Category Archives: ratings

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!.

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The Lone Ranger 2013

The Lone Ranger ~ When the film was over I turned to The Bride and said that if Walt Disney was alive and found out his company had obtained the rights to make a Lone Ranger movie he would be so happy, and if he’d seen what his company had done with it – it would kill him.

I have a long association with the Lone Ranger, although I can’t remember where it began. I recall the cartoons of the 1960s by Format Films. The Ranger wasn’t quite a superhero, but the bizarre Ralph Bakshi meets “The Wild Wild West” style of these shorts mesmerized me. I also remember being introduced to the radio show at an early age, and seeing Clayton Moore in reruns of the 1950s series. And when I learned that he was related to the Green Hornet, to me, that just made the Lone Ranger even cooler.

In the superhero movie boom (a firecracker compared to recent decades) of the 1970s, they tried badly to put the masked man up on the big screen, but that ended horrifically with the mess known as The Legend of the Lone Ranger. That dud, along with the bad publicity of not allowing Clayton Moore to wear the mask in public, was enough to bury the character for years to come.

This 2013 movie production, starring Johnny Depp as a mentally ill, delusional Tonto, along with Jerry Bruckheimer and Gore Verbinski, his behind the scenes pals from the Pirates of the Caribbean films, just seems like a bunch of guys got drunk, had money to burn, and decided to ‘play’ Lone Ranger. And the kid who had all the toys wanted to play Tonto as an idiot.

I’m sorry. I just can’t abide this rape and mutilation of beloved childhood characters. First, we are meant to sit through another longwinded origin story. Let’s get this straight, if an origin story can be told in two sentences or less – we don’t need to see it. Just say it, and get on with the movie’s story. This is one of my biggest pet peeves with superhero films. Stop wasting time with origin stories. Superman’s origin was told in seconds at the beginning of every episode of the George Reeves TV series. DC Comics of the 1970s featured a one paragraph origin of the title hero on the first page of every issue. Let’s go back to that.

I can’t understand the premise of making this movie honestly. Was the point to destroy a lot of trains and ruin childhood heroes? Poor Armie Hammer is given very little to do, hardly any of it heroic, as the title character. What he does do is kill, which is something the real Lone Ranger would never do. The writers made Butch Cavendish into a cannibal, and not subtly either. I personally thought this should have had an R rating, just for that.

The only thing worse than Butch’s cannibalism would be the way Johnny Depp chews up scenes and spits them out like steaming vomit. Taking his character cues from Kirby Sattler’s painting, “I Am Crow” rather than the character Tonto, Depp is unforgivable. From his halting stereotypical speech to the dead bird on his head, his Tonto is an absolute disgrace.

I hated this movie, and I hated even more that my childhood heroes were destroyed in the making of it. I will get through it. There are still the movies, TV series, cartoons, and especially the radio shows to preserve the legacy. I will survive this travesty, but will the Lone Ranger?

Following Not So Much

I think this one is the last one. I might watch “The Following” a couple more times, but I doubt I’ll be writing about it. Even Fox has tired of hyping it as much as they had been. Ratings have slipped even though Fox insists they will catch up through other pathways like DVR and streaming to other devices.

There was a Marvel Comics event a few years back called “Secret Invasion.” The premise followed (pardon the pun) that shape-changing aliens had infiltrated the human race. These Skrull, as they were called, looked like us, they acted like us. Anyone could be a Skrull. No one could be trusted. After a while, it became cliche. Any bad plot element could be resolved by that person or persons being a Skrull. If you couldn’t trust anyone, you couldn’t care about anyone. Epic character writing fail.

That’s the problem here. Anyone could be a serial killer under Joe Carroll’s influence. The known serial killers are unlikable, and the known good guys, even Kevin Bacon, are unlikable or ineffective. Who to root for at this point? Only James Purefoy, as the main big bad, has any charisma, and we barely see him.

As I stated early in my reviews of this series, the story was better suited as a movie or mini-series with a clear ending. I suspect “The Following” will now have an ending similar to that of “Alcatraz” – eventual cancellation.

The New American Idol

There’s a whole new game going on at Fox’s “American Idol” this season, specifically in the way of three new judges. Randy Jackson stays on as the only remaining original judge, but he is joined by country singer Keith Urban, hip hop media superstar Nicki Minaj, and the legendary Mariah Carey. The problem is, as I and others have talked about here and there, indications are that the newbies get along like gasoline and fire.

“American Idol” premiered with its twelfth season last week with two two-hour episodes featuring contestant auditions. Audition week is the best part of the show, it’s also the most watched and talked about, mostly because its s freak show. Not as much as it used to be sadly. Like hockey and lacrosse have been neutered by having the fighting taken away, we now have less freaks on “Idol.” I suspect the ratings have suffered as well.

