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

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Best of Louis Theroux's Weird Weekends: Volume One (2001)

Louis is a British investigative journalist that didn't much care for the big story of the day. He set out instead to explore American subcultures; he interviewed the people that front them and the people that hide behind them. He didn't take the usual cold, distanced, analytical approach or rely on researchers to do the work for him, he went gung-ho and joined in with activities to better understand his subjects and their unique kind of weird; he got his hands wet, his feet dirty, and his cock out… literally. In some cases he even moved in with them for the duration, and put himself in real physical danger.

The episodes included in Volume One are pretty varied. He enters the porn industry; he visits some right-wing patriots that shunned city life to live in the hills, with guns, and await the NWO invasion; he travels South to meet some shady characters and has a go at Gangsta Rap; he meets some spaced-out UFO enthusiasts, including one guy who claims to channel messages from a higher being while in a trance.

The Weird Weekends series ran for three years. This first collection contains just five episodes (three from S1, one from S3, and a bonus episode from a similar series called 'When Louis Met...' which saw him visit British celebrities in their homes).

What’s sadly missing is the final episode of S1, wherein Louis gathered together a number of the people he'd met throughout the year for Xmas dinner at his own home. He took a fundamentalist Christian to a porn shoot, and gave a guy who lives alone in an underground hut in the hills (Mountain Mike) a chance to spend time at a recording studio and play live for a bar full of people.

5 episodes, approx 55 minutes each.

5 positively peculiar people out of 5

Monday, June 10, 2013

Masters Of Horror: Series One: Volume One (2006)

Mick Garris, filmmaker, friend and critic of horror cinema assembled thirteen of the genre’s most celebrated directors together for the first Season of MoH. Each director was given one episode, lasting almost one hour. Volume One contains the first seven episodes. There may be a difference in running order between the R1 and R2 editions. I'm using the UK R2 editions. NA also got a full season box that included Volume Two.

The first is by John Carpenter and is the sole reason I bought the series. It’s occasionally interesting because it stars Udo Kier, who’s always fun to watch, but mostly it was disappointing and is uncharacteristic of Carpenter's work. But the music, scored by his son Cody, often feels like a modern interpretation of the classic Carpenter/Howarth sound; I liked that aspect. — 2½ out of 5 —

The second is by Stuart Gordon, an adaptation of a short HP Lovecraft tale titled 'Dreams in the Witch House.' I've not read the story in a long time, but I'm certain HPL didn't have a laptop in his. It tries hard to create tension, but the story is predictable and throwaway.  — 2 out of 5 —

The third is by Don Coscarelli and will likely appeal more to torture porn fans than it did to me. It’s a well-constructed split narrative that feels like it began life as a Texas Chainsaw clone, but it didn't do anything that we haven’t seen multiple times before. — 2 out of 5 —

The fourth is by series creator Mick Garris. Again, it’s interesting in how it’s presented (it’s told in flashback), but it’s the weakest of the seven stories. Garris also served as producer on all of the others, so maybe he was too busy to script anything interesting. Maybe.  — 1½ out of 5 —

The fifth is by Lucky McKee and stars McKee regular Angela Bettis. It plays around with conventions, and even when drifting into other genres it never loses sight of its goal. It’s horror comedy fun from beginning to end and is by far the best damn episode of this entire volume. — 4 out of 5 —

The sixth is by John Landis. Landis is known for injecting a large dose of black humour into his works, and his MoH is no exception. The story is plain ridiculous and goes nowhere, but it’s funny and the ever-reliable Brian Benben keeps it from becoming too much of a parody. — 2½ out of 5 —

The seventh and last is by Joe Dante. It seems as if every horror anthology needs some zombies, so Dante brings them. It’s referential to Romero and uses the Zombies as a vehicle for some kind of socio-political commentary, but it’s as dull as licking paint. —  1½ out of 5 —

Oddly, despite being ‘horror,’ none of the episodes are the slightest bit frightening.

Note: The sharp-eyed among you will notice that my final score isn't an average of all the others tallied, that's because the wealth of extras included, which clocks in at over 21 hours, helped raise it. Alongside the usual making of features, each director, except Landis and Dante, even provide their own commentary track.

7 episodes approx 55 minutes each (388 minutes total), split over 7 discs.

3 bugs before bedtime out of 5

Friday, June 7, 2013

Podge and Rodge: A Scare at Bedtime (1997–2006)

America has ABC. Britain has BBC. Part of Ireland has RTÉ. It's widely available now on satellite, but back in the 90s the channel broadcast to only a small part of the country. To receive it outside of the Southern region you needed an addition to your regular aerial. If you had that little red box then you had old geezers Podge Judas O'Leprosy and Rodge Spartacus O'Leprosy on your TV screen!

