Wayward Pines: Blood Harvest – Ego Versus Ego (Review)

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After Jason chucked both Ben Burke (Charlie Tahan) and Dr. Yedlin (Jason Patric) outside Wayward Pines’ security fence last week, “Blood Harvest” sees the apparent death of Ben and the rescue of Yedlin.  The good doctor would have, no doubt, been left outside to die if Jason’s girlfriend Kerry Campbell (Kacey Rohl) had not  been injured by an Abbie.  The dictator would not have gone out at all had the Abbies not tried to breach the electrified fence. Now that Yedlin is back inside, there will be a clash of egos between the leader and the surgeon. 

Megan Fisher (Hope Davis) has trained her little Hitlers well. Jason has complete control, now that Ben has been exiled and her extreme views have been hammered home. A small society being run by a group of entitled young people who have no real life experience apart from what Fisher has taught them.  It is a recipe for disaster as Yedlin discovers after he decides to cooperate and he learns of malnutrition and electric shock treatments and finds the town is a police state. 

Jason has not changed one iota from the first season. He is still a pushy and non-benevolent dictator.  A male version of the Red Queen (“All ways are my ways.”) who believes in his divine right to rule unchallenged.

While this season does not have quite the amount of unanswered questions as the first one, there are things that mystify.  For example, Rebecca Yedlin (Nimrat Kaur) appears to have some influence over Jason. In the little confrontation where Theo demands answers from Jason before he treats Kerry, Rebecca  guides the leader in the right direction. 

How she is able to do this is left unanswered.  Just as the question of how much she knew about Wayward Pines before the abduction and where she really fits.  She is an architect and works as the town’s beautician, yet she did do some architect work on the ice cream parlor.  She has been in the town for three years, why was she brought out of stasis so much earlier than her husband Theo?

The crops outside the fence are also problematic. With the Abbies outside  the town’s fence  being so plentiful and aggressive, how did the town plant the crops and then maintain them?  The second episode sees the first generation asking about whether the crops are ready for harvest and CJ Mitchum (Djimon Hounsou), after looking at the monitors,  says that they are.

An elaborate plan is hatched to harvest the produce and, once again, one wonders how they managed to grow the things outside the fence. (Granted this could be a bit of a plot hole here or something that wound up being edited out.)

Yedlin saves Kerry and takes over as the head of the Wayward Pines hospital. The two men’s egos clash while the surgeon allows his imagination to run free and he imagines that there are conspiracies everywhere.

The crops are harvested, after using  flamethrowers to drive the Abbies back and Ben Burke tries to get back behind the fence.

He fails.

Leaving a message, via the security webcam outside the fence, he tells his mother goodbye and apologizes for his actions.  He speaks directly to Jason about sentencing him to death. The leader orders the feed cut off.  Shortly after, Ben is attacked by Abbies and, presumably, killed.

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Megan still the zealot.

It will be interesting to see what happens when Megan discovers that Jason “killed” Ben, another First Generation leader.  She was the one who passed down the rules to the new leaders.  Although clearly, Fisher likes Jason being in charge as he follows her strict philosophy.

Mario is accosted by Ben’s mother Theresa Burke (Shannyn Sossamon) who demands that they try to find her son. He tells his men to escort her home and it is clear that he is afraid of Jason.  

Yedlin learns that the rulers of the small town have gaps in  their knowledge base, specifically with  commons sense issues, like basic nutrition. A boy is brought in and found to be malnourished.  Theo  asks about multi-vitamins and is told by an internist that not everyone “qualifies.”

The doctor responds with angry disbelief:

“How does one ‘qualify’ for a vitamin?”

Jason is clearly intimated by Dr. Yedlin and reacts aggressively each time they interact, although that is the leaders reaction to anyone daring to question his actions.  More than any of the other Generational’s Jason seems  like a snotty kid “playing” at being a grownup. His grasp on the requirements of running a town are limited and naive. Thanks to Megan Fisher, he feels no personal need to increase his knowledge; all he requires is that everyone follow his rules to the letter.

