Stan Against Evil: Comic ‘The Evil Dead’ Wannabe (Review)

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John C. McGinley, Deborah Baker Jr.

Stan Against Evil could have been titled “Sam Against Evil” since it borrows so heavily from Sam Rami’s stock FX and many of his “gags.” Although the vomiting of black goo did not go into the sheriff’s mouth, unlike the stuff that Mrs. Ganush regurgitates into the protagonist’s mouth in Drag Me to Hell.  The pilot of Dana Gould‘s creation feels like a small screen The Evil Dead wannabe with comic aspirations.

While John C. McGinley is a personal favorite from his days on Scrubs as the irascible Dr. Perry Cox, it feels like McGinley is channeling that character into an Raimi verse and it does not fit. 

McGinley is small town Sheriff Stanley Miller who served in the post for 28 years before being let go after an incident at his wife’s funeral.  Stanley attacks an old woman who makes faces at him during the graveside service.

This sounds funnier written down than it does being acted out on the screen. The scene just lacks something. Which is the problem with the pilot full stop. It  lacks any cohesion and McGinley’s Miller, who is, in essence, Dr. Cox with a badge, feels out of place.

Watching the pilot one wonders how Stan managed to keep the job so long.

The “comedy” horror series takes ideas from a couple of sources. The LA Times actually liked the pilot and pointed out, quite rightly, that Stan Against Evil borrows heavily from not only Raimi, specifically The Evil Dead and the brilliant Drag Me to Hell,  but Joss Whedon’s Buffy-verse is touched upon very lightly as well.

While the sincerest form of flattery in Hollywood is imitation, it is not surprising that the show has taken the Raimi/Whedon route. Although it should be pointed out that the humor is nowhere near as spot on as the source material borrowed from.

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Stan Against Evil’s Mrs. Ganush…

Herein lies part of the problem. The Evil Dead has already been brought to the small screen. Bruce Campbell has donned the chainsaw arm for Ash vs Evil Dead on Starz. So if fans of that sort of comedy horror fun want a Rami product they need look no further.

Show creator Gould has mapped this new series out like a live action The Simpsons  treehouse episode and it is lacking. Annoyingly, the prosthetics are impressive. They could have come straight off of an Evil Dead assembly line.

But as good as the makeup and special FX are, the show falls very short of any sort of noticeable goal. McGinley seems to be “freewheeling” his lines instead of working from any sort of script.

Janet Varney as the new sheriff in town; Evie Barret, has been woefully miscast or, at the very least, misdirected. She is all wide eyes and over-reactions  and has been given a two demential character with absolutely no depth.

(To be honest, none of the characters have any depth. One feels that that if they stood sideways all the players would disappear except for a thin outline.)

The rest of the cast have their work cut out for them as well. Deborah Baker Jr. and Nate Mooney both have characters so shallow that there can only be an improvement as the show progresses.  Unlike another comedy that was hard to get into, “Crowded” (on NBC) where everyone tried too hard, Stan Against Evil feels like no one is trying at all. 

This new offering on IFC may eventually find its feet. So far the comedy it has on offer feels misplaced. So far this feels like Scrubs meets The Evil Dead and it is missing the comedic mark.

Stan Against Evil premieres tomorrow, 2 November, on IFC.  This was show that we wanted to enjoy, McGinley is a favorite, but based on the pilot, it is a not so clean miss.

We recommend it only to the most resolute John C. McGinley fans.

The Walking Dead: Season 7, Episode 1 – The Breaking of Rick (Review)

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Amidst the sighs of relief that Daryl made through to another season, there must have been cries of anguish over the double dose of death that Negan bashes out in the season seven premiere of The Walking Dead.

While bidding a shocked and teary adieu to Glenn and Sgt. Ford, the thing that overrode the blood and the brains and that bulging eye, was Negan’s systematic and concentrated breaking of Rick.  A true alpha male, the leader with a baseball bat named Lucille knew who to crush to gain control.

Jeffery Dean Morgan, an actor who has made a career playing likable and approachable nice guys, gleefully chomped up great bloody hunks of scenery to own the season premiere. Andrew Lincoln gave as good as he got but the first episode belonged to Morgan full stop.

