Birds of Prey

Produced By: Tollin/Robbins Productions

First Aired On: The WB Network

Reviewed by Melissa Minners 

           Once upon a time there lived a caped crusader known as Batman, guardian of the citizens of New Gotham.  By day, he was known as millionaire playboy Bruce Wayne, but by night, Wayne became a vigilante, bent on ridding New Gotham of its criminal element.  Of the various criminals found in New Gotham, one in particular, a notorious cat-burglar named Catwoman, intrigued Batman.  Known in other circles as Selina Kyle, art dealer, Catwoman captured the caped crusader’s heart.  Their brief union resulted in the birth of a young metahuman girl, Helena Kyle.  Selina Kyle decided to leave the life of a cat-burglar in order to give her daughter a safer life.  Knowing that Batman would never be able to leave the dual life he had created for himself, Selina kept the identity of Helena’s father a secret from both Batman and Helena.  She entrusted the secret to one person – Barbara Gordon.

            Barbara Gordon also led a dual existence.  By day, she was your average every day school teacher and guidance counselor.  But by night, she was Batgirl, fighting the forces of evil, often by the side of her mentor, Batman.  Barbara Gordon dutifully kept Selina’s secret, hoping that one day she would reconsider and reveal the identity of Helena’s paternal parentage to both father and daughter.  Unfortunately, Selina would never have the chance to do so.

        Fighting side by side in New Gotham’s underworld, Batman and Batgirl managed to defeat one of New Gotham’s most dangerous crime syndicate kingpins, The Joker.  Following his strict moral credo, Batman captured The Joker alive, handing him over to the city’s police department.  He would soon regret his actions.  The Joker escaped custody.  In the short time that he was free, The Joker decided that he would take revenge on his arch enemy.  He hired someone to murder Selina Kyle right in front of her teenage daughter and then paid a visit to Barbara Gordon in person, gunning down the heroine in her own apartment.  Unbeknownst to Helena Kyle and Barbara Gordon, someone else was privy to the agony and anguish of that fateful night.  Hundreds of miles away, a young girl with metahuman powers saw it all in her dreams. 

           Helena eventually became the ward of Barbara Gordon.  She was now privy to the fact that Bruce Wayne / Batman was her father, but, due to his refusal to avenge her mother’s death by hunting down and killing the man who murdered her, Helena refused to have anything to do with him.  When her metahuman abilities began to surface, Barbara was there to help her understand them, and to nurture them into something she could use for the greater good.  Barbara, herself, had undergone changes.  Paralyzed by the bullet that The Joker had fired into her that night, Barbara resolved to continue fighting crime in a new way – as Oracle, master of the cyber-realms.  She eventually aided Helena in becoming The Huntress, New Gotham’s newest crime fighter. 

            Meanwhile, somewhere in the Midwest, a young metahuman girl named Dinah yearned to search for the two women she had seen suffering in her dreams.  She longed to learn more about them…longed to prove that what she had seen was not a dream, but in fact, a reality.  Seven years after Selina Kyle’s murder, Dinah ran away from home and found Helena and Barbara.  After much drama, Dinah was accepted into the group and trained to become a crime fighter in her own right.  The three formed the crime fighting trio known as the Birds of Prey.  Thus begins a television series, loosely based on the DC Comics series of the same name, which aired on Wednesday nights in 2002 on the now defunct WB Network.

            When I first learned about this television series, I couldn’t wait for it to air.  Batgirl and Black Canary had always been my favorite superheroes.  The fact that the Birds of Prey comic book featured both Barbara Gordon and Dinah Lance was more than enough to convince me to watch the show.  But, if I needed any more incentive, the idea of Batman and Catwoman producing an offspring was definitely intriguing.  When the pilot episode of Birds of Prey finally aired, I was glued to the television set.  I remained that way every Wednesday night until the show’s untimely death thirteen episodes later. 

            In what has become a disturbing trend of late, Birds of Prey never really got the chance it deserved before network executives yanked it off the air.  Nay-sayers applauded the show’s cancellation – most of the complaints seemed to stem around the fact that the television series was not very closely based on the comic book series.  Some didn’t like the darkness of the series, although most would agree that any television spin-off of Batman would have to be dark.  However, most people who enjoyed the show seemed to develop a sort of addiction to it.  Notification of the series’ demise was issued halfway into the season and sent fans into a frenzy, with groups of Birds of Prey enthusiasts making any and every effort to save their show to no avail.  The fans did get some attention – they were rewarded with a few more episodes designed to tie up lose ends. 

            In my opinion, the Birds of Prey television series had tremendous potential, but was cut off before given the opportunity to shine.  Of course, there were some good points and bad points about each episode.  Let’s explore them, shall we?

The Pilot Episode          Slick          Prey for the Hunter      

    Three Birds and a Baby          Sins of the Mother

Primal Scream         Split          Lady Shiva         

Nature of the Beast          Gladiatrix          Reunion

Feat of Clay          Devil’s Eyes          Closing Comments



The Pilot Episode

            There were two versions of the pilot episode, but only one actually aired.  The original, unaired version sported a different beginning.  In addition, the actress who portrayed Dr. Quinzel / Harley Quinn was Sherilyn Fenn.  The aired version’s Dr. Quinzel / Harley Quinn was portrayed by Mia Sara, a much better fit for the character.  Mia Sara would continue on in her role for the rest of the series.  This episode was designed to introduce viewers to the main characters and to give them the producers’ version (again, loosely based on the comic book series) of how the heroes of the Birds of Prey team came together.  Barbara Gordon and Helena Kyle are already a crime-fighting duo as Oracle and Huntress.  Dinah, at this point, is a runaway, seeking out the people from her dream.  The underlying plot – someone is getting inside the heads of a group of entrepreneurs involved in buying up the real estate in the old Gotham Dock Yards.  Each member of the group has committed suicide.  Oracle finds these suicides suspicious and has been investigating them with the aide of Huntress.  When Dinah stumbles upon Oracle and Huntress’ Lair, and Barbara discovers that the young girl is a metahuman with nowhere to go, Barbara takes her in and, with some hesitation, makes her a part of the team. 

             There are some good and bad points about both versions of the pilot episode.  Dina Meyer makes for a very convincing Barbara Gordon and Ian Abercrombie is quite possibly the best Alfred Pennyworth I have ever seen.  Kudos to the powers that be that actually got Mark Hamill to reprise his role as the voice of The Joker.  Ashley Scott and Rachel Skarsten were rather inexperienced at the time and their portrayals of Huntress and Dinah Lance were a little green in this episode.  However, as the series went on, their acting improved.  Shemar Moore was well-cast in his role as the sometimes savvy, often times dimwitted police detective Jesse Reese, a cop who stumbles on to Huntress at a crime scene and becomes her police contact in later episodes. 

