The Walking Dead

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Another great AMC show, The Walking Dead, is still going strong in season 3.

As this season concludes, we see Daryl’s brother Merle perform the ultimate sacrifice by trying to take down the evil Governor.  Unfortunately the Governor overpowers him and kills him and because of the new change in the zombie virus, everyone that dies becomes a zombie at death.

This all came about when Rick was given an ultimatum by the Governor to hand over Michonne in exchange for “peace” between the two groups.  Seeing the difficulty Rick had with making the decision, Merle took matters into his own hands and knocks out Michonne, ties her up and attempts to deliver her to the Governor himself.

Halfway there, Merle changes his mind, partly due to Michonne’s reasoning and partly due to his own conscience and decides to face out the Governor alone.

Discovering Michonne’s and his brother’s disappearance, Daryl sets out to find them both, finding Michonne first who tells him what his brother did.  Poor Daryl then finds his brother eating the flesh of another human and heartbreakingly brings himself to end the life of the zombie, his brother for good.

Meanwhile the Governor is like a cockroach, surviving like no other villain has.  Poor Andrea is still held hostage by him, unbeknown to her friends back at the prison.

While we thoroughly enjoy the challenges these characters face on The Walking Dead, sometimes it feels the writing lets the viewers down by ignoring authenticity to create more drama where it’s needed.  For instance, the audience has known Rick’s character from the beginning, we trust him (apart from his moment of mental weakness after his wife’s death).  But the way he even considered giving up Michonne and relying on the Governor to keep his word was ridiculous.  Rick should have known better than that and we all know it.

Also, the way Andrea kept “believing in” the Governor and how long she continued to be infatuated with him, even though she had witnessed his evil nature at work and heard about his dark ways through many of her own friends like Michonne and Glenn, was also preposterous.  It continued to drag out until an episode or two ago when she FINALLY decides it’s time she kill the Governor (after missing plenty of golden opportunities beforehand).

Anyway, it’s still an enjoyable watch and we look forward to season 4!

 

 

 

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Bates Motel

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Bates Motel is the prequel story to Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho’.

Vera Farmiga stars as Norma Bates, the overprotective and somewhat obsessive mother of Freddie Highmore’s character, Norman Bates (the villain in the film ‘Psycho’).

After Norman’s father’s death, Norma constantly picks up and moves her life from place to place, finally settling on a motel in an eerie, strange town.  The Bates motel is then born and the unimaginable follows.

Not long after moving into the motel, Norma is visited by an upset member of the family which the motel had originally belonged to.  He later attacks Norma and rapes her.  Norman intervenes and Norma is able to kill the man.  The Mother-Son pair now have a murder on their hands.

After disposing of the body, the Bates troubles don’t end there, as they realize how this strange town of theirs works.  They have a sense of retribution when injustice is seen, flaming bodies (literally) start to appear in the town.

The Sheriff has a close eye on Norma as his suspicions of her arise.  Meanwhile his Deputy has his own eyes on Norma as a romance between the two start to develop.

Norman also has a romance brewing as he’s caught between a love triangle of two very different town’s girls.  One of which is extremely inquisitive in all things strange and the two explore the town’s mysteries together.

All in all, Bates Motel is definitely an interesting new show with great promise.  The acting is decent, while I feel Farmiga perhaps makes Norma’s character more empathetic than scary or creepy, however Highmore is perfectly cast as the oddly innocent, yet soon-to-be creepy Norman.

The chemistry between Farmiga and Highmore is also great, intensifying the inappropriately close relationship of the two lead characters.

 

 

 

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The Big Year

 

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Three “Birding” enthusiasts, Brad (played by Jack Black), Bostick (played by Owen Wilson) and Stu (played by Steve Martin) are all competing the break the title for ‘The Big Year’.

 

The Big Year title is the number of birds a “Birder” sees in the space of one year.  During the film, the number to beat is 732.  Competitors don’t have to prove their bird numbers with photos of the sightings, in fact, they can fairly count their number just be merely hearing the bird.

 

But just because the contest is relied solely on an honesty policy, doesn’t mean it’s full of cheaters either.  Brad (Black) loves birds and he spends the majority of his time listening to bird calls and bird songs so he’s able to remember and recall the name of a bird just be listening to it.  However, life isn’t how Brad would like it, he works at a job that he hates, his love life isn’t great and his father thinks he’s just wasting his life away.

 

Kenny (Wilson) or ‘Bostick’ as he’s better known, is the current title holder of ‘The Big Year’.  He’s got a good life, everything he wants in his personal life and the recognition in birding.  However he will also do whatever it takes to make sure he keeps his title and he’s got his eye on his main competition, Brad and Stu.

