Showing posts with label Previewing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Previewing. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Previewing Wrecked: Season Three



The first season of Wrecked started as an absurdist Lost parody. Then the second season was a absurdist swashbuckling pirate adventure. In its third season Wrecked looks to be tackling The Hunger Games, just without cool clothes from Lenny Kravitz. So yeah, it is basically absurdist Hunger Games.

Now down to just nine original castaways after their Red Hot Chili Peppers booze cruise ship that they hijacked got blown up at the end of last season, those survivors wash up on a beach that just so happens to owned by a billionaire who uses the island for some extravagant hunting with his other super rich buddies.

And of course hilarity ensues. Who will live? Who will die? Is anyone actually still looking for them? All, if not most of these questions will be answered in season three.

Wrecked airs Tuesdays at 10:00 on TBS.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Previewing Casual: Season Four


Last year Hulu the biggest prize at the Emmys and since then it seems like the streaming is going for pure prestige in the wake of the big win. All four of their dramas that were on the air before that Emmy were canceled after their latest seasons aired with only one getting a final season to wrap things up. And it seems pretty clear; Hulu wants big splashy names at least in the new future (Blumhouse anthology! Anne Rice!! Stephen King!!! Sean Penn!!!! George Clooney!!!!! Reese Witherspoon!!!!!!) Even their two comedies got canceled with only Casual getting a final season to wrap things up. Although instead of the weekly release schedule that Hulu usually employs, all episodes of the fourth season are available to stream today.

For a show that gets its name from a not very committal relationship status, the last season ended with a couple of characters getting pretty serious. Leon got engaged to the receptionist. And then Alex knocked up his weird Asian Air B and B client. Well at least Val and her daughter were still pretty messed up in the dating department.

Season four starts up five years later (presumably five years from now and there is a weird presumably future Scott Pruitt reference) with Alex co-parenting with his baby mama in his house. The bigger news is that Alex finally shaved the goatee off (he is not the only one to lose hair over the past five years). Leon and his wife are now debating children. Lauren returns from abroad with a girlfriend and may be ready to change her relationship status from casual. But hey, Val is still going through an extended midlife crisis with few options in the dating department.

There is still plenty of the usual sly Casual humor. This season there is an automated voice response that annoys Val. Alex goes on a virtual reality dating that goes horribly wrong. The three main cast members get in one last road trip that naturally goes all wrong.  There is a weed/puzzle bar which inspires probably a horrible idea. And of course, much like the way the show started, it also ends with a funeral. Though you will have to find out on your own if this one is real or not.

All episodes of Casual season four are available on Hulu today.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Previewing Castle Rock



One thing that all comic book adaptation do, whether the show is good or not, is throw out a constant barrage of Easter Eggs for the fanboys to salivate over and make them come back for every episode, myself included. There are very few other things that have enough content to flood a screen with references of their work, but Stephen King is definitely one of them with fifty-nine novels and over two hundred short stories under his belt. And now he is getting an television show based on the amalgamation of his work, Castle Rock.

No, this is not an Avengers type team up where Pennywise will come face to face with Carrie (though the actors who portrayed them in movie versions are actually in the new cast as different characters). Instead, the show is sprinkled with plenty of references to King’s work like the titular city is the setting of twenty-four of his stories and the local prison is named Shawshank. In a measure of full disclosure, I am not the biggest Stephan King reader, so my latter example is one of the few Easter Eggs I got and had to be told of the former.

So I am coming at Castle Rock as a King novice. Sure It scared me as a kid like nothing else did (that forking spider still occasionally haunts my dreams) and most recently I made it through Under the Dome that got significantly worse with every passing episode. Naturally Castle Rock is about a town where dark things happen; scene three features a, um, interesting way to try to kill oneself. A town where all the men from there either work at the state penitentiary, which actually looks like a castle from the outside, or they are currently living there.

The show centers on a prodigal son (André Holland, A Wrinkle in Time) who is a death row lawyer who comes home when a whistleblower informs him an inmate (Bill Skarsgård, Deadpool 2) has been discovered at his hometown prison. And of course both men have mysterious pasts. The lawyer, back in 1991, went missing as a child in the dead of winter only to be discovered unharmed days later. While at the prison, an entire wing is shut down despite overcrowding and, you guessed it, the mysterious inmate has been living in this quarantined wing all by himself for an undisclosed amount of time.

To be honest, the first episode is kind of a bore. Thankfully Jane Levy (season one Mandy Milkovich on Shameless) shows up in the second episode to add some levity to the show but is not there long enough to really get a feel for why the character is there. She just pops up randomly in a church group and asks the lawyer questions the audience certainly wants to know (not that he give a satisfying answer). Weirdly Mickey Milkovich gets more screen time on the first couple episodes as a prison guard than his on screen sister.

Levy also has a job as assistant to the town’s local real estate agent (Melanie Lynskey, The Perks of Being a Wallflower) who may be the weirded of the town folks we meet in the early in the series. She lived across the lawyer as a child and, um, the connection, we learn, gets really weird.

