Sunday, 31 May 2015

TV Show Review: Bates Motel Season 3 [Spoilers]

© A&E | Source: Den of Geek

USA; 10 episodes; drama, mystery, crime, thriller
Channel: A&E
Creators: Carlton Cuse, Kerry Ehrin, Anthony Cipriano
Cast: Vera Farmiga, Freddie Highmore, Max Thieriot, Olivia Cooke, Nestor Carbonell, Kenny Johnson, Keenan Tracey, Kevin Rahm, Joshua Leonard, Andrew Howard, Nicola Peltz, Ryan Hurst

“Oh, and, uh, the password to the WiFi is ‘MOTHER’, all caps.”  – Emma

In March, right before the premiere of season 3, Carlton Cuse revealed that the story arc of Bates Motel was meant to last five seasons. Since all of us Hitchcock-savvy people out there know how things are going to end for the infamous mother-son-connection Norma (Vera Farmiga) and Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore), the show creator is certain that a speedy conclusion to the modern Psycho prequel is unavoidable. And right he is. Norman’s psychological decay can only be delayed for so long before the plot will begin to stagnate and run in circles. So, with the first half of the series almost over, the team behind the show decided to no longer beat around the bush and give the Bates family a firm push onto the road that will eventually turn Norman into the most prominent women-hating, serial-killing motel owner in cinematic history.

At the end of season 2, things were left in a pretty grim state. To begin with, the entire illegal marijuana business of our favourite coastal town, White Pine Bay, was destroyed after Norman’s half-brother Dylan (Max Thieriot) and Sheriff Romero (Nestor Carbonell) got caught in a feud between two rivalling crime families. Beside this, Dylan had to face emotional turmoil when he found out that the recently returned Caleb (Kenny Johnson) was not just his uncle, but also his father. The only good thing that came of it was that Norma, confronted by memories of her rapist brother, managed to strengthen her relationship with Dylan. But most importantly, the very end of season 2 had us witness how Norman, during one of his blackouts, adopted Norma’s personality in order to escape from an uncomfortable confession. With a brilliantly wicked smile, he faced the camera, paying tribute to Anthony Perkins’ vicious smirk at the end of Psycho.

Source: Sunsets on Piers
Season 3 continues the journey in a mostly satisfying manner. The overall atmosphere of the show is still dominated by gloom, unpredictability, suspense, heavy drama and the right amount of twisted humour. The storyline still has Norma navigate herself through the mess left by her mentally unstable son and a bunch of unsupportive villagers. Norman has yet to come to terms with his fall into madness. And Dylan still finds himself entangled in the crazy mechanisms of his family members as well as in some criminal activity. So, yes, business goes on as usual. But although I’d say that the ground the characters are treading on doesn’t offer many novelties plot-wise, I quite enjoy the development the individual roles are going through.

Let’s face it, Norma’s beef with Bob Paris (Kevin Rahm), the wealthy, criminal owner of White Pine Bay’s very own elite hunting club (yes, apparently, they have an elite hunting club there), doesn’t differ much from the beef she had with Nick Ford in season 2. While her powers remain focused on deferring the bypass that will lead potential guests away from her motel business, she, as usual, finds herself up against some dangerous men. Granted that this plot gives us the glorious and brilliantly hilarious moment in the Episode “The Arcanum Club”, in which Norma enters a grudge match against an innocent construction sign, there really is nothing new to be had.

Besides this, Norma’s temporary romantic involvement with college psychologist James Finnigan (Joshua Leonard), is reminiscent of her little tête-à-tête with George Heldens in the previous season. So, nothing new there either. I, personally, am still waiting for a season in which Norma is not endowed with an unnecessary romantic storyline because, well, we all know how this is going to end for her – in chaos and regret. 

Yes, yes, I can hear all you Normero fans shouting obscenities at me for saying such a thing. Don’t get me wrong. I love the tension between Norma and Sheriff Romero and, heck, I even hope they’ll end up together at some point in the series. I mean, who could resist Romero’s thick lashes, right? I just hope that they further delay this blossoming relationship for the sake of novelty. Spare Norma the boy trouble for once, please! 

© A&E | Source: AETV
The thing I enjoy most about Norma this season is how the writers explore her family ties. With news of her mother’s death in the very first episode, fittingly titled "A Death in the Family", and the confrontations with her brother and rapist Caleb throughout the season, Norma reveals bits and pieces about her life before she had Norman. Her vulnerability and longing for a stable and loving home seep through, giving us some quiet, heartfelt moments amidst all the craziness.

To be honest, though, I am a bit ambivalent about the Norma-Caleb-thing. While I appreciate how it brings another side to Norma’s character, the storyline still makes me feel slightly uncomfortable. At this point, I can’t really tell if it’s the kind of uncomfortable that gives credit to the show’s eeriness and twisted nature, or the kind of uncomfortable that just makes me want to turn away my head. What happened between the two is obviously a terrible crime, and we see Norma go completely mental about it in the wonderful episode “Norma Louise”. When she, at the end of that same episode, forgives Caleb and they both hug and cry together in a perfectly emotional and well-acted scene, I somehow feel like an important piece of the puzzle is missing. How can Norma forgive him? Why did Caleb rape her in the first place, since the show has done everything so far to make him appear like an otherwise decent and likable guy? Does this simply display the sick dynamics of Norma and Caleb’s family background? Is it a simple form of closure to a rotten deed? Is it a mere device to further set off Norman’s madness? Whatever it is, it paves the way for the episode “The Last Supper”, in which Norma invites all her close ones over to dinner. This lovely get-together conveys – for the first time – the feeling that something normal is going on inside the Bates’ living room. Everybody has a good time – except for Norman, who slowly realises that he is not the only one dear to his mother.