Greg Nicotero directed this episode, and we have also said that Nicotero rules when he is in the big chair, and it was, perhaps, the bloodiest open to a season yet. It has taken a long time for the comic book’s biggest bogeyman to turn up  but he is here now and what a follow on to last season’s entrance. 

The wait to see who was going to die was excruciating for fans who complained incessantly about last season’s finale. Last night’s season seven open answered the big question.

Was Daryl, the darling of the series, going to bite the big one?

Amazingly, for  a character that does not exist in Robert Kirkman’s TWD universe, Daryl has more lives than a cat and will live on, if for no other reason than to keep Rick in line.

Negan clearly chose Daryl, who is, in essence, Rick’s right-hand man rather than Carl as separating father and son could have backfired.  Instead Negan zeroes in on Rick’s only son as the coup de grâce to any possible resistance. His consistent pressure against Rick and keeping him off-balance helped set Grimes up for that payoff; the chopping off of Carl’s arm.

Rick does not have to go through with it, but the very fact that he starts to, tells all. Grimes is broken. He is no longer the fearless leader of his group.

The former cop could be seen as a calmer, less violent, mirror image of  Negan who has, for the time being, met his match.  That is the thing about the apocalypse, alpha males will eventually meet another alpha male who can willingly stomp them into the ground.

Rick’s new leader is basically the school yard bully. The guy who knows where to push. Happily putting one big paw on a shoulder while forming a fist with the other for a sucker punch.

Carl almost losing his left arm may have been a nod to the comics. In Kirkman’s verse one of the Grimes men loses his hand – Rick actually has his right hand cut off by The Governor – and for a moment it looked like the son was going to suffer his father’s fate, in a manner of speaking.

This was a difficult episode. Watching favorite characters reduced to frightened, crying, snot dribbling messes on their knees was hard. Although Abraham was tough right up till the end and Glenn never had the chance to feel anything but that bat.

The torturous trial that Negan put Rick through was also a tough one to witness.  Once again, it was all designed to make Grimes realize that Negan was in charge. The one who held the reins and could, if needed, step in to “save the day” but only if Rick did as he was bloody well told.

By the end of the episode, Negan takes Daryl prisoner. He is holding Dixon as insurance. Pieces of the crossbow carrying member of Rick’s party will be delivered to Rick’s doorstep if he does not behave.

Maggie is in shock, as are the rest of the survivors, and the bodies are removed from the clearing where they were killed. Negan and his enormous band of followers retreat and they leave Rick and his diminished group  to start gathering things for him.

The prosthetics and FX in the show last night were top notch. Glenn’s eye was horrific and beyond disturbing. To see him reduced to a gory mess trying to mumble out a message of hope to Maggie was gut wrenching.

Abraham being a hard-a** right to the very end felt right. His character had too much rage to go out any other way.

After watching the first episode of season seven a sneak peak was presented. It showed Carol and Morgan about to meet King Ezekiel, a man who has his own tiger on a lead.

The Waking Dead airs Sundays on AMC. Head on over and catch the recent events if you have not done so already. Prepare to cry a little and perhaps have nightmares about that eye.

Cast:

Preacher: Call and Response – Road Trip (Review)

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So long Annville. It has, as the saying goes, been fun, just not real fun… But that is a lie really. Preacher has been a great rollicking action packed giggle from episode one. In fact episode one outshone most of the series.  The build up to the season finale was a steady ride that ended in a “Wizard of Oz” meeting with “God.” At the end of  “Call and Response” our heroes, like a truncated Dorothy and her friends, go on  a road trip.

A lot was answered. What Carlos did and, more importantly, why he did it. It is learned that while Sheriff Root may be  a redneck law official, he is not a stupid one. Root works out quite quickly that Cassidy is a vampire, not bad for a one-horse town lawman.

Apparently if an angel  is shot in Hell by the  demon “Saint of Killers” he does not “rejuvenate” on Earth. Fiore looks to be a singleton now he has returned from Hell.  Ruth, it turns out, did not really want Jesse to kill Carlos, just to make the offer. “It is,” she says, “the thought that counts.”

