Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Zombie Redneck Torture Family

Happy Halloween everyone! Hope it was a good one full of costumes, candies, and cheers. Or maybe it was filled with gory adventures Cabin in the Wood-style. If the latter, do tell me which scary monster you picked to hunt you down...

Was it... Werewolf, Alien Beast, Mutants, Wraiths, Zombies, Reptilius, Clowns, Witches, Sexy Witches, Demons, Hell Lord, Angry Molesting Tree, Giant Snake, Deadites, Kevin, Mummy, The Bride, The Scarecrow Folk, Snowman (wait, what?), DragonBat, Vampires, Dismemberment Goblins, Sugarplum Fairy, Merman, The Reanimated, Unicorn, Huron, Sasquatch/Wendigo/Yeti, Dolls, The Doctors, Zombie Redneck Torture Family, Jack O' Lantern, Giant, or the Twins?

I say anything but the Merman. Because... eewww. Also, how great was this little gem of a film written by Joss Whedon released earlier this year? I was almost glad its release was delayed a couple of years so we could all enjoy the 1-2 cinematic punch of Whedon this year. Could be three if Much Ado About Nothing actually releases this year. Make it happen, Hollywood, or I swear the Angry Molesting Trees will get you.

Looking Forward To...

Release: November 9, 2012
Distributor: Buena Vista
Director: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones, David Strathairn, James Spader, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, John Hawkes, Jared Harris, Michael Stuhlbarg, Jackie Earle Haley, Julie White, Adam Driver, Lee Pace, Walton Goggins, Gregory Itzin, S. Epatha Merkerson, David Oyelowo, and Hal Holbrook

A star-studded cast headed by a legendary director in a movie about one of the greatest historical figure of all time... GIVE IT ALL THE AWARDS! Or not. Can't really say much until I see the film. I mean look at last year's J. Edgar. But I have higher hopes for this film than last year's dull affair mostly due to two elements that are conveniently highlighted in this week's TIME covers.

First, the American cover features Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln and surely delving more into the life of the supremely popular president will be a bit more worthwhile than the controversial head of the FBI. The focus on the election this year (this week!) will also keep politics in the forefront of many Americans' minds making the film perfectly topical. The second cover, the International Edition, chose to highlight the actor or in their words, The World's Greatest Actor. It's a bold claim that I'm sure has been widely debated, but it's certainly acceptable. Nothing against Leonardo DiCaprio, but he's no Day-Lewis. Of course, with all of this said, the film can still disappoint, so we'll see!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Parks and Rec: I Say I Do

I've been working on a post where I touch base on all of the new shows I picked up this season and see where I am with each, but I'm going to post that a bit later this week. For now I just want to quickly talk about my favorite comedy, Parks and Recreation, especially since this week it's getting preempted for some stupid reality show.

First, the proposal last week was absolutely perfect. It just felt right that these two characters are taking this next step in their relationship. And even though Ben, yet again, put Leslie and her dreams ahead of his professional career because he realized that he was "ridiculously in love" with her was the stuff of fairy tales, it still felt like this show and these characters EARNED this perfect moment. The fact that it was also a surprise proposal gave me joy since I honestly didn't see it coming. I knew some big, life-changing thing was probably going to happen in the episode. I thought Jerry's heart fart attack was it then I thought it was Ben taking the job in Florida. And even later in the episode, I thought it was going to be Ron opening himself up to a romantic relationship. So when Ben went down on bended knee and opened the box with the ring, Leslie wasn't the only one whose heart skipped a beat.

My love for Ben, Leslie, and their relationship can probably be summed up in this wonderful retrospective video montage of some of their best moments:

Frankly, I'm glad Ben's Washington arc is done as both actors really do play off best with each other, but that's not to say I didn't like it. On the contrary, I have enjoyed seeing Adam Scott have lots of scene with Audrey Plaza as they too had palpable chemistry. But I really was starting to feel uncomfortable as it seemed like the show wanted us to imagine Ben and April together, as in romantically. On the other hand, I knew this show really wasn't like that as that plot development would absolutely break the hearts of Leslie and Andy.

But on to the other characters... how awesome is it that Ron Swanson is dating Xena Warrior Princess? I mean when I heard Lucy Lawless was cast as Ron's love interest, I already knew it would be love at first sight and it really, really was. Speaking of, I'm more and more convinced that Chris and Ann are becoming endgame. Yes, when they first got together it didn't work out, but we now know that BOTH of them were seriously messed up as evidenced by Chris going to therapy now and Ann most recently realizing she's been losing herself in her relationships. I think a season or so of more self-actualizing and both can reconnect. A few of the other things that have made me smile this season: Andy hanging out with kids, Donna livetweeting, Tom's Rent-A-Swag, Ron in princess makeup, Leslie's half-perm, Ben's Star Trek fanfic, and April toying with Ben.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Joss Whedon And the Zombie Apocalypse

It's been a busy week/weekend what with celebrating my birthday and prepping for the hurricane barreling up the East Coast. When I can I do want to talk about me getting to see The Heiress with Dan Stevens and Jessica Chastain and Bryan Fuller's take on The Munsters in his possibly aborted pilot Mockingbird Lane.

