REVIEW: THE VAMPIRE DIARIES -SEASON 1-6

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MAIN CAST

Nina Dobrev (Never Cry Werewolf)
Paul Wesley (Killer Movie)
Ian Somerhalder (Pulse)
Steven R. McQueen (Piranha 3d)
Sara Canning (Primeval: New World)
Kat Graham (Honey 2)
Candice King (Juno)
Zach Roerig (Rings)
Kayla Ewell (Impact Point)
Michael Trevino (The Riches)
Matthew Davis (Cult)
Joseph Morgan (Hex)
Michael Malarkey (The Selection)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Chris William Martin (Dollhouse)
Benjamin Ayres (Saving Hope)
Chris J. Johnson (Betrayal)
Marguerite MacIntyre (Red Dragon)
Robert Pralgo (Fast & Furious 7)
Susan Walters (The Flash)
Jasmine Guy (Dead Like Me)
Arielle Kebbel (Ballers)
Bianca Lawson (Beauty and The Beast)
Mia Kirshner (30 Days of Night: Dark Days)
Malese Jow (The Flash)
Gina Torres (Firefly)
Sean Faris (Never Back Down)
James Remar (The Shannara Chronicles)
Kelly Hu (Arrow)
Melinda Clarke (Spawn)
David Anders (Izombie)
Spencer Locke (Resident Evil: Afterlife)
Taylor Kinney (Zero Dark Thirty)
B.J. Britt (Agents of SHIELD)
Tiya Sircar (The Internship)
Maiara Walsh (The Starving Games)
Natashia Williams (Smiley Face)
Lauren Cohan (Chuck)
Trent Ford (Smallville)
Daniel Gillies (Young Hercules)
Dawn Olivieri (American Hustle)
Stephen Amell (Arrow)
Michaela McManus (Law & Order: SVU)
David Gallagher (Super 8)
Jack Coleman (Heroes)
Sebastian Roche (Odyssey 5)
Claire Holt (Mean Girls 2)
Anna Enger (Anchorman 2)
Alice Evans (Lost)
Torrey DeVitto (The Rite)
Robert Ri’chard (Veronica Mars)
Perisa White (Blood Dolls)
Nathaniel Buzolic (Out of The Blue)
Cassidy Freeman (Smallville)
Casper Zafer (Coffe Sex You)
Michael Reilly Burke (Mars Attacks)
Todd Williams (San Andreas)
Grace Phipps (Scream Queens)
Phoebe Tonkin (The Secret Circle)
David Alpay (Ararat)
Alyssa Diaz (Red Dawn)
Madeline Zima (Californication)
Rick Worthy (Collateral Damage)
Cynthia Addai-Robinson (Arrow)
Charles Michael Davis (Battle Scars)
Daniella Pineda (American Odyssey)
Leah Pipes (Fingerprints)
Callrd Harris (The Real St.Nick)
Eka Darvill (Spartacus)
Olga Fonda (Real Steel)
Hayley Kiyoko (Scooby-Doo 3 & 4)
Rick Cosnett (The Flash)
Janina Gavankar (The L Word)
Kendrick Sampson (Gracepoint)
Shaun Sipos (Texas Chainsaw 3d)
Caitlin McHugh (I Am Legdn)
Penelope Mitchell (Curve)
Chris Brochu (Soul Surfer)
Raffi Barsoumian (NCIS)
Colin Ferguson (Eureka)
Jodi Lyn O’Keefe (Halloween: H20)
Emily Chang (Total Recall)
Gabrielle Walsh  (The Hive)
Marco James Marquez  (The CLient List)
Chris Wood (Supergirl)
Tristin Mays (The Wedding Ringer)
Annie Wersching (Bosch)
Christopher Cousins (Wicker Park)

 


There are vampires, and there are indeed diaries. One of these diaries is being kept by Elena Gilbert (Nina Dobrev). Elena’s been writing down her thoughts for quite some time now, but in these dark days, her diary is her only outlet for the way she really feels. She’s still reeling from the deaths of both of her parents just a few short months ago, and while she tries to present a smiling face to the world at large, she’s emotionally ravaged inside. Elena has been keeping almost everyone around her at arm’s length, dumping one of her oldest friends who she’d only recently started to date and tearing just about every last page out of her social calendar. She’s dead inside.

