‘Hell On Wheels’ Final Episodes Are A Fitting Farewell To One Of TV’s Top Serials

Courtesy: eOne/AMC

Courtesy: eOne/AMC

AMC’s hit western drama Hell on Wheels finally reached the end of its tracks this summer (bad pun fully intended) with the end of its fifth season.  The series’ end had been announced well before Season 5 started.  That didn’t make it any less difficult to see such a standout series comes to its end.  For those who didn’t want the series to come to its end, its final episodes were released on DVD and Blu-ray at November’s opening.  There is plenty to say about the series’ final volume of episodes beginning with the work of the show’s writers.  That will be discussed shortly.  The work of the show’s cast is just as important to note here as that of the show’s writers.  The bonus material included in this final volume of episodes rounds out its most important elements.  Each element plays its own clearly important in the collection’s presentation.  All things considered, Hell on Wheels: Season 5 Volume 2 proves to be a fitting final farewell for one of the best serials to come along in recent memory.

Hell on Wheels: Season 5 Volume 2 is a fitting final farewell for a show that is one of the best serials to come along in recent memory.  That statement is supported in part through the work of the show’s writers.  Once again the series’ writers managed in these final seven episodes to keep audiences completely engaged as they wrapped up all of the loose ends left from the first half of the season.  Not to give away too much, one of those loose ends might leave some audiences really disliking Cullen even despite everything else.  The writers did a good job of showing the difficulty in Cullen’s decision here.  But it’s still difficult to not dislike Cullen’s choice or to not dislike Cullen himself for that choice.  It is truly a heart wrenching moment.  It’s just one of the loose ends that is wrapped up in these final episodes.  Viewers finally see the end of Thor Gundersen in these final episodes, too.  This is perhaps the one moment in which the writers slipped up.  Every time it seemed like Cullen had finally finished off Thor, he was still alive.  That is until he finally meets his fate.  That moment is brutal in itself to watch.  Getting back on topic, the fact that Thor just kept coming back up until that moment made it seem like the writers weren’t entirely certain how to finish off Thor, so they used the different scenarios to keep the story moving in hopes that audiences wouldn’t mind his multiple deaths.  At the same time, finally presenting Thor’s past served to illustrate why he had become such an angry person.  So that makes up for the issues of Thor’s many deaths up until his final death.  One of the most surprising moments in which the writers’ work shines comes as Cullen is called to testify against Thomas Durant in Washington, D.C.  Cullen’s reaction as he sits before the committee was completely surprising.  It also showed in its own way perhaps another realization by Cullen about who he was in comparison to Durant.  That deeper element makes this moment stand out even more.  It’s just one more moment that exhibits the importance of the series’ writers in these final seven episodes.  There are so many others that could be cited.  But there isn’t enough time or space to cover them all.  Audiences will have to find them for themselves when they purchase or order this final volume of Hell on Wheels’ episodes.  While the work of the series’ writers clearly exhibits its own importance in the collection’s presentation, it is not the only important element to note.  The work of the series’ cast is just as important to note as the work of the series’ writers.

