Reviewed by Debi Moore
Starring Jensen Ackles, Jared Padalecki, Katie Cassidy, Lauren Cohan, Jim Beaver
Created by Eric Kripke
Distributed by Warner Home Video
By the time a TV series’ third season rolls around, it’s either got your full attention or you skip it without hesitation when flipping through the channels. In the case of Supernatural, I’ve been onboard since the very first episode (see my Season One and Season Two DVD reviews) and look forward to receiving the box set a few weeks before the show resumes each fall. It’s a chance to look back over where the Winchester brothers have been, speculate on where they’re headed, and spend some time behind the scenes with the cast and crew. Although it’s short on episodes (the writer’s strike cut Season Three down from 22 to 16) and offers fewer supplemental features than either of its predecessors, Supernatural: The Complete Third Season still packs a powerful punch and is without a doubt the best of the bunch. Which just makes it all the more bittersweet that we only get five discs this year instead of the usual six.
Since most people have already made up their minds whether or not to watch Supernatural, I don’t intend to spend a lot of time preaching to the choir. If you’re reading this review, you’re likely already a regular viewer of the show and just want the goods on what extras are included this time around. But I do want to make a point of saying what an abundant amount of episodes are truly kickass in this third season. It starts off amazingly strong with “The Magnificent Seven”, in which Dean (Ackles), Sam (Padalecki), and Bobby (Beaver) battle the seven deadly sins among all the other demons released when the Devil’s Gate was opened at the end of the Season Two. This installment also introduces Ruby (Cassidy), who from then on always seems to pop up at just the right moment and possesses a special dagger that plays a key role in the outcome of Sam’s season-long quest to save Dean’s life.
Next is “The Kids Are Alright”, a Dean-centric ep that’s one of my sentimental favorites of the set. Ackles has hit his stride in finding the essence of Dean Winchester, and he shines here. Another recurring character is unveiled in “Bad Day at Black Rock”: the much maligned wheeler-dealer Bela (Cohan). Now I can understand why dear Bela rubbed certain fans the wrong way, but I never did harbor the animosity and ill will towards her that some did. When I attended the Salute to Supernatural in LA last March, you could literally feel it in the air whenever her name was mentioned. But not to worry. As those who watched the third season know, she more than got what she deserved.
In Episodes 4-8, things move along nicely with the boys battling evil ranging from a genuine “Sin City”, Grimm Fairy Tales come to life, a ghost ship, and the Anti-Claus in “A Very Supernatural Christmas” (in which we also finally learn the origin of Dean’s necklace). In Episode 9 Ruby’s true identity is uncovered, and Episode 10, “Dream a Little Dream of Me”, provides another highlight of the season. Bobby is inexplicably in a coma, so Sam and Dean do what any friends would: Eat some wacky African plant root procured from Bela and enter his dreams to get to the bottom of the situation. As you might expect, in light of Dean’s predicament of only having a few months left to live, he sees some pretty fucked up shit out in Dreamland, including a chilling vision of himself doing battle with … himself. It’s one of the most powerful scenes in the show’s history and just another reason why Supernatural is head and shoulders above most genre fare offered on the tube nowadays.
Proving my point, along come Discs 4 and 5, which are packed with balls-to-the-wall, non-stop goodness from start to finish. “Mystery Spot” and “Jus in Bello” are homages to two classics — Groundhog Day and Assault on Precinct 13 — and excellent in their own rights. “Mystery Spot” is especially entertaining and demonstrates perfectly what a fine line Supernatural walks between comic relief and the darker side of things. It’s also an outstanding example of the writers’ ability to have you watch an entire episode thinking it’s a stand-alone, only to sucker punch the audience at the very last minute by bringing in the mythos and amping up the precariousness of the brothers’ situation even further. Padalecki really stretches in this one to great effect.
Right here is where the strike reared its ugly head and threw a kink in the season, but it returned with a vengeance with the hilarious reality show episode “Ghostfacers”, in which we’re treated to a repeat visit from the “Hell Hounds”, Ed Zeddmore and Harry Spangler, who first appeared at the end of Season One. And that’s where the laughs end as the final three episodes provide a 1-2-3 knockout beginning with “Long-Distance Call” wherein Dean starts receiving phone calls from Papa John Winchester. Normally that’s something a son would be happy about, but considering John’s dead, well …
The next to last episode, “Time Is on My Side”, carries on the series’ tradition of including one or two unexpected guest appearances each year. In this case it’s the always compelling Billy Drago as Doc Benton, a real-life doctor who in 1816 abandoned his medical practice to follow his obsession with finding the key to eternal life. I don’t think I have to tell you what Sam has in mind once he hears about Doc’s research. But as everyone knows, there’s “No Rest for the Wicked” no matter how much brotherly love is at stake, and as Dean’s contract comes due, he and Sam learn exactly whom they’re dealing with and what she’s capable of despite her child-like appearance.
