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Looks like a good voyage for History Channel's VIKINGS
The Viking era is an exciting one. I'm glad to see this series because too often of late, we are getting our history from film, not books, so perhaps a new generation can come to know this culture. We are getting a glimpse of a very unique, if savage way of life that helped shape Europe.
The series itself has a wealth of legend to draw from and fill several seasons. The series opens in 793 AD, however, Ragnar's fate is beyond that. Like Spartacus, he is a legendary figure and the writers of this series have a lot to play with in what was Europe's Dark Ages.
So far so good for this series. The first episode, Rites of Passage, is a good introduction. I am hoping that since it is the work of the History Channel that we will get some authenticity in this series and not just entertainment. Like I said, so far, so good.
The Americans (2013)
A star is born...
It is very rare that you have a near perfect episode, especially of a series on commercial television. But FX has done it here with The Americans. It is nearly flawless. Great mind candy for the thinking person, with something to come back to after the first viewing. I credit the success of The Americans to 3 things: Great script, great music, and Matthew Rhys.
The script is adult, no-nonsense storytelling built on an original premise, the Cold War. Those of us who are old enough remember this period, a period of the Russians-are-coming hysteria that was second only to the Civil Rights movement the decade before. An era very under- represented in film and ignored on the small screen, comes to life for a new generation.
Of course this era would be nothing without the music of this time and again, The Americans is flawless. "Harden my Heart" opens the series, and how appropriate. Disguised, and ready to perform sexual acts for information, we first meet the series heroine, Elizabeth Jennings whose heart is truly hardened. Fast forward to a back alley chase and we are introduced to our hero(?) Phillip to the pulsations of "Tusk" by Fleetwood Mac. "Tusk" is appropriate here too. Just think about it.
Must mention these disguises too, which are not your silly, unrealistic mission-impossible disguises. No, the disguises in The Americans are really disguises and surprisingly, with very little disguise. What makes these disguises work for the Jennings is that the Jennings can act. With each disguise is a new personality. Elizabeth does her disguise well but the master of disguise is Phillip.
Phillip, played by Matthew Rhys, is special, or should I say, Matthew Rhys is special as Phillip. Rhys takes the art of disguise to the next stage. He is authentic, nerdy and funny in disguise talking to Martha, reminding you of a young John Ritter. And then as the kick-your-ass, baddest-ass-kicking daddy of them all over a barbecue pit, Rhys is wonderfully dangerous, stellar, and I can't get enough of him.
This series only has to live up to its pilot a little bit. The series has everything: originality, sex, espionage, suspense...did I say originality? And yes, Matthew Rhys who has the role of his life, I daresay, the role he has been waiting for, is the welcomed surprise here. Hat's off to casting. Can't wait to see what they are going to do with this.
Still the Best Series of All Time...but
The most notable aspect of this, the third season of this series, is the absence of Andy Whitfield. Andy's Spartacus grew on me. I was not sure that he was correctly cast when Spartacus first came out. Still in my mind was the memorable portrayal of Spartacus by Kirk Douglas, five decades before. However, with each episode of the first season, Andy Whitfield claimed the role of Spartacus as his own. So it was with much trepidation that I watched this season, not because I doubted there would be the same unparalleled substance, but because I just didn't think anyone could fill Andy Whitfield's shoes.
So far, the verdict remains out on Liam McIntyre's portrayal and therefore replacement of Whitfield. The strong story lines are there. The super-human characters have returned. Rome depicted in all its hedonistic glory continues to dazzle us. Yet so far, something is missing and we know who it is.
What redeems this void is the impeccable dialogue, scenery, action, and acting of this unusual ensemble. The writers of this show have created dialogue that gives the feel Roman conversation must have been. It is almost like tweeting, leaving out unnecessary adjectives and adverbs. The scenery carries you into an atmosphere that you are sure must have been Capua, Pompeii and Rome. Blood is still shed in the most unimaginable ways, validating the cruelty of the era.
When the series started, three seasons ago, I thought that Manu Bennett should have been cast as Spartacus, not Andy Whitfield. Over time, the casting of Bennett as Crixus has proved to be perfect casting. Bennett has turned Crixus into an equal hero with Spartacus, appropriate since the real Crixus and Spartacus shared such similar fates. Crixus, like Spartacus in the first season, developed over episodes to be what we see in this season and the evolution of his character is well done.
The other characters are equally perfectly cast: Doctore, Asher, Ilithyia (especially Ilithyia),Glaber and of course, Lucretia. This ensemble is dazzling. But a special mention must be made of Dustin Clare's portrayal of Gannicus. Gannicus appears as an interim character while the producers of this series struggled with either replacing Andy Whitfield or canceling the show. Dustin Clare's Gannicus deserves recognition for holding this series together by maintaining its high standards during a perilous time. Hopefully, Gannicus will remain in the series and his character will develop as well.
Which brings me back to Liam McIntyre's Spartacus. Although he resembles Andy, that is not enough. Granted, McIntyre task as Andy's replacement is a difficult one. Replacements always are. They either work or they do not. The cohesion of this series is nearly perfect and the imperfection, to date, is that Andy Whitfield is gone. That said, Spartacus,Vengeance is so near perfect that not only can one overlook this unavoidable flaw but since so few series, or movies for that matter, come this close, I'm rating it as excellent with confidence that McIntyre will ultimately make Spartacus his own.
