Tag Archives: Amazon Originals

Book and TV Pilot Review: ‘The Man in the High Castle’

Philip K.Dick's 1962 novel, "The Man in the High Castle"

Philip K.Dick’s 1962 novel, “The Man in the High Castle”

One nice perk at Comic-Con in San Diego this year will be Amazon unveiling a new episode of their adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s 1962 alternate history novel, “The Man in the High Castle.” The pilot episode, in a nutshell, is pretty awesome in how it presents a world in which the Axis powers won World War II. The ten-episode thriller comes to Amazon this fall. I think it should prove to be one of Amazon’s best offerings. It inspired me to go ahead and read the original novel. I was ready to expect it to be a different animal, much in the same way that the “Bladerunner” movie and novel differ. And I was pleasantly surprised.

Amazon's "The Man in the High Castle"

Amazon’s “The Man in the High Castle”

Comparing the pilot episode with the novel, I appreciate just how action-oriented this Amazon TV offering is. I admire what Amazon has done since they truly adapted the work from one medium to another. It really comes down to one big thing, that was taken from the novel, and will power the television series. That is to be found in the title itself. The novel treats it one way. The television series treats it another way. I won’t spoil anything for you, but if you’re one of those types who doesn’t want to know anything beforehand, then consider yourself warned.

What it takes the length of a novel to explore can be distilled into a compelling visual lasting only a few seconds on film or television. For the purposes of television, the essence, as it were, taken from another medium, cannot only be distilled but then stretched out to infinity, or for however many seasons. Here we have characters living in a world where Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan won the war and carved up the former United States. But there are pockets of resistance questioning the status quo. The biggest pocket of questioning resides with “The Man in the High Castle.” In the novel, this individual is easy enough to find. In the television series, this individual is cloaked in mystery.

And here’s the thing, the thing that makes the novel such a great read and which gives the TV show every opportunity to succeed: this business of questioning can get pretty interesting. At the end of the day, the questioning is about reality itself. Now, here’s the kicker: in the novel, Philip K. Dick was perfectly content to have a novel that raises these questions about what is going on and suggests a world where the Allied forces won the war. It is readily available in any bookstore and it’s even a bestseller. In the TV series, it’s not a novel but copies of newsreel footage showing the Allies as victors. This is totally an underground thing. And spooky. How do you fake newsreel footage showing such elaborate scenes? Sure, they could be faked but they sure don’t look faked. And so this hints at something supernatural. It sure hints at something that is not explicitly in the novel. What it does, however, is instantly evoke that delicious uneasy feeling of suspense that you get from reading the original novel. And that could very well prove a recipe for one successful run on Amazon.

At this year’s Comic-Con in San Diego, Amazon will host a special screening of the first two episodes of The Man in the High Castle. No worries if you can’t attend this year since the entire event will be live-streamed on EW.com. Check out Entertainment Weekly’s interview with Ridley Scott and his role as an executive producer on the TV series right here.

The special event takes place on Friday, July 10 at the San Diego Civic Theater. In addition to the first two episodes – the second of which has never been seen before – there will also be a Q&A with the cast at the venue.

Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle stars Alexa Davalos (Mob City), Luke Kleintank (Pretty Little Liars), Rupert Evans (The Village), Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Mortal Kombat Legacy), Joel De La Fuente (Hemlock Grove), Rufus Sewell (Eleventh Hour) and DJ Qualls (Z Nation). David Semel (Heroes) directed the pilot episode, which was written by Frank Spotnitz (The X-Files). Both serve as executive producers alongside Ridley Scott and David W. Zucker.

Check out a teaser for The Man in the High Castle above. You can see what I mean about the spooky newsreel motif. The pilot episode can be seen over at Amazon right here. Suffice it to say, you can expect the 10-episode thriller and original novel to prove to be very distinct animals all the way to the end. You can find Philip K. Dick’s novel, The Man in the High Castle, over at Amazon right here.

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Amazon TV Lineup Reviews: MOZART IN THE JUNGLE Is Set To Be A Hit

Lola Kirke as Hailey in "Mozart in the Jungle"

Lola Kirke as Hailey in “Mozart in the Jungle”

MOZART IN THE JUNGLE

If I could only pick one of the current crop of Amazon TV pilots, amid comedies and dramas, it would have to be “Mozart in the Jungle.” After having given it a try, along with the four other pilots, it stays with me the most. That’s not to say the other shows aren’t quality items. In fact, this whole roster has a lot to offer and I’ll say a little about them too. What I find to be most appealing about this particular show is that you have compelling conflict evenly distributed amongst compelling characters. You have the main character, Hailey, who is likable and someone to root for. Lola Kirke brings something of the appeal of “Girls” to the show and that’s not just because she’s the sister of one of its stars, Jemima Kirke. She does not seem to be an especially strong character but you get the sense that she’s growing and will strike when she needs to. Other characters already know how to strike all too well and it will be fun to see just how far they will go. This is the world of classical music but it’s a jungle too.

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Review: ALPHA HOUSE, Created by Garry Trudeau for Amazon Studios

Alpha-House-John-Goodman-Amazon-Studios-2013

There are a number of reasons why you might be curious about this show. The main reason to see it is because it’s funny. Politics and humor go hand in hand but they don’t always add up to something really funny. Sometimes, it is sent to us by the Gods. What else explains Tina Fey as Sarah Palin? Sometimes, it is sent to us by Garry Trudeau. Yes, that Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist of “Doonesbury” fame. His humor is recognized as rather wry and dry. But for this series, he’s eased up a bit on the drollness. He allows his characters to breathe and, in doing so, has established a good extended rhythm for the small screen.

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