I Am A Killer (Netflix, 2018)

From the doubt-casting phenomenon Making a Murderer to the excellent serial killer series Mindhunter, Netflix is up to its ears in crime shows. Now they’re out to prove that there is apparently no such thing as crime fatigue with the release of 10 episode docuseries I Am A Killer.


Using a bit of a broad brush, each episode of I Am A Killer focuses on a different death row inmate. All the men on the show have been convicted, sentenced to death, and fully admit to their crimes (although to what degree some of them admit to being involved is called into question) and they all discuss their crimes frankly, in their own words. While some episodes are more compelling than others, even the weaker ones are still interesting and easily watchable for fans of true crime.

One of the better episodes of the series tells the story of Justin Dickens, an addict who killed a customer during the attempted robbery of a jewelry store. He claims the customer charged him and fought for his gun—he shot the customer once in the torso, then the customer yanked on the gun once more, causing the gun to go off and deliver a fatal head shot. The prosecution in the case presented a vastly different version of events, and painted Dickens as a cold-blooded, calculated killer, claiming forensic evidence proved Dickens was lying. The other victim from the jewelry store, however, provides an eyewitness account that matches up exactly with Dickens’ version.

Why does this matter? Because in a crime of this type, if the victim provokes the perpetrator, the death penalty is taken off the table. The prosecution claimed Dickens shot the customer without a struggle, and succeeded in getting the death penalty for  Dickens.

Another standout is the story of Kenneth Foster, Jr., who received the death penalty after a friend he was riding in a car with shot and killed a man; he was convicted and sentenced under Texas’ Law of Parties, which states a person is equally responsible in the committing of a crime if they are believed to have solicited, aided, or encouraged the person who physically committed the crime.

Possibly the most thought-provoking episode features Joshua Nelson, who, at two months past his 18th birthday, teamed up with his 17 year old best friend to brutally murder a mutual friend in order to steal his car. Now 40, Joshua makes a compelling argument regarding the notion that he, despite what he’s done, is on some level deserving of forgiveness, and that he is redeemable. It’s an argument the victim’s mother (who still vividly remembers the chilling smirk Nelson gave her in the courtroom during the trial) doesn’t buy for a second.

And that’s exactly what makes the show so interesting. The team behind it does their best to show each case from all angles: the prosecution and defense, the victims’ families, even the criminals’ families and friends. Some may argue this makes it an attempt to humanize people who deserve no sympathy. I would argue that the only ones humanized in the series are the ones who can be.

James Robertson, for example, featured in Episode 1, comes off as an unfeeling monster as he recounts coming to the conclusion that the only way to improve his situation in prison was to murder his cellmate. His reasoned that the act would move him out of the unsatisfactory living conditions and frequent solitary confinement he’d been dealing with, and get him what he considered an upgrade by putting him on death row.

The show is not perfect; the weakest episodes come close to being boring, and the good ones leave you wishing they’d have spent more time examining their subjects. Either way, while I Am A Killer may not change anyone’s view on capital punishment, it is almost certainly guaranteed to make you stop and think.

I Love a Horse(man)

It seems like it’s been a while since I’ve talked about TV. I guess that’s partly because my viewing habits have changed so drastically over the past year and a half or so. Once upon a time I wrote a post giving 3 Reasons Why Man Can’t Live on Netflix Alone. Oddly enough, reading back over it, I still agree with most of what I said there.

That being said, I’m now a cord-cutter, and while I do miss the ability to mindlessly surf channels like a lobotomized sloth, I’ve gotten to the point where I can’t imagine being without my dear, sweet Netflix. I originally got the free trial just so I could binge watch Breaking Bad, but (of course) I ended up keeping it. Then back in February I ditched it for Hulu for the sole purpose of watching 11.22.63, but I ended up keeping it for a while so I could catch up on Broad City, plus I got hooked on the Hulu original show, Casual. But I had to go back and get Netflix again, mostly for one solitary reason: a dickhead anthropomorphic horse.


 I first started watching BoJack Horseman on the recommendation of fellow blogger Dylan at Hooray for Movies!(whose opinion I respect a great deal), who wrote this post about the show after binge watching its first season in 2014.

