Point Blank Review: Sanctuary

Being a science fiction fan I was enthralled with what Stargate, the movie brought to the big screen in 1994. Three year later, Stargate SG-1 was born, which centered around the “flagship team” of the Stargate program, SG-1. Featured on this team was Amanda Tapping, who played Samantha “Sam” Carter for the shows 10 year run. She also reunited with the Stargate franchise in Stargate: Atlantis, as well as a few appearance on SGU Stargate Universe. Her recent role has her portraying new character as she works to protect “the network” and those within.

I was in luck when a suggested title through Netflix was the TV series, Sanctuary featuring Amanda Tapping as the enigmatic (and sexy) Dr. Helen Magnus. The show follows the”exploits of Dr. Helen Magnus and her quest to protect various cryptids, legends, and normal animals/people with certain extraordinary powers and abilities – what most people would consider monsters. “The Sanctuary” serves as a safe haven for these “Abnormals”.

The exotic and shadowy past of Dr. Magnus is not revealed up front, but you learn about her background and how she became to be over the first season. Over her years she had surrounded herself with some great minds, such as Nikola Tesla as well as John Druitt, otherwise known as Jack the Ripper, each of whom have their own unique abilities.

During Season 1, we are introduced to Dr. Will Zimmerman, a former police forensic psychiatrist, who’s abilities allow him to look beyond a crime scene. These abilities made him unpopular with the police force, which had him taking time off when approached by Dr. Magnus.

In their own rights, the rest of the team that supports Magnus are all strange, from self proclaimed geek, Henry Foss and Dr. Magnus’s daughter, Ashley to Bigfoot. Season 2 we are introduced to Kate Freelander, who seems to have Cabal connections, allowing Magnus to seemingly get the upper hand. With the unfortunate departure Ashley Magnus earlier in Season 2, apparently killed off after being a super assassin, as part of the Cabal plan to infiltrate and destroy the Sanctuary.

Ashley Magnus was the femme fetale combining beauty, brains and packing a serious punch when it came to fighting the Cabal. Unfortunately her willingness to bring the conflict to a resolution by fire power sometimes got her in trouble. Kate Freelander is similar and attempts to fill the position now vacated by Ashley Magnus after being snatched by the Cabal during Season 1. She does a fair job, not sure have been all that fond of her. She is growing on me (now after 2 seasons), but how she because a part of the Sanctuary “team” just didn’t fit well.

We learn about “The Cabal” in episode three, introduced as, “a powerful shadow organization that captures, studies, and experiments on Abnormals, in the belief that the Abnormal population is a threat to the human species.” Much the opposite of what the Sanctuary was created for.

What makes the show even more interesting is the heavy use of CGI and the fact the series actually started out on the Internet as 15-20 minutes webisodes. “Sanctuary is the first television series in North America to use the RED camera exclusively. The RED camera system does away with tape and film and records straight to a hard drive allowing the Anthem Visual Effects and the series’ post production team immediate access to the day’s footage, and is capable of recording at resolutions up to 4096 horizontal by 2304 vertical pixels, four times the resolution of current day HD.” (*)

Even laced with heavy CGI, the show still has a great plot as the Sanctuary and Cabal seemingly battle head to head over the existence of “Abnormals.” You can easily overlook the use of green/blue screens, the”virtual setting” as opposed to “on location” shoots. Sanctuary is a very good series. There is a wonderful balance between character development and the science fiction nature of the show. It will be interesting to see how Season 3 plays out, which is available online. Can’t wait to see how the Kali story plays out. Rumor is there are already talks underway between SyFy and Sanctuary Productions for a Season 4.

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Point Blank Review: Stargate SG-1

Prior to starting in on the 10 season epic that is Stargate SG-1 courtesy of Netflix, I was a bit curious as to the 8.5 rating as seen on IMDB. I had never really put much thought into getting into this sci-fi series, but now that I am 8 seasons in, that rating no longer needs to be justified.

I made the mistake after I was 6 seasons into the series and read about the series on Wikipedia. That ruined some of the surprises that were yet comes. In fact I was trying to see where Stargate Atlantis fit into the picture, which is at the start of Stargate SG-1, season 8. Regardless of what I read, the series has been amazing!

The television series was built off the movie, Stargate, which came out in 1994 starting Kurt Russell as Colonel Jack O’Neil and James Spader as Dr. Daniel Jackson. In the movie, on the Giza Plateau a cover stone is found, underneath it holds what comes to be known as the “stargate.” This is a “ancient” transport device that allows travelers to gate to other worlds.

