According to The Hollywood Reporter Robert Kirkman, creator of The Walking Dead and Outcats, and his partner Dave Alpert have decided to bring The Chronicles of Amber to TV. The books were written by Roger Zelazny and have been, along side authors like Terry Brooks, Stephen Donaldson and Robin Hobb part of the canon of fantasy since first written in 1970.
It is no big surprise that Zelazny’s epic work, spanning ten books, there is a lot of source material to pick and choose from like A Song of Ice and Fire or Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time with several layers of intrigue. The story centers on Corwin and his family who can travel across dimensions and has its starting point on Earth.
If Kirkman and Alpert are looking to capitalize on the success of Game of Thrones is not completely clear, but one can speculate. Zelazny has more in common with Brooks’ Shannara series, which was given a surprising second season by MTV (the disappointment of that show was indicated here at the Guild already when it was announced), but Skybound may be the company needed to bring the right air to the coming show.
We hope so!
Read The Hollywood Reporter’s article here
As mentioned earlier this week we are heading into a very exciting time in wrestling and among the things to look forward to is the possible development and production of L.A. Fights, a bold new project that is the brain child of Nigel McGuinness. McGuinness is of course familiar to most wrestling fans from his time in Ring of Honor as well as in TNA, as Desmond Wolf, but maybe to some from his earlier Kickstarter project The Last of the McGuinness, a deeply personal movie documenting his retirement tour.
He has now returned to Kickstarter with a new project and since we at the Guild love both crowdfunding and wrestling we wanted to pick his brain about L.A. Fights. With a substantial amount of money needing to be raised to get this exciting project off the ground and 21 days to go he has been doing a lot of promotional interviews and we wanted our readers to hear about it also. According to the Kickstarter page the story is as follows:
“A diverse group of amateur fighters and their morally ambivalent promoter struggle to coexist in their upstart fight league.”
He wants it to be a reinvention of the wrestling genre, so we asked him about it:
W: How long has this project been in the works? From first idea to where you are at now.
NM: Five years in my head, eighteen months extensively working in the script, in ring style and development.
W: Are there any wrestling companies that you have found that put out a different product, in part or completely, other than Lucha Underground?
NM: Of course. But LA Fights and Lucha Underground are not wrestling companies. They are TV shows. ROH, PWG, EVOLVE, Chikara all present different takes on the pro wrestling people see on Monday nights.
W: You have cited shows like Breaking Bad as successful shows that you enjoy. What element from shows like it will you add to your product?
Cast: Jessica Lange, Evan Peters, Angela Basset, Kathy Bates et al.
It is once again time to delve into the dark recesses of horror that is American Horror Story, a show that really has pushed the envelope when it comes to what you can expect from a TV show. At least that was expected when the third season, titled Coven, rolled around. Where season one, these days known as Murder House, and Asylum did everything it could to shock and disgust the third installment fell tragically short. This would seemingly put the expectations of season four, Freakshow, quite low.
Murder House and Asylum felt fresh and sent shivers down the viewers spine whereas Coven promised to do so initially, but couldn’t keep it up. Maybe it was the modern setting, maybe it was the fact that there were several different parallel story lines going on that just seemed to go nowhere, or maybe it was that one got the feeling that the show just didn’t take the narrative very seriously. Granted, Asylum has its flaws as well, suffering from unexplained alien phenomena that also just petered out.
One gets the feeling that American Horror Story is somewhat at a crossroads; they continue on the path begun at the end of Asylum and fully followed through Coven or they go back around to follow Murder House and get back on track.
The idea of a Freak show in the American Heartland in the sixties is a great beginning, there is a lot of mystery and macabre things that can happen and anything set in the sixties or earlier is long enough ago to make everything a bit eery, it just something with that time, as if it the border between old superstition and modern science.
In the sleepy town of Jupiter the murder of an elderly farm woman is discovered, at the same time it is also revealed that she has been hiding a set of grown Siamese twins Bette and Dot (Sarah Paulson) who also seems to be injured. At the hospital the twins are approached by Elsa Mars (Jessica Lange) a German immigrant who runs a carnival on the outskirts of Jupiter. Seeing an opportunity to save her failing business and claiming to know that Dot and Bette murdered their mother Mars convinces them to join her freak show.
At the same time a hideous looking clown is murdering innocent people all over the town, making folks believe that whoever killed Bette and Dot’s mother is also behind the other killings, causing a detective to seek out the carnival looking for the twins.
The Freak show is inhabited by colorful oddities, played by the same cast as always; a bearded lady (Kathy Bates), flipper boy (Evan Peters) who also moonlights as some form of sex toy for lonely housewives and so on.