             Although the unaired version was basically a rough cut, and Sherilyn Fenn was definitely not a good fit for the role of the maniacal Dr. Quinzel, I happen to think it was the better of the two.  The aired version was hacked to pieces and, thus, was missing crucial views into the characters actions and mind-sets during the episode.  The aired version lacks explanation as to why Huntress doesn’t wear a mask, why the evil-doer in this episode is able to get into her head so easily, and more that would allow the viewer key insight into the characters.  Both episodes have this weird growling noise every time they show Huntress in action.  Thank goodness they didn’t use this in every episode.  Also rather annoying, was the expensive CGI that they used to show Huntress as she traveled from rooftop to rooftop.  It looked wholly unbelievable and was obviously a computer effect.  Viewers like myself are partial to using their imagination on certain things.  We don’t need to see a computerized version of Huntress jumping across rooftops.  All we need is the suggestion that she is doing this – our imaginations will supply the rest.

             I think the perfect version of the pilot would be a combination of the two versions, using Mia Sara for the role of Dr. Quinzel, and leaving in much of the dialogue from the unaired version, as well as the unaired version’s beginning.  I would also, most definitely, have included the moments just prior to the ending fight scene that were cut from the unaired version.  They added clarity and emotion to that scene and why anyone would want to cut these moments out of that scene escapes me.

Slick

               This episode featured Silas Weir Mitchell as Slick, a metahuman hired by Harley Quinn to commandeer several trucks containing large stores of weaponry to aide in her evil plot to rule New Gotham and free her boyfriend, The Joker, from Arkham.  Slick is able to convert himself into a liquid form.  As a subplot, viewers are given a glimpse of the possibility of romance between Barbara Gordon and Wade, another teacher from New Gotham High School.  The unaired pilot had already made this romance a certainty, but those scenes were cut out of the aired version, allowing the writers to start from scratch with Wade.  Also, we are given more insight into Dinah’s background and her true identity. 

             When I first watched this episode, I was very disappointed.  I disliked the villain, was annoyed by the CGI effects and wasn’t thrilled by quite a bit of the dialogue.  Rewatching the episode a couple of times gave me a better perspective.  I still disliked the villain, but I did love his interaction with Harley Quinn…mostly Harley’s dialogue, which, when delivered by Mia Sara packs a potent punch.  I still loathed the CGI effects which were still rather unconvincing.  I did however begin to enjoy some of the dialogue as little quips and banter that escaped me the first time I viewed the episode grabbed me now.  The banter between Huntress and Oracle was perfect, reminding me of the witty quips exchanged between Oracle and Black Canary in the comic book version.

             All-in-all, this episode only served to build up the characters, giving us further insight into who they were and how they would respond to certain situations.  However, the liquid-guy thing probably could have been done better.  When first aired, this episode had me shaking my head and wondering if the series was going to take a turn for the silly.  I’m glad I stuck around for the next episode.

Prey for the Hunter

              Now here was an episode you could sink your teeth into.  Huntress comes across Detective Morton, a metahuman who can emulate other metahuman powers, as long as they are in his close proximity.  Morton suffers from migraines every time he comes in close contact with another meta.  Blaming them for his pain and suffering, Morton goes on a killing spree, using their own powers to murder them.  But his day job as a Police Detective puts him in contact with New Gotham Detective Jesse Reese.  Discovering that Reese has a business relationship of sorts with Huntress, Morton does his best to undermine this, placing doubts in Reese’s mind about Huntress’ powers and loyalty.  Side plots include a dinner date between Barbara and Wade’s family and Dinah’s disastrous first day at New Gotham High School. 

             In this episode, we are given some new knowledge about metahumans – no two metahumans will have the same abilities.  We are also introduced to the idea that there are metahuman clubs – places where metahumans can get together to unwind and socialize, such as No Man’s Land, a secret bar owned by an old friend and avid admirer of Helena’s named Gibson Kafka.  The underlying tone of this episode is that of discrimination.  Morton suggests that metahumans are evil because they are different from regular humans and, therefore, an abomination.  Wade’s parents suggest that because of Barabara’s disability, she would be an unsuitable match for their son.  Dinah runs into the cruelty of high school youth as her differences cause a rift with the students on her very first day of school.  The message about tolerance is immediately apparent and a lesson well-learned. 

             This episode showed the series’ potential.  The younger actors began to feel at home with their characters and thus the acting was much improved.  The lesson taught was an important one and one well-received.  The fight scenes were terrific and well-choreographed.  Detective Reese’s character was a tad bit on the annoying side, but that hardly distracted from the episode itself.

Three Birds and a Baby

            The Birds of Prey come into possession of a genetically engineered baby, one that seems to mature after every nap.  Each time the child falls asleep, a growth spurt is triggered.  Thanks to Huntress’ saving him from his captors, the baby, named Guy by the Birds, imprints on Huntress as his surrogate mother.  She is the only one who can calm him and talk sense into him when he becomes out of control.  And Guy can definitely get out of control – he was genetically engineered to be a killing machine for Harley Quinn’s army.

            This is one of my favorite episodes.  We see more of Helena’s emotional side as well as Harley Quinn’s maniacal side.  Harley Quinn’s dialogue is absolutely hysterical.  It’s also funny to see that Helena, someone with no mothering tendencies, would be the one who would have the most skill with Guy, as opposed to Barbara, who has become a surrogate mother of two teenagers, yet can’t handle one small baby. 

            This is a must see episode.  Although many will say that the plot is well-worn, it’s still enjoyable.  What wouldn’t unnerve a courageous crime fighting team more than the insertion of a tiny, needy baby in their ranks?  And, yes, the special growth thing has been done before, but the writers handled this story well and so it doesn’t feel like some tired old storyline.  The fight scenes and the emotion of the episode are what grabbed me and why this was, and will continue to be, one of my favorites.

Sins of the Mother

            In this episode, we discover that Dinah Lance’s mother is none other than the Black Canary.  She returns to New Gotham to find her daughter and discovers that she is now in the care of Barbara Gordon.  However, Dinah is none too pleased to hear this news.  Her feelings of resentment at being abandoned outweigh her desire to get to know her mother.  Dinah and Carolyn’s reunion is made even more complicated when one of Carolyn’s old enemies discovers that she has returned to New Gotham and vows to take revenge.

            In Sins of the Mother, we are introduced to another of Dinah’s powers.  In addition to telepathy, Dinah has begun to show signs of having telekinesis as well.  Viewers are given more insight into Dinah’s former foster parents as well as why Carolyn had to give Dinah up in the first place.  Viewers also discover an interesting tidbit about Detective Reese’s parentage. 

            One good episode follows another!  Lori Loughlin is terrific as the Black Canary.  The emotions displayed by both Loughlin and Skarsden in this episode are raw and wholly believable.  There is no Harley Quinn in Sins of the Mother, but Al Hawke definitely makes up for that fact.  Hawke is a truly sinister criminal and it comes as a shock when we learn that he is in fact Jesse Reese’s father.  Stephen McHattie does a wonderful job in his portrayal of Hawke in this episode.  The only thing taking away from the episode is the truly terrible CGI effects, clearly the exact same CGI aired in every episode thus far.

