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Season 3 has arrived - thanks to the TV show gods for keeping the show alive
First, my shameless disclaimer: I love the show. I personally liked Season 1 the best, but Season 2 was right up there, and many think it surpassed the original. Regardless, I have been chomping at the bit to get to Season 3, and was so thankful to AMC for continuing with this fantastic quality show despite ratings that are not exactly stellar. While I enjoy knowing the "secret" that this is the best show on TV that most friends and coworkers have never heard of, I selfishly want it to get more mass acceptance simply so it will continue.
In an effort to provide a true spoiler-free review, I will keep things generic for this episode. The setting of the location of the show has changed, and introduces a new dynamic to the show. The acting continues to be absolutely top-notch, and all of the characters we know and love continue to evolve. The set pieces and authenticity feel accurate and are consistent with my memories of that time-period. The episode is something of a "slow burn" and lays out many of the moving pieces to the Season 3 story line, and is definitely laying the groundwork to have another fantastic season; it would not surprise me if this one turns out to be the best yet.
For me personally this has to be the best TV show in history that has been almost completely overlooked by the critics. It is smart, it is funny, and it has the character development that makes a show great (just like Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Sopranos ... all have great characters). Good writing and acting are not dead by any means - I can't wait for the remainder of Season 3!
After the Thrones (2016)
A terrible attempt to emulate Talking Dead
I eagerly awaited this show, and was incredibly disappointed to find it is so bad that it is just not watchable. The hosts are so bad it is almost funny; seriously, they were just god awful. It feels like they probably had no more experience than a Youtube channel; I am shocked that HBO let these clowns run such an important show.
If you want to see the right way to do this type of show, watch Chris Hardwick on The Talking Dead. These hosts seemed to not really know the content, and did not have a clue about their audience.
In summary, this show is a complete waste of time, even for die-hard fans.
Fear the Walking Dead (2015)
A review at about the season 2 halfway point - fair to partly cloudy
I love the Walking Dead. I am passionate about the show. Even the "bad" episodes seem superior to almost any other show in hindsight (even the season 6 cliffhanger; the episode was incredibly entertaining, but just didn't pay off like we hoped ... but patience is all that is needed).
I highly enjoyed season 1 of Fear TWD. The new show stood on its own, and really painted a horrifyingly entertaining of the beginnings of the crisis. The acting is good, and characters good (not fantastic, but a solid B+ for season 1). I hoped to see an upward trend in season 2.
Well, season 2 has been a bit of a bust. It started strong, but has seemed to drag into situations that are not entirely believable, and just feel a bit manufactured. Even the locations and scenes all feel like they were either filmed in the exact same location on a desolate Mexican beach (which is probably true), or else heavy CGI is used for scenes where CGI should be completely not necessary. For example, I know that the production uses the old facilities used for making the movie Titanic, and they are proud of the fake boat they built for the set. But the boat doesn't seem real, and it is especially annoying to see a CGI version of the ocean outside of the windows. Seriously, although I know it would have been more difficult, I wish they had just located an old fishing boat (a REAL one), and taken a more basic approach with filming (even shaky hand-held GoPros would be preferable to seeing scenes that look like they are from the latest PS4 game). The show just doesn't feel organic. It is tough for this show because such a high bar has been set by The Walking Dead, but quite frankly, it just isn't operating on the same level. Even the after-show feels a bit forced, almost as if the new show hasn't earned the right to have every episode analyzed in detail.
I will still tune in, and am hoping they make drastic changes for season 3. If I want a cheesy CGI heavy boat drama about the end of the world, I'll stick with The Last Ship. Seriously, they need to turn around the boat, park it, and try something else next season. I know there is lots of hard work going into the show, and I think that the creators and writers will look at season 2 and hopefully change direction; there is potential, they just need to keep trying.
Absolutely bloody exceptional!
Bloodline is an amazing film. Yes, it is a "show," but the writing, pacing, and overall quality feels like an excellent movie (that just happens to need thirteen hours to tell the tale instead of being crammed into two). My wife and I decided to give it a chance, and were immediately hooked on a Friday night. By Sunday evening we had finished the entire first season (no spoilers here, but there is a second season on tap).
The acting is good enough that you forget you are not watching a real family. The awards and nominations that some of the cast members have received have been more than deserved. Honestly, I believe this to be the best drama in recent history and is truly "top shelf" (Breaking Bad and Sopranos quality ... not to my surprise, it turns out the show creator was responsible for a couple of seasons of Sopranos, so know you are getting that level of sophisticated drama).
The show is just gorgeous to watch. It feels (and is) completely organic with one interesting location shot after another. Some scenes feature gorgeous beaches. Other scenes gritty marinas and entirely believable characters to match.
