The Night Of: Who's Manipulating Who?

Jul 27, 2016 by Sarah Moffatt

If Nasir’s case wasn’t already plummeting towards the Earth for a messy landing, it certainly is now.

In my breakdown of episode one, I mentioned how bad it looked for Nasir that a police officer was gagging and puking after seeing the very bloody crime scene but Naz seemed unfazed. As it turns out, the cop is fresh out of the police academy and had never seen a dead body before, but that doesn’t do much to help Naz.

Last week I noted Stone’s observation that Box plays “just inside the lines,” and we got more evidence of that this week: Box asks the two cops who arrested Nasir for the traffic violation to rewrite their reports (and not remove the throwing up part despite the... Read More

The Night Of: Who is the 'Subtle Beast'?

Jul 20, 2016 by Sarah Moffatt

After an explosive first episode littered with clues, it only made sense The Night Of’s whodunit narrative would take a backseat as the background stories began to unfold. The second episode, “Subtle Beast,” peeled back the curtain on Andrea, Detective Box and John Stone just enough for us to get more questions rolling around in our heads, especially: who is the “subtle beast”?

We were given some important background on Andrea, the murder victim, starting with the biggest mystery of all: how a 20-something girl has a brownstone to herself. As it turns out, her father died when she was about 10 and her mother died sometime within the last year from cancer, leaving her with only one next-of-kin: her stepfather, Don Taylor.

Something feels off about Don.... Read More

HBO's Vice Principals Takes Danny McBride Back To School

Jul 15, 2016 by Alex Castle

There is a quote widely attributed to former Secretary of State and Nobel laureate Henry Kissinger: “Academic politics are so vicious precisely because the stakes are so small.”

Vice Principals, Danny McBride’s new half-hour comedy for HBO, carries that idea to some pretty hilarious extremes. Reteaming with Eastbound & Down co-creator, co-writer, and director Jody Hill, McBride returns once again to Kenny Powers’ old stomping grounds: a North Carolina public school.

Fans of Eastbound, at once one of the darkest and funniest comedies ever to hit television – in one memorable episode, Kenny’s coke jag with a teammate ends when the teammate ODs and has a heart attack; Kenny wipes his fingerprints off of everything in the apartment and beats a hasty retreat, but not before snorting the... Read More

The Night Of: Why We're Pretty Sure There's No Way Nasir Is The Killer

Jul 15, 2016 by Sarah Moffatt

If you’ve yet to watch the first episode of HBO’s newest murder-mystery limited series The Night Of, stop reading now and go watch it!

I said it before the premiere and I’ll say it again, The Night Of will leave you a mess in the best way possible. I’m a little ashamed to say I’ve seen the first episode about four times, and each time I’ve noticed something new. Like many instantly passionate fans of the gripping new HBO drama, I have my own theories and explanations of who the killer is – if you thought you weren’t so into the first episode, allow me to enlighten you (or confuse you with more questions):

Ready for a hot sports opinion? Here goes: There’s no way Nasir killed... Read More

Preview: The Night Of Will Leave You A Mess (In A Good Way)

Jul 10, 2016 by Sarah Moffatt

With Game of Thrones’ stellar sixth season now over, the pressure was on HBO to keep up its standard for quality Sunday-night dramatic programming. With the success of season one – and disappointment of season two – of True Detective, it only made sense the premium network took another stab (pun definitely intended) at a murder-mystery series.

The Night Of had a bumpy ride getting to the small screen: the project has been in the works since fall of 2012, when HBO first ordered a pilot based on the British television series Criminal Justice. The network flip-flopped on the project two more times before deciding it would continue on in honor of the late, great James Gandolfini, who suddenly passed away in 2013 after a long struggle to get this... Read More

Recap: Girls 5.6 "The Panic In Central Park"

Mar 28, 2016 by Sarah Moffatt

Normally, an entire episode dedicated to Marnie would have me rolling my eyes at her incessant need to brag, pick, whine and complain, and the fact that Marnie (if she were a real person) would be psyched to know she had a whole episode dedicated to her. But, this week’s Girls was not like that, not at all. This week’s episode was so well written and so artfully constructed, it made me remember why I started watching this show in the first place: beyond all the dreadful, immature drama and insanity is a show about four twenty-something women finding their own way through life, driven by extremely skillful talents, like Lena Dunham.

I knew from the first episode of this season Desi and Marnie’s marriage was not going to last... Read More

Recap: Vinyl 1.7, "The King and I"

Mar 27, 2016 by Alex Castle

It was a huge relief to see a sober Richie Finestra taking care of business this week. After devolving into a sentient puddle of coke sweat in the last episode, driving his long-suffering wife out the door and alienating his closest business partner. His behavior was so repellent that it was hard to see a way to keep watching the show without seeing him as a villain. I even speculated that that might be the direction the show was planning: to position Richie as a villain, and Zak and Andi as his good-hearted, competent foils.

So starting this week’s episode with Richie reading a self-help book (The Farther Reaches of Human Nature), disposing of the liquor in his office, and engaging honestly with the business was a welcome development,... Read More

Recap: Vinyl 1.6, "Cyclone"

Mar 20, 2016 by Alex Castle

I am starting to worry about Richie Finestra.

