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Rating: 3 (out of 5). WGN launches their first original TV series tonight with Salem which brings us back to the 17th century and the notorious Salem witch trials. At the center of the show is Mary Sibley, played by Janet Montgomery, and John Alden, played by Shane West. The two shared a secret tryst before he left for battle and now she needs to deal with being pregnant on her own. Mary finally turns to two witches to help her end the pregnancy. Most of the critics were unimpressed with the show though a few thought it deserved a second look.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune says that we should consider WGN’s first attempt at an original scripted drama “a whiffed ball.”
The New York Times calls the show “brash and well executed and expensive-looking.” They also think that once “you strip away the various questions and back stories involving the station’s strategy and just look at “Salem” as a television show, you’ve got to admit that it’s perversely entertaining.”
The Los Angeles Times thinks “the magic is gone” when it comes to “Salem”. They say “although there is some beauty in the brightwork, it is a motley vessel.”
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says “the series is long on set-up and doesn’t get crazy until about 30 minutes in.” They think the pilot is “rather plodding except when occasionally punctuated with these more gonzo scenes.”
The New York Daily News calls the series “dark” and “complex”. They love Janet Montgomery as Mary Sibley, one of the witches.
The San Francisco Chronicle says “the melodrama is thicker and more implausible than the tarlike gunk oozing out of that tree at the beginning of Sunday’s premiere, but there are adequate performances to balance the painfully over-the-top dialogue, at least.”
The Cleveland Plain Dealer calls “Salem” a “bewitching slice of alternate history.” They say it is “an immediately intriguing ‘what if?’ series.”
“Salem hits a bad spell” says The New York Post . They think the series is “ridiculous” and call it a “lazy, offensive spin on history.”
The Hollywood Reporter thinks that “Salem” is off to “an interesting start” and it has “a fine cast” to help the series “being the bewitching process.” They say the series “updates witches and devils with a little more imagination and spin.”
Entertainment Weekly calls it “American Horror Story lite.” They say it is a “conventional dark fantasy with an unconventional angle on history.”
The Chicago Sun-Times simply states, “Witch-infested 17th century Salem, Mass., is the setting for this disturbing drama that puts shock value ahead of storytelling.” They call it a ” poor man’s “American Horror Story: Coven” but with more shrieking and less fun.”
Variety doesn’t think that “Salem” has any distinguishing characteristics, and they say although it “establishes some mystery about the depth and nature of the coven — and fills out the cast with interesting players, including Xander Berkeley as the local magistrate — this is an awfully familiar brew.”
The Washington Post calls this attempt at a series “One more witch story with too much toil and trouble.” They say it is “mostly just a bubbling up of cheapo TV tricks – certainly not the heralding of a bold new direction for the network or its viewers. ”
TV Guide thinks “Salem” is a “lurid and often ludicrous free-for-all of graphic sexuality and violent retribution.”
Rating: 4 (out of 5). FX’s “Fargo,” based on the Coen Brothers’ 1996 movie “Fargo,” is a 10 episode series with a new case and new characters, but one that “channels” the original film. The series stars Billy Bob Thornton as Lorne Malvo, a drifter who runs into insurance salesman Lester Nygaard, played by Martin Freeman who falls into a life of crime. The series focuses on a series of murders and the mystery that surrounds them. Critical praise is high, particularly how the series echoed the mood of the movie, but brought new life to it, and for the cast as well, particularly Thornton and also newcomer Alison Tolman who plays Officer Molly Solverson.
Variety says the series “quickly establishes itself as its own property, possessing the tone and style of the rightly admired Coen brothers classic, but pursuing a new tawdry tru-criminal tale, albeit in similar environs.”
The Hollywood Reporter thinks Noah Hawley has “created his own vision while simultaneously paying homage to the original and gives fans of the film another chance to live in that strange hilarious world.”
Newsday says “Fargo” on FX is “good, but not 1996 ‘Fargo’ good.”
Entertainment Weekly really likes the show, but it makes them pine away for the original. They are fans of Colin Hanks who plays police deputy Gus Grimly, and say “his decent, weary mug is reason alone to watch the show.”
The Chicago Daily Herald says the series ” takes its title, setting and tone from the 1996 black comedy/crime thriller written by brothers Joel and Ethan Coen” but doesn’t imitate it. It is more like it “channeled” it.
The Lincoln Journal Star is sure that “fans will find new ‘Fargo’ just as good.” They say it is “different enough” from the movie.
The Sioux City Journal says “This “Fargo” isn’t as attached to the “you betchas” as much as the original, but it does have the offbeat look that makes it at least a first cousin.”
