Pretty Much Dead Already

I always have a lot to say about entertainment. I created this blog as an avenue to post reviews and few other fun tidbits. But I have some essays in mind that don’t really fit  the blog. I have set up a Blirt page for these essays (including my defense of Sons of Anarchy post). I’m not sure how I like Blirt but I am going to try it out. You never know, they may just end up living on this blog. So here’s my latest essay to ease you in. Now got to my Blirt page! LoL

Is The Walking Dead ready for its own spin off?

The Walking Dead is highly popular, besting ratings for a basic cable drama. TWD spans the age and gender gap brining in 12.4 million viewers for its Season 3 finale. The source material comes from a long running comic series by Robert Kirkman. Keeping some creative control, Kirkman has helped the show thrive. Now AMC wants to capture that same spirit again and create a spin off about a separate group of survivors with no link to the comic books.

As a fan of both the show and the comic, I think this is premature. Season 1 was a perfect example of using dramatic story telling themes and dressing them up with horror elements. While people complained Season 2 was slow, it stuck with the character developments and the theme that people are the most dangerous aspect of the apocalypse (a big theme from the comics). But Season 3 veers from this quite a bit. Adding more zombies and blood shed may have added more ratings, but it made the characters and story take the back burner thus decreasing the quality of the show. The other major issue with Season 3? The stories of the different groups became more and more segregated separating the prison from Woodbury and breaking up the character development flow and ease of storytelling.

Robert Kirkman
Robert Kirkman (Photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

Besides, TWD has been rife with controversy and issues in its three seasons. Season 4 brings yet another shower runner, Scott Gimple whose past credits include being a staff writer. Frank Darabount was fired in the midst of Season 2 and Glenn Mazara took his place for the rest of the season as well as the next. The high rate of show runner turnover is bothersome and indicates that there is incredible tension between AMC and the cast and crew. Season 2 was haunted by rumors that actors wanted out of their contracts because of AMC’s actions. What will happen when current producers Robert Kirkman, Gale Anne Hurd and David Alpert take time to develop this new show? Will the staff be able to maintain a balance that does not injure either show?

Successful spin off have occurred while the current show is still on air. Buffy the Vampire Slayers did not suffer as Joss Wheadon and crew spent time on Angel. Both shows stayed true to the themes and thought provoking look at life Buffy viewers became accustomed to. While Buffy came of age at college, Angel headed down a darker path to redemption. This spin off allowed several of the Buffyverse characters to really expand and become utilized.  Wheadon worked with a trusted team and made the spin off a natural story line expansion for the world he set.

One the flip side, spin offs can go array and cause harm to the original show. One of the most current and notorious examples? Criminal Minds. CBS decided it was time to take Criminal Minds in the same direction of CSI and NCIS, creating another show focusing on another crew of profilers. In setting up the new show, the production company began looking at nonresistant issues and cost cutting efforts for the original show. They essentially fired the two female leads, and replaced them with a different, less costly actress.  Meanwhile, the amazing Kirsten Vangsness was playing double time, appearing in both shows. The story lines faltered as the writers tried to find reasonable ways to remove the current cast members and add the new girl in. These story lines were not in cannon (Seaver questioned Reid and played videogames with Rossi) and the crew purposely styled the new girl’s hair and clothing like that of one of the fired actresses. Fans revolted sending irate letters and refusing to tune in to the spin off. By Season 6’s end, the new girl was fire and the previously released women were brought back-with better pay. And the spin off died.

While The Walking Dead spin off could go either way, I believe the endeavor will take its toll on the original show. The show already suffers from mismanagement, and separating Kirkman, Hurt and Alpert, even for the short time, will quite possibly kill it. While I can’t even speculate on the quality of the spin off, I know it’s a screwdriver to the eye for TWD.

