Touch Season 1 DVD Review (Kirk Haviland)

Touch Season 1 DVD

Starring Kiefer Sutherland, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, David Mazouz, Roxanna Brusso and Danny Glover

Created by Tim Kring

New on DVD from Fox Home Entertainment is the first season of the new series from Heroes creator Tim Kring, Touch. The mid-season replacement from earlier this year is another high concept production from Kring, this time focusing between the relationship of a father and his son. But of course with Kring things are never quite that easy.

Martin Bohm (Sutherland), a former reporter who now works at the airport, is a widower and single father.  His wife was a victim of the 9/11 attacks and he has been left with his 11 year old son Jake (Mazouz). Jake has never said a word in his entire life and reacts violently if anyone tries to touch him. But when Jake is taken into the custody of the state after an incident, Martin discovers that Jake can communicate and see the future through numbers, complex algorithms that Jake has the inherent ability to decipher. It’s up to Martin, with the help of Jake’s primary caretaker Clea (Mbatha-Raw) and a disgraced doctor (Glover) who specializes in numbers himself, to help Martin decipher the clues and help the people Jake sets him on to.

Touch is the welcome return to weekly television for Kiefer Sutherland that people have been waiting for since Sutherland’s series 24 finished  a couple of years ago. Creator Kring brings his trademark sense of style and flair for intricate and complex storytelling that weaves throughout an entire season. Characters appear in their ‘highlight’ episode, only to re-appear as supporting characters in later episodes as the story twists and turns throughout the season. Kiefer is his typical solid self, his Martin carrying many of the strong willed and intuitive characteristics of his classic Jack Bauer character. The rest of the cast does solid work. Brusso’s very shady care home supervisor whose intentions are very questionable is a highlight, as Kring writes ensemble pieces like this well. The situations and mysteries play out throughout the episodes as seemingly unrelated incidents are shown to be related in different ways, some are more ridiculous and preposterous than others, a ‘Dance Contest’ in one of the episodes really does not work, but the writing is solid enough to keep you engaged throughout the craziness.

The show itself carries tones of Kring’s Heroes, hopefully it can stay relevant for more than the two seasons Heroes was before its massive tailspin though, 24, Numbers and The Missing. It’s well produced and looks great, the setting of New York playing into the storylines on multiple instances, and the directors of the episodes showing a steady hand behind the camera. The ways that are used to describe and physically show Jake’s numbers and equation and how they fit together are scenes that could easily be disastrous but they are expertly handled and played out onscreen.

The disc comes equipped with deleted scenes and an extended pilot episode. The pilot plays out well and the deleted scenes are mainly items cut for pacing that will hardly be missed. There are also two behind the scenes featurettes included about the filming of the series.

In the end, Touch is a well-crafted piece of television melodrama with a seasoned actor in the lead and an accomplished creator behind the camera. Touch Season 1 on DVD is a solid rent and a decent buy option, and in the end Touch is a recommend.

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

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American Horror Story Review (The First Six Episodes)

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As usual, I was a bit late to catch onto the latest hit TV show, American Horror Story. I seem to have my finger on the pulse of the movie and video game scene, but TV releases require such a large time investment, so I tend to wait for a few seasons to be released and then watch them en masse. However, the insane amount of buzz that has accompanied American Horror Story, combined with the genre of the show, a modern haunted house story of sorts, has made it impossible for me to postpone my viewing of the show. After the first six episodes, I’m not quite sure what to think. I adore the subject matter, and there is a ton of creativity and talent evident in the series, but some risky and lazy writing choices have left me wondering if I will even continue with the rest of the series.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that I sat through Harper’s Island every week, up to and including its nonsensical and intellectually insulting finale. I thought the idea of a weekly slasher series was amazing, and I wanted the show to succeed, much like I want American Horror Story to succeed. Well, as a whole, Harper’s Island turned out to be a massive pile of garbage, and I’m still strongly considering contacting the creators to try and get the 13 hours of my life back that I invested in it. This experience has no doubt affected how I view other horror TV shows. I will try my best not to let this attitude seep into this review of the first six episodes of American Horror Story.

The storyline of the series follows the Harmon family as they move into an old suburban home with a bloody history. Vivien (Connie Britton) and Ben (Dylan McDermott) have had their fair share of marriage problems, but are hoping that the change of scenery will help them repair past emotional damage, while their daughter Violet (Taissa Farmiga) seems to be your typical angst ridden teenager. The mysterious supporting characters, in the form a deceptive neighbour (Jessica Lange), a two-faced stranger (Denis O’Hare), and an age-shifting maid (Frances Conroy and Alexandra Breckenridge), bolster the unsettling atmosphere of American Horror Story. In addition to the present-day storyline, most episodes of the series also feature flashbacks to ghastly murders that are a part of the house’s sordid past.