The editing and pacing is incredibly well crafted. The intricate family history is portrayed frequently through flashbacks, but all timed perfectly to build the story and lead the viewer through a harrowing tale that literally had me cringing and on the edge of my seat on multiple occasions.
Thank you to the cast, crew, writers, producers, and Netflix for raising the bar sky-high for scripted dramas and providing such a truly enjoyable viewing experience. A+
A review from an actual former FBI Agent - UPDATED
I am a former FBI Agent; I went through the FBI Academy, and even have written a nonfiction book about my experience ("Eyes Pried Open: Rookie FBI Agent"). I am also a frequent TV watcher, although my tastes definitely gravitate towards the more edgy cable offerings than the big network shows (that quite frankly are usually somewhat "dumbed down" to be appropriate for the masses). Due to my former profession, I felt compelled to watch this show, although I assumed I would be completely disappointed and would find flaws throughout.
Well, the pilot exceeded my expectations. No, the depiction of the Academy is not perfect, but some of the scenes were eerily similar to what I experienced. While most viewers would assume that surely the romances and flings in the show are purely silly fantasy fluff, I can assure you that those types of behaviors did occur at the FBI Academy (infrequently, yes, and with much more average looking people, yes). Funny enough, my biggest gripe was how "nice" the instructors are in the show; I cannot begin to imagine what would have happened if someone was talking on a cell phone at the firing range. FBI Academy instructors in reality are incredibly tough; I still have scars on my knuckles to prove it (but they are some of the best and most dedicated individuals on the planet). But minor gripes aside, the feeling of being back in college in a dorm but with the structure (physically and mentally) of boot camp is what it was really like.
Sure, the storyline is far-fetched, but this is a fictional TV show. It is not the next Homeland; I do not expect it to clean house at the next Emmy Awards show. But for what it is, it is well done, and feels like the show writers at least had enough input to keep the story in line with the "real" side of the FBI.
In summary, this is an admirable effort, especially for a major network; the pilot gets a nice 8 out of 10 from me. If the show goes downhill (which is definitely possible; it seems like one of those shows that might be best as a one-season-only run), I will update my review accordingly. But for now, I will continue to be entertained for an hour each week with the escapism that the show offers.
*** UPDATE ***
It saddens me to have to update the review, but I feel it is my responsibility to do so since I have elected to stop watching the show. Bottom line, it feels like this was written by somebody who is paid by the plot twist, and at some point it cheapens the show to not being watchable. Also, I have to agree with another commenter who felt like the show must be a Shonda Rhimes production (nothing against her, but the show looks and feels much more like Grey's Anatomy than Homeland). I finally had to stop watching because of the gross inaccuracies about the lives of the NATs at the FBI Academy. The show still has entertaining moments, but with so many great shows out there, I am having to pull the plug on this one to make room for others. I suspect that will be the fate of this show; it started strong and has a full season 1 order, but I would be surprised if it made through a 2nd season. But then again, Grey's Anatomy is still on ...
Outstanding finale to the season (hopefully not the series)
Season 2 was a different ride than Season 1; it took me a couple of episodes to change gears from the setting of the first season, but by the time Season 2 wrapped up (with an incredibly powerful finale), I was on the hook cheering on the characters and invested heavily in the characters and this fine drama overall.
It is difficult to review the last episode from two reasons: 1) Hard to talk about what happens without giving away spoilers, and 2) Hard to write about an episode that possibly could not only be the season finale, but the series finale. I don't want to think that these characters I know and love will be gone for good.
So regarding this actual episode, it was one of the strongest if not the strongest of the whole series. You will know more about these characters than ever before; some things resolve as you might expect, other things happen that are entirely unpredictable. The writing is absolutely top notch as is the acting. The director is a Mad Men veteran, and the quality of this episode shines throughout. I felt that the balance was perfect on resolving the story arc of Season 2 and leaving the door open for an excellent Season 3 if that comes to pass.
AMC "bigwigs": As far as predicting whether there will be a Season 3 goes, hopefully you will remember that Breaking Bad's viewer-ship in Season 1 and 2 wasn't great; Season 3 saw a slight bump, Season 4 suddenly doubled, and Season 5 and beyond went ballistic. HACF can and should be a huge critical and commercial success; don't penalize it for being a "summer" show when viewers are down and there are not any powerful lead-in shows to drive viewers. This is a truly valuable and developed property for AMC with huge future potential (and now I realize I have turned into Joe ... well a flabby old uninteresting version ... OK, maybe I'm more of an old version of one of the Mutiny programmers).
Anyway, thanks to the writers, actors, directors, crews, and yes, even the AMC executives for a great show and season finale ... hoping and keeping fingers crossed we'll see Season 3 and beyond!