Primal Scream

            Here, we see Helena and Detective Reese working together in an experimental run against a team of Extreme Sports junkies who have turned to a life of crime to fulfill their addiction for adrenaline.  Things get hairy when Helena and Reese differ on how to deal with the criminals and their as-yet-unknown benefactor.

            Primal Scream brings Helena and Reese to another level in their relationship.  Reese begins to trust Helena and Helena begins to show her feelings toward the detective.  We learn about Barbara’s worries that Helena is half Catwoman and half Batman and that she might tend toward her Catwoman half while undercover on this case.  We also see Dinah struggling with her mother’s death and how that affects her judgment on this case. 

            Although we see a lot of character growth in this episode, I was not as enthusiastic about the storyline as I should have been.  Somehow, I was left with the feeling that something was missing in this episode.  I can’t quite put my finger on it, but this was definitely not one of my favorites.

Split

            Here’s where we throw a monkey wrench into the Reese / Huntress relationship.  Enter Assistant District Attorney Lynne Syracuse and metahuman named Darkstrike.  When a young girl is kidnapped from a park by a monster of a man with superhuman strength, the Birds rush to investigate.  Huntress meets Darkstrike, a cop from Central City who is tracking the movements of a serial killer named The Crawler.  Looking for information, Huntress seeks out Detective Reese and finds him embroiled in conversation with a pretty blonde.  Although Helena constantly insists that there is nothing going on between her and Reese, she becomes instantly jealous.  She’s not alone in the green-eyed phase – Reese becomes instantly jealous of her relationship with newly found friend Darkstrike.

            Split gives us an opportunity to see Helena work with someone other than Reese.  It also furthers the healing process for Dinah, who worries that she can never fill her mother’s shoes.  Darkstrike soothes her fears by explaining that, “Being a crime fighter is not about strength or speed, but the choices you make.”  We get to see Dinah use her powers of telepathy again and it is instantly obvious that they have grown stronger.  But the best part of this episode is the surprising twist in the end…and nope, I’m not telling!  You’ll just have to find the episode yourself to find out.

            What I like most about this episode are the fight scenes and the banter.  I have yet to see a television show with fight scenes as well choreographed as the ones in Birds of Prey.  As for the banter, I love the lines written for Helena and Harley Quinn.  Samples include:  

Huntress: “Men…can’t live with ‘em…might as well beat the crap out of them.

 Barbara: “I know you’re a little frustrated with Reese these days….actually, men in general.”

Huntress: “All of them, as a species.

Dr. Quinzel: “Evil’s so much more interesting than good, don’t you think?

 Lady Shiva

            What happens when you make a serious mistake in your crime fighting past?  It comes back to haunt you…to death!  Barbara Gordon, as the caped crusader Batgirl, once made a fatal error when attempting to capture a criminal named Lady Shiva.  In a fight with Shiva, Batgirl’s batarang accidentally breaks a gas line, causing an abandoned building to explode.  She believed that the one body they found in the building belonged to her nemesis.  Years later, Barbara discovers that she was wrong – that Lady Shiva has returned looking to avenge the person killed that night…her younger sister.  What she doesn’t realize is that Lady Shiva is none other than Sandy, the recently returned high school friend of Helena Kyle.

            Great episode!  In fact, this was one of the best episodes in the series.  Seeing Batgirl in action was a special treat.  It was nice to get some insight into Barbara’s and Helena’s past.  As a subplot, we get a glimpse into Dinah’s school life.  There are a couple of lessons to be learned in this episode, things about ethics, loving who you are, etc.  Alfred, after being mysteriously absent from Split, returns to play a much bigger role in this episode.

            What can I say about this episode?!  I loved the fight scenes…with the exception of a portion of the school scene in which the same scene was used twice.  Being a tremendous fan of Batgirl, I loved watching her in action.  I thought the idea of an electronic device giving Barbara enough power to walk was interesting.  Most of all, I loved the anguish and agony displayed by Barbara as she realizes the mistakes of her past and what the consequences of her actions in the past have wreaked on the present.  I really love the scene in which Helena pleads with Barbara to explain why she went up against Shiva alone with nothing but a transponder to assist her in battle.  The emotion displayed by both actors was truly believable.  In fact, the combination of raw emotion mixed with the action is what makes this an incredible episode!

Nature of the Beast

            The infamous Al Hawke returns with a new look and a death mark on his head.  It would appear that his associate wants to take over the organization.  Frankie Spitz, former right hand man to Al Hawke, turns on his employer, hiring a metahuman who can walk through walls to dispatch Hawke once and for all.  Reese, hoping that his father will turn state’s evidence, goes to the Birds for help.  Dinah bristles with anger at the thought of protecting the man responsible for her mother’s death.  Her mind is set on one thing – revenge.

            Yet another great episode.  We get some more insight into Jesse Reese’s past and learn why he chose to become a cop instead of following in his father’s footsteps.  We also get to see Dinah in action, displaying much of her telekinetic powers that seem to grow stronger the angrier she becomes.  We learn just how dangerous she can actually be in such situations.  Neil Hopkins is chilling as the metahuman hitman who refuses to quit until his mark is dead.  The idea of a hitman that can go through walls to get at his mark is equally chilling.

            There is one annoying thing about this episode – the use of a different actor in the role of Al Hawke.  I had truly enjoyed Stephen McHattie’s portrayal of the spiritual yet deadly Hawke.  Mitch Pileggi’s portrayal paled in comparison.  The explanation of the drastic change in Al Hawke’s looks was equal to that of a soap opera – oh, he looks different…well, that’s because of the plastic surgery he needed to cover the burns he received when the warehouse exploded.  Oh, please!  I loved watching Dinah in action and out of control – awesome!

Gladiatrix

            Picture Fight Club, metahuman-style, but with a twist – none of the competitors are willing participants.  While investigating a recent series of metahuman female kidnappings, Huntress falls victim to the kidnapper herself.  The Birds, with the help of Detective Reese, must infiltrate the secret club and save Helena before it’s too late.

            The idea behind this show is classic – let’s pit superhero against superhero and see who has the most power.  That’s what you get to see here.  If you were wondering who might do better in a fight, Huntress or Dinah, this episode gives you an opportunity to find out.  Before you get halfway through this episode, you know the fight’s going to happen.  Helena, seeing Dinah as being akin to a little sister, is still overly protective of her.  Dinah, incredibly angry about Helena’s lack of faith in her abilities, lashes out at Helena verbally, telling her that she believes she can take her.  It’s foreshadowing at its lamest.

            Something about this episode rubs me the wrong way.  Donovan Leitch is incredibly annoying as the fight club ringleader.  Also, the fight scene between Dinah and Huntress is rather lame.  I did like Ashley Scott’s acting in this episode.  The fight club participants are given a drug that increases their paranoia and rage and Ashley Scott does a good job of portraying a somewhat feral Huntress.  Other than that, there are some lines from this episode that cracked me up, such as this one from Oracle: “This is a crime fighter.  This is a crime fighter on drugs.”