Waking up in Sleepy Hollow

SLEEPY HOLLOW 22

 

Fox jumps on the fairy tale band wagon with its version of Sleepy Hollow. This incarnation of the Headless Horseman brings the tale to the modern day putting a witchy spin on the original story. Taking cues from Grimm and Once Upon a Time, Sleepy Hollow set out to prove that fairy tales and legends are not just for kids.

“Sleepy Hollow” begins in the American Revolution where Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horse first come face to face. Crane beheads his enemy but finds himself mortally wounded. When he awakes, Crane finds himself in a cave. Confused and unsettled, he adventures out into the world and comes face to face with cars. It seems he has woken hundreds of years later in the present. But he is not the only one that has arisen. The Headless Horseman is wreaking havoc in Sleepy Hallow.  Crane teams up with a young police officer who frees him from a mental institution in order to keep the Horseman from reuniting with the skull.

Sleepy Hollow stands out for two reasons. The first is the new twist on an old tale. The plot is not just a modern take on a classic story. The twist is that Crane and the Headless horsemen are controlled by magic and Biblical prophecy. Crane’s wife is part of a coven of “good” witches who fight for balance in the world against the evil side of magic. She casts a spell on Crane keeping him alive allowing him to awaken only when the Horseman comes back. But the Horseman isn’t control by magic. Instead, he is Death, one of the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. So Crane is not just fighting a foe, he is fighting for the sake of the world.

The second is the casting. Tom Mison as Crane is a casting fall-new-shows-sleepy-hollow2_500x369masterpiece. He plays the character with genuine fervor. One minute Mison is mastering one like quips, the next he is fighting against magical and non-magical beings alike. His portrayal makes Crane seem real. No longer is Crane a scared school teacher; he is trained fighter who is coming face to face with magic. What we learn, he learns. While the character is not on the good side of Crane, it’s good to see Orlando Jones again. It’s interesting to see him take on drama when his most memorial moments are the hilarious miss adventures from Evolution. He works well opposite Nicole Beharie who seems too fresh for her part as the police cadet traumatize by demons, but she has the potential to grow in this role.

In fact, the whole show has potential. It captures you with an old tale with a fresh spin and a protagonist that you truly feel for. It will be interested to see if the show can live up to its potential. We shall see tonight.

Paranoia Ain’t the Way to Live Your Life From Day to Day

maxresdefaultRight off the bat, Paranoia alienates some people. Mainly older people, especially the older rich. But for people in my generation, it pulls you in from the very beginning.  Paranoia looks at the current generation and how we work, and one man’s effort to over throw the elder regime.

Liam “Baby” Hemsworth plays Adam Cassidy a young post college graduation with the naive attitude that the whole world is in front of him. When his world is suddenly pulled out from under him, he finds himself working for the older, lying, rich, and a group he despises. His ethics are strained even more as he is asked to steal corporate secrets from his boss’ rival. Caught between Gary Oldman and Harrison Ford, Adam woes the girl of his dreams strives to take care of his father, and to be more than his parents were. Going against this could mean his life or the life of his father.

The movie is a taunt psychological thriller. Viewers watch Adam change from a naive college graduate to one of the men he never wanted to become. But Adam never loses sight of his goals, outsmart the villains and save his father’s life. This combined with a love affair gives a second layer to corporate espionage thrillers. It’s not just about getting ahead; it’s about getting out with relationships intact.

What truly carries these relationships is the genuinely talented cast. Ford and Oldman are great as warring tech companies trying to manipulate the newbie into doing what they want. They have a dry evilness that scares you without pulling out guns or violence. They are great at the hint of violence. Amber Heard plays Adam’s love interest who works for Ford. Heard is an amazing actress and easily play both the emotional lover and shrewd business woman. Nip/Tuck’s Julian McMahon gives a side of toughness putting Adam on the run. But it is Baby Hemsworth who carries the movie. Watching him you forget how young he really is as his character emotionally ages before your eyes. He leaves no trace of accent pulling off the All American Boy. In fact, dare I say it; he is a much better actor than his brother.

