Why the premiere of Under the Dome Season 2 rocked

under-the-dome-618x400I liked the first season of Stephen King’s Under the Dome TV adaptation well enough and I stuck with the show even though it deviated a lot from the book (I only saw the first half of the book. I’m still working on it) but after I saw the premiere of the new season, I am sure that I will like watching this series more now. Here are just some of the reasons why:

1. Two of my most hated characters are dead. Yes, it might sound insensitive to some of their fans but there are just some characters that you couldn’t wait to just get rid of and for me, these two are part of that category. I’m not going to divulge who they are (in case you haven’t seen the episode yet) but here’s a hint. They can be found on this list.

2. New characters. I am liking the new characters who have appeared in the first episode — Sam Verdreaux, Big Jim’s estranged brother in law, the mysterious girl from Junior’s mom’s sketchpad, Junior’s mom, who is apparently alive on the other side of the dome, and Rebecca, the Science teacher, who’s kind of quirky, which I like. It ought to be fun to see how well they play with the other residents of Chester’s Mill.

3. Its all a mess. Nobody really knows what’s going on. Weird things are happening and Angie keeps wanting to kill Big Jim while Big Jim is having issues with the dome himself. The first episode raised tons of questions like why are all the dead people walking around town and making appearances, or why the dome suddenly became magnetic,  and a ton of other questions– which I hope they will be able to answer in the following episodes. I read that the show will be departing from the book a lot more because they never expected to have a second season and basically covered the major stuff in the first season, so we’ll see how it goes. Good thing is, the possibilities are endless. Bad news is they might drop the ball as they go along. For now, its too early to tell.

4. Stephen King’s cameo. In case you missed it, Mr. King makes a very short appearance at Sweetbriar Rose as one of the diner’s patrons who asks Angie for a coffee refill after the drama with Big Jim, Julia and Barbie.

So for starters, I’m on board with this new direction for Season 2. Basically, the show is less dark and a lot less engaging than the book but it does have its good and bad moments, so I’m still willing to stick it out and see this through.

Why Nodame Cantabile is my all time favorite Jdorama/Anime

Nodame_Cantabile_1_coverBefore anything else, I would like to put it out there that I am a big Nodame Cantabile fangirl in any of its forms (manga, anime, live action) so if you’re not into these type of things, you might think that this post isn’t your cup of tea. Okay, now that you have been warned, let me continue. :D  If its not your first time in this blog, you may have noticed how I gushed about the finale of the live action and it was pretty much my entire feeling across the board for the series based on the popular manga by Tomoko Ninomiya. Recently, I discovered that the manga was being rerun on Animax, a marathon of four episodes every Sunday night and it got me hooked to the series anew. As the result, I’ve rewatched the live action Finale, the Paris Special, the first series of the anime and now the original 11 episode Jdorama featuring the beginning of Noda Megumi and Shinichi Chiaki’s quirky relationship in Momogaoka Music Academy in Japan.

A short synopsis: Shinichi Chiaki is a top piano student at Momogaoka Music Academy. Growing up in a family of accomplished musicians, he has developed a perfectionist attitude towards music in general and feels bored about the level of education in his school. The problem is, he has no way of pursuing his dream of becoming a world class conductor in Europe because he is afraid of airplanes due to a childhood trauma developed on his return flight from Prague 10 years before. When Chiaki hears a mysterious girl playing Beethoven at school, he is moved and captivated by the sound, despite the fact that the Beethoven version was not precisely according to the score. He finds out that this mystery girl is actually his next door neighbor, the hentai Noda Megumi, who falls in live with him at first sight and becomes a permanent fixture in his life from their first interaction. The second series and the finale both take place in Paris, Prague and London, while the last part of the manga — the Opera Hen marks the duo’s return to Japan to participate in an opera with the RS-Oke with the original gang.

The thing I most love about this series is that firstly, it appeals to the hentai/otaku in all of us. The reason why people are drawn to the lead character Noda Megumi is the fact that she is guileless, an innocent with raw talent, whose simplistic dreams are really short of her true potentials. But at the end of the day, her heart shines through and touches each person that she comes across. First, Chiaki, who fell in love with Nodame’s piano from the first encounter, allowing him to endure her lack of hygiene and her quirkiness — a running storyline throughout the series; Ryutaro Mine, Chiaki’s best friend and conscience, who was drawn to Nodame first because of her kawaii (cute)-ness, then her soulful piano before they eventually became friends; Kasunori Kuroki, who fell in love with Nodame’s kindness and innocence (of course, he later realized he was no match for Chiaki); the Frenchman Frank, who was attracted to Nodame’s hentai personality, and even Lucas, who harbored a crush on Nodame from boyhood to adolescence. Nodame is a character that draws not only fellow characters in the series but also the audience to fall in love with her.

Each of the characters are also bigger than life, relateable and remarkable in their own ways. They endear themselves to the viewers so effectively that each moment spent watching them is like becoming part of their gang.

