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Watch: Hard Times (new web series)

April 22, 2014


I stumbled across this new web series, Hard Times, today on my Facebook feed. Written and directed by Tahir Jetter, and filmed by Daniel Patterson, who recently finished work on Spike Lee’s latest joint, the series is set in current-day Brooklyn, telling the story of … life in the city. This particular spin focuses on the lengths people will go to to survive in the city. Derek (Abraham Ampka) is a personal trainer who can’t make ends meet. Nia (Bianca Laverne Jones) is a client who hatches the brilliant idea that Derek become a stripper. Ashley Denise Robinson plays Lark, Derek’s girlfriend, and Vladamir Versailles plays the roommate, Felix.

With web series becoming the norm these days, my mailbox is often filled with ill-conceived, poorly put together, horribly-written series with acting that i, quite simply, bad. Hard Times is not. I immediately was hooked into the story and want to know what happens next. I’m hoping that Jetter delves deeper into Derek’s life and exposes more about him. Did he go to college? What is his life’s goals? Why does he feel stripping is the best direction for him? We’ll see.

I’m not sure how the series expands from here. It looks like it will debut new episodes every few weeks. But, they have a nice social media presence, so I suggest you follow them on Twitter. That’s what Jack Dorsey created it for, anyway.

In the meantime, watch the first episode. Who’s with me?



Not yet following me on Twitter? Get on the sofa: @josephrileyland


First Look: True Blood. The Final Season (video)

April 21, 2014

True Blood has a history of running brilliant teaser campaigns, and this thirty-five second clip that debuted on Sunday night on HBO does just that: gives us a brilliant tease. We learn little about the new (and final) season of the modern cult classic, but do get a small glimpse into this new world. With “sick vampires” and the government abandoning Bon Temps (shades of post-Katrina New Orleans?) to the point of “there’e no one left,” as Sookie proclaims, what happens next? Perfect teaser.

True Blood‘s final season premieres Sunday, June 22, at 9/8c on HBO.

This season’s poster art:
Photos courtesy of HBO.

Photos courtesy of HBO.


Not yet following me on Twitter? Get on the sofa: @josephrileyland



First Look: Orange is the New Black, Season 2 (video)

April 17, 2014
Photo courtesy of Netflix

Photo courtesy of Netflix

“I am a lone wolf, and a vicious one. Don’t make me rip your throat out.”

- Piper, OITNB

And so the tone is set for season two of the most debaucherous, hilarious, heart-wrenching show not on TV. Orange is the New Black is back, bitches!

I watched the entire first season the first day it came out. I mean, I only left the sofa long enough to buzz up the delivery guy and that one pee break. Otherwise, I was glued to the screen, watching the shenanigans of Piper and Red and Taystee and Poussey and Big Boo and Miss Claudette and of course Crazy Eyes. As a fan of her previous material (Weeds), I couldn’t wait to see what creator Jenji Kohan had in her hat. And boy was it a doozy.

Kohan quietly created the most diverse group of women ever(?) assembled on one set and told their stories. Characters that would never have made it on to network television. Seriously, can you imagine Taystee on NCIS? Kohan dug deep into these women’s backgrounds, creating complex, multi-layered women who weren’t all white. It was so refreshing.

So, now, as the new season approaches, it is great to see our favorites back on the screen, doing what they do best: entertain us with riveting storytelling and great acting. I cannot wait.

Orange is the New Black premieres the entire season 2 on NetflixJune 6th.


First Look: Melissa McCarthy as Tammy (trailer)

February 14, 2014
courtesy of Warner Brothers

courtesy of Warner Brothers

Need a laugh? I did. And the folks at Warner Brothers were kind enough to hook me up as they released the trailer for the sure-to-be-summer-blockbuster from red-hot funny lady Melissa McCarthy. The movie, Tammy, was written by McCarthy and her husband Ben Falcone. He directs. Smart couple. Keep the money in the family.

Susan Sarandon co-stars. As does Allison Janney, Gary Cole, Mark Duplass, Toni Collette, Nat Faxon, Dan Aykroyd and Kathy Bates. I could give you plot details, but you already know what’s important. Melissa McCarthy is set loose and laughs will ensue. That’s enough to get my butt in a seat on July 2, when it is released. Is McCarthy the new Will Smith? Maybe she’ll own 4th of July weekend for the next few years.

Oh, and you know Coolio is dusting off his dancing shoes. He’s going out tonight.



Not yet following me on Twitter? Get on the sofa: @josephrileyland

First Look: Mo’Nique & Patrik-Ian Polk Team Up for Blackbird

February 14, 2014
Tall Skinny Black Boy Productions

Tall Skinny Black Boy Productions

Patrik-Ian Polk has come a long way as a filmmaker. I was apprehensive about watching The Skinny, his last feature, but I did and was pleasantly surprised. It was really, quite good. And dead-on. I know those people. So I was extremely excited to hear that his fifth feature film will be Mo’Nique‘s first role of any significance since winning the Oscar for Precious. Throw in Isaiah Washington and I’m a happy man. The film, Blackbird, will close the Pan African Film Festival (PAFF) in Los Angeles, which runs through February 17.

