What Movies Is Everyone Looking Forward to?

I’ve noticed in the latter half of the year, a lot of prestige movies are released. So I’m interested in what future movies are you looking forward to?

The Addiction

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A vampire horror movie with a difference, Abel Ferrara gives us The Addiction. An allegory for the evil within humanity seen through the prism of being a night walker, it’s an incredible, cerebral and stylish evocation of sin, redemption and darkness.

Kathleen Conklin( Lili Taylor) is a young university student in New York who is studying philosophy. She’s recently been examining the evil of the world and the roles people play in it. Little does she realise it will play a big part in her existence sooner than expected. One night after class, she is walking back to her apartment. A seductive woman who we learn in the credits is called Casanova( Annabella Sciorra) greets her and then violently pulls her into an alley. She then bites a terrified Kathleen’s neck and then as she’s walking off drops hints of something dark and sinister ahead for the student. After being treated for her wound, Kathleen starts to act strangely. She begins to develop an aversion to sunlight, grows increasingly aggressive and starts to crave human blood. She soon realises she is becoming a vampire and attempts to stop her bloodlust, but it proves difficult as her affliction grows more prevalent . She runs into experienced vampire Peina(Christopher Walken) who gives her a lecture on how he’s managed to stave off the hunger for as long as he can. But can his wise words persuade a rabid Kathleen to submit and seek redemption for the bloodshed she is causing?

Abel Ferrara crafts The Addiction as his own beast and refuses to compromise with expectations of what people necessarily want to see. The film is definitely a horror film but at its heart has a lot more to say. Horror and drama coalesce in this urban and existential study of  dependency and the very concept of evil, mostly driven home through the many instances of philosophy being discussed or heard throughout. Ferrara is clearly a maverick film maker who takes risks and plays by his own set of rules. In my book, it’s refreshing to see a director really bring their vision alive no matter how strange or startling the content. I mean, using black and white in a contemporary setting plus a hip hop soundtrack doesn’t sound like something you’d think of for a movie about vampires. But in my view, it works in modernising these creatures and placing them in a real world setting with real world topics being reckoned with. The Addiction argues that humans are in essence drawn to evil and resistance can be used, but can be futile if you’re not strong enough. This is glimpsed by Casanova’s speech to Kathleen about telling her to go away instead of biting her. Kathleen later uses this on her victims as a sort of reverse psychology and power base. Ferrara and his frequent screenwriter Nicholas St. John are more interested in reinterpreting the vampire lore we think we know( and less in constant gross out horror) and their efforts add depth and oddness by equating vampirism with drug addiction and even saying that evil sin is something we are all capable of. This is showcased in a number of scenes in which Kathleen’s lecture looks at the atrocities like the Holocaust and the My Lai Massacre. It’s startling for sure but it really encapsulates the notion of brutality and evil being all around us and having been there since the start of time.

The horror aspects are extremely well handled, being brutal and startling yet with a purpose to back it up rather than just for gratuitous violence and blood letting. It’s impressive how much Ferrara manages to pack into a film that’s little over 80 minutes, but he does it. It must be stated that The Addiction isn’t going to be a film for everyone. Some of it is undoubtedly confounding and many will see the allusions to philosophy as pretentious which isnt entirely wrong in some parts. But The Addiction weaves a certain spell on you of you let it and boy does it hey The black and white is an inspired stylistic choice from Ferrara and aided by the hypnotic cinematography of Ken Kelsch, New York becomes a dark, eerie but entrancing place of shadows and brutality. It’s almost another character in the film that’s how much of an aura we get here with a debt to noir being evident. The aforementioned hip hop/ rap music featured further establishes the urban atmosphere and impaired with a slithering score that rises and falls like the eponymous affliction. Both play a big part in keeping us watching and being engrossed in this horror drama with a lot more on its mind that just gruesomeness.

