Reviews written by registered user
JasonDanielBaker

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372 reviews in total 
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100 out of 124 people found the following review useful:
Only The Greatest Night-Time Soap Opera Ever Made!, 3 April 2015

Welcome to Rayburn House - a quaint family inn situated in an idyllic part of the Florida Keys. It is the perfect place to forget troubles if you're there on vacation. But it is a near constant reminder of tragedies that have plagued the family who own and operate the resort.

The place in the sun the Rayburns enjoy is one they have carved out through hard work and determination guided by the vision of their folksy yet menacing ex-sailor/ex-ranch-hand patriarch Robert Rayburn (Sam Shephard) and his adoring yet industrious wife Sally (Sissy Spacek).

Though seemingly every tropical acre evokes painful memories they have put far too much in to consider leaving. Life there is just that much more sweet than bitter. The very thought of losing it makes them so defensive it scares them.

Their dutiful children - John the cop (Kyle Chandler), Megan the lawyer (Linda Cardellini), and Kevin the boat captain (Norbert Leo Butz) each maintain their own strong presences in the community whilst helping run the inn in various capacities as needed. John and his own wife (Jacinda Barrett) and children live in one of the bungalows the inn used to rent out.

The periodic return of the troubled eldest son Danny (Ben Mendelsohn) elicits feelings of anger and guilt for all of them. Often an embarrassment, hard-living low-level criminal Danny is their chief tormentor yet also the victim of past family excesses. His cringe-inducing antics are continuously forgiven because they know they own the biggest stake in why he is the way he is.

All the men in this family, as it turns out, have criminally violent tempers. All, including the women, tend to like their alcohol a little too much and do illegal drugs and have sex in inappropriate places. Danny will pretty much take a leak anywhere. If anything this is a soap opera family people might look down on. Their tendencies are THAT redneck.

This is a more realistic take on the genre of night-time soap opera. Unlike the super wealthy families of other night-time soap operas of the past the Rayburns don't seem that different than the average viewer. Innkeepers who live where they work are obviously more down to earth than oil tycoons or corporate raiders.

Megan is a lawyer who attended Florida State instead of an Ivy League school. Kevin has a boat and a business which repairs boats but he is no yachtsman. Failed restaurateur Danny went to cooking school and is a decent enough cook but he's no world class gourmet even though he acts like one. Their parents aren't educated people and the most romantic night of their marriage was spent in the back of a pick-up truck.

The Rayburn family fortune is presumably substantial but it isn't so much to be beyond comprehension. The less they mention amounts of money the more identifiable they seem. They have been successful because they picked the right location (even if it is in the way of hurricanes) and somehow stayed there long enough to learn the business, establish a reputation and manage their expectations. They live well mostly by living at their own inn.

There is a precariousness to it. These people are also highly sensitive and suspicious. Danny gets the worst of it. They cloak their treatment of him in family but to them he is more like the jittery member of their criminal gang that they are afraid will talk. They watch everything he says and does looking for signs of betrayal of their secrets.

The rivalries within families about the direction of their legacy play out in a more compelling way in a more believable setting on this show. But where the narrative really takes it a step further is in capturing those private moments we all have with family making it seem that much more common to the experiences of audiences. That recognition elicits real emotional attachment.

Danny bonds with each of his siblings, his mom and his young niece in ways that suggest this family has hope. But the tension beneath the surface bubbles up every once in a while particularly when something happens that reminds them of past friction. The normalcy of it has a disquieting effect when juxtaposed with ruthless criminality.

This is a story that with universal themes and timeless appeal. It could be set in Australia. It could be set in South America or the Mediterranean etc. It could even be set in a different age up to a hundred years in the past if not more. That is how good the writers were in finding that commonality.

The opening montage with its time-lapsed view of the beach during a thunder storm is coupled with suitably haunting theme music beginning each episode with dark mysticism. It is perfect for the intricate rhythm of each teleplay.

