Review: The Girlfriend Experience


The Girlfriend Experience

In 2009, Steven Soderbergh released a little independent film called The Girlfriend Experience starring, who at that time, was one of the adult industry’s biggest stars in Sasha Grey. The film explored and dealt with the life of a high-class escort by the name of Chelsea as she navigated the world of powerful men and the effect of money in monetizing something as intimate and personal as being someone’s girlfriend. It wasn’t a film that had many supporters. Most saw the inexperience of Sasha Grey as a dramatic actress hamstringing what was an interesting look at the dual themes of sex and capitalism.

It’s now 2016 and the premium cable channel Starz has released a new dramatic series inspired by the very same Soderbergh film mentioned above, but not beholden to it’s characters and storyline. Where Sasha Grey’s character of Chelsea seemed more like an on-screen cipher the audience was suppose to imprint whatever their expectations onto, this series has a more traditional narrative of a young woman whose attempt to balance in her life a burgeoning career in law (she’s just earned an internship at a prestigious Chicago law firm) with her discovery of her inherent sexuality while dipping her toes into the high-end sex-workers trade of the so-called “girlfriend experience.”

Riley Keough (last seen as the Citadel wife Capable who both romanced and mothers Nicholas Hoult’s War Boy Nux) plays Christine Reade as a struggling law firm intern who has worked hard to get where she’s at and continues to do so both as an intern and as a continuing law student. Yet, she also has the same problems many young people the past couple decades have had when it comes to earning their degrees. Debt has become a major issue and finding ways to make ends meet while still holding onto their dream profession becomes more and more difficult. Christine, at the encouragement of a close friend (played by Kate Lyn Sheil), tries her hand at becoming a high-price escort.

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Just like the film it’s loosely based on, the series tries in the beginning to paint the high-priced escort profession that Christine gets herself into as very glamorous. Christine’s clients are white men who are older, rich and powerful. Men whose own interpersonal relationships with those close to them have been left behind in their quest for power. They see in Christine a sort of commodity to help fill in a need missing in their life even if false and just a transactional role-play experience.

Showrunners Amy Seimetz (who plays Christine’s sister Annabel) and Lodge Kerrigan (independent filmmakers and writers of renown) have created a show that explores not just the dual nature of how sex has become just another commodity in a world that’s becoming more and more capitalistic, but also a show that explores the nature of a professional woman in a world where they’re told that in order to fit in with the “men” they must suppress their sexual side. It’s a series that doesn’t hold back it’s punches in showing how the patriarchal nature of the professional world (it could be law, business, Hollywood, etc.) makes it difficult for women like Christine to try and be a successful professional and still retain their sexual nature. It’s a world up-ended and shown it’s cruel and ugly nature by Christine with every new client she meets and entertains.

The show and it’s writers (both of whom took turns directing each of the 13-episodes of the first season) don’t pass any sort of judgement on Christine’s choice of working as a high-paid escort. This series doesn’t look at these sex-workers as beneath what normal society expects of it’s women, both young and old. They instead want to explore the why’s of their decision to enter into such a career even if it means hampering their initial chosen profession. They’ve come up with some intriguing ideas of this world of escorts and powerful men walking through their lives always pretending to be one thing then another. A world where half-lies and made up personas have say much about the true natures of each individual as it does of the world around them.

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Christine enters this world of becoming a “girlfriend experience” as a rebellious, adventurous lark, but finds out that her keen, observant and adaptable mind which has served her well in her rise as a law student and intern also serves her well in her new side-career. While her friend Avery who first introduces her to the world sees it all as a rush and exhilarating experience to be done here and there, Christine finds herself drawn deeper into the world as she goes from being represented to finally going off on her own as a freelancer. She’s her own boss and she controls what goes on with this new life.

Yet, The Girlfriend Experience is not all about the glass and steel, cold and calculating glamour of Christine’s new world. Just as she’s reached the heights of her new found power over the very system which tells her what she can and cannot be, outside forces that she thought was in her control brings her back to the reality of her choices throughout the first half of the series. For all the money, power and control she has achieved her old world as a law student and intern begins to fall apart as it intersects with her new one. It’s to the writers credit that they don’t give Christine any easy outs, but do allow her character to decide for herself how to get through both her professional and personal crisis.