Not worry about his welfare – although he really ought to take it easy with the Peruvian Marching Powder and the drunk driving – but about what he’s doing to the show around him.

Because Vinyl is a great show around the edges: the music is great, the supporting characters are engaging (Ray Romano’s Zak, Max Casella’s Julie, and recent arrival Annie Parisse’s Andi Z. in particular), the period detail is convincing, and the general feeling of excitement that comes with being in the record business in 1973 New York feels as close as we’re going to get without a time machine.

But the guy at the center of it all is not very easy to root for. His steadily... Read More

Six Questions Before Game of Thrones' Season Six Premiere In Six Weeks

Mar 11, 2016 by Sling Staff

1. How long will Jon stay dead?

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Valar Morghulis and all, but seriously: Jon Snow has to be coming back. Sure, we’ve seen his dead body several times now, confirming beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jon is in fact dead – it doesn’t mean he can’t be resurrected. The only question is how many episodes before Kit Harrington gets to stare blankly again while people tell him he still knows nothing.

2. How long will Arya stay blind?

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She’s still a fighter, no question, but it’s going to be hard for Arya to cross any more names off her list until she can see again. Maybe once she repays her debt to the Many-Faced God she can get back to... Read More

Recap: Vinyl 1.4, "The Racket"

Mar 06, 2016 by Alex Castle

“Christmas, you go so fast. Christmas, come back!”

Sure, the Christmas song Bob Goulet cuts for American Century in “The Racket” – a canny play for the underserved post-Christmas market – is kind of terrible, and if it’s a real song that Goulet really recorded, Google has done a great job of scrubbing the evidence. But it reflects the way the characters on Vinyl are feeling: like Christmas is over, and it’s time to grudgingly go back to real life and adjust to their changed circumstances.

Four weeks in, it finally feels like Vinyl is settling into (ahem) a groove: Plotlines are coalescing, the world is expanding, and new characters are coming to the fore. More than any of the previous three episodes, including the Scorsese-directed pilot, this... Read More

HBO's Togetherness is About the Journey

Mar 06, 2016 by Scott Ross

Jay and Mark Duplass, the sibling duo that helped bring “mumblecore” to the masses, have found a new home on television, where their sitcom Togetherness recently made its Season 2 debut on HBO. The Season One finale, aptly titled “Not So Together,” found Brett (Mark Duplass), Michelle (Melanie Lynskey), Alex (Steve Zissis) and Tina (Amanda Peet) scattered to the four winds: Michelle had gone off to Sacramento with her colleague David to seek funding for their charter school project; Alex had made a last-ditch plea to Tina to be with him, one that was pointedly and tearfully rejected; Brett then drove Alex to the airport so he could catch a flight to New Orleans to begin filming on a new movie… there was a lot of apartness.

Season 2 opens... Read More

Game of Thrones: Who Should Rule the Seven Kingdoms?

Mar 05, 2016 by Sling Staff

We’re down to just a handful of characters who have managed to make it past George R. R. Martin’s (crossbow) trigger happy fingers. We’ve lost a lot in the last five seasons and it feels as though we can’t take losing any more of our beloved Game of Thrones characters – what is a world like where Cersei isn’t drinking wine and belittling everyone?

Alas, we are left with seven reasonable characters to consider for the Iron Throne, and with season six just seven weeks away, it begs the question: Who is fit to rule the Seven Kingdoms? Well, Sarah Moffatt, Joe Puccio, Oliver Ward and Sophie Vinograd do their best to make a case for each main character left standing.

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No matter what,... Read More

Recap: Vinyl 1.3, "Whispered Secrets"

Feb 28, 2016 by Alex Castle

“People change themselves, or they don’t. Willingness is the key.” – Lester Grimes

There is nothing more frustrating than when you follow the rules and check all the boxes and do exactly what you’re supposed to do, and it turns out it’s still not enough. It’s a problem that multiple characters in “Whispered Secrets,” Vinyl’s third episode, confront and react to with varying results.

With American Century hemorrhaging cash in the wake of the scuttled PolyGram deal, Richie instructs the staff to cut 70% of the roster, sign some exciting new acts, and put out a quick-buck Christmas album in the interim. At a dinner honoring his old mentor Maury Gold, Richie learns – through a few broadsides by Ken Marino’s super-smarmy emcee – that the word is out... Read More

Recap: Vinyl 1.2, "Yesterday Once More"

Feb 21, 2016 by Alex Castle

The biggest surprise in “Yesterday Once More,” Vinyl’s second episode, is that the collapse of the Mercer Arts Building that ended the pilot turns out not to have been a product of Richie Finestra’s cocaine-induced (and PTSD-from-just-murdering-a-guy-induced) psychosis – it really happened, and Richie stumbles back to the American Century offices covered in dust and rubble and covered in bumps and bruises – though not before riding out the rest of his bender at a Bruce Lee movie.

If you want to get technical about it, the building that housed the Mercer Arts Center really did cave in in 1973. But it happened at 5pm: the New York Dolls were not on stage, 300 people were evacuated before it fell, and the four people who did not get out... Read More

Drop the Needle on HBO's Vinyl

Feb 12, 2016 by Alex Castle

When Eric Clapton formed a band with Steve Winwood, or when Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young got together, or when half of Soundgarden and half of Pearl Jam teamed up to form Temple of the Dog, or when Dave Grohl and John Paul Jones and the guy from Queens of the Stone Age formed Them Crooked Vultures, they call that a “supergroup” – successful guys in their own right getting together to see if the whole can be even greater than the sum of their considerable parts.

