Television
Reviews

Witchblade TNT (Turner Network Television) -- Basic Cable in many areas. Tuesday nights at 9 PM (check local listing for exact day and time).

Witchblade is from the very popular comic book created by Marc Silvestri, David Wohl, Brian Haberlin, and Michael Turner, about a device, a weapon, an armband that has existed for ages and provides the wearer with great powers. The wearer is usually a woman (men who have tried on the Witchblade have had bad things happen to them). The most successful wearers are those women who have descended from the same bloodline over the centuries. The story, which takes place today, focuses on police detective Sara Pezzini, who is currently in possession of the Witchblade, because the Witchblade has picked her!

Playing the role of Sara in this new TNT series is one of my favorites: Yancy Butler. I first saw her in the Dick Wolf network series Mann and Machine a few years back. She played the enchanting machine (android) in that saga of a futuristic police squad (eat your heart out, Data). Since then Yancy moved to the big screen, starring opposite Wesley Snipes in Drop Zone and Jean-Claude Van Damme in director John Woo's Hard Target.

In this show, Sara Pezzini doesn't really know who she really is in the beginning (all she knows is she was left on the doorstep as a baby and grew up as a policeman's daughter, but as the series progresses she slowly starts to suspect she is a descendant of that line of women who have worn the Witchblade throughout time). Assisting her in very mystical ways is the spirit of her former police partner, Danny Woo (William Yun Lee), who was killed in action during the made for TV movie which spawned this series. The Witchblade allows her to sometimes see him and talk with him, but he generally only serves as her guide to self discovery. Her new and current partner, Jake McCartey (played by former Baywatch regular David Chokachi) has no idea about what's really happening. He sees her as a plain, old ordinary woman homicide detective who likes to ride a fast motorcycle. He doesn't know about the Witchblade or her associations with Danny Woo or Kenneth Irons, the man who seems to know quite a lot about the Witchblade (he wore it once, and it changed his life, leaving a nasty scar on his hand). Irons, a rich businessman, and Sara have regular run-ins as he tries to win her confidence and convince her to let him help her with the Witchblade. Sara resists his overtures directly, but spars with him regularly, playing him gingerly for information. Feeling him out. They tango each other around the room with their coy, cat and mouse relationship. Also involved is Ian Nottingham (Eric Etebari) who was part of an experimental military enhancement program run by Irons. Nottingham now works closely with Irons, keeping track of Sara and the Witchblade. His enhanced powers give him great intelligence, stealth, cunning and strength.

The show, which is now in first run on television (most of the other stations are still sporting reruns) is a real winner, with an excellent cast and good writing! Musically, they're using a lot of original classic rock recordings, including Shambala by Three Dog Night, Don't Fear the Reaper by Blue Oyster Cult (you can see BOC live, this summer, in concert at a variety of county and state fair main stages), among other major hits from the recent past. The typical episode features fighting sequences much like those in the movie The Matrix. The show also gets quite deep and mystical, playing on several levels. The primary level being the problem the two detectives must solve in a given episode and how the Witchblade affects Sara during this time frame. The new discoveries she makes about her powers and her self -- and that we, the viewers, make about the relationship between her, Nottingham, Irons and Witchblade.

Think of it as a police-type show that sports a fantasy twist with philosophical undertones. Produced by Warner Brothers Television.

Warner Brothers Witchblade Site
Witchblade Comic book Information
Wichblade Information



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Dune The new mini-series on the Sci-Fi channel vs the big feature film by David Lynch.

Originally deep filmmaker Alexandro Jodorowsky (El Topo and The Holy Mountain) was set to make Frank Herbert's epic novel Dune (see a profile of the novel in our Book section) into a big screen feature and assisting on the project was a young Dan O'Bannon (author and star of John Carpenter's first film, Dark Star, O'Bannon would go on to write the first of Fox's big franchise, Alien, movies). This effort, however, never came to pass. But under the guidance of Raffaella De Laurentiis, daughter of premier Italian producer Dino De Laurentiis -- cult director David Lynch (Blue Velvet and the television series Twin Peaks) got a chance to do the impossible, turn a 600 page book into a more than two hour movie. (The result of which left any lines uttered by Princess Irulan on the cutting room floor.) Lynch picked Kyle MacLachlan who was, at that time, well into his 20s (if not older), to play the part of teenager Paul Atreides! That lost me and probably others right from the gate! The look of Lady Jessica (Paul's mother -- concubine to his father, Duke Leto) also lost me early in the game. The cast of Juergen Prochnow as Leto, was quite acceptable, as was that of Patrick Stewart (Jean-Luc Picard in television's Star Trek Next Generation) as Gurney Halleck, the balladeer-warrior (the behind-the-scenes use of musician Emmett Chapman, providing the musical performances done on screen by Gurney, on his self-created instrument, the Stick, was also quite nice). While I don't know if Frank Herbert was thrilled with how the movie turned out, he was on the set for the start of filming and seemed quite thrilled at having his popular cult novel translated to the big screen.