© A&E | Source: Nerdist
HOW hard is it to like Norman this season? As I mentioned earlier, the show seems determined to turn him into Psycho Bates asap. This is actually a good thing for the progress of the series, but I also find it hard to watch sometimes. From season 1 onwards, Norman has always been a nice character, a quirky teenager trying to make something of his complicated teenager life. I felt sorry for his medical condition and the way he suffered because he didn’t know what happened during his blackouts. I felt sorry for the way in which his mother tries to control his life, and how she puts her own needs above his. In contrast to this, I loved to see him develop independent connections with Dylan, Emma and Cody. I loved to watch him try to take control of his own life, despite the circumstances. Over two seasons, he grew dear to me, although I was well aware of his eventual fate. Now, in season 3, I find it hard to see anything likeable in Norman. Most of the time, he’s in a bratty, embittered, mean-spirited state. He takes advantage of Emma’s feelings for him, only to get back at Norma. Or he tries to destroy Dylan’s improved relation with Norma, even though Dylan has been nothing but supportive of him and his needs. Somehow, it is hard for me to witness one of the characters who actually started off as one of the relatable protagonists suddenly become so antagonistic towards all the other characters I like.

However, Norman’s descent into darkness is inevitable, and the show gives him some fantastic moments to display the batshit crazy potential of the character. As usual, there appears to be a murder mystery involving a prostitute, which leaves us wondering whether Norman committed the crime or not. Since this plot device really can be regarded as snows of yesteryear, I’m glad that the writers also included new features displaying Norman’s insanity, the most famous scene probably being the one from “Norma Louise”. Blacked out once again and feeling abandoned by his mother, Norman dons Norma’s dressing gown, adopts her high-pitched voice and starts preparing breakfast for a beyond confused Dylan. Yes, the whole thing is as creepy as it sounds.

© A&E | Source: Box de Séries
Despite being confused, there are other things for Dylan to do. Since White Pine Bay is facing a shortage in the supply of illegal substances, Dylan is keen on rebuilding the marijuana business. Luckily, after playing a major part in season 1 and 2, the drug plot is kept rather small this time around. Instead, Dylan is given room to bond with Caleb, and to encounter a new character in town called Chick (played with perfect weirdness and dry wit by Ryan Hurst), who asks him – as you do – to participate in some gun running. I mean, seriously. What is wrong with White Pine Bay? Is there not one single person without a criminal drive?

Anyways, what really holds my interest this season is the kindling affection between Dylan and Emma. I have no clue why all of a sudden there’s sweet, sweet love between the two, but I like it. Dylan, for once, doesn’t feel all alone, and Emma, for once, feels like finally a member of the Bates family is interested in letting her in completely. Additionally, since all of Norman’s social ties, including Dylan, Emma and partly even Norma, seem to be going south, it is lovely to have a couple in the show that is going strong and delivering some well needed positive emotions. More of that, please.

© A&E | Source: Twitter
The finale, “Unconscious”, offers closure for most of the topics from this season. Emma and Dylan share a first kiss, and, finally, there also seems to be some hope of cure for Emma’s cystic fibrosis. Sheriff Romero helps Norma by shooting Bob Paris dead (like we didn’t see that one coming), and Norman slips into his mother’s personality to murder his teenage sweetheart Bradley (Nicola Peltz). It’s White Pine Bay, folks!

When Bradley returned at the end of the next-to-last episode, my eyes rolled. When she tried to talk Norman into leaving town with her, my eyes rotated. I guess it depends mostly on the performance, but, for me, Bradley has always been one of the dullest characters on the show. Since she tried to lure Norman away from Norma, her fate was rather predictable. Still, I cheered with joy when Mother kept hitting her head against a rock. Good riddance.

© A&E | Source: EW
Besides making me happy, the season finale and the season in general present us with another evolution of Norman’s craziness. Sexuality has always been an awkward subject for him, but here his twisted mind comes full circle. Hallucinations of his disapproving mother haunt him during sexual encounters. Jealousy eats away at him when he knows that his mother is seeing other men. A fancy for his mother’s wardrobe is developing. Sanity is slipping out of his hands, turning him into a murderous danger. And while I, personally, have a hard time getting used to the new, vicious Norman, I cannot wait to see what upcoming episodes will have in store for him.

Season 3 of Bates Motel certainly suffers from some repetitive plot patterns, but it also brings back all the features I came to love about the show: the sombre atmosphere, the wicked humour, the outstanding performances (Vera Farmiga, you will always be my goddess) and suspense. Furthermore, it gives a different spin to the main characters, and paves the way for future developments, sealing the inevitable, gloomy fate of the Bates family.