The combination of director Martin Scorsese (GoodFellas, Taxi Driver, The Last Waltz among many other classics), showrunner Terence Winter (The Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire) and Mick Jagger (if you don’t know who he is you shouldn’t be reading this) is like a supergroup... Read More

Movie of the Week: Mad Max: Fury Road

Jan 08, 2016 by Alex Castle

Cancel your plans this Saturday night, because the best movie of 2015 – the best directed, the best photographed, the most exciting, Oscars be damned – is coming to HBO.

MAD MAX: FURY ROAD, director George Miller’s return to the post-apocalyptic wasteland that he created in in three films with Mel Gibson back in the 1980s, is totally compelling from the first frame to the last: gorgeously shot, chock full of breathtaking, mostly practical stunts, packed with fascinating characters – Charlize Theron’s one-armed badass Imperator Furiosa, the skull-masked villain Immortan, the chrome-obsessed Doof Warrior, and whatever they call that dude on the bungee cords with the fire-spewing guitar in particular – and telling a mercifully simple and yet thematically resonant story.

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It seems that... Read More

Recap: The Leftovers 2.10 "I Live Here Now"

Dec 07, 2015 by Sarah Moffatt

The season 2 finale –and perhaps the entire second season – of The Leftovers can be summed up in one quote from Meg: “Family is everything.”

Since the first episode, we’ve been centered around this new family, The Murphys, who have secrets and issues, but seem to be a family that loves each other regardless. As their story unspools, we learn this family is not as wholesome and put-together as it seemed: Erika wanted to leave John; John’s been in prison for attempted murder (and is sort of a whack job anyway); Michael goes behind his parents back to visit his grandfather, Virgil; Virgil molested John; and Evie staged her disappearance in an elaborate plot to break down the walls (so to speak) of Miracle, so the Guilty Remnant... Read More

Recap: The Leftovers 2.7 "A Most Powerful Adversary"

Nov 17, 2015 by Sarah Moffatt

This is my one and only spoiler warning!!!!!!

I have to constantly remind myself that this show (any show, really) is not Game of Thrones; not everyone you like dies and those that do die don’t really have the chance to come back. But surely Kevin, the main character and biggest driving force – though, an argument could be made for Patti – is not dead?! But then again, this is HBO and they are the honey badgers of television. They didn’t just kill Ned Stark, they beheaded him. So, is Kevin actually dead?

I say yes, he’s dead. He has to be. There’s no obvious way they can bring him back to life and not ruin the integrity of the show. But I’m getting ahead of myself.... Read More

Recap: The Leftovers 2.6 "Lens"

Nov 10, 2015 by Sarah Moffatt

As much as I love this show, I found this week’s episode incredibly frustrating to watch. Want to know why? Maybe I’ll just let you ponder on that for a couple of weeks and then give you an answer but then make you second-guess that answer by raising new questions for you to puzzle over.

That’s how they do it on The Leftovers. Don’t get me wrong, I love this show and all the questions it invites you to ask yourself, your friends, and the Internet. But I need just, like, one answer I can hold firm to and not have it be completely debunked in the following episode.

Ok, rant over. On to this episode, which did give us some answers. I think.

If you recall in the... Read More

The Leisure Class : A Film Ruined By Film?

Nov 03, 2015 by Sarah Moffatt

I watched every episode of Project Greenlight and was really rooting for the chosen director, Jason Mann, to pull his movie off, despite the drama and heartache. Unfortunately, this film was not the success I hoped it would be.

The Leisure Class, in theory, is an interesting concept: an English con man is all set to marry into a wealthy, politically connected American family, but his loose-canon brother shows up and ruins everything. To me, this is a pretty decent outline for comedic gold – even for a dark comedy like this film aimed to be.

Overall, I found this film to be a 90-minute song made up of one, singular note. A flat note, at that.

I never felt a connection with William (Ed Weeks) or his fiance,... Read More

Recap: The Leftovers 2.5 "No Room At The Inn"

Nov 03, 2015 by Sarah Moffatt

This was a monumental episode and one of my favorites so far this season, and not just because it proved my theory of Rev. Matt Jamison being an important vessel of information; it also showed how vital the idea of religion, or lack thereof, is to this entire series.

In last week’s episode, Matt told Nora what he was presumably trying to tell the congregation back in episode 1 of this season: that his wife Mary briefly woke from her comatose state the night they arrived in Miracle and they laughed and cried and made love. Again, we find ourselves playing “real or fake?” We know at least part of it was real, since Mary is – Ruh-roh! – pregnant.

Now Matt has to explain why his... Read More

Project Greenlight: Team Jason or Team Effie?

Oct 30, 2015 by Alex Castle

The fourth season of HBO’s Project Greenlight, a revival of the series after two seasons on HBO and a third on Bravo back in the early aughts, has been arguably the best of the four, in part thanks to the fact that the digital filmmaking revolution has exponentially grown the talent pool of aspiring directors, and thanks in bigger part to the huge personality conflict between the season’s chosen director, a blond stick figure named Jason Mann, and his assigned Line Producer, a seasoned professional in the indie world named Effie Brown.

