True Blood: Season 3 – A Preview

On Sunday, June 13, the blood will once again be flowing on HBO as “True Blood,” the series based on “The Southern Vampire Mysteries” novels by Charlaine Harris, rises from its hiatus and returns for Season 3. Since the show made its debut in 2008, the “Twilight” films have become a full-fledged pop culture phenomenon, and The CW piggybacked on their success by adapting L.J. Smith’s “The Vampire Diaries” into a weekly drama for a fang-friendly demo, but neither offers quite the same blend of sex, blood, and beauty with a decidedly dark sense of humor quite like “True Blood” does.

As you may or may not remember, I blogged my way through Season 2 of the series, but while I enjoyed it as often as not, man, was I annoyed by the finale. In fact, I’d forgotten quite how annoyed I was until I went back read my last blog of the season, which closed with these lines:

Obviously, I’ll be back for Season 3, but when I return, I’ll probably still remember how disappointed I was with the way Season 2 ended. It wasn’t bad, but given how great the majority of the preceding episodes had been, it should’ve been a hell of a lot more gripping from start to finish than it actually was.

Ah, yes, it’s all starting to come back to me now…both the memories of the episode and the aforementioned disappointment.

One of the greatest strengths of the first half of Season Two became one of its most profound weaknesses by the end of the 12-episode run: the character of Maryann Forrester, played by Michelle Forbes. There’s no question that Maryann was a great villain when she arrived, but it soon reached a point where it felt like she was only sticking around to keep other storylines moving along. Given that this point occurred well before the season finale, it got to be a bit of a drag. How odd, then, that it should have felt utterly wrong to have killed her in the middle of the season finale, but it’s true: killing her at that point only served to make the remainder of the episode feel thoroughly anticlimactic.

Still, when “True Blood” wrapped up its second season, it did so by unabashedly leaving several storylines fluttering in the breeze, two of which struck me at the time as being more prominent than the others: Sam’s visit to his foster parents, a trip which sends him on a quest to find his real parents, and Sookie and Bill’s date, which kinda sorta results in their engagement but, more importantly, sees Bill captured with a silver chain and kidnapped. When I blogged the season finale, I referred to the latter event as “arguably the least satisfying cliffhanger of the year, since there’s absolutely no reason to think that Season 3 will kick off with the revelation that Bill’s dead,” and although I pride myself on avoiding spoilers, I don’t think it necessarily qualifies as such if I tell you that the season premiere finds Bill still very much undead. As for Sam…well, he’s still on the road, but that’s all I’m willing to say at this point.

We shouldn’t forget, however, about some of the other residents on Bon Temps, LA. You remember, of course, that Jason Stackhouse, in a well intentioned but poorly informed moment, shot Eggs stone dead. Detective Andy, however, covers for him and basically says, “You weren’t here, you didn’t see anything, now move your ass,” but that’s not going to stop Jason’s guilt, nor is it going to serve as a salve for poor Tara’s emotional wounds. Remember, too, that Jessica made the very unfortunate decision to step out on Hoyt in favor of a one night stand…boy, vampires really give that phrase a whole new level of meaning, don’t they?…with a truck driver. Poor bastard. He’s got about as much chance at having a happy ending as Eggs does. And Eric…? I rather expect that he and Sophie-Ann are going to have a serious talk in the very near future.

So what can we expect to see on “True Blood” in its third season, aside from picking up where these stories left off? Well, given that things are reportedly supposed to follow Harris’s Club Dead, it’ll be no surprise to fans of the books to hear that fur will fly in the very near future…werewolf fur, to be precise. I don’t know how much of Sam’s family we’ll end up seeing, but at the very least, actors have been cast to play his father and younger brother; also on the familiar side of things, Alfre Woodard is going to be popping up as Lafayette’s mother. Lastly, there’ll be a bit of royalty this season as well, with Denis O’Hare portraying Russel Edgington, the Vampire King of Mississippi.

Yes, I was disappointed with Season 2, and, no, I haven’t been nearly as excited about Season 3…but, dammit, the closer it gets, the more interested I find myself in wanting to see how things are going to play out, and this trailer upped my curiosity level considerably.

Are you feeling the same way? Feel free to comment below…and, starting on Sunday night, don’t forget to pop back by after each episode and check out the latest entry in our “True Blood” blog.

(Still not sufficiently jazzed about Season 3? Check out our “True Blood” fan hub!)

  

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“New Moon” to rise over the box office

The Twilight Saga: New Moon

Jolly Carl DiOrio, my favorite box office prognosticator, appears to be taking the weekend off, and Variety isn’t getting specific. However, it’s not like even someone as bad at guessing these things as I am really needs a guru to figure out that, barring the sudden disappearance of all females between the ages of 10 and 40 from our nation, “The Twilight Saga: New Moon” is about a certain a bet as ever exists to win the weekend for Summit Entertainment. And, judging from the boffo early worldwide receipts as reported by Nikki Finke, it’s likely to be a very big win domestically.