While both showrunners Seimetz and Kerrigan have much to do with the brilliance of The Girlfriend Experience it all still hinges on the performance of it’s lead in Riley Keough. She’s practically in every scene and she grows as a performer right before out eyes. From the moment we see her we’re instantly drawn to her character. Hair up in an innocent ponytail and dressed very conservatively as she starts her internship, we still sense more to her character and we’re rewarded with each new episode as Keough’s performance with not just her acting both verbal and silent. Whether it’s the subtle changes in her expression as she transitions from an attentive “girlfriend”, supportive “confidant” and then to a calculating and all-business “escort” and all in a span of a brief scene.

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Even the scenes where some audience may find titillating (even for premium cable like Starz, the sex in The Girlfriend Experience are quite eye-opening without being exploitative.), Keough manages to convey her true feelings with her eyes, while her body language convinces her latest client that it’s all real. She’s able to slip into whatever fantasy her client pays for and, in the end, whatever fantasy she wants to insert herself into in order to escape the terrible reality which has hardened and prepared her for the “real world” that all young people in college aspire to join.

The Girlfriend Experience might have been born out of an cinematic experiment by the icon of independent filmmaking, but it more than stands on it’s own take on ideas and themes (while adding and introducing some of their own) that Soderbergh tried to explore. With Sasha Grey’s performance as Chelsea proving to be a divisive reason whether Soderbergh’s film was a success or a failure, with Seimetz and Kerrigan they found in Riley Keough’s performance as Christine Reade a protagonist that engenders not just sympathy but at times frustration. Her Christine Reade doesn’t conform to what society thinks women should be when out and about in public and, for some men, when in private, as well.

The same could be said about this series as it doesn’t fit into any particular narrative and thematic box that we as a viewer have become trained to. It’s both a series exploring the existential idea of sexual identity and the commodifying power that capitalism has had on things intimate and personal. It’s also a series about a young woman’s journey of self-discovery that doesn’t just highlight the high’s but also shows how precipitous the fall can and will be when the traditionalists object. The show also performs well as a thriller due to the exceptional score composed by another brilliant indie-filmmaker. You may know him under the name of Shane Carruth.

The Girlfriend Experience doesn’t have the pulp sensibilities of such shows as The Walking Dead or the rabid following of Game of Thrones, but as of 2016 it’s probably the best new show of the year and here’s to hoping that more people discover it’s brilliance before it goes away.

Review: Ash vs. Evil Dead 1.5 “The Host”


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Just forty minutes ago, I was in the process of deciding what I was going to wear to a Christmas party tomorrow night when I suddenly realized that I had yet to write up a review of the latest episode of Ash vs. Evil Dead.

AGCK!

Seriously, I was shocked and ashamed of myself.  It’s not just the fact that I take some earned pride in being consistent as far as my reviews are concerned.  There was also the fact that The Host was one of the best episodes of Ash vs. Evil Dead so far.

It’s also one of the most important because The Host is perhaps the first episode not to solely focus on Ash and Bruce Campbell.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love Bruce Campbell and I imagine you do as well.  Bruce will always be the main reason that we watch Ash Vs. Evil Dead.  But, at the same time, Ash is not the only character on the show.  There’s also Kelly and Pablo.  While Dana DeLorenzo and Ray Santiago have both had some strong moments, both Kelly and especially Pablo have largely existed in Ash’s shadow, with Kelly briefly capturing the spotlight during the 2nd episode.  With The Host, Pablo finally got his chance to shine.

And really, when I rewatched The Host, it was hard not to feel that the show itself was specifically acknowledging that Pablo and Kelly needed an opportunity to establish their own identities outside of just being Ash’s sidekicks.  This episode, after all, opened up with Ash bound and gagged (which, as we all know, is probably the only way to keep Ash from talking).  For fifteen minutes, Ash was incapacitated and Kelly and Pablo finally got their moment.

And both Dana DeLorenzo and Ray Santiago made the most of it.  The highlight of this episode was definitely watching the very earnest Pablo interact with the possessed Kelly.  There was actually something rather touching about the way Pablo nervously interacted with the suddenly aggressive Kelly.  I was half-convinced that Kelly would be able to talk him into sucking on the barrel of that shotgun, just because Pablo seemed to be so genuinely upset about saying no to her.  For the first time in this series, Pablo was something more than just Ash’s sidekick.  During The Host, he finally emerged as an individual with a personality all of his own.

