TV Review: Good Omens (2019- )

Original Run: May 31st, 2019 – current
Created by: Neil Gaiman
Directed by: Douglas Mackinnon
Written by: Neil Gaiman
Based on: Good Omens by Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman
Music by: David Arnold
Cast: Michael Sheen, David Tennant, Sam Taylor Buck, Adria Arjona, Michael McKean, Miranda Richardson, Jack Whitehall, Jon Hamm, Frances McDormand (voice), Nick Offerman, Mireille Enos, Brian Cox (voice), David Morrissey, Johnny Vegas, Benedict Cumberbatch (voice)

Narrativia, The Blank Corporation, Amazon Studios, BBC Studios, 6 Episodes (so far), 51-58 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

When I first saw that Michael Sheen and David Tennant were in a show together, I knew I’d have to watch it. There was absolutely no doubt about that.

Then once I put it on and the episodes started rolling, I was really excited to see and hear Jon Hamm, Nick Offerman, Frances McDormand, Michael McKean, Miranda Richardson, Brian Cox, David Morrissey and Benedict Cumberbatch. We also got Mireille Enos in maybe her coolest role of all-time.

Needless to say, this six episode television show, which I hope lives on beyond one very short season, is chock full of immense talent. And that includes the cast members that are lesser known. Everyone on this show carries their weight and no one drags ass.

This was created by Neil Gaiman, based off of a novel he wrote almost thirty years ago with Terry Pratchett. I’ve never read the book but I might have to check it out now, based off of how cool this show is.

Now Good Omens isn’t perfect but I also don’t care that it’s not. It’s engaging, very, very human and it challenges its own subject matter, giving its audience hope for something more than the simple doom and gloom of an eventual biblical Armageddon. However, I’m an atheist but I know that most people aren’t and that some of what’s featured on this show is very real to them.

Sure, this is comedic, dramatic and fantastical but it exposes some of the very things that I’ve always questioned about the Christian mythos. As I was brought up very religiously, I had questions and doubts that I never felt got satisfactory answers and I was never really allowed to even have doubts or question the authority that dictated these things to me. So I’m glad that this show puts it all out there.

The production is stellar, the show looks great, its well acted, well written, has great pacing and good direction.

My only real concern is that I hope it can maintain its quality if this goes on for longer. But I also feel that it needs too. The story of this season is concluded within the six episodes but it opens the doors to a lot of new things going forward.

But since this seems to be a big hit for Amazon and the BBC, I’m pretty sure we’ll get new episodes of Good Omens for at least a few more years.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: What We Do In the Shadows, American Gods and Lucifer.

TV Review: Doctor Who – The Eleventh Doctor Era (2010-2013)

Original Run: April 3rd, 2010 – December 25th, 2013
Created by: Sydney Newman, C. E. Webber, Donald Wilson
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Murray Gold
Cast: Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill, Jenna Coleman, Alex Kingston

BBC, 44 Episodes, 45-77 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

When the era of the Tenth Doctor came to an end, it was a hard day. But then Matt Smith came on board as the Eleventh Doctor and right out the gate, even if I didn’t love him as much as David Tennant, he was, in many ways, an incredible Doctor.

I think the thing that makes this era of Doctor Who so damn good, is that the show had new blood calling the shots behind the scenes. Russell T. Davies moved on, the reigns were given to Steven Moffat and he did a great job in the first few seasons as show runner. Granted, his era went on for too long and it was pretty lackluster by the end but in the first two seasons of the Matt Smith era, almost every episode seemed to hit the right chords.

Additionally, this era had my favorite Doctor/companion relationship with Matt Smith’s Doctor and Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill as the Ponds, Amy and Rory. Also, add in the great performances by Alex Kingston and this group of friends had the best ensemble chemistry out of any Doctor/companion/ensemble lineup in history. And really, it is absolutely the strength of that ensemble that makes this era so f’n spectacular.

Now once the Ponds leave the show and Jenna Coleman comes in as Clara, things sort of fall apart. Coleman was actually fun, in the beginning, and I liked her storyline up until Smith left Doctor Who behind. However, the second half of Smith’s final season, which focused on the Doctor and Clara instead of the Doctor and the Ponds, felt like a dark time in the show. I wasn’t sure why, at the time, but the tone was changing, leading up to Peter Capaldi’s run as the Twelfth Doctor and the era where the show really fell apart for me. In fact, it never really recovered after the exit of the Ponds, except for a handful of Kingston episodes after that.

Had the Eleventh Doctor’s run not have been so dark and almost depressing in the last eight or so episodes, it could have equaled and maybe surpassed Tennant’s run, overall.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: The Ninth, Tenth and Twelfth Doctors’ runs.

