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

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Previewing The Act

Last summer Hulu premiered Castle Rock releasing a new episode every week. There were two just outstanding episodes over the course of the first that spawned countless think pieces across the internet. And that was the last time Hulu released one of its show one episode per week instead opting for the Netflix model of releasing full seasons at one time. I never quite understood this other than the thought, well Netflix is successful is at so we should do it too. Except if you subscribe to Hulu, you probably to it to watch last night’s episode of NBC, ABC, and Fox shows.

Almost a year later, it looks like Hulu is rethinking its release schedule. The first drama to release every show at once was The First which was already canceled. I do wonder if it had been more successful if it was released weekly. Much like Castle Rock there was a truly great episode in the middle except there were no think pieces about because when a show is released all at once, when exactly do you write it? Instead most critics wrote about the show once, said there was one great episode but the rest was mostly, meh, and that was about it. Though The First is the only show since canceled, only Light as a Feather has been renewed. And really shows aimed at teenagers and younger are probably the only shows Hulu should release all at once.

So starting with The Act, Hulu is, at least for now, is going back to a weekly release schedule. (The Handmaid’s Tale and Harlots will follow this spring and both have released weekly in their first two season so I would assume that will continue though no word on Catch-22 which premieres before them.) And really it will be better for it because you may need a full week to pull process each episode because The Act is completely messed up. And I mean that in the most complementary way possible.

The Act is another in an every growing trend of True Crime limited series and this series may have found the most bizarre true crime story in America’s history. The Buzzfeed article that brought the story to the masses says it all: “Dee Dee Wanted Her Daughter to Be Sick, Gypsy Wanted Her Mom to Be Murdered.” Patricia Arquette (who is back in a bad wig after winning an multiple end year awards for another pretty bizarre true crime story, Escape from Dannamora) plays Dee Dee who has been abusing her daughter with Munchausen syndrome by proxy for years. Gyspy is played Joey King (Ramona and Beezus) who is not going to make it easy for Arquette to also take home the Emmy where she may just compete against herself and King. Really, these two going out it in every scene going for that Emmy is going to be as compelling as every March Madness game this year. I might just give it to King by a hair because she literally has none for this role because Dee Dee told Gypsy she was so sick she could not grow any and shaved her regularly.

That Buzzfeed title is not really that spoilery for those unfamiliar with the case because there are flash forwards in the premiere where we see a lifeless Dee Dee with multiple stab wounds in her back. This act took place in 2015 while the first episode flashes back seven years when two New Orleans are built a new how in Missouri by Habitat for Humanity after being displaced by Katrina. Gypsy gets medicine and food injected through her belly and wears a mask to sleep. She also has the largest medicine cabinet you may ever see. And of course early in the show Gypsy has to be taken to the Emergency Room, her seventh time that year and it is not even summer year.

But this is the time of a young girl’s life where they are starting to be old enough to think about best friends, boyfriends. Or so one would assume, it is unclear just how old Gypsy is. Dee Dee is really exploiting records being destroying in Katrina to put Gypsy’s age in doubt. But Gypsy is now smart enough to clear the browsing history. One friend that presents herself is AnnaSophia Robb (Race to Witch Mountain) who lives across the street with her mother Chloë Sevigny (American Psycho).

Each episode of The Act opens with the tag “Based on real event” but I also found it interesting that each episode end with, “While this program is based on real events, some scenes and characters have been dramatized or fictionalized.” Which kind of leads me to wonder what exactly is real and what is not? I remember watching Hidden Figures last year and was disappointed to learn afterwards that the best part of the movie, when Kevin Costner tore down the “Colors Bathroom” sign, never actually happened because that character he did that for did not actually had to go across campus to use the restroom she was allowed to go in. Fake or real, The Act is creepy as it gets and I cannot wait to see how it fully unfurls and actually write about it every week.

New episodes of The Act premiere on Hulu every Wednesday. The first two episodes are available now.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Previewing Shrill

Where Hulu has been swinging for the fences when it comes to dramas bringing in big names and splashy press releases, they may actually be getting more and more niche with its comedies. Earlier this year they premiered PEN15 by far the weirdest thing currently on television. Next month comes Ramy about a millennial Muslim starring someone you probably have never heard of. And today sees the premiere Shrill whose tagline is, “Annie, a fat young woman who wants to change her life — but not her body.” So yeah, Shrill is not a broad comedy either.

Then after one episode, I kind of wondered if Shrill was a comedy at all because the only time I laughed in the first episode was at a very blunt pharmacist. And that was the only scene he was in. Okay the show does get progressively funnier with each passing episode. Early in the second episode Annie, who writes for an online publication which for some reason still has office space, goes to a strip club to review its buffet.

Annie is played by Aidy Bryant (Saturday Night Live) who lives with her lesbian best friend (Lolly Adefope, Miracle Workers) while Luka Jones (People of Earth) is the douchebag boyfriend who she has to slum it with. Or maybe he is slumming it, I kind of go back and forth throughout the season. And he may only be out douched by Annie’s boss John Cameron Mitchell (Hedwig and the Angry Inch) who may the most pretentious gay dude ever.

But the problem is that the funniest people on the show are barely on it. There is a very inappropriate receptionist at the paper who always has something condescending to say but Annie is rarely at the office. So the IT girl only gets two scenes, but her matter-of-factly debates whether a corn dog could make for a self-pleasuring instrument may be the funniest bit in the show. It is either that or when you learn why the third episode is entitled “Pencil” (you will never guess why). Shrill can be very funny when it want to be, seriously there is a scene where a character takes shrooms when a dog eat one by accident in solidarity, but actual laughs are sometimes too far in between.