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And it’s actually a pretty appealing personality.  Pablo may not be any smarter than Ash but he’s still a lot less destructive.  Assuming that he can ever get over his blind hero worship, Pablo could actually be a very good influence on Ash.  You need Ash to save the world from the Deadites but you also need Pablo to save the world from Ash.

Speaking of Ash, he did eventually get untied.  With the help of Pablo and Pablo’s uncle, he finally managed to get that demon to leave Kelly’s body.  Of course, the Brujo was killed during the exorcism but that’s to be expected.  With the exception of Pablo and Kelly, anyone who helps Ash ends up getting killed.  That’s just the way it goes.  At least the Brujo died an honorable death in a worth episode.

There are only five episode left of Ash vs. Evil Dead!  Who will Ash end up getting killed next?

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Review: Ash vs. Evil Dead 1.4 “Brujo”


Pablo (Ray Santiago), Ash (Bruce Campbell), and Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo) in Ash vs. Evil Dead

Pablo (Ray Santiago), Ash (Bruce Campbell), and Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo) in Ash vs. Evil Dead

With this being a week full of birthdays and holidays, it took me a while to finally get around to watching Brujo, the fourth episode of the Starz original series, Ash vs. Evil Dead. However, I’m happy to say that I just watched it and here are a few thoughts.

Hopefully, these will be coherent thoughts. As I sit here typing this, it’s 4 in the morning and I’m only half awake. But then again, Ash vs. Evil Dead is the perfect show to watch when you’re only half awake. First off, the show itself is wonderfully uncomplicated. The Deadites spend their time chasing Ash. Ash spends his time saying anything that pops into his head. Pablo spends his time idolizing Ash. Kelly spends her time wondering how she got stuck in this mess. Whenever things do get complicated, it’s because Ash has done something stupid. To quote Brujo, when it comes to Ash, “the flame is dim, but it flickers.”

Secondly, Ash vs. Evil Dead is pretty much nonstop mayhem. This episode, for instance, opened with Ash in a car chase and then moved on to Ruby (Lucy Lawless) stomping on the head of a Deadite. In doing so, Ruby saved the life of Fisher (Jill Marie Jones), the state trooper who was previously left handcuffed in harm’s way by Ash. Among other things, this episode revealed that Ruby is the daughter of Professor Knowby and blames Ash for the death of her family in Evil Dead 2. Ruby, it turns out, has also been hauling around Ash’s possessed hand in the back of her car.

Seriously, how could you sleep through that?

The majority of tonight’s episode dealt with Brujo leading Ash on a drug-fueled vision quest. We got to see the inside of Ash’s mind and … oh my God. Seriously, it was everything I was expecting it to be and more. Ash’s mind was revealed to be a cluttered collection of 80s music, 80s porn, 80s television, 80s cars, and nonstop retail employment. It’s a world where every magazine is Playboy, every song has a lengthy guitar solo, and there’s way too much neon.

When, as a part of his vision quest, Ash found himself blind, he heard the voice of Brujo telling him to calm down.

“Stop being a little bitch,” Brujo told him.

“You’re being a bitch, dude!” Ash snapped back.

Oh, Ash – don’t ever change.

During Ash’s quest/trip, he not only found himself in his ideal location – Jacksonville, Florida – but he also suddenly once again had two hands. “Brujo!” Ash exclaimed, staring down at his two hands, “I need two beers!”

While all this was going on, we got a fun scene of Pablo and Kelly making Ash a new prosthetic hand. Up until this point, Pablo and Kelly have both existed in Ash’s shadow but, in these scenes, they both got a chance to establish their own characters and their own chemistry and it was charming to watch.

Unfortunately, we then discovered that Kelly was possessed by Eligos, the frightening demon that Ash made the mistake of summoning during the last episode. If you’ll remember, it originally appeared that Kelly got rid of Eligos by hitting him with The Necronomicon. At the time, I felt that was a bit too simple of a way to banish Eligos and it turns out that I was right. Instead of returning to Hell, Eligos entered Kelly and eventually, he showed up in Ash’s trip. Suddenly, Ash’s idealized dream world of Jacksonville, Florida turned into the nightmarish stockroom of Value Mart and Ash had to do battle with Eligos.

