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I'm not one to dismiss a show after the pilot episode unless it's absolutely unwatchable. The pilot of Heartbeat wasn't great. Dr. Panettiere is an amalgamation of different TV doctor tropes, particularly 1 part House, 1 part Mindy(including a handsome British doctor), and 2 parts Grey's Anatomy. In the pilot, we see a flashback to our main character's first day on the job at her hospital, where she disguised herself as a different doctor so she could assist in a surgery because she thought the surgeon was dreamy. In the real world, a doctor committing an act of fraud like that would be in a lot of trouble, especially one just starting her career. But since this is a TV show, the handsome British doctor was impressed by her and happened to be wearing a t-shirt with a picture of her ex-husband, who by the way is a famous rock star. And apparently a famous rock star who has nothing better to do than hang around the house all day cooking for her and taking care of their kids. You know, like a typical rock star does.
Anyway, the show clearly has good medical consultants, because that part of the show was well done. So I decided to give Hearbeat a second chance.
And here's what Heartbeat did:
They started the second episode with our lead character getting a fire truck to fake an emergency so she could follow them and drive her Porsche over the speed limit. And when she gets to the hospital, the administrator that she frequently clashes with decides to overlook the gross misuse of emergency workers because she got to look at hunky firefighters. The plot of the episode was even worse. A pair of middle-aged soul-singing conjoined twins come into the hospital and find out one of them has cancer. Did I mention one of the twins is a lesbian and the other is straight?
Two episodes was enough for me. The show isn't funny enough to be a comedy, but it has a light-hearted attitude that keeps it from being a believable drama. Everything gets wrapped up neatly, and no one really has to deal with consequences from their misbehavior aside from briefly hurt feelings. Add in the ridiculous soap opera touches, and it's just a mess of a show that betrays the solid cast they assembled.
The concept isn't terrible, a few of the jokes are decent, and the acting is all over the place. What is really sad is that this show has no ideas. Every week they just get in ridiculous amount of trouble that any normal person would find a way to avoid, and they've already been repeating themselves halfway through the first season.
For example, in the pilot episode, Cooper and his buddies have their TV stolen. They track it down to a house where some sketchy guys live and try to steal it back, but Cooper gets caught and kidnapped. In exchange for getting Cooper back, they have to give the guys an expensive brand new TV.
A few episodes later, Cooper gets his phone stolen. They track it down to a sorority house where a party is going on. Cooper's brother is in his brand-new SUV and encounters the teenagers who stole the phone. They steal his clothes and set his new SUV on fire.
There are some small differences, but these two episodes are almost exactly the same plot. In fact, if you break it down, almost every episode has a similar story arc. You can expect at some point in every episode they're going to tick off a dangerous person and either end up running for their lives or getting punched in the face. In fact, in the episode that's on right now they just ticked off their landlord and he shot a hole in the ceiling.
Reveals the issues with reality "horror" programming
Hellevator is nothing new. Seven years ago a similar game show called "Estate of Panic" ran for six episodes before it was canceled. It was essentially a horror-themed version of Fear Factor which pitted a small group of strangers against each other in various challenges, such as finding hidden objects in a room that was full of water or searching for cash in a spider-filled room as the ceiling slowly came down. As an added twist, the contestants had to find a way out of the room before time expired or they would be trapped in the room and eliminated from the competition. Estate of Panic worked in a weird sort of way thanks in part to a great performance by Steve Valentine as the creepy host and caretaker of the estate and the fact that the show never took itself too seriously.
So along comes Hellevator, which promises us big things with some of the names attached to it. The series has been billed as being from "the producer of Paranormal Activity" Jason Blum. Unfortunately,it appears that Blum's involvement is limited, as the producers listed on the show are all veterans of the game show realm instead of horror movies.
The show is hosted by the Soska Sisters. Most casual viewers may not know that the Soskas are actually horror movie directors known for See No Evil 2 and American Mary. Sadly, it seems that all the twins have been given to do here is provide some occasional off the cuff commentary (which is mostly flat) and push a few buttons to move the scenes along.
Interviews leading up to the premier had the Soskas saying that Hellevator would allow viewers to see what real people would do when placed in scenarios from horror movies. Again, unfortunately it doesn't live up to this billing. For example, one challenge had a contestant pull fake organs out of mutilated corpses and place them on a scale to try to find the correct weight. Another challenge forced a contestant to try to guess which containers to place color- coded lights into while walking on balance beams. If she stepped off the beams and touched the ground, she received a very light electric shock. The challenges are all timed, and the contestants have to make it back to the elevator before time runs out or they'll be left behind. On their way back, they might have an actor jump out at them from around a corner, similar to what you would find in any run of the mill haunted house at Halloween time.
