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Outrageous Fortune: Slings and Arrows (2005)
Season 1, Episode 1
6/10
Not exotic but decent fun and even a little inspiring
22 May 2013
When I read a New Zealand series had been remade my curiosity was intrigued. A dramedy about a family of criminals trying to play it straight sounded both entertaining and interesting. Moreover the original is often better than its remakes and in fact I generally disapprove the idea of adaptating foreign productions. Instead let's open our mind and appreciate their unique flavors and educative differences !

A creative title sequence is always an exciting way to dive into a fictional universe. Characters turning into sketches ? Let's get ready for some serious comedy ! In that department the pilot didn't kill me but delivered a few funny scenes. As the production is cheap they're more reminiscent of sitcoms but when it ended my heart was already asking for more. She has what it takes ! It's what you should think of Cheryl West after the energetic and inspiring speech she gave her family. Taking the decision to respect the law when you had always done the opposite wasn't easy and overall Robyn Malcolm's performance was good. I also sensed a feminist vibe after what her husband, Wolfgang West, said. What's next ? That women can't buy drinks ? The character is played by Grant Bowler and I was quite surprised to see him as these days he's Joshua Nolan in Defiance.

As for the other characters they can be seen as ultimate clichés and if I was Shrek I would point out their onions don't have enough layers. The hot blonde with the brain of a bird ? The yin-yang twins ? The smart daughter skipping school ? In an other context I would probably hate them but their respective arcs made Happy TV™ and I enjoyed how they all fueled the main story. Moreover the goofy brother made so many dumb moves that you can only laugh.

Note : This review was first posted on Kritikenstein, my weblog.
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The Sopranos: Pilot (1999)
Season 1, Episode 1
6/10
Decent premiere and promising psychological arc
15 May 2013
Despite its cult status The Godfather is definitely not in my favorites list. I'm just not stimulated by these gangster-driven productions. That's why it took me so long to finally check out The Sopranos. Now that I have seen its pilot despite a few interesting elements I'm convinced that I could have spent the hour doing something more important.

If conventional mob stories bore you to death, move on. The pilot featured everything you can expect from the genre : Murders, explosions… So it's probably entertaining to many people, otherwise the show wouldn't have been so successful, but it lacked the creativity and boldness some premieres have been remembered for. The production is good, it's immersive, but not a single scene wowed me. Only a surprising lighting in an outdoor scene caught my attention. The rest felt like déjà vu and it also applies to the characters.

The story is really about Tony Soprano's struggle as a criminal, husband and father. James Gandolfini's performance was convincing but his part wasn't demanding. However I'm sure he was hired for a reason and that some of the upcoming episodes put him in a whole new light. In fact this first installment also portrayed him as a normal man, the nice neighbor next door. The psychotherapy sessions were specially enlightening to comprehend what's going on behind the curtain and at times it was hilarious. They also served to joint the different sequences and delivered an interesting way to introduce the protagonist. Lorraine Bracco made a decent shrink as Doctor Jennifer Melfi and her dynamic with the patient was quite good actually. The ducks metaphora was thoughtful and well exploited all along the episode. So even if her seduction factor makes her less believable their relationship is by far the most intriguing element.

Beside their arc I was also moved by a discussion Tony had with his daughter in a church about two of their ancestors who had built it. She mocked his words but he explained that they were among a crew and she realized how proud they must have been. It opened the Soprano family history book and revealed a certain potential behind the action and neverending manipulations. Even his wife mentioned something about spirituality so maybe the series deserve a second look.
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8/10
Irresistible and charismatic leads, inspiring and entertaining story, delightful fan service and immersive production (Bonus : versus Smallville)
1 October 2012
While following Smallville I noticed some references to Lois & Clark but more important I couldn't help comparing both shows. When you're a teenage boy resisting to a weekly dose of Clark Kent/Superman and Lois Lane is an impossible mission. It's specially true considering how excellent Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher were in their respective roles. I have tremendous respect for Tom Welling and Erica Durance but this very pilot proves that Cain and Hatcher's chemistry eclipsed theirs. The man couldn't be stronger and the woman is both smart and gorgeous. To sum things up, they're just irresistible as Clark and Lois !

Beside the timeless duo as its title implies the series is also a lot about Superman. It's the key difference with Smallville as even in its finale we don't really see Welling suited up as the Man of Steel. It leads us to his nemesis, Lex Luthor, played by John Shea. He's actually 17 years older than Cain and it's definitely a quality as his maturity makes his character far much more believable. A worthy villain ? Absolutely ! That's probably why I compared his performance to John Glover, Lionel Luthor in Smallville, and not Michael Rosenbaum's one. But their respective stories are entirely different as in this case Clark and Lex are everything but friends. The cliffhanger clearly states what the first season is about.

Flying with Superman is one thing but in my heart I have always been more into the romance between Lois and Clark. In Smallville their relationship is slowly developed when here the pace is way faster. I understand that the writers intention was to seduce the audience but I wish things had been a bit more subtle. Still even if the working girl and new guy in town are clichés I instantly related to them and developing an empathic connection with these two is natural. Clark finds a job way too easily in my opinion but in Smallville it's the contrary. However I prefer struggling characters, inspiring and realistic ones. Otherwise this Kent is not a teen, it's a fully grown up man who's ready to embrace his destiny. Don't get me wrong it's obvious he doesn't know yet where he belongs, as Hercules (1997) almighty protagonist, but he definitely has what it takes to become Superman. And during his journey he can count on his parents, Jonathan and Martha. The performers are so nice and complementary that you can't help smiling when they're on the phone with their son. I don't know how their work compares to the comics but it's slightly sitcomesque, so miles away from John Schneider and Annette O'Toole in Smallville. However in both cases Jonathan incarnates the father figure a superhero needs, with strong moral values and a stimulating wife.

In order to support the talented cast and entertaining story the show is enriched by many other elements. The first of them would be Lane Smith. His performance as Perry White is both energetic and hilarious. He also demonstrates how superior an intergenerational cast is compared to the "all young and pretty" people hired in the last seasons of Smallville. Phil Morris appearances as Martian Manhunter weren't numerous enough and with Schneider and Glover gone the show failed to fully educate its younger audience. An other thing I enjoyed was the production quality. Don't expect an episode aired in 1993 to blow your mind but most sets are well designed and the visual effects are decent in general if you're not too demanding. All in all it's immersive and it's all what matters. Moreover it's not everyday that you can see Superman on TV ! It leads us to Clark Kent's transformation because it's what the pilot is mostly about. I found it awkward and not just because I'm a huge fan of Smallville. I mean how is it possible to forget installments like Identity ? As for the Pretty Woman (1990) sequence it was entertaining but not respectful of the seriousness surrounding the myth. Even the way CK dealt with his glasses was quick and dirty. Why didn't they decide to make them fall as he was taking off for instance ? Something like that. At the opposite I really enjoyed the way the beginning and ending mirrored. Indeed Lois first appearance can only wow if you haven't already seen the pilot. All along the episode there're breadcrumbs to help Clark shape his new identity. Let's also not forget the cult dialogs and scenes. Most of the ones between Lois & Clark are funny, like at his apartment, when the parts involving Lex are darker and smarter. The scene featuring a cobra is quite intense and reveals him as a fearless predator. The diner was in the same vein and served as a pivotal character developer.

To sum things up this pilot has aged well and not just because the two lead performers are exquisite. Cain fueled his character with strength, wit and wisdom. As for Hatcher focusing on her gorgeous body, from head to toe, would be a fatal mistake as her Lois is feminist, cunning and curious. Add humor to these qualities and you get two of the best role models on TV !

Note : This review was first posted on Kritikenstein, my weblog.
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Falling Skies: A More Perfect Union (2012)
Season 2, Episode 10
8/10
Worthy finale built on a rock solid foundation so fragilized by a few slothful and sluggish ideas
22 August 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Ready for the finale ? Season 2 had its ups and downs but overall it had been good so far. That's why I didn't worry at all about this last episode because the show, contrary to the 2nd Mass, clearly knows where it's heading. However it desperately needs warfare and military consultants because watching the Captain talking to Tom on the enemy field was absurd. Stop under estimating the audience intelligence and find more realistic and TV-friendly ways to represent such actions ! What about some simple eye contacts and meaningful hand signs ?