Thursday, 28 May 2015

Film Review: Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

© Warner Bros. | Source: Forbes

Australia, USA; 120 min.; action, adventure, dystopia
Director: George Miller
Writing: George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, Nico Lathouris
Cinematography: John Seale
Cast: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Zoë Kravitz, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, Abbey Lee, Courtney Eaton

“Out here, everything hurts.”  – Imperator Furiosa 

George Miller’s Mad Max trilogy has left a decisive mark not only on the dystopian genre, but also on action cinema. The first part, released in 1979 and set somewhere in a post-apocalyptic Australia, tells the story of Max Rockatansky, played by Mel Gibson. The highway patrol officer finds himself on a vendetta against a violent motorcycle gang, responsible for the death of his wife and son. In Mad Max: The Road Warrior (1981), the loner Max sees himself up against yet another fuelled gang, which is threatening a peaceful community of settlers. The third part, Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (1985), has the title character help a group of orphans escape from the wretched influence of Bartertown, a commune run by cruel Aunty Entity, played by a wonderfully wicked Tina Turner. Still today, all three films seem like a breath of fresh air. The dystopian setting puts an interesting spin on the usual realism of conventional cinematic narratives, and the stunt-orientated storytelling is not only exciting, but also serves as an inspiration for future action franchises such as The Fast and the Furious.

So now, thirty years after the release of the last film, Miller continues Max’s cinematic journey with a fourth instalment. In it, the title character (now played by Tom Hardy) helps rebel Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), war boy Nux (Nicholas Hoult) and a group of five female breeding slaves to stand up against ruthless warlord and cult leader Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). People who have read my trailer check for the film already know that I was thoroughly excited for this new adventure, since the action genre is very dear to me. The sensation of watching things blow up on screen, having characters engage in well-choreographed fight sequences, or of experiencing how thrill and suspense slowly build up in the pit of the stomach always leaves me feeling adventurous, – wild and free – like anything is possible. For me, it’s one of the most perfect forms of escapism. Having said all this, this is probably the ideal moment to mention that, so far, I have watched Mad Max: Fury Road twice. In one week. It is like Miller kicked out everything that was bad about the predecessors, took everything that was fantastic about them and multiplied it times ten. The result is a frigging perfect contribution to the action genre.

I have already gushed over the look of the film when the trailer was released. I like how the overemphasized orange and blue colours work together, how the vast and barren Namibian desert as a setting creates a gritty, heated, post-apocalyptic atmosphere. Additionally, the make-up and costume design brims with creepi- and craziness, the most memorable features probably being Immortan Joe’s futuristic, skull-like and slightly terrifying air mask as well as Nux’s body painting, making him look like a bizarre, diseased walking cranium.

The heart of Fury Road, however, is its excellent stunt work. Miller, who has already demonstrated in the previous Mad Max movies that he knows how to stage a good car chase, unleashes an explosive firework of delicious action sequences. Mostly done without computer-generated special effects, the stunts, in the midst of all the road rage and sheer frenzy, convey a certain kind of heightened realism. They thus evoke a sense of thrill and adventure far more exciting than any purely CGI-animated sequence could ever be. With the help of Cirque du Soleil acrobats and a large group of professional stunt people, the Australian director created a breathtaking action extravaganza, with fiery explosions, dynamic fights and thrilling high-speed pursuits. The scene in which Furiosa prevents Max from falling off her truck while they are taking flight from Immortan Joe and his gang, for example, always makes my stomach lurch like during an intense rollercoaster ride.

Amidst all the nail biting and wriggling about on the edge of the cinema seat, Miller, fortunately, also manages to balance those sequences of beautiful, pure adrenaline with touching quiet moments in which his characters are allowed to breathe and feel, helping the audience to form an emotional connection with them. Additionally, he embraces a profound complexity of topics, which elevates the film from sheer action spectacle to meaningful action spectacle. Themes such as human exploitation, sex trafficking and religious fanaticism, but also team work, family and the desire to belong, to have a home and a purpose, are touched upon in an engaging manner, drawing relevant connections to our contemporary society.

An essential improvement over the previous instalments is the role of women within the film. While especially the original Mad Max and Mad Max: The Road Warrior merely depict them as love interests, mothers and/or victims of brutal male force, Fury Road, finally, allows its female characters to step away from pure victimisation and take control of their own fate. Here, women don’t appear as mere accessories that look good and talk little, or damsels in distress meant to either be saved by a powerful man or face their demise at his hands. Here, women live, fight and die like their male counterparts. Luckily, however, Miller refrains from utilising the cliché of the ultimate, sexed-up Amazone. While Furiosa certainly is a kick-ass warrior woman, capable of defending herself, shooting guns and driving big trucks, she also is in touch with her vulnerable side, reflected in her longing for home and redemption. Furthermore, the other female roles support the escape from their oppressor Immortan Joe with their individual talents and strengths. Angharad (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley) is fearless, Toast (Zoë Kravitz) is composed and smart, Capable (Riley Keough) is kind and loving, the Keeper of the Seeds (Melissa Jaffer) is in touch with nature. In Fury Road, female strength is diverse and taken for granted. As it should be. And, in the end, it is not gender that saves the day, but team work and mutual respect of both men and women. Equally.