(A bit like the choosing of a gift, presumably.)

Going back to “The Cowboy” it seems that the seraphim is down for the count as well. After  blowing a hole in her chest one could throw a cat through, she drops immediately and there is no rejuvenation for her either.  (Of course her demise and DeBlanc’s could be down to the sheer deadly effectiveness of the killer who almost replaced the Angel of Death.)

Last week’s episode saw the Saint of Killers re-living his last days in a never-ending loop.  Now he is searching for the preacher while he and his traveling companions search for God.  “And what are you going to do when you find him,” asks Tulip.

“Well,” says Jesse, ” God wants our help, we’ll help him.  If he doesn’t… We’re gonna kick his ass.”

As the preacher and the townspeople speak with “God” Jesse realized the white haired gent is an imposter. The faux God tells the assembly that  the real deal is missing and that no one can find him. It appears the angels are in charge now and they are not necessarily benevolent.

The denizens of Annville are, for the most pat, distraught to learn that God is gone. Cue a riot of destruction in the church and the town exploding as the Methane pit it sets over goes critical.  Sadly it appears that even Emily and her children  are gone.

“Call and Response” finishes with the dead seraphim and the Saint of Killers growling one word: “Preacher.”

This was a quirky end to a foregone conclusion. Anyone who is remotely familiar with the graphic novels knows that Jesse Custer “leaves’ Annville. It is written in the cards, so to speak.

There were a few downright “odd” stand out moments:

Quincannon holding his “hamburger” daughter.

Donnie laying on his bed with his wife dressed as Dorothy, complete with spangly ruby red shoes. (Another allusion to the The Wizard of Oz.)

Jesse telling Eugene, as the missing boy rings up his order, that he will get him out of Hell.

Cassidy reiterating why he hates The Big Lebowski.

Sheriff Root shooting Cassidy and then handing him paper cups of blood to heal himself. He then shoots the vampire six times. Root opens the cell door and tells Cassidy he is free to go.

The size of that hole through the seraphim’s chest.

Final Thoughts:

The clear nod and wink to “Oz” was a brilliant end point.  The final shot of the three protagonists following their metaphorical yellow brick road will segue brilliantly into season two.

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Graham McTavish as the Saint of Killers

If fans of Preacher are not already excited to think of a second season they should be. Full marks to Seth Rogen and his fellow creators on this excellent series.  The idea of the Saint of Killers murdering his way to Jesse makes the wait for season two almost unbearable.

MAIN CAST:

Guest starring Graham McTavish as The Cowboy – Saint of Killers

Rating is for mature audiences only due to content.

Preacher: Finish the Song – Hell (Review)

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Preacher opens with The Cowboy – Saint of Killers back at the town of Ratwater  after finding his wife and daughter dead.  After a short moment where the insufferable horse killing preacher evangelizes, the reverend asks what The Cowboy wants. The vengeful killer shoots the holy man, nearly before he can finish his question and answers to the singer, “I want you to finish the song.”

The opener then concludes with a bloodbath of epic proportions in the saloon. It ends with the killer sipping a drink as what seems to be a tornado approaches. It is not a tornado it could well be the Angel of Death coming to collect the gunman.

In this episode, Jesse escapes from  Sheriff  Root, who took him in custody last week.  Fiore and DeBlanc book tickets to Hell. When the ticket seller asks for their occupations, DeBlanc says “serial killer” and Fiore says “architect.”

Tulip  calls Emily to help with Cassidy’s healing. She explains to Emily that he is a vampire and that he needs blood to heal. So far, she says, he  is not healing properly.  When Emily tries to tell Tulip about Jesse being in trouble, Tulip says that Emily can have him.

Emily reveals that she has a boyfriend; the mayor Miles Person (Ricky Mabe).  As she listens to  Cassidy growling and thrashing around in his locked room, Miles calls.  The mayor tells Emily that he will look after the kids and he invites himself over for the night. 

Tulip goes to Albuquerque to kill Carlos and tells Emily to shove a live animal into Cassidy’s room when he needs it.

