Mini reviews of Television seasons old and new. No fuss. No spoilers. Occasional bunnies.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

The Killers: Live From the Royal Albert Hall (2009)

I wasn’t particularly taken with Day & Age, as presented on disc. Here, however, there’s a sincere shimmering vibrancy to the songs. Trust me, I went back to make sure my mind wasn’t playing tricks on me. It wasn’t. There’s something dampened and sterile to their mixes on the album itself. Oh, and the one song that was too strong to be held back by the production there? It bleeds out of the screen, here. Further, none of these gentlemen are particularly ostentatious on stage, and none of the theatrics are overtly showy, meaning it really is all about the strength and veritas of the songs themselves.

That isn’t to say that you should put this on and clean the house, or go on an adventure across every other tab you have open. No, there’s plenty of worthwhile visuals and behaviors on display. Ronnie joyously works his ass off and it melts my heart to see Brandon doing something as touching and humble as wiping the sweat off of Dave’s face for him. /swoon

While the vast majority of Day & Age is performed, the singles from Hot Fuss and some of the real…killers from Sam’s Town also appear, to my utter joy. The back-stage special demonstrates the camaraderie that exists amongst the entirety of their production crew. It’s similar to how Conan O'Brien interacts with his, if the snarky-ness was turned down about five notches. There’s a handful of additional performances from other venues, as well, and I’d say they’re worth checking out. The half-acoustic rendition of Smile Like You Mean It, at the very least.

Hey, Billie Joe, take fucking notes. THIS is how you do 'hey-ho's. In one instance, briefly, and with narrative significance. I expect to see an immediate improvement.

This is available on bluray, but it doesn’t come with the CD of most of the tracks that accompanies the DVD. If you’re a fan of the band, there's no real debate. If you were disappointed with Day & Age, give this a shot and see if you’re similarly won over.

Approx. 2 hours, not counting the extras.

(More) Performances of Note: A Dustland Fairytale; Sam's Town

4½ Long-Since Abandoned Geo Metros out of 5

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Hammer House of Horror: Volume 2 of 4 (1980)

The Mark of Satan
Working in a hospital mortuary would be a difficult enough job ordinarily, but for new guy Edwyn Rord (Peter McEnry) having to deal with a philosophical pathologist and the hidden but encroaching forces of evil that are conspiring to destroy him makes it even more problematic. It's not just at work. Edwyn's home life isn't as secure as he like it to be. Dir. Don Leaver manages to accentuate the unease that the infatuated worker feels, transferring it to the viewer at the correct times and in the correct doses.  — 3 counts of evil out of 5 —

Witching Time
An overworked and stressed out film score composer (Jon Finch) has problems with women. Not only does he suspect his wife (Prunella Gee) of sleeping with another guy, but a fiery-haired mystery woman who claims to be from the 17th Century unexpectedly shows up and makes his life even more eventful.
Things turn more sinister in the second half, but overall it's not as good as the previous episode. The highlight is undoubtedly the scornful redhead, Lucinda (Patricia Quinn), who you'll maybe know better as Magenta from The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975). — 2½ cackles out of 5 —

Visitor from the Grave
A woman with a history of mental illness experiences a traumatic event when an uninvited visitor calls at her pleasant English cottage home.
It's another psychological story, mostly, with the 'horror' this time manifested as a morbid fear of slipping back into an unstable mindset and an equally debilitating fear of one's wrongful deeds being found out. It was my least favourite of the three, and is somewhat predictable, but the acting, particularly from Kathryn Leigh Scott, is enough to keep it from being boring. — 2½ chill pills out of 5 —

3 episodes, approx 51 minutes each.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Shinkenger VS Kamen Rider Decade:
Kenzan Samurai Sentai & Gedou Rider, Mairu! (2009)

In a crossover, ground-floor exposition has to be present even if the events therein take place significantly far into one, both, or all of the participants' timelines. Characterization should still be present and consistent with each individual as they currently exist, however, and Kobayashi does a magnificent job of this, here, via actions, when there is not time for explicit dialogue. This is in contrast to the Gavan episodes in Go-Busters, where Kuroki's actions are entirely too convenient, and consequently, out of character.