Bloodline is nothing less than exceptional viewing worthy of multiple Emmys particularly for writing and for the acting portrayals delivered by the entire brilliant cast. A show this subtle, nuanced and thoroughly appealing could only be on cable or Netflix.

51 out of 68 people found the following review useful:
A Really Great Show In Every Sense, 6 February 2013

This show features Steven Pasquale in a dual role as altruistic neurosurgeon Jason and his rough-edged, womanizing criminal alter ego Ian. Pasquale brilliantly, fearlessly portrays both characters showing shocking differences between the two of them even though they look exactly the same. One look at Ian and the viewer knows he is someone different.

Is Jason's eagerness to repress Ian well-founded prejudice based upon a large critical mass of evidence suggesting that Ian is irredeemably diabolical, brutal and sadistic? Or is Ian just impulsive, primal and drawn to trouble that he can't always get himself out of? The machinations of both personalities of the lead character in attempting to thwart the agenda of the other make for a continuously intriguing point-counterpoint as they fight for control. Ian is unpredictable but Jason has been able to find ways around that in the past and continually formulates new ones.

Everywhere they take this concept is interesting as both sides of the lead character are well-defined and contrasted with each other. It gives the audience biting commentary on self identity and human nature. Few shows or films I have reviewed offer as sophisticated a take on either. Few shows or films I have reviewed offer as entertaining exploration of a similar theme.

There is also not a single supporting performance on this show which is anything less than exceptional. Alana De La Garza, Phylicia Rashad among others are intensely convincing helping solidify the realism of a very bold premise.

Given that this series is excellent but has horrifically bad ratings I really can say that it is the most underrated show in TV history. Sadly TV audiences en masse prefer that goofy Sherlock Holmes rip-off on CBS or ABC's 'Scandal' in the time-slot.

27 out of 29 people found the following review useful:
Hilarious Send-Up Of the State of Popular Music, 30 July 2015

Denis Leary plays Johnny Rock - a manipulative, egomaniacal, Washed-up, womanizing, drug-addict rock legend who is loathed by other musicians and particularly his former band-mates. He continually attempts to revive his career and vents about the excesses of the music industry that are holding him back.

Formerly the front-man of the Heathens - a much loved late 1980s/early 1990s band Johnny has gradually ended up further back in his career than where he started as the series begins. His ultimate low-point comes when he puts the moves on Gigi (Elizabeth Gillies) a woman young enough to be his daughter who actually turns out to be his daughter.

The hits keep on coming as she coerces him into re-forming the Heathens to serve as her own vehicle to pop stardom. Johnny is still on board to write songs with Flash (John Corbett) the former band-mate who despises him. But Gigi, who turns out to be ten times the singer her father ever was has displaced him as Heathens lead vocalist.

Johnny does his level best to be a father to his long-lost daughter whilst scheming to feed his substance abuse and to regain the momentum his career once had. Diplomacy remains far from his strong suit and as self-appointed arbiter/guardian of rock 'n' roll's legacy he pulls no punches (Like Leary's stand-up act).

A music historian with impeccable accuracy for someone whose mind has been blasted on booze and hard drugs for decades, his scathing criticisms and prescient observations strike with the accuracy of a stealth bomber. The show itself stages epic send-ups of rock star excess right down to the minutiae of the song-writing process which are absolutely side-splitting.

Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll is nothing less than a brilliant satire of the music industry and I speak as a music critic (Uber Rock Magazine in Britain). The opportunities for mining a raunchier/grittier kind of humour that prime-time network TV won't touch make it a perfect sitcom for cable TV.

Denis Leary hasn't lost any of his bite as a writer and this show is a perfect outlet.

"Arrow" (2012)
146 out of 267 people found the following review useful:
The Most Entertaining TV series To Debut In 2012, 13 October 2012

With a decent premise (Though hardly original) and good writing punctuated by witty dialogue this series is of exceptional sophistication. The poor quality of small-screen drama has become mystifyingly evident in recent years. A lot of the action in the pilot was also beautifully choreographed.