The work put in by Hell on Wheels’ writers in its final episodes goes a long way toward making them entertaining and engaging.  That is evident through the moments discussed here and through so many other moments.  Even with this in mind, the writers’ work is not the only work that makes these episodes so entertaining.  The cast’s work interpreting each episode’s script is just as important to note as the writers’ work.  One of the most notable moments that exemplifies the importance of the cast’s work comes as Thomas Durant sees first hand the death of someone very close to him.  He finally saw for himself the impact of his schemes.  It was clear from that moment on that he was not the same man anymore.  Colm Meaney’s handling of the moment made that traumatic moment so powerful.  He didn’t try to ham it up and scream, “nooooo” or anything else.  He merely had to look at what had happened to fully display the impact that the moment had on him.  His narration of the events leading to the moment, so calm yet clearly so hurt, added to the moment’s emotion.  Meaney handled it all with such expertise.  As devious as Durant had been throughout, this one moment actually will lead audiences to feel some level of sympathy for him.  Again, that is thanks to Meaney’s handling of the situation.  He is to be so highly applauded for his work here.  Fellow star Anson Mount is to be just as applauded for his display as he handles his own emotional struggles.  For so long throughout this series, Cullen has proven to be a rock solid figure in terms of his emotions.  But here in these final episodes, that façade finally begins to crack as he is forced to make some very difficult decisions.  One of the most intriguing of those moments comes as he encounters a Native American at a stream.  The pair stares one another down, waiting to see what the other will do.  It is a short moment, but when one looks back, it explains why Cullen told Grant he wasn’t an indian killer.  The defiance in his voice as he makes that clear to Grant makes so much more sense when one considers that moment.  There were no words, only actions and emoting.  Yet it was such a powerful moment.  Both Mount and his co-star shined brightly in that simple moment, showing once more than importance of the cast’s work to these episodes’ presentation. As with the work of the show’s writers, there are so many other moments that could be cited in explaining the importance of the cast’s work.  But that would take far too much time and space.  So, again, audiences will find plenty of other examples when they purchase or order Hell on Wheels: Season 5 Volume 2 for themselves.  Keeping this in mind, the work of the series’ writers and cast are obviously both important to the episodes’ presentation here.  They are just two of the series’ most important elements.  The bonus material included in the episodes’ recent home release is just as important to note in their presentation as the writing and acting behind each episode.

The work of Hell on Wheels’ writers and cast are both pivotal to the series’ continued entertainment in its final episodes.  The writers managed to wrap up the show’s leftover loose ends relatively well and keep audiences entertained and engaged in the process.  The cast did just as much to entertain audiences as evidenced through the work of Colm Meaney and Anson Mount (and their cast mates).  While the work of the series’ cast and writers is undeniably important to the presentation of its final episodes, they are just two of the elements that make this collection’s presentation enjoyable.  The bonus material that is included with the collection is just as important to note as the writing and acting in these episodes.  As with each of the series’ previous installments each episode is coupled with its own “Inside the Episode” audio commentary.  Needless to say, that commentary is not to be missed.  The other bonus material is less extensive.  But it does a good job bringing everything full circle.  “Golden Spike” is the shortest of the bonuses. It last all of perhaps a couple of minutes, if that.  But audiences learn through this little piece that the golden spike was very real.  They also learn that allegedly every telegraph in the country was silenced on the day that the golden spike was hammered into the transcontinental railroad.  That was so that when the message was delivered—by the strike of the hammer—every person in the country would know that was the moment when the spike was being driven.  That is something that generally isn’t taught in history classes at any level, so it is interesting to learn.  “Wrap Up” and “A Look At The Final Episodes” are both interesting in their own way as they offer the cast and crew the chance to comment on the importance of the episodes’ stories as well as working on the final episodes.  Viewers will be most intrigued to learn of Anson Mount’s connection to Cullen as he discusses topics such as Cullen having to kill and bury Elam, who had become such a friend to Cullen.  Robin McLeavy also gets the chance to discuss Eva’s personal growth from the series’ opening to the final episode.  This discussion is just as important to take in because it reminds audiences that while Eva might not have been one of the series’ marquee characters, she was still very integral to its development in her own right.  It’s just one more discussion that exhibits the importance of this collection’s bonus material.  There are so many other discussions both in the shorter features and the episode-length commentaries that add their own depth to the collection.  When they are joined with the discussions noted here, the whole of that bonus material proves to be just as important to the collection as the episodes and their content.  When all three elements are combined, they make clear why Hell on Wheels: Season 5Volume 2 is a fitting final farewell for what is one of the best serials to come along in a long time.

