Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Dexter Season Six Review

Dexter holds a special place in my heart as one of my favorite shows of all time. It has featured incredible performances by Michael C. Hall and various guest actors, incredible writing, and an extremely interesting plot. But I am sorry to say that most of that slipped away this season.

If you have not finished season six yet, and do not wish to read spoilers...now is the time to stop reading,

The conceit for season six was exceptionally intriguing: two serial killers reenact the Book of Revelations to warn of the end times. With the various apocalypse theories that have circled around this year, the idea of Bible-serving murderers appeared to be the perfect idea for this season.

Unfortunately the idea was flawed by remarkably disappointing subplots, cliche writing, and un-Dexter like moments scattered throughout the season. Let's begin with the first episode.  Let's skip past the corny dialogue, and focus on that cheerleader that 'forced' a blow-job on Dex.  Really? No resistance?  Well, I guess we're over Rita then...

It was about that time that I asked the question...where are Aster and Cody?  Season 5 ended with them allegedly coming to live with Dexter for awhile...so where are they?  This is a question that would never be addressed during the season.  In fact, and correct me if I'm wrong (and I'm sure someone will)  I cannot recall a single mention of Dexter's adopted kids in any of the twelve episodes this season.

So Dexter begins to question if religion has a place in his life, awesome!  I've always wondered what would happen if Dexter really delved into this issue.  Enter one of the best parts of the season: Brother Sam.  Mos (formerly Mos Def) gave a surprisingly impressive performance as Brother Sam, who had, I think, some of the best writing of the season....but they killed him off halfway through!

However, his death did lead to what I thought was a necessary adrenaline boost to the season: the return of Brian. His appearance after Dexter's vicious drowning of Nick kept us all theorizing for a week....only, at least in my experience, to be completely let down.

Brian probably had the most cliche dialogue of the season, starting with calling Debra 'The one who got away'. His character existed only in one episode ('Nebraska') and then vanished once Dexter overcame the darkness Brian brought with him. Meanwhile, in this episode Dexter did incredibly out of character  actions.  Number one: he hooked-up with some girl at a gas station to get a gun (Guess we're really getting over Rita now, huh?) and then shot that gun all over the place as he sped down a country road.  Number 2, and most importantly, he killed a potentially innocent (as far as murder is concerned) man without properly disposing of the body. (Not to mention, if you look at that scene, there is no way Dexter, not Brian, but Dexter could have reached behind him, grabbed the pitchfork and stabbed the man with it before he got shot...just saying). Then he just returned to Miami and, essentially, we returned to the season after a very strange break.

The big twist of the season was that Travis was the only doomsday killer, and had killed Professor Gellar before the season even began. The unfortunate part of this twist meant losing the delightful performance of Edward James Olmos for the final three episodes, but that was well-balanced with the accelerated, and captivating one Colin Hanks turned in.

But while Hanks' performance was great...I question what happened to the character at the end of the season.  What happened to the struggle between his good half and his dark half that occurred throughout the season?  When was his switch made permanent?  I assume it was when he came to terms with the fact that he actually killed Gellar, but that was never really made clear in the writing.

What was made clear, however, was that the new writers want the show's name to be changed to Debra. Anytime the show has focused on Deb for too long, it drags the series down...and this season was all about Deb. From her cliche therapy sessions to her promotion to Lieutenant to her break-up with Quinn, most of the show seemed to concentrate on her, rather than the protagonist.  And let's face it, she's had some great moments throughout the series...but Jennifer Carpenter's acting chops cannot handle carrying this show.

But, ultimately, all of this was forgivable to me. I was disappointed with what seemed like a great story idea wasted with predictable and, at times, painful writing, but the show itself was still good.

Then, with one episode remaining in the season...they introduce yet another Deb storyline.  Incest.

How can I put this mildly? Are you fucking kidding me?!  The storyline, of course, was incredibly rushed, presumably it will continue next season, but as for this one it left me wondering...why the hell is this happening?  Her 'confession' to her therapist about her love for her brother made me yell at the screen. I simply couldn't believe the idea was being taken seriously.  I thought it was going to be written-off, resolved as quickly as it popped up...but no!

