maanantai 12. tammikuuta 2015

What to watch 2014 edition - Part 2 of 2

We are continuing from our previous post that covered about half of the series we discussed in our presentation in Åcon - so therefore this post will also be in English. This time we will go through the rest of our recommendations/warnings.

So the format will be exactly like it was one the first part. First short plot recap then general info followed by reasons you should or should not watch and finally our conclusive opinion.

But let's get the show on the road with this rather unique reinterpretation of a classic short story.

In 1781 Ichabod Crane, an Englishman fighting in the colonial army, is mortally wounded while fighting (and decapitating) hessian mercenary.

He wakes up in the modern day town of Sleepy Hollow and learns that the hessian has been also resurrected as a headless horseman.

To fight the horseman and the forces of evil he teams up with a local police officer Abbie Mills.

Created by:  Alex Kurtzman & Roberto Orci (nuTrek, Fringe)
Philip Iscove, Len Wiseman (Underworld)

Premiered on Fox in September 2013
13 episode first season
Second season of 18 episodes currently airing

Extremely loosely based on the 1820 short story
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

    Reasons to watch:
  • Story that actually advances
  • Good scares
  • Tom Mison as Ichabod Crane
  • Good casting in side characters (John Noble!)
    • He was even promoted to main cast for season two

    Reasons not to watch:
  • A bit too silly sometimes 
    • The British are in league with demons during American independence war...
  • Female lead is sometimes written/acted weirdly

In conclusion: 
So being fans of the Tim Burton film of the same name we weren't actually very convinced that this could be good. The premise of Ichabod Crane fighting the horseman in modern day Sleepy Hollow seemed just too silly and too thin to carry an entire series.

It turned out that we were partly right as the show is rather silly but actually in a very good way. It manages to ride the fine line of seriousness and ridiculousness rather well. Even if not always perfectly.

But the absolutely best thing about it is Tom Mison. He is just excellent as a fish out of water type Ichabod Crane. He is very likeable and makes his situation believable which helps tremendously with the premise.

There are also a lot of fairly nice jabs/comments at many current US political and cultural elements as Ichabod had personally known the Founding Fathers. But also vice versa as Ichabod's partner Abbie Mills has some rather poignant comments about slavery.

And even though the series is a bit silly it also has a good amount of actually scary/unnerving elements that balance it out. They also manage to move the plot forward quite a bit which is satisfying.

The main characters have a rather good chemistry even though Nicole Beharie from time to time either plays (or is directed/written to play) Abbie Mills a bit weirdly. Meaning that her reactions to unfolding events are somehow just slightly off/unnatural.

That is somewhat alleviated with well played other main characters and side characters. John Noble must get a separate shout-out because he is yet again (watch Fringe!) excellent.

Sleepy Hollow managed to very positively surprise us and it gets a very strong recommendation from us. Even if England siding with demons is so stupid it hurts... But kinda in a good way. It's scary, funny, a bit silly and well-acted weird series but that's why you should watch it!

Didi is an ordinary Finnish teenage girl until she has sex with her boyfriend during a full moon and kills him.

She then finds out she is a nymph - a mystical being who has to have sex every month with a male or she will die.

She is helped by a couple older nymphs, who believe she is the chose one to lead all nymphs to freedom from their oppressive satyr masters.

Finnish fantasy-drama series also published as a book series
Premiered on MTV3 in March 2014
Has been sold to multiple foreign markets.
12 episode first season
Second seasons might be in development

    Reasons to watch: 
  • You accidentally become invested in the main romance
  • You have 8 hours to waste and lots of booze
  • You enjoy making fun of bad acting and /or horrible writing
  • You want to see it because it is a Finnish fantasy-series

    Reasons not to watch:
  • Awkward/bad dialogue
  • Everyone everywhere speaks Finnish – even in ancient Greece
  • Wooden and stiff acting
  • Incredibly stupid and unsufferable characters
  • Writing occasionally so stupid it hurts your brain
  • Very stupid plot ideas and poor execution of the few almost tolerable ones

In conclusion: 
I have seen a lot of crappy TV-shows through-out the years, lots of average anime and just absolutely horrendously boring stuff (like Believe). But I think Nymphs was the first show I actually hate-watched.

Most shows that aren't very good we just drop but Nymphs had us in some kind of hold. The acting is just all over the place, the dialogue is super awkward and unnatural sounding but somehow we just couldn't stop watching.

In the end we watched the whole first season in a couple of days, with alcohol of course. And with that kind of setup it was sort of fun, even if at the still quite painful to watch.

So, we absolutely cannot recommend this on its own merits but with good company and copious amounts of booze you might have fun. Here's hoping for season two!