All episodes of Shrill are now streaming on Hulu.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Previewing Billions: Season Four

Billons threw a huge curveball last season in after two and a half seasons of being at each other throats and seemed to be careening towards mutual assured destruction, Chuck and Axe actually sat down together and called a truce. Not only that, they started helping each other out as both were being targeting by their one time protégés who are now going after their illegal and immoral ways they once tried to take down the other. Chuck is now being investigated by his second in command while Axe’s star analyst has set up her own shop, taking a sizable amount of capital with her as well as a couple employees.

So both Chuck and Axe start season four a little wounded, Chuck was fired by Attorney General and replaced by the protégé who is now reviewing all his past cases for improprieties. Then Axe is now is finding it hard to retaliate against his protégé who is being backed by a Russian oligarch and has lost his wife and child. Okay, there is a new blonde that looks just like her that catches Axe’s eye. But it is weird after rarely appearing on screen in the first three seasons, how much Axe and Chuck spend together in the new season.

Chuck private practice for high power players and without much power humorously goes on a trek to carry favors with his one chip is not very covetable. Of course it is not very long before his overbearing father tries to grab some power with his son by coming up with a play to make him the Attorney General of New York state. But I wonder just what would happened if a real disgraced U.S. Attorney tried to run for a state Attorney General would go. Wouldn’t an announcement be dead on arrival? Although in these days and times, I guess I could see Trump/Jeff Sessions firing one, claiming it is politically motivated and then run for Attorney General of New York and quickly crowned out of spite mostly.

Billions airs Sundays at 9:00 on Showtime.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Previewing Into the Dark: Treehouse

The first five episodes of Into the Dark picked pretty chalky holidays for their monthly horror anthology: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, and Valentine’s Day. For March we get our first curve-ball. I am sure most people were guessing St. Patrick’s Day, but you would be wrong. Maybe because it is hard to do a horror episode based on that holiday without getting sued by the Leprechaun franchise, instead the March episode is actually based on the Ides of March.

I will say this about Treehouse, the latest episode; it does have a bunch of recognizable faces. Okay, no actual names, but if you are like me, you will spend the show going, oh hey, they guy from Breakout Kings, Howard Stern’s wife from the movie, the lady from Angel From Hell, that MuchMusic VJ, the chick from the Friday the 13th reboot, the teacher from Bunheads, the girl from a bunch of commercials.

The episode follows a semi-famous chef who escapes to his family’s vacation estate during some bad press that coincides with the wedding of his previous wife. Okay, the Ides of March theme is a bit of a stretch here. The episode open with a knife and I guess there is sort of an et tu Brute moment but the whole idea of the past coming back for what it’s due is a pretty vague concept here considering how the past episodes really banged you over the head with the holiday theme.

The Flesh and Blood episode probably set the bar foe slow moving episodes, but Treehouse is also pretty slow to pick up. It takes fifteen minutes for anything weird to happen (a random black goat), thirty minutes until we see the titular treehouse, then forty-five minutes until anything remotely scary happens. But once we get to the big reveal, the episode really picks up and goes in a direction that is a bit unexpected. Still, waiting for it to get going really keeps it low on my Into the Dark Power Rankings:

Into the Dark Power Ranking
1. The Body (October)
2. Down (February)
3. New Year, New You (January)
4. Pooka! (December)
5. Treehouse (March)
6. Flesh and Bone (November)

Into the Dark: Treehouse premieres tomorrow on Hulu.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Previewing Miracle Workers

Workplace comedies have been a staple since the dawn of the television age, from The Mary Tyler Moore Show to The Office. There is just something universal of going in punching the clock. From being in close proximity to people you otherwise would have never talked to and the occasional office flirtations, to the potential pouching from rival companies, to the banality of doing the same job over and over again. And then there is the aloof boss who has decided to blow up the Earth.

Okay, that last one is exclusive to the latest workplace comedy, Miracle Workers, which imagines God as the CEO of Heaven Inc. with departments like clouds, mammals, and bug control (spoiler alert, that department is not doing a very good job) while the Angels are resigned to being the worker bees. The show follows Geraldine Viswanathan (Blockers) as she finally gets to leave the Dirt Department for The Department of Answered Prayers only to find an overworked Daniel Radcliffe (Now You See Me 2) who spends most his days melting snowflakes one at a time for hours to answer the prayer of finding one’s car keys. See he is not allowed to break the laws of physics so it is rerouting wind patterns to uncover gloves under leaves.

Just last week I was lamenting the lack of extremely weird show despite there being an overabundance of outputs these days. I pointed out there was nothing truly bizarre since the FXX comedy Man Seeking Woman. Well that show was created by Simon Rich who also created Miracle Workers and wrote the book What in God’s Name that the series is based on. And that warped sense of humor continues on the new show.

So right as Viswanathan finally got a more exciting job, God has decided to blow up the Earth after a day of watching a wall of cable news. But Viswanathan convinces God to give Earth a reprieve if she is able to answer one of the prayers labeled “Impossible” and God gives her two weeks or kaboom. So hell or high water, the miracle workers go to work to make that one last wish come true by any means necessary. Oh, and I forgot to mention, God is played by Steve Buscemi (Grown Up’s 2). Yes, that Steve Buscemi.