Much like the other American Horror Story seasons Freakshow jumps to shock directly and hopefully it can keep that momentum and keep the horror going until the end of the season. There is much to use in this story and hopefully the creators of the show have looked in the direction of Carnivale to get some inspiration. Whatever relation the murder clown has to the show it must be fairly creepy.
As always AHS sets the season up great and hopefully this time it will pan out and become really scary. The season premier makes big promises and a recommended watch.
Cast: Ben McKenzie, Donal Logue, Jada Pinkett Smith, Erin Richards et al.
It is no big surprise that Gotham has been one of the most highly anticipated shows for the coming fall. From the Casual Dark Knight fan to the most fanatic DC follower, the internet has blown up with discussions and speculations. With the success of Arrow and the coming of The Flash some have had cause for rejoice, while those remembering the previous Flash series and Birds of Prey don’t know how to feel. It has been clear from the get go that Gotham is not a Batman story, but more focuses on Jim Gordon (McKenzie) and his first year in his new city. Like Arrow the first episode hints at several origin stories of some the biggest villains in the world of Batman as well as of things that might possibly come.
The first episode opens on the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne, a scene most Batman fans are well acquainted with, there is one slight difference though, that the robber kills the couple on purpose. This of course sets the stage for a storyline that will carry on throughout the series, as the investigation continues to stay open at the end of the episode, at least in Gordon’s mind. The story of an assassin of the Waynes may seem novel to some, but has already been explored by Andrew Vachss in his book Batman: The Ultimate Evil from 1995.
The storyline of Gotham and the events that occur in the premier episode are all well and good. Most of it feels like it fits in the DC universe as well as certain characters and their traits. The big issue is the use of the Batman cast of characters. We see Oswald Cobbelpot (The Penguin), Edward Nigma (The Riddler) and Ivy (supposedly Poison Ivy) in various roles that clash with their comic book version. Nigma for instance works with the police as a crime scene investigator, which deviates from the fact that he doesn’t appear in Gotham until after Batman has been created. Poison Ivy is in reality named Pamela Isley and not Ivy which also clashes with the comic book version. These are things that may seem trivial to the casual fan, but the figures are undoubtedly added to the series as Easter eggs for fans. One would think that if these things were added for the fans’ sake then they should at least be accurate so as not to offend easily upset fanboys.
That being said Gotham might prove to be a hit yet. There is an interesting story behind it and there is a lot to pick and choose from. The real downside to the show is the acting. Ben McKenzie is way too wooden in his performance and his dialogue is delivered with little to no conviction. The same goes for Donal Logue, Harvey Bullock in the show, who drops the ball on the brutish character and is unconvincing as the larger than life crooked detective. Jada Pinkett Smith also leaves more to be wished for with a performance that is no more than one dimensional. Hopefully these actors can grow with the role, but as a starting point this is not acceptable for a show of this caliber.
As of the first episode one may very well feel as if Gotham has not lived up to the hype and if there is something a show needs it is to hit the ground running. Maybe they can pick up speed and momentum in the coming episodes.
Genre: Horror (Zombie)
Cast: Tom Everett Scott, DJ Qualls, Pisay Pao
It is easy to go into Z nation with critical eyes. Firstly, it is produced by The SyFy channel and secondly the actors in it are either unknown or have been away from the limelight for some time. These two things might not be enough to deter an avid zombie fan it may do so for the average viewer who has been burned more than once by the poor production and acting ability. That being said, SyFy has been able to score hits all these things considered, like Warehouse 13 or Defiance, both benefiting from good storytelling. Those shows live in their own realm of possibility and therefore can get away with not being quite accurate, a zombie show does not have that luxury, its setting and style demands believability to be scary.
Z nation is set three years after a zombie break out has caused civilization to collapse, which might seem quite a slow process. At a military base a doctor is experimenting on prisoners to find an antidote for the zombie virus. Before they are overrun they are successful, but one soldier (Harold Perrineau) and the immune inmate (Keith Allen) escape and head for California to take advantage of the antibodies. On their way they come in contact with an army reserves’ camp, lead by Tom Everett Scott, and enlist their aide. The plot in itself is pretty standard for any apocalyptic series and there are hardly any surprises. There are some good points in the show’s back story that might surface later, but for the most part the dialogue is quite standard and contrite. It even has an archetypical radio jockey (DJ Qualls) calling himself Citizen Z who most likely will be commenting throughout the show, not very unique either. Qualls, whose character is also a soldier does not seem to have the physique to pass boot camp.