And what's worse, this plotline made the season's cliffhanger, one we have been waiting six years for, not only predictable...but...almost delayed.  The moments leading up to Deb seeing Dexter kill Travis were...annoying.  No shock.  No awe. I knew what was going to happen as soon as she assigned him to clean-up that church.  And Dexter knew that...so why would he kill Travis somewhere he was also expected to be?  It just doesn't make any sense with the character we have gotten to know over the last five seasons. it ruined a pivotal moment of the series: Deb finding out who Dexter really was.  We all knew it would happen from the pilot....we just didn't know when.  And now, it will never be known as a 'jaw dropping moment'.  Instead, just a comma.

And what do they cap that off with "Oh God!"


See what they did there?

This shortly following 'I am a father, a son...and a serial killer'.  What the hell is this shit, Dexter? The writing was the one thing that never failed this show.  Even when supporting actors were...shall we say...lackluster, the writing was still crisp.  Not this year.

And yet, I am left wondering other questions:  Why didn't Dexter's syringe work on himself?   What did Travis do with the Ice Truck Hand? Why am I supposed to care about this? What's Louis going to become? How long until Angel's sister dies?

But...at least now we can theorize about next season...which, despite my complaints, couldn't have a better set-up.  We've waited a long time to ask this question:  now someone knows...so what happens now? The producers announced that the finale would begin the series 'endgame'...but with two season to go, I'm left wondering how this will be possible.

What jumps to mind is pretty clear.  Sure, Deb will be conflicted about what to do with Dexter. Not only is he the person closest to him...but now she is apparently in love with him as well. But, if the writers were to stay true to her character...she would absolutely try to turn him in.

And this leads me to a very interesting idea: Dexter on the run. No Bay, no Boat, no Harrison, no job. But perhaps that will only be the eighth season. Maybe the next twelve episodes will be Deb debating what to do.  Cause there haven't been enough 'filler episodes' over the last two seasons.

I wouldn't be surprised if Dexter manages to 'convince' her that he only killed Travis as a 'gift' to her the way he made his second kill for his father...but let's not forget that made him kill himself.  So will Dexter's true identity send Deb down the same destructive path, thus causing Dexter to really break away from the world he's set-up for himself?

Lots of speculating can be done, and there are plenty of options.  And with this shot to the arm I'll try to put my disappointment aside...but I am far from satisfied with the end of this season. The series hasn't been the same since Trinity was killed, but hopefully, all will be restored with Deb discovering who her brother really is: The Bay Harbor Butcher.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Go check out the WordBRIDGE Blog!

Hey everyone!  Back at WordBRIDGE for the next three weeks, and will be running the blog and video updates for the Playwright's Lab. therefore, I'll be making a lot of blog updates...but not here!  Go checkout the WordBRIDGE Blog at


Saturday, May 28, 2011

"The Hangover: Part II": What happened in Vegas...moved to Bangkok

"The Hangover" will probably always remain one of my favorite movies.  At this point, after seeing it as much as I have, the laughs have become a bit stagnant, but I'll never forget how much I loved it when it debuted, and I'm sure that after a break from it for a while I'll be rolling on the floor once again.

That said...I was a bit weary of "The Hangover: Part II".  Sequels to great movies always frighten me, because I hate for them tarnish the originals. Something that made the first one shine was either missed, or there is just way too much of it, making the movie unable to stand by itself; it is merely a shadow of its predecessor. 

That is exactly how I would describe Phil, Stu and Allen's adventure in Bangkok. The movie follows the exact structure of the first one.  At times, I enjoyed this: the opening phone call was a nice touch, Johnny Cash is always welcome, and of course, there's the power of guest stars.  The film had the objective of topping the original, that was clear...but poorly executed. All Director Todd Philips' accomplished was making a raunchier, more outrageous (and to some offensive) "Hangover". Sure I laughed, but at times it felt a bit forced.

It blackened the original with its darker gags and generally just took the shocks of the first film too far. I didn't hate this new movie, but what made me love the first one was either beaten too badly, or just totally blackened by going a bit too far (The credit photos' parody of a famous Vietnam picture will be my example of this).  I don't think I'll be rushing back to the theaters to catch this one a few more times before it moves along. 