Gecko brothers - Seth and Richie - are two bank robbers on the run 
after a successful heist.

They are on their way to meet their contact on the other side of the Mexican border but keep on running into trouble on behalf of Richie's hallucinations.

Developed by Robert Rodriguez based
on the film of the same name
All roles completely recast from the film

Premiered on El Rey and Netflix in March 2014
First season of 10 episodes
Renewed for second season

  • Reasons to watch:
  •  Expands on the original premise pretty successfully
  •  Main characters are more fleshed out
    • Especially Richie is a more complex character than the crazy psychopath of the movie version
  •  Slightly different take on Vampires

  • Reasons not to watch:
  •  You have seen the movie
    • The series lacks the grindhouse feel of the original movie
  •  Slow build up
    • By expanding scenes from the original it can feel significantly slower
  •  D.J. Cotrona is no George Clooney
    • He's not a bad actor but there's a definitive difference in the charisma department

In conclusion: 
I was rather skeptical about a TV-series version of From Dusk till Dawn but because it was developed by the original director Robert Rodriguez we decided to give it a chance.

At the same time it was both very different and somewhat similar to the original film. The basic story was mostly the same but it was expanded a whole lot. That is required because the series has a runtime that is five times longer than the film.

Actually it new stuff is mostly pretty good. The main characters have more backstory and are much more fleshed out. Richie in particular has been written in a more sympathetic way, he's still pretty crazy but for reasons.

It does though mean that the story moves forward much more slowly than in the film and the twist with the vampires is given up in the first episode of the series. But then on the other hand that gives them a bit more chances to expand on their own unique vampire lore.

All roles have been recast from the original film and in case of Richie it works out better than the film because Zane Holtz is a better actor than Quentin Tarantino. D.J. Cotrona works well as Seth Gecko but doesn't really have that charisma that Clooney had in the film. Also Harvey Keitel had a bit more nuance as Jacob Fuller in the film than Robert Patrick does but he's still pretty good.

Korppisusi liked the series more than I did, even more than the movie. I did somewhat miss that B-movie grindhouse feel that the original film had. To me it had a bit more personality with its more worn out look and better casting in minor characters (Tom Savini! Danny Trejo!).

That been said - it was still worth a watch and we will definitely check out the second season. You should give it a chance if you like the movie or are interested in the premise.

Stephen Jameson is a troubled teenager who hears voices in his head 
and wakes up in strange places.

Stephen finds out that he is in fact one of the tomorrow people. The next step of human evolution, beings with psionic abilities like teleportation, telepathy and telekinesis.

He also finds out that his kind is hunted by a secret organization called ULTRA.

He goes undercover in ULTRA to undermine their operation and find out the truth about what happened to his father.

Created by Greg Berlanti (Arrow, No Ordinary Family),
Phil Klemmer and Julie Plec (The Vampire Diaries)

Remake of the original 1970s British children’s television series of the same name

Premiered on The CW in October 2013
First season of 22 episodes
Cancelled after the first season

  • Reasons to watch:
  • Flashy superhero action
  • Complex baddies (Mark Pellegrino!)
  • Plot moves forward

  • Reasons not to watch:
  • Characters often act very stupidly
  • The CW casting (almost everyone young and beautiful)
  • Teen drama
  • Was cancelled so some storylines were left open

In conclusion:
Having never seen the original (or even the 90's remake) of the British original I can't say how good of an remake the new series was. But overall we were actually pleasantly surprised how watchable the show was and were kinda sad to see it not renewed for a second season.

It did have its fair share of problems, mostly the teen drama aspects of some of the storylines. The characters did have from time to time some major issues using their brains and the actors were probably partly (or maybe in some cases - mostly) cast because of their looks.

That been said, the acting wasn't actually painful to watch, it did its job most of the time and because there was chemistry between people, the drama was usually believable enough. It didn't win any awards but worked.

But it did have a number of good aspects that made watching it enjoyable. The action scenes were nicely choreographed and the effects and superpower stuff looked actually really good. Maybe not big movie quality but definitely better than in many other series.

The writing also did have its moments, Mark Pellegrino's character was really well written and a complex character. Overall the plot also did actually progress and the story moved forward. Unfortunately not all of the storylines were wrapped up in the season finale so with cancellation of the series they will be left open forever.  

But if you enjoy other superhero-type shows like The Arrow and The Flash you should definitely give this one a chance. It might surprise you too positively!

An eight year old boy is found on a Chinese rice field. US immigration agents are baffled but one of them finds out that the boy is Jacob Langston – a boy from Arcadia, Missouri who died 32 years ago.