Fiore and DeBlanc head back to their blood-soaked room at the Sundowner Motel.  They decide to call heaven on their phone, rather than go to Hell, and they find it has been stolen.  As they realize that they will be going to Hell after all, it is revealed that Jesse has the special phone.

Emily calls Miles to come help her after Cassidy screams out for more “food.” Miles arrives and gets shoved into Cassidy’s room by Emily. She  locks the door after him.  At the Sundowner,  Sheriff Root finds the partially dismembered angel that Fiore and DeBlanc left in their shower.

The Seraphim asks Root to kill her.  After a moment, Root takes off his hat and begins strangling the “woman.”  As the sheriff strangles the life from the angel, tears well up in his eyes. The Angel, once she dies, stands behind Root as a few tears roll down his cheek.

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DeBlanc and Fiore booking tickets to Hell

Fiore and DeBlanc board the shuttle to Hell and have to leave their big trunk behind”No carry-ons” says the driver. Fiore  is upset about leaving his comics behind.

Oddly at peace with her decision to kill her boyfriend, Emily releases the guinea pigs. As she leaves, Emily tells Jesse that his “mate” is inside. Custer finds a very hurt Cassidy and after a couple of tense moments the two make up.

The two men help each other to clean up the carnage at Tulip’s uncle’s place. Later they dig up the remains of Fiore and DeBlanc for an angel hand so Jesse can call Heaven.

In Hell, the Saint of Killers relives his last days on Earth over and over. Finding his dead family and returning to Ratwater to kill all those he feels caused the deaths.  This then is Hell, reliving one’s worst moment repeatedly for an eternity. Fiore and DeBlanc interrupt the cycle and ask the Cowboy to kill a preacher.

Obviously Annville was built over the remains of Ratwater, as the spot where Cassidy buried Fiore and DeBlanc is right by that “Native American” hanging tree.  For those who are not aware of the comics, this alone seems to signpost a Jesse Custer and Saints of Killers conflict.

In the comic verse, The Cowboy initially killed the occupants of the saloon and then returned to kill off the entire town.   He is so good at killing that he replaces the Angel of Death and kills the Devil. It is God who recruits him to kill Custer.

Jesse has a couple of allies to help him against both Quincannon, who has gotten even crazier, and The Cowboy.  Cassidy and Tulip will be on his side and maybe even Emily, whose cold-blooded act of murder against the mayor was shocking, to say the least.

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Cassidy and Jesse making things right

Preacher has a wonderfully odd and eclectic cast of characters but none are as compelling as The Cowboy Saint of Killers.  With his impossibly long barreled guns and never ending supply of hate and ammunition he tops the bill. This foe to Jesse, since being hired by Fiore and DeBlanc,  looks to be more than formidable.

On the other end of the spectrum, there is Emily. She was  the “normal’ one.  What ever prompted her to feed Miles Person to Cassidy? Was it his innate pushiness? The annoying laugh?  Or did she act for some other reason? She does not even like Cassidy and  never has. Her decision to hurry the vampire’s healing process with a bit of  Miles is puzzling.

One disturbing thought… It took very little urging from the Seraphim for Root to take her life.  Sure he cried while killing the angel but his decision, while not split second, was made pretty quickly.

This was the penultimate episode of Preacher with the series finale being aired next week on AMC.  With the angel hand for his heavenly phone and the Killer of Saints on his trail, things should really heat up for Custer and his allies next week. This will be interesting.

MAIN CAST:

Guest starring Graham McTavish as The Cowboy – Saint of Killers

Rating is for mature audiences only due to content.

Hell on Wheels: Done – Off Into the Sunset (Review)

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The season finale of Hell on Wheels looks at what happens to the people who shaped history and connected the two sides of a country.  “Done” is the title of the show and the one word telegraph message sent after Durant hammers the gold spike home.  After the task is finished it is time for recrimination, life changing decisions and moving on.

The Railroad:

Thomas Durant (Colm Meaney) and Collis  Huntington (Tim Guinee) argue and bicker over the spike right up until Durant wrests the hammer from Collis’ hand.  The job is finished and Cullen Bohannon (Anson Mount) has made a name for himself laying 10 miles of track in one day.  

