TV Review: Fear the Walking Dead (2015- )

Original Run: August 23rd, 2015 – current
Created by: Robert Kirkman, Dave Erickson
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman
Music by: Atticus Ross, Paul Haslinger, Danny Bessi, Saunder Jurriaans
Cast: Kim Dickens, Cliff Curtis, Frank Dillane, Alycia Debnam-Carey, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Mercedes Mason, Lorenzo James Henrie, Rubén Blades, Colman Domingo, Michelle Ang, Danay García, Daniel Sharman, Sam Underwood, Dayton Callie, Lisandra Tena, Maggie Grace, Garret Dillahunt, Lennie James, Jenna Elfman

Square Head Pictures, Circle of Confusion, Skybound Entertainment, Valhalla Entertainment, AMC, 48 Episodes (so far), 43-65 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

The Walking Dead really didn’t need of a spinoff. But as these things go, when you’ve got a cash cow, you’ve got to milk it until the teets come off.

What made this spinoff intriguing, however, was that it started when the zombie outbreak started. In The Walking Dead, we follow Rick Grimes, as he wakes up from a coma and enters a zombie infested world, months after the outbreak. Fear the Walking Dead starts on any given normal day and then the shit hits the fan. The first season shows society crumbling and how the main characters respond to it.

That rookie season was good but a somewhat unsatisfying origin story for The Walking Dead world. But once the show moved beyond the initial chaos, it got more interesting.

The sophomore season was broken into two halves, like a typical season of The Walking Dead. This show would follow that formula going forward. And while that season was a bit rocky, it found it’s footing in the second half, once our characters got off of the boat they lived on for eight episodes.

Season three switched things up quite a bit and by this point, a lot of the main characters were already wiped out.

But season four, the current season, is where the show really reinvented itself in a bold way. By the time you get through the first half of the season, only one person from the pilot episode is still alive. Additionally, Morgan from The Walking Dead comes on the show, officially crossing over, connecting this show directly to the events of the more popular parent show.

The fourth season also brings in a bunch of new and interesting characters and to be honest, it’s a completely different animal than what Fear was when it started out.

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with this show, which I have also had with the regular Walking Dead series, but it’s moving in a really cool direction.

It’s hard to tell where this will end up but I find it to be the more enjoyable of the two shows, right now. But being that this is The Walking Dead, that could change at the drop of a hat.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: The Walking DeadDeadwoodSons of Anarchy and Hell On Wheels.

 

TV Review: Orange Is the New Black (2013-2019)

Release Date: July 11th, 2013 – current
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: Orange Is the New Black: My Year In a Women’s Prison by Piper Kerman
Music by: Regina Spektor (theme), Scott Doherty, Brandon Jay, Gwendolyn Sanford
Cast: Taylor Schilling, Laura Prepon, Michael Harney, Michelle Hurst, Kate Mulgrew, Jason Biggs, Uzo Aduba, Danielle Brooks, Natasha Lyonne, Taryn Manning, Selenis Leyva, Adrienne C. Moore, Dascha Polanco, Nick Sandow, Yael Stone, Samira Wiley, Jackie Cruz, Diane Guerrero, Lea DeLaria, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Jessica Pimentel, Mary Steenburgen, Ruby Rose, Lori Petty, Asia Kate Dillon

Lionsgate Television, Tilted Productions, Netflix, 65 Episodes (so far), 51-92 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*Written in 2014.

I finally got around to watching Orange Is the New Black. I’m really glad that I did. I am on a mission to watch all the Netflix shows, in order to rank them for a future countdown post and finally I got to this one, which just may be the cream of the crop.

I had heard nothing but good things about this show and had planned on watching it for a while. Time passed, I was busy and all of a sudden, the second season was out and I hadn’t yet watched the first.

This show is pretty remarkable. The plots aren’t overly complex but they are well thought out and pretty layered, which is probably due to what I hear is great source material, which was the memoir Orange Is the New Black: My Year In a Women’s Prison by Piper Kerman. I’m not sure how closely the show follows the biographical account but the characters and plots feel incredibly real. Which is a testament to the creators, producers, directors, writers and most importantly, the actors.

In fact, the acting is stellar. Taylor Schilling (who plays the lead character, Piper) is really good and I can’t say anything bad about her work here but she is often times overshadowed by the brilliance of those around her. Kate Mulgrew, who was amazing as the lead on Star Trek: Voyager, is even more amazing on this show. Uzo Aduba, who plays Crazy Eyes, may be one of the best actresses I have ever seen and that is something I don’t just throw around. Laura Prepon, who starred on That ’70s Show, is a welcome addition to the cast and gives her best performance to date. Other spectacular presences on this show are Natasha Lyonne, Jason Biggs, Taryn Manning, Lea DeLaria, Laverne Cox, Danielle Brooks, Samira Wiley and Vicky Jeudy. Yael Stone is also fantastic and incredibly adorable as Lorna. Then there is Michael Healy, who brings a great dynamic to the show, as he goes from a caring sort of father figure to a complete tyrannical douchebag.