What is great is all the actors completely buy into their characters no matter how absurd things get around them. Seriously, there is a “Burst Appendix” button that of course comes into play in hilarious fashion. Viswanathan is a great find and is perfect as the wide eyed newbie who will stop at nothing to prove she belongs. Go ahead and put her in ever comedy from her on out please. Though The best character may be the newscaster who comments on all the acts of God that the miracle workers and God create during the show. His delivery is just deadpan gold.

There is really only one complaint I can give to Miracle Workers: It is too short at just seven half hours. Really, without ads, you could watch the entire series in under two and a half hours (which comes to think of it would have made for a decent movie). If you are going to give the team two weeks, how about fourteen episodes, one day per episode? Instead we go from twelve days until the end of the world to six just like that and we are left to wonder what shenanigans happening in those six day.

Also TBS is calling the show a “limited series” but I really hope we get more seasons. It would not be unprecedented, Big Little Lies got a second season as did The Alienist on Turner’s other channel. But being too short is the best complaint you can have. For those that are missing the heavenly comedy of The Good Place will definitely want to check out Miracle Workers.

Miracle Workers airs Tuesdays at 10:30 on TBS. Or just watch the first episode below.

Thursday, February 07, 2019

Previewing PEN15

As we sit here in peak TV, it is a bit surprising that the overabundance of outlets producing shows, there are very few super-weird content. Back in the eighties when there was significantly less content there seemed to a lot more weird stuff. Sure it was quite clear that creators and television and movie executives were doing copious amounts of cocaine. Seriously kiddies, not only was there a movie where two office flunkies carried around the dead boss for an entire movie, that actually got a sequel where I believe the corpse started to move by itself because of a voodoo curse. Le sigh. I miss those days.

So I got a little excited when I heard of the completely absurd concept for PEN15 (no, it is not pronounced Pen Thirteen, look at it some more, you will get it eventually): two thirty-somethings playing versions of themselves as thirteen-year-old outcasts in the year 2000, surrounded by actual thirteen-year-olds in seventh grade. The two women are Maya Erskine (who also starred in one of the few other weird shows this decade Man Seeking Woman which featured Lyla Garrity being best friends with a Japanese Penis Monster, seriously) and Anna Konkle (who was also in an episode of Man Seeking Woman but my be best known for Rosewood) who both co-created the show and wrote most of the ten episodes.

Yeah, it gets extremely weird seeing two women almost three times the age of their co-stars act out the most awkward time in everyone’s life. And sure it is extremely funny to start out but then it gets kind of creepy and fast. In episode three Maya becomes a chronic masturbator and it just feels dirty watching a thirteen year old character touching themselves even if she is being played by a thirty-one year old.

Then despite being labeled outcasts, the two girls do seem to have a steady stream of suiters and it is so creepy watching these women flirting with barely teenaged boys, I was expecting Chris Hansen to pop out multiple times. Though I did notice a couple times in the credits that there were stand in’s for some of the scenes, and the scenes were cut in such a way, it was obvious there were a couple stand in without seeing the credits. Oh and I think I saw more menstrual blood on this show than every show I have previously watched combined.

Despite the high concept, at heart PEN15 is a nostalgia show. In the premiere we get early 00’s gems from Mandy Moore, Lit, Lifehouse and the most underrated, and really the second best TLC song Unpretty. And of course there is dial up modems,  Ask Jeeves, Ace Ventura jokes, and the first R-rated movie the girls watch is the best trashy movie of the era Wild Things. Surprisingly we do not get to see the girls react to the Kevin Bacon coming out of the shower scene.

The most nostalgic of all the episodes is when the girls first log on to AIM. Everyone under the age of twenty really needs to watch the bizarre online mating rituals of people who just started using the internet on a primitive messaging app that you could only use for limited times because you needed to dial into your phone, which was connected to the wall and could only be used to call things… Yeah describing how we used the phone and the internet at the turn of the century to people under twenty is hard. You may just have to watch to understand.

All episodes of PEN15 are available tomorrow on Hulu.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Previewing Into the Dark: Down

Not only have each episode of Into the Dark feature a different holiday of the year, each have their own take on the genre. There have been psychological, farcical, each different in their own way. For the Valentine’s Day episode Down, it is what the press release call Blumhouse’s version of a rom-com. A rom-com horror, I believe that is how you can describe seventy-two percent of every Lifetime movie.

I actually wished they played more into the rom-com aspect earlier in the movie to lull you into a false sense of security as the start is still very cold taking place in a very non-descript elevator. It is late on the start of the three day weekend where Valentine’s Day just happens to coincide with the President’s Day weekend and the final two people in the building are leaving. (To save you from some Googling, no, Valentine’s Day does not fall on the weekend this year. The 13th does not even fall on a Friday like the monitor say. The last time this happened was 2015 and will not happen again until 2026. So pretty much it seems like the writers really wanted this to take place on Friday the 13th, you know, because it is a horror movie.)

Natalie Martinez (Under the Dome) and Matt Lauria (Friday Night Lights) play the unlucky duo that at first make the best of a bad situation. The meet-cute happens when the elevator shuts down four stories underground and all they have to eat and drink are a bottle of wine and a handful of Hersey’s Kisses. These two are so perfect for each other; they both even keep a mini-corkscrew around just in case. But of course, since this is Into the Dark, things go horribly wrong before they are able to get out of the elevator. Now I am not saying it is the best episode so far (see the power ranking below), but it is the best twist so far.

