Archive for the ‘T.V.’ category

The Walking Dead, Season 4, Episode 14, “Grove”

17/03/2014

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“Are You Mad at Me?!”

Season 2 grinded to a halt at Hershel’s farm and its too idyllic collection of live bodies and sexual innuendo. The Walking Dead has started to stall in the latter half of Season 4 until Grove. This with Lizzie (Brighton Sharbino) and her sis, Mika, collected with adults Carol and Tyreese and baby Judith. Until about 30 minutes in we are given the same character development episode that is starting to bog down this season. No more spoilers as more than one plot point ends here in tragedy.

Lizzie and Mika have had an important role in Season 4 as child protagonists. How would a 10 year old respond in such depravity and loss?

This is a special Episode for Melissa McBride (playing Carol). She has to sustain a mourning like no other single Episode in the series, and for good measure.

What a contrast these character development stories are as compared to Seasons 3 and the first half of Season 4. There is definitely a downbeat in action where every episode was a thriller. DC better be good. My comment drives from a re-watch of Season Three (now through Episode 9: Made to Suffer).

The Walking Dead, Season 4, Episode 12, “Still”

04/03/2014

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No spoilers, this time, really.

Whoops, you missed my review of Episode 11, Claimed, because I haven’t written it yet – just notes. I’m sure you are waiting with baited breath.

Some critics believe that television is a “dumbed down” medium with a superficial and hurried mode of narrative, which never requires the audience to think deeply about anything. Not so in The Walking Dead, even as the latter half of this season presents us segments that stand alone (some study I saw read the attention gap of the average American TV viewer is five minutes), but always connected to one of the many narratives going on during this series.

We get a hint of Daryl’s drinking days and they sound kind of fun but scary too. I think Scooby Doo is the talking dog that leads to the confrontation. We have glimpses into the future when Daryl collects cash and jewelry from the country club 19th Hole (the cash is later burned up by Daryl). So too with Beth’s collecting a collectible spoon, “The Capital of the United States – Washington D.C.” A hint? Why should we not find out if there is a Government other than that of the Governor?

There is a touching revelation from Daryl before he goes berserker on Moonshine. Worst Prop Moment: “The Rich Bitch.” Agree? I mean, that prop person shook like Styrofoam, which it is.

Is Beth insane? We know by the end of this episode that it’s at least a level playing field between Daryl and Beth. In fact, Daryl might be the sanest of the entire group.

A great closing with a great song: “Up The Wolves” by The Mountain Goats; and, one of the best episodes yet.

The Walking Dead, Season 4, Episode 10, “Inmates”

18/02/2014

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***WARNING. SPOILERS AHEAD***

Terminus. Hinted at in the beginning of Season 4 as the “Sanctuary,” Episode 10 brings back the other members of the group not featured in 9, “After.” Daryl and the now Daddy less Beth; Tyreese, Mika, Lizzie and yes, an alive and well baby Judith Grimes (who didn’t think she would make it back after the bloody carseat tease in 4/8?). Judith appears well cared for with mysterious bottles of formula appearing out of nowhere except for the fact that Lizzie seems hell bent on suffocating her to death to avoid the attention of walkers. How long has the group been on the road? Enough time to find formula? Carol comes to the rescue but is disingenuous about explaining her return.

Maggie, Sasha, … Bob. Glenn and … Tara (the Governor’s “Sister In Law,” played here by Alanna Masterson). Tara will surely become the new Maggie: innocence lost and a romantic entanglement, her being so fetching. Masterson sat in on AMC’s therapeutic Talking Dead (which follows every Sunday episode until the show is done – a very clever turn that AMC started with Breaking Bad, hosted by the very charming Chris Hardwick) and held her own with CNBC’s Joe Kernen and comedian Jim Gaffigan.

Set pieces of killing the undead, sub-group by sub-group, is really all this episode carries forward. There is no question that the “Group” and Tara want to find each other. Who is alive and who isn’t? In that sense it’s a disappointment because there does not seem to be a missing link. We have hopes for a sanctuary and/or the rather ominous paramilitary group that pulls up to Tara and a coming to Glenn as the episode ends. Nice work by Lauren Cohan in the bus scene.