How do I put this without resorting to hyperbole? Bojack Horseman is one of the best shows on television, and in just 3 seasons is already one of my favorite shows ever, joining the ranks of The Sopranos, the aforementioned Breaking Bad, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Whether you like those shows or not, I realize calling it one of the best shows on TV is a bold claim. After all, we are experiencing a bit of a golden age for television. Why would I make such a statement? Let me break it down for you:

First, let’s talk about the cast. BoJack is voiced by the always awesome Will Arnett of Arrested Development, and his freeloading friend/roommate Todd is played by Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul.  Then there’s BoJack’s feline agent and on-again-off-again girlfriend, Princess Carolyn, voiced by one of my favorite people in the known universe, Amy Sedaris. Rounding out the main characters we have Community’s Alison Brie as Diane Nguyen, the writer assigned to help BoJack write his autobiography, and her boyfriend, golden retriever Mister Peanutbutter, voiced by comedian Paul F. Tompkins.

And as if that wasn’t enough, the talent in the supporting cast is absolutely insane. Here, you know what? Let me bring in a visual aid.


I’ll spare you any gushing about the amazing cameos throughout the show by the likes of Daniel Radcliffe, Greg Kinnear, Candace Bergen, and oh so many more—other than to say that this show has raised the bar on cameos so high that I don’t know if another show will ever match it.

But wait, you may be saying, what’s this show even about?

BoJack is a washed up 90s sitcom star. He was on a show called Horsin’ Around, where he was a single horse raising three kids. Think Full House, but with a talking horse. The show made him very rich, and he…well, he doesn’t do much but party. He drinks, does drugs, and screws whoever will let him. Diane is hired to ghost write his autobiography, and her boyfriend is BoJack’s arch frenemy (and fellow 90s sitcom star) Mister Peanutbutter, and the show takes off from there.

The thing is, the show is about so much more. This show goes deep and gets real in a way few shows can manage. It’s astounding how real and three dimensional these characters are, a feat made all the more remarkable since many of them are animals, but the feelings they have are distinctly human. I attribute that to the incredible writing.

The storylines, character arcs, and dialogue are all among the best I’ve ever seen. Certain lines of dialogue can alternately make me laugh, gasp, or leave my jaw hanging open. They’ll spend nearly an entire season setting up a joke, or subtly reinforcing a punchline over and over without you even being fully aware of it (For anyone who’s watched the show, I’m referring to the ‘What are you doing here?’ line woven throughout season two). I feel like all writers could benefit from watching this show; it’s a true master class.


A little meta humor for the Aaron Paul fans out there.

Ultimately, it’s a show about depression and how people seek validation and happiness in their lives. BoJack is not a very likable character—to call him an anti-hero is much too nice. He’s a toxic asshole who destroys everything he touches. The thing is, he knows he’s toxic, and he wants to be better, and to be happy. At least, he thinks he does, but he manages to sabotage himself every step of the way.

As I was trying to think of how to explain the type of character BoJack is, I found myself looking back at a show I mentioned earlier, The Sopranos. In a lot of ways BoJack reminds me of Tony Soprano, in that they’re both selfish, manipulative narcissists, and yet you find yourself still liking them (to a degree, at least) in spite of that.

Lest we forget, however, that in all the talk of the dark, bleak themes, the show is still a comedy. And there are so many joke. So. Many. Jokes. Silly animal puns. Clever jokes. Smart jokes. Stupid jokes. Vincent Adultman, for Christ’s sake—two children stacked on top of each other inside a trench coat pretending to be an adult, dating Princess Carolyn who is completely oblivious. The show practically requires repeat viewing just to catch the jokes you missed the first time around.


So why aren’t more people watching?

I mean, it has its (very devoted) fans, but this show deserves the adulation (and ratings) of Mad Men, House of Cards, and the like. I think it suffers from two problems.

1) the first impression it makes. A lot of people simply don’t want to give an animated show with talking animals a chance, period. They’ll write it off as another Family Guy wannabe, which really couldn’t be farther from the truth.

2) The show requires some investment. The  first few episodes are funny, but it’s not until you learn more about the characters and some of their true (and very dark) colors come out that the show really gets its hooks in you.

Look, what can I say—I love pretty much everything about this show. It’s damn near perfect.

And I haven’t even mentioned the incredible opening and closing themes, composed by The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach and Grouplove, respectively.