Hell on Wheels: Season 5 Volume 2 is a fitting farewell for a series that is one of the best serials to come along in a long time.  Considering how many serials are out there today versus standalone series, that is saying a lot.  From day one, this series has proven to be a serial actually worth watching.  This collection is no different.  It shows just as much why the series is worth the watch whether one is a fan of dramas or a western fan.  That is evidenced primarily through the work of the series’ writers.  Even with perhaps one or two minor slip-ups here and there, the writers succeeded by and large in these final episodes.  The cast was just as entertaining as ever, too.  The bonus material that accompanies the work of the series’ cast and writers rounds everything out.  That is because it brings everything full circle all while keeping audiences just as engaged as ever.  Each element is important in its own right to the collection.  All things considered, Hell on Wheels: Season 5Volume 2 proves, again, to be a fitting farewell to a rare serial that is actually worth watching.  It is available now in stores and online.  More information on Hell on Wheels: Season 5 Volume 2 is available online now along with more information on Hell on Wheels at:




Website: http://www.amc.com/shows/hell-on-wheels

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/HellonWheelsAMC

Twitter: http://twitter.com/hellonwheelsamc




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AMC, eOne Announce Release Date, Specs For Hell On Wheels: The Complete Fourth Season

Courtesy:  AMC/eOne

Courtesy: AMC/eOne

This Saturday, AMC’s hit western serial Hell on Wheels returns for its fifth and final season. For those that perhaps might have missed out on the events of the hit drama’s fourth season and who in turn don’t want to spoil things for themselves, AMC and eOne have announced that those fans won’t have to wait much longer for Season Four to hit store shelves out online outlets.

AMC and eOne have announced that Hell on Wheels: The Complete Fourth Season will be released on DVD and Blu-ray on Tuesday, August 11th. Hell on Wheels’ fourth season picks up right where Season Three left off. Audiences find Cullen marrying the now pregnant Naomi and having to live in the Mormon fort where she and other Mormons currently live. Making things even more tense is the fact that The Swede (Christopher Heyerdahl) is there, pretending to be the church leader Bishop Dutson. Thomas Durant (Colm Meaney) is back in charge of the Union Pacific Railroad, which had succeeded in its western expansion, making it all the way to Cheyenne. Elam (Common) has recovered from the injuries sustained in a bear attack at the end of Season Three, which happened as Elam had been searching for Cullen. Season Four sees the fallout from all of these events and more as the railroad continues its expansion. Audiences can check out a trailer for Season Four’s upcoming home release online now via Vimeo at https://vimeo.com/118781754.

Courtesy:  AMC/eOne

Courtesy: AMC/eOne

Along with its gripping story lines, Hell on Wheels: The Complete Fourth Season also boasts a handful of bonuses for fans including: a behind the scenes look at Season Four, an introduction to the new characters introduced in Season Four, episode specific featurettes, and much more. The complete list of bonuses featured in Hell on Wheels: The Complete Fourth Season is listed below.


  • A Look at Season 4
  •  The New Characters of Season 4
  • Cheyenne Set Tour
  • Anson Mount Retrospective
  • On the Set with Colm Meaney
  • On the Set with Jake Weber
  • Episode Featurettes

As the days count down to the premiere of Hell on Wheels’ final season and the home release of Season Four, audiences can keep up with all of the latest from the show online at:

Website: http://www.amc.com/shows/hell-on-wheels

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/HellonWheelsAMC

Twitter: http://twitter.com/hellonwheelsamc

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Star Trek: TNG’s Fifth Season Is One Of The Series’ Best

