TV Review: Hemlock Grove (2013-2015)

Original Run: April 19th, 2013 – October 23rd, 2015
Created by: Brian McGreevy
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: Hemlock Grove by Brian McGreevy
Music by: Nathan Barr
Cast: Famke Janssen, Bill Skarsgård, Landon Liboiron, Penelope Mitchell, Freya Tingley, Dougray Scott, Tiio Horn, Joel de la Fuente, Madeleine Martin, Camille De Pazzis, Lili Taylor, Madeline Brewer

Gaumont International Television, ShineBox SMC, United Bongo Drum, Inc., Netflix, 33 Episodes, 45-58 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*written in 2014.

Hemlock Grove is a Netflix Original Series. I’m watching through all of their shows in an effort to do a list ranking them in the near future.

This was a much better show than I thought it would be. I was wondering if it would be more like True Blood or more like that atrocious piece of shit Twilight. It was definitely more or less its own thing but aligned on the True Blood side of the equation, in that it was very adult, didn’t deal so much with teenage love, had no sparkly bitch vampires and served up a decent amount of gore.

The early episodes aren’t well acted in some spots but it does improve. The style of the show is also unique in that it goes into the werewolf and vampire, or in this case “upir”, mythos but there is a lot more to the supernatural and bizarre here. It also brings in a heavy science element that makes this show not seem like a redundant recycle of all the other popular supernatural shows that are out right now.

It’s not a great show by any stretch but it is good, at least the first season. The plot thread of the second season wasn’t on the same level as the first, in my opinion, but it still provided enough to keep me interested and looking forward to season 3, when and if it ever drops. So far, season 3 has not been announced.

The first season worked really well on its own and if it had been a one off, it would probably be well-regarded and have created a cult following. The second season takes away some of the magic of the first but it is really a trade off for going deeper into the secrets of the show. I’m fine with that though.

Update:

The show went out with a serious whimper. More like a big bowl of WTF in the worst way possible.

Film Review: Homefront (2013)

Release Date: November 27th, 2013
Directed by: Gary Fleder
Written by: Sylvester Stallone
Based on: Homefront by Chuck Logan
Music by: Mark Isham
Cast: Jason Statham, James Franco, Winona Ryder, Kate Bosworth, Rachelle Lefevre, Frank Grillo, Clancy Brown, Izabela Vidovic, Pruitt Taylor Vince

Millennium Films, Nu Image, Endgame Releasing, Open Road Films, 100 Minutes

Review:

*written in 2013.

“Whatever you’re thinking, rethink it.” – Phil Broker

Jason Statham. James Franco.

Both men locked in eternal combat for bayou supremacy.

Well, not really. But what we do have here is two awesome badasses going head-to-head in a story of redneck revenge and bayou justice.

The down side for me was that there really wasn’t enough Statham versus Franco action. The trailer for this film had me thinking that Franco was some sick meth-cooking redneck and that Statham was the dude who had to put him down. In the end, it sort of happened that way but the plot leading up to that point was very layered and there was a lot going on that made the film not as black and white as I had anticipated it being. Of course, this was somewhat of a delight.

Frank Grillo shows up and plays a badass shitbag, which is something he has mastered between this and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. There were also appearances by Winona Ryder, Kate Bosworth, The Kurgan himself Clancy Brown and a few other noteworthy actors.

The film was written by Sylvester Stallone, which I didn’t know until I saw it. The script felt like it was written by Stallone as it had that one-dimensional tough dude dialogue that is 50 percent awesome and 50 percent cheesy. For instance, when one baddie steps up to Statham, our hero utters, “Whatever you’re thinking, rethink it.” Man, I can almost hear John Rambo saying that to a cop about to give him a DUI.

Also, what’s up with Statham. I like the guy but even when he plays an American, he still talks like British ass Jason Statham. Dude doesn’t even try to do an American accent. Then again, it is Jason fucking Statham. I like to pretend that in every film, he is the same character and he’s using different aliases and the other characters in his films just haven’t picked up on the fact that he has a British accent.

I liked this film overall. It wasn’t a classic and will probably be forgettable to me after I do a few shots but it provided me with a better than decent time for just under two hours.

