Voyager’s trip home.

4. “War Without End” (Babylon Five; 1996) – Former Babylon 5 commander, Jeffrey Sinclair, returns with a mission vital to the survival of the station – travelling back in time to steal Babylon 4.

5. “LaFleur” (“Lost”; 2009) – The remaining survivors of Flight 815 and the freighter find themselves permanently in the 1970s and become part of the Dharma Initiative, following John Locke’s disappearance.

6. “The City on the Edge of Forever” (“Star Trek”; 1967) – After accidentally overdosing on a powerful stimulant, Dr. McCoy acts erratically and disappears through the Guardian of Forever, a newly-discovered time portal on a remote planet. Captain Kirk and Commander Spock follow after learning that McCoy somehow changed history. Arriving in the 1930s, the duo meet Edith Keeler, a New York social worker who gives them a place to stay. As the days pass, and McCoy is nowhere to be seen, Kirk finds himself falling in love with Keeler… but Spock discovers that Keeler must die to restore the timeline.

7. “Déjà Vu All Over Again” (“Charmed”; 1999) – As a demon makes plans for his attempt to kill the Charmed Ones, he receives a visit from another demon named Tempus, who will turn back time until the demon succeeds in killing all the sisters.

8. “Babylon Squared” (“Babylon Five”; 1994) – A previous station, Babylon 4, reappears at the same place it disappeared four years before; and Jeffrey Sinclair and Michael Garibaldi lead an expedition to evacuate its crew.

9. “Chris-Crossed” (“Charmed”; 2003) – A mysterious woman from the future named Bianca arrives to take Chris Halliwell’s powers and bring him back forcefully to the future.

10. “D.O.A.” (“Timecop”; 1998) – After Jack Logan and his boss, Gene Matuzek are murdered, Claire Hemmings takes an unauthorized trip back to the past to warn Logan.

“CHARMED” RETROSPECT: “Phoebe Halliwell and the Nexus Theory

 

“CHARMED” RETROSPECT:  “PHOEBE HALLIWELL AND THE NEXUS THEORY”

Recently, I watched the ”CHARMED” Season One episode called (1.15) “Is There a Woogy in the House?”. In this episode, Phoebe Halliwell’s childhood fear of a boogeyman in the basement called the ”Woogeyman” proves to be true and it ends up taking possession of her and a few others – including her sister Prue’s ex-boyfriend, Andy Trudeau. Following this experience with the Woogeyman, Phoebe came to a conclusion regarding her moral compass.

The episode began with an aftershock from a previous earthquake. The aftershock not only revealed Phoebe’s childhood fear of something called the “Woogyman”, it has an ongoing source of amusement for her two sisters. That is, until a violent earthquake unleashes a long-dormant shadow demon on the day Prue has plans to hold a dinner party for her boss and a Bucklands’ customer. The latter first takes possession of a repairman, summoned to investigate a strange odor from the manor’s basement. After Prue and Piper leave the manor, the Woogeyman uses the repairman to summon Phoebe to the basement and she also becomes possessed. Phoebe’s strange behavior not only manages to ruin the dinner party, she also summons the Buckland’s client – a Professor Whittlesbey, who knows a good deal about the manor’s history – to the basement and the Woogeyman. Professor Whittlesbey becomes possessed. After Prue and Piper find themselves locked out of the manor by Phoebe, the two set out to discover what Professor Whittlesbey was hinting about the manor, when the dinner party first began. Unfortunately, the possessed professor ends up being arrested after she had physically attacked her assistant, Josh. Prue and Piper learn more details about the Halliwell manor from Josh:

Josh: You know, I’ve met people like that. (He looks at Piper.) A spiritual nexus is a point of incredible energy.

Prue: Equidistant from the five spiritual elements.

Josh: That’s right. The place or thing that could be swayed either way.

Piper: Either way?

Josh: Yeah. Either to be a source of undeniable good or undeniable evil. Uh, look ladies, I’m gonna follow her and make sure she’s okay. Feel free to browse around our office if you think it will help.

In other words, Prue and Piper came to some conclusion that because the manor was situated in the center of this Nexus – shaped as pentagram – it was the source of great power that can be a source of good or evil. Once Phoebe managed to banish the Woogeyman, she came to a conclusion about the Nexus and her moral compass:

Phoebe: I’m beginning to wonder if I have a good one [dark side]. (Prue and Piper stare at her.) Well, I am. I mean, up until now, I didn’t even think I had a dark side. I mean, not any more so than anyone else.

