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March 9, 2016

Review: Hap and Leonard 1x1-1x2 (US: SundanceTV; UK: Amazon Instant Video)

Posted on March 9, 2016 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Hap and Leonard

In the US: Wednesdays, 10/9c, SundanceTV
In the UK: Thursdays (I'm guessing), Amazon Instant Video

When two actors who have starred in a TV show together are cast in a second show, generally it's for one of two reasons:

  1. Their pairing in the first show was very popular and the producers would like to recreate that chemistry
  2. Individually, they've got good followings so together there'll be two sets of fans watching.

Now, with the casting of James Purefoy and Michael K Williams in SundanceTV's new 80s-set 'swamp noir' Hap and Leonard, I think we can eliminate option 1. About seven people watched The Philanthropist, in which billionaire playboy Purefoy has a Damascene conversion and decides to go around the world being a hands-on charity worker (albeit one with oodles of cash), protected in his endeavours by bodyguard Williams.

No one's tuning in with the hope of seeing that chemistry recreated.

So that leaves option 2. But I'm still unsure that's the answer.

Michael K Williams I get. He plays the eponymous Leonard, a black gay criminal with a penchant for guns and beating up the neighbourhood gangsters. If the casting agent hadn't taken one look at the script and immediately said, "Hey, why don't we get the guy who played Omar in The Wire?" I reckon that would have been grounds for instant dismissal.

Purefoy, though, is a bit of a mystery. Don't get me wrong - I like Purefoy, I thought he was great in Rome and I've even spoken to him on occasion, when he seemed jolly nice and full of interesting opinions that I have outrageously quoted on many more occasions.

But he's a public school-educated, Shakespearean actor. He's not the first person said casting agent should immediately think of when trying to cast Hap, a white trash American from Texas who fought in Vietnam and who ends up committing crimes with his ex-wife (Mad Men's Christina Hendricks) when he and Leonard lose their fruit-picking job to a bunch of illegal immigrants.

I just don't get it.

I tell you what else I don't get. Hap and Leonard, that's what. Because I left that first episode thinking "WTF did I just watch?" and I'm not sure episode two clears things up any more for me.

Here's a trailer.

Continue reading "Review: Hap and Leonard 1x1-1x2 (US: SundanceTV; UK: Amazon Instant Video)"

March 8, 2016

Review: The Family 1x1-1x2 (US: ABC)

Posted on March 8, 2016 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

ABC's The Family 

In the US: Sundays, 9/8c, ABC
In the UK: Not yet acquired

Virtually everyone who goes to prison in US TV dramas deserves it. In fact, frequently, they don't get enough prison and it's clear that by the end of the episode they deserve more of it; there also plenty of people who deserve to be in prison but who aren't because of 'technicalities' such as no evidence, yet the cops know they should be.

Why don't we just let the prosecutors and the cops do what's right and stick anyone they think is guilty of a crime in jail forever and ever, hey? That would sort out the crime problem, wouldn't it?

Well, trouble is, not everyone found guilty of a crime - or even suspected of a crime - is actually guilty, as John Oliver recently pointed out:

A few TV shows have faced up to this reality, including Life, Rectify and most recently ABC's Secrets and Lies. But largely, the accused-but-innocent man, while guilty of something like adultery, isn't guilty of anything too bad.

So you've got to at least credit The Family with addressing moral ambiguity in a deeper way than before. Here we have former Brat packer Andrew McCarthy coming out of partial acting retirement to play a man accused of kidnapping, murdering and probably raping the young son of his neighbours, aspiring politician Joan Allen (The Bourne Supremacy, Manhunter) and her husband Rupert Graves (Sherlock). When they find videos on his computer of children being abused, it seems like an open and shut case for rookie cop Margot Bingham (Boardwalk Empire, Matador), and McCarthy is sent away to prison.

Ten years later, Graves and Allen have separated and the children, who include The Newsroom's Alison Pill, are all grown up. Then the son they thought had died turns up on a road, having been kidnapped and imprisoned Room-style for close to a decade. McCarthy may be a paedophile but he is innocent of the murder, so is released back into the community.

Can the real kidnapper be found? What will happen to the family now the son has returned? How will the community treat McCarthy once he's among them again? Can McCarthy be a nice man who's kind to kids and should be allowed to be around them, even if he does have some rather nasty videos? 

These are just some of the interesting questions the show poses, even if it answers none of them well. However, another question is: "With such an interesting subject matter and strong cast, how can it be so astonishingly dull?"

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March 8, 2016

Review: Damien 1x1 (US: A&E)

Posted on March 8, 2016 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Damien

In the US: Mondays, 10/9c, A&E
In the UK: Not yet acquired

666 problems but a she-jackal ain't one.

Prequels and sequels to famous horror movies are all the rage right now. We've already had:

There's also a pilot for a The Exorcist series on the way. Now we've got Damien.

Unless your knowledge of cinema is akin to that of a newborn child's, that name should already be telling you what this is related to. In case it doesn't, wee bairn, I'll fill you in. Fresh off the back of the success of The Exorcist in the 70s, The Omen was Britain's effort to cash in by taking seriously the Bible's Book of Revelation. It details the birth and early childhood of 'Damien Thorne', the son of the US Ambassador to the UK (Gregory Peck) and his wife (Lee Remick). Except Damien's actually secretly adopted and is really the son of the Devil and a jackal. Oh dear - he's the Anti-Christ and he wants to bring about the Apocalypse.

Along the way, various people gradually work out that Damien has a 'hint of the night' about him, and are promptly rewarded for their imagination, detective prowess and faith in God with a gruesome, almost Final Destination-elaborate death.

Like The Exorcist, The Omen proved popular enough to spawn a couple of sequels, with that nice Sam Neill eventually becoming the grown-up Anti-Christ in The Omen III. However, Damien forgoes those two sequels in favour of continuing the first movie in its own way.

This time, it has that nice Bradley James (young King Arthur in Merlin) playing the grown-up Damien Thorne. Despite numerous flashbacks to the movie and its stalwart 70s fashions, Damien has apparently only just turned 30. He's forgotten all about how his parents died, that governess of his committing suicide in front of everyone at his birthday party, those great big rottweilers that use to hang around protecting him and so on. He just wants to roam the world, taking Pulitzer-prize winning photographs of wars.

That is until he's on assignment in Damascus and gets a literal baptism in blood by an old woman with white eyes who mumbles in Latin at him and says 'It's all for you.' That's not a good sign is it? 

After that, he starts to remember all those weird deaths that happened around him when he was growing up, in part prompted by all the new weird deaths that start happening around him. The question is, once he's found his game-changing 666 birthmark and begins to believe for sure he's a major player in the Bible: is being fated to be the Anti-Christ inevitable, like Norman Bates becoming a crazy serial killer in The Bates Motel, or can our Damien drink the blood of Christ, eat the body of Christ and accept Christ as his saviour so he can take up sheep farming or something instead, and all his friends can stop dying horribly?

Here's a trailer and for a change, you can watch the entire first episode, too, below. Then we can discuss it after the jump.

Continue reading "Review: Damien 1x1 (US: A&E)"

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