Tsukasa (Decade) is an ass. But, Kobayashi manages to make it seem like he actually has something going on below the surface. I feel that she deliberately put the emphasis on Natsumi and Eijiro, as opposed to some of the Shinkengers, because that was where she perceived the deficit to be. I wholeheartedly agree and wonder what Decade would have been like if she had been able to write all of it, as opposed to simply four episodes. Accordingly, Den-O suits appear in the first part of this endeavor. She was clearly proud of her past work, as well she should be. Those other two episodes? They were the ones set in the world of Den-O, so Toei at least showed a modicum of good judgement in regards to Decade.

Verily, Decade has to exist in my world, even if I am opposed to how Toei's anniversary efforts tend to disregard the canons of their original works. Without Decade, I would not have:
If you're watching Decade, you have to watch these, as they are episodes of Decade. If you're watching Shinkenger, DO NOT skip these. The order of viewing is:

Act 20 --> Decade 24 --> Act 21 --> Decade 25

4 Only Because Onodera is Not REMOTELY Odagiri Joe out of 5

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation: Season 7 (1993-94)

Longtime fans of TNG will get the most from what the seventh and last season has to offer. There's a lot of looking back, while also moving forward. A number of significant events from previous years are referenced or recalled, right back even to the Farpoint mission, the very first episode of Season 1 (1987-88).

Family plays an important role; mothers and sons mostly, but also fathers, brothers and the extended family you create for yourself from the people who become closer than just friends, the people who earn respect a thousand times over just by being who they are at heart, free from any kind of ingratiating agenda.

And while strange new worlds are indeed explored, new life and new civilisations thoroughly sought out, there's also a dangerous limitation to be considered, one that has consequences for more than just the crew of the Federation's flagship. It's something that doesn't get forgotten by the next episode, which does sometimes happen in episodic shows, and I'll be looking out for it as I progress through TNG's successor, the Deep Space Nine series, which takes place in the same time period.

Lieutenant commander Data's desire to be more human continues to underpin the psychology of the character, and it's something that's used as a basis for some of the best episodes in what I consider to be a very strong season.

Of course, the VERY best episode is the two-part finale, All Good Things... It's a powerful and bittersweet farewell that's both a testament to how affecting the show was to millions of people the world over and a kind of thank you to those same people. Afterwards our time with the ship's crew comes to an end, but we know deep down that our own journey of discovery never really does.

The Enterprise D and its crew will hold a special place in my heart forever; it's a feeling that all the gold-pressed latinum in the universe couldn't buy back

26 episodes, approx 44 minutes each.

5 unknown possibilities of existence out of 5

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation: Season 6 (1992-93)

Something I noted in a previous TNG post rings true again here: that a common theme serves as the basis for a number of different episodes throughout the entire season. This time it's transformation. There's the emotional growth kind, of course, but there's also social, temporal changes (such as ageing), and even a number of actual species transformations! The future is a crazy place~.

It begins by concluding the Season 5 cliffhanger, Times Arrow. Thereafter things progress steadily if not spectacularly. Overall, it's not the most memorable season for fans of TNG, but there are some notable episodes that need to be watched. I don't feel that any of them are actually the best the season has to offer, but they each have lasting consequences. Some examples are:

Ep. 20: The Chase, an episode that explores a question that a great many observant Trek fans have been asking themselves since the TOS days.

Eps. 16+17: Birthright Parts I+II has two separate stories linked by a common theme, the conclusions of which will both be referenced again later; in addition to that a part of the story takes place on a station that many Trek fans will recognise.

Without going into detail, there's a single episode wherein an old face makes a welcome return to the world. And, interestingly, a couple of the guest actors in later episodes would go on to play different but more prominent roles in later Trek adventures; James Cromwell (First Contact) and Tim Russ (Tuvok; VOY).

Elsewhere Capt. Picard gets to prove he has true grit by single-handedly saving the day; Riker's mindset is severely tested, as is Data's sense of right and wrong; Worf lets his hair down; Councillor Troi gets to have some genuine fun for a change; Doctor Crusher has some bridge action; and Geordi typically finds himself in a creepy, stalker-esque kind of romance.