For better or worse, Castle Rock is the general thought of King’s work, really creepy and kind of slow. Despite dying in the third scene, that character may best sum up your typical thought of a King creation with his Verse of the Day calendars stopping on the same verse every year even when the verse was on different days. And lhe leaves of with the most ominous and Kingsian line so far, “I used to think the Devil was a metaphor but the devil was a boy.” The start of Castle Rock may not be great, but it was good enough to hook me in. Granted, so did Under the Dome and that took a creative nose dive in season two.

The first three episodes of Castle Rock are on Hulu today with new episodes every Wednesday.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Previewing Harlots: Season Two



About halfway through watching the second season of Harlots, I had to ask myself, is this show just Lady Billions? Instead of the eternal struggle between a District Attorney and a Hedge Fund manager, we have two feuding madams. And I spent most of the first season thinking that Bobby Axelrod has to go to prison. When that did not happened, I resigned he would not spent much, or any time in prison.

With Charlotte going under cover at the end of season one, I figured early in season two that the season would end with the demise of Lady Quigley. But what if this really is Lady Billions and the two warring factions are in it for the long haul for countless seasons? What if the team up half way through the third season to take down greater threats to them? With no satisfying take down in sight on Billions, hopefully Harlots take a different path.

The new season of Harlots starts with an eviction. And so the battle between Lady Quigley and Margaret Wells begins anew. Someone who is part of the battle does find themselves in prison during the first episode (and is not the only main character that finds themselves behind bars) and loses their wig in the process. We also get a mini murder mystery this season as well as Liv Tyler with a British accent a lady of privilege who runs into Charlotte. Lucy finds a wealthy client this season and finds herself away from the warring factions for most of the early season. Oh, and Emily Lacey starts her own brothel because we all could use a little humour in our lives.

The first two episodes of Harlots are available on Hulu now with a new episode arriving every Wednesday.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Previewing The Affair: Season Four



The Affair started out weird with its split storytelling and inconsistent narrators. Sometimes you would even forget about the murder mystery. Then they unveiled the murderer in the second season and then things got weirder. All four of the main characters went their separate ways (yet would stillfind themselves running into each other). Two got married, and the two that were married to each other and were part of the titular affair got divorced. And that led Noah to a weird trip to France that dominated the last half of last season.

And that is the thing, Noah dominated so much of last season, I barely remember what happened to the other three main characters last season. From the “Previously On” segment, I vaguely remember Cole hooking up again with Alison and her kid with Noah is actually Cole’s. Then Helen ended up getting married to a doctor. But still, Noah getting stalked by a corrections officer (or so he thought, he may be the least reliable of all the narrators) before following his lover to Paris where things got weirder than usual.

But it looks like they are bringing it back to more of an ensemble as the fourth season. The season weirdly starts with Noah and Cole in the same vicinity vaguely taking about someone who we are led to believe is Alison but since that is so obvious and her name is never spoken I think there is a twist coming. Remember Helen was randomly the person who ran over Scotty Lockhart. Then after about a minute we get a weeks ago title card and a tradition “Act 1” title alert.

The new season sees Noah move to Los Angeles to follow his kids after Vic took a job there. Helen and Vic are living in a beautiful house in the hills next to the daughter of a starlet (who is a recognizable starlet herself) with the youngest kids. The two eldest are off at college and though she is still in the title sequence the oldest is nor seen in the first six episodes. The second eldest is not seen but we do get to hear his voice on the phone. In their absence, Trevor more screen time in the season premiere

Noah inexplicably gets another teaching job, this time teaching English to inner city youth at a charter school despite being a convicted felon for that Lockhart murder. The trademark wildly different narratives are back. Noah thinks Helen pulls him into the women’s bathroom while Helen believes they went into the men’s restroom to talk.

Of course you will have to wait until week two to learn what is going on with Cole and Alison. Cole is still in Montauk running the restaurant with Alison. Though Cole does not think Alison wants to sell the Lobster Roll, Alison thinks Cole doesn’t want to sell. Then by the middle of the season both find their way out to the West Coast, not necessarily together.

The show sticks with its traditional Noah/Helen, Cole/Alison episode structure that seems to be the norm since season two. They start mixing things up later in the season with someone outside those four getting their own act. I do wonder if there is a The Affair analytics page to show which character gets the most featured acts and who randomly shows up in other people’s acts.

The Affair airs Sundays at 9:00 on Showtime.

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Previewing Claws: Season Two




Claws was a pleasant surprise last summer with a decent mix of humor, action, and about one huge plot twist per episode. Seriously, do not ask me how Roller was able to survive being drowned, shot, set a fire, and being some weird od lady’s sex slave. But those elements did a good job at hiding some of its flaws like how Uncle Daddy goes way over the top every time he opens his mouth and maybe there was one too many plot twists. Sure, the funeral he arranged for Roller was great mostly because it was over the top but he could have toned it down in pretty much every other scene.

