Mayans M.C. – season one review

Kurt Sutter’s fascination with motorcycle clubs continues with Mayans M.C., a spin-off from the immensely popular Sons of Anarchy. In this new iteration we’re placed with the Mayans, a drug-running charter based in the fictional town of Santo Padre involved in the dealings of dangerous cartel family the Galindo’s.

Fans of Sons of Anarchy will already be familiar with the Mayans who were at first rivals, then allies, of Jax Teller and co’. Emilio Rivera returns to the fictional world as Alvarez, the Padrino of the M.C., alongside brand new characters and one or two cameos from familiar faces. The series’ main character – essentially Charlie Hunnam’s equivalent here – is EZ Reyes, a Mayans prospect, played by J. D. Pardo. Other memorable performances include Richard Cabral as Coco and the brilliant Clayton Cardenas as EZ’s brother Angel

The Sons ran guns, the Mayan’s run drugs. Both are questionable career choices but Sutter is careful to demonstrate that his club members are only in it for the money and actually care about their communities. Honest. This theme was more prominent in SOA with real focus on the Teller family’s loyalty to Charming. The biggest challenge any spin-off faces is in successfully forging itself as stand-alone. While Mayans M.C. is entertaining drama it’s difficult to create a set of characters as beguiling as those in Sons and struggles slightly because of this.

Much like its predecessor Mayans M.C. is blood-soaked, drug-addled fare featuring scantily clad women and testosterone-fuelled fights. What it’s missing is SOA’s thought-provoking exploration of masculinity and male friendship and its deeply-rooted themes of brotherhood. Instead it serves up a highly watchable series that treads new ground, looks visually impressive and introduces likeable characters. It’s highly unrealistic and will offend some, but take it at face value and it’s actually a lot of fun.

Sutter’s new series is not yet of the calibre of SOA, but there is plenty of time for that.

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The Walking Dead: Season Six – The Series So Far

The Walking Dead came racing back onto our screens three Sunday’s ago and with a new series came three things: Hoards of the undead, bloody mayhem and brutal kills. The idea to up the anti on the graphic violence is an interesting choice considering the strength of seasons four and five based on the character driven narratives and exploration of humanity they both encompassed. Having said that, season six has thus far presented fans with a visually-impacting thrill ride that has thrown a lot at its audience very, very quickly.

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steven yeun as glenn in the walking dead

Who really are these Wolf madmen? Where did Ron appear from all of a sudden? What has happened to Morgan in the time since he last saw Rick? And, most importantly; Has the latter gone completely bat-shit crazy? There are a lot of questions to be answered and thirteen more episodes in which to do so – hurrah. While the series started in a buzz of hectic Walker-sitting and machete-wielding murderers on the loose in Alexandria there was still time for a bit of character development via the always popular background stories. We’ve been able to get to grips with why Enid is so solemn (if the whole Zombie thing wasn’t enough) and had an introduction to one or two new faces. These include Denise, a new doctor in the community, and Heath, an Alexandria resident who is getting to grips with the authority of Rick and Co’ having been out on a run since they arrived.

The most intriguing element so far, thematically speaking, is the idea that Rick is slowly becoming some kind of antagonist to the residents of Alexandria, and even to those he has been with for some time. As Andrew Lincoln steps up as an actor of immense talent, we see a dark side to the lead character who (if we really think about it) lost his mind somewhere in season four. The underlying sub-plot of this has been brewing for some time, as has Carol‘s lack of compassion. The pair have become a kind of terrifying duo that, as an audience, we aren’t sure whether to still root for, or wish people to run from.

Lincoln still predominately leads the show with Steven Yeun as Glenn supporting him in a role that had everyone’s heart in tatters this week. The arrival of new characters always brings an extra dimension to the series and forces new on-screen friendships and shows of camaraderie that – if acted and scripted well – are genuinely moving. Episode one, First Time Again, didn’t match up to the level of intensity and sheer shocks of season five’s No Sanctuary which blew the lid off of previous openers (and apparently this year’s premiere couldn’t quite compete). JSS and Thank You have more than made up for the slow burner of the first inauguration and if writers choose to keep this pace – and maintain the aesthetically impressive action sequences – The Walking Dead’s sixth season could easily be its best yet.

Note: My reviews are based solely on the television series as a viewer with no knowledge of events taking place in the graphic novels.

Television series of the year (2014)

We were overwhelmed by a number of fantastic television series’ last year. From cinematic values to production budgets and big screen actors taking on roles in T.V. drama; there were a selection of stand-out programmes that continue to entertain and impress audiences. My show of the year premiered with its fourth season in 2014, and it was by far it’s best. With a legion of fans and a plethora of critical acclaim, it wasn’t difficult in deciding what would take the title. It is, of course, HBO’s Game of Thrones.