Reunion

            Helena’s high school reunion causes a stir in New Gotham.  It would seem that every man about to attend the Reunion that behaves nastily toward Miss Kyle ends up dead.  Reese’s investigation of the murders threatens to reveal Huntress’ identity; however, the Birds decide that it is best if Helena goes to the Reunion in an effort to flush out the killer.

            The subplot of this episode involves Wade and Barbara’s relationship.  Viewers get to see more of Gibson Kafka in Reunion as he helps to nab the chameleon-like killer.  Reese is as dimwitted as ever and it is up to Helena to reveal her true identity as bartender by day, crime fighter by night. 

            I’m lukewarm about this episode.  I love the idea of a chameleon-like killer who can slip in on his victims unseen by blending in with his surroundings.  However, I really just don’t see it as being as good as the other episodes in this series.  After all, can Reese as a police detective afford to be that obtuse?  I hated the reuse of Wade / Barbara footage from the unaired pilot.  I suppose that the producers have a right to reuse that footage in an episode that actually had the opportunity to air, but I just didn’t think it fit in well.  Neither did the scene in which Barbara overhears Wade’s mother talking about her.  Correct me if I am wrong, but didn’t this dinner take place in the third episode?  The best part of this episode had to be the jab the writers gave at the comic book fanatics who hated the show because it didn’t follow the comic book all that closely.  The jab takes place in the scene in which the Birds and Alfred discuss whether or not Huntress actually has a secret identity since she doesn’t wear a mask.  As an avid fan of the show, I took special pleasure at this scene.

Feat of Clay

            When the son of notorious villain, Clayface, seeks to show up his daddy, it’s a race against time to stop Chris Cassius from destroying New Gotham with his explosive clay touch.  The subplot here is the revelation of Barbara’s identity to Wade via Alfred’s meddling.

            We finally discover the identity of Selina Kyle’s murderer.  How, you may ask?  Through a reenactment of Silence of the Lambs, BOP-style.  Huntress goes to Arkham Asylum to get information from Clayface about his son.  But to get information, she must give him information…information about her pain and suffering on the night of her mother’s death.  Huntress’ identity is revealed to yet another individual.  And the relationship between Helena and Reese moves to another level.

            The raw emotion here is excellent – well done Ashley Scott!  Dinah isn’t seen very much, but when she is, wow!  The fashion show wardrobe, with the exception of Dinah’s outfit, left much to be desired.  Dina Meyer’s portrayal of Barbara Gordon is hot and cold in this episode.  There seems to be either an error in this episode, or something was lost on the cutting room floor, because when Huntress visits Clayface at Arkham, he not only knows her true identity, he also knows that she works with Oracle.  What I loved most about this episode is the new entry for Huntress.  With a serious lack of funds after the announcement of the show’s cancellation, producers could no longer afford the expensive CGI entry.  The new and improved Huntress arrival is just what we were asking for – less flash and more imagination. 

Devil’s Eyes

The time for the takeover of New Gotham has arrived.  Harley Quinn has found a scientist who is able to transfer the hypnotic powers of a metahuman to Harley.  Able to bend anyone’s will to her own, Harley sets out to destroy her enemies and rule New Gotham.  Her first stop, No Man’s Land where she experiments on Gibson Kafka.  Next on the list, Helena, whose aid she enlists in finding the blueprints of the Clocktower.  Once inside, Quinn will be able to transmit her hypnotic message to the entire city, holding the city captivated in her destructive gaze.

            As the final episode of the series, the cast and crew alike were able to tear things up like never before.  Whole sets were destroyed in the creation of Devil’s Eyes.  Once again, it’s superhero versus superhero as we watch Barbara Gordon, equipped with her transponder, come up against a crazed Huntress.  We also saw hints of awkwardness involving Wade’s constant presence at the Clocktower.  The episode is emotional in more ways than one – this is the last episode to be filmed and we get the feeling that the emotions displayed by the characters is part-act, part-real life.

            Another awesome episode!  With the ability to destroy any set they pleased, the creators of the show presented us with a scene we will never forget – Dinah and Barbara crashing through the face of the Clocktower as Tatu’s All the Things She Said plays in the background.  No BOP fan I know can talk about the show without mentioning that scene.  Everything was wrapped up in this episode.  Unlike other cancelled series, Birds of Prey was given the opportunity to complete itself and what an ending it was – no dangling strings and plenty of anguish and action!  Each actor gets kudos for their work in this episode – they were all quite believable.  Cinematography was awesome in this episode except for some parts of the ending fight scene, where you can tell that the fighters are doubles.

            Some quips about the show?  Well, I noticed that parts of the final fight scene didn’t fit together.  It’s hard to describe – you’d have to see it.  Also, since when could Harley and Barbara fly?  One minute, they’re on the main floor of the headquarters, then suddenly, they are leaping to the second floor with an ease that would suggest this had always been possible. What gives?  Also, after crashing through the Clocktower face, you hardly would expect to see it whole in the very next scene, but, lo and behold, there it is in one piece as the girls have their discussion on the balcony at the end of the episode.  Oops!

        Despite the errors, one could hardly say they were displeased with this episode.  The most touching part of Devil’s Eyes had to be the moment when Barbara is about to exact revenge on Harley Quinn for her evil deeds.  Helena reminds Barbara of her very own words: “You have saved me so many times. It’s my turn.  When my mom died, you told me something that I didn’t understand until right now.  You told me revenge might dull the pain, but the less we felt, the less we were…Barbara, we don’t kill.  No matter what.  I can’t let you do this.  It makes us less.”  And when Barbara collapses, either due to the transponder giving out or to the weight of her sorrow, Helena catches her, sinking to the floor with her and holding her tightly in her arms.  The last thing we see as the camera fades out is Helena kissing the top of Barbara’s head – very touching and excellently done.

Closing Comments

 

             In closing, I have to say that I truly enjoyed this show!  No, the creators did not follow the comic book closely.  In fact, one would venture to guess that they skimmed the comics and caught some interesting ideas that they wanted to use.  There were some similarities.  The main theme of having Barbara Gordon as Oracle, master of the cyber realms and leader of the Birds of Prey was kept intact.  The banter between Huntress and Oracle on the television series very closely resembled the banter between Oracle and Black Canary in the comic book series.  Of course, there were a lot of differences, such as Barbara Gordon’s occupation – she was a teacher in the television series, a position held by Huntress in the comic book.  Dinah Lance had the powers of telepathy and telekinesis in the television series and not the canary cry that she had in the comics, but the series did show her mother using the cry and lead us to believe that it was possible that this was a power Dinah had yet to develop.  Many people would say that Huntress was not the resulting offspring of a Batman / Catwoman union, but they would be wrong.  In an alternate universe in the DC Comics realm, there was such a union that produced such an offspring.  The Huntress of that Earth did not have metahuman abilities, but who cares?  Yes, there were a great deal of differences, but I found the differences to be new and exciting.  Did we really want a word-for-word rendition of the comic book?

This was an action show worth watching.  When it comes to choreographed fight scenes, I have yet to see another show that can compare to the choreography of Birds of Prey.  My only beef was that, every so often, you could tell when the stunt double was substituted for the actor.  However, this seems to be an issue on quite a few shows with martial arts action scenes, so I’m not complaining too much.  At least the stunt double for Huntress was pretty close to the mark. 