So for those looking for a quick, easy refresher, that’s the season in a nutshell. What about those extras the rest of you have been waiting to hear about? Instead of the couple of commentaries that are normally found in Supernatural box sets, we have seven “Closer Looks” at Episodes 1, 2, 3, 6, 8, 10, and 12. They are narrated by Kripke or the applicable writer, director, or producer; run a couple of minutes each; and touch upon what was especially memorable or significant about the episode. For instance, with regard to “A Very Supernatural Christmas,” Kripke gleefully describes how they set out to make the most brutal and violent anti-holiday holiday show ever on TV, which is why Santa Claus is cruelly slaughtered within the first five minutes. Deck the halls with splashes of bloooooood! Fa la la la la, la la la la. The “Looks” can be accessed either through the Special Features menu or via little camera icons that show up on the episode list. While I do miss the fun of a full-length commentary, all in all, these “Closer Looks” are a nice addition to the set. As is the five-minute featurette on Dean’s beloved Impala. Not only do we see a lot of the show’s stunt cars, including one that breaks down into dozens of pieces, but then we get to peek at the weapons stashed inside the trunk including stakes, salt, gasoline, and yes, the Colt. The guys’ onset antics take the gag reel to a whole new level this time around. It runs a full seven minutes, making it obvious they know how much people look forward to this feature, and everyone plays it up shamelessly for the fans’ enjoyment.
The last two extras are the yin and yang of the set. “From Legends to Reality” runs over 20 minutes and pays tribute to the men and women who work on the show’s special effects, special effects makeup, and visual effects. To be honest, those three categories have always been a bit of a grey area to me, but this mini-doc breaks them down and also differentiates between organic and physical effects. You can’t ask for much more than a group of dedicated, talented people whose number one goal day in and day out is to make up new monsters who are both spooky and achievable … and, most of all, believable. In Season Three they succeeded with flying colors. They are all rightly proud of the visual language they’ve collectively created for the show and certainly seem to have one of the best jobs in the business! On the opposite side of the fence, we have the 15-minute “pilot” for Ghostfacers. It does add explanations of and depth to those characters, but it just did nothing for me, particularly because of its lame ending. The Ghost Facers’ presence was a glaring reminder of Ackle’s and Padalecki’s absence. Unless they tighten things up, I’m not sure they have what it takes to stand on their own apart from the Supernatural security blanket.
Considering how Season Three ended, Sam and Dean are each in need of their own security blankets … or something to bring them comfort in the night. Times are bleak for our boys, and I sense that the dark, demonic tone of these 16 episodes is only going to deepen from now until the end of Supernatural‘s run. While nothing’s really “perfect”, this show has fewer flaws than most, and as long as The CW keeps allowing Kripke and crew to keep doing what they’ve been doing, there’s no reason to think Season Four won’t uphold the standard of all that’s come before it.
• “From Legends to Reality: Supernatural Effects” featurette
• “Supernatural Impala” featurette
• Seven “A Closer Look” featurettes
• “Ghostfacers! Confessionals” minifeaturette gallery
• Gag reel
4 1/2 out of 5
3 1/2 out of 5
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The Shape of Water Review: A Quirky Mix of Whimsy and Horror That Does Not Disappoint
Starring Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Michael Stulbarg, Doug Jones
Directed by Guillermo del Toro
“True Blood,” Beauty and the Beast, and Twilight aside, the notion of romantic love between humans and otherworldly creatures has been a popular theme throughout storytelling history. The ancient Greeks told tales of Leda and the swan, while stories of mermaids luring sailors to their lusty demise were met with wonder worldwide, stemming from Assyria c. 1000 BC. To this day, there’s Creature From the Black Lagoon fanfic that’s quite racy… for whatever reason, some people are fascinated by this fantasy taboo.
The new period film from co-writer/director Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water, dives right into the erotic motif with the tale of how Elisa (Sally Hawkins) and Amphibian Man (Doug Jones) fell in love. (While I personally could have done without the bestiality angle, I do applaud del Toro for having the balls to show what’s usually implied.) Having said that, The Shape of Water is about more than just interspecies passion.
