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

Saturday, March 17, 2012

LOST - Season 6 [2010]

What if this... all this... what if this wasn't supposed to be our life?
What if we had some other life and for some reason, we changed things?

The sixth and final season of LOST was one of the most anticipated events in television history, making for some of the most polarizing opinions television had seen since The Sopranos closed up shop.  Showrunners Cartlon Cuse & Damon Lindelof faced the excrutiating task of tying up all lose ends and sending off the characters, that we grew to love, on their merry way, while trying to unravel the insanely complicated storyline into something that should make sense when all is said and done. 

Reinventing the storytelling linear once again, LOST introduces us to an alternate timeline what has come to be known as the “flash sideways”.  This makes up for the lack of character development in the fifth season, as it gives us a chance to re-evaluate the characters in a different light, while remaining hauntingly familiar.  That's about all I can really tell you about the story aspects of season six without spoiling anything at all. 

As a whole, the season is packed with superb action pieces & plot twists galore to compliment some of most powerful and emotional character arcs the series has seen so far.  However it has it still has it's fair share of set-ups that last just a little too long and leaves you questioning their purpose.  

All in all, LOST delivers the goods in it's final season.  Every element that made LOST what it was are all present, with the stakes being risen to the top as it gets closer and closer to the end.  About 50% of the fans of the show will strongly disagree with me, but I feel the series finale couldn't have been any better.  It's perfect in every way and wraps things up both story wise and emotionally with great satisfaction.

LOST was a cult show and will no doubt fall into the cult classic category as time moves on.  It was never the most popular show after the first season as ratings dropped significantly and was no longer the water cooler series it was so dangerously close to becoming.  It sits neatly beside Twin Peaks and The Prisoner as bizarre character based sci-fi/dramas that may or may not be genius, depending on the viewer and their patience for such complicated and character-based storytelling.

It was too science fiction for drama fans.  And too dramatic for sci-fi fans…

…but somehow it managed to find a comfortable spot in millions of people over the world. 

Must See Episodes:
6x01 & 6x02: LA X: a haunting and puzzling beginning to the season.  It stirs emotions in a most confusing manner.  Brilliant.   Plus smoke monster kicks some insane ass here.
6x12: Ab Aeterno: Richard-centric.  Probably my 2nd favorite episode of the series after S4's The Constant. This story goes back......waaaayyyyy back.
6x20 & 6x21: The End:  I couldn't have asked for anything more.  I manage to hold the tears back right up until Vincent shows up and then I just bawling like a little baby.

Episodes To Avoid:
6x18: Across The Sea: Jacob & The Man In Black-centric:  What the hell was this festering piece of Vincent crap?  So close to the end of the series and they almost completely shit the bed with this shit.

Buyer's Guide: 
LOST is widely available on DVD/Blu-ray in single season sets or a complete series collection.  If you get the complete series collection you get a board game with it....get the board game.  

4 "Live Together, Die Alone" 's out of 5

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Kindred: The Embraced (1996)

Kindred could've been great if it hadn't been cancelled midway through its first season. It's loosely based on the RPG Vampire: The Masquerade, which is something I have no firsthand experience of.

It follows the safe and successful route of having a human form an uneasy alliance with a non-human, but it places them in a dark Noir environment. It eschews the usual gothic overtones that vampire shows usually have in favour of a more realistic, mafia style. It reminded me of Copolla’s Godfather (1972) in many ways; the main bad guy, Julian Luna, even looks like Part III's Andy Garcia.

Julian is the "prince" of the city; he oversees the five vampire clans, known collectively as the Kindred. Each of the Kindred have a different agenda and work secretly behind the scenes to attain it, but there are laws in place that govern how much they can do alone. Those same laws are designed to protect and sustain their anonymity so the humans don't begin to hunt their kind. That hiding in the open is known as the Masquerade. The five vampire clans can cause it to get a little confusing, but it gave the show a lot of scope for future story lines.

The biggest failing is SF Police Detective Frank Kohanek, the main good guy; his acting is forced and melodramatic. Mercifully, he isn't always the main focus of each episode and as it gets deeper into clan politics he's featured even less.

When Frank isn't in it, it gets good. It's still flawed, I've yet to see a first season of anything that isn't, but it gets more right than it gets wrong.

The characters (except for the aforementioned Frank), the city, and the Masquerade are all believable. If you want some vamp action that's not targeted at teens and deals with adult themes it's worth watching. Sadly, it was shelved after 8 episodes, so we'll never know how it would've played out.

8 episodes, approx 45 mins each (the first episode is longer).

