The Clue is in the Title

Psych celebrated its 100th episode with fan appreciation and their take on the movie Clue.

For this special episode, The Psych did a theme James Roday and Dule Hill had been wanting to do for some time: celebrate the movie Clue based on the Parker Brothers/Hasbro board game. The movie came out in 1985 and featured three endings that were shown in different theaters. The crew filmed three different episode endings with different killers and let fans decided on which suspect would be the perpetrator.

100 Clues featured several of the original cast members including: Martin Mull, Lesley Ann Warren and Christopher Lloyd.  The episode loosely followed the original movie plot. Party members are invited to a creepy mansion for a party with a hidden agenda. When the guests start to die, everyone becomes a suspect.  Gus and Shawn find themselves in the middle of revenge gone wrong when a local rock star gets out of prison for the death of his wife. The psychic must figure out if the author of the rocker’s biography, his manager or the butler did it.

In an effort to tell their own tale, the plot loses the parody focus. The action follows the rock singer and not one of the movie alums. These character quickly become background and are not used to their full potentials. The plot loosely spoofs the events of the movie (there is a singing message girl and a chandelier fall) but the episode loses the feel of the movie. The humor waned as the writers failed to capture the magic of the Twin Peaks episode.

This is probably why the episode was such a disappointment. Dual Spires was a wonderfully parody/homage to the ninety’s drama. I personally thought this episode would eclipse Dual Spires in references and laughs. Unfortunately, this was not the case. Clue was filled with fabulous one liners that were obviously left out (you got a letter, you got a letter….) while others barely registered on the honor scale (one plus one plus….). The best part of the whole episode is when Roday emulates Tim Curry’s famous “no.”

Even the slap stick loses it humor. It is tedious to watch Shawn run back and forth to describe how people were killed or injured. The weapons each suspect carried ranged from insanely dumbly to moderate useful (I would use the baking torch). But when Shawn comes out with a saxophone as a weapon, it falls flat.

Its greatest selling point is letting fans choose the ending live. In the East Coast version (the one I watched and voted for) fans voted for the “What really happened” option from the movie: the butler did it. West Coasters mixed it up and showed favor for the most famed alum: Lloyd (the author did it).

This concept was amazing for fans and more rewarding than reality TV. Built the humor is off the mark. The most stunning tribute? Dedicating the episode to the late, great Madeline Kahn.

Checkout my Facebook page to see the endings!

Checking in at Bates Motel

TV shows based on movies face unique issues. The biggest being the lack of actors from the original movie. Actors are either not interested in TV work or cannot be paid what they would like. So producers have two options: use the same characters with different actors or create whole new characters. Both options can lose fans but sometimes shows can triumph. For every success like Friday Night Lights there is a Clueless.  The key is to have good writing and characters played by actors that are relatable.

Bates Motel takes viewers through Norman Bates’ journey of becoming a psycho. A&E jumps from the timeline of the original movie but keeps the character intact and the plot is engaging. The pilot starts strong.

Bates Motel beings the Bates story after Norman’s father dies and he and his mother move into the hotel to get a fresh start. The house and hotel are in major disrepair so the pair has a lot of work ahead of them. The town of Seaside is caught in an economic slump and the original owners of the hotel are not happy about losing their property. Added onto of being the new kid at school, Norman is dealing with the questionable death of his father and dealing with his mother’s mood swings. In the pilot, Norma is raped and the last shred of sanity in the Bates’ house snaps.  Viewers watch as Norman begins his descends to the world of psychosis.

A&E gets quite a few things right. The first is the casting of the principle characters. Great care was taken in casting the 17 year old version of Norman Bates. Freddie Highmore (Johnny Depp’s progeny) moves past fairy tale characters and becomes the awkward teenager with mommy issues. Highmore nails the almost stutter and jerky movements that afflicted adult Norman. Highmore seems to channel Anthony Perkins, and you feel sorry for this budding psycho.bates-motel-610x580

Adding the mother as an actual character is the unique twist that makes the show worthwhile. Even though Psycho IV: The Beginning delved into Norman’s childhood, the show gives a more intimate look of Norma Bates, and she truly comes to life. Vera Farmiga radiates crazy- the way she walks, the way she talks, the way she smiles. You clearly see why Norman becomes what he is; genetically and environmentally, he never had a chance.

