Category Archives: TV

Pacific – HBO Ten Part Mini Series – Preview

By Neil McCormick

Do not forget, that the HBO mini series starts on SKY Movies tonight at 9pm with episodes 1 and 2. I will shy away from the debate on whether SKY can justify putting this onto their premium movie channels as opposed to SKY 1.

Much as Band of Brothers told the tale of Easy Company of the 101 Airborne in the European Campaign in World War 2, Pacific recreates the experiences of three men belonging to the !st Marine Corp:- Robert Leckie, Eugene Sledge and John Basilone. It covers their enlistment and the war against the Japanese Empire.


Makin, Peleliu, Okinawa, Guadalcanal to a lot of young folk today represent levels in a video game :- Call of Duty : World at War to be precise. However to the young folk of a different generation it represents something a lot worse – War at its most horrible and dangerous. For, in the period 1942 – 45, the Pacific Campaign of World War 2 was fought in these very same places. For the young folk of that generation saw things we in this generation can hardly imagine, let alone comprehend. For while the video game generation can restart a level when their character dies, the previous generation did not have this luxury.

An Electro-candy preview and thoughts regarding the first Two episodes.

Episode 1 – Guadacanal / Leckie

Overview:-

Directly following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Seargent John Basilone ships out to fight the enemy somewhere in the Pacific, and a young journalist called Robert Leckie enlists in the Marine Corps. Sidney Phillips ships off to boot camp after saying farewell to his friend Eugene Sledge, who cannot go with him due to a heart murmur. Eight months later, Phillips and Leckie, having completed boot camp are sent to secure a airfield on Guadalcanal, and to help defend it against counterattack.

Thoughts

I like the symbolism contained in the opening credits, the use of the charcoal crayon with bits of it being cast astray as it marks the paper is a wonderful metaphor of the casualty of war.

The first episode works well, we meet the main characters and start to bond with them quite quickly. Leckie comes across as a deep thinking man, I can predict the war will have a profound affect on him – possibly he will suffer some form of psychological wound at some point during the series? Though it is guilty of cliche in places, Leckie offering to write to a neighbour. Even our first encounter, he is an Irish American so we first get to meet him in a chapel lighting a mass candle. Eugene Sledge is unable to enlist due to a heart murmur and is absolutely gutted. I predict that this murmur will miraculously disappear before too long and he will be able to enlist.

After watching the frightening beach landings in Band of Brothers and Saving Private Ryan, watching the landing craft approach Guadacanal, I was expecting something similar, but no our marines land with no resistance. This works even better as the marines have to deal with a greater enemy – fear itself. You can see the effect that their surroundings had on them, as they approach the jungle line they stop, it is as if they are reaching a barrier to some unknown.

It is actually not until three quarters of the way through the episode that our protagonists actually encounter the Japanese when they are attacked at night. It is not till morning when you see the beach in front of their position strewn with dead japanese bodies that I truelly appreciated what they had encountered – It is such a brutal exchange as time and time again the Japanese soldiers charged at the line. As Leckie said afterwards “It was like a turkey shoot.”

What follows is one of the most harrowing scenes I have watched so far. Three Japanese soldiers come out of the tree line and whilst two are killed out right. The marines play with the third shooting around him or on minor parts of his body. This is nothing short of torture – he wanted to be killed but they make him suffer until Leckie can watch no more and puts him out of his misery.

I will finish with the words of Leckie to Vera the woman he met in the opening scenes:-


“It is a garden of Evil, the jungle holds both beauty and terror in its depths, most terrible of which is man, we have met the enemy and have learned nothing more about him. I have however learned some things about myself. There are things that men can do to one another that are sobering to the soul. it is one thing to reconcile these things with God, another to square it with yourself.”


Episode 2 – Basilone

Overview:-

Back-up lands on Guadalcanal in the form of the 7th marines including Basilone to help defend the airfield. Basilone helps defend against a Japanese night raid, suffering a loss in the process. The marines, after four months of fighting enemies and disease are evacuated off the island.