The Wall Street Journal says “FX’s television ‘Fargo’ is more demented than the movie, and sets off a battle of biblical magnitude.”
The Chicago Sun-Times likes how the original film “lives on in this 10-episode limited series that retains much of the movie’s quirky tone and Minnesota nice.” They wish “they’d made better use of Naperville native Bob Odenkirk, who’s capable of much more than we see in early episodes.”
The Detroit News says “the TV show echoes the mood and approach of the Coen brothers’ Oscar-winning film of the same name but offers up a different, more sprawling story.” They are also impressed by the acting saying “As the story rolls on, talent keeps rolling in.”
The New York Times calls it “more of a riff than a rip-off.” They say “Fargo isn’t the movie; it’s a television adaptation that lives up to the spirit of the original by straying.”
The Denver Post wants to put fans of “Fargo” the movie at ease. They say “this 10-part series (on which the Coens have producer credits) deviates in a story sense, but it is true to the spirit and the grim humor of the original.” They call it “ a longer, slower study, suited to a different medium and hitting the same gruesome and all-too-human notes. ”
The San Francisco Chronicle urges viewers to “overlook the shortcomings and enjoy the series on its own otherwise considerable merits, chief among them, of course, Billy Bob Thornton.”
TIME lets us know that this “Fargo” is not “a remake of the 1996 Coen brothers movie.” This “Fargo” is “seriously funny” and it “feels not just like an adaptation of one Coen brothers movie but many.”
Forbes says “From the very beginning, the mini-series shows off its coenesque colors with a bleak tone, yet dark sense of humor when a man frees himself from captivity in the most interesting of ways. Perhaps to a fault, the series remains true to the style of the original film and takes a fair amount of time to get moving after its fantastic opening scene.”
The Washington Post calls the series “enjoyable” and says it is “both an homage to and an extended riff on the beloved 1996 film by Joel and Ethan Coen.”
The Kansas City Star says “it mesmerizes.” They say “As a furtherance of the 1996 crime classic by Joel and Ethan Coen that starred Frances McDormand, William H. Macy and Steve Buscemi, the TV adaptation is a wonder.”
The New York Daily News thinks this revival of the indie classic “works.” They are surprised by the fact that the TV show is not only good, it is “quite good.”
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch is relieved to say that the TV version of “Fargo” is “remarkable.” They say “Noah Hawley delivers a pitch-perfect take on the original, one that even the Coens (who have executive producer credit but aren’t directly involved) have applauded.”
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Featured TV Reviews
TV Show Review – Salem
Rating: 3 (out of 5). WGN launches their first original TV series tonight with Salem which brings us back to the 17th century and the notorious Salem witch trials. At the center of the show is Mary Sibley, played by Janet Montgomery, and John Alden, played by Shane West. The two shared a secret tryst [...]
TV Show Review – Fargo
Rating: 4 (out of 5). FX’s “Fargo,” based on the Coen Brothers’ 1996 movie “Fargo,” is a 10 episode series with a new case and new characters, but one that “channels” the original film. The series stars Billy Bob Thornton as Lorne Malvo, a drifter who runs into insurance salesman Lester Nygaard, played by Martin [...]
TV Show Review – Years of Living Dangerously
Rating: 4 (out of 5). Showtime brings together big names such as James Cameron, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Harrison Ford to make “Years of Living Dangerously” a documentary about global warming. These celebrities travel to different locations around the world to investigate what is happening and to talk about what we can do to solve the [...]
TV Show Review – Silicon Valley
Rating: 5 (out of 5). The center of HBO’s new comedy, “Silicon Valley,” is Richard, played by Thomas Middleditch, a shy, mousy programmer who finds himself in the middle of a bidding war between two tech companies who want the algorithm that he created. Rather than sell the code, Richard, along with his friends and [...]
- TV Show Review – Salem
New on VOD
Here are the new VOD films for the week of April 15, 2014. Click on a movie title for more information, trailers and reviews.
Philomena. Rating: 5 (out of 5). A political journalist picks up the story of a woman’s search for her son, who was taken away from her decades ago, after she gave birth and was forced to live in a convent. The film, based on a true story, will be available on VOD starting Tuesday, April 15. The critics are enamored with this film with New York Observer saying, “Philomena is not only my favorite film of 2013, but one of the most eloquent, powerful and perfect movies I have ever seen.” Reviews, video and more.