Perhaps the best character in the show is the house itself. The production team did a fabulous job of reconstructing the Bates home and motel. The sets decorated as they were in the original movie. This eye for detail makes it seem nature that Highmore would be the young version of Bates. This blast from the past gives a sense to the family state of being: out of touch with the current time. The minimal use of technology allows the house to cast its spell and keep the characters and viewers trapped in the past. As a viewer, seeing the house done correctly was more important than casting the characters.

Bates Morel is a solid pilot and the show itself has lots of potential. Let’s see if the team at A&E can keep it up.

Oz is Powerful But Not so Great

Oz the Great and Powerful starts off strong. The story begins in black and white Kanas and viewers are introduced to the famous Oz. Oscar is worse than imagined. Though he possesses showmanship and a talent for stage magic, his personality is ruined by his lust for women and money. He treats his personal assistant badly, and leaves Kanas on a hot air balloon fleeing an angry husband.oz-the-great01

Oscar wakes up in the beautiful vibrant and psychedelic world of Oz. He is immediately found by the wide eyed and naive Theodora. Oscar takes no time to play on her ignorance and takes advantage of her affections as well as her offers to run Oz as a rich and powerful king. But it comes with a price; he must slay the Wicked Witch of the West.

A story of redemption, the movie engages viewers with character who literally develop before your eyes. James Franco is perfect as the wise cracking magician. It is exciting to see his character want and actually change as he fights for a cause. Entertainment Weekly claims Franco is horrible miscast but that could not be further from the truth. The only issue with acting is with Michelle William’s performance as Glinda. But the material for her character is bland and one dimensional that Williams does not have much to work with. Rachel Weisz has a delightful cackle, and Mila Kunis gives her best performance to date.

The movie is visually stunning even in 2D. Care was taken to develop each characters look, make-up and wardrobe. With Greg Nicotero assisting with visual effects, this movie was guaranteed to be a visual treat. He’s most well-known for his work on The Walking Dead, but he resume is too long to list. The world is gorgeous and exactly what we hoped to see in Oz. The creatures are fully realized and each town has its own flair.

reg_1024_OzTheGreat2_mh_021313One of the movie’s biggest problems  is that the plot seems to have been mashed together from too much material. I have not read the original novels nor do not know how many books the plot has been taken from. But it feels like Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2; they just threw a whole bunch of material in, mixed it up, and tried to make it one cohesive plot. Most of the characters are given minor, if any, back story or time to deal with the events of the movies. The characters are ushered from one peril to another with a long lag in Munchkin Land. The script could have been tighter if any non-pertinent details had been removed.

The other issue is that it tries too hard to emulate the original Wizard of Oz. While it is nice to see the Cowardly Lion or the living scarecrow, some of the events and references seemed forced. The homages are not organic. Oz suffers like S. Darko; the producers forced original story material to the point that it is detriment to the movie. Viewers must labor through watching Oz doll out presents, most which make no sensate most loved icon has been left out. It seems Warner Brothers owns the copy right to the Ruby Slippers and will not be venture in any Disney endeavor.

It is fun to watch Oscar become Oz and how the disembodied head came into play and viewers once again feel sorry for the Wicked Witch.  But this isn’t Wicked; it lacks the intellectual impact.  Over all Oz is a beautiful spectacle whose plot suffers s from the Hollywood Blockbuster affliction.  The Great and Powerful Oz has a powerful presence but it is not a great film.

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Why Blood & Chrome Was Not Picked Up

The world of Battlestar Galactica is not dead. Battlestar Galactica Blood & Chrome was originally made as a two-hour TV pilot. Fans have been clamoring for more of the BSG world but B&C ultimately did not make it past a web series. SYFY then showed it as a two-hour movie and released it on Blu-Ray and DVD. The low budget flick is rife with lighting and technical issues, but this isn’t why B&C didn’t get off its feet as a TV show. Here’s why.

