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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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Our daily TV show pick for tonight, Thursday, April 24, 2014 is the sixth season finale of "Parks and Recreation" on NBC at 8:00.
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What I'm Watching - Graham Yost
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Check out our interview with Graham to learn more about this very talented writer.
When he's not busy portraying bad guy Darryl Crowe Jr. in this season of Justified, here's what Michael Rapaport likes to watch on TV:
Check out our interview with the actor to gain more insights into Mr. Rapaport.
Featured TV Reviews
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Rating: 2 (out of 5). Catherine Black, a brilliant yet troubled neuroscientist, suffering from her mental illness, is the center of “Black Box,” ABC’s newest drama. While a few critics write favorably about the show, most are more in line with Chicago Sun-Times which says, “this drama is not good.” Newsday writes, “”Black Box” creates [...]
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 – Bad Teacher
New on VOD
Here are the new VOD films for the week of April 22, 2014. Click on a movie title for more information, trailers and reviews.
Bettie Page Reveals All. Rating: 4 (out of 5). The world’s greatest pinup model, Bettie Page, shares the true story of how free expression became the target of government witch-hunts and how she overcame them to help launch America’s sexual revolution. The film comes to VOD on Tuesday, April 22. While some of the reviews note that the film is lacking in production value, virtually all are impressed with the content of the film. As the Los Angeles Times notes, the film is a “highly watchable portrait.” Starring: Bettie Page, Dita Von Tease, Todd Oldham, Hugh Hefner. Director: Mark Mori. Rating: R. Genre: Documentary. Reviews, video and more.
Blue Ruin. Rating: 4 (out of 5). A beach bum finds his quiet life turned upside down by a very upsetting news, and travels back to his childhood home to seek revenge. Proving to be an ineffective assassin, he ends up in a brutal fight to protect his estranged family. The film premieres on VOD on Friday, April 25. The critics are very impressed with the film, the majority citing Saulnier’s direction as promising. As ScreenDaily says, “Blue Ruin is distinguished by the way it allies solid storytelling to fine craftsmanship.” Starring: Macon Blair, Devin Ratray, Amy Hargreaves, Kevin Kolack, Eve Plumb, David W. Thompson, Brent Werzner, Stacy Rock, Sidne Anderson. Director: Jeremy Saulnier. Rating: Unrated. Genre: Thriller. Reviews, video and more.
Escape From Tomorrow comes to DVD and Blu-ray on April 29. The film tells the story of a middle-aged American husband and father of two who lost his job. To escape from reality and to keep the news from his family, he decides not to forgo their trip to the happiest place on Earth. But things turn bad when his sanity is challenged and their trip is turned into a nightmare. Interesting if, for no other reason, than to see what a film that was surreptitiously shot at Disney World looks like. Best Buy has the Blu-ray (and DVD) or, if you prefer Amazon for the DVD, click here.
Filth. Rating: 3 (out of 5). Detective Sergeant Bruce Robertson is a corrupt cop who desperately wants a promotion. He will do absolutely anything to get that promotion, even stealing his colleagues’ wives and exposing their secrets. But when his past begins to catch up to him, he begins to lose control. Watch for Filth on VOD starting Thursday, April 24. The critics were mixed on the film but many were impressed with James McAvoy performance and, according to The Times, “James McAvoy gives his best performance to date as a morally and physically decaying detective in this hallucinogenic adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s novel.” Starring: James McAvoy, Jamie Bell, Imogen Poots, Jim Broadbent, Joanne Froggatt, Shirley Henderson, Eddie Marsan, John Sessions. Director: Jon S. Baird. Rating: R Genre: Drama, Comedy, Crime. Reviews, video and more.
Gambit. Rating: 2 (out of 5). A remake of the 1966 action film, Colin Firth and Cameron Diaz stars in this film about a British thief who discovers that no plan is infallible after he recruits a beautiful woman to help him steal a statue from a wealthy widower. Although his accomplice resembles the target’s late wife, things start to go wrong once their plans begin. The film premieres on VOD on Friday, April 25, and has not won much (if any) praise from the critics. According to The Guardian, “An awful lot of talent has been put to waste here.” Starring: Colin Firth, Cameron Diaz, Alan Rickman, Tom Courtenay, Stanley Tucci. Director: Michael Hoffmann. Rating: PG-13. Genre: Drama. Reviews, video and more.