Prue: Yeah, well the important thing is the good side won out.

Phoebe: Yeah, but I must have been more susceptible than either one of you, otherwise he wouldn’t of chosen me, right? Right?

Piper: You were the only one that was born in the house, that makes you more connected to it. That spiritual nexus thing.

Phoebe: That’s exactly my point. I could go either way. Good or evil. Kinda freaky.

What in the hell was Constance Burge thinking? What on earth made her think that someone would be stupid enough to buy such a theory straight out of Sunday school for eight year-olds? Phoebe could easily turn good or evil, because she was born above the Nexus? That was Burge’s idea of characterization?

It was bad enough that Prue got the elements mentioned in the episode wrong:

Prue: Okay, to find a way back in, we have to know what we’re up against. The professor said that a true spiritual nexus sits equidistant from the five basal elements. So, that’s earth, fire, water, wood and metal.

Then she added:

Prue: Looks like it’s not just on a spiritual nexus, but a wiccan one as well. Which means it’s a battleground for good and evil.

The spiritual nexus beneath the manor was definitely not a Wiccan one. Wiccans are associated with the following five elements –earth, fire, water, air and spirit. The five elements mentioned by Prue in the episode are the following – earth, fire, water, wood and metal. These elements are associated with Chinese philosophy, not Wiccans.

But it got worse. At least for me. By the end of the episode, Phoebe claimed that because she was born in the manor (in other words, above the nexus), she was more susceptible to being possessed by the Woogeyman than her sisters. What . . . a . . . load . . . of . . . crap! If for this reason Phoebe was more susceptible toward evil, then one might as well say the same about the others that ended up possessed by the Woogeyman – the repairman, Professor Whittlesey, one of the Halliwell neighbors . . . and Andy Trudeau. And I am certain that not one of them was born inside the manor. If Piper or Prue had been inside that manor alone instead of Phoebe, the Woogeyman could have easily possessed either of them.

Why do I find this Nexus Theory about Phoebe hard to swallow? It does not make any sense to me. That is not good characterization. I do not even know what to call it. Phoebe was more prone to evil . . . and therefore more prone to be possessed by the Woogeyman? Had it ever occurred to Constance Burge or the episode’s writers, Chris Levinson and Zack Estrin, that Phoebe ended up possessed, because she had the bad luck to be in the manor alone with the repairman?

First of all, the series has managed to prove that all four sisters had personality quirks that made them easily prone to evil. Prue’s anger, pride and arrogance made her very susceptible to evil. Probably more so than the other three sisters, due to her anger issues. Piper’s inability to deal with loss and her selfishness made her easily susceptible to evil. Phoebe’s selfishness and willingness to use shortcuts in life made her easily susceptible to evil. And Paige’s self-righteousness and sadistic nature made her susceptible. Everyone – whether in real life or in fiction have personality traits that makes them susceptible to evil. Why Constance Burge could not accept this and instead, used this Nexus Theory to describe Phoebe’s flaws eludes me. Perhaps Burge wanted an easier plot device to describe Phoebe’s personality . . . instead of good old-fashioned, well-written characterization.

I cannot deny that I have always enjoyed “Is There a Woogeyman in the House?”. It has always been one of my favorite episodes from Season One. But this theory about the Nexus and Phoebe’s moral compass nearly ruined it for me. It is a crap theory, supported by bad writing. Instead of recognizing that just about anyone – namely any sentient being can choose a path of good or evil, given the right circumstances or emotional button pushed. But Constance Burge and this episode’s writers decided to resort to easy and sloppy characterization by feeding the viewers this black-and-morality crap that the Nexus would explain Phoebe’s occasional delinquent behavior. It seemed like a bad ending to a pretty good episode.

“AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.” Season Two – At Mid Point

 
“AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.” SEASON TWO – AT MID-POINT

Ever since the second season of Marvel’s “AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.”, many television viewers and critics have waxed lyrical over their belief over the series’ improvement from Season One. And yet … the ratings for the show seemed to reflect differently from this view. Regardless of the opinions of others or the ratings, I have my own views about the show’s Season Two.