Into the Dark Power Ranking
1. The Body (October)
2. Down (February)
3. New Year, New You (January)
4. Pooka! (December)
5. Flesh and Bone (November)

Into the Dark: Down premieres tomorrow only on Hulu.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Previewing I Am the Night

The Black Dahlia Murder is one of those famous stories that I really do not know that much about because I have never been that much of a fan of the true crime genre. I think I maybe have seen a movie about it, maybe starring Josh Harnett. Maybe not. You will hear a lot about The Black Dahlia when reading about I Am the Night, but really that crime is just tertiary to the plot of the new TNT limited series. the show is more of a character study than trying to figure out who committed the crime.

The show, based on the book One Day She'll Darken, is the story of Fauna Hodel, who on her sixteenth year, learns her mother that raised her is not actually her birth mother. She grew up thinking that her black mother had sex with a white man, but finds her birth certificate and her mother is listed as Caucasian and her father is listed as an unidentified negro. So it is off to Los Angeles to find her birth mother, find out who her father is, and the rest of her family including her grandfather George.

Oh, and George is believed to be a copycat killer of The Black Dahlia murderer, or possibly the actual killer himself by a reporter played by Chris Pine (teaming back up with his Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins who directed multiple episodes and serves as the executive producer). At the time Fauna is learning about her real self, Pine is a disgraced reporter who was successfully sued for definition by George Hodel and has resigned to awkwardly walking on the sand just to take private pictures of celebrates. As his editor tells him, hold stories you can’t tell.

It takes a while for the two leads to cross paths and the first couple episodes suffer for it. That is the problem with how television is made, Pine’s reporter should not even show up in the first episode because this is Fauna’s story, but since he is the recognizable episode who face has to be on the poster to sell the show, he has to be in as many scenes, and possibly more, just to get the show made.

But once the two cross path, the show really hits its stride in the final three episodes. Well until it just ends and you realize that this was not out to solve the case of The Black Dahlia, it was tell the story of Fauna Hodel. And to hammer that point home, at the end of the series, there is the usual where are they now epilogue and the only person we get an update on is Fauna. This will lead people who are not totally emerged in the Black Dahlia case straight to Bing to see what became of George Hodel and the case

I Am the Night airs Mondays at 9:00 on TNT.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Previewing Black Monday

Just last week I was talking about how Seth Rogan was the king of high concept and low brow comedy. But here I am reviewing another show he is a producer of (and also directed the Pilot episode with his producing partner Evan Goldberg) and Black Monday is actually a simple concept about the stock market crash of 1987. Okay, since the show focuses on predominately male stock brokers, there still is plenty low brow humor. Or as our present day grooming companies would call toxic masculinity masquerading as humor.

Being Black Monday, naturally the show starts with someone throwing themselves out a window crashing down on a Lamborghini limousine. Which is apparently a real thing. But this a story is about what caused the crash so we then flash back a year. Oh and we get to see the tie pin that was on the dead body on one of our main characters. Though that person is no longer in possession of that tie pin at the end of the second episode so we will get to debate all season (or more)just who jumped out the window. And le me go ahead and ask now, wait, did he jump or maybe was he pushed? After meeting the characters, I would not rule out murder.

Despite the setting and time period, this is not Wall Street or The Wolf of Wall Street or even Billions set in the eighties (though it may be a not white washed version of Working Girl). There is a meeting in the second episode that looks like a Benetton ad. There is a black man, a Hispanic, a Jew, a woman, an Arab, and a Polynesian, and even one of them is a closeted homosexual. The lone WASP at the Wall Street firm is actually a new guy and actually the mark for the group.

Don Cheadle (House of Lies) is head of this rag tag firm who wants to be a big player by any means necessary. Regina Hall (Support the Girls) is his right hand man and best mind on the team. Andrew Rannells (The New Normal) is the bright eyed newbie who has brought his new algorithm to Wall Street. Oh and Ken Marino shows up as both Leighman Brothers (someone is trying not to be sued) which makes it twice as fun.

Black Monday is reminiscent of Cheadle’s last Showtime show with him yet again playing the leader of a firm in a ruthless industry, though a little less successful this time around. And of course, a lot more eighties reference. Though closing out the first episode with a montage of New York Stock Exchange workers set to Don Henley’s New York Minute is a little on the nose. Still, thanks to all the eighties gags, the new show is a bit more funnier… and twice the Ken Marinos.

Black Monday airs Sundays at 10:00 on Showtime.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Previewing SMILF: Season Two

In the #MeToo era, plenty of men have been accused of impropriety, be it white men, black men, and even gay men. But if we have learned anything from Demi more in Disclosure, women can be inappropriate too. So things are going to be awkward on the upcoming season of SMILF. It has been reported that star Samara Weaving, who plays the new girlfriend of the lead character played by the show’s creator Frankie Shaw is leaving the show because of a few incidents during her time on the show.

Weaving is leaving because of two instances. The first being Weaving objected to appearing in a nude scene. Shaw responded by pulling up her own t-shirt and remarked how her body had altered after giving birth and she still did nude scenes when required. Then this season, Shaw instructed video monitors to be turned on during an intimate scene involving Weaving even though the set was supposed to be closed, with only limited crew present and with outside monitors off. Add to that, there have been multiple staffers have made complaints to the WGA about both credit issues and alleged race-based separation, though no formal grievances have been filed.