Extraordinary ! It's the first word that popped up in my little big head because somehow the magicians behind the show found a way to push the immersion barrier even further. A group of CG Skitters in the base ? Nice ! One six legged creature interacting with objects in a room while walking then talking through Ben ? Wow ! Skitters running on cylindrical walls and jumping aggressively like giant spiders ? How exciting ! The sets and ambiance were also top notch. I mean the weapon room was well designed and full of sci-fi candies like glowing cocoons, metallic tiles and a strange orange lighting.

Double combo ! When the previous installment was weak in the action department this one focused more on it. However it still managed to deliver an eclectic story. That's probably why it felt longer than forty minutes and in equilibrium even if a few shortcuts tainted the picture. The most annoying one was the teleportation from the base to the cave. I also found the ending way too rushed.

Eye of the Skitter ! Mind gamers have already solved my little puzzle but seriously I almost cried when Red Eye died. He's definitely a character model for other shows because he blurred the lines between the protagonists and antagonists. The efforts made to develop relationships also paid off during the torture scene. I wish I had been Hal when Karen French bugged his mouth but Maggie's reaction seemed believable. Still I'm disappointed that she didn't get the same treatment as Tom and the Captain. Nothing would have made me happier than watching her suffer ! A joke that leads us to Anne's pregnancy. It was inevitable and I almost mentioned it in one of my critics. But what could have been a cliché was deeply empathic as I sincerely care for her and Lourdes, specially after what happened to Jamil. Can you believe that they're still referring to him when he died two episodes ago ? How respectful ! Last but not least Tom will make a great father, what a lucky guy, and his reply to the nurse's question proved again that the series has moral values. Reproduction, so love, is the key when it comes to survival !

Yak ! The writers laziness just makes me sick at times. Matt left all alone with a harnessed girl in Death March. Tom's suspicious return in Shall We Gather at the River. And so on… That's why I couldn't believe that they made the stupid decision, sorry folks, of letting Hal lying in a bed unconscious. Of course he had been bugged ! The scene before the mirror was spooky and I can't wait for him to plot against his own people but such bad decisions are unacceptable. I mean season 3 has to be obliterated from these cons. I have no doubt that the talented individuals behind the show will keep learning from their mistakes and improving but I worry that the attention to details will never meet my expectations. Come on guys, you can do it !

Epic cliffhanger ? My opinion is mixed because in the one hand the new race looks exciting but in the other hand their arrival was questionable and the alien's face wasn't neutral. Don't get me wrong I always enjoy apocalyptic situations specially when stormy dark clouds are featured. The scene reminded me of WarCraft III : Reign of Chaos's opening cinematic, when a violent fight between an orc and a human is interrupted by a rain of mysterious fireballs, and the film Starship Troopers, when the infantry is sent on planets infested by bugs. However the dumb way they all gathered to check out what was going on was painful to watch. That's the 2nd Mass ? A group of survivors supposed to save the world ? I almost wish that the creatures are enemies that will wipe them all out in a single shot. Strike ? We'll see !

Note : This review was first posted on Kritikenstein, my weblog.
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Falling Skies: The Price of Greatness (2012)
Season 2, Episode 9
7/10
Decent guest of the guests, conventional story, educative topics, excellent character development
21 August 2012
Warning: Spoilers
How vicious ! We had to wait nine freaking episodes for Terry O'Quinn guest performance ! I wasn't highly expecting it, I was craving for it ! He blew my mind as John Locke in Lost and his fascinating role all season 6 leaded me to constantly jaw drop and specially when I watched the cult Sundown ! So I'm definitely obsessed with both the actor and character. You can call me Alicia Baker I don't mind. Seriously his role as Arthur was interesting but not as captivating as I hoped it would be. As often I blame the conventional writing as all along I wondered where the sci-fi elements were. An underground base turned into a city with an upcoming election ? Just read George Orwell's Animal Farm. I'm into politics but there were many other exciting and surprising ways to develop the plot. What about a fake society, some sort of hallucination created by a guild of overlords ? It would have at least mirrored the elegant reference to The Matrix when John Pope tasted his succulent meal. From the red apples to the meat everything should have been a fantasy ! Or the aliens could have found a way to control people without harnessing them or at least better hide the devices like in The Puppet Masters ! To sum things up the events they experienced weren't bizarre enough.

Still diverse topics were covered and it can only help us better understand our own world. As for the character development it was excellent. First Tom had a hard choice to make again and as expected he didn't disappoint when Arthur was his mentor. Second the Captain's girl speech was feminism powered and I just love these moments when women shine on TV ! Third, Anne rocks ! She didn't let Doctor Jerk dominate her and quickly set things straight. Last but not least I have received complains that I'm not a Maggie fan but this time I really enjoyed what Hal told her. Let's put your mistakes in the past and move on together. Have my back ! What's the point of punishing yourself ? Now let's just hope she'll die in the finale to make some room for a hot geeky brunette specialized in ninjutsu and juggling !

Note : This review was first posted on Kritikenstein, my weblog.
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Falling Skies: Death March (2012)
Season 2, Episode 8
4/10
Weak military aspects II, awkward character development, weak storytelling and immersion breakers but enigmatic harness and staggering cliffhanger
16 August 2012
Warning: Spoilers
I'm quite fond of pace changes but only when they're properly executed. Overall this episode was weak compared to the others and specially the latest. Focusing on character development was a wise decision considering the 2nd Mass had to travel a long journey before reaching their Babylon. However beside one minor arc I wasn't moved nor shaken by anything we learned.

The first complain I would like to file concerns Matt. The harnessed girl they knocked out made things a little more exciting but sadly she was badly exploited. Again they made the mistake of under estimating our expectations by letting her unwatched. Lazy solutions lead to bad results. Tom's youngest son was allowed to freely communicate with her and basically revealed their plans. The Captain and his men should know better than trusting kids because the ability to carry a gun doesn't make you a soldier ! In fact my prediction was that Anne would examine her harness, to diagnose why it shut down, and elaborate some sort of cure to disconnect the hosts from the invaders neural network. Still covering the relationship between Skitters and infected humans was interesting. The little girl didn't see the creature who took care of her as an evil alien but as a parent. So apparently the harness doesn't turn you into an emotionless zombie. Still her brother creeped me out. Is he some sort of glass cleaner ? I suppose he was kept in the dark to avoid hiring a new actor. But his few B movie-like appearances were more laughable than pathetic so let's just forget them.

As for the other characters my heart oscillates between high and low places. As usual everything Tom & Anne is welcomed but I wouldn't mind if the writers decided to take their feelings to the next level. I mean wouldn't it be epic to turn them into a couple as mythic as Lois & Clark (Superman, Smallville) or Jack Sheppard & Kate Austen (Lost) ? Give us some real, passionate and timeless love ! On the Captain and Maggie sides I'm disappointed by what we saw. The soldier's story was educative as there's a lot to learn from military experiences and leaders. Otherwise until now his role had been anecdotic so I was unable to relate to him. Am I heartless ? Probably because I felt the same way for Maggie. What's next on her list ? Giving birth to a half human half Skitter baby ? The poor girl is only thirty something but she has already endured the worst traumas. Moreover Sarah Carter's acting wasn't convincing enough. The team behind the show, who I sincerely respect, should be wiser and avoid throwing random ideas performers can't handle because forcing the audience emotions isn't the way. And the best example of my theory is Lourdes because we only saw her for a few split seconds but the subtle reference to Jimel, by only showing his toolbox, was heartbreaking !

In general their road trip wasn't dynamic enough and the numerous arcs were unable to fuel it. They should have made them collide like in the film Crash for instance. It would have been so much more captivating ! Moreover the absence of Ben revealed how much his role had contributed to the success of the series so far. Let's hope he'll be back soon and that his arc won't be butchered like some scenes from this installment. One switch from Hal at night and the Captain in bright daylight was brutal ! Add the annoying TNT watermarks and you have way too many immersion breakers. I understand the necessity of advertising other programs but what's the point for a network to slap its viewers when more appropriate methods exist ?