I am going to be blunt. I do not like Season Two of “AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.”. In fact, it has turned out to be a major disappointment for me. Last season, many fans and critics complained about the show’s pacing and slow revelation of the season’s main story arc. For them, Mutant Enemy’s handling of Season Two’s story arc has improved a great deal. I disagree. I had no problems with the development of Season One’s story arc. For me, it was no different from the formats for previous Sci-Fi/Fantasy serial television shows like “BABYLON 5”, along with Mutant Enemy’s “BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER” and “ANGEL”. All three shows began their story arcs for each season slowly and eventually build up the story arc to a mind boggling conclusion.“AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.” did the same. Many fans, critics and even Marvel claimed that Season One’s slow build up and occasional breaks had more to do with allowing the season’s story arc to build up to the plot for “CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER”. I say bullshit to that.

“AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.”, like many other television shows with twenty-two (22) episodes per season, usually took occasional breaks in order to stretch out 22 episodes within a time period of seven to eight months. This is nothing new. These breaks have been going on for many television shows for a long time. In their impatience and occasional stupidity, many forgot that. Many also seemed to have forgotten that “AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.” was a serial drama about government agents that work for an intelligence organization … not about superheroes and superheroines. For some reason, many fans ignored the show’s title and honestly expected the constant appearances of costumed Marvel superheroes and superheroines. Why? I have no idea. But Disney (who owns the ABC Network), Marvel and Mutant Enemy decided to heed the complaints for the sake of ratings and change the series’ style.

What did they do? Well, they introduced new characters – especially new agents – in the wake of the downfall of S.H.I.E.L.D. from the spring of 2014. How did Mutant Enemy introduce these new characters? Actually, they did not. Instead, new characters such as Alphonse “Mack” McKenzie, Lance Hunter and Isabelle Hartley had already been recruited as S.H.I.E.L.D. agents when the first episode, (2.01) “Shadows”. The episode also quickly introduced a new villain, a HYDRA official known as Daniel Whitehall, with a flashback to the past. The new characters, along with familiar characters such as Phil Coulson, Melinda May, Skye and Antoine Triplett, were quickly thrust into a new mission, which quickly morphed into part of the season’s new story arc – the recovery of an alien object known as the Obelisk. Everything about this episode seemed to hint “speed”. Missing from “Shadows” was Agent In fact,“speed” seemed to be the essence of the plotting and pacing for the first half of Season Two.

I find it ironic that many fans complained about how certain characters like Akela Amador, Chan Ho Yin and the Asgardian refugee Dr. Elliot Randolph seemed to have come and gone with the wind. Yet, they failed to realize that similar characters in Season Two did the same … or appeared in at least two to three episodes before disappearing. I refer to characters like Isabelle Hartley, Carl Creel, and Senator Christian Ward. But this did not bother me … except for their handling of Agent Amador and Senator Ward. What really bothered me was the handling of certain recurring or main characters.

There have been complaints about Mutant Enemy’s handling of its minority characters … well, its African-American characters. I never understood why it was so important for the Mike Peterson character to disappear after the Season One episode, (1.22) “Beginning of the End”. What the hell happened to him? Ten Season Two episodes have aired since and not once has the series revealed his whereabouts. Come to think of it … what happened to Akela Amador? She was imprisoned by Coulson’s team … even after they had learned that HYDRA had coerced her into pulling off several robberies on their behalf. HYDRA had released prisoners such as Raina and Ian Quinn, after the S.H.I.E.L.D. Civil War. What about Agent Amador? What happened to her? Off all the new S.H.I.E.L.D. agents introduced during Season Two, only two got the shot end of the stick. One of them was Isabelle Hartley, who was killed off in “Shadows”. The other character was Alphonso “Mack” MacKenzie, who was more or less used as some kind of therapy tool for the Leo Fitz character, before being transformed into some kind of zombie in the episode, (2.09) “…Ye Who Enter Here”. As of the season’s mid-season finale, (2.10) “What They Become”, Mack is no longer a “zombie”. But no one knows if he has fully recovered. I fear that Mack’s fate will become similar to that of the Elam Ferguson character from AMC’s “HELL ON WHEELS”.

