TV Review: Dracula (2020)

Original Run: January 1st, 2020 – January 3rd, 2020
Created by: Mark Gatiss, Steven Moffat
Directed by: Johnny Campbell, Damon Thomas, Paul McGuigan
Written by: Mark Gatiss, Steven Moffat
Based on: Dracula by Bram Stoker
Music by: David Arnold, Michael Price
Cast: Claes Bang, Dolly Wells, John Heffernan, Morfydd Clark, Joanna Schanlan, Mark Gatiss, Lydia West

Hartswood Films, BBC, Netflix, 3 Episodes, 88-91 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

Yeesh!

What a fucking catastrophe this show was.

It started out kind of interesting and I watched it because Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat were the creative forces behind it. I liked most of their work even if their later Doctor Who stuff turned to shit. But I had hoped this would be more like Sherlock than late-Doctor Who but what I got was more like a botched kidney transplant.

The show really got away from itself at the midpoint of the first episode where it decided to deviate from the traditional Dracula story. While I’m okay with creative freedom and the Dracula story has been reinvented dozens, if not hundreds, of times, this was one of the worst Dracula storytelling experiments I’ve ever had to suffer through.

Now this isn’t a knock against the actors, they were mostly really good, and it’s not a knock against the quality of the production as it looked great. No, this is about the story and how stupid and batshit retarded it was.

This was damn near unwatchable once it went off the rails but there was that part of me that stuck through it, hoping that the genius of Gatiss and Moffat would somehow turn this around and make it something great or at least acceptable enough to not be a total waste.

By the time you get through the third and final episode, however, you’re left scratching your head wondering what the fucking point was.

Honestly, I have no idea and I can’t get my four and a half hours back.

Rating: 2.5/10
Pairs well with: waking up in a bathtub full of ice after an abduction and a kidney gone missing.

TV Review: Ray Donovan (2013-2020)

Original Run: June 30th, 2013 – January 19th, 2020
Created by: Ann Biderman
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Marcelo Zarvos
Cast: Liev Schreiber, Paula Malcomson, Eddie Marsan, Dash Mihok, Steven Bauer, Katherine Moennig, Pooch Hall, Kerris Dorsey, Devon Bagby, Jon Voight, Susan Sarandon, Graham Rogers, Susan Sarandon, Elliott Gould, Peter Jacobson, Denise Crosby, Frank Whaley, Hank Azaria, James Woods, Rosanna Arquette, Sherilyn Fenn, Wendell Pierce, Ian McShane, Katie Holmes, Leland Orser, Aaron Staton, Fairuza Balk, Embeth Davidtz, Stacy Keach, Tara Buck, Ted Levine, C. Thomas Howell, Donald Faison, Lili Simmons, James Keach, Adina Porter, Jake Busey, Sandy Martin, Zach Grenier, Alan Alda, Lola Glaudini, Kerry Condon, Kevin Corrigan

David Hollander Productions, The Mark Gordon Company, Ann Biderman Co., Bider Sweet Productions, CBS, Showtime, 82 Episodes, 45-60 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

Lots of people talked this show up for years like it was the second coming of The Sopranos. I wanted to wait for it to end, as I typically binge things in their entirety. With this show, that was probably the best way to view it, as so many things happen with so many characters, that it would’ve been hard remembering all the details over seven years.

I wouldn’t say that this is anywhere near as good as The Sopranos and I also don’t have as high of an opinion of that show as most people do. Granted, I did still like it quite a bit when it was current.

Ray Donovan follows Ray Donovan, a badass uber masculine guy that works as a Hollywood fixer. However, his entire family is complex and interesting and this isn’t so much about Ray being a fixer, as it is about his family’s criminal behavior and their turbulent personal lives.

The show does a remarkable job of pushing its characters to the point of you hating them but then finds a way to make you realize you love them. It’s a show that actually has a lot of mini redemption arcs but it also shows, within that, that people tend to surrender to their nature even if they want to work on themselves.

Ray is one of the most complex characters I’ve ever seen on television but that can also be said about several other core characters, here.