The Walking Dead, Season 4, Episode 9, “After”

10/02/2014

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***WARNING. MANY SPOILERS AHEAD***

After the brilliant mid-season climactic Episode 8, “Too Far Gone,” possibly the best episode yet, we get a welcome return to Atlanta’s wasteland. The Group is split, we don’t know if baby Judith is alive, Rick is barely walking, his head recently severely broken up by The Governor. The Governor got his comeuppance in Episode 8, courtesy of Michonne’s Samurai sword and a gunshot to the head courtesy of his “wife.” He will reappear.

We see nothing of the Group in After with the exception of Rick and his now very grown up and hardened teenager, Carl, stumbling around Atlanta suburbs looking for sleep and supplies. The gun arsenal is perilously low for the men. Once they find shelter, Rick and Carl argue about the conservative use of their pistols as a walker sneaks in for a possible meal. Rick finally gets to sleep but does not wake up the next morning as Carl begins a brilliant monologue. Over four seasons of work, the child actor Chandler Riggs is developing his acting skills and on this episode he shares the spotlight with Danai Gurira with chops. Carl tells his sleeping (Or dead? Or in a Coma? Of course not! The 5th season was green lit months ago and is about to go into production) father that he alone is at fault for the splitting of the group (“and all you cared about was your stupid garden,” [Sic]) and for the death of group members including Rick’s wife and Carl’s mother, Lori. He tells his dad that he no longer needs his protection and we certainly do not believe that. Carl gets careless and has a couple of close calls.

One annoyance with this episode is its slight leaning towards the typical horror surprise timing.

Michonne has gone back to her original posse of two walkers with their arms chopped off and mouths scraped out. This time, interestingly enough, the rope bound walkers follow her instead of leading her as in earlier episodes. She has the only weapon she needs.

One of the creepiest scenes is a flashback sequence in which a beautifully dressed and coifed Michonne is preparing gourmet food for two men in a posh flat, one her husband and the other a mystery friend. When Michonne is first introduced in the show, her dead cohorts are these two men. Michonne is holding a small child as the two men get in a cryptic conversation (in the scene Michonne just grins at the two arguing men) that continues this interesting story arc. Alas, the flashback is yet a dream; but the flashback bleeds into the dream as the child disappears, the men now appear armless and mouthless, the power is out and M is shrieking. M wakes up in a car with the walking dead surrounding her overnight accommodations.

As she walks among the disinterested dead she recognizes a woman, we think. Off goes her head and Michonne’s invincibility is gone in a cool sequence of multiple zombie be-headings.

Given the producers’ penchant for a memorable kill we get an early scene with Michonne’s sword going into the poor severed head of beloved Hershel. Hershel has turned but will have trouble biting others as he is only a severed head. Superb effects and makeup as always.

Now we await the appearance of the separated group, the majority of which escaped from the war torn prison in a bus. Sisters, Maggie and Beth? Tyreese with two young heroic and one of them possibly insane young girls that saved him? Daryl, where the hell are you? You cannot go away because you are, after all, the soul of the show. Carol, will you re-amerge and become the next Governor? At the end of the episode a healing Rick tells his son that he is officially a man, not after granting the audience with the possibility that Rick has turned as he stumbles toward Carl. Carl is brandishing a gun in tears then becomes willing at that moment to accept his fate and meet his father in the undead. No biting occurs, Rick is going to be ok and Carl gets to eat a 100 ounce can of chocolate pudding.

“It’s for You,” says Rick to Carl as Michonne knocks on the door.

AMC (1984 – )

31/07/2013

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What started as short run network owned by AMC Networks in 1984 changed hands 10 times before it came out with its first original series, Remember WENN, in 1996. God knows what its about but it must be good. In 2002 AMC started playing classic movies from all decades, a departure from its original format of Marx Brothers films or anything not released after 1960. Originally, AMC didn’t play 24 hours.

Now with Mad Med, Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead, after watching all three,..and more to come… they signify a move from film to tv series as American evening entertainment. At least in the smart American homes.