Another thing about this series is its sense of vulnerability. Each of the characters have their own internal struggle to wrestle with and how they resolve each of their issues is a marvel to watch. Because the characters are so identifiable, viewers want to cheer them on. Nodame’s struggle to catch up with Chiaki, Chiaki’s struggles to start his conducting career, Kuroki’s struggle to adapt in a foreign country, Mine’s struggle to keep the RS Oke together, Rui’s struggle to have a life of her own away from her reputation as prodigy, Franz’s struggle to convey his love for the girl of his dreams, and countless other journeys that each of the characters have to take. They don’t always get it on the first try, but with each other’s help and support, they somehow emerge from their ordeals as different, better characters. My favorite scene in the manga is actually Nodame’s moment in Greece in a storage room alone, crying out for Chiaki while clutching his shirt. It was such a moment of vulnerability that was so moving and so pure that its such a perfect epitome of Nodame’s love for Chiaki.

The steady progression in the storyline is also something that I love about this series. Now that I’m rewatching the series from the beginning, after seeing the finale, I notice how different Nodame’s playing was from the first. It was mentioned countless times in the various stages that Nodame played sloppily at the beginning and it occurred to me how raw her performances were at the beginning, when she was playing Beethoven’s Sonata for Two Pianos and Rachmaninoff to her debut with Stresseman in London. Chiaki’s conducting style also changed from the beginning but continued to be as intense as ever. Their story has also evolved from a master/pet relationship in the beginning, to a denial and gradual capitulation on the part of Chiaki, and his understanding of Nodame as a budding artist, and later on his acceptance of her true feelings for her. This while they struggle to individually make their own way in the music industry on their own and eventually find their paths merging together in the end. I was a bit frustrated about how insensitive Chiaki has mostly been to Nodame but when his point of realization came, and he was even willing to sacrifice allowing Nodame to stop pursuing piano to do as she liked and still stay with her despite that, I was totally won over.

Another thing that got me hooked into this drama was the continuity of the presentation. True, that since the anime had more episodes, it followed the manga more religiously, but all of the versions had the same focus and the same heart as the original material, generally conveying the same idea and the same message, envoking the same feelings and emotions in all of its forms.

Finally, the music. I must say I’ve learned a lot about the classics and the great composers watching this series and it has been an education of sorts. It gave me a better appreciation of the classics and the sheer joy of simply listening to the pieces as the orchestras come together in perfect harmony. The purity of the sound was astounding, relaxing and simply amazing. Compared to songs with lyrics, the classics are so different but has a different appeal. It also gave a peek into the world of music students and the passion involved in mastering their craft. Respect,  is pretty much all I can say.

All in all, this series made me fall in love, with the story, the characters, the music, and the world… Chiaki and Nodame share an unconventional relationship but their journey was so touching. Learning from each other, together and apart. It was a journey all right, and in the end, they came full circle.  But Nodame was not only a story about romance, its a story about friendship, about growing up and reaching one’s potentials. Its about kindness and love and positivity and at the end of the day, these feelings are infectious. And that is why I love it so much.

The Master’s Sun: Korean Drama Review

The-Master’s-Sun-Poster5I didn’t originally plan on watching The Master’s Sun but because it was being shown on local TV every night and I kept catching glances of episodes, I was drawn to the plot and the easy chemistry of its two lead stars Jo Ji Sub and Gyo Hyo Jin, in a story that could best be described as the Korean version of Ghost Whisperer.

Fifteen years after a traumatic kidnapping incident which involved Kingdom Mall President Joo Joong Won (Jo Ji Sub) and his first love Cha Hee Joo (Han Bo Reum) where the latter died, Joong Won is still carrying the scars of the tragedy. As a result, he has become cold and calculating, relying on logic rather than emotions in his dealings with business partners and with family. When he accidentally meets Tae Gong Shil (Gyo Hyo Jin), a woman who has reluctantly acquired the ability to see ghosts after her own accident, the two immediately share a connection reinforced by the discovery that Joong Won can send away the spirits scaring Gong Shil with a single touch, a fact that Gong Shil finds herself desperately clinging to in order to avoid seeing the ghosts who follow her around everywhere she goes. After much discussion, the two finally agree on helping each other out — Joong Won in being Gong Shil’s protective shield against the spirits and Gong Shil in becoming Joong Won’s supernatural radar in getting his ex-girlfriend to confess where the ransom for his kidnapping is hidden.

The plot of The Master’s Sun is very interesting, although it abides by the damsel in distress formula found in most Korean dramas. At first, there is not much to draw younger audiences into the show because the stars are more mature and admittedly not of the K-pop variety. I for one, know So Ji Sub to be an excellent dramatic actor. I saw him before in two dramas (Memories of Bali and I’s sorry, I Love You) which were both heavy dramas and very hard to watch because they were both so tragic. On the other hand, I only watched one other Gyo Hyo Jin starrer which was Let’s go to School Sang Doo opposite Rain and she too, was performing in a very advanced dramatic level. I never saw any of these stars take on roles in light dramedies, not until Master’s Sun anyways and I must say that I was completely blown away by these two.

CUTENESS OVERLOAD. I love seeing these two together. Period.

CUTENESS OVERLOAD. I love seeing these two together. Period.

So Ji Sub has an easy charm about him and a way to personalize the character, using gestures and facial expressions that makes his character pop out of the screen. I know that he’s a great actor but he was a revelation for me in this series. He didn’t cry a lot but he was able to convey his emotions just as well with sort of a controlled grace. Gyo Hyo Jin, on the other hand, has a natural balance in her performance, shifting from comedy to drama in an instant fluidly. The chemistry between these two is explosive, and the evolution of their characters was done so gradually that viewers will feel a ready acceptance as their relationship unfolds. There are also strong and likeable supporting characters — Seo In Gook as Kang Woo, Gong Shil’s self appointed protector and Kim Yoo Ri as Tae Yi Ryung, Gong Shil’s former classmate turned celebrity superstar. Choi Jung Woo as Secretary Kim also played a key part in the series and became the source of some of Jong Won’s vulnerability.