The official description of the movie:

Blackbird tells the story of 17-year-old Randy Rousseau, a devout high school choir boy struggling to come of age in the small religiously conservative Mississippi town he calls home. Randy juggles his role as star of the church choir with facing the everyday trials of life as a high school misfit- a misfit plagued by eerie visions and premonitions. Complicating matters, his little sister has gone missing and his parents have subsequently split up, leaving him to care for his heartbroken mother, Claire. When Claire discovers a shocking secret her son has been hiding, she blames him for the disappearance of his sister. Randy’s father, Lance, who has been keeping a watchful eye on his broken family, steps in to give his son a hand as he struggles to make the difficult transition into manhood.

Randy is being played by Julian Walker. Washington and Mo’Nique play his estranged parents.



Not yet following me on Twitter? Get on the sofa: @josephrileyland

AMC Renews Hell on Wheels For Extended Season 4

November 15, 2013

Thurday afternoon AMC finally announced that they are renewing the Anson Mount/Common Western, Hell on Wheels, for an elongated fourth season. Let’s discuss why that’s not only good news, but great news.

1. Hell on Wheels is niche programming at its best. How many Westerns are currently airing on TV? That being said, the Western has played well in movie theaters in recent years; there is interest. By airing it after a full day of old-school Westerns, it is scheduled at what would be considered “prime time,” immediately following.

2. Hell on Wheels proves that  programming on a Saturday night works. Why do you think people stayed home and watched The Love Boat and Golden Girls back in the day (both of which aired on Saturday nights)? Yes, an older demographic was watching, but they also were watching. And yes, despite concerns to the contrary, they do spend money. As do people who like Westerns. Maybe other networks will be less scared and start using that real estate instead of skipping over it like it’s Baltic and Mediterranean Avenues on a Monopoly board.


3. Anson Mount and Common play the best same-sex, purely platonic couple this side of Grey’s Anatomy‘s twisted sisters themselves, Sandra Oh and Ellen Pompeo (Christina  and Meredith). We love their friendship, even if it is sometimes peppered with small doses of animosity.


4. Hell on Wheels might be the most beautiful show currently airing on television. Let’s think… maybe something on Travel Channel? Hawaii Five-O? No? Okay… Hell on Wheels is the most beautiful show currently airing on television. Look at the images below. We rest our case.



5. From turning a whore into a housewife to exploring race relations (Black/white, White/Indian, Black/Indian) to the study of religion to the study of corrupt politicians to the exploration of a 19th century serial killer, Hell on Wheels isn’t afraid of telling provocative stories. This isn’t Little House on the Prairie. In fact, if you haven’t seen the show before, we’re issuing you a challenge: try it out. The first two seasons were good, but after a major cast shakeup and a streamlining of storytelling, the third season seemed to jell and give us the direction the show will continue to go.

Last season, when Hell on Wheels was scheduled on Saturday nights, many expected that to be the end. Instead, ratings were actually up over the previous season. According to AMC president Charlier Collier, “AMC has served passionate Western fans for three decades, so it is particularly gratifying to see these viewers capping off their Saturdays with an original Western on what has historically been a tough night of the week for television.” He went on to say, ”Our commitment to the genre is unwavering and we look forward to continuing to super-serve this audience with an expanded fourth season of Hell on Wheels.”

 To Anson Mount, to Common, to the entire cast and crew: Congratulations!


Not yet following me on Twitter? Get on the sofa: @josephrileyland

Scandal Goes For Gold in Casting Olivia’s Mom

November 5, 2013

Well that was fast. And unexpected. And the best news of the week!

Khandi Alexander, currently on TREME.

Khandi Alexander, currently on TREME.


After last week’s reveal that Olivia Pope’s mother was  a passenger on the plane crash that may or may not have been caused by a pre-politics President Fitzgerald Grant, comes news tonight that Mama Pope will appear in flashbacks (for the time being – by season’s end, she could be resurrected and dating Fitz herself; this is Scandal, after all) starting this Thursday night. And, the woman cast in the role? None other than the phenomenal Khandi Alexander, a woman who can say more with a slightly raised eyebrow than most actors will accomplish in their entire careers.

Most viewers will recognize her from her work on CSI: Miami when she was slumming it to make some cash. No hard feelings there, Khandi. You more than made up for it in your brilliant turns in The Corner, ER and Treme.

Alexander’s role as Maya Lewis is recurring for the time being. Shonda, figure out a way to keep her around. Thanks.


Not yet following me on Twitter? Get on the sofa: @josephrileyland



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