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Archive for October 8th, 2009

True Blood

Having previously been screened on the FX channel, last night saw the UK free to air premier of True Blood on C4.  Based on The Southern Vampire Mysteries series of novels by Charlaine Harris, it was created and produced by Alan Ball.  Following a great cretit sequence of old looking and sometimes disturbing visions of the south the show opens with a TV interview.  This explains that vampires live amongst us and people are now aware of them for the first time.  This is an effective if somewhat lazy way of jumping directly into the narrative without a complicated build-up.  It explains how vampires “came out of the casket” two years before when the Japanese developed a new totally synthetic blood called TruBlood.  The appealing thing about the show is that it presents vampires in a more adult (I mean grown up not a euphemism for porn!) way than other television and movie vampires of recent years.  Their appearance and retractable fangs have a more realistic look than many vampires who go through over dramatic transformations.  There is very little action and the show is very dialogue heavy.  As the series develops this is something that could make or break the show depending on how it is handled.  As a strongly character driven program it should be okay.

 True Blood

Set in Bon Temps, a fictional small town in Louisiana the principle character is Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) a waitress with a gift/curse of being able to hear other people’s thoughts.  It is difficult to say at this stage how bigger part many characters will have in the show so I will just mention the main ones.  

  • Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) is a vampire who comes it the bar where Sookie works.  She appears to fall in love with him almost immediately.  Something her friends put down to vampires ability to hypnotise people.  At this stage we don’t know if that is true.  Some facts about vampire’s powers, abilities and weaknesses are revealed in the first episode but there is lots more we are not told. 
  • Sookie’s best friend Tara Thornton (Rutina Wesley) takes a job at the same Bar as Sookie.  With a huge chip on her shoulder she provides great comic relief.  She is very loyal and protective of Sookie who seems to be her only real friend as her explosive and untrusting nature drives people away. 
  • Tara has a huge crush on Sookie’s older brother, Jason (Ryan Kwanten) who despite being a chronic womanizer doesn’t seem to notice she exists. 
  • Sam Merlotte (Sam Trammell) owns the bar where Sookie and Tara work.  He is also protective of Sookie who he has a crush on.  This I suspect will push him and Tara together as Sookie’s relationship with Bill develops. 
  • Finally we have Sookie’s grandmother Adele (Lois Smith),  Sookie and Jason appear to live with her.  No explanation for this has been given yet.  Her reaction to Sookie meeting a vampire suggests  she may have had contact with them before probably many years before they “came out”.

 Tara and Sookie

It isn’t clear if each episode will be stand alone or have a continuing narrative.  The ending (that I won’t give away) and the fact the first episode ends with a murder from earlier in the episode remaining unsolved suggests that it will have an ongoing narrative.  If they do, this murder could well be a key plotline along with Sookie and Bills fledgling relationship.  From what I have seen so far the main themes that are explored are acceptance and tolerance for people who are different.  This could relate to race, religion, sex and sexuality.  As the vampires are new to the people in the show and the viewer does not yet know the characters very well the themes could develop or change over time.  I’m already looking forward to next week.

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Zombie Kill of the Week

Zombiland has a plot reminiscent of Night of the Comet, most of the population have turned into zombies. Not wasting time with a complicated explanation or build-up we jump straight into survival and zombie killing. Columbus (Jesse Eiseberg) is nervous and very awkward around people. He has survived by his rules that include #1 cardio, #2 Double Tap, #4 Seatbelts, I’m not going to explain them but don’t worry they all make sense thanks to the brilliantly played out examples. Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) has turned killing zombies into an art form. Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) are a pair of young sisters who worked as short con grifters before everyone became zombies. These four characters are the reason the film is so good. Comedy horror is such a hard thing to get right but in Zombieland the charters are both likeable and perfectly cast. Jesse Eiseberg plays a difficult teen better than anyone else of his generation. Woody Harrelson is always best when playing for laughs. Emma Stone’s bad girl with a heart is probably the least developed character but she plays it perfectly. Abigail Breslin expands on her “child who is wise be yonder her years ” character as seen in Little Miss Sunshine. The only other significant non zombie character is a cameo but let me assure you it is the cameo to end all cameos. The surprise has probably already been spoilt but I won’t add to that except to say if you don’t know what I am talking about don’t look it up just go and see the film without reading anything that may give it away.

zombieland

The pinnacle of zombie comedy in recent years is surly Shaun of the Dead. With cricket bats and vinyl records they found some new, inventive and comic ways of killing zombies. But none of these are going to win “Zombie Kill of the Week”. The simple fact is that Zombiland is considerably funnier that Shaun of the Dead. I can not express just how funny the film is. The last time I was this presently surprised by a comedy was In Bruges last year. Don’t get me wrong this is still a zombie film and is a bloody and sometimes as violent of any other zombie film. So is it a comedy about zombies or a zombie film that is funny? I would probably go for the former rather than the latter as the film really doesn’t have much to say for itself and has no subtext. This isn’t a criticism a comedy can be as shallow and disposable as it likes as long as it is funny and this is extremely funny!

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