Tag Archives: hbo

Dave Chappelle: Killin’ Them Softly

Dave Chappelle: Killin’ Them Softly is an hour-long HBO comedy special starring Dave Chappelle and features some of his best material. This is the special that put him on the map. True, you saw him in Half Baked and Robin Hood: Men in Tights, but this was the first time you saw his true genius and realized that he was a masterful storyteller. He talks about everything, including drugs, sex, rolling down windows on old limousines, and Sesame Street.

I remember watching it for the first time in high school and I went nuts for it. I illegally downloaded the video and the MP3 and I listened to it constantly. My friends and I could quote the whole thing from beginning to end. Hell, we still quote it. And I’ve made a lot of new friends that quote it too. It’s a part of our culture, a part of our past. It’s my generation’s Eddie Murphy Delirious or Raw. It had real significance and it lead to his further success with Chappelle’s Show. And even though Chappelle’s show only lasted two real seasons, it still solidified Dave Chappelle’s place amongst the comedic greats. Chappelle is a genius. You only need to watch five minutes of Killin’ Them Softly to find out why.

Critically Rated at 16/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Oz Season 3

HBO’s acclaimed prison drama returned for its third season on July 14th, 1999 and there are a few changes afoot. For starters, the name of the prison is changed to Oswald State Correctional Facility Level 4. Glynn is still the warden, McManus is still the unit manager of Emerald City, and most of the other Correctional Officers, prison staff, and main prisoners are still around. There are a few new additions to the cast, most notably Seth Gilliam as Clayton Hughes, Kristin Rohde as Claire Howell, and Phillip Casnoff as Nikolai Stanislofsky. Hughes and Howell are new Correctional Officers. Hughes father was also a CO at Oz and he died in the line of duty. Hughes makes it his mission to find out who did it and why. Howell is feisty, manipulative, and develops a dangerous crush on McManus. Stanislofsky is a Russian contract killer who purposely got incarcerated to pull off a hit.

There are a few major storylines that unite the 8-episode season. The first involves a boxing tournament between the different factions in Emerald City. The tournament stretches throughout most of the season and sets up a lot of drama and tension amongst the prisoners. Tobias Beecher and Vernon Schillinger continue to hate each other and scheme to break the other. Beecher gets the advantage when Schillinger’s vulnerable son gets incarcerated in Oz. Muslim leader Kareem Saïd starts to lose his power and loses control of the Muslims, effectively isolating himself in a place where you don’t want to be alone. Adebisi seems to go crazy for a while, but then he goes back to being a badass after a few episodes. Miguel Alvarez remains an intriguing character.

There are simply too many characters and plot points to cover, so I’ll be lazy and not talk about them. I’ll just say that Oz is an awesome show and leave it at that. You should watch it. Especially since I’m watching it for the first time and I have nobody to talk about it with. That’s the worst part about watching a show that’s been out for so long. There’s nobody to geek out with. Nobody cares anymore, and it’s frustrating because they should.

Critically Rated at 14/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Oz Season 2

Oz Season 2 is the second season of HBO’s acclaimed dramatic series about life behind bars of the fictional Oswald State Penitentiary. It’s only 8 episodes, each one about an hour long, so you can watch the whole season in a few days. The first season introduced you to the rising tensions of the prison staff member and inmates that culminated in a deadly riot. Season 2 is about the aftermath of the riot, about the lessons learned or ignored by the main characters. You catch up with old characters and you meet new ones that change the dynamic of the prison.

Tim McManus (Terry Kinney) reopens Emerald City, determined to make it succeed. He does this by separating the inmates into different groups (The Mafia, the Aryan Brotherhood, the Muslims, the Homeboys, the Latinos, the rejects, the homosexuals, etc.) with only four members each. Amongst this new backdrop new issues and problems arise.

There are way too many story arcs to cover, so I won’t even try. I’ll just mention a few that I enjoyed. The warden’s daughter gets raped and one of the inmates knows who is responsible. The talented Poet (who happens to be a poet) gets his poetry published and becomes a celebrity who gets his freedom, even though he’s not ready for it. Tobias Beecher (Lee Tergesen) and Schillinger (J.K. Simmons) wage psychological warfare on each other. And Ryan O’Reily (Dean Winters) falls in love with the prison nurse, gets his mentally challenged brother to kill her husband, and deal with the guilt when his brother gets sent to Oz for the murder. There’s another subplot involving two old inmates trying to dig their way out.

