*TV SERIES RECAP: THE FRANKENSTEIN CHRONICLES (Seasons 1 & 2)

The Frankenstein chronicles grabbed me from the first episode of the first season. It is essentially a gothic murder mystery thriller — set in early 19th century London during the pre-victorian era, mixing historical events with science fiction and some gothic horror.

Sean Bean is excellent as always, playing John Marlott of the River Police, tasked with investigating the mystery surrounding the discovery of a body that washed ashore. This dead body appears to be made up of body parts sewn together from different people. Very similar to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein novel, which was released a few years before the events of the show. Mary Shelley is a character here, but not a central character, and it is cool to see her featured in the show. Other historical figures of the era are also featured, like William Blake and Sir Robert Peel, as the Home Secretary, who was instrumental in founding and creating the modern British police force.

The first season is excellent, using the events of the historic passage of the Anatomy Bill as a backdrop, and with the strong opposition from religious groups and all the anti-science sentiment of the historic period. We see the early days of forensic science being explored. We have mad scientist-type doctors conducting all kinds of weird experiments on dead and living bodies. The show captures the grim, gloomy, and dark vibe of the era. There are beautiful shots of 19th century foggy London — The divisions between the upper class and the underclass are clearly distinguished. Additionally, the characters are interesting enough to keep you invested in the show.

Season 2 is not as satisfying as the first, mainly because the second season tends to drag a bit — with a lot more exposition than season 1. However, it is still compelling enough to keep you watching.

Three out of Five Popcorn Bags 🍿🍿🍿

The Frankenstein Chronicles (Season 1 & 2). Streaming on Netflix

*TV SERIES RECAP: THE KOMINSKY METHOD (Seasons 1 & 2)

I wanted to see it when it first came out but never got around to it until this quarantine started. Episodes are roughly about a half-hour long, with 8 episodes per season, making it easy for me to power through the first two seasons in a couple of sittings.

At the center of the story is two friends, Sandy Kominsky (Michael Douglas) and Norman Newlander (Alan Arkin). Sandy Kominsky is an acting coach who had a successful acting career but now has been forgotten by Hollywood.

Norman is a veteran power Hollywood agent who owns a high-profile agency. He is also Sandy’s agent and best friend. Their chemistry is excellent, and it feels natural.

Both Sandy and Norman are going through their twilight years, revisiting their past decisions and choices. They both have difficult and complicated relationships with their daughters, whom they neglected while growing up; plus, they both are sharing similar aging issues while at the same time navigating the nuances of dating life.

Apart from being a hilarious show, it also deals with mortality, health and getting old, the prospect of sickness, and the fragility of aging. I was not expecting to be moved as much as I was, especially with the scenes dealing with real human emotions like grief.

The casting is phenomenal. Sandy’s love interest Lisa (Nancy Travis) and Norman’s love interest Madelyn (Jane Seymour) are both excellent here. Paul Reiser is hilarious, especially when sharing scenes with Douglas and Arkin.

Sandy’s daughter Mindy (Sarah Baker) was great, but I felt like her character did not get enough time to develop as much as Norman’s daughter Phoebe (Lisa Edelstein). Maybe season 3 will explore Sandy’s and Mindy’s relationship a bit further.

Phoebe’s complicated, love/hate relationship with her father was deeply emotional, and their storyline of healing and mending their whole father/daughter relationship was outstanding.

Romancing the Stone (1984)

Sandy’s acting studio scenes are remarkable — the ensemble of acting students is made up of young talented actors to keep an eye on. Most notably: Jude (Graham RogersSmitty on Ray Donovan), Theresa (Emily Osment), Darashani (Jenna Lyng Adams), Breana (Ashleigh Lathrop), Margaret (Melissa Tang).

There is also a bunch of cool guest appearances and cameos sprinkled throughout the first two seasons. Bob Odenkirk, Haley Joel Osment, Jay Leno, Ann-Margret, Elliot Gould, Patti LaBelle, and Allison Janney.