Last but not least I'm always curious about what you guys think of the inevitable cliffhanger, even if I don't mention it. When it was revealed that the destroyed city was actually a fake I instantly pictured a new one built right beneath it. The first references I had in mind were Neon Genesis Evangelion and Robotech : The Macross Saga. I'm sure there're plenty of similar examples but these two have imprinted my mind forever. As for the dreamy berries they reminded of apocalyptic works like Hokuto no Ken as growing vegetables is vital when it comes to survivalism.

Note : This review was first posted on Kritikenstein, my weblog.
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Falling Skies: Molon Labe (2012)
Season 2, Episode 7
9/10
Thrilling from beginning to end ; full of wit, twists and glowing fingers
6 August 2012
Warning: Spoilers
The show continues its astronomical course among sci-fi fans and now I'm convinced it won't stop until the finale. Indeed season 2 has proved that Falling Skies is capable of contenting both hardcore and casual viewers. It still has plenty of questionable elements, already reported in my previous reviews, but they don't ruin the experience. Moreover even if I already suspected it this 7th episode has opened my eyes on something very important. The characters have changed but so has the team behind the series. It's obvious their skills have improved and quickly checking the intergalactic database I've noticed veterans like Greg Beeman (Smallville, Heroes) at the direction and fresh writers who have replaced some people who worked on the first season.

After Ben and Karen's departure at the end of Homecoming I was expecting the story would be split in half in order to also follow the 2nd Mass' side. But it would have slowed down the pace and probably made things less exciting. That's why their early encounter with an overlord, a Mech and Skitters really surprised me. And what a disgusting feast for the eyes to have our favorite parasite back. In the film Starship Troopers we learned that a good bug is a dead bug but apparently in Falling Skies they have the tendency to creep late at night in the woods.

Taking an overlord hostage couldn't have been more thrilling because it was a double-edged decision for the them. In the one hand Tom didn't have much choice and in the other hand they quickly learned that its people would try everything to save it. That's why I welcomed the Captain's anger when he faced the tall creature. By the way the rendering of its visual effects shined even more at night. From its textures to its animation without forgetting its seamless integration to real settings it's absolutely wonderful to watch. And trust me when it comes to computer graphics and filmmaking I can be picky ! So as usual the production was cosmic but as often in the end it was really about the story. And this time its development was even more stellar than its beginning. First covering hard choices was interesting because it allows us to relate Tom's issue to our own. He tried his best to avoid the separation with Ben but as he explained, it was his decision to make. How inspiring, specially for the young audience !

However it's really Tom's confrontation with the overlord that amazed me. Using characters around it as vessels to make it speak is a smart move and the shooting sequence a bold one. Release me ? You're the boss ! I didn't see it coming but my only regret is that such an intelligent being should have predicted Tom's desperate action. I know we're just mere mortals so it's complex to imagine how a superior race would think but I still believe it would be possible. As for Hal and Maggie I'm glad we finally learned why she repelled him. It made sense because she just thought he was still in love with his girlfriend Kate. It leads us to the fascinating dialogs they had as he was conducting her to the agonizing master. It was so captivating and well staged that it actually reminded me of Caprica's The Imperfections of Memory. Karen's speech was related to physics, specially the atomic particles that compose the universe, and organic communication as they're apparently all connected like neurons are in the brain by synapses. It's reminiscent of novels like Orson Scott Card's Speaker for the Dead and Robert Heinlein's work of course.

Last but not least this critic wouldn't be complete without mentioning what happened on Anne's side. Trapping her with Tom's younger son and Lourdes was conventional but it worked really well. Seychelle Gabriel is charming as a young nurse and even if her role is only minor she represents a complementary talent to Moon Bloodgood. As for the son considering what he had to do in order to save them I was slightly disappointed that the writers didn't make a subtle reference to John McClane's cult catchphrases in the Die Hard film series. More seriously last time I mentioned Jamil was one of my favorite characters so I was shocked by his death but also pleased by it because I'm quite fond of unpredictability ! The robotic spiders coming out from his mouth were frightening and reminded me of The Blue Lagoon, when the children discover the old man's corpse. However just one would have been enough because when it comes to the horror genre it's not the number that counts ! Still I'm glad they were outnumbered by them because it served as an excuse to turn Anne into an Angus MacGyver on heels. DIY flamethrowers ? The ultimate weapon of mass entertainment when it comes to a metallic bugs invasion !

Note : This review was first posted on Kritikenstein, my weblog.
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Falling Skies: Homecoming (2012)
Season 2, Episode 6
8/10
Inspiring Tom & Anne, I've joined the 2nd Mass, intense parallel stories, exciting confusion and wowing action but slightly predictable
27 July 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Anne, would you marry me ? The first minutes sounded like a siren song destined to lure the innocent viewer to its doom. But it's Noah Wyle & Moon Bloodgood's lair we're talking about here so there's nothing to fear. Wait, was Red Eye under their bed ? Probably but what matters is that Tom looked like a mess, as he hasn't shaved for months not taken a bath in weeks, when Anne was screaming "Sleeping Beauty doesn't stand a chance against me". Seriously beside their charming personalities I was also quite moved by their discussion about past and present. How their lives used to be, with their respective partners and children. Moreover it was inspiring because I couldn't agree more that surviving is a lot about moving forward despite all the traumatic experiences we have endured. Tom lost his wife for instance but he still has his three sons. As for Anne she represents the future of their "colony" considering the number of people she has already saved.

It leads us to Captain Weaver's mysterious illness. I wasn't surprised his leg got infected by an alien parasite considering his wound already looked disgusting in the past episode. I didn't really worry about his fate because killing him would represent a risk I'm not sure the producers are willing to take. We lost Jimmy a few weeks ago so please give us a break. Yes your devoted servitor is in fact a proud member of the 2nd Mass ! But I'm not ready to tell you my name because it would compromise the future of my extraordinary mission. That's why I did my best to support Tom as he had to take charge and deal with our fuel crisis. And as usual we could count on our jack of all trades, what a great guy, as he was even able to build a machine to boil up our Captain's blood. In my subjective opinion a kiss from Anne would have done the job nicely but it would have made me jealous so let's just welcome our brave leader into the world of the living. This is Falling Skies, not The Walking Dead ! Remember ?

But the highlight of this week was definitely Karen's arrival. When Hal came back from patrol with her in his arms I smelled trouble or "big badaboom" as my muse Leeloo would say. Enduring Maggie's lunatic behavior is already annoying, even if I envy their relationship, so we didn't need an other blonde to lower the total IQ of our group. Just a little joke to welcome John Pope's return ! However this time he wasn't the bad guy but the one who warned us about Karen. Otherwise I saw it coming from miles away considering how viciously she stared at the camera. What was the point of revealing her true nature to the people watching us ? It should have been kept a secret until the last minutes ! Moreover she was locked into a room when "Benalien" can move freely just because he's Tom's son. I also wonder if he has the same abilities than Karen because thanks to the camera I had discreetly placed I was able to witness the surreal moves she executed to knock out Maggie. Remember Trinity in The Matrix ? Not as mind blowing but definitely entertaining ! Last but not least my favorite part was when I heard Ben getting all paranoiac about Ben when he was actually the one under the influence of Karen. Once again someone let negative emotions take over but lucky for him cowgirl Maggie was around and decided to face her illegal doppelganger !

Note : This review was first posted on Kritikenstein, my weblog.
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True Blood: In the Beginning (2012)
Season 5, Episode 7
4/10
Rotten Lilith arc, shred story, Arlene must die but Supersam, exciting werewolves, playcop Jason and empathic Sookie
23 July 2012
Warning: Spoilers
In my review of Hopeless I defined the Authority arc as disastrous but I still hoped that it would improve. Sadly "In the Beginning" wasn't this season "Cold Grey Light of Dawn". Lilith and her followers have reached the bottom of the barrel. Seriously who would be stupid or crazy enough to forgive Russell Edgington ? And the man isn't sane enough to hide the fact that he belongs in an asylum. Of course I understand that the writers intention is to criticize religion and terrorism but this time I couldn't find a single scene to save things. From the ridiculous party in the street to the B movie part featuring an unidentified blood drop turning into a naked woman (Species XIII ?) and a ghost whispering at Eric "Melinda Gordon" Northman. And what the hell happened between "Russell trapped in a silver fishnet" and "Russel in a black suit" ?