Entourage (2008 – 5.11, 5.12)

09/08/2009

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Familiarity breed’s contempt?  Not in the case of the seasons finale (s) of Season 5, Episode 11: Play’n with Fire and Episode 12: Return to Queens Blvd.

Amazing how Wahlberg, Ellin, Levinson, and Weinstein, etal deliver in this series beyond what even The Sopranos did at the same point in their series history.  Play’n with Fire is as brilliant as anything ever done in this series with Stellan Skarsgård as the maniacal director Verner Vollstedt behind Vince’s lead comeback in the laughingly titled “Smoke Jumpers.”  5.11, which serves as the climactic episode, has opening pyrotechnic scenes that are observed by the four main protagonists and the audience that put to shame any film about a film about Hollywood ever put forth by Robert Altman.

This sets off a tour de force scene between actor, agent, manager, director, studio head and CEO which conveys absolutely kinetic acting (as always) by Jeremy Piven (Ari Gold).  Old female characters (Sloan, Emmanuelle Chriqui) and new (Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Jamie-Lynn Sigler) pull our boys in various directions but the producers, actors and everyone else involved deliver the best climactic scenes of this series yet and push us into Season 6.

Party Down (John Enbom, Dan Etheridge, Paul Rudd, 2009)

27/06/2009

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My favorite television series of late courtesy of Starz, aka Starz Entertainment, LLC, a wholly owned television programming subsidiary of Liberty Media Corp. This is scintillating funny stuff – the dude that stole the show in Stepbrothers (one of the more underrated films of 2008), Adam Scott, forges ahead as glum, pill and vodka shot popping Henry Pollard, a down on his luck actor who’s claim to fame is a particular commercial that has him exclaiming “Are we having fun yet?!”  Next to him are other struggling actors including those played by the brilliant Jane Lynch, Kyle Bradway, Roman DeBeers, Casey Klein and the guy that steals this show, Ken Marino playing Ron Donald the boss of Party Down, an LA catering company.  Party Down premiered on March 20, 2009 and played ten episodes of increasingly manic comedy.

Willow Canyon Homeowners Annual Party (Episode 1), the premiere episode, introduces us to Henry Pollard, the newest recruit to Party Down.  Henry is a young disgruntled actor, lost of his big dreams, and arrives at this suburban party with the observation that this particular homeowner’s set up isn’t that bad.  He explains as much to the homeowner, Gordon McSpadden played by Enrico Colantoni.  McSpadden isn’t as impressed by his own spread and caps off his evening as host by becoming extremely intoxicated, stripping off his clothes and cannon balling into his pool much to the dismay of the other homeowners.  Thus begins a very interesting series that casts a humorous eye on not only the employees of Party Down but on their clients who change weekly with the gigs and who are as colorful as the main protagonists.  Henry meets Casey (Lizzy Caplan) a similarly struggling actor who promises a romantic attachment for him.  Caplan is lovely and gives a wonderfully understated performance in this series.  Add Jane Lynch (Constance, the goofy, off-kilter B movie has been), Ryan Hanson (pretty boy Kyle missing a few brain cells who doesn’t flinch when told that Henry’s “agent” is State Farm), Martin Starr (Roman, a “screenwriter” of Star Trek knockoffs that’s way too good for this job but can’t get the (any) girl), and Ken Marino (Ron, the catering supervisor, inspired by famous management gurus of the stage and happens to be a recovering addict teetering on the edge).

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Highlights are the premiere, Investors Dinner (Episode 4), Taylor Stiltskin Sweet Sixteen (Episode 6 with an absolutely balls to the wall turn by a wildly cursing J.K. Simmons as the daddy/music producer), Celebrate Rick Sargulesh (Episode 8, a hilarious take on a mob birthday party sparked by an impromptu performance from Steven Weber as the birthday mobster boy), and the Stennheiser-Pong Wedding Reception season one finale with a lovely cameo by Kristen Bell of Forgetting Sarah Marshall fame.

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Great cameos throughout (yes, thats Sulu) the material is surprisingly moving as the series plays on and develops relationships and interplay between the principal characters as real people facing real career and interpersonal challenges.  I cannot wait for the second year as its been green lit by Starz.