Ruth Negga continued her role as Raina, the mysterious woman who had aligned herself with HYDRA and later, a man named Calvin Zabo who might be an Inhuman. As it turned out, Raina is also an Inhuman … like Skye. However, she underwent a physical transformation:

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And Skye … did not:
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Why? Why Raina and not Skye? Why did a character portrayed by an actress of Irish and African ancestry transformed into a non-Human form?

Finally, I come to Antoine “Trip” Triplett. The show’s “Legacy” agent, who had played a major role in the defeat of John Garrett, a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent-turned-HYDRA mole at the end of Season One, seemed to have been shoved to the background by the writers under showrunners Joss and Jed Whedon, Maurissa Tancharoen and producer Jeffrey Bell. Why? Mutant Enemy and Marvel claimed that Britt was under contract to the BET series, “BEING MARY JANE”, which meant in their eyes, they could not use him as much as they “wanted”. Hmmm … more bullshit. They were able to use a great deal of Britt in the second half of Season One. And the actor appeared in less than half of the latest season for “BEING MARY JANE”. In fact, the latter has been scheduled by BET to end in 2015. What was the point in sidelining Britt in that manner? And why did they killed off Britt’s character with some of the most contrived writing I have seen on this show in “What They Become”, without allowing him to have a major appearance in said episode? It was just disgusting to watch.Speaking of contrived writing, I encountered a good deal of it in Season Two. The writers for “AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.” went through of minor story arcs with the speed of a ballistic missile. I realize that Season One had its share of one-shot episodes – especially in its first half. Again, I have no problems with this. One-shot episodes were pretty common in televised serial dramas like“BUFFY” and “BABYLON 5”. But in Season Two of “AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.”, the writers would set up a story arc with a great deal of build up and end the story arc within two to five episodes. The series ended up wasting potential characters and story arcs like Carl Creel, Jemma Simmons’ role as a S.H.I.E.L.D. mole within HYDRA, the introduction of Senator Christian Ward and the Daniel Whitehall character. Mind you, Whitehall lasted for ten episodes. Only, I had not expected him to be introduced so fast … and killed off so soon. Speaking of speed, I had no idea that the Skye character would be exposed as an Inhuman – part of a race of superhumans who had been engineered by aliens such as the Kree – so soon. Halfway into Season Two? I found this rather quick, considering that Marvel has plans to release a movie about the Inhumans in 2018, four years from now. Do they really expect“AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.”, with its sketchy ratings, to last that long? If so, they could have waited a little longer.One last example of the show’s fast-paced narration was its tendency to shove two or three subplots into one episode. Other television shows have done this as well. But in a serial drama format, most writers would include the main story arc and a minor subplot that had little to do with the former. Mutant Enemy’s writers did not utilize this style. In order to keep the story arc going at neck break speed, they would shove two plotlines that had a great deal to do with the main story arc into one episode. This resulted in several episodes coming off as convoluted and very confusing. Several critics have complained about this, but most viewers and critics are pretending that this is a sign of improved writing from last season. Apparently rushed storytelling is now Mutant Enemy/Marvel’s idea of writing for sci-fi serial drama. Really? Speed writing for viewers or critics with the attention span of lice?Another problem I had with Season Two of “AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.” is the character of Grant Ward – former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and HYDRA mole. Why is he still alive? Why? I suppose Marvel and especially Mutant Enemy still want actor Brett Dalton around. Just recently, producer Jeffery Bell said the following about the character and the actor:“What we love is that Brett Dalton is this actor that brings this complexity to this guy, a lot of the way that James Marsters brought it to Spike on Buffy and Angel.”