The major issue here is that most viewers are not going to be the least bit scared while watching this. Some of it is gross, but not scary. We know this is a game show, which means we know nothing bad can really happen to them outside of not winning the money. We can laugh at their reactions to the jump scares like we might have when watching the hidden camera show Scare Tactics, but the appeal there is limited.
I would love to see a game show that really pits contestants against classic horror scenarios. Throw some teens out in the woods in the middle of the night and give them six hours to survive without being caught by a masked killer. Put some people in the middle of a fake town and have them try to survive a horde of zombies. Have some contestants try to avoid being killed by a demon as they look for clues about what it is and how to stop it.
But something like that would require a decent budget, some creativity, and most importantly a lot of effort, so that's why we have the fake guts and funhouse scares of Hellevator instead.
The Maze Runner (2014)
Intriguing concept, but terrible writing and execution
My wife wanted to watch this because she liked the Hunger Games and was hoping this would be at least half as good. I had already heard plenty about the book series and even read a few chapters, so my expectations were much lower. What you get here is a series of action sequences strung together with ridiculous exposition and a back story that is so contrived it makes the Hunger Games sound like historical fiction. Not that it really matters - ultimately the film is just these kids in a maze for 105 minutes with some unexpected and convenient stuff happening in the last 10. Any form of metaphor, theme or meaning within this is basic and shallow at best. Don't go in looking for any kind of relevant social commentary.
And a lot of this could be overlooked if there were at least some interesting characters, but instead we're treated to the usual tropes, who go about their duties with little development or charm. They're convincing at least, but bland as a Dodge Avenger.
Anyway, I know a lot of the 14-25 crowd will disagree with my review, but that's okay. They are who this movie was made for. It's a competently made film with enough action to entertain you for a while, but it's not remarkable or exceptional in any facet.
House of Bad (2013)
A horrible, poorly-done, incredibly stupid movie. To go into everything wrong with this film would take more space than I have here. Don't waste your time.
Oh, and as for all those reviews that gush about this movie, they're pretty blatant. One of the reviewers has only reviewed two movies in 11 years. They're both movies directed by Jim Towns. Another one has only reviewed two movies as well. They're both movies starring Sadie Katz. If you guys want to review your own movies, at least have the guts to post your own name so we can see who you really are. Or how about you put out a film that actually deserves praise instead.
An adult's review
I grew up with a lot of great supernatural shows like Goosebumps, Eerie Indiana, Bone Chillers, Round the Twist, Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, and So Weird.
Unfortunately, it seems like there aren't many good shows for kids today that deal with the supernatural. Most of them are really cheesy shows like My Babysitter's a Vampire, Wizards of Waverly, or this new Nickelodeon show Every Witch Way that are more about high school drama than scares and have really bad writing and acting. Then there were the really campy, groan-inducing shows like "The Troop" that played mostly for laughs.
So imagine my surprise when I ran across an episode of Spooksville and actually enjoyed it. The actors in this show are downright believable. They don't ham it up and overact the way all the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon stars do. The characters for the most part are normal kids dealing with supernatural forces, and they dress and look like real kids. They don't dress like rockers or pop stars. You won't see any neon skinny jeans or designer shoes on this show.
And better yet, the writing is above average. This show doesn't insult your intelligence with thin plots and cheap laughs. There is real character development, a good continuous storyline, and some solid standalone episodes.
I can only hope that we see more shows like Spooksville in the future instead of the schlock that is passing for teen entertainment on Disney and Nickelodeon these days.
A sad reflection of our society
I was at home one day and the cable was out, so I happened across this show. All I can say is that it saddens me to see how many ignorant women are buying into Bethenny Frankel's ideas of how they should live. Seriously people! THIS is the woman you want to turn to for advice? A spoiled, elitist rich housewife who's addicted to plastic surgery? No wonder our society continues to become more and more shallow and empty.
This woman is as vapid as they get. She's a failed actress. She's admitted that she has more than one eating disorder, even though she has also tried to market herself as a fitness guru and nutrition expert. She's giving out relationship advice, even though she hasn't spoken to her own mother in more than 10 years and was already estranged from her father. She markets herself as a lifestyle expert, yet she has admitted that before the Real Housewives show took off she had run herself into the ground and could barely afford to pay her rent.