So here’s what I ask of you:

Give the show an honest chance. At least 5 or 6 episodes. You may already enjoy it by then, but that’s when the show takes its first dip into darkness, and that’s when it really got my attention.

And if my urging isn’t enough for you, there’s this: Time magazine just announced its list of the best TV episodes of 2016, and none other than BoJack Horseman’s  underwater-set (and largely dialogue free) episode Fish Out of Water was named best television episode of the year. What more recommendation do you need?

Do yourself a favor: watch it. You won’t regret it.


Could True Detective Be the Future of Television? And A Word About Philip Seymour Hoffman

I love TV. I really do. There seems to be a bit of a disconnect between books and film as opposed to television among a lot of people. TV has always been looked down on a bit, seen as appealing to the lowest common denominator by putting out broader, more simplistic programming.

In a recent interview, Billy Bob Thornton said he feels that the tides have turned in that regard, and television is now the smarter, more sophisticated medium (you may be asking yourself Who gives a crap what Billy Bob Thornton thinks? and I couldn’t blame you, but that’s beside the point). In recent years TV shows have consistently raised the bar, starting in my opinion with The Sopranos, to the point that now some of the best stories being told are on the small (but ever growing in physical size) screen.

In a way, it seems like it should’ve been that way all along. Movies are forced to tell you a story in two—or in Martin Scorcese’s case, three—hours, whereas a TV show can take its time, pacing the story however they want; the problem is they often drag it out for far too long.


Enter True Detective, HBO’s new anthology series starring Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey as a pair of mismatched detectives trying to solve the case of a serial killer in 1990’s Louisiana, and being interrogated about the case in the present day. That description kind of makes it sound like some terrible stoner buddy cop movie, but I assure you it’s anything but. The tension that builds between the two due to their differing world views is palpable. The acting and writing is excellent, the direction and cinematography are top notch, and it totally reminds me of the feeling I used to get watching The Sopranos—that I was watching something special, not just any old TV show.

What makes True Detective even more unique is the anthology format: while the series is likely to be picked up for a second season, it’s already been set in stone that the current storyline with Harrelson and McConaughey will be wrapped up in this season’s eight episodes. When/if the series returns for season two, it will follow a similar format but have new lead actors solving a new mystery, in the vein of FX’s American Horror Story.

If I had the power to control anything in the world of television, I’d like to see the anthology make a comeback in a big, big way. When you think about it, it seems like a win-win for everyone involved: the networks wouldn’t necessarily have to pay for full 22 episode seasons, as anthologies can be as few or as many episodes as its creators want. Which is good, since paying bigger name actors and directors would likely mean a bigger budget. Also, from the actors and directors point of view, they can work on a quality project but not be locked down for several months out of the year, leaving them open for movie projects or sunbathing in the south of France, or whatever it is actors do when they’re not working.

There was a horror anthology on Showtime a few years ago called Masters of Horror (2005-2007) which, fittingly, showcased legendary horror directors behind the camera for one episode of the show apiece. My favorite episode of the series was titled Incident On and Off a Mountain Road, directed by Don Coscarelli of Phantasm fame and adapted from the short story by master of horror in his own right Joe Lansdale, but I digress. My point was that getting big names (be they actors or directors) for shorter commitments (and with definitive endings to the stories in sight) can benefit everyone.

Networks just love dragging shows out past their prime; it’s disappointing. My DVR is like a TV graveyard for once-promising shows that my wife and I lost interest in. Falling Skies. Revolution. Under the Dome. Even The Walking Dead, the one I would’ve thought I’d watch until the final frame. Having no end in sight means they have to stretch the shows to the point that I just don’t care about them anymore. But I can tell you this: I will be watching every episode of True Detective, and savoring every moment of it.

PS—I type this on Sunday afternoon, a few hours after hearing the news of the passing of Philip Seymour Hoffman. There isn’t really anything I can say about him that someone else hasn’t already said; he really was a brilliant actor, and I never saw him in anything where he wasn’t “on,” as they say. But rather than lament on the shocking loss, I’ll recommend one of his movies.