But of course that’s not the freak show most of America has tuned in for this season.

Before the premiere, the powers that be have been wisely playing up the Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey feud. Controversy breeds popularity. We all knew Nicki was crazy, I mean it’s a fact. Bitch cra-zay. But I think we, America as a whole, had forgotten the lunacy level of Mariah because that is a whole different planet of crazy. I think when we get to the live shows, Fox should just douse them both in gasoline as a preemptive strike because this is going to be bad, very bad.

The funny part is that Mariah comes off as a real bitch, to my mind at least. She acts superior and too good for the show more often than not. Nicki is actually pretty entertaining in a crazy way. In the four hours I watched last week, she won me over. I was disappointed to see Steven Tyler go, even more so to see Simon Cowell go a few seasons before, but I am digging Nicki, and I wasn’t that big a fan before this. I love it when she does the fake British accent and Mariah winces. And hey, Nicki namedropped Kate Bush on prime time American network television, so I’m on her side.

Keith Urban is interesting. I was surprised to find out he was a New Zealander. I don’t really think he adds all that much however. The poor guy has to sit between Mariah and Nicki, and quite honestly, as far as his judging skills go, he’s the male equivalent of Paula Abdul. I keep waiting for him to say “Nice shirt.” to a contestant.

I also feel bad for Randy holding this all together. I wonder if he might snap before Nicki and Mariah kill each other. I have noticed that he seems to have turned his filter off. If somebody is awful, he tells them right away a la Simon Cowell.

Well, I’ve been here with “American Idol” for eleven seasons, and I think, because of Nicki Minaj, believe it or not, I will hang on a bit for season twelve. Let’s see what happens.

Dredd in 3D

Dredd ~ I wasn’t sure I was going to get to see this flick. It painfully underperformed at the box office, and I wasn’t sure it would last more than a week. Considering that most people only know the Judge Dredd character from that terrible Sylvester Stallone movie from 1995, it doesn’t seem that off of a chance that folks would give this new one a pass. Thankfully however, Dredd has little to do with the Sly film except for the source material. I’m not a big Judge Dredd fan myself, but I have read a handful of the Judge’s tales and know that very little of that movie was accurate.

I was excited about this new version after hearing interviews with its title star Karl Urban (known for his brilliant Bones in the latest Star Trek), director Peter Travis, and writer/producer Alex Garland. It seemed as though they both knew and loved the character, and were going to do Dredd right. The Judge was in the hands of true fans. I couldn’t wait, as far as I’m concerned, characters handled by those who love them are usually done well.

Two weeks out from release I was surprised to find the flick still playing and checked it out. The surprises kept coming. This was not a great film, but it was a damned good Judge Dredd film. I thought about it. I got everything I could possibly want in a Judge Dredd movie. I had no complaints. Besides that, the casting was terrific, the 3D was amongst the best I’ve seen, and the soundtrack by Paul Leonard-Morgan was purchased from iTunes when I got home. What more can I say?

Dredd is not a perfect movie, but I do think it’s the perfect Judge Dredd movie. Urban was on target, we got a story that fit both the standard action thriller genre (R-rated, mind you) and the future dystopian fantasy of Dredd’s world. Unlike most superhero movies, it was story-centric, not origin-centric, that’s a big plus for me. See it if you’re a fan, catch it in 3D if you can. Well worth seeing.

Captain America: The First Avenger

Captain America: The First Avenger ~ This is the next in the cycle of Marvel Comics movies leading up to The Avengers next summer. This one even has the word ‘Avenger’ in the title. It started with Iron Man, then continued in The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2 and just two months ago with Thor. The Avengers are coming, and it’s gonna be so cool.

Sorry, folks, I got excited. I am an old school Avengers fan, so this slow build-up to seeing one of my favorite comics on the big screen is a big big deal. But that’s not happening until next year, and there’s one movie left before that happens, and it’s the one I saw today – Captain America: The First Avenger. Unlike Iron Man 2 which felt like an overlong ad for the upcoming Avengers, this flick does it subtly, and flawlessly ties up all the loose ends of those four previous movies.

We saw the flick on Friday afternoon (mostly to get out if the 104 degree heat) and while it was sparsely attended at first, the folks at Rave dressed one of their employees up in a makeshift closet floor Cap costume to walk around and entertain. Silly but fun, the kind of thing, in my opinion, theatres should do more often. Well, as long as he didn’t shoot me with his Nerf dart-shooting shield, that is. Good, no casualties, time for the movie.

There were almost forty minutes of previews and pre-show entertainment, which was fine I suppose. We waited about an hour for the next show -and had to get it in 3D because the next 2D flick was even later- and it occurs to me that this might be the next theatre scam. It just seems too much of a coincidence that the only show within a reasonable time frame was the more expensive 3D showing at a place where the feature was showing in two different rooms in 2D and 2D had an almost hour wait in between shows.

