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Death Valley: Something from MTV I can finally watch

18 Oct

I never thought I’d look forward to a horror comedy show about a bunch of police officers in the San Fernando Valley dealing with an onslaught of vampires, zombies and werewolves who must assimilate into everyday life or… die.  Well, with the zombies, they have to die as all they want to do is infect people then tear off each other’s limbs and snack.  But I finally watched an episode of Death Valley at Comic Con in New York (write up on panel to follow) last weekend and I actually liked it.  Yes, I’m shocked as well.

Spider One (brother of Rob Zombie) conceived the idea when he moved into the San Fernando Valley a few years ago.  Any person on the other side of the hill (the Westside, Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, the Palisades, etc.) would tell you living in the Valley could do that to you.  If you are detecting some underlying dislike of the Valley from me, you are right.  To understand my dislike, you only need to watch the episode of Gidget (the Sally Field show from the 1960s) where her father takes her to buy a used car in the Valley and they get lost.  So lost, they never find the car shop.   They can barely find their way back to Malibu.  That sums up the Valley for me.

But yes many people actually live there and like it.  Love it even.  And these are their stories.  What works about this show is that it’s a mockumentary as well as a horror comedy.  The mockumentary part is a COPS homage and immediately allows the viewer to feel somewhat familiar with an identifiable genre from television that has been around for a couple of decades now.  Although the show claims the stories are about the cops on the Undead Task Force (UTF for short) and the camera crew that follows them, we never really get to know the camera crew as well as I think we should.  Yes we get small moments from them, usually if they are attacked and have to be replaced, but the opening is misleading about that particular aspect of the show.

A zombie enjoys a donut instead of flesh for a change.

The UTF consists of a group of officers earmarked to fight supernatural forces, Captain Frank Dashell (Bryan Callen), Officer Carla Rinaldi (Tania Raymonde), Officer Joe Stubeck (Charlie Sanders), Officer Billy Pierce (Bryce Johnson), Office John “John John” Johnson (Texas Battle), and rookie Officer Kirsten Landry (Caity Lotz).  Captain Dashell’s briefings/rants tend to set the comedic tone for the show each episode.  Death Valley is violent, irreverent, sexist and completely not redeemable but it’s still a fun watch.  Maybe there is something relaxing and cathartic after a hard day when you just want to watch a mockumentary about shooting and decapitating zombies.  Or making sure that all the werewolves are following the city ordinance during each full moon and their lockdown areas are to code.  Perhaps it’s the growing problem of the “sex for blood” trade with the Valley Vampire hookers.  Or the entire episode about zombie street fighting that the officers want to go watch and enjoy before they shut it down.  All I know is I am somehow, entertained.  That works for me, even if it is illegal zombie fights.

Watch the trailer.

Ringer: “A Whole New Kind of Bitch” Episode 5 Review

16 Oct

Two Unhappy Couples

Things are looking up for Sarah Michelle Gellar.  This week the CW announced it had picked up Ringer for the full season.  That’s good news if you’re a fan of the show.  Thankfully, the storyline is picking up speed and I’m hoping it will go speeding all the way to the end of the first season with a great cliffhanger.  One can at least hope.

This week we learn that in some ways Bridget (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is no better than Siobhan when it comes to being a good friend to Gemma (Tara Summers).  In both cases, the sisters ultimately put Henry (Kristoffer Polaha) first; there is  Siobhan having the affair with him and getting pregnant with his unborn child and Bridget warning Henry about Gemma’s scene to catch them in bed together so he won’t get a penny in their upcoming divorce.  The one she hadn’t told him about yet.

Bridget has to put out several fires, mostly involving Gemma’s threat to out her to Andrew (Ioan Gruffudd) that she isn’t really Siobhan.  As Bridget feels that she’s losing control, she desperately wants to pop some pills so she goes to a NA meeting (Juliet her stepdaughter follows her there and later tells Andrew but Bridget/Siobhan claims she went as research because of Juliet’s drug problem).  She meets a new guy, Charlie (Billy Miller who is none other than Billy Abbott on the Young and the Restless), who gives her his number.  She ends up meeting with him when she can’t reach her boyfriend/sponsor, Malcolm (Mike Colter) but he’s being shot up with drugs by the man who wants to kill Bridget.  What a betrayal!  Especially when she ends up hooking up with Billy, which I’m positive will happen sometime in the near future.