Thoughts :-

Those two sentences above, do not come close to explaining the events of episode 2. Bastogne in Band of Brothers was my favourite episode, so if an episode in Pacific has now eclipsed it – it must be pretty special.

By jove this episode delivered. From the harsh realities of war to the heroics on the battlefield, to the sobering reality of how life can end in a split second due to fate. This was humanity in one episode.

Our chief protagonist in this episode is John Basilone, his actions in the battle in this episode was to earn him a place in American Military History. His heroicism is nothing short of that seen in Commando comics time and time again. The stuff of legend.

From the opening scene, Hanks et al manage to convey the sense of tension as the marines awaited the japanese attack.

This episode certainly hits you hard, from the suffering the marines endured with a lack of equipment and food, to the bonding between the characters. Even in the harshness of coming under artillery attack, the marines show their humanity, by ensuring a stray dog is kept safe.

The actual main battle only lasts for a mere 8 minutes on screen, but it feels a life time. Basilone was to earn a medal of honor for his actions, moving a machine gun whilst suffering third degree burns, then going out into no man’s land to clear the japanese bodies that had piled up so his fellow marines could maintain a line of fire. Reports of the battle indicate that he would have killed well over 38 japanese soldiers. But all of this had a terrible consequence as Basilone’s friend – Manny Rodriquez who was acting as a runner gets killed.

Basilone would also discover in the next episode that the events of that night would ensure that his role in the war would be very different.

As for Eugene Sledge, back home in America? Well surprise surprise, that heart murmur did clear up. Theren follows a very touching scene between his father and him. The father reveals why he is so opposed to him going to war. His father had been a doctor during the great War:-

“The Worst thing about treating those combat wounds, it was not that they had had their flesh torn, it was that they had had their souls torn out. I dont want to look in your eye some day and see no spark, no love no life. That would break my heart.”

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Treme – New Trailer and Behind the Scenes Peek

Can the team from ‘The Wire’ find their magic again?

Well, the long wait is over, and judging by HBO’s new trailer for ‘Treme’ (premiering Apr. 11), we have our answers: yes.

In just a mere 97 seconds, HBO has managed to raise anticipation for ‘Treme’ to a whole new level – and they did so without revealing a single word of dialogue. Instead, accompanied by a perfectly chosen soundtrack (from Wynton Marsalis and Yacub Addy’s ‘Congo Square’ project), we get shots of the principal actors (including ‘The Wire’s’ Wendell Pierce and Clarke Peters, as well as John Goodman, Steve Zahn and Melissa Leo).

Trailer

Behind the Scenes

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HBO – In Production – Treme

Exciting news for any fans of The Wire, David Simon, one of the creators of The Wire is currently working on a new project which is due to hit screens in April 2010.

That project is called Treme.

A teaser trailer has gone up on the HBO site:- http://www.hbo.com/events/treme/index.html

But for your convenience :-

Here is what I have managed to find out about Treme.

It is both set and named after a neighbourhood in New Orleans, in which most of the city’s musicians live.

The show was envisioned to focus on the working class Treme neighborhood in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Simon has stated that the series will explore beyond the music scene to encompass political corruption, the public housing controversy, the criminal-justice system, clashes between police and Mardi Gras Indians, and the struggle to regain the tourism industry after the storm.

The Wire star Wendell Pierce is a New Orleans native and will play Antoine Batiste, an accomplished trombonist.

Fellow Wire cast member, Clarke Peters will play the leader of a Mardi Gras Indian tribe who is trying to bring his people home.

Khandi Alexander will also star in the project as Ladonna Batiste, the estranged wife of Pierce’s character and a bar owner. She previously worked with Simon on the award-winning HBO miniseries The Corner.

Film actor Steve Zahn will play a dancer, DJ and band member with anger management issues. The role will showcase the actor’s singing and guitar playing talents.Zahn’s character is based on series consultant Davis Rogan and will share his first name.

Kim Dickens from HBO’s Deadwood will play a chef with a tumultuous relationship with Zahn’s character.

Rob Brown was cast as Delmond Lambreaux, a New York jazz musician and son of Peters’ character who reluctantly returns home.

