All Quiet on the Western Front 4K UHD Review: War Is Hell in 4K

It’s rare Netflix films get a physical release. Criterion’s done a few and MPI Media Group released Capelight Pictures’ Oscar-winning All Quiet on the Western Front on 4K UHD.

This is definitely a keeper with its harrowing battlefield scenes and poignant depiction of the war machine. The 1930 adaptation still holds up but Edward Berger utilizes modern cameras and production techniques to bring the war a bit closer. He also kept it in German with subtitles.

You could watch it in 4K on Netflix where it looks good, but without having to stream it adds one notch more sharpness and brightness

Silhouettes are definitely more consistent on the disc. Epic battlefields show in stark blue-gray detail. Mud looks palpably squishy.

A few early scenes in peaceful Germany (actually Prague) are bright and glorious. Suiting up, the idealistic mood in the barracks contrasts the stark gray blue battlefield.

You are there in the trenches with the boys. Dirt and smoke covers them so much that a patch of bare skin is more rare. And to further contrast that, the film cuts to military leaders in their lavish mansions and war rooms, even the luxurious trains while the soldiers are executing the plans on the ground.

This war film is great for sound system demos too. Early mornings on the battlefield surround your living room with battlefield ambiance. Of course gunshots and explosions constantly ring out, and it goes muffled when the soldiers’ ears ring.

Netflix’s “Behind the Streams” video on the making of All Quiet is included. If you didn’t watch it online, it shows what the trenches and snow looked like before it was composited and retouched. You actually see a little bit of them digging the sets, and it reveals some surprising elements filmed on the volume.

But the feature you won’t get on Netflix or YouTube is Edward Berger’s commentary. His description of the technical challenges is more harrowing than seeing it in B-roll. The behind-the-scenes spot only shows when they got it right. Berger describes the hassle of lifting a camera out of a trench for a tracking shot. Berger also gives away some sound secrets that make the effects even more meaningful.

Berger points out where VFX are employed in specific shots, and gets personal with regard to the overwhelm he felt making such a massive movie. The way he learned to focus is universal for any seemingly insurmountable task.

Cobra Kai Creators Talk Season 5

Cobra Kai creators Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg and Josh Heald brought The Karate Kid back. Now in season 5, they’ve been able to expand even the world of the sequels, not just the original. They brought Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith) back for season 4, and now season 5 sees him fulfilling the promise hem mentioned in Karate Kid III with a Cobra Kai dojo on every corner.

Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith) coaches Tory (Peyton List). Cr. Curtis Bonds Baker/Netflix © 2022

“That was one of the pleasures of making Cobra Kai Season 5,” Schlossberg said. “It was almost like The Karate Kid Part IV of what it should’ve been if Mike Barnes won the tournament and Cobra Kai was able to expand. So I loved that aspect of making the season just being able to have glimpses and tastes of what it’s like to live in Terry’s dream. So yeah, when you get to watch season 5, you see a little bit of what that alternate universe would’ve been like had Karate Kid III ended differently.”

Silver is empowered by Cobra Kai winning the All-Valley Karate Tournament in season 4. Johnny (William Zabka) is honoring the bet to stop teaching Karate, but Daniel (Ralph Macchio) is still trying to show the world who Silver really is. 

“Terry is rewarded for all of his bad behavior at the end of season 4 which is a dsimilar place as we found him in Karate Kid Part III,” Heald said. “In that movie, he had that kind of manic energy from the jump. He’s willing to get involved to clean John Kreese’s bad name and get revenge for all the ills that were delivered upon his old friend. In season 4, we took pains to bring Silver back to that point, to get him back to that places where he once again has this bloodlust with nothing but Cobra Kai domination on his hand. So season 5 makes him a more dangerous character because he’s achieved what he wanted at the end of Karate Kid Part III and he has the valley in his hands. The valley doesn’t see him for any kind of monster. They see him as a wonderful rich guy who’s doing great things for karate and for youth. So it makes him more dangerous. It makes him more formidable. It means that the game plan has to change.”

(L to R) Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith) welcomes Sensei Kim Da-Eun (Alicia Hannah-Kim) Cr. Curtis Bonds Baker/Netflix © 2022

Silver doesn’t see himself as the villain though.

“He’s of the belief that what he’s doing is great for young people,” Hurwitz said. “The lessons that he was taught have made him the success that he is in life. And have helped transform him from a twig to a formidable beast of sorts. So there’s a quote, a line that Kreese has in an earlier season. There is no good, there is no bad, only weak and strong. I think that one thing that we love about the characters on our show is they all pretty much believe that they’re doing good. Whether we perceive it as good or not is the audience’s choice.”

Silver may be stronger than ever because he’s learned his lessons from previous defeats. 

“He is somebody that remembers the events of Karate Kid III,” Schlossberg said. “So that also makes him more dangerous. He understands you could get caught up in the personal vendettas and that could lead you to dumb things like telling Barnes to take a point, give a point at the end of Karate Kid III and it kind of blew everything. So this is a guy who’s got all the power, he’s living the dream and he also remembers how things faltered in the past. So he’s smart and more dangerous than ever.”

Daniel is still out of sorts trying to show everyone Silver’s true colors. He may be a grown-up now, but Silver has new tricks to play on him too.

(L to R) Thomas Ian Griffith fights Ralph Macchio Cr. Curtis Bonds Baker/Netflix © 2022

“Daniel’s a more savvy person now,” Heald said. “He’s lived through the events of The Karate Kid Part III. He’s grown and he’s also lived through the events of the Cobra Kai series through four seasons. So I think Daniel knows that his enemy is not to be taken lightly. And I think that puts Daniel at more of an advantage but it also gives Silver a distinct advantage because he knows that Daniel lives with that past and knows pieces of his playbook and can make assumptions about how he’ll behave. So you have two enemies who know the other’s playbook up until now and are embarking upon this next phase with that knowledge but also the knowledge that neither is to be taken with a grain of salt. I think that gives new colors to where they go and how the story evolves from there.”