Okay, it is official. Mutant Enemy has a hard-on for Brett Dalton. But when I read the above quote, I did not know whether to laugh or upchuck. Look … Dalton is a tolerable actor. He is pretty solid. But I CANNOT believe that Bell had the nerve to compare Dalton with the likes of James Marsters. To this day, I consider Marsters to be one of the best actors or actresses I have ever seen in a Mutant Enemy production hands down. One of the best … ever. Dalton is nowhere that good. Now, I will admit that although Spike proved to be one of my favorite television characters, I have no love for Grant Ward. I disliked Ward when he was one of the “good guys” during most of Season One. When he proved to be a HYDRA mole, my feelings for him did not change on whit. I realize that Mutant Enemy was trying to make him complex. But thanks to Dalton’s performance, I simply failed to be impressed. But my dislike of the Ward character has nothing to do with my opinion of Dalton as an actor. I also disliked the vampire character Angel, also featured in“BUFFY” and “ANGEL”. But despite my dislike, I cannot deny that actor David Boreanaz’s portrayal of the character was superb. Another actor that made a name for himself portraying a morally questionable fantasy character was Julian McMahon, who portrayed the human-demon hybrid for three seasons in “CHARMED”. Like Marsters and Boreanaz, McMahon was superb in the role, despite producer Brad Kern’s shabby handling of the character during his last year on the show. Hell, he proved to be the best actor during the show’s eight season run. I noticed something else. Ever since the premiere of “AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.” Season Two, Brett Dalton seems hellbent upon impersonating McMahon. Why, I do not know. Brett Dalton is no Julian McMahon. He should simply give up the effort.

Also, Mutant Enemy’s efforts to retain the Grant Ward character has resulted in some seriously contrived writing. After Ward’s capture in “Beginning of the End”, new S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Phil Coulson decided to keep the former agent at the new hidden base. Why? So that he can provide the new S.H.I.E.L.D. with information on HYDRA? What could Ward possibly know? He was a low-level HYDRA mole. I doubt that John Garrett knew everything. Hell, I doubt that Garrett, who can be very manipulative, told Ward everything. Anyone with brains or common sense should have realized this. Why keep Ward around? So that Dalton can do his Julian McMahon impersonation every now and then? Then Mutant Enemy decided to hire actor Tim DeKay to portray Ward’s older brother, Senator Christian Ward. DeKay appeared in two episodes – (2.06) “A Fractured House” and (2.08) “The Things We Bury” – before his character was killed off camera by Ward. Aside from giving the writers an opportunity for Ward to escape imprisonment, what was the purpose of DeKay’s presence on the show? I cannot decide what was more wasted – the Jemma Simmons w/HYDRA mini arc, Antoine Triplett’s Season Two presence, or the use of the Senator Christian Ward character. Even when the writers finally had a chance to rid the show of Ward in the mid-season finale, “What They Become”, they kept him alive with some ridiculously contrived writing. I suspect this is Mutant Enemy and Marvel’s way of giving Ward some kind of redemption by the end of the season. If so, this will proved to be the fastest redemption arc in television history. And right now, I found myself feeling disgusted over the whole matter.

I really do not know what else to say about “AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.”. Other than I have washed my hands of this show? I cannot believe this is the same television series that I had fallen in love with, last year. I have to end this article before I find myself in danger of upchucking again. Dear Mutant Enemy. You have become such a disappointment to me.

“CHARMED” RETROSPECT: (6.11) “Witchstock”

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“CHARMED” RETROSPECT: (6.11) “Witchstock”

During its eight season run, the fantasy-drama “CHARMED” has occasionally featured an episode dealing with the topic of time travel. These time travel episodes usually prove to be well-written or exceptional. However, there comes a time when the series produced a time travel episode that end up being a dud. The series’ Season Six episode, (6.11) “Witchstock” proved to be the latter. 

Directed by James A. Contner and written by Daniel Cerone, “Witchstock” begins at least a month or two following the first-rate (6.10) “Chris-Crossed”. At the end of the previous episode, oldest sister Piper Halliwell had suggested that younger sister Phoebe and even younger half-sister Paige Matthews leave the family’s manor to pursue their romantic desires. Phoebe left San Francisco to live with her boyfriend, the very wealthy Jason Dean, in Hong Kong. And Paige left the manor to live with her own wealthy boyfriend, a male witch named Richard Montana. However, the sisters’ separation proves to be a little problematic, since they have to deal with a magic-sucking slime found inside a local warehouse. Their new whitelighter from the future Chris Perry (in reality Halliwell) manages to bring Phoebe back from Hong Kong to vanquish the slime, but was not able to find Paige. Piper and Phoebe achieve their mission . . . somewhat. A piece of the slime manages to attach itself to Chris, and the latter inadvertently transport it back to the Manor.

