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

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Seal Team Six An Underappreciated Military Thriller

Courtesy:  Anchor Bay Entertainmen

Courtesy: Anchor Bay Entertainmen

Movies based on actual events make up one of the largest genres of movies in the modern movie industry.  From stories centered on legal cases to sports to everything else in between, movies based on actual events are more bountiful than the egos that fill the movie industry today.  That’s saying something.  Keeping this in mind, it’s easy to discount so many of those movies, whether they be big budget or independent.  And then there are those such as the recent megahit, Zero Dark Thirty that was anything but passable. It was a definite hit for a variety of reasons.  Ironically, as big of a hit as it was, it actually came after a far lesser known, but just as enjoyable story in Anchor Bay Entertainment’s, Seal Team Six: The Raid on Osama Bin Laden.  It leaves one wondering what prevented this surprisingly entertaining story from gaining the fame and success of its big blockbuster brother.

The most obvious of reasons why Seal Team Six: The Raid on Osama Bin Laden didn’t gain the fame of Zero Dark Thirty is that the prior was an indie flick, while the other was backed by a major studio.  Despite the fact that it was backed by an independent studio, Seal Team Six: The Raid on Osama Bin Laden is surprisingly entertaining. Any viewer that was a fan of CBS’ short-lived military drama The Unit or Entertainment One’s more recent military action/thriller, Special Forces will enjoy this movie.  It may not have the deep drama-filled storyline of Zero Dark Thirty or the major special effects, etc.  But it still manages to hold its own against its big brother.  As was noted in the movie’s bonus “Making of” featurette, those behind the camera did not set out to make it another Zero Dark Thirty.  It’s obvious this statement was made after the movie in question had been released, considering that this movie was released before the other.  That aside, it’s good to know that it didn’t want to be about all the extra drama that surrounded the raid before and after.  That it focused mainly on the raid itself and the men that carried out the orders is perhaps another reason that it wasn’t as warmly welcomed as its big screen counterpart.

One of the most important factors pointed out in the “Making of” featurette that accompanies this movie is its tri-pointed story approach.  It’s noted that the story is told from the vantage point of not just the members of Seal Team Six, but also from the point of the CIA operatives in Washington, D.C., and from a pair of intelligence gatherers inside Pakistan.  The three points eventually intersect for the final action filled sequence that will have viewers on the edge of their seats.  What is most impressive of the three stories is that the melodrama between Cherry (Anson Mount – Hell on Wheels) and Stunner (Cam Gigandet—The O.C., Twilight, Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2, Easy A) is kept to an extreme minimum.  This allows the story to progress much more smoothly and stay focused on the central story of the operation to take Bin Laden.  In turn, the story’s pacing never lets up, thus keeping viewers engaged throughout the story’s hour and a half run time. 

The script’s limited melodrama is the tip of the iceberg for Seal Team Six: The Raid on Osama Bin Laden in keeping audiences engaged.  Keeping the melodrama to an extreme minimum allows for more time for action and focus on story development from all three perspectives.  Instead of wasting unnecessary amounts of time focusing on each member’s personal and family drama, it instead used that time to develop the characters themselves and build tension as preparations began for the operation to take Bin Laden.  Throughout the course of these developments, the script’s pacing never lets up.  This is the center of everything.  The pacing is never too fast or slow.  This combined with the minimalist drama and energy packed action scenes all come together to make this movie an underappreciated military action movie.  It proves, in the end, to be a movie that while it may be a TV movie, is still one that is worth at least one watch by fans of this genre now that it is available on DVD and Blu-ray.  It can be ordered online direct from Anchor Bay’s official website at http://www.anchorbayentertainment.com/detail.aspx?projectID=78fae55b-2924-e211-a8d1-d4ae527c3b65.  Fans of this movie can keep up with even more from Anchor Bay on its official Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/AnchorBayEntertainmentCanada

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The Haunting Hour’s First Season Closes With Two More Scary Sets Of Stories

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/The Hub

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/The Hub

R.L. Stine and The Hub are back with two more volumes of seriously scary stories for kids and their parents.  The Haunting Hour Vol. 3 & 4 offer audiences ten more tales of terror that will entertain and scare audiences every time they turn them on.  This latest pair of volumes offers not only five great episodes each, but some star power, too.  The Haunting Hour Vol. 3 boats guest appearances from the likes of Robert Capron (Diary of a Wimpy Kid), Maddison Pettis (Cory in the House), Christopher Heyerdahl (Hell on Wheels, Sanctuary), and others.  Apparently, Heyerdahl has a thing for playing villains, much like Tim Curry, as he takes on the role of quite the scary character in the episode, ‘Fear Never Knocks.’  Heyerdahl’s character is absolutely creepy in his role in this episode, terrorizing a pair of children who stumble upon their grandfather’s “box of fear.”  He is released when young Jenny decides to play with the box, and releases both her fears and those of her brother and fear itself (played by Heyerdahl).  Also in Volume Three, Maddison Pettis is one of three kids that get caught up in a supernatural story that brings the past and present together thanks to a mysterious mask.  The mask shows events that happened in the past, which themselves lead to another mystery that will leave viewers guessing right up to the end of the story.  And in another of the set’s best episodes, Robert Capron plays a young man whose overactive apetite leads him to get much more than he hoped for after a strange ice cream truck starts making rounds through the boy’s neighborhood.  This is an episode that will send “chills” (ba-dump-bump-bump) through every viewer, and will make them think twice next time they see an ice cream truck come through their neighborhood.  What’s more, it’s a valuable warning against over eating, too, ironically enough.  It’s little things like this, and the writing for the other noted episodes that make The Haunting Hour Volume Three another nice inclusion for any fan of ghost stories and of R.L. Stine’s work.