There are few, if any shows, as well acted as Orange Is the New Black. In fact, the only thing right now that comes to mind is Netflix’s other big hit House of Cards and AMC’s Mad Men.

Now I don’t know if this is a show that can sustain beyond a few seasons but while the ride is good, I will certainly stay on. I know that a third season is coming and I can imagine that several people on this show are now getting good work elsewhere. It’ll be interesting to see how long this lasts and if they can get the cast to stick around, assuming this stays a hit and goes on well into the future. Then again, prison is a revolving door of characters, so why should this show be any different.

And to make a point, I have often times heard this described as the female Oz. While both shows take place in a prison, this is no lady Oz. It is a great balance of comedy, drama and just life. It brings a charm to the table that the extremely hard-edged Oz didn’t have with its brutal and gritty ambiance. I would also go on to say that Orange Is the New Black is the superior show out of the two.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: WeedsOz… simply because of similar themes but there is real contrast in the tones of these two shows.

Film Review: Logan (2017)

Release Date: February 17th, 2017 (Berlin premiere)
Directed by: James Mangold
Written by: Scott Frank, James Mangold, Michael Green
Based on: the character of Wolverine created by Roy Thomas, Len Wein, John Romita Sr.
Music by: Marco Beltrami
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Richard E. Grant, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant, Dafne Keen, Elizabeth Rodriguez

Marvel Entertainment, TSG Entertainment, Kinberg Genre, Hutch Parker Entertainment, The Donners’ Company, 137 Minutes

Review:

To sum up this motion picture in one line: Logan made me sprout a third testicle bigger than the original two combined.

Initial reaction aside, I figured that I should talk about the film more in depth, as opposed to summing up a two-plus hour movie with the length of a tweet. Granted, that’s all people really have time to read anymore.

For those still sticking around, Logan was exactly the film I wanted, the film fans deserved and another clear indication that PG-13 superhero flicks have gotten really fucking lame. Logan like Deadpool before it, got a pretty hard R for a rating. And truthfully, Logan is even more hardcore in the violence department than its predecessor, which relied on not just violence but a lot of good old fashioned potty humor. Logan does not bring the potty humor. Instead, it brings a huge body count and a lot of severed limbs.

The movie is hardly a festival of gore but it certainly isn’t an X-Men picture for the kids or those who are offended by a little… okay, a lot of blood splatter and knives through heads.

Logan is not a comic book movie relying on cheap parlor tricks, however. It is a damn good movie, through and through. Everything good about The Wolverine is magnified here, without the flaws. James Mangold directed both films but with Logan he showed how far he has come since the last solo Wolverine movie and this, the final chapter in the character’s seventeen year and nine film run.

This was like the Mad Max: Fury Road of comic book movies. It was gritty, balls out and pulled absolutely no punches. Where I was sure it would try and play it safe, it did not. In fact, I was a bit taken aback by some of the things that happened but the shock of those moments, made the film greater than it would have been if the filmmakers let off of the gas.

The picture was shot magnificently and it plays more like a modernized western, which it actually is, than a popcorn comic book flick. The film even shows Patrick Stewart’s Charles Xavier showing the classic western Shane to the young Laura, the girl he and Logan are protecting from a posse of really bad men.

It was nice to see the film feature Caliban, who was a total jerk in the comic books, but the story here shows him later in life, trying to somewhat atone for the sins he committed against his kind.

Laura, or X-23, is also really great and she is actually better than I could have imagined her before seeing the film. She does some really intense things physically and fights like no other kid has, in the long history of watching movies. X-23 makes Kick-Ass‘ Hit Girl look like a Powerpuff Girl.

Charles Xavier, or Professor X, comes full circle as a character. Sure, we saw his end way back in 2006 with X-Men: The Last Stand, the finale of the original trilogy of films, but this was a more fitting and sentimental end to the character’s story. Also, Patrick Stewart knocks it out of the park like never before. Having played this character for so long, Stewart was really connected to Xavier on a deeper level than what has been seen before Logan.

The villains were pretty interesting and the best of the Wolverine trilogy. Boyd Holbrook played the cool and calculating cyborg soldier Pierce. Richard E. Grant played Dr. Rice, an evil scientist that feels a lot like a classic Peter Cushing character. There was another big bad that Wolverine had to match up against but I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t seen the film.

Logan is one of the best superhero films ever made. Its strength is that it isn’t done in the vein of other superhero films. It is its own thing like Deadpool was a year earlier. It challenges the formula, breaks the mold and has genuine gravitas. It is heartwarming and painful. It generates a level of emotion missing from the genre. It also feels a lot closer to reality than anything else that has ever come out from the worlds of Marvel or DC.

Rating: 9/10