Bates Motel: Norman Bates, The Teenage Years

Hello everybody! Today we have the prequel to Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, the tv series Bates Motel.

BATES MOTEL

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DIRECTOR: Carlton Cuse, Kerry Ehrin, Anthony Cipriano

STARRING: Vera Farmiga, Freddie Highmore, Max Thieriot, Olivia Cooke, Nicola Peltz, Nestor Carbonell

NO. OF EPISODES: 20

YEAR: 2013-2014

GENRE: Drama, Thriller, Suspense

COUNTRY: United States

The first season follows Norman and Norma Bates when they buy a motel shortly after Norman’s father dies. On one of the first nights of the two owning the motel, things end badly when the former owner breaks in and rapes Norma. A returning Norman knocks the attacker out and Norma then kills him, and they decide to hide the body in a lake. When the town sheriff and his deputy notice that a man has gone missing, Norma and Norman must keep them from digging too far.

The second season follows the aftermath of Norman Bates and the mystery of the death of his teacher Miss Watson and her past secrets being revealed. Meanwhile, his mother Norma struggles to keep the motel open with the impending bypass about to be open just miles away, and his older half-brother Dylan deals with a disturbing discovery about his true parentage.

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The Norma-Norman relationship isn’t the show’s only deviation from its source, or sources; Bates Motel is mostly deviations, really. It’s set in the present. Norman has an older, tougher half-brother named Dylan Massett (Max Thierrot) — his mom’s son from a previous marriage — who gets involved in the local underworld while needling Norma for being a rotten parent. There are hints that Norma’s a femme fatale/black widow with more than one brutal crime in her past. Everyone uses a cell phone and communicates via text message, and in one sequence, Norman uses his phone’s camera light as a flashlight to navigate a dark house.

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I’m torn between condemning the series for piggybacking on a classic and promising an origin story it doesn’t really care to deliver, and praising it for avoiding the homicidal Muppet Babies formula and pulling a pretty brazen bait-and-switch. More the latter, I suppose — for now, anyway. Bates Motel is tangentially connected to Robert Bloch, Alfred Hitchcock, and Psycho; like Norma Bates, it has kept its married name while pursuing its own identity and agenda. It’s as much Norma’s show as Norman’s. Their relationship — which often suggests age-imbalanced, platonic spouses rather than mother-son — is the tale’s misshapen center of gravity.

PROS:

  •  Norma-Norman relationship.
  • Main cast performances.
  • Themes.
  • Tone.

CONS:

  •  Strong deviation from source material.
  • Not much of an origin story.
  • Supporting cast performances.

SCORE: 7.2 / 10

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All check out my lengthier video game reviews over at Nerd Bacon Games.

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Silicon Valley: Hooli vs. Pied Piper

Hello everybody! Today we have a new HBO series about technology called Silicon Valley.

SILICON VALLEY

CREATED BY: Mike Judge, John Altschuler, Dave Krinsky

STARRING: Thomas Middleditch, T. J. Miller, Josh Brener, Martin Starr, Kumail Nanjiani, Christopher Evan Welch, Amanda Crew, Zach Woods

GENRE: Sitcom

YEAR: 2014

COUNTRY: United States

Richard Hendriks (Thomas Middleditch) is a shy, reclusive programmer working at a large Internet company called Hooli, while developing a music app called Pied Piper in a live-in startup business incubator run by entrepreneur Erlich Bachman (T. J. Miller). After a rocky post-TED elevator pitch of Pied Piper to venture capitalist Peter Gregory (Christopher Evan Welch), Hendriks also shows his work to a pair of brogrammers at Hooli who mock him. Within hours however, Hooli executive Donald “Jared” Dunn (Zach Woods) and Gregory’s assistant Monica (Amanda Crew) are discovering that the app contains a revolutionary data compression algorithm. Hooli CEO Gavin Belson (Matt Ross) proposes a $10 million buyout of Pied Piper, while Peter Gregory offers a $200,000 investment for 5% ownership in the company. With encouragement from Monica and the support of Bachman, Hendriks chooses Gregory’s offer. He hires the residents of the incubator to become the Pied Piper team, along with Dunn who defects from Hooli, but loses his friend Bighead (Josh Brener) to the Internet giant.

All season long, the central narrative has surrounded Richard (an increasingly winning Thomas Middleditch), the founder of Pied Piper, who rejects a multi-million dollar offer from tech titan and Hooli founder Gavin Belson (Matt Ross), to throw his hat in with oddball investor Peter Gregory (Christopher Evan Welch), who just wants a stake in the company, not entire ownership. The move is a risky one, and fuels the wrath of Gavin, who decides to reverse engineer Richard’s valuable compression algorithm, to not only beat him to market, but also make it more attractive by coupling it with his company’s Google-esque suite of services. So, it’s a premise ripe with potential but its often left spinning its wheels.