Courtesy:  Paramount/CBS Blu-ray

Courtesy: Paramount/CBS Blu-ray

Star Trek: The Next Generation is one of the great science fiction series of the twentieth century. It took what was started by its predecessor and carried it to a whole new level. Thanks to Paramount and CBS Home Video, fans of this modern classic series have already gotten to enjoy all seven seasons of the hit series on DVD. And now it is being re-issued to DVD once again alongside first-time ever Blu-ray releases. Paramount and CBS Home Video just recently released the series’ fifth season in its entirety to Blu-ray. Season Five is one of the best from Star Trek: TNG (as it will henceforth be titled). The season itself is so impressive first and foremost because of its episodes. Season Five’s episodes offer audiences some of the series’ most substantial material of any of the series’ seven total seasons. Season Five’s Blu-ray release ups the ante, presenting each of the season’s episodes exactly as they originally aired. This makes this collection even more worth picking up for the Trek fan in any household. And what Blu-ray re-issue would be complete without the mandatory bonus features. Paramount and CBS Home Video have impressed once again with the bonus features included in this set. They are the finishing touch on the six-disc collection. They make this collection a definite must have for any hardcore Trek fan while he or she waits for the release of the show’s penultimate season.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Season Five is one of the series best first and foremost because of its episodes. To be more precise, Season Five is such an impressive season because of its writing. One excellent example of the strong writing in Season Five is the season’s second episode, “Darmok.” Captain Picard is forced to survive in the wild alongside a representative of The Children of Tama. There’s just one problem. There is quite the language gap between them to say the least. In order to survive, Captain Picard is forced to learn the representative’s language. In learning the language of another people, he better understands his new found friend and his culture. This leads to an even deeper appreciation for The Children of Tama. This is an episode to which audiences can clearly relate. Audiences can relate to this storyline as it teaches viewers that only by having an open mind about other cultures can mankind achieve any progress towards peace. Understanding the language of other cultures is just the starting point in that path. On a similar note, “I, Borg” relates to audiences just as much as it sees a young Borg learning about individualism after having being separated from the Borg collective. This is a lesson to which any viewer can relate. To a lesser extent, audiences will appreciate just as much the second half of the season bridging, “Redemption.” There is no lesson here. It is just a solid continuation of the story started at the end of Season Four. Audiences finally see the outcome of Worf having left the Federation to join in family in dealing with the Klingon High Command as a new leader is chosen for the Klingon people. Much as with so many of the series’ episodes, it is a character driven episode. It showed once and for all that while Michael Dorn was a supporting cast member, he could still hold his own in his own story arc. These are just a few of the episodes that make Star Trek: TNG Season Five another must have for any Star Trek loyalist. There are plenty more from which fans will call their own. And they’re just the starting point of what makes Season Five so enjoyable.

The writing behind the fifth season of Star Trek: TNG is the most important part of its success. Audiences will appreciate also that Paramount and CBS Home Video have continued their high standard of presenting each of the episodes as they were presented in their original broadcasts. The commercial segues are one hundred percent clean. Also noteworthy is that each episode is presented in its original 4:3 format. However those with HDTVs may be able to use their remotes to switch from the classic 4:3 format and switch to a full 16:9 cinema style presentation if they so choose.  There is something about seeing each season in a full widescreen presentation that makes it even better than in standard 4:3 style.  It just adds a certain charm so to speak about each episode. What’s more, no one part of any episode has been removed from any of the season’s episodes. Believe it or not, there are some companies that cut portions of movies and TV shows in their home releases. Luckily, neither Paramount nor CBS Home Video has done that here. And it’s just one more positive to the set’s overall presentation.  Added in the season’s strong writing, it makes this season all the more worth the money.

The writing and overall presentation of Star Trek: TNG Season Five are the most important elements of this season’s home release.  It wouldn’t be complete without the mandatory bonus features, though.  The bonus features included in Season Five are impressive to say the least.  But the amount of features and their content is only part of the whole to this aspect of the set.  Audiences will especially appreciate that the bonus features have been spread across all six of the set’s discs.  A general overview of what makes Season Five’s episodes great opens the bonus features on disc one.  Audiences will be interested to hear the back story on specific episodes, and their significance in the relation to real life.  It’s followed up on discs two and three with examinations of the show’s production values and visual effects respectively.  From there, audiences are offered a tribute to series creator Gene Roddenberry on the set’s fifth disc along with a look at Season Five’s big name guest stars.  Fittingly, the set’s final disc takes a look back at the series just as with the previous four seasons.  The cast and crew give even more insight into what made the show so great up to its fifth season.  One could ramble on aimlessly for some time about the bonus features.  But suffice it to say that each of the features included across the set’s discs are bonuses in every sense of the word.  And they put Season Five over the top.  They are the final argument proving exactly why this set is a must have for Star Trek fans of any age.  It is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct from the official Star Trek website at http://shop.startrek.com/detail.php?p=464253.  More information on this and all things Star Trek is available online at http://www.startrek.com and http://www.facebook.com/StarTrek.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Star Trek: TNG Gets Even Better In Its Fourth Season