With only ten episodes (and each outstandingly good) Game of Thrones sealed its title as show of the year. Upping the anti GOT reminded critics and audiences each week why this series remains firmly at the top. With a strong cast (the majority of whom were relatively unknown before season one) and a unique fantasy element that never treads into corny territory, series four gave audiences riveting entertainment on the small screen. And, it’s just damn cool.

Emilia Clarke, Lena Headey, Kit Harrington, Peter Dinklage, Charles Dance and co (the ensemble cast provide talent from all ends of the world) all returned to make the fourth season a masterclass in television greatness. With a narrative that follows George R. R. Martin’s beloved novels, we were able to indulge in episodes containing mythical creatures, sexy warriors and some head-twisting enigma that had us all ask ‘Seriously, whaaaat?’. Whether you sit down to follow Daenerys in her battle to free all slaves or you enjoy the British banter that Tyrion and Bronn (played by the wonderful Jerome Flynn) bring to it, or perhaps are secretly rooting for Jaime (don’t worry, we all understand) GOT seems to spark with a unique personality that has an element of entertainment for everyone. Oh, and its never afraid to offend – and that’s always something to be celebrated in television

Its controversial, it follows an almost uncountable amount of main characters and has been graced by some of the best British acting talent in its run so far. With a stand-out episode last year, simply titled The watchers on the wall, fans can relish in the fact that with Martin still writing source material, Game of Thrones will be around for some time to come. Below are three reasons why this fantasy drama pipped the post and received the title of television series of the year:

1) Peter Dinklage as Tyrion: From series one Tyrion has been a character on everyone’s minds – he’s the underdog that has viewers talking, and in the latter half of season four Dinklage firmly took centre stage in making Mr Lannister the main agenda. With Tyrion‘s season four story ending in brutal death and a swift escape, fans can’t wait to see what series five will bring. Dinklage brings witty humour (much appreciated in a programme dominated by death and heads lopping off) and a general humanity to Tyrion that appears to be missing in the rest of his family members (the main culprit being Cersei).

promotional still from game of thrones

promotional still from game of thrones

2) The show’s cinematography courtesy of Jonathan Freeman, David Franco, Anette Haellmigk, Rob McLachlan and Fabian Wagner. Five director’s of photography should ultimately lead to fantastic scenery and damn good looking locations – thankfully, it did. From season one, the cast have been supported by locales to work with that set the tone of this fantasy drama perfectly. Beyond the picturesque imagery GOT features it also gives viewers contrasting settings, from King’s Landing to Winterfell – from the low-key lighting and gritty atmosphere the latter brings to the exotic aura of Westeros’ capital. Each episode lends to a specific vibe, and the photography is central to that.

3) D.B Weiss and David Benioff’s writing abilities lend to quote worthy dialogue and some awe inspiring monologues (everyone has to love a bit of “Winter is coming”) . Season four gave audiences two stand-out scenes that were driven by the teleplay and owed to plenty of re-watching. Speech one was a pre-battle prep talk from series veteran Owen Teale as Allisser Thorne, while generally loathed, Thorne came up trumps with his echoing words that seemed so natural its easy to forget The Nights Watch is part of a fantasy world. Speech two was delivered by Tyrion and his slandering of the stuck-up inhabitants of King’s Landing was enough to make anyone clap their hands together like an excited seal (just me then…?). Slick and intelligent, together Benioff, Weiss (and a host more) give Martin’s novels a run for their money, and stand firmly as their own works.

Westeros, dragons, enough supporting characters to shake a stick at, and an original narrative that can easily rival any television series out there today –  Game of Thrones is a phenomenal fantasy drama that is unabashedly over-the-top (but wonderfully so), and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

Bates Motel – a newbies impression

Promotional photo for the principal cast for season 2 of Bates Motel

Promotional photo of the principal cast for season 2 of Bates Motel

Last week a friend and I sat down to browse Netflix for something interesting to watch, and pass the gloomy rainy day by with. First came Quarantine 2: Terminal, a film which is so bad its mildly entertaining (and by entertaining, I mean accidentally funny). After the low-quality of Quarantine 2 we had a gander at the T.V section and gave Bates Motel a go. Less than a week later I have watched every episode that has currently been aired (its good ok, I do get out). Bates Motel is an original series that basically charts the days of Psycho’s antagonist Norman Bates, as a 17 year old he is protected by his ‘cute but nutty’ mother, Norma (weird name sharing, right?) and is seamlessly becoming the killer and psychopath he is more known as in Alfred Hitchcock’s classic of the thriller genre.