There are a few nostalgic throwback scenes with Danny DeVito and Kathleen Turner — they both co-starred with Douglas in a couple of 80s classic comedies: Romancing the Stone and The Jewel of the Nile….. This was pretty neat for a movie nerd like me.

The Kominsky Method is definitely not a typical network sitcom. It is a sophisticated show, full of relatable characters — It feels to me like a Chuck Lorre show for mature adults, full of grown-up humor. It is a Chuck Lorre creation without any restrains or the shackles of network television. One of the better “dramedy” shows I have seen in years.

Five out of Five Popcorn Bags 🍿🍿🍿🍿🍿

The Kominsky Method Season 1 & 2. Streaming on Netflix

*TV SERIES RECAP: THE WITCHER (Season 1)

The Witcher was supposed to be the show to fill the void Game of Thrones left behind, or at least, that is how it was initially promoted and marketed.

It is a fantasy action drama series based on the popular book series by Andrzej Sapowski. It follows the story of a monster-hunting Witcher, Geralt of Rivia (Henry Cavill). Geralt has a mutation of some kind that allows him to live longer than an average human. There are three storylines told simultaneously throughout multiple timelines. We have Yennefer (Anya Chalotra); a hunchback peasant girl sold to a sorceress by her family — The sorceress takes Yennefer to a training school for mages, where she learns to become a Sorceress herself. Then we have princes Cirilla (Freya Allan), who is on the run from an invading kingdom hell-bent on capturing her. Cirilla has shown to possess magical powers and has been told by her dying grandmother Queen to find Geralt of Rivia.

The Witcher is a very complicated show, with lots of exposition and lots of moving storylines. You have to follow the plot carefully and be fully invested in understanding the complexity of the multiple storylines. After the third episode (favorite episode of the series), things get easier to follow. Some episodes seem not that well constructed, but I persevered and made it to the end of the series. Nevertheless, as far as quality is concerned, the show feels like a low-budget fantasy adventure show. The quality of the customs, the sets, special effects, and dialogue of this show does not feel like, say…Game of Thrones, which is the only immediate comparison that I can make.

Henry Cavill is perfect here (I heard he is a big fan of the book series and video games); he essentially saves the show and keeps things interesting. The sword fighting sequences are awesome; Cavill shines on every scene. I came to this show completely open-minded, never having read the books or played the video games. So while this show was initially marketed as the new show for Game of Throne fans — I kept my expectations low and found it enjoyable and entertaining.

Three out of Five Popcorn Bags 🍿🍿🍿

The Witcher (Season 1). Streaming on Netflix

*TV SERIES RECAP: THE MANDALORIAN (Season 1)

Well, we finally have a live-action Star Wars TV show… and what a show it is.

I signed up for Disney+ back in November of last year, and as soon as the streaming service was up and running — I wasted no time on binge-watching the whole thing. However, It took me a while to write up a quick blog post about it. Mostly because throughout the last few months, I have continuously been watching the first season multiple times.

The Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal), also known as Mando, is a Bounty Hunter who takes on bounty hunting jobs and gets paid upon delivery of the fugitive. Mando is a member of a warrior culture called Mandalorians, known for their unique way of life and a strict code of ethics. You can either be born or adopted into the Mandalorian culture…. (Jango Fett was supposed to be a Mandalorian who went rogue). We learn that weapons are part of their religion, and they never remove their helmets in front of other people. Pascal is excellent here playing this character while wearing a helmet, and the way he uses his body language and tone to project Mando’s mood is remarkable.

The show takes place about 5 years after Return of the Jedi (before Force Awakens). The Galactic Empire is no more, and there are rogue imperial factions still roaming around the galaxy.

The force, Jedi or Sith, is never mentioned in any way. There are Easter eggs all over the place — you gotta pay attention and maybe watch it multiple times to notice things.