The movie while not highly popular did spawn the television series, which stars Richard Dean Anderson as Colonel Jack O’Neill, and Michael Shanks as Dr. Daniel Jackson. The show also introduces Amanda Tapping as Major Samantha Carter and Christopher Judge as the Jaffa, Teal’c. The characters are very well developed, which helps you identify with them. O’Neill is a driven military leader trying to make up for a failed marriage and a family tragedy, which could have been prevented.

Samantha Carter is much her like her O’Neill, in that she is a very driven individual who is married to the military and the stargate project, which is hidden under the guise of deep space telemetry. As part of SG-1, shi is the science expert and theoretical astrophysicist. Again, like O’Neill, she has some family skeletons in her closet as well, driven by her father, Jacob, a general in the Air Force.

Carter also bonds amazing well with Dr. Daniel Jackson, a civilian archaeologist responsible for translating the ancient symbols, which allowed activation of the stargate. Prior to the series, Jackson was a failed lecturer who was no longer taken serious about his theories on the pyramids. Much like O’Neill and Carter, he too was witness to great family tragedy when his parents were killed establishing a new museum exhibit.

The only “alien” presence on the team is Teal’c who comes to SG-1 as a Jaffa, with extensive knowledge of the Goa’uld as he defected from the ranks as the First Prime to Apophis. Many of the Gou’ald know of his exploits and is considered a “Shol’va” or traitor by those he fought next to. His knowledge of the Gou’ald and System Lords plays an important role in providing timely information to SG-1 and those he now vows allegiance to. Much like the other members of SG-1 He too is wrought with tragedy in his past. He abandoned his wife and son, for their protection after wanting “freedom” from the Gou’ald and the “false Gods” as the System Lords refer to themselves.

The storyline and plot is excellent throughout the series (remember I’m on Season 8 here). Many episodes play off previous missions or story lines that were set up earlier in the show. The introduction of the System Lords and their desires to rule the universe by acting as Gods and enslaving the people on a wide variety of planets, most of which end up being human based. This goes back to the Ancients who spread their civilizations through many different worlds.

The Stargate is housed in the Cheyenne Mountain Complex in Wyoming and overseen by Major General George Hammond. He controls the activity of the gate, sending SG (Star gate) teams on missions to other worlds. SG-1 is the main team, thus the show centers on their missions and exploits. The shows main protagonist early on is the System Lord, Apophis, as he searches the galaxy for new Gou’ald hosts. After Teal’c defects a Jaffa Rebeillion begins, in which a small group search for their freedom from the Gou’ald.

Even after 8 seasons the show continues to fascinate and surprise even as I am now two seasons away from the end of SG-1. With all the interest generate by this show, I have started to explore the Pegasus Universe, which is home to Stargate Atlantis, which ran in parallel with SG-1 for a few years.

I have watched some good sci-fi shows in the past, Space: Above and Beyond comes to mind, but that series was short lived. The new Battlestar Galactica also comes to mind, from what I have heard from others. But Stargate SG-1 has something special that makes it an excellent sci-fi series as you explore the universe. I recommend you become a “Gater” and watch the series. It truly is an amazing series.

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Point Blank Review: Miami (Bust) Vice

Why? Why? Why does Hollywood think that 80’s television shows will make good movies? I held out as long as I could watching the 2006 remake of the hit television show, Miami Vice. I knew better than to watch it, but the wife bought it and it has been sitting in the collection for a year or so and I was running out of new titles to watch.

Sorry, but Jamie Foxx and Colin Farrell were no Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas who starred as detectives Sonny Crockett and Ricardo Tubbs. The overall storyline was okay and not surprisingly involved drugs coming into the states from South America. The movie as a whole, did not have that Miami Vice feel to it like the television show did. How can you do a remake and not include the Jan Hammer, Miami Vice theme song in it? I think that is what pissed me off the most!

Outside of the drugs involved, there was a love story, with both Farrell and Foxx and women from different sides of the tracks. But this was to be expected. The characters did have that screen presence that Johnson and Thomas did in the television show. The action was there, from the offshore boats to the gun fights and the defiance of the sometimes renegade detectives. But the overall feel was just not there.

Too much clubbing, picking up chicks and drinking mojitos by Crockett and Tubbs. This movie gets two thumbs down. While I won’t give up on the television show, the movie, even though it was action packed, which is a Michael Mann trademark, failed to hit the mark. Not sure why he could not stick to what made his TV show such a hit. This is a bust, much like the drugs Sonny and Tubbs get.