There were a lot of episodic plotlines that served to establish the relationship of Joong Won and Gong Shil, with one main arc that ties the story together. There were a lot of emotional episodes, which were really moving because it dealt with death and different people’s way of dealing with losing the ones that they love. But always in the middle of it all is the progressing storyline of Joong Won and Gong Sil.

My favorite scenes were actually the ones where Joong Won finally caved in and admitted his feelings for Gong Shil, and then asking her to take responsibility for what happens. My favorite episode, however, must be the episode with the dancing dog Pil Seung and his distraught master because I love animals and that episode was a turning point in the two leads’ romance.

All in all, I enjoyed every episode of The Master’s Sun — yes, even those where Joong Won was a jerk. I liked the ending very much. Its good to see So Ji Sub survive and be happy instead of die or get his heart broken. I’m looking forward to more roles for these two in these types of series.

22 Jump Street: Movie Review

22_Jump_Street_PosterFollowing the unexpected success of the movie reboot of the 1980’s classic procedural in 2012, Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum return to the big screen for a sequel which pretty much reprises the formula of the original movie, only with a bigger budget.

After best buds and undercover cops Schmidt (Hill) and Jenko (Tatum) successfully bust the syndicate manufacturing and distributing the synthetic drug H.F.S. in a local high school, the partners are assigned to a fresh case, this time embedding them as students in MC State College where a drug called WHYPHY, which is linked to the death of a young college girl. But because Schmidt and Jenko have polar opposite personalities, college proves to be very different for the two as Jenko is immediately embraced by the jocks, leaving Schmidt to run with the art school kids. As the two learn to work separately, they discover that their friendship is much stronger than any opportunity that college has to offer for either of them.

I loved the 21 Jump Street movie and was really happy to know that the same team (helmed by directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller) was working to make another one. 22 Jump Street (so named because the headquarters had to move across the street after the Koreans bought back the original location) basically recycled the entire plot of the first movie, and reused and improved on the parts of the formula that worked, making the sequel just as hilarious as the 2012 sleeper hit.

The only thing that was different with 22 Jump Street was the location (college), but the gags, the characters, and the issues remained the same.

What I liked about the sequel was its ability to embrace its lack of originality and the filmmakers’ sheer gall in using this as a running joke throughout the film. Nick Offerman (Deputy Chief Hardy) and Ice Cube (Captain Dickson) made constant references to the first movie and how much more money the studios have put in the budget because the first operation was such a surprise hit. It poked fun at the stars’ ages and handicaps and this was hilarious because Tatum and Schmidt were so comfortable with themselves and with their roles that goofing off seemed natural.

There were also links to the first movie with guests appearances from 21 Jump Street baddies Dave Franco and Rob Riggle, who are now incarcerated for their crimes, as well as scenes connected by dialogue to the first Jump Street like Jenko taking a bullet for Schmidt. In terms of new characters, I liked the character of Zook (Wyatt Russel) and the chemistry he had with Jenko. They had great rapport and it was awesome to see them share screen time together.

As with the original, there were also a lot of jokes referring to Jenko and Schmidt’s weird bromance, which became even more ridiculous when Jenko had to grope around Schmidt’s underwear for a hand grenade. The action was great, as there were more action sequences (owing to the bigger budget) —  Jenko did a lot of parkour while Schmidt, well, he pretty much stayed the same in terms of physical activities. The itemized list of where the actual money was spent, injected somewhere in the script, was a brilliant move on the part of Hill, who co-wrote the script. It was really funny and underscored how tight the budget for the 21 Jump Street was (the first movie was given a production budget of $42 million while the sequel was greenlighted with a $65 million budget).

Ice Cube was given a bigger role in the sequel which was hilarious especially after it was revealed that his daughter went to the same college as Schmidt and Jenko. One of my favorite scenes was his character texting Schmidt non stop with life threatening messages.  Plus there were also a lot of cameos and even more gags in the aftercredit, which leaves the door wide open for a potential sequel.

All in all, I liked the first Jump Street movie better because it basically had more substance but the sequel was not bad either. 22 Jump Street offered no pretenses and just served up a buddy comedy that was very entertaining and filled with mindless fun. Sometimes, that all a movie has to be.