Lili Taylor, of petite stature and interesting eyes, is an unusual but spellbinding presence as the student turned bloodsucker. She plays Kathleen as someone who is idealistic and curious, but after her bite, turns quite cold, aggressive and dangerous. In between craving blood and completing her thesis, Taylor explorers the characters outlook on life through philosophy and how it morphs once she sees the world in a transformative way. Her frustration and desperation, coupled with an unsettling stare and rabid hunger are all accounted for and played wonderfully as Kathleen has to come to turns with what she has been changed into. Taylor has always been a reliable performer and she doesn’t disappoint here, in what is one of her best roles that requires her to really dig into the darkness and craving of someone hooked on the taste of blood. It’s quite a subtle performance in parts( Kathleen and Taylor herself look very innocent to the untrained eye), but that only enhances the dichotomy of her even more and adds layers to the later brutal acts she commits with full on force in order to feed her thirst for blood. Simply stated, Lili Taylor is the anchor of The Addiction and haunting in the best sense of the world as the victim turned bloodthirsty predator. Christopher Walken appears in what is essentially an extended cameo, but it’s well worth it and he makes the most of the time he’s on screen. His strange, sagacious demeanour, coupled with lashings of sarcasm at the state of his existence. He’s a vampire cutting down after all so he’s philosophical like a guru and sardonic in equal measure. It’s all in a way only the talented Walken could pull off. Annabella Sciorra, all slicked hair and dangerous appeal, wonderfully acts as the instigator of Kathleen’s transformation and though seen on in a handful of scenes near the beginning and end of the film, makes her mark felt. Watch out for early roles from Edie Falco and Kathryn Erbe as unsuspecting victims.

A very different take on vampires by a director with his own unique way of telling a story, The Addiction is well directed and acted horror/drama that won’t be to all tastes. But for those looking for a film that will make you think about it’s existential themes, it’s hard to go wrong with this most unusual film.

Your Help is Appreciated

Thank you everyone who commented on my last post regarding notification issues. I’ve spoken with the engineers and they’ve said that they might be able to help. This is where I ask anyone who has experienced issues of my comments not coming through as notifications to check out this forum board and tell them.

https://en.forums.wordpress.com/topic/why-are-my-comments-not-showing-up-as-notifications/
They say that they need to know who it’s affecting. Thanks so much to all of you for being so helpful and supportive. I hope this isn’t a pain for anyone. I just want to be able to converse with you all properly.

I Love You All

Over the past few months with my comment issue and various things outside of blogging, I feel like I’ve not given the community the full love it deserves. I’m annoyed that I’ve not been around as much and I don’t want anyone thinking I’ve forgotten them. All that’s left to say is I love you. And I hope this notification issue is sorted out so things can change.

When a Stranger Calls

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A rightfully iconic horror, especially for its opening 20 minutes of mounting terror, When a Stranger Calls is often just lumbered with that description. But the middle section is quite fascinating, even if it doesn’t match the opening or the final reel. It’s the atmosphere, creepy music and acting that truly makes When a Stranger Calls a very good exercise in terror. It’s not a masterpiece, but it’s influence is hard to dispute.

Jill Johnson( Carol Kane) is a teenager who is babysitting the children of a local doctor, while he and his wife attend a swanky dinner. What seems to be a quiet evening soon turns into something terrifying when Jill begins receiving constant phone calls. Some are silent, but eventually the caller keeps asking her whether she has checked the children. The calls become more frequent and even though she thought they were a harmless prank at first, Jill becomes increasingly frightened. Eventually contacting the police, they trace the call to inside the house. Jill exits in terror and it’s here we learn that the caller and now killed had been in the house the whole time and had brutally murdered the children hours prior. We flash forward seven years and the detective who was on the case, the determined and upstanding John Clifford( Charles Durning), is summoned by the doctor after word gets to him that the killer, whose name is Curt Duncan( Tony Beckley) has escaped from his stay in a psychiatric hospital. Now a private investigator, Clifford is asked to find Duncan.  It seems Duncan himself is struggling to adapt to life in the inner city, constantly at odds with his grim surroundings. He becomes enamoured with Tracy (Colleen Dewhurst) a lonely woman who drinks frequently, though she is skeptical of him at first due to his awkwardness. Once she shows him kindness, he becomes obsessed with her which alarms her deeply. Meanwhile, Clifford is on his track and his anger has boiled into thoughts of killing the murderer he is searching for as he feels justice wasn’t properly served. Later Duncan discovers a now older and more prepared Jill through a newspaper article. He decides to repeat what he started but can he be stopped before he kills again?