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/The Hub

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/The Hub

The scares don’t stop with Volume Three of The Haunting Hour.  Fans will also enjoy Volume Four, which was released alongside Volume Three.  The show’s fourth volume offers even more scares, as well as guest appearances.  It all opens with another episode that’s just as much a warning as it is a scary story in ‘Wrong Number.’  Debby Ryan (The Suite Life on Deck, Radio Rebel) stars in this episode as Steffani.  Steffani is a rather spoiled young woman that is the very stereotype of the stuck up “mean girl.”  But she gets what’s coming to her when she and her friend decide to prank call an elderly woman one night.  The consequences of her actions turn out to be deadly, as a matter of fact.  This is just one of the many scary stories presented in The Haunting Hour Volume Four.  Another equally terrifying tale included in this set is the episode, ‘Lights Out.’  Super 8 star Gabriel Basso stars as Teddy, a young teen skeptic who is pulled into a ghost hunt after watching a ghost hunt show on TV.  Teddy’s friends set out to prove to him that ghosts are in fact real in their hunt for the supernatural.  He learns that lesson in a way he never would have expected, nor will viewers who have never seen this episode.  The twist ending will scare audiences to no end and leave them talking.  As with Volume Three, what is presented here is just part of what makes Volume Four so enthralling.  The stories presented in these two volumes are sure to scare and entertain both kids and adults alike.

The Haunting Hour recently wrapped its third season on The Hub network.  Allegedly, a fourth season might be in production.  That gives ample time for both seasons Two and Three to be released to DVD while fans await the show’s return to The Hub.  Until then though, these last two volumes of Season One will keep audiences coming back again and again.  All four volumes are available in stores and online and can be ordered online direct at http://www.shoutfactorystore.com

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TV Renewals and Cancellations Start For 2013

The television industry is in one of its key moments right now.  As the calendar turns from Winter and closer to Spring, network execs at the “Big 4” (and CW) are starting to do some early planning for each network’s Fall schedule.  Typically the Fall schedules are released in Spring; May to be exact.  And if the latest numbers are any sign, things could be very interesting for television this coming Fall as the Winter/Spring season nears its end and we move into the annual filler season.  While things are still uncertain for many shows, the picture for all of the “Big 4” (and CW) has become increasingly clear already.  While there are still a lot of uncertain, it looks like when the dust settles, NBC will have the most to lose, while CBS will end up the big winner with FOX and ABC battling it out for second place.  Of course, let’s not forget the massive slate of pilots set to air very soon across the networks.  Considering the way the schedules look for the “Big 4” (and CW), CBS may still end up the big winner, even with networks such as Syfy and A&E having two of the most anticipated shows of the year.  Let’s take a look at everything.

So far, it looks like NBC has the most to lose.  The network proves to be the biggest loser (yes, that pun is intended) with no fewer than ten of the shows in its schedule being on the chopping block.  This means that at the time of this posting, their fate is up in the air.  Those shows include the likes of Community, Parks & Rec, and 1600 Penn just to name a few.  The network has officially renewed five of its shows at the time of this posting and brought four to an end.  In NBC’s defense, two of those shows ending (The Office and 30 Rock) simply came to the end of their run whereas Animal Practice and Do No Harm were cancelled due to poor ratings.  CBS on the other hand looks to have come out the big winner in everything, and likely will even after the summer filler season ends.  As of this time, CBS’ schedule looks to be largely intact with at least fifteen shows from its schedule set to return, one cancelled, and six still on the hook. 

Perhaps the most interesting trend to note of all the announcements released so far is that audiences seem to be drawing more towards dramas than anything else.  This includes reality television.  Considering the glut of reality TV shows out there on the majors, ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and The CW have combined so far for a total of ten total reality shows officially confirmed as being safe so far.  Dramas from the five networks on the other hand, combined for a total of twenty-one shows that have been confirmed as being back so far.  Comedies accounted for only fourteen total shows that will definitely be back as of yet.  On the other side of the coin, comedies topped the list of shows that have been cancelled during the Winter/Spring schedule.  ABC lost the most dramas, with five total.  None of the 5 majors reported cancellation of their reality TV programming.  It really makes for an interesting trend to note.

In terms of the most anticipated shows coming this year are A&E’s Bates Motel, ABC’s much talked about small screen take from the Marvel Comics universe in S.H.I.E.L.D. and Syfy’s long awaited return to actual science fiction programming in Defiance.    Syfy has had at least some science fiction based shows in the likes of the previous Battlestar Galactica re-incarnation as well as Eureka and the now short lived Alphas.  So there’s a lot of talk around this one, especially after the leap of faith that was Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome.  After the much maligned Caprica ended, there was a lot of speculation around the fate of this property.  And considering that Alphas has ended so abruptly and that Eureka only lasted four seasons, one can only wonder if Defiance will be able to revive science fiction programming on Syfy.  Should it survive, sci-fi fans could finally see the network finally return to its roots.  One can only hope.  Supernatural shows seem to have been all the rage on that network in recent memory.  Though it too, has added its own slate of reality shows just like so many of the cable networks.  One thing fans can cheer about is that USA has brought back Psych.  The show’s new episodes started airing this week.  This little show that could has really proven to be a surprise hit for the network and a great replacement for the equally entertaining Monk.  For fans of other cable shows, FX has renewed Archer and American Horror Story.  AMC is said to be bringing back its hit Western saga, Hell on Wheels.  Simply put, this year is going to be another interesting one for television as it competes for eyes over theaters.  That’s a whole other story in itself for another time.

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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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