What’s strange about this series is the fact that the audience are so aware of what the central character of Bates Motel turns, well is, turning in to. Twenty episodes down Norman is responsible for two murders which he committed while having a ‘black out’, Norma wont get him psychological help, the town is run on drug money and it also appears to be pretty lawless (things aren’t looking good for the future Bates family). So, with them having all the malevolence of a serial killer and the mannerisms of a lunatic – what keeps viewers going back for more? Well, Vera Farmiga is a revelation as Norma; embodying the characteristics of a woman with a haunting past and some pretty obvious detachment issues. She treads the line between likeable and annoying and is most definitely slightly off (and by off, I mean deranged). The rest of the cast are of course good, with Freddie Highmore being an incredibly scary Norman and Nestor Carbonell as Sheriff Romero laying down the law as he see’s fit, but when in a scene with Farmiga they barely register; she sets an incredibly high standard to follow.

While Farmiga carries the cast, the production designers and makers of the show are also due some much deserved credit. There are constant, but cleverly subtle reminders and motifs of the originals 1960’s setting (Bates Motel is set in the present day) including the use of an old Mercedes, the family home being in dire need of a contemporary re-furb and Norma and Norman’s attire being practically ancient, I mean vintage..What’s clever about these aspects of the show is that they are pretty much confined just to the two protagonists (or antagonists, its hard to tell), who are obviously completely detached from everybody else and in their own world.

A third season has been promised for 2015, and I can only guess that there will be more unraveling of Normans sanity (lack of, that is) and some more interesting sub-plots that the loveable Dylan is involved in(the only ‘normal’ member of the family, y’know normal as in helps run a drug business and has also murdered two people..). At times a little corny, and not always entirely sure of its target audience for the most part Bates Motel is creepy, original and downright interesting.

True Blood season 7; the series so far

The final season of what, at times, has felt like an over-long, drawn-out television series has arrived. I often defend True Blood, classing it as one of my favourite T.V shows, but what started as a quite compelling show, with thrilling and original story lines came crashing down in season six with a just too out there plot line. If you are up-to-date with the show like me, then you’ll be aware of the Nazi-esque prison camp which was the main setting for season six, with experiments on both vampires and humans taking place. Bill (or Billith as he became referred too), became some kind of malevolent Vampire God, and the trailer trash government of the South put in place plans to exterminate all Vampires. Putting all the weirdness aside, it was at times an entertaining ride (courtesy of Alexander Skarsgard’s Eric, as is often the case), and came to an end which put viewers firmly on the edge of theirs seats eagerly awaiting the arrival of the seventh and final season. Season seven is now in its fifth week (apologies for such a late post), and it took until last weeks Death is not the End for True Blood to finally return to its shining form of seasons one and two. The death toll is high in this final season, cutting loose ends (and characters who have been long disliked by audiences’). New Vampires have arrived, both normal and crazed (True Blood likes a heavy dose of both), and one in particular has quickly become a firm favourite of mine. Jessica’s new boyfriend James (Nathan Parsons), who was introduced in the camp in season six but replaced by a different actor for this final showdown is quite simply, one hell of a cool dude. He’s sexy, humane, and his friendship (perhaps relationship come the end) with the outrageous Lafayette is one of the most interesting elements of the season.

Opening with a super stylish battle between a  group of crazed Hep-V infected Vamps and the humans and healthy vampires of Bon Temps, season seven promised good things to come. Tara, a veteran of the show was killed off in the first moments of episode one, but that doesn’t mean shes gone forever in a show which celebrates all things supernatural. Starting so superbly, I was left disappointed as the rest of the opening fell short, with little happening apart from conversations between various couples about the state of the South, who have all been but neglected by the the rest of America. Episodes two and three were nothing special, with a long-winded display of how bad things have got for the small towns of red-neck America, and little screen time for firm favourite’s Eric and Pam. Finally episodes four and five came and saved the day. Death is not the End saw some rather hilarious flashbacks to how Fangtasia came to be, and Erics reunion with Bill, Sookie and the rest of the gang was a sweet reminder of the glory days of True Blood. Lost Cause, the shows latest offering saw the apparently now recovered town partying away their woes, with goodbyes to relationships and loved ones, and a shock relating to the deadly Hep-V. I wont say too much more, as I’ve gone pretty spoiler crazy but  lets hope the rest of the season is of similar taste.

Putting aside the violence, sex and hill-billy motifs, True Blood has pretty much always been focused on the love story between Bill and Sookie, whether that was lingering in the background or shoved in our faces. The final promises to draw to a close unfinished business for both the characters and the audience, who if are still hanging on in season seven deserve a rather fantastical ending. Known for its frantic energy, and at times bizarre plot lines, True Blood is showing no signs of giving up on delivering a scorcher of a final, returning to its former glory days and perhaps giving us all closure on who, if anyone, Sookie will chose.