Category Archives: amc

Has The Walking Dead Lost Its Edge?

AMC’s “The Walking Dead” is currently experiencing its highest ratings surge ever, beating even the NFL in some demographics, so why are some hardcore fans not happy? There are a lot of big fans who are still watching, but vocal about their dissatisfaction and disenchantment. What s going on?

Things certainly did heat up last night. Lots of zombie killing, characters’ lives at risk, Rick being a man for the first time in a long time, Carl being even more so, and of course, the return of The Governor. Will that be enough to realign old fans? Maybe, maybe not. I think the problem goes just a bit deeper.

I think the problem is Rick Grimes, played by Brit Andrew Lincoln. He’s become not just a farmer, but a huge wuss. I think the powers that be may have forgotten that he is the protagonist of the show, he’s the point of view character. One very big reason we don’t really know how the zombie apocalypse happened is because he was in a coma when it happened. Rick Grimes is our guy. And when he was a badass, shooting zombies, and insisting he was still the law – we loved him. Now, not so much.

This may also be why so many people have become attracted to Daryl Dixon, played by the offscreen sexy Norman Reedus. It not just the ladies and gentlemen digging his down home sex appeal, it’s because he’s a badass, in Rick’s absence. If you have zombies, someone’s gotta be killing ’em, and Daryl is doing more than his share. But still, he is a flawed hero. Not because of his racist brother, or his emotional distance either – it’s because he’s not our point of view protagonist. We’ve never been in his head, never suffered or triumphed through him.

This dynamic is also why it was okay for Carl to shoot an innocent. As viewers we were happy someone in the family was showing some stones, standing up for himself and the others – even if he was wrong. Carol has stood up for herself in recent episodes, and Rick banished her. Not a good move.

Rick did it for himself, not the group. It is a small distinction, but an important one. Had he done it for the group, it would have been a step back toward being the leader, being a man, being the bad ass hero that we want back. Doing it for himself is selfish and whiny. And getting rid of Carol is not a wise move to begin with. Here is a character who has evolved from whiny battered wife herself to a strong leader. Is Rick sending her away because he fears that reverse evolution in himself? Is he sending himself away?

Let’s hope Carol isn’t gone for good, and let’s hope that Rick straightens out. Rick can be the embattled tragic hero, sure, but he’s gotta strap his gun back on and raise hell with the walkers. It’s the law. And yeah, maybe the return of The Governor might spice things up a bit, but let’s be real, it ain’t his show either.

And don’t forget to check out the weekly “The Walking Dead” recaps of fellow writer Marie Gilbert at Biff Bam Pop!.

All Bad Things Must Come to an End…

I suppose I would be remiss if I didn’t write at least something about the end of “Breaking Bad” last night. I had tried to watch the opening episode when it first aired, and just couldn’t get into it. A man running around the desert in his tighty whities? Come on. A couple years later, at the urging of friends and other folks online whose opinions I respect, I tried again. Once I got through that first episode, I was hooked, and from there I stripped the rest of the series, watching the final two seasons as they aired.

The show ended last night, and mighty props go to creator Vince Gilligan and his staff of writers for molding an ending that was precise and complete in tying up loose ends and completing the story begun five seasons ago. Justice is served in an anti-hero kinda way, good and evil balanced, and in a way, the good guys win and the bad guys pay. Brilliance.

Comparatively, it doesn’t let the viewers decide as “The Sopranos” did, and it didn’t do what “Dexter” did much to the sour reprisal of fans. It’s ironic that when “Dexter” ended last week, it was almost at the same point as “Breaking Bad” was last week. Maybe “Dexter” just needed one more episode? In my opinion however, if that last scene with Dexter alive had been cut, that ending would have pleased me. Dexter alive ruins the symmetry. And getting back on subject, symmetry is what “Breaking Bad” was all about.

I was really pleased with the ending. If you want to hear more about the show, my friend and podcast partner Ray Cornwall did a pre-finale episode about “Breaking Bad” last week. You can hear it here.

