Monday, September 30, 2013

It aired. We saw. It delivered.

There will be so much written about Breaking Bad's series finale that I think the best way to go is just to be short and sweet. It was excellent. It delivered what I think viewers wanted most, which was a satisfying ending that yielded the promise of the series initial suggested potential as well as closure. That combined with a tightly written and multifaceted cast of characters and literate scripts that follow classical dramatic structure and storytelling archetypes while still maintaining a mix of emotions that keeps the viewer involved is what will make Breaking Bad in a class so few television dramas ever reach so much so that it is difficult to find a show that is as masterfully crafted and maintains itself from beginning to conclusion as Breaking Bad has. 

I realize my words are extremely broad and not at all character or scene specific, but there are people who will discover Breaking Bad for generations to come and I want them to have the same joy of as I did or at the very least as close as humanly possible when they view it for themselves. Breaking Bad may just be one of a kind in a media that at the time of this writing is still less than a century old, but it will certainly be a show studied by entertainment professionals and aspiring ones alike for the foreseeable future and beyond. I have been thanked for turning people on to the show before it ended last night and it is a rare thing when someone does that and I, who has no connection to the show whatsoever, feels a sense of pride as if I did. Breaking Bad was and is that good.

(C) Copyright 2013 By Mark Rivera
All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Thank You In Advance Of The Series Finale!

Thank you Vince Gilligan, Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, the rest of the cast & crew and AMC for one of the best dramas of all time. Masterful! 

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Big Bang Theory X2 Premiere.

The Big Bang Theory opened it's new season yesterday with two brand new episodes and although the episodes were not the best ion terms of what I have come to expect from the show, Chuck Lorre and his team of comedy writers are among the best working in television today. In fact the CBS comedies have in general given the venerable network an edge no other network has been able to match. Of course anything can happen in a traditional television season where the over the air broadcast networks battle it out through three particular showdowns: November, February and May ratings sweeps. So anything can happen. 

The characters have changed mostly in good ways though I really hope they will get Sheldon laid this season. You just know if your a fan of the show that it would probably be one of the funniest episodes ever written for the series and honestly, a place where they need to take Sheldon in order to make him grow. 

Sometimes Sheldon is too self absorbed and even cold, but I am not asking the series' creators to change his character, however I do think Sheldon needs something he has never experienced before to broaden his character's horizons and having the character lose his virginity seems to be the way to go in my opinion. The Big Theory airs on Thursdays at 8pm (ET/PT) on CBS.

(C) Copyright 2013 By Mark A. Rivera
All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Revolution: New Season, But No Better.

The second season of Revolution premiered yesterday on NBC and on it's new night, Wednesdays. Revolution is a show that I always was surprised to learn it got renewed for a second season because the first season for the most part felt like a dud to me. After the power goes out only the beautiful people who can make tight fashionable clothes and snappy haircuts will survive. The show was just never conceived in a realistic matter to me either. People were just too clean in appearance and the action was at times as lame as the flat stock characters.

Yet I stuck with it and after a lengthy hiatus, Revolution returned in the spring for what would be an almost complete waste of time if you saw the first season since the person they were looking for for half a season got killed off in the beginning of the second and the conspiracy behind the power outrage was revealed and it was not at all engaging.

Ultimately the season saw the power get turned on long enough for some nukes to get launched and some strange phenomenon to occur before the finale. The second season picks up months after the power got turned off again and now parts of America are suffering the after effects of nuclear fall out while unaffected nations are raiding defenseless city states. The returning cast finally look a bit more gritty compared to the first season, but now there are supernatural after effects that include a resurrection that pretty much makes Revolution feel like a different show, but not a better one.

It reminded me of Seaquest DSV, which also aired on NBC in the 1990s and suffered from similar problems that caused each season to feel like a reboot, but not to a better show. In the end we can only wonder if Revolution will indeed improve and find it's proper footing and leave the nonsense behind. One can  hope.

(C) Copyright 2013 
By Mark A. Rivera.
All Rights Reserved.