Documentary Review: American Experience: War of the Worlds (2013)

Release Date: October 29th, 2013
Directed by: Cathleen O’Connell
Music by: John Kusiak
Narrated by: Oliver Platt

WGBH, PBS, 52 Minutes

Review:

The PBS television documentary series American Experience did an episode that covered the famous Orson Welles radio broadcast of War of the Worlds.

For those who don’t know, this broadcast convinced many Americans that New Jersey was being invaded by violent Martians. The radio program was done in the style of fake newscasts and those who tuned in too late to hear that this was a performance, were swept up in these fake news reports and thus, widespread panic ensued.

When I was a kid, I heard this story and I couldn’t understand how people could be duped like that. It made me think that people in the 1930s were morons. Living in the world today, I can now see how something like this would have been possible. The documentary also does a fine job outlining how this happened and the points it hits make a lot of sense.

Part of the documentary is made up of dramatizations and actors playing the roles of people who commented on the crazy incident from their historical point of view. These segments were filmed like typical talking head interviews and were there to add some context in regards to the public perception of the event.

Being a fan of Orson Welles, it was cool getting a lot more insight on this incident than just the basic story. It delved into the early production of the broadcast and also the aftermath and how well Welles handled the press and was able to have a huge career after this.

I really enjoyed this documentary and it is actually available on Netflix, at the time of this posting, anyway.

Film Review: World War Z (2013)

Release Date: June 2nd, 2013 (Empire Cinema premiere)
Directed by: Marc Forster
Written by: Matt Carnahan, Drew Goddard, Damon Lindelof, J. Michael Straczynski
Based on: World War Z by Max Brooks
Music by: Marco Beltrami
Cast: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, James Badge Dale, Matthew Fox, Peter Capaldi, David Morse, Ruth Negga

Skydance Productions, Hemisphere Media Capital, GK Films, Plan B Entertainment, 2DUX², Paramount Pictures, 116 Minutes

Review:

*written in 2014.

“Most people don’t believe something can happen until it already has. That’s not stupidity or weakness, that’s just human nature.” – Jurgen Warmbrunn

I didn’t have much urge to see World War Z when it came out. The zombie craze has been out of control and nothing about it seemed too terribly interesting. Granted, the zombies ran with lightning speed, had the behavior of ants trying to reach food and would destroy themselves in the process of hunting humans. Still, we had fast suicidal zombies with Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake over a decade ago.

While there wasn’t seemingly anything new here, I did enjoy the film. Brad Pitt knocked it out of the park and the appearance of Peter Capaldi (the next Doctor on Doctor Who) added an extra level of awesomeness.

The plot was okay enough, as Brad Pitt had to travel the zombie infested world, figuring out what the cause of the outbreak was and how to stop it. The conclusion doesn’t quite answer the question but it is still as happy as a happy ending can get in a film where practically everyone is eaten.

The film is intense, which kept me engaged and the added mix of different geographical locals brought some contrast to each sequence throughout the film. The zombie outbreak on the airplane though, that’s probably the high point.

This isn’t what I would call a great movie by any means. It wasn’t very inventive and didn’t bring much of anything new to the zombie genre other than world travel. I still enjoyed it though.

Film Review: The ‘Hatchet’ Trilogy (2006-2013)

*written in 2015.

I never watched Hatchet or any of its sequels until this past weekend. I heard good things and they star Kane Hodder (the longest running actor to play Jason Voorhees in the Friday the 13th films) as the monster Victor Crowley. These films also star a plethora of other horror icons. The series grabs actors from the A Nightmare On Elm Street, Halloween, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Candyman and Gremlins franchises. I’m sure I’m leaving some out as well.

Let me analyze each film in this trilogy separately.

Hatchet (2006):

Release Date: April 27th, 2006 (Tribeca Film Festival)
Directed by: Adam Green
Written by: Adam Green
Music by: Andy Garfield
Cast: Joel Moore, Tamara Feldman, Deon Richmond, Mercedes McNab, Parry Shen, Joel Murray, Joleigh Fioreavanti, Richard Riehle, Patrika Darbo, Joshua Leonard, Tony Todd, Robert Englund, Kane Hodder

ArieScope Pictures, Radioaktive Film, High Seas Entertainment, Anchor Bay Entertainment, 93 Minutes

Review:

“But you only shot him once, right? Maybe you gotta shoot him more times. Like four- or six- maybe you gotta shoot him six times?” – Shawn

The first film is enjoyable. Although these movies are supposed to be homages to the great slasher films of the 80s, they feel more like homages to the late sequels of those films. What I mean, is that this movie plays like the fifth film in a slasher franchise, where plot doesn’t matter and things are just violent, insane and way more over the top than normal.

