Monday, February 16, 2015

From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series Review

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So I've treated to quite a treat a few months back. I remember awhile back while talking to a friend of mine about vampire movies, I said that "From Dusk Till Dawn" was one of my favorite vampire movies, and why wouldn't it be? What with Robert Rodriguez directing, Quentin Tarantino writing the script and acting in it, with all his unhinged craziness, George Clooney being a badass, a slamming soundtrack and Selma Hayek half-nude, is there any reason why this movie wouldn't be among my favorites, at least in the vampire genre? Well sometime ago I remember while looking up the sequels (that I didn't bother seeing), I came across the fact that Robert Rodriguez pulled an Oprah and was gonna get his own Network El Rey ("The King" in Spanish) and "From Dusk Till Dawn" was going to be adapted into a television series. I gave it a cursory glance, looked into the actors they got playing Seth & Richie, who was writing it and finally the cast, a few names stood out, Robert Patrick (T-1000, for all you Terminator fans),Wilmer Valderrama (Fez from "That 70s Show"), Don Johnson and one of my favorites, Jake Busey (son of noted actor and nutcase, Gary Busey). The cast looked stellar but I remained skeptical, how in the hell were they gonna expand that movie to last 13 episodes? I mean it's a pretty cut and dry story. I shelved the idea of watching as I was already stumped with "Dexter", "Breaking Bad", "House Of Cards" and a whole slew of other shows that I was watching at the time, but I kept "From Dusk Till Dawn" in the back of my mind until the time was right. After having watched it and giving it time to truly marinate, I have to say...WHOLE SH*T THIS SHOW IS F*CKIN' AWESOME! I'll explain all that and more (SPOILER FREE) after the break!

Right from the gecko (see what I did there?) this show kicks off in familiar setting, we're at a hole in the wall convenience store where a Texas Ranger stops by to "drain the lizard" and after returning from the bathroom and preparing to leave Richie Gecko comes up from behind him and shoots him right in the chest! This show starts off pretty much exactly like the movie but the twists and turns it takes are different and familiar enough for you to enjoy it. The series also expands on the history of The Gecko Brothers, several minor characters within the "From Dusk Till Dawn" mythos and adds some new ones. The new and welcomed character is Texas Ranger Freddie Gonzalez played by Jesse Garcia, the partner of Earl McGraw, The Texas Ranger that has the unfortunate encounter with Richie Gecko. Frederico serves as one of our main characters and is a well acted, well crafted officer of the law attempting to juggle his life as a Texas Ranger and his life as a family man, with a brand new baby daughter and 2 major bank robbers on the loose and broken out of prison (Seth), it's hard not to root for the guy as he goes on a one man manhunt to bring the Gecko Brothers to justice and avenge his partner and mentor. For a TV series to such a cut and dry movie, adding a new character can be tricky and NOT making The Gecko Brothers the central focus on the series but merely major pieces in a larger picture is ingenious as it opens up the series to different possibilities, like I said, it's familiar enough for you to be comfortable but different enough for you to be excited. The who is the same by the Whys, Whens and Whats are a little different, and Frederico is that different.

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Also having an expanded role in things is Carlos. Carlos is a character mentioned several times in the movie and only seen at the very end played by Cheech Marrin, but here in the series, Wilmer Valderrama (who's come a LONG way since Fez, "Awake", to here? This guy is EXTREMELY underrated) plays Carlos TO perfection as this Latino (he's not Mexican, and he makes that very clear) drug dealing kingpin who's ALWAYS on top of his game. His character and his exact business with The Gecko Brothers is expanded on very much as well as Carlos himself. For such a minor character in the film, he's a MAJOR player here and once again, like Texas Ranger Gonzalez, he's another new variable that changes the game. In what way, I won't tell you, but watching Wilmer is always a treat.

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Also getting the expanding treatment is The Fuller Family, headed by Robert Patrick playing Harvey Keitel's role of weather beaten Priest Jacob Fuller. The stuff they did with his family and expanding their backstory, explaining the accident that claimed his wife, his loss of faith, etc. etc, fantastic! Robert Patrick is a pro, so you know he's gonna be butter no matter where he is (whether it's getting b*tchslapped by Tony Soprano or chasing after a car without breaking a sweat), who really steals the show in The Fuller Family is Madison Davenport. While Jueliette Lewis did her thing as Katie Fuller, Madison Davenport fills those shoes nicely, playing her role with the genuine teenage rebellion that underneath reveal some real battle scars, all the while still managing to maintain the hope and sweetness in her eyes. I can't say enough good things about her.

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Jake Busey gets to shine again as Sex Machine, a role originally played by Tom Savini, complete with Cock Gun and all. Sex Machine is another character that's expanded on quite nicely, to say more would be spoilers, and I don't wanna do that to you. Finally the 2 aces in the hole, The Gecko Brothers, Seth (played by D.J. Cotrona) and Richie (played by Zane Holtz), these two were born to play these roles! While D.J. Cotrona perfectly manages to capture George Clooney's snide sarcasm, smooth talking, level headed, devilish charm, he still manages to make this character his own with the added twists and turns this series takes with him. Seth Gecko really comes off as a professional, a guy who's done this before and is at his wits end with his brother Richie. This brings me to Zane Holtz's Richie Gecko. While in the movie it's established that Richie Gecko is a noted sex offender and slightly psychotic, this Richie Gecko is NOT a sex offender and FAR from psychotic.

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This Richie is a completely different Richie than Quentin Tarantino's. This Richie is a far more intelligent and intimidating Richie Gecko who struggling to understand what's happening to him and why he's seeing and thinking the things he does. This ties into the expanded mythology of the series overall and the introduction of a knife that Richie has that seems to be connected to all of it. The series does a fantastic job of providing exposition through flashbacks, character interactions and just building a mythology from the foundation of the film. With the introduction of new story elements, new characters and changing some very critical moments of the movie, the series manages to stand on it's own. If you haven't seen the movie, this series doesn't require you to do so, but if you have seen the movie it'll be FAR more enjoyable because it's not a complete rehash. So much world building is done that I'm on the edge of my seat waiting for more and I can't wait to see what happens next.

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This series is a slam dunk and now I'm actually curious about the sequel film (specifically the 2nd one, because the 3rd movie isn't a possibility with this film and when you watch the series, you'll know why) and if the series is going to do something with those characters or if it'll continue to focus on The Gecko Brothers' story and what's going on with them. Only time will tell and now with the series on Netflix, I guess that means all the episodes will come out all at once. Well, the next season is listed for 13 episodes and I'll be there for every last one, until then, I'll leave you with this picture of the NEW Santanico Pandemonium, Enjoy!

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