Things got off on the wrong foot almost immediately when Jason buttonholed Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, the show’s creators, mentors, and producers of the movie Jason was chosen to direct, roughly 30 seconds after winning the... Read More

Recap: The Leftovers 2.4: "Orange Sticker"

Oct 27, 2015 by Sarah Moffatt

I was sort of bummed to return back to Miracle after such a course-altering episode last week in Laurie and Tommy’s world, but the search for Evie proved to be almost as interesting.

After being jolted awake by an earthquake, Nora runs outside to see what’s going on, just in time to see John and Michael getting in the car and driving away. Erika is standing on the porch looking concerned, and tells Nora their daughter and her friends are “gone.” Nora loses it and faints just as a dog runs by that looks an awfully lot like their dog that’s still supposed to be in quarantine. Are we seeing animals mimicking their owners again?

When Nora wakes up and can’t get a hold of Kevin on his... Read More

Recap: The Leftovers 2.3: "Off Ramp"

Oct 19, 2015 by Sarah Moffatt

Holy magical hugs, Batman!

This week’s episode of The Leftovers took a quick left turn, am I right?

When we last saw Tommy and Laurie, they had met up in Mapleton after the riots last season. Now, Laurie has left the Guilty Remnant, is speaking, wearing non-white clothes, and chomping nicotine gum like nobody’s business. At this point, we can assume she left the GR because of the fire that almost killed Jill in the season 1 finale. Because of said fire, she has done a total 180 on the GR: she hates them.

Laurie has recruited Tommy to help her get people out who want out, which, apparently, is no easy feat. Tommy goes undercover as a lost soul looking to join the GR to find those who seem... Read More

Amy Schumer Dominates Comedy On Her Own Terms

Oct 15, 2015 by Sarah Moffatt

Amy Schumer is everywhere. She’s hosting award shows, presenting Emmys, winning Emmys, covering magazines, signing book deals, hosting SNL, playing Madison Square Garden, writing movies, starring in movies, and this week, releasing her biggest comedy special to date, Amy Schumer: Live at The Apollo on HBO. So does this mean she’s peaked and on her way out? The answer is a big resounding ‘No.’

Amy Schumer is only new to the general public; comedy fans have known her for years. She didn’t find success overnight, she’s actually been working her tail off for several years. Here’s a quick timeline of the ladder she’s been climbing to the top:

Schumer performed her first stand-up gig in June of 2004 at the Gotham Comedy Club. She later... Read More

Recap: The Leftovers 2.2: "A Matter of Geography"

Oct 12, 2015 by Sarah Moffatt

This week finally supplied some answers about what happened between last season’s finale and this season’s premiere. Kevin, Jill, Nora and baby Lily’s move to Miracle seemed to come right after the season 1 finale, but we now learn it was actually several months.

After Nora finds the baby, there is a visible shift (sudden onset hope, perhaps?) in Kevin, Nora and Jill. Jill asks if they are keeping the baby and Nora sort of looks to Kevin with puppy dog eyes for the answer. Kevin uncomfortably reminds her they really don’t know each other, and tells her about his sleepwalking and kidnapping Patti, how she killed herself and how Rev. Jamison helped him bury her body. He pointedly does not mention the whole hearing and seeing Ghost Patti... Read More

Recap: The Leftovers 2.1, "Axis Mundi"

Oct 05, 2015 by Sarah Moffatt

If you haven’t caught up on the first season of The Leftovers, I suggest you do that before proceeding as this article includes several season one spoilers and will be extremely confusing.

Before season two started, we already knew a few important things: We knew that apart from the return of Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux), Jill Garvey (Margaret Qualley), Nora (Carrie Coon), baby Lily, and Rev. Jamison (Christopher Eccleston) and his wife, Mary (Janel Moloney), season two would feature a new cast. We also knew the Garveys and Rev. Jamison were moving to a new town in Texas called Jarden, which is part of Miracle National Park, a place that claims they had no departures.

Throughout this episode, I couldn’t help but notice the several references to water. If... Read More

Hope and Heartache on HBO's The Leftovers

Oct 01, 2015 by Sarah Moffatt

A lot of viewers, myself included, didn’t give The Leftovers much of a chance as the first season aired. To be honest, it was filled to the brim with darkness, despair and too many unanswered questions for me to feel connected. But, after I heard they were picked up for season 2 (premiering this Sunday at 9pm ET on HBO) I decided to give it another chance. There are too many unknowns and yet-to-be-determined things to say anything definite, so it would be an injustice for me to give you a blow-by-blow rundown of season one (plus this article would never end), so I won’t. Instead, I’ll share what kept me coming back after each episode.

Here’s a little background:

The first season of The Leftovers is based on... Read More

Project Greenlight Shines After 10 Year Hiatus

Sep 18, 2015 by Sarah Moffatt

It has been 10 years since season 3 aired, but season 4 of HBO’s documentary series Project Greenlight picked up where it left off with intrigue, drama and excitement – fitting for a documentary about how Hollywood films are made.