Courtesy:  CBS Home Entertainment/Paramount Home Entertainment

Courtesy: CBS Home Entertainment/Paramount Home Entertainment

Star Trek: The Next Generation is one of the greatest incarnations of Gene Roddenberry’s beloved franchise.  Considering that it started in the late 1980s, it was unlike roughly anything else on television at the time.  So for audiences to say that its first two seasons were shaky is somewhat unfair.  The show’s first two seasons were enjoyable in their own right.  And it only got better from there.  Season Three proved how far the show had come since its premiere.  And now, with Season Four officially out on Blu-ray, audiences can see how much more developed the show had become in its run.  Season Four shines first and foremost for its writing.  From wrapping up the hugely popular Best of Both Worlds cliffhanger that started at the end of Season three to the introduction of Data’s “brother” in “Brothers” to the season finale that sees Worf  stepping down from Starfleet this season sees more than its share of storylines that will keep audiences engaged.  The writing involved in each episode was the major sticking point for Season Four.  In terms of the overall presentation, much more can be said that makes Season Four work.  The set’s bonus features and its packaging play just as much a part in its success, too.  Together with the solid writing, the packaging and bonus features help to make Star Trek The Next Generation: Season Four another great addition to the home library of any Star Trek fan.

The writing involved in each episode of Star Trek’s fourth season is some of the best that the show saw in its seven-season run.  It really helped to validate Star Trek literally for a new generation.  The resultant effect was that its validation also validated, in turn, science fiction in general on television.  Because the writing progressively got better through Star Trek: TNG’s fourth season, it could be argued that it really helped open the door for more science fiction shows to make their way onto mainstream television.  Prime examples of this would be in the rise of shows such as: Babylon 5, The X-Files, Earth 2, etc.  There are many more that could be listed that came not long after Star Trek: The Next Generation Season Four.  These are just a handful of that mass that came possibly as a result of this season.  To make such a claim as this is a very powerful statement.  So it raises the question, what made the writing in Season Four so impressive and important?  The answer to that is that the show’s writers were able to balance strong stories with personal character development.  Data, Dr. Crusher, Capt. Picard, and Worf all became the central focus of their own episodes.  Even Dr. Crusher’s son, Wesley, got his own share of face time through this season.  In the case of Capt. Picard, audiences got to see him face being human again after being saved from the Borg.  And later, he is forced to face some old demons when he takes a vacation to see his own family.  Dr. Crusher has to watch her son grow up and go off on his own to Starfleet Academy.  Thanks to the show’s writers, she also has to face the philosophical question of what reality is in the episode, “Remember Me.”  Who would have ever thought that science fiction and philosophy would work so well together?  But it worked.  Even Worf has his own moments as he is forced to consider some very difficult decisions as the season closes.  Here is an individual that audiences have come to know as being a very strong individual both physically and emotionally.  So seeing him have to do such deep soul searching in a manner of speaking shows so much more depth to his character.  And it makes audiences want to see more from him.

The personal character development balanced with the storylines in Season Four are the anchors to this season.  This is clear.  Thanks to the people at Paramount and CBS Home Video, viewers have gotten in this season’s box set (as with the previous three seasons) even more understanding and appreciation for the writing thanks to the season’s bonus interviews.  As with the previous seasons, the writing staff as well as members of the cast are interviewed this season.  Audiences will appreciate the insight on the episodes included in Season Four.  The gag reel included in Season Four adds even more enjoyment.  There’s something about science fiction that makes gag reels even better than others.  Maybe it’s the use of blue/green screen forcing the cast to essentially play pretend.  Maybe it’s just the camaraderie between the cast members.  But the gag reel will have viewers laughing hysterically.  And as minor as it may seem, including the episodic promos as an option with each episode is that icing on the cake.  There’s something about having the original episodic promos both by themselves and along with the episodes themselves that generates a full sense of nostalgia for those that remember watching the show on television.  It makes the whole viewing experience that much better, and worth watching every time.