By now, everyone knows about “The Child,” or Baby Yoda, which is what we will call him for now until we learn his real name next season. We know very little about Baby Yoda and his origins We know “The Client” (Warner Herzog) has been tracking Baby Yoda, and they want something from this force-sensitive child. We also notice the cloning symbol of the Kamino cloners from Attack of the Clones on the uniform of Dr. Pershing (Omid Abtahl).

Could this child be a clone of Master Yoda? Or a test subject for clones? Or maybe a clone of future Yoda-like clones?

…. and here are some things I found to be pretty interesting:

We finally get to see “force healing” officially become part of the canon (before we got to see Rey use force healing on The Rise of Skywalker). We get to see some awesome droids, especially the bounty hunting droid IG-11 (voiced by Taika Waititi). We have jet-flying Mandalorians, mercenaries, assassins, and all kinds of cool, exciting characters. We visit Tattoine and our favorite “wretched hive of scum and villainy” in Mos Eisely spaceport. Jawas get some much-needed screen time. We also have some castaway storm troopers working alongside former agents of the Empire before the creation of The First Order.

All in all, The Mandalorian is a well-crafted, entertaining show. There is a space western vibe to it, leaning towards the vibe and spirit of Star Wars: A New Hope (Episode IV), closer to Rogue One in tone. I sense a Sergio Leone influence here — I only wish each episode was an hour instead of shy of thirty minutes. Hardcore Star Wars fans will love this show…. Kudos to Jon Favreau and his team of writers: Dave Folini, Rick Famuyiwa, and Christopher Yost.

Five out of Five Popcorn Bags 🍿🍿🍿🍿🍿

The Mandalorian (Season 1). Streaming on Disney+

*TV Series Recap: The Dublin Murders (Season 1)

Man, what a treat it was to watch the first season of The Dublin Murders

Based on the Dublin Murders Squad book series by Tana French, specifically the first two books in the series: In the woods and The Likeness. Brilliantly adapted for T.V. by Sara Phelps, who is mostly known for adapting Agatha Christie’s A.B.C. detective series for the B.B.C., and the well-received T.V. adaptation of J. K Rowling’s Casual Vacancy.

The Dublin Murders (Streaming on STARZ)

The story revolves around the murder of a young girl in the woods, and the connection between this most recent murder and an old unsolved mystery regarding the disappearance of two kids in the same woods back to 1985. It is essentially a murder mystery within another mystery, and they are all interlinked. Bringing those two books to create a cohesive story is remarkable. The lead actors are super compelling. Excellent casting of Killian Scott (Detective Rob Reilly), and Sarah Greene (Detective Cassie Maddox); there is immediate chemistry between the two leads from the moment they show up on the screen.

Outstanding performance by Leah McNamara (Rosalind Devlin), she is an actor to keep an eye on future roles.

Most Game of Thrones fans should recognize the actor who played Varys (Conleth Hill), playing O’Kelly, a no-nonsense Captain of the Homicide squad, and he is fantastic on this show also.

The Dublin Murders is incredibly well executed in terms of quality; I admire the way it was shot, the tone and the color palettes capturing the atmosphere, the perverse and nastiness of the world the characters inhabit. Its dark, brutal, unnerving, eerie, but very human.

Audiences are hungry for engaging shows like The Dublin Murders, the type of elaborate shows that require your full attention. You cannot be distracted or be on your phone watching this show. You have to pay attention to everything going on. It is telling you in every scene to follow along, and you’ll know what is going on. It doesn’t dumb things down, its respectful to the audience. Can’t wait for season 2.