Well, the Sci-Fi channel has taken a far better turn by first getting someone (John Harrison, who wrote the script and directed the series) who really knows the story and has a feel for the happenings.

Saskia Reeves as the Lady Jessica looks closer to what I figured she would look like (based on what Frank Herbert told us of her in the book) and Alec Newman as Paul (Muad'dib) Atreides is younger looking and more virile than Kyle MacLachlan, but still a bit on the old side to my way of thinking, yet not quite as 'off' from the description of young Paul that is in the book. Also, he has an unsettling portrayal, which kind of eluded me in the book, but in retrospect I can see that Paul was a very, very hostile, angry young man who, because of the factors involved with the mystical waters of life became mutated in his persona to megalomania. He is a fanatic! Something I guess I didn't really want to read into the book (I wanted to view Paul as a true hero) and something Lynch and Kyle MacLachlan didn't bring to the screen version.

I wasn't as enchanted with some of the other casting, especially P. H. Moriarty as Gurney and Barbora Kodetová as Chani, the Fremen girl who would become Paul's concubine (in the feature Sean Young did a good job with this role), but found them acceptable.

Taking the approach of a mini-series allows them to do far more justice to Frank Herbert saga, such as and including giving Princess Irulan (played quite well by Julia Cox) not only lines, but an important role in the telling of the story, just like she had in the book.

The Spicing Guild representatives and the Navigators, themselves, seemed much better in the Lynch feature than in this re-make for television, but again I'm just nit-picking.

As a whole, the Sci-Fi series is quite good, does justice to the world created by Frank Herbert. You watch the series and you really don't need to read the books (although you should), it covers the saga that well! Right now you need premium cable to see the series in most areas (I don't get it up here in the mountains, so I had to do my watching down in the city). Eventually they will probably syndicate this to broadcast television, maybe next year, so that all the fans of the saga can get a look at this new take on the multi-award winning story originally published in 1965.

Read more about the book in our Book section and also at these production web sites:

Covers both the movie and TV mini series
Sci-fi Channel site
fremen.org
Sietch site


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Arli$$ A brand new season of comedy about super sports agent Arliss Michaels (Robert Wuhl, who also created and produces this show, who began his career as a comedy writer with a history going back to Johnny Carson and the Tonight Show). You don't have to like or even understand sports to get this show. Think of Arliss as your friendly, neighborhood used car salesman who would tell his grandmother anything to get her to buy that junk heap and get it off the lot!

For Arliss, it's all about the money. He'll do anything, say anything, get anything to keep his current sports clients (many actual sports related super stars, such as Wade Boggs, Jeanette Lee, Rafael Palmeiro, David Wells, Jose Lima, Eric Dickerson, Jesse Armstead, Kevin Greene, Pat O'Brien, Seth Abraham, Denny Neagle, Bruce Smith, Laila Ali, Baron Davis, Jason Giambi, Jeremy Giambi, Tracy McGrady, Luc Robitaille, Dan Wilkinson, Dodger manager Tom Lasorda, Al Leiter, Rudy Martzke, Jon Miller, Lamar Odom, Eileen Ryan, Keith Van Horn, Jim Brown, Ryan Klesko and movie critic Leonard Maltin, have or will soon be making cameo appearances) happy or to acquire a new act for his agency roster!

Each episode also has sub-plots. Such as a recent offering in which his trusty administrative assistant Rita Wu (deftly played by Sandra Oh) was going through mid-life crisis and proceeds to try every beauty and rejuvenation method known to man, right up to and including Voodoo -- which was another sub plot in the same episode -- one of their sports figures had a bum leg and wouldn't accept treatment from anyone except his Voodoo practitioner).

Also assisting with the fun and games is Kirby Carlisle (played by Jim Turner), an ex-football star turned agent and Stanley Babson (Michael Boatman), the resident bean-counting accountant for the Arliss Michaels Agency.

I am not into sports and know little about sport celebrities, but I find this show absolute fun! And friends of mine in the business who have looked over my shoulder see themselves or their bosses in the form of Robert Wuhl's character! As with most HBO comedies, this is a blast!

-- E.R.D.


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