The bonus features and the writing included in Star Trek: The Next Generation Season Four work together to make the overall viewing experience a win.  There is one more part of this season’s set that makes everything complete for the show’s fans.  That one last part of the puzzle is the set’s packaging.  Season Four is comprised of six discs in its Blu-ray release.  It would have been so easy to package that many discs in a larger box.  But Paramount and CBS Home Video didn’t do that.  They maintained the standard set in the previous three seasons’ release.  The discs were placed inside the case in a fashion that is both ergonomic and that protects them from scratching one another.  This both saves space on racks and in cabinets as well as preserves the discs for future viewings.  It is the final piece of the puzzle that makes Star Trek: The Next Generation Four one of the year’s best box sets.  It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered direct online via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Star-Trek-Generation-Season-Blu-ray/dp/B00CKYHH6O/ref=sr_tr_sr_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1376406257&sr=1-1&keywords=star+trek+the+next+generation+season+4.  After ordering Star Trek: The Next Generation Season Four, fans can keep up with all of the latest releases from CBS Home Entertainment on its official Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/cbshomeentertainment.  

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Hell On Wheels One Of TVs Elite Dramas In Its Second Season

Courtesy:  Entertainment One

Courtesy: Entertainment One

AMC’s hit Western drama, Hell on Wheels is one of the best dramas on television today.  Yes, that’s rather cliché to say, since so many networks try to claim their dramas to be the best this and that.  But the fact of the matter is that few if any of those other shows live up to their hype.  Hell on Wheels on the other hand more than lives up to the hype.  If its first season was its A-game, then its second season was (and is now that it has been released to DVD and Blu-ray) its A Plus-game.  The show’s writers have taken the story started in Season One and stepped it up all the way around the second time out.  Whether one is new to the show or not, all ten of Season Two’s episodes are sure to keep audiences gripped from start to finish.  And yes, there is a slight soap opera aspect mixed in to the primary story line.  But that soap opera element was there in the show’s first season as with all of the other story lines that are present here.  What’s most impressive is that the show’s writers were able to keep all of the story lines separate from one another throughout the season, thus making it all the more enjoyable.  Add in top notch acting on the part of the cast and more equally expert cinematography, and audiences get more proof that drama on cable is just as good as anything on the “Big Four.”

The writers behind Hell on Wheels surprised a lot of people when the show debuted two seasons ago on AMC.  But two seasons in (and a third season preparing to premiere this Saturday night), it has more than proven itself, as have its writers.  The show’s second season is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.  And with Season Two’s home release, Hell on Wheels’ writers have proven yet again why it does in fact live up to the hype of being one of the best dramas on television today.  The show’s writers have taken what they started with in its debut season and stepped it up in big fashion in Season Two.  Audiences find out what became of Cullen Bohannon after he left Hell on Wheels at the end of Season One.  They also see everything that has transpired in the town, too.  The brothers Mcginnes have gone from being two young naïve Irish immigrants to being relatively successful businessmen with their own personal drama.  The relationship between Joseph Black Moon and his “father”, Reverend Nathaniel Cole has become very strained, to say the least.  And the on again/off again romance between Elam Ferguson and his love interest Eva has reached quite the interesting point, even though Eva is married to another man.  Let us also not forget Thor Gundersen (A.K.A. The Swede).  He reaches perhaps the lowest point possible in the show’s climactic final episodes that are sure to have major implications in Season Three.

One would assume just by seeing everything here, that there was an awful lot going on in Season Two.  That would be right.  It would be just as easy to assume that with so many storylines going on, they would end up stepping all over one another.  That assumption is wrong.  Somehow, the show’s writers were able to take each one of the storylines in Season Two, and keep them entirely separate of one another.  At the same time, they also managed to keep each story line tied into the other smoothly.  The connections were so smooth that audiences that have yet to see Season Two will have no trouble following them or how they tie into one another.  This solid writing is the crux of the continued success of Hell on Wheels.  There is much more that continued to make it successful in its second season, though.  Audiences will also find that the acting on the part of the main cast does its own part in making the show believable.        