Don't get me wrong I don't hate True Blood as much as Hoyt hates Jessica now, even if I didn't really believe what he said. The show still has plenty of potential but sadly I can't take its flaws anymore. Indeed most episodes and specially this one seem like if they had been shred by enraged bats. Seriously I can't comprehend how it's possible to so badly tell a story. The editing is just an abomination and deserves a Razzie award ! The worst of the arcs ? It's probably the one with Arlene and Terry. It's sad because I care for the second and the smoke monster isn't such a bad idea but his wife drives me crazy. I didn't time her scene where she watches videos from her marriage but it was so dead boring that I thought I was hallucinating. What was the point of these precious minutes that felt like hours waiting for an haunted bus that never arrived ? We already knew they were friends and how much they love each other.

All in all it was impossible to enjoy the great supporting arcs and our immersion was constantly broken. Yes the werewolves and shapeshifters couldn't be more exciting and the best is yet to come. Sam sniffing all around and scratching his back on the ground delivered super fine entertainment ! As for Alcide's fight with the brunette it was both well choreographed and sexy. Jason making breakfast for Sookie and their declaration of love as brother and sister was heartbreaking and inspiring. Her fairy crisis is quite interesting and it was clever to use Jessica as a reminder of Jason and Hoyt friendship. And how shocking and cool was it to see him shoot Jessica right in the head ? If only the technique was applied to other characters in order to create a network of connections as captivating as Lost's one ! Instead the story tasted like a rotten milkshake where decent arcs like Lafayette's one are decayed by vicious greed.

For the moment I feel like giving up on the show so this could be my last review. The matter what my decision is I hope you guys enjoyed reading my past critics. As for the fans who will keep on watching True Blood I can only wish them to have as much as fun as I did. Indeed despite my deception I'm not ready to forget the fangtastic adventures of Sookie and her gang ! Ryan "Jason" Kwanten, Kristin "Pam" Bauer van Straten… Thanks for the inspiration, talent and overdose of killing humor !

Note : This review was first posted on Kritikenstein, my weblog.
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6/10
Dumb and annoying ideas saved by a 180° slide
20 July 2012
Warning: Spoilers
First I'll give you three reasons to throw mutant tomatoes from outerspace at your TV screen when Falling Skies is running. Then I'll explain why it still deserves the attention of starving sci-fi fans.

I. Tom's older son rejected by Maggie after he kissed her. Of course she's broken but come on !

II. Mechs, formerly referred as "robots", are idiots. Remember RoboCop's failed Enforcement Droid Series ? Two noisy humans hiding in a car, let's pretend we haven't detected them. We've only been conceived by highly intelligent creatures after all.

III. It's dark outside, let's send a distress signal by switching on the lights of the hospital to make sure the friendly aliens nearby will rescue us.

How is it possible to write and direct such scenes when others are so exciting ? It feels like the heads behind the show don't know how to say… No way ! I mean turning some Skitters, specially the one we thought was an enemy, into resistants like the 2nd Mass is very smart. It actually reminded me that in the premiere Tom implied these six-legged creatures could be soldiers controlled by superior beings. He was right ! As for his discussion with their leader it was quite interesting : Slaves, home planet, overlords… Otherwise that part was flawed by a major mistake because asking Tom's men to leave them alone didn't make sense. I mean how can you expect people to trust you after such a request ? Moreover let's not forget that Tom is still not to be trusted. John Pope, please come back ! At least the shocking massacre he escaped was explained and I'm definitely intrigued by Ben's next move. When will he leave and where ? Tom and Captain Weaver are also growing on me thanks to some moving dialogs about respect and following orders.

Note : This review was first posted on Kritikenstein, my weblog.
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Political Animals: Pilot (2012)
Season 1, Episode 1
7/10
Irresistible leading trio, empathic relationships, feminism-driven story but stereotyped characters and questionable production
19 July 2012
One actress to rule them all, Sigourney Weaver. The more I grow up the more I'm into politics but without her I would probably have ignored the miniseries. Now that I've seen its pilot I won't say that not giving Political Animals a chance would be a foolish mistake because it has some flaws. Otherwise this first installment shined in many departments so in the end it's really about what you expect from a show and which mistakes you're not ready to forgive.

Lady Weaver is really the ultimate acting chameleon. She can become anyone and the characters she has played have become icons and changed the life of millions of people around the globe. Don't worry, she has plenty of scenes respectful of her inspiring talent. From thundering anger to contagious hilarity the palette of emotions she developed would make an interesting painting if you splashed all its dual colors on a canvas. Her character, Elaine Barrish, instantly grew on me because her profile felt realistic enough to make me care about her story. Contemporary and feminist. A valley of intelligence and beauty. Of course it's impossible not to compare her to Hillary Clinton but if you're interested by foreign cultures other names like Ségolène Royal should pop up in your head, and the reason will be obvious once you have seen the pilot.

Around Elaine gravitates plenty of other characters, some are perfect matches when others couldn't be more stereotyped. Among the last we have the gay son, addicted to drugs… The list of clichés is long but he has an excuse, his twin brother. Seriously ? As for a blogger she reminded me too much of Willa from Dirt, played by the gorgeous Alex Breckenridge, so let's hope she's not just one dimensional. However their respective roles are minor so they shouldn't ruin your experience. In fact each time Carla Gugino and Ciarán Hinds enter the stage you instantly forget about what went wrong a second earlier. The first already had my vote because I found her quite convincing in Threshold. Here she's a reporter named Susan Berg and I absolutely loved her dynamic and chemistry with Sigourney. From their complex mind games to well designed costumes most of their scenes are televisual diamonds. Sadly the only one that disappointed me was their last as it featured majestic animals behind bars and I found Elaine's metaphora way too literal. There was definitely room for improvements in order to make it memorable because it's what all great pilots require. Still the truthful moments they share, the one on the plane felt like a self-help session, are what you will remember. As for Hinds, Julius Caesar in Rome, my heart balances between skepticism and subjectivity. In the one hand the character he portrays, Bud Hammond, made the episode more entertaining but in the other hand if it wasn't for Elaine I would have definitely thrown him into the clichés trash. However they made a believable couple and the part featuring the bodyguards was brilliantly staged and delivered exactly what you would expect from a miniseries titled Political Animals.

It leads us to the production quality because it's actually one of the show weakness. Apparently they didn't have the resources, time and budget, to polish all scenes as they would have wanted. Some are cinematographic when others, in the garage or at the zoo, are immersion breakers. Therefore it prevents the viewers from fully diving into their screen for more than an hour. Otherwise despite all these cons the pros should be numerous enough to convince part of the audience to watch all six episodes. I don't know yet if I'll be part of them but I'm sure of two things, Elaine Barrish's destiny intrigues me and Sigourney Weaver is an extraordinary womanimal !

Note : This review was first posted on Kritikenstein, my weblog.
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True Blood: Hopeless (2012)
Season 5, Episode 6
6/10
Disastrous Authority development but Peter Mensah dominates, Alcide + Sookie = LOL² and blossoming secondary arcs
17 July 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Where's the fun ? Where's the horror ? I really hope True Blood will get back right on track or else I'll just give up on it. It's so disappointing that all its great characters and performers aren't supported by a better story. Is the novel this season is adapted from that bad ? The ending was atrocious and not surprising at all considering we all knew Salome was up to something. It's so obvious I don't even need to watch the next episode to be sure of it. I also can't believe how easily Roman got killed when he's leader of the Authority and supposed to be an experienced vampire. The worst part is that nobody in the room moved to help him when most of them are surely against Russell Edgington. Eric looked at Bill. "Sharon Osbourne" opened her mouth. As for the so-called super villain he's just an old vampire played by Denis O'Hare who wouldn't even scare Larry Harvey, his character in American Horror Story.