Everyone is mentioning Capote, for which he won the Oscar, as well as Boogie Nights, Magnolia, The Master, and of course Hunger Games. But there’s one that has flown inexplicably under the radar ever since its release: Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007) is an excellent thriller starring Hoffman and Ethan Hawke as brothers who aren’t as smart as they think, and find out just how incompetent they really are when they try to pull off a heist of their parents’ jewelry store and botch it something awful, with heartbreaking consequences. It costars Marisa Tomei and Albert Finney, and also happens to be the final film from legendary director Sidney Lumet, who went out on an extraordinarily high note with this film. Give it a watch and I’ll bet you like it. It’s a tragic reminder of yet another talented actor gone too soon.


Golden Globes Picks and A Few Predictions


I have a somewhat strange fascination with awards shows (except music awards—more on that as we get closer to the Grammys). Especially, but not limited to, The Oscars and The Golden Globes. And while The Oscars are clearly the more prestigious of the two, there’s no denying The Golden Globes are a heck of a lot more fun.

For one, booze is in ample supply, and while most of the attendees manage to keep themselves in line, there’s generally a much looser atmosphere than at other stuffy awards shows. Acceptance speeches tend to be a little more off the cuff, and everyone appears to actually be enjoying themselves.

It’s also the only major awards show (unless you count the SAG Awards) that pairs both Movies and Television. That allows for a lot more interesting combinations, both in terms of presenters and who you might see mingling in the crowd or on the red carpet. The Oscars will always hold a special place in my heart (which I’ll tell you all about as we get closer to the show), but if I had to choose one awards show I’d actually want to attend, I think The Globes would win hands down.

With that, I’m going to offer up a few predictions for the telecast Sunday, January 12, 8ET/5PT, as well as my picks in the major categories. Some will be fairly educated guesses while others will be the equivalent of pinning the tail on the donkey. Okay, away we go!

Prediction: Tina Fey and Amy Poehler will make me (and probably you) laugh.


While I love both women just fine on their own, together they really are more than the sum of their parts. They go together like peanut butter and jelly, or honey and mustard, or mayonnaise and sriracha (if you haven’t tried that last one, you’re only hurting yourself). Their timing is impeccable, and they have one of the most important qualities a comedian can have: fearlessness. They will make themselves the butt of the joke at the drop of a hat if it’ll get a laugh, and I’m as excited for whatever they have planned as I am for the a lot of the awards themselves.

Prediction: An acceptance speech I want to hear will be played off while one I don’t care about will be allowed to ramble on ad nauseam.

It never fails. The show’s producers, intent on keeping the show on time, jump the gun and cue the orchestra during an especially amusing or emotional acceptance speech early in the show, while a big star is allowed to ramble on incoherently after the show is already behind schedule.

Prediction: Some of the winners will piss me off.

There are always nominees I root for more than others; that’s only natural. But I have a confession to make—sometimes I’ll start actively rooting against a certain nominee. Petty and childish? Afraid so. Part of the fun? Absolutely. I don’t necessarily have anything against any of the nominees, I just pull so hard for some of them that I get a little caught up in it all.

Prediction: I’ll be upset when I find out someone I was a fan of died during the “In Memoriam” segment.

It happens every year; usually it’s a character actor whose name I don’t know but whose face I recognize instantly. Sometimes it’s a director or even a producer I may know by name only. It usually manifests itself in a gasp of, “Oh no, he/she died? How sad.” While I’m on the topic of the In Memoriam pieces, I also have a problem with applause during the segment. Some of the shows have put a stop to this, and The Globes may be one of the ones that asks the audience to remain silent, but it bothers me when one person’s death is deemed sadder or more important than someone else’s.

Prediction: The show will run out of steam in the last hour (or two).

It’s hard for them not to, honestly. Giving out awards for three hours is boring. There’s always a lull somewhere around the halfway point that lasts until the final few awards. With any luck Amy and Tina have something planned to kickstart the show when it starts to drag, keeping the show’s momentum going to the final Globe being given out.

Okay, on to the awards. I started to give a brief explanation as to my reasoning for picking what I did, but to be honest, does it really matter? Trying to figure out who the Hollywood Foreign Press Association is going to give globes to is like trying to figure out how Nicolas Cage picks his roles; that being said, some of these I feel are pretty good guesses while others are total shots in the dark. On to the list of nominees; my picks are the ones in bold.

