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Some of the best articles on the blog. Typically, these have a picture. It's a low entrance requirement, I know.


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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February 16, 2016

Review: 11.22.63 1x1 (US: Hulu; UK: Fox)

Posted on February 16, 2016 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

11.22.63

In the US: Mondays, Hulu
In the UK: Acquired by Fox

Normally, in science-fiction involving time travel, said McGuffin is useful. Want to go back in time to kill Hitler before he rises to power? Fair dos. Hop into the Wayback Machine, set the controls for Munich, 1921, and give it a whirl with your phased plasma rifle in the 40W range.

So US Netflix rival Hulu's first original series, 11.22.63, based on the huge doorstop of the same name by Stephen King, gives us a moderately unusual alternative. Here, we have Groundhog Day time travel - time travel that resets and doesn't necessarily leave you in the place you'd like to be.

It stars James Franco as an unassuming modern day high school teacher who's friends with Chris Cooper, who runs the local diner. Cooper ages and goes a bit weird surprisingly quickly and one day, Franco finds out why: at the back of Cooper's closet is a door that leads to the early 60s. Go through it, change the past, come back and you've changed the present; but go back again and you'll reset everything you did the last time you went through and you'll have to start from scratch.

Cooper's now dying of cancer, so he'd like to pass his pet project onto Franco. No, not importing cheap meat from the past. The other one. He wants low-achiever Franco to stop JFK from being assassinated and thereby save the US from the Vietnam War and a dozen other calamities. It probably wasn't Lee Harvey Oswald that shot JFK, mind, but Cooper has done a lot of research into who might really be responsible and is happy to give Franco the results of his work researching the USSR, the CIA and others. Now it's up to Franco to find out definitively what the Warren Commission couldn't.

The only trouble? The time portal at the back of his diner only takes you back to the same day in October 1960. Franco's going to have to live for three years in the past to get to the fateful date. And the past really doesn't like Franco and wants him to go back to the present.

Continue reading "Review: 11.22.63 1x1 (US: Hulu; UK: Fox)"

February 16, 2016

Review: Those Who Can't 1x1-1x2 (US: TruTV)

Posted on February 16, 2016 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Those Who Can't

In the US: Thursdays, 10.30/9.30c, TruTV

TruTV. It wasn't so long ago when you were just CourtTV, but then you decided to start focusing on reality TV, and TruTV was born. That seemed reasonable. Then you decided to have a go at short-form comedy programmes, but at least they were more 'prank shows' than sitcoms. But now you're having a go at long-form comedy. So what's Tru now, TruTV?

Like TV Land, which is trying to bust out of its previous demographic, too, TruTV has decided to spearhead its edgy new style by getting a troop of improv comedy performers to come up with a sitcom about teachers. But while TV Land handed Teachers over to a group of female performers working with small children, TruTV decided that a group of male performers pretending to be high school teachers would be the best option for Those Who Can't. Looking at the differences is instructive. Or maybe it isn't. But let's look at them.

While Teachers was basically about a bunch of female teachers who brought their own personal issues to school, resulting in incompetent teaching, Those Who Can't is about a bunch of guys who never grew up into men and so aren't very good at teaching nearly-men. Indeed, they largely get bullied by them or each other.

And that's pretty much all the jokes: nerdy men trying to out-alpha each other while being out-alphaed by all the kids they teach. That and lots of jokes about dicks. And balls. And dicks and balls. 

There is the occasional gay joke, just to break up the monotony. And one about the Spanish teacher teaching Castillian Spanish rather than Latin American Spanish - gosh, those lisped c's are just so amusing, aren't they? But that's it for variety.

Despite only 42% of US high school teachers being male, the entire faculty appears to consist of men, from the principal (Ground Floor's Rory Scovel) downwards. The sole exception is the librarian (Maria Thayer), who's there for the guys to hit on and be rebuffed, when she's not acting like 'one of the boys' and making jokes about dicks… and balls… and dicks and balls, of course.

But that's it. Pretty much everything about Those Who Can't is predictable and the show is bereft of any hint of reality. Even when the mean kids turn up at a teacher's house and YouTube themselves paintballing him, nothing happens, so naturally the teachers have to then go off and plant heroin in the lead kid's locker to get him expelled. Sounds fun? Don't worry - it isn't. 

Those who can't? Make comedy show for TruTV, it turns out.

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