Gemma, furious with Bridget for not helping with her plan, calls Andrew to meet her at the apartment in the middle of the night.  When Andrew arrives, Henry claims Gemma isn’t there and must have called from her office.  He sends Andrew home and proceeds to go upstairs where the is evidence of not only a violent fight but possibly a murder (big blood stains on the wall usually indicate more than a paper cut…).  Gemma’s murder?  We can only hope.  Actually, Gemma is a good foil so it might not be a great idea to kill her off this soon but then Henry could be a great crazy stalker.   And why hasn’t he noticed that Bridget doesn’t have Siobhan’s ‘cooking burn scar’?    I’m looking forward to next week.  Did Henry kill Gemma?  Did he dismember her? That would take him to a whole new level of bad husband if that’s the case.

Notes from New York Comic Con: Once Upon a Time Sneak Preview and Review

15 Oct

Once Upon a Time, the new ABC fantasy/drama created by Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis (of Lost fame) does not disappoint. It’s one of the more entertaining pilots I’ve watched in a while.  Ever since I took a “Freud and Literature” class in college, I’ve had a perverse fascination with fairy tales and I’m glad to see a network finally decided to take the plunge.  Of course, when one plunges, they all plunge so now NBC has Grimm and Fox has Locke and Key (although they chose not to pick up the pilot, I’d say they were having second thoughts considering they’ve now screened it at San Diego Comic Con and New York Comic Con – I had to stand to watch it and I was one of the last ones to get let into the screening – review to follow).  CBS is playing it safe with comedies, reality, and procedurals in one form or another.  It’s a smart move.  Not everyone is going to love fairy tale shows but I’m already looking forward to Once Upon a Time on Sunday nights.

SPOILER ALERT:

The premise goes like this:  Snow White (Ginnifer Godwin) and Prince Charming (Josh Dallas) are in the middle of their wedding when the Evil Queen (Lana Parailla) breezes in and puts a curse on everyone and everything that has to do with fairy tales.  She’s mad and jealous of Snow White.  Prince Charming smites her with his sword but she manages to somehow survive, turning into a cloud of black smoke.  Her curse essentially banishes everyone to the real world and they forget who they are and nobody gets to live happily ever after.  Rumpelstiltskin (Robert Carlyle) lets Snow White in on a secret:  her daughter who is about to be born, Emma (Jennifer Morrison), can return in 28 years and avenge the curse.

Fast forward 28 years.  Snow White’s and Prince Charming’s daughter, Emma, is a bail bonds collector in Boston.  It’s her birthday and a young boy shows up at her door, informing her he’s her son Henry (Jared Gilmore), who she gave up for adoption ten years before.  He tells her she must return with him to Storybrooke, Maine and save everyone in the town who don’t realize they are fairy tale characters.  She thinks he’s nuts but he grows on her.  Now the Evil Queen is Henry’s adoptive mother.  Emma doesn’t like what she sees and decides to stick around and check things out.  As the pilot progresses we see all the fairy tale characters including Snow White as average people.

What works in this pilot is the characterization of the fairy tale characters as average people.  And, in true Lost fashion, we get flashbacks to how things were before, how they behaved in a different world and the actions they took to make things end up as they have now.  Does that sound familiar to any of you Lost fans?

After the screening, Matt Mitovich, TV Guide’s Online Managing Editor, moderated a discussion with the show’s creators, Horowitz and Kitsis.  First, if you think it’s a reference to Lost in the show, then it probably is.  They just couldn’t help themselves.  Notice Henry’s name.  Look at the time the clock is stuck in Storybrooke.  Think about Emma’s last name:  Swan.  The good thing about this is that if you aren’t a Lost fan, you will never know and you won’t miss any deeper meanings.  If you are a Lost fan, go ahead and knock yourself out with the secret references.  A smart way to build on an existing fan base…

ABC has given this show a 13 episode order.  Horowitz and Kitsis explained that “each show would resemble the pilot.”  There will be a narrative between two worlds each time and episodes will include stories such as the Evil Queen’s side of the story, how Snow met Prince Charming, and an episode about Jiminy Cricket (written by none other than Buffy and Battlestar verteran Jane Espenson).

There will be a star-studded guest cast for weekly fairy tale characters.  And if you miss Gus (Giancarlo Esposito) from Breaking Bad, don’t despair, he will be the Evil Queen’s mirror in several episodes.

This show will now be added to my other guilty pleasures, Revenge and Castle for the Fall Season.  Congratulations ABC, I honestly can’t remember the last time I ever liked three of your shows in one season.  I think I was a teenager.  I’m not sure what that says about me or ABC and I prefer not to ponder on that question for any length of time…

Make sure to watch Once Upon a Time on Sundays at 8/7 central on ABC beginning October 23rd.