               The crew did a terrific job when it came to casting the various roles on Birds of Prey.  Dina Meyer was instantly believable as Barbara Gordon and Ian Abercrombie was the best Alfred I’ve ever seen.  Having watched some of Mia Sara’s films prior to Birds of Prey, I never would have thought she could pull off the role of Harley Quinn, but she did a spectacular job.  I couldn’t have asked for a more maniacally insane version of Harley!  Ashley Scott was a terrific choice to play the bad-ass Huntress and Rachel Skarsten did a nice job in her role as Dinah Lance.  Shemar Moore was positively sexy as a Detective Reese and the guest stars in each of the thirteen episodes were well-matched for their roles…with the exception of Mitch Pillegi (no offense to the X-Files fans out there).

               And the music!  The entire series had an amazing soundtrack featuring many class acts, such as Maroon 5TatuPaul OakenfoldAimee AllenLinkin ParkVanessa CarltonCrystal MethodJames HornerMichelle BranchDuncan SheikOasis, and many more.  Many of the songs that made up the Birds of Prey soundtrack have found their way onto other television series, in movies, or in commercials.  Each song was perfectly picked for the situation – rocking songs for the fight scenes, softer music for the sad parts, and easy pop for the scenes featuring some sort of self-discovery.    

               Perhaps what was most important about Birds of Prey was the message the show sent.  For one thing, this is one of the few shows to feature a wheelchair-bound female as a heroine.  I think that says a great deal.  It shows that a handicap is only a physical challenge, and one that can be successfully overcome.  There was a recurring theme present throughout each episode – love yourself…be happy with who you are.  From the very first episode, the writers tried to bring this message home, whether it was Dinah struggling with the idea that her foster parents viewed her as a freak because of her powers or Barbara dealing with the fact that some people have a lower perception of her simply because she is wheelchair-bound.  The message was clear and consistent. 

               This show had a tremendous amount of potential and was cut down in its prime.  For fans, the show lives on through video tapes, fan forums, and fan fiction.  In fact, the only thing missing is the coveted Birds of Prey Series DVD set.  A campaign has been underway for many years, and, being a huge fan of the show myself, I can only hope that the idea of a DVD set will become a fact in the very near future!    

 

Special Thanks:  A special thank you to all of the Birds of Prey fans out there that offered assistance and support in writing this article!  Birds of Prey fans are a special breed and I am thankful for each and every one of them!

Check out Birds of Prey at Amazon

#Commissions Earned


Badasses

The Legend of Snake, Foo, Dr. Death and John Madden’s Oakland Raiders

Written By: Peter Richmond

 Published By: Harper

 Reviewed by Melissa Minners

                When I wrote the commentary, A Raiders Fan on the East Coast, I began to realize that I knew very little about the Badass years of the Oakland Raiders franchise.  Being a fan on the opposite coast, I didn’t get to see the games in which the Raiders competed for the Super Bowl.  Granted, during some of that time, I would have been too young to even understand the game, but if I am a true fan of the team, I should know everything about my team, right?  I mean, I know everything about the my favorite baseball team, New York Mets,  and I wasn’t even born when they came to light.  It was time I learned a thing or two about my Raiders.  It was time I read Badasses!

                Badasses: The Legend of Snake, Foo, Dr. Death and John Madden’s Oakland Raiders, by Peter Richmond, focuses on the years in the 1970s that the Oakland Raiders were contenders, battling for the ultimate goal: that Super Bowl Ring.  The book is written with all the love and anguish of a true fan – Peter Richmond is an avid Raiders fan like myself.  And so, the beginning of the book is Richmond’s thought on the 70s Raiders, a legendary group of guys who no other team seemed to want individually, but who seemed to get on quite nicely in Oakland

                After the preface of the book, we get to the nitty gritty and the Championship game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, a team which would become our 1970s rivals.  This would be the game of the infamous The Immaculate Reception during the 1972 AFC playoffs.  Of course, a Raiders fan would side with the Raiders on this one and so Richmond calls it the Immaculate Deception.  The world may never truly know whether or not that catch made by Franco Harris and run in for a touchdown was actually a legal catch.  But I did learn a thing or two about the rules that used to be on the books in the NFL that may be the reason for the controversial call that sent the Steelers on toward victory. 

                From there, we take a look at the Raiders as a team, looking back to the beginnings of the franchise and the football beginnings of Al Davis, who would go on to become the team’s owner.  As Al Davis ascended from head coach to owner, he had to pick a successor.  That job would fall to John Madden, a man who would lead the team to victory, work as head coach for only ten years and move on to perhaps an even more legendary career – that of NFL commentator.  Richmond gives a terrific overview of who Madden was before and after his time with the team.

                In fact, Richmond does that with every one of the Raiders players during that 1970s frame of time in which they ascended into greatness.  We learn about their star quarterback, Ken Stabler, AKA: Snake; his receivers Freddy Biletnikoff, Pete Banaszak (AKA: The Rooster), Marv Hubbard, Mark van Eeghen; safeties Jack Tatum (Assassin) and George Atkinson (Hit Man) and linebackers Skip Thomas (Dr. Death) and Willie Brown, all members of the Soul Patrol; offensive guard Gene Upshaw; linebacker Phil Vilapiano (Foo) and defensive end John Matuszak (Tooz).  We learn the good and the bad and the downright outrageous.

                And we didn’t just learn about their performance on the field.  We got to learn about their antics off the field.  Not just from news stories or old footage, but from the players and coaches themselves as well.  Hearing this stuff in the players own words – how they felt about the Immaculate Reception, how they felt about losing years in a row during the championships, how it felt getting to the Super Bowl, how the team was more like a family than a bunch of guys with the same goal – it made Badasses that much more interesting a read. 

Being a true Raiders fan, Richmond went that extra mile, to gain an understanding of the players he loved and to impart that understanding on his readers.  He wanted us to see the good and bad and still be able to love this team he himself loved.  I have to say, I was never a John Madden fan prior to reading this book, but I can honestly say that I now see him as a loud, loveable football genius.  Richmond even gives us a glimpse into the eventual downfall of the Raiders and their move to Los Angeles.  He even lamented the days when football finally made the move from being an extremely physical and mental sport to being entertainment.  I can agree with quite a few of his views on that particular part of the book.

It’s unfortunate that Richmond never took the opportunity to update this book, because I know he is loving the Carr years right now, but he can probably see what I see – the Raiders defense is no Soul Patrol.  We Raiders fans are long sufferers and, if they could ever get their defense to be half of what the Soul Patrol was then, we may not be suffering for much longer.  Either way, I loved the opportunity to learn about some of the greatest years in Oakland Raiders history written by a man who truly loved the team and wanted to bring his readers a well-rounded view of what it was like to be a member of that team – win or lose, they were a family that didn’t stop being a family after the ride was over.  Badasses is a great read for any Raiders fan and I highly recommend it!

