Monday, October 31, 2011

Re-Discovering Psycho and Anthony Perkins

This weekend I saw Alfred Hitchcock's classic film Psycho for the first time in more than 15 years. Why it has taken me this long to re-watch it, I don't really know, though I often like to tell myself that it probably so scared the Beetlejuice out of me back then that I just never had the desire to see it again. Of course, upon seeing it again, I quickly realized my mistake of avoiding this for so long since it is a classic for a reason. Everything about the film is just so masterfully done--from the shot selections to the casting, from the dialogue to the lighting. It would make a welcome addition to my top 10 films to watch on Halloween which I posted last year.

In any case, what grabbed me more about the film this time around, apart from rediscovering everything about the film that made it so great, is just how attractive Norman Bates was. I guess back then I was just focused on trying not to get too scared to notice Anthony Perkins' pretty face. Granted, that was most definitely part of Hitchcock's thought process when casting Perkins. Attractive people aren't usually the bad guys! So Bates' boyish good looks enabled him to trick Marion and the audience into thinking he's just messed up, but not that messed up.

Lost long twins: Perkins and Garfield

As I focused in on Perkins' face and mannerisms while I watched, I noticed that he looked a bit like Andrew Garfield of Social Network and Amazing Spider-Man fame. A quick Google search confirmed that plenty of people have had the same thoughts. I'm not advocating for a remake with Garfield as Bates, especially since Gus Van Sant already made one back in 1998 which I never watched but now I feel like I should, but I'd settle for him to play a character very similar to him. I think he most definitely could pull it off.

With all of that said, Happy Halloween to you and yours!

Pilot Thoughts: Grimm

Fairy tales and their characters are real... wait, didn't I just write that same opening line last week? Oh right, there are two shows about fairy tales living in the real world this season, but make no mistake, they really aren't the same show at all. For one thing ABC's Once Upon A Time relies more on the Disneyfied vision of fairy tales while NBC's Grimm, as evident by its name, follows the earlier, darker interpretations of the Brothers Grimm. But inasmuch as this difference make them both pretty distinct, I wish they'd somehow merge into one very good shows as opposed to two lesser ones. Once Upon A Time is just a bit too cheesy while Grimm is just a bit too humorless. With that said, I actually preferred Grimm's pilot just a wee bit more than the other show perhaps since the structure of the show is pretty standard (procedural) except with a slight supernatural bent, no alternate dimension reality at work here!

Nick Burckhardt (David Giuntoli) is a cop who starts seeing strange things such as people's face turning into monsters momentarily. His eccentric aunt Marie, well-played by Kate Burton, informs him that he comes from a long line of Grimms which gives him the ability to see and fight supernatural creatures who live among us. Cue the Monster of the Week in the form of a "blutbad" kidnapping and killing girls who wear red hoodies. There's some world building here with Marie's book catalog of monsters indicating she's been finding the good fight for awhile, Eddie (Silas Weir Mitchell) helping Nick showing that not all supernatural creatures are evil, and Captain Renard (Sasha Roiz) being revealed as the possible Big Bad. Overall, it was actually a pretty solid pilot that was a lot easier to swallow or follow than Once Upon A Time. It's also a show that one could see getting better with time hopefully finding a better balance of seriousness and humor. So while this lacked the magic of that other fairy tale show, it more than made up for it by how grounded and established the show already feels.

The ratings were good-bad depending on how one looked at them. Relative to other networks, it was pretty low, but relative to NBC's depressed numbers and the fact that it was up against Game 7 of the World Series, it did pretty okay. I think for NBC "pretty okay" is good enough, especially for a Friday night show up against similar (and far superior) shows such as Supernatural and Fringe. B/B-

Sunday, October 30, 2011

TV Report: Weekly Drama Rankings

Baseball wreaked havoc to the schedule this past week for a few drama shows mostly FOX shows, but like the comedies, it should be a full slate of shows next week for November sweeps.

1. Marthas and Caitlins (The Good Wife) - Color me shocked to see this on top of the list, but here it is. Sure there wasn't nearly enough Kalinda, but guest star Dylan Baker was back and really put Alicia through the ringer. Though she had nice backup from Celeste who just keeps getting better and better as a character. It was a bit refreshing for Eli to be workin on a political matter, trying to convince the Democrats (Donna Brazile!) to have Peter speak as keynote during their convention. He's getting closer to finding out about the whole Alicia/Peter/Kalinda drama and I can't wait for that. Finally, we get Alicia interviewing two candidates for a first-year associate job. It enabled us to glean more of the inter-office politics at play (and Alicia's standing) as well as get us a nice Alicia/Will moment in the end.

2. Intrigue (Revenge) - Remember those halcyon days where every episode was Emily outmaneuvering everyone to carry out her weekly revenge plots? They've wisely mixed it up the past couple of episodes focusing instead of the characters. This week we get the fallout of Lydia's fall last week (she's in a coma!) with Nolan/Emily using their recording to wedge the relationship between the Grayson and their trusted head of security. The end with him stalking Emily was quite chilling and hints that not everything will go as swimmingly for Emily as it has been early on. Finally, this whole thing with Tyler is heating up. Still not 100% sure of his intentions, but it's getting clearer that most of it has to do with Daniel. Does he resent his friend's life? Does he secretly love him? Both? Neither? Whichever it is, it's certainly bad news for everyone involved.

3. Slash Fiction (Supernatural) - I seriously thought that after the second episode when Castiel died, I would quickly lose interest in the show, but they've certainly proved me wrong as the whole Leviathan storyline as well as Dean's insurmountable guilt about killing Amy have kept me engaged. Both of those storylines were a huge part of this week's episode. For the latter, they finally figured out how to injure them (cleaning products) and for the former, Sam finally found out the truth. The ending was a bit melodramatic, but I guess it had to happen that way.

4. Demons (Castle) - Don't have much to say about this past week's episode except to say that it was another fun episode albeit with a supernatural twist as they investigate a possibly murder by ghost. All the the ghost stuff enabled Beckett and Castle to really freak out and make fun each other which kept the episode from being too bogged down from the scary. Though looking forward to the next episode, it looks like things are about to get particularly suspenseful and heartbreaking. Not sure I'm ready for that.

5. Masked (The Secret Circle) - I was a bit hesitant when it came to the whole "witch hunter" angle they introduced last week, but they spent a great deal of this week's episode explaining it and I think it could work. If anything, this will give the group a common foe to face perhaps lessening the inter-group drama inherent in teen dramas such as these. Of course Cassie has a dark side in her and is more powerful than the rest, but par for the course!

6. One Coin in a Fountain (Pan Am) - Doesn't feel like this show's momentum has stalled a bit? I think part of it is their insistence these last couple of episodes to sideline Karine Vanisse, frankly their best asset. I still like the show especially when it comes to the whole spy subplot, but I need more than just the spy stuff and Karine to keep me interested.

TV Report: Weekly Comedy Rankings

Still not a complete slate of comedies, but that should change this upcoming week with November sweeps already underway. With Halloween tomorrow, most shows wisely chose to air their Halloween episode this past week, because doing it after Halloween would be a bit lame.

1. Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps (Community) - After taking last week off, Community is back at the top with yet another imaginative episode only their show could've tackled. Like their last new episode, the show contained seven mini-stories, this time the each of the gang telling their version of a scary story all prompted by psych major Britta wanting to figure out who amongst them is the homicidal maniac per the results of the psych test she forced them all to take earlier. The stories themselves were hilarious. My favorite was Shelley's Rapture-influenced tale containing Dean Pelton in a devil-in-drag costume (love).

2. Noretta (How I Met Your Mother) - Not a Halloween episode (they'll have theirs tomorrow), but it's still a really hilarious, albeit supremely disturbing, episode. I say disturbing because most of the plot dealt with the characters imagining their significant others as their parents. The best has got to be when both Marshall and Lily realized that they married a version of their father and the awesomeness of seeing them try to make out. With that said, this episode really racked up the guest stars with Frances Conroy and Wayne Brady as Barney's mom and brother, Christine Rose as Ted's mom, Bill Fagerbakke as Marshall's dad, Chris Elliot as Lily's dad, and Weird Al Yankovic... not to mention recurring characters Nora and Kevin.

3. Spooky Endings (Happy Endings) - This episode was worth it if only to see Penny and Max dressed up as mom and child. Seeing Max try to manipulate the mechanical baby hands was truly awesome. Brad and Jane was saddled with house sitting in the suburbs which initially worried me, but good comedy was mined from the aggressive trick-or-treaters. Finally, I actually loved the parallel stories of Dave and Alex. Both were single on Halloween finally getting to dress in their non-couple costumes only for Dave's Austin Powers getting mistaken for Elton John which sort of matches Alex's Marilyn Monroe. Also Alex getting mistaken for a man? Good stuff.

4. Halloween (Suburgatory) - The kids storyline worked out better for men than the adults. The latter was George trying to convince Dallas that being scared on Halloween is a must. Some good moments, but Tessa being possibly possessed storyline by the "dead" prior occupant of her room engaged me more. The exorcism scene was a howl. Mostly I enjoyed the episode because the end, with George and Tessa scaring the neighborhood kids with their epic Halloween display on their yard, was one of the rare times we see them both happy about their new situation.

5. Meet 'n' Greet (Parks and Recreation) - Disappointed isn't the exact word I would use, because to be honest this show can still do no wrong. I think I just had too high of an expectation for this episode. Most of the Halloween stuff, with Andy and April throwing a party at their house (to Ben's chagrin) was fantastic. Certainly the Ron/Ann interaction was golden. But then Chris' continued oblivious act when it comes to Jerry and his feelings about dating his daughter didn't feel right and while I appreciated the Ben/Andy "fight" I expect more to come from it. The Tom/Leslie B-plot with Leslie meeting the town's business owners didn't jive with the Halloween-centric episode, but was largely saved by Tom's touching montage video in the end. Just happy that the whole 720 venture is done. Now I need more Ben/Leslie scenes together. STOP KEEPING THEM APART, WRITERS.

6. Spooked (The Office) - A few noteworthy moments such as the skeleton dance, Dwight's montage of weapon-centric geeky costumes, and Robert weaving a truly epic and scary tale in the end using all of their deepest fears were had, but for the most part I've seen them do better. It was definitely a great showcase for Ellie Kemper as she tries to live in a "used to date the boss" kind of way.

7. The Good Guy Fluctuation (Big Bang Theory) - If I didn't know anything about the show and just saw the episode for what it was, this probably would've ranked higher, but I'm not a big fan of episodes where the gang gangs up on Sheldon. This is probably weird since most episodes ARE like that, but this past week's episode felt a bit more mean-spirited in that regards and those I'm just uncomfortable with. It really went too far towards the end when he thought he caused Howard to get a heart attack and then inadvertently shocked himself in the end. It wasn't funny. Yes, he got the last laugh in the end with a brilliant "zombie coming forth from the couch" gag, but even that felt mean-spirited back as Leonard was going through something really personal.

8. And the Disappearing Bed (2 Broke Girls) - I bet if the rest of the shows didn't air their Halloween episodes, this might be ranked a spot or two higher, but here it is in the bottom of the pack this week with a fairly forgettable episode. I'm actually a bit tired talking about this show because it's the same every week. I love the parts when it's just the two girls talking and learning about each other and I conveniently forget about anything else. I think this episode had the requisite "nine inches" kind of humor, so there's that.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Birthday Boy: Matt Smith

Matt Smith is the youngest ever actor to portray the iconic role of The Doctor and today he turned 29. Doesn't it feel like just yesterday when hes took over the role and everyone was asking who the hell he was?

In any case despite Doctor Who practically being a cultural institution in Britain, Smith also has the distinction of being the first actor, out of 11, to be nominated for a BAFTA Award for the role. He also recently won a SCREAM Award, which is good I suppose. More importantly, he won my personal year-end awards last year for Best Actor. He just finished his second season as the Doctor and after a Christmas special, he will be back again in fall 2012 into 2013 for the show's 50th anniversary. Understandably, he has been wary about confirming anything regarding his future after that.

Apparently he was in an uncredited role in In Bruges, but since I didn't even know him back then I don't even remember his character. He also appeared in an episode of Secret Diary of a Call Girl with previous Who companion Billie Piper, which I saw just a few months ago. His most impressive non-Doctor Who role though was playing gay author Christopher Isherwood in the British film Christopher and His Kind.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Looking Forward To...

J. Edgar
Release: November 9, 2011
Distributor: Warner Brothers
Director: Clint Eastwood
Starring: Armie Hammer, Leonardo DiCaprio, Dermot Mulroney, Naomi Watts, Lea Thompson, Josh Lucas, Ed Westsick, Stephen Root, Michael Rady, Ryan McPartlin, Kevin Rankin, Jeffrey Donovan, and Judi Dench

Monday, October 24, 2011

Pilot Thoughts: Once Upon A Time

Fairy tales and their characters are real, but a curse from the Evil Queen transports them to the "real world" with their memories of their past lives erased and imprisoned in our mundane reality. This is the premise of ABC's Once Upon A Time and the pilot is not subtle about making sure that the audience understand that this is what is happening right in front of them. It all comes to head 28 years later when a young boy (Jared Gilmore) visits Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison) telling her that he is the son she gave away for adoption ten years ago and that she must now accompany him back to Storybrooke, Maine aka the "real world" prison the fairy tale characters now reside. We find out early on that Emma is actually the child of Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Prince Charming (Josh Dallas) who they gave up to protect from the evil witch's curse all those years ago. The little boy's new mom is of course the Evil Queen played rather one dimensionally (for now) by Lana Parrilla.

It all sounds quite exciting and fun, but the problem I had with the pilot was that it wasn't nearly as exciting nor as fun as I expected a show about real life fairy tale characters to be. In fact the whole episode felt a bit too bogged down and humorless, which would not be the way to treat this kind of show. In fact it reminded me a lot of another high-risk, high concept show that debuted this season, Terra Nova. Other than being high-concept, both shows were also groomed to be the next big thing as evident by the enormous amount of publicity their respective networks devoted to them. All of this generated a ton of hype and expectation that their respective pilots just couldn't live up to. In the end, their characters suffered by the immense exposition that had to happen making it hard to care about any of them. Terra Nova has been trying to fix that with their subsequent episodes to varying degrees of success, so I fully expect Once Upon A Time to do the same with hopefully more success. They certainly have the cast for it.

