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

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.

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Previewing Into the Dark

Sure they mostly got shut out at the Emmy’s, but Hulu did seem to muster plenty of discussion this spring and summer with weekly releases of Handmaid’s Tale and Castle Rock. But it looks like Hulu is going to mirror that other streaming service and start releasing all their shows all episodes at once starting with this fall. I do have to question that logic as discussion of The First died before network fall television even started. It will be interesting if they continue this or if Handmaid’s and Castle Rock still with their weekly released.

There is one glaring exception to the fall episode dump and that is Into the Dark which not even airing episodes weekly, instead is airing a new episode every month. The show comes from Blumhouse and if you are unfamiliar with the studio, it basically produced almost every horror or thriller movie you have watch in the past decade from Paranormal Activity to The Purge to Get Out. Then the show is an anthology that will feature a new episode based around a holiday that month.

Naturally with the show starting in October the first episode, entitled, The Body, which involves a hitman who uses the guise of Halloween to transport a body where his employer wants it to be found. We even get a four hour ticking clock by when he needs to get the body to the destination. Naturally complications arise and he ends up with a group of people at a party who take interest in his very real looking costume.

Okay, I figured out exactly how the episode would end about ten minutes in, but it was a fun ride as a couple members of the group provide plenty of comedic relief. And I came away from the episode wondering why Rebecca Rittenhouse is not in more things as she really steals the show.  Unfortunately the same the guy who plays the hitman as he lacks even a hint of charisma. Really, had they gotten a better actor, this episode could have been a feature film.

Next month features a teenage girl who has not left the house since her mother died and the murder remains unsolved. Ironically as the main character is agoraphobic, as the viewer, this episode feels very claustrophobic. Sure she can reach her arm out to the mailbox that is affixed the house but cannot quite reach the package left on the far edge of the porch. So obviously the therapist comes to her. Then as the anniversary of the death of her mother approaches on Thanksgiving, the girl’s mind starts playing tricks on her and leaving the house may be the key to her survival. Dilemma, dilemma.

Of the first two episodes, the Halloween one is defiantly the better of the two thanks to some comedic moments. And I have been using the term “episode” loosely, the first two run eighty-two and ninety-three minutes respectively. Really, they are feature film length which makes me wonder if they are films Blumhouse thought about making and are only producing them under the Into the Dark label because they did not think they garner a theatrical audience. Really the Thanksgiving episode could have taken place any time of year and could have just been jammed into Thanksgiving to fit the series theme.

Still, these first two episodes were good enough that I will stick around all year to check out the rest. I am just curious what holidays will be coming next. The promo did suggest Christmas and New Year’s Eve (though they both technically fall in December) before skipping to April Fool’s Day before filling the screen with holidays that are probable (St. Patrick’s Day) and some absurd. They are not actually going to do National Grandparent’s Day, are they? And where every month has an obvious holiday or three, I do have to wonder what Into the Dark has in store for August. My calendar only has listed Civic Holiday which is Canadian and (Eid) al Adha which Google tells me is an Islamic holiday also referred to as the Festival of Sacrifice. I guess we have to wait ten months for that.

Into the Dark airs new episodes every month starting tomorrow on Hulu.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Previewing The First

Mars was huge when I was growing up, in the nineties there were even two Mars movies that were released within months of each other while the United States sent the Mars Rover there around this time. We reached the moon long before, so we have envisioned going to Mars ever since. But after the turn of the century our fascination of Mars seemed to wain so far that John Carter removed mention of Mars from its title to avoid alienating viewers. It failed, the movie ended up being possibly the biggest bust in the history of cinema.

But more recently, The Martian was a huge critical and box office success so maybe things are turning around for the red planet. So maybe it is time for a Mars television show. The First depicts Sean Penn and his crew as they try and become the first men and women to set foot on Mars. Okay, by that description and trailer, you would think this is a sci-fi show but a couple episodes that the actual science is not all that important to the writers and this is really just a character study, it is just the characters just so happen to be training to go to Mars. Really, I have not seen a show try this hard to be prestige television since maybe Ray Donovan.

Sure this is 2033 and we get a few technological advances. You can now open your truck door by saying “Open” (voice activation is general is very prevalent), hand signatures have replaced door keys, and apparently Google Glass is entrenched in society. But really the show is more about the characters than what they do. It is not until the final episode when the show goes heavy into the science fiction.

The show starts with Penn as the former mission commander on the eve of a launch of a mission he was removed from because it was for the best. After a complication, NASA then has twenty-three months (at a cost of seventy-billion dollars) until the next window. But again, between the first and last episodes, the mission to Mars is essentially a backdrop.