I read Green Arrow comics as a kid as well as its tie-in The Black Canary. I recognize the names of many of the characters and can see where they might be going plot-wise in future episodes. But they have revamped the back story with a vision that suggests the one Christopher Nolan took in making the Christian Bale Batman movies and I find it quite agreeable.

The future of the show will obviously hinge on public appetite for scripted episodic TV. The evident affection for lame reality show singing/dancing auditions of homely, talentless twits eager to make fools of themselves remains depressingly high. Hopefully this show will find and keep an audience.

I.T. (2016)
24 out of 30 people found the following review useful:
Another 'New Acquaintance Turned Maniac' Thriller, 23 September 2016

Luxury airline tycoon Mike Regan (Pierce Brosnan) launches an app which is the private jet equivalent of Uber. His multimedia presentation to woo investors is sidetracked by glitches which are quickly fixed by Ed Porter (James Frecheville) - a mysterious recently hired IT guy.

Regan is eager to show his appreciation to this new employee and invites Ed over to his estate and introduces him to his wife (Anna Friel) and daughter. While there Ed fixes the wifi, updates the home security system and even the GPS in Mike's car cementing his status as Mike's favorite IT guy.

Ed, who doesn't pick up on social cues readily if at all, thinks he and Mike are friends and envisions not only regular social visits with the Regans but also romance with Mike's 17 year old daughter. Numerous faux pas by Ed result not only in his being rudely shunned by Mike but by his dismissal from his job.

Ed, who has made a convincing act of normalcy is in fact a heavy drug user with serious mental health issues. He takes the impasse very personally and uses the access he had to Regan's business home to hack in and cause trouble. The angrier Mike gets the more he menaces Ed who responds by making the attacks more severe.

There is nothing special about any aspect of this film. It is a reinterpretation of the 'New Acquaintance Turned Maniac' thriller Hollywood has been doing for decades. It isn't even a good one of those.

The characters never develop into being multidimensional. The story is as predictable and facile as the ending

"Stalker" (2014)
28 out of 45 people found the following review useful:
Informative, Intriguing & A Little Bit Dangerous, 2 October 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

New York Detective Jack Larsen (Dylan McDermott) relocates to Los Angeles and joins a special squad led by icy Detective Beth Davis (Maggie Q) which investigates serious cases of stalking. The two don't exactly hit it off but quickly come to respect each other's expertise in hunting stalkers.

Where the show diverges from a normal police procedural is in exploring personal habits of each protagonist which evoke behaviours of the people they deal with on cases.

Larsen is stalking his ex Amanda (Elisabeth Rohm) and her son which he believes to be his. This is the reason for his transfer from one coast to another. He has followed the woman and her child to Los Angeles but has, for obvious, concealed his true motives to the police department and his new partner Davis.

Davis is less overt with Larsen and with the audience but it seems pretty clear she was the victim of a stalker. Her victimization has had the effect of giving her empathy with victims of such crime whilst also giving her darker impulses the motive to victimize stalkers by means both legal and illegal.

Unlike most network shows we have edgier heroes in this series which make it more like a cable show - audiences of which network TV is struggling to win back. Much of the hyperbole and vitriol directed at the comes in reaction to the violence and the darker aspects of the main characters.

It would be cynical to suggest that allies of opposing TV networks might formulate a campaign to discredit the show on the grounds that the gender of many of the victims could invite accusations of pandering to misogyny.

Cynicism is normal in considering both why some shows are on the air and why some get the criticism they do. The viewer can judge for themselves rather than avoiding programs based solely on the assertions presented by others.

9 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
No Turkeys Were Actually Harmed, 21 August 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Station manager Art Carlson is a kind and generous man who nevertheless couldn't run a lemonade stand properly and had been mismanaging WKRP for years up until he hired new program director Andy Travis. Receptionist Jennifer (This is the episode where we learn she doesn't take dictation or get coffee) redirects important mail to Travis and shields Carlson from phone calls which generally is the way Carlson wants it.