So the gist of the first season was Desna trying to get out from underneath the Dixie Mafia but ended the season under the thumb of the Russian mob. And if you thought the lady who was running the Russian mob last season was scary and ruthless, wait until you meet her family, notably Franka Potente (Run Lola Run) who wants to expand Desna’s opiate money laundering business and start a Magic Mike type review in South Florida. Oh yeah, and the season ended with Uncle Daddy buddying up to the Haitian mafia to battle the Russian mafia and the Haitian mafia just so happened to be run by Desna’s boyfriend.

And Desna is not the only one with problems, Desna’s autistic brother knocked up Virginia, Jennifer got caught hooking up with a rabbi, and it has not yet, but you know Polly banging the guy who runs the clinic will end badly. And things are set for a just as wild, or wilder in the seconds season. I am not sure what will make Desna go into a rage more, Virginia’s pregnancy or her boyfriend’s secret life (we do learn the answer to one of those pretty quickly and an annoyingly close call to the other). Then Potente just set everything aflame (literally in one scene) which just adds to the craziness. We even get a surprise marriage in the premiere (hint, it is not Virginia and Dean). The second season of Claws just may be wilder than the first.

Claws airs Sundays at 9:00 on TNT.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Previewing Patrick Melrose




In the first five minutes of Patrick Melrose, the titular character laughs at the news of his father’s untimely death (okay, he just shot up right before the call and was pretty high) and then finds himself in the bed of two different women. So yeah, this is yet another difficult man show. But hey, in minute six, he says he is trying to kick the heroin. Sure he purchases speed and qualudes minutes later because he just cannot give up everything at once. Oh, and he cannot give up heroin either, he buys some more half way through the first episode.

Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Strange) considered Patrick Melrose a bucket list role (Hamlet being his only other one) so it is that labor of love that elevates the five part miniseries into just another difficult man retreat. And it is such a vanity project; the star barely appears in episode two when the story flashes back to Melrose childhood to highlight just how difficult a relationship he had with his father who actually thinks he is passing on wisdom to his son.

Another time jump starts the third episode, picking up eight years after the death of Papa Melrose where that pain still lingers but Patrick has to just suffer through everything as he finally was able to kick his additions for better or worse. Each episode takes an interesting take on Melrose’s life popping in for only a short time in his life for a very specific moment before taking the next big jump forward or backward. Cumberbatch is such a livewire; you do not feel like you miss a thing throughout the years.

Patrick Melrose airs Saturdays at 9:00 on Showtime.

Thursday, May 03, 2018

Previewing I'm Dying Up Here: Season Two



There used to be an old joke that once something is on Showtime, it runs forever. Shameless is going on nine seasons; Homeland just got renewed for an eighth (granted final) season. Ray Donovan is about to start its sixth this summer. But recently the premium channels has gotten pretty trigger happy. Happyish: one and done. Roadies: one and done. Even recently White Famous got canceled after just one season. So I was a bit surprised when Showtime announced a second season of I’m Dying Up Here. Sure, it was the same level of surprised when Dice got renewed for season two; but there will be no season three of that show.

Both I’m Dying Up Here and Roadies shared the same basic plot of following people in the entertainment business but Roadies had the better acting, was more entertaining, and Cameron Crowe’s rolodex brought in new big name guest stars every week. But I’m Dying Up Here has Jim Carrey as a producer who just so happened to just sigh up to star in a Showtime show reuniting him with Michel Gondrey, director of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, so read into that as you will.

Why I liked Roadies more was that it uplifting and hopeful contrast to I’m Dying Up Here which, for a show about comics, is pretty dark. Of course many of the characters live up to the title’s name which adds to the depressing nature of realizing few of these people will ever get further than Goldie’s basement. Except one actually managed to have a modicum of success last season when Ron got cast on a sitcom and as season two he actually gets upped to a regular on the show. Though it does seem appropriate with the talent on the show that the last guy to Los Angeles was the first to make it big.

Okay, yeah, Bill did get the couch on Carson and unlike the last guy, did not get any further than the grill of a bus, but it is not much of a starter for Bill. Then Cassie did book Girls Are Funny Too, a network special, but things happen on the night of the premiere. Then Adam, Ralph, and Edgar are minorities in the seventies, so the cards are already against them. But I will say someone does appear on Soul Train this season, just not who you think it would be.

The problems in the first season continue in the second, the stand ups are just not that funny. Sure, that is why most of them are still playing the basement at Goldie’s. On improvement is they got rid of that cringeworthy title sequence, cutting it down to something shorter. There is aa new comic in town who may actually be the funniest of the bunch. Brad Garrett also pops up as a comic the Goldie wants to team up with to launch a second club, but his demons he left in Vegas may put a damper on the deal.

I’m Dying Up Here airs Sundays at 10:00 on Showtime after Billions which moves to 9:00 starting this week.


Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Previewing The Handmaid's Tale: Season Two




We got a lot of The Handmaid’s Tale in Trump America think pieces when the show debuted all of which made me roll my eyes. Gilliad is a place run by religious zealots and Trump is by far the least religious and least moral president of my lifetime (and possibly ever) and I lived through a president who stuck cigars in an intern. Sure when (or if) Trump gets impeached, maybe we would have to worry about America turning into Gilliad under Mike Pence, a guy who forced aborted fetuses to have funerals while he was governor of Indiana (that sweeping abortion law was just deemed unconstitutional last week), but certainly not while Trump is still president. If Gilliad were to happen and he was not treated like the other adulterers, Trump would be like the Commander, taking his mistress to sex clubs on the weekend.

That is not to say The Handmaid’s Tale did not deserve all the praise that was heaped on it. The show was a shock to the system, haunting and even funny at times. Elisabeth Moss played the titular with gusto, a compliant slave on the outside with an inner monologue almost as snarky as that of Veronica Mars. While her fellow Handmaids escaped to Canada or send to the fields to work until they die, Moss ends the season still in the service of the Waterford’s.

At the end of last season, Aunt Lydia promised retribution to the Handmaids who refused to execute Janine by stoning. The new season starts up with Lydia fulfilling that promise including an apt and sadistic punishment for the Handmaid who first spoke up for Janine. Well everyone by Offred is punished because she is with child an and a trip to the doctor proves very helpful to June who gains help from someone I did not quite expect.

Where the first season was a rush of blood to the head, the second feels like it has fallen into the dreaded sophomore slump. All the fresh ideas in the first season just feel like retreads when they continue to happen in season two. And at every turn of something interesting in the first couple episodes, things just seem to reset again.

As great as Elisabeth Moss was in the first season, it feels like the second season could have been better spent on the secondary characters that are only sporadically seen at least in the first couple episodes. We get to see Moira adapt to her new life in Canada in the premiere but is not seen for at least the next five episodes. Rory Gilmore, who was last seen in episode five of the first season, does finally reappear in the second episode of this season where we get to see more of the “Unwomen.” Rory does show up one more time in the first half of the season, but I really would like to see more of the camp she was sent to.

We do get to see Rory with her family prior to the revolution and seeing just how Gilliad came to be is always fascinating. Also in flashbacks this season we get to meet June’s mother, who may be even more opinionated than her daughter, as well as Luke’s first wife who makes a great juxtaposition to what June is dealing with in that episode. Apparently the writers are keen on those Trump comparisons because “Resist” sign show up to a speech by Mrs. Waterford in one of her flashbacks. And just when you thought the people of Gilliad could not get any creepier, the Waterford’s get a new houseguest.

Sophomore slumps happen to the best of them and it is not as if The Handmaid’s Tale completely falls off a cliff. There is no Landry kills a dude moment or even a Carrie has sex with a terrorist who killed the vice-president by hacking his pacemaker moment. And unlike Lost, the flashbacks are still interesting in the second season. Really the problem is the flashbacks in the second season are more interesting than what is happening in present day. And there is the problem, the present day scenes have gotten a little stale. But something does happen at the end of the last episode I saw that hopefully sets a spark for things to pick up in the back half of the season.

The first two episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale are available today on Hulu with new episodes every Wednesday.


Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Previewing The Last O.G.


In a measure of full disclosure, I have never been much of a Tracy Morgan fan. Not when he was on Saturday Night Live and gave up on 30 Rock mostly because of him after one episode. But I have to admit, I laughed quite a lot at the trailer for his new show, The Last O.G. Plus it is on TBS, secretly one of the best networks on television with each of their original live action shows are at the very least watchable. The show was also created by recent Oscar winner Jordan Peele.

The show stars Morgan as a recently released from prison for drug dealing after fifteen years and is ready to reunite with his girl (Tiffany Haddish, The Carmichael Show) only to find out she is married to a boring white dude who is raising fifteen year old twins. Even Tracy Morgan can do the math on that. While trying to reconnect, he has to do it at a halfway house run by Cedric the Entertainer.

Okay, The Last O.G. turned out to be one of those movies where most if not all of funniest bit are in the trailer and the rest of the movie drags while moving slowly onto the next joke. Gentrification is a great joke in the trailer, but is rarely mentioned after that. A person coming back to a place that has moved on without them is a great hook for a story but really Morgan is quick to adapt on the new show.

Instead the show is basically split into two different stories. There is Morgan trying to connect with his children with Haddish unfortunately wasted as the wet blanket who rightfully found a better life for her and her kids. The other is with Cedric with Morgan and the other ex-convicts acting like baboons. Obviously this is the more entertaining part of the show. But even that may not keep me from tuning in, which would be the first TBS show I did not finish the season in years.

The Last O.G. airs Tuesdays at 10:30 on TBS.