The Shape of Water is a voluptuous, sumptuous, grand, and melodramatic Gothic fable at times (there’s even a lavish 1940s style dance routine!), but mostly it’s an exciting and gripping adventure, pitting the good guys against one very bad buy – played with mustache-twirling (minus the mustache), bug-eyed glee by Michael Shannon. Shannon is Strickland, a sinister and spiteful Cold War government operative who is put in charge of a mysterious monster captured in the Amazon and shipped to his Baltimore facility for study. When using cruel and abusive methods to crack the creature’s secrets doesn’t work, Strickland decides to cut him open to see what’s ticking inside.
Elisa, a lowly cleaning lady at the facility, has meanwhile grown fond of “the Asset,” as he’s called. She’s been spending time with him on the sly, not even telling her two best friends about her budding tenderness for the mute and isolated alien. She relates to him because not only is she lonesome, she’s unable to speak (an abusive childhood is alluded to – which includes water torture). Using sign language, she first tells out-of-work commercial illustrator Giles (Richard Jenkins), then her co-worker Zelda (Octavia Spencer), about the need to rescue her waterlogged Romeo from Strickland’s scalpel. Needless to say, it won’t be easy sneaking a classified government experiment out of the high security building.
The Shape of Water is vintage del Toro in terms of visuals and accoutrement. The set-pieces are stunning to say the least. Elisa and Giles live in cozy, cluttered, age-patinaed apartments above a timeworn Art Deco moving-pictures palace; Strickland’s teal Cadillac is a collection of curves and chrome; and the creature’s tank is a steampunk nightmare of iron, glass, and sturdy padlocks. DP Dan Laustsen (Crimson Peak) does justice to each and every detail. Costumes (Luis Sequeira) and Creature (Legacy Effects) are appropriately stunning. The velvety score by Alexandre Desplat (“Trollhunters”) is both subdued and stirring.
While the film is a fantasy-fueled feast for the senses, it’s really the actors who keep you caring about the players in such an unrealistic, too-pat story. Jones, entombed in iridescent latex and with GC eyes, still manages to emote and evoke sympathy as the misfit monster. Jenkins is endearingly morose as a closeted gay man surrounded by his beloved cats and bolstered by the belief his hand-painted artwork is still relevant in an ever-more technical world. Spencer is the comic relief as a sassy lady who’s hobbled by her station in life but leaps into action when the chips are down.
Del Toro cowrote the screenplay with Vanessa Taylor, whose credits in the television world are numerous – but she’s probably best-known for her work on “Game of Thrones” – which adds an interesting and feminine perspective. The story definitely feels more comic-book than anything, which is okay I guess, but I prefer del Toro’s deeper delves into history and character (The Devil’s Backbone is still my fave). But, for those who love del Toro’s quirky mix of whimsy and horror, you will not be disappointed.
The Shape of Water is a dreamlike, pulpy adult fairytale that dances on the surface of reality while remaining true to the auteur’s vision.
Secretions Short Film Review – Anyone For Some Blood and Guts a la Carte?
Starring Zia Electric, David Macrae, Chris Savva
Directed by Goran Spoljaric
Only a select few know the true horrors of one’s basement (hell, I’ve got one that floods regularly) – but in director Goran Spoljaric’s extremely “juicy” short film, Secretions – we see just what lives in a grimy cellar…and what it craves in order to sustain. Anyone have any sanitizer? We’re gonna need it for this one.
Alone and held captive in a dirty-subterranean room, a woman is literally fighting for her life, and due to her being chained at the ankle, it’s painfully obvious that she’s here for the long haul. On the first floor of this residence, a deal is being made, and it’s one that will either help or harm a hopeless addict.
It involves a little handy-work down in the basement, and although it might seem like a light job considering the circumstances…nothing is as easy as it initially looks – anyone for some blood and guts a la carte? The imprisoned woman contains something inside of her that is particularly satiating to the habituated, but it comes at a painful price, which begs the question: what would you risk to scratch an itch?
Spoljaric’s direction here focuses on the victim – and while you’ll probably be wondering exactly who that is during this quickie’s 11-minute duration, it doesn’t detract from its powerful display. Gritty, grimy and ultimately gruesome – these Secretions are the ones that simply cannot be washed off – maybe I’ll give a little turpentine a shot, as something’s got to get these damned stains out – YUCK.