At the moment though, I'd have to say that most of the emotional beats fell flat for me. Were we supposed to immediately root for and care about Snow White and Prince Charming? Were we supposed to cower at the Evil Queen's threats or get creeped out by Rumpelstiltskin's (Robert Carlyle) predictions? Were we supposed to feel something for Emma about how she was orphaned or how she gave up her own baby for adoption? I think the show wanted us to feel all of these feelings in the pilot, but unfortunately I just didn't. There's just too much we still don't know and the pilot was muddled enough that the info we did get didn't really help. Fortunately for the show, it got solid ratings last night so it'll have time to find itself. Despite what I said I'm fairly hopeful for this show to be quite magical. B-

ETA: One thing I did find hilarious/brilliant in the pilot was that "Prince Charming" turned into "John Doe" in the real world.

Kelly Clarkson Gets 'Stronger'

Kelly Clarkson's new album Stronger comes out today and from the few songs I've heard it's looking like another awesome one from her. I've already pre-ordered the Deluxe edition which I should be getting any day now, but the rest of you can get your hands on it by going to iTunes, Amazon, or Kelly's website. Hell, why not go to an actual store the sells physical CDs... they still have those, right?

Watch her first music video off the new album below for her single "Mr. Know It All." Not a huge fan of the weird color gradient effect on some of the shots and the slow-mo shots of her hair flying in the wind, but it's still pretty solid. My favorite shot is her in the middle with the band in silhouette behind the wall of newspaper clippings.

Most recently she performed the song in London at the X Factor and if you haven't seen that performance, see it now. The lyrics on the screens coupled with the captivating drum accompaniment made it one of my favorite performances from her. Seriously, the drums were just so cool. Oh and she also sang the hell out of the song, of course.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

TV Report: Weekly Drama Rankings

Only Fringe chose to air an encore episode this week which meant it was still a relatively full load of drama for me. I have to admit, I'm ready for a week or two off just to catch up on other things or you know... sleep.

1. Guilt (Revenge) - Such a greatly structured episode this one turned out to be. Like the pilot, we see the murder early on only for the details to start filling in after that. The more I watch this show, the more I'm rooting for an Emily/Victoria team-up job with both wanting/getting revenge on the same people. Of course with both out to get Lydia, she had no chance. Victoria's speech about the warmth she feels she is hugging her is from the hatred burning inside was soapy perfection. Nolan continues to delight while Tyler continues to confound. What is he up to?

2. Feeding the Rat (The Good Wife) - Really enjoyed the format of the Case of the Week this week with us already knowing the person was innocent. I did expect for the guy to have all the evidence to be stacked in his disfavor only for Alicia to save the day. Yes, that still happened but glad that it helped give some much needed screentime for Diane who felt guilty about letting go of legal aid/pro bobo cases. Meanwhile Eli continues to shine and his insistence on needing Kalinda and Alicia full-time, as unlikely as it may be in the reality of the show, all I could think of was OMG SPIN-OFF!

3. Eye of the Beholder (Castle) - It's clear that Castle/Beckett are endgame, but for now they need obstacles to keep them apart and this week that went to the fetching Kristen Lehman playing Serena Kaye, an insurance investigator who ends up working with them on an art theft case. It's great seeing Beckett react defensively, but also good that by the end both women understand each other. The episode itself was its usual twisty fun self, so more please.

4. Wake (The Secret Circle) - One of the things I like about the show now is that Cassie's grandmother seems to have taken on a Rupert Giles Watcher kind of role which the show needed. Dawn's ruthlessness and new kid Jake's witch hunter history ramp up the tension and action for a show that needs to really get over its hormones.

5. The Poor Kids Do It Everyday (Ringer) - The show continues to intrigue and I'm very glad that THINGS are happening and moving forward, but they can afford to speed things up a bit. I knew that Henry wouldn't have killed Gemma and that Siobhan was the one to take care of it (with what money? who knows? I thought she was broke myself). Bridget's plan to "frame" "herself" was also a bit risky. We randomly have a HS storyline now (it is CW after all) with Juliet in a new school with Logan Echolls as her teacher. Okay, then.

6. Shut Up, Dr. Phil (Supernatural) - This episode is as high as it is solely because James Marsters and Charisma Carpenter played a married witch couple, which is all sorts of awesome for this long-time Buffy fan. But there was a certain je ne sais quoi missing from this episode. The episode felt oddly lightweight despite all of the blood shed and the ending was a bit too rushed, clean, and frankly anti-climactic. Also why didn't Dean try to kill them the way he killed Amy a couple of episodes ago?

7. Eastern Exposure (Pan Am) - Probably the weakest episode for the show to date and I think it's because for the first time we didn't get a Colette storyline. Instead we delved more into the relationship between sisters Kate and Laura (which felt a bit overly dramatic) and learned more about Ted (which was underwhelming). I did enjoy the scuffle between Ted and Dean.

8. In Case of Loss of Control (A Gifted Man) - This show is counting down until it gets canceled as evident by them skipping about two episodes to show this one which was set to air during November sweeps. And you could tell why since it's one of the show's best with the introduction of Eric LaSalle's psychiatrist character and Michael getting more attached to the clinic. The cases were pretty good, too, with the girl getting shot a WOW moment. Also it helped that the episode began with an extended sequence of shirtless sweaty Patrick Wilson working out.

9. Runaway (Terra Nova) - I probably should just give up on the show, but in spite of itself I still keep coming back. This episode a bunch of things happened in regards to the whole Sixers plotline and yet I was mostly bored. Have no idea what the show can do to bring me back, but whatever they're doing now is now captivating me.

Birthday Wish: Ryan Gosling's Scorpion Jacket

Hey gurl... so today is my birthday and you know what I'd really want? Ryan Gosling's iconic scorpion jacket he memorably dons in this year's Drive. Apparently you can buy one for about $160, but it won't be available to ship until 11/11. Pretty wasted opportunity there what with Halloween a week away. I bet lots of film buffs would have loved to get their hands on this and spend Halloween night delivering bon mots such as...
If I drive for you, you give me a time and a place. I give you a five-minute window, anything happens in that five minutes and I'm yours no matter what. I don't sit in while you're running it down; I don't carry a gun... I drive.

Yeah, they'd definitely be sold out quickly if they had done that. Though now that I think about it, what's the use of the jacket without fellow Scorpion Ryan Gosling wearing it? I mean seriously, just look at him owning the jacket...

's costume designer Erin Benach talked to GQ UK about styling Gosling and more specifically about the scorpion jacket. I didn't know that they almost didn't go with the white color because of the difficulty of shooting it and instead was considering olive green or red. I think the latter would've worked in the film, but I still like what they ultimately ended up with. Though the more I think about it, I probably wouldn't be able to pull this jacket off the way Gosling does (who can?). But you know what I really want instead? The dark color version that Gosling gave to Conan O'Brien. When are those going to be made available? Probably never.

What did you think of the jacket in the film? If you're a Scorpio, would you want this jacket ? Nathaniel over at The Film Experience also celebrates the jacket and Scorpios everywhere today.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

TV Report: Weekly Comedy Rankings

Weird week for comedies as almost half of the ones I regularly watch were off the air for one reason or another (actually it's baseball's fault). It made ranking them that much easier though, but man I really wanted a new Parks and Recreation, didn't you?