When Paige shows up, she explains that she tried to leave Richard’s manor without teleporting, due to his addiction to magic. During this conversation, Piper finds a pair of red go-go boots that once belonged to their grandmother, Penelope Johnson Halliwell. She gives them to Paige, who tries them on. Seconds later, Paige finds herself transported back to January 1967, due to the spell her grandmother had put on the boots. She also discovers that both her grandmother and grandfather (Jack or Allen Halliwell) were peace-loving hippies on a crusade to rid the world of evil through the magical power of love. They had also transformed the manor into a “magical be-in”, unaware that one of their guests is a warlock. Meanwhile, Piper and Phoebe summon the ghost of their now dead grandmother to explain what happened. Grams informs them about her past as a hippie and the tragic circumstances that led to her first husband’s death at the hands of a warlock. Piper and Phoebe realize they have to travel back to 1967 and prevent Paige from inadvertently changing the past. Meanwhile, Grams helps Chris and Piper’s ex, former whitelighter-turned-Elder Leo Wyatt deal with the demonic slime that threatens to take over the manor.

Sounds exciting, right? I wish I could say that “Witchstock” was exciting. In the end, the episode proved to be a piece of crap. First of all, screenwriter Daniel Cerone failed to make any real connection between the demonic slime first introduced in the pre-titled sequence and Paige’s initial trip back to the Age of Aquarius. The main villains of the episode – two warlocks portrayed by Jake Busey and Kam Heskin – proved to be rather lame. The demonic sponge featured in the early 21st century scenes proved to be even more lame. In fact, the demonic sponge reminded me of the lame electrical demon that the sisters had vanquished in Season Four’s (4.07) “A Knight to Remember”. Talk about lack of originality.

Cerone also failed to create any real emotional connection between the sisters – especially newbie Paige – and their grandparents. The sisters seemed flabbergasted by Penny Halliwell’s hippie persona, which was a far cry from the militant demon hunter who raised Piper, Phoebe and the now dead Prue. The episode had a chance for Paige to really get to know her grandparents – especially her grandmother – and it failed on all counts. Piper turned out to be the only sister who witnessed their grandfather’s death. Yet, she reacted with very little or hardly any emotion. I realize that she had never met her grandfather during her lifetime. But the man was blood. The family carried his surname. Holly Marie Combs could have expressed some emotion . . . some sadness over the passing of her character’s flesh-and-blood. Unfortunately, that never happened. Cerone’s script was too busy treating the hippie personas of Penny, husband Allen (or Jack), and whitelighter Leo as jokes. Watching 1967 Leo act high and hit on Paige was embarrassing to watch. I felt sorry for Brian Krause in these scenes. I also felt sorry for Dorian Gregory, who was forced to portray Black Panther Luther Morris, who not only found himself in the same jail cell as Piper and Phoebe in a very cringe worthy scene; but also turned out to be the father of the Halliwells’ police detective friend, Darryl Morris.

The worst aspect of “Witchstock” proved to be the mistakes that heavily tainted this episode. In one early scene; Phoebe, who had become fascinated with Chinese astrology, informed younger sister Paige that the latter was born in the year of the Ox. WRONG! Paige was born in early August 1977, which meant she was born in the year of the Snake. The screenwriter could have easily looked this up . . . or else he failed to remember that Paige was born in 1977, not 1973. Also, Grams should have been portrayed by an actress old enough to pass for a woman in her mid-30s. This episode was set in January 1967. Which meant that Grams should have been 35 or 36 at the time. After all, her daughter Patty was born in 1950. And the episode was set three to four years before the birth of the latter’s oldest daughter, Prue. Actress Kara Zediker, who portrayed the younger Grams, barely looked 30 years old. And I find the idea of a mid-30s Grams and her slightly older husband as hippies. Perhaps there were hippies from their generation. But their fellow witches all seemed to be five to fifteen years younger. Worse, you can hear Rare Earth’s version of “Get Ready” being played in the background in one of the earlier 1967 scenes. This should be difficult, considering that Rare Earth’s version of the song was released in 1969 . . . over two years after the setting of this episode. The latter should have featured the Temptations’ 1966 version . . . or another song from 1966/67.