Five out of Five Popcorn Bags 🍿🍿🍿🍿🍿

The Dublin Murders (Streaming on STARZ)

*Movie Recap-EL CAMINO: A Breaking Bad Movie

El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie (2019)

I was a huge fan of Breaking Bad, so I was beyond excited for this movie. El Camino feels like an extended episode of the series, which is not a bad thing at all. However, It is not an easy movie to watch and to follow if you have not seen the TV series. But, if you have seen or were a fan of the show, then you will find this movie to be very entertaining and enjoyable. It is all about Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), and the immediate aftermath of the final episode of the show, so that is pretty cool on its own. Jesse gets a chance to reconnect through a series of flashbacks with some of our favorite characters from the show; there is a quick flashback scene with his girlfriend, Jane (Krysten Ritter). There is this cool scene with Mike at the beginning of the movie (Jonathan Banks) and a compelling and somewhat bleak scene with Walter White (Bryan Cranston).

We get to spend a considerable amount of time with the derange and psychotic Todd (Jesse Plemons), where Jesse is forced to assist Todd in disposing of a dead body. We also get to see the likable duo of Skinny Pete and Badger (Charles baker & Matt Jones). And of course, we have Robert Forster making his final on-screen appearance playing Ed, the new identity and relocation expert from Breaking Bad’s last season. Here we get the chance to know this mysterious character a little better; we get to see him running his vacuum repair store, while at the same time operating his relocation services for the criminal underworld.

There are many moving parts in this movie for die-hard Breaking Bad fans to enjoy, and all in all, this is a fun movie to watch, especially if you are a fan of the show.

Three out of Five Popcorn Bags. 🍿🍿🍿

EL CAMINO: A Breaking Bad Movie (2019, Streaming on Netflix)

*TV Series Recap: The Deuce

I finally got the chance to watch The Deuce from start to finish. I finished watching the whole thing, seasons 1 through 3 within four weeks.

James Franco has double duty playing twin brothers Frankie and Vincent. These two brothers are complete opposites, Frankie is a fun-loving hustler, gambling and scheming his way through life. Vincent is all about hard work and doing the right thing, but struggles to make ends meet. Vincent’s luck begins to change when a member of the Gambino family notices Vincent’s work ethic and finds value in recruiting him to front his business interests throughout midtown. Most notably, a mob-controlled bar called the Hi-Hat, located somewhere between Times Square and Hell’s Kitchen.

The Deuce (HBO)

Eventually, Vincent transitions from running the Hi-Hat bar into becoming the figurehead of the mob’s sex parlor operations in Times Square. Vincent’s love interest Abby is played by Margarita Levieva. Abby is a young college student from a privileged background who moves to NYC for college, but, along the way, decides to go in a different direction. Maggie Gyllenhal plays “candy,” a street worker who moves into porno movies and eventually into writing and directing them.

Emily Meade as Lori Madison and Gary Carr as C.C.

But the Lori Madison character played by Emily Meade was probably one of the most engaging characters in this series. You get to see Lori arrive in New York City’s Port Authority and her immediate recruitment and seduction into the street worker’s life by the brutal and vicious pimp “C.C.” played by Gary Carr. The entire ensemble of characters and subplots reminds you of the first few seasons of Mad MenThe Deuce moves along pretty fast, and it is because the show moves at a high pace that some storylines end up getting pushed aside. Case in point, the character of Ashley, played by Jamie Neumann. Her character was very compelling. We see her going from streetwalker to having the courage to move away from her sadistic pimp and comeback as an activist. Shedding the Ashley persona aside and returning to the Deuce as Dorothy. Her activism leads to her eventual murder, but her death was never explained, and there were no hints of any possible suspects. It feels weird that the showrunners wrote her off just like that. Maybe there was some dispute here, or perhaps they felt her character wasn’t worth exploring further, and just moved on from her. 

The Deuce (HBO)TV Show

It’s all about the Streetlife and the everyday hustle to survive, and Times Square is at the center of it all. A reflection of how the country was changing from the early 70s to the mid-80s. The pre-AIDS era of NYC. Before the purification and the so-called clean up of Times Square in the mid-80s and into the early 90s. The arrival of new technology changing the way porn was consumed. Capitalism, with its big business approach pushing aside all the small-time criminals. The arrival of the Marriott Marquis and redevelopment of midtown which led to the arrival of other corporate-owned businesses which pushed out the majority of the small businesses within Times Square and midtown. A process that enlisted the help of the NYPD and other elected and unelected city officials.