 

Stu is as successful as can be, he’s retired twice, yet somehow he’s still working.  He’s committed his whole life to his work and it shows.  Yet he’s not quite content, not quite satisfied, because what he really wants to do and has always wanted to do is to claim the title of ‘The Big Year’.  So this year, he’s gonna go at it.

 

Of course, these lovable character do encounter some obstacles, Brad uses up all his money, Bostick’s wife wants to get pregnant and funnily enough needs his help with the matter and Stu, of course gets caught up in his work, or better put, his work constantly finds ways to draw him back in.

 

The Big Year is a wonderful story, with enriching characters and heart felt, entertaining subplots for each of them.  It’s a good watch.  So go rent it now on DVD!

 

 

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First Position

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This docomentary follows young ballet dancers who are preparing compete in the prestigious ballet competition, The Youth America Grand Prix.

 

Miko Fogarty and her younger brother Jules Jarvis both attend ballet classes, always accompanied by their biggest fan and Japanese mother, Satoko. Their mother does everything to ensure her children have the best chance in ballet, including preparing a strict low fat diet for the whole family, even her husband, British Businessman, Mat Fogarty, who jokes if the children were not dancers they would each be 10 pounds heavier.  Miko show exceptional skill and passion for ballet, correcting anybody who tells her that she’s “missing out on her childhood” or “too skinny”, she truly believes and understands what she is working for, however little brother, Jules, is less enthusiastic.

 

Aran Bell, an extraordinarily talented young boy, who loves all the normal “boy” things like pogo sticks and BB guns, but who also excels in ballet.  Growing up as an army brat has him moving around a lot and trying to find the best dance classes in his area.  His parents have sacrificed a lot for his talent and it shows.  Aran is a gentle soul, a quiet boy with an underlying love and drive for ballet.   He strikes a chord with many, much like the sweet natured Gaya, a young girl from Israel, who while doesn’t speak any English, is quite taken with Aran.  They share a cute bond whenever they meet at the ballet competitions.

 

Michaela Deprince is a young girl who endured tragedy growing up in Sierra Leone where her parents were murdered.  She was adopted into a loving American family where she was given the opportunity to dance and hasn’t looked back since.  She struggles everyday to overcome the biases she faces from being a Black ballet dancer, as the industry usually favors the super lean Caucasian frame.  However, she is determined to prove them wrong.

 

Joan Sebastian Zamora is a teenage Columbian boy who misses his family back home but continues working at his craft because he knows he needs to work for them.  He came to America knowing no English and finds it difficult adjusting to the culture at times.

Rebecca Houseknecht is a beautiful 17 year old girl who hopes to gain a position within one of America’s ballet companies after school.  She jokes that her friends call her Barbie, not only because of the way she looks, but the way she can bend and stretch, her flexibility definitely resembles the contortions you can perform on a plastic doll!

This is a wonderful documentary with tremendous heart and soul that will touch all, even if you aren’t a ballet fan.

 

 

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TV Spot: Rogue

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Thandie Newton stars as Grace, an undercover detective whose life is shattered when her young son is killed during a drive by shooting.  Grace’s family life has never been perfect, being constantly away at work, even her teenage daughter resents her absence.

Grace is in constant fear of being found out, having to deal with creepy crime boss Jimmy Laszlo (played by Martin Csokas) on a daily basis.  Jimmy also suspects Grace may be a rat to the police and puts her under the test.

Her emotions get the better of her after he son dies and Grace delves deeper into her work and deeper into the crime world, trying to piece together who is ultimately responsible for her son’s death.

Newton is a great actress, however her talent is definitely lackluster in this series.  It almost feels like the cast weren’t given ample or ANY rehearsal time.  Dialogue feels wooden and Thandie seems disinterested and not fully committed in the role.  The characters don’t feel believable and acting is not just to blame but styling sometimes is too.

Perhaps it’s also due to the sudden change in Grace’s life, her son’s death comes out of nowhere and we hardly get to see him or Grace interact together before the incident.  The stakes that Grace is so far set on, doesn’t seem to add up and we wonder why she’s even in the undercover career to begin with.  The biggest thing this series is lacking is passion, both in the script and consequently in the performers cast.

The set up doesn’t show enough heart for the audience to be pulled in, therefore the pilot doesn’t do it’s job, which is to get us hooked.  Rogue doesn’t display anything new or exciting except for introducing a potentially strong female lead character, who unfortunately isn’t interesting enough.

 

 

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Olympus has Fallen

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Gerard Butler stars as Mike Banning, a faithful secret services agent who would die to protect President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart), his wife Maggie (Ashley Judd) and their son Connor (Finley Jacobsen) .  However, after a tragic incident, Banning is banished to a desk job, even though his spirit and need to protect still burns deeply inside.