House of Cards

I’m about a month late to the party on this one, but there’s still time for the rest of us. This fabulous Netflix exclusive TV series starring Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright, and Kate Mara, is probably the best thing I’ve seen outside of pay cable in a while. And that’s probably the coolest thing about it – it’s not cable at all – it’s only available on Netflix. Welcome to the future.

“House of Cards” is based on the book(s) by Michael Dobbs, and the BBC miniseries that followed by Andrew Davies. Originally set in British Parliament, show developer and producer Beau Willimon adapted the concept to Washington DC and the US Capitol for American viewers. Spacey is an ambitious Congressman manipulating his way to the top with almost demonic precision and sly fourth wall breaking asides to the viewers at home. There are Emmy caliber performances by all involved, but I wonder if it will be eligible for the Emmys?

Netflix, observing viewing habits and trying to keep ahead or at least abreast of cutting edge technology, has gone into the entertainment business, creating their own shows. Seeing that many folks will watch an entire series at once, sometimes a season at a time – a practice called ‘stripping,’ Netflix created shows meant to adapt to that. In that spirit, the entire first season of “House of Cards” was released all at once on February 1st.

The compelling characters, I tense stories, and terrific performances will keep you coming back episode after episode. It also has the likes of David Fincher, James Foley, and Joel Schumacher in the director’s chair.  This is a series worthy of HBO, Showtime, or AMC, yeah, it’s that good. I highly recommend it. I just don’t know what I’ll be doing until season two comes out…

Jack the Giant Slayer

Jack the Giant Slayer ~ Fairy tales are hot in Hollywood right now. Whether it’s the two Snow White flicks last year, Hansel and Gretel with guns a few weeks back, or the hit TV series “Grimm” and “Once Upon a Time,” or even the Fables comic books – fairy tales are big business. Now it’s Jack’s turn.

This weekend, The Bride and I saw Jack the Giant Slayer at the fabulously remodeled AMC Marlton 8 Theatre, and it wasn’t just the great reclining lounger seats that made for a great movie experience – the flick was pretty good too. The big budget CGI send up of the ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ story had adventure, horror, romance, and even comedy. I might go so far as to say it reminded me a bit of The Princess Bride. Now let me be clear, it’s no Princess Bride, but it had all the hallmarks.

Bryan Singer’s take on ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ is filled with CGI giants all in need of serious dental care and repair, and a fabulous cast of character actors. Ian McShane from “Deadwood” is excellent as the King, and Ewan McGregor as the protagonist who’s not the hero of this story is terrific. However, the leads are only adequate and the actors behind the CGI giants are pretty much unrecognizable. This doesn’t stop the flick from being enjoyable, despite the story’s simplicity and predictability. There are surprises, and that helps.

This is a great popcorn flick, moves quickly, never bores, and was the perfect film to test out a terrific new theater. Thumbs up all around.

The New AMC Marlton 8 Movie Theatre

I admit I was a bit hesitant when I heard the plan. The AMC Marlton Movie Theatre was going to jettison hundreds of seats in order to install new reclining loungers. I thought it was the last gasp of an already dying, perhaps on its last gasp, local theater. My friends and I called it literally ‘the dead theater.’ There was never anyone there, you always got a parking spot in front, and when the news came that they had finally closed, no one would be surprised. Not in the least.

Allow me to swallow those words.

Twenty, thirty years ago, the Marlton 8 as we called it, because it had a multiplex of eight theaters, a novelty at the time, was the happening place to be on the weekend. It was the place to be seen, and the place to see all the latest movies. Every date happened here. Welcome to the 1980s. Die Hard, The Breakfast Club, Amadeus, Batman, Weird Science, Robocop, Dirty Dancing, even Silence of the Lambs, I saw them here, and so did everyone else I knew.