James Franco (The Deuce)

I was utterly captivated by this show, especially for someone like me who walks through 42nd Street and Port Authority at least four to five days a week. I have always been conscious of the dark and sleazy history of Times Square, even before watching this show. Whenever I’m walking down 42nd street, I look around attempting to reconnect with its past-imagining what it was actually like in the ’70s and ’80s. I find myself consumed by this romantic nostalgia of this crime-infested part of midtown, wishing those days were still here. I am thinking of how I would’ve made a fortune if I was in Vincent’s shoes living in that era of NYC. It’s interesting, but I noticed that if you pay close attention, Times Square is still full of hustlers, pimps, prostitutes, dealers, and crime opportunists all over. Still, you have to pay close attention and look around quietly and intently to notice. The parlors and brothels are gone, the street workers, the pimps roaming the streets, the peep shows, the porno theaters, the gay club scene, and even the greasy spoon diners are all gone. You can’t find a decent old school diner anymore in Times Square. Call me an old fool, but I long for those days.

The Deuce is without a doubt one of the best TV series of the last 10 years. David Simon and George Pelecanos created something very unique and special.

Four out of Five Popcorn Bags 🍿🍿🍿🍿

The Deuce (Seasons 1, 2 and 3-Streaming on HBO)

*FROM BOOK TO TV: ADAPTED WORKS OF FICTION

As I continue to work on my screenwriting journey, as well as learning the craft of creating spec scripts for TV, I can see clearly how hard it is to adapt books into movies or TV shows. It’s a tough and arduous endeavor, and often times somewhat polarizing, especially when it comes to beloved works of fiction. I recently finished watching Good Omens on Prime, and If you haven’t heard anything about it, it is a limited TV series adaptation of a book collaboration between Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett, also titled Good Omens, which was released way back in 1990. This book has been a bestseller ever since it was first released and it’s one of those sci/fi fantasy books that continues to enjoy a solid die-hard cult following base.

The book is still available in print, so you should be able to easily find it in-stock at your local bookstore without having to special order it. If you can’t find it and have to special order it, then your local bookstore probably sucks.

img_1780-1For some strange reason, this limited series is not generating as much buzz like other TV shows, and it seems to me that the most faithful and hardcore book fans of Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett were the ones who immediately binged on the show as soon as it was made available to stream. But regardless of the limited buzz, this show is considered to be one of the most successful shows on Amazon original series lineup and fans of the book have given this TV adaptation high praise as it compares to the original text. Which is a direct contradiction to the other adaptation of Neil Gaiman‘s book American Gods (Streaming on Starz). From the things I’ve seen and read online, it seems like this  American Gods TV version has generated some negative feedback when compared to the actual book. Good Omens is such a fun, well-executed show and casting Michael Sheen as Aziraphale and David Tennant as Crowley was pure genius. Their performances are excellent. There is even talk about expanding from the book and developing a second season. Which will be great, if only Neil Gaiman would continue to write future episodes and produce the show.

img_1781American Gods season 1 was pretty entertaining. I enjoyed it, but it is evident that there was plenty of material left out of the book, and season 2 is already available to stream, but I haven’t seen it yet, (will probably watch it in the next few weeks). I must confess that I have not read Good Omens or American Gods, but I know many people in my immediate surroundings who have read them both and they all share their discontent for American Gods TV adaptation and their praise for the Good Omens TV adaptation. The performance by Ian McShane as Mr. Wednesday on American Gods has been praised as the best thing from the show. I think he did a fantastic job with the part. But I also feel that there were other excellent performances to highlight like Pablo Schrieber as Mad Sweeney and Emily Browning as Laura Moon, and I think most of the cast did a solid job as well. So even though the first two seasons of American Gods have received mixed reviews (mostly from people who love the book), the show still ends up working well, and I found it to be visually very extravagant and beautiful. It is definitely worth watching.