Best characters in Game of Thrones: Dead or Alive

Because I have yet to get over the last episode of Game of Thrones (The Viper and the Mountain), I’m posting this collection of my favorite characters in the series so far. Not all of them are alive because this show has a high casualty rate, but their deaths don’t make them any less awesome.
tyrion (1)1. Tyrion Lannister: Born as an imp and considered an abomination by the powerful Lannisters, Tyrion has been the subject of his father and sister’s disgust since the moment he was born. He is the smartest person in Westeros but no one truly recognizes his genius because of their preoccupation with his appearance. He has managed to outwit even the greatest leaders in the Seven Kingdoms which did not help with his popularity issues. He has shown great kindness to Ned Stark’s bastard son Jon Snow, as well as his niece Myrcella and nephew Tommen, and basically baited Joffrey every opportunity he got just because the guy was a major douche. Peter Dinklage gives life to his character with a depth and vulnerability that won him an Emmy in the show’s first season. His heartfelt speech in his own trial where he lashed out at the jury and the audience will most likely earn him a second one. STATUS: Alive but sentenced to death

ned2. Eddard “Ned” Stark: One of the only genuinely honorable people in Westeros, Ned was smart but too trusting. Despite holding all the cards, he made a lot of poor choices during his time as the Hand of the King, made a lot of enemies and underestimated the pure malice of King Joffrey, to whom he originally betrothed his daughter Sansa. His heart was in the right place but in a place like Westeros, doing the right thing is not always the best way to go. Played by Sean Bean, Ned is added to the list of dead characters he played on the big screen and television. STATUS: Dead by beheading

joffrey-baratheon-903273. Joffrey Barratheon: The most evil and vile character in the Seven Kingdoms, Joffrey was the product of incest between his mother Cersei and her twin brother Jamie. because he was naturally malicious, he enjoyed torture and watching people’s suffering. He bullied the weak and took great pleasure in humiliating his uncle Tyrion and talking down to just about anyone except his grandfather Tywin Lannister. Jack Gleeson, who portrayed the role was a a class act, always hitting the mark every time, getting people to unite against Joffrey in hatred. I’m not surprised that he’s chosen to take a break from acting after his Game of Thrones gig because his role must have been very taxing. Despite his character raising my hackles every single moment, I find that I miss him very much. STATUS: Dead by poison in his own wedding.

Cersei Lannister - Lena Headey - Game of Thrones 0044. Cersei Lannister: A queen embittered by her King’s lack of attentions and obvious pining for another woman, Cersei early on learned the hard way that she must be ruthless in order to get what she wants. An intelligent woman by nature, her natural maternal instincts are only matched by her ability to scheme and conspire with Westeros’s political lechers to get the crown for her sons. Lena Headey portrays her role with a balance of vulnerability and strength. Nobody messes with Queen Cersei, especially since she delivered the most iconic line in the franchise : When you play the Game of Thrones, you win or you die. This pretty much sums up the show so far. STATUS: Alive and on a warpath after the death of her firstborn.

EP3025. Stannis Barratheon: For all intents and purposes, Stannis Barratheon, Lord of Dragonstone should be the successor to the Iron Throne following the death of his brother Robert in a hunting accident, because none of Cersei’s children are biologically Robert’s blood. A hard man, but a fair one, Stannis is a battle worn and quiet man whose broodiness is often mistaken for insanity, especially since he takes the counsel of the Red Woman/Red Witch named Melissandre, who often manipulates his decisions. Stannis has only one child, Shireen, a sweet girl whose face is deformed. So far, despite his gruffness and seeming lack of affection for her, Stannis has stood firm in wanting to keep her safe and safeguarding her birthright. He will also be the only contender for the throne who actually sends aid to the wall against the Whitewalkers and that’s a major plus in my book. STATUS: Alive and in debt to wage war against the Lannisters, later diverted to the Whitewalkers

oberyn6. Prince Oberyn Martell: Prince Oberyn might have only been introduced in the show’s fourth season but he sure made an entrance (and exit). The sexy prince of Dorne came to King’s Landing to attend the wedding of King Joffrey to Renly Barratheon’s widow Margaery Tyrell, but secretly wanted to exact revenge for the death of his sister Elia and her children at the hands of Ser Gregor Clegane, the Mountain that Rides at the command of Tywin Lannister during the war that brought the Barratheons to power. In his limited engagement, Chilean actor Pedro Pascal managed to make Prince Oberyn a larger than life character with sensual drawl and fluid grace. I am still frustrated as hell over the outcome of the trial by combat in which he set out to seek his revenge in what was to become the most brutal scene in Game of Thrones history, for now. STATUS: Dead by eye gouging and skull crushing.

dany7. Daenerys Targaryen: Of all of the contenders for the Iron Throne, Daenerys, mother of dragons is one of the most evolved characters in the franchise. Starting off as the meek sister of another douchebag, Viserys Targaryen who luckily met his end in the early parts of Season 1, Dany’s innocence and charisma served her well in earning the love and compassion of her Dothraki husband Khal Drogo as well as his Khalasaar. In the seasons that followed, Dany has proven herself formidable, weathering assaults to her people, and amassing a loyal army of Unsullied warriors, thousands of freed slaves as supporters, and commanding the fear of Masters in Slavers Bay. She may well be the female version of Spartacus. STATUS: Alive, holding court at Mereen and ruling the three cities of Slaver’s Bay.

varys8. Varys: One of the most intriguing characters in the Game of Thrones universe is Varys, a eunuch who holds all of the secrets among all key players in Westeros and beyond. Varys sometimes speaks in riddles and gives hints to help those whom he thinks will be able to help the Kingdom. However, there are times when even Varys’s motives are unclear as he shows no particular allegiance in sharing the secrets that he has received from his “Birdies.” He has said at some point in the series, that he served “the realm, someone must,” and at some point indicated to Littlefinger that they are not of the same ilk as Baelish is guided by ambition and not loyalty to the people. Conieth Hill’s portrayal of this the mild mannered eunuch with a backbone of steel has made his character one to watch. STATUS: Alive and still collecting secrets.