And, to his credit, Ash appeared to have the upper hand on Eligos. However, defeating Eligos in his mind also meant that Ash was strangling Kelly in the real world. Pablo came to the rescue, hitting Ash in the back of his head and apparently knocking him out. As this episode came to a close, Ash was still unconscious, Kelly was still possessed, Fisher and Ruby was still driving around with Ash’s hand in the back seat, and nobody seemed to be doing much about the Deadite invasion…

Hmmm…actually, I guess Ash vs. Evil Dead isn’t quite as simple as I said.   Seriously, things are starting to get downright complicated.

Anyway, as for the episode itself, I liked it but then again, I’ve liked every episode of Ash vs. Evil Dead. I’ve read some complaints that the series has yet to settle on a consistent tone but quite frankly, I think that’s one reason why Ash vs. Evil Dead is so enjoyable. It is joyfully and unapologetically messy and inconsistent. There’s no way you can predict what’s going to happen because literally anything can happen and probably will. The show is completely insane and totally excessive but it’s anchored by Bruce Campbell’s lead performance. In a world where there is no logic, Ash Williams is king.

You don’t watch a show like Ash vs. Evil Dead because it makes sense. You watch because it features Bruce Campbell saying things like, “You’re a bitch, dude.” So far, Ash vs. Evil Dead has totally delivered.

Enjoy Jacksonville, Ash.

Enjoy Jacksonville, Ash.

Review: Ash vs. Evil Dead Season 1 Episode 3 “Books From Beyond”


The adventures of Ash Williams, humanity’s only hope, continued last night on Starz.  The third episode of Ash Vs. Evil Dead found Ash going to an occult book store and essentially screwing things up and getting at least one person killed.

That’s not really a big shock.  That’s pretty much what Ash Williams does.  He’s been fighting the Evil Dead for longer than I’ve been alive and he still doesn’t quite seem to know what he’s doing.  I mean, let’s be honest — if Ash would stop reading aloud from that book, the entire world would have been saved a lot of trouble.  Really, we should all hate Ash but how can you hate Bruce Campbell?

It’s undeniably true that for many of us, Ash and Bruce Campbell pretty much are interchangeable.  That’s a bit unfair to Bruce, who seems to be a much more intelligent person than Ash and I also assume that Bruce is probably less likely to indulge in as much casual racism as Ash.  That said, I have a feeling that if I ever meet Groovy Bruce in person, I will be disappointed to discover that he actually has two hands.

And really, Bruce-as-Ash is the main appeal of a show like Ash vs. Evil Dead.  Don’t get me wrong.  I think Dana DeLorenzo is great as Kelly and Ray Santiago has his moments as Pablo.  So does Jill Maries Jones, even if the character of Detective Jones feels a bit underwritten.  Lucy Lawless was in last night’s episode, playing the mysterious Ruby Knowby and I can’t wait until she and Bruce actually get to share some scenes together because I think the Ruby/Ash confrontation is going to be amazing.

But, ultimately, we’re all watching for Bruce-as-Ash.  There’s a reason why Ash gets his name in the title.

As for last night’s episode, Ash took his copy of The Necronomicon to Books from Beyond, so he could get the store’s owner, Lionel Hawkins (Kelson Henderson), to read from it and hopefully find a way to send the Deadites back to Hell.  There was something really endearing about how excited Lionel was to see The Necronomicon and discover that he hadn’t been wasting his life.  Of course, unfortunately, Lionel ended up getting killed but not before he got the best line of the night: “The book is harmless except when wielded by someone very evil or very stupid.”

Ash’s bright idea, of course, was to summon another demon that would presumably then defeat the Deadites.  (Somehow, Ash got it into his head that this was actually Pablo’s idea.)  From the minute the demon showed up and Lionel warned Ash not to break the circle, I knew that Ash was going to break the circle.

