Review: Fear The Walking Dead

Fear The Walking Dead is a 9 episode prequel to The Walking Dead and currently showing on AMC prior to the opening of the new season of The Walking Dead. So far, there have been two episodes.

This series is set in Los Angeles at the beginning of the zombie apocalypse we’ve seen so much of in The Walking Dead. In Fear The Walking Dead people are just starting to think something big is happening. Only a few of them realize that the social order that they rely on is about to collapse, but some of them are getting a hint and starting to take measures.

We in the audience are in the know. We know what people should be doing but aren’t. It’s tense and nerve wracking because the audience knows what’s coming the but characters don’t.

Madison and Travis in the church were Nick saw the zombie.
Madison and Travis in the church where Nick thought he killed a girl. But she didn’t die. What?

We are taken into the story with Madison Clark (Kim Dickens) and Travis Manawa (Cliff Curtis), educators on their way to work in a large high school. Madison has a teenaged daughter Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) who goes to her high school. Madison also has a drug-addicted son Nick (Frank Dillane) who is one of the first to see and attempt to kill a zombie when he wakes up in an old church that drug addicts have taken over.

Kim Dickens’ performance in the first episode as the parent of a drug-riddled child was so moving, I wanted to whole series to be about that.

Elizabeth Rodriguez
Liza searches for her son Chris. No, Elizabeth Rodriguez isn’t really behind bars in this show.

Travis has a son Chris (Lorenzo James Henrie) and an ex Liza (Elizabeth Rodriguez). This blended family group takes us through the first two episodes. In the beginning, their world consists of worry over work, Nick, and visitation arguments over Chris.

One of Madison’s students, Tobias (Lincoln A. Castellanos) gets it. He tries to tell her that she needs to gather food and take action to protect herself because the world is about to change completely. She should have taken him with her and her family, because he is the smartest one around, but she doesn’t.

By episode 2, Travis and Madison are getting the idea that something strange is happening. They want to get out of LA and head into the dessert. Several factors delay them. Nick is going through withdrawal and Madison has to find him some drugs.

Lorenzo James Henrie
Chris filming what he thinks is a confrontation over police brutality

Chris is filming at a huge protest, which the protesters think is about police brutality. Chris thinks all is normal. Travis and Liza go in search of him. The protest turns into chaos and a riot when the police arrive en masse and zombies stagger into the scene.

Rubén Blades and Patricia Reyes Spíndola
Daniel Salazar and Grizelda in his barber shop

Travis, Liza and Chris manage to find refuge in a barber shop, just as the owner Daniel Salazar (Rubén Blades) is boarding up against the riot outside. His wife Grizelda (Patricia Reyes Spíndola) spends her time praying. The Salazars also have a grown daughter played by Mercedes Mason. It was hard to tell much about her yet but she looks like her health might be delicate.

This core group of characters, minus the much needed sage Tobias, will take us through the next episodes.

Fear The Walking Dead is less violent and grisly than what we’ve grown used to with The Walking Dead. It may turn violent, but after two episodes, the characters have the barest glimpse of the chaos that is in store for them. The characters are varied and compelling, each for their own reasons. The acting is excellent.

The large cast of characters promise all sorts of responses to the collapse of world order that is coming. It should make for interesting action in the next 7 episodes as we see them put to the test.

If you are a fan of The Walking Dead, I’m sure you are already watching this. What do you think of it so far?

Images © AMC Film Holdings LLC

Watch This: Trailer for He Named Me Malala

He Named Me Malala is a documentary by Davis Guggenheim about Nobel Peace Prize recipient Malala Yousafzai.

After the Taliban tried to kill her for speaking out on behalf of girls’ education, Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai emerged as a leading advocate for children’s rights and the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. Now 18, Malala is the personal heroine for many young (and old!) women.

Malala continues to advocate for education for girls as she continues her own education. The Yousafzai family lives in England now. The documentary shows her experiences and gives a glimpse into her family life now.

One child, one teacher, one book, and one pen can change the world.
–Malala Yousafzai

The film opens theaters on October 2. That release date coincides with an international advocacy and fundraising campaign in partnership with the Malala Fund, Yousafzai’s nonprofit organization that helps empower adolescent girls globally through secondary education. National Geographic will televise the film next year in 171 countries and 45 languages.

The New Season on Independent Lens

It made the news when Lois Vossen was promoted to executive producer of the PBS documentary series Independent Lens. That makes Vossen one of the top ranking people at PBS. The series she’ll head caught my attention when I saw the articles about her promotion. The commitment to independent film she talks about is wonderful and important.

Independent Lens begins its 14th season on November 9. Take a look at some of the films and any female film makers to be in the new season.

Stray Dog

The season opens with Stray Dog, which is billed as a “stereotype-shattering portrait” of Vietnam veteran Ron Hall directed by Debra Granik. Granik directed the Jennifer Lawrence star-making film Winter’s Bone.

East of Salinas

East of Salinas scene

Laura Pacheco is the producer and director of East of Salinas. The director of photography is also a woman: Jackie Mow.