Instead we get a super serious show where the only “fun” scenes include one involving karaoke and another involving a basketball game. Everyone in the cast seems to be haunted by something. None is more haunted than Penn’s daughter, newcomer Anna Jacoby-Heron who is haunted by the death of her mother while struggling with drug addiction. Since the show is angling to be prestige television, you would think I would complained of a child shoehorned into the story, but this may be the first prestige television child that will not get you reaching for the fast forward button. In fact Jacoby-Heron may actually be the best part of the show. And where more episode seemed to be mostly focused on a certain character, her singular focused episode is a highlight of television so far this year even as the rest of the show can lag at points.

It seemed like Hulu has struggled for a while to decide just how to deliver its episodes. It looked like it had settled on released a couple episodes on launch before going to the traditional weekly format. But it looks like they are shifting to a Netflix model of everything at once with all their fall shows are doing that with the exception of weekly talk show I Love You, America with Sarah Silverman and Into the Dark which actually going the other way with just a new episode every month. Sure I am biased since I grew up that way, but they should reconsider and go back to weekly episode so people can go back to talking about television.

Just look at Castle Rock, sure it was a slow start but by the time episode seven and then nine rolled around, they spawn hundreds of think pieces that I am sure inspire plenty of people to catch up. Episode five of The First could have been that moment for this show. But when you have released everything at once, there is no time to write that think piece because everyone has moved on to the next show. I can see releasing everything for teen leaning shows like Runaways, but if The First is geared towards, maybe Hulu should consider releasing the show the way most adults watch in the future.

All episodes of The First are available tomorrow on Hulu.

Saturday, September 08, 2018

Previewing Shameless: Season Nine

The new season starts with two rats fornicating until one runs off only to get run over to a car in front of the Gallagher house as the camera pans inside to see Frank passed out in his out puke. Welcome back Shameless. Little has changed since we last saw the Gallagher’s as the new season mostly picks up where we last saw the clan.

Ian is in jail after the stunt where he blew up a van and is still an advocate on the inside. Lip took his co-worker’s niece and is still looking after her. Debbie is still working the graveyard shift with only two toes left on one foot Frank is still banging and stealing from PTA members. While newlywed Carl is at military school.

Fiona is still off owning her building cohabitating with the Irish dude. So little has changed except Svetlana is gone (she is replaced by the Irish dude in the main cast so I may have to learn his name) leaving Vee and Kev looking after two very rambunctious children. Shameless may be better suited to soft reboots every season instead of recycling the same storylines keeping them from getting stale. Except we are getting a supersized season this year with two seven episode halves coming so maybe we will get some shuffling them. With an original cast member soon, they will probably have to.

Shameless airs Sundays at 9:00 on Showtime.

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Previewing The Last Ship: The Final Season

The Last Ship: Season 5

It is the end of era as The Last Ship is about to ride off into the sunset after one last mission. It has been three years since the Red Rust threatened the world’s food supply and we are long past the Red Flu. In fact the next virus will be cyber. Or at least that is what a student that Captain Chandler is training, the first class of midshipmen since the global pandemic. In fact the last ship has turned into a great fleet and the Nathan James is just a floating museum.

But of course peace does not last long and the season starts off in winter in Columbia. One Colombian has united South America into one country that wants to be on top of the new world order and they are quickly moving north and do not plan to stop at Mexico. Oh and this leader’s most trusted advisor is someone with Tarot cards so he has some issues. And Sasha just happens to be leading a four member covert ops team down south when the first shots are fired.

For those that have made it this long will be rewarded with its most action packed season yet with even a Saving Private Ryan style invasion (or at least a version on a television budget). And with America in a full scale war, do not expect some of your favorite sailors make it to the end. But we do get one last fitting tribute before the last credits roll. The Last Ship will be going out in style.

The Last Ship airs Sundays at 9:00 on TNT.

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Previewing You: A Dude's Review of Lifetime vol. IX

I have long lamented how too many television show have ideas that would be better off as a two hour movie than a format that wants to churn out a hundred episodes per season. Sure ninety-five percent of these shows get canned after one season (or less). But the thing is Lifetime’s You already is a movie. In fact about nineteen percent of Lifetime Movies are about stalkers. Though I wonder if anyone watched a Lifetime movie and thought to themselves, I wish that went on for six seasons or more.

You stars a pretentious bookstore worker, because what else could have possibly been? But Penn Badgley (John Tucker Must Die) is actually a good guy beneath his "paper is better than digital" snobbery, he even bring home books to the kid next door who has to sit on the steps when his mother gets in a shouting match with a new boyfriend. And c’mom, who does not do a little Googling when they meet a new hot chick?

Okay, so Googling until they get an address, go there, and proceed to put your hand down your pants jumps across the proverbial line. And unfortunately the title sequence starting to bleed blood red spoils that someone is going to bleed ruining the, well maybe he is not going to go there. Sure a stalking television show about a stalker pretty much means it will go there eventually, but having it in your title sequence means it is going to happen soon.