As a result of Ash being Ash, Lionel was killed.  Fortunately, Kelly was there to somehow vanquish the demon by hitting it over the head with The Necronomicon.  Also there was Detective Fisher, who was still investigating her partner’s mysterious death.  Ash ended up handcuffing her to a shelf and apparently forgot about her.  Either that or Ash seriously didn’t realize that Lionel would come back as a Deadite and that the handcuffed Fisher would apparently have no way to escape him.

So, will Fisher escape?  Things didn’t look good for her at the end of last night’s episode but I have a feeling Lucy Lawless will show up and save her.

As for Ash — well, as he put it last night: “At heart, I’m an alone wolf.”

You certainly are, Ash.  You certainly are.

Review: Ash vs. Evil Dead Season 1 Episode 2 “Bait”


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So, I finally got a chance to watch Bait, the second episode of Ash vs. Evil Dead, and you know what?  It will probably never happen because this isn’t exactly a traditional awards-bait show and, if the somber and ultraserious Walking Dead can’t get any Emmy love, I doubt that Ash vs. Evil Dead will ever do any better.  But, seriously, Mimi Rogers totally deserves an Emmy for her performance in Bait.

I’m not sure which category she would win for.  I guess Best Actress in a Comedy Series, though I think it’s a bit too simplistic to say that Ash vs. Evil Dead is just a comedy.  It’s true that Ash vs. Evil Dead is full of funny moments and Bruce Campbell can make me laugh just by narrowing his eyes but, at the same time, there’s some pretty dark stuff going on in this “comedy.”  And the Deadites are genuinely scary!  It’s not just the makeup and the voices.  There’s also the fact that they come to us in the form of the people that we love and, more often than not, they reveal the inner demons of our loved ones.

I mean, think about it.  What if you had to choose between becoming a zombie or becoming a Deadite?  I think I’d rather be a zombie.  After all, a zombie is just a walking body.  You may recognize the body but you know that the soul and the mind are no longer there.  If I became a zombie, you could shoot me in the head without worrying about hurting my feelings.  In fact, I wouldn’t even know that I was a zombie.  And, if someone I loved became a zombie, I’m pretty sure that I could put them down if I had to.  Because, again, a zombie is just a body without a personality.  I mean, zombies can’t even talk!

But Deadites — oh my God!  No way would I want to become one of those.  Deadites still have a personality.  You can’t shut them up.  Up until they start drooling and talking in that evil voice, Deadites can still act like human beings.  That false hint of lingering humanity would make it impossible for me to kill a Deadite.

I guess that’s why we’re lucky to have Ash Williams around.  Ash is infamous for not being particularly smart but, as the Evil Dead franchise continually reminds us, his stupidity is his greatest strength.  Ash doesn’t get caught up in the specifics.  He doesn’t worry about the why.  Instead, he just does what he has to do.  He’s a blue-collar hero, in his way.

As for the 2nd episode of Ash vs. Evil Dead, it featured Ash and Pablo saving Kelly from her Deadite mom, played by Mimi Rogers.  It took Ash a while to convince Kelly that her mom was actually a Deadite.  In fact, Kelly didn’t really believe it until her mom stabbed her father in the eye with a fork.

What made this episode especially memorable was that Kelly’s mom was almost as scary when she was normal as when she was a Deadite.  The scene where Ash, Pablo, Kelly, and the parents had an awkward dinner together was full of cringe-worthy moments.  It was obvious that there were problems in the family even before mom killed dad.  Becoming a Deadite allowed Kelly’s mom the chance to express her true feelings towards everyone.

Fortunately, Ash was there with his trusty chainsaw.

And, happily, he’ll be back on Saturday as well!

Which is good because Ash Williams may be our only hope…

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Review: Ash vs. Evil Dead Season 1 Episode 1 “El Jefe”


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Last night, like all good horror fans, I sat down and I watched the premiere of the new Starz show, Ash vs. Evil Dead!

And it was groovy!

Okay, I’m sorry.  I imagine that I am one of about 100,000 reviewers who started a review of Ash vs. Evil Dead by saying that it was groovy.  That is probably the most obvious thing that I could have possibly said and, as someone who prides herself on being both an original and a contrarian, I should be deeply ashamed.