Despite the focus on beautiful imagery, endearing action and social commentary, the film also leaves room for some memorable performances. Tom Hardy, taking over from Mel Gibson, gives Max a brooding, almost quirky quality. As a man of few words, it is his body language and countenance which deliver pain, strength and humour, turning Max into a quiet, yet expressive character. Nicholas Hoult’s Nux is delightfully out-of-control, and yet harbours a sweet nature. His journey from twisted, brainwashed cannon fodder to loveable and brave team player is a joy to watch. And, finally, Charlize Theron’s portrayal of Furiosa is certainly one to remember. Fearless and cynical, hardened and physical, she carries all the necessary gravitas for the role. Her uncompromising nature and her heartfelt longing for peace and freedom endow her with a complexity hardly seen in women of the action genre.

To say Miller’s newest work is an action film for women is an entirely false statement. It is certainly one of the rather few movies of the genre that depicts women as independent heroes as well as smart and creative team players. But this is only one of the many facets of the film. Uniting stunning stunts, fast-paced storytelling, amazing camera work, visual beauty, complex social commentary and a motivated cast, Mad Max: Fury Road isn’t an action film for women. It is an action film for all of us.


Monday, 25 May 2015

Features: Manic Monday - The Rock

Source: Bulkpoker

Remember the time when the fellow above was not yet the world famous Hollywood actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, but simply the muscle-packed, eyebrow-twitching If-yoouuu-smell-what-The-Rock-is-cookin’-chanting, rock-bottoming pro wrestler The Rock? 

Well we do and we love that side of him. So before you go watch Dwayne as the hero of the upcoming adventure-disaster movie San Andreas, which will hit the big screens on May 29, 2015, have a look at some of his best moments before his Hollywood career got started. 

“Just bring it!”

Let's start with his WWF debut as Rocky Maivia in 1996:

Some of his best moments:

To one of his latest appearances at the WWE Royal Rumble in January 2015:

And now look what’s become of him. He can pull off just about anything.

© 20th Century Fox  |  Source: richardcrouse

And with that we wish you a happy Manic Monday and have a nice week!

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Data Base: Sleepy Hollow

© Fox | Source: sleepyhollow.wikia

Series Premiere September 16, 2013
Series Finale
Genre Horror, Drama, Supernatural, Mystery
Country of Origin United States
No. of seasons 2
No. of episodes 31
Running Time ~ 42 minutes
Channel Fox
Developed by Alex Kurtzman
Roberto Orci
Len Wiseman
Phillip Iscove
Starring Nicole Beharie, Lyndie Greenwood, Orlando Jones, Tom Mison, John Noble, Katia Winter
Guest Stars Worth Mentioning


Ichabod Crane, soldier of the Colonial Army in the 18th century, is resurrected in present day America, more than 200 years after his death. But he is not the only one. A headless horseman also rises from his grave and it is Ichabod’s task to stop him.

Yay or nay?

The show is perfect for fans of the supernatural, horror or urban fantasy genre. It is more modern than the eponymous movie by Tim Burton, but no less charming. Especially the out-of-placeness of 18th Century Ichabod Crane adds some humorous elements to the show. Definitely a must-see.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

TV Show Review: American Horror Story: Asylum (2012)

© FX |  Source:

United States; 13 Episodes (Season 2); Horror, Drama, Thriller
Channel: FX
Creator: Brad Falchuk, Ryan Murphy
Cast: Lizzie Brocheré, James Cromwell, Joseph Fiennes, Jessica Lange, Sarah Paulson, Evan Peters, Zachary Quinto, Lily Rabe

Just remember if you look in the face of evil, evil's gonna look right back at you. – Sister Jude

Warning: Spoilers for American Horror Story: Asylum follow...

And with that welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to my review of American Horror Story: Asylum. To get into the right mood feel free to click the video above and listen to the song while reading (You’ll know why.) The second season of Falchuk’s and Murphy’s cash cow of a TV show is not directly related to its predecessor, American Horror Story: Murder House, but they both operate on the same general principles: there is one major theme underlying each season. In Murder House it was infidelity, in Asylum the theme is (in)sanity. What links the two seasons even more is, despite taking place in different periods of time (S01: present day/ S02: the 60s), many members of the by now familiar cast of season 1 slip into different roles in season 2 and lead you through the hell house of a mental institution called Briarcliff. This method of “recycling” their actors is kept up through all of the by now four seasons of AHS – one of the many things I really love about the show! So, despite starting from zero each time, there is already some kind of familiarity – the AHS family, so to say. I found a chart that gives you an idea of what I’m talking about, in case you don’t yet know the show (which is kind of unforgivable.)