Buy Badasses at Amazon

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Football Season Is Here!

Yay! Football season is back! Here are some great movies and reads to enjoy while you are not watching the games:

We Are the Troopers

Rudy

We Are Marshall

The Blind Side

Hail Mary

The Gridiron Gang

The Express: The Ernie Davis Story

Badasses

What’s your favorite football movie or read?

#CommissionsEarned

The Timekeeper

Written By: Brad Aiken

Published By: Kindle Direct Publishing

Reviewed By: Melissa Minners

               Nathan Fields may look like an ordinary 9-year-old boy…may feel like an ordinary boy…but Nathan Fields is anything but ordinary.  He has just learned that he is the descendent of a Timekeeper, an individual with the power to travel through time to right the wrongs in Earth’s timeline, preventing the destruction of his Earth and others like it.  His mother has kept this secret to protect him, but when someone tries to kill her, Dana decides that her friend Arty should train him at a secret camp where others like him learn how to use their powers.  Unfortunately, Dana is taken by a rogue Timekeeper while Nathan is at camp.  It is now up to Nathan and his fellow campers to help rescue her before it is too late.

               This is the premise of The Timekeeper, a new young adult science fiction novel from Brad Aiken.  A practicing physician, Brad Aiken takes his interest in how medicine and science fiction influence one another and transforms that into entertaining novels that incorporate medical and other technological advancements.  G-POP has had a long relationship with this author, enjoying earlier works of his involving space travel, espionage and even mind control through nanobot technology.  So, when Dr. Aiken contacted me and asked if I might to check out an advance copy of his new novel, I jumped at the chance. 

               Despite this book being geared toward a younger generation of readers, I found it to be edge-of-your-seat enjoyable.  The characters are enjoyable and relatable.  Think about when you were in school or at camp.  There was always that dorky kid that knew every trivia answer but couldn’t play sports.  There was always that know-it-all, cool kid that always got themselves into trouble they couldn’t find their way out of.  There were rivalries and crushes, and always one kid who feels like they just don’t quite fit in.  The Timekeepers Camp is exactly what we experienced as kids, minus all of the cool sci-fi technology.  Nathan, Dana, Arty and the kids from the camp are characters we can all root for.  Their enemies have that air of mystery and, in some cases, mad scientist quality about them. 

               The storyline regarding traveling through time to fix mistakes in Earth’s timeline may seem familiar, but Brad Aiken throws a twist into things – two possible schools of thought.  Some of the Timekeepers want to follow their original instructive guides, while Nathan’s family and friends seem to think that those original guides were wrong and that they should follow a different path.  You start to wonder who the rogue Timekeepers really are.  Then there is that age old question: If I had the ability to stop horrific events in Earth’s timeline, would I and at what cost?

               The Timekeeper is a fast, fun read that challenges you to think about time travel and the costs.  The book ends in such a way that I imagine this is meant to be part of a series.  I can see this novel as a part of a coming-of-age sci-fi book series.  I like that.  In fact, I would love to read more about Nathan’s future travels…no pun intended.  The Timekeeper is definitely a great way to start any young adult on the path to loving sci-fi novels – action, suspense, time traveling, evil nemeses, betrayals…what more could you ask for?

Check out The Timekeeper at Amazon

#CommissionsEarned

Mind Fields

Written by: Brad Aiken

Published By: Padwolf Publishing

Reviewed By: Melissa Minners

            Imagine a world in which surgical procedures are a thing of the past, a world in which microscopic organic robots can be painlessly inserted into your body and programmed to repair damage to your internal organs, clear away clogs in your arteries and much more.  Doctors Paul Hingston and Sandra Fletcher live in such a world.  In the year 2045, Doctors Hingston and Fletcher of Johns Hopkins University have just perfected the use of these microscopic organic robots, known as nanobots.  After giving a presentation regarding their newly perfected nanobot technology, Hingston and Fletcher are approached by J.T. Anderson, pioneer of the nanobot technology and owner of the Baltimore Nanotechnology Institute.  Anderson offers both doctors a job at his company and the opportunity to make much more money than the university could ever give them.  Dr. Hingston jumps at the chance.  Idealistic Dr. Fletcher rejects the offer and remains at Johns Hopkins University, eventually becoming the Lab Director, Dr. Hingston’s former position at the University.

            Fast forward five years into the future and we find Dr. Fletcher preparing to announce her discovery of a way to use nanobot technology to repair the parts of the brain damage brought on by massive strokes.  Doctor Hingston has been working on the very same technology at BNI and is certain that Dr. Fletcher somehow has stolen his work.  Meanwhile, a faction working for the government finds this new use of nanobot technology to be quite intriguing.  After all, if the nanobots can be used to repair parts of a damaged brain, why couldn’t they be used to control the brain altogether? 

            After several mysterious accidents involving head injuries take place in the Baltimore area, Police Detective Richie Kincade finds himself researching nanobot technology and BNI.  His investigation reveals some horrifying information about plans to use the technology on government officials.  Kincade, Hingston and Fletcher soon find themselves embroiled in a murderous game of espionage and intrigue in which none of the players can be trusted.  Can they survive long enough to expose the unscrupulous renegade government agents and their plans, or will they just become pawns in the agents’ evil plot.

            In his latest sci-fi novel, Mind Fields, Brad Aiken‘s brilliance as a writer weaves a strikingly vivid tale of scientific advancement that leads to a terrifying vision of the future. Imagining a world in which surgery has been scrapped in preference to tiny computers no bigger than a human cell is not exactly impossible.  Advancements in the scientific world have made that idea more and more believable for the future.  That being said, it is no great jump to believe that this technology could eventually be used for wrong-doing, such as controlling the actions of the individual it is used upon.  Thus, author Brad Aiken takes an idea that would be acceptable to the reader and adds characters we can relate to, a vision of the future that is foreseeable, and a storyline that is both intriguing and enjoyable.  Add to all of that some chase scenes, assassination plots, shootouts and explosions.  The resulting rollercoaster ride of action and suspense kept me on the edge of my seat throughout the entire novel!  Mind Fields makes a terrific addition to any science fiction lover’s library as a realistic look into the medical and scientific future.

Buy Mind Fields at Amazon


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The Puma Years

Written By: Laura Coleman

Distributed by: Little A

Review By: Melissa Minners

               Some time ago, Amazon was offering free books as part of an International Authors special.  I chose a few books, hoping to expand my reading horizons.  One of those books took place in Bolivia.  I wasn’t sure what I was expecting when I selected The Puma Years by Laura Coleman, but what I got was worth buying myself a paperback copy.

               The Puma Years is a memoir of Laura Coleman’s life that begins in her early twenties.  At this time, the author has lost her direction, graduating from college and working a job she thought she wanted…until she was actually working it and realized she didn’t.  When we meet Laura, she has left her job in the UK and gone backpacking through South America, stopping in Bolivia to volunteer for a few weeks at a wildlife sanctuary.  The first couple of weeks are hell for this young woman who has never known what it was like not to have running hot water, work until you are bone-weary, live-in bug infested quarters and eat amongst monkeys.