Petyr Baelish9. Petyr Baelish: Like Varys, Petyr Baelish, also known in the Kingdom as Littlefinger, the motives of Petyr’s actions were initially unclear. Growing up with the Tullys of the Vale, it was known from the beginning that he was in love with Catelyn Stark for a very long time and resented the fact that Catelyn saw him only as a brother. He amassed great wealth by making strategic allegiances, first in his role as Master of Coin in the Small Council and by running a brothel and other illicit businesses. He is known to be clever and loyal only to his own ambition. When his role was revealed in the death of Ned Stark and King Joffrey, the depth of his machinations was surprising but made sense, given his character. STATUS: Alive and plotting to manipulate/kill Robyn Aryn, Lord of the Vale, or possibly marrying Catelyn’s daughter Sansa. Its hard to tell with Littlefinger.

Davos-Seaworth10. Davos Seaworth: A reformed smuggler, Ser Davos is Stannis Barratheon’s most loyal adviser, who constantly warns him against the ways of the Red Witch. Time and again, despite being thrown to the dungeons and ignored by his King, Davos has continued to caution and counsel Stannis in his campaign to secure the Iron Throne. He was also responsible for freeing Robert Barratheon’s bastard son Gendry from Dragonstone before Melissadre could kill him for his blood. Davos shares a friendship with Stannis’s daughter Shineen, who teaches him to read and write. Liam Cunningham has effectively carried on the role since Season 2 and has not faltered in his portrayal of Stannis’s faithful right hand man.

Runners Up:

Robb Stark: A brilliant tactician who shares his father’s integrity but made a fatal error in failing to abide by his agreement with Lord Frey to marry one of his daughters. I mourned his death because he was the most gorgeous among the Starks. STATUS: Dead by betrayal at the Red Wedding.

Podrick Payne: Tyrion’s former squire whose fierce loyalty to his Master did not waver even during the most difficult and dangerous times. He saved Tyrion’s life in Blackwater and refused to believe his guilt in the death of Joffrey. He now serves Lady Brienne in the quest to find the Stark daughters, at Tyrion’s request (so that he may also escape King’s Landing).

Supernatural Season 9: Series Review

supernaturalWell, its not a finale without a Winchester staring death in the face. And that’s only one of the good parts of the show. In the interest of not spoiling you any further, I’ll start off with the synopsis. After the Winchesters’ aborted attempt to close the gates of Hell, and the subsequent shutdown of Heaven because of Metatron’s betrayal, Sam (Jared Padalecki) becomes fatally ill as an aftermath to performing the tests.  With Cas (Misha Collins) out of reach, Dean makes an open call to all angels for help, which an angel named Ezekiel responds to. To fully heal Sam, Dean (Jensen Ackles) tricks Sam into accepting the angel into his body. But, Zeke turns out to be a fraud and the brothers’ relationship is put into another test. Meanwhile, Metatron puts into motion his grand plan to be the new God amid the warring angel factions on Earth. And while Crowley(Mark Sheppard) is indisposed in the Winchester dungeon, Abaddon makes her bid to rule Hell.  With soldiers of heaven and hell fighting among themselves and the Winchesters not in the best of terms, the quest to rule corrupts even the good and choices are made to out the wrongs to right. Season 9 was a darker season for Supernatural, and that’s saying something because this show has dealt with the Apocalypse, both brothers dying and coming back from Hell, purgatory and Lucifer’s Box. But the time Sam lost his soul and got addicted to demon blood was nothing compared to the naked rage and bloodthirst that Dean felt when the show pursued the First Blade storyline. While everything is left uncertain and the leadership of Heaven and Hell being the main conflict this season, it was brilliant of showrunner Jeremy Carver to inject a second storyline about the mark of Cain, connecting it to the existing war for Hell’s supremacy and at the same time, opening the storyline for the main conflict in the next season. The brothers can’t complete an entire season without being mad at each other about something and while admittedly, it should be getting old, I must say that no matter how many times the writers revisit the brothers’ conflict drama, I still get sucked into the storyline everytime, every season. And its because of my attachment to the Winchesters and know what they have been through for the past eight years that I get affected by issues that jeopardize the strong relationship of these two brothers, and of course, their extended family. I’ve always liked how Cas and Dean gradually established their bromance which began in Season 4, but the Supernatural team seemed to be mixing up the gang this season with Crowley being entered into the mix, and Cas having more interactions with Sam. Let me just say that I love Mark Sheppard’s portrayal of Crowley. Despite being a demon, I have always admired his being a stickler for rules, especially those that involve his deals. I guess being a former crossroad demon forms these types of habits. I’m liking his newfound bursts of sensitivity though. Its pretty funny to watch his uncharacteristic musings, which the Winchesters totally don’t buy. Its great how his character has evolved along with the show. He had more appearances this season and a bigger storyline, too. I would have loved to have more of Cas this season though. The parts where he was dealing with being human was so precious. I especially liked the episode where he was working at a convenience store. His vulnerability and eagerness to help the Winchesters, despite losing his grace was so cute, and the way he stuck up for the brothers was classic. His unconditional love for Dean was so touching and when the angels repeatedly said that he would risk everything just to save him, he wasn’t able to deny it. This was the reason Supernatural won the People’s Choice Award for best Bromance on TV. Metatron, on the other hand was an unconventional villain. He was scheming and ambitious and he was pretty effective despite looking like a helpless, pathetic dork. He was super annoying and I hated him — his greed and his manipulations totally got on my nerves. So did his face. I especially hated him in the last episodes, for good reason. Familiar faces made appearances this season — Ghostfacers Harry and Ed (the rest of the team disbanded), but unlike before when they were harmless and entertaining, they merely served as vehicles for the Winchesters to acknowledge their own problems. It was kind of a sad episode. Garth was also featured in one of the episodes and the reason why he simply disappeared on Kevin was finally revealed. Tessa the Reaper also guest starred in one of the latter episodes. Kevin’s mom was also in one of the episodes. As per usual, the finale was a nail biter. I totally didn’t expect what would happen in the big boss fight and it took me by surprise. But given the reputation of the show, the finale left viewers wanting more and wondering where the show will be heading because it basically covered all territories. But I have faith in the team to come up with another compelling story for Dean and Sam, and of course Cas, now that he too is on the brink of death. All in all, I was very satisfied with how the script addressed some criticism about the show about recycled storylines when it made mention demon deals and the like. It was like the producers were assuring fans that something bigger is about to happen, something unprecedented in Season 10. There were many cliffhangers about what would happen to Heaven and the Winchesters and it seems that Crowley is the only one excited about everything that’s going to happen. Well, that’s not true. I’m pretty darned excited to see what happens too.  And its the part I hate most about saying goodbye to the show after each season — the waiting, and the wondering. To more snarky comments, pop culture references and major boss fights. Can’t wait for the next season. I’m going to miss Dean’s beautiful green eyes though, that’s for sure.