Stefan Salvatore (Paul Wesley), meanwhile, is dead, period. He too keeps a journal, although having been alive…well, undead…for around 150 years, Stefan has had quite a bit more to write about than Elena. One of the first things Stefan did upon his return to his ancestral home of Mystic Falls, Virginia is re-enroll in high school. As an eternal 17 year old, he doesn’t run into any trouble looking the part. It certainly doesn’t hurt that as one of the few surviving vampires who doesn’t sizzle and smolder under the light of day, there’s little reason for anyone to suspect that Stefan is one of the undead. Stefan and Elena are inexorably drawn to one another, and the two of them are almost immediately established as a couple. Epic romance. Moony eyes. You know the drill.

Stefan can’t escape his blood. You can take that in the most literal sense: there’s the blood he must ingest in order to survive, although he’s long since sworn off feeding from humans, living instead off of small animals in the woods around his palatial family estate. This makes it easier to for Stefan to more seamlessly blend into mainstream society rather than feasting off it from the fringes, but it leaves him weaker than most other vampires as a result. It’s just not as potent as what’s coursing through our veins. There’s that sort of blood — the crimson, sticky kind — and then there’s the blood of his family. Stefan’s brother Damon (Ian Somerhalder) is also a creature of the night, and he long ago swore to make every last second of Stefan’s existence an eternal hell. Damon kills without hesitation…not only to feed, and not only to hide the existence of vampires from the world at large, but simply because he likes it. There’s more to Damon’s return to Mystic Falls than revenge, though. There’s a much greater — a much darker — motivation behind it all. At the same time, Mystic Falls isn’t being caught as unaware as Damon might like to think.

The Vampire Diaries finds its footing startlingly quickly. Take Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, for instance: as universally adored as those two series are, neither of them were really any good at all until the tail-end of their first seasons. Even with as strong as Supernatural quickly became in its first year, it got off to somewhat of a shaky start, and a fair number of the episodes from its first season are hit-or-miss. The Vampire Diaries, on the other hand, is just about perfect by the time the third episode rolls around. There really aren’t any weak episodes after that. There’s no filler dumped in just to pad out the rest of the season, and it doesn’t spin its wheels the way a lot of shows do when leading up to the big finale. It’s impressive enough that The Vampire Diaries hits such dizzying heights in its very first season, but to maintain that sort of consistency across virtually every episode…that’s exceptionally rare.


Admittedly, its pilot is kind of slow moving and sputters a bit, but the second episode is quite a bit stronger, and you’ll know from the end of “Friday Night Bites” if you’re in it for the long haul. Even with all of its genre underpinnings, at its core, The Vampire Diaries is a soap opera, complete with dead parents, drug abuse, adoption drama, alcoholism, and lots and lots of relationships. Don’t go in expecting it to be a Buffy clone or a Supernatural knockoff. The elements that make those series so brilliant are showcased here as well, but action, horror, and a snarky sense of humor don’t dominate. The great thing about The Vampire Diaries — and I write this from the perspective of someone who’s not the usual target demographic for this kind of show — is that the soapier elements are never overwhelming either. For instance, as the series opens, Elena’s younger brother Jeremy (Steven R. McQueen) has turned to drugs in a failed attempt at trying to cope with the sudden deaths of his parents. In any other show, there’d be some sort of big, overwrought intervention…drenched in syrupy strings, a heartfelt monologue, and saucer-plate weepy eyes. That, or he’d bottom out in some sort of cartoonishly over-the-top way. Because The Vampire Diaries is so respectful to its characters and its audience, it doesn’t trot down either of those paths. People try to reach Jeremy and fail. He has to arrive at the decision to improve his lot in life himself, and he quickly does. Though Jeremy is certainly given a helpful nudge, his maturation is handled quietly and convincingly. The Vampire Diaries doesn’t have all that much interest in settling for the obvious, and it resists wringing out drama from the same plot points episode after episode.