Was there anything about “Witchstock” that I liked? Well . . . thanks to Rose McGowan, I found Paige’s initial reaction to the “Manor of Love” rather amusing and managed to chuckle at her handling of a womanizing Leo. Despite my dislike of the Penelope Halliwell character, Jennifer Rhodes injected a breath of fresh air into the episode. She also managed to create a nice chemistry with both Brian Krause and Drew Fuller; as Grams, Leo and Chris dealt with the demonic sponge. Although saddled with a lame character like the warlock Nicholas, I have to give credit to Jake Busey for attempting to infuse as much energy as possible into his performance. And Holly Marie Combs had a nice moment of personal angst for Piper, who silently lamented over her sisters’ departure and her new-founded loneliness.

But despite these positive little moments, “Witchstock” was a disaster to me. Was it the worse “CHARMED” episode I have ever seen? Fortunately for director James A. Contner and screenwriter Daniel Cerone, my answer is no. I have seen worse from earlier seasons. And all I have to do is watch the series’ Season Eight. There were plenty of horrors from that season to form a list of the series’ worst episodes. But “Witchstock” was not a pleasure to watch. Not by a long shot.

“DARK SHADOWS” (2012) Review

“DARK SHADOWS” (2012) Review

I have never been a diehard fan of director Tim Burton. Honestly. In fact, I can only think of one or two of his movies that really impressed me. Okay, I can think of two . . . before I saw his latest opus, “DARK SHADOWS”

The last Burton film that really impressed me was his 2007 Oscar-nominated film, “SWEENEY TODD”. I did not love it. And I have no desire to see it again. But it did impress me. So, when I discovered that he did a big screen adaptation of the 1966-71 ABC television series, I reacted with mild interest. I have never seen the old television series. And to be honest, I have no real desire to watch it. It was the humor featured in the trailer for Burton’s new film that led me to see it.

“DARK SHADOWS” told the story of Barnabas Collins, the 18th century scion of a wealthy Colonial family, who is transformed into a vampire by a scorned lover named Angelique Bouchard, who also happened to be a Collins family servant and a witch. After transforming him into a vampire, Angelique led a lynch mob that captures Barnabas and buries him alive in a chained coffin in the woods. Two hundred years later in 1972, a group of construction workers accidentally free Barnabas, before he feeds on them. He later makes his way back to the Collins manor and finds it inhabited by his mid 20th century descendants; family matriarch Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, her 15 year-old daughter Carolyn Stoddard, Elizabeth’s brother Roger Collins, his 10 year-old son David; and their servants who are caretaker Willie Loomis and David’s governess, Victoria Winters, who is a reincarnation of Barnabas’ lost love, Josette du Pres. One last occupant is David’s live-in psychiatrist, Dr. Julia Hoffman.

Barnabas convinces Elizabeth of his identity when he reveals a secret room behind the fireplace. The room contains a vast treasure that can help the Collins family restore the family business. However, Elizabeth makes him promise to never reveal his identity as a vampire to the rest of the family. All seemed to be well for the Collins family, until Angelique, who has used magic to extend her life, discovers that Barnabas has been released from his coffin. Angelique has also used her own fishery business to bankrupt the family. Upset that Barnabas has returned, Angelique tries to win back his affections through sex. However, Barnabas makes it clear that he does not love her. And Angelique goes out of her way to ensure the destruction of Barnabas and his immediate family.

“DARK SHADOWS” is not perfect. I am quite aware that it is not ensemble piece, despite the likes of Michelle Pfieffer and Helena Bonham-Carter in the cast. I also realize that is basically about Barnabas Collins. But I do believe that two or three supporting characters were barely used in the story. And those characters proved to be young David Collins, Dr. Julia Hoffman (portrayed by the marvelous Helena Bonham-Carter) and Roger Collins, portrayed by the woefully underused Jonny Lee Miller. And I wish the movie had explained how Angelique managed to survive and not age for two centuries. From what I had read, this was never explained in the television version either. I also found the revelation of Carolyn Stoddard as a werewolf near the end of the movie, very contrived. Either screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smith had failed to hint this revelation or I simply failed to notice any his hint(s). And I also found the movie’s pacing slightly uneven three-quarters into the story. I suspect that Burton and his screenwriter, Seth Grahame-Smith, were in such a hurry to get rid of Roger Collins and Dr. Hoffman that the pacing somewhat became off-kilter.

