True Blood

July 1, 2014

Simply TV: The Leftovers

AGAIN

The Leftovers – Again

Whenever there is a new show premiering on HBO it always seems to be an event. One, their marketing team could make a show about a misplaced sponge seem interesting and the fact that TV has pretty much overtaken film as the medium of choice for A-list actors, writers, and directors says a lot. Two, HBO gives no f*cks when it comes to outlandish ideas and taking risks that no other network does, outside of FX perhaps. Three, and most importantly, HBO has two series’ ending this year, “True Blood” is mercifully coming to an end after six seasons, and surprisingly, “Boardwalk Empire” is ending after only five seasons, the latest being one of the strongest seasons to date. Bottom line, HBO needs some new programming that is going to stick outside of “Thrones” and they just might have it with “The Leftovers,” again another series that is a huge risk, but can pay huge dividends.

What we know about “Leftovers” after the first episode is that on October 14th, 2% of the Earth’s population suddenly disappeared. The series seems like it will take place primarily in Mapleton, USA, and follow the town’s police chief, played by Justin Theroux, and features antagonists like the “GRE” a chain-smoking cult which doesn’t speak, and Wayne, a mysterious man who people come from all over country to seeks his guidance. There are also wild dogs, a cool phone app on the iPhone, and high schoolers using the “c-word.”

Created by Damon Lindelof, of “Lost” and “Prometheus” fame, or infamy, depending on how you look at it, and Tom Perrotta, who wrote the novel in which the show is based, leave a lot of questions on the table in the series pilot, but any good show will do that. If you are looking for immediate closure on plot lines that are just opened after one episode, than this show isn’t the one for you. Plenty of interesting characters are introduced, and just as it was done in “Lost” we catch brief glimpses of flashbacks when characters are introduced. There is also a certain “Twin Peaks” creepiness to the town of Mapleton. Even with it’s idyllic nature, there seems to be a dark underbelly that is being hidden by the officials in charge.

While some people give Lindelof a bad rap, I’ve never had a real issue with him. Yes, I think he can bite off a bit more than he chew as seen with “Prometheus” and “Cowboys and Aliens” but that isn’t to say that the guys doesn’t have a vision. As frustrating as “Lost” might have been for millions, that didn’t stop those millions from seeing the entire show through. With Perrotta as a co-writer on the show, and helping Lindelof with the showrunning duties, I believe that “Leftovers” can be an interesting watch, as long as you’re willing to commit yourself to the show.

Bottom line, I think there is a lot to like about “Leftovers.” I enjoyed the performances for the most part, sure, there is some overacting, namely by Theroux, and Liv Tyler isn’t exactly showcasing her “range,” but I think Amy Brennaman is going to be one to watch along with Christopher Eccelston, who I think is criminally underrated and I’m surprised he hasn’t found more work in Hollywood. As long as HBO is willing to see this series through (I see maybe 2-3 seasons tops to finish the narrative that Lindelof might have in mind) I believe both “Leftovers” and a little show called “True Detective” will be able to carry HBO through some thin times that I see in 2015.

Fun Fact: A study in 2012 reported that Americans throw away nearly $165 Billion in leftovers, annually.

October 27, 2013

Simplistic TV: Dracula: Premiere Episode

ORDINARY

Hey!  You know what the entertainment world needs more of?  Vampires!!!  I’m sorry.  My sarcasm is turned up to eleven because I’m a little jaded.  This will probably sound like an old man boring his grandchildren about the “Good Old Days”, but I truly long for the days when vampires were frightening, bloodthirsty monsters.  The days when they were wolves in sheep’s clothing, and that clothing wasn’t True Religion jeans or Tom Ford suits.  The days they plucked at the entrails of their victims, not their own body hair.  The days of Blade, Bram Stoker, and Buffy The Vampire Slayer.  I know I’m not covering any new ground here.  No one can argue that over the past decade, Hollywood’s use of vampires has…well…sucked.  Oh, there are some outliers.  However, for every Let The Right One In, there’s a fifth sequel to Twilight.  For every Angel, there’s a Vampire Diaries.   Even True Blood has steadily declined into nothing more than an oversexed softcore porn film set at a Louisiana college frat’s Halloween party.  (Seriously, I’m more afraid of the city of Compton than Bill Compton.)  Now NBC, with all the timing of a Jay Leno punchline, tries to pick the bones of this dead genre with a show about the king of all vampires.  A show about Dracula.