Mindhunter Review: The Best Netflix Original Series to Date
Starring Jonathan Groff, Holt McCallany, Anna Torv, Hannah Gross, Sonny Valicenti, and Cameron Britton.
Directed by David Fincher, Andrew Douglas, Asif Kapadia, and Tobias Lindholm.
A few weeks back Netflix premiered all ten episodes of David Fincher’s new serial killer series “Mindhunter” on their streaming service. Being that Fincher is one of our favorite directors we added the series to our queues as soon as possible. And this past week – after recapping and reviewing all 9 episodes of “Stranger Things 2” – we were finally able to sit down and enjoy the (much) more adult thriller series.
What did we think? Find out below…
First off we should get a few things like plot and background out of the way. “Mindhunter” is based on the best-selling non-fiction novel of the same name by John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker. The book was optioned by none other than David Fincher and Charlize Theron and quickly thereafter snatched up by Netflix. The series is executive produced and (mostly) written by Joe Penhall.
The plot follows a young FBI agent played by Jonathan Groff who, after an incident in the field, is set to be a teacher at Quantico. Kinda boring. Especially for a guy under thirty. Quickly, however, the young agent joins forces with a seasoned pro, played by Holt McCallany (Fight Club) in a star-making performance, and together the two tour the country educating local police on the proper protocols established by the FBI.
That is, until the day that our young agent gets it in his head that he wants to interview Ed Kemper. Yes, That Ed Kemper. From there the series becomes the story of the FBI and its very beginnings of psychological profiling. The series even goes so far as to lay out the tale of how the term “serial killer” was first coined.
In the hands of any other filmmaker, this semi-procedural thriller would have, most likely, not been our cup of tea. But in the hands of master director David Fincher, “Mindhunter” is quite possibly the most riveting police procedural to ever hit the small screen. Hyperbole, we know. But come on, have you seen Fincher’s Zodiac?
Yeah, now picture that motion picture spread out over the course of ten glorious hours and you’ll have somewhat of an idea of how much fun(?) it was to spend the better part of our free time last week in the grips of such as series.
First off special mentioned needs to be thrown at the killer cast of “Mindhunter.” Each actor is phenomenal. From our hero agents played by Groff, Holt McCallany, and Anna Torv, the series only gets better with powerhouse after powerhouse performance hitting us from the likes of Jack Erdie as Richard Speck, Adam Zastrow as a lonely (possible) rapist, and Joseph Cross and Jesse C. Boyd as a pair of (possible) ladykillers.
Oh, and Cameron Britton as Ed Kemper. Oh, boy. Cameron Britton as Ed Kemper.
I could spend this entry review telling you guys about how chilling, disturbing and utterly riveting Cameron Britton’s performance as Ed Kemper (aka The Co-Ed Killer) is, but you really need to see it for yourself to get the full picture. The series has more than it’s fair share of spine-chilling moments, to be sure. But none are so chilling as any and ever given scene which features Britton as Kemper. Give this man all the awards. Today.
Given the tight performances by the entire cast – including solid turns by the lowest day player – “Mindhunter” would be a crowning achievement for Netflix. But add in some of the top directors working today (including, in addition to Fincher, Andrew Douglas, Asif Kapadia, and Tobias Lindholm) and beautiful 2:35 cinematography by Erik Messerschmidt and Christopher Probst, and you have a series so jaw-droppingly cinematic, you’ll be amazed this never played in theaters. And was never meant to.
Overall I cannot think of one negative thing to say about this new Netflix original series.
Well, maybe one thing: Hannah Gross as Debbie Mitford is a dull character. This is not a jab at Gross as an actress. But her mostly one-note, under-developed character is forced to spend the majority of her screentime merely portraying “the girlfriend.” Which in a series like this means she merely functions, for a majority of her screentime, a receptacle of exposition once our hero returns home after a long day.
But other than that one aspect, this Netflix original series is top quality from end to end. From the spooky pre-credits insights into the growing storm that is Dennis Rader aka the BTK killer to the season’s finale sequence set in Kemper’s ICU room, “Mindhunter” is a chilling – and frankly scary series that you won’t be able to shake for months.
And most, if not all of the scares, come courtesy of long dialogue scenes – which are anything other than boring.
In the end, Mindhunters is a series that we cannot wait to see continue forward come season two. Fincher has reportedly stated that Charles Manson will play a pivotal role in the second season, and we are actively counting down the days until we can visit that character… From the comfort of our Netflix account.
“Mindhunter” is a must-see. Get ahead of the game. Watch the series tonight.
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