It is interesting that the second season of Wayward Pines chose a surgeon to be the main protagonist. Surgeons are often accused of suffering a “God” complex where their egos and hubris exceed their humanity.  Jason also has a problem with ego something cultivated, in no small part, by Fisher and her teachings.

These two will clash and Theo Yedlin may not win this one.  While common sense dictates that a doctor is vital to the communities well being, it is the despot in charge who makes and changes the rules to suit himself.  If a denizen of the town must qualify for a multivitamin who is to say qualifying for medial care will not be next?

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Jason

“Wayward Pines” airs Wednesdays on FOX.  Tune in and see where the show heads this season.

America’s Got Talent Season 11 Premiere (Review)

America's got Talent Season 11

“America’s Got Talent” season 11 auditions were so brilliant that it will be difficult for the show to keep up the level of talent on offer.  The show is not a personal favorite. (In fact, apart from “Grinch” Simon Cowell, I despise the Britain’s Got Talent and the many different iterations of “reality” competitions.) This season is the first American version of Cowell’s brainchild I have seen.

Very different from the UK series with a different lot of judges. ` from The Spice Girls, Heidi Klum, Howie Mandel and or course Simon. There seems to be less of the nutters and delusional element who have somehow managed to slip though the net.

It is pleasant to see Cowell get blown away by the examples of real talent that turn out and his displeasure a breath of fresh air.  Simon has mellowed as the years have gone by as have his outbursts of point blank negativity.  As always, however, Cowell, tells the truth.

The first set of auditions featured a six year old stand-up comic:

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Nathan: Little Big Comic

The comically inclined youngster writes his own material, although mum types it and the panel as well as the audience loved this cheeky chappy. Nathan got through with a yes from each panel member.

Next up was a 58 year old man and his dancing dog. A cute act that got through despite Heidi giving the act a thumbs down.

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Jose and Carrie

A clairvoyant act followed the dancing dog and this couple managed to completely blow away the panel and the audience.  In an act as old as time, the young man and woman guessed correctly what Heidi had in her hand, from her handbag, a cell phone and its provider and Howie’s eye drops, along with the expiration date.

All in all very impressive and after the two left the stage the judges and the audience continued to discuss their skills.

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The Clairvoyants…

While there were acts that breached good taste:

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Ryan Stock and Amberlynn stomach turning…

And some that reached a sort of sublime comic genius:

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“Tape Face” made it through.

It was the singing that moved both the panel and the audience the most.  The two biggest surprises were the quartet who all looked like weightlifters on steroids. These massive blokes followed their short and slightly evasive interview question with a Somewhere Over The Rainbow redux that was almost too beautiful.

Perfect pitch and vocals that brought tears to the eyes of those listening. Made this are real musical treat.  The fact that they performed A Cappella is nothing new, these competitions have had plenty of these in the past. The range of the song and the notes were nothing short of stunning.

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LINKIN’ BRIDGE VOTED THROUGH.

The real shocker performance, and second surprise, however came from a 13 year old girl who performed a short aria with the lungs, delivery and panache of a 30 year old opera professional.

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Laura Bretan the first gold buzzer.

This young singer was the first gold buzzer of the season and it was Mel B who hit the button to send this talented lass through to the finale.  Laura and the audience were overjoyed at the gold buzzer and it was a well deserved moment.

No matter how many times one listens to this young lady sing it induces goosebumps and tears of joy. This is magical and amazing and it is easy to see why the gold buzzer was pressed for young Laura.

For those who may have missed the show, and do not have Hulu, here, courtesy of “America’s Got Talent” on YouTube, is the singer herself, not just singing but being interviewed as well. Listen and weep at this talented 13 year old girl.

This season, the first I have ever watched, was a brilliant introduction to this side of the pond’s big talent show. Eclectic, wonderful and touching it was a blast. Presenter Nick Cannon does a great job providing commentary and comic touches to the proceedings. “America’s Got Talent” looks to be stunning this year and has gained a new fan. It airs Tuesdays on NBC and is worth watching…Seriously.