© FX |  Source: reddit

As I already mentioned, Asylum is set in the sixties and most of the action takes place in the church-run mental institution Briarcliff Manor. The pilot episode opens with Kit Walker (Evan Peters) and his girlfriend Alma (Britne Oldford) being abducted by extraterrestrial beings. When he returns, Kit is accused of being the serial killer “Bloody Face,” who murders women while wearing a mask made of his victims’ skin. For lack of evidence, he is admitted to Briarcliff, where the sensationalist journalist Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson) tries to interview him. But not only that: she tries to uncover what lurks beneath the respectable façade of Briarcliff. It’s not quite so easy, though. Lana bangs her head at the brick wall that is Sister Jude (the terrific Jessica Lange) and then ends up as a patient herself (in order to cure her homosexuality, which was considered a mental disorder those fifty years ago.)

Sister Jude does all it takes to protect the dream of Monsignor Timothy Howard (Joseph Fiennes), whom she reveres like a saint and yet also desires. That is why it is especially hard on her to see her role as his number one helper being snatched away by the scientist Dr. Arthur Arden (James Cromwell.) Jude and Arden try to degrade the other by uncovering their hidden agenda. And there is a lot to be uncovered in Doctor Arden’s case. In Briarcliff’s basement laboratories, he performs gruelling experiments on the patients. There is no apparent medical reason for his atrocious procedures; he seems to be doing it for the fun of it. In the course of the series, however, no other than Anne Frank (Franka Potente) recognises him as Hans Grüper, a Nazi war criminal she met in a concentration camp. With his Nazi past uncovered we realise that Arden is not just your average psychopath, driven by a morbid curiosity to dissect and mutilate the human body, but is rather suffering from something like Auschwitz-separation-issues, missing the time when he could freely experiment with humans in the name of science. He has thus made Briarcliff his new refuge and carries on his impious experiments to create the perfect human being, here called “Reapers.” (See picture)

© FX |  Source: americanhorrorstory.wikia
Arden finds a friend in the devout nun Sister Mary-Eunice (Lily Rabe) – at least after the devil has taken possession of her body in the aftermath of an exorcism-gone-awry. And the infernal creature is a great fan of Arden’s work. Together they kick Sister Jude from her throne and just like Lana, she ends up as a patient, having to live under the very rules she enforced herself.
© FX |  Source: screencrush

I’ll just break off here, before this summary (which was actually supposed to be brief, but you can see how that worked) turns into a full-fledged essay. But there is soo much happening… Despite comprising no more than 13 episodes, this season is jam-packed with so many different storylines, characters, subplots and an intricate web of symbolism that it seems impossible to mention all of it. So my last plot-related words are: look forward to an appearance of the real Bloody Face, and now let’s move on to some more general things.

While in the first season the main evil force or paranormal elements were the ghosts haunting the mansion purchased by the Harmons, Asylum flaunts a variety of different horrors. So many, in fact, that it skirts the line of being too much. We have the whole oppressive atmosphere at Briarcliff, not just created by the building itself, but also its patients. Then there are aliens, human experiments and the results of those, an exorcism, a skin-wearing mass-murderer, rape, Nazis, the angel of death, and even the devil himself gets a fair amount of screen time. 

The experimental and often uncomfortable camera angles and the superb choice of music also deserve their credit for creating an overall eerie and somewhat bizarre mood. Just check out this, almost Glee-inspired seeming scene, which happens to be my favourite because it’s just entirely out of place in this drab and dreary madhouse atmosphere and functions like a comic relief. Especially so since, right before that, the former nun-gone-patient Jude underwent a lobotomy, performed by Mr. Nazi and Sister Devil, so you can imagine that it did not go according to the regulations. And what do you do when your brain has just been fried? Party hard:

Actually, I’m of the opinion that in a horror movie there is rarely ever such a thing as “too much” – but in the case of AHS Asylum that is debatable. This format of a mini-series offers too little room to explore the abundance of tropes the producers dished up this season and thus some things don’t get a satisfactory amount of attention and leave you wondering: why even introduce that when you won’t work with it? The intention behind that might have been to end the series with a couple of question marks, but the many loose ends lead to quite some confusion. Especially the whole alien-related aspects are quite dubious. Like, why are they so interested in Kit? Why did they revive his murdered wives and what about his children? And where did they take him in the end? Too many questions, too little answers…

On the whole though, this season is often considered to be the scariest of them all and there might be some truth in that. Personally, I think Murder House had more heart attack moments than Asylum, but the deeply depressing, disturbing and discomforting atmosphere of Briarcliff winds itself through every minute of screentime and conveys a perpetual impression of suspense – you just wait for something to happen. All. The. Time. And I love that. But for all the suspense, the season is interlaced with special moments – either especially cruel and disturbing or out-of-the-place hilarious - that really turn Asylum into a memorable ride. It’s a highly addictive TV-show that leaves you begging for more and the good news is there is an almost inexhaustible fund of possible themes for upcoming seasons. After Murder House and Asylum, the next project is called Coven. It’s supposed to be a little lighter and more humorous than the previous seasons and has witchcraft as its central theme. If that doesn’t sound promising, then I don’t know what does. So if you still haven’t watched the show, you should definitely start soon.