If you take note of the credits you'll maybe notice that three of the regular cast pulled a double shift once or twice by being both in front of the camera as actor and behind it as director, LeVar Burton (his first time), Patrick Stewart (third time), and Jonathan Frakes (fourth time).

And then, for the final time with TNG, there's an end of season cliffhanger that's not resolved until the first episode of Season 7.

26 episodes, approx 44 minutes each.

4 inconvenient laws of physics out of 5

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Magnificent Seven: Complete Series (1998–2000)

It doesn't take place before or after the existing films. It's its own thing in terms of both tone and continuity. And the men are all new, with the exception being Chris Larabee (Michael Biehn), clearly a small screen version of Chris Adams, the leader of the Seven as first portrayed by Yul Brynner in the films; although the TV version of Chris is rightfully his own man, too, not just a carbon copy of the movie Chris.

With it being an ongoing series it made sense to localise the group, to give them a single town from which to operate, with the added benefit that it would provide a place that we as viewers can also form an attachment to. Although not always operating within the parameters of established law, the Seven nevertheless become the town's unofficial protectors. The unique skills that each man has is put to good use for its betterment; e.g. one is a healer, one an ex-preacher, etc.

Most of the time they get on well with each other, but because they have such different temperaments and goals in life there are occasional internal conflicts. It's a credit to the writers that the men all remain likeable even when they're clearly doing something morally wrong (mostly that means Ezra Standish). In truth, there wasn't a single one of them that earned permanent derision, perhaps because collectively they represent feelings or failings that most of us will have experienced or struggled with at some point in our life - they're relatable.

A number of recurring secondary characters play an important role, often as a voice of conscience or a lure of the heart, deepening and/or complicating the determination to defend and preserve the town. Yes, that sometimes means romance, but it's not always as straightforward as that statement might imply.

Season Two introduces Robert Vaughn as a Judge; Vaughn was one of the actors in the first Magnificent Seven (1960) film, but he played a different character.

Ironically, every once in a while the only reason the townspeople were placed in danger was because the bad guy(s) had gone there in order to confront or kill the Seven! But that's just life, right? Even good deeds have consequences.

22 episodes, approx 60 mins each (the Pilot is 90 mins).

4 holes in the clouds out of 5

Monday, November 7, 2016

THE KIDS IN THE HALL [1989-1995]

An optimist says, "The drink is half full." 
A pessimist says, "The drink is half full
...but I might have bowel cancer."

For five seasons, Canada's cult-classic comedy troupe The Kids in the Hall shocked, offended and most definitely humored with it's contemptuous crackpot self-titled sketch show.  Made up of Dave Foley, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney and Scott Thompson, the five-man act were notorious for doing a damn-fine job at dressing in drag, crushing heads, testing the censors and most of all making sure they were guaranteed to always come up in comedy sketch show conversations.

Unlike most sketch comedies that depend on pop culture and political issues, The Kids cynically tackled several touchy subjects such as sexuality, bigoted stereotyping, mental illnesses, religion and dysfunctional living styles.  Quite often frighteningly clever, they weren't afraid to embrace their nonsensical stupid side either with overly horny chicken ladies or cigar-chomping dirtbags with cabbages for heads.  Some of the many highlights included Thompson's gay bar owner Buddy Cole's lengthy monologues, Foley's silent French-Canadian under-dog Mr. Heavyfoot, McKinney's foolishly "sophisticated" hipster Darill, McDonald's adorably evil stage-entertainer Simon (& Hecubus) and McCulloch's David Lynch style short films that are complimented with the audience's nervous laughter.  

Throughout their five seasons of 102 episodes, The Kids managed to keep a consistent quality that only started to show a bit of downslope in a few of the final episodes when they just got plain weird for the sake of being weird.  However, when most sketch comedians know their material isn't top-notch they wear it on their sleeve with embarrassment but The Kids stuck it out and gave it their all making even the weakest of bits worth your time.  

5 nutty bunnies out of 5