1. The Rhinitis Revelation (Big Bang Theory) - One of the great things about this show is its roster of great recurring characters and Sheldon's mom played by the very funny Laurie Metcalf is right there on top as one of the best. While it's always good fodder when Sheldon becomes even more childlike at her presence, it's a real treat to see her interacting with everyone else and sizing them all up and their situations. Of course, capping off the episode with Sheldon sick and her singing "Soft Kitty" was just perfect, but I really wished we'd gotten a scene with her and Amy!

2. Go Bullfrogs! (Modern Family) - Off-the-bat have to say that my favorite story line is Phil bringing Haley to his alma mater for a college visit mostly because I just love Ty Burell in anything he does and he got to do two of his best roles: silly crazy dad and awesome caring dad. Claire going out with Mitchell and Cam was also fun, but I saw the whole "Gilles Marini is really straight uh-oh" from a mile away. As for Sofia/Jay/Manny, just one word: "pooberty."

3. Mystery vs. History (How I Met Your Mother) - This episode would've been higher up on the list if the ending to Ted's date had opened up for Janet McIntyre (played by the adorable Amber Stevens of Greek fame) to recur. Yes, she's the alpha woman who's smart, sexy, kind, and rich, but it felt oddly out of character for Ted to be so flabbergasted by that. Still I loved the whole "dating in the age of Facebook" theme of the show. I'm still undecided about Kal Penn being part of the group. He felt a bit stiff and it didn't help that Robin clearly preferred to hang out with Barney. Also... a boy for Marshall and Lily! Aww!

4. Birth (Up All Night) - I quite liked this episode, probably one of the better ones this show has had. But I just think it's WAY TOO EARLY to show us the birth of Amy. We're just getting to know all of these characters and this episode felt like something that could've waited until next season or at the very least the finale. As it is, it's just a good episode, but it could've been MUCH MORE if we had invested more time in them.

5. Secrets and Limos (Happy Endings) - The whole vision board thing was a little funny and a little weird, which kind of encapsulates the show. Kudos to Jane for being able to get "tickets to Greece" and "5 pounds of muscles" on the cheap. The Max/Brad/Brad's boss storyline was just okay, but then again the whole "He jellied my belly!" line was worth it. Also fun to see one of Dave's girls judge the group (like Megan Mullaly's character did last week).

6. And the '90s Horse Party (2 Broke Girls) - Definitely one of the stronger episodes of this show. I didn't even hate all of the diner stuff which I usually do. Of course it's also their umpteenth show where they mock hipsters, but if it works, it works. Though if they can pay off Max's student loan after one 90s horse party, it begs the question WHY NOT DO THIS SEMI-REGULARLY to make money? In any case, the show just needs a more regular dose of heart to go along with its snark.

7. Don't Call Me Shirley (Suburgatory) - I didn't hate the episode, but it felt off to me somehow. It actually felt like this was supposed to be the second or third episode so its placement here as the fourth felt weird. Tessa doing everything in her power to leave the suburbs is a bit of a rehash though I suppose it's okay just to see Dalia and her together for a sleepover. I still love the show, but hoping for better next week (Halloween episode!).

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Looking Forward To...

In Time
Release: October 28, 2011
Distributor: Fox
Director: Andrew Niccol
Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Cillian Murphy, Alex Pettyfer, Olivia Wilde, Johnny Galecki, Vincent Kartheiser, Matt Bomer, and Justin Timberlake

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Birthday Girl: Martina Navratilova

Tennis legend Martina Navratilova turned 55 today, just four shy of the total number of Grand Slam titles she has amassed throughout her storied career. Her last Slam win, also her last match ever, came at the 2006 US Open when she won the Mixed Doubles title. She continues to play a very active role in tennis by playing exhibitions and commentating during Grand Slams.

Navratilova defected from her birth country of Czechoslovakia in 1974 and became a US citizen in 1981. It was then too when she came out publicly as a gay woman and to this day she remains just one of the handful of out professional tennis players. Speaking just last year at a fundraising event at Stonewall in London, here's what she had to say:

When I first came out in 1981, it was pretty lonely out there. Coming out was not considered a wise business decision. I think the phrase I heard was 'career suicide.' I’m told I lost millions in sponsorship, but in my heart I know I gained things of much greater value—the opportunity to live my life with integrity and the knowledge that others might have come out because of my example.

With all of that on her resume, one of my favorite things about her is when she played herself in an episode of Will & Grace as one of Karen Walker's paramours. Good times.

Bloody Premieres of Walking Dead, Dexter, & American Horror Story

With Halloween less than two weeks away, it's as good a time as any to take stock at some of the bloodier offerings on TV right now, more specifically AMC's smash hit The Walking Dead, FX's new buzzy Ryan Murphy show American Horror Story, and Showtime staple Dexter. Ratings-wise they've all started just great this season. The Walking Dead's second season premiere over this past weekend scored 7.3 million total viewers breaking ratings records for basic cable drama in key demos. Meanwhile the pilot for American Horror Story ranked as the most-watched original series premiere in its network's history. Not to be outdone, Dexter had its highest-rated premiere ever, in its sixth season. Not too shabby.

Quality-wise they've all started pretty solidly as well, at least based on just the premiere episodes I've seen. Due to time constraints I haven't seen any follow-up episodes for Dexter and American Horror Story so things might have drastically changed especially for the latter show since it's a) brand new and b) a Ryan Murphy show.

The Walking Dead had the best premiere of the three effortlessly putting its audience right back into the post-apocalyptic zombie-infested world they so successfully introduced last season. The episode started with the group deciding to leave Atlanta in search of something new. Abandoned cars blocking the highway and the group's own mechanical troubles left them momentarily stranded and subsequently exposed to a herd of zombies. What followed was one of the episode's more breathlessly tense moments as they all had to take shelter underneath the cars as they watched the feet of zombies pass them by. The rest of the 90-minute (more like 63 minutes without commercials) offered plenty of gore (that zombie gutting scene was vomit-inducing), more suspense, and palpable human drama. Even expecting a cliffhanger, I was caught by surprise by the ending--with a young girl still lost in the woods somewhere and a young boy shot in the stomach. Kids in danger off-the-bat... brutal. A-

Many critics eviscerated American Horror Story before it premiered citing the show's tendency to be completely over-the-top, outrageous, and incoherently messy. Color me surprised then when I watched the pilot and, while not completely disagreeing with the critics, still finding myself enjoying it a bit. Yes, it's weird and fucked up and the characters were kind of despicable and it's all over the place, but I really appreciated how it wasn't like anything I've seen before on TV. With that said, I'm curious as to how they'll be able to sustain this. It seems like this show would be more suitable as mini-series, but I guess time will tell to see how they can make it work (or not work). Still the cast is pretty good, the concept is intriguing as hell, and at worst I can drop it without feeling too guilty since it's seems like the kind of show where I don't have to worry about developing attachment to its characters (I like how that's a pro for this show). B-

Finally, I have to say the sixth season premiere of Dexter, while good for the most part, gave me a few apprehensions. First some of the things I liked. Whoever idea it was to put Dexter in a situation where he had to dance to "Hammer Time" deserves a raise. I also quite liked seeing Dexter having to interact with some of his high school classmates giving Michael C. Hall much to do. I also have high hopes for the addition of Angel's cousin as a supporting character. Everything else, meh. Never really connected with the Deb/Quinn and Laguerta/Angel relationships and since most of the rest of the episode was about them it left me unimpressed. There was also the heavy heavy heavy religious undertones throughout the episode hinting at the possible overarching theme of the season which, at the moment, doesn't really interest me. It could certainly be good, especially with Edward James Olmos and Colin Hanks as the possible Big Bads, but I worry that religion would make the show a bit more cumbersome that it's capable of handling. B

Are you watching any of these shows? Can The Walking Dead keep its premiere momentum or like last year have a lull in the middle? Is American Horror Story too weird? What do you think about the religious overtones on Dexter?