This is what I was afraid would happen.  The original is a classic, but is now slightly tainted by a stale sequel. The movie was made for the only reason a sequel should be made: the filmmakers wanted to do it again. But given their result I think they will feel compelled to make a third "Hangover", not necessarily because they're dying to re-live the fun they had making number two, but to redeem the franchise as a trilogy.  This trick has been done before, just look at "The Last Crusade" or "Ocean's 13", two films that were made to reclaim the fans their second installments had lost.  And, looking at a few different reports I've found, Philips is planning a "Hangover: Part III".

Unfortunately, this brings even more risk with it. Where Indiana Jones and Danny Ocean succeeded in making a solid Trilogy Capper...there have been plenty of Trilogies that have gone horribly wrong with their final installment: "Spider-Man 3", "The Godfather Part III", and "The Matrix Revelations" are the finales that immediately come to mind.

So if the third one comes to fruition, I wish it the best of luck. This dog is young enough to learn new tricks, don't make it rely on its original successes so heavily.

2 1/2 out for 4 stars.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Oscar Predictions

Alright, true, I haven't updated this in ages. But, with hours to go, I want to make sure I get these down.  Tradition is tradition after all, and I am, if nothing else, a man of routine.  
Should Win
Will Win
Best picture
This was hard. Harder than it has been in years. My heart wants 'Inception', it really does. I'm going to jump if it wins.  "Kings Speech" however, is Oscar material if ever there was such a thing.  A fantastic script, fantastic performances, it was beautifully directed, and has just the right subject. "Black Swan" I'm also ok with winning. "Social Network" is great, but over-hyped, I won't grumble too much if it walks away with it...but I think we have stronger choices on this ridiculously long list.
  • "Black Swan"
  • "The Fighter"
  • "Inception"
  • "The Kids Are All Right"
  • "The King’s Speech"
  • "127 Hours"
  • "The Social Network"
  • "Toy Story 3"
  • "True Grit"
  • "Winter’s Bone"
It isn't easy for me to vote against my two favorite directors, but I think Joel and Ethan will agree "True Grit" wasn't quite what they hoped it would be. Very rarely does Best Picture and Best Director differ...this year I'm hoping for an exception to the unwritten rule. I do think "King's Speech" is wonderful, and wonderfully directed...but "Black Swan" is just gorgeous, it moves like a ballet. It kept me engaged the entire time, and I found it very simple to understand. To all the confused Facebook statuses...pay attention, you won't have this problem. Hopper is deserving, but I feel Aronofsky directed this film the way Pollock painted, and I thank those of you who can see what i mean by that.
  • Darren Aronofsky, "Black Swan"
  • David O. Russell, "The Fighter"
  • Tom Hooper, "The King's Speech"
  • David Fincher, "The Social Network"
  • Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, "True Grit"

  • Actor

Alright, I debated this one for a long time.  It had some added difficulty in my missing out on both 'Biutiful' and '127 Hours'. It isn't that I don't think Firth deserves to win, because he does...but something very interesting happened inside Eisenberg while I watched his performance. He did some great work, and I think that closing shot of 'The Social Network' won me over. Although, I secretly hope Bridges wins.  He did a great job, although not quite out of his box, but I'd love to see him take two things home: Back-To-Back Best Actors, and join John Wayne in becoming the first two Actors to win Best Actor for playing the same role.
  • Javier Bardem, "Biutiful"
  • Jeff Bridges, "True Grit"
  • Jesse Eisenberg, "The Social Network"
  • Colin Firth, "The King's Speech"
  • James Franco, "127 Hours"
We're not in Naboo anymore, Padme. Portman was not just impressive, she was educating. She brought an incredible aspect of originality to the 'deterioration role'. Something tells me she'll be making a few more trips up Oscar's steps before all is said and done.
  • Annette Bening, "The Kids Are All Right"
  • Nicole Kidman, "Rabbit Hole"
  • Jennifer Lawrence, "Winter's Bone"
  • Natalie Portman, "Black Swan"
  • Michelle Williams, "Blue Valentine"