Frankel once told people on the Real Housewives that they should never exploit their children by bringing them into the show. Then she left the show and got a reality show that was all about her AND HER KIDS! She criticized co-stars for their naked pictures, but then it was revealed she did a nude scene in a movie a few years earlier!
And THIS is the woman that stay-at-home moms and housewives across the country are supposed to be looking up to? I think it's bad enough how many people look to Oprah to make all their life decisions for them, but Frankel is even worse. Learn to think for yourselves, folks. You don't need some fake reality trash who could have easily become the next Paris Hilton to tell you how to live.
Acting saves otherwise weak writing
I'll be honest; if this show was on a major network like ABC on a Monday night, it would be just a little bit more fast paced but otherwise considered a typical TV drama. I think some people are pulled in and lightly brainwashed by the "independent" nature and the slow pace of this series.
The acting is certainly the highlight, but the writing is a horrible mess. Everything in this show is a massive stereotype or cliché, and it seems the writers didn't even do a cursory level of research into escorting before coming up with their scripts. In one scene, Blue texts out that her price is $900. I did my own research (don't get any crazy ideas) into escorting for a college class. An escort making $900 for an hour would have to be a famous porn star, not some part-time nobody soccer mom. In the real world, Blue would be lucky to get $400 an hour and would probably have to travel from city to city to keep the cops off her back.
Some of the scenarios just make me laugh. Blue's boss tells her she has a client in the bar downstairs that she's been seeing for 25 years. "He's a famous actor," she says, without a hint of irony. As if any famous actor would stay with the same wife, let alone a middle-aged prostitute for more than a little while (just ask Charlie Sheen).
Of course, Blue is a woman emotionally damaged by an affair with a much older man when she was a child, and one of her clients turns out to be the man's son who she has not seen in years and who just got out of prison after a five-year term. Talk about coincidences, huh? You just get out of jail and the prostitute you hire is the girl you had a huge crush on and lived next door to as a kid, who was actually boinking your father.
And then there's Blue's son, the extremely intelligent but troubled young kid with antisocial behavior issues who calls his mom by her first name. And her mother, the emotionally distant old cougar who likes to voice chat with her daughter from the bathroom of a nightclub while she's on a date with a black man about 20 years younger than her.
The dialogue is a pretentious mess of ham-fisted preachiness. One of her coworkers worries about men not being interested after she loses her body. Another says that men are parasites who suck all the energy out of women. All of the conversations are stilted and forced.
This show is essentially a daytime soap opera/prime-time network drama, but the casting and the production of it make it seem like something more. It's entertaining at least, but it's hard not to laugh at how ridiculous some of it is.
Bad Ink (2013)
...seen them all.
This is another show where a couple of guys in tank tops and fedoras run a tattoo shop. The "twist" is that these guys specialize in covering up embarrassing tattoos. They go visit potential customers or just walk around asking random people if they have tattoos, and then the people tell them their embarrassing tattoo story before going to the tattoo shop to get it covered up. Then you see the finished product and everyone is happy. The end.
The supposedly unique premise of this show really doesn't do much to separate it from the other 500 tattoo-related shows out there. You're probably better off watching Dave Navarro's show, if tattoos are really that interesting to you.
Ben and Kate (2012)
So what they did here is basically find a way to clone New Girl by replacing Zooey Deschanel with a guy. I'm tired of these shows where the characters are so odd that they become essentially unrealistic, yet somehow we're supposed to love them for their oddness.
On New Girl, Jess is written to be so socially awkward that it goes way too over the top. I mean, she started tap dancing in a 5-star restaurant because something upset her. In the real world that would get you institutionalized or medicated at the least.
Enter Ben, who is well into his 30's and likes to walk around wearing hockey and wrestling masks. When he realizes that his ex-girlfriend (who dumped him TWO YEARS AGO)is getting married, he can't stop himself from shouting even though his niece is in the car, so he just starts shouting gibberish words.
When he plans to crash the wedding, no one talks him out of it and tells him to get a life and move on already. In real life, this guy's friends would demand he get therapy. Instead, his friends band together and help him. And even then, he's so out of touch with reality that he can't even rehearse his speech without screwing it up.
I realize that TV would not be interesting if it was completely realistic all the time, but shows like New Girl and Ben and Kate go way too far in trying to make these characters into screw ups (Ben can't even back up and turn his car around for crying out loud!).