Documentary Review: David Bowie: The Last Five Years (2017)

Release Date: January 7th, 2017 (UK)
Directed by: Francis Whatley
Music by: David Bowie
Cast: David Bowie (archive footage), Michael C. Hall, Sophia Anne Caruso, Toni Basil

BBC, HBO, 90 Minutes

Review:

I own more David Bowie records than any other musical act. I actually own every single album in some form or another. I have almost all of them on CD, except maybe two, I have many on tape and in recent years, I’ve come to own many of them on vinyl. He is, hands down, my favorite recording artist of all-time. Hell, in the nearly 50 years that he released albums, there isn’t even one that I find mediocre.

So when Bowie died, it was a big blow to me. Sure, I’ve felt it pretty hard when other artists have died but Bowie felt immortal and there was something about his long and storied musical history that touched me in ways other artists couldn’t.

Not to sound sappy but it took some time before I felt like watching this. I finally got around to it and I was really happy with how this documentary turned out, as it covers Bowie’s life in his final five years. Granted, it does go back further than that and spends some time talking about his Reality Tour in 2003.

The documentary features interviews and insight from a lot of the people that worked with Bowie during his last few years. There are no interviews with family but that’s okay, as this came out about a year after his death and I’m sure it was a bit too soon for them to feel as if they should chime in.

The interviews are all pretty solid and informative, though, and they really paint a picture of the man’s later years, how he was still passionate and how he viewed things like fame, especially later in life.

This goes into the production of Bowie’s later albums, music videos and a stage musical that he wrote and produced.

For Bowie fans, this is definitely worth a watch. If anything, it will make you miss the man, his infectious charisma and his pure, unlimited talent.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other recent music documentaries: Gimme Danger and A Band Called Death.

Documentary Review: In Search of Steve Ditko (2007)

Release Date: September 16th, 2007 (UK)
Directed by: Peter Boyd Maclean
Cast: Jonathan Ross (host), Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, Stan Lee, Joe Quesada, Mark Millar, John Romita Sr.

Hot Sauce, BBC, 59 Minutes

Review:

In Search of Steve Ditko was a one hour documentary special hosted by Jonathan Ross in 2007. It aired on one of the BBC channels but I’m not sure which one. I’ve had a DVD-R of it for a decade though and I figured I should revisit it, especially since Ditko passed, earlier this year.

Also, it’s on YouTube, so anyone can watch it if they want to.

The purpose of this documentary was two fold.

First, Ross wanted to do a biography piece on Ditko and interviewed a lot of other iconic creators to talk about him.

Second, Ross wanted to track down Ditko and meet him, possibly for an interview, but mostly to express his love of the man’s work.

While Ross does get to meet his hero, it happens off camera and we don’t get to see the reclusive Ditko appear. I’m fine with that even if others may be let down, as I believe in respecting the man’s privacy. And if you love Ditko, this is still a fine retrospective on his career and his influence on the comic book medium.

There are some great interviews here with Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, Mark Millar, John Romita Sr. and even Stan Lee, who discusses who should get the credit for creating Spider-Man.

All in all, this was a good watch and for fans of Ditko, this is a nice, quick rundown of the importance of his work in comics.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other comic book documentaries like The Image Revolution and Chris Claremont’s X-Men.

Ranking the Top Gear Specials

*Written in 2014.

Top Gear is one of the greatest shows on television. Hell, it is so successful that they’re currently filming the 22nd series, right now.

The dynamic between Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May is uncanny. They play off of each other extremely well, each has their own contrasting personality and they each bring something different but great to the show.

Nothing is better though, than seeing these guys go at it in some crazy race or competition. Well, maybe one thing is better. And that thing is when these guys are stuck together in some strange corner of the world and have to fight the elements and challenges ahead.

These are what the Top Gear specials are all about. Taking these three men, making them really uncomfortable and leaving them to sort it all out and reach whatever finish line is at the end of the ordeal.

Here, I have ranked all of the Top Gear specials from my favorite to least favorite. Granted, they are all pretty damned good.

1. The Polar Special (2007)
2. The India Special (2011)
3. The Vietnam Special (2008)
4. The Bolivia Special (2009)
5. The Middle East Special (2010)
6. The Botswana Special (2007)
7. The Africa Special (2013)
8. The Burma Special (2014)
9. The United States Special (2007)
10. The USA Road Trip (2010)
11. The Winter Olympics Special (2006)

TV Review: Doctor Who – The Tenth Doctor Era (2006-2010)

Original Run: April 15th, 2006 – January 1st, 2010
Created by: Sydney Newman, C. E. Webber, Donald Wilson
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Murray Gold
Cast: David Tennant, Billie Piper, Freema Agyeman, John Barrowman, Catherine Tate, Bernard Cribbins, Elisabeth Sladen, John Simm, Kylie Minogue, David Morrissey, Michelle Ryan, Lindsay Duncan, Noel Clarke, Alex Kingston

BBC, 44 Episodes, 45-72 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

David Tennant is considered by most to be the best Doctor of all-time. He’s my second favorite after Tom Baker but his accolades and admiration are definitely deserved, as he took what Christopher Eccleston walked away from and turned it into something that was very much his and better than anything the franchise had done since the high point of the Tom Baker era, which ended in 1981.