Fred Walton excellently ratchets up suspense and horror right from the get go, before settling into a strangely deep and reflective middle half. Though the first half is justifiably celebrated, the middle area is as well directed just in a different way. Walton had a hand in writing the script and he knows how to scare without being bloody. In fact, there’s nary a drop of blood shown, which makes events even more terrifying as your mind fills in the blanks. That opening 20 minutes is seriously some of the most tense and frightening as ever you’re likely to see, as the house that Jill is in becomes even more confined and the phone takes on a haunting life of its own. The whole lighting scheme is haunting too; as blue covers a lot of it, making the most out of illuminating the leading lady and highlighting her ordeal at hands of a mad man. I can’t praise this opening highly enough with its wide array of angles, spooky atmosphere and palpable feeling of unease. I could speak about the opening part for days, but sadly I have to concentrate on the rest of the film.

As aforementioned, When a Stranger Calls is regularly given the description of the opening and last parts are the best, while the middle section drags. While some of that is true( I mean the opening is simply stated a hair raising workout in mounting suspense that is still tense), I think the middle section has its moments, despite it not living up to the expectations set by that opening. It morphs from horror into a cat and mouse thriller with the private detective searching for the killer. While there are spots that feel too stretched and out of place, the middle of When a Stranger Calls provides an unusual insight into a killer and his situation. We almost feel pangs of sympathy for him as we glimpse his lonely existence, then we are reminded of his horrendous crimes and we snap back to reason. One part of When a Stranger Calls that is in need of deep appreciation is the sensationally spooky score from Dana Kaproff. He has supreme command over rising strings, sinister bass and odd percussion that just fits this movie like a glove. I can’t give it any more praise than just saying, it’s splendidly atmospheric and just adds so much to the creep factor in innumerable ways.

The acting is also pretty great in this film. Carol Kane, with her alert, large eyes and whispery, quivering voice, is an ideal bit of casting for the main lady in the horror of everything. She’s got the vulnerability down and terrified to a T, but when we later see her(after a break from the mid section), she’s definitely changed quite a bit in the long run and grown up. She’s still terrified by what happened but is more resilient and resourceful than before, almost as if her past experience has rightly made her more wary of danger and anything alarming . All in all, Carol Kane is pretty great as the central girl who bookends this chiller with quiet force and conviction. The always entertaining Charles Durning is on hand as the detective who takes up the bulk of middle section. He has a certain affable way about him but a grave and solemn loyalty to the law that’s in evidence. That’s why it is intriguing to watch him think of murdering for what he has done; you wouldn’t expect it from him but you can certainly grasp some of his reasoning. Durning got turns in quality work that stands up. And speaking of standing up and standing out, the late Tony Beckley is the glue that holds the mid section together with his portrayal of a killer. Considering he was very ill and died just months after the premiere, put a lot of hard work into the part that you’d never know he was tragically sick behind the scenes. his weary, almost pathetic character is at first glance someone you wouldn’t think capable of murder, but his intense eyes say so much of the brutal inside of him. Colleen Dewhurst rounds out the cast as the boozy woman who doesn’t quite realise the repercussions of befriending Duncan. She’s pretty excellent here I must say.

Well directed and acted, along with being pretty creepy in the long run, When a Stranger Calls may show its age but while overall not the best horror movie ever, it’s still very influential and very suspenseful. Don’t watch it alone!

A Favour to Ask

Over the last year or so, when I comment on certain blogs, the blogger isn’t notified. It seems to happen even on my blog when I reply. So I have contacted the forums and they have asked which blogs this happens on. I wanted to ask all my followers to check and if you’ve not been receiving notifications on your blog but my comment appears, please tell me. This way I can give forums information and they might be able to help.