The film description: “East of Salinas is a story about immigration, childhood, and circumstance. With little support at home, Salinas, California third grader José Ansaldo often turns to his teacher, Oscar Ramos, once a migrant farm kid himself. Oscar helps José imagine a future beyond the lettuce fields where his parents work. But José was born in Mexico — and he’s on the cusp of understanding the implications of that. As we watch this play out, we begin to understand the cruelty of circumstance — for José and many millions of migrant kids like him. East of Salinas asks: What is lost when kids like José are denied opportunities?”

Meet the Patels

Meet the Patels is directed by Ravi Patel and Geeta Patel. Geeta Patel is the cinamatographer and a producer. Geeta Patel is also one of the writers, along with Ravi Patel and others.

Meet the Patels is described thus: “. . . a laugh-out-loud real life romantic comedy about Ravi Patel, an almost-30-year-old Indian-American who enters a love triangle with the woman of his dreams… and his parents. This hilarious heartwarming film reveals how love is a family affair.”

In Football We Trust

In Football we Trust is directed by first time feature film makers Tony Vainuku and Erika Cohn. The film synopsis is “In Football we Trust intimately portrays four young Polynesian football players struggling to overcome gang violence, family pressures and near poverty as they enter the high stakes world of college recruiting and the promise of professional sports.” There’s quite a pipeline of Pacific Islanders coming to the U.S. to play football.

Autism in Love

Autism in Love “follows four adults with an autism spectrum disorder as they pursue and navigate through romantic relationships.” Matt Fuller is the director.

When the new season of Independent Lens begins in November, it will be on Monday nights on PBS.

The Wiz LIVE Announces Cast

NBC will air The Wiz LIVE! in December and the casting announcements so far have been inspiring.

Dorothy will be newcomer Shanice Williams. Here’s a video of her audition.

Williams will be on stage with Mary J. Blige as Evillene, Queen Latifah as The Wiz, David Alan Grier as the Cowardly Lion, Uzo Aduba as Glinda, Amber Riley as Addaperle, and Stephanie Mills as Auntie Em. Also featured will be Common, Ne-Yo, Elijah Kelley and Cirque du Soleil. Kenny Leon is the director.

Staging a musical live on television is an undertaking in itself, but adding Cirque du Soleil to the action should make for both spectacular challenges and spectacular action.

Many of those in the cast made their reputations as singers, but we aren’t used to seeing Uzo Aduba sing. Check this out:

Maybe Crazy Eyes stands frozen on stage when asked to sing in Orange is the New Black, but Uzo Aduba can belt out an aria on demand.

I’ve never been in a position in my life where I could see Broadway shows. The Wiz is one that has always been on my wish list. Actually, any musical would make my wish list.

In past years, NBC brought us Peter Pan LIVE and The Sound of Music LIVE. Now we have this holiday treat to look forward to. I intend to follow the yellow brick road.

Happy Valley S 2 Now Filming: New Series Cast Revealed

With this short note, Twitter carried the announcement of the beginning of filming for season 2 of the BBC drama Happy Valley. The 6 episode season again stars Sarah Lancashire as police sergeant Catherine Cawood. Returning are James Norton as Tommy Lee Royce and Charlie Murphy as Ann Gallagher. George Costigan is back as Nevison Gallagher with Karl Davies returning as Catherine’s son Daniel. Siobhan Finneran returns as Catherine’s sister Clare.

Even though the murderer, rapist and kidnapper Tommy Lee Royce is in prison in season 2, he remains part of the story. The police in The Calder Valley in West Yorkshire have other problems as well. The plot description for season 2 is, “Catherine suspects there may be another serial killer on the loose and makes a gruesome discovery that will have shocking repercussions for her and her family.”

Katherine Kelly, Julie Hesmondhalgh, Amelia Bullmore, Kevin Doyle

Joining the cast are Kevin Doyle, Katherine Kelly, Julie Hesmondhalgh, Shirley Henderson, Amelia Bullmore, Matthew Lewis, Con O’Neill, and Vincent Franklin.

Sarah Lancashire as Catherine Cawood

Happy Valley has been nominated for or won over 30 awards, including Best Drama Series award at the 2015 BAFTAs with writer Sally Wainwright named Best Writer at the 2015 BAFTA Craft Awards. Plus it earns my personal award for being freakin’ fantastic.

I wrote recaps of season 1 of Happy Valley and it can be streamed on Netflix.

Happy Valley Images © 2014 – Red Production Company Limited

3 Reasons to Love Dark Matter

Dark Matter stars Roger R. Cross, Jodelle Ferland, Anthony Lemke, Zoie Palmer, Melissa O’Neil, Marc Bendavid, and Alex Mallari Jr. as the characters Six, Five, Three, The Android, Two, One, and Four. Here are 3 reasons why I love this sci fi space drama.

1. Nobody Knows Who They Are

Six people and and a ship-running android find themselves awakening in space with no memory of who they are or where they are going. Unlike stories where strangers get stuck in an elevator or on a bus or a ship, these people are not only strangers to each other but to themselves. They assign themselves numbers because they don’t know their own names.