For the first half of the Pilot, besides the pretentious job, Badgley actually comes across as an enduring everyman who does a pretty good job explaining what men think about in the pursuit of the fairer sex until he starts to slowly go over the edge. By then, his long inner monologues get a bit tedious and I wish he would stick to pithy one-liners which he is much better at.

Elizabeth Lail (Dead of Summer) plays the object of his obsession and is perfectly stacker worthy in an approachable hot kind of way. (I cannot confirm nor deny going through her whole Instagram but will confirm never actually peeping though her window in the bushes.) She has a creepy boss, a douchebag ex she cannot quite quit yet, and daddy issues which makes for the perfect kind of girl you can swoop in and save.

Though her friend circle can be trouble just because they are kind of annoying. Seriously, one calls herself an Instagram Influencer. And you would think a bookstore worker would get along with best friend Peaches Salinger (yes that Salinger played by the fourth best Pretty Little Liar Shay Mitchell), but Peaches and Badgley wisely do not trust each other as things escalate with every passing episode and becomes the most compelling part of the show half way through the first season.

You reminds me of classic J.J. Abrams in that the episodes are set up well and end with shockers that will likely have you tuning in the next week (the end of episode is, um, epically memorable) but everything in between is kind of a bore. I think it probably has to do with too much monologing and maybe a more captivating actor could have help. There is a format change in episode four that shakes thinks up for a bit until you realize it is not much better than the original format. When it comes down to it, You is just not as infatuating as Lail is to Badgley.

You airs Sundays at 9:00 on Lifetime.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Previewing Kidding

When you have a television show that reteams Michel Gondry with Jim Carrey who gave us Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, you know you are getting something weird. Sure Kidding is not as surreal as their movie, but it is still pretty weird. Carrey plays Mr. Pickle a children’s television host that will bring images of Mr. Rogers (who is have his own small revival thanks to a documentary). He is so beloved that when hoodlums steal his car and start to strip it only to find his friend Ukularry, they put the car back together and leave the car back where they stole it.

As pure as Mr. Pickle is, he is so naïve that he goes in to have his phone fixed when someone does not text him back, his executive producer / dad Frank Langella (Masters of the Universe), is as shred. See Mr. Pickle has turned into a hundred and twelve million dollar licensing industry. So when Carrey’s son dies in a car crash and Carrey slowly starts to lose it, Langella looks at way to keep the Mr. Pickle franchise rolling without his son.

Caught in the middle is sister / daughter Catherine Keener (Death to Smoochy) who is also the head puppeteer and possible heir to her father. Though no dead child, she has some major issues of her own at home include a daughter who has a tick more annoying than that of Brick Heck that she picked up after she her father with her piano teacher. The death of his son also put a strain on his marriage to Judy Greer (Marmaduke) who has moved on to another man while the kid that did survive the car crash have figure out what is life without the twin that was always there.

Kidding could be your typical corporate power struggle or sad sack drama, but add Jim Carrey into the equation as an overtly earnest kids host, and you get something inherently weird and totally unpredictable as the character slowly descents into madness. Be it shaving a strip down the middle of his head, goes, on a date with a grown up fan, spending time with a terminal cancer patciant, or how he deals with the driver who struck his son. Not knowing where it goes next will likely be the best part of Kidding, for better or worse.

Kidding airs Sundays at 10:00 on Showtime.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Previewing Safe Harbour

They say no deed goes unpunished and five Australians learn just that in the show from Down Under Safe Harbour (which explains the extra “U”). Five years ago, the aforementioned Aussies are out in international waters celebrating their upper middle class lives when they happen upon a boat filled with refugees from Indonesia that has stalled out in the ocean after the engine died. So the partiers have to decide whether to help or not.

After a four to one vote (how the voting goes down is eventually revealed) they decide to pull the foreigners to safety. But after the approaching storm, the rope gets cut and the two vessels never see each other again. That is until present day when one of the Australians gets into a taxi with a familiar looking driver. After a reunion of the two families, it becomes the two groups have a very different account of their fateful meeting.

Then after four episodes tensions escalates between the two sides, some by bad decisions, some by bad luck until a climatic conclusion where we finally learn what happened to the rope (each of the previous three episodes end with what looks like someone getting caught red handed). Safe Harbour is a fascinating look at what we owe to each other with all the hallmarks of a mystery that refreshingly does not revolve around who murdered who. There is intrigue, betrayal, arson, plenty of guilt, and during all of it, the daughter of an Australian befriends a son of the Indonesian. And at under four hour runtime, they manage to wrap everything up nicely making it something quick to watch on a lazy weekend.

All four episodes of Safe Harbour are available on Hulu tomorrow.

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.