Monday, October 17, 2011

2011 SCREAM Awards

Over 30 awards were given out this weekend at the SCREAM Awards to honor all things fantasy, sci-fi, comic book, and horror. Even though I don't really pay attention to these kinds of awards, genre fare gets so little love from the bigger award bodies like the Oscars and the Emmys that it's only fair to give them some kudos when appropriate. Paul Reubens, Nicolas Cage, and Robert Downey, Jr. were all on hand to accept honorary awards while George Lucas was there to accept the Ultimate Villain honor for his Darth Vader. Other top winners include:

The Ultimate SCREAM: Harry Potter 8
Best Sci-Fi Movie: X-Men: First Class
Best Horror Movie: Let Me In
Best Comic Book Movie: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Best Thriller: Limitless
Best Independent Movie: Monsters
Best TV Show: Game of Thrones

The films and TV shows that Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 beat out for the top prize were Black Swan, Captain America, Game of Thrones, Scott Pilgrim, Super 8, Thor, True Blood, The Walking Dead, and X-Men: First Class as well as took home a few more awards including Best Actor and Best Villain. Meanwhile, Game of Thrones beat Doctor Who, Fringe, True Blood, and Walking Dead for Best TV Show. That's a pretty strong list of nominations if I do say so myself which wouldn't look too out of place at the Emmy Awards (if they were actually that cool).

Best Director: Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan
Best Fantasy Actress: Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Best Fantasy Actor: Daniel Radcliffe, Harry Potter 8
Best Sci-Fi Actress: Milla Jovovich, Resident Evil: Afterlife
Best Sci-Fi Actor: Matt Smith, Doctor Who
Best Horror Actress: Chloë Grace Moretz, Let Me In
Best Horror Actor: Alexander Skarsgård, True Blood
Best Supporting Actress: Mila Kunis, Black Swan
Best Supporting Actor: Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones

Seems like Natalie Portman and her film didn't only play well with the Oscar crowd taking three awards here. Daniel Radcliffe is a fine actor, but it's pretty funny he won over the likes of James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender. Similarly Anna Torv should've won Best Sci-Fi Actress easily. With that said, Matt Smith winning is pretty rad showing the increasing popularity of the show this side of the pond while Peter Dinklage repeated his Emmy win here besting a couple of Harry Potter lads (Rupert Grint and Alan Rickman).

Best Villain: Ralph Fiennes (Voldemort), Harry Potter 8
Best Superhero: Chris Evans, Captain America: The First Avenger
Breakout Female Performance: Emilia Clarke, Game of Thrones
Breakout Male Performance: Joe Manganiello, True Blood
Best Ensemble: True Blood

The love for True Blood is evident, but these two wins are just a bit ridiculous. Game of Thrones and Harry Potter had a better ensemble (both were nominated) while Joe Manganiello inexplicably beat out Fassbender and Tom Hiddleston for Breakout Performance. Speaking of Hiddleston, his fantastic portrayal of Loki in Thor wasn't even nominated for Best Villain! Nice to see some recognition for Emilia Clarke though for a role that really should've garnered her an Emmy nomination.

Overall, a mixed bag certainly which is par for the course with these kinds of awards, but there are some good winners (and nominations) that probably wouldn't have gotten the recognition elsewhere. For the complete list of winners, click here.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Review: Weekend (2011)

Two guys, one a reserved semi-out-of-the-closet lifeguard and another an outspoken restless artist, meet in a bar one night and proceed to spend a weekend together filled with deep conversations, intense connections, and self-realizations. Sex, drugs, and alcohol are in the mix, but aren't they always?

Above is the synopsis of the British film Weekend written and directed by Andrew Haigh which has been making the festival rounds here in America the past few months and had its official release a month ago. It made its British debut this weekend at the London Film Fest. I saw it last weekend and have not been able to stop thinking about not just how it is most definitely one of my favorite films of the year, but also how it's one of the most romantic films I've seen ever.

The fact that the film only takes place in such a narrow time-frame, over the course of a weekend, and mostly features two guys just talking to each other, never make the film feel rushed or claustrophobic. It actually feels just the opposite courtesy of Haigh's confident direction and his elegantly efficient script where the actors and their words are allowed to breathe in their spaces. The two leads played by Tom Cullen and Chris New are wonderful together and their chemistry with one another has a lot to do with why the film works as well as it does. Even with playing two characters that in the surface probably shouldn't match up well, their openness and intimacy make the ensuing deepening of their relationship as the film progresses believable and heartwarming.

My favorite parts of the film are all of the parts that reminded me of one of my favorite films of all time, Before Sunrise wherein two young people also meet up and spend a short amount of time with each other talking about various topics and forming a deep connection. It's clear that Haigh was influenced by Richard Linklater's work on that film, but he also managed to make a film that fits just perfectly for our time especially in regards to gays and their identities. Overall, the film hits all of the emotional beats out of the park especially the ending which was at once expected, poignant, and leaving you wanting for more. A/A-

Star Trek's Zachary Quinto Comes Out

Zachary Quinto in 'Angels in America'

It wasn't exactly a front-page breaking news kind of coming out, but Zachary Quinto made it very clear in his interview with New York magazine that he's an out and proud gay man. He talked about how his stint on Angels in America last year affected him "as a gay man" making him "feel like there's still so much work to be done, and there's still so many that need to be looked at and addressed." Then asked about the intensifying Occupy Wall Street movement, Quinto answered by calling on New York's recent fight to legalize gay marriage and the senseless tragedy of gay suicides and that for himself, "as a gay man, I look at that and say there's a hopelessness that surrounds it."

Quinto himself felt the need to issue a statement today on his website to give a bit more context:

when i found out that jamey rodemeyer killed himself - i felt deeply troubled. but when i found out that jamey rodemeyer had made an it gets better video only months before taking his own life - i felt indescribable despair. i also made an it gets better video last year - in the wake of the senseless and tragic gay teen suicides that were sweeping the nation at the time. but in light of jamey's death - it became clear to me in an instant that living a gay life without publicly acknowledging it - is simply not enough to make any significant contribution to the immense work that lies ahead on the road to complete equality.

He goes on to say:

i believe in the power of intention to change the landscape of our society - and it is my intention to live an authentic life of compassion and integrity and action. jamey rodemeyer's life changed mine. and while his death only makes me wish that i had done this sooner - i am eternally grateful to him for being the catalyst for change within me. now i can only hope to serve as the same catalyst for even one other person in this world. that - i believe - is all that we can ask of ourselves and of each other.