The Invisible Woman. Rating: 4 (out of 5). A happily married mother and schoolteacher, Nelly, is haunted by her past, when she had a complicated and fragile, yet exciting, relationship with Charles Dickens. This period drama premieres on VOD on Tuesday, April 15. The critics are impressed with the film and especially the acting though some note that it has a "leisurely pace." As Variety says, “So tastefully mounted and brilliantly acted that it wears down even the corset-phobic’s innate resistance to such things.” Reviews, video and more.
Patrick: Evil Awakens. Rating: 3 (out of 5). A young nurse, who just started working in an isolated psychiatric ward, takes an interest in Patrick, a seemingly comatose patient who is actually a subject of a mad scientist’s experiments. Her innocent fascination turns sinister as Patrick begins using his psychic powers to manipulate her every move, sending her life into a terrifying spiral. Watch for it on VOD starting Tuesday, April 15. Most of the critics enjoyed (though did not love) this remake of the 1978 movie, and FearNet calls the film "a good example of how to remake an obscure but admired horror flick." Reviews, video and more.
Wolf Creek 2. Rating: 3 (out of 5). Another tourist becomes the prey for the serial killer Mick Taylor. The critics have given mixed reviews to this horror film that comes to VOD on Thursday, April 17. Reviews, video and more.
Beneath The Harvest Sky. Rating: 3 (out of 5). Casper and Dominic have been best friends since childhood. Wanting to get out of their quiet hometown on the Maine-Canada border, the boys make a pact to pool their earnings on a car and hit the road. But when Casper is drawn into drug smuggling with his outlaw father to pay his share, their friendship gets strained and both are forced to make adult choices too soon. The film premieres on VOD on Tuesday, April 15. There were more positive than negative reviews on the film and according to Variety, “”Beneath the Harvest Sky” offers a heartbreakingly authentic, vividly realized account of adolescent frustration and yearning.” Reviews, video and more.
Small Time. Rating: 3 (out of 5). Freddy Klein decides not to go to College, and instead joins his father in his used-car business. Premiering on VOD on Friday, April 18, The Village Voice thinks, “The film isn't without mirth and charm: Norris steals a number of scenes as the charismatic Ash, and the banter between Norris and Meloni is charmingly convivial. But as Surnow steers into serious waters, the direction of the storytelling becomes increasingly misguided.” Reviews, video and more.
Ride Along. Rating: 2 (out of 5). Ben, a security guard, joins a cop, James, on a 24-hour patrol of Atlanta in order to prove himself worthy of marrying the latter’s sister. Premiering on VOD on Tuesday, April 15, most of the critics are not impressed with this one. New York Magazine (Vulture) is one of the better reviews when they write, “It all mostly works, but you can’t help but wonder at times if it could have been a lot funnier if it had just a bit more edge.” Reviews, video and more.
The Nut Job. Rating: 2 (out of 5). Surly is banished from the park he lives in, and is forced to live in the dangerous city. Lucky for him, he comes across the only thing that can save not only his life, but the rest of the park community as well as winter approaches: Maury’s Nut Store. The film premieres on VOD on April 15. Most of the critics were unimpressed with this animated film, as The Arizona Republic says, “Ever had one of those artificially sweetened candies that taste OK at first but leaves a lingering, bitter aftertaste? That’s sort of how it goes with “The Nut Job.” Reviews, video and more.
A Promise. Rating: 1 (out of 5). Adapted from Stefan Zweig’s Journey into the Past, this film by French director Patrice Leconte centers on the affair between a handsome male secretary and the wife of a wealthy industrialist. Coming to VOD on Friday, April 18, this film has not won the heart of the critics, and IndieWire (The Playlist) thinks, “Leconte’s never been the edgiest of filmmakers, but “A Promise” is so free of anything close to an edge that it’s like watching a beige sphere for ninety-odd minutes—and it feels much longer.” Reviews, video and more.
Kid Cannabis. No rating. A dramatic film that tells the true story of a teen dropout based in Idaho, who builds a multimillion-dollar marijuana ring by trafficking drugs through the woods across the Canadian border. But his many vices may just leave this kid in way over his head. The film comes to VOD on Friday, April 18, the same day as its theatrical release, and no reviews are available as of writing. Video and more.
Bright Days Ahead (Les Beaux Jours). No Rating. A recently retired woman, eager to devote some free time to herself, begins taking part in some events at a local seniors center. When she becomes involved with a man decades younger than herself, she keeps this from her husband, and she soon begins to experience life in ways that she has not in a long time. The film premieres on the same day as its theatrical release, April 15, in French with English subtitles. No critic reviews are available as of time of writing. Video and more.