The town of Ogden is full of hungover men and there are still clear sides to be taken. A spirited fight breaks out in Mickey’s temporary bar after he refuses to serve Bohannon.  McGinnes (Phil Burke) also calls Psalms (Dohn Norwood) a traitor. A classic western bar fight ensues. 

Washington:

As soon as the last spike is ceremoniously driven, Durant is served papers. He is to be brought up on charges of bribery and corruption. In the middle of the bar fight, Cullen is also served papers; he must testify in Washington at Durant’s trial.

The two men ironically take the railroad to the capital.  At the celebration party,  hosted by President Grant, Bohannon learns that the president wants him to take a commission in the US Army to protect the railroad.

Cullen accepts and then, at Durant’s trail, he refuses to testify.  When asked, Bohannon responds that:  “The transcontinental railroad could not have been built without Thomas Durant.” This is all he will say despite the threats made by committee chair John Campbell (Jake Weber).

Durant, rather than testify, gives a rousing speech about building  the railroad and finishes by saying that history is written in pencil.

Thomas Durant:

Durant buys back Mikey’s shares after telling him that they  will be worthless in a short while.  The magnate keeps his head held high and he meets with Bohanan over cigars. He tells his former foreman not to trust Grant (Victor Slezak) or Col. Custer (Christopher Backus).  

The last time Thomas Durant is seen, he explains to the committee that “dreams are not pretty.”  He finishes his speech by accusing the government of making him a villain and a scapegoat.

Eva:

Eva (Robin McLeavy) extracts herself from Mickey who does not react well to the split.  She explains that they are not good for each other and that sooner or later, one would devour the other.

Louise (Jennifer Ferrin) introduces Eva to her editor from Chicago. He wants to publish her story about the abduction and escape from the Apache.  The man clearly intends the book to be a potboiler, a “penny dreadful” affair and Eva refuses. Louise is distraught as she intended to save Eva from herself. 

Later, Eva saddles her “wild” horse and after a few tentative bucks, the horse bonds with its rider and they leave the corral.  She rides out towards the setting sun and with tears in her eyes,  spurs the horse and rides into the sunset.

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Cullen Bohannon:

A hungover Cullen wakes with the lining of Mei’s box clutched in his hand. He goes to see Mr. Lee and asks him to translate what is written on the linen. It is an address; Ningpo, China.

Bohannon heads to Washington  where President Grant hires him to be the new  railroad’s protector.  Cullen is a man tortured. (Did the Christ on the cross inside the church, really resemble The Swede? Or was this simply Bohannon’s perception?)

He misses Mei and after spending some time with Custer, a womanizing and narcissistic arse, decides to decline the commission. Turning in his uniform he leaves Washington and heads to  San Francisco.

At the port, he walks to the docks and looks off to the west and at the ships  in the harbor.  The episode ends with Bohannon sailing to Ningpo in search of Mei.

Final Thoughts:

Hell on Wheels ended with at least two characters riding off into the sunset.  In that instance the show was like a classic western. In many ways, however, the series was more than a typical “oater.”  It followed Cullen Bohannon and all those he interacted with on his personal journey of revenge and discovery.

Based on historical fact and peopled by the real folks who helped build a country, Hell on Wheels was practically perfect television.  The fictional Bohannon a principled everyman who rises to the challenges set before him was a brilliant hero.

All the characters in the show were flawed and therefore more real.  There were no “white hats” in the traditional sense, merely men and women trying to succeed and survive.  Some, like Durant, through any means necessary, and others, like Bohannon, through a sense of ethics and morals.

Come Emmy time, there should be gongs for Meaney and Mount. Both these men gave this show more than was necessary to sell the story and their characters.  Hell on Wheels will be missed.  Now that it has finished, and its heroes ridden off into the sunset,  there may not be another western, historical or otherwise,  to take its place.

So long  Hell on Wheels and  Anson Mount and thanks for a brilliant look as the old west as it  began growing into the new west.