Quinto has been working in Hollywood for nearly a decade but got his big break when he was cast in a supporting role in 24 back in 2003. That was when I first saw him. He followed that up with a few guest starring roles until he was cast as the scene-stealing Sylar in Heroes where he ultimately became the breakout star. His fame ascended some more when he was cast in J.J. Abrams reboot of Star Trek as Spock. Currently he stars in Margin Call which is set to release in theaters next week and will appear in Ryan Murphy's new FX series American Horror Story. He will also reprise his role as Spock for the Star Trek sequel. An out gay man starring in a summer blockbuster aimed squarely at boys? Beam me up.

TV Report: Weekly Drama Rankings

Yesterday, I ranked the comedy episodes I saw this past week. Today here's my attempt to roughly rank the drama episodes. I'm actually finding this a tad difficult since none of the episodes were obviously bad. Oh well, here it goes...

1. "Subject 9" (Fringe) - This episode featured a masterclass of acting from two of the most under-appreciated actors working today. Torv and Noble just knocked it out of the park once again as we get one last episode without Peter. His reappearance in the end was exciting and the fact that the world hasn't been reset even more so. The two week wait is absolutely cruel.

2. "Kick the Ballistics" (Castle) - Nice to finally have a Ryan-centric episode which also tied into a major episode last season that affect Castle. Great emotional beats without being too much of a downer.

3. "Duplicity" (Revenge) - I love that we're slowly chipping away the cold exterior that is Queen Victoria which is not to say that she's grown soft at all. But Emily/Amanda continues her amusingly psychopathic mission to destroy her dad's enemies and I continue to love it. Daniel's Harvard roommate intrigues.

4. "Get a Room" (The Good Wife) - Eli and Kalinda working more together, this time on cheese! Lisa Edelstein makes her first appearance as an old flame for Will and it's pretty wonderful seeing her and Alicia try to emotionally manipulate each other. Great to see Owen get some screentime too, with a boyfriend no less!

5. "Ich Bin Ein Berliner" (Pan Am) - While this episode finally gave Christina Ricci more to do, she didn't impress me much coming off a bit manic and crazy (to meet JFK). The two things I have loved about the show though were still front and center: the spy plot and Karine Vanasse's lovely portrayal of my favorite character on the show, Collete.

6. "A Whole New Kind of Bitch" (Ringer) - I appreciated how a lot happened in this episode though mostly when it came to Gemma finding out about Bridget. And Bridget was oh-so-close to getting away with it, but she gambled by telling Henry and now he may have just killed Gemma (doubt it). That said, anyone else getting a wee bit uncomfortable at the very dark Malcolm subplot?

7. "Defending Your Life" (Supernatural) - Last episode was all about Sam dealing with something from his past and this week it was Dean's turn. As expected, his look back was a bit darker and complicated especially in regards to his obvious alcohol dependency which I'm glad they semi-addressed. Seeing Jo back was nice also though the whole "trial" setup was a little too contrived for me.

8. "Slither" (The Secret Circle) - Can't believe how much happened in this one episode. Melissa gets possessed giving the actress some great scenes with others, Cassie confesses to her grandmother about their witchy powers, Dawn/Charles go darker and deeper, and finally Nick is killed. That final one shocked me since it's so early in the show for them to kill a main character!

9. "What Remains" (Terra Nova) - I actually enjoyed the concept and the emotions displayed in the episode with a virus slowly degrading memory and such, but it still felt a bit too closed off for me. I'm itching to get more on the Others and it looks like next week we'll get that!

10. "In Case of Separation Anxiety" (A Gifted Man) - Not a bad episode at all and it's only this low because all of the other episodes I saw this week were pretty good/okay. The cast seems to be clicking and it's probably the first time since the pilot that it's felt like an ensemble show which I appreciate.

N/A. Person of Interest - Sad to say, but I think I'm dropping this show. I've already missed two episodes and I just can't seem to amp myself up to catch up. Not a bad show, but it's also not an exciting one.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

TV Report: Weekly Comedy Rankings

Trying something a little different this week when talking about the TV shows I watch. I'm going to rank the episodes all the while giving just the briefest impressions they left me this week. First up, the comedies!

1. "Remedial Chaos Theory" (Community) - Definitely one of my favorite episodes of this show. The concept of displaying different timelines is crazy enough, but to do so while serving the characters and their relationships with each other well is something else. Topnotch editing and writing as well. Can't get enough. I've already seen it a second time.

2. "Pawnee Rangers" (Parks and Recreation) - Currently the best sitcom out there delivered yet another strong episode. My favorite storyline was Donna and Tom bringing sad Ben along on their "Treat Yo Self" Day. I howled at all the craziness they put him though, but nearly died when he came out in that Batman costume. The Leslie/Ron part of the episode was also quite nice.

3. "The Chatterer" (Suburgatory) - Solid work from the father-daughter duo finding themselves suddenly on top of the social pyramid of this nutso world. I was more impressed at how at ease Jeremy Sisto was in taking on the PTA moms and how adept he has been at doing comedy.

4. "Garden Party" (The Office) - Did not expect to have Josh Groban in the episode, but he is pretty perfect as Andy's little brother. I love how we're learning more and more about Andy. From his interaction with his family, you can easily tell how he can both be an Ivy Leaguer and working as middle management. If there's one complaint, these first few episodes have felt very similar structurally. Let's switch things up here!

5. "The Russian Rocket Reaction" (Big Bang Theory) - Finding myself loving this show again. Most of that is due to it truly feeling like an ensemble show now. The show now doesn't fall apart when Sheldon isn't on screen. With that said, I also applaud them for moving forward the whole Evil Will Wheaton. Way to not settle for that joke too long.

6. "Hit and Run" (Modern Family) - Not one of their best episodes, but solid enough. Mitchell tackling that guy was a highlight as was the father-son antics of Phil and Luke (always). Not sure how I feel about Claire running for office, but I guess it makes sense.

7. "Field Trip" (How I Met Your Mother) - A bit of a filler episode especially when it came to the job hijinks of Ted and Marshall. The big story is Robin now dating her therapist. I was initially worried but they used this episode to aerate out any weird and it worked for me especially when you realize that Robin really only had one real session with him.

8. "Yesandwitch" (Happy Endings) - Megan Mullaly needs to be on TV more and she was great here as Penny's mom. They really hit it out of the park together. Unfortunately the rest of the episode paled in comparison. Though I did find myself chuckling at some of Brad and Jane's improv.

9. "And the Rich People Problems" (2 Broke Girls) - The show is still two shows in one. There's the awful, awful show that is set in a diner. Then there's the pretty good show about two different girls just hanging out and making their way in the world. The second show is keeping me watching and this week it was great especially with Max getting a glimpse of Caroline's world.