There was a time, with the T.G.I.Fridays and the long forgotten ice cream parlor in the strip mall, every parking spot was taken and police had to direct traffic within the shopping center, sometimes blocking areas off to kids and other foot traffic. Three months ago, and as far back as maybe a decade ago however, the place was a ghost town. Business had moved elsewhere, into Voorhees with the Ritz, now Rave, and into Cherry Hill with the airport terminal sized and customer unfriendly AMC Loews with a whopping twenty-four theaters.

This weekend, The Bride and I had date night, On the Border for dinner and then Jack the Giant Slayer for movie. As this was the first week the Marlton renovation was complete, we chose there. I was stunned when we pulled into the nearly full parking lot. This was the Marlton 8 of old. Things got better as we went inside.

The lobby got a nice repaint and remodel as well. The refreshment area is a bit different too. Besides new menu items like chicken fingers, chicken sliders, pizza, and oh yes, French fries, there were also two Coca-Cola Freestyle machines. Color me impressed.

We did have to wait a while for them to clean the theater before we could go in and sit. I’m thinking it takes more time to clean individual seats than it did previously to just do a quick sweep. The line of impatient folks waiting to get in were not so understanding. I guess no matter how nice a theater is, there will still be jackasses who complain, and talk during the movie, use their cellphones, and bring toddlers to 10 PM showtimes – no way around it. Damn mankind, we’re doomed.

The new seats are incredible, reclining loungers that come in pairs where can pull up the arm between them and cuddle. They also come with three cup holders each and touch controls to go up and down. Sooo nice. I did notice the theater’s current occupancy was now 115 where it used to be between 200 and 300.

This is an incredible risk for the theater financially, especially when you consider we paid a very reasonable price for two prime time 3D tickets, nearly a third less than we would have paid at the Rave or Loews. I hope it succeeds.

I loved this movie experience. I have a new favorite theater. I can’t wait to go back.

Comic Con Leftovers

Here’s a peek at a few of the previews and footage to come out of this weekend’s San Diego Comic Con…

“Arrow” debuts on the CW October 10th. Hmmm… looks like Green Arrow is a killer in this one. I wish they just would have spun Justin Hartley out of “Smallville,” at least we knew that was cool, and so much more faithful to the source material…

Season 3 of “The Walking Dead” debuts on October 14th.

I wish I had footage to show you from Pacific Rim, the movie I’m very excited about as a kaiju fan, but I guess this will have to do for now.

Comic Book Men

AMC wanted to cash in on “The Walking Dead” so bad that I guess they accepted any show about comic books. Now don’t get me wrong, I am a hardcore Kevin Smith fan, but “Comic Book Men” is, on many levels, a disappointment.

Unless Kevin Smith himself doesn’t know what he wants this show to be, it seems to be suffering from a lot of outside, or possibly even inside interference. It’s all over the place. Sometimes it wants to be a reality show, sometimes a bad imitation of “Hardcore Pawn” and other shows of its ilk, sometimes an extension of Smith himself, sometimes a podcast on video, and sometimes just an outright commercial for the Secret Stash store, Smith, and/or AMC. Could they really get any more Smith or Walking Dead merch in the camera frames?

Having frequented comic book shops all my life, I can tell you, that except for the guy who doesn’t work there and never leaves, this is sooo not like a comic book shop. They did however have to clean up the Secret Stash, which was a relief. I’ve been there, they cleaned, believe me. The occasion of folks coming in wanting sell stuff doesn’t happen all that often, neither do hockey games, or sadly women in the shops. And of course that’s the other thing that bugs me about it, the supposedly unscripted employees are more than a little sexist – perhaps they should be scripted.

Maybe they could focus on the buying comics from customers concept, or the roundtable podcast concept, or just make it Kevin Smith-centric – I really enjoyed the Jason Mewes/Batmobile episode. Maybe it could be cut down to a half-hour, but it must focus, and pick a direction. Sadly the one thing I enjoy about visiting a comics shop, talking comics, has only been featured once, and they mocked it. To me that’s what the show should be about, sans ridicule. If you’re fanboys (and girls), embrace it!

Right now, we’re three episodes into a six-episode run. I hope it gets better, and finds its center. It would be nice to have a geek home on television, especially smack between “The Walking Dead” and “Talking Dead.”