The Seventh Sign

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A mostly engrossing apocalyptic drama/ thriller with religious and mystical overtones, The Seventh Sign didn’t do good business on its original release. But while it is flawed, there is also plenty to praise in this imaginative film that has a gloomy yet hopeful tone and a convincing central performance from Demi Moore.

Around the world, strange phenomena is occurring. In Haiti, all marine life dies in the ocean. In Israel, a desert village that was seized by terrorists is found covered in ice. Meanwhile, in Venice, California, Abby Quinn(Demi Moore) is a young woman who is looking forward to giving birth in two months. She is supported by her decent and hard working husband Russell(Michael Biehn), but she can’t shift feelings of terror as result of an unsuccessful first pregnancy. She’s also been experiencing vivid dreams of ancient times in which a man is struck across the face and asked “Will you die for Him?” Abby and decide to rent out their garage apartment, while is currently on a court case defending a young man with Down’s Syndrome who killed his incestuous parents and claims it was the will of God. The lodger they find is named David(Jürgen Prochnow), a quiet man who seems to know things before they happen and things he couldn’t possibly know. The thing is he is the man who has been present at each of these disasters and is the instigator who breaks the seals that start them. It becomes apparent that the unusual events around the world are part of a biblical apocalypse. There are seven signs referenced in the holy book and David seems to be the bringer of them. His presence begins to unnerve Abby and with more unusual portents of the apocalypse swirling around, she becomes fearful for the life of her unborn baby. It transpires that everything is somehow linked and comes back to Abby and her baby. Around this time, a mysterious priest, Father Lucci(Peter Friedman) appears, having followed the signs and his means may not be that altruistic. Abby confides in Avi( Manny Jacobs) a Jewish student training to be a rabbi, who is familiar with religious texts and helps her to unearth more of the apocalyptic future. But can Abby figure it all out before chaos reigns and her baby is born? And just how does her and the baby she’s carrying slot into the end of the world?

Carl Schultz directs as efficiently as he can and fashions out a fascinating thriller, with deep religious overtones . Certain areas of it require work, but Schultz gives it his all with the material. Visually, the moody cinematography is sublime at bringing a level of gloom into proceedings and a strange mystical aura hovers over it. The Seventh Sign is overall a very creepy film that’s also surprisingly deep in regards to the Apocalypse. It grounds the fantastical events and signs in a real world setting that is truly well executed and not without thought. Biblical prophecy and some elements of Jewish religion and mythology are what keeps The Seventh Sign really going. The sequences of destruction are memorable and unnerving( the blood red moon and a climactic earthquake are highlights , while not going full on overboard with effects). Saying this, I would have preferred if the film had a bit longer on the running time as it may have fleshed out the story even more and elevated it to masterful. As it stands, The Seventh Sign is still a watchable mix of religious drama and supernatural thriller. Mystery is kept reasonably high as Abby attempts to decipher visions and omens in order to save her baby from something she thinks is sinister. The liberal helping of confusion and reason may be here, but The Seventh Sign still holds your attention, despite the logic sometimes lacking for my liking. The hopeful colouring to the film redeems a bit of it with a certain message of hope stirring emotions. I very much enjoyed the Gregorian chanting and synths of the score by Jack Nitzsche. He is skilled at really bringing out that unusual side to the movie through his music and I for, genuinely liked how effectively used it was.