For now, everyone should check out Joss Whedon's brilliant endorsement of Mitt Romney's plan to to bring about the zombie apocalypse:

And people wonder why I've been a Whedon fan since 1997.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Looking Forward To...

Wreck-It Ralph
Release: November 2, 2012
Distributor: Buena Vista
Director: Rich Moore
Starring: John C. Reilly, Jack McBrayer, Sarah Silverman, Jane Lynch, Adam Carolla, Rachael Harris, Dennis Haysbert, Ed O'Neill, Alan Tudyk, and Mindy Kaling

Guess What I'm Seeing Tonight

Hint #1: It's not a movie or a TV show, but it was a film at one point that won a few Oscars.

Hint #2: One of its stars (female) is a recent Oscar nominee and has been insanely busy.

Hint #3: Another star (male) is on a show that everyone seems to be watching and/or talking about.

Hint #4: The other male star is also an Oscar nominee, but has been headlining a genre TV show more recently.

If you don't get it after those first four hints, maybe this casual cast photo shot earlier this month after the cut will help you out...

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Looking Forward To...

Cloud Atlas
Release: October 26, 2012
Distributor: Warner Brothers
Directors: Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski, & Tom Tykwer
Starring: Ben Whishaw, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon, Hugo Weaving, Tom Hanks, David Gyasi, Jim Sturgess, Hugh Grant, Doona Bae, Jim Broadbent, Xun Zhou, and James D'Arcy

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Pilot Thoughts: Nashville and Arrow

The involvement of Connie Britton and the great reviews from TV critics were the reasons I checked out ABC's new show Nashville. It also helped that last year I ended up visiting the city and was absolutely charmed by it. I'm saying all of this so you know that even before I saw a single second of the show, I already knew that I wanted to like it, and I'm pleased to say my feelings have been confirmed after the pilot episode. Yes, there are worrying aspects about the show. The biggest will be the political subplot symbolically being played out parallel to the whatever issues Rayna Jaymes (Britton) has with her overbearing father. And while I appreciate Britton's character being pulled in so many directions, her main struggle of trying to be relevant in the country music scene is far more engrossing to me. She is helped by a talented ensemble and a soundtrack that not only sounds good, but also feels real and organic. That final duet with Sam Palladio and Clare Bowen is absolutely bewitching. And even though we meet so many characters within the hour and all their different relationships with each other, I already feel invested in them as characters. Finally, it's also a gorgeously-shot pilot episode, showing off the best of what the city of Nashville has to offer. Really looking forward to seeing more of this. B/B+

As many comic book TV shows and films I have seen in my lifetime, my geekdom knowledge is still relatively limited so the prospect of having a Green Arrow TV series didn't excite me much. But I was intrigued enough to check out Arrow's pilot episode, mostly to see Stephen Amell shirtless and also just to see how the CW would go about giving the property a Smallville-esque reboot to cater to their young female demographic (see again beaucoup male shirtlessness). The verdict is decidedly mixed on my part. Yes, Amell's body is a vision to behold, but his character's Bruce Wayne-ness is feeling a bit flat at the moment especially since we know so very little of him and his supposed big change. I also understand that they needed to pack a lot of backstory, exposition, and setup in this first episode, so the hour felt a bit disconnected and most definitely rushed. My favorite part of the pilot, however, is slowly realizing how similar it was to last season's Revenge. We have the main character, who has gone through extensive training, seeking justice as a result of their father's death and has a penchant for voice-over narration. We also have a wise-cracking wealthy sidekick, a sister dabbling into substance abuse, an old flame they can't get involved in, and an older female mother figure out to get them. I'm not saying Arrow is as good as Revenge. It's not, especially since I'm not immediately invested in the characters as I was for the characters in Revenge or even Nashville. But those similarities will keep me watching a bit. B-/C+

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Birthday Boy: Dan Stevens

My favorite male character on Downton Abbey is the pragmatic, stubborn, and romantic Matthew Crawley played by British actor Dan Stevens who celebrates his 30th birthday today. Of course most of that is because his chemistry and scenes with Michelle Dockery are off-the-charts awesome, but he's talented all by his lonesome. I actually first saw him in the much recommended miniseries The Line of Beauty a few years ago way before his Downton days and he impressed me there as well. Playing gay and looking pretty in the film also helped make me a big fan of his early on. Easy to please me really.

The third season of the Emmy Award winning Downton Abbey is currently airing in Britain at the moment and Stevens will also appear in the comedy film Vamps next month from the director and writer of Clueless. Of course, I'm much more looking forward to seeing him on Broadway in a few weeks in The Heiress where he'll act alongside Jessica Chastain and David Strathairn.

Looking Forward To...