The World's End is coming to Blu-ray this November!









Universal City, California, September 26th, 2013 – Five middle-aged friends set out to relive a beer-fueled odyssey from their youth, and end up in an epic battle to save humankind in the outrageous comedy The World’s End, available on Blu-ray Combo Pack, including Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD with UltraViolet, DVD and On Demand on November 19, 2013, from Universal Studios Home Entertainment.   Now fans can truly watch The World’s End anywhere, on any device!


Directed by Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz), The World’s End’s irresistible humor has made it the toast of film reviewers across the nation.  Labeled “sheer comic perfection!” by Peter Travers of Rolling Stoneand called “Hilarious!” by Entertainment Weekly’s Chris Nashawaty, The World’s Endstars Simon Pegg (Star Trek Into Darkness, Paul) and Nick Frost (Snow White and the Huntsman, Paul). This is the third and final film in Wright’s The Ultimate Three Flavors Cornetto® Trilogy, which also features hitsShaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz starring Pegg and Frost, available exclusively on Blu-rayNovember 19th.   


The World’s End also stars Paddy Considine (The Bourne Ultimatum), Martin Freeman (The Hobbit), Eddie Marsan (Sherlock Holmes), and Rosamund Pike (Jack Reacher). The Blu-ray Combo Pack serves up more than two hours of bonus content, including a gag reel, feature commentary with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, and an insider’s look at the making of the funniest reunion picture ever made.


The Blu-ray Combo Pack of The World’s End includes a Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD with UltraViolet.

·         Blu-ray unleashes the power of your HDTV and is the best way to watch movies at home, featuring 6X the picture resolution of DVD, exclusive extras and theater-quality surround sound.

·                     DVD offers the flexibility and convenience of playing movies in more places, both at home and away.

·         DIGITAL HD with UltraVioletlets fans watch movies anywhere, on their favorite devices. Users can instantly stream or download movies to watch on iPad®, iPhone®, Android, smart TVs, connected Blu-ray players, game consoles, and more.


Bonus Features Exclusive to The World’s End Blu-ray:

·            Cast Commentary with stars Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Paddy Considine

·            Technical Commentary with director Edgar Wright and director of photography Bill Pope

·            Filling in the Blanks: The Stunts and FX of The World's End – Cast and crew discuss the prowess of 
The World’s End stunt and VFX teams. Watch rehearsals of intricate fight scenes choreographed by some of the movies’ best stuntmen. Learn how the VFX team enhances the existing footage to perfect the film’s look and style.


Bonus Features Exclusive to The World’s End Blu-ray™ Continued:

·            Hair and Make-Up Tests

·            Rehearsal Footage

·            Stunt Tapes – Behind-the-scenes of the bathroom fight, the twinbot fight and the beehive fight

·            VFX Breakdown – VFX Supervisor Frazer Churchill compares production footage with final shots to take viewers behind the veil of the outrageous visual effects sequences.

·            There's Only One Gary King -osymyso's Inibri-8 Megamix – A mash-up of Gary King’s (Pegg) best moments.

·            The Man Who Would Be (Gary) King

·            Signs & Omens –  A film clip montage highlighting all the hidden clues and hints throughout the film.

·            Edgar & Simon's Flip Chart –Writers Edgar Wright & Simon Pegg bring back the trusty flip chart to reveal their step-by-step process of creating the story.

·            Deleted Scene, Outtakes, Alternate Edits and more!


Bonus Features on The World’s EndBlu-ray™ and DVD:

·            Completing the Golden Mile - The Making of The World's End– While on the surface The World’s End looks like a movie about a bunch of old friends getting drunk on a pub crawl, it’s actually about much more.  Look through the eyes of these frequent collaborators at the depth of the themes and the relationships between characters.

·            Feature Commentary with Screenwriters Edgar Wright & Simon Pegg

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Marvel's Agents of Shield Off To A Promising Start!