Executive producers Ben Affleck and Matt Damon set out once again to find the most talented undiscovered director in the nation to take the reins of a new HBO film. This competition/documentary show is nothing to scoff at; it has been a Hollywood career launchpad for both writers and directors alike. In the early 2000’s, Stolen Summer, The Battle of Shaker Heights, and Feast were all productions of Project Greenlight and starred name-brand actors like Amy Smart, Shia LaBeouf, and Eric Dane.

This season is trying something a... Read More

Ferrell Takes The Field For Charity

Sep 14, 2015 by Sarah Moffatt

Will Ferrell is known for pushing the limits. For him, nothing is out of reach and nothing is too ridiculous. His will-do attitude and his perfect mix between outrageous and sincere is what draws fans into each project he attaches his name to. Taking in account his work on SNL and movies like Blades of Glory and Anchorman (we’ll forget Anchorman 2 ever happened), it’s clear Ferrell is not afraid to make the journey from far past left field to home plate.

When I first heard Will Ferrell was going to play at the Major League Baseball Spring Training in Mesa, Arizona this year, I was sure it was a joke. That beautiful soft, doughy body going up against professional athletes? No way. But, as I found out it... Read More

HBO’s Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Houston Texans

Aug 10, 2015 by Robb Todd


Inside the mind of a Houston Texans fan, it might look something like this: J.J. Watt J.J. Watt J.J. Watt BBQ J.J. Watt skeeters J.J. Watt J.J. Watt J.J. Watt BBQ J.J. Watt.

Who can blame them? J.J. Watt is big—and his personality is even bigger.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like this, to be honest,” NFL Films director Matt Dissinger said of filming Watt. “Every team has its stars, but I don’t think I’ve seen anything quite like the J.J. phenomenon. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a superstar who is as engaged with his fans as he is. He’s a special guy, that’s for... Read More

Recap Digest: True Detective 2.8, "Omega Station"

Aug 10, 2015 by Alex Castle

Well, that happened. The season finale of True Detective did not manage to make sense of the seven episodes that preceded it. The story wrapped up rather tidily, but somehow didn’t manage to connect to any deeper meaning for either the main characters, the audience, or anything else.

Burris and Caspere and the the police chief stole some diamonds a long time ago, and they would have gotten away with it if it hadn’t been for those meddling kids! The two young children who were orphaned when Burris et al looted those blue diamonds back during the 1992 riots somehow grew up, coincidentally met Caspere, somehow figured out who he was, got a job working for him, and killed him. What does this have to do with Frank Semyon’s... Read More

Recap Digest: True Detective 2.7, "Black Maps and Motel Rooms"

Aug 03, 2015 by Alex Castle

Last week, when consoling a young boy whose father had died, Frank Semyon told him, “Sometimes a thing happens that splits your life. There’s a before and an after.” As this sprawling, complicated mess of a season rounds third base, True Detective is finally easing up on the question-asking and getting into some question-answering, as the mystery starts to get a little less mysterious and the characters begin to settle into what the “after” is going to look like.

Unfortunately for Taylor Kitsch’s closeted commando Paul Woodrugh, the after is going to have to be the afterlife, as he’s mercilessly gunned down by Lt. Burris (Velcoro’s former superior) in the tunnels under the city after connecting Chief Holloway to the 1992 diamond heist that set so much of this... Read More

Recap Digest: True Detective 2.6, "Church in Ruins"

Jul 27, 2015 by Alex Castle

Things are finally clicking into place in this second season of True Detective. The five preceding episodes of character development and table-setting have revealed their purpose: to set up and inform this episode, by far the most engaging of the season. If the last two episodes can stay as focused as this one, season two still has a chance to go down as a worthy complement to season one.

Nearly all the best scenes in this season were packed into this one episode: Ray confronting Frank about the mistaken tip that set him on the path to corruption and self-loathing; Frank bonding with his murdered employee’s son; Ray trying to bond with his son, finally recognizing he’s damaged the relationship irretrievably, and walking away for good; Frank tracking down... Read More

Recap Digest: True Detective 2.5, "Other Lives"

Jul 20, 2015 by Alex Castle

We pick up this week in the aftermath of the giant firefight that ended last week’s episode – “The Vinci Massacre,” the press has apparently dubbed it – and two months after the carnage, our heroes have adjusted to a new status quo: Ani is in uniform and exiled to the evidence locker and attending sexual harassment therapy; Woodrugh, the hero of the gunfight, has been “promoted” to detective; and Velcoro has shaved his moustache, traded his mullet for a slightly less unflattering version, and taken up Frank’s offer to work for him full-time doing collections and security.

Frank’s adjusting to a new status quo, too, though it’s not related to the shootout. He and his wife have moved out of their big Scarface House and into a modest... Read More

Recap Digest: True Detective 2.4, "Down Will Come"

Jul 13, 2015 by Alex Castle

If your complaint about this second season of True Detective was that there aren’t enough fireworks, this fourth episode pretty conclusively answered that criticism with a massive, Heat-style shootout that left everyone but our three heroes bleeding out in the street. But there was a lot that came before that shootout that raised the stakes for all the players, and it feels like the season is coming into focus.