I think in the end, my favorite character ended up being Eddie Marsan’s Terry, the eldest Donovan brother, as he was always trying to do the right thing by his family, even if they often times found themselves doing really shitty things.

I also liked Bunchy a lot but by the end, his constant bad luck and terrible decisions became exhausting.

The first five seasons are really solid, even if the fourth was a bit weak. The show kind of lost me in season six, where it moved from Los Angeles to New York City and didn’t feel like it had much of a point. Plus, there are things that happened in season six that made the show jump the shark for me.

The only thing that really saved the last two seasons was how damn good Sandy Martin was once she entered the show.

Overall, I enjoyed watching this and if anything, it showcased incredible performances by stellar actors playing really fucked up but endearing characters.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: The Sopranos, Dexter, Sons of Anarchy, Justified.

TV Review: The Walking Dead: World Beyond (2020- )

Original Run: October 4th, 2020 – current
Created by: Scott M. Gimple, Matthew Negrete
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman
Music by: The Newton Brothers
Cast: Aliyah Royale, Alexa Mansour, Hal Cumpston, Nicolas Cantu, Nico Tortorella, Annet Mahendru, Julia Ormond

Skybound Entertainment, AMC, 10 Episodes (so far), 47-52 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

Man, there’s not much I can say about this show but it’s obvious that Walking Dead fatigue is beyond the exhaustion point, at least for me. But I’m also the last person that I know in the real world that is still watching any of it.

I tried to give this a shot but the show is insufferable.

Furthermore, it’s dreadfully boring and trying to get through the first episode was an absolute chore. I did it and then I started the second episode but after about fifteen minutes, I said, “Fuck this!” and turned it off.

The big takeaway from what I watched was that none of the key characters are interesting, they’re all boring as shit and either their performances are extremely understated or they just don’t have the ability to convey any real emotion. But I guess that’s kind of like most kids nowadays.

The problem that AMC doesn’t seem to understand as they suck The Walking Dead‘s teat completely dry, way too late, is that no one really needs the milk anymore. We’ve all got enough now to last the rest of our lives.

Plus, there are other, better things to drink out in the world.

If you want us to buy more milk, you need to provide us with the best milk… great milk. Otherwise, it’s just more of the same shit we’ve been drinking for over a decade and the fridge is overflowing.

Rating: 3/10
Pairs well with: The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead.

 

Film Review: The Night Stalker (1972)

Also known as: The Kolchak Papers (working title), Kolchak: The Night Stalker (long title)
Release Date: January 11th, 1972 
Directed by: John Llewellyn Moxey
Written by: Richard Matheson
Based on: The Kolchak Papers by Jeffrey Grant Rice
Music by: Bob Cobert
Cast: Darren McGavin, Simon Oakland, Carol Lynley, Barry Atwater, Ralph Meeker, Claude Akins, Elisha Cook Jr.

Dan Curtis Productions, ABC Circle Films, ABC, 74 Minutes

Review:

“Rumor has it that the day Anthony Albert Vincenzo was born, his father left town. The story may be apocryphal, but I believe it. The only point I wonder about is why his mother didn’t leave too.” – Carl Kolchak

I was a pretty big fan of the Kolchak television series when it was in syndication back when I was a kid. It originally aired before I was alive but I remember my granmum having it on her television set in my younger, most impressionable years.

Sadly, I hadn’t seen it since the ’80s and I never saw the two television movies that predate the single season show. So I figured I’d start with the original Night Stalker movie and go from there.

I’m glad to say that this was pretty close to my memories of the show and seeing Darren McGavin ham it up while monster hunting was a sight to behold and enjoy, once again!

More than anything, watching the original film, which I found in HD on YouTube for free (as long as that lasts) motivated me greatly to continue on with the second film and twenty-ish episode series.

McGavin is great in this and it’s my favorite role that I’ve ever seen him play. It’s like it was tailor made for his specific talents, as it maximizes his strengths and charisma. I’m not sure how close the Kolchak TV material is to the original novel but it’s a hell of a lot of fun.

In this story, ace reporter Carl Kolchak is investigating strange murders that appear to be vampiric in nature. No one wants to believe what Kolchak starts to uncover and even after the vampire gets into a skirmish with police while stealing blood bags from the hospital, those in power try to suppress Kolchak’s narrative.

