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.

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.

Whedon’s Talent Pales on the Big Screen

Joss Whedon is best known for his TV projects: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spin off Angel, Firefly and the ill-fated Dollhouse. Each TV show pushed the limits of reality as well as told moral stories in new and intriguing ways. His big screen work has been minimal with his best work in the screenplays of Toy Story and Atlantis and culminating in his last two big screen productions Cabin in the Woods and The Avengers. Neither of these lives up to the Whedon reputation.

Vacation, I’ve got to Get Away

Cabin in the Woods, Blu-ray & DVD

Written by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard

This is possibly one of the worst horror movies I have ever seen. I was hoping that the Whedon half not responsible for Cloverfield would balance out the movie. But I was very wrong. The problem with this movie starts with the trailers.

From watching the trailer, I had a very different movie in mind. The trailer portrayed people being psychologically tested at their vacation cabin. The movie itself even hints at this with people in lab coats at a testing center and the two way mirror in the cabin. The movie abruptly curves away from that idea. Suddenly, the vacationers are being attacked by monster so they can be sacrificed to a god. The people in the test chamber are releasing the beings as the victims unknowingly call them out and take bets on what monsters they will choose. The sacrifice only counts if the victims choose their method of slaughter of their own free will. This begs the questions: What the hell are all the people there for? Just to house the beasts?

The movie becomes a more bizarre version of The Hunger Games as those in the control chamber cause an avalanche so the victims can’t escape. (It seems that that their free will can only go so far.) Zombies, mermaids, slashers, and a variety of mythological monster are released on the victims as well as the center itself leading to a blood bath that knows neither end nor reality. The twist? The people we are rooting for escaping can only save the world if they are killed.

In what is supposed to be poking fun at stock horror characters, each character is based on a movie stereotype: the jock, the slut, and the stoner. But any humor or sarcasm that was written in the screenplay was lost when portrayed by the actors. Chris Hemsworth does a horrible job, and I wonder how he went on to play Thor. Whedon alumni Amy Acker, Fran Kranz and Tom Lenk are the only actors that really put in a good performance. And it seems Kristin Connolly thinks she is Felicia Day but does a horrible job imitating the actresses.

The film does not know how to contain itself. It knows no limits to what is believable or what people want to see. Stealing evil creatures from other movies seems less like homage than a lazy stealing of other people’s ideas. Like Cloverfield, Cabin lacks a focus that keeps the viewer intrigued.

After watching the film, I totally understand why it took two years for the film to get a distributor. Sloppily thrown together, the characters never develop and the plot never makes much sense. Instead it seemed like I was watching Mystery Science Theater with out Mike, Servo or Crowe.

How Many Superheroes Does it Take to Save the World?

The Avengers, Blu-Ray & DVD

Written & Directed by Joss Whedon

I can hear you now, “What? You don’t like The Avengers? Are you crazy?” It’s possible that I am, but this movie was not a great move, superhero or otherwise. The characters are one sided and stereotyped, the plot is stilted, and the writing is weak.

The plot is easily divided into three sections: putting the team together, the team fights with each other, and the team beats up the bad guys. It’s this final third of the movie that finally has good kicking evil’s butt. I had no fun watching the team squabble with each other and try to beat each other up. You’re all superheroes; no one’s going to win. It seems they forgot they had to work together to beat up the bad guy. But when this happens, the movie is everything it could be: gorgeous fight sequences, teamwork, and defeating evil. Each team member comes alive as they use their unique talents to win and the movie should have focused more on this.

It also suffers from one dimensional characters. The characters are stereotyped to a fault because there is no time for character development in this mess. Hawkeye and Black Widow have the most depth out of all the characters.  But if Hawkeye hadn’t been hijacked by Loki, the two would have been reduced to stereotypes. The Hulk is a giant nerd, Iron Man shows nothing but sarcasm, and Captain America is so anal I wanted someone to remove the stick from his butt. I have seen the movies that focus on these characters alone: the characters are all well developed with a variety of emotions and desires. But Whedon has pared them down to one note characters that you don’t even like. (I loved Captain the America the best out all the movies but hated his character in The Avengers).

Whedon, the king of witty comebacks (see any episode of Buffy) looses his magic here. Dialogue is childish and very rarely funny, even when it was meant to be. For such simple character and plot delineation, the movie was often time confusing. Why are the characters where they are? What is the point to this other than looking cool? That is the movie’s fatal flaw: looking cool without substance.

I think that is overall my issue with the movie. Whedon has written for Marvel and can write good comic book issues. But a movie is not a comic book, and this translation into live action leaves me wanting more.  With this current reincarnation of Batman and the X-Men franchise, I have become accustomed to much more depth in my comic based movies. I expect characters I care about, deep storyline, and real life parallels; Avenger falls short on all of that.

It looks good, there is a lot of butt kicking, but the story is at a loss.

“You’re a Thundering Loonie!”

From badly accented demi-gods to pot heads, the latest of Whedon’s work is sub par. When not writing for Disney, his work on the big screen falters, and he cannot recapture that magic from Buffy. Many of his big screen works are simplified ideas of characters and themes. Long live the Whedon TV show!