Friday, March 30, 2018

Previewing New Wave: Dare to Be Different



When I was in high school, getting out of bed was hard. I would have my alarm clock set to the local top forty station and would routinely hit snooze three to five times before finally falling out of bed. I distinctly remember one morning when the alarm went off and as I reach for the snooze button I paused because they were playing It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine). Since it was rare to play an “oldie” but goodie, I thought I would wait until the end of the song to hit the snooze but. Except when the song ended, they started playing It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine) and I sat up, fully awake wondering if I was actually hear the same song twice. Now fully awake and lo and behold the song started for the third straight time.

Off to the bathroom, It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine) was playing when I went into the shower and was still playing when I came out. It played throughout breakfast. It played throughout the commute. Sometimes in between the song, a mysterious voice would come on and say, “The end is coming.” Then back to It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine). Naturally this was a big discussion at school that day. Keep in mind this was before someone could pull out their phones to answer any question. Was it the end of the world? Was this a warning?

It turned out that the radio station was changing format and their name (naturally to The End) and started playing alternative music. And it became my new favorite radio station until it turned into a hip-hop station maybe five years later. Which is also around the time I stopped listening to radio as the format slowly was being bought up by the same two companies and turning stations across the nation into basically McDonalds for the airwave with the exact same playlists.

But for people of my age and older, radio stations meant something important. You do not have to have lived in New York City in the eighties to appreciate New Wave: Dare to Be Different because this is a universal love letter to the local independent radio station. Grant it will probably help if you enjoy New Wave music.

WLIR 92.7 started as a radio station in 1959 and switched over to a progressive rock station in the early seventies. But it was the format switch in 1982 to New Wave and other underground sounds of the era that put the station on the map. U2, Talking Heads, Depeche Mode, Blondie, Duran Duran, Tears for Fears, The Clash, and The Cure were all credited to getting their first American airplay on the small Long Island station. They also claim to be the first to play Madonna and Prince. The documentary culls interviews from musicians who got their start on the station as well as DJ’s, fans and an intern named Gary Dell'Abate.

I am not sure if kids today even listen to the radio (I am not entirely sure why anyone these days would listen) but I am sure they would be befuddled by some of the segments in the documentary. Early on, there is a lengthy segment about people fine tuning their radios to find the station. Does anyone even turn a radio anymore? I do have two myself. Later they talk about import and try telling a kid who streams everything that there was a time when people would spend ten to twenty dollars just get an import single with just one or two songs on it.

Much like my local radio station that launched with twenty-four straight hours of It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine) which did not last long, WLIR and its new format did not last a decade. Except its demise had to do with their FCC license. I will not go into detail, not to spoil the documentary because they make it hilariously confusing ending to the film.

New Wave: Dare to Be Different airs tonight at 8:00 on Showtime.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Previewing Billions: Season Three



I was utterly disappointed with how the first season of Billions ended. For me the season needed to end with Bobby Axelrod in handcuffs otherwise the show might go down like Damien Lewis’s last show Homeland which kept him around much too long. I realized in the second season that this was not your typical season long cops and robbers storyline stretched too long, this was a story of Spy vs. Spy with both spies bent on assured mutual destruction. And then the second season ended with Axe in handcuffs.

Of course Axe does not stay in jail long and posted bail in between seasons. That is not to say the perp walk is not having a lasting effect on Bobby, Lara has given him the boot and his assets have been frozen. So Axe and everyone at the company that bares his name are unable to trade and basically go in to work now and sit on their collective thumbs. And as you can guess it, people like Dollar Bill are not very good at sitting on their thumbs.

Even though he finally got his white whale things are not completely peachy for Chuck Rhoades either. He has a new hands on Attorney General from the heart of Texas who does not like the types of cases the New York office is picking. Oh yeah, and he still needs to make sure his involvement in the Bobby Axelrod case which included screwing over his father and best friend and draining his trust. All the while making sure Axe does not wiggle out of the charges.

I originally thought I knew how the first season ended. Of course I was wrong. But after watching two plus season, I am even more certain that there is only way the series can end: Bobby enters a new prison cell to find his new cellmate: Chuck Rhodes. As much as they hate each other, they both deserve each other more than anyone else on the planet.

Billions airs Sundays at 10:00 on Showtime.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Previewing March of the Penguins 2: The Next Step



Penguin mania swept the world a decade ago with the documentary March of the Penguins. Director Luc Jacquet took home Best Documentary that year for following a group of Emperor Penguins as they left their land locked home to head to the sea to get food for themselves and their family. It was funny and heartbreaking and sure to touch the heart of every child and those young at heart.

Not much has changed in the past decade, the penguins still have their regular march to the sea, sure climate change starting to have some effect but that is barely mentioned in the sequel March of the Penguin 2: The Next Step. Though warming, it still gets to -50 degrees below. What has changed is technology. High definition televisions were still new in 2006 when the original came out, I did not get one until 2010 so I probably saw the first film in standard definition on a DVD player.

The Next Step utilizes new technologies and techniques to give a fresh new look at these majestic creature. Jacquet spent two months shooting in the Antarctic winter using the new technology of 4K cameras, airborne drones, and under-ice diving cameras. And though some things change, Morgan Freeman is back to narrate the new documentary just like the first.