Netflix released the image of Sean Kanan last month to show fans that Mike Barnes would be back. Now you get to see where Mike Barnes is 30 years later.

Mike Barnes (Sean Kanan) returns! Cr. Curtis Bonds Baker/Netflix © 2022

“There’s always this balance of publicity vs. keeping things secret,” Schlossberg said. “You want to be able to excite fans and also keep fans in the dark enough to have real surprises while you watch the show. We’ve gone both ways in the course of five seasons when it came to character from the original Karate Kid. Sometimes we save it for a moment in the show. Sometimes we show it. Sometimes we show it but only a portion of it. I think we want to get fans excited, people who’ve been on this journey, remember Karate Kid Part III, they know that Karate’s Bad Boy is coming back. At the same time, there’s a lot of questions marks there and things to wonder and question until the release and then you’ll see where it all goes.”

Martin Kove Talks Cobra Kai Season 5

Police escort John Kreese (Martin Kove) out of Terry Silver’s home. Cr. Curtis Bonds Baker/Netflix

Cobra Kai Season 4 left John Kreese (Martin Kove) without the upper hand for once. Terry Silver had him arrested for beating up Stingray (Paul Walter Hauser), which Silver arranged for Stingray to point the finger at Kreese. Season 5 finds Kreese in prison, and Kove said that thrusts his character into the unknown.

“He really has to pay attention to some of the methods and some of the sessions that he had with the psychologist,” Kove said. “He really needs to be on his game and that’s what’s exciting about upcoming episodes that I really don’t know what to expect but he’s out there. It’s not the comfort zone of the dojo and having it be his way and his dojo and his rules, his regulations, it’s all out there. It’s all out there and he’s got to do a great deal of improvising to get what he needs and unfortunately what he needs right now is revenge.”

Kove has dealt with tough guys before, on the battlefield of Vietnam and in the streets. But, convicts are another story. 

There’s a lot of condescending there between myself and looking at these other characters,” Kove said. “He reaches that point at a certain time. John Kreese’s mind is always going a mile a minute, conceiving and manipulating of what he has to do for the next part of his life which could be in an hour or ten minutes. Whether it’s the dojo with Billy or whether it’s taking over the dojo or even the backstory of him being alone all his life or just defending himself in Vietnam. So he’s always ahead of the game. He’s always ahead of the game thinking and manipulating. I just believe that John Kreese is not a villain. John Kreese is misunderstood and what you see in season 5 is a lot of that, especially some of those scenes with the psychologist. It’s great stuff. I enjoy playing that more than I enjoy playing the tough guy.”

John Kreese (Martin Kove) has a brief taste of victory. Cr. Curtis Bonds Baker/Netflix

Kreese may not be a villain to Kove, but he sure gets his comeuppance throughout the seasons of Cobra Kai. Kove can’t help but sympathize with Kreese.

“I guess once you pass the anger of being defied and conspiratorially cast aside like he feels, he is Cobra Kai,” Kove said. “Here’s a man whose life he saved and now he’s just betraying him. So I guess the anxiety is not as much fun as the pain. The pain is more identifiable. The pain is the vulnerability, the moments with Tory, the moments with telling her, ‘You’ve fought so hard in the tournament and prepared for that. You just do what you think is appropriate.’ That moment is really important to me as an actor and as a character.”

It was Kreese’s idea to bring Silver back into the fold. Kove said Kreese now regrets it. 

“Getting even with Terry Silver, I think he’s a loser anyway,” Kove said. “I’m always surprised that he was able to get this far because even as a kid, he supplied a check to basically to keep the dojo open but he had lost a lot of his integrity to the business world and he was not a Terry Silver as years progressed that I knew in Vietnam. And that we planned Cobra Kai together. He kind of abandoned me and he got worse and worse and worse with the distance. And then when he lived the life in Malibu, tofu and appetizers of shrimp scampi, I realized where he was at and he had completely changed and migrated it to the world of the simplistic and what’s easy in life. I was never in that position. I was always entertaining what was difficult because that was the background I came from, emotionally and physically.”

Cobra Kai isn’t the only show Kove is on. He also has a podcast with his kids, Jesse and Rachel, Kicking It with the Koves. This week will be Cobra Kai week on the podcast. 

“My daughter, Rachel, she kind of initiated it and said, ‘Daddy, let’s do this,’” Kove said. “She’s a life coach and she’s just brilliant. My son being an actor, I was just the outlaw, the icing on the cake. We talk a lot about Cobra Kai but we interview psychologists, we interview just wonderful, wonderful athletes and people who are writers.” 

Kove is still a busy actor but he plans to keep doing Kicking It with the Koves around his schedule. 

“Going into the studio with the kids is great because I love it,” Kove said. “You get a great deal of satisfaction watching your children emote and ask questions and be so intellectual. So when we do it on Zoom, if I’m here in Nashville and they’re in L.A. it’s not as enjoyable, but when I can get to L.A. or they can come here, we’ve done it in the studio here in Nashville as well as one in L.A. When the three of us in the same location it’s fantastic. The parent, it’s like your kids getting Academy Awards. It’s heaven.” 

LOST IN SPACE: The Complete First Season Hits Blu-ray!

LOST IN SPACE: The Complete First Season Hits Blu-ray!

Lost in Space: The Complete First Season Blu-ray

The Series


After crash-landing on an alien planet, the Robinson family fight against all odds to survive and escape, but they’re surrounded by hidden dangers.

Created By: Matt Sazama, Burk Sharpless, & Irwin Allen

Starring: Molly Parker (Maureen Robinson), Toby Stephens (John Robinson), Maxwell Jenkins (Will Robinson), Taylor Russell (Judy Robinson), Mina Sundwall (Penny Robinson), Ignacio Serricchio (Don West), Parker Posey (Dr. Smith), Brian Steele (The Robot), and more.