I watched the series premiere of Marvel's Agents of Shield last night and I have to say I liked it despite the budget limitations that can be clearly seen in some of the CGI effects as well as the obvious TV look to the show. It does not remotely have the feel of a feature film with a look that seemed almost two slick at times to gel with the Marvel Cinematic Universe feature films.

What ultimately won me over was the writing by Joss Whedon. He knows how to cast and sprinkle in a bit of humor into the action though the episode is nowhere near as witty as Buffy The Vampire Slayer's dialogue was. Yet this is the pilot and it was very good for a pilot. I was happy to Ron Glass (Firefly/Barney Miller) as a member of the cast and enjoyed the opening storyline that connects Iron Man III to the pilot while referencing The Avengers and giving a nod to the Spider-Man films. The series is basically something that combines elements of Torchwood, but with a far lighter tone. One can imagine SHIELD as being something akin to UNIT in the Doctor Who universe. The series is nowhere near as dark as Torchwood and after series like Fringe, Torchwood and even The X-Files all following a darker path through their respective mythologies, Marvel's Agents of Shield is refreshingly light and one can sense that the greater story arc for the series will tie into the ever expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe nicely. 

I have my DVR set to record the season and I hope the series goes above and beyond the promise set up in the pilot, which really was saved by the writing and casting one expects from anything Joss Whedon is involved with. 

(C) Copyright 2013 By Mark Rivera
All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Devil Is In The Details.

Three very different, but multi Oscar winning Actors had portrayed the Devil in three films that are stylistically very different, but never the less resonate as well today as they did when they opened theatrically.

In 1987 Alan Parker wrote and directed the film Angel Heart based on the novel Fallen Angel. It stars Mickey Roarke as a gumshoe in the mid 1950s who is sent by the mysterious Louis Cypher (Robert DeNiro) to find Johnny Favorite, a man with a great debt owed and a mysterious past. The film is bleak, atmospheric, spooky and thoroughly enveloping. It is a tragedy of Oedipal proportions and the scenes between Roarke and DeNiro are worth the price of admission itself. The subtleties in DeNiro's performance, revealing anger, self control, and a silent mocking is terrifying. 

That same year George Miller directed The Witches of Eastwick, starring Cher, Michelle Pfieffer, and Susan Sarandon as three women who inadvertently call the man of their dreams onto their doorstep and it turns out to be Jack Nicholson in one of his most decadent and yet oddly humorous characters he has ever played. He dominates the film though Veronica Cartright's performance as the one woman who senses his true identity was in my opinion an under appreciated acting performance worthy of reexamination. Of the three films, this is the lightest in tone.

Ten years later Taylor Hackford expertly directed Al Pacino as the centerpiece of evil opposite a well cast Keanu Reeves as well as an early American screen performance by Charlize Theron proving even back in 1997 that she was more than a beautiful woman. The film was The Devil's Advocate. Theron would go on to earn Oscar gold a few years later. Pacino's interpretation rivals Jack Nicholson's animated performance, but The Devil's Advocate takes on an operatic tone toward the end that is riveting in it's implications.

All three films offer nihilistic philosophical arguments that are intriguing and prove that these films are not just supernatural thrillers, cautionary tales and morality plays, they are three titans featuring three of the best American Actors to play the Devil in the last two decades of the twentieth century.

All three are available via online streaming services like iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, and VUDU. They have also been released on home video though it might just be easier to rent them online. As a Halloween triple feature, Angel Heart, The Witches of Eastwick and The Devil's Advocate offer intellectual stimulation with genuine chills.

(C) Copyright By Mark Rivera
All Rights Reserved.  

Monday, September 23, 2013

Verification: the new way of class stratification in social media.

I understand that public figures are targets for people who may pretend to be them and usurp their online identity, but in a world where information is currency, are they the only targets ? 

It started with Twitter verification and literally listening to people arguing why they should be verified and the number one reason for their desire to be verified on Twitter was because it looks "cool."

Now Facebook is verifying celebs just like Twitter and they make it a point to have FB founder Mark Zuckerberg's approval signatures and what could be some kind of barcode and a great big check mark followed by a disclaimer that basically says "Verification is not open to the public."