The writers behind Hell on Wheels Season Two took the success of the show’s first season and amped things up this time out, developing each storyline clearly and at a pace that doesn’t leave viewers scratching their heads.  This is a major positive to Season Two.  It’s not the only positive.  Just as the writing was executed so well, so was the ability of the cast to interpret the scripts.  The cast’s acting was just as believable this season as it was in its debut season.  This is something rare in television’s current era.  Far too often, viewers know that they are watching a show on the screen.  But in the case of Hell on Wheels, the cast’s chemistry and its ability to interpret each episode’s script is at such a level that it makes suspension of disbelief so easy for audiences.  It’s so easy to be pulled in that audiences won’t want to stop watching from one episode to the next, even with this drama being so much less like other serials on TV today.  It’s one more sign of just how impressive Hell on Wheels remains in its second season.

The writing and acting in Hell on Wheels’ are integral parts of the show’s success.  This is just as evident in the show’s second season as it was in its first season.  They can only do so much by themselves, though.  The people charged with capturing the cast on camera and setting the tone in each scene are just as much to thank for the show’s success in its second season.  The cinematography is just important in the success of Hell on Wheels as the writing and acting.  And suffice it to say that the cinematography was just as expert in Season Two as it was in Season One.  The wide shots of the railroad being built set against the backdrop of the plains under clear blue skies were stunning.  The lack of civilization served to make the colors of the plains and sky even lusher.  And the exterior shots, setting the scene within the town created their own emotions.  The contrast of the muddy ground against the buildings and tents does something just as special.  Not only does it illustrate the colors, but it serves as a stark contrast to the scenes showing the railroad being built.  The camera crews did a wonderful job capturing the set shots throughout each episode.  The camera work during each episode’s shootouts and the deeper, more emotional moments were just as powerful as the rest of the camerawork throughout Season Two.  It’s one more factor that along with the drama’s writing and the acting, will fully immerse viewers in the story.  Together, all of these factors make Hell on Wheels Season Two more proof that cable based dramas are as good as the programming that spans the “Big Four” if not better than those shows.  And whether one is new to Hell on Wheels or not, all of these factors make this another must see season.  Season Two is available now on DVD and Blu-ray in stores and online.  It can be ordered online via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0075FF5QM/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=filmsiteorg-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B0075FF5QM.  And fans can get up to speed up Hell on Wheels on the show’s official website, http://www.amctv.com/shows/hell-on-wheels.  Audiences can also keep up with the latest Hell on Wheels developments on the show’s official Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/HellonWheelsAMC

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

AMC scores another hit with Hell on Wheels

Courtesy: Entertainment One/AMC

Studies done in recent years allege that despite ticket sales numbers, more people watch television than do see movies in theaters.  Considering the rise in digital technology, it would be no surprise if there’s any truth to those numbers.  Keeping that in mind, it’s just as little surprise that television network, American Movie Classics (AMC), has joined the party and started running original series alongside its daily offering of classic movies.  The network has a bona fide hit in its shows, “Breaking Bad” and “Walking Dead.”  And now that its first season is complete and out on blu-ray, AMC has shown that it has another major hit in “Hell on Wheels.”

“Hell on Wheels” has so much going for it.  Even being a serial, it has a certain quality that makes it stand out from other serials and scripted shows in general.  First and foremost, the show’s writers are to thank for that.  The storylines keep audiences gripped from Cullen’s first shot to the end of the season finale.  That the episodes don’t begin with the standard “previously on” makes the show that much more appealing.  And of course, there are the sets, costumes, and general shooting.  All combined, they come together for a great first season now on blu-ray and standard def dvd.

The general shooting and planning are among the main factors that make “Hell on Wheels” the impressive show that it is.  And fans will get an even deeper look into those factors thanks to the bonus features included on the set’s third disc.  Those bonus features will appeal especially to students and enthusiasts of theater construction and production.  The “making of” featurette shows how the people behind the cameras made “Hell on Wheels” come to life, even with a wet Spring.  Perhaps one of the most intriguing moments in the “Making of” featurette comes when negotiations with the local Native American tribe are discussed.  It was obvious how real the crew wanted the show to look being that they wanted to talk to the local tribe first and get their okay.  Staying on the track of believability, one wouldn’t even have known that the story that was supposed to have taken place in the American midwest was actually taped in Canada.  That’s a positive mark for the work done by the crew. 