But occasionally the Big Guy gets bored and demands to have some kind of involvement beyond rubber-stamping Travis's decisions. Travis of course is constantly trying to keep Carlson out of the loop. In this episode Travis is challenged again to keep Carlson satisfied with doing nothing significant that might interfere with station affairs. A befuddled Travis tells Carlson "You're the boss! You do boss stuff!" but fails to sufficiently elaborate.

Carlson has caught on and stages a counter rebellion. If the Big Guy isn't handled right when he decides to assert his authority it can result in simply pestering employees which he does here. Travis protests saying that everything is going well. Carlson's response is an ominous "And its going to get even better!".

Carlson then orchestrates what he thinks is a masterstroke of a Thanksgiving promotion i.e. a turkey giveaway at a shopping mall. He doesn't fill Travis in on the details but a Thanksgiving turkey giveaway could hardly be anything complicated. It isn't even original. If the Big Guy wants to handle a promotion once in awhile how bad could it be? Fever fills Venus in on Carlson's disastrous past promotion ideas before they tune in to a live remote broadcast from the mall by Les giving commentary on the event that Carlson says is "going to set the city on its ear".

Les, out there all alone, is the real victim in all of this and we all listen helplessly as he relates the horrific events which follow. His summary of initial events is comically inept as usual but the accuracy becomes almost unbearable for his co-workers listening at the station when he finally diagnoses the fact that Carlson and Tarlek have bombed a shopping mall with live turkeys.

This episode, one of the funniest things ever shown on network TV, gets funnier the second time you see it. Les's blissfully unaware diplomatic conjecture in his narration up until the moment we discover what is going on is more hysterical when you know what is coming.

Travis, who continually tried to manipulate Carlson out of the picture in ways which would have made Machiavelli blush defends his boss as best he can here to the other employees and to an understandably outraged Cincinnati mayor. It is partly his fault but only because he neglected handling Carlson the way we have sometimes seen him do so well.

Mr.Carlson, having emerged from the helicopter covered in turkey feathers exclaims "As God as my witness I thought turkeys could fly". I personally have always had tremendous empathy for Mr.Carlson. Why do turkeys have wings if they can't fly? What we get from the narrative beyond the incredibly funny conclusion is a sense of the family dynamic at work here. The biggest obstacle to Andy's success is Carlson, a guy he likes for an awful lot of reasons none of which have to do with any aspect of radio. But even after an epic fiasco like the turkey bombing which reflects badly on everyone at the station Andy tries to offer his boss heart-warming words of encouragement seeing the man's disappointment.

9 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
The Scum Of The Earth, 18 August 2011

Ever mindful of the need to publicize WKRP's format shift from easy-listening to album rock, program director Andy Travis is sceptical when Mr.Carlson's old concert promoter friend Steve Pievie shows up to talk about a possible cross-promotion. Pievie, a nerdy little man Mr.Carlson's age couldn't possibly know any of the contemporary bands whose music WKRP plays now, could he?

But as luck (good or the other kind) would have it Pievie has an arrangement with a new band out of England called "The Scum Of The Earth" ("Scum" for short) which is causing a stir so significant that any well-informed, hardworking music industry insider, Travis included has heard of them. Pievie, who books dancing bears and a Dixieland band that plays on horseback insists he can get Scum cheap.

Scum's American tour needs a cross-promotion for mid-western dates including Cincinnati, and Travis is game to take it on despite hearing about their reputation for goonery. Travis, an industry professional has met countless bands in his time who project an aloof, playfully mischievous anti-establishment persona as an aspect of showmanship which bears no resemblance to how they really are.

Travis feels lucky but doesn't ponder what the catch might be or the obvious question - why would any popular band be available to work with WKRP (the 16th ranked station in an 18 station market)? "It's gonna be just the thing we've been looking for!" He declares.

What he, and everyone else at the station, except evidently Dr.Johnny Fever, doesn't realize is that Scum really are thugs and are hiding their impudently violent tendencies behind precisely the notion that people will think it is a cynical affectation. Dr.Fever has been around Rock N' Roll long enough to diagnose the difference but here he was not consulted for a second opinion until the show was booked.