When it comes to the production of Z nation it is actually better than most SyFy shows, mostly due to the fact that they use inventive camera angles and quick clips, probably in order to hide any bad quality effects. The zombies themselves look well made and scary enough, though they seem to have more in common with the infected in 28 Days Later than walkers from Walking Dead. It also tries to out gore the latter with blood and chunks blowing off of heads.
The real downside here though are the giant holes that fill the narrative. Certain things are not explained and several completely illogical things occur without reason, as well as people jumping from one room to another without walking there.
All in all Z nation might not meet the expectations of a truly terrible knock off show, but in some areas it comes close. This could just be the result of trying to put out something too quick and that it suffers from some early hiccups, it might just turn around, or it will keep it up and become a hilarious cult classic.
Cast:David Bradley, Sean Astin, Corey Stoll et. al
The Strain is, for those in the know (horror readers, comic book aficionados), the most anticipated premier of the season. There hasn’t been a great deal of hype for it mainstream wise and FX has relied on word of mouth to do the hype for them. In truth the show should hype itself quite easily, the story was conceived by Guillermo del Toro and is based on his bestselling trilogy and has also been made into a successful comic by Dark Horse and it contains vampires. Other shows that have been as long awaited i.e. Game of Thrones and Walking Dead have been the blockbusters that the networks expected and The Strain is posed to do the same.
The story itself opens in New York City where a plane from Berlin has stopped on the tarmac. There are no signs of life, the shutters are drawn and the plane itself is cold. Government agencies clamor to control the situation, but the CDC have dibs on the mystery. Dr. Ephraim Goodweather (Stoll), your typical divorced, ex-alcoholic anti-hero, takes charge together with his team. They find only four survivors inside, while the deaths of the rest of the 200 plus passengers is at first completely dumbfounding. The tale becomes more twisting when a coffin-like box is found in the cargo hold and it’s filled with dirt. Now they need to hinder the spreading of whatever the disease is that killed the passengers, but they are clearly unaware of what they are trying to stop.
In New York City an apparently dying man is waiting for the cargo that the plane is carrying for his own purposes and add to this a van Helsing type older man who is getting ready for a final confrontation with an ancient enemy and you have a perfect setting for a great series.
For those who have read the books or the comics it may feel nice to see that, at least, the first episode follows the original story closely, with some minor skips in the narrative.
With the success of American Horror Story FX has almost been given carte blanche to do whatever they please with The Strain, since AHS broke down the door on eroticism and horror there is little that the new show can do to shock the viewers. This does leave open the chance to focus on the story and this is very nice.
There are a few things that The Strain have working for them. Not only is there a very interesting story to build from here. del Toror’s books take the classic vampire and create something new around it. Just like he did with Blade he changes things around just enough to make it original, but not too much so that the horror crowd has something to gripe over. The vampires of The Strain are not your debonaire, well dressed Nosferatu of Anne Rice or glowing teenagers of Twilight; they are as terrifying and ugly as living dead bloodsuckers should be. It is clear to any true reader of vampire fiction that del Toro knows his literary history and respects it.
The cast of the show also seems to be very well chosen, there aren’t any of the bigger names to overshadow the content or any other cast members, it is an ensemble effort, with some actors that the viewer might recognize to give that secure sense of that these guys are good at what they do. The show also has the ability to keep a good pace, unlike counterparts like Walking Dead that has yet to end its run as a comic book and might therefore cause issues when it comes to plan out the length of the series. The Strain books and comics have a clear end and there can then be a long term plan for how the show should be set, giving it much needed balance, something that the Walking Dead suffers from, where the show drags mid-season. With FX as the network the show avoids the most disturbing of images or explicit content. It hints at it and shows enough skin to entice the senses without becoming vulgar or having nudity for nudity’s sake. It’s a smart move and gives parents the reassurance that the show might be scary, but not disturbing.
Overall The Strain might just be the hit of the summer and it would seem that if they stay their course and don’t deviate from the story too much it might run for many seasons, but it would be wise for FX to have the end planned and not to drag it out, because that would only hurt it.
The Strain airs on Sundays on FX
Cast: Noah Wyle, Will Patton, Moon Bloodgood et al.
When a drama or action show goes into its four season it is often with the bated breath of the viewers. What can be accomplished that hasn’t been shown in the three earlier seasons? Will it become redundant and repetitive, like True Blood or Vampire Diaries or will it try to reinvent itself with new cast members and completely different story arcs, very much like the shows Dexter and Breaking Bad, keeping a very basic connection between the seasons. Comedies need not worry about this and are therefore more prone to extended runs as do Criminal Shows devoid of any kind of continuity.