Where the first film spend most of the time following the marchers, the sequel tells the story of two penguins, a father and son, out of 60,000 in Antarctica as they face and overcome the almost unimaginable challenges of life in this hostile land. We follow the son from the time as an egg up until the point he is ready to head to the sea himself. Keep in mind only one in ten penguins make it to adulthood.

Still the film hits many of the same beats as the original, it is tense when there are lives at stake, heartbreaking at time, but a lot more slipping than I remember. Still, March of the Penguin 2: The Next Step is worth checking out just to see the breathtaking advances in picture quality. Although I guess it may be time for me to upgrade to a 4K TV.

March of the Penguins 2: The Next Step premieres Friday, on Hulu. The original March of the Penguins is on Hulu now.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Previewing Hard Sun



Have you ever watched a sci-fi show with no actual sci-fi elements? That was a thought running threw my brain while watching Hard Sun. Sure the first scene features someone getting stabbed below the eye like nothing happened. But that is never talked about afterward aside from seeing a scar there. I thought it was weird when some dude in his early twenties called someone who looked the same age mom, but when another character asked if she had him when she was thirteen or fourteen, I looked up the actress and found she was actually in her mid-thirties which made getting pregnant right after puberty ended plausible.

The closest thing to a sci-fi element is that a pair of cops happens upon a government conspiracy covering up knowledge of an extinction level event appropriately named “Hard Sun.” The first episode plays out like a fascinating political thriller as the cops race to get the information out before being killed like everyone who has seen this information. The following episodes follows the cops as they investigate crimes inspired by people coping with knowing they only have five years to live. It is an interesting look into the psyche of people who know they and everyone they love only have five more years to live. Sure our protagonist go with the cherish every minute and spend as much time as you can with your loved ones but there are plenty of people who just want to get the pain and suffering out of the way now because why wait five years knowing you are going to die along with everyone else on the Earth.

Not so fascinating is the clichéd subplot of two new partners where the newest to the department is brought in to investigate the older one of possibly being shady. We have seen this story play out many times before in movies and television and just takes away from the actually interesting look at the human condition with the end of the world off in the not so distant but not really that close future.

Jim Sturgess (21) is the cop suspected of killing his partner why Agyness Deyn (Clash of the Titans) is the newbie investigating the detective. Oh yeah, and he is hooking up with his dead partner’s widow, the one he may have killed, all the while his wife is pregnant. Oh course as the show ponders, does any of it matter if everyone is likely to die in five year? But then, the final scene in season completely changes everything.

All episodes of Hard Sun were released today on Hulu.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Previewing The Looming Tower



I remember cleaning my basement in 2005 only to find a Newsweek from the late nineties with Osama bin Laden’s name on the front cover. It was a fascinating article in retrospect. I am sure I read it but like most, the name Osama bin Laden did not actually resonate with me until 2001. But what that cover showed to me, even though he was not in the public consciousness in the nineties, somebody knew something.

That is the basis of the new mini-series The Looming Tower as the FBI and CIA track Al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden as they declare war on the United States through an interview with ABC News while the agencies butt heads with each other. The big point of contention that starts the series is the CIA acquiring a hard drive from an Al-Qaeda operative but refuses to share that information with the FBI. Things only get more heated when at the end of the episode; two American Embassies get blown up. This is 1998.

The show does the best job I have heard explaining the differences between the two federal agencies and why they are at odds. The FBI are a law and order agencies who want to bring in enemy combatants and put them on trial if they did anything wrong, while the CIA look at the bigger pictures not wasting time on small fish if it will harm catching big fish. And of the course the spies have no problem killing enemy combatants.

The FBI on the show comes in the form of Jeff Daniels (Arachnophobia) as Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's National Security Division in New York City. I would not recommend Googling his character because he plays what I assume a huge role later in the series. Peter Sarsgaard (Green Lantern) is the head of a CIA counter-terrorism unit in DC. Feel free to Google him, he does not exist (but the person he may be based on is fairly easy to find and you can tell why the creators of the show did not want to use his real name; I will say he did not seem to like the book that the mini-series was based on). It is probably because of this that in the battle of FBI and CIA on this show, the former come out looking better than the latter.

The one name I did recognize in the first episode was Richard Clarke who was the National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection at the time. The head of the CIA George Tenet (played by Alec Baldwin) does show up in episode three to discuss retaliation on bin Laden. The most high profile government official at the time Bill Clinton only shows up archival footage. And a lot of it, the show does not miss a chance to have a newscast featuring bits on the Monica Lewinski scandal on the television in the background, and the occasional foreground whenever anyone is near a television.

But Clinton is not the only one with a little action on the side. In the first episode alone, Daniels takes flowers to a woman in an apartment in New York. While in Washington, he takes flowers to another woman, and by the end of the episode he goes to the suburbs where another woman is waiting with his two daughters. Do really need to know this guy hunting terrorists has not one but (at least) two mistresses? Probably not. Granted I do find the home life of the rare FBI agent that can speak Arabic who is called to go to a foreign country on his first date and surprisingly there is a second.