Other local radio stations and promoters are quite possibly on to the antics (And probable criminal records) of Scum frontmen Dog, Blood and Nigel via second-hand gossip from seasoned and dependable music industry contacts that a washed up radio veteran like Fever might also have.

When Scum finally arrive in three-piece suits and conservative ties with the deceptively polite and aristocratic demeanour of English gentry, the staff at WKRP heave a sigh of relief not knowing what a mistake they have made. The non-threatening outward appearance these young tune-smiths have adopted is part of their affectation. Quite possibly it is so they can more effectively attack by surprise. More probably they are simply perpetually prepared for an arraignment.

One of the most side-splittingly funny episodes of what may well have been the best sitcom ever made.

In keeping with the general consistency of the character development in the series Travis is determined to stick to the gameplan and make things come out right never losing sight of his goal of turning WKRP into the most popular radio station in town. His eyes remain fixed upon his objective even if he has to do it with a skeleton crew of incompetent and downright flaky employees as well as contingencies of the most comedically unexpected kind like those offered here.

In this, the fourth episode of the series we see him ready to resort to violence if necessary to further his objective. The series would go on to touch upon some very darkly humorous plot lines like airing a commercial for a funeral home with the slogan "Some day you're gonna buy it" or bombing a shopping mall parking lot with live turkeys.

Here we have a band of goons who will attack an audience of hundreds of their fans as well as throw a little old man out of a moving car and shoot heroin in a DJ booth during a break from an interview. This is the caricature of rock bands and the actors (Michael Des Barres, Peter Elbling and Jim Henderson) portraying Scum milk it for all its worth.

Michael Des Barres fronted L.A. band Detective (Their posters and presskit are seen in Andy's office at the beginning) whom we see performing at the end as Scum. There can never be enough footage of Michael Des Barres, an exceptionally charismatic and distinctive rock vocalist, in live performance and here it very much serves the narrative.

Up until they rock out at the end there is nothing that we have seen which suggests Scum are actually a band beyond the expositional dialogue. In fact up until they take the stage they might as well be three impeccably styled aristocrats who got together so they could attack as a group and back up each others denials afterwards, a cohesive unit made more so by the simple fact that each can incriminate the other two or that two can double-team one.

Some compare this episode to This Is Spinal Tap (1983) but there is no real comparison beyond the spoof view of a hard rock band. Spinal Tap were just a bunch of lovably garish and self-absorbed dummies on a voyage of comeuppance. Scum were evil incarnate looking to foment chaos wherever they went causing maximum physical harm to others whilst avoiding criminal prosecution by cultivating plausible deniability.

Each is an excellent comedic avenue to explore, but the two bands are very different as characters and it is a very different kind of humour.

Actor Peter Elbling who portrayed Scum member Blood has claimed that during rehearsals for the show they originally had Scum dressed like a typical punk band but the humour was not going over so they came up with the idea of having them be upper-class thugs in three-piece suits.

This episode also features Fever's on air musings about the so-called "Cincinnati Triangle".

9 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
Comin' Down Faster Miles Above You!, 17 August 2011

A maniacal cult guru named Simon Marcus (Aesop Aquarian - Looks like Meathead from All In The Family here) apprehended by intrepid detectives David Starsky (Paul Michael Glaser) and Ken Hutchinson (David Soul) is finally brought to trial. His multitude of creepy followers rest on the court steps chanting his name.

Non-plussed, the arresting officers/title characters of the show prepare to testify. As far as they know Simon is just some weirdo more dangerous than some of the guys they've busted and less so than several others.

Before the legal proceedings begin Starsky heads for the restroom to freshen up. After several minutes in the courtroom it becomes apparent Starsk is taking longer than usual. Given the intense cop''s general no-nonsense attitude and the gravity of the matter at hand Hutch senses his little buddy is under considerably more difficulty than the usual stuck zipper, heads in to check on him and finds he is gone. His surname is written in blood on the mirror which is never an encouraging sign.