6521ab92-1068-4821-881d-8fa5d0e1fc06Game of Thrones and Good Omens are an interesting example of how a previously released work of fiction can be successfully adapted from book form into a successful TV series as close to its original form as possible. Specifically Game of Thrones season one through five. Those seasons were very close to the books, with some omissions here and there, most notably the emergence of Lady Stoneheart assuming the leadership of the Brotherhood without Banners. I wished that particular storyline would’ve found its way into the show somewhere, somehow. Mainly since seasons three, four and five were based on the books A Feast for Crows  (Book Four) and A Dance with Dragons (Book Five) which is very interesting because both books share the same timeline. From season six through eight (Final season), everything is NOT based on the actual books. So once book number six (Winds of Winter) and book seven (A Promise of Spring) are both completed and released that is when we will finally be able to put everything together and compare the TV show next to the books accurately. 

Game of Thrones gave me a unique perspective into the polarizing world of adapted works of literature. Game of Thrones was a TV series that generated so much feedback and chatter, were faithful fans who worship and canonize all of the five books of A Song of Ice and Fire were always quick to point out any inaccuracies within the storylines in the TV version. Usually right after a new episode would air I would check the Twitter trends and read all the banter going back and forth between the hardcore fans and the casual fans who did not read all the books but loved the show fanatically nonetheless. There was always criticism of the show, although the criticism was often positive, but yet, there was still plenty of unsatisfied Game of Thrones fanatics who did not take too kindly to any little deviation from the written works of George R. R. Martin. The fact of the matter is that both the books and the TV show have generated a worldwide cult following phenomenon, making it the most popular show in the world, which is something extremely remarkable.

img_1784I also recently finished watching season one of  A Discovery of Witches (BBC America/AMC) which is an adaptation of the All Souls trilogy by Deborah Harkness. The show was pretty entertaining and fun to watch because when you blend vampires, witches, and demons into one storyline, it should make for one hell of an entertaining show, but the demons were somewhat cast aside and did not have a prominent role in the show (wanted to see more of them). I couldn’t help but be reminded of the Twilight series throughout most of the eight episodes of this show. This is another adaptation where the book is being consolidated into a cliff notes version of the story, and I feel that in this particular adaptation, the story did not have to be watered down or consolidated. There is plenty of time in eight episodes to bring a cohesive story together without compromising the source material or perhaps even make it a ten-episode season. In any case, I still enjoy the show and can’t wait for season 2.

img_1775When it comes to future adaptations of beloved works of literature, the possibilities are endless. There was the successful adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects on HBO, which is another example of an efficient and deliberate way on how to adapt a book into a TV series without taking too much away from the original source material. The Outlander series is also a fan favorite, which is an adaptation of Diana Gabaldon’s book series also titled Outlander. We also have Alan Moore’s Watchmen coming soon to HBO. Hulu is developing Anne Rices Vampire Chronicles into a TV series, which is precisely the proper way to present this type of material to an audience. The complex world that Lestat and the other characters of the vampire chronicles occupy needs to be presented in an extended TV format. I know Anne, and Christopher Rice are 100% involved in the creative process, from casting to developing the storyline, and I know Anne is a huge fan of British TV shows like Downtown Abbey and others, so I feel like this show will be epic. I’m a big fan of the first three books of the vampire chronicles, so I’m beyond excited, to say the least. Also, let’s not forget those Game of Thrones prequels being developed, oh…and there are the future adaptations of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time sci/fi series coming soon to Prime (I think).

All of those current adaptations serve, and future adaptations will serve as an excellent source for aspiring screenwriters, it is a unique way for someone like me who is taking his first steps into the screenwriting process to use as a tool and reference. I would love one day to have a crack at adapting a book into a movie or TV show, but in the meantime, I have to continue watching, reading and most importantly…writing.

This is truly the golden age of television.

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