There is a growing number of nineties true crime shows on television that I fear we are not too far away from the Amy Fisher and / or John Wayne Bobbitt story, but of the ones that have aired so far, The Looming Tower is the most well made of them. And with all the FBI stories in the news these days, the show is a relevant reminder of just how hard the job is and it is a job that never ends. And more importantly, just what is really going on in the world when the media has one singular focus on something that may warrant impeachment but in the end is may be trivial?

The first three episodes of The Looming Tower are available to stream now on Hulu with new episodes every Wednesday.


Thursday, February 15, 2018

Previewing Cardinal: Season Two



Netflix used to be the place where you could catch up on television and movies. Breaking Bad was even credited with becoming a hit basically out of nowhere in its last season because people were apparently binging on it with Netflix. But now Netflix is more interested in becoming a content creator. In the half year alone they have ponied over a half a billion dollars for Ryan Murphy and Shonda Rhimes to create new programming. While their original programming grows even larger, their acquired library keeps shrinking with basically Disney and The CW being basically their only major contracts left with the former saying they will not be renewing their contract when it is over.

Quietly Hulu is becoming the go to place for classic programming. The recently landed ER’s first streaming rights along with plenty other television shows from your childhood. Sure if you want to watch the Fuller House reboot, you need Netflix, but if you want to watch the original series, you need a Hulu subscription. And though they may not have much original programming, The Handmaid’s Tale has swept every major television award in the past year, including Best Drama at the Emmys, besting three Netflix series in a category Netflix has never won.

Aside from old shows, Hulu has also been amassing a growing foreign catalogue too. Want to watch the original Shameless? Hulu’s got it. Want to watch Real Humans which the AMC show is based on, Hulu’s got it. The original The Bridge? Yep, on Hulu. And, oh my goodness, the original Australian The Slap is also on Hulu. Hulu even has a bunch of international shows not (yet) bastardized by American networks yet.

Last year Hulu acquired the right to the Canadian show Cardinal and tomorrow the entire second season premieres on Hulu. It was another murder mystery show that benefitted from international schedules allowing shorten seasons with Cardinal only being six season. Ten to twenty-two episodes t solve a crime on American television is way too long.

As you would expect, the second season of Cardinal starts off with a scared woman running through the wood, falling, hitting her head to her death. Except, the big twist of the season is the girl shows up a couple scenes later in a bar without her memory. Oh, and after a medical examination Red (named for the color of her hair and because Jane Doe is usually for dead chicks; apparel they do not watch Blindspot) also has a bullet in her brain that essentially lobotomized her. Then the episode ends with some weird and creepy ritualistic killing that it is safe to assume ties into Red’s memory loss.

Cardinal may not be a profound show or reinvent the wheel, but it has proven to be a compelling bit of mystery television crammed into an easy to consume six episodes. And for people looking for something to do when everything on television is on an Olympic hiatus, here is something worth trying out.

You can stream the second season of Cardinal on Hulu starting tomorrow, season one available now.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Previewing Word Is Bond



For me, Ice-T’s The Art of Rap is the quintessential rap documentary. Of course when you are Ice-T, you can open up your digital Rolodex and get every living MC, past and present, you would possible want to talk about the craft. And being a rapper himself, Ice can steer the conversation to make sure you got all the important information out of the subjects.

So Work Is Bond has a lot to live up too. First off, director Sacha Jenkins (Fresh Dressed) does not get the names Ice-T did. This documentary is top-lined by Nas, Rakim, and Big Daddy Kane. But the thing is, the guy found some rappers not big enough for the Ice-T one that still had some fascinating insight like Brother Ali, Flatbush Zombies, and the Run the Jewels guys.

There were a few oh yeah, I remember those guys. Seriously, anyone remember Peedi Crakk? Then there is a segment on Rhymefest who is apparently still working and recently added an Oscar as a co-writer on Glory to his Grammy he won for Jesus Walks. While Freeway has noticeably lost a lot of weight since he was Roc-A-Fella’s next big thing about a decade ago and sadly we learn why as he is dealing with a serious health issue.

Okay, not all the talking heads are winners. Is anyone really that interested in hearing J. Cole’s thoughts on anything? Most of the interviews focus mostly on each rappers experiences and influence, but there is a fascinating discussion in the middle of the documentary where everyone is asked their stance on ghostwriting in rap, and oh, boy, there are a lot of strong, varying thoughts on the subject.

Word Is Bond premieres Friday at 10:00 on Showtime.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Previewing Eric Clapton: Life in 12 Bars



There was a time in my life had you asked me who my favorite artist was, I would have told you Eric Clapton. We spend most of our first decade on this planet basically listening to whatever the radio told us to listen to or just what your parents do. Then comes the time when you discover that there was actually music released before you were born and even stuff, good stuff being released that did not even get radio airplay.