The work done by the crew to build Hell on Wheels and bring it to life is only part of what makes the show a hit.  The show’s scripting is another major bonus.  Just as the production crew did its part to make the show believeable, the show’s writing adds to that believeability.  As many interweaving storylines exist in each episode, the show’s writers have done an impressive job not allowing them to bog down each episode.  And now, thanks to being released on blu-ray, fans can even get a synopsis on each episode before watching them thanks to an episode-by episode featurette.  To sweeten the deal, the Spark Notes style featurettes are guided by the cast members themselves.  That tiny detail makes the featurettes that much more worth watching.  And watching them makes following the storylines that much easier to follow.  So Kudos to AMC and Entertainment One for including them in the new blu-ray presentation.

Whether for the storylines, the production or the cast itself, “Hell on Wheels” has so much going for it.  In an age when reality tv and game shows are dominating the Big Four, this show is even more proof of how much better cable programming is than that of the Big Four.  And now that it’s on blu-ray, fans who might have missed episodes during the first season can watch the show at their convenience.  By the time audiences get tot he final moments of the season finale, they will be hooked, waiting with baited breath, for Season Two later this year.

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Hell on Wheels is one hell of a show in its first season

Serials seem to be all the rage on television nowadays.  All of the big four have at least one serial.  And even the big cable networks have their own serials.  Even cable movie channel, AMC saw some time ago that it couldn’t survive on modern movies alone.  So it picked up Breaking Bad.  Now, it’s got another hit on its hands with the new hit drama, “Hell on Wheels.” 

“Hell on Wheels” is a good fit for AMC.  That’s because its serial status aside, it comes across more as a movie than an actual television show.  That’s not an entirely bad thing, either.  It’s one more piece that shows–even as violent and sexually explicit as it got at times–that Westerns are still popular, even in the twenty-first century.  Season one sees Confederate Civil War veteran Cullen Bohannan joining Thomas Durant’s Union Pacific railroad as it makes its way westward across the United States.  Bohannan has joined the railroad in an attempt to hunt down the men who killed his wife and his son.  Things aren’t easy at all for Bohannan while he’s in the railroad town of Hell on Wheels.  The whole time he’s there, he’s constantly at odds with Durant’s head of security, Thor “The Swede” Gundersen.  That’s not all, either.  Not only does Bohannan have to deal with Gundersen, he also has to find Lily Bell, whose husband was working with Durant to plan the Union Pacific’s route.  He also has to help take down the renegade Native Americans who killed Lily’s husband and derailed a train.  There’s even what seems to be a bit of a budding romance between Bohannan and Lily.  One can’t help but wonder though if anything will happen, considering how Season One ended.

Season One’s finale in mind, the writing behind “Hell on Wheels” makes for stories that both male and female audiences will love.  There’s more than enough action amd beautiful cinematography throughout Season One to keep the attention of its male audiences.  The drama of Durant and Gundersen backstabbing each other for their own devious purposes and the possibility of romance between Bohannan and Lily will pull in female audiences.  There’s also the growing romance between Elam Ferguson and Eva that said audience will also grip said audiences.  Of course, it should be noted that considering the mix of explicit violence and sexuality, “Hell on Wheels” is not proper for younger audiences. 

The violence and sexuality aside, there’s something about “Hell on Wheels” that makes it stand out from other tv shows.  It’s been noted by one source that “Hell on Wheels” comes across more as a movie on television than a standard tv serial.  That’s actually a good description.  The combination of cinematography, stories and acting all combine for a serial that has its own identity.  Rather than doing the standard sparknotes style “previously on” opening, each time, each new episode picks up right where the previous episode left off.  That straight forward opening forces audiences to watch the previous episodes.  And audiences who do watch each episode are handsomely rewarded with a show that is one of the best serials on tv today.  Now with Season One on dvd and blu-ray, audiences can only hope that after such an outstanding first impression, the show will continue to hold up its reputation when it reutns later this year for its second season.

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