Genre: Adventure, Drama, & Family

Rating: TV-PG

Runtime: Approx. 551 Minutes

Blu-ray Details


  • English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1


  • Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
  • Resolution: 1080p
  • Aspect ratio: 2.00:1
  • Original aspect ratio: 2.00:1
  • Subtitles: English SDH

Special Features

  • ” No Place to Hide” – Colorized Unaired Pilot from the Original Series
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Bill and Max: Lost and Found in Space
  • Bill Mumy Visits the Jupiter 2
  • Designing the Robot
  • Lost in Space Sizzle

Catch Lost in Space: The Complete First Season out on Blu-ray June 4th!

AFI Fest Review: Roma – Love Letter To Cleo

Roma is Alfonso Cuaron’s love letter to his mother’s coping under pressure, and his housekeeper’s quiet strength. It is based on his life growing up in Mexico and fees every bit as personal.

Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) works for Sra. Sofia (Marina de Tavira)’s family. When Sofia’s husband leaves her, Cleo ends up holding the family together, whether taking on extra duties with the kids or picking up slack while Sofia spirals.

Photo by Carlos Somonte

Of course, Cleo can’t interfere with family matters. And she has her own personal life which we follow. The family certainly welcomes her as one of them. They support her when Cleo gets pregnant, even taking her to the hospital. There is a distance though. Sofia brings Cleo along when she has the talk with the kids, as if it’s no big deal to involve her in the most personal matter.

(L to R) Marco Graf as Pepe, Daniela Demesa as Sofi, Yalitza Aparicio as Cleo, Marina De Tavira as Sofia, Diego Cortina Autrey as Toño, Carlos Peralta Jacobson as Paco in Roma, written and directed by Alfonso Cuarón.
Photo by Carlos Somonte

The same techniques with which Cuaron made Gravity and Children of Men immersive experiences work for Roma’s more intimate drama. Sounds still envelop the viewer whether the crowded marketplace or roaring waves on the beach.

There are some harrowing moments too. A riot in the streets invades Cleo’s day out with the family, and an earthquake in the natal ward is mighty stark. That birth scene is as harrowing as anything in Cuaron’s Sci-Fi films.

And this is my take watching Roma from the comfort of a Hollywood theater. There will be people who have lived this story and will react even more viscerally to the world Cuaron recreated.

Roma is definitely a chance to watch an acclaimed filmmaker use his techniques to tell his personal story. He’s earned it, so a studio like Netflix can afford to take the chance on a less mainstream idea. That’s the process. One for them, one for him, “Here, you liked my space movie? I’ll make you another one but first take a look at my story.” The real Sofia and Cleo will be proud.

Sundance Review: Burning Sands

Last year, the Sundance Film Festival premiered Goat, a sobering tale of fraternity hazing. There is surely more than one story of hazing and pledging, and Burning Sands tells another one from a unique perspective, and a bit more subtlety than Goat.Burning Sands

Zurich (Trevor Jackson) is pledging Lambda Lambda Pi with four others (five before one quit). Over the course of Hell Week, they jump at the beck and call of the Lambda brothers, enduring physical beatings and sexual temptations, neglecting his schoolwork and girlfriend.

At first I thought the day of boot camp workouts in the woods was fairy mild hazing. It’s tough but at least it’s exercise. Pretty soon the brothers are punching and kicking the pledges and there’s just no need for that, although I bet drill sergeants in basic training do it too. I always thought it made the leadership seem weak if they needed to be the inflicted of punishment to feel someone was loyal to them. Real loyalty isn’t contrived like that.

But it’s also clear what the appeal for Zurich and the pledges are. Zurich wants to achieve what his father didn’t. Square (DeRon Horton) just want to get laid in college which is totally healthy. We also gather the lingo like pledges are called mutts to further demean them.Burning Sands

What’s most insidious about Burning Sands is how smart the Lambdas are. This is a post hazing world where they know how not to get caught. No serious beatings, just gradual ones but those add up to potentially major health problems. This is also set a Frederick Douglas University, drawing parallels between slave driving tactics and a black fraternity using those very tactics to control their own.

While some of the story beats may be familiar, particularly the tests Zurich fails in his relationships and the false hope he has in certain allies, you can feel Burning Sands is a heartfelt story. Writer/director Gerard McMurray has compassion for these kids and a passion for shining light on these abuses. He’s definitely one to watch.

The cast shines too. These are breakthrough roles for Jackson and Horton. The women come off well too. Toya (Nafessa Williams) is playing her role as sexpot to help young men come of age but not demeaning themselves or others. Rochon (Imani Hakim) is so lovely I can’t believe Zurich would risk losing her, but she’s right to set boundaries. Angel (Serayah) gets to show her intelligence in the classroom.

I hope Netflix’s strategy of premiering movies at Sundance works. They deserve the attention this forum brings and it’s good to see the Netflix bumper on the big screen.

Netflix Review: Pee-wee’s Big Holiday Is So Funny I Forgot To Laugh

Pee-wee’s Big Holiday is the first Netflix original movie that looks like it’s just a TV movie. Beasts of No Nation was of course an Oscar contender of prestigious quality, and The Ridiculous Six was a huge, sprawling epic with more visual effects than most of Adam Sandler’s high concept movies, and it was a western! Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny was a theatrical quality Hong Kong movie, but the long-awaited Pee-wee movie feels scraped together.

Pee-wee's Big Holiday

Pee-wee’s Big Holiday

Franchise Fred does approve of returning to the structure of Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, down to an opening evocative of the original’s Tour de France and a Rube Goldberg contraption of Pee-wee’s daily routine. Pee-wee is once again inspired to leave his home for a road trip, although there’s no theft this time. If Pee-wee has never left Fairfield, this is not in canon with Big Adventure, yet it clearly follows the Pee-wee model.