Hatchet follows a group of people on a haunted bayou boat tour outside of New Orleans. The boat crashes, the people are stranded and our brutal beast of a killer literally rips them apart.

While this is considered part of the slasher sub-genre of horror and Victor Crowley is seen as a slasher, he tends to rip off arms and pull people’s heads apart, as opposed to stabbing people with knives or using machetes. Granted, he does use some tools here and there, but he has the tendency to mutilate his victims with his bare hands.

The film is more campy than scary. It is more like splatter porn than a mysterious slasher film that builds suspense. Instead of characters hiding from a knife-wielding psycho and trying to survive the night with cunning and stealth, we have people running from a mindless berserker that wants to fertilize the woods with hundreds of gallons of blood. There really is no suspense, just intense insanity once the monster shows up.

The ending is horrible, by the way. The film just cuts off. But it isn’t so bad, if you immediately watch the second film, which starts right where this one ends.

Hatchet II (2010):

Release Date: August 26th, 2010 (Frightfest)
Directed by: Adam Green
Written by: Adam Green
Music by: Andy Garfield
Cast: Kane Hodder, Danielle Harris, Tony Todd, Parry Shen, Tom Holland, R. A. Mihailoff, AJ Bowen, Alexis Peters, Ed Ackerman, David Foy, Colton Dunn, Rick McCallum

Dark Sky Films, ArieScope Pictures, 85 Minutes

Review:

“Come on, you hatchet-faced fuck!” – Bob

The second film is more of the same. It also continues into the next day following part one. Also, the main girl is suspiciously different looking. Oh, she’s now a different actress – Danielle Harris from Halloween 4 and 5, to be exact.

The sole survivor of the first movie, the new actress playing the old actress, returns to New Orleans to get answers regarding Victor Crowley. She then immediately heads out with a clueless posse to hunt him down because why the fuck not?

This one gets more insane than the first installment and is a lot bloodier and ridiculous. There isn’t a whole lot more to add really.

Same movie; ante upped.

Hatchet III (2013):

Release Date: June 14th, 2013
Directed by: B.J. McDonnell
Written by: Adam Green
Music by: Scott Glasgow
Cast: Kane Hodder, Danielle Harris, Caroline Williams, Zach Galligan, Robert Diago DoQui, Derek Mears, Cody Blue Snider, Rileah Vanderbilt, Sean Whalen, Jason Trost, Diane Ayala Goldner

Dark Sky Films, ArieScope Pictures, 82 Minutes

Review:

“I’ve seen some crazy shit, man. I was working on an Asian male; head severed off, uh, leg cut off below the knee. I’m telling you, man… He looked kinda like you, man.” – Randy

Like its predecessor, this one starts immediately where the last film ended. Basically, these three films happen over the course of three consecutive nights.

There is more splatter, more horror icon cameos but we are essentially just watching a single four and a half hour film instead of three separate movies.

Like the other films, this one ends somewhat open ended. I can only assume there will be a fourth chapter in the future.

These aren’t great movies but they are worth a watch and an entertaining way to kill a few hours. I don’t know how driven I will be to ever watch them again but I would check out another sequel. But I doubt that I would ride this out for ten films like Friday the 13th.

Film Review: Coda (2013)

Release Date: July 13th, 2013 (Galway Film Fleadh)
Directed by: Alan Holly
Written by: Rory Byrne, Alan Holly
Music by: Shane Holly
Cast: Joseph Dermody, Orla Fitzgerald, Brian Gleeson, Donie Ryan

Film Group of Unions, Frameworks, Irish Film Board, 9 Minutes

Review:

I’ve been watching a lot of short films lately but this is one that really stuck out. I remember seeing the press for it when it was making the rounds and I wanted to see it but like many things in life, it was brushed away by time and I forgot about it until coming across it while screening a bunch of shorts. I’m glad that I finally got to see this.

Coda is a short animated film that features Death. However, it is sweet and comforting even in its sadness.

The films starts with a drunk walking out of a bar and getting hit by a car. His spirit rises up and wanders the streets, not realizing that Death is in pursuit. He follows a fox into a park where he rests on a bench when Death appears and sits next to him. Begging for more time, Death takes the man on a journey through his memories.

