TV Review: Counterpart (2017–2019)

Original Run: December 10th, 2017 – February 17th, 2019
Created by: Justin Marks
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Jeff Russo
Cast: J.K. Simmons, Olivia Williams, Harry Lloyd, Nazanin Boniadi, Sara Serraiocco, Ulrich Thomsen, Nicholas Pinnock, Betty Gabriel, James Cromwell, Kenneth Choi, Stephen Rea, Jacqueline Bisset

Gilbert Films, Anonymous Content, Gate 34, MRC, Studio Babelsberg, Starz, Sony Pictures Television, 20 Episodes, 56-60 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

Sadly, I hadn’t heard about this show when it was current just a couple of years ago and I’ve been a Starz subscriber for awhile now. I guess they failed to promote it properly, which sucks, as this was one of the most interesting shows I’ve watched from the previous decade.

This also stars J.K. Simmons in duel roles and he’s an actor that I enjoy in everything that he does. It also features Olivia Coleman and several others who bring their A-game and make this incredibly intriguing world come to life.

The story is about how there are two alternate versions of our world, after they split and went into different directions shortly before the Berlin Wall fell in Germany. The two versions of our world can only be accessed by a connecting tunnel underneath a secret UN facility in Berlin. Since the split, scientists working on the project have observed the two worlds, slightly tinkering with it along the way, making every person on both Earths their lab rats.

With that, this show features two versions of most of the core characters. While this is really damn cool, at first, the show does quickly introduce more characters and it does become a bit hard to follow at times. While the characters have slightly different visual cues and the two world’s also have visual differences, if you’re not paying close attention, the show can often times seem like a mishmash. I think this could’ve been avoided by easing into new characters more slowly but this entire series’ story is also told over just twenty episodes.

I guess Starz chose not to order more episodes after the second season but at least this felt like it had a natural end, which tells me the showrunners were probably told to wrap it up. I think they did wrap it up fairly well, all things considered.

The best part about this show, honestly, were the actors. The key players were all solid and their relationships drove the story. While I watched this for the sci-fi elements I wanted to see explored, it’s the personal relationships that kept me interested. Also, I liked that this showed how one event can completely change a person.

Overall, this was a damn good series and while I don’t specifically wish for more episodes, it left an impact that will stick with me for quite awhile.

Rating: 8/10

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.

Documentary Review: John Ford Goes to War (2002)

Release Date: 2002
Directed by: Tom Thurman
Written by: Tom Marksbury
Cast: John Ford (archive footage), John Wayne (archive footage), Kris Kristofferson (narrator), Peter Bogdanovich, Dan Ford, Leonard Maltin, Oliver Stone,

FBN Productions, Starz! Encore Entertainment, 56 Minutes

Review:

I fired this up on a rainy afternoon because I saw it on the Starz app and because I mostly like the films of John Ford.

It’s a fairly interesting documentary that delves into the man’s war experience and how it helped shape the pictures he would go on to make as one of Hollywood’s premier directors.

My only real issue with the documentary is that it is pretty slow and boring. The subject matter is engaging but the presentation almost puts you to sleep.

This was relatively short though, just being under an hour and it is worth checking out if you admire John Ford’s filmmaking style, especially in regards to his war pictures.

I wouldn’t call this a necessary TV documentary, even for fans of the man’s work. Honestly, it just makes me hope that someone will come along and make a more comprehensive and energetic film on the great director’s career.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other Starz filmmaking documentaries.

 

Documentary Review: Bloodsucking Cinema (2007)

Release Date: October 26th, 2007
Directed by: Barry Gray
Written by: Barry Gray
Music by: Don MacDonald
Cast: Uwe Boll, John Carpenter, David S. Goyer, Corey Haim, John Landis, Kristanna Loken, Leonard Maltin, Cheech Marin, Greg Nicotero, Joel Schumacher, Stephen Sommers, Stuart Townsend, Stan Winston, Len Wiseman, Marv Wolfman

Insight Film Studios, Vamp Productions, 56 Minutes

Review:

This has been in my Starz queue for a long ass time, so I figured I’d give it a watch to clear out some of the stuff that’s been there for too long.

Overall, this was a pretty boring documentary with a lot of talking head interviews edited together pretty sloppily.

There didn’t seem to be a clear direction or objective about this short documentary other than having a bunch of actors and directors talking about vampire films they’ve been apart of.

Frankly, this felt random as hell and features a slew of films that no one cared about when they came out and certainly don’t care about now. While they talk about some solid films like Lost Boys, From Dusk Till Dawn and Vampires, they also spend a lot of time talking about shit movies like Van Helsing, BloodRayne and Queen of the Damned.

I wouldn’t call this informative or entertaining. It’s a pointless, shitty production that only barely scratches the surface on the history of vampire cinema and would rather showcase Uwe Boll and Stephen Sommers rambling about their atrocious movies.