Foparanoia-movie-poster-10r me personally, it was an allegory of my generation. I come from a generation that believes that with a degree we are ready to take on the world and make big money. But when we get to the real world, the shock knocks us down.  Everything we were told about what having an education would be is false; too many people have it these days. Besides, those newly in the work force shouldn’t expect such an easy work life; we have to do our time. Adam tries to circumnavigate this and fails. The difference between him and me? His consequences affected every aspect of his life to a deadly degree.

The biggest issue with Paranoia is its name. There were moments when they played with the idea that Adam was just seeing things. But this was short lived. People really were following and threatening him. It’s like Abduction; how can you come a movie something when the title doesn’t happen at all.

While not the best movie, Paranoia is thrilling and engaging. The cast truly personify their characters drawing viewers into a world that is very foreign to them.  But most of all, Liam stands out from his brother and on his own two feet.

In Defense of Sons of Anarchy

Spoilers of the Season 6 Premier

Last night’s Sons of Anarchy premier contained standard SOA fair as well as a shocking ending leaving fans reeling. sons-of-anarchy-season-6-premiere-strawResponsibility dictates that I inform you that this essay contains massive spoilers for the Season 6 premier.  There is a lot of material in the premier episode including Chibs getting straight with Juice, Tig’s remorse about his daughter’s death, and Tara’s transformation in jail. But it is the school shooting that is at the heart of the controversy. Many say the show has gone too far. But I’m going to tell you why the event is just right.

Creator Kurt Sutter did not use the scene as a stunt. If you watched the promo for next week, the shooting has a huge impact on the club and on Jax. It seems the club has indirectly supplied the gun that was used in the shooting. Sutter told Entertainment Weekly, “My desire to do this story just felt very organic to the world: These guys deal guns, and there’s a certain amount of disconnect once you put those guns out on the street not really knowing whose hands they’re gonna end up in and what violence that they create…And to have a father who’s struggling with boys of his own and questioning the violence of his life, and is this right for his kids — it just seemed like a very organic story to tell”

The emotional implications of this are huge for character development as well as the show’s end game. “I knew if we did it, it would really have to be at the end and, ultimately, I realized it was a good way to take us to the end,” Sutter says as the show plans to end after Season 7. “It’s not being done arbitrarily. It ultimately becomes the final straw in their relationship with the gun business and the domino that takes us to a fairly tragic and epic conclusion.” The events move the story; it’s not there just to drop jaws.

-sons-of-anarchy--seSecondly, the scene was very well done. Sutter kept the depiction of the violence to a minimum. The scene focuses on the child and his mental state. The child is shown looking through a notebook. He rolls back his sleeves breaking the illusion that he is a clean cut boy in a school uniform. He has cuts up and down his arms, probably self-inflicted. The boys pull a gun from his back pack leaving his journal on the bench. The viewers see drawings of a very disturbed mind. The scene cuts to guns shots and flashes through a school window. Viewers never once see him actually shoot anyone. The scene is done tastefully keeping any actual violence shown to a minimum.

The scene depicts real life and this is why it hits so hard to viewers. For those like me, it’s an emotional impact that I know will change every aspect of the show. For others, it’s linked to a personal past experiences that can be very emotional. This is not his first instance that SOA has dealt with such emotional topics. Season 2 dealt with Gemma being raped, a violent affair that happens to thousands of women every day. In Season 3, Jacks son is kidnapped. These three events are all very real but have been used in other shows as plot points. Even Buffy the Vampire Slayer dealt with the issue of schooling shooting but the episode was cut because soon before airing Columbine happened. Criminal Minds has also dealt with the after affects from school shooting victims. It’s not taboo; its real life presented in art.

The events of the premier will resound through the last two seasons changing Jax and bringing the club to its eventual demise. Powerful, tasteful, and though provoking, the shooting is the epicenter of everything that the club does now. Like in the real world, it will change every life it touches.

 

 

Read the original Entertainment Weekly article here.