Best Motion Picture, Drama

12 Years a Slave
Captain Phillips

Best Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy

American Hustle
Inside Llewyn Davis
The Wolf of Wall Street

Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Drama

Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
Idris Elba, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
Tom Hanks, Captain Phillips
Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
Robert Redford, All Is Lost

Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical

Christian Bale, American Hustle
Bruce Dern, Nebraska
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street
Oscar Isaac, Inside Llewyn Davis
Joaquin Phoenix, Her

Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Drama

Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock, Gravity
Judi Dench, Philomena
Emma Thompson, Saving Mr. Banks
Kate Winslet, Labor Day

Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy

Amy Adams, American Hustle
Julia Delpy, Before Midnight
Greta Gerwig, Frances Ha
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Enough Said
Meryl Streep, August: Osage County

Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture

Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
Daniel Brühl, Rush
Bradley Cooper, American Hustle
Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave
Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture

Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine
Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave
Julia Roberts, August: Osage County
June Squibb, Nebraska

Best Director
Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity
Paul Greengrass, Captain Phillips
Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
Alexander Payne, Nebraska
David O. Russell, American Hustle

Best Screenplay, Motion Picture
Bob Nelson, Nebraska
Spike Jonze ,Her
Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope, Philomena
John Ridley, 12 Years A Slave
David O. Russell and Eric Warren Singer, American Hustle

Best Foreign-Language Film

Blue Is the Warmest Colour (France)
The Great Beauty 
The Hunt 
The Past 
The Wind Rises 

Best Animated Feature Film

The Croods
Despicable Me 2

Best Original Song, Motion Picture

“Atlas,” The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
“Let It Go,” Frozen
“Ordinary Love,” Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
“Please, Mr. Kennedy,” Inside Llewyn Davis
“Sweeter Than Fiction,” One Chance

Best Original Score, Motion Picture

Alex Ebert, All Is Love
Alex Eves, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
Steven Price, Gravity
John Williams, The Book Thief
Hans Zimmer, 12 Years a Slave

Best TV Movie or Miniseries

American Horror Story: Coven
Behind the Candelabra
Dancing on the Edge
Top of the Lake
The White Queen

Best TV Series, Drama

Breaking Bad
Downton Abbey
The Good Wife
House of Cards
Masters of Sex

Best TV Series, Comedy or Musical

The Big Bang Theory
Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Modern Family
Parks and Recreation

Best Actor in a TV Series, Drama

Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
Liev Schreiber, Ray Donovan
Michael Sheen, Masters of Sex
Kevin Spacey, House of Cards
James Spader, The Blacklist

Best Actor, TV Series Comedy

Jason Bateman, Arrested Development
Don Cheadle, House of Lies
Michael J. Fox, The Michael J. Fox Show
Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory
Andy Samberg, Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Best Actress in a TV Series, Drama

Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife
Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black
Taylor Schilling, Orange Is the New Black
Kerry Washington, Scandal
Robin Wright, House of Cards

Best Actress in a TV Series, Comedy

Zooey Deschanel, New Girl
Lena Dunham, Girls
Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation

Best Actor in a Miniseries or TV Movie

Matt Damon, Behind the Candelabra
Michael Douglas, Behind the Candelabra
Chiwetel Ejiofor, Dancing on the Edge
Idris Elba, Luther
Al Pacino, Phil Spector

Best Actress in a Miniseries or TV Movie

Helena Bonham Cater, Burton & Taylor
Rebecca Ferguson, The White Queen
Jessica Lange, American Horror Story: Coven
Helen Mirren, Phil Spector
Elisabeth Moss, Top of the Lake

Best Supporting Actor in a Series, Mini-Series or TV Movie

Josh Charles, The Good Wife
Rob Lowe, Behind the Candelabra
Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad
Corey Stoll, House of Cards
Jon Voight, Ray Donovan

Best Supporting Actress in a Series, Miniseries, or TV Movie

Jacqueline Bisset, Dancing on the Edge
Janet McTeer, The White Queen
Hayden Panettiere, Nashville
Monica Potter, Parenthood
Sofía Vergara, Modern Family

Cecile B. DeMille Award
Woody Allen     

There’s a small chance I may (may) live tweet the awards, so if you don’t already, follow me on Twitter via the button to your right and follow along during the show. Or I may not end up live tweeting, in which case I’ve just tricked you into following me.

Are you making picks? Play along! Disagree with any of my picks? Let me know in the comments below, and enjoy the show!