Right away, Big Holiday shows signs of cost and corner cutting. The streets of Pee-wee’s home of Fairview are mostly empty, because they can’t afford to litter them with extras. The entire movie is shot in medium wide shots, or maybe over the shoulder close-ups of dialogue, because they don’t have time for any more than the basic setups.   Yet even TV shows now feel bigger, like Fargo and Breaking Bad, so it’s not even a limitation of the medium. His final destination is big and you can feel how much the film comes alive just because Pee-wee is performing in front of people.

Pee-wee's Big Holiday

Pee-wee’s Big Holiday

But Pee-wee Herman could make one playhouse feel like a magical whimsical world. Budgetary and practical restrictions shouldn’t hold him back. He could make fun of the limitations and turn the restrictions into part of his world. There is one funny joke about a miniature. If you don’t have the resources to create a big world, Pee-wee gives you an angle to make it surreal or blatantly artificial. They should have embraced that.

Another dead giveaway is the score trying to sound like Danny Elfman’s but not being Danny Elfman. Mark Mothersbaugh is a great musician but don’t ask him to ape Danny Elfman. It will only remind us that it’s not Danny Elfman, but boy is it trying to sound like him. It would have been worth whatever it cost just to license the Elfman theme from Big Adventure, because there are scenes that are executed well, but when the Muzak version of Danny Elfman plays it pulls you right out of it.

Pee-wee's Big Holiday

Pee-wee’s Big Holiday

There are some bright spots. Joe Manganiello is fantastic doing schtick with Pee-wee. Pee-wee’s encounters on the road are endearing. Some are variations on things that happened in Big Adventure too and others are completely new. Pee-wee does one bit with a balloon that unfolds in one long take, and it’s a brilliant bit of Paul Reubens performing.

I guess Franchise Fred should be careful what he wishes for. I want a sequel to everything but now there are ways to make a sequel that’s not really in the same league. Streaming services will be happy to produce a Joe Dirt 2 as long as it’s inexpensive and episodic, but for a series that began with the vision of Tim Burton and Paul Reubens, that’s not really the sequel we’re asking for. But then you have Universal Soldier or Undisputed which produced their franchise bests with limited resources, so it can be done. They tried taking it to studios for years so maybe this is the place left for Pee-wee. If Netflix will let Reubens make his dark Pee-wee movie, maybe it’ll be worth the compromise but it’s not quite enough for Big Holiday.

Jessica Jones Exclusive: Susie Abromeit On Auditioning For Jessica

“You can’t really argue when it makes your boobs look awesome.” – Susie Abromeit, Jessica Jones

The show may be called Jessica Jones but there are so many fascinating characters in every episode orbiting around Jessica (Krysten Ritter). One of those characters is Pam, the assistant of uber lawyer Jeri Hogarth (Carrie-Anne Moss). Pam has been having an affair with Hogarth while her ex-wife Wendy (Robin Weigert) sues for her share in the divorce.

Susie Abromeit plays Pam and made a striking impression whenever she entered scenes with Ritter, Moss and Weigert. I got to speak with Abromeit by phone once the first season of Jessica Jones launched on Netflix. All 13 episodes of Jessica Jones are available for streaming now and spoilers follow in this interview.

Nerd Report: There are so many great characters on Jessica Jones. Have you been really happy with what you got to do with Pam?

Susie Abromeit: I’m so happy with the show. It’s pretty extraordinary to be a part of a show that you actually love watching. Regardless if I was in the show or not, there’s a couple shows that I’m obsessed with, which is Game of Thrones. Before that was Breaking Bad. Every time Game of Thrones is on, it’s like, “Oh my God, I have to find out what happens.” Jessica Jones has replaced that now. The fact that I’ve always said I want to be a part of a show that I love watching. It’s pretty extraordinary to be a part of that, that you actually love being a part of the show.

Nerd Report: Did you see the new Game of Thrones trailer with Jon Snow?

Susie Abromeit: No! Oh my God, he’s in it! No way! [Laughs]

Nerd Report: I hope that wasn’t a spoiler for you.

Susie Abromeit: No, but the whole rumor whether or not he’s going to come back, I kind of assumed. Like, you can’t kill him. You just can’t. He’s too much of a pivotal character. It’s like killing Dinklage. You can’t do it. The show won’t work without him.

Nerd Report: You’ve been acting for a while. How did you get the part on Jessica Jones?

Susie Abromeit: Well, I had auditioned for Jessica Jones about a year ago. I actually auditioned for Jessica. I read the script. I freaked out over it. I immediately put it up on the vision board. I’ll tell you what I wrote. What I wrote was, “booking a pilot, series regular role on a major network or major online network/Netflix/Amazon/etc. that is like the character Jessica in Jessica Jones, a girl battling demons and is a bit damaged, or someone that explored universal topics, a character who’s a strong, independent woman who is comfortable in her sexuality who has a deep sense of love.” And I said “filming in New York or L.A.” That’s exactly what I wrote. Next thing you know, my boyfriend ends up going to New York for a business trip and I ended up tagging along and I called up my agent, was like, “Hey, I’m in town, just want to see what’s going on.” He had a last minute audition for me and he said, “You have to go in for this, Jessica Jones.” Next thing you know, three days later, I end up booking the role. Or that week, it was very, very quick, for the role of Pam. When I went back to look at my vision board, I was like I can’t believe that I manifested this. It was pretty insane.

Nerd Report: You actually read for Jessica? That would have been a very different Jessica.

Susie Abromeit: So different. I’m so glad that she booked it because I don’t think there’s a better Jessica Jones than Krysten Ritter. It would’ve been very different. Her deadpan is next to no one. They definitely picked the right Jessica.