Dracula comes to us from Cole Haddon and HBO’s Carnivale creator Daniel Knauf.  The show centers around Dracula, going by the name Alexander Grayson, as he hunts down the members of an evil Illuminati-esque organization in 19th Century England.  That concept might sound interesting on paper.  However, when Dracula explains his reasons why, something feels a bit strange.  I mean, he is a vampire after all.  It works when a Hannibal Lecter punishes people he finds disgusting, but here it’s like watching Freddy Krueger take out members of Halliburton.  I know it’s an attempt to place Dracula in the sympathetic protagonist role.  Though, after watching the first episode, I’m not sure if it totally works.  No matter how evil of an organization it is, no matter what they did to Dracula (I won’t spoil it), do you really think he’d have any difficulty taking them down in about eight seconds?  Do you really think we as an audience can look at them in a light harsher than that of a demonic creature that randomly slaughters innocent people?  Hypocrisy aside, I hope Knauf and Haddon don’t end up neutering the character in an attempt to make us like him.  We like him because he’s a wicked, deadly, unscrupulous creature of the night, not some mopey introvert. 

There are some positives I took away from the premiere.  First, Dracula doesn’t sparkle in the sunlight, he burns.  Thankfully, most of the traditional vampire motifs are back at play here.  Secondly, it is pretty graphic for a show on NBC.  The limitations broadcast television presents hasn’t seemed to hinder the bloodshed.  Third, the show looks very expensive.  Making a show a period piece tends to shoot the budget up a few million dollars.  That’s something networks usually shy away from or alter into modern day re-imaginings.  (See Elementary & Sherlock)  NBC says that Dracula will be a limited series for now, which may account for the liberal use of elaborate costumes, sets and locations. 

In regards to performances on Dracula , this show is totally a John Rhys Meyers vehicle.  I think he’s a solid actor and I’m happy to see him in something for mass American audiences.  His run on The Tudors and a brief role in Mission Impossible 3 had him poised to be a big star at one point.  (We’re not gonna talk about From Paris With Love)  As Dracula, Rhys Meyers is good.  He has the charm, the air of mystery and brings the appropriate…um…bite when the character needs it.  Sadly, everyone else in the cast stands out as well as wooden furniture in a log cabin.  The closest you get to a pulse is Nonso Anozie as Renfield and Victoria Smurfit as Lady Jayne Wetherby.  They appear to be having fun with their parts and relish every bit of the setting.  No one else manages to grab your attention.  Even Thomas Kretschmann’s Van Helsing feels ORDINARY and boring.  To be completely fair, Francis Ford Coppola did have in Bram Stoker’s Dracula a British speaking Keanu Reeves and a supposedly sultry Winona Ryder.  So, glass houses and all that.  But the gulf between fun acting to forgettable acting wasn’t as large as it is on this show.

As a whole, Dracula does try and put some of the teeth back into the vampire genre.  However, it doesn’t really grab you as much as it should.  A television show focusing on the origins of the most famous monster ever should feel like more of an epic experience.  This show only winds up feeling kind of ORDINARY.  With its expensive budget and its Friday night time slot of death, I fear Dracula is not long for this world.  Bring your garlic…and your crosses…and your holy water…and your overly elaborate staking methods…watch it…then tell me I’m wrong. 

August 31, 2013

The Simplistic Reviews Podcast: August Edition

Hello boils and ghouls.  Okay, this isn’t the Cryptkeeper, and it’s nearly three months away from Halloween, but I couldn’t help myself.  But what I can offer you is The Simplistic Reviews Podcast for the month of August (and some of June and July, we had a lot to catch up on in this edition).

After an extended hiatus the boys are back (of course this is Matt speaking in the 3rd person) and maybe not better then ever, but at least their adequate.  This month they jump into the “Ben Affleck as Batman” debate head first, share their shame in everyone’s favorite segment, “Simply Ashamed,” talk some “Breaking Bad,” celebrate the filmography of Sinbad, and campaign for the best film coming this Fall.

Be sure to check the show notes below for more fun and hijinks.

Show Notes:

What Makes Breaking Bad so good?
SlaughterFilm
Cinema and Suds
Fall Movie Preview

FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY.