Every episode has some sort of intensely action or horror driven sequence to unleash, and some sort of shock or surprise is always lurking around the next corner. I seriously found myself shouting at my TV — the good kind of shouting! — with the way The Vampire Diaries so deviously caught me off-guard over and over again. The twists are also well-thought-out and wholly earned, not just lazily yanking out the rug. Very few people here are safe, and characters I assumed would be a fixture for the entire run of the show are suddenly slaughtered after a few episodes. The cinematography can be impressively cinematic as well, and quite a few moments of “You’re Undead to Me” and “Haunted” in particular look as if they could’ve been culled from a big-budget Hollywood horror flick. Especially once the pilot has come and gone, the pace screams along at a very steady clip. There are never really any threads in the storyline that are left dangling for long. Plot points that look like they’d be dragged out over the course of the first season or two are instead revealed a third of the way through. Key moments that feel like they belong in the season finale swoop in closer to the halfway mark. I mean that as the highest compliment too. Nothing ever feels rushed or underplayed. It’s all presented quickly enough to keep The Vampire Diaries from stagnating but is still given enough time to have a meaningful impact…it’s a perfect balance. Also, every episode offers some sort of payoff to something established earlier, and there’s generally some kind of reveal as well. So much happens that part of me honestly wonders how they can keep up this manic pace in season two, although the writers have very much earned the benefit of the doubt after this exceptionally strong first outing. I’m having a hard time thinking of the last show I watched with cliffhangers this consistently addictive too. Especially now that it’s out on Blu-ray, The Vampire Diaries kind of demands to be devoured in marathon viewings.

The cast and characterization straight across the board are particularly great. There’s something magnetic about every last member of The Vampire Diaries’ ensemble, and no weak links leap out at me. There’s certainly an effort to keep them even-keeled. There’s something likeable or sympathetic about most everyone. Each character has some sort of glaring flaw as well, and that includes Elena and Stefan. Elena isn’t some sort of impossibly perfect Mary Sue character. She has her shortcomings, and her friends and family aren’t afraid to call her on them and take her down a peg either. In most any other show, everyone in the supporting cast would be boiled down to a three or four word description: “horny best friend” or “hyperaggressive jock”…that sort of thing. They’d be defined less by who they are and more by what the plot requires them to do that week. In The Vampire Diaries, just about everyone is infused with quite a bit more thought and dimension. This may not be at all apparent at first glance. Some of the folks who at first seem destined to be dead air are soon given some additional depth. Well, that, or they’re quickly mauled.

The body count this season is kinda stratospheric, and it doesn’t hurt that the werewolves hinted at last year have started snarling their way into the series. Season two is teeming with all sorts of unrepentant killers, and the standout early on is Katherine. Nina Dobrev pulls double duty as the wholesome, responsible Elena and as the centuries-old scheming murderess Katherine (several very different incarnations of her, actually), and she’s more than a little bit awesome in both roles. The series milks a few really great jolts from the uncertainty of who you’re looking at, exactly — if it’s Elena or if it’s Katherine playing dress-up — and Katherine’s sinister smirk after she’s had her fun never fails to make me cackle. Katherine also subscribes to the theory that people don’t amount to much more than Happy Meals on legs, and the swiftness, ferocity, and complete lack of remorse as she cripples and murders one random girl just to prove a point winds up being one of the season’s standout moments. I do have to admit that later in the season, The Vampire Diaries’ writers seem to run out of really compelling things for Katherine to do, and her appearances start to pack less and less of a wallop. There’s a point to it, exploring a facet of the character that she’d just as soon refuse to acknowledge even exists, but it does seem anticlimatic with as much of a sultry, destructive force of nature as Katherine is early on. The Vampire Diaries more than makes up for Katherine’s descent into shrugworthiness by introducing a couple of truly ancient vampires — Klaus and Elijah — who are charismatic, startlingly compelling, and also regal and adult…an appreciated change of pace from a show where the monsters are generally played by witty early-twentysomethings.

Ian Somerhalder still stands strong overall as the best thing about The Vampire Diaries, scoring all the snarkiest lines and clearly having a hell of a lot more fun than anyone else in front of the camera. Still, despite being so manipulative, exploitative, hot-tempered, and occasionally murderous, the show still finds a way to keep him completely likeable and sympathetic. Some of the shades of gray with Damon are erased this season, and he’s much more overtly a dependable hero-type. I chalk that up as character development, natch, and the fact that he frequently does seem to approach becoming the man Elena wants him to be makes his slips back into monster-dom that much more tragic.

The Vampire Diaries season 2  is just a hell of a lot of fun to watch, screaming ahead at a manic pace and never settling into any sort of comfortable routine. It’s shockingly well-acted, there’s hardly any filler or unnecessary distractions, and The Vampire Diaries probably gets the nod as the most infectious and consistently entertaining drama I’m watching these days. Even the soapier stuff and the over-the-top melodrama winds up being more engrossing than I ever would’ve thought possible.