Certainly, what Judge gets right is the unique and often surreal culture of the tech world, filled by young, extraordinarily smart men who are just as socially awkward as they are intelligent. And so even in Gavin, we see someone whose quirks are exacerbated by success, such as turning to his omni-present personal guru for advice (in a running gag that’s thankfully ditched pretty fast). Or taken to further extremes by Peter, who spends a good chunk of the third episode, “Articles Of Incorporation,” obsessively studying Burger King hamburger buns (leading to an unlikely breakthrough revelation).

But all this is not to say that “Silicon Valley” has missed the mark. Comedies often need a season to work out their tone and find their groove, and there is plenty of promise here to suggest that with the right tweaks, the best is yet to come from this show. Key to the success thus far has been the cast themselves, with Middleditch finding that sweet spot of someone who’s both ambitious and way over their head. Miller gets some good mileage out of the aggressively self-centered Erlich, who has more than few tricks up his sleeve, and while Starr has played this kind character multiple times before, there’s few who do it better. And when the writing zeroes in on the tech industry, “Silicon Valley” delivers some very big laughs. In fact, the extended, epic inspiration handjob joke in “Optimal Tip-To-Tip Efficiency” might be the best gag “Silicon Valley” has done to date: gutbusting, crude but also whipsmart. It’s a great piece of writing with the cast nailing the moment.

PROS:

  •  Main cast performances.
  • Surreal culture of Silicon Valley.
  • Technology at its finest.

CONS:

  •  Premise is left without clear direction.
  • Annoying re-occurring gags.

SCORE: 8.0 / 10

If you have any suggestions for films/TV/Games/Music for me to review, drop me a comment! Remember: Like Media In Review @ https://www.facebook.com/MediaInReview?ref=hl Follow Media in Review @ https://twitter.com/Media_In_Review.

True Detective: Harrelson the Straight Edge, McConaughey the Drug Addict.

Hello everybody! Today we have one of the most ground-breaking HBO series in recent history, True Detective.

TRUE DETECTIVE

STARRING: Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson, Michelle Monaghan, Michael Potts, Tory Kittles

DIRECTOR: Cary Joji Fukunaga

GENRE: Southern Gothic, Drama, Neo-noir, Crime, Mystery

YEAR: 2014

COUNTRY: United States

Alright, so True Detective /Silicon Valley/ Fargo are all the result of my most recent HBO binge. This is hilarious since I don’t even know anyone who has HBO GO, but why pay premium service when you can just stream it for free?

HBO’s True Detective is truly unsettling, not because it’s about the search for a Louisiana serial killer, but because soon enough the search seems almost incidental: a pretext for testing limits and acting out and debating what makes people tick. Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey), the lead detective on the case, treats the investigation as both a justice-seeking mission and a means of philosophical inquiry. He mutters about faith, doubt, the illusion of morality, and the nature of the human heart, often in Socratic sentences that turn his easygoing partner, Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson), into an irrelevant audience of one.

Cohle is a loner who lost his wife and daughter during the years when he worked as an undercover drug agent. He has no social life and couldn’t care less if other cops (including Hart) like him. He takes crime-scene notes in a big sketchbook, lives in an unfurnished apartment, and meditates under a crucifix even though he’s a professed nonbeliever. “We are things that labor under the illusion of having a self,” says Cohle, who blasts the devout as dupes who are intellectually “so goddamn frail they’d rather put a coin in a wishing well than buy dinner.” Hart, who’s cheating on his wife but still takes offense at Cohle’s heresy, warns his partner that he’s made a religion of rationality, treats his notebooks like “stone tablets,” and is “incapable of admitting doubt — and that sounds like denial to me.”

 

I heard many glaring reviews about True Detective, so I went into the first episode with the bar set high. After the first episode, I was hooked. While I am not a huge McConaughey fan, I admire his strengths as an actor. He definitely works well across from Harrelson, their characters are written very well to contrast each other, making this some good premium television.

I know this is where I am supposed to tear apart whatever I am reviewing, but I am just going to barely knit pick on this one. My main issue with True Detective is that I feel Harrelson and McConaughey play the wrong roles. While McConaughey has played some “out of character” roles in recent year (Dallas Buyers Club) it still doesn’t make sense for Harrelson being the more “straight-edged” of the two characters. Also parts of the episodes are very slow as it is obviously leading up to some catastrophic and awesome.

PROS:

  • Main cast performances.
  • Story/plot points.
  • Well-written characters.

CONS:

  • Mcchonohey and Harrelson in wrong roles.
  • Pacing.

SCORE: 9.0 / 10

If you have any suggestions for films/TV/Games/Music for me to review, drop me a comment! Remember: Like Media In Review @ https://www.facebook.com/MediaInReview?ref=hl Follow Media in Review @ https://twitter.com/Media_In_Review.