               But after being introduced to Wayra, a rescued puma Laura has been selected to work with, everything changed.  Due to her previous circumstances, Wayra is having trouble adjusting to her environment, finding it hard to trust humans and fearing the very jungle she should have spent her life in all along.  They begin somewhat fearful of each other, but build a relationship over time, learning to trust one another.  Somewhere along the way, Laura begins to find herself while working with the animals in the sanctuary, especially Wayra who teaches her much about herself and about what she really wants out of life.

               When I read the first chapter of The Puma Years, I found myself laughing at Laura, feeling like she was a pampered, whiny sort of individual.  But the more I read, the more of myself I could see in her.  After all, how many of us really know what we want to do in our early twenties?  I, for one, was quite lost until my mid-twenties when I found a career I could finally be happy with – one that offered me as much as I offered it and left me with a warm feeling inside after a job well done.  That’s what it was like for Laura.  Finding herself thrust into the working world, she found she was unhappy with it all.  What she would eventually realize is that she wanted something rewarding…that feeling that she was making a difference in the world.  She found that with Wayra and the animals in the sanctuary and they inspired her and fellow volunteers to do so much more with their lives, giving back to the world that had given so much to them.

               The way Laura tells the story of the sanctuary, the animals there, the people who work there – there is a love that cannot be denied.  There are funny little anecdotes about each of the animals, but there are some sad stories mixed in as well.  Laura doesn’t try to make this a happily ever after story.  After all, life in the Amazon jungle is not like that.  She tells us the realities of deforestation, field burning that causes forest fires that threaten the lives of the rescued animals and the volunteers who help them, the burnout suffered by dedicated and loving volunteers, the illegal wildlife trade, disease, danger, anguish at having to turn away rescues and the love that goes into working in a place like this.  Her descriptiveness places us right in the story, enabling the reader to see everything as she has seen it.  The photos found at the end of the book helped to solidify the scenes and animals I was already picturing in my mind’s eye. 

               The Puma Years is so well written, so relatable, and so worth the read, I found myself buying a couple of copies for other people to read.  I bought them to enrich the lives of friends and families, but also to help the animals as proceeds from the book go to support Comunidad Inti Wara Yassi and their fight to end the illegal wildlife trade.  The Puma Years is one reading experience I’ll be talking about for some time.  Definitely worth checking out!

Buy The Puma Years at Amazon

#CommissionsEarned

Abandon Us

Written By: E.T. Gunnarsson

Published By: Bragi Press

Reviewed By: Melissa Minners

               Some time ago, I reviewed a book about a dystopian world that takes place in three stages.  In Forgive Us, we meet three different individuals struggling to survive in different eras of an Earth that has been destroyed through pollution and war.  We eventually discover that the stories of these individuals overlap and effect each other in varying ways.  I, for one, wanted to know more regarding how Earth and its denizens arrived at such a state.  My hope came through with a prequel to Forgive Us, entitled Abandon Us.

               This time around, the story revolves about one person – Robert Ashton.  When we first meet Robert, he is a street thug, stealing from others to support his habit in a world that is already strangling on waste and pollution.  After a robbery gone wrong that lands his best friend, William, in prison, Robert turns his life around, going to tech school and meeting and marrying his partner Zilv.  Together, they have made a decent living for themselves, even as the world around them begins to seriously crumble.  Death, destruction, pollution and poverty are coming together to cause a civil war.  When Robert loses his job, he knows that he and Zilv have no choice by to go underground with recently released William. 

               Things are dangerous underground, but Robert and William’s smuggling operation has kept the trio fed and clothed.  But then the Third World War begins, bringing the battle to the underworld and forcing Robert, Zilv and William to survive in the wastelands of the surface.  Unable to discern which side is safer and fighting disease, mutated monsters and a serious lack of supplies or shelter, Robert wonders how he and his loved ones will survive.  Sometimes it seems as if he is close to abandoning all hope.

               I was so absorbed in E.T. Gunnarsson’s incredibly descriptive and captivating story that I read Abandon Us in only a few days’ time, pausing only for the essentials – eat, work, sleep.  That being said, it has taken me a while to write this review.  That’s because I wasn’t sure I could do the book the justice it deserves.  E.T. Gunnarsson cleverly weaves events of today in his apocalyptic tale – COVID 19, the war in Ukraine, the distrust between the United States, Russia and China, global warming, pollution and more – making the story incredibly realistic and relatable.  There were times when I had to put the book down for a couple of minutes and catch my breath.  That’s how disturbing I found some of its contents. 

               In the end, Abandon Us is a story of survival and what that survival means for different people.  It not only shows how morals and ethics can be compromised in the attempt to survive, but how humans react to apocalyptic situations – the psychology behind survivor’s guilt, the greed, the loss of humanity.  Abandon Us leads the reader perfectly into the events of Forgive Us, explaining how the war for survival and territory began after picking up the pieces in the wake of the third World War. 

               E.T. Gunnarsson is an amazing storyteller who writes a relatable and realistic tale with characters you become invested in, situations you can see yourself in and a descriptiveness that places you right in the middle of the action.  I understand that these two books are part of a trilogy.  I can’t wait to read the final chapter!  I am more than certain it will be worth the wait!

Check Out Abandon Us at Amazon

While You Are There Check Out Forgive Us As Well

#CommissionsEarned

Amazon Prime Day is July 12-13, 2022!

As those of you who check out this site regularly may know, we maintain this site through commissions earned from Amazon. We appreciate any and all of the items you may have purchased through links in our various articles. With your continued support, we can make this site better using more costly and innovative features.

This time of year marks an event designed to help both this site and our readers. Amazon Prime Day features a number of discounts on all things entertainment, plus anything else you can think of. Please keep us in mind when enjoying Prime Day by clicking on links below that will take you to Amazon Prime Day deals and help support this site through purchases made using these links. Thank you in advance for your support!

Amazon Prime Day

Today’s Deals

Earn Rewards for Purchases

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The World According to Bob

Written By: James Bowen

Published By: Thomas Dunne Books

Reviewed By: Melissa Minners

               Years ago, I learned about a man who credited his street cat rescue for saving his own life.  James Bowen truly believed that he and his cat Bob were meant to meet.  Bowen was at an all-time low, getting high on heroine and busking for his next score.  Bob was a street cat who accidently found his way into James’ life.  Taking Bob in was the catalyst that helped turn James’ life around and the two thrived in each other’s company, James eventually getting off the drugs and finding steady work and Bob learning what it was like to be an indoor/outdoor cat.  James even wrote a book about it and A Street Cat Named Bob became a bookstore sensation, becoming the inspiration for a movie with the same name.  But that couldn’t be the end of James and Bob’s story, right?