When there’s a terrorist attack on the White House, Banning is one of the first to react.   The terrorists skillfully planned attack wipes out all the armed forces and workers within the White House, Banning ends up being the only one alive that can help save the nation.

Speaker Trumbull (played by Morgan Freeman) steps up to play as the new acting President.  He and Secret Services director (and friend of Banning) Lynn Jacobs (played by Angela Bassett) assist Banning as he attempts to save Connor and outsmart the terrorists.

Meanwhile in the hostages holding room, Kang (the master mind leader of the terrorist attack), unmercifully tortures and kills the Government staff to gain access to their codes to launch a fateful attack on America.  President Asher holds out the best he can as Kang’s staff look for Connor to use as a bargaining chip on Asher.

With fighting styles and sequences similar to and as exciting as the Bourne franchise, this film is sure to entertain.  The action never lets up leaving audiences constantly hanging on to the edges of their seats.

The only slight downfall is the sometimes cliched and overuse of “American Hero” sentiment, which if left out could have taken this film out of the “popcorn blockbuster” category and into something more edgy and serious.  But with essences of both ‘Salt’ and ‘Bourne’, this film is still a winner, earning a well deserved, but perhaps slightly generous 8/10.

 

 

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The Host

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Stephanie Meyer, the author behind the Twilight series writes The Host.

The trailer proved promising, but after watching the film, we think the first impression was highly influenced by the emotive musical score and clever editing.  While The Host no doubt has an interesting concept, a concept could have been developed into something deeper and more thought provoking, the film overall was unfortunately significantly disappointing.

With an outstanding and talented lead cast of Diane Kruger (who plays lead villain ‘The Seeker’) and Saoirse Ronan (the hero of the story, playing ‘Melanie’/’Wanda’) Meyer manages to corrupt their acting skills with terribly cliche and soppy dialogue that even the two great actresses can’t pull off.

The story is set in a world that has been overtaken by aliens and by overtaken, we mean almost every human’s body has been overtaken by an alien soul.  Melanie (Ronan) is one of the last humans standing, as she is in constant hiding with her little brother Jamie and boyfriend Jared.

The Seeker (Kruger) leads the alien team that hunts down the remaining “unoccupied” humans and manages to capture Melanie as she sacrifices herself so her brother Jamie doesn’t also get caught.  Melanie is then occupied by a soul who names herself (Wanderer, or Wanda as she is later known).

Melanie manages to pull at the heart strings of Wanderer/Wanda and convinces her to save her and help her find her family.  Meanwhile The Seeker becomes more and more enraged as she continues to hunt them.  Melanie/Wanderer unknowingly leads them to a human colony lead by Melanie’s uncle, Jeb.

There are definitely similar hints to Meyer’s writing style, with the inclusion of a teen love triangle (or rectangle) in The Host just like in the Twilight films.  Melanie still loves her boyfriend Jared, while Wanderer/Wanda begins to fall for Ian (a member of  Jeb’s human colony).

The best part of the film (which doesn’t stand for much) is during the last act.  So if you aren’t completely sickened by the soppy teen angst, expositional dialogue and slow pace which encases the first hour of the film, than hang on tight for the end reveal, or better yet, just wait until it comes out on DVD so you can just fast forward through it.

 

 

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The Americans

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Set in the 1980’s Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys star as Russian spies, Elizabeth and Phillip Jennings.  Their cover, an average born and raised husband and wife living in a normal suburban town with their two children, Henry and Paige.

At first it seems that Elizabeth and Phillip have a strained relationship, not surprising considering the amount of constant stress they have to go through to as KGB officers.  Phillip is shown to want the “normal” American life and tries to convince Elizabeth to leave their Russian spy pass behind them, however Elizabeth still remains loyal to her “motherland”.

This show does a great job at depicting the conflicts these main characters have with themselves, their family and their “occupation” of choice.  Their children are unaware of their parents secret affairs as is their FBI neighbor, Stan Beeman (played by Noah Emmerich).  Everyone thinks the Jennings are just regular travel agents living a regular life.

Not only is ‘The Americans’ full of drama and plot twists, but it also incorporates fantastic, realistic action scenes that have both characters, Phillip and Elizabeth showing off their skilled combat training.  The only part that verges upon unrealistic is when the show features flashbacks of Phillip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth (Keri Russell) speaking in their pseudo Russian accents, something both actors have trouble performing convincingly.  Apart from that the actors perform brilliantly.

Every episode shows the physical and emotional struggle of Phillip and Elizabeth and the close calls they encounter everyday.  Meanwhile it’s hugely exciting and entertaining to watch their FBI neighbor, who is so focused at finding the Russian spies hiding within the nation, yet unaware of who really lives opposite him.

 

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