Click HERE to listen to podcast

Check us out on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest

March 29, 2013

The Simplistic Reviews March Madness Bracket of Good and Evil Round Two Results: TV BAD

JOFFREY BARATHEON (1) 
CERSEI LANNISTER (8) WINNER

The only lady that could open hand slap the king and get away with it was Cersei Lannister.  Killing him isn’t that far a step.  And seeing as she already has one king on her kill resume, it would be easy for her to kill another.   Sadly, its less depraved killing Joffrey than explaining the circumstances of how he was conceived.  (SHIVER)

BEN LINUS (2) WINNER
ANGELUS (7)

People underestimate Ben Linus at their own peril.  He’s stared into the eyes of the smoke monster and lived.  A vampire is small potatoes to this master manipulator.  

RUSSELL EDGINGTON (3) 
TRINITY KILLER (6) WINNER

Much props for Edgington reminding us how an ACTUAL vampire is supposed to act. (I’M LOOKING AT YOU TWILIGHT).  However, serial killers, unlike vampires, can hide in plain sight.  No one sees them coming.

BOYD CROWDER (5) WINNER
NINA MYERS (4)
In the battle of smooth talking snakes in the grass, Boyd Crowder wins hands down.  He’s a man that uses twenty words when three will do.  Sometimes to confuse you.  Sometimes to buy himself time to outwit you.  But always to win.  There isn’t a con you can lay on him that he hasn’t seen, done himself or done better.  
March 26, 2013

The Simplistic Reviews March Madness Bracket of Good and Evil Round One Results: TV BAD

JOFFREY BARATHEON (1) WINNER
ATTI OF THE JULII (16)

Atti gets whatever she want by using the gift god gave her.  Her potent sexuality.  However, brat Baratheon usually doesn’t take kindly to people using sex as a weapon on him.  Just as Tyrion and those badly beaten whores he sent Joff’s way.  Baratheon wins…Atti dies.

BEN LINUS (2) WINNER 
THE GOVERNOR (15)

The Governor is a brutal master manipulator.  But where he has to juggle the wills of men and zombies, Ben Linus has even more on his plate.  Smoke monsters, polar bears, shapeshifting evil beings, time traveling islands,  and enough flashbacks to make a Vietnam vet blush.  On top of the fact that The Governor wasn’t coldhearted enough to let his zombie daughter go.  Linus let his human daughter get her head blown off for his own purposes.  Linus wins and The Governor lost.

RUSSELL EDGINGTON (3) WINNER
GUS FRING (14)

When you get down to brass tacks, Russell Edgington and Gus Fring are both businessmen.  Only one wants to rule the human race and drain the blood of every non-vampire like cattle, and one wants to sell chicken and meth; easy enough to understand.  While both these bloodsuckers are master manipulators, Fring forgot one thing;  Edgington is FU*KING IMMORTAL!  Maybe if that meth was laced with silver nitrate and oak he would have had a chance, but Russell takes his battle easily.

NINA MYERS (4) WINNER
SYLAR (13)

There isn’t a superpower out there that can compete with the evil of the 24’s biggest snake in the grass, Nina Myers.  The thing that makes her so deadly is that you never see her coming.  Jack Bauer didn’t and Sylar wouldn’t either.  Time runs out for the power sucker.

BOYD CROWDER (5) WINNER
ROBERT QUARLES (12)

A sadist versus a slick, smooth talking, hustler from the south.  Robert Quarles has many a trick and pistol up his sleeve.  However, not enough to out wit and out battle the man I like to call The Redneck Joker.  Boyd manages to get his enemies to do his work for him and disarm Robert Quarles quick and simple like.

TRINITY KILLER (6) WINNER
PRESIDENT CHARLES LOGAN (11)

If there is one thing you can count on its this;  never trust a politician, especially a sniveling liar-of-a-president like Chuck Logan.  I mean, this guy killed our first black TV president for crying out loud!  But how does one sniveler defeat another sniveler?  Giving the Secret Service and the CIA a day off, the Commander in Chief doesn’t have a chance against the Trinity Killer.  Using his patented “bludgeon a man to death with a hammer” routine, Trinity wins, and goes off to enjoy a scalding hot shower while crying.

ANGELUS (7) WINNER
SHANE VENDRELL (10)

One of the most dangerous things in this world is a desperate man.  And they don’t get more desperate than Shane Vendrell.  However, desperation is exactly the thing a vampire like Angelus would prey on.  Sad thing is, that family Shane is always trying to protect would be an hors d’oeurve for our favorite vain vamp.   Hand grenade won’t work this time Shane-O.

