Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Summer TV Recap

Goodbye summer. It's been a long, dry, hot road here in California. What did I do during my summer vacation? Why binge watch TV in front of the AC! There were some surprises, some big disappointments and some vaguely entertaining shows. Here's my recap.

American Gothic
CBS double dipped in the genre this summer, and this one was exceedingly terrible. The premise however is good – a wealthy but dysfunctional family discovers their father was a serial killer just after his death – the show is curmudgeonly banal with the standard characters: the cold, calculating mother figure, the drugged out artist son, the straight-laced girl married to a black cop (heavens!), the loaner who saw things and lives in the woods, and the politician daughter who dabbles on both sides. Everyone is a suspect and everyone is unlikeable. It's remarkable how this show is so off-putting and dark, both figuratively with the young child who is clearly a sociopath, and literally, since the show seems to be lit with one single flashlight. The always classy, Virginia Madsen is seriously wasted in an anemic role, but the show was perfect for folding laundry, making dinner, etc.

However, CBS redeemed itself with the Ridley Scott (Alien) produced political comedy/horror hybrid BrainDead. Aliens in the shape of ants attack Earth quietly by centering their efforts on the politicians in Washington D.C. The tone is similar to Mars Attacks and features sung intro recaps, a whimsical musical score that heavily features You Might Think by The Cars, exploding heads, and an irreverent Tony Shalhoub. The rest of the cast led by the committed Mary Elizabeth Winstead (10 Cloverfield Lane) and love interest Aaron Tveit (Danny from Grease Live!) radiate chemistry. It is such a fun TV show and though it looks like it won't get a second season, is definitely worth watching. CBS didn't know how to market this gem and on any non-major network, this show would have been watercooler darling. As it stands, it's not for all tastes but those who get it will love it, and eventually it will be a stellar Netflix binge.

Scream, Season 2
The first season of Scream was barely tolerable but it came to a good resolution and made season 2 completely improbable. The showrunners stepped down (fired?) due to the creative direction, and new ones brought in to make this show completely intolerable. They sprayed everything with AXE body spray, added temper tantrums and illogical writing, ensured the remaining cast was even more unlikable and whiny. This series is intolerable. Also, 38 of 42 minutes of running time is spent on the teens' dramas and anxieties, then suddenly breaks in the 4 minutes of serial killer action. Srsly. OVit. 🙄 Clearly, I am not the intended viewer for this show. Interestingly, I've read a sound bite from the producers who are tired of being compared to the movie. Um, solution: don't call your show Scream, maybe?

Dead of Summer
Set in as summer camp in the 80s, Dead of Summer is the kitchen sink of genre shows. We have a slasher (?), horny teens, a mysterious camp leader with secrets, and a haunting supernatural force awakened by – what exactly? The show is an embarrassment on all levels from the "writing" to the high school acting troupe, to the nonsensical plot. Perhaps, like Scream, I am not the Freeform channel's (owned by ABC Family) prime demographic but why would anyone aim for the mediocre? Definitely expected a better show from the producers of LOST and Once Upon a Time.

The first of two shows based on graphic novels, Preacher on AMC is one hell heck of a ride that plays like an early Quentin Tarantino movie. It's fast, stylish, full of interesting characters, absurd scenarios, and just tinged with a lil' supernatural charm. The well-coiffed Dominic Cooper plays a small, dusty town preacher with a checkered past, who gains an incredible force. Alongside his headstrong ex-girlfriend and an Irish vampire, he is being pursued by a pair of inept henchman who are trying to get that power back. This one is a head-scratcher at times and definitely makes the audience think a bit. Hang in there, although I will warn you now, the season finale takes a deep dive into the ridiculous.

Cinemax's series Outcast is also based on a graphic novel and features a trouble preacher and an unfortunate man who's been plagued with demonic possession – not him, just those around him. He also harbors some strange abilities to exorcise those demons who appear as viscous, black oil. The show was created by Robert Kirkman who also created The Walking Dead and follows in that bleak, apocalyptic tone but here the characters are much more likable – and most importantly there is hope. As the citizens are being taken down by a nefarious plot, Brent Spiner (Star Trek: The Next Generation) shows up as a shadow person complete with hat and brings with him a dark force of mystery. What the hell is going on? Much is not revealed but the show was renewed for a second season before the first episode premiered so there's plenty of time to explore this world.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Yankee Candle Halloween 2016

Another Yankee Candle Halloween Preview Sale come and gone. Oddly, some of their most interesting items were available online only. By the time I checked at 9am the one thing I wanted (the purple skull) was sold out. Rats! Here are some of the standout items:

Friday, August 26, 2016

Spirit Halloween Now Open ~ Get 20% off!

