Daily Archives: July 5, 2016

American Gothic Review: S01E01-02 – Arrangement in Grey and Black & Jack-in-the-Pulpit

When I was writing the post about shows that should be rebooted, one of my original choices was American Gothic, the 90s series with Gary Cole, Lucas Black, and a ghostly Sarah Paulson. I nixxed it upon finding out that CBS, the home of the original series, was airing an unrelated show of the same name in summer 2016. Well, it’s here, but is it worth watching? Let’s go see. There will be spoilers for the first two episodes.

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This new American Gothic is set in Boston and focuses on the Hawthorne family, who made their fortune in concrete. At the start of the series, a tunnel in the city collapses. Guess who made the concrete for it? This is bad enough news, as daughter Alison (Juliet Rylance) is in the middle of a mayoral campaign, but then when city officials begin digging through the rubble, they find a belt lodged in a slab of concrete. It seems as if the city has been haunted for years by a now-dormant serial killer known as the Silver Bells Killer–yes, SBK, as in shades of BTK–whose MO is a little strangulation and the gift of a wee silver bell. The belt is traced to an SBK victim. The Hawthornes are having a bad week.

And then it gets worse. At a press conference for Alison, her father Mitch (Jamey Sheridan) suffers a heart attack. Believing that the subsequent stress may cause her addict brother Cam (Justin Chatwin) to relapse, Tessa (Megan Ketch) goes looking for the rainy day drugs she’s sure he’s squirreled away somewhere at their parents’ house. She doesn’t find them, but she does find a cache of articles about SBK. Oh, and a box of little silver bells.

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Welp. Tessa and Cam seem to jump pretty quickly to OMG OUR FATHER’S A SERIAL KILLER!!!, but he’s not the only suspicious character in the bunch. First of all, there is the final sibling Garrett (Antony Starr), whose leaving home years ago has left lingering bad blood. Then there is Cam’s own young son, whose interest in anatomy and related sciences seems precocious and quirky until it involves the neighbor’s cat, poor Caramel. [Don’t worry, tender hearts–you don’t see anything.] Obviously the kid is no serial killer (yet), but is he living proof of something rotten in the Hawthorne gene pool?

And while Tessa and Cam are trying to figure this out, with Alison’s help, Tessa’s detective husband Brady (Elliot Knight) is assigned to the reinvigorated SBK case. I know it feels like I should start making a string theory wall at this point, but it doesn’t come off that convoluted while you’re watching the show. That’s one of its strongest points, especially in the pilot. Like all pilots, it has to communicate a lot of information to get you up to speed and it does that well, without making you feel like you’re at the bottom of an exposition avalanche.

This helps a lot when everything really kicks into gear, with the cat and Garrett’s return. He’s been living a very basic lifestyle and I don’t mean Uggs and Starbucks–more like, the Unabomber’s cabin. When he arrives at the hospital, he immediately shares a private thought with dear ol’ Dad. If you were hoping like his family that it was something conciliatory, you’re all out of luck. According to Alison’s daughter, who was hiding under the bed, he told Mitch, “I’m gonna tell them it was you.” Intrigue!

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There are a lot of secrets in this family, obviously, but it seems as if Mitch, at least, wants to be rid of some of them. He tells his wife Maddie, (Virginia Madsen), “We have to tell the truth,” and that’s enough for her to close off his oxygen. What he wanted them to tell the truth about is unknown as of the first two episodes, but like Brady, we’re hot on the trail. Unfortunately, Maddie seems to be one step ahead of everyone. When the kids go to check out the box of bells and clippings, it’s gone. It’s then that Mom tells them a new truth: their father had dementia. He seemed fine when they were around him during the day, because he was sundowning. The box? Just part of his interest in true crime. And that’s the end of the story, until they talk to the groundsman and find out their dad was still playing bridge? and chess regularly, at night. Mom has another truth for that, too. In fact, Mom’s got an answer for everything. So when Brady goes to retrieve a DNA sample from the now-departed Mitch–employees of Hawthorne are being tested because of their access to the tunnel–it’s not a surprise that Maddie’s already had him cremated.

Such a sad (literal) dead end, until Brady’s boss calls with the news that the belt didn’t belong to the last murder victim. It likely belonged to SBK. Since it’s a pricy piece, it destroys their profile that SBK is some kind of Robin Hood gone awry scenario (all the victims were rich). Brady’s contemplating this when he sees the belt in a photo at his in-laws’ house. And Cam is wearing it. Intrigue again!