But I’m not.  Because, seriously — groovy was the perfect description for this show.  Even if it wasn’t the catch phrase of both Ash Williams and Bruce Campbell, it would still be just the right word to use.  After all, when Ash vs. Evil Dead was first announced, I know that a lot of people were worried that the show would somehow fail to live up to the legacy of the Evil Dead.  They were worried that Starz would attempt to unnecessarily update the concept or that they would go The Walking Dead route and come up with a dark drama about a grim-faced Ash Williams trying to survive in a world that has been overrun by Deadites.

Well, after seeing the premiere episode, the world does seem to be in danger of being overrun by Deadites but Ash Williams is anything but grim-faced.  Perhaps he should be, since it’s all kind of his fault.

When the first episode of Ash vs. Evil Dead opened, we discovered that Ash was living in a trailer park and that actually seemed rather appropriate.  We also discovered that Ash is no longer encouraging people to “Shop smart.  Shop S-mart.”  No, instead he’s working at Value Mart.  His co-worker, Pablo (Ray Santiago) looks up to Ash even before Ash tells him about what happened during the first two Evil Dead films.  His other co-worker, Kelly (Donna Delorenzo), is a lot less impressed by Ash but he certainly likes her.

What does Ash spend his time doing?  Well, he likes to go down to the local bar and make up stories about why he has a “rosewood” hand.  And, during the first few minutes of the episode, he keeps seeing people suddenly transformed into Deadites.  Even when he’s at work, he ends up getting attacked by an apparently possessed doll, a scene that allows Bruce Campbell to show off his flair for physical comedy.

Why are the Deadites back?  Simply put, they’re back because Ash fucked up.  That shouldn’t really be a surprise to anyone because that’s kind of what Ash does.  (Fortunately, he’s played by Bruce Campbell so we love him anyway.)  In this case, Ash was stoned and he decided to impress a one night stand by reading the Necronomicon Ex Mortis.

(If Ash actually learned from his mistakes, he just wouldn’t be Ash.)

One thing I liked about the first episode of Ash vs. Evil Dead is that it didn’t waste any time getting right to what everyone wanted to see.  It opened with the assumption that, if you were watching, you already knew about the twisted history of Ash and the Deadites.  This episode was directed by Sam Raimi and it was full of everything that you could possibly want — cray camera angles, insane tracking shots, slapstick comedy, and blood.  And I do mean a lot of blood.  Whenever the episode threatened to get too serious, Bruce Campbell popped up with another bit of physical comedy or a strangely inspired line reading.  Whenever things threatened to get too silly, a Deadite would suddenly show up and start screaming.  (The Deadites are always scary, regardless of how much comedy may be going on around them.)  Raimi and Campbell struck a perfect balance between comedy and horror.

I imagine that, for many, the premiere’s big applause scene came when Ash and his chainsaw met in mid-air.  It was a perfect moment and hopefully, the rest of the series will follow the premiere’s lead.

Because if it does, this show is going to be really …. groovy.

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Quick TV Review: Black Sails – Episode One.


BlackSailsPoster-610x903As HBO is usually pretty successful when it comes to its wide array of shows, other channels have thrown their hats into the ring. Showtime was quick to follow them and HBO’s sister channel Cinemax now has two shows under their belt with Strike Back & Banshee.

Starz is still a baby at the series game, but they’ve had an arsenal of their own. With the Spartacus series wrapped up and DaVinci’s Demons’ 2nd season prepped to go later this year, Starz is looking to get more of its shows out the door.

Black Sails is Starz’ latest entry.  It starts off running out of the gate, but it’s hard to tell if the show really has legs at this point. Although the premiere is January 25 (tonight, as of this writing), the full episode was released both online and on the Starz on Demand channel for the past week. Either they’re confident this will increase viewership or they perhaps figure the show may not get as far as it should. Either way, it’s available to see.

I like it, I do, but so far I have 3 problems with Black Sails:

1.) I feels too much like the video game Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag. This is a mixed bag. If you’ve played the videogame, you know the environment and all of the sea battles in Black Sails have a familiarity to them that will leave you smiling. You may not feel as lost in the show if you’ve played the game or picked up a history book. On the flip side, because there’s a game just like it, it’s quite possible that Black Flag could steal (or already has) Black Sails’ thunder if the show doesn’t come across as exciting.  I’m hoping it’s the first case, myself.