Monday, 18 May 2015

Manic Monday: The Post-Ice Hockey Blues

© Walt Disney Television Animation | Source: YouTube screenshot

We all know, Mondays usually suck. They can't help it, it's just in their nature. However, today's Monday offers an even more intense kind of suckage since, yesterday, the annual Ice Hockey World Championship came to an end. While we can be enthused about the fact that Sid the Kid and his team mates won the Cup for team Canada (Yay!), we still have to wait an entire year until the best ice hockey teams of planet Earth meet again to duke it out in the next World Championship.

You might wonder, what is this woman talking about? When did BSP turn into a sports blog? Rest assured, it didn't. Anyway, as a huge fan of everything that has to do with ice and skates and pucks, I'd like to make use of the occasion and try to sweeten your Manic Monday by reminding you of a certain TV show which features all that: ice and skates and pucks - and ducks.

So, for those of you who enjoy a bit of ice hockey, or who are just head-over-heels for good ol' 90s Disney cartoon action, here is "The First Face-Off", the two-part opening episode of one of my favourite childhood TV series ever, the Mighty Ducks. Feel free to groove to the catchy intro, or just take pleasure in the fact that you're about to hear the voice talents of Ian Ziering, James Belushi and Tim Curry.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Episode Close-Up: Castle (2009-2016): 7x23 'Hollander's Woods'

Source: | © ABC
Castle’s season 7 finale really was final in many ways: It ended a season of inner troubles for the show’s name-sake Rick Castle. It also really could have been the show’s final farewell, but, as we now know, it was only the farewell of Andrew Marlowe and Terri Miller to their beloved characters. And what a send-off they gave them! After a season of Castle looking for answers and struggling with their repercussions and a season in which the show itself was looking for ways to move on after the mystery of the past 6 years had been solved, this episode gave the answers. All of them.

Opening: A woman with crosses carved on her face is running through foggy woods at night time. The focus shifts to a dark hooded figure, a couple hundred meters behind her, in pursuit of her. Its knife is gleaming in the moonlight. Cut back to the woman stumbling out of the woods and onto a street. She straightens herself and is suddenly lit up by headlights coming closer. You can hear a truck’s horn blaring. Now the woman’s got that dear-caught-in-the-headlights look and “BOOM!” scene cut to a large picture of Rick Castle’s face.

The episode opens in typical Castle style to a sinister atmosphere with a horrid crime about to happen, yet we only get to see enough to imagine what will happen before we are subjected to a drastic scene change (in mood and color) to the Castles’ apartment. The problems of a murdered
Source: | © ABC
woman are once again not so seriously set opposite the slightly more trivial problems of the multi-millionaire mystery writer. Castle will be awarded with “Poe’s Pen” during a ceremony and has to make the vain decision which of his giant heads should be hung up at the award ceremony: “serious and brooding” or “friendly, accessible, ruggedly handsome” Richard Castle. I have to agree with Martha on this one, when she says: “[We] like both his giant heads equally”. After some “head to head” puns from Castle’s side and some good old-fashioned family banter between him, Alexis, Martha, and an amused Kate, it really feels like the Castle-Clan’s got their groove back.

The euphoria doesn’t last long when Castle, Beckett, and the boys are called in for the death of the poor girl we saw in the beginning of the episode. Upon seeing the carvings on her face the cops immediately think of a ritualistic murder, but Castle recognizes the wounds as something even worse. It is a memory that takes him back 30 years. The day is finally here folks! After 7 years of wondering, bogus stories from Castle, and hearing in detail what made Kate who she is today, we finally get to hear Castle’s origin story: An 11-year-old Rick witnessed a murder in Hollander’s Woods committed by a dark figure in a porcelain mask. The killed girl had the same carvings as their murder victim of the present and it burned itself into the young boy’s mind. Threatened by the masked man not to tell, this murder became the drive and inspiration for Rick Rodgers to become Richard Edgar Castle. Here the memories of young Richard are nicely cross-cut against current witness accounts and the significance of this case finds a great canvas to be painted on in Nathan Fillion’s face. Ageing is doing beautiful things to his serious acting.

After all these years we finally get some answers. – Richard Castle

While the mystery of the present is grave, it unfolds in a way that is typical for Castle and that lifts some of the darkness through wit. Rick has a hunch and Ryan and Esposito doubt him. When asked to check into the 30-year-old murder the boys are less than amused.

Sure, we just have to call all municipal police departments in the area – Espo
– Aaand wait for them to stop laughing… long enough to beg them to check their dusty storage rooms – Ryan

As always Kate not so secretly believes Castle and in the end it turns out he is right. Like most of the time on Television it isn’t the obvious mentally unstable sociopath, but his psychiatrist that turns out
Source: | © ABC
to be the mass murderer. This episode once again foregrounds all the perks the unconventional partnership between Castle and Beckett has. She has all the means and strategies to tackle a case, while he is emotionally motivated and thinks outside of the box. Their trust in each other, something that has been questioned multiple times throughout the season, is there completely in those woods and in the barn, where Castle goes to face off the demon of his childhood. Kate has to listen to him being killed on the other side of a locked barn door, yet is calm enough to hand him her gun, when Castle sticks out his hand to her.