Sons of Anarchy: “Una Venta” Episode Review

11 Oct

This week’s episode was far from compelling. I’m not sure I even need a spoiler alert because quite honestly, nothing of true significance occurs. This is one of those episodes that functions to set up many payoffs later in the narrative. Gemma (Katey Sagal) befriends the new police chief’s wife and gets Tara (Maggie Siff) to agree to be on the wife’s committee to save the community garden from developers. Yes Gemma has her own agenda including some weed growing but that’s beside the point.

SAMCRO accompanies their first drug/gun shipment to Tucson in force.  It ends up calling attention to law enforcement but they manage to evade the ‘tail’ by blowing up some used oil drums.  They make their first delivery and receive loads of cocaine to take back.  Bobby (Mark Boone Junior) doesn’t seem pleased.

Clay (Ron Perlman) plays a hypocrite when he discovers the SAMCRO counterparts in Tucson are dealing meth.  Isn’t it a little late to be self-righteous at this point?  He interferes in their club’s business and creates a rift with the current ‘management’ who will most likely get ex-communicated after their stunt.  Finally, Clay has a lot of trouble with his hands and riding which just reinforces the need for him to exploit the drug running business and get out while he can.

Piney (William Lucking) has a health scare in Tara’s office and they have a discussion about John Teller.  We discover that Jax (Charlie Hunnam) likes to keep a journal and really, that’s about all that happens.  I’m hoping for far more next episode.

Ringer: “It’s Gonna Kill Me, But I’ll Do It” Episode 4 Review

10 Oct

SPOILER ALERT:
This particular Ringer episode focuses on Brigdet’s/Siobhan’s (Sarah Michelle Gellar) birthday.  They reflect on their past celebrations when money was tight and they were children.  This year, Bridget gets to celebrate her birthday in the Hamptons with Gemma (Tara Summers), Henry (Kristoffer Polaha), and Andrew (Ioan Gruffudd).  While Andrew tries to get closer to his wife, Henry also takes his shot, reminding Bridget of their romantic tryst at the Hamptons house for her last birthday.  Bridget tells Henry the affair has to end and Gemma overhears.

Meanwhile  in Paris, Siobhan repairs her relationship with Tyler (Justin Bruening), the banker from her husband’s company.  She confesses it’s her birthday and she has no money (Bridget made that large withdrawal as Siobhan a couple of weeks ago), so Tyler comes to her rescue and puts her hotel bill on Andrew’s company’s bill.  Problem solved.  It appears that Bridget, as a drug addict and alcoholic, has far more integrity than Siobhan.  So far.  Siobhan manages to steal some paperwork from Tyler’s briefcase and make a call to her anonymous partner that their plans are still moving forward.

Agent Machado (Nestor Carbonell), not one to miss a party, shows up at the Hamptons after the FBI discovers two things:  Bridget/Siobhan made a distress call from Siobhan’s boat in the Hamptons back in September when Bridget first arrived in town, and, Bridget/Siobhan, accessed the locker where Bridget’s belongings were stored and took her bag.  He confronts Bridget (as Siobhan) and tells her that he knows all of Siobhan’s secrets and he will find Bridget.  He also informs Gemma that Siobhan has a twin sister (before any of the revelations of the affair has taken place) so Gemma confronts Bridget/Siobhan who admits to having a twin who she is no longer close to.  Finally, Agent Machado quickly searches Bridget’s phone and sees through the call history that she has placed calls to Malcolm (Mike Colter).  Things aren’t looking good for Bridget.

In the Hamptons, things go from bad to worse for Bridget.  She discovers Gemma overhead the conversation wtih Henry and gets decked in the face.  Then, in a desperation move, she admits to Gemma that she’s not Siobhan, she’s Bridget.  Next week’s previews look like Gemma tells Andrew that Siobhan is really Bridget.  Things will now hopefully pick up.

Ringer: “If You Ever Want A French Lesson…” Episode 3 Review

9 Oct

SPOILER ALERT:

Things aren’t going so well for anyone in this episode.  Bridget (Sarah Michelle Gellar) tries to discover who hired Siobhan’s killer through any clue she can find in the killer’s phone but that’s proving to be a bit of a problem.  First, the second hit man demands the phone back more than once through the episode and she discovers that unless she’s a drug dealer with surveillance equipment or an FBI agent, she probably can’t discover any sort of call history on the disposable phone. Bridget tries to get help from her NA sponsor Malcolm (Mike Colter) but he gets kidnapped by the bad guy gunning for her and beaten.  By the end of the episode he’ll be shot up with heroin (I’m guessing) so Malcolm might be accidentally giving Bridget up sooner than anticipated.  And just to make Bridget a bit more paranoid, she discovers a copy of the photo the hit man had.  First, she is positive that Andrew gave it to him because the photo is in a cabinet.  Later, Bridget discovers Gemma  (Tara Summers) has the same photo.  She questions her and Gemma reminds her most of the New York power players have that photo since it was the one Siobhan and Andrew (Ioan Gruffudd) sent out as a Christmas card.  Oh well, my money is still on Gemma or Andrew, or Andrew’s business partner, Olivia (Jaime Murray).

