5 Reasons to binge AT&T’s Kingdom

The ferocious Frank Grillo drama is the show every TV fan needs to binge watch now. Fight fans will dig it too.

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What if I told you there was a show out there with a wicked concoction of action, drama, romance and the most brutally honest portrayal of fighters you will see on any screen ever? Would that be something you’d be interested in? Well, let’s talk about AT&T’s Kingdom and why you need to binge watch the first twenty episodes before its June 1st return to AT&T viewership. This MMA story deserves your attention.  I’ll give you five to keep real.

Frank Grillo’s best work resides here

If there is a better marriage of actor and role out there than Grillo and Alvey Kulina, please tell me where it exists. This guy doesn’t just play Alvey, a retired champion turned trainer looking for a drug that provides him with the same thrill fighting did. Grillo crawls inside this guy’s world and lives there. True immersion. Every one of Grillo’s roles have led to this one and there’s never a dull moment when he is on screen. If you want an authentic guy, look no further than Grillo.

If 2011’s Warrior was the appetizer, Kingdom is the entree. You can’t describe Alvey with a simple good or bad label. He’s somewhere in the middle, fighting his demons one at a time before they grow different heads and come at him a second time. He’s got two sons that are fighters but he cares more about Ryan Wheeler(Matt Lauria), someone who used to date his girlfriend and had loads of talent before blowing it up. Calling this man conflicted is like calling a crowded street with a bomb planted inside of it safe. He’s damaged and reeling, and Grillo shows the audience every single one of his scars. It’s a performance that Emmy voters will never appreciate so you have to. If you are a Grillo fan and always wanted to see him get the role he deserves, Alvey Kulina is it.

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Byron Balasco is a dynamic writer

The creator doesn’t allow a single script to pass through his supervision that doesn’t tell an honest story. This is a dish served without phony storylines that don’t resonate on a level of truth. It’s not just fighting folks. The entire hour isn’t two men or women bashing each other inside an octagon. There’s real family dynamics at war here. Former fighters battling inner demons. The women in their lives trying to balance the chaos. Closeted fighters. Ex-con fighters. Retired fighters. Balasco balances it all into something exciting, riveting and most importantly real. The consultants on this show include real MMA fighters and legendary coach Greg Jackson. Balasco immersed himself in this world, wrapping his storytelling hands in the trenches that real fighters live in every day.

The Emergence of Matt Lauria and Jonathan Tucker

You may know them from other pieces of work? Lauria will remind you of Luke Cafferty fromFriday Night Lights while Tucker reminds you of Boon on Justified or Bob on Parenthood but when you watch them enter the head space of Wheeler and Jay Kulina, all of that vanishes. Lauria is a human wrecking ball of emotions, because he sometimes has to dig deep to find the urge to fight and loves someone he can’t have. Tucker is addicted to many drugs and weary of love because it is like a snake that bites extra hard. Jay has the talent to fight but is better at being a tornado that destroys everything around him and Tucker unleashes all of the emotions. He can go from light to dark within seconds and it’s extraordinary work. Lauria is a ticking time bomb and it’s based off good intentions but doesn’t come quietly or easily. Complex characters require talented actors and both these guys bring it.

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This Nick Jonas guy

You may know him as the extremely popular singer who tours around the world and holds 80,000 people in the palm of his hand, but on Kingdom Jonas has the most complex and difficult role of all. A closeted gay fighter who can’t get his father Alvey to believe in him or the right amount of success to feel safe or right in the world. Nate Kulina has a million problems but getting inside a ring isn’t one of them. That is also part of his downfall and Jonas doesn’t overplay this role. He doesn’t get a meaty monolog like Grillo or extra space to work in like his co-stars but he still finds a way cut a multi-faceted picture of this young fighter on the brink of losing himself. The young man will surprise you with his ability to do more with his hand of cards than most actors. Keep in mind he barely had ANY experience acting before Kingdom but that he’s been performing in front of tougher crowds since he was 8 years old.

The Women are the Anchors

Meet Kiele Sanchez, Joanna Going and Natalie Martinez. Once again, these are women you may know from previous roles but won’t see them give better performances than on this show. Sanchez worked with Grillo on The Purge Anarchy, Going had a small role on House of Cardsand Martinez shared End of Watch with Grillo among other projects. Here, they all get meaty roles that have an edge to them. These are damsels in distress or cardboard cutouts. Sanchez’s Lisa is the backbone of Alvey, and she has a chemistry with Grillo that goes beyond cute and enters messy reality. Going, playing the Kulina’s fallen matriarch and drug addicted prostitute, doesn’t just play one note but several different emotions in showing us a lady who embraces the dark side but wouldn’t mind some light. Martinez is the female fighter you meet in season 2 who flips many storylines on their head. They are equally ferocious and hold the clock inside the men’s chest.