Homicide star Melissa Leo was cast as a civil rights lawyer just before the pilot began filming in March 2009.

John Goodman was cast as her character’s college professor husband when the show started filming its season order, and scenes featuring him were added to the pilot.

The series casting mirrored that of The Wire in using local actors wherever possible. New Orleans native Phyllis Montana LeBlanc was cast as the girlfriend of Pierce’s character. LeBlanc was recommended for the project by director Spike Lee who had worked with her on the HBO Hurricane Katrina documentary When the Levees Broke.
Additionally, well-known New Orleans musician Kermit Ruffins will appear as himself in the pilot.

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Statement from Microsoft regarding Sky Player Issues

BY Neil McCormick

You may have experienced problems with Sky Player yesterday, Microsoft temporarily removed the player from xbox live, while a minor technical issue was resolved.

Here is a statement we received regarding the matter:-

“Sky Player on Xbox 360 launched yesterday morning and was met with phenomenal demand, with many tens of thousands of customers attempting to sign-up within the first hour of launch.

Unfortunately due to the unprecedented levels of simultaneous demand, we did not have the capacity to satisfy all service requests and therefore temporarily suspended all access to the service.

Today, we have implemented a revised rollout to access Sky Player on Xbox 360, to ensure that consumers experience both a smooth sign-up process and high-quality experience.

We apologise to all customers that have not been able to experience Sky Player on Xbox 360, we assure them that this is being rectified at present and we thank them for their patience. ”

For further information consumers can go to xbox.skyplayer.com/help or http://www.xbox.com/en-GB/support/default.html

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Xbox 360 – Sky Player Launched Today

By Neil McCormick

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Sky’s online TV service, launched today on Xbox LIVE, giving Xbox 360 owners access to live and on-demand pay TV content via their console.

Xbox reveals that the service*, the first of its kind on any games console, will give Xbox LIVE users full access to all the live and on-demand channels currently on Sky Player. This includes popular, hit TV shows from Sky1, blockbuster films from Sky Movies and must see-entertainment and documentaries from MTV, Disney, G.O.L.D, Sky Arts, Nickelodeon, National Geographic, Eden and History. In addition, sports fans will be able to enjoy the biggest sports events – as they happen – from Sky Sports, ESPN and Eurosport.

Subscribers to the Xbox LIVE gold service will also be able to enjoy a range of interactive features to enhance their viewing with friends and family. For example, viewers will be able to use their Xbox avatar in the ‘Avatar Party Mode’ to watch live TV alongside their friends’ avatars. Once there, they will be able to chat live and interact with each other through their Xbox – yet another feature that makes Xbox LIVE a fun, social experience whether you are together with friends or wherever they are located from Limerick to London.

As well as 24 live streaming channels, Sky Player offers thousands of hours of on-demand programmes, making it the most comprehensive web-based on-demand service available from any UK and Ireland broadcaster. There are over 400 movies to watch at anytime from Sky Movies, over a thousand sporting highlights from Sky Sports, and hundreds of other programming highlights spanning entertainment, drama, comedy, music, documentaries and kids.
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To watch Sky Player on Xbox 360, customers will need an Xbox LIVE Gold membership. Non– Sky Direct to Home (DTH) customers will also require a monthly subscription which starts at €18 per month to Sky Player’s Base Entertainment Pack. Customers who want to watch Sky Sports 1, 2, 3 and Xtra, ESPN and the Sky Movies channels will be able to add these channels to their Base Entertainment Pack for an additional cost. In addition to the live channels, customers will also have access to on-demand programmes from channels they subscribe to.

Existing Sky customers with Xbox Live Gold membership will be able to access Sky Player’s on-demand content in line with the channels they are able to access through their core Sky TV subscription. Customers with Sky Multiroom are additionally able to access live channels for no extra charge.

Sky Player is the latest addition to Xbox LIVE’s ever increasing range of entertainment. From enjoying high definition blockbuster movies, watching the best music videos, video chatting to friends, or playing games with people wherever they are, Xbox LIVE offers the best entertainment whether you’re into gaming or not.