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Point Blank Review: Battlefield 1943

Since my “retirement” from software development I have never return to that community or any other online computer gaming. I have lost all desire because software developers are very uncreative these days. It seems that everything that could be designed has been and the first place a developer looks for a “return to glory” is in the past. Look at the lineup from id Software, Doom, Quake, Wolfenstein. Many other titles from other developers are developed in the same vein.

I believe the last good game I played was from Dice, titled Battlefield 1942. Although in my opinion BF1942 was not as fun as Codename: Eagle, but ’42 was a well done game. Being out of gaming, I was rather excited to see Battlefield 1942 (yes that is a typo) available for the Xbox 360. What I didn’t notice at the time, until I spoke to my buddy in Los Angeles, that this was was actually called Battlefield 1943. It was a new and updated version of 1942 some years later.

I was torn, so much for having faith in Dice as they have now regressed and moved backwards in order to redevelop their last good hit. I am no fan of the console controller, they are just terrible for FPS games, especially a fast paced online BF1943 or any other game. So my aiming leaves a lot to be desired, it is not as accurate as the popular keyboard/trackball (or mouse) combination that is so common in the gaming community.

After realizing 1943 was a remake of 1942, some of the thrill was gone. Yet the game is visually stunning, given the technology running in the Xbox 360. It does seem that is what sells games these days and not game play.

As for the game play, there is really nothing much to report. Some of the movement over the terrain and up hills is smoother than I recall. I found myself not getting stuck on objects when operating a tank, for example. One new addition that adds to the game is the ability to blown up portions of buildings and structures. You can run over fence, through buildings and it seems to really add bit of pizazz to the game.

Flying was easier in the PC version. Both sticks are required as is the trigger button for your throttle. The left stick is used to help make a coordinated turn by using the rudder. Personally I don’t think it works all that well and you find your aircraft slowing way down to make a tight turn. But the planes are a bit more balanced in this version versus the PC version.

I have only put in a few hours but I am enjoying my experience. I think the air raid feature sucks, but Dice did the same type of thing with their crappy follow up, Battlefield 2 with the artillery strike. I could not pass up the opportunity or the price to check it out.

Unfortunately one of the things Dice or any other developer cannot get rid of with programming are the asshat players. Just like the previous community I was involved in there are many who just ruin the fun and enjoyment. I am sure this is will be my deciding factor when I loose interest in the game. Way to go players!

I recommend it though for the Xbox 360, it is worth the small price tag.

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Point Blank Review: Above Top Secret by Jim Marrs

I came to know of Jim Marrs in the early 90’s after the release of the movie JFK by Oliver Stone. Marrs’s book, Crossfire: The Plot That Killed Kennedy was the book the film was based around. Very well done movie and a very complete and extensive book, for those who were not satisfied with The Warren Omission Report. And yes, I misspelled Commission as omission, because that is all it is. Another of the U.S. Government’s fine (yea right) cover ups.

Marrs new book is titled Above Top Secret: Uncover the Mysteries of the Digital Age and centers around some of the more recent unexplained activity. The reading is fairly quick, but there is extensive background and researching continuing to be conduct behind every topic in the book.

One of the biggest “mysteries” that is still fresh in everyone’s mind, “Was 9-11 An Inside Job?” which oddly enough is the first selection in the book. Other selections include the Stephenville incident, the crash at Roswell, The Phoenix Lights, O’Hare Gate 17 Incident, John Titor, chemtrails, the Federal Reserve scam, and peak oil, just to name a few of the topics. Some very pertinent and interesting information, which is not in step with major media and the government for the most part.

As Marrs starts out, “Conspiracy Theorist: someone who postulates on the idea that many important geopolitical events or economical and societal trends are the products of secret plots that are generally unknown to the public at large.” For those who think this definition makes Marrs, myself or others sound like a nut, this is just another way to think. Don’t believe everything you are told, draw your own conclusions, do you own research and ask your own questions.

I am only three selections into the book, but have quite a knowledge of all of the topics Marrs is writing about because of the time I spend on the web site, Above Top Secret. Oddly enough, this was one of the sites I used in order to learn more about Area 51 in the Tonopah Range, just north of Las Vegas, Nevada. You can always visit the site and see what all the book encompasses. As Fox Mulder says, “the truth is out there.”

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