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At War with Comcast

Dear Comcast, recently you introduced your new Interactive Program Guide for cable television service in our area. Now if it were merely a matter of me not liking the aesthetics of it, or the readability, I can understand that I’m just be picky. Change happens, sometimes not for the better. And just for the record, the aesthetics and the readability suck, in my far less than humble opinion.

Functionality may be where the problem(s) lie. But let’s talk positive first. The Program Guide can now DVR programs more than a week into the future. Closed captioning is now available on our HD television and it was not before. These are both good things, and I thank you and praise you.

As I implied earlier, the Guide is extremely difficult to navigate, and the website and instructional videos are really not much help if I’m being honest. The sleep timer is gone, so no more watching TV ’til I fall asleep. And it takes four steps to DVR something now where it used to take two. After a few days, by hit and miss, I got the gist of how things worked. But things began to go downhill, and out of my control, very quickly.

The DVR began to only record just a few minutes of a program the first night the Guide was installed. The first attack took out three programs recorded in one hour – one one hour show and two half-hour shows back to back at the same time. It did it to those same shows the next week. In the week between various programs suffered the same fate.

And then there were the other ‘fun’ things that occurred since the Program Guide was installed. On Demand has been intermittently working. Occasionally some channels would say that we’re not authorized to watch them. For instance, we would get the same message for The Cooking Channel, Cartoon Network and G4 that we get for a pay channel like Cinemax that we do not subscribe to.

I did not sit and take this by the way. I am a complete evil bastard when it comes to talking with customer service. However, since The Bride used to work for Comcast, I tried my damnedest to be polite and calm, just in case I was speaking to someone we/she knew or used to work with. Just for the record, since June 7th, I have logged fourteen total calls to Comcast for various problems.

Sunday night, the shit hit the fan, as they say. The season finales of “Game of Thrones” and “The Killing” did not record at all. There were other programs that didn’t record or only recorded a few minutes of that night, but those two hurt me. When I tried to calm down, and watch them OnDemand, my blood pressure shot into the sky. OnDemand wasn’t working either.

I was on the phone to Comcast immediately. I had had enough of this crap. Through gritted teeth I carefully explained the problems to the customer service representative, and a technician visit was planned for the next day. This was last Tuesday. Long story short, Comcast sent a guy who looked like a Russian mobster from “The Sopranos,” with a very thick (almost to the point of hysteria) accent to match, to my house to change out the cable boxes. I was told, and after he said it several times I understood, that the problem was fixed.

That night, and the next three nights, the problem reoccurred. I called the cable company again, all calm out of the question. I was no longer polite, I was no longer understanding – I was what is probably gently referred to as ‘the irate customer.’ Yet another customer service representative talked to me slowly and softly, as if I was on the ledge of a tall building and threatening to jump. I was told that I wouldn’t being paying for the service calls, I would receive a discount on the DVR bill and that a technician would be at my home on Monday.

After a weekend of the intermittently functional DVR giving us incomplete recordings if at all, the technician arrived Monday. He asked a lot of questions, fiddled with some wires and then went outside to call his supervisor. You want to know what the bottom line was? “It’s a software problem, and they are working out the bugs. Yeah, it sucks, but there it is.”

The technician left. Unharmed. And about a dozen more blood vessels in my forehead popped. The problem continues. And I’m looking into TIVO.

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Rubicon on AMC

AMC’s “Rubicon” officially starts tonight with two episodes in the rocker seat next to the hit “Mad Men,” a nice place for any new show.

Like “Mad Men,” this is both a thinking series, and a character-driven one. From what I’ve seen it might take some time to warm to its quirky cast of characters but I think in the long run it might be worth it. Check it out.

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The New Prisoner

First AMC gave us “Mad Men,” which is just brilliant, but now they are treading on hallowed ground. One of the most beloved cult TV series is “The Prisoner” starring Patrick McGoohan, and now AMC has remade it…

Coming in November…

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