CERSEI LANNISTER (8) WINNER
STRINGER BELL (9)

Cersei Lannister knows how to manipulate; just as anyone from the Stark family, if you can find one.  Stringer Bell on the other hand, is a sucker.  While West Baltimore is no King’s Landing, Cersei reigns supreme in any domain.
October 8, 2012

31 Nights of Halloween, Trick r Treat

Trick r Treat – Tradition

I know, I’m an anthology whore.  It started when I first got the box set for “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.”  Reading those stories had a profound affect on me and how I saw and understood horror in general.  I still go back to those books every once in a while and re-live the good old days.  What can I say, I love short horror stories, and it works perfectly for the horror genre.  You really don’t see drama or action anthologies, it just fits with horror.   From “Creepshow” to the under appreciated “John Carpenter’s Body Bags” it had been a while since a reputable horror anthology had come out, until “Trick r Treat” was finally released, on DVD in 2009.

I say finally because the film was a wrap in 2007 and it showed up at a few film festivals, however, Warner Bros. had no idea what to do with the movie for two years, kind of like MGM with “The Cabin in the Woods.”  The travesty is that “Trick r Treat”never made it to the theaters, where I think it would have made a killing with audiences. But it did finally see the light of day in 2009 when it was released on DVD, and the cult following started from there. The movie has some credentials; it was directed by Michael Dougherty, who wrote the excellent “X2” and the sub-par “Superman Returns,” was produced by Bryan Singer, and we all know what he’s known for, and stars the likes of Brian Cox, pre-Sookie Anna Paquin, and the underrated Dylan Baker.

“Trick r Trick” is more so the “Pulp Fiction” of horror movies since the stories are interwoven as opposed to the separate stories with a wrap around formula, giving the film some teeth, and making it more thoughtful than your average horror fare.  The basic idea of “Trick r Treat” revolves around Halloween tradition and mythology while introducing the audience to a brand new Halloween mascot “Sam.”  He is the one constant in all the segments and, in my book, the most recognizable horror icon since Freddy Krueger (sorry “Saw” fans, Jigsaw doesn’t really rank up there for me).

The acting is solid, it has great atmosphere and, for my money, should become a Halloween movie tradition right up there with “Halloween” and “Creepshow.”  “Trick r Treat” is tons of fun, without all the filler, and with the right distributor (I’m looking at you Lionsgate) could turn into a yearly (clever) Halloween franchise.

Fun Fact:  “Trick r Treat” is based on a cartoon short created by Dougherty called “Season’s Greetings” from 1996. 

August 26, 2012

Simplistic TV: The Wire, Season Two

The Wire, Season Two – Setup

*Spoilers Ahead*

This is a disclaimer that I should have written in the review of “The Wire,” Season One, but I’ll write it here to preface my Season Two review.  I did not watch “The Wire” on a season to season basis, essentially because I didn’t have HBO at the time and I wasn’t about to shell out $60 bucks for each season on DVD, so I waited for the magic that is HBO GO and I got my kicks that way, (you might say to yourself, “Matt, you dummy, why didn’t you just torrent it or find a pirate site.”  Sorry guys, I actually like paying for my entertainment and have respect for the art so I pay for what I want, HA!).  I digress, this isn’t an ethics course, this is “The Wire” Season Two

Every series needs to have a setup season, or a filler season if you will.  Season Two is just that for “The Wire”.  The seaport of West Baltimore is the primary setting for this season after we see several members of the Barksdale Crew put behind bars at the end of Season One.  While Avon Barksdale, Stringer Bell, and Omar Little are still major players in the grand scheme of things, they take a backseat of sorts to Frank Sobotka,  a stevedore union president trying to walk the line, and Proposition Joe, an East Baltimore drug kingpin with a connection to the mysterious “Greek” trying to sort out a truce with his West Baltimore rivals.

While I wouldn’t call this the strongest season in the series, it’s still vital as it sets up several characters for future seasons, and sets the tone for the remainder of the series.  You get a little deeper into the psyche of McNulty and his “thrist” for justice, the paranoia of Avon Barksdale, the aspirations of Stringer Bell, and how the government works in West Baltimore.

What you’ll notice in this season, and as the series continues, is the “offing” of several characters out of the blue.  It really becomes apparent that the creators of the show really wanted to show to audience that no one is safe in West Baltimore.  While I really don’t appreciate characters that I like coming to grisly ends, the fact that the showrunners have the balls to kill off anyone at any time in a small twisted way, pleases me.

Fun Fact:  After his run as Frank Sobotka, Chris Bauer took a starring role in another HBO show “True Blood” as Detective Andy Bellefleur.

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