Despite all these allegations, Showtime is still going forward with season two. Though them bringing back the show for a third season will be a bit surprising. But then again, Bryan Singer just won a Golden Globe so you never know punishment in the #MeToo era have been fairly uneven. As the Commander in Chief has shown, just deny and wait it out and people will end up forgetting or caring eventually.

Unfortunately for me, the viewer, Weaving was the best part of the show in the first season. Shaw was just completely unlikeable as a mother who just cannot get her life together even though now is the moment she has to. Weaving was the complete opposite, a ray of sunshine that would not let anything get o her. Really, Showtime should just cancel SMILF and give Weaving her own show. Unfortunately it seems like Weaving was already halfway out the door as the second season happens because she does not even show up until episode four.

Those actually did the like the scattershot that was the first season, you are in luck because season two is just as jumbled and kind of incoherent. There is one episode that turned out to be just a dream sequence that means nothing. Another follows one of Connie Briton’s housekeepers for a reason that comes clear at the end but I stopped caring why we were spending the time with her much sooner. An episode where Shaw looks for her father is another episode that just ends in a thud. I think when Weaving is official gone from the show, I may too.

SMILF airs Sundays at 10:30 on Showtime.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Previewing Future Man: Season Two

Seth Rogan has been the poster boy of the Beta Male for over a decade now thanks to him creating movies that were high concept, and then filling that high concept with low-brow comedy. And really, for my money, it does not get much more entertaining than high concept and low comedy. Okay, that was movies, his first attempt at a television show, Preacher, was not, and continues to not be, well… good. Of course that, much like one of his worst movies, The Green Hornet, was an adaptation. Rogan’s second attempt at a television show, Future Man, was an original concept.

Oh, and how original it was. The show featured Josh Henderson (The Hunger Games) as the first person to beat the Biotic Wars video game which turned out to be sent from the future to recruit someone to help take down the Biotics which became a future scourge to humans. Except what these future warriors, Tiger and Wolf, do not realize, the people in our time do not play video games for training in the future. And their “savior” is someone who only plays video games when he is not at his janitorial job. Then the trio travels through time trying to stop the rise of the Biotics. Like I said, very high concept.

The first season ended with a nice bow after Henderson blew up the building with the Biotic creator and all the plans. Sure he is going to have to live the rest of his life in a maximum security prison and be known as one of the biggest terrorist of his time, but at least he can rest in the solace that his two future warriors can (presumably) go back to a better future. But since the show got a second season, of course the future that Tiger and Wolf go back to is not much better than the one that they left… and plenty of hilarity ensues. And I mean a lot, if you laughed during the first season, there will be plenty to laugh at in the second.

Though there is a bit of a sophomore slump. It is weird that for what was presented as a time travel show; there is actually very little time travel in the second season, actually none until the end of the season, though when they actually start traveling again, there is one of the funniest bits in the history of the show. And I was a bit disappointed that they kept the mail characters away from each other because how the play off each other is a highlight of the show. But where season one sputters to towards the end, season two has a much better build to something and pay off every dumb plot they set up. No seriously, Tiger’s doppelganger’s high pitched voice, though super annoying, is actually paid off brilliantly.

Then those of you who were excited to see producer Seth Rogan in the season two trailer, be warned, he does not actually show up until the season finale. But when he does shows up, it turns out to be maybe the best episode of the season sets up what will likely be a crazy season three premiere. Oh Hulu, please let there be a season three. And four. And five. And six. And a movie.

All episodes of Future Man season two premieres on Hulu tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Previewing Project Blue Book

Last summer I finally caught up with Game of Thrones and no matter how good you are at avoiding spoilers; there was still one inadvertent way I still was spoiled on certain character death: when they would show up on another television program. So when watching Game of Thrones I would go, “oh hey, there is Iron Fist… I guess he is going to die eventually.” I think there were five different Game of Thrones characters I saw as main characters on other shows that pretty much spoiled their fate. So if you plan on catching up on Game of Thrones eventually, or are behind by one season, be warned, a main Game of Thrones character is the star of Project Blue Book and I will be talking Game of Thrones spoilers.

Project Blue Book was an actual government program that investigated unidentified flying objects throughout the United States. So, yeah, basically a real life X-Files. And there are plenty of cases for a television to plunder because there were 12,618 cases of UFO reported (and more than a few went unsolved). On the show two men are responsible to determine what exactly happened in a time before everyone had a video camera on their phone to document the strange occurrences.

Michael Malarkey (The Vampire Diaries) is an air force pilot tasked by the government to prove that UFO’s do not exist while Aidan Gillen (R.I.P. Littlefinger) is an OSU astrophysicist professor, and as a scientist he is convinced there is other life out there but doubt of intersteller space travel. He is also the kind of guy who would read the entire encyclopedia Britannica when sick as a child. Yes, kiddies, that is what people had to do before the Playstation was invented. Malarkey want to close these cases quickly while Gillen wants be through. So yeah, Gillen is the Mulder and Malarkey is the Scully.

Some of the cases the duo goes out on in the first season include a fighter pilot racing against weird lights in Fargo. There is what is believed to be a flaming alien that causes some ailment around the eyes in Birmingham. They go to Lubbock, Texas to investigate blackout and V-shaped lights. There are multiple episodes of green hovering lights that dig into a government conspiracy. And there is even a cold case about World War II Foo Fighters. For those who do not know where Dave Grohl got his band name, Foo Fighters were UFO that fighter pilots claimed to see.