There isn’t as much as stake as in Season 1. Season 2 seems to be more of a character study. And there are a lot of interesting characters so there is a lot to explore. It’s not a tame season by any means. Remember that Oz is an HBO show about prison. You’re gonna see a lot of shocking and fucked up shit. If you liked the first season, you’ll love the second season.

Critically Rated at 15/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Oz Season 1

Oz is an HBO series created by Tom Fontana about life behind bars at the fictional Oswald State Penitentiary. It ran for six seasons from 1997 to 2003. It was a milestone in television history. It was the first hour-long HBO drama series, and opened the doors for The Sopranos, Deadwood, Game of Thrones, etc. Season 1 introduces you to the major players in Emerald City, a special unit of the prison, which was created to rehabilitate and not simply punish prisoners.

Emerald City is run by Unit Manager Tim McManus (Terry Kinney) under the supervision of Warden Leo Glynn (Ernie Hudson). You meet a few other staff members such as correctional officer Diane Whittlesey (Edie Falco), prison counselor Sister Peter Marie Reimondo (Rita Moreno), prison doctor Gloria Nathan (Lauren Vélez) and prison chaplain Father Ray Mukada (B.D. Wong). The staff struggles to suppress the rising tensions of the inmates to avoid an imminent riot.

Emerald City is controlled by the staff of Oz, but the inmates run the show. Each episode is narrated by paralyzed inmate Augustus Hill (Harold Perrineau). He talks about the themes and issues of each episode, and he is often neutral and the voice of reason in a chaotic place. The stability of Emerald City is rocked by the arrival of Kareem Saïd, a devout Muslim and political activist who immediately assumes a position of power amongst the inmates. He becomes the unofficial leader of the inmates, and that causes some rival inmates to forge an unsteady alliance. There is an awful lot of politicking and shady deals between the Mafia, the Aryan Brotherhood, the Homeboys, the Irish, the Bikers, the outcasts, and the Muslims as each group attempts to gain more power and control.

New inmate Tobias Beecher (Lee Tergesen) is perhaps the most relatable character on the show. He was a successful lawyer that was convicted of a DUI and sent to a maximum security prison. He has no street skills and doesn’t know how to handle life in prison. Consequently he ends up being the property of Vernon Schillinger (J.K. Simmons), leader of the Aryan Brotherhood. Beecher becomes a bitch. And you don’t want to be a bitch in Oz. Beecher must adapt or die, and he slowly grows a pair of balls and transforms himself into a badass.

Season 1 is all about struggle. The inmates struggle for power and respect. The staff struggles to keep control. Everyone struggles for survival. Oz is a realistic show. It almost feels like you are watching a documentary. It makes you grateful that you aren’t behind bars. It makes you relieved that you don’t work at a prison. But it’s relatable. There are a few characters that you see yourself in. It scares you a little bit, but it compels you to keep watching more. Oz is a few years old now, but it’s still relevant. Good storytelling never goes out of style.

Critically Rated at 14/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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TV Shows are Better than Movies

Movies used to be the premier form of Hollywood entertainment. They were the pinnacle. They had the best actors, the best directors, the best stories, and the best effects. But then HBO started making their own shows. They had the budget to hire quality actors to portray quality characters. Characters are the most important part of storytelling. If you don’t care about the character, then you don’t care about what happens to them. And a TV series allows a character to get developed over multiple episodes and seasons. You get to know their personality, their quirks, their pet peeves, and you feel like you truly know them.

AMC has a lot of amazing character based dramas, like Mad Men and Breaking Bad, with interesting characters and intriguing storylines. The Walking Dead not only has great characters but also feels like a zombie movie that never ends. And it has more graphic and creative zombie deaths than anything in the movies. There are shows like True Blood that are extremely sexual and violent and Spartacus (which makes True Blood seem like a family show). The quality writing on television is extended to Cartoon Network. Even the worst season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars is better than anything the prequel trilogy has to offer.

In the old days, any actor could be on TV but only a few actors could transition to the big screen and be a box office draw. Now movie stars want to be on television. The Simpsons and Scrubs are famous for their celebrity cameos and guest roles. Former Hollywood heavyweights like Keifer Sutherland got a career boost by turning to TV. Dustin Hoffman, Steve Buscemi, and Sean Bean put aside film opportunities to star in HBO shows. Kevin Spacey, Christian Slater, William H. Macy, Alec Baldwin, Kathy Bates, Zooey Deschanel, Danny DeVito, Christina Ricci, Laura Linney, Don Cheadle, and Glenn Close have all chosen television over film. Who needs to go to the theater with that kind of star power available on a weekly basis?

