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Mini-review: From Dusk Till Dawn 1x1 (El Rey/Netflix)

Posted on March 20, 2014 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

From Dusk Till Dawn

In the US: Tuesdays, 9pm, El Rey
In the UK: Available on Netflix. New episode released each week

Robert Rodriguez is best known as being a pal of Quentin Tarantino. His first big success was a Tarantino-scripted flick, From Dusk Till Dawn, which saw Tarantino and George Clooney play two brothers who rob a bank then head off to a strip joint that just happens to be run by sexy Latina vampire Salma Hayek. As a piece of grindhouse, it was fine and clearly benefited from Tarantino's ear for dialogue. But it wasn't exactly a classic.

Rodriguez went on to greater success with the Spy Kids movies, but he's produced more grindhouse over the years. Bizarrely, he's just launched his own TV network, El Rey, which is an English-language channel targeted at Latinos. The flagship drama he's using to launch the network? A TV-length adaptation of From Dusk Till Dawn, starring almost no one you've heard of and written by Rodriguez rather than Tarantino.

Hmm.

Okay, not strictly true. Don Johnson appears in the first episode and although this isn't a spoiler if you've seen the movie, gets killed before the end of it (although, you know, vampires). And Robert Patrick (Terminator 2, The Unit, The X-Files, The Last Resort) takes over Harvey Keitel's role as a vicar vampire-hunter in later episodes. 

However, largely, this is just a slower, duller, much, much cheaper version of the movie, played out over an entire series. It's not terrible and there are attempts to emulate Tarantino's style; the two leads (DJ Cotrona from Windfall and Zane Holtz from nothing much at all) do just fine as more generic versions of Clooney and Tarantino, the cool one and the psycho-crazy one respectively; the action is okay, if not especially thrilling; it's not got a great attitude towards women, but it's no that much worse than many other shows I could name on that score; and there are promises to flesh out the vampires' Mayan backstory. 

But, you know, they killed Don Johnson. Why bother watching after that?

Here's a trailer:

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Review: Crisis 1x1 (NBC)

Posted on March 18, 2014 | comments | Bookmark and Share

Crisis NBC

In the US: Sundays, 10/9c, NBC

Normally, you can rely on two things in life: CBS to do action well, and NBC to do action badly. There is a CBS Action channel; there is no NBC Action channel.

So works the universe. Or so I thought.

Colour me surprised, therefore, by NBC’s latest action show, Crisis, which not only is good in its own right but is also better than CBS’s very similar Hostages. It even has a better Dermot in it (Dermot Mulroney rather than Dylan McDermott).

As with Hostages before it, it sees a family abducted in order to force a very important person to do some things they wouldn’t normally do. Here, though, Crisis ups the ante somewhat by having a whole coach load of VIPs’ children abducted and those VIPs then getting forced to do things they wouldn’t normally do. Trying to stop the baddies is FBI agent Rachael Taylor (666 Park Avenue, Charlie’s Angels), newbie secret service agent Lance Gross (Tyler Perry’s House of Payne) and Taylor’s sister, CEO and parent Gillian Anderson (The X-Files, The Fall, Hannibal).

And although it’s prone to silliness in much the same way as another NBC action hit, The Blacklist, on the whole it’s smart enough and interesting enough that I’m looking forward to the next episode.

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Review: Almost Human 1x1-1x2 (Fox)

Posted on November 19, 2013 | comments | Bookmark and Share

Almost Human

In the US: Mondays, 8/7c, Fox
In the UK: Not yet acquired
Find it in the schedules where you live

Visions of the future almost by definition have to fit into two camps: things are either going to have to go better or they’re going to have get worse. Whether it’s Robocop, Blade Runner, Minority Report, Logan’s Run, Planet of the Apes or any other piece of sci-fi, authors tend to veer towards either the utopian or the dystopian in their projections.

So to a certain extent you have to give Almost Human a good deal of credit for envisioning a future that is both worse and better. It’s 2048 and science and technology have advanced considerably. Unfortunately, gangs of criminals have access to that technology and the crime rate is increasing at 400%. So the police decide to pair every human detective with a police/combat android, capable of incredible acts of strength and analysis.

Detective John Kennex (Karl Urban from Dredd 3D, Star Trek, The Bourne Supremacy, Xena: Warrior Princess, et al) loses his leg in a police operation that goes badly wrong. When he comes back to duty over a year later, the android he’s paired with annoys him so much he destroys it. So the lab guy (Mackenzie Crook from The Office) gives him one of the older models (Michael Ealy from Common Law, The Good Wife, FlashForward and Sleeper Cell): the ‘crazy ones’ with 'synthetic souls’, capable of not just emulating but feeling human emotions, in addition to having natural robotic talents. Together, Kennex and ‘Dorian’ have to stop crime and learn to get on with one another, although is that even possible with an android?

And as you might expect from such a rundown, a good deal of imagination has gone into the science-fiction side of things, particularly as it relates to law enforcement, giving us everything from genetically targeted diseases to DNA bombs and robots capable of doing forensic analysis inside their bodies. The show also mines the obvious parallels with racial discrimination that having an underclass/slave population such a set-up gives us.

But as far as the human side of things goes, that’s where the imagination ran out. Here’s a trailer:

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