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You may be reminded of the recently-canceled ABC program, The Family, as both involve political aspirations, the return of a son, and painful secrets. Unfortunately, it suffers from some of the same problems, like a tendency to slide into soapiness and uneven pacing. And if you’re interested in checking it out because of the name, trust that it’s not all that gothic so far. The name does give them an excuse to name episodes after great paintings, though. Still, I am curious about the real identity of SBK. Is it one of the Hawthornes? Is it Caramel? I’m going to tune in to find out. (And I better find out. This is supposed to be a thirteen-part series, but that’s never stopped CBS before [see also: Under the Dome].)

7/10 – The show is enjoyable for the most part, although I got bored during the second episode, and the mystery at the heart of the series is interesting enough to keep me watching. However, the dialogue can get a little cliche and the pacing needs to be more consistent. And if they pull a The Killing and the audience doesn’t know whodunnit at the end of this season, this will have been a terrible waste of good actors. And I will be livid, for seconds on end.

Continued here:

American Gothic Review: S01E01-02 – Arrangement in Grey and Black & Jack-in-the-Pulpit

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WWE RAW Results: July 4, 2016

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Winning One for Old Glory.

The 1206th edition of WWE Monday Night RAW came to you, live on Independence Day, from the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, OH. On a special 4th of July edition of RAW, the WWE Champion would be in action as, in a rematch from last week’s SmackDown, WWE Champion Dean Ambrose would go one-on-one with Intercontinental Champion The Miz in a non-title, Champion vs. Champion match! Also, in a match very befitting of the 4th of July, Rusev would put his United States Title on the line against rival Titus O’Neil and, in a gigantic 16-Man Elimination Tag Match, eight American Superstars would team up to form “Team USA” to face “The Multi-National Alliance”, comprised of eight non-American Superstars! Who will be involved in this tag match and what else is in store for America’s birthday live on RAW?

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  • United States Championship: Rusev (c) (with Lana) def. Titus O’Neil by submission to the Accolade to retain.
  • Enzo & Cass def. Bo Dallas & Curtis Axel (with Heath Slater) by Enzo Amore pinning Bo Dallas following the Bada Boom Shakalaka.
  • Champion vs. Champion: Non-Title: Dean Ambrose def. The Miz (with Maryse) by pin following Dirty Deeds.
  • Seth Rollins def. Dolph Ziggler by pin following the Pedigree.
  • The Golden Truth def. The Vaudevillains by R-Truth pinning Aiden English following Solid Gold.
  • Becky Lynch def. Summer Rae by submission to the Dis-Arm-Her.
  • 16-Man Elimination Tag Match: Team USA def. The Multi-National Alliance with Big Show & Zack Ryder as the surviving members.
    • Bubba Ray Dudley elim. Sin Cara by pin following the 3-D.
    • Kalisto elim. Bubba Ray Dudley by pin following a springboard frog splash.
    • Cesaro elim. D-Von Dudley by submission to the Sharpshooter.
    • Chris Jericho elim. Jack Swagger by pin following the Codebreaker.
    • Mark Henry elim. Kalisto by pin following the World’s Strongest Slam.
    • Kevin Owens elim. Mark Henry by pin following the Pop-Up Powerbomb.
    • Kevin Owens elim. himself by DQ after hitting Sami Zayn with a steel chair.
    • Kane elim. himself by DQ after hitting Kevin Owens with a steel chair.
    • Apollo Crews elim. Sami Zayn by pin following a standing moonsault.
    • Sheamus elim. Apollo Crews by pin following the Brogue Kick.
    • Zack Ryder elim. Cesaro by roll-up.
    • Big Show elim. Chris Jericho by pin following the Knockout Punch.
    • Big Show elim. Alberto Del Rio by pin following a chokeslam.
    • Zack Ryder elim. Sheamus by pin following the Rough Ryder.

See page 2 for detailed results.

See the article here –

WWE RAW Results: July 4, 2016

The BFG Review: For a rainy day recess

I have vivid memories of being a kid in school and hating the rain. It always made the day gloomy and seem to drag endlessly longer than a typical—sunny—day would have. And the tile floors would always become slippery, with speckles of dirt on the floor (tracked in from students who refused to wipe their feet after coming in) that seemed to cling to my trapper-keeper like a magnet. It wasn’t all bad, however. If there was one silver lining to a rainy school day it was the fact that recess was spent indoors.