The category of show that Falling Skies belongs to is very dependent on the viewers’ keeping their interest in what happens next. Of course this is true of all dramatic shows or any show at all, but Falling Skies has to fight an uphill battle that other shows might not have to. It’s a Science Fiction show and apart from a handful of shows from the mid-20th century these have always had a more difficult time to find a place amongst the main stream viewers, with the exception of Star Trek or Babylon 5. Maybe because the scenario is so unlikely and that the common viewer has a hard time relating to Science Fiction, why other shows with more or less unlikely settings aren’t as prone to criticism is another discussion entirely and not prevalent here.
What Falling Skies has managed to do so well is drop the story little by little and not reveal the bigger picture, like other TV shows long gone; Flash Forward or Alcatraz. The strength of the cast and the interaction between the characters is also something the writers have managed very well. As the show evolves so do the figures and how they react to the ever changing world around them. The narrative itself is also a strong point. The writers of the show have, as previously mentioned, been very good at not telling the audience the entire story. Sometimes comics released before the season premiers have filled in the blanks and there are events and people mentioned we never see or meet. This coupled with a united America fighting a horde of invaders clearly appeases a more general crowd.
So will season four be able to continue this trend or is it all coming to an end. Unlike a Science Fiction show like V an end does not seem to be close. Shows that have infinite possibilities and plot lines is always more interesting than a show that hints at everything ending once the main character meets the mother of his children.
The main characters are all ambushed and separated within the first minutes leading the tight-knit group to be split in four camps. This gives a new dimension to the main theme of the show; ‘United one can overcome anything’. The storyline is now open to the journey back to unity and rebellion. The story also takes on somewhat of a nod to the Second World War as Tom Mason (Wyle) is placed in a Ghetto-like environment very much like the ones in Poland and his youngest son Ben is being re-educated in the true spirit of the Hitler Jugend.
One must be impressed with the way Falling Skies comes back again and again and it becomes the strength of it all and it seems like every season premier one becomes excited for what may lie ahead, and with all that is going on in the beginning, this might be the best season yet.
Cast: John Malkovic, Richard Coyle, Julian Sands et al
Pirates, a few years ago one could hardly swing a cutlass around without hitting some form of pirate related object. Of course we had Pirates of the Caribbean and Johnny Depp to thank for this. It was obvious that just about everyone tried to capitalize on the success, even the porn industry released a pirate movie, and why wouldn’t they? That is probably why it seems like both Crossbones and Black Sails are just a bit too late to catch the proverbial boat.
To review Crossbones by comparing it to Black Sails would be the easy thing to do, there are many things that could be commented on, from cast, setting, effects and the very similar narrative. One must consider that the two shows are on very different networks with different audiences and therefore very different possibilities.
Initially the plot of Crossbones revolves around Tom Lowe (Richard Coyle) an agent for the British crown posing as a physician. His task is to murder the legendary Blackbeard (John Malkovic) who is supposed to be dead. William Jagger (Julian Sands) refuses to believe this and creates a decoy to lure him out; the chronometer, a navigational tool designed to steer ships right in the treacherous waters of the Caribbean.
As planned the ship carrying the chronometer is boarded by pirates and Lowe ends up destroying the device, burning the encrypted design plans and poisoning the inventor. This causes him to be imprisoned by the pirates and taken to the island of New Providence where he comes face to face with Blackbeard, now calling himself the Commodore. To avoid being killed Lowe must promise to keep the inventor alive, but when this fails he memorizes the key to the cipher to stay valuable to Blackbeard.
The opportunity to carry out his initial mission presents itself, but must be halted when it seems like the enemies of Britain are benefitting from Blackbeard’s connections. At the same time the introduction of the beautiful Kate Balfour (Claire Foy) creates a possible love interest for Lowe. This is most interesting for viewers who might recognize Coyle and Foy as romantic partners in Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal.
NBC really does try to push the envelope with Crossbones. They show as much blood, gore and cursing as they can all to be able to compete with networks like HBO and Showtime. Whether it will work or not only time will tell, but there actually might be a point in creating an alternative that the entire family can watch together. The part of the show that is hurt by these limitations is the reality aspect. So far Crossbones is a bit too clean and neat. When it comes to the pirate life the viewers need the stink and misery of it to leap through the screen, they need to feel it.
The choice of British actors like Richard Coyle is most satisfying, mostly known for comedic interpretations like Coupling and the aforementioned Going Postal he is more than capable of playing the serious role. It does seem that he was chosen for his ability to bring some comedy the role of Lowe. The creators of the show have also chosen to surround actors like Malkovic and Sands with their British counterparts. Even though both Malkovic and Sands are competent actors they need to be reined in by strong directors and supported by a strong cast. There have been far too many times when Malkovic has been allowed to run rampant across the screen without control, completely ruining the experience. A hint of it flashes here and there, but hopefully the transition to the small screen can do for him what the Following did for Kevin Bacon or Selfridge did for Jeremy Piven.