Then instead of a smoking man, there are mysterious men in hats who are following the duo around. There is also a mysterious woman (Ksenia Solo, Lost Girl) who just so happens to befriend Gillen’s wife at a time he takes the government job. So yeah, since this is based on real events and you can rule out alien, she is probably, most definitely a Russian spy. But this makes me wonder just how real the show is. Sure, they say these cases are based on real reports that they got from the Freedom of Information Act, but I do wonder if it is safe to assume everything else is poetic license. But as one of the characters says, there is a difference between science fiction and informed speculation.

Project Blue Book airs Tuesdays at 10:00 on History.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Previewing Into the Dark: New Year, New You

Into the Dark started as a novel idea, a new horror movie length episode even month based on a holiday that month. But I wonder how much they thought that threw because you have a couple months where that major holiday actually starts that month. So December actually gets two episodes so people can watch before the New Year themed episode before the start of the year. Or at least have four days to do so. I do wonder if March will get multiple episodes too, because April Fool’s Day seems like the most logical pick for April but that month also has Easter and Tax Day. Then in the final installment of the season, Labor Day is actually on the second of September.

I got really excited when I saw the trailer for New Year, New You as it featured Dalia Royce in all her mean girl glory, okay this time with a hundred percent less deadpan. Instead she plays a self-wellness vlogger who is about to hit the big time with her own television show. But before that, she accepts an invitation to a New Year’s Eve party with her high school friends at a house that will soon to be sold and has a dark history which led to the house being reinforced like a fortress.

The host is not as successful as her childhood best friend who is a babysitter who makes end meet as she never finished college or paying off those student loans. She also sports a scar that looks exactly like the integral symbol for no apparent reasons. This start off alright but clearly there is tension building and not just because Dalia Royce routinely goes back into her pretentious self-help speak saying things like she does not eat dairy anymore for no reasonable reason. And just when the clock is about to hit midnight, things finally start to get interesting.

Okay, only a little more interesting. Once the clock hits midnight, it start to get a bit predictable too. And really before midnight, it takes a while for the episode to finally get to the twisty they choreograph a little too much that it is coming. And it did have some chances to become fun like a TLC dance sequence which was way too short, but instead the episode stays a little to grounded in reality. Still, it is nice to see the old Dalia Royce grow up and help people for selfish reasons. Seems like a reasonable extension of Suburgatory. Too bad Tessa Altman was not invited to the reunion.

Into the Dark Power Ranking
1. The Body (October)
2. New Year, New You (January)
3. Pooka! (December)
4. Flesh and Bone (November)

Into the Dark: New Year, New You premieres tomorrow only on Hulu.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Previewing Marvel's Runaways: Season Two

Big shake up in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: small screen addition this year with Netflix canceling three of its five Marvel shows with the other two likely to get the axe after their next seasons air (oh, and I guess something big happened on screen too this year, not that a bunch of teenagers in California notice or care). Of course that begs the question will Marvel resurrect those characters elsewhere even though it is reported there is a contractual two year waiting period. The upcoming Disney+ streaming channel (Disney owns Marvel Studios) is supposedly family friendly, so if we ever see Daredevil and the rest of The Defenders, it would most likely be on Hulu, which Disney will soon own sixty percent of.

Hulu being the current home of its own Marvel show Runaways. So could we see the Runaways team up with or battle The Defenders? Since they are on different coasts, unlikely. And Runaways first season was low on references to the larger universe it inhabits. That does change a little in season two where I caught a Black Panther reference as well as a Cloak and Dagger reference that they really want you to notice because it is in two episodes. The latter airs on Freeform, another Disney owned channel which makes a crossover a little like even though the shows again are on different coast, Cloak does have the ability to teleport.

The first season of Runaways was just one long tease. Given the show’s name, it was a huge shame the titular characters decided to wait until the last frame of the first season to actually run away. And that first season should have been great: a group of super power kids team up to take on their supervillain parent, each with their own tried and true super villain traits: the mad scientist, the witch, the alien, the time travelers, and the street thugs turned real estate tycoons. Then the kids take the traits of their parents, including a sixth teen with super strength whose parents died, to take them down. But the first season just came off as a bad The CW teen show with superpowers. It was created by the writing team that gave us The O.C., Gossip Girl, and The Carrie Diaries.

So has the show improved now that the Runaways have, you know, actually run away? Well, a little, but it was not the leap that other bottom of the Marvel heap show did in the second season of Iron Fist. Although where Iron Fist wisely went from thirteen to ten episodes, Runaways actually expanded from ten to thirteen episodes. The show is much better at answering question at time, both others they take to long to get to the point. But one of the biggest problems with that first season was none of the kids on the show were particularly good actors and I found much of that first season rooting for the evil murderous parents.

I found myself rooting for the parents less in season two but that is mostly because some of their motives were weird or unclear and after a major event in the middle of the season, they just start to become aimless. Sure, that unclear motive is explained for three of the parents, but I still wish they would just go full on supervillain just to make the lines clearer. When it comes to superheroes, you just really cannot have shades of grey that you need in more relationship drama.

As for the children, yes they ran away but they did not go far as they start the season on the streets of Los Angeles with no sense of direction until they find an underground mansion that they co-op. But they seem as aimless as their parents seemingly have six different plans among the six of them. They spend most of the season going off by themselves on side missions they do not seem to add to much. Sometimes the kids go back to their parents voluntarily and sometimes the parents just let them go even though they plot to reunite with their kids by any means necessary. This season really misses a common goal that actually builds to something and actual motivations that make sense and are consistent.