Susie Abromeit and Carrie-Anne Moss in Marvel's Jessica Jones

Susie Abromeit and Carrie-Anne Moss in Marvel’s Jessica Jones

Nerd Report: Was that a fun or sweet scene when you’re sleeping on Carrie-Ann Moss in the limo?

Susie Abromeit: Yeah, yeah, Carrie’s just really, really beautifully lovely to work with. I called her Mother Earth because as just a human being, she’s really just one of the best human beings out there. I think the way she looks at life, the way she’s a multi-faceted human being, she has so much wisdom to give. Not just on the actor level or professional level, but in terms of just her life, her family life, the way she looks at the world, she’s a really well-read intellectual who just has a beautiful, spiritual soul. Every scene I get to do with Krysten Ritter and Carrie was such a treat. It was really awesome to be around that.

Nerd Report: How about the ultimatum scene, was that a tough scene?

Susie Abromeit: Carrie’s a pro. She was just a consummate pro. We were always just talking about character, story. Love scenes are generally very awkward and uncomfortable but she’s such a pro. It’s always about the story. What do our characters want? We got to play around with all different ideas in terms of blocking and in terms of how we really wanted to play that scene. I think all the scenes. I think the scene I really loved the most was the interrogation scene. I felt like that was awesome.

Nerd Report: Was the scene where Wendy gets Kilgraved the only action scene you were there for?

Susie Abromeit: Yes. That was definitely intense. What was great is that both Robin and Carrie, just watching them work and getting ready for the scene, they were really getting into it like a minute in, getting into that mind frame that they were having a fight. Watching the stunt work was just really intense and great. Yeah, being able to see the consummate pros just at their best, just working is an awesome feeling to be involved in, to be working with just really talented actors.

Nerd Report: You deliver the death blow. Was that a very lightweight prop in reality?

Susie Abromeit: Well, originally when I was given the real prop, because there was actually a real vase, they made a copy of it. There was a foam one which you could not tell the difference. I give it to the production team because you could not tell the difference. When I held the real one in my hand, it was so heavy. It felt like 20 pounds. But then I was holding the foam one and it was kind of hard to replicate the weight of that, trying to make it look like it’s really, really heavy because your body can’t quite replicate that idea. It’s a lot easier when you’re dealing with a real thing versus a foam thing. So that was a bit tricky. It was just an awesome set to be on.

Nerd Report: Another great scene was when Wendy has the incriminating e-mail and you vouch for Hogarth. Was that a fun one?

Susie Abromeit: Yeah, that was actually when I was originally auditioning for the role of Pam, I remember I played that role so many different ways. There were so many variations that we had done. What was interesting was that there was probably a good 10 takes I think I had done, and I played them a lot differently. There was one take that obviously didn’t make it but one that was a bit more vulnerable, like trying to stand up for her but not being very good at it. That was something that we were toying with, but by the end of the whole scene, Carrie turned to me in a very Trinity like way and she’s like, “Susie, you found her. You found the character.” It was like, “Neo, we found you.” It was a very awesome moment to have that acknowledgement from her in a very Trinity-like way.

Nerd Report: With the interrogation scene, were you still surprised when you saw it in the final show, or did it turn out like it seemed when you were shooting it?

Susie Abromeit: Yeah, sometimes you can think, for instance, that particular scene we were talking about that we shot so many different ways, I was curious which cut they were going to use. It’s always exciting to see the end result of the art that we set out to make. Having it just come to life, being part of a show I love so much is just a really awesome feeling.

Nerd Report: How do you like Pam’s fashion?

Susie Abromeit: I mean, her DVF rack dresses are amazing. There was a comment on Twitter, “I think Pam’s character has every DVF rack dress known to man.” I thought that was hilarious. I was like hey, if it works for Pam, it works. It’s awesome. Literally every time I was with wardrobe, we would go back and forth between which dresses, we’d always come back to DVF because they just fit so amazingly well. You know, they make boobs look awesome. You can’t really argue when it makes your boobs look awesome. I think that’s for all women. She knows how to complement a woman’s body really well. Sometimes it’s like they can get squished. You want to show off your curves, DVF knows how to do it. It always came back.

Nerd Report: Were you ever worried that the cleavage was a little bit much for a law office?

Susie Abromeit: There was some discussion of that. We went back and forth. My best friend was like, “I saw Jessica Jones! Boobs!” It was like, “… boobs.” I think it was part of the character. Pam’s very comfortable with her sexuality and she wears it very well. So I think that’s just who she is. We had a bit of a discussion about it but I think she’s a sexual character. I think that’s very much a part of who she is. Obviously, the obvious choice would be to be covered up. I think that would be very much Carrie’s character, but I think in order for relationships to have that synergy and that extra juice, you kind of have to have a little bit of the opposites attract kind of thing. They’re able to complement each other and bring something out. So I think with Pam, her softness and her gentleness and her sexuality, that’s the thing that she offers. And sort of her naivety, her youthfulness. She’s able to bring that out for Carrie’s character, Geri. Geri is very masculine and is continually working and is always covered up and is very business, cutthroat. I think that idea is very polarizing. I think if I was very much like Geri, I don’t think it would be that interesting of a relationship. And boobs are awesome to look at.

Nerd Report: How important was it for you to be playing a lesbian relationship, even if it was a love triangle, in this day and age?

Susie Abromeit: I think it’s really important. The LGBT community is very close to my heart. I had one of my dearest friends who I briefly dated for a hot minute, he was a dear friend of mine in college. He ended up coming out shortly after. I was one of the first people he came out to. What I was really excited about was a lot of the articles that came out was it’s not a stereotypical lesbian relationship. It felt more authentic which was really beautiful to hear. All of us have struggled in some way so especially for the LGBT community where they’re finally just having rights given to them, this is real progress and a real step in the right direction. The more we can shed light on the beauty of that, like Orange is the New Black, I’m all for it.

Nerd Report: Were you relieved that Pam is alive at the end of the season so you get to come back?