2.) Michael Bay’s name is attached to it. It’s invoked like it’s Bruckheimer, and I suppose that when his name is mentioned, one probably thinks of explosions and girls. Black Sails has that all over the place, but that could have happened without Bay’s name. It could be a deterrent to some who still have the bad taste of films like Transformers: Dark of the Moon in their mouths. Let’s be honest, what kind of name is Dark of the Moon anyway?

3.) Rather than taking the mystical route of DaVinci’s Demons or the more swashbuckling style of something like Pirates of the Carribean or Cutthroat Island, Black Sails shoots for something more ruthless and businesslike. The ruthlessness – the blood and gore (when it happens) is welcome. The business part of it all had me hoping that the series doesn’t keep moving in that direction over time. While I understand that the entire show can’t be on the sea (like Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World – how I love that film), that so much of it is on land made me sigh a little. In fact, the opening sequence of this really is the only part that actually takes place on the open sea.  It’s very similar to NBC’s Dracula. You expect a dark, brooding Vampire tale in Victorian London, and you get a political battle whose biggest highlight is Dracula showing up in the day for a business meeting. That’s not really fun.

To it’s credit, as the pilot, this episode has to establish all of the players involved. The grit of it all is interesting, at least. It’s dirty, maybe even a little dark, but it’s also a little boring to all have the minutiae of the dealings thrown out there like that. If I choose to think of the pirate battles in the same vein as Sons of Anarchy’s motorcycle chases, it’s possible we could have one sea battle every two or three episodes. Maybe that won’t be too bad overall, but they’re going to have to amp this up quick before they start losing the audience. Give us a swordfight or a musket fired or something.

Okay, here’s what we have:

Hoping to bring the same flair for violence to the pilot that he brought to one of Game of Thrones’ best episodes, Neil Marshall (Doomsday, Centurion, The Descent) does his best to give the West Indies in the 18th Century a bloody introduction to the audience. He does a great job with the content he’s given. You can’t complain about what you’re seeing in terms of the atmosphere. Black Sails starts in the open sea with a ship under attack. We come to find that the ship holds the key to a special cargo, one that Captain Flint (Toby Stephens, the Bond villian in Die Another Day) is dying to get his hands on. Flint, though considered a legend among the pirate world, is having a tough time holding on to his crew. Having led them on a wild goose case, some of the crew feels it’s time to replace Flint’s leadership with someone more able to bring everyone a profit.

As Flint’s crew take over the ship, they find John Silver (Luke Arnold), who has acquired a page ripped out of a book that the cook stole. He joins Flint’s crew, saving his own skin. When Flint finds the journals (and the book with the missing page), he decides to port into Nassau to meet with Richard Guthrie, a rich businessman who helps to fund some of his escapades. While getting themselves situated in Nassau, Silver realizes that the page he has must have come from one of the books and looks to see if he can locate where it came from. We come to find through the course of the episode that the page is the key to locating  a ship carrying a near incalculable wealth, more than enough to Flint’s crew to live happy.

That appears to be the main story arc in Black Sails. The show introduces a number of characters. You have Eleanor Guthrie (Malecifent’s Hannah New), who helps to keep the pirates in business while trying to forge a name for herself outside of her father. Max (Jessica Parker Kennedy, who I may name as a Hottie of the Day), a courtesan who makes side deals out of the local brothel. I like both of the women in Black Sails, but I can’t exactly say they’re the best of roles for either individual. They’re both strong in the sense that they can take care of themselves, yet (and maybe this is just me) I hoped that maybe for Eleanor in particular was a character that was calling the shots in her position. The pilot gives the impression when you first meet her that she does, but it kind of collapses into a yield between her and Captain Vane (Zach McGowan), who’s out to make himself the number one pirate of the Carribean. Perhaps as the series goes on, this will improve. Vane is your bad guy, that’s easy to see, but there’s so little shown about him that McGowan might as have had a mustache to twirl between his fingers.

So far, of the characters, Flint is the only one I have any kind of care about, and Stephens is delivering the best performance of everyone there. No one person is bad, though. I’m hoping his character can keep the crew enthralled. I haven’t seen enough of everyone else that endures me to them just yet, which is almost the same problem as Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. You know who’s involved, but give me a reason to think about them after the show fades to black. Even the slowest Walking Dead episodes leave me wondering and salivating for the next episode.