Crossbones has to make a decision what kind of show it wants to be. If it wants to contend with similar cable shows than it will fail, but if it chooses to be the best thriller/adventure show it can on the network it is on then we may have a success on our hands.
The first season of The Following felt like a surprise hit. A show that initially felt like a middle of the road venue for an aging mostly forgotten actor turned out to be so much more. Sure the show suffered from Kevin Bacon being the worst actor among the ensemble, but he quickly found his feet and his ironic way of portraying Ryan Hardy soon became the only sane hub in a wheel of crazies.
When the first season ended with the death of the serial killer Joe Carroll and the seeming end to his cult many questioned what a new season would entail. It was easy to guess that the bad guy survived only to go into hiding.
As the second season begins this is indeed the case. Carroll is in hiding in hillbilly country with no thought of letting the world know he is still alive. Hardy is the only one who refuses to believe in Carroll’s demise, concocting a harebrained theory where his enemy was replaced by his dead half-brother’s body.
Carroll is forced out of hiding by his ego and need to be immortalized when a group of people donning masks portraying him attack people on the subway. Ryan Hardy is reluctantly thrown into the mix again, most of the time refusing to work with FBI and mostly relying on his niece to do a lot of the legwork. The cult follower Emma also comes out of hiding to find these new followers and maybe Joe.
The first season was a constant game of finding Joe Carroll and constantly being thwarted by his followers. The second season is more of a race against time for both Hardy and Carroll, but also new antagonists who are pitted against the main characters.
The strength of the show is that Hardy and the FBI don’t come off as super heroes. Hardy and Weston are even more broken in the second season than in the first and this influences their decisions, both expressed in a sort of devil may care attitude, albeit Hardy’s more comical and Weston’s more brutal. The same goes for Carroll and Emma, both damaged by what happened in the first season and they both seem defeated by it.
In the end the second season of The Following was everything the first one was and they managed to reinvent the story and build the characters in a very solid way.
Let’s see what the next installment might bring…
C.M. Marry Hultman
Cast: Eva Green, Timothy Dalton, Josh Hartnett
In the wake of the success of American Horror Story it seems like networks are trying to capitalize on this. Horror-esque shows have been popping up left and right lately to most genre aficionados’ delight. Granted, the horror genre has never really been wanting, apart from detective stories, the most popular one. It seems as if horror is always in our cultural background, but that different aspects of it gains more fans at different times. We have been barraged by Vampires, Zombies and Werewolves these past years and maybe there is time for something different. American Horror Story: Coven claimed that it might be witches and Salem (reviewed separately) ran with it.
Penny Dreadful takes a different direction; at least this is what the inaugural episode would have us believe. The setting is in the Victorian Age and we are presented with a world that has become quite familiar to us through other shows, handsome cabs, cobblestone streets and men in bowler hats, but there is another element here as well. The world seems to be inhabited by other worldly creatures. In the first episode we meet vampire like figures and at least a nod in the direction of Frankenstein’s Monster.
The plot initially revolves around Timothy Dalton’s character whose daughter has been abducted by something. He is allied with Eva Green, an apparently cursed woman, who in the first episode takes the role of his secretary. Within the first ten minutes she has tried to recruit Josh Hartnett, a carnival cowboy to aid in their search for the missing girl.
It is quite clear that there is more to this plot than meets the eye. One gets the feeling of a Victorian X-files with an array of quirky characters who will support the main figures with their special abilities. One of these, a flamboyant expert on Egypt, has already been introduced. This gives the impression of a comic relief to the show that may be unnecessary.
American Horror Story understood the fact that too much comedy, or any comedy for that matter, would render the horror aspect void. Sleepy Hollow as an example of the other part of the spectrum focuses too much on Ichabod Crane’s conflict with the modern world and therefore making the sense of impending doom almost nonexistent. Blood and gore is not enough in this case to keep us in suspense.
The cast is what may be the saving grace for this show, Eva Green and Timothy Dalton are strong enough actors to carry the rest of the cast and it is quite obvious that Josh Hartnett is struggling to keep up with them. As an example Jeremy Piven’s performance in Mr Selfridge was outright appalling compared to his counterparts, but improved as the show developed, most likely because the others rubbed off on him.
Granted this is only the first episode and there is no real point in voicing any negative aspects, but tentative ones maybe. Penny Dreadful has got all the potential to be just what it claims it’s going to be, but it also might be just dreadful…
C. Marry Hultman