Susie Abromeit: You know, I have no idea but all I can say is #freePam. [Laughs]

Nerd Report: It’s better than if you’d been killed.

Susie Abromeit: Yeah, who knows? On TV shows people still come back in flashbacks but you really never know. I think there are so many possibilities with Pam’s character and I hope that people respond to her story and want to bring her back because it was so much fun playing her. It would be really interesting to see where that storyline goes. There was some talk in a few articles online saying there were rumors going around that there could be a Daredevil/Jessica Jones crossover with Pam’s character. I have no idea. I haven’t heard a single peep, but those are the articles that I was reading. So you never know.

Nerd Report: Since it’s Marvel, do you think Pam could ever manifest some super powers of her own?

Susie Abromeit: I mean, it’s not lost on me that that’s a possibility. There’s crazy things that happen all the time, so I’m hopeful that that would be the ideal setting, to have Pam have super powers, for sure.

Narcos Exclusive: Chris Brancato on the Entourage Factor and the Real Steven Murphy



NARCOS S01E03 “The Men of Always”

The latest Netflix series, Narcos, tells the story of legendary drug lord Pablo Escobar, played by Wagner Moura. In parallel narratives, we see how Escobar built his cocaine empire, and how DEA agent Steve Murphy (Boyd Holbrook) worked to bring him down. All 10 season one episodes of Narcos are now available on Netflix.

I got to speak with veteran television producer Chris Brancato about bringing Narcos to the screen. Brancato had just returned from the premiere of Narcos in Rio when we spoke by phone. Having worked on shows like Boomtown, Tru Calling and most recently Hannibal, Brancato shared his in-depth research about Escobar and Murphy, illustrating how Narcos came to be on Netflix.

Nerd Report: How long were you developing a Pablo Escobar story?

Chris Brancato: This was a project that a producer named Eric Newman had been developing for a number of years in the feature space. He formed a relationship with the Brazilian director Jose Padilha. At a certain point, I think Erick, like many feature film producers these days, started to think about the story of narcotics trafficking in Colombia as being too big a subject matter for a two hour movie. There had been some people who had attempted to do the book Killing Pablo as a feature film and you just can’t fit the breadth and depth of this story in two hours. Eric was very smart and he took the project to Netflix with Jose attached to direct. I was called aboard after that, so the project was initiated by Eric Newman and I came aboard to work with Jose on developing the scripts  that we shot as what would be the pilot, but it was a 10 episode straight to series order, and in fact is 20 episodes to tell the story of Escobar’s rise and fall. That was the initiation of the project when Eric and Gaumont studio called me and asked me if I wanted to be involved as the show runner. I felt like I was born to do this type of subject matter and this type of show so I said yes right away.

Nerd Report: Were you show runner on other shows before?

Chris Brancato: Years ago, I created a show for the Syfy channel called First Wave. I show ran Law & Order: Criminal Intent in its last season. I was an executive producer of Hannibal with Bryan Fuller. Yes, I’ve run a bunch of different shows and made a bunch of pilots. This was something for me that was less a new experience in terms of show running and more of a labor of love in terms of subject matter. You very, very rarely get to do this kind of darker material on any kind of network level obviously. Even in cable, you have oftentimes commercial restrictions and commercial breaks. So doing this at Netflix was an ideal place to do it.

Nerd Report: How different was working at Netflix, starting with the 10-20 episode order to begin with?

Chris Brancato: It was 10 episodes to begin with but then you’d have to end the season with Escobar still alive. So we always figured they would also pick up the second season, which they have. To be honest, the thing about Netflix that I love is I think they’re extremely filmmaker friendly. They certainly had a very strong desire to work with Jose Padilha who had done the Elite Squad movies in Brazil. They certainly welcomed the conception of the show that we had and in fact I remember meeting with Cindy Holland and some of the folks over there, Jane Wiseman, and I said, “We’ve decided we want the narcos speaking Spanish. We’re not going to do that thing where suddenly obviously Colombian characters are speaking in English. So the show could be 30% in Spanish.” And they were like, “Or 40, or 50.” I couldn’t even believe it. They just completely embraced the notion of doing a grounded, authentic show which I think is one of the things that separates it from some previous incarnations of the subject matter of which there’ve been many.

(L to R) WAGNER MAURA and JUAN PABLO RABA star in NARCOS. NARCOS S01E01 "Descenso"

NARCOS S01E01 “Descenso”

Pablo Escobar didn’t speak a word of English, so I think we create an authenticity by doing that. At the same time, when we made the show, it’s about 60% in English and 40% in Spanish. When you go into the narcos talking, you now get subtitles so in a certain way, if you don’t speak Spanish, it makes you feel like you’re entering this privileged world. You’re seeing secretive communications in some way because of the subtitles. We shot it in Colombia and that was a huge operation to get a country that, first of all, is a little bit tired of that subject matter. They were wonderful in accepting the fact that Netflix was going to come down and do this show. They wanted us to be respectful to their point of view which is effectively their cops and soldiers and citizens were the ones who bore the brunt of Escobar’s wrath. They’re the ones who bore the brunt of our North American ceaseless desire for cocaine and they’re the ones who ultimately killed Escobar and basically took down most of the other major drug traffickers of that era. And certainly we were intending to tell the Colombian side of things, both the good and the bad.

Nerd Report: Is Narcos definitely 20 episodes and out? That’s when Pablo dies?

Chris Brancato: Well, you could continue the series. In other words, the interesting thing that you see with El Chapo. You could name me a country and I could pretty much tell you what cartel operates in that country whether it’s D-Company in India doing heroin or whether it’s the Guadalajara cartel in Mexico or Valle del Norte in a later Colombian cartel, there’s no shortage of drug cartels around the world. I used to joke that wherever Netflix is opening its service, we can go find a drug cartel there and do the show. I think yes, Escobar will eventually be dead and the series would have to move on to other stories.