Sure if you were the athletic type this might have been a drag, but I was in the band. Let’s just leave it at that.

Denied the “privilege” of wandering up and down the school’s grounds during recess, students instead spent their break in the classroom. Thankfully our teachers didn’t force us to continue working. Instead they wheeled out this bad boy:

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This was the Holy Grail of school equipment.

Growing up my school had two fifteen minute recess periods (one on each end of the day), with a thirty minute recess in between. That’s one hour of movie time spread across the day. I watched the first halves of many kids-movies that way. Many of them were direct-to-crap movies that Disney was churning out, straight-to-VHS in the 90’s (Aladdin 2, Lion King 2, etc). Every now and then, though, we’d be treated to an actual, honest-to-goodness well-produced Hollywood movie, albeit ones that usually came out in the 70’s.

It was during these recesses that I discovered Gene Wilder in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. If not for a rainy day recess I never would have sought out more Wilder movies and I never would have experienced the joys of Young Frankenstein or Blazing Saddles. During these recesses I first watched Charlotte’s Web, The Brave Little Toaster and The Mouse and the Motorcycle. Those movies led me to the books on which they were based. My love of reading, that I still have two decades later is all thanks to those rainy day recesses.

Everyone has been comparing The BFG to a previous Spielberg kids-movie, and there are obvious connections to E.T. to be found (both are penned by Melissa Mathison, both feature a child lead, both are fantasies based in the real world), yet the movies are quite different. E.T. was a parable about a child growing up and being thrust by circumstances (being abandoned by his father; being abandoned by his mother-ship) into maturity. E.T. had a powerful center to its story and much more depth than is obvious when watched with a child’s eyes. By contrast, The BFG is a simple—to the point of being “thin”—children’s story, lacking a moral at the core or any kind of “lesson learned” for either of the main characters (the orphan girl, Sophie and the titular Big Friendly Giant). It’s very much a Roald Dahl story, in that it has charming characters, some memorable settings and scenes, but ultimately lacks much of a point beyond the fun and escapism it briefly offers.

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Steven Spielberg—in this, his first “children’s” movie since Hook (not counting the animated TinTin film from 2011)—directs the movie as though his goal is simply to bring the story to life. The acclaimed director has said that his interest in the project was based on his love of the book (which he read to his kids at night after he first acquired it).? Mathison’s screenplay tweaks a few things here and there, a few things are cut and a few things are added, but for the most part the script is extremely faithful to the source material. Fans who grew up loving the book will be thrilled to see so many parts translated from page to screen: The BGF himself looks exactly like the book’s illustrations; snozzcumbers and frobscottle are given their moments to shine; the meeting with the queen, breakfast at Buckingham Palace, Dream Country and more are all brought to life exactly like they were described by Dahl and drawn by Blake.

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But faithful translations work both ways. The weakness of Dahl’s story is present in the movie too. There’s very little character development on Sophie’s part. The BFG himself grows a little courage in one scene when he stands up to the bigger giants, but there’s little the story does with that arc. The sudden “hey let’s get the Queen to help!” idea is just as random on the screen as it was on the page. It’s not exactly a Deus Ex Machina if you go to visit the “Deus” to ask for help, but it’s still a solution to the movie’s problem that’s a little too easily achieved.

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And speaking of, there simply aren’t enough stakes and/or sacrifice to keep your interest level at 100%. We hear that giants have been kidnapping children (and in the book the giants had been snatching kids from multiple countries), but there’s little said about it after the threat is resolved. No one sacrifices anything to achieve the happy ending, either. It’s just a series of “going from one interesting place to another, and one fantastical setting to another” over and over until the story just ends.

It’s all very competently handled; it’s well-acted, the John Williams score is whimsical, Mark Rylance is charming as the BFG, the visuals are great…it’s just all a little hollow.

It’s not E.T. That movie will continue to endure for generations to come. This one will not. It will probably do good enough at the box office to avoid being labeled a failure, but it’s not going to unseat Disney’s other big summer movie (Finding Dory) nor will it be remembered as a Spielberg-classic. It will probably find a comfortable home in elementary schools everywhere, to be brought out on a rainy day recess, alongside Matilda, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Stewart Little and so many other kids movies to be enjoyed in fifteen-to-thirty minute intervals.

7/10 – fans of the book will be happy to see the book so faithfully recreated, but everyone else will probably be a tad underwhelmed by the limitations of the story.

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The BFG Review: For a rainy day recess