The animation style is very minimalist but it is majestic and alluring. The music and even the voices of the characters enhance the feeling of peacefulness throughout the short film.

This is a pretty hard piece of cinematic art to review, in all honesty, but it is incredibly effective and builds towards a true sense of ease and acceptance, as it moves on from scene to scene.

It is definitely worth a watch and being that it is only nine minutes, even if you don’t enjoy it, isn’t a huge waste of time. But I would find it hard to not walk away from the experience without being effected.

TV Review: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2013- )

Original Run: September 24th, 2013 – present
Created by: Joss Whedon, Jed Whedon, Maurissa Tancharoen
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Bear McCreary
Cast: Clark Gregg, Ming-Na Wen, Brett Dalton, Chloe Bennet, Iain De Caestecker, Elizabeth Henstridge, Nick Blood, Adrianne Palicki, Henry Simmons, Luke Mitchell, John Hannah, B.J. Britt, Mallory Jansen, Ruth Negga, Adrian Pasdar, Kyle MacLachlan, Powers Boothe, Mark Dacascos, Blair Underwood, Constance Zimmer, Patton Oswalt, Bill Paxton

ABC Studios, Marvel, Mutant Enemy Productions, Walt Disney, 88 Episodes (so far), 41-44 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*written in 2015.

I remember watching the pilot to Marvel’s Agent’s of S.H.I.E.L.D. when it premiered and I wasn’t a fan of it. I immediately lost interest but as that first season rolled on, I started to hear good things. When the series entered into the phase of setting up Captain America: The Winter Solider, people couldn’t stop talking about it.

So once the first series came to an end, I binge watched it. I have now also watched season two in its entirety.

One thing I can say about this show is that it took about half a season to find its footing but even then, it is pretty inconsistent.

The show has high points and it has some very low points. If you are a fan of Joss Whedon’s style, you will probably love the show. I’m not a Whedon fan however and I find the style to be superfluous, predictable, forced and tedious at times.

The characters are likable enough but no one stands out. You don’t truly care for any of them and as great as Phil Coulson was in the movies that came out before this series, in the show he just becomes an uninteresting one-dimensional character. In fact, each episode almost serves as a way to forcibly remind the audience of how cool Coulson is supposed to be.

Most of this show just rides on by and none of it feels as important as the producers and many of its fans make it out to be. I get that it is used as a vehicle to develop more background to the plot of upcoming Marvel films but in that it falls victim to itself and feels more like a show on rails than something free to go its own way. It gets distracted from dealing with its own separate narrative, as it is forced to tie into the plots of the films. While that worked well the first time around with Captain America: The Winter Soldier it didn’t work so well with Avengers: Age of Ultron.

The second season was pretty uninteresting and the highlight of the series was the last third of the first season, which dealt with the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the aftermath of that. While the show is now establishing the mythos of the Inhumans, who will be getting their own Marvel movie several years from now, the plot and the execution hasn’t been as cutting edge and exciting as the showrunners have anticipated.

This isn’t a bad show, there are things I like and I will continue to keep watching in an effort to watch the Marvel Cinematic Universe continue to unfold but I would almost rather binge watch the seasons after they end than force myself to sit down and watch this religiously every Tuesday night at 9 p.m.

At its very best, this show has had great moments. I just hope that there are more of those in the future and less filler and drawn out plots that could be dealt with much quicker. I also hope that at some point Patton Oswald becomes a full-time cast member because his contribution to this show is the best thing about it. I also hope we haven’t seen the last of Kyle MacLachlan’s Mr. Hyde, as he was the highlight of season two.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has promise and potential and if it fulfills that, it could become a stellar show. As of right now, it falls below its superior sister show Agent Carter and it can’t hold a candle to CW’s The Flash or Netflix’s Daredevil.

Update:

I have now gotten through four seasons of this show. Season three was really slow and just a bore overall. However, season four introduced Ghost Rider to the Marvel cinematic mythos and things really got interesting. Season four was broken into three parts, where the middle bit wasn’t interesting but the end caps were stellar. In fact, the last third of season four, titled Agents of Hydra, was the absolute high point of this show and you actually discover that you care about these characters more than you realize. If the momentum can continue on from the last portion of the fourth season, then this show could be one of the best on television. Unfortunately, it has a long history of inconsistency.