The agent returns Jacob to his parents who have a hard time dealing with his return. Short while after Jacob’s return other long dead people start to appear as well.

Based on the book The Returned by Jason Mott
Premiered on ABC in March 2014
8 episode first season
13 episode second season currently airing.

  • Reasons to watch:
  • Intresting premise
  • Good acting

    Reasons not to watch:
  • Extremely slow build up
  • Too much focus on drama

In conclusion: 
We still haven't gotten around finishing the first season of Resurrection but because it did leave a rather positive impression on us we will watch more. Even though the premise is clearly rather speculative fictiony the series is written more as a serious drama with the fantastical elements being in the background and the human relationships and reactions at the forefront.

It might have been a disaster but fortunately it actually works. The actors do a damn fine job of portraying people faced with mysterious events that also have a rather large emotional impact. They deserve extra credit for finding again a child actor who isn't irritating and has good combination of appropriate creepiness and innocence.

Even though the premise and the name are very similar to the French television series Les Revenants (The Returned) the show isn't a remake or a reimagination for illiterate Americans. It's instead based on a novel by Jason Mott and because we haven't read it we can't comment on how accurate adaption it is. 

Those who are not turned off by a rather slow burning storytelling and are looking for a more serious and dramatic approach to their skiffy series should definitely give this one a chance. The first season is a measly eight episodes long so it's also a rather quick watch.

In 19th century London Dracula poses as Alexander Grayson - a rich
American business man hell-bent on delivering vengeance on his enemies – The Order of the Dragon.

He schemes to undermine the orders financial power by delivering affordable wireless energy.

His plan is side-tracked when he finds his centuries dead wife has been reincarnated in the body of Mina Murray.

The billionth reimagining of Dracula – this time with slight steampunk vibe

Created by Cole Haddon
Daniel Knauf (Carnivále) serves as showrunner/head writer

Premiered on NBC in October 2013
US/British co-production
10 episode first season
Cancelled after one season

  • Reasons to watch:
  •  Interesting take on some of the characters (esp. Renfield)
  •  Steampunk
  •  Exquisite costume and set design
  •  Lots of sexual tension and passion
  •  Complex characters and motivations

  • Reasons not to watch:
  •  One zillionth Dracula adaptation
  •  Focuses heavily on drama
  •  Some of the characters (including Mina Murray) are too bland

In conclusion: 
Dracula has been done so many times that it's wonder that anyone bothers anymore. That been said this was still a pretty different version that any we have seen or read. It had a somewhat steampunk-vibe and Dracula was basically the hero (or antihero) of the show.

The basic premise was also quite weird. It had Dracula pretending to be an American industrialist and trying to bankrupt the Order of the Dragons by offering cheap wireless energy to undermine their oil and coal holdings. Though he ends up eating a few people on the way.

The extremely convoluted plan gets more sidetracked when Dracula runs into Mina Murray who seems to apparently be his deceased wife's reincarnation. He then decides to employ Mina's boyfriend Jonathan Harker to help him in his plans and to get closer to Mina. Which then unsurprisingly also generates a lot of drama between all of them.

The show had a lot of drama and was from time to time a bit too serious but it also had a good and interesting take on multiple familiar characters. Both Renfield and Van Helsing were very different from previous version. Renfield was a loyal friend and confidant of Dracula and actually helped him a lot. Van Helsing was also a reluctant ally of Dracula fighting together against the Order of the Dragon.

Even though Mina Murray was written as rather bland character, other female characters were more interesting. They had much stronger personalities and their storylines were more interesting.

Generally the show was well written with many characters having complex relationships and different motivations. And even though the show was on broadcast television (which has strict standards what you can show) there was a lot of sexual tension and situations.

The show also looked very good with excellent costume and set design. The visual effects and cinematography were also very good for a TV-show.

Jonathan Rhys Meyers wasn't probably the best Dracula ever. But had enough charisma and both sexiness and danger to portray a different, more modern, interpretation of the character.

The first season ends on a bit of a cliffhanger so we were disappointed that Dracula didn't get another season. We would have enjoyed watching more steampunky dramatic sexytimes in Victorian era London.

It's fairly entertaining and aesthetically pleasing with decent amount of sexiness. So if that description sounds interesting enough you should definitely give this bloodsucker a chance!  

In addition to all these series there were at least two other genre series which we didn't have time to watch. But for informations sake here's shorts descriptions of them.

Werewolves and romance
Renewed for a second season

Aliens and romance
Cancelled after one season

Like we wrote before, we are doing another one of these presentations at Archipelacon next summer. The focus will be on TV-series that have premiered after those addressed here. We will take on at least The Flash, Constatine, Penny Dreadful and The Librarians. 

There will be Opinions!

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