In the meantime, Gemma and Henry (Kristoffer Polaha) fight about money.  Henry decides to withdraw funds from their joint hedge fund account brokered by Andrew without telling Gemma.  In Paris, Siobhan meets a banker who she flirts with (he’s working for one of her husband’s branches) then later attempts to seduce.  She has to abort the seduction as she is so nauseated she kicks him out of her room and takes a pregnancy test.  It’s confirmed, she’s knocked up with Henry’s child.  If we weren’t sure, she calls him to listen to his voice as she looks at the positive pregnancy test in her hand.

Bridget has her own troubles.  Hit Man #2 is angry.  She refuses to give up the phone.  Bridget calls FBI Agent Machado (Nestor Carbonell) so the hit man will see her talking to him.  She then tells Hit Man #2 (on a phone call) that if he tries to kill her, etc. that Agent Machado will get the phone in question.   Andrew tries thank Bridget for her party the previous week but she doesn’t trust him, probably for good reason, although I’m not entirely sure how untrustworthy he is.  It looks like something juicy will be revealed next episode.  I’m looking forward to seeing what that might be…

Revenge: “Betrayal” Episode 3 Review

8 Oct

According to ABC (I always have to laugh when the network advertises it), Revenge is Wednesday night’s new #1 drama.  I’m pleased since I am enjoying living vicariously through Emily/Amanda’s treacherous agenda.  I wish she had something more trivial for a blueprint… say, landlords who refused to fumigate a house that said blog writer rented for 2 years and was forced to co-habit with mice.  I bet most readers don’t know that when mice get hungry they will come up to your room, stand on their back legs and rub their tiny paws together until you get them some food.  At least that’s what my mice did once I got rid of any food they might have eaten.  But Emily Thorne (Emily VanCamp) has bigger fish to fry.  This week she’s going after the D.A. who convicted her father, after discovering her father was innocent.  It’s fair to say, the D.A. will be going down in a very public way.

SPOILER ALERT:

Once again, I believe the revenge plot itself is secondary to the real revenge that Emily plans on getting against Victoria Grayson (Madeleine Stowe).  I like to think of the ‘revenge of the week’ is like the short con, to keep the viewer satisfied.  The overall plot against the Graysons is the long con, the backbone/narrative structure and drive of the show.  This week the D.A. is going down in a sex scandal, complete with a mixed race baby.  Once again Nolan (Gabriel Mann) helps Emily with the last minute bits of planning which always makes me laugh.  She’s such an ungrateful bitch to him every time, but she needs him to execute the last steps of each of her weekly revenge plots.  I would think she could be a bit nicer.

Jack (Nick Wechsler)  and Declan (Connor Paolo), his problem teen brother, inherit the bar from their father, who died of a heart attack last week.  Sammy, Emily’s dog keeps going back to her and slightly humanizes her as she is forced to interact with her old friend, Jack.  Yes, I think we can all see where that one is headed.  Nolan, helps Declan exact some electronic revenge on the guys who beat him up, basically the boyfriend of Charlotte Grayson (Christa B. Allen), Victoria’s daughter.  Declan has the hots for Charlotte and hasn’t gotten very far in the wooing process.  And we get to see a more human side to Victoria Grayson.  She tried to convince the D.A. she lied on the stand of Emily’s/Amanda’s dad’s trial, but her husband,  Conrad Grayson (Henry Czerny), interferes and Emily’s dad gets convicted.  There is one great scene where Victoria comes plodding down the stairs like, well, not like a rich sophisticated powerbroker from the Hamptons.  She essentially clops down.  It is worth watching the episode for the comic relief alone of that scene.

Finally, Emily and Daniel spend a bit more time together.  He confesses he gravely injured a girl he was dating from the previous summer (he broke her spine in a car accident that was his fault).  Emily takes him to see her.  This infuriates Victoria.  It also lets Emily know Victoria is spying on them since she learns about the visit.  That certainly won’t stop Emily from her agenda and my guess is that she will probably use that knowledge to her advantage to twist the knife just a bit deeper.

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