The Tennant era of Who is the best era of the modern incarnation of the franchise. Sure, I love all the Doctors in different ways but this was the real peak for me since the show relaunched in 2005. Russell T. Davies just had a certain magic that Stephen Moffat, who took over with the Matt Smith era, could emulate and build from but had a much harder time at maintaining it and being consistent.

I just love this era of the show. It isn’t perfect, by any means and has a few hiccups, but overall, this was a great thing to experience. For other lovers of this franchise, this span in the show’s history is almost like a love letter to you. It taps into the spirit of the original shows much better than the Eccleston stuff and it brings back some key elements that were missing in the first season, most notably the Master and some of the more famous alien villains.

Furthermore, Tennant has great chemistry with every single person that they paired him with. His relationship with Rose got heavier and more intimate than it did when Eccleston was in the role. His time with Martha was great and you hurt for her and for him, as he continued to mourn the great loss he felt with Rose. The Tennant team up with Catherine Tate as Donna Noble was the best part of the show but once that relationship extends into the Doctor also having a bond with her grandfather, Bernard Cribbins’ Wilfred Mott, it got even better. You also got to see Tennant work well with David Morrissey (the future Governor from The Walking Dead), Kylie Minogue, the former Tom Baker companion Sarah Jane (played by Elisabeth Sladen, once again), Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) and a slew of others. But it’s his chemistry with the John Simm version of the Master that really showcased how good both men are.

I adore the Tennant years on Doctor Who. It is the best run of the modern era… period. Although, Matt Smith’s run after this was pretty darn good too and even if I didn’t like a lot of the Peter Capaldi stuff, I did love Capaldi’s Doctor. But David Tennant’s run will be a near impossible feat to try and top.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: The Ninth and Eleventh Doctors’ runs.

TV Review: Black Books (2000-2004)

Original Run: September 29th, 2000 – April 15th, 2004
Directed by: various
Written by: Dylan Moran, Graham Linehan, Arthur Mathews, Kevin Cecil, Andy Riley
Music by: Jonathan Whitehead
Cast: Dylan Moran, Bill Bailey, Tamsin Greig

Assembly Film and Television, Channel 4, BBC, 18 Episodes, 25 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*Written in 2014.

It is quite possible that Black Books is my favorite situation comedy of all-time. It is certainly in contention anyway, as it is one of those shows where I can watch any episode at any time and still find it uncontrollably funny. The jokes and gags don’t get old, the camaraderie amongst the cast is iron clad and the tone of the show in how it deals with its subject matter and its use of timing, is impeccable. Very few shows are this well written and have the comedic talent capable of optimizing such great writing, as well as the cast of Black Books.

The plot follows Bernard (played by Dylan Moran) who is a drunk Irishman living in London running a bookshop. With him are his dimwitted but insanely lovable sidekick Manny (played by Bill Bailey) and their neighbor and friend Fran (played by Tamsin Greig). The show, like all sitcoms, follows the cast’s misadventures and misdeeds. In this case, things never seem to end well and the characters are usually their own worst enemies.

The cast plays off of each other so well and in such a way that I would put them head-to-head with any other great sitcom cast and I could guarantee they’d outshine them.

It’s sad that the show only lasted for three series, six episodes each. 18 episodes just isn’t enough but at least those 18 episodes are all quality, unlike American sitcoms that pump out 25 episodes a season, only producing a handful or less that are worthwhile. Regardless, I would love to see this revived for another series or even a proper special to officially close out the show. Yes, it has been ten years since it left the air but all three of these actors still has the talent and the ability to pull it off.

Besides, if you are a fan of the show, how could you not want to see where Bernard, Manny and Fran are ten years later? My prediction, Bernard and Manny are miserable working for some online book retailer and Fran is a cat lady with a failed liver.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: SpacedThe IT Crowd and Green Wing.