Eventually, we get a showdown with the vampire and the end result sees Kolchak having to leave Las Vegas or be charged with murder for killing the bloodsucking fiend.

While the picture can feel hokey and dated, I mean, it is a ’70s television movie, it’s still an energetic, charming, entertaining ride and pretty solid shit for its time and production limitations.

Plus, Darren McGavin is stupendous.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: its sequel The Night Strangler and the television show Kolchak: The Night Stalker.

Documentary Review: Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film (2006)

Release Date: October 13th, 2006
Directed by: Jeff McQueen
Written by: J. Albert Bell, Rachel Belofsky, Michael Derek Bohusz, Adam Rockoff, Rudy Scalese
Music by: Harry Manfredini
Cast: Ed Green (narrator), Wes Craven, John Carpenter, Debra Hill, Malek Akkad, Greg Nicotero, Amy Holden Jones, Stan Winston, Rob Zombie, Sean S. Cunningham, Tom Savini, Betsy Palmer, Harry Manfredini, Felissa Rose, Robert Shaye

Candy Heart Productions, thinkfilm, Starz, 88 Minutes

Review:

For being one of those film history documentaries made by Starz, it’s pretty good.

Granted, this isn’t great and there are much better documentaries on ’80s horror, slasher films and many of the specific movies this one discusses.

As can be expected, this is a series of talking head interviews edited and presented to tell a narrative. In the case of this film, it goes through the history of slasher films from the ’70s and up to more modern times. I kind of lost interest once it got midway into the ’90s but that’s when Scream came out and kind of wrecked the genre.

This does miss a lot and doesn’t even really touch on the things in film’s history that inspired and paved the way for slasher cinema.

It felt like a missed opportunity to examine Italian giallo and how that subgenre of horror (and neo-noir) laid some groundwork for what would become the American and Canadian slasher flick empire.

Still, this was entertaining and I enjoyed it even if I didn’t learn much of anything new.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries on ’70s and ’80s horror.

TV Review: McMillions (2020)

Original Run: February 3rd, 2020 – March 9th, 2020
Directed by: James Lee Hernandez, Brian Lazarte
Written by: James Lee Hernandez, Brian Lazarte
Music by: Pinar Toprak
Cast: various

FunMeter, Unrealistic Ideas, HBO, 6 Episodes, 60 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

As a McDonald’s shareholder, a loyal customer for decades and a massive fan of the Monopoly game, this was a story that absolutely intrigued me. So seeing that HBO made a documentary series telling the story of how the McDonald’s Monopoly game was rigged was a must watch for me.

My only real gripe about this is that I never felt like the scheme was all that clear. I understood how they found people to be “winners” of the top tier game pieces (and it was fantastic hearing their stories) but I never clearly understood why the criminals behind the scheme did it in the first place.

Selling these lucrative prizes at a small fraction of what their actual value was, was kind of baffling. I feel like there had to have been a much better way for them to exploit the system and in the end, they got caught, anyway.

Also, I had always assumed that McDonald’s was involved in the shenanigans because the actual story and all the facts weren’t something I delved into before this. I had just always assumed that by giving the pieces to “friends and family members” meant that some McDonald’s exec was just doing that for personal or corporate favors.

This was interesting as hell though and I watched all six episodes in one sitting.

In the end, I’m glad that those who were roped into the scheme, didn’t have their lives ruined based off of the poor circumstances they were in when the schemesters chose them to exploit for their own gain.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other recent crime documentaries and series.

TV Review: Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich (2020)

Original Run: May 27th, 2020
Directed by: Lisa Bryant
Based on: Filthy Rich: A Powerful Billionaire, the Sex Scandal that Undid Him, and All the Justice that Money Can Buy: The Shocking True Story of Jeffrey Epstein by James Patterson
Music by: Justin Melland

RadicalMedia, JP Entertainment, Third Eye Motion Picture Company, Netflix, 4 Episodes, 55-57 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I didn’t know as much about this story as I probably needed to. Sure, I, like most people, know the general gist of it but not the details.