The only thing I enjoyed about the Authority's arc was Kibwe Akinjide. Peter Mensah, the charismatic and complex Doctore in Spartacus : Blood and Sand, makes one hell of a dark vampire and his scene in the bus with all the silly humans was well staged and insanely gory ! What happened on Alcide and Sookie's (Alcookie, Sookide ?!) side was also quite entertaining. The athletic and tanned Joe Manganiello waking up in her pinky bedroom ? Hilarious ! The contrast between the glamored and angry wolf was in the same vein and proved the excellent chemistry between both performers. His decision to become the new pack master really excited me and it seems he'll have plenty of hot brunettes around him to forget our favorite blonde. It leads us to Sam because I have no doubt that at some point he'll team up again with Alcide. I really enjoyed how he convinced Andy to let him investigate the shooting, by enumerating all his shapeshifter surreal abilities. Still let's hope they won't have the insane idea of crossing the show with Fringe even if it could lead to some very funny stories. Last but not least I have finally understood what's going on with Lafayette and Terry. They're both haunted by demons so their arcs are surely connected and will inevitably collide. And if you think about it even Hoyt has to fight a demon, himself !

Note : This review was first posted on Kritikenstein, my weblog.
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True Blood: Let's Boot and Rally (2012)
Season 5, Episode 5
5/10
How to ruin in 666 steps an episode that could have been one of the best
13 July 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Drive fast, outclass your opponents and crash into a tree like a dumb test dummy right before the finish line. It's how this 5th installment felt because the beginning augured of the most epic episode ever but slowly infection spread : Myriad of arcs, reashed stuff, dated editing…

I'm in love with True Blood ! Let's start with what went right and why the show is irresistible. No harpies and gentlefeeders I'm not talking about Jason and Andy's fantastic butts. How Alcide & Sookie's drunken romance ended was expected but its execution was hilarious. Watching him declare his long time desire for her and the lady throwing up right on his boots was a moment I'm not ready to forget. Things got even better when Bill & Eric, always there when you don't need them, appeared right behind the fairy and the wolf. Next if there's one storytelling element I enjoy it's definitely fantasies, dreams or nightmares. I just can't get enough of these surreal and oneiric incursions so Jason's one was no exception. Ryan Kwanten is by far my favorite actor on the show and his He-Man tee-shirt killed the last breath of zany air I had in my body. As Barney Stinson would say : « Suit up ! ». More seriously his vengeful arc, as he's now convinced that their parents were butchered by vampires, has tremendous potential and considering Tara has now joined the dark side it's even more exciting to imagine what's going to happen next !

True Blood, I hate you ! Hoyt had a few anecdotic scenes so I'm still convinced Jim Parrack's talent is under exploited considering how percussive his few appearances in season 4 were. But this time the most important issue wasn't a secondary story, it was the main one. Even Terry Bellefleur and the ifrit were better. I still don't know how his arc will merge with the others but mixing contemporary warfare and uncommon mythology is quite refreshing. It also reminds me, so there's probably a connection here, that Lafayette's wicked persona has become my guilty pleasure. The desperate way he smashed the religious figurines and their high-pitched voices were reminiscent of cult horrors films like Dolls (1987) and Child's Play of course. Let's hope they will come back and fight him as a demon in some sort of reimagined story of Stephen King's Battleground ! And…

… he was supposed to point out what went wrong. Yes I was but when you have such hypnotic gems in sight how can you look somewhere else ? It leads us, finally, to what ruined my night fever : Sookie and her gang. Shame on me for comparing them to the Scooby Gang in some other review ! Joss Whedon isn't behind True Blood, Sookie is no Buffy, Alyson Hannigan made the sexiest geeky girl and no one can be as dangerous as a Xander armed with a wooden stick ! I can't believe how badly executed and predictable was Sookie and her men's exploration of the hospital. From the fat chicken she was forced to mind read to the creative less mix with other arcs I'm still stunned of such a bad development. It wasn't scary. It was funny. It was just dead boring and the highly awaited discovery of this season's villain completely spoiled by the misplaced music, soporific slow motions and epileptic switches between stories.

To sum things up the mad editor, mummy writer and negligent director deserves to be buried alive with candy canes for only food supplies. Who will be the last (wo)man standing ? You'll know next week and until then, be as cheerfully blondie as Sookie !

Note : This review was first posted on Kritikenstein, my weblog.
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Falling Skies: Young Bloods (2012)
Season 2, Episode 4
7/10
Uneven writing, direction and character development ; immersive production and how to please The Puppet Masters
12 July 2012
Warning: Spoilers
What's wrong with Falling Skies ? It's like if this fourth episode had been written and directed by people having a split personality. In the one hand we had some superb science-fiction and in the other hand ideas not even worthy of a bad family drama.

It all began with some immersive scenes featuring the "walkers" and Skitters we all love in fear. Their HDR rendering impressed me again because the visual effect gurus behind the show aren't afraid of the light ! It's not District 9 but you can only applaud considering it's just TV. Using Tom's young son as a bait was also unexpected and in general I think it's refreshing to witness kids dealing with an alien invasion. Moreover there's always something to learn from these parent-child relationships, specially when Noah Wyle plays the father. I'm also glad they keep covering humanist topics like love, through his flirt with Anne and the younger recruits. Still a real man would have baked a chocolate cake, even if they're resisting against powerful invaders from a distant galaxy. However even if I enjoy emotional moments here some of them are predictable or feel forced. Indeed the worst part was the ending as the Captain's daughter left them when not a single soul, beside John Pope, would be badass enough to take such an unreasonable decision. Survivors, food and water rations, weapons, leaders… Who wouldn't want to stay in a post-apocalyptic world ?

Fortunately the harness room sequences were frightening and reminiscent of the Alien quadrilogy and The Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Its gloomy ambiance wasn't Fincheresque but I absolutely loved the dark red palette and steaming machines. As for the pod-like creatures they were well animated, disgusting and scary enough to chase the weakest viewers into their dreams. Things got even better when a glowing Ben decided to smash the tank. Now we have been introduced to the babies I can't wait to meet the parents !

Note : This review was first posted on Kritikenstein, my weblog.
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Perception: Pilot (2012)
Season 1, Episode 1
7/10
Convincing lead, audience magnet protagonist, fascinating and refreshing neuroscience, reality-bended story but disappointing RLC, episodic format and déjà vu ?
10 July 2012
Rachael Leigh Cook was the only excuse I needed to check out Perception. Indeed its concept sounded just like all these other cop shows trying to bend things with edgy characters and unorthodox experts. However in the end it's not the actress who stole my heart in 1999, the year She's All That was released, but Eric McCormack's performance as Doctor Daniel Pierce. As expected RLC was cute as a button but she didn't convince me at all as a FBI agent. So don't expect her to pull a Dana Scully or anything exciting because sadly her character, Kate Moretti, was written by the book and couldn't be more normal. However I suspect it was intentional because it magnified the Doctor's eccentricity but still it's definitely a lazy solution to design characters. Otherwise the story is really about Daniel, from his life as a teacher and how he deals with his condition. What's reality ? He asks the question to his neuroscience students and then give a quite shaking answer, as fascinating as the Allegory of the Cave. During the episode many other interesting and surprising topics are also covered, from lie human detectors to medicine side effects. Hallucinations are also part of the experience so you're constantly bouncing between realities. Add mind puzzles, special senses with a twisted investigation and you can't help comparing it to Mental or Person of Interest's pilots. It's also possible to associate attributes from the Doctor's profile to Benjamin Harmon from American Horror Story even if Daniel doesn't act like a psycho. Sadly I doubt following his unconventional adventure will make us forget that the series format can only be episodic. Sure his best friend has an undeniable potential and the ending made me very curious about what's coming but I don't have much hope. Therefore I'll give it an other chance and probably move on.