10. "Mr. Bob's Toddler Kaleidoscope" (Up All Night)
- Wasn't a bad episode at all, but it was the only sitcom that I didn't have much to say about. Though it did feel like the first episode to play off the whole work-home duality well.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Poster Musings: When Celebrities Take Over

Are you excited about New Year's Eve? It's the sort of sequel to last year's Valentine's Day! Lest you forget, Valentine's Day ended up making more than $110 million in North America last year and more than $215 million worldwide. So of course, there's a sequel! Like the first film, it's chock full of celebrities who somehow decided it was a good idea to be part of this venture. Really, look at how the poster displays them proudly and awkwardly:

The poster is pretty standard and unexciting, two standards the film will surely live up to. The dismal Valentine's Day at least had the imagination to frame all the celebrity mugshots inside a heart! Look:

Note that Ashton Kutcher and Jessica Biel starred in both films. Seriously? Just... seriously? Doesn't that just tell you just everything you need to know? And to make matters worse they are not even playing the same characters! What's the point? Though to be perfectly honest, this latest film will probably be slightly better just for the fact that it'll have one great character the first film didn't: New York City. I'll rent it just for that. Though if you want to see New Year's Eve in theaters (why?), it comes out just in time for the holidays.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Thoughts on Breaking Bad Finale

Walter White spent most of the season out of his league, trapped and isolated by his circumstance. He was under constant surveillance by Gus, felt useless around his wife and son, had to lie to his brother-in-law Hank, and had a falling out with his partner Jesse. And yet throughout all of this, he kept finding ways to prevail, to survive. In the finale, where we see Walter's greatest triumph, we also begin to realize its detrimental costs.

It was always going to be a Walt vs. Gus showdown in the end and even though the outcome had always been certain (one is the lead character after all), the journey getting there was no less thrilling. In fact, it was riveting to see a panicked Walter somehow outmaneuvering the super fastidious Gus. His plan to use Tio Hector as bait was pure genius as were those last few minutes of Gus' life as half of his face and body were blown completely off (a haunting image I've yet to recover from), giving the episode's title "Face Off" added meaning. It was also wonderful to see Jesse and Walt working together again after a season apart especially their beautifully shot scene of setting the Super Lab on fire. All four actors--Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Giancarlo Esposito, and Mark Margolis--were superb here and throughout the season. They really dominated the finale, but have to also give kudos to Anna Gunn, Dean Morris, Bob Odenkirk, and Jonathan Banks for what they did this season as well.

This finale could've worked as a series finale with Walter coming out on top, but that last image of the season of the Lily of the Valley plant in Walter's own backyard clearly told us that Walter has finally crossed the line and broke bad. Sure, he has lied and killed in the past, but most in self-defense and debatably justifiable. But by poisoning Brock, a little boy, just to manipulate Jesse is beyond despicable. He also put his elderly neighbor in danger earlier in the episode. As a person, I am appalled, but as a TV watcher, I'm just excited about what this means for Walt next season. Though it's probably a safe bet that when the show finally ends after 16 more episodes (probably split into two seasons), Walter won't be on top. An excellent finale to another excellent season.

A few more stray thoughts:

- Pretty convenient for Mike to be out-of-commission these last few episodes. But I'm totally fine with that since it means he is sure to return next season probably wondering whatthefuck happened.

- Jesse will find out what Walt did to Brock, right? And what really happened with Jane? I mean he has to, right? And if he does, holy crap.

- SO MANY people are still trying to figure out the exact logistics of how Walt was able to get the seeds of the flowers to Brock and force the kid to ingest it as well as how Jesse's ricin-filled cigarette disappeared. Sorry, I was too busy getting my brain blown away by the rest of the show to care.

- "Did you just bring a bomb into a hospital?" "What?! Was I supposed to leave it at his car?" "What you're supposed to bring it to a hospital!"

- Kind of wished Anna Gunn had more to do in the finale, but I did love her face/reaction when Walt uttered his "I won" line over the phone to her. What could she possibly be thinking at that exact moment I wonder.

Breaking Bad Finale: A-
Breaking Bad Season 4: A/A-

Looking Forward To...

Martha Marcy May Marlene
Release: October 21, 2011
Distributor: Fox Searchlight
Director: Sean Durkin
Starring: Elizabeth Olsen, Brady Corbet, Sarah Paulson, Hugh Dancy, and John Hawkes

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Trailer Break: The Avengers

Wasn't it only last summer when the cast of The Avengers made their official debut at Comic-Con? Well now they have a brand spanking new trailer and everyone's already buzzing. Watch it below:

"There was an idea to bring together a group of remarkable people so when we needed them, they could fight the battles that we never could."

As much as I've seen this trailer today, I actually don't have that much to say. It's pretty montage-heavy with no real indication of what the plot might be. We see the group get together and exchange wits (mostly from Robert Downey Jr.) while Loki creates some havoc in the background. Mostly I'm just sitting here in awe over the fact that Joss Whedon actually got to write and direct this mega-blockbuster movie. It's pretty much a Whedon fanboy dream come true. I can't wait!

The Avengers comes out next summer on May 12, 2012.

The Year of Gosling Redux

Back in July, I posted about The Year of Gosling where I talked about Ryan Gosling's sudden ubiquity appearing in four films (including the late 2010 release Blue Valentine) this year. At the end of that post, I said that I would be "seeing each and every one of his films on opening weekend" and that's exactly what I ended up doing. And since I'm pretty sure Gosling doesn't have any more movies coming out this year (right?), it's as good a time as any to take stock on his films.

First, Crazy, Stupid, Love, though hardly flawless, is a worthy and refreshing addition to the tired rom-com genre. The film's focus is Cal Weaver played by Steve Carell who needs a life makeover after his divorce. Enter the impeccably-dressed man-slut that is Jacob Palmer played by the sexy Gosling (redundant) who befriends and helps Cal break out of his shell. The chemistry between the two made the movie work as well as their respective chemistry with their lady counterparts played by Julianne Moore and Emma Stone. Frankly I wished the film had given Gosling and Stone more screen-time and less time spent on the awkward teenage subplot that was the big blemish of the movie for me. The end, mostly the graduation sequence, felt a bit contrived. Though I did love the shock "twist" which we find out in that backyard scene.

While charming and a little goofy in that first film, Gosling channels his much darker side in Drive, a neo-noir crime heist drama. Gosling plays the nameless and laconic Driver who makes his living legally in a garage and some occasional stunt work and illegally as a getaway driver. He becomes involve with his pretty neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her young son and then gets entangled in a mess of violence when Irene's husband (Oscar Isaac) gets into trouble. The great camera work by Nicolas Winding Refn, the arresting synth-pop score, and the singular performance from Gosling makes this movie a must-see even if the story and the emotional pull was lacking a bit. The elevator scene alone is worth a look, but rest assured that the film will stick with you for awhile afterwards.

Finally, Gosling gets to be charming and intense in Ides of March where he plays Stephen Meyers, a young hotshot of a campaign manager for a governor (played by George Clooney) trying to win the Democratic nomination for presidency. The film's main focus is on the slow degradation of Meyers' idealism in the face of the inherent corruption and cynicism of politics. Topical to be sure, but gripping throughout in no small part due to its talent-stacked ensemble which also includes Philip Seymour Hoffman, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood, and Paul Giamatti. With that said, Gosling really impressed carrying the weight of the film on his shoulders. If there's a film he's done this year that could get Oscar traction, it's probably this one.