Although, if I’m being honest, I kind of expected this to go much deeper and also expose the guy’s ties to some of the politicians and celebrities that were in his orbit.

Regardless of that, this was still a decent primer on the horrible shit that this guy did.

Frankly, this was pretty tough to get through, as you come to realize how deep the rabbit hole goes and how many different under-aged girls that this guy sexually assaulted on a constant basis.

Most importantly, this serves as a warning against the type of people that prey on young girls, as well as looking at their behavior and the methods that they could use to exploit and violate others.

As a documentary, I thought this was just okay. I feel like it needed a lot more information and that it could’ve gone a lot deeper into Epstein’s reach among the elite.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other recent Netflix true crime documentaries.

TV Review: Wrestling Gold: Before They Were Famous (2002)

Released: 2002
Cast: Jim Cornette, various

VCI Video, 120 Minutes

Review:

I’ve already reviewed the regular Wrestling Gold series of classic matches. This one-off release, though, features slightly more modern footage, as it showcases the earliest marquee matches of some of wrestling’s biggest stars from around the turn of the millennium.

Everything here is taken from Smoky Mountain Wrestling, Jim Cornette’s promotion from the early ’90s. Because of that, he also hosts this DVD, just as he hosted the other Wrestling Gold releases alongside Dave Meltzer. There is no Meltzer here, however.

This is a compilation of about twenty matches and segments of some of the biggest stars at the time of this DVD’s original release. A lot of big stars worked in SMW, so this is essentially a greatest hits of that promotion’s biggest stars.

The match quality is fairly decent but the overall collection is a bit of a mixed bag. Still, it’s worth checking out if you’re into wrestling history and seeing some of the top wrestlers of all-time before they were mainstream names.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: the Wrestling Gold DVD series and other wrestling compilations of the territories in the ’70s and ’80s.

Documentary Review: The Authentic Untold Story ECW (2016)

Release Date: November 21st, 2016
Cast: Corey Graves (host), The Dudley Boyz, Tazz, Paul Heyman, Tommy Dreamer

WWE, 47 Minutes

Review:

I wasn’t sure what this was when I fired it up on the WWE Network but then I immediately realized that I had already seen it back when it aired.

It’s not a traditional documentary, as much as it is a one-off interview show with a panel of ECW (Extreme Championship Wrestling) legends talking about their time in the promotion back in the ’90s and very early ’00s.

Overall, for old school ECW fans, this was a worthwhile watch that felt pretty honest and unfiltered. It features the Dudley Boyz, Tazz, Tommy Dreamer and ECW boss, Paul Heyman.

Each guy told stories about the heyday of ECW and went through a bunch of topics.

This is kind of a nice followup watch to the WWE’s superb documentary, The Rise and Fall of ECW.

However, for those who aren’t familiar with ECW and don’t already have a love for it, this probably doesn’t offer up much that would be considered engaging or entertaining. Although, if you’re a fan of wrestling history, you’ll probably find this interesting, regardless of your feelings on ECW.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other WWE Network exclusives and documentaries.

Documentary Review: Easter Island Unsolved (2018)

Release Date: 2018

National Geographic, 44 Minutes

Review:

Man, it’s always hard getting full credits info on National Geographic documentaries because they often times take them and repackage them from different series that they do. However, the company should give credit to the people that make these in a way that’s available online, as I’m not going to go back to the streaming file and sit through it for the hopes that it’ll include full credits.

Griping aside, this was fairly enjoyable but I wouldn’t say that it’s an exceptional piece by any stretch.

It covers the history of Easter Island but there’s only so much you can cover in 44 minutes. So even though this hits a lot of points and topics, it doesn’t spend nearly enough time on them. Really, it’d be cool if there was a series on Easter Island, as it is one of the most interesting places in the world.

Overall, this was worth watching. It killed close to an hour’s worth of time and it’s streaming for all to see that have Disney+. But really, it feels like more of a primer or an intro to a much larger, detailed story that someone needs to tell in this medium and with Nat Geo’s quality.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other National Geographic documentaries, many of which can be found on Disney+ now.

*no trailer because Disney+ and Nat Geo are slacking on promotional material.