Each evening the channel had something called 'A Prayer at Bedtime' to remind viewers that dirty dreams about naked ladies was frowned upon by JC and his lily-white virgin momma. Podge & Rodge’s A Scare at Bedtime was a parody of that. It's also an iniquitous parody of the typical Irish stereotype. It's fun to laugh at the Irish, but no one laughs harder than the Irish themselves. Their greatest attribute is their wickedly self-deprecating sense of humour.

The format had the twins of Ballydung Manor either in bed together or chilling in their kitchen. Podge would tell Rodge a tall tale/horror story with a Poe-esque twist. Rodge would get scared or bored. He'd blaspheme, and then rub his "mickey" at what he considered a particularly sexy bit. If there were no sexy bits, he'd invent his own.

The two perverts and their scabby cat Pox are some of the shittiest constructed puppets you'll ever see, but it really didn't matter. It was all just an excuse to drop lewd jokes and say "Feck" a lot, but quite often the creativity of the two writers/puppeteers, Mick O'Hara and Ciaran Morrison, was comedy gold; it was those two guys that raised it above its limitations and made it so outrageous.

If you want to skip to the best parts go direct to series 7. By that stage they were far out of control by RTE standards. If you want to learn the seedy side of Irish colloquialism, then there's no better place to start.

150 episodes, approx 5–10 minutes each.

3½ feckless eejits out of 5

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

THE KILLING - Season Two [2012]

"Linden, we caught the bad guys."

"Really?  Who's that?"

AMC's under-the-radar crime drama The Killing comes back for a second season of moody lighting, rain, grey area characters, rain, slow-burning suspense, rain, gloomy realistic performances and did I mention rain?

After enraging viewers at the end of the first season by not revealing Rosie Larsen's murderer, showrunner Veena Sud promised that the end of this season would wrap everything up.  Being loosely based upon the Danish series Forbrydelsen and it's three separate narratives, Sud & co. used it only as a inspiration and trailed off into her own direction, making the killer unknown to fans of the original series.  

Just like the first year, season two takes its time unfolding the story and revealing character arcs at a hypnotizing pace that probably won't appeal to folks looking for their "wrapped up in 44 minutes" CSI fix.  The slow-burning reveals are worth it if you're a fan of patient methodical storytelling, as it comes to a powerful conclusion that will rip your heart out, stomp all over it and give it back with the hopes of the wounds making it only more calloused.  There's a few questionable plot threads that threaten to trail off but they all manage to meet up at the end, with the exception of a few character bits that are better left unanswered.  

As much of a critical darling The Killing is, it was never met with much in the way of viewers and was cancelled after this season with the the threat of never releasing it on DVD.   Fortunately loyal fans backlashed and the idiots at AMC opted to renew it for a third season with the promise of the case being wrapped up at the end of the year.  Still, the inevitable DVD release was given a shoddy "manufacture on demand" release exclusive to and that was only after the announcement of a third season.  

It's dark, tragic, honest and beautiful and sometimes that's the comforting place to be.

13 episodes.  44 minutes each.

Buyer's Guide:
Available in DVD box sets only as "manufacture on demand" sets exclusive to  

4 monarch butterflies out of 5

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Blade: The Series (2006)

Blade's feature-length pilot was written by David S. Goyer and Geoff Johns. Goyer was the man responsible/to blame for writing all three of the films, so it made sense to have him script the series beginnings, too. He set it sometime after the events of the shitfest that was Blade: Trinity (2004). Johns is a veteran comic book writer who’d worked on Smallville, so he was no stranger to the crossing of mediums. What they delivered was a smouldering turd, using the same tired clichés we've seen countless times before. But if you watch the pilot and then stop you’ll get the wrong impression of the series as a whole. There’s one other really shitty episode, but the remainder of the series is very different. Sometime around episode three or four things get good, and when events grow more complicated for the characters things get really good.

The biggest problem is Blade himself. Kirk Jones casts an effective silhouette but falls flat when he tries to be menacing. Worse still, he has problems enunciating. I had to pull up subtitles frequently on every episode just to hear what the hell he was mumbling. I'm a fan of foreign cinema, so subtitles don’t faze me, but they really shouldn't have been necessary.

The other characters are better. Blade’s tech-savvy accomplice Shen fills the Whistler role admirably and is occasionally the voice of Blade's conscience.

The vampires have concerns other than the Daywalker. Internal division between the 12 Houses, bitter rivalries and cold ambitions keep them from uniting.

A third factor (a woman) stops things being simply Blade vs Vamps repeatedly; it adds a level of danger and subterfuge that teeters on a very shaky line.

I thoroughly enjoyed the short run the series had, more so than any of the films, and am sad that it was cancelled after just one season. Geoff Johns has been quoted as saying that the reason for it ending was due to rising production costs for the small Spike TV network, not because of viewing figures.

13 fully uncut episodes, approx 40-45 minutes each.

3½ fake tattoos out of 5