Now, this is usually the point where I discuss the reviews of the week’s most high profile new release, but I’m not sure what the point is because this series was proven review proof long before the first movie. In fact, it seems to be impossible to find an adult of either gender who will admit to reading the books, except as a guilty pleasure. Vampire-human intra-species love might be a critical favorite when it comes via author Charlaine Harris and Alan Ball in HBO’s “True Blood,” or Joss Whedon’s “Buffy, the Vampire Slayer,” but not so with the “Twilight” series.

Our own David Medsker is fairly tolerant of this inevitably PG-13 entry, but “New Moon” at this point has nearly halved the lukewarm 49% “fresh” rating of the first film with a 27% RT rating. It’s doing somewhat better with the usually slightly tougher “top” critics for whatever reason — interestingly that was also the case with the prior film. On the other hand, the usually generous Roger Ebert gifted this with a single star and the requisite derogatory one-liners, putting it in the running to be included in the inevitable sequel to his “Your Movie Sucks” collection.

Next up is an intriguing bit of counter-programming, Warner’s PG-13 “The Blind Side” starring Sandra Bullock in a somewhat Oscar-buzzed performance as a wealthy woman who takes in a homeless African-American youth (newcomer Quinton Aaron) who eventually emerges as real-life NFL player Michael Oher. The role strikes me as the flipside of Bullock’s racist upscale homemaker in “Crash” and people always seem to like it when a critical non-favorite like Bullock starts to get some positive attention for her acting. The movie itself is getting okay, but not spectacular, reviews at this point. Once again, as I write this the “Cream of the Crop” critics are a bit more generous than the ink-stained hoi polloi. As for the film’s commercial prospects, my hunch is that it should be profitable. It’s a movie with a little something for largely, but not entirely, male sports fans and largely, but not entirely, female schmaltz fans.

Planet 51
The weeks’s third major release is “Planet 51,” which on the surface looks like a return to “Monster vs. Aliens” territory with a PG-rated CGI animated role reversal tale in which a human astronaut, voiced by Dwayne Johnson, finds himself an alien invader on a planet full of wholesome humanoids. The consensus here seems to be that the potential for clever social satire, or just the mildly adult-friendly comedy of the Dreamworks hit, is pretty much squandered and the feature from a Spanish animation house bankrolled by Sony is strictly for the little ones. Still, to a casual onlooker, it looks like it might have a dash of interest for grown-ups, so this one might have a nice enough opening weekend.

As for limited releases, this weekend brings the kind of movie that gets cinephile pulses racing. Apparition’s R-rated “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans” is apparently a somewhat comedic not-really-remake of the Abel Ferrara mega-downer policier “Bad Lieutenant” starring Harvey Keitel, as reinterpreted by cinema living-legend Werner Herzog. In the Keitel role this time around is Nicolas Cage and critics seem delighted to have something nice to say about their one-time favorite again, which I guess could also be the start of some Oscar potential.

The oddball police tale will be in 27 theaters, which is only a fraction of the 83 theaters that the Bollywood hit, “Kurbaan” will play according to Box Office Mojo. It’s a  controversial, sexually charged (by Indian standards) thriller about a woman who falls for a terrorist and find herself a prisoner in New York City. It’s got music but doesn’t really appear to be a traditional Bollywood musical. You can’t have everything.

  

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Seven shows that just don’t get enough love

Unfortunately, I didn’t have the time to put together a list of my favorite television moments before the end of 2008, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t spend an inordinate amount of time in front of the tube. (Come to think of it, maybe my television addiction was the reason I didn’t have the free time to write about the best of 2008. Hmm.)

Anyway, here is a list of seven terrific shows that seem to be flying under the proverbial radar.

1. “True Blood” (HBO)
Alan Ball, the writer of “American Beauty” and the creator of “Six Feet Under,” brings us a series based on vampires in the Deep South. The series is based on Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse series of books and stars Anna Paquin — whom I argued, under the moniker of Eli Cash a few years back, would have made a better Penny Lane than Kate Hudson — as a mind-reading waitress in a small town in Louisiana. The first season was excellent, though it got off to a bit of a slow start. Paquin is the key, but her best friend Tara (played by Rutina Wesley) often steals the show.


Read the rest after the jump...

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Greetings to the New Show: “True Blood”

You’ve got to give HBO credit: they know how to hype a new series.

The amount of pre-publicity for “True Blood,” the new series from Alan Ball (creator of the late, great “Six Feet Under”), has been so tremendous that it’s been almost impossible to ignore. I certainly saw my fair share of the hype when I was out in L.A., but the network’s viral marketing campaign for the show has taken awareness of the series far beyond California. It all started with BloodCopy.com, but there have been billboards, fake ad campaigns for a product called TruBlood, MySpace accounts, and more.

All this for a TV show about vampires…?

Actually, it’s a pretty savvy move on HBO’s part to throw their marketing muscle behind “True Blood,” which is based on Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampires Mysteries book series. Anyone who reads this blog knows that vampire-themed shows make for dedicated…oh, who are we kidding? They inspire straight-up obsession in their viewership, whether we’re talking about “Forever Knight,” “Angel,” or – yeah, baby! – “Moonlight.” HBO’s just playing it smart and getting the word out about the show from the get-go, to make sure it’s full-fledged event television when it premieres.

But is it…?

Read the rest of this entry »

  

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