So what this is basically saying is, "This is a private club and ordinary people need not apply." Well considering all of these social media services have enough personal information about it's users anyway, is stating this one select group of people is more susceptible than a scientist, politician, or even more likely, any other human being?

Well the truth is verification for only a select few is in my opinion like telling a person to go sit in the back of the bus if they are not verified. It's special treatment for a select few and a form of class stratification on the internet.

I for one think everyone should be verified, especially if they are not famous because it is the personal information and identity of a private citizen that is more likely going to a target of identity theft than a celebrity who already can afford to have more safeguards placed on their personal information and likely has a means to deal with it faster and prosecute the offender than the person who is not famous. 

Are people really safer because they are not on TV? I don't think so. If anything I believe verification for only a select few is more likely going to cause resentment and turn that check mark into a target for flamers who can make anyone feel worthless in just a few sentences than one's worst bully could ever do in the real world. 

Then the verified complain and feel outrage when someone doesn't kiss their ass and gives them an honest opinion about their latest movie, TV show or best seller in any market. People can be jerks, but when you set yourself on a pedestal to be adored and then show disdain for those who admire you by complaining they need special services that the public is not entitled to then you are kind of setting yourself up to get flamed. 

Most people have a lot more going on in their lives than to focus their energy on the plight of a celebrity who may only be complaining that they're not being treated properly because for the first time maybe someone is reminding them they are only mortal too? 

Verify everyone or no one at all and if the social media companies are going to rub the common cirizen's nose in it just to boost their own profile then they should remember the majority of their users are not famous and were it not for them, they would be out of business. 

Treat everyone equally and with fairness and compassion and you will be adored and appreciated. Treat everyone so that they are made to feel like they are not important and then remember the golden words spoken to Roman leaders when they were celebrated and treated like gods for a day in a triumph. A servant was placed at their side and their job was to whisper in the triumphant's ear over and over again the words, "All Glory Is Fleeting..."

(C) 2013 By Mark Rivera.
All Rights Reserved.

Friday, September 20, 2013

World War Z Blu-ray 3D Three-Disc Set Review.

I watched the unrated extended cut of World War Z on Blu-ray Disc today. The extended version adds a few moments of character development and is basically the same movie with some blood spurts, but no banquets or even four letter words to have possibly garnered the film an R rating in my opinion, but I am not the MPAA and the reality is the film cost so much to make and may go down in history as the most expensive zombie film ever made for all time so I can understand why they made the theatrical cut as benign as possible.

Regarding the 3D version of World War Z, the quality is good, but I found the colors to be a bit over-saturated. So I reset the 3D settings to factory default and everything from then on looked much better. The passive 3D effect was equal to what you get in a theater screening a film in Real D 3D aka fancy word for passive 3D with polarized 3D glasses. Sometimes I found the effect when you had a person in the foreground out of focus and then someone in the middle and then someone in the background to seem a bit distracting, but moments like that were few and far between. I consider the 3D to be good because there was one scene where I knew something was about to happen, but in 3D it made me jump. Since this is a action/thriller/horror film, the fact that it gave me a jolt in 3D even when I knew exactly what was going to happen is exactly what a film in that genre in 3D should do. Thus I consider the BD 3D to be a success on this film.

The film looks fantastic and features a DTS-HD MA 7.1 soundtrack for both the Blu-ray 3D, and Blu-ray Disc versions. The theatrical cut is presented in HD  in 3D, but the unrated extended version is only available on the regular Blu-ray Disc within the three-disc set, which also includes a DVD containing the theatrical cut and codes to download the theatrical version on either Ultraviolet or iTunes digital copy. 

The bonus features are all on the second disc containing the extended version. Unfortunately despite the featurettes and documentary all being directed by Laurent Bouzeraeu, everyone but Brad Pitt is interviewed for the film and though there is a bit of never before seen b-roll footage, the reality is considering all the press and publicity Pitt put into the theatrical launch of the film, you would think he would sit down for a few minutes to talk about it for the home video release. 