Bates Motel Season 2: Series Review

Bates-MotelAnd the plot thickens…

After the mysterious death of Norman’s teacher Ms. Blair Watson, Norma (Vera Farmiga) and Norman (Freddie Highmore) welcome new friends into their lives. Norma meets Christine, a socialite who takes an immediate liking to her, and Norman forms a bond with Cody, a troubled girl whose rebellious personality is the exact opposite of Norman’s uptight upbringing. While Norma continues to oppose the construction of the bypass by forming an unlikely alliance with Nick Ford, a dangerous man who holds real power in the town, Norma’s estranged brother Caleb makes an appearance that disrupts Norma’s fragile relationship with Dylan (Max Theriot), who is dealing with troubles in his own professional life. Apparently, the drug bosses are becoming frisky and combative with each other following the death of one of their own and its up to Dylan and Sheriff Romero (Nestor Carbonell) to restore some sort of order in White Pine Bay’s drug trade.

I was very impressed with Bates Motel’s pilot season and I am even more astounded by its second season. The show just keeps getting better as more layers to Norman’s mental illness is uncovered. I think aside from the strong performances of the cast, the show was really able to explore the possibilities of Norman’s early life, his dysfunctional family, and his gradual descent into madness and this hooks audiences to the show, present company not exempted. What I liked about the progression of the story is actually the writers’ ability to leave audiences wondering about a question left as a cliffhanger in the final episode of last season — the death of Blair Watson. The question about whether or not Norman was responsible for it was not a main highlight of the storyline but it was always there, skimming the surface and ready to be brought out at any point of the season. The uncertainty of the answer made viewers obsess about it even as the Bates dealt with various issues that pitted them at the center of almost everything essential happening in White Pine Bay, and the manner in which the issue was resolved was absolutely brilliant.

The shifting dynamics in Norman’s family was also part of the show’s major draws. Whereas before, it was only him and his mother, Dylan — towards the end of the last season was already becoming the balancing factor in the dynamic, which was only torn down and rebuilt throughout this season. Dylan had a bigger role in Season 2 because much of the storyline revolved around him and his issues. The way he begrudgingly protected his family despite feeling like an outsider for the most part, was really sweet. Its a weird description for such a dark show but there were just moments where viewers would just want to give the characters a big hug. Sure, Emma was sometimes annoying in wanting to stick her nose in everything but she genuinely cared for the Bates so its not hard to forgive her. And I kinda liked her letting her hair down with Gunner, who was such a cutie. I’m a bit sorry that his character just disappeared.

I also loved the underlying sexual tension between Sheriff Romero and Norma Bates. These two were adorable in their encounters and I would very much like to see them get together in future seasons. It just worries me though when the characters I like get close to the Bates because a lot of them die. Seriously. But aside from the chemistry, these two actors were outstanding — Vera as the mother who would stop at nothing to protect her son and Carbonell as the lawmaker who is trying his best to bring justice to the crimes in his town.

All in all, Season 2 was much stronger because of the brewing distrust between mother and son as Norman learns about what he is and what he is capable of when he has his blackouts. As the series moves forward, it was cool to see Norman foreshadowing the Norman Bates of the 1960 Psycho, in which the series was inspired. The taxidermy in the living room, channeling his mother, and having monologues and the rage — all of it was excellently depicted by Freddie Highmore and while before he had an air of innocence about him because of his youth, there is no doubt that he is not normal, not by any stretch of the imagination everytime he flies off the handle. Its interesting to see how this show goes. There is just so much potential.