A Sky Player retail bundle pack including 1 month Sky Player Subscription (Sky Sports Pack), Media Remote and 3 month Gold Membership Subscription Card will be available from stores priced at €39.99.

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Orla Sheridan, Country Manager, Entertainment and Devices Division, Microsoft Ireland, commented: “Today our customers enjoy film, music, videos and games on Xbox 360 and TV is another significant step forward in our entertainment vision. And now Xbox owners will have the variety and volume of entertainment along with unique services such as the avatar community which allow you to share, celebrate and chat – it is clear that Xbox 360 is taking entertainment beyond the living room with unique social interactive entertainment experiences.”

Mark Deering, Director, Sky Ireland added: “Today’s launch marks the first time premium live television is available through a broadband-connected games console, helping transform the way entertainment fans watch TV. At Sky, we believe in innovating for customers so they can enjoy the content they love how they want. Whether that’s through their Sky set-top box, computer screen, Xbox 360 or mobile phone, customers have never enjoyed more choice, control and flexibility.”

David Mercer, Principal Analyst – Digital Consumer Practice at Strategy Analytics comments: “The introduction of Sky Player on Xbox is an exciting development for both companies. For BSkyB it offers further evidence that its future subscriber growth is not dependent on its traditional satellite set-top box strategy; and for Microsoft it is further confirmation that the Xbox is on its way to becoming not just a games console, but rather a complete home entertainment system.”

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US TV – Glee – 20th Century Fox Broadcasting Company

By Neil McCormick

In the second of electro-candy’s look at new gems emerging from Fall 2009 – comes GLEE, a new comedy played out in a musical style by Ryan Murphy, the creator of “Nip/Tuck,”

The series follows an optimistic teacher, Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison), who attempts to save McKinley High’s Glee Club from obscurity, while helping a group of aspiring underdogs realize their true star potential.
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Obviously parallels can be made with Disney’s High School Musical but this does not give the show the justice it deserves.

For Glee is more than this, part comedy, part musical and packed full with gritty humour. For example there is a scene where singer Rachel tells the guidance counselor Emma she tried to become bulimic, but “I have no gag reflex.” The prim-looking counselor nonchalantly replies that will be an advantage later.

In another scene there is a send up of the motto “Yes we can” that underlined Obama’s presidential campaign :-
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“You know, caning has fallen out of fashion in the United States,” murmurs Sue Sylvester, the sadistic cheerleading coach who’s the glee club’s No. 1 enemy. “Caning works and to all of those naysayers out there who say, ‘That’s illegal! You can’t strike children on their bare buttocks with razor sharp bamboo sticks!’ Well, to them I say, Yes we cane!”

However it is when the show goes into musical mode, that it comes alive -the oomph factor is taken to the max – the interpretation of Rehab by Amy Winehouse and the take on of Kanye West’s “Gold digger” is a joy to watch.

I cannot recommend highly enough that you watch this – if you want to come away with a smile on your face.

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Hung – US TV – HBO Broadcast 28 June 2009 – 13 September 2009

By Neil McCormick

As a fan of most things made by HBO – The Wire, The Sopranos to name but a couple of their recent success storys, I have been keeping an eye on what they have been producing.

The latest comedy from their stable is Hung starring Thomas Jane as Ray Drecker, an unhappy and financially strapped history teacher and basketball coach at a suburban Detroit high school. He’s also the father of twin teenagers (Charlie Saxton and Sianoa Smit-McPhee) who are currently living with their remarried mother (Anne Heche). After a fire destroyed the childhood home Ray still owns and lived in, he was without many options. With the help of a friend, Tanya (Jane Adams), Ray decides to turn his large appendage into an opportunity to make money. The episodes center around Ray’s attempts to maintain a “normal” life while starting his business as a male prostitute.

Ok the story behind it may not be new – man falls into financial difficulty and uses himself as a commodity – think American Gigalo meets Deuce Bigalo. However the quality of the cast and the depth to the script is first rate.

For UK viewers this is one to look out for. So far it has not been picked up by a uk broadcaster – be it terrestial or satellite. With season 2 commisioned to start Summer 2010 in the US, it can only be a matter of time before it does get picked up.

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