Strange Things are Afoot in Hemlock Grove

Hemlock Grove

Netflix original, streaming

First it was cable television that gave network TV a run for its money.  Now it’s streaming TV online. Netflix and Amazon Prime have both jumped on this band wagon presenting new material and returning fan favorites. The creepiest so far? Hemlock Grove whose first season is streaming on Netflix.hemlockgrove

Hemlock Grove is based on the novel by Brian McGreevy.  A pair of gypsies move into town and the teen boy is pegged by the local aspiring writer to be a werewolf. But when grisly murders start happening around town, some of the town’s folk give credit to the girl’s theory.  Local girls are torn apart by what looks like animals. But it seems that the upiόr that the Gypsies are chasing may be the cause. The town sheriff as well as representative from the US fish and Wildlife Federation is investigating as well. Many strange things are found in the Pennsylvania little grove including a girl impregnated by an angel.

The show is The Gates combined with American Horror Story with a dash of The Walking Dead thrown. The story combines a supernatural town with the bizarre twists that keep the viewer confused, terrified, and wanting more. Each town member has a secret and not one person is the town is truly normal. McGreevy sinks into years of folklore putting the fear back into werewolves, vampires, and angels.

Any reviews you read about the show focuses on how gory the show is. In reality it’s not insanely gory. What is disgusting is the events and how realistic they look. It’s not The Walking Dead gory with blood and guts everywhere. Greg Nicottero’s FX company uses a more subtle hand here. For example, it’s not gross how the werewolf sheds its skin; it is disturbing when the werewolf at its left over human parts. Only one body looks like a zombie, and even then, Bicycle Girl was scarier. But maybe I’ve just watched too much horror and sci-fi to be bothered by the gore.

The story itself is psychologically disturbing.  The show uses a giant with a deformed face as an allegory for being a teenager as well and a mysterious medical company that brings her back to life. The story sometimes over reaches and the finale is like the worst episodes of The X-files; you have more questions than answers. But more than anything it the characters and the actors that portray them that keep viewer hooked. Viewers will recognize Femke Jemson and Dougray Scoot as the adult stars. Battlestar hemlock_grove_netflixGalatica Fans will be thrilled by the appearance of Kandyse McClure and Aaron Douglas. But it is the two teen boys Landon Liboiron and Bill Skarsgård that give the best performances as they deal with their dual nature.  Their unique bromance captures your attention as they both try to help a girl they love (a love triangle Twilight would never touch!).
The first season follows the original novel and McGreevy is writing second while he had outlines for a third. As an Executive Producer, the show captures his warped version of a town from his childhood and this works for Netflix. Forget who shot JR; I want to know what that thing is inside the box!

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Man of Many Suits

I personally am not big on superheroes as a movie genre. I prefer sci-fi heroines that kick butt. But sometimes I do find a superhero story I really enjoy. I love X-Men and its allegory of life lived outside the norm. And though I hated the Avengers, I liked several of the character. Captain American, Hawkeye, and, of course, Tony Stark. Robert Downey Jr brings the character life and makes most of the Iron Man movies enjoyable. Iron Man 3 is a great addition to the franchise.

In the latest installment of the Marvel saga, Tony Stark has to use his brains again against two nefarious foes. When a terrorist known as The Mandarin is behind worldwide explosions and terrorist messages. When one puts his friend in a coma, Tony Stark tells The Mandarin je was not afraid and invites him to challenge Tony personally. The fight is brought to his house which is destroying, and Tony is left adrift with just one suit. He must use his wit and brain to repair the broken suit and go against the terrorist.

iron-man-3-tony-stark-robert-downey-jrThe movie is at its best when Tony is doing his “tricks and one liners.” Without his suit, Tony must rely on his wit to conquer goals and to deal with the people around him. He partners with a young boy, and it’s hard to say who wins when they slam each other. As Tony goes MacGyver to get his damaged suite working, it is so to see how this geniuses’ brain works. The character gets real depth dealing with his issues on his own without Pepper, his suit, or his money.

The biggest detractor is the startling gender inequality. Polly Purebred-excuse me, Pepper Potts-spends half of the movie half naked and screaming. There is a moment when Pepper is powerful and comes to her man’s aid. But Tony must “fix” her and let her go back to the damsel in distress negating any equality her previous actions.  I make fun of Black Widow’s outfit but her kick ass factor is at least one step in the right direction for feminism. Pepper is not.

Comic fans will be unhappy with parts of the film especially The Mandarin. As a movie goes, I enjoyed the villain and his twist. He could have easily been a Bane rip off, but Ben Kingsley makes The Mandarin multi-faceted, giving humor to the film as well as misdirecting Tony from other threats.   This works well for the movie, even though it breaks from comic cannon.

Iron Man 3 has the typical plot holes of a super hero movie (Are the suits designed only for Tony or not? Make up your mind!), this installment of Marvel’s Phase 2 focuses on the character making Tony human and relatable. As always, Downey Jr is amazing and truly makes the movie and the character. Iron Man 3 is not to be missed.

Promised Land: Why You Should Give a Frack

Blu-ray, DVD

 

I do not enjoy movies about environmentalism or animal rights. Hell, I can’t even watch the animal abuse commercials. Instead of making me feel good, these movies are sad and sappy with a magic ending. So unlike real life. I had no desire to see Promised Land when I read the synopsis but the trailer made me think differently. Promised Land might be a different kind of movie.

Steve Butler and Sue Thomason are natural gas sales people sent to a small rural town in economic decline. Their goal is to acquire the drilling rights of the land in order to set up a hydraulic fracturing (fracking) station for natural gas. The two encounter trouble with a local, retired teacher, as well as a cute and funny environmentalist who want to keep the area fracking free. Both Steve and Sue s learn about life and love seeing the world through new eyes.

This David and Goliath story pits a rural against the large company with their false promises of cash. The town is struggling and their eyes turn big when they are promised exaggerated amounts of money to save their children. Steve watches their struggles and lives alongside them in an effort to bring them to his side. But he starts to see the company in the same light. The lies won’t help this town and save these people. The man is being turned from the inside. This gives the movie a sense of hope knowing that home and standards are not just a thing of the past.promised-land-blu-ray-cover

The film could have been a puff piece about being green; instead it was a smart and emotional looking into becoming an adult. Blending humor with real world issues, Matt Damon and John Krasinski proved to be deft screen writers as well as actors. If anyone else had tried to do this movie, it would have become a sappy mess.  In fact, it’s my favorite of Damon’s work.  Krasinski is fabulous juggling drama and humor making sure the laughs, never losing the tone of the film. He works well with Damon. Of course, it is Hal Holbrook who steals the screen. The husband of the late Dixie Carter adds true down home feel to the Pennsylvania town.

I actually enjoyed learning more about natural gas. How knew it could be so dangerous to get? Who knew franking was a real word? I shocked at the lies spewing out of the Steve and Sue’s mouth like a car salesman. I really shouldn’t have been surprised. Natural gas is capitalism at the top of its game. It can be harmful and greedy.

If you are in the mood for a smart, funny film look no further. Krasinski and Damon surprise you with deep look into rural life and the natural gas business. This becoming an adult film shows what truly matters in life.