At the heart of The Seventh Sign is Demi Moore with a moving portrayal. She’s got a certain relatability to her here that goes a long way in earning audience sympathy. We witness her frightened mind and burgeoning realisation at the dark situation at hand, with Moore beautifully getting across her desperation and confusion with aplomb. Moore ensures that we emotionally attach ourselves to Abby and her journey into the unknown as the End of Days rages at her door. Her eyes have a deep sadness and vulnerability to them that is often on display in gorgeous close up, but it’s a bubbling strength and bruised resilience that truly shines through for Demi Moore. Simply stated, Moore is the lynchpin and emotional core of The Seventh Sign that is what sticks in the mind after the credits. Michael Biehn is fine as the supportive but concerned husband. The role isn’t much of a stretch but Biehn plays it well. Jürgen Prochnow, of intense face and strong jaw, brilliantly plays the dichotomy of David. He’s both incredibly menacing yet never in your face, but then deceptively gentle and knowledgeable. It’s a fine balancing act that he pulls off admirably. Also on the talk of dichotomy, Peter Friedman, though he appears late, is also a good example of walking between welcoming and very creepy. Manny Jacobs is suitably knowledgable as the young student that Abby comes to rely upon. 

A flawed film that could have benefited from a bit more on the running time to really get to the nitty gritty of it, The Seventh Sign is nonetheless a very entertaining and unusually thoughtful film.

Movies with Horror/Supernatural or Creepiness Coming Soon

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As Halloween is approaching and horror/thriller movies are a favourite genre, here’s what you’ll see reviewed around here. The films will be either horror, thriller or have a certain level of creepy atmosphere to them. It won’t all be horror, but that will feature heavily. I may not see all of them before Halloween but I’ll definitely watch them all and review them.

Xena: Warrior Princess Season 4

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Picking up from Season 3( which was a personal favourite of mine), Season 4 of Xena is an excellent follow up that’s pretty eventful and continues to be an action-packed spectacle. Though not as consistent as the past season, you can’t fault Season 4 for what it delivers. Be aware, spoilers will follow in this overview of Season 4.

We pick up where with Gabrielle( Renée O’Connor) sacrificing herself and her diabolical daughter Hope. Presumed dead, Xena(Lucy Lawless) goes in search for her, hunting high and low along with across earthly and spiritual plains. Discovering that Gabrielle is in fact alive, Xena is also shown a potentially dark future for both woman that results in their crucifixion at the hands of the Roman. After finally destroying Hope’s child The Destroyer , things look like they might just get back to some form of normality for both women. Though as the audience, we just know things are never going to be calm for long. In the meantime, all assortment of evil visits Xena’s door and she and Gabrielle will face off against it. Integral is a level of spiritual examination as the two venture to India and begin to reflect as well as open up. At the back of their minds is that vision of the future and figuring out just when it is going to happen along with how they could possibly prevent it. Let’s just say, things get pretty eventful from here on out.

Xena: Season 4 carries on with some of the darkness of Season 3( which was the darkest thus far and all the better for it), but sprinkles in a tad more humour to this series as some of the heavy burdens of last season have been lifted on the characters but others may lay ahead. That’s a big plus of this show; it’s willingness to be both fun and goofy and then crank things up occasionally to make it emotional and shocking. It’s a tool that’s served Xena well. And here, the darkness and serious nature of the things is very much high on the agenda, with levity in outrageous episodes provided to keep fans enjoying it. Sometimes the dichotomy doesn’t work and consistency can be lacking, but the vast majority of this show is exceptionally entertaining that a few flaws along the way. A sense of mystery and suspense does find its way in there, especially with regards to the death prophecy that we are left to ponder. Season 4 isn’t quite at the same high level of Season 3 as the overall main arc in the last season was more focused, but it’s pretty close to it in terms of creativity and fun, especially in the home stretch.