This time for me just so happened to coincide with a career resurgence of Eric Clapton whose Tears in Heaven was his first top five single since the seventies and first in my lifetime. That was quickly followed by his installment of MTV Unplugged which most would consider one of the top two episodes ever (other people can argue if Nirvana’s was better) which would sweep that year’s Grammy’s and introduce a whole new generation to what most would consider one of the top two guitarist of all time (though some may argue Jimmy Hendrix).

Now at seventy-two, hopefully it is time for another generation to discover the greatness of Clapton even though you rarely even hear a guitar on pop radio today unless it is a quick sample. For those looking for a quick recap of his life and career, look no further than Eric Clapton: Life in 12 Bars, an expansive look at the guitarist career. Or really, his sixties career as over half of the two plus hour documentary focuses on that time in his career.

And that decade is jam packed of action as Clapton bounced around from band to band. Clapton was a fickle musical, spending two years with The Yardbirds, John Mayall and The Bluesbreakers, three years with Cream, two years with Blind Faith, and two years with Derek and The Dominos, before finally going solo in 1970. But his solo work is mostly just an alcoholic haze and really the music during the seventies and eighties basically just get a one minute montage treatment.

This is my biggest complaint of the documentary. Slowhand, one of the greatest album ever made is barely mention other that hoe Clapton does not like listening song from that era because he can tell just how drunk he was while listening to those songs. The quick montage through this time comes to an abrupt end with the birth of his first child Connor whose tragic death at four inspired Tear in Heaven. But after all the Grammy’s were won, we get another quick montage to modern day. For a two hour and eighteen minute more time could have been spent from the seventies to now. Still Life in 12 Bars is a good primer on the artist life and would a look for music fans of all ages. And for those youngsters not that familiar with his work, I would recommend starting with The Cream of Clapton and his Unplugged album and go from there.

Eric Clapton: Life in 12 Bars premieres tonight on Showtime at 9:00.


Thursday, February 08, 2018

Previewing Homeland: Season Seven



One thing that struck me during the “previous on Homeland” segment that starts the season premiere is Dar Adal telling the president-elect, “Don’t go to war with your national security establishment, it’s a war you won’t win.” One would think the show went with a women president to coincide with real world events that ended up not coming to pass, they were surprisingly accurate at predicting the future in other ways. They even had a Russian troll farm last season long before social media giants were brought before congressional hearings.

But once the “elect” designation was dropped from the fictional character’s title at the end of last season, President Keane arrested two hundred government officials in connection to her assassination attempt including Saul Berenson. And at the start of the new season, the president is jailing journalists for leaking news and appearing at tribunals advocating death for those that conspired against her.

Carrie, of course, starts the season listening to experimental jazz while exercising heavily. Losing her advisor title to the president-elect on account of arresting her old mentor, Carrie is back in DC living with her sister again in a now full house with her brother-in-law who still works for the government, their teenage daughter activist (who thankfully is not as mopey as Dana Brody), and of course an every growing Frannie is still around.

Not surprisingly Carrie has not gotten an office job or even gotten back into private security like she did when the show went to Germany, she is instead trying to get her friend, and those unjustly jailed, out of prison. We are also still following the Alex Jones conspiracy peddler from last season who is now on the run from the Keane administration but still manages to record a show six days a week. And to give you a sense of how much time has passed from last season, he does say it has been fifty-two days of the resistance.

And being Homeland, there are plenty of twists and turns to be had even in the first episode. Someone gets a surprising job offer as a National Security Advisor and some dies (I think). Oh, and Max is back. Now if only we get one of Carrie’s crazy boards and go off her meds and we will have a classic Homeland season. Auntie Carrie is already off to a decent start.

Homeland airs Sundays at 9:00 on Showtime.


Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Previewing The Detour: Season Three



As interesting as the premise for the first season of The Detour was where it was a season long National Lampoon’s Vacation the question is, are they going on a trip every season? Just like later Vacation movies that stayed stationary, The Detour wisely stayed put in the second season. And then at the end of the season they became fugitives and had to go on the run.

But season three is not a repeat of season one with the Parker family is on the lamb. We actually pick things up when the family has decided to stop running. And the place they do this is Alaska, a place where everyone in the state is running away from something. It is also a place where the sun is still out at 4:00 AM in the summer which makes for plenty of funny jokes.

The town the family settles in just happens to have an alpaca for a mayor and a deputy mayor who refers to himself as Straight Jack. The family comes up with some of the dumbest jobs they can think of at the top of their heads before realizing everyone in the state is just as messed up as they are.

That is not the lower forty-eight does not slowly find them. Sure it takes until episode five for Robin’s sister to find them. Also, Edie, the USPIS agent from last season is still on the case for no apparent reason because clearly she is not very good at her job. And of course the children are still there and as wacky as usual. Clearly the new setting has not done them well. Of course with parents like theirs, they were never going to grow up well adjusted.

The Detour airs Tuesdays at 10:30 on TBS.