Hutch interrogates Simon demanding to know Starsky's whereabouts and the murderous cult leader is delighted to talk taunting him with riddles but doesn't say anything that Hutch can make sense of at first. The cult members only have one word when Hutch questions them - "Simon" which they repeat over and over in unison as a sign of relentless devotion to a prophet with an inverted cross carved into his forehead who claims to dreams his dreams awake! Starsky's time is running out and unless his generally laid-back partner can come up with coherent answers fast Hutch is very likely to find his friend dead, victim of a ritual murder at the hands of a satanic cult whom he knows have killed before.

This show was never better and this particularly chilling bit of old TV mined a darker vibe that Starsky & Hutch - generally dismissed as banal and vapid, came to master in many of its best episodes. It is tour-de-force sliding from whimsical beginning through an intense and horrific journey back through to lighthearted denouement.

It should not all fit together so neatly but due to clever casting (Anthony James & Frank Doubleday specifically), convincing performances, solid writing and crafty directing (By Glaser himself) it works on every level with the exception of the bush league production value generally to be seen on series TV at the time.

Try telling the cast and crew that what they were doing was making some dumb cop show. Their answer might well be this work, a prime example of solid work by professionals doing their best within the limited confines of a stringent narrative framework.

Hollywood folklore has it that Aesop Aquarian hung out with the Manson family but left before things got dicey. I'm sure he is a perfectly likable chap.

58 out of 108 people found the following review useful:
Razzie Alert - Expendables 3 - Wild Turkey, 4 August 2014

Aging mercenaries portrayed by aging action stars team with younger mercenaries to battle an international arms dealer (Mel Gibson) in a poorly written, badly shot and cut, muddled mess of an action film - the third entry in the series/franchise/action hero seniors tour begun by Sylvester Stallone (already having milked his Rocky & Rambo franchises for remaining crumbs) in 2010 with a decent first entry.

A pirated copy of this third entry was leaked online (by someone who WILL be caught and dealt with) in late July predating the August 15th, 2014 official theatrical release which is why the derision has come so fast and furious in advance. Millions have already downloaded it and spread the word about how bad it is and in particular how bad the younger actors in it are. It is also why box-office receipts won't be very impressive. Plenty have already seen it and told others not to bother.

MMA fighter Ronda Rousey, who portrays Luna - one of the young mercenaries, is sure to be nominated for a Razzie as 'Worst New Star' for her acting. I've seen better acting from Tough Actin' Tinactin. But that will inevitably be part of the draw of the movie. Audiences will want to judge for themselves if her acting is as terrible as they have heard.

Since words can't fully describe (but I'll try) how bad Rousey's performance is they won't be ready for what they see. Her characterization is composed of rolling her eyes, shaking her head and squinting in an insipid characterization given by an irritating, crass and unattractive individual with no previous acting experience.

They should've got Gina Carano if they wanted an MMA star. Gina is way cuter, her MMA comes across better on screen and she is a passable actress.

The gimmick upon which the first two Expendables movies built an audience was this 'family reunion' style casting of old action movie stars. But producers were driven to lock-up a newer audience demographic. Going younger and cheaper whilst bringing in new blood may have seemed like a good plan at first but the adverse results are plain to see.

Mel Gibson is the best aspect of the film. He could always act. But his scandalous, offensive outbursts and history of violence add all the necessary subtext for him to become Hollywood's premier villain and tack 20 more years on to his career if he does it right. This is the perfect role for him and he milks it for all it is worth. The screen comes alive when he is on it which unfortunately isn't for very long.

The remainder of the older action stars in the cast give performances as tired and sad as you might expect. Schwarzenegger inspires more pity than Harrison Ford. Antonio Banderas with his over the top acting is nearly as bad as Rousey. Bruce Willis should count himself lucky he was left out of the mix. Wesley Snipes? Let's not even go there.

Whether it is botox or just aging Stallone looks like a toy action figure left too close to a radiator. Yikes!

Jet Li is among the action stars billed but is barely on screen for 5 minutes.


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