Dead of Summer: Freeform Friday the 13th Sort Of (Review)

ELIZABETH LAIL

On June 28 this year Freeform is joining other networks in bringing horror to the small screen with “Dead of Summer.” A sort of Friday the 13th homage where the camp is not Crystal Lake but Stillwater and there is no Jason, but there is a Tony Todd.

The pilot, still a work in progress, shows Todd at the very beginning. A move meant to convey the creator’s serious intent to delve deep into the horror genre. Like the camp in Crystal Lake, Stillwater was closed, in this instance  in 1984, for an, as yet, unknown reason, and the place has been purchased and rejuvenated by former camp counselor Deb Carpenter (Elizabeth Mitchell). 

The place reopens five years later at the tail end of the ’80s; 1989.

A new group of camp guidance counselor’s arrive, including new girl Amy Hughes (Elizabeth Lail). Amy has never been to camp nor has she ever worked at one, this young heroine is clearly the “virgin” in this slasher scenario. 

All of the counselors, apart from Amy, are former campers at the lake and all know one another. The only other “outsider” to the group is Drew; a quiet withdrawn individual who speaks to no one not even his bunkmates.

While there is no Jason, or Mrs. Voorhees, there is a  creepy old caretaker, who warns our virginal character to leave and the lady who owns/runs the camp is named Carpenter (a huge nod and wink to the genre) who has a secret…or two.

In terms of nods and winks, there is even an allusion to the iconic 1981 horror film “Sleepaway Camp.”

As this is the pilot, titled “Patience”  “Dead of Summer” does not go overboard on plot specifics or gore. The body count is rather low and in terms of  viscera, the series is pretty lightweight in that department as well.

The action is not fast paced, the word plodding comes to mind,  and the story moves along at a snail’s pace. We are not given much insight into each character, although this may come later. However, if it takes too long, we may never learn of backstories for these new counselors.

The main problem with the pilot is that it is slow. With a targeted demographic of the younger members of the audience, “Dead of Summer”  looks likely to lose a huge amount of its viewers before “Patience” is halfway through.

Mitchell is suitably uncomfortable as the passionate camp owner and Lail is a perfect combination of gormlessness and timid assurance.  (Interestingly enough, both women have “Once Upon a Time” in common which should be no real surprise as the show’s creators also come from this ABC series.)

Ian B. Goldberg, producer from “Once Upon a Time,” and that series’ showrunners Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis have left the land of fairy tales to dip into the slasher genre, a’la Friday the 13th.  With no hockey masks, or murderous mum’s on-hand, this lake campground will have a sinister backstory of murder, that goes back much further than 1984. 

Thus far, in terms of interest, “Dead of Summer” lacks anything to make it stand out. Granted, this is just the pilot and things can improve, but in reality one would have thought that a bit more speed and a higher body count would not have been a bad thing.

ELI GOREE, MARK INDELICATO, AMBER CONEY, ELIZABETH LAIL
ELI GOREE, MARK INDELICATO, AMBER CONEY, ELIZABETH LAIL

This nostalgic look at ’80s horror could work well, but in terms of anachronisms, the camcorder Joel is using looks a bit out of place. At one point the thing is plugged into a television and played back directly. In 1989 there could not have been many, if any, (Even a Hi8) capable of doing that.

(We could be wrong and if anyone can remember a minicam, like the one Joel uses having that capability, please let us know and we will stand corrected.)

“Dead of Summer” looks to be a slow starter and like the title of the pilot seems to indicate, patience may be required before the new series “comes to life.”  The Freeform summer replacement show airs June 28. Watch it and see what you think.

Roots (2016): The Problem With Plagiarized History

Kunta KInte Roots

“Roots,” the original television spectacle took a country by storm back in the late ’70s.   Adapted from Alex Haley’s book of the same name, it followed the trials and tribulations of Kunta Kinte a warrior sold into slavery and was a ratings smash in 1977 when it aired on ABC.  But it there was a problem, the history (judged as a true story) was plagiarized.