Note : This review was first posted on Kritikenstein, my weblog.
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Falling Skies: Compass (2012)
Season 2, Episode 3
8/10
Hardcore character development, action and mind packed, addictive format and exciting villain
25 June 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Wow ! This was the pivotal episode I had waited for. As a huge fan of science-fiction and everything bizarre I really miss shows like Lost and Smallville. The two-parts premiere was entertaining but not good enough to turn a viewer into a fan. Until now Falling Skies was playing in the lower league.

Last time I hadn't realized that showing Ben teaching a kid how to shot was actually a way to criticize weapons. He's a mutant after all ! So developing this arc and killing Jimmy in the process was quite thrilling. Until it happened I never believed for a second that they would dare get rid of him. My only complain is that they didn't blame Ben for his death when they should be a little suspicious about his whereabouts. Still Tom's fight with John Pope was brutal and proved that he's not the man he used to be. However I didn't interpret his violent behavior as a sign of mutation considering he had just lost one of his sons. Otherwise their realistic side, because they acted like desperate survivors, wasn't matched by a decent attention to details again. I mean how come they didn't check the woman's back ? They spend too much time talking for their own good, making the story over dramatic when it should focus about resisting. That's why Tom's clash with the Captain about fighting versus hiding was welcomed. I also enjoyed that the format didn't feel episodic at all. The writers have a plan and seven episodes to execute it.

Last but not least our friend Skitter was back and apparently he's able to read Ben's mind. It makes one hell of a villain, both cunning and strong ! Does he even know what's going on ? Are their encounters comparable to hypnosis sessions ? To sum things up Compass was captivating from beginning to end and only the annoying TNT watermarks and few questionable behaviors tainted the picture. Moreover now the 2nd Mass has a well defined goal I can't wait to follow their journey because as Ned Stark would say, winter is coming !

Note : This review was first posted on Kritikenstein, my weblog.
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Falling Skies: Shall We Gather at the River (2012)
Season 2, Episode 2
6/10
Unbalanced second part plagued by Captain Stupid and weak military aspects but saved by Ben-alien and darkness
21 June 2012
Shall we ? Why not ! The broken bridge-driven story would have been captivating to follow if it had anything in common with cult films like "The Bridge on the River Kwai" and "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly". Sadly it was flawed by plenty of mistakes and bad ideas. However it also had some redeeming elements and even a few scenes that should appeal to hardcore sci-fiholics.

The very first annoying thing was the dumb way Captain Dan Weaver acted around Tom. What a disappointing reaction to the warning he was given ! Second after what happened to them and specially Ben I'm amazed that the survivors aren't more careful. I mean even if Tom was my twin brother I would have never trusted him when he came back. To sum things up Noah Wyle's character isn't smart, it's just that many others are plain idiots. However what happened to him at some point was both shocking and exciting. It actually reminded me of Fringe's horrific spirit. In the same vein was the creepy part featuring a character walking in the woods at night and using a torchlight. Fox Mulder and Dana Scully are eternal !

This time in the science department we hadn't history but biology. And who better than Margaret to discuss reproduction ? Sarah Carter has done a decent job so far even if her character could use a darker attitude and muscles. Imagine how awesome it would be if they decided to turn her into a Connor ! I'm not asking the actress to train as hard as Linda Hamilton for her charismatic role in Terminator 2 : Judgment Day but for the moment she's just a babe who can hold a gun. It leads us to the lack of strategy and tactics on both sides. Sure the French Resistance was armed but more significant was its intelligence and ruse. In Falling Skies it's already hard to believe that the aliens aren't bullet proof or protected by force shields but the constant firing is dead boring and it gets worst when a kid holds a gun like in Worlds Apart. That's why I wish the writers had more imagination and that the military aspects were more accurate. Fighting an invader isn't just about killing, it's also about surviving even if it implies hiding. How is it possible to ignore stealth when it has become such an important genre in video games for instance ? I also just can't comprehend why the aliens are so slow to catch up with them, like if they were unable to communicate, and why they don't just blast them as they're almost waving their hands on the road in bright daylight.

Why is the show ruined by such things when Ben's arc proved that there're very talented individuals onboard ? So I can't wait to see what they have planned for him because the more he mutates the better for the show. Rambo : First Blood Part II ? Predator ? He's no John Rambo or Dutch and the actor is no Sylvester Stallone or Arnold Schwarzenegger but he's actually the only character I would like to "play". In general everything that blurs the lines between humans and aliens is entertaining. That's why I instantly embraced Tom's mysterious return and I'm glad its development was that surprising. And if it wasn't for John Pope, the bad guy played by Colin Cunningham, both the resistance and show would already be dead to me. Again it reveals how much Falling Skies sits on the fence because we're supposed to hate him when after this episode he has become my official guilty pleasure.

Note : This review was first posted on Kritikenstein, my weblog.
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Falling Skies: Worlds Apart (2012)
Season 2, Episode 1
6/10
Decent premiere served by teasing historical references, immersive special effects, an exciting Tom-driven twisted story and sci-fi candies
20 June 2012
I didn't really enjoy the few season 1 episodes I saw but at least Eight Hours, the finale, intrigued me enough to give Falling Skies an other chance. As expected it was back with its history and soft sci-fi formula but for some reasons I can only admit that Worlds Apart represented a decent entertaining escape. Of course the family drama vibe and unbalanced acting is repelling for hardcore fans of the alien invasion genre but once you accept the show for what it is, a high budget production for a wide audience, then you start to focus on its qualities.

History, history. You tend to repeat yourself my dear history. But learning from our mistakes is part of the evolution process because that's how humanity has both improved… and regressed. That's why it's so vital to remember our past, educate the new generations and of course try at all cost to reproduce the same error over and over. The first minutes are dedicated to remember us how these activities are important. In fact everything related to Tom Mason (Noah Wyle) was good. From the thoughtful dialog he had to the very special room he was in it was what made this first episode a success. Add immersive visual effects, some dark moments and enough aliens to even satisfy a sci-freak like me. In fact the VFX didn't blow my mind but the outdoor sequence in bright daylight featuring many characters was impressive.

As for the storytelling it was well done even if using flashbacks is nothing original. But I prefer such a technique than the sharp cuts we experience on shows like True Blood. In the end it really felt like if the world was revolving around Tom, that the future of mankind depended on him, making him an even greater emotional leader. An other interesting character is Ben as his mutation is exciting to witness. Half human, half alien. And as both sides are developed it's even possible to relate his issues to real ones, like when you struggle to enforce your opinion among people who aren't really open minded.

Still I have one major complain and it's definitely the scene featuring two characters drinking scotch. Alcohol on TV ? When kids and teenagers are probably watching the show with their parents ?! It totally jarred with the rest of the episode and proved that Falling Skies hasn't find its balance yet, nor totally embraced what it's supposed to be. Terra Nova had the same identity crisis and it ruined it. But the rest had potential and once the episode was over I instantly wanted to check out the next one. What's the invaders real agenda ? How many motherships do they have ? The questions raised are numerous and similar to the ones we had while watching films like Independence Day and series like V. Last but not least as I clearly identify with Tom, because I'll star in The Reviewer who Saved the Milky Way, the cliffhanger hooked me and made the second part even more intriguing.

Note : This review was first posted on Kritikenstein, my weblog.
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The Outer Limits: Sandkings (1995)
Season 1, Episode 1
8/10
Captivating first escape in the science-fiction realm
2 June 2012
The distant voice-over, the immersive title sequence with its rotating tunnel and red DNA… Welcome to the pilot of The Outer Limits ! 1995 can only feels like yesterday considering the many occasions a sci-fi fan has to remember The Sandkings. I have to admit that I haven't read George R. R. Martin's novella yet but this first episode proves that TV shows can be as hardcore and fascinating as their dusty old paper counterparts.