Standout episodes begin with the two parts of ‘Adventures in the Sin Trade’. A distraught Xena searches for Gabrielle, fearing she has died and either gone to the Elysian Fields or Tartarus. Remembering that Gabrielle belonged to the Amazon’s, she enlists her many skills to journey to their Land of the Dead. Along the way, we are gifted with flashbacks to the people Xena encounters and her past misdeeds being brought out in the open. In the past, Xena and Borias were ruthless criminals and came across Alti, a powerful shameness with a cunning evil in her heart. It was her who showed Xena the ability to go into another plain, but she also plotted and poisoned her with malice. A frenetic camera lends itself to contributing a mystical quality to the show as Xena is faced with the past once more and events blend strikingly with dizzying angles, unusual symbolism and hypnotic ambience. Overall, both parts are visually out of this world and it’s wonderful to see more of the world in the show, especially when it comes to the different factions of Amazon’s. We get more backstory, which is always a plus as we get to glimpse the old Xena who was ruthless and also seeing her dressed in unusual Amazon attire. Plus the evil Alti( Who makes for a powerful adversary) provides a glimpse of the future to Xena, that lays the groundwork for darkness ahead. Overall, the two parts show just how dedicated Xena is to both her best friend and to purging herself from the evil of her past. Following is “A Family Affair’ where Xena discovers that Gabrielle is still alive and living in her childhood village. But all isn’t as it seems for Xena and a returning Joxer unearth that Gabrielle survived and is back in her homeland. But although overjoyed to see Gabrielle, something sinister is afoot. For the version of Gabrielle Xena sees is in fact the evil offspring Hope who is eerily identical in appearance to her good mother. Her son, The Destroyer is picking off unsuspecting people at the behest of its mother. Importantly, the real Gabrielle returns for good which is fantastic, though we aren’t sure it is her at first because of Hope impersonating her. I liked this aspect as we are kept on edge watching for little tip offs as to who is the real Gabrielle. Suspense is bolstered as are many scenes with The Destroyer lurking are used and crank up one eerie aura. And with it seems to wrap up the whole story of Gabrielle and her bond to Dahak and Hope. I think it was the right time to wrap that part of the story up and concentrate on future things. We have the pretty intense hour called ‘Locked Up and Tied Down’. The running theme of Xena’s past still haunting her is the main thread throughout the show and is a fine example of it. Xena finds herself imprisoned in a remote jail where cruelty rules as punishment for ‘murdering’ a virtuous woman. The episode has some horror movie style elements like the torture inflicted on Xena in a pit infested with rats in retaliation for similar treatment of another. It asks some very pertinent questions about whether vengeance is a hollow pursuit or justifiable. Once more Xena is forced to relive the pain she inflicted on others and Gabrielle has to contend with her friend’s dark side. It’s a recurring theme but one that is the very essence of the show and when explored this well, brings depth to the overall narrative again.

The season really hits its zenith with the spiritual episodes that coincide with Xena and Gabrielle visiting India. “Devi” starts it off as the two aid a seemingly powerless fake magician named Eli, who is actually more in power than he thinks. As a result of an exorcism, he inadvertently transfers an evil spirit from his partner into someone else. That someone happens to be Gabrielle. As Gabrielle ends up possessed by a malevolent spirit,  it’s quite a thrill seeing a vicious and Gabrielle than we’ve ever seen before. Granted she is possessed, but it’s fun nonetheless and the episode really runs with it as the bewitched Gabrielle flaunts herself, hoodwinks everyone and brawls with an angry Xena. It also boasts important questions on just how trusting people can be when it comes to believing in miracles and the often dubious nature that hides behind the front. Between the Lines’ contains time travel and the involving concept of Karma and reincarnation. After being sent to the future via a powerful young woman and placed in the bodies of their reincarnated selves, Xena and Gabrielle face off against the wicked Alti, who’s been reincarnated once more and is attempting to spread her evil throughout the world. It’s good to see Alti back as she’s a formidable opponent for Xena and Claire Stansfield plays her to the hilt. This episode is the filling in an excellent sandwich of episodes, which includes Gabrielle getting a new short haircut that makes her look more grown up and signifies her stepping up. The main point of interest comes in ‘The Way’ . Some took issue at the time with how the show used the Hindu religion and felt it was disrespectful, but I don’t think it was intentional. It takes things from the religion and adds fiction, but I’m no expert so can’t judge whether it’s blasphemous or not. Regardless of the controversy, is a compelling episode where Xena opens her mind in order to save Gabrielle and a returning Eli is aided by the God Krishna. Fighting against an evil demon named Indrajit, she transforms into Kali; multi-armed goddess of death and it’s a sight to behold. ‘The Way’ also probes the idea of non violence as promoted by Eli and how Gabrielle struggles to discover her right path. Ultimately, her and Xena’s ideals are different but their friendship is the ultimate bridge that joins them. For me it’s one of the most compelling episodes due to both the action and themes, plus the big developments of our central characters. Episodes like these three really hit philosophical heights while also being darn entertaining in the process with a neat helping of character developments and prompting questions.