Haley was charged with plagiarism (accused of borrowing rather liberally from existing works, including Margaret Walker’s “Jubilee”)  and the author apologized for “inadvertently using other writer’s material.”   Ironically Haley won the Pulitzer-prize for his (two) novels and in 1993 Philip Nobile almost single handedly led a crusade to have the prize posthumously taken away from Haley.

Did these charges or Nobile’s “proof” of widespread plagiarism change the power of the television mini-series?

Hardly.

The remake, currently airing on the History Channel, is as moving and epic as the 1977 version. LeVar Burton became a household name because of his portrayal of Kunta Kinte (Toby) and brought the multi-talented Ben Vereen (Chicken George) into the well deserved spotlight.  A plethora of white actors and stars clamored to be in this “ground-breaking” look at the realities of slavery in the early part of America’s history. 

And it was based on a falsehood.  Words taken from other author’s and a myth based upon a fiction that masqueraded as fact. (Although to be fair Haley did refrain from referring to his work as non-fiction.)

Leaving the race card completely out of the equation, ” Roots” was, at its heart, a story of an underdog. A proud warrior plucked from friends and family and sold into slavery.  Transported halfway across the world he is then beaten, has his identity stolen and repeatedly tries to escape only to be caught and maltreated. Punished for trying to keep true to himself.

Slavery, whether it be Spartacus fighting the Romans or Kunta KInte fighting his new captors in the state of Virginia, is a topic sure to touch the viewer. Who does not get behind the man, or woman, who fights against oppression or rebels at being forced to be something they are not?

The first two episodes of “Roots” (2016) have aired on the History Channel. The second on 31 May 2016 and if there is not talk about Emmy gongs already, there should be.  Forest Whitaker  and Malachi Kirby have knocked it out of the park in terms of performance.  Sadly, the slave-owners and their accomplices are two dimensional cardboard cutouts, which was a problem in the original series as well.   

(Which is the problem with the intent of both programs in reality. Snoop Dogg, an entertainer who grafts hard for his living, has slammed the remake as being unnecessary; another backward look while we should all be moving and looking forward.  It is interesting to note that at the start of the story, Kunta Kinte is actually captured and enslaved by another African tribe who then sell the warrior to the British as added punishment.  This is never addressed after the beginning, choosing instead to focus on the horrible slave owners in America.)

But the real point here is not whether the tale is diminished by Haley’s plagiarism or that the story is a fiction based on a borrowed myth of other author’s works. The real issue is that the series moves the viewer. Regardless of skin color or racial heritage.

Everyone, unless they are card carrying racists of the most disgusting sort, gets behind Kunta Kinte as he fights to maintain his identity, his past, his roots.  Striving to be an individual who has a purpose and a will. “Toby” fights for the one thing he can cling to after being stolen from his people and home; his name.

Watching this version of “Roots” I was amazed to find that time had not dulled my reactions to the story.  Rage, disgust, sorrow and other feelings all manifested themselves while watching the remake just as they had back in 1977.

While Snoop Dogg’s displeasure at revisiting a part of American history that many would like to forget (Or at least gloss over, similar to country’s attitude about the murder of Native American’s on a grand scale with the tragic “Trail of Tears.”) it is good that we can see “how we got here.”

Regardless of Haley’s sins of borrowing liberally in his writing of “Roots” the tale is a moving one.  The mini-series still has a number of episodes to go and is well worth watching. (The performances alone make viewing a memorable experience.)  This time of year sees television slow down. Scripted TV takes a backseat to reality competitions (America’s Got Talent for example) and this is drama with a capital D.

“Roots” is well worth the time spent watching it;  each “episode” of this mini-series is a long one but no worse than watching a feature film.  The only note of complaint is that the History Channel is airing the mini-series.  “Roots” is not, by the late Haley’s own admission, history. It is not non-fiction but an amalgamation, or dramatization, of a reality that existed in early America.

Regardless of the problems of plagiarism this is compelling viewing.  Stop by and check it out and if you have the time, check out the original mini-series to see Burton and Vereen and their power.  The power of “Roots” was all about giving a myth to people who needed it. Myth for myth’s sake.  Regardless of the why, it is a powerful tale and worth watching.