Strapped for cash and increasingly resigned to the fact that the life savings he gave Caspere is not going to be recovered, Frank continued drumming up cash from old criminal associates, restarting his drug trade and inserting himself back into an old protection racket, while increasingly pushing his loyal wife out of the picture.

Velcoro continues to slowly pull... Read More

HBO's 7 Days In Hell Now Available On Demand

Jul 09, 2015 by Alex Castle

7 Days in Hell premieres on HBO at 11pm on Saturday, July 11, and is available now to watch on demand.

As the real Wimbledon draws to a close, it’s a good time to look back at the greatest match ever played there. The greatest match in the history of tennis, for that matter: the 2001 Charles Poole/Aaron Williams match that stayed stuck in Deuce for seven excruciating days.

Of course, that match never happened, but the new HBO mockumentary Seven Days In Hell goes to great pains to make it look like it did, by using official HBO Sports iconography and personalities like Soledad O’Brien and Jim Lampley, commentary by real tennis stars Serena Williams, John McEnroe, and Chris Evert, and grave-sounding narration... Read More

Recap Digest: True Detective 2.3, "Maybe Tomorrow"

Jul 06, 2015 by Alex Castle

It was fun, for a moment, to imagine that True Detective was going to do the truly unexpected in its second season by killing its most interesting character in the second episode. It wouldn’t be unprecedented – Hitchcock did it to Janet Leigh in Psycho 55 years ago – but it would be highly unusual.

It didn’t take a genius to guess that Colin Farrell’s Ray Velcoro was going to survive that pair of shotgun blasts to the torso, but even the most skeptical TV fan wouldn’t have imagined that he would wake up not even bleeding, get up and call himself an ambulance, and be back out there trying to solve his own attempted murder – chasing dudes over fences and across highways – in the very next episode.... Read More

Recap Digest: True Detective 2.2, "Night Finds You"

Jun 29, 2015 by Alex Castle

The slow burn that began last week continues into episode two, with the cops from three jurisdictions looking into the death of Ben Caspere, and crime lord Frank Semyon conducting his own investigation in hopes of recovering the $5 million that Caspere apparently took with him. As they each nibble at the edges of the mystery in their own ways, the show continues its emphasis on character (as opposed to plot) development – that is, until the character we’ve seen the most of to this point, corrupt detective Ray Velcoro, takes a couple of shotgun blasts to the chest.

Colin Farrell has been the most interesting presence in this second season up to now, but it’s hard to imagine True Detective pulling the old “he only got me in... Read More

Recap Digest: True Detective 2.1, "The Western Book of the Dead"

Jun 22, 2015 by Alex Castle

It’s hard to imagine higher expectations for what is essentially a new show, but after the first season of HBO’s True Detective seemingly captured the imagination of the entire country last year, it feels like season two will be judged as a failure if it’s anything less than mindblowing right out of the gate.

Since it’s an anthology series, this season begins anew with different characters, a different setting, a different crime to investigate. No more Rust Cohle and his fascinating existential monologues; no more Marty Hart and his improbably gorgeous young girlfriends.

By the looks of the premiere, season two is also stepping away from the supernatural and occult elements that set season one apart from most crime procedurals, as well as the time-jumping flashback narrative... Read More

The Brink Updates Geopolitical Satire

Jun 18, 2015 by Alex Castle

One could be forgiven for thinking HBO’s new geopolitical satire The Brink bears a strong resemblance to Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 classic Dr. Strangelove. The similarities are many, from the subject matter (trying to prevent World War III) to the structure (three separate but connected stories: one in the halls of power, one on the ground, and one in a war plane).

It’s a tough bar to clear, as Dr. Strangelove is the rare comedy that’s still funny 50 years on, so dead-on was its take on the fragile state of war and peace. But Tim Robbins, who costars with Jack Black, Aasif Mandvi, Esai Morales, John Larroquette, Carla Gugino, and Pablo Schrieber, doesn’t shrink from the comparison: “That was pretty much the model we were working from,” Robbins Read More

True Detective Season 2: Who Will Have The Next McConaughssance?

Jun 17, 2015 by Alex Castle

After a very promising early career, with well-recieved appearances in Dazed and Confused and A Time To Kill and Contact, poor Matthew McConaughey somehow gradually turned into a shirtless, bongo-playing punchline, best known for bad rom-coms (most likely with Kate Hudson).

But when the first season of True Detective aired on HBO, only a few weeks after his cameo in The Wolf of Wall Street and his Oscar-winning performance in Dallas Buyers Club, and people got a look at McConaughey’s haunted, driven performance as Rust Cohle, everyone remembered, Oh yeah, this guy is super-talented! Pretty soon people were going back to his most recent run of movies – The Lincoln Lawyer, Bernie, Killer Joe, Mud, Magic Mike – and his career was reborn, complete with a cute name: The... Read More

Financial Advice from Ballers' Dwayne Johnson — and Real-Life Players-Turned-Money Managers

Jun 11, 2015 by Robb Todd

Dwayne Johnson offers this warning in the new HBO show Ballers, which premieres June 21: “Football has a way of making a man feel invincible.”

But when it comes to money, even the game’s biggest stars are anything but invincible. To name just a few: Warren Sapp, Terrell Owens, Dan Marino, Jamal Lewis, and Vince Young all lost fortunes.