The one thing I think everyone really would have been excited to see was the entire half of the film that was scrapped even if it were only a work print, I think that would have been the most interesting part of the release.

There are no deleted scenes even and no theatrical trailer as well. I found it odd that seem less branching was not employed so that both the theatrical and unrated cuts were on the 2D Blu-ray Disc. If you prefer the theatrical cut then the only way you will get to see it on Blu-ray is on the Blu-ray 3D disc. Since not everyone owns a Blu-ray 3D capable player let along a 3D ready HDTV and since a lot of people hate 3D in general, not giving consumers a choice on the regular BD in my opinion was an unfortunate oversight.

Paramount's choice to include the extended version on Blu-ray and then only have the theatrical on Blu-ray 3D seems questionable to me because both cuts should have been included via seemless branching on both discs and why not give the user a choice regarding the cut on iTunes or Ultraviolet? As is I feel the way they set up the disc set as a whole is misaligned because of the choices not being universal to all media included and because what extra features I think people would want to see the most were not included. 

World War Z 3D is available now at retailers on and offline courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment.

(C) 2013 By Mark A. Rivera
All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Recognizing British Actors in The Who's Quadrophenia.

Spent the evening with my brother watching The Who's 1979 feature film Quadrophenia on Netflix. I was surprised at the number of British actors I recognized from films, many I only knew by face. Everyone always focuses on Sting appearing in the film, which was right around the time he joined The Police. However whether you know these actors by name or not, I can assure you that odds are you've seen them in something. Among the actors appearing in the film that I recognized are:

Philip Davis
Ray Winstone
Timothy Spall
PH Moriarty 

Monday, September 16, 2013

The zombie series that never ends.

The creator of The Walking Dead graphic novel series once referred to the popular franchise as the zombie movie that never ends. Today it was announced that AMC will produce a new spinoff from The Walking Dead, for which as much as I love the show, I was not too enthusiastic about. 

I have no problem with television shows creating new ones. Sometimes it works very well like Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, which spun off from Star Trek: The Next Generation. But for every good spinoff, there are a ton of poorly received ones like Joanie Loves Chachi, Caprica, Crusade, The Lone Gunmen, After Mash and so on. Even if the new show is every bit as good as the original, sometimes it removes something that makes the world created by original less special.

Would The Sopranos been any better if David Chase decided to make a spinoff focusing on the FBI characters? I think not. With the recent announcement of the Breaking Bad spinoff entitled Better Call Saul to be a prequel to the current series, I have to ask, is it even as much fun to see how Saul became Saul or to watch Saul as he is now? I will leave that up to you all to decide.

My point is simple. More is not always better. Sometimes less is more and I think it is better to have one great work of art than a thousand knockoffs. Thank you.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Riddick Thoughts.

I saw Riddick last Friday. I am a fan of the series. It is really sort of like Conan in space. Definitely a dark space opera, but fun. The new film follows many similar beats to Pitch Black, but it is not a carbon copy. It actually brings the feel of the first two films better and makes them seem more cohesive. You get to see Katie Sackoff's breasts too so hey, that's a perk.;)

Most of the effects are okay to good. The creatures came out pretty well. There is only one scene where three characters ride something like a speeder bike or swoop from Star Wars in the daytime to track Riddick where the CGI was not up to par, but considering the lower budget and sacrifices made to finish the film, they did a better than okay job.

It is not going to knock your socks off, but it won't make you hate it unless you hate the series in general. Then nothing I can write would change that.

You know I am not into the fast & furious movies, but to get Diesel to return to that film series for a cameo in Tokyo Drift, Diesel made a deal where instead of getting paid, Universal gave him the rights to the Riddick franchise. So that is how the movie got made.

He even put up his house at one point until the bank bond came through. So unlike those f&f flicks, there won't be a new Riddick film coming soon. It might be a few more years, but Diesel and Twohy are committed to completing their story for the character and since I respect that they are trying to do something a little different and bring a vision to completion, I hope they succeed. I think I might even donate money if they did a kickstart for it.