Something is just not right. No matter, the Rave is a great theatre with terrific events and friendly staff – and even if not, anything is better than being raped by Loews again.

As it got dark and the real previews started the theatre had filled up, and filled up with more than a few young children. I had had discussions earlier in the week as to whether or not my six year old nephew should see Captain America or not, and the concensus was no. Too much gunplay, violence, the Red Skull was sure to be scary – and do you really want to have the Nazi conversation with a six year old? You know, it’s true, evil is real, and all that. I was worried that maybe these parents had made a mistake, and would regret it.

As it turned out, I shouldn’t have worried. Hitler, the Nazis and the Third Reich are hardly referenced in a really horrific way. It is the Red Skull (still quite scary, and props to Hugo Weaving for bringing his horror to life) and Hydra who are the true villains of the piece. the explanation for the origin and separation of Hydra from the Third Reich makes complete sense. Actually, in hindsight, it even makes the World War II sequences, sans Nazis, in Disney XD’s animated “The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” make sense as well. Other than the gunplay, the Red Skull and a few intense moments, the PG-13 rated Captain America isn’t too bad for kids, and not as much to worry about as I originally thought.

This is a period film, as Captain America’s story is one forged in the patriotic fires of World War II. Young Steve Rogers is too puny to serve his country, and volunteers to become a super-soldier draped in the American flag. He takes the fight to the enemy and inspires millions in the process. It’s clichéd, and it’s cheesy, but director Joe Johnston weaves together a wonderful movie that has everything. If I was to wish for the perfect Captain America movie, it could not be better than this.

They do play about with some continuity issues, but nothing that damages the character, but more fills him out. Speaking of filling out, the CGI sequences are phenomenal of title star Chris Evans as a 90 lb. weakling and as America’s super-soldier. He looks great throughout the film, and unlike pretenders like Reb Brown and Matt Salinger, Evans is Captain America. Hayley Atwell’s Peggy Carter is perfect and Sebastian Stan gives Bucky a wonderful spin, with the re-realized relationship between Bucky and Steve. Trust me, it’s good, and quietly honestly better than seeing Bucky as a costumed sidekick. And Toby Jones is just downright creepy as Arnim Zola, and this isn’t even his really creepy form from the comics. Bravo!

The action sequences are amazing, exciting and what every superhero movie should be. Comics fans of the character and those who know nothing, will be thrilled. This is important for superhero movies – to be accessible to the mainstream audience, to be true to the source material, and to be good. Yeah, this one has all three.

There are Easter eggs all over the place. Tony Stark’s father Howard Stark plays a pivotal role. The Howling Commandos are here, and we’re able to tell who is who without ever hearing their names. Obviously, Nick Fury’s father or grandfather is in there, so as not to muddy the immortal waters. When Steve and Bucky visit the World’s Fair, keep your eyes peeled for the original Human Torch – total nerdgasm for me when I saw that!

This movie has everything – humor, romance, even musical numbers, and yet, it is still one of the best superhero movies I have ever seen, and I’d venture to say I’ve seen most of them. Yes, better than Iron Man. And speaking of Iron Man, like all of the other Marvel movies, you need to wait through the credits for a little something extra. Actually, this time, it’s not a little something – it’s a big something – a sneak peek at next summer’s The Avengers. DO NOT MISS. And definitely see Captain America: The First Avenger, highly recommended.

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Rachel Returns to Big Brother

One thing that the folks behind reality television have learned over the years is that crazy sells. If you put a lunatic in front of the cameras and let them rant and act out, that equals ratings.

So I’m sure the powers that be at “Big Brother” this season were disappointed when Rachel was evicted by her housemates. Disappointed, yes, but surprised, no. The Las Vegas showgirl, who fell almost immediately into a show-mance with housemate Brendan, one that eventually alienated her from the rest of the house, has been quite a crazy train of outrageous emotional behavior so far this season, some say bordering on manic-depression. One thing that can be said is that it was always a train wreck whenever the sexy but rarely sensible redhead was on screen. Besides occasional nudity, not to mention nuttiness, she also provided half of the first sex on the American “BB.”

Luckily for the ratings folks at CBS, the producers of “Big Brother” found a way to bring Rachel back. The dreaded Pandora’s Box, that brings both good and bad when opened, is one of the ratings twists of this twelfth season, along with multiple Saboteurs. Brendan, who got HoH right after Rachel was evicted, opened it – and guess what he got?

He got Rachel back in the house, but he also got himself locked in the Pandora’s Box room while she’s there. One would assume he gets to leave the room once she leaves the house. What happens next is anybody’s guess. I suppose it depends on how crazy Rachel gets, and how big the ratings are.

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