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Basically a live-action movie of the "Motostorm" Playstation game
This is a well-done action move. End of praise.
I am shocked that this movie is trending at 98% "fresh" on another website that aggregates critic reviews. But I guess that measurement is basically saying that most people agree the movie is "good" (and not "bad"), yet the depth and "how good" the movie is is not reflected in the score.
I'm giving it a solid 6 out of 10; it IS a decent action movie, more "good" than "bad", yet there is little depth to the film. Seriously, this feels like a script that would have been written to fabricate a "story" to fit the Playstation 3 game "Motostorm", which is essentially a bunch of crazy vehicles racing in a post-apocalyptic desert location. Well, that is basically the plot of Mad Max. The acting IS good, but don't expect the best movie ever; this is not a Chris Nolan style action movie, folks.
By the way, I AM old and a fan of all of the original films (even Thunderdome); this one is a fine reboot, but is so over-the-top I would rank it slightly behind the original series since the action sequences are pretty much unbelievable (although I did appreciate that many of the sequences were true live-action and not 100% CGI, although there is some obvious CGI going on plenty of times).
Recommended if you want a decent non-stop action movie without much plot.
The Mosquito Coast (1986)
In hindsight (as of April 2015), one of the best films of the '80s
I am a "child" of the 80s, and loved the big blockbusters (and at the top of that list, Star Wars and Indiana Jones). Harrison Ford was and still is an idol of mine.
When I first saw Mosquito Coast on video in the late 80's, my expectations were of a grand adventure in the tradition of Indiana Jones. I just rewatched the trailer for the film, and the narrator literally mentions Indiana Jones and says that this is "Ford's biggest adventure yet." The trailer is almost 100% composed of explosions, which again completely sets the wrong expectations. So when I saw it as a young teenager, I was thoroughly disappointed at the lack of action. There was just too much pesky dialog and not enough "good parts." Not enough explosions, by golly! Well, almost 30 years later, the film holds up incredibly well, and I find it infinitely more enjoyable than that first viewing. In my mind I put it in a category of "Ford's boring movie", but now I see it as one of his finest acting performances (possibly his best), and the story and production of the film has an artistic quality that was completely unappreciated by kids in the 80s, and even critics in the 80s (Roger Ebert gave it a thumbs down for being too boring).
If this movie was released today, I would not be surprised to find it on the Best Picture nomination list, and Ford up for best actor (and River Phoenix for supporting actor). The film is just incredible. The underlying storyline about consumerism is as relevant today as ever. The characters are unpredictable, yet you can identify with them. The location shooting adds a dimension and authenticity to the film that just cannot be replaced by filming on a Hollywood studio backlot.
In summary, I highly recommend this film and plan on adding it to my very limited personal collection of treasured movies (right next to Indiana Jones!).
The Interview (2014)
A good old fashion "eff yew" to North Korea
This movie is exactly what I expected when I first saw the trailer a couple of months ago. In short, it is a couple of hours packed with completely outrageous and inappropriate humor, Rogen and Franco style.
And yes, the very best part about it is that it is completely American. I will be buying the DVD (heck, I'll even spring for the BluRay) to go alongside my Team America: World Police DVD.
I watched the Youtube version, and the technical quality was excellent. Thank you to Sony for making the release of this movie possible. And North Korea, I am sure Sony thanks you for giving this movie 100 times more publicity than if you had done nothing to prevent the release of the film.
28 Weeks Later (2007)
Watched it again 7 years later, and holds up great - better than the first time
I'm a big Walking Dead fan. The show of course didn't exist when 28 Days Later or 28 Weeks Later came out.
I loved 28 Days Later so much that I bought the film, and dust it off every couple of years for a viewing.
But when I saw 28 Weeks Later at the theater, I remember being disappointed. It was a far cry from the original, and for some reason I was just turned off by it. Time has passed, and realizing that I had completely forgotten the plot, I recently decided to give it a second viewing.
Wow. This film gets intense immediately; truly gripping from the start. The zombies are much more terrifying than what you find in The Walking Dead. The characters are decent; not as strong as the first film, but good enough that the film is absolutely entertaining and fun throughout.
SPOILER (minor one) - the only scene that I dislike (and remember hating when I originally saw the film) was the scene where the helicopter flies so low that the zombies are "mowed down." I know this is a crazy zombie movie, but any sense of reality (or at least that long-shot "this could happen") went out the window for those few seconds, bringing the film from a 10 to a 9 (on my "horror movie" scale).
In summary, if you are looking for a fun zombie flick, give this one a shot; even if you have seen it, it might be worth a second watching.