Supporting actor
He has it in the bag, as far as I am concerned. Rush is equally deserving and I'd be happy to see him take the stage, the same is true for Ruffalo, but ultimately I have to judge this category based on my gut feeling I get when I see great acting: "I can be better." Mr. Bale, thank you for the reminder.
  • Christian Bale, "The Fighter"
  • John Hawkes, "Winter's Bone"
  • Jeremy Renner, "The Town"
  • Mark Ruffalo, "The Kids Are All Right"
  • Geoffrey Rush, "The King's Speech"
Supporting actress
There's a lot to be learned from Miss Steinfeld's performance in "True Grit".  I was legitimately impressed with her, and I think she is only nominated under supporting Actress so she has a chance to go home with it, since she is one-hundred percent the lead character of the film.  Unfortunately, I fear that the type of role that Meissa Leo played in "The Fighter" will prevail. Don't get me wrong, she and Amy Adams both deserve it, they did great work...but all things considered, my vote would have gone to Hailee. And, although I was impressed by Carter in "the King's Speech", I think that is simply because she was actually acting in this movie rather than her playing her usual role of 'crazy chick'. After all, there's a fair chance that's just what she is like in real life. I mean, look at who she married.
  • Amy Adams, "The Fighter"
  • Helena Bonham Carter, "The King's Speech"
  • Melissa Leo, "The Fighter"
  • Hailee Steinfeld, "True Grit"
  • Jacki Weaver, "Animal Kingdom"
Animated feature
What can be said about 'Toy Story 3" that hasn't already been said? there's a reason it is up for Best Picture and the others are not. Never before have I cried at three separate and distinct moments in a film.  A beautiful, beautiful work of art, I'm sure I won't be disappointed
  • "How to Train Your Dragon"
  • "The Illusionist"
  • "Toy Story 3"
Adapted screenplay
Lets be real, this film won the category the minute Aaron Sorkin signed the contract. This film has a phenomenal script. I was very worried going into the film that Sorkin wouldn't be able to pull off dialogue for a younger generation...I was so wrong, and never been more happy about it.
  • "127 Hours"
  • "The Social Network"
  • "Toy Story 3"
  • "True Grit"
  • "Winter’s Bone"
Original screenplay
I. Will. Be. Furious. This one of the few categories I'm really passionate about this year. Lately I've been hearing a lot of criticisms  about 'Inception'. I find it all ridiculous. Nolan, I'm able to see the decade of work you put into this script, and it all payed off. One of, if not the most original script of the last two decades. I payed $17 to see it the first time, and I was ready to lay another $17 as soon as the credits were over.  I love this film. Best of luck.
  • "Another Year"
  • "The Fighter"
  • "Inception"
  • "The Kids Are All Right"
  • "The King’s Speech"
Art direction
Unfortunately, the last I checked the world still seems to enjoy Tim Burton's masturbatory ways of 'crazy design'. The actual original works listed below, I fear, will be out-voted. 
  • "Alice in Wonderland"
  • "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I"
  • "Inception"
  • "The King's Speech"
  • "True Grit"
Roger Deakins is long overdue. This is his category, and I will be outraged if he is robbed once again.  "True Grit" may not be as visually stunning as "No Country For Old Men" was, but it sure as hell blows this category away.
  • “Black Swan”
  • “Inception”
  • “The King's Speech”
  • “The Social Network”
  • “True Grit”

Costume design
See my note about Burton under 'Art Direction'
  • "Alice in Wonderland"
  • "I Am Love"
  • "The King's Speech"
  • "The Tempest"
  • "True Grit"
Film editing
  • "Black Swan"
  • "The Fighter"
  • "The King's Speech"
  • "127 Hours"
  • "The Social Network"
Original score
  • “How to Train Your Dragon”
  • “Inception”
  • “The King's Speech”
  • “127 Hours”
  • “The Social Network”
Visual effects
See note about Burton above.
  • “Alice in Wonderland”
  • “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1”
  • “Hereafter”
  • “Inception”
  • “Iron Man 2”
Original song
  • “Coming Home” from “Country Strong”
  • “I See the Light” from “Tangled”
  • “If I Rise” from “127 Hours”
  • We Belong Together” from “Toy Story 3"
Sound editing
  • "Inception"
  • "Toy Story 3"
  • "Tron: Legacy"
  • "True Grit"
  • "Unstoppable"
There you have it, bring on my critics. I don't have nearly the drive behind a Best Picture this year that I have had in the past, so I'm hoping to not be too infuriated by the time I go to sleep.