 

he third season of The Vampire Diaries is about family…or, rather, trying to hold onto one. Elena’s is all but gone, limited to just her increasingly distant brother Jeremy. The two of them have a surrogate father in Alaric, but even he’s content to set up shop on the couch rather than settle into one of the house’s depressingly vacant rooms. A fractitious family at best seems as if it could collapse at any moment. Elena and Damon both are desperately hunting for Stefan. The previous season closed with Stefan unleashing the monster within, swearing allegiance to the millenium-old original vampire Klaus. ‘The Ripper’ has resurfaced. Though he obeys Klaus’ every command to murder and maim, Stefan isn’t some mindless, manipulated slave; he relishes in the kill.

 

In any other series, Stefan would be back to his righteous old self within two or three episodes, but…well, this is The Vampire Diaries. Things will never be the same again. Klaus has much of his true family within arm’s reach, though he prefers to keep the bulk of them skewered and subdued. His aim is to raise a new family, one that’s both more loyal and more like him: a hybrid of vampire and werewolf. The birthing of this army proves to be far more difficult than Klaus could ever have dreamt, and his torment grows that much greater when he finds the family tree of his birth to be more expansive and more vengeful than once believed. The dominance of family this season doesn’t stop there. Hell, we learn that the existence of vampires at all is predicated on the idea of protecting one’s own. No one in Mystic Falls escapes unscathed from all this, with the sorceress Bonnie, undead Caroline, and lycanthropic Tyler all struggling with parents who’ve either turned their backs on them or can’t accept their children for who they now are.

The Vampire Diaries does so much right, and approaching the top of that list is its disinterest in convention. Stefan and Elena form the core of the series in so many ways, and yet it’s quite a while before the two ever share the same frame this year. They’re kept physically apart for far more of the season than I would ever have thought possible, and even after that point, they’re hardly ‘together’. Stefan has changed profoundly. He may never return to the unwaveringly good guy he once was, and the journey back proves to be a whole hell of a lot more grueling As the third season of The Vampire Diaries came to a close, Elena died. This year follows her rebirth as a vampire, although if Stefan and Damon have their way, Elena will be re-reborn soon enough.You see, there’s a cure for vampirism, entombed for two thousand years with an immortal creature known only as Silas. Even with the crypt on the other end of the continent and before embarking on one epic quest after another to unlock it, they all start fantasizing about what they’ll do if they ever get their hands on the cure.

They could shove it down Klaus’ throat and at long last end his reign of terror, although who knows what kind of collateral damage would result from slaying an Original. Perhaps it’s the shot at redemption that Rebekah has been waiting for. Maybe it’s a chance for Stefan and Elena to enjoy a long but less than eternal life together as humans. It ought to go without saying that not everyone will be able to get what they want, especially since they’re not the only ones in search of the cure. Supernaturally-fueled vampire hunters have started to make their presence known for the first time in ages, and they aim to strip Silas of his immortality and end him once and for all. Anyone who gets in their way is expendable, and it kind of follows that Elena’s vampiric bodyguards don’t pose much of a threat to seasoned killers engineered to butcher the undead.

Season four is largely shaped by those three plot threads: Elena coming to grips with her vampirism, the search for the cure, and the resurrection of Silas. Most everything else that happens this year is fallout from one or more of the above. One of the people closest to Elena is saddled with the mantle of a Hunter, and the path to Silas’ tomb can only be unearthed by having him slaughter as many vampires as possible…a compulsion he’s all too eager to indulge. Cut off from the source of her mystical gifts, Bonnie begins to embrace darker magic. They imbue her with the power needed to unlock Silas’ tomb, but this raw, boundless energy may consume Bonnie before she’s given the opportunity.

Season 5 the doppelganger of Stefan or “shadow self” in the form of Silas certainly keeps things interesting. Silas is one of the more intense bad guys of the show and while Silas appears as if Stefan (as is performed by the same actor), the differences between characters is huge. The same can be said for the continuing story-line of the other double, the seemingly identical look-alike Katherine (who continues to look the same as Elena, but also is nothing like her). In Season 5, Katherine turns from a vampire to a human (as the sole recipient of the long-sought vampire cure), and things are complicated because of it. Seeing the way that actors Nina Dobrev and Paul Wesley handle these scenes is part of the fun, and it’s an amazingly procifient example of the benefits of quality film editing to see the scenes where characters have interactions with one another as played by the same actor.