1. It Was Too Melodramatic

In 188 minutes, lots of people died, families were left fatherless, two virtual strangers had sex, lovers were betrayed, and a nuclear bomb was set off sacrificing soldiers for cylon death. That is a lot of material to cover in such a short span of time. While BSG was a space soap opera, the content was spread evenly over a variety of episodes adding just enough emotion to an action packed episode. B&C dumps it all in and you just don’t care about anyone or any situation. Cylons stole human data? Who cares? It’s happened a bazillion times before on the original show.

2. It Didn’t Learn Anything from Caprica

Caprica failed in a major way because it did not give us the characters, or cylons, we love (and love to hate). While the creation of the cylons is intriguing, viewers were supposed to bond with some disembodied girl and to identify with the pain of her father. It did not focus on any characters we knew (though a really young Adam showed up). The cylons were just machines; viewer did not have conflicted feeling for them as sentient beings. Plus, they still looked like robots. Caprica was slow and viewers had to labor through episode after episode just to see the first cyclone come alive. B&C pulls the same thing; the actual plot takes forever to present itself. In an effort to develop a twist, the plot leaves the viewers to wonder “what the hell are they actually doing?”

battlestarbloodchrome3. It Had the Wrong Focus

Viewers do not want to see young Adama. Not as a child, and not as a new pilot. I would have been really excited if the movie had focused on Adama and Tigh meeting and their growing relationship during their fight of the cylons. This would have been welcome backstory and create a sci-fi buddy story. An even better idea? Do a cyclone origin series. Why did the cylons pick those humanoid bodies? What inspired that? Either of these ideas would have brought the viewer’s back to characters we had already bonded with.

4. It didn’t have Tom Hardy in It

Or any other good looking or decent actor. Honestly, besides Ben Cotton as the co-pilot, the acting was subpar. Adama and Kelly were annoying and I had trouble identifying with the characters. The best part of the whole thing was Tricia Helfer’s uncredited addition.

BSG has not had great success with the post TV show projects (just watch The Plan) but it has lots of potential. Now if they can only get it right.

Snitch is a Surprisingly Good Film

I am not a fan of The Rock, and I am not a fan of Dwayne Johnson. I can never take him seriously as an actor. But I am a huge fan of The Walking Dead’s Jon Bernthal and have always been impressed by his performances. Bernthal is what got me to sit down and what Snitch. I was glad I did.

Snitch is the story of a father who must do something unthinkable to save his son from prison. His son was on the receiving end of a drug deal gone badly. Because he had no one to tell on, the son has to go to prison for a minimum of 10 years. John (Johnson) strikes a deal with the DA; he will help them bust a local seller and they will reduce his son’s sentence.

John approaches one of his construction workers who have a history of selling narcotics. But Daniel (Bernthal) is trying to keep his nose clean and stay out of the business. When John offers him a large chunk of change for an introduction, Daniel reluctantly agrees. Daniel unfortunately is sucked into John’s transactions and has no idea that John is working for the police. The simple drug transports gets complicated when a cartel contact becomes involved and the DA set her sights on him.

While the movie has been labeled by some as an action movie, it is more of a drama with some action thrown in. The film is character centric and really focuses on fathers’ love for their family. Both John and Daniel are struggling to take care of their sons, one whose son is in prison and the other trying to keep his son off the street. It is their character growth that really fuels the movie.

Johnson proves that he can actually act. Instead of the fake bravado from his wrestling or Fast and Furious persona, Johnson develops with the character showing toughness but also vulnerability and real emotion. He was able to carry the movie and make you care about his character.

Jon-Bernthal-SnitchWith that being said, the best performance comes from Bernthal. You feel the most for Daniel because he is pawn in this game. Bernthal captures in the inner turmoil of a man who wants the best for his family while trying to be a better person. Like any role he tackles, Bernthal becomes the character completely capturing the motivation and emotions of the role you are watching.

The movie is surprisingly deep. It brushes the surface of the controversy of the mandatory drug laws without becoming preachy. It also characterizes the overly ambitious tendency of some DAs with the war on drugs. It gives a truthful look the violence rife in the drug trade. But the main focus is the desire for fathers to take care of their sons and the plot stays centralized around this theme.

Snitch is a moving drama set within the intense world of the drug trade. Powerful performance by Dwayne Johnson and Jon Bernthal make the movie more than just some action thriller. Snitch is actually a fantastic film.