Charming, Intense, Love in Ides of March

And speaking of Oscars, he certainly deserves to get one for his performance in Drive or in Ides of March, but when do awards or even nominations go to people who deserved it? Case in fact, he should've been a shoe-in last year for Blue Valentine and look at how that turned out. Add to that the very strong year for lead actor performances, his relative youth, and the fact that fans of his probably can't agree on which performance of his to nominate and it's looking more and more like an uphill climb. At the very least, he's racking up goodwill points in the industry working with many good and respective individuals. As long as he keeps picking quality projects, the awards will be inevitable. Though it'd certainly be a great capper to "The Year of Gosling" if he gets his due this year.

Crazy, Stupid, Love: B
Drive: B+
Ides of March: B+/A-
Ryan Gosling: A+

Monday, October 10, 2011

Catching Up on TV Shows

A day later than promised, but here's my big catch-up catch-all post on returning TV that I've seen watching but haven't had the time to talk about since their individual premieres. For my thoughts on new shows, click here.

Now, in alphabetical order...

Big Bang Theory - Not much to say about this show except to say that I'm still enjoying it. As I said when I talked about the premiere, I love that show feels more like an ensemble rather than The Sheldon Cooper Show as much as I love that character. Seeing Amy interact with Leonard in the season's third episode was fantastic as was learning that Raj is super rich (and could conceivably have a sort of normal girlfriend provided she was deaf). Nothing ground-breaking here, but the cast is gelling well.

Castle - After the heavily emotional premiere, the show rightly decided to ramp up the lighter side of things. With a superhero vigilante in the second episode and a porn-mogul who cryogenically saved his body in the third episode, the cases were outrageous and fun. And yet every scene and every conversation between Castle and Beckett are laden with subtext, hidden meanings, and parallels giving us the fans something real to hold on to until they both are ready to deal with their respective issues.

Community - I sense a general sense of fatigue or indifference from some fans regarding the start of this season, but I don't see why. I thought the premiere was solid and while the second episode wasn't one of its strongest episodes, I thought the third episode's willingness to examine and re-examine the group's multiple dynamics was great. If there's one thing to complain about is Chang. He's become this season's S2 Pearce with the writers still unable to figure out what to do with him.

Fringe - This show is so damn brilliant and I'm angry that more people aren't watching it. While I was slightly underwhelmed by the premiere, I thought the two follow-up episodes were pretty brilliant especially the second episode in which the two universes had to work with one another to solve a case. It enabled Anna Torv to shine yet again playing multiple versions of herself. The third episode in the meantime showed why John Noble should have all the awards thrown at him as he tries to deal with his supposed hallucinations of Peter. I'm still a bit worried about how Peter's inevitable return will be treated, but if there's one thing the writers of this great show has earned, it's trust from its fans.

Glee - One thing I have to say about this show is that they seem to be trying. They need to try harder, but the effort is much appreciated. Anything Shuester does annoys me and that hasn't changed. His short tempers with Quinn and Mercedes while probably called for, didn't feel organic as much as necessary to the plot to move forward. And while both characters were in dire need of storylines this season, the beginnings of their arcs this season leave much to be desired. Those are my biggest complaints since again I think they're at least trying. The songs seem to work with the story they are trying to tell rather than the other way around and it doesn't feel like The Rachel or The Kurt or The Blaine show. With that said, I wouldn't mind AT ALL if this became The Brittany Show. Her rendition of "Run the World" made me question my sexuality.

The Good Wife - While none of the episodes so far have completely impressed me, I do love what they have been doing in regards to the steamy affair between Alicia and Will and the burgeoning relationship of Eli and Kalinda. The latter was always going to be my favorite thing in the world since they're pretty much my favorite characters on the show. Most of their brief interaction happened in this season's second episode, but you can already tell the mutual admiration. As for Alicia and Will, I was never a huge fan of them and yet I cannot deny how HOT they are together, at least this season. Props to the casting director as well since we got Eddie Izzard and Lisa Edelstein in these early episodes.

Happy Endings - There's actually been just the one episode since the premiere, but it's more of the same kooky stuff from this group of friends. My favorite is probably Jane stalking a young girl thinking she is hers by way of her donated eggs from years ago. The Mean Girls teenage girls stuff was pretty funny as well to a point. In any case, I'm looking forward to seeing Megan Mullaly play Penny's mom next episode!

How I Met Your Mother - I quite liked the two episodes that followed the premiere though I was a fan of one more than the other. The third episode is one of the show's best with Barney playing his usual mind-games in order to win a bet while we delve deeper into Ted and his mindset on relationships. It was a great mixture of hilarity and poignancy that the show used to do fairly often in the past. The fourth episode had Robin in therapy and while it was a solid episode, there was something a bit off. It certainly wasn't Cobie Smulders who shouldered the episode well. In any case, it's definitely looking like it's going to be a big year for her character surely and I hope the writers do her justice.

Modern Family - I'm glad that after the shaky premiere, the show seems to be back on track providing 30 minutes of hilarity. Ty Burrell continues to shine as my favorite cast member in this ridiculously talented cast though Nolan Gould as son Luke seems to be this season's budding MVP. Their wire act and viral video stunts in the last two episodes were easily my favorite subplots. That's not to say that the rest of the cast didn't deliver. Cam's Streetcar Named Desire riff, Mitchell's beach house breakdown, Gloria's tiff with Jay's new dog, and Claire's fight with the city were fantastic.

The Office - The show has definitely become more of an ensemble with Steve Carell gone, but while not perfect, the show seems to be clicking especially with Andy as boss. The second episode continued the us vs. them dynamic with Andy rallying the office to increase sales as demanded by new CEO James Spader. The end was sweet with Andy getting a tattoo (as promised to his employees) and with them in return giving him a good one. The third episode "Lotto" gave Andy more a chance to show how he is similar (failure at those conference meetings) and different (his existing relationship with Oscar and Darrly) than Michael Scott as boss.

Parks and Recreation - BIAS ALERT! This show can do no wrong to me. So with that said, I've loved everything about this season so far with the possible exception of Rob Lowe's unfortunate hairstyle. The multiple Tammys episode is already classic with a great guest starring turn by Patricia Clarkson as Ron's first ex-wife and Paula Pell as Ron's mom. Plus seeing Ron sans mustache and being cheery will haunt me for the rest of my days. Leslie took center stage in the third episode as she take on Birthers challenging her birth place after she released her Pawnee-centric book. She handles it all with hilarity, humility, and style but that millisecond look between her and Ben by the end killed me.

Supernatural - As a self-professed Castiel/Misha Collins fans, you'd think I'd be leading the charge to boycott the show now that the character seems to be done. But what I really liked about what they've done this season is make me start to care about the brothers again and their angst and plight. It also helps that the Big Bad Leviathans are dangerous and scary enough, but are also understandably low key (for now) enabling the show to come back down from the past couple of seasons apocalyptic highs. Last episode was particularly beautiful with Sam tracking down a woman/monster that he encountered when he was a boy and how he had to wrestle with whether or not to kill her about their history. Fandom Explosion: Jewel Staite of Firefly plays the woman who has the alias of Amy Pond. Looking forward to seeing what's to come, but I do hope Misha finds his way back somehow.

Dang, I know I say this a lot but I watch way too much TV. This doesn't even include cable/British shows I watch such as Dexter, Downton Abbey, and Breaking Bad.