The production values of The Vampire Diaries are surprisingly strong for such a modest budget television production. The special effects are always minimally utilized so that when there are effects on the show they can count as something extra special. The efforts from the team that works on this show really impresses. The cinematography remains a constant things; always showcasing both the bright and dark elements of the storylines. The costumes fit with these performers well. The make-up department has their work cut out for them at times, and are capably bringing forth the supernatural elements to the show.

Considering relatively lower production costs compared to other network television series, it’s a very well produced creation that continues to impress with what the creator and producers have to work with.

In season six we get to find out what happened to Bonnie (Graham) and Damon (Somerhalder) after last season’s cliff-hanger, and what has become of the other side. There is also the introduction of a new coven of witches who have ties to some pre-existing characters. Last season’s new addition Enzo (Malarkey) also gets a much more beefed up role as well as back-story.

Amongst all of the new additions there are of course some exits, the most notable being that of leading lady. Audiences have spent the last six years investing in the life of Elena Gilbert, but now has come the time to say goodbye, and it isn’t easy. It’s not just Elena though as this year the show lost a total of four of its more long-standing cast members, and there isn’t going to be a dry eye in the house by the end of the season.

'The Vampire Diaries' Recap: Damon and Elena Return to 1994

What makes this box-set really special this season  is the extras. Thought has clearly been put into what to include, and it isn’t your standard deleted scenes and commentaries. Both of those elements are included, but the featurettes have been crafted with the true die-hard fans at the fore-front of their minds. Good Bit and Good Luck is an emotional documentary that gives the cast and crew a public forum to say goodbye to their co-stars. The second is a much more upbeat affair as the cast read out some of their favorite fan Twitter reactions to plot developments over the series. There’s never a dull moment in Mystic Falls and somehow, despite being over a hundred episodes old, the show manages to constantly reinvent itself and feel fresh. the cliffhanger leads into what is already starting to be an intriguing season 7.

 

 

 

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REVIEW: KILLER MOVIE

CAST

Paul Wesley (The Vampire Diaries)
Kaley Cuoco (The Big Bang Theory)
Nestor Carbonell (Bates Motel)
Leighton Meester (The Roommate)
Jason London (Carrie 2)
Torrey DeVitto (The Rite)
Gloria Votsis (White Collar)
Cyia Batten (Cookers)
Robert Buckley (Izombie)

Killer Movie tells the story of a reality television shoot that goes awry when its crew finds itself stranded in a remote Northern town. A killer is on the loose, stalking cast and crew members one by one. As past suspicions, betrayals and secrets inexplicably come into play, the nightmare of shooting this reality show becomes all too real for Jake, the show’s director, his crew and Hollywood starlet Blanca Champion.Killer Movie is just a ridiculous amount of fun. It helps that this reality TV riff is written and directed by Jeff Fisher, a guy with eight years of shows like The Simple Life and The Real World/Road Rules Challenge under his belt. This is Fisher’s first time fielding something that’s scripted and feature-length, but there’s a confidence that still really comes through. He doesn’t hide behind hypercaffeinated quick cutting or overly gimmicky camerawork, and Fisher clearly knows how to coax the best out of his actors. The reality TV framework helps the storytelling flow along extremely smoothly — why settle for clunky exposition when you can chuck out another confessional? — and it sports a pretty terrific sense of humor. The comedy’s kind of understated.The Cast of actors include: Lost’s Nestor Carbonell as a seasoned Hollywood agent who knows how to yank his clients’ strings to nudge ’em in the right direction, Gossip Girl’s Leighton Meester, Al Santos from Grosse Pointe, Adriana DeMeo off an episode of Veronica Mars. One Tree Hill’s Torrey DeVitto, and Jason London from Dazed and Confused as a prickly local working sound for the show. ‘Course, the most recognizable face is The Big Bang Theory’s Kaley Cuoco, and she stars as a Paris Hilton/Lindsay Lohan type trying to claw her way out of the tabloids by trying the whole method acting thing as a celebrity P.A. The real star of the movie, even though he doesn’t actually score billing on the cover, is Paul Wesley (The Vampire Diaries), and he plays a director still reeling from cancellation and he’s intrigued by the smalltown-hockey-underdog angle.I’m not going to say that Killer Movie is a lush character piece or anything, but quite a few of its characters really do have an enormous amount of personality, and it helps that the movie has a bunch of experienced, instantly likeable actors