The showdown between Castle and his nemesis in the barn really works well aesthetically with the fight taking place in near darkness that resembles Castle’s first meeting with the killer, and rescue coming from the light outside the barn in form of Beckett’s gun. The breaking of the spell, the masked man had on our hero, is then also made apparent by the breaking of said villain’s porcelain mask on the barn floor. Richard Castle, freed of his past demons, now has a bright future ahead of him.

One day you will look back and you will realize that every experience you’ve ever had, every seeming mistake or blind alley was actually a straight line to who you were meant to be. Castle

Another person in this episode that is seriously thinking about her future is Kate Beckett. Having taken the Captain’s exam she is now waiting for the results. While of course we are
Source: | © ABC
sure Beckett did as well on that as she does with everything she tackles, things are a bit more complicated. In one of the strongest, if not the best, scenes of this episode Kate is sent to 1PP for a disciplinary hearing. Here you can see power relations at play. In an almost empty marble and wooden court room Beckett is faced with two figures of authority towering above her. Shot in an almost bird’s-eye perspective and shady lighting Beckett is viciously attacked from the stand. Even her capability to be a detective is put in question and she is dismissed without getting a word in. In all 7 seasons Kate Beckett seldom looked this small. While everyone watching is still in shock, Beckett – already on her way out – finds her backbone and the whole focus of the scene shifts. She turns around and now the camera levels both her and her critics. Enter the Kate Beckett we know and love that faces things head-on:

I said you’re wrong. In every case you have referenced, I have not only successfully brought the killer to justice, but I did so with the utmost respect for the law and for the department I represent. And regarding my relationship with Mr. Castle, he is proven to be a brilliant partner, and he’s always had my back. And as for his fictional representation of me, I’m proud to have been his inspiration and I am proud to be his wife. You asked how do I expect to lead. By continuing to fight for what’s right, not for what’s easy. My job is to protect the citizens of New York and I will do it by doing my job better than anyone else and getting results. I don’t cross the line. I put myself on it. And if you have any more questions, you can ask the families of the victims which I have served. Beckett

In a slightly shocking turn of events Beckett’s outburst leads to her being asked to run for the New York state senate (remember the time traveler anyone?). After everything about herself, her career, and her choices was in question when she entered the room, Beckett now holds the moral high-ground again. A bright future ahead of her, she now has some decisions to make.
Source: | © ABC

Also Ryan and Esposito are celebrating their ‘maniversary’ this episode, which marks the 10th anniversary of their police partnership. To celebrate the occasion they engage in their usual banter and Castle-teasing.

In other words, what started out as a dark and traumatizing episode left everyone in a very good place. The episode provided closure for Castle, who really came full circle at the award ceremony for ‘Poe’s Pen Career Achievement Award’: Richard Castle is presented with the award by his friend (and real life mystery novelist) Michael Connelly. Connelly starts his speech with the very first words spoken in the pilot “Murder, mystery, the macabre…”. Then spoken by Gina, the words seemed to signal a final send-off for a writer, who had run out of fresh ideas and resigned to writers’ block. Now, 7 years on, those same words are used to announce said writer’s career achievement award, attesting to Castle’s greatness and perseverance to overcome all obstacles thrown in his way. Immature playboy Rick Castle of the pilot has experienced a lot of personal and professional growth, made apparent for everyone in his acceptance speech that is miles away from the chest-signing author of the pilot:

I’ve spent a lot of time in the last few days, thinking about how I got here, the long hours, the blank pages. Most people think that writing is a solitary profession. That we spend our days in our imaginary worlds fighting, loving, dying, but we don’t do it alone, because anything that’s good in our writing comes from truth and the truth is I’m here because of the people in my life. Mother, you will always be a star in my eyes. And Alexis you amaze me every day. You two are my red headed pillars of unconditional love. To my friends at the twelfth precinct, you let me in, especially you two, Javier and Kevin. You made me your brother in arms and I thank you for that. And Kate, seven years ago I thought I would never write again and then you walked through the door and my whole world changed. You were right. You said I had no idea, but now I do. This is because of you, because of us. Always. Castle

With everyone we hold near and dear in the Castle-verse gathered for the ceremony, this might have been a great closing scene for the story, but luckily it only turned out to be the end of the MilMar chapter. With Ryan and Esposito in a good place, Alexis exploring her post-college opportunities, Castle having overcome his demons and Kate facing major career changes, the crew looks good for many more adventures. And in the words of Jenny:

Uhhh, I would so [watch] that!

©Always 100 Coffees | ABC


Wednesday, 13 May 2015

TV Show Review: Castle Season 7

©Stana Katic Central | ABC

So, that’s a wrap, people! Monday night’s “Hollander’s Woods“ was the season 7 finale of ABC’s Castle – and at times you really could feel that ‘seven year itch’ looming in the background. A new show runner stepped in for Andrew Marlowe and Terri Miller, and with pending contract negotiations Castle’s future seemed less than secure. In fact it remained that way until yesterday, when leading lady Stana Katic finally renewed her contract and Alexi Hawley and Terence Paul Winter were announced as new show runners.

This set-up explains a lot with regard to the final episode of the season. To me – and probably intended so by writers and producers – it felt like this might have not only been the season, but also a series finale. It would have worked, too, story-wise as well as aesthetically, but I still felt like there was more to the story. Thank God Richard Castle is not ready to put his pen down just yet! Needless to say there were no shocking cliffhangers and everyone has a bright future ahead of them.