Nerd Report: Possibly in parallel eras like the ‘80s or all different?

Chris Brancato: To my mind, I would assume that the next very, very interesting story to tell is that of the Calle cartel. In season one, we tough on the rivalry between the Calle and Medellin cartels and ultimately, after Escobar was taken down, the Calle cartel assumed a kind of pre-eminence. So the story of how they got taken down is pretty darn interesting too, though much less known to people. In fact, Escobar’s story isn’t that well known to people. If you mention Pablo Escobar, you go, “Oh yeah, he was that drug lord.” Very few people know the incredible richness and depth of the story and the complexity of this guy. He was a monster and a psychopath but also he ran for Colombian congress as an alternate. He was a man of the people. He was a Robin Hood. He flew over in a helicopter over the barrios he built in Medellin. So just a very, very multi-layered character which is obviously always what you want to be trying to write. Wagner Moura starred in Jose Padilha’s Elite Squad movies played Pablo. He’s a brilliant actor. It’s hard not to feel a weird empathy for him even as he’s doing these terrible things.

Nerd Report: At any point do you have to address the Entourage factor where the Medellin film was a joke about his bid to be a serious artist?

Chris Brancato: [Laughs] It’s funny, I didn’t watch the season of Entourage where that stuff got brought up but I’ve obviously heard about it many times. I like Entourage very, very much but yes, when we started making this show, there were jokes and friends of mine who sent me the trailer for Medellin from Entourage. We would sit in the writers room and laugh about it and keep our fingers crossed that we didn’t do a parody, which I think we avoided.

Nerd Report: That was 10 years ago already but could it have had something to do with getting Escobar’s name back into the spotlight?

Chris Brancato: No, I don’t think that was it as much as the fact that quite honestly, Eric Newman was like a dog with a bone. He knew this was a great story to tell, and again, in Latin America, the story has been told in telenovelas, a wonderful one called El Patron Del Mal. So particularly Colombians, this is something they’ve seen told numerous times because it’s part of their national history. But Eric was interested in finding a platform for it where you could really tell the story. Netflix, to their credit, was interested in doing a show that had crossover appeal to both North American and Latin American audiences and Brazil as well. They were also very keen on working with Jose because his movies have done very well on their streaming service. It was the perfect storm of right director, right project, right territories that they were opening their service in. I actually think maybe they’ve been a little bit surprised at the fact that the United States and Europe seem very, very interested in this show as well. That’s frankly no surprise to me because it’s a great subject. It’s a great story.

Pedro Pascal and Boyd Holbrook as Javier Pena and Steve Murphy in Netflix's original series Narcos

Pedro Pascal and Boyd Holbrook as Javier Pena and Steve Murphy in Netflix’s original series Narcos

Nerd Report: Was Steve Murphy a real DEA agent?

Chris Brancato: He’s a real guy. He and Javier Pena, who are portrayed by Boyd Holbrook and Pedro Pascal, were signed on by Eric at a certain point in the process before I came aboard. Their life rights were acquired. When I came onto the show, I sat and talked to those guys quite a bit and got a lot of detail and information about what the world looked like from their point of view, in terms of going down there. Javier Pena was in Colombia before Murphy got there so we decided to make the window character, Steve Murphy, who’s kind of the white guy coming down to Colombia after having worked DEA in Miami and coming into Colombia where another DEA guy knows the language and knows the drill so to speak is suddenly his partner. We relied on those guys a lot for really interesting details and information. There’s all kinds of conflict in the embassy about the CIA, that Americans were interested in communists down there as opposed to drug lords at the time, so the DEA were like the kids crying wolf in the corner. They didn’t have the resources they needed so at that time, it was not fully understood how substantial the cocaine problem was going to become in our country.

Nerd Report: Having worked on Hannibal, do you have any hopes for a fourth season to end up somewhere sometime down the line?

Chris Brancato: Yes, it would be wonderful. One of the things that was incredible about that experience was working with Bryan Fuller. He really had an incredible vision for that show. I loved working with him. I wasn’t involved with the third season. I did the first two, but Bryan’s goal was to make it something that’s full and complete in three seasons if necessary, and then of course he could always conjure up a new storyline. So yes, it would be wonderful if it moved forward. In my opinion it’s a really interesting and daring show for NBC to put on network air. It’s really amazing. I had a lot of fun on that.

Bojack Horseman Exclusive: Creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg Interview


I’ve been a Bojack Horseman champion ever since Netflix recommended I watch it after Xavier Dolan’s I Killed My Mother. I even told David Boreanaz about the season one episode featuring tours of his fake house and Boreobbleheads merchandise. When Netflix presented a panel of their show runners to the Television Critics Association, I had a serious question for Bojack creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg about season two. In the season premiere, we see Todd (Aaron Paul) going to sleep reading a book by Ian McEwan called Sandwich. During the panel I asked Bob-Waksberg if there was a deeper meaning to that.

Todd getting ready for bed in the backseat of Bojack's car.

Todd getting ready for bed in the backseat of Bojack’s car.

“We like to have lots of little background jokes and things for people to notice throughout the season,” Bob-Waksberg said. “It encourages people to watch maybe more than the once and find things they missed the first time. And some of our jokes are very specific and mean something, and some of them are more open to interpretation. I think with the Ian McEwan joke, it was just like: What’s a thing that Todd would read while going to sleep? Oh, probably an Ian McEwan book. And what’s a good Ian McEwan book? Todd would probably like a book about a sandwich.”

After the panel I followed up with Bob-Waksberg with more Bojack Horseman questions and ended up having a nice one on one interview with him. Bojack Horseman season two is now streaming on Netflix.

Nerd Report: I think I was the first person to tell David Boreanaz about the Boreobbleheads.

Raphael Bob-Waksberg Oh, that was you.

Nerd Report: Oh, you saw that?

Raphael Bob-Waksberg Yeah, he got very jumpy.