Eek! Spirit Halloween stores are opening all over the country! Go to their Store Locator page to find your closest location and grab a 20% off coupon!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Dog Days of Summer Reads

August is the last, long, hot crawl through summer and into our favorite season: Autumn! How to pass the time? Reading of course! Here's a few recommendations for getting through the rest of the summer and into the golden pumpkin spice days ahead.

Grady Hendrix's novel My Best Friend's Exorcism is a funny, nostalgic trip through the 80s with real heart. The premise follows two young girls from 10th grade through the perils of high school when one of them is seemingly possessed by a demon. It doesn't add much to the supernatural genre but as an American satire of friendship and puberty it was certainly entertaining. It's totally awesome.

Loved the Ghostbusters reboot? For those lucky few in the front row, the book Ghosts from our Past: Both Literally and Figuratively featured prominently in the movies was actually printed and a fantastic souvenir/tie-in book. It has great illustrations, hilarious lists of ghosts phenomenon, and what may be some real research on the paranormal. Probably not – who knows or cares, but it's incredibly entertaining and written from the perspective of the two characters from the movie, Erin Gilbert and Abby Yates. By the way, order the UK version which is hardcover and about $2.50 more than the cheaper U.S. paperback (available on Amazon).

While we're all familiar with the stories of the Brothers Grimm, I'ver never actually read any of them. Thankfully, the new collection Gris Grimly's Tales from the Brothers Grimm has arrived and this passion project from Gris Grimly is lovingly restored to it's uncut, grim form and filled with his whimsical and dark illustrations. Everything about this book from the gold foil insignia on the cover (under the dust jacket) to the smooth, deckled edge paper feels special. This is not be missed and will make a great addition to any haunted library.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

AHS Teaser Fatigue

We're up to 19 (!) teasers for AHS Season 6 and Fox is calling some intentional misdirects or fake-outs. Is anyone else experiencing teaser fatigue? It's like when the prom queen keeps reminding you she's the Prom. F-ing. Queen.

“American Horror Story” just dropped FOUR new teasers — but only one is real!!!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Stranger Things ~ Review

I grew up in the 80s, and I must admit that nostalgia sways my opinion about films and TV shows set in my formative era. That said, Netflix's new series Stranger Things is easily the best show of the summer crowded with very strong genre contenders (Preacher, Outcast, BrainDead). It is an ambitious love letter to kinds of films that I love.

Divided into eight "chapters" the story (that due to it's brevity is best discovered than discussed here) echoes early Stephen King and his infamous "The Shop" where gifted people were studied and exploited. There's also early John Carpenter references to his weirder sci-fi mind-bending elements (long live the new flesh!), and topped with Steven Spielberg's unique family-oriented perspective where kids in peril undertake some great adventure. It's a very wild, serious, entertaining and emotionally resonant concoction that seems so perfectly out of time.

Written and directed by newcomers, The Duffer Brothers, Stranger Things unfurls efficiently with absolutely no filler. Binging on this show definitely brings out its more cinematic underpinnings, because really, it's an 8-hour movie. Every episode seamlessly moves into the other with cohesive style and pace. It helps that the creators directed the majority of the series, a rarity in scripted series.

Much of the success can also be attributed to the incredible young cast who gives very rare, natural performances. Their camaraderie feels like these kids actually grew up together. Even the mostly unknown adult ensemble pulls off great performances. Winona Ryder is strangely not the standout with her quirky, affected performance that is a bit over the top. Add to this very understated costumes, props, sets, and lighting that complete the mood of quintessential 80s filmmaking.

This is a must-watch for fans of 80s horror/sci-fi and highly recommended for general audiences. It may not have the flashy effects, jump scares, or be saturated with CGI, but this is a very special series and one of the best that Netflix has produced.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Yankee Candle 50% Off Sale

"Just in case" you want your home smelling like Autumn, here's a 50% off coupon for all candles and home fragrance at (promo code: EMPLOYEE). Offer expires August 14.

Also, don't forget their Halloween Preview Sale happening Saturday, August 27 at 10am.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Paranormal Witness, Season 5

Surprise?! Paranormal Witness is back with Season 5, which premiered last Wednesday, August 3. SyF's erratic schedule (sometimes you wait years between seasons and sometimes it's just a few months) and poor promotion (we dare to find out when our shows air!) is astonishing. Thankfully one of the best supernatural shows is back! Yay! Watch Wednesdays at 10/9C.