But let’s start from the beginning: Before season 7, with Beckett’s mom’s murder finally solved, the show creators decided that this season would be more about Rick Castle’s background. How could it not be, when Castle was abducted on his wedding day in last year’s season finale only to show up months later with no recollection of what had happened to him?

Overall, this season was more than solid. While for me there was some of the spark and tongue-in-cheek quality of the show missing this year, on paper you could check off most of the features you have come to expect.
Source: International Business Times | © ABC

• Castle getting himself into all kinds of      trouble 
• Caskett still solid 
•Weird, nerdy cases leaning towards the    fictional/ unrealistic 
• Ryan and Esposito bromance 
• Strange theories by Rick Castle 
• Rick Castle going rogue (this time even as a    PI) 
• A strong sense for pop-culture 

Season 7 saw some quirky cases like “The Time of Our Lives” (7x06), in which Castle accidentally got stuck in an alternative universe, or “Once Upon a Time in the West” (7x07) that saw Castle and Beckett enjoy a western style honeymoon – duel and tumbleweed included. Oh, and remember that time they also stepped on Mars in full astronaut gear (7x16)? While ridiculously over the top at times, these episodes always work well. They are parodies and homage to different genres and ‘nerd-obsessions’ and make up an important part of the show. Sadly, this year they were a little far and few in between.

The focus was rather set on the mystery behind Rick Castle’s disappearance, it seemed, and other demons lurking in his past. Castle’s abduction in the finale of season 6 was shocking, but the way it was resolved in the early episodes of the new season was a bit disappointing. Another conspiracy
Source: | © ABC
plot? Really? Over the course of the season small hints were dropped that shed light on the events 
piece by piece. Desperate good-bye videos to his family and mysterious men in dark houses only supported the cliché feel of the storyline that had started with the wedding-interrupted the year before. The solution, then, to all problems came to Castle – like many times before – in his mind, or rather in his dreams. “Sleeper (7x20) saw him remember bits and pieces of his absence. Expecting the worst, the resolution of this story revealed Rick to be the unsung hero of a top secret CIA operation, during which he had saved a former classmate of his. Alright then…

But it wasn’t all bad this season. Always a sucker for the underlying sub-plots, I enjoyed the subtle personal and private growth of the characters a lot. Be it Ryan’s anxiety over Sarah Grace’s college funds or Esposito finally growing up a bit and realizing he’s not 25 anymore, I loved it. In any case, the show’s brilliant supporting roles were given the chance to shine individually this year. “Kill Switch” (7x08) sent Jon Huertas’ Javier Esposito center stage into a hostage situation. In “At Close Range” (7x18) Kevin Ryan’s (Seamus Dever) second job got him into the middle of an assassination plot and finally, Molly Quinn’s Alexis didn’t only encounter snakes but also death and theft on a motherf***ing plane in “In Plane Sight” (7x21).
Source: | © ABC

The show also brought its traditional two-parter back after omitting it last season. As per usual these were two of the season’s strongest episodes. The final showdown between Rick Castle and everyone’s favorite psychopath 3XK was intense, especially when Tyson raised the stakes by kidnapping Beckett. Suspense built up over 80 minutes, guided by strong performances by Fillion and Katic. The latter, for plot-related reasons, didn’t have as much opportunity to shine this season, compared to previous ones, but here she had the chance and she delivered. Yet, the strong build-up was followed by a 3-5 minute resolution (in which Castle shot and supposedly killed his nemesis) and by the time the credits rolled, I still couldn’t believe that this was supposed to be it.

Source: | © ABC
The darker episodes overshadowed the light episodes by far this season, if not in number then with storyline residue looming over the lighter episodes. There was a good bit of fun but not as much as in past seasons and if there, the light atmosphere seemed a bit tainted. This became most apparent to me when looking at Castle and Beckett’s relationship. Despite strong performances, and although the characters did finally manage to get married in an intimate ceremony, the spark and levity of past seasons just weren’t felt as much.

Yet, all this changed in the final episode of season 7. “Hollander’s Woods”, written (as we now know) as a last farewell by the show’s creators Andrew Marlowe and Terri Miller, brought back the character dynamics and rhythm we have come to know and love.

Read all about “Hollander’s Woods” in our episode close-up.


What did you think of Castle's season 7? Let us know in the comment section below.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Manic Monday: Pitch Perfect 2

©US Weekly
Blast! It's Monday again... that day of the week when everything just seems a little more annoying/hard/tiresome/cruel. On this week's Manic Monday we are sharing the sentiment with the Barden Bellas. Remember the Bellas? That weird yet awesome acapella group from 'High School Musical All Grown Up' aka Pitch Perfect? Well, they must have had a lot of Mondays since the first movie, because in the trailer for Pitch Perfect 2 - in theaters this week - their harmony seems to have gone missing:

So, aca-awesome BSPeeps, let's tackle this third week of May together and we'll get through it :) After all summer is finally here! Enjoy good weather in good spirits, and we'll soon get to see the Bellas back at their aca-awesomest again as well!