I’m ready to see where Flint goes, but I’m just not sure I’m sold on everyone else.

Hottie of the Day: Eva Green


EVA GREEN

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This week saw the announcement from The Weinstein Company and Robert Rodriguez’s studio that the most important role in the upcoming sequel to 2005’s Sin City has been cast. The actress cast for the role of Ava Lord, the sequel’s “A Dame to Kill For”, wasn’t the expected Angelina Jolie who had been 0ft-rumored to be Rodriguez’s first choice as the femme fatale for the sequel. When Angelina Jolie’s name wasn’t announced and another was instead the reaction from fans of the original comic book source wasn’t one of disappointment. The reaction from fans at this certain performer’s name being called instead was one of near-universal approval.

Eva Green, she of Bertolucci’s The Dreamers, Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven, Campbell’s Casino Royale and Starz’s own Morgan Le Fay, was going to play Ava Lord and Sin City fandom mightily approved.

Her smoldering eyes and classic femme fatale looks makes her an almost perfect fit for the role of Ava Lord. Ms. Green is not new to the role of dangerous and darkly, beautiful women who uses their sexuality as weapon to attack and defend what they want and have. She easily encapsulates the notion the idea of why the femme fatale continues to be such a tempting role for actresses. It’s a role that demands from it’s performer that they be able to pull off being someone’s dream but also their nightmare in equal amounts. I think I’ve heard someone else very close by being called that.

This is why Eva Green is the latest Hottie of the Day. Like one a certain someone with mismatched eyes and hair to match her personality, Eva Green is easily a man’s dream…but also can be his nightmare.

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PAST HOTTIES

Review: Torchwood: Miracle Day Ep. 08 “End of the Road”


“End of the Road” is quite an apt title for the eight episode in the fourth season of Torchwood. We see the end of a couple characters during the episode and at the same time we finally get the final pieces to the question of who or what caused “Miracle Day”.

The episode begins with the Torchwood team arriving at the Colasanto estate and led by Olivia Colasanto to her grandfather and Jack’s former companion and lover from the late 1920’s. We find out that Angelo Colasanto has kept himself alive through natural means, but is now in a coma as Jack looks on. Angelo’s condition when revealed almost felt like a cop out, but in a major exposition info dump done by his granddaughter we find out who is behind Miracle Day”. They’re called The Families and are made up of the descendants of the three men last seen in the previous episode forming an alliance to study Jack’s seeming immortality.

Angelo himself has been kept out of the alliance due to the three men’s discomfort over his homosexuality. Angelo has been observing not just the three families through the years, but Jack as well in an attempt to either stave off whatever plans The Families have in regards to the “Miracle” or, at the very least, give Jack the clues needed to fix the problem. But before Jack, Gwen, Esther and Rex can do their thing to save the day there’s the little obstacle of Rex’s old boss in the form of Wayne Knight interrupting the Jack/Colasanto reunion. The rest of the episode never lets go of the throttle once John De Lancie’s CIA head honcho Shapiro show’s up and we get closer to this season’s endgame.

The episode was well-written even with the major expositional scene involving Nana Visitor’s character. Each character in the Torchwood team got a chance to shine in their roles with Barrowman making Jack’s bittersweet reunion with Angelo a mixture of happiness and regret. If there was a weak point in the cast’s performance it would continue to be some of the side characters like Wayne Knight’s deputy director Friedkin and Bill Pullman’s Oswald Danes. While I can understand the role of Knight’s character in the overall scheme of things this season I still can’t quite grasp just exactly what Pullman’s Danes character is suppose to do other than be over-the-top creepy. Even Ambrose’s Kitzinger got a chance to own her scene as she finally unleashes what she truly feels about Oswald Danes despite having to be his publicist.

“End of the Road” ends on a major cliffhanger with one of the Torchwood team members shot and the team split apart as the CIA, The Families and everyone else seem to be pulling at them from all directions making their task about solving “Miracle Day” that much more difficult. With only two more episodes remaining this season what looked to be a show that seemed stuck on idle for most of the middle episodes has suddenly begun to speed ahead towards what could be an epic conclusion.