Don’t forget about the freckled dart board called Mac Brandt that serves as comic relief here amid the heavy sets of drama. Don’t forget about a great soundtrack that involves Fort Frances and a song called “Blaze of Glory” by Spottiswoode that will give you chills. Don’t forget about the raw feel that you are watching something that has been hiding from you for a couple of years.

It isn’t just about fighting. Kingdom is about what you fight outside the ring. The things you can’t punch or choke out. The unfortunate stigmas that plague all of us on an everyday basis get cranked up to 10 on a fighter who must take damage in order to make money but also to feed his soul enough to let him or her sleep at night. Kingdom doesn’t shy away from any fight. It deserves your attention. This is the kind of show you make friends with the neighbor you hate to watch.

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Being on AT&T’s Audience Network makes it easier access. You can find all the episodes on UVerse On Demand. The excuses don’t exist. It’s time well spent. You have two days. Come on over to my place and bring steaks, bourbon, and comfortable pants. I’ll watch it with you

Unfiltered Arkansas thoughts

Unfiltered thoughts about everything from David Backes to Tom Brady to Whiskey to what makes a good friend.

Greetings from a beautiful Sunday morning down in North Little Rock, Arkansas. Care for a stroll towards wherever my mind takes us?

Over the past few weeks, I’ve tried to push some fresh prose into this corner of cyber space as a way of keeping the site from becoming a door mat. It all started here over 750 posts ago, and these days a lot of movie reviews, interviews, and assorted archive footage fill the space and it’s fine. I’ve become a paid writer even if that makes mere drinking and gas money. It’s more than I used to make and hopefully it grows.

The Dose still serves as my outlet to say whatever the fuck I please. I call it my Teddy KGB zone. I can drop F-bombs at will and also write controversial opinions(like Johnny Manziel is secretly a Russian covert agent spying on us). I like it here because they know me. So let’s drop a few words. An unfiltered rant. Bullet round style.  Continue reading “Unfiltered Arkansas thoughts”

Cinemax’s Banshee: What happened next?

What happened after the series finale? I tell you what happened to the characters next.

I’m not a screenwriter but I like to think I can tell a good story and have written enough partial screenplays to compose the weirdest collection of stories ever. Last Friday, Cinemax’s Banshee ended its four year run with a soulful send-off. Every story line was treated deliberately and carefully. There weren’t any real cliffhangers while a few plot threads did linger. Today is the first Friday fanshees know they will forever be without this wonderful show(until the producers decide to make that movie in 2-4 years).

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In order to provide a coping mechanism, I am going to break down what happened next along with a few possible plot threads. Why not? These folks are just resting in make believe outer space without any need to move so let me move them.

What happened after the series finale? Let’s roll on down the page.

Lucas rode out of town and decided to not meet Job in New York. While the disgruntled and exhausted super hacker settled in up East, Hood had other plans. He rode that bike back to the house that he built for Carrie/Ana and himself, or what was left of it. A few pieces of wood and burnt flesh removed and Hood is going to rebuild. The truth is unicorns may not exist but damn it, home insurance still does and Hood paid his taxes.

Instead of going back to a big city where some trace of the Ukrainian mob is waiting for him to arrive or stir trouble in(thief is a thief), Hood can basically resume what he was doing before Brock pulled him back into action(and getting punched). Only this time, instead of a spooky Proctor camping retreat, it’s the place where he told Carrie he’d take them. It’s a place where he can find peace, buy an old truck like the one he borrowed from Sugar, and drive it around.  Continue reading “Cinemax’s Banshee: What happened next?”

Frank Grillo joins We Are Live! radio

Frank Grillo joined We Are Live radio in St. Louis to talk about his upcoming film projects.

Before he takes over Hollywood this summer, action star Frank Grillo was kind enough to talk to the CBS Sports Radio show, We Are Live. For an epic 34 minutes, Grillo dished on his big 2016 cinematic and television season. After punishing a few Avengers in Captain America: Civil War, Grillo will return to his true authentic playground with AT&T’s Kingdom and then return to movie screens in July with The Purge: Election Year. For the 50 year old actor, it’s a homecoming of sorts after a lot of hard work put into the blood, sweat, and tears business of show business that started over 25 years ago.