With HBO hits like The Sopranos and Sex in the City, other networks started paying more attention to quality programming. Premium cable channels like Starz and Showtime stepped up their game. Basic cable networks like FX and AMC had to keep up and they did. And the major networks took note and started taking more risks. We get shows as diverse as Lost and Community and everybody wins. The production quality and star power of television shows is only going to increase. It’s a good time to be a couch potato with a Netflix subscription.

Critically Rated at 16/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Game of Thrones (TV show)

HBO’s Game of Thrones is one of the best TV shows I’ve ever experienced, and it’s not even through its second season. It’s hard to make a great show: you need a great premise, strong writing, a solid cast, and a TV network that is willing to invest in a great idea. Game of Thrones has all the requirements to being awesome, and it also has dragons, which makes it even better.

I’ve noticed that there’s been a trend of TV shows based on books, like True Blood, Legend of the Seeker, and this show, which is based on George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. Each season represents a book. HBO can afford to have amazing production values. Each episode feels like a movie. There is a scope that rivals any fantasy film, in most cases exceeding them.

There is a lot going on. There are multiple families competing against each other for power. The Stark family is feuding with the Lannister clan, but sometimes they get along. There’s a clan of warriors known as the Dothraki, and the Viserys, heirs of a usurped king, marry into their tribe to get access to their army so that they might one day reclaim their land. Basically there’s a shit ton of politics and wars and incest. The middle ages were truly a magical time.

This is one of those shows that you get on DVD or Blu-Ray and have a marathon where you watch all the episodes back to back. It’s addicting. There’s something for everyone. There’s talking. There’s action. There’s nudity. There’s violence. There’s romance. There’s politics. There’s nudity. There’s betrayal. There’s religion. There are dwarves. There are dragons. There’s nudity. There are fools and bastards and evil kings. Did I mention the nudity?

No character is safe. This is like a medieval 24. You get to know a character, you get to like them, and then WHAM! BAM! They are dead and your jaw is dropped. And there are a lot of characters. There are a lot of subplots. There are a lot of things going on, but everything ties together. This show is still young, it will get to be a cult phenomenon. It’s already on its way there.

George R. R. Martin has crafted an amazing world. HBO tries to respect it. They do a great job of it too. There is a sense of history. He created a whole backstory that you catch glimpses of that adds to the depth of the story. There are different religions, different gods. There are different languages and customs. There is a sense of honor and chivalry. This is a medieval period, there is still fear of the unknown. Magic still exists, it’s real and possible.

The show follows the book more strictly than True Blood follows the Sookie Stackhouse books. So if you don’t like spoilers you probably shouldn’t read the books. You don’t want to be the jackass pointing out all the differences anyway.

Game of Thrones is awesome. Dragons, kings, swords, nudity… it’s the best swords and sorcery TV show ever. HBO shows are usually awesome, and this is one of their best shows to date. I hope I’m not jinxing season three.

Critically Rated at 15/17

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Eastbound & Down

Danny McBride is Kenny Fucking Powers, a washed up major league pitcher. He had it all and lost it all. He is brash, arrogant, and hilarious. He has a lot of talent but no work ethic, and blames everyone else but himself for his problems. He’s the jock who never grew up.

The first season is about Kenny moving into his brother’s house and working as a gym teacher. He’s hit rock bottom and knows it. He tries to adjust and rekindle a relationship with an ex-girlfriend who is also working at the school. But April is also engaged to the principal. You gotta have a love triangle or there’s no drama, right? Kenny’s old acquaintance/new assistant Stevie helps Kenny on his mission to get back to the majors.

Season 2 finds Kenny in Mexico. He is even more lost and pathetic than he was in the first season. He is trying to forget about his old life, but he can’t forget about April and the lure of pitching in the big leagues. Stevie shows up to help him get back on track, again. In Season 3 Kenny is Myrtle Beach and pitching for a minor league team. April runs off and leaves Kenny with their baby, and hijinks ensue.

Kenny is rude and selfish, but you still want him to succeed. He wasted his talent, but at least he tries to redeem himself. He’s a selfish dick and embraces it, which makes him likeable somehow. HBO lets him get away with everything, so there tons of swearing and nudity. Will Ferrell, Craig Robinson, Gary Cole, and a bunch of other actors make appearances. If you like Judd Apatow movies, you will love this show. It’s hysterically funny, with a little heartfelt drama from time to time, and great characters with great jokes. Danny McBride is awesome.

Critically Rated at 15/17

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