We do get a couple of potential Runaways this season; comic book readers should recognize both. There is a third person who is brought into the mansion and is called a Runaway, which just let me scratching my head as to anyone would do this. But I made a dent into my skull at the number of times I had to scratch my head watching this season of Runaways. With that said, I will likely still be back for season three. Hopefully the dent in my head has been repaired by then.

All episodes of Marvel’s Runaways are available tomorrow on Hulu.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Previewing American Dream / American Knightmare

When I finished watched the NWA bio-flick Straight Outta Compton, my first impression was, sure, fine, whatever, what I really want is a sequel focusing on Death Row which only got about five to ten minutes in the NWA film. It was during the filming of the movie, former Death Row owner Suge Knight killed a man on the set by driving over him with his car. He was later set to prison for that crime and the fifty-three year old is currently serving a twenty-eight year sentence.

Around this time, Suge sat down with Training Day filmmaker Anoine Fuqua to give the most in depth interview the rap mogul has ever given for American Dream / American Knightmare. From his start as a stand out football recruit (there is a Super Bowl Shuffle knock off with his college team) to owning the most successful black run record label of the nineties and his subsequent downfall. And the only people intewviewed for the documentary have the last name Knight. Though it is unclear if that was the intent or still no one wants to talk about the man on camera except family members. So we get to hear Vanilla Ice’s infamous encounter through his 1996 ABC News interview again.

It was a bit surprising to still see Knight’s parents still together and it is weird to hear them talk as if they did not raise a violent criminal. This is a guy who was first arrested in 1987 for slicing off his girlfriend’s ponytail at 22; then attempted murder the next year. And he also thinks paying five millions dollars to five lawyers means you should avoid jail time. There really is nothing really groundbreaking or that new in the documentary, but that is probably all the information we are going to get about Suge Knight until he dies and people will start feeling safe to talk about him without recourse.

American Dream / American Knightmare premieres Friday at 8:30 on Showtime.

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Previewing: Into the Dark: Pooka!

The first “episode” of Into the Dark was a farcical slasher flick, the second was a very insularity psychological thriller, and for December, we get a third very different type of horror. Pooka! is a very disturbing mind trip where the further we get in the episode the harder it is to trust what exactly what we are seeing.

Directed by Nacho Vigalondo, the writer and director of Colossal, Pooka! stars Nyasha Hatendi (Casual) stars as a struggling actor who gets cast as the body of the hot new toy for this Christmas season. Pooka has headlight eyes, a weird oval mouth with lines on both sides (being right under the eyes makes me wonder if they may be tears), a big “O” on the belly, and repeats everything you say in its weird voice. Oh and Pooka, who is only available at pop-up stores, chooses to be naughty or nice, not the owner or anyone else. Of course throughout the episode, Pooka is more naughty than nice.

After putting on the suit for the gig, Hatendi starts to wonder if he is wearing the suit or is the suit wearing him. There are gaps in his memory and visions of the suit moving without him. Making things even more troublesome, a budding romance with a single mother. And just when you think there is no why this episode can end in a coherent way, it actually ends in a way that (kind of) makes sense. Here is my up to date Into the Dark Power Rankings:

1. The Body (October)
2. Pooka! (December)
3. Flesh and Bone (November)

Into the Dark: Pooka! premieres tomorrow only on Hulu. And look out later this month for “January’s” episode, because the New Year’s Eve episode premieres December 28.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Previewing Escape at Dannemora

Escape at Dannamora

At the dawn of twenty-four cable news station, we got inundated with these bizarre true crime stories about figure skaters who wacked their competition quite literal and women who cut off their husband’s manhood while they slept. A decade late, Nancy Grace rose to fame by spending whole episodes talking about missing hot white chicks. These cable networks would spend so much time on these types of stories it would become unwatchable at time.

But the thing is, I kind of miss those days because now it is ninety percent political news which is just a conservative nut job and a liberal windbag yelling at each other with us rational people in the middle wishing a pox on both their houses (which I think is the point because politicos have realized it is easier to get people not to vote than vote for you). Take the prison break in upstate New York a couple years back, a decade ago new it would have been wall to wall news for months, but in the summer of 2015 as the presidential campaigns were starting up, it barely made a blip and quickly faded from conscious after it was over.

Where the twenty-four news channels spend all their time reported on the latest stupid thing the president say, television and movies have picked up the slack on the retelling of the salacious news stories from OJ to the Menendez Brothers. Now that prison escape story from 2015 is getting its own true crime limited series on Showtime called Escape at Dannemore.

The show stars Benicio del Tora (Excess Baggage) and Paul Dano (Ruby Sparks) as the two prisoners who broke out of prison while Patricia Arquette (Little Nicky) is the prison work supervisor who helped them escape while David Morse (Treme) is another worker at the prison. Bonnie Hunt (Rain Man) also shows up as the Inspector’s General of New York.

I was a bit surprised at the format of the series. I assumed the manhunt would be the heart of the series, but that does not even begin until the final episode while the show starts in the winter of the escape that happened during the summer. Granted that final episode runs an hour and forty minutes (the show was originally announced as an eight episode miniseries so it seems like they just combined what was supposed to be the last two).

So really this comes off more as a six episode mini-series of how they escaped and then crammed the twenty-three day manhunt into a feature length movie. I do wonder if the show would have been better off evening the show between planning and escape because the planning episodes drag at times. And just when you start wondering if they ever revealed what exactly these two prisoners to land themselves in prison, we do get some graphic flashbacks showing us exactly what happened.