 

Guest host Rafe Williams and Trill Ass Trailers creator Kenny Kinds joined me for the interview and we discussed:

*The impact of Crossbones on the Marvel Universe and the Russo Brothers.

*Why Chris Evans shouldn’t challenge Grillo in a real boxing ring.

*The world of Kingdom and MMA and how the show came together for Grillo and creator Byron Balasco. 

*Why Purge 3 will be the best in the series. 

*The importance of stunt work in these action adventures.

Conor McGregor was brought up and so was Grillo’s early start in Hollywood on The Guiding Light. All of that and more. 

People ask me what separates Grillo from your other gracious make believe masters and it’s this. He gives a shit and forges friendships. He keeps his word. If he says he can do something, he is going to fucking do it. A lot of people, actor or not, don’t do that so cheers to Frank.

The audio links are below. Two options.

For the ITunes crowd, here is the link to the We Are Live subscription page.

For the internet crowd, here is a link to the We Are Live InsideSTL page.

Each page the segment is listed as “Interview with Frank Grillo”. If it were up to me, I’d light this page on fire right now because that is the exact temperature of the man’s career.

Thanks for listening to it and I hope my first night hosting a radio show sounds as professional as possible.

A huge thank you to Chris Denman and Travis Terrell of We Are Live to allow me to operate the controls of their cathedral for a night and host Mr. Grillo on this fine show.

Unspoken Truths: If you say it, you mean it

There is no taking it back, folks. This and more unfiltered rants.

Another batch of old unfiltered rants uncoils now. Taken from July, 2011.

One of the things I hate most in life is when people try to take shit back that they previously said. Bullshit is my response. If it came out of your mouth, you meant it in some way. It was formulated in your cerebellum and registered with the mind and cleared by the conscious before passing through your fucking teeth so save me the propaganda.

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*A picture of a lion because why the fuck not? Photo credit to the person who took this before being eaten.

A family member or friend will say something to you and days or months later will forget that it ever happened.   They will say that they didn’t mean it.   It was a fluke of built up proportions inside their throat that got put on the vocal chord speed belt without editing.   What they forget is that the target never forgot the intention of the words.   Hopefully, by now, you understand what I am talking about.   Joking doesn’t exist.  Sarcasm is a tool used to shadow real intent.  When words come of someone’s mouth, the makers had a clear intention for them.  It’s almost unfair how sickeningly good my memory is.  I remember everything that comes out of a person’s mouth, or pretty close to everything.   This isn’t taking everything personally, trust me.  Continue reading “Unspoken Truths: If you say it, you mean it”

John Wick 2: A required sequel

John Wick changed Keanu Reeves career and deserved a sequel.

Halfway through John Wick, our hero confirms a long standing rumor. As he sits in a chair, tied up and beaten, he tells the bad guys that he is indeed back. He’s also coming back to theaters in the future to kick ass, as Lionsgate announced today that John Wick 2 will happen and it will happen soon.

In a land where action films are rarely taken seriously, John Wick came along in October last year and blazed a new trail right through the land of critics. It was adored and taken seriously at the same time while getting a little notice from the movie crowd itself. Keanu Reeves made a successful comeback and the director, Chad Stahelski and writer, Derek Kolstad, delivered something unique. A smart action movie that satisfied the old school action fanatics and the regular movie goers. Made for a modest 20 million, the film grossed 42 million and has become a cult hit on DVD and Blu Ray. It can also be appreciated on multiple viewings and for an action film to stick in one’s mind and enjoy a long shelf life, the repeat button can’t get worn down enough.

The film was huge for a number of reasons. Reeves needed it badly, as he was flailing around making poorly received Japanese action flicks and being used poorly in romantic comedies and dramas. His bread and butter was always in the mainstream action arena, such as The Matrix, Speed and Point Break. Returning to Wick and using those silent gunman abilities wasn’t just fitting but rather awesome. It helped that his stunt men for the Matrix, Stahelski, was at the helm and moving him through this story. It was more a labor of love than an easily rendered film.

The film was also special because it showed stunt performers can transcend into filmmaking and use their experience as a tool in creating a world. Wick’s world had little flavors of many classic action films and also introduced a few new ones(the dead body collectors, the Hitman hotel, etc.).  Stalhekski’s work here promises that other stunt coordinators like Dan Bradley and TV stunt guru Marcus Young can get a shot behind the camera one day. John Wick is paving the way.

The movie also included a storied group of actors, pulling in Adrianne Palicki, Willem Dafoe, Ian McShane, Lance Reddick, David Patrick Kelly and the gifted Michael Nyqvist. When you give actors a certain range to play with and cool surroundings to work their gifts around in, magic can happen.