Bloodlines: Backdoor Pilot Review

bloodlinesSince there is one more episode left before I could review the entire ninth season of Supernatural, I will settle for reviewing Bloodlines, which aired as the 20th episode of the show for Season 9. The episode,which showcases the first three of five monster families that control Chicago, was intended as a backdoor pilot for a possible Supernatural spinoff.

Ennis Ross (Lucien Laviscount) is an ordinary guy set to propose to his long time girlfriend when he witnesses the unorthodox murder of a gentleman whose heart was brutally snatched out of his body by a cloaked figure with long silver claws. Unfortunately, Ennis’s girlfriends gets caught in the crossfire and is accidentally killed by the beast. Dean and Sam catch wing of the case and as with their standard MO, drive to Chicago to interview the guy posing as FBI agents. Unbeknownst to them, the victim is a shapeshifter named Sal Lassiter (Bryce Johnson), the son of one of Chicago’s five mobster type “monster” families and his death may be the spark that ignites a full on war among the families in question, most especially between the shifters led by Sal’s sister Margo and the werewolves headed by Julian Duval (Sean Farris). In order to stop the war, the youngest Lassiter son David (Nathaniel Buzolic, The Vampire Diaries, Pretty Little Liars) returns home to make sure that the real killer pays for the murder, and in the process, he comes across his old flame, Julian’s sister Violet.

AT EACH OTHER'S THROATS. Sal and Julian go at it at a monsters' VIP bar.

AT EACH OTHER’S THROATS. Sal and Julian go at it at a monsters’ VIP bar.

Truthfully, there was a lot of potential for this spinoff project. The premise was good — the Mafia-type monster families dividing up Chicago for their own operations, the subplot of the Romeo and Juliet love story between the heirs of the shifter and werewolf clans, the vindictive daughter (Margo), the arrogant leader (Julian), the plotting and the politics (alliances with the Jins, marriage to unite werewolf families). There was a certain level of coolness about the project straight off the bat. Usually, this, plus casting good looking actors (as is the formula of most CW shows) is enough to greenlight the project.

On paper, it all sounds great, and for the entire episode, it does inspire some curiosity about what will happen next, especially since in the end, Ennis seemed to be warming up to a bigger conspiracy and his bitterness pushing him to take action against the families, despite Sam and Dean’s advice.

My problem with the pilot was the cast of characters. Lucien Laviscount as the main hero was super annoying and the poster child for overacting. He played the angry fiance in textbook fashion, clenched jaw, rants and impulsive actions — perhaps all too well that it became tedious to watch him on screen. I didn’t like his character. I didn’t like him one bit. I wanted Ennis to just die and let the monsters deal with each other, and that is not a promising feeling for a potential viewer. David was a better character, because he had a certain charm about him. His character was not one dimensional, and he was able to balance out his emotions about the loss of his brother, his father’s deteriorating health, and his heartbreak, with a levelheadedness in wanting to investigate who the actual culprit was before taking action. He was a lot smarter than Ennis, that’s for sure. I was a bit bummed that Sal was the one to die first because I’ve seen Bryce Johnson in other films and television series and thought that he could have brought something more to the spinoff if he had stayed longer. His encounter with Julian at the bar could have been prolonged in the spinoff to a season long rivalry because David definitely would not go borrowing trouble.

STAR CROSSED. Shifter David and werewolf Violet rehash their past in front of the Duval mansion.

STAR CROSSED. Shifter David and werewolf Violet rehash their failed romance in front of the Duval mansion.

All in all, I thought that even though Bloodlines was not a bad episode per se, the CW made the right choice in not picking up the spinoff because the plot of Bloodlines was pretty much an echo of the storylines of its other shows, only placed in a different setting. The Originals has witches and vampires at war. Supernatural has nine seasons of dealing with monsters, and the Romeo and Juliet thing, they have Star Crossed, The Vampire Diaries and Beauty and the Beast for that. Pushing this spinoff may create a redundancy that turns off viewers. Even though it may have been interesting to see the other monsters at play in Chicago, I could sleep soundly at night not knowing. So good call, CW.

 

The Following: Series Review

The_Following-590x442-Nat-GeoWhen I first heard that Kevin Bacon was going to star in this suspense thriller created by Kevin Williamson (Scream, The Vampire Diaries), I knew that I was going to be a big fan of this series. Unfortunately, I missed the first couple of episodes during its regular run so I’m now just catching up. I just finished the first season and boy, what a ride!

After being dismissed by the agency, former agent Ryan Hardy (Bacon) is called back by the FBI to “consult” on the case of Joe Carrol (James Purefoy), a charismatic professor who was put away by Hardy after killing 14 girls. Ryan learns that aside from escaping from prison, authorities learned that Carrol was able to establish a network of psychologically disturbed individuals who share Joe’s passion for killing. In order to unravel the extent of Carrol’s network and catch him, Ryan must play by Joe’s rules and outsmart him, all while keeping the people close to him safe and prevent Joe from victimizing more innocents.

The Following is one of the best shows on television right now in my opinion, because of the excellent cast — Bacon and Purefoy are joined by Shawn Ashmore as young agent Weston, Natalie Zea as the two lead’s common love interest, and Annie Parisse as Agent Debra Parker. On the villains’ side, Valorie Curry as Emma Hill, a psychotic Caroll superfan, Nico Tortorella as Jacob and Adan Canto as Paul were real standouts, but among Caroll’s followers, my favorite was Warren Kole as Roderick. This dude was just the epitome of a badass I suddenly wished he was cast in Stephen King’s Under the Dome as one of the more sinister deputies to spruce up that show. As an ensemble, they work fluidly together to bring to life Caroll’s complicated master plan and the results are goosebump inducing.