3½ tears of blood out of 5

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Kröd Mändoon and the Flaming Sword of Fire (2009)

"The Golden One?"
"That's the slightly less cliché way of saying the Chosen One."
Kröd Mändoon and the Flaming Sword of Fire is a satirical fantasy show jointly produced by the BBC and Comedy Central that pokes fun at the clichés of the fantasy genre along with some other more modern jabs meant just for the audience. It follows Kröd Mändoon; an inept, but sincere rebel warrior; as he fights a revolution against the comically tyrannical Chancellor Dungalor. Kröd is supported by Aneka; his pagan, sexually liberated girlfriend who prefers to fuck to get her way despite Kröd's protests; Zezelryck; a warlock lacking in magical ability; Loquasto; an ogre-like companion who uses a crossbow and is more likely to hit Kröd than the enemy; and Bruce; the prison boy-toy of Kröd's mentor. Together they adventure to stop Dungalor from bringing his plans of treachery to fruition while dodging soldiers, bounty hunters and monsters.

If any of that evoked pictures of epic high fantasy, reel in your expectations. The show is closer to a one camera sitcom than to Lord of the Rings. It is first and foremost a comedy that just happens to be in a fantasy setting with some decent, low-budget action. Besides the jabs at fantasy tropes the majority of the comedy comes from both Kröd and Dungalor's rather idiotic ways of dealing with traditional fantasy tasks. Kröd is prone to losing his sword and important artifacts or is distracted by failing to keep Aneka from banging any willing dude with a cock and a pulse including enemy soldiers and Dungalor is a rather cheerful sociopath that relies on his underlings to get things done. There are laughs to be had, but it follows a pattern with Kröd as the butt of jokes that can wear thin pretty quick. The show's 6 episodes end before it gets too tiresome though. So short and sweet with some decent humor, B-movie action and fan-service provided by India de Beaufort as Aneka.

Buyer's Guide:
Available on DVD, iTunes and Netflix.

3 Giving a bi-sexual cyclops an underwater tongue jab on his "flesh snorkel" out of 5

Friday, March 9, 2012

Ghost Adventures: Season 1 (2008)

Spawned from the documentary of the same name comes this ghost hunting reality show run by Zak Bagans. Along with two fellow investigators, Zak documents his haunted travels in order to collect and exhibit paranormal evidence to the world. The first season ran eight episodes on the Travel channel, each ranging from about 40 to 50 minutes. The most noteworthy feature on the show is the crew's investigating style which includes an abundance of ghost provocation, a method of standing up to and taunting spirits in order to garner stronger phenomena.  Due to their style, the series has a more dangerous and risky feel to it.

Another major difference to similar shows is the varied haunted locations around the U.S. and even the world the investigations take the viewer. The overall goal of the show is to plunge into the dark histories of the reported hauntings and air the results, but it's really about the eerie and unnerving experience the show offers more than the often implausible evidence captured.

Buyer's Guide:
Available as 2 disc set containing all 8 episodes of S1.

4 "dudes" out of 5

Nutted by Borderline

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Walking Dead Season 1 (2010)

The fever burns you out, but then after awhile...You come back.
The Walking Dead is a Frank Darabont produced AMC show that follows Officer Rick Grimes as he wakes up in the hospital after a gunshot induced coma to find the whole world has gone to shit in a zombie apocalypse, so he sets out to find the whereabouts of his wife and son. On the way he must learn to survive in this new world of infected corpses called "Walkers" while scrounging for food, ammunition and dealing with survivors who may or may not have held onto their sense of morality and humanity let alone their sanity.

This first season is some high quality stuff with decent effects, sweeping dynamic camera shots and some good action. Don't know whether it was the cost of those or just TV politics that made it so we only got 6 episodes, but they are great episodes. The downfall being it is hard to get invested in characters in such a short time so a lot of drama often won't carry any weight especially if it involves just ancillary characters. Not to say there isn't any good drama. The horror setting is really just a backdrop for some interesting character studies in how human morality holds up in a world with almost no consequences. It's just limited given the truncated season. And there is cool zombie-killin' action if that's what you came for.

Buyer's Guide:
Widely available on DVD and Blu-Ray in both regular and special editions. The European release is censored for excessive gore, so if that bothers any purists find another source for viewing.

4 Take a shot every-time Daryl does what any logical person would do out of 5

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Great Horror Family (2004)

From the Japanese horror maestro Takashi Shimizu comes this incredibly off-beat comedy series about an eccentric family that moves into a new home which is a hot-bed of paranormal activity. Not only does the series contain pale-skinned spectres but a multitude of odd creatures and occurences including zombies, curses, exorcisms, poltergeist-activity, and even alien encounters.

I discovered the dvd set at a Best Buy and as a fan of Shimizu, I picked it up but was inevitably disappointed by its approach. The production values are low and the characters' overly campy acting quickly becomes tiresome.

Throughout the series there are sprinklings of animation and for how wacky and bizarre the show is, it would really be complimented better in the anime format.

13 episodes.  Approx 25 minutes each.

Buyer's Guide:
Available as a complete 3 disc box-set.

2 opening sequence power poses out of 5.

Nutted by Borderline

Monday, March 5, 2012

FIREFLY [2002]

When you can't run you crawl, and when you can't crawl…
...You find someone to carry you.