That’s where Johnson comes in. He plays former pro football player Spencer Strassmore, who is trying to reinvent himself as a financial adviser who just can’t shake the game—or commoditizing friendships with players who need his help.

According to a recent report in the Washington Post, one in every six NFL players files for bankruptcy within 12 years of retirement, and the rates of failure for the stars... Read More

Jack Black and Tim Robbins Together Again in The Brink

Jun 11, 2015 by Alex Castle

The new HBO comedy The Brink follows three seperate but intertwined story threads, as the Secretary of State (Tim Robbins), a low-level diplomat (Jack Black) and a fighter pilot (Pablo Schrieber) all try to prevent World War III in the wake of a military coup in Pakistan.

This is not the first time the show’s two biggest names, Jack Black and Tim Robbins (who also carry producer credits on the show, while Robbins directed the second episode) have worked together: both are members of the Actors’ Gang, an experimental theater troupe founded in 1981 by Robbins that has included Jack Black, John Cusack, Helen Hunt, Jeremy Piven, Jon Favreau, and many others, with a charter to “produce plays that contribute to the ongoing dialogue about our society and culture,... Read More

True Detective Season 2: What We Know So Far

Jun 10, 2015 by Alex Castle

Few television shows are able to come out and capture the national imagination as thoroughly as the first season of HBO’s True Detective. Captivating lead performances by Woody Harrelson and (particularly) Matthew McConaughey, a clever time-jumping narrative structure, and a menacing, vaguely supernatural murder combined to totally dominate the pop culture conversation.

That first season had one other unique feature: it was a self-contained story, and when Harrelson and McConaughey gave in to their decades-simmering bromance and the credits rolled, it was clear that they would not be returning – but the monster ratings they had posted guaranteed that there would be a second season. So what is that second season going to be?

Initially, series creator and writer Nic Pizzolatto said the season would be about “the... Read More

Recap Digest: Game of Thrones 5.9, "The Dance of Dragons"

Jun 08, 2015 by Alex Castle

It only took 49 episodes for Game of Thrones to finally give us what we really wanted, and it was glorious: as the Sons of the Harpy tried to assassinate her just as she finally gave them what they wanted – reopening the fighting pits – Daenerys was saved, and then airlifted out, by the wayward Drogon, who returned either in reply to her telepathic message or just because he sensed she was in danger. Either way, the sight of the Mother of Dragons leaving the quagmire in Meereen astride her fire-breathing firstborn was deeply satisfying, particularly as it really had a helicopters-off-the-Saigon-embassy-roof feel to it – she may not have actually left Meereen yet, but it’s clear enough that she can win neither hearts nor minds in this backward... Read More

Recap Digest: Game of Thrones 5.8, "Hardhome"

Jun 01, 2015 by Alex Castle

After a really disappointing run of episodes that was starting to make people worry that this show was floundering as it began to run out of track – track in this case being material from George R.R. Martin’s books to adapt – Game of Thrones came roaring back this week with the best episode of the season and one of the best of its entire run.

“Hardhome,” named for the Wildling’s seaside enclave that becomes the site of a massacre at the hands of the White Walkers, serves as a brutal reminder that these characters haven’t been reminding each other that WINTER IS COMING for 47 episodes just so they’ll remember to bring a sweater; Winter represents an existential threat to humanity, as we see through the best action... Read More

Recap Digest: Game of Thrones 5.7, "The Gift"

May 26, 2015 by Alex Castle

Just when it was starting to feel like this whole season has been stuck on Herschel’s farm, this week delivered a number of plot developments, including the inevitable blowback from Cersei’s Operation Faith Militant landing her in a cell adjacent to her hated daughter-in-law, Sansa’s discovery that her brother, Jon Snow, is not just alive but Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, and the meeting we’ve all been waiting for: Tyrion Lannister finally locked eyes with Daenerys Stormborn Targaryen, Breaker of Chains and Mother of Dragons.

The people who are finding this season distastefully sadistic still got a bit of ammunition for their thinkpieces, as yet another rape scene was barely averted at Castle Black, and Ramsay showed Sansa just how much worse he could make things for... Read More

Recap Digest: Game of Thrones 5.6, "Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken"

May 18, 2015 by Alex Castle

Last night’s was a particularly eventful episode of Game of Thrones, particularly compared with last week’s outing. So much happened that it was hard to keep it all straight:

The Slave Formerly Known As Theon was forced to watch as Sansa, a girl he was raised with as ward to her father, is brutally raped by her new husband, Ramsay Bolton. We can only hope that the trauma of this event will wake Theon from his Reek reverie and move him to help Sansa take down the Boltons, maybe by undermining them from within when Stannis arrives.

As the Sparrows continue their inquisition into Loras' sexual proclivities, Queen Margaery is asked to testify about whether she’s ever known her brother to lie with another man. Her denial is... Read More

Recap Digest: Game of Thrones 5.5, "Kill The Boy"

May 11, 2015 by Alex Castle

It is not very often that Game of Thrones just comes right out and tells you what the themes for an episode are going to be. In fact, it’s only recently that these shows have seemed to have themes at all; the showrunners have been quoted as disdainfully stating that “themes are for book reports.” But last night Jon Snow, Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, was instructed by the Maester to “kill the boy so that the man may live,” and that sentiment echoed across the episode.