I have a lot of positive things to say about the series. For starters, the technical aspects are quite refreshing, as the cinematography and the editing remind me of the jump-cuts and crash-zooms found in The Lincoln Lawyer. This may not be my favourite camera or editing style, but it is always nice to see something different in a TV show, which are so often technical bores.

The strongest point of the series has to be the exceptional performances by the majority of the cast. Connie Britton and Dylan McDermott do an excellent job of alternating between compassionate and loving scenes, to those in which it looks like their marriage might end there and then. Taissa Farmiga’s performance seemed a little ho-hum for a while, however around episode four or five she really begins to evolve, as her character starts to get fleshed out a bit. In my opinion, the strongest performance is delivered by Jessica Lange, who absolutely owns every scene she appears in.

Minor SPOILERS

The negative aspects of American Horror Story largely stem from the quality of the writing, which see-saws violently throughout the first six episodes. Larry Harvey (Denis O’Hare), a burn victim that seems interested in helping Ben (McDermott), has a few memorable moments, but for the most part feels like an inane paper-thin character who is simply a plot device or a time filler. An episode called Piggy, Piggy had the potential to be extremely scary, but goes out with a whimper. Did the writer quit before the episode was finished? Finally, a very questionable school-shooting storyline is the focus of the sixth episode. I am not here to pass moral judgment, and every topic should be open to art and entertainment, but when you are writing a haunted house series where the focus is entertaining horror, it is a large risk to utilize such an emotionally upsetting topic and treat it as a vehicle for thrills. Also, it may be unwise to make a supporting ‘good guy’ character the perpetrator of these shootings, as the audience will likely never forgive him. In all fairness, the story arc is not entirely explained at this point, and the show may have some incredible plot twists to explain these shootings, however I doubt it.

As I said at the beginning, I really don’t know what to think of this series. There has been a lot of good and a fair share of bad to be found in the first six episodes. Unfortunately, I don’t think that I have the time to invest in any future episodes, as TV shows really have to win me over early. However, I encourage horror fans to check out American Horror Story for themselves, they may find some redeeming qualities that I’ve missed. You can catch American Horror Story on the FX Network.

The Definition of Entertainment – HD television

If you don’t have HD TV by now, you must really be trying hard to hang on to the ‘good ole days’. The days before rap music, video games and colour vision came along to ruin perfectly good Friday nights spent at the Old American Barn Dance:

Oh man….when that old guy came on, I just had to stop watching. The mentally deranged roamed free in those days. At any rate, HD TV.

I’m not going to kid myself, the jump from standard definition to high definition probably doesn’t even come close to the change from black and white to colour broadcasts, but the change is still a significant one. With HD you get a more aesthetically pleasing aspect ratio, an elongated rectangle instead of a square or artificially stretched image. If you disagree, please be my guest and find me a ‘beautiful’ Polaroid picture. You also get a wider range of colours, which really make artistic cinematographic efforts breathtaking to witness; the planet earth series for example. If you want a rather startling demonstration of HD vs. SD, then check out Jon in the video below:

I don’t think that anyone will actually put up an argument that SD is better or the same as HD, we’re past that. However, there are still a large group of people that refuse to treat themselves to this extra viewing pleasure because of the price. Let me break it down.

For around $10-$20 dollars more a month (at least in Canada), you can watch movies in anamorphic widescreen, instead of a grainy square box. You will actually see what happens in sports and put and end to those embarrassing moments when you accidentally cheer for the other team, because not enough photons are hitting your retina to distinguish the good guys from the bad guys. Finally, you can start entertaining guests at your house again and people will actually show up!

For those that are still not on board, I have a suggestion. Just cancel your cable and subscribe to your favourite shows for online transcripts after the broadcast. That way you can read your shows and not be bothered with any bills at all! Some examples follow:

Sports:

Announcer: The guys got the ball. He’s gonna try to score it…and he does!

Fans appear to enjoy this

Announcer: You had to see it to believe it! You gotta love sports!

Multiple men in uniforms celebrate, while the men in the other uniforms appear to be upset

Nature channel:

Animals abound

A man is speaking but he is not on camera

The Forest flourishes

The Biggest Loser:

A big man is doing pushups

A bigger woman is running on a treadmill

A man that is the size of the big man plus the bigger woman is watching them and reconsidering if cannibalism can truly be abhorent in EVERY situation

Come on…make the change. You deserve it.

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