               In The World According to Bob, we learn that James had more stories to tell about his adventures with Bob.  In this book, we learn just why James was willing to accept an offer to write a book about his and Bob’s life and relationship.  James was growing tired of the perils of life out on the streets.  The responsibility he felt for Bob, which had already helped James give up drugs, was once again inspiring James to make some improvements in his life.  He knew that selling The Big Issue and busking weren’t going to bring in a steady income, especially when emergencies arose that could keep him from working the streets.  James faced the daunting, and sometimes embarrassing, task of writing about some of the lowest points in his life and how a former street cat helped him rise up and take control of his life.  Would people take to his tale or would he fail once again at a venture he was starting to truly believe in?

               The World According to Bob is proof that one can never hear enough stories about James and Bob’s life together.  One might think that this book is a copy of the original with a few new tales added in, but except for some explaining regarding how he and Bob met, James Bowen offers his readers new insight into their lives and how things weren’t perfectly rosy once he quit drugs and started selling The Big Issue.  There was definitely more to the story and James gives us the high and low points with the same humility he offered up in his first book.  And Bob, well, who doesn’t love stories about Bob? 

               I found myself completely absorbed in James’ tales, especially when it came to his decision that he needed a steadier source of income and how he went about achieving this goal.  James is an excellent storyteller and his writing is detailed enough to allow me to feel as if I was right there, accompanying him in his experiences.  Perhaps James hasn’t realized it yet, but writing may very well be a new career for him. 

               In the end, The World According to Bob should be seen as a companion book to A Street Cat Named Bob as it delves deeper into the story we fell in love with in the first book.  Bob has been gone almost two years now and I, for one, can’t get enough stories about him and his special relationship with his human James.  I definitely recommend this book to each and every pet owner out there as it perfectly represents our relationships with those special animals who enrich our lives every day of their existence.  As I understand it, there is another book by James Bowen out there entitled A Gift from Bob, about how this loveable former street cat changed James’ view of Christmas.  I can’t wait to get my hands on it!

Check out The World According to Bob at Amazon

#CommissionsEarned

A Street Cat Named Bob

Distributed by: Sony Pictures

 Reviewed by Melissa Minners

                Years ago, I heard about A Street Cat Named Bob, a memoir written by a man who credits his survival to a cat.  It was not the first time I had heard about someone with an addiction problem crediting an animal with helping them kick the habit and get their life back on track.  Look at Jackson Galaxy, for example.  Cats often get a bad rap as being aloof and independent, but they can also be very loving and get very attached to the human they choose as their own.  I haven’t read this book, but when I found I could rent the film based on the story, I jumped at the opportunity.

                To say he is down on his luck when we first meet James Bowen (Luke Treadaway) is an understatement.  A homeless musician with only the clothes on his back, a beat-up guitar and a drug addiction, James is trying to stick with the methadone program, but depression is seeping in.  When he runs into his friend Baz (Darren Evans) on a particularly chilly, rainy night and he offers to share some of his score and the car he just happened to find unlocked, it’s not surprising that James decides to partake in both.

                Mixing methadone and heroin is never a good idea and James finds himself in the hospital.  Val (Joanne Froggatt), his drug support worker, sees something in James that makes her believe he should get another chance at life.  She finds him housing and gets him to promise to commit to the program wholeheartedly.  He continues busking in London, hoping to build a new life for himself, but nervous all the same.

                In walks Bob…quite literally – while James is taking a bath, he hears a crashing sound in the apartment.  Searching for what he believes to be a human intruder, he instead finds one of the feline variety chowing down on his Corn Flakes.  James finds the cat friendly, so much so that he doesn’t seem to want to leave.  He allows him to stay the night and finds him ensconced beside him in bed.  James searches for his newfound friend’s owner in vain.

                Heading off to work, he leaves the cat outdoors, but returns to find him injured.  A neighbor named Betty (Ruta Gedmintas) directs him to a free vet clinic she volunteers at but, though the initial treatment is free, the medication costs money.  He decides to use money he just received from his estranged father (Anthony Head) to pay for the medication, thus sealing the bond between James and Bob. 

                Though he continues to call Bob a stray, the link between the two only becomes stronger, especially when Bob follows James onto the bus to London and helps him earn more money busking than he ever made before.  Bob teaches James responsibility and gives him something to care about other than his habit.  But life is never that simple and James finds himself hurdling obstacles thrown in his path, clinging to sobriety with Bob as his constant reminder of what a good life can be like.

                One might think that a film about a man who credits his new life to a street cat he took in to be a little above and beyond.  I would disagree.  Whenever I was at my lowest, it was always a cat that lifted my spirits, knowing just what to do to keep me going.  Whenever I felt like I was lost or out of control, I would look at my kitty companion and realize I had a responsibility towards this animal.  It could only go so far to take care of itself and it had come to rely on me for care and also companionship.  I couldn’t walk away from that responsibility.  Now look at James’ life – he wanted to turn it around, but he kept giving into addiction rather than dealing with his emotions and what made him want to use.  While he is using, everyone shuns him, especially people he loves. 

                In walks this unpresuming cat that decides James is not some kind of pariah.  When James allows him to eat his food and even gives him milk instead of shooing him away, Bob decides this human is okay in his book.  He attaches himself to him.  Over the years, I have also noticed that cats also have a sixth sense about illness in humans.  He may have sensed that there was something not quite right with James and wanted to repay the favor of offering him food and shelter, especially after he gets hurt and James spends his only food money on medicine for him.

                The responsibility of caring for Bob gives James something to focus on…something important to keep him on the straight and narrow, because if he’s high, he can’t properly care for his new friend.  Plus, with Bob being the source of the increase in his busking income, James begins to look at the cat as something more than just another stray.  The cat was helping him make his way in life in more ways than one.  There was less stress and, when he couldn’t busk, James found a job to make certain that he could feed Bob.  His bond with this cat did even more for James – it showed him how to love, how to trust and be trusted, how to grow emotional bonds with others and more.

                Now I hear you saying this is a sappy movie.  Hey, if you love animals and appreciate what they can do for you, you’ll get it.  You will also appreciate the acting by Luke Treadway, who does a tremendous job.  Kudos go out to Ruta Gedmintas for her gut-wrenching scene in which she discussed her brother and his addiction and how she couldn’t be around this sort of thing, despite the fact that she was falling in love with James.  Anthony Head did an excellent job as the distraught father who has troubles expressing emotions.  And really huge kudos go out to Bob.  The movie folks tried to get a cat that looked and acted like Bob, but in the end, Bob actually played himself in the film and did an absolute job in doing so.

                I also want to call out the cinematographers who gave us the opportunity to see the world through Bob’s eyes – clever bit of genius there, letting us get a taste of what it is like to be so small in such a big world.  And – I already said this in my soundtrack review, I loved the songs in the film, which are best described as upbeat and uplifting acoustic folk songs.

                The entire film is a rollercoaster of emotions, a mix of ups and downs and funny moments and the best part about it is that it’s based on real events.  In fact, if you pay close attention to the end of the film and the book signing, you will see the real James Bowen make an appearance in a rather clever manner.  A Street Cat Named Bob is a great film for anyone looking for an upbeat, feel good, dramatic film.  Especially for those who can understand just how much influence a pet has on our lives, our moods and our actions.

Check out A Street Cat Named Bob at Amazon

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