Melissa O'Neil as Two is one badass character
Melissa O’Neil as Two is one of the badass characters.

Personalities, character, and backstories are revealed slowly. We get to know everyone as they get to know themselves. It’s a delightful concept. The characters turn out to be badasses or wusses, sweethearts or assholes, brilliantly inventive or overly aggressive as problem solvers.

As storytelling devices go, this one works beautifully. Every new situation, every new memory, every new learned fact adds a layer to the characters and the direction of the story as a whole.

2. The Nonhuman(s) are Awesome

Zoie Palmer as The Android
Zoie Palmer as The Android

Obviously, The Android is not human. Other characters may not be human, either, but I won’t spoil it by revealing names (or numbers). The Android speaks in a somewhat mechanical voice, sports a ridiculous curl atop her head like one of those hard plastic baby dolls from the 1940s, and controls the entire running of the ship with some sort of bluetooth messaging service from her brain to the ship’s computers.

She’s more than a machine however, and shows signs of emotion. She listens to criticism and develops new characteristics. In one episode she creates a default version of herself and has a conversation with her default personality (a clone scene!) to determine exactly what is different about her now.

She gets jealous when another android, played by Ruby Rose, is found in the hold and assembled.

She’s not merely well-toned. This android can toss a much bigger person right up against the hull of the ship like a wet towel.

3. Six is a Sweetie

Roger R Cross plays Six
Roger R. Cross plays Six

Roger Cross plays Six. Six has an open, tolerant, kind heart. I’m firmly in favor of men being sweethearts, especially big, strong men like Six. (See Give Us More Charming and Lovely Men on TV.) Six is always the one with the kind word, the generous gesture. Make no mistake, he’s no wimp, he can be tough when it’s needed. Still, it’s nice to have a male character like this on television.

I’m so happy that it’s Roger Cross who got this role because I’ve loved him ever since he donned an evening gown and stole Kit Porter’s heart in The L Word. I’ve watched him play all sorts of gun-toting bad guys, soldiers, businessmen in suits, and Mrs. S’s favorite former fella in Orphan Black. He’s been in almost every sci fi series to come out of Canada and a whole lotta movies.

The one role I always wanted Roger Cross to have was an incubus opposite the succubus Bo in Lost Girl. I’m getting a little squozzy just thinking about Roger Cross and Anna Silk making blue eyes together. Why, oh why, was Roger Cross never in Lost Girl? (Nothing personal against Anthony Lemke or Zoie Palmer, who did get to enjoy Anna Silk at her blue-eyed best in Lost Girl.)

It’s Not Too Late

SyFy is just about the air the season finale of Dark Matter, but it isn’t too late to catch up on this series, because all the episodes of Dark Matter are available at the SyFy site. My fingers are crossed hoping for a season 2 of Dark Matter.

If you’ve been watching all along, please share your reasons for loving this series.

Images © Prodigy Pictures

Ties That Bind

I’ve watched a couple of episodes of Ties That Bind. It’s a family story. The mom Allison McLean (Kelli Williams) is a cop. Jonathan Scarfe is her husband Matt. They have two teens of their own. When Allison puts her brother (Luke Perry) behind bars while the mother of her brother’s two kids is in rehab, they decide to take his teens in.

Jonathan Scarfe and Kelli Williams in Ties That Bind

The mingled family struggles to adapt but the emphasis is on family looking out for family.

I was a little nervous about watching anything on the UP network. I’d never even heard of the UP network before and didn’t realize I had it in my channel selections. When I first looked at the network, I was afraid the series would be religious propaganda. That isn’t the case in this show. There’s no disguised preaching in Ties That Bind that I’ve seen. The family does say a prayer at dinner time – and manages a traditional family dinner together. Definitely a point of view, but not an overly heavy-handed one.

There’s a honest look at family life. Allison and Matt argue but also have a happy love life. The teenagers act like teenagers.

Allison’s partner in the police department is played by an African American man (Dion Johnstone), so the show isn’t blindingly white. A good percent of each of the shows I’ve seen center around Allison’s work as a cop, with the family story woven in around the edges of that.

It sounds a bit like The Fosters but it’s quite different, especially because it’s a police procedural as much as a drama about a family dealing with foster children. And the two teens coming into the family are blood relatives.

I saw this trailer for the show and was interested because of Kelli Williams, an actress I like. Take a look.

I’m liking Ties That Bind so far and plan to continue watching. If you’ve seen this show, I’d love to hear your opinion about it in the comments.

Yahoo!: The Rise of the Female Superhero

Yahoo! produced an excellent report called The Rise of the Female Superhero. It features writers, editors, actors, producers, and fans talking about female superheroes.

G. Willow Wilson

You may have already seen it on the Yahoo! site, but I tried to watch it several times last week and had numerous problems getting it to work. (Possibly because Yahoo! doesn’t know the different between Mexico the country and New Mexico the state. When it did finally work I was served ads in Spanish.) I hope it works effortlessly for you here.

The report lasts for almost 17 minutes, but it is interesting every second of the way. If you didn’t already see it, I hope you watch. I found it inspiring.