It also helped that Wick had a lightning bolt pace and 101 minutes never felt so great and quick. It went down like a well cooked double cheeseburger and fresh cut fries at your local diner. Just juicy enough to know you’ll want it again soon.

John Wick 2 will see the return of Reeves and director Stalhelski to the action and most likely McShane, Reddick and possibly Kelly along with a new batch of bad guys to take aim and fire at Wick.

He’s back and so is the celebration of wildly enjoyable action flicks. John Wick made that dragon breathe again!

Now do your due diligence and watch John Wick right now on DVD or Blu Ray. Your time won’t be wasted.

The Death of Vince Vaughn’s career

Vince Vaughn was once one of the best comedy actors in Hollywood. Now his career is drunk.

Vince Vaughn got a spot on the walk of fame in Hollywood last year. That’s nice and all but unless that was shit he dipped his hands into, it’s not that great of a moment. Vaughn has been churning out flops for years now, and he is 46 years old.

As a fan of his older work, he has me worried. He has either suddenly become unfunny or is making terrible career choices. His movies aren’t making money or laughs and he looks like he is trying very hard. What happened to the guy who made laugh so hard and fast in Wedding Crashers that my dad and I nearly had to leave the theater to catch our breath? He’s fucking gone and I don’t know when he is coming back.

His latest drivel, 2015’s Unfinished Business, opening to 5 million dollars in 2,777 domestic locations. That’s the kind of dough a small indie makes in several weeks or what Fifty Shades of Grey grossed in an hour. It’s pathetic because Vaughn is talented and as his character has said plenty over the years, “you’re better than this.”

What is the last official good Vaughn flick? Into the Wild in 2007, where he drew upon some of his earlier dramatic work to produce a juicy supporting role as a man who helps Emile Hirsch’s seeker along the way. The Break Up came out a year earlier and got a lot of attention due to Vaughn’s romance with his co-star Jennifer Aniston. It was a very funny film that allowed Aniston to not suck for a change and holds up well on repeat viewings(just watched it on cable last month several times). That was good comedy. Jon Favreau was there and so was Jason Bateman.

It was the end of a fantastic run for Vaughn, one that started with Old School and continued with Starsky and Hutch, Dodgeball, a great role in Mr. and Mrs. Smith and culminated with Crashers. He couldn’t miss then and was so funny. If he was able to unleash his own brand of comedy, the film was better for it. These days, his methods and madness has tamed and gone to crap. Last year’s Internship was especially sad. He co-wrote the film and helped produce it, and the result was a playful if horribly unfunny exercise that made Adam Sandler seem more appealing. The Dilemma opened to 7 million domestically.

Vaughn’s cameo in Anchorman 2, like the entire sequel itself, was overwrought and not funny. It was forced, which is the exact feeling I have when the last 8 years of his work comes to mind. What’s wrong with the guy? Being a Cubs fan always concerns me, but it could be more than that. Maybe, Vaughn likes playing the same loveable lug with a heart of gold and a smart ass mouth. Playing the same guy has suited a man like Jason Statham quite well over the course of his career. He knows exactly what he is and hasn’t strayed. Vaughn was once considered not funny enough when auditioning for Swingers due to his early dramatic work and now he isn’t funny enough to make a shitty script sing for the fans. What gives?

Vaughn may be getting a clue. He took a crucial part in HBO’s True Detective second season this summer, playing a criminal under siege. It’s television but it’s a highly regarded Emmy nominated series with loads of cinematic talent involved. It could be the starting point of something special for Vaughn, because his other 2015 release(The Peter Billingsley directed Term Life) doesn’t look too promising. After the HBO stint, Vaughn should look into a Wedding Crashers or Old School sequel or look into an indie production. Sometimes, you have to go back in order to move forward. Yeah, I just stole a Matthew McConaughey line from a Lincoln car commercial. You see the depths I’m going to in this article. It’s sad. The last chunk of Vince Vaughn’s career has been sad.

Here’s what he has coming up. The drama/comedy Term Life this year followed by roles in Brawl in Cell Block 99, The Archbishop and the Antichrist, and Hacksaw Ridge. Fuck me.

Can he recover it? Who knows. What will it take? Something that thrills us or makes us laugh will do. The good thing about the movies is a comeback story can happen at any age and the audiences is always waiting to celebrate it.

The bad news is Vince Vaughn is turning into Adam Sandler real quick. Stop it dude.