Writer/director Joss Whedon was on fire in the entertainment industry.  With an Academy award nomination for the Toy Story screenplay and two cult-hit television series still on the air, Buffy The Vampire Slayer and it’s spin-off Angel, it seemed like he couldn’t be stopped.  So the FOX network gave him the go ahead to produce another television series hopefully with the same appeal as his two previous efforts.  What Whedon handed in was without a doubt the last thing they wanted to see…a space western called Firefly.

They hated it.  FOX gave it the notorious Friday night deathslot and even decided to push the pilot episode aside, because it was too slow and aired the second episode first.  It was very apparent that Firefly was doomed from the beginning.  Without any phasers, spaceship battles or a single alien in sight, it baffled the FOX executives, especially when they found out the characters cursed in Chinese.  What the hell was this show? 

I’ll tell you what it was.  One of the damn finest sci-fi series to grace your televisions sets. 

Firefly sits neatly beside Arrested Development and Freaks & Geeks as the best TV shows no one watched and should all be damned to that very special level of Hell for just that.

Set 500 years in the future, after Earth has been overpopulated, it follows the misadventures of a group a space traveling thieves constantly on the brink of starvation and constantly questioning their own morals and choices. 

The cast is led by the oddly charismatic Castle star, Nathan Fillion as Captain Malcolm Reynolds who pretty much just kicks ass all around with his cranky charms and constant struggle with his own self-appointed morales.  I Robot’s Alan Tudyk , Stargate: Atlantis’ Jewel Staite, Full Metal Jacket’s Adam Baldwin and Barney Miller’s Ron Glass are also notable cast members chewing up their scenes as well.

Littered with freshly executed witty dialogue, original storytelling structures and more than enough moments to make you laugh out loud, Firefly is a must see for any sci-fi fan.  Sadly it was canceled after only airing 11 of the 14 episodes produced.  Thankfully with only 14 episodes made, Firefly never got the chance to ever really suck.  It’s pretty much solid from start to finish. 

14 episodes.  42 minutes each.

Episodes To Watch:
1x06 : Our Mrs. Reynolds: Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks guest stars and makes for some interesting and funny character moments.
1x08: Out Of Gas: Angel/Terriers writer, Tim Minear does what he does best.  Perfect flashback episodes.
1x12: The Message: The emotional impact of this episdoe always takes me off guard.  Wonderful stuff.

Episodes To Avoid:
Nothing really weak here.
However 1x04: Shindig is the weakest of the bunch.

Buyer’s Guide: 
The complete series is widely available in DVD & Blu-Ray box sets for very reasonable prices. 

5 BIG DAMN Heroes out of 5

Saturday, March 3, 2012

LOST - Season 5 [2008]

Time is like a street.
Alright, we can move forward on that street, we can move in reverse,
but we can not ever create a new street.
If we try to do anything different, we will fail every time.
Whatever happened, happened.

After the perfect in every way fourth season that tore everything apart in the it’s mind-blowing finale, LOST show runners Damon Lindlelof & Carlton Cuse had the challenging task of putting everything back together again.

Season Five follows the Oceanic Six, three years after returning to civilization as things are beginning to go so very, very wrong for them as they are haunted by the memories of the island and it’s ghosts.  It’s up to Jack to start rounding them up to return to the island, only none of them want to go back.  Meanwhile, the other storyline follows the characters, still stranded on the island, living a sporadic time-travelling nightmare.  

Cuse & Lindelof handle the time-travelling aspects of the story with grace by embelishing on the ever-expanding mythology behind the history of the island. With an all ready complicated story to follow, it could have easily fallen apart and pummeled into the ground with plotholes galore.  Instead, they manage to keep the story moving forward at a brisk pace and use the time traveling to answer many of the questions raised in the past four years without hitting too many bumps in the road.

Season Five’s biggest weakness is it seems to run around in circles a little too often.  With the time-travel and story being told from so many different character's points of view we find ourselves often returning to moments that we’ve seen too often all ready.  For the most part, not much character development is ever really explored but we are treated to some fantastic table-turning moments between John Locke and Ben Linus.

An overall entertaining season but could have been condensed a little bit in the action and focus more on characters.  No matter….the sixth and final season is where it all matters.

17 episodes.  44 minutes each.

Must See Episodes:
5x03: Jughead:  Desmond-centric episode.  Great to see the dynamics between Desmond and Faraday.  2 fantastic characters that never really shared any screen time until this episode.
5x07: The Life & Death Of Jeremy Bentham: Locke-centric.  I could watch Locke drinking a glass water and be enthralled.
5x14: The Variable: Faraday-centric.  Daniel Faraday is one of the best characters to come out of the series.  Plain and simple.

Episodes To Avoid:
5x02: The Lie: Hurley-centric.  A little too goofy for the beginning of the season.
5x06: 316: Jack-centric.  Very slow paced and not enough mystery just leaves you kinda bored.

Buyer's Guide:
LOST is widely available on DVD/Blu-ray in single season sets or a complete series collection.

3½ “2 Lockes 1 Corpse” out of 5