Great comedy comes in the shape of “Takes One to Know One’ which resembles an Agatha Christie mystery just set in Ancient Greece and its rollicking entertainment. Capping off the end of the season(penultimately but it still feels like a finale) is the epic ‘The Ides of March’. Everything has been building to this as Caesar comes into view and an old enemy in the form of Callisto(Hudson Leick) taunts Xena after striking a bargain to get out of hell. The whole episode of power play is very cinematic in execution and as everything slots in, it really takes hold. Xena and Gabrielle are both crucified before Xena can kill Caesar , but he is savagely murdered by senate members tired of his actions. Although we’ve seen flashes of this fate, the crucifixion still has a huge impact emotionally. With Caesar also biting the dust  it balances out quite well, especially as the spirits of Xena and Gabrielle rise from their bodies giving us hope of a way they can come back. A very powerful episode indeed and make no mistake.

On the visual front, Xena excels with its gorgeous locations, individual uniqueness and music. New Zealand still provides yet more gorgeous terrain for our heroine and sidekick to traverse and is given added exoticism when the story moves to India, which is really still New Zealand but wonderfully crafted to be convincing as another country. Music has always been a key ingredient to Xena and it’s doesn’t slack here as adventure is the watchword for the day. Blending exoticism and emotion with an action packed pulse, it’s gorgeously intoxicating for all. I’m a sucker for interesting visuals, symbolism and music so I naturally will praise it as it really deserves it to.

Lucy Lawless is superb as the fighting Xena whose is a figure you wouldn’t want to tangle with. Lawless projects strength, lethal charisma and underlying emotional core as she goes on in her atoning journey. Lawless is simply the only actress who can do the character of Xena justice with her combo of tough steel and inner turmoil, harnessed into a sexy package that’s as fun as it is convincing. Renée O’Connor  again impressive as Gabrielle. Too often the character is written off as being a do-gooder and too much of a damsel and while some areas of her are, most of the time she is shown to grow in terms of personality( which some overlook). A lot of that is down to O’Connor , who plays Gabrielle as being fierce when she needs to be and compassionate in various ways . Gabrielle can be infuriating with her at intervals but it makes her human as she is the representation of trying to do the right thing. She’s definitely changed since the first time we saw her, her naivety has softened, her confident sex appeal increased and her backbone has formed gradually. Ted Raimi expands on Joxer, still retaining the core of the comedy but also getting the opportunity to flesh him out more and unearth more to him. Hudson Leick and Alexandra Tydings make the most of their guest appearances as respectively, the wicked Callisto and the immature, Valley Girl goddess Aphrodite.  The only niggle I had with the cast is that Kevin Smith barely featured this time around as Ares.

Episode rankings:

  1. Adventures in the Sin Trade – A
  2. Adventures in the Sin Trade – A
  3. A Family Affair -A+
  4. In Sickness and in Hell – C-
  5. A Good Day – B+
  6. A Tale of Two Muses – B
  7. Locked Up and Tied Down – A
  8. Crusader – C
  9. Past Imperfect – B+
  10. The Key to the Kingdom – D-
  11. Daughter of Pomira – D
  12. If the Shoe Fits – B
  13. Paradise Found – B+
  14. Devi – A
  15. Between the Lines – A
  16. The Way – A+
  17. The Play’s the Thing – B-
  18. The Convert – B+
  19. Takes One to Know One – A
  20. Endgame – B
  21. The Ides of March – A+
  22. Deja Vu All Over Again – C

Occasionally not as focused as before, the darkness, humour and characters that Xena is well known help to make it another fine season of fantasy.