But despite its flaws, I still managed to enjoy “DARK SHADOWS” very much. First of all, I was dazzled by Bruno Delbonnel’s cinematography. He gave it a rich, blue-tinted look that really contributed to the film’s setting and tale. This was especially apparent in the prologue that introduced the Collins family’s American origins and Barnabas Collins. Delbonnel’s photography also enhanced Rick Heinrichs’ production designs. Heinrichs did a beautiful job in re-creating both the mid and late-18th century Maine, along with the same location in 1972. And I feel he was ably supported by Chris Lowe’s art direction team, John Bush’s set decorations and Colleen Atwood’s beautiful costume designs.

Although I was somewhat critical of Grahame-Seth’s screenplay, I do not believe it was not a complete waste. In fact, I thought it was wise of him to center the main narrative around Barnabas Collins. The latter’s attempts to assimilate into the early 1970s had me shaking with laughter. And Grahame-Seth was wise to not only enrich Barnabas’ love for Josette du Pres and later, Victoria Winters; but also his concerns for his family. Family seemed to be very important to Barnabas, which allowed Grahame-Seth to focus more on Victoria and the Collins family . . . even Roger. Barnabas’ concerns for his family also made his conflict with Angelique Bouchard even more pressing. I am also glad that both Burton and Grahame-Seth’s portrayal of Barnabas was complex. They allowed him to feed on other human beings without labeling him as evil. Barnabas feeds on the blood of others to survive, just as we humans feed on other living beings – both animals and plants. He does not like feeding on others anymore than he likes being a vampire. There is no taint of one-dimensional morality that has marred television series like “BUFFY, THE VAMPIRE SLAYER”“ANGEL” and “CHARMED”. Several critics and many of the old television series also criticized Burton’s film for not being a close adaptation of the show. I find their criticisms a little irrelevant, due to the fact that I have yet to see a film adaptation of a television series to be that particularly close to its original source.

The cast for “DARK SHADOWS” is first-rate. Even those performers forced into roles that were not fully explored did a great job. It was nice to see Burton’s willingness to use again, actor Christopher Lee, who had a brief appearance as the top fisherman of Collinsport, Maine. I have never seen Jonny Lee Miller portrayed such a negative role like Roger Collins. And despite the minimal exposure, he did a great job of expressing Roger’s shallowness and lack of concern for his son and other members of the family. Helena Bonham-Carter was hilariously entertaining as young David Collins’ live-in psychiatrist, who developed a crush on Barnabas. It wsa nice to see Jackie Earle Haley again, who was also rather funny as the Collins family’s caretaker, Willie Loomis. I wish I could say something nice about Bella Heathcote. But her performance as Victoria Winters struck me as a little too ethereal and . . . wooden. Gulliver McGrath gave a sweet performance as young David Collins, but he did not strike me as particularly memorable.

For me, the best performances came from lead actor Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfieffer, Eva Green and Chloë Grace Moretz. The latter has certainly grown a lot since I first saw her in “KICK ASS”, two years ago. I find her take on the fifteen year-old Carolyn Stoddard to be very eccentric (in a positive way). She also seemed to be a younger version of Michelle Pfieffer, who portrayed her imperious mother, Elizabeth Collins Stoddard. I thought that Pfieffer was spot on as the indomitable matriarch of the Collins family, who hid her ruthlessly passionate and maternal nature behind a reserved facade. Eva Green nearly scared me out of my wits with her frightening portrayal of Angelique Bouchard, the witch who developed an obsessive love for Barnabas. Apparently, Angelique’s love and hatred proved to be so strong that she continued to slowly destroy the Collins family, long after Barnabas was locked in a coffin. Johnny Depp has portrayed some memorable characters over the years. But I must admit that his take on the Barnabas Collins character has proven to be one of my favorites. The man was superb. I could describe his performance with as many adjectives as possible. But it would take a great deal of my time. All I can say is that I believe he was perfect.

I realize that “DARK SHADOWS” has disappointed many fans of the old 1966-71 television series. And I must admit that I found a few aspects of Seth Grahame-Smith’s screenplay rather questionable. But “DARK SHADOWS” proved to be an entertaining movie thanks to Tim Burton’s direction, the story’s concentration on the Barnabas Collins, Bruno Delbonnel’s cinematography and the excellent cast led by the always talented Johnny Depp.