The very first seconds thanks to the narrator you understand that it's going to be about the eternal battle between science and religion. What is a human capable of in order to be recognized by its peers ? How far can you drift when your emotions have taken over your reason ? The extraordinary story of Doctor Simon Kress (Beau Bridges) serves to cover these fascinating questions and restrain our desire to become gods. Playing Populous is way safer in my humble opinion ! His introduction as a brilliant scientist is everything but original because the entrance in a military guarded base and identity recognition systems were already déjà vu elements back then. Things really become exciting when Simon's project, studying ground samples with eggs from Mars, takes a major turn. Then what was told in the opening is finally expressed by a pivotal sequence featuring Simon in… his pyjamas ! Using the barn and his outfit as a metaphora for a church and a monk was brilliant even if now I find it a little too literal.

From there Simon's transformation accelerates and his passion becomes an obsession. His relationships with his lovely wife, played by the gorgeous Helen Shaver, his son and his father magnifies the changes within that inevitably overflow and finally alter his physical appearance. Of course it's nothing like Jeff Goldblum's cult metamorphosis in The Fly but the bathroom sequence is definitely disturbing. In general there're also plenty of horrific elements, from the nightmare to some frightening scenes featuring the sand creatures. In fact their unpredictable and aggressive behavior reminded me of Screamers (1995). At some point there was also something yin-yangish about them so it proves the deepness of the writing and that all viewers should find something to satisfy their needs.

As for the production it's nothing stellar but the special effects are good enough. In the visual department we have some believable creatures that quickly move and the animatronics even allowed for some close-ups. Only the CG versions jarred with the rest at times even if the traditional approach wouldn't have been appropriate for some scenes. You have to understand that back then the studios were operating a transition from the old school to the new one when these days the digital has become the norm. Just check out Primeval to better understand the benefits ! As for the sounds they also have to be praised. They definitely contributed to make us believe that the Sandkings could actually exist, a bit like in Arachnophobia (1990) but with a more serious approach. In fact they're similar to the scorpions, spiders and other friends of the dark cellar but with a twist I let you appreciate. Last but not least if there was one thing to remember it's definitely the sand castles. These structures are so bizarre and well designed that they should teleport you on a planet far, far away ! Their evolution is actually linked to Simon's one so it makes their connection even more controversial and captivating.

Note : This review was first posted on Kritikenstein, my weblog.
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Game of Thrones: Blackwater (2012)
Season 2, Episode 9
9/10
Cinematic and brutal experience served by fantastic performers and an edgy script
28 May 2012
Warning: Spoilers
No fire, no ice, no Starks. They finally made the wise decision, too late sadly, of stopping constant switches between all arcs. Since The North Remembers I have desperately missed its cosmic editing. Contrary to the past episodes that only looked like a bunch of great scenes hastily joined together Blackwater was a full-blown television movie. Its story was unpredictable and featured many infernal moments. Of course the explosion sequence was jaw dropping, an hypnotic green fireworks, and definitely the one thing we will still remember in months but there were also plenty of other intense scenes. For instance when The Hound suddenly appeared beside Sansa in her bedroom I was convinced he was going to rape her. Instead their face off turned into a wicked homage to the Beauty and the Beast. Tyrion's speech to the soldiers made him grow on us even more and I really hope he'll survive his bloody wound because I'm not ready to let Peter Dinklage go. Game of Thrones needs him ! Losing Ned last season and Sean Bean in the process was painful enough. However I wouldn't blame George R. R. Martin if he had decided again to sacrifice again one of his mortal creatures.

It leads us to Melisandre because I really expected her to show up and save the day when some of Stannis ships got annihilated. So I suppose we'll have to wait for the finale to witness what the old gods are capable of. Still I absolutely don't regret that magic wasn't part of the battle because it felt realistic, was served by a shockingly dark choreography and overall the production was just surreal ! In fact would it be wrong to compare it to what films like Braveheart and The Lord of the Rings : The Two Towers delivered ? I don't think so. They didn't fight in bright day light but the action couldn't have been gorier. The battle didn't feature elves, fantastic beasts nor mythological elements but it had a dwarf casting fireballs from his ass, a Joffrey who as expected acted like a pussy and brave men giving their life for what they thought was a noble cause ! My only major complain would be Cersei misplaced and way too numerous monologues. I really think they dramatically made the action less percussive when the battle shouldn't have been interrupted by anything. Otherwise it didn't ruin the experience, far from it, and I even suspect the women's side made things a little more vicious.

Note : This review was first posted on Kritikenstein, my weblog.
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Shameless: Pilot (2011)
Season 1, Episode 1
7/10
Natural lead actress, empathic protagonist, guilty pleasures, controversial topics, inspiring "Sinderella" story, neverending remake
17 May 2012
Remakes repel me. Wouldn't it be more interesting and culture-friendly to just air the original in America ? There're reasons why the British series is successful after all and I question the decision to adapt a foreign recipe in order to make it more digestible for a specific audience. That's why it took me a while to decide either or not the show deserved my attention. Now that I have seen the pilot I absolutely not regret my change of heart. Moreover when you think about it the arguments in its favor are numerous enough. However when it comes to Showtime I tend to raise my eyebrows because despite some undeniable qualities productions like Californication and Weeds are definitely not my cup of tea. Otherwise they're just the tip of the iceberg because in my humble opinion Dexter is a masterpiece, at least until season 6, and The Borgias was enchainting.

But let's go back to Shameless. I instantly digged its concept, following a dysfunctional family, because we all have issues. Your mother is a Queen ? Your five years old sister demolished your tower defense highscore ? William H. Macy was the second thing that convinced me to give the show a chance. Indeed his dual performance in Umney's Last Case (Nightmares & Dreamscapes) was delightful so I highly anticipated his role as a drunken father. Sadly it's only a minor one but at least he did a good job and you should enjoy the small gathering scene. The other excuse I found, yes because it confused my senses, is Emmy Rossum. I've always been fascinated by performers breaking the barriers of their own cells to free their talent and shatter the audience. Does Christian Bale in The Machinist ring a bell ? Rossum's transformation is nothing jaw dropping but I really enjoyed that she just looked like the sad girl next door. Without make up, a messy haircut and none of the glamorous attributes that shine on her promotional photos. So considering I had never seen her before her empathic role as Fiona Gallagher confirmed that smoking beauty and real talent can mix on TV !

In the entertaining department we have the best of what Showtime has to offer. From shocking to sex-driven scenes there're plenty of guilty pleasures to appeal the network addicts. However shame on them for not promoting safe sex ! At least they had the decency of keeping Rossum's curves in the dark, making her even more charming and sexy. Anyway these are minor details compared to the story. Yes because in the end it's all about the characters and the obstacles they have to overcome in order to survive the harsh reality ! From addictions to sexuality many interesting and disturbing topics are covered. Add an immersive production with a slightly amateurish visuals and you have a winner ! The wicked minds behind the show also had the wise idea of enriching the story with a more conventional arc. Indeed Fiona can be seen as a modern Cinderella. She's actually inspiring because she takes care of everybody and the ongoing romance intrigued me. Moreover the writers twisted things a little, making an event very surprising. I just didn't see it coming !

In the end it seemed the remake had potential. Between two dramas there was even room for comedy but don't expect Shameless to be a dramedy ! However my fear is that the audience will probably never see the end of it. Indeed the original has already 10 seasons and in this installment I didn't really see a glimpse of hope. It actually reminded me of Hung because I fell in love with it during its first season but gave up on it during the second because it just seemed hopeless. When characters have issues, they have to solve them. Of course you can't become sober overnight nor improve your social condition in a few weeks but I just hate neverending series. Still I have read some raving reviews about Emmy Rossum's performance in later episodes and the preview revealed that the next installment should shock the audience even more !

Note : This review was first posted on Kritikenstein, my weblog.
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Game of Thrones: The Night Lands (2012)
Season 2, Episode 2
8/10
Exotic Westeros, welcomed feminism, vivid darkness but editing seams, unbalanced writing, thirsty creativity
9 April 2012
One week was at least what I needed to recover considering the premiere propelled my spirit beyond the stars. However despite its cosmic qualities I have to admit that it wasn't as jaw dropping as Winter Is Coming. It featured many stellar scenes, like Daenerys taking care of her baby dragon or Jaime's hallucination, but it lacked a knocking out ending. This second episode delivered the cliffhanger we were hoping for but sadly I have to admit that it lacked some of the elements that made The North Remembers so outstanding.