Being Human (2011)
Both Sam's are great but enough of whining Meaghan Rath aka Sally
I reluctantly watched this show since it appeared to be a True Blood mimic. I viewed the first season over a few days. With each episode of the first season I became less and less tolerant. Although there are some good story lines in this series, the Sally Malik's story line is a distraction, like a nail on a chalkboard. I don't know if it is the character or the actress but Sally's "poor me," "look at me," "what about me" is permeating through even the second season. Sally's character evokes little sympathy, unlike Aiden and Josh, whose struggles are compelling.
In a addition to Sam Witwer and Sam Huntington, Mark Pellegrino is compelling as Bishop. All three of these actors have a promising career ahead of them. Giving this series a 5, mostly because of Sally. In short, the 20 something ghost is a good idea but this series would do far better without a Sally, a different Sally or a different ghost.
Difficult beginning due to jargon, accents and pre-existing conditions. But then...
Although the first episode of this series was painful to get through, each episode thereafter gets better and better. After an inaudible beginning "Luck" just might careers and an industry.
As a horse lover and long time fan of Nick Nolte, I wanted to like this show but the first episode was loaded with track jargon, slang, broken English, low quality sound, and heavy accents. There also wasn't much seen of Nolte in the first episode. Fortunately I had the first 3 episodes programmed on the DVR so I had a vested interest in at least watching these recorded episodes. By the third episode I enabled closed caption so that I could follow better. I wish I had not deleted the first episode because I would have re-watched it in closed caption. This first episode is chock-full of information and innuendos, probably why it was so difficult to get through.
This is unfortunate because the series gets better with each episode and I'm sure the lack of clarity in the beginning has meant the series has lost viewers.
Viewers should know, however, that Nolte and Dustin Hoffman are not in this series for nothing. Nolte, whose notorious good looks is now replaced with grey hair and lots of character is a nostalgic owner/trainer brokenhearted over the past with a keen sense of a good race horse. Hoffman starts out stiff and almost out of place, but then his character is out of place due to a series of previous events.
Integrity and love is really what this series is about. The four gamblers, you find, after a few episodes, really love each other. The jockeys love to ride, Nolte loves horses, and Hoffman loves his right hand man. What seems evident is that some day soon, all of these characters will come together in an as yet unknown common experience.
The sound quality of this series is perhaps the only flaw and it's a big flaw. This seems to be common in today's movies and series. You understood every word Bogart said in Casablanca. It is called "projection." Old school directors and actors knew about this. I don't know what happened or why contemporary films ignores the need for people to hear and understand what characters are saying. It's almost as if they think this some type of technique but it isn't and is surely the reason, perhaps the only reason that this show may not get the viewers it deserves. Despite this,I rate this series high which says just how good this series could be.
If you love horses, racing, Nolte, Hoffman or Farina, I highly recommend this series, despite the audio issues which I hope, given a second season, they fix. If you love a good race, which there seems to be one in almost every episode, this series is also for you. "Luck," given the chance, may revive the horse racing industry. It reminds you of just why this sport is the "sport of kings." Hope they will fix the audio, first time I can remember sound being such a "handicap."
The Joneses (2009)
"The Jones" is a near perfect movie, particularly relevant in this age of THINGS!
I highly recommend this movie. I had never heard of Stealth Marketing before and looked it up on the internet while I had the movie on pause. More tangible than subliminals, stealth marketing is just as sinister. This movie manages to nearly perfectly blend this dark topic with humor, social issues, addictions, vanity, stress, and romance. The flaw of this film is that the film doesn't do a good job of convincing you of Duchovny and Moore's relationship. These actors make up for this because they are such delicious eye-candy. Overall, the film makes you think, especially about how we are all like this little community, wherever we are on the economic ladder.
Mulholland Dr. (2001)
Another over-rated David Lynch film!
David Lynch has been successful in confusing art with just plain confusing. There is nothing deep about his films. He has taken a formula (albeit, created by him) and used it over and over again. Misfits, dark settings and the evil disabled people are his signature. He takes this mystery mix and churns out films that we are suppose to "think" about. Well, it is very easy to create dreams and confusing plots and then tell the viewer, "figure it out." I don't want to figure it out, not when you don't give me the clues I need or a sensible script to work with.
Mullholland Drive is a disaster, a terrible movie that seems to be filmed in real time. It takes forever for a character to walk down the stairs, answer a question or do anything. It felt like it took weeks to view this movie. I was actually relieved when it was over and happy to delete it from my DVR. We are left with trying to make sense of this nonsense and some of us actually spend time doing so.
A good movie gives a message and it gives you something to think about and maybe, just maybe, changes you. I resented the manipulation of this film. Lynch, find a truly artistic way to tell a story. All gimmicks aside.
Million Dollar Baby (2004)
A heart wrenching surprise...
Didn't expect to like this movie. It was an unexpected and rare treat, a movie I expected to be like many other "boxing" films. It's still with me, weeks after seeing it.
What makes this film stand above most others is that it could be anyone's story, just interchange the dream, the guilt, or the focus of hindsight. And because its anyone's story, its stellar. Hillary Swank and Clint Eastwood are at there believable best. Morgan Freeman "supports" the story, Swank, and Eastwood with subtle finesse. One significant let-down; what happened to Billie? I thought we deserved to know.
Grabs you where few movies reach. Haunting.
Transporter 2 (2005)
Terrible, terrible, terrible!
I looked forward to this sequel but it is probably the most disappointing sequel I have ever seen. The charm, cohesion, and surprises of the first movie are lacking here. The plot is ridiculous and the villains predictable and boring. Most annoying is the techno-redundant soundtrack of this sequel that is painful to hear and a far, far cry from the original's pulsating score. The music score of the original was a special, near perfect blend of music with action and plot. Also, the French detective, candy for the ears, is wasted here. As for Jason Statham, he's the movies only redemption because his feats are always a treat.