I think that The Following is a great thriller because of the cliffhangers and the constant cat and mouse game that Ryan and Carrol play. The mind games and the rivalry between these two characters is so intense that viewers will be able to identify with them even from the early episodes of the series. If there is one person who plays the tormented soul to perfection, Kevin Bacon is that guy. And as the main antagonist, Purefoy does embody a sort of diabolical charm that psychos may really identify with.  It also helps that the backstories were fleshed out by excellent insertions of flashbacks so viewers get a fine understanding of what the two are really fighting about.

But the really scary thing about this series is the possibility that it could really happen and how complicated and the problem is for authorities even with Ryan’s help. Its disturbing to see so many people who follow Caroll willingly and take lives with no remorse. Its just so twisted that people who have not killed are considered anomalies in Caroll’s cult. And its terrifying to think that there are people like these who exist in this world.

All in all, watching this series is like watching an extended version of a teen slasher flick, only with more mature characters and a more fleshed out plot. Kudos to all those who are involved in developing this series. They really have done a good job. I think its genius and hope that season 2 is as great as the first season.

Brooklyn Nine Nine: Season 1 Review

ninenineOkay, so its no secret that I am a big fan of juvenile humor (Adam Sandler) and physical comedy (SNL). So it comes as no surprise that immediately got hooked to SNL alum Andy Samberg’s precious new show Brooklyn Nine Nine, a hybrid of a workplace comedy and a cop show. In its first season, it surprisingly pulled off a win in the Golden Globe for Best television show-Comedy and for its lead star Samberg, his first Golden Globe trophy for Best Actor in a Television Series, Musical or Comedy. Even Andy was taken aback by the win, seeing as he was pitted against bigger stars, but in my opinion, he deserved it.

Jake Peralta (Samberg) is the best detective in Brooklyn’s 99th Precinct. The old chief practically let him do whatever he wanted so long as he closed his cases but with the arrival of new chief Ray Holt (Andre Braugher), a no nonsense leader who wants his command to be the best precinct in New York, Jake is gradually forced to grow up and become a team player. The series revolves around Jake’s adventures with his team which includes the softhearted bodybuilding sergeant Terry Jeffords (Terry Crews), uptight detective Amy Santiago (Melissa Fumero), scary and violent detective Rosa Diaz (Stephanie Beatriz), the adorable doofus Charles Broyle (Joe Lo Truglio), Holt’s acerbic and streetsmart assistant Gina (Chelsea Peretti) as well as the precinct’s mascots Hitchcock and Scully.

What really got me hooked to this series was just the humor. Everybody plays a stereotype, true, but time and again, they get to step out of character and do things that totally prove that they are multi-faceted. The good thing about the show’s development  is that the series managed to establish early on the strengths of each character. The rapport of this ensemble cast is truly one of the show’s major assets. This is why no matter how the writers mix up the partnerships for each case, everyone is as comfortable in doing anything. And this is good news for the audience because viewers never know what’s coming next.

The jokes are really funny. It isn’t pedal to the metal laughter all of the time but the script is always fun, sharp and witty. Because Samberg spent years on SNL, his characterization is so on the money that Jake comes off as a very natural goofball that has excellent skills for his job. His overconfidence and wisecracks is a great contrast to Braugher’s Ray Holt, whose poker face and straightlaced delivery of his zingers is just as funny if not made more funny because of his character’s stoicism. Comedy gold, especially his interactions with Peralta. I love their weird mentor student relationship because they’re so different. I love the rest of the cast, as well. They have effectively carved their own niches in the picture that its hard to imagine the show being as hilarious without any of them in it. My favorite so far, is Boyle , whose earnestness and kindness is adorable. I liked how the detectives tease Boyle (or Scully or Hitchcock), but aren’t bullies about it. At the end of the day, each member of the team is still embraced as part of the precinct.

I also like the budding romance between Jake and Amy but I’m glad that the writers didn’t really go there straight away in the first season. It makes for a good cliffhanger for the second season.

At the end of Season 1, I have this to say — Brooklyn Nine Nine is a pretty great show because it has a lot of heart. Its not just about the comedy and eliciting laughs but it has a charm about it that is brought on by the collective effort of the group and not just one or two individuals. In its own twisted way, it also carries a moral in every episode. For example, Jake may be far from a role model, but he does have his moments where he is just so charming and awkward (#romaticstylez) that you just want to root for Team Peralta. Same with Amy, Rosa, Terry, Broyles and even Gina, who has at one point or the other showed their vulnerable side with at least one member of the team.

Brooklyn Nine Nine is an endearing and heartwarming watch. While it does not set out to be deep and profound, there is great story progression and character development, which is good for any series. Despite the lightness of the material, the show is decidedly evolving with each episode, and along with it, the characters’ relationships. The season finale promises a lot of possibilities when the show returns. I for one, hope it runs for a long time because its really interesting and its different from the serious cop shows out there. Its nice to see the guys in blue (or in this case, in ties) letting their hair down and having fun in the workplace, although in real life, not as much fun as the gang in 99, I hope.