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The Man In The High Castle Review: A Beautiful, Oddity-Filled Masterpiece

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man in the high castleI’m a huge fan of Amazon Studios for both their original programming and their Pilot Seasons, where much of their content originates. This year’s crop includes the tense “boys will be awful boys” darkly comic thriller Mad Dogs from The Shield creator Shawn Ryan, as well as Carlton Cuse’s Civil War drama Point of Honor. But the only one that definitely, absolutely CANNOT be missed is The Man in the High Castle, an adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s influential novel of the same name, from ex-X-Files writer Frank Spotnitz. This isn’t your grandparents’ America.

Let’s get any negativity deflated by saying right away that yes, some of the novel has been changed in order to develop this alternate-history drama into a TV series. Characters have been combined and streamlined, and the written work that ties everything together has been replaced, oddly enough, with a set of newsreels. But rather than feeling like pointless alterations, everything comes across as smooth as Rufus Sewell’s forehead.

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Syfy’s Ascension Left Us Wanting More (In Good And Bad Ways)

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AscensionAscension was a big deal for Syfy. It was the vanguard of their stated goals to return to the business of crafting serious science fiction, rather than focusing on paranormal “reality” shows and lighter-hearted fare such as Eureka and Warehouse 13. Well, now we’ve seen all three nights of the epic mini-series. Was it worth the wait? Did it maintain the excitement we’ve built up for future Syfy productions such as The Expanse and Childhood’s End?

Yes and no. Over the course of its three-night run, Ascension enthralled, frustrated, jumped the shark, recovered its footing, and then slammed headfirst into an abrupt climax that simultaneously has us eager to see the story continued and also kind of miffed at how little actual closure it provided.

If you haven’t finished watching Ascension yet, click away — If you haven’t finished watching Ascension yet, click away — there be spoilers here!

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Ascension Post-Game: Night One Delivers Thrills And A Huge Climax

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ascensionTonight, Syfy took to the stars for the first installment of the twisty space thriller Ascension, the network’s first miniseries in quite a few years. The bad news? This isn’t going to become the next Battlestar Galactica. The good news? It’s telling a good enough story that it doesn’t need to. Mostly. For now.

If you sat out night one of Ascension, stop reading now as there are huge SPOILERS below.

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Review: Dark Minions Puts Stop-Motion Slackers Into Intergalactic Politics Pipe And Smokes It

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darkminionsThe Amazon Prime instant streaming service unveiled their Pilot Season promotion recently, posting prototype episodes for several new series – eight comedies and six children’s shows — that will see their futures decided by the viewers. Hopefully, the two science-based series for children will fare well, but we’ve already half-warned you about the lackluster Zombieland pilot. Luckily, the above pilot for Dark Minions stands an Ant Guy head above the gory zombie showing.

Watch now for free at Amazon right now, but be warned that the often foul language makes this NSFW.

While The Big Bang Theory creators Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady are no strangers to science fiction, recurring guest stars Kevin Sussman and John Ross Bowie show off their own geeked-out storytelling through stop-motion. Dark Minions follows two hapless twenty-somethings, Mel (Bowie) and Andy (Sussman), aboard the Galactic Conglomerate Spaceport, headed by the domineering, bloodthirsty, and somewhat imbecilic Drebnor (Clancy Brown), and his right-hand man Feldenbaum (Richard Kind). They want to control the galaxy, and though Mel and Andy don’t buy into their takeover-the-universe plans, becoming a faceless drone for the GCS was about the only option left.

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Review: Zombieland Pilot Could Be Worse, We Guess

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zombieland“Oh, I am this close to losing every last bit of my shit.”

When we first heard a Zombieland TV series was coming to Amazon Instant, it seemed vaguely in touch with reality, since it was already supposed to have been a TV show to begin with, and it’s part of a pack of pilots the streaming service has started in order to find its footing within the original programming market. There’s some kind of a voting process. Whatever. This is about the actual Zombieland pilot.

Watch it here before going forward if you’d like.

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TV Review: Sci-Fi Channel’s Star Runners

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starrunnersTime is running out for the Sci-Fi Channel which, in a matter of weeks changes its name to SyFy so they can, presumably, run less science fiction and sell out to the infinitely more profitable world of ultimate fighting. Maybe it’s for the best. Sci-Fi has never been as sci-fi focused as its name suggests and when they try, it always turns into a bad horror movie. Case in point: Their latest made for TV movie Star Runners.

It starts out in the right direction, with old school pulp lettering in the credits and an outer space chase sequence. That seems sci-fi enough, doesn’t it? Former Trek helmsman Connor Trinneer stars as Tycho and Heroes best-buddy James Kyson Lee is Lei Chen, a pair of transport pilots or “star runners” with an illegal shipment to slip past the feds. It seems at first that they’re going for a Han Solo/Chewbacca dynamic here between the two of them, smugglers shaking patrols cracking wise at one another. It never quite works, mostly because Trinneer and Lee play their characters as if they’ve just taken a heavy dose of sleeping pills, but at least the script seems to be trying, even if it’s not succeeding.