Nerd Report: Oh, he was playing with me.

Raphael Bob-Waksberg Yeah, I know, I know.

Nerd Report: I talked to him later though.

Raphael Bob-Waksberg Has he seen the episode?

Nerd Report: He said he did and he thought it was funny.

Raphael Bob-Waksberg Oh, I’m glad to hear that. We mean no disrespect to David Boreanaz. We’re all fans. He’s a real angel, so that’s nice of him.

Nerd Report: You got Daniel Radcliffe this year. Now that you’re established, have there been any celebrities you couldn’t get clearance on? Was Maggot Gyllenhaal a tough one?

Raphael Bob-Waksberg No, it’s funny. We’re kind of allowed to do whatever we want. I keep waiting for someone to be like, “Don’t do that.” It’s weird because we have this disclaimer at the end of every episode saying the characters are in no way related to anyone real or fictional. It’s completely coincidental. I look at that and go, “That’s not right, is it? Because Maggot Gyllenhaal is very clearly a takeoff of Maggie Gyllenhaal. And we say Jake Gyllenhaal as well, but I guess we’re covering our bases legally.” I think most people in this business have a sense of humor about themselves. I don’t think we make a joke about anybody who we felt couldn’t take it.

Nerd Report: Did you learn from South Park about doing Scientology jokes, so this is clearly not a spoof of Scientology?

Raphael Bob-Waksberg You know, I feel like in the community I’m in, I feel like we have to protect ourselves more from the improv community. By saying this is not about Scientology, all the improv people can be like, “Oh yeah, it’s about Scientology.” It actually protects us there, but actually we have some concerns about improv. So it actually might be more about improv than Scientology but we’ll use the Scientology thing as a cover for the improv while pretending we’re using the improv thing as cover for Scientology. I will say about Scientology, one of my favorite pieces of casting for the season was for a long time, we were really having trouble casting this snow monkey character who is the last scene in the whole season. It was really pivotal and we needed someone really good. What about this person? This person passed. We couldn’t find it. No, that person’s not quite… I remember it was the day before we had to really figure it out and I watched that Scientology documentary. I hear someone talking and it’s Jason Beghe and I go, “Oh my God, that’s my snow monkey. That’s the guy.” So I discovered him through him talking about Scientology. That’s how we found him for our show.

Young Bojack Horseman and his mom (Wendie Malick)

Young Bojack Horseman and his mom (Wendie Malick)

Nerd Report: Do you ever want to push the melancholy side of Bojack further?

Raphael Bob-Waksberg I don’t know further. We push it pretty far. I don’t think we’ve hit the wall yet. I think it’s something that episode by episode we kind of feel out of how sad can we go with this? It’s feeling it out as we go. Again, there’s no limits. We don’t get the notes of “too sad.” It’s a great place to work. They really let us do what we want to do. The show, built into the DNA, is he’s a sad character and he’s going to have some sad moments.

Nerd Report: Have you started the season three writers room?

Raphael Bob-Waksberg Yeah, we’re kind of gearing up. The conversations have kind of been percolating. It’s early days yet but we have a few ideas that we’re playing around with.

Nerd Report: Do you have a specific set of rules for which parts of Bojack’s world are animals and what parts are just like ours?

Raphael Bob-Waksberg No, we kind of figure it out as we go. There’s no rule. The rules kind of solidify as we go but even then, we’ll throw something out for the sake of a joke. We try to be very consistent in general of no, we established this is true. That’s what happened. This happened in 1973, that happened in 1973 but sometimes we come up to the edge of that. In season one, there’s a very quick background joke about the Beatles and it’s four pictures of beetles. In this season we got Paul McCartney and it’s like are we going to make Paul McCartney a beetle? No, we’ll let him be Paul McCartney. You have to imagine okay, maybe there are two different bands. One was the Beatles with and A with Paul McCartney and one was the Beetles with an E that was just beetles. We kind of self justify as we go.

Nerd Report: But you stuffed McCartney in a cake.

Raphael Bob-Waksberg Yes, exactly. We wouldn’t want to humiliate him. We want to dignify him. We wouldn’t make him a beetle. No, we’ll put him in this cake and make him sit in the cake for the whole episode and then jump out and say surprise to nobody.

Nerd Report: Did the Christmas special come out of someone saying, “Could you actually do episodes of Horsin’ Around?

Raphael Bob-Waksberg Yeah, it came from us saying that. I wanted to do it. I’m a fan of those old three camera shows. The original pitch was: it’s just Horsin’ Around. Netflix was like, “Maybe give it a Bojack/Todd framing device.” I was like okay, fine, and I’m glad they did because I think that stuff is really funny. But yeah, it came from me wanting to try out that style and play around with it. I’m always interested in new ways of telling stories for the show too. In season one we had our Princess Caroline episode. We had our week leading up to the wedding episode where every scene is a different day. In season two we had our three short one acts episode. Now in season three we’re talking about what are some fun different kinds of ways to tell stories? So the Horsin’ Around episode is another way to do that.

Nerd Report: You won’t believe how I discovered Bojack Horseman. I watched Xavier Dolan’s movie I Killed My Mother because I had just seen Mommy and Netflix recommended “You might also like” Bojack Horseman. So I watched it just so I could tell Xavier Dolan his movie led me to Bojack Horseman, and I did. 

Raphael Bob-Waksberg Well, they have an algorithm and I don’t pretend to understand it, but it works.

Backstage on Horsin' Around

Backstage on Horsin’ Around

Nerd Report: The first time you wrote the line “suck a d*ck dumb sh*ts,” did you know that was going to be your catch phrase?

Raphael Bob-Waksberg I hope that’s not our only catch phrase. It has a certain magic to it.

Nerd Report: Listen, it’s liberating to say that when something’s going wrong.

Raphael Bob-Waksberg Sometimes the dumbest things are the funniest.