TV Review: Blackadder (1983-1989)

Also known as: The Black Adder (Series 1), Blackadder II (Series 2), Blackadder the Third (Series 3), Blackadder Goes Forth (Series 4)
Original Run: June 15th, 1983 – November, 1989
Directed by: various
Written by: Richard Curtis, Rowan Atkinson, Ben Elton
Music by: Howard Goodall
Cast: Rowan Atkinson, Tony Robinson, Tim McInnerny, Miranda Richardson, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Rik Mayall (cameos)

2entertain, BBC, 24 Episodes (plus 3 specials), 30 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*Written in 2014.

Rowan Atkinson is pretty much a comedic genius. Add in Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Tony Robinson, Tim McInnerny, Miranda Richardson, Brian Best and a bit of Rik Mayall and you’ve got a dream team of British comedic talent.

This is one of the best sitcoms ever produced. It is also quite unique in that each series was different and completely new. Series 1 took place in the British Middle Ages, Series 2 was set during the reign of Elizabeth I, Series 3 takes place during the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th, while Series 4 takes place on the Western Front during World War I. The one thing connecting all the shows is Rowan Atkinson’s character Edmund Blackadder or just “The Blackadder”, who is a different character each series, although each incarnation is a part of the same lineage. Many of the characters on the show are also different people within their own long lineages.

Out of the series, I really enjoy the fourth series the best. All of them are good but for some reason, in the fourth, they really hit their stride and knocked it out of the park in each episode. Going backwards, I also loved series 3, as it brought Hugh Laurie in full-time and gave the show a new and permanent dynamic that really upped the ante. Series 2 is my least favorite overall but it is still a level above the majority of televisions shows from that same era. The first series is pretty fantastic too and as good as Atkinson is in it, Brian Blessed really brings something exceptional to the show.

To this day, the show still feels timeless, is pretty damned hilarious and never really seems to get old. Maybe the the fact that each series is its own period piece, helps this show have that timeless vibe. I probably watch through each series almost annually. I feel like Atkinson’s Mr. Bean has become a more popular character, at least in the United States, but his greatest work comes here, as Edmund Blackadder.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: A Bit of Fry & Laurie and The New Statesman.

Film Review: Hard Rain (1998)

Also known as: The Flood (working title)
Release Date: January 16th, 1998
Directed by: Mikael Salomon
Written by: Graham Yost
Music by: Christopher Young
Cast: Morgan Freeman, Christian Slater, Randy Quaid, Minnie Driver, Edward Asner, Richard Dysart, Betty White, Ricky Harris

UGC-PH, Tele-Munchen, BBC, Nordisk Film, Marubeni, Toho, PolyGram Filmed Entertainment, Mutual Film Company, Paramount Pictures, Universal Pictures, 96 Minutes

Review:

“Look! We just want the money! You guys can walk away, we won’t kill you!” – Jim

This film has more studios, distributors and countries involved in its creation than I have ever seen. Okay, maybe not ever but there is a whole shit ton of people behind this little action movie.

It also has a pretty big cast for a movie about a town vacated due to massive flooding. But the big cast of characters was actually a benefit as this movie has so many twists, turns and character morality shifts that at its core, this is very much film-noir.

Christian Slater plays an armored truck guard. He and his older mentor, played by Edward Asner, get stuck in the flood waters as they are transporting three million dollars from the small town’s bank to safety. They are quickly overcome by a group of thieves, led by Morgan Freeman. Asner’s character is killed in the initial confrontation but Slater escapes and hides the money away in a tomb. As the water rises further, Slater is on the run from Freeman’s gang, who have acquired boats and jet skis to more easily navigate the flooded city streets.

The town is also protected by a three man police force led by Randy Quaid. They seem like a heroic lot but as the film progresses and greed takes over the hearts of nearly everyone in the film, we see the worst come out in those tasked with keeping the peace.

Minnie Driver is thrown into the film because you need eye candy and someone for the hero to try and hook up with. You also have an elderly couple who stayed behind, played by the great Betty White and Richard Dysart. There is also the town’s dam operator, played by Wayne Duvall.

Hard Rain is a guilty pleasure of mine. I know it isn’t a good movie but it is great, mindless fun for ninety minutes. The action is good, there are a lot of layers to the story and there really isn’t a dull moment. I can’t say that the script is good either but at least the plot moves swiftly, offers up some decent surprises and is interesting enough to keep one engaged.

The highlight of the film is the three male leads, all of whom played their parts well and seemed to be having fun with the material.

This is a quintessential ’90s mid-budget action picture. It doesn’t try to do too much and stays pretty grounded in reality. The premise made for an ambitious picture, especially in regards to how much water was needed to create the scenes, but it never felt over the top or ridiculous. The shootout inside the church is marvelously executed and still looks good today.

This is just a fun movie with a good cast that I have to revisit once in awhile.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Broken Arrow, another Christian Slater action film from the same era.