First, as Jon Snow enlisted the default leader of the Wildlings to look past his distrust for the crows and save his people by bringing them south of the wall before winter comes, and with it, a white walker invasion.

... Read More

Recap Digest: Game of Thrones 5.4, "Sons of the Harpy"

May 04, 2015 by Alex Castle

There are few things more dangerous than a militarized religion, as we have been seeing in our world for generations, so Cersei’s move to arm the Sparrows might seem like a good strategic move—she was able to immediately imprison Ser Loras, to whom she is betrothed and has no intention of actually marrying—but it seems very likely to backfire in the near future. She’s already getting some blowback from her daughter-in-law, the Queen, whose outrage over her brother’s arrest is likely to blow up in Cersei’s face. How long until Tommen sends her away to Casterley Rock—or somewhere even more distant? She’s sent most of the small council away, there is no proper Hand to the King. What happens if Tommen tries to get rid of her and she refuses... Read More

Recap Digest: Game of Thrones 5.3, "High Sparrow"

Apr 27, 2015 by Alex Castle

This week the characters of Westeros slipped into new identities: Jon Snow took the helm as the new Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch; Margaery became the Queen; Cersei became the Queen Mother (or is it Dowager Queen? I’m as confused by these designations as Margaery); Sansa was betrothed to Ramsay Bolton; Brienne decided to become a mentor to Podrick; and Arya tried to shed her identity entirely.

There’s more: Theon may be able to reclaim his identity (if not his manhood), so brutally stripped from him by a full season’s worth of torture at the hands of the Boltons, when he’s reunited with Sansa, his childhood friend. Tyrion declines the services of a whore, negating half of his entire identity (the other half being drinking) for reasons that... Read More

Recap Digest: Game of Thrones 5.2, "The House of Black and White"

Apr 20, 2015 by Alex Castle

Heavy is the head that wears the crown, as Daenerys continues to learn in her effort to turn Meereen from a slave state to a benevolent dictatorship. Her effort to install a little due process along with law and order badly backfires, as she orders a fair trial for the (clearly guilty) representative of the Sons of the Harpy who slit an Unsullied throat in the brothel last week; the prisoner is killed by another former slave while in custody, and this time the Mother of Dragons skips the trial and orders the former slave publicly executed, setting off a riot. Even the return of the wayward Drogon is fleeting, as the largest dragon barely says hello before taking off again.

Arya arrives at the House of Black and... Read More

Sling TV Recommends: Silicon Valley

Apr 15, 2015 by Alex Castle

We may not have flying cars or be taking our meals in pill form, but the world has changed pretty dramatically since I was a kid. For instance, the biggest industry in the world, and by far the best field for young people to go into, didn’t even exist 40 years ago, and wasn’t on the radar of most people 20 years ago. But computers and software have so completely taken over American life, and so distorted conventional ideas of capitalism, that it was only a matter of time until someone turned the whole crazy mess into a top-notch comedy.

It’s a target tailor-made for Mike Judge, who could easily have rested on his laurels after creating four separate legitimate cult classics: on television, the animated Beavis and Butt-Head... Read More

Recap Digest: Game Of Thrones 5.1, "The Wars To Come"

Apr 13, 2015 by Alex Castle

It feels great to be back in the Seven Kingdoms, even when the realm is as splintered and unstable as it appears in the wake of Tywin Lannister’s death. “The Wars To Come” shows the calm before the storm, before the mad scramble to fill the power vacuum begins.

Stannis Baratheon intends to recruit the Wildling army to march under his banner to retake Winterfell, but Wildling king Mance Rayder refuses with his life, against the advice of Jon Snow; Tyrion and Varys arrive in Essos, having fled the scene of Tywin’s murder, where Varys reveals he’s been hoping all along for a Targaryen restoration, which means we’ll soon have scenes between Daenerys and Tyrion (I vote they give that meeting a full, uninterrupted episode); Margaery plans to solidify... Read More

Seven Questions For Game Of Thrones Season 5

Apr 10, 2015 by Alex Castle

There has never been anything on television as cinematic, as expansive, as compelling, and as flat-out entertaining as Game Of Thrones, HBO’s adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” novels, which begins its fifth season on April 12. This show is so dense with story threads, it’s hard to keep them all straight, and after ten months off it’s hard to remember where things left off. So by way of a refresher, here are seven questions we have going into season five:

1. Where in the world is Tyrion Lannister? After losing his trial by combat when Prince Oberyn’s end-zone celebration led to a graphic kneecapping and head-crushing at the hands of The Mountain, Tyrion was convicted of a crime he didn’t commit: poisoning his... Read More

This Week on Sling TV

Apr 06, 2015 by Alex Castle

The first nine episodes of Better Call Saul have been far better than they had any right to be. Where fans once feared the show might tarnish the legacy of the near-perfect run of Breaking Bad, it’s turned out to be every bit as compelling, thanks to stellar writing, inventive direction of a piece with the Breaking Bad house style, and a lead performance by Bob Odenkirk that his past work has never even hinted at. Last week’s episode was probably the best of the series so far – something I think we’ve said three separate times so far – and the stage is set for a great season finale. (10pm Monday, AMC)

The war between North and South can be seen through... Read More

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