It was also a little disappointing that the whole show is not as weird as the trailer would have me believe. Sure Arquette and her on screen husband make interesting choices but must and other things get weird from time to time, but this is mostly a straight movie based on a weird story. Del Toro plays the suave inmate who paints portraits of Hilary Clinton (yeah, that is one of the weird parts) while Dano is the follower in the situation.

The musical choices are also interesting. Sure this is a period show, but that period was only three years ago. Apparently Uptown Funk was so invasive back in 2015 that it even got overplayed in prison. I was also weird to think we actually let Meghan Trainor to be a thing and this happened just a couple years ago.

Though the show takes it’s time in places, it does go to some interesting places. Part of the escape includes crawling through a pipe and you really feel the claustrophobic as one of the prisoner only goes a small distance. And when we get a long tracking shot from the jail cell to outside the prison, it is beautiful.

Escape at Dannemora airs Sundays at 10:00 on Showtime.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Previewing Ray Donovan: Season 6

Last season of Ray Donovan ended with Ray being led up to the top of a ten story building by his dead wife Abby and then jumped off the building into the Hudson River. And since that was the last season of Ray Donovan and not the final season, Ray miraculously survived. And naturally the new season starts with Ray punching the cop who fished him out. And then becomes friends with him. Even shacks up with the guy as he stays in New York.

Ray’s retirement, vacation, whatever you call it does not last long. Susan Sarandon is back and is looking for Ray’s particular set of skills when her preferred mayoral candidate runs into some problems and Ray needs so quid pro quo. And Ray thought the entertainment business can be rough, what until he dives into politics.

The rest of the Donovan clan is mostly scattered at the start of the season. Bridget is still in New York with the sick boyfriend with the bad hair who does not seem that sick anymore. And Terry is still training boxers in the Big Apple. The other brothers are still currently on the West Coast, Bunchy is in child court after that robbery from last season while Daryl is in the blackplotation business producing Micky’s movie and things is getting weird. Micky starts the season back in prison, but seemingly has come up with maybe the dumbest way to get release. And poor Conner, completely MIA in the first episode sans the credits.

Ray Donovan airs Sundays at 9:00 on Showtime.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Previewing The Guest Book: Season Two

The first season of The Guest Book was an interesting take on the anthology trend that has been going on. It was an episodic anthology when new main characters would check into a country inn while a recurring cast of characters would go about their lives in the background. That was until the final episode which was all about those townsfolk.

Season two follows that same template except now the rental is a beach house run by a pregnant couple turning his mother’s place into something they can make money on as they save up for a wedding and the birth of their child. Well, what the father thinks is his child; the mother crashed a party at the beach house that is at the heart of one of the episodes and may have done something that could question the paternity of the child.

The delivery guy and prostitute back as well as the musicians who end the episodes as they both have descended the mountain looking to start new lives. Michael Rappaport, the OCD guy from the first season, also rents the new property and also ruins Total Eclipse of the Heart in the process. There are also a couple more surprise returns later in the season. There are plenty of new renters this season including Will Arnett, Pete Davidson, You’re the Worst’s Kether Donahue.

Michael Kenneth Williams also pops up in a very weird role for an episode. And the show has just gotten weirder. The seasons set the tone with a guy who, despite on vacation at the beach, does not take off his virtual reality helmet in a storyline that has a very shocking ending. The season even ventures out of the guest house quite frequently as they even go to India via a customer support call from someone at the beach house and anyone who has been put on hold will laugh and be extremely frustrated at the same time. I cannot even explain where they go in the season finale. If you like the weirdness of the first season, things are only getting weirder in season two.

The Guest Book airs Tuesdays at 10:00 on TBS with back to back episodes premiering tonight.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Previewing Light as a Feather

The first time AwesomenessTV teamed up with Hulu, they produced the very cheap looking Freakish. The acting was bad, the writing was poor, the zombie theme was played out, and it really looked like some webseries from a decade earlier. But the thing is, but the time the second season, the show killed off some of the worsts actors and replaced them with much better ones, moved outside the school, peppered in some political intrigue, came up with some compelling plots… and was promptly canceled quietly after.

The duo’s next attempt at the horror genre is Light as a Feather based on the childhood game because I guess Ouija was already made into a movie franchise. Right of the bat, the show actually looks professionally made, a step up from Freakish. And instead of social media stars the show cast actual actors, okay, no one that recognizable but not doing their casting via Instagram and YouTube is an improvement.

For those unfamiliar, Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board is a game where the participants lift someone who pretends to be dead. In the television version new girl Violet, who was only invited because another girl in the group accidentally sprayed her with fake blood in a very Carrie type scene, wants to put a twist on the game where they predict each other’s death while playing. And then someone ends up dying exactly the way Violet says right down to the severed arm. And then things get weirder.

So yeah, Violet seems like she could be a witch while the remaining girls have to figure out how the new girl made this happen before their deaths play out like predicted while playing the game. But the thing is, this is not the first rash of deaths. McKenna, whom Violet seems most infatuated with, had a twin sister die previously. As we get closer to Halloween, Light as a Feather may not conjure up too much gore (beside the so creepy growth on Violet’s back) at least in the first half of episodes, but it keeps the tension up enough if you are into the teen-light version of horror.

All episodes of Light as a Feather are available tomorrow on Hulu.