Rating: 3.5/10
Pairs well with: sniffing hobo farts.

 

TV Review: American Gods (2017- )

Original Run: April 30th, 2017 – current
Created by: Bryan Fuller, Michael Green
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: American Gods by Neil Gaiman
Music by: Brian Reitzell
Cast: Ian McShane, Ricky Whittle, Emily Browning, Crispin Glover, Bruce Langley, Yetide Badaki, Pablo Schreiber, Gillian Anderson, Cloris Leachman, Peter Stormare, Orlando Jones, Dane Cook, Kristin Chenoweth, Corbin Bernsen, Beth Grant

Living Dead Guy, J.A. Green Construction Corp., The Blank Corporation, FremantleMedia North America, Starz, 8 Episodes (so far), 52-63 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I’ve been a subscriber of Starz for a bit now but I didn’t watch this as it was on. I’m a bigger fan of waiting for something to be over and then binging out on it for a few days.

But how could I not like this show? It has Ian McShane, a guy I have absolutely loved since Deadwood. It also features Crispin Glover, a man who has mesmerized me since I first discovered him in Back to the Future and then further enchanted me as I followed his career as it evolved well beyond the iconic George McFly. Plus, throw in Emily Browning and Gillian Anderson and you’ve certainly got my attention.

This show is also based on a novel by Neil Gaiman, who from a creative standpoint, never really disappoints.

It takes awhile to figure out what this show is and where it is going. I went into with no knowledge of the book, other than it being about gods. Essentially, Ian McShane plays an Old God and he is being challenged by the New Gods, who are trying to take over the world. McShane’s character hires Ricky Whittle’s character to be his driver and bodyguard. You don’t actually find out who McShane is until the end of the final episode of season one.

There are other characters and gods sprinkled into the show and they all have really interesting stories and plot threads. It is obvious that everything is connected but we don’t get to see how it all comes together by the end of the first season. Being only eight episodes, the first season is more of a setup than anything else. Luckily, there is a second season already in production.

It is hard to review the show, as it is very short and kind of just exists as a door into a much larger universe. So far, I really like what I see and this has a lot of potential to grow into something extraordinary.

The acting, directing, cinematography, music and tone are all great. The way the stories weave together is also well handled. If the quality maintains, as the universe broadens, those of us who watch this show are in for a real treat.

Plus, Crispin Glover and Gillian Anderson, as far as we know, are the villains.

I eagerly anticipate what’s to come when the show returns.

Rating: 7.75/10

TV Review: Ash vs. Evil Dead (2015- )

Original Run: October 31st, 2015 – current
Created by: Sam Raimi
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: The Evil Dead film series by Sam Raimi
Music by: Joseph LoDuca
Cast: Bruce Campbell, Ray Santiago, Dana DeLorenzo, Lucy Lawless

Renaissance Pictures, Starz, 20 Episodes (so far), 25-41 Minutes (per episode)

ash-vs-evil-deadReview:

The Evil Dead film series is one of the greatest things to come out of the awesome 80s. It gave us a great universe full of deadites, demons, rapist trees and Dark Age shenanigans. For years, fans wanted a fourth film. What we eventually got, is much better.

I was skeptical about Ash vs Evil Dead but I was still really optimistic. I’ve never really disliked Bruce Campbell in anything and Sam Raimi, the series’ creator and director, was returning for the pilot and was heavily involved in the show. Point blank: this show is fucking incredible!

As much as I like the film series, the television program takes a very disjointed tale and makes it a lot more coherent. Ash vs Evil Dead seems to take most of its story from the second film, which is regarded by most to be the best. It also acknowledges things from the first movie but it is more closely attached to Evil Dead 2.

The show follows a good plot thread that works better in this episodic format. By the time you get to the last three episodes of season one, those actually feel like a fourth movie. The quality is there, the dread is there and the evil cabin in the woods just feels right.

The cast is great. Pablo makes a perfect Robin to Ash’s Batman. I guess that makes Kelly, Batgirl. The addition of Lucy Lawless as Ruby makes the cast a perfect storm of contrasting personalities. The cast makes this show work and the new characters make Ash better and more dynamic. Plus, with the talent that all these actors bring to the table, the show isn’t completely on Campbell’s shoulders.

The score to the series is also well done. Joseph LoDuca, who scored the original films, brings back his familiar sounds but with decades of experience that he didn’t have in 1981.

If you love The Evil DeadEvil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness, there is no reason why you shouldn’t love Ash vs Evil Dead. It is a better sequel than a film could have been. Plus, it just feels more meaningful and it could go on for awhile. It will be interesting to see where this show can go, as season two already widened the mythos quite a bit.

Rating: 9/10