My first complain would be about the editing. I really missed how the parts were linked using the burning comet in the past installment. The mistake had already flawed the epic A Golden Crown in my opinion because it's inappropriate to cut sharp from one point of the kingdom to an other. So let's hope the upcoming episodes will surprise us with their creativity and fantastic metaphoras because a top notch production isn't enough. It leads us to the exotic sets because from Arya's lost woods to Theon's cliffs it felt like flying above Ireland, England and Scotland !

My second major complain would go to the unbalanced development of some arcs. For instance Daenerys' one was way too short. Of course it wouldn't have been entertaining to witness their slow descent toward the river of thirst but her seeing a mirage or having a daynightmare about her precious creature could have been thrilling. In fact it seems this time the dream team behind the show decided to focus more on sexuality. The red-hot Melisandre (Carice van Houten) was back and she actually reminds me of Marion Zimmer Bradley's Avalon series. Such a feminist reference is inevitable considering the number of female characters that are now moving across the board. Theon's filthy rides were controversial and The Adventures of Lady Arya were promising. A charismatic sister, not a boy wanted by Cersei… George R. R. Martin knows his classics and Littlefinger's cheering up one of his protégés was well staged.

The fat guy's naive attitude seemed slightly misplaced but when it comes to Snow shivers are sent down my spine every time ! It feels like Martin was possessed by Stephen King while writing it and that Frank Darabont (The Mist, The Walking Dead) was hired to adapt it. Last but not least Tyrion's candles lighted face off with Cersei was wicked, one second you laugh the next you cry, and of course all the challenging mind games were exciting to follow.

Note : This review was first posted on Kritikenstein, my weblog.
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Fringe: Everything in Its Right Place (2012)
Season 4, Episode 17
9/10
When emotional intelligence meets science-fiction… Who you gonna call ?
7 April 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Agent Lee of course ! What would be the writers next step ? I never expected they would develop the little chat Lincoln and Peter had in the car. And to tell truth if I had known this episode would be Lincoln centric I probably would have pouted. But the impossible happened, agent Lee grew on me and Seth Gabel's character has reached a complexity worthy of hardcore sci-fi fans. From the actor's performance to the wowing scenes featuring both Lees it's one of these episodes that deserve to be seen a second time. So far I had really missed the other side, specially Fauxlivia. That's why a shapeshifter driven story felt refreshing even if I could use a faster pace. I mean we have already reached sublevel 17 and it's a bit like the new Lincoln had been introduced three episodes ago.

Still let's focus on what went right because such an overwhelming installment deserves respect. First our favorite writing recipe stroke back as Lincoln's arc was brilliantly enriched by the shapeshifter's creepy, sad and inspiring story. I was specially moved by the homeless entering the gloomy room with his eyes ready to cry. Once transformed into the drug addict his speech about becoming A Better Human Being and finally feeling special was also quite interesting. You could feel, thanks to Gabel's empathic acting, that Lincoln exactly knew what he was talking about. In fact I can't help comparing the shapeshifter to Dexter Morgan. Indeed he chose to sacrifice criminals, contrary to most other freaks. Therefore he was less immoral and proved that a damaged synthetic creature isn't that different than a human with a broken heart. His Dark Passenger was David Jones and Lincoln's ability to comprehend his motivation helped him find the light. Finally his last moment with Fauxlivia seemed like a ghost whispering at a sorrowing soul. Was it real or just a dream ?

Note : This review was first posted on Kritikenstein, my weblog.
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Game of Thrones: The North Remembers (2012)
Season 2, Episode 1
Close encounter of the fantasy kind
2 April 2012
It has traveled billion miles from the deepest corner of the cosmos and we have just experienced its calm impact on our screens. Welcome back GoT, we have missed you ! Who could possibly need a recap for such a show ? It's not like if we hadn't spent the last past months thinking and dreaming about it. Still seeing all the major events in such a short time was exciting and when the title sequence began its stellar dance I had already plunged into the forgotten realms.

I feel calm and around my head gravitates dozens of captivating televisual ideas. I see her angelic figure lost like an oasis in the desert and a fragile dragon as real as it gets. I feel the cold breath of a golden axe and the bitter smell of blood that follows. I hear their atmospheric voices, laugh of his wit jokes and wonder if I'm not hallucinating. A pagan and charming confusion, then a whore above a rocky CG Babylon. Can such an overwhelming production be real or have all my neurons already been scattered by this close encounter ?

A comet. What a majestic refrain to transition between the burning screams of the North and the cold ballads of the South. An irresistible Tyrion, a repelling tyrant. An educative tale. What an entertainment way to be a better leader, a better child, a better human. I have looked into the eye of the beholder. I saw a disgusting pig surrounded by young wives and ready to get slayed by thousands of flying knives. I drank sacred water to stimulate my senses and be as frightening as a dire wolf ready to cut your filthy throat. I have never been so lost in medieval times and still I can feel the ground beneath my feet. I'm at war. We're in love. I'm a dragon ! We're dungeon masters !

Note : This review was first posted on Kritikenstein, my weblog.
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Fringe: Nothing As It Seems (2012)
Season 4, Episode 16
4/10
Disappointing story, uninspired writing, some thrilling sequences, misplaced humor, underused Olivia, mysterious ending but not intriguing
1 April 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Nothing is as it seems…on The Island of Doctor Moreau ? This is not Fringe anymore, at least the one I like. Season 3 was all about the fascinating amber and delivered some mind blowing stories. However for some episodes now I have been questioning the sources of inspiration used by the writers to develop the arc about David Jones and the shapeshifters. I'm not satisfied at all with this episode probably based upon H. G. Wells' novel. Humans turning themselves into porcupines thinking it's an improvement ? With no doubt the last man we saw, played by the actor who portrayed a doctor in Smallville, did it for love and it's not surprising considering how the woman was pretty but why would she inject herself such an atrocious substance ? And I'm not really interested in answering these questions because I feel like the writers are out of ideas or just slowing things down using fillers to achieve their goal, 22 episodes. So let's hope they will step up their game and go back to the show's roots !

In my opinion the first disappointing element was the creature of the week. The second it rushed out of the bathroom and attacked the customs officers I knew it should have been kept in the dark. Isn't the unknown stimulating for the imagination after all ? The part on the plane was thrilling, from the nosebleed to the panic attack in the toilet, but afterward they landed in B movie land. Still its sudden appearance in the house both scared my popcorn and myself. An entertaining explosion and it took me a while to recover ! It leads us to Lincoln because his infection was dead boring and for once even Walter's jokes didn't make me laugh. This time one of them was even misplaced, the late birthday presents, as it interrupted Olivia and Peter's discussion about the case. Moreover it seemed even Joshua Jackson was annoyed by his role, forced to jump from seriousness to a kid at some party. Even his chat with Lincoln in the car, finally, didn't meet my expectations because he played it way too nicely. How would you react if some other guy stole your girlfriend right under your nose ? So let's just hope he's a shapeshifter or will turn his back on them somehow !

As for the episode concept I have to admit that it was well thought out. Peter and Olivia used their alt-knowledge to investigate but I think the last could have been better used. What about using her as a bait to trap the porcupine ? He was apparently seeking for a mate. Moreover when it comes to such monsters I can't help thinking about the 15th episode of Primeval 3rd series. In it Abby, the cute blonde, has to deal with a half Gollum and half Gremlins creature. I compared her to Buffy and mentioned the Little Red Riding Hood as a reference because she just made the story more frightening. That's why I strongly believe that an Olivia versus Porcupine sequence could have been jaw dropping ! After all what's more exciting than a damsel in distress ? Instead they decided to develop some predictable arc about her career when I never considered for a second that she was in trouble. Last but not least I can see how the ship transporting the creatures is a Noah's Ark but sadly, beside spotting the leg of a giant spider, I'm not really intrigued by it. In fact I worry that we will never know what it was even if David Jones should be behind it.

Note : This review was first posted on Kritikenstein, my weblog.
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