Release: October 12, 2012
Distributor: Sony Classics
Director: James Ponsoldt
Starring: Aaron Paul, Octavia Spencer, Nick Offerman, Megan Mullaly, Mary Kay Place, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead

Didn't even know this film was coming out this weekend! I've been excited about this movie when I first heard about it earlier this year when it premiered at Sundance and eventually winning a Special Jury Prize for Independent Film Producing. Now I don't really even know what the film is about other than the cast being one of the coolest ever assembled. And that's pretty much all I need to know. It's opening in very limited theaters so it might not be readily available for everyone yet.

While Smashed is the main film I'm looking forward to this weekend, there are two other films in my radar and they are both opening much, much wider. First is Ben Affleck's Argo which is already an Oscar frontrunner in many pundits' minds. It apparently has that great blend of being a Serious Film whilst also being a people pleaser. Affleck stars in the film which also includes Alan Arkin, Bryan Cranston, Victor Garber, and John Goodman. The second movie is Seven Psychopaths and the cast is pretty stacked for this one as well. Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken, Abbie Cornish, and Woody Harrelson all star in this dark comedy written and directed by In Bruges director Martin McDonagh.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sunday TV Catch Up

Last Sunday I watched approximately 100 hours of television. Okay, it was really only five hours plus a few more hours spent on other days catching up on the Sunday shows I didn't get to watch. I already talked about my thoughts on 666 Park Avenue, but before another epic Sunday, here are my brief thoughts on the rest...

Once Upon A Time - I grew to love this show last season especially when it suffered serious growing pains early on. Bringing everyone's memories back at the end could've been risky, but instead with this premiere they somewhat pulled it off especially the emotional reunions of all of these people who were living half-lives. It was also a smart premiere in that it does a pretty amazing job in taking the show in many new directions. I did not at all see the twist coming of the Mulan/Phillip/Aurore story happening in present time telling us that there are still life in fairy tale land. Putting Snow and especially Emma in that land in the end will also give the show new material with Emma being the fish out of water. Their absence in the real world should also prove worthwhile storyline-wise for the people they left behind. Finally, opening the show with a mysterious guy living in NYC? Genius. I'm so excited.

Revenge - This show is super ridiculous and I can't help but love it. Most of the reason I watch is because I just love, love the relationship between Emily and Nolan so their reunion at the boxing ring (with Nolan sweaty, shirtless and sporting a new sexier haircut) was the highlight of the episode for me. Or perhaps it was the final scene with them sitting in Emily's living room wearing bathrobes while spying on Victoria? Seriously, making Nolan Emily's roommate is brilliant on so many levels. I hope it lasts at least a few more episodes. Victoria's surprise resurrection was wholly expected, but I still liked that she was forced to interact with Emily. I was hoping they would work together more this season to bring down Conrad et. al, but I guess that'd be a little too convenient? Not much else to say about the other characters. Jack and Daniel are both depressed. Amanda and Ashley are crazy. Declan is still as inconsequential as ever. Welcome back, show.

The Good Wife - Other than Kalinda confronting her ex-husband, this episode really didn't wow me in its fourth season premiere, but then again the bar has been set SO HIGH previously, it was bound to come up short. First, Archie Panjabi was just fantastically sexy and fierce throughout as she figures out how to deal with Nick being back, not only in her personal life, but also her work life. My one fear is that they isolate this storyline from the rest of the happenings this season, but hopefully someone close to Kalinda (Alicia? Cary? Will?) will find out what's happening sooner rather than later. The rest of the episode is just setting up the main drama arcs for the season. Alicia is dealing anew with yet another campaign for Peter and how it effects their kids while Diane and Will are figuring out how to save their business. It's all deftly acted and beautifully written as per usual, but I'm hoping for a "wow" that I didn't get. Maybe tonight!

Dexter - More and more I have been watching this show more out of obligation rather than because I actually enjoy it. Last season, for example, started out pretty well, but quickly became less engaging. But I kept watching because of Hall and Carpenter's performances. But if this most recent premiere is any indication I am going to LOVE this upcoming season. Making Deb finally find out about Dexter's misadventures gives this season real direction and much-needed tension and urgency. And the episode went from good to perfect in the end when we and Dexter find out that Deb now knows more than what Dexter had wanted her to know. Shit is about to get real and it's fabulous. Here's hoping that Carpenter gets her due this season.

Homeland - When I marathoned the first season a few months ago, I really didn't realized how much I would truly love to see its return. It was such an adrenaline rush the first time through that I feared they couldn't possibly carry that over to the new season, but they really did. Yes, they would have to do their awkward best in bringing Carrie back into the field, but I think the show did it the best way they could. Plus seeing Danes channel the crazy early on and then the fierceness towards the end was something to behold. As for Lewis, he shows why he won the Emmy a couple of weeks ago. As a new congressman being vetted by the current VP to be his possible running mate, he and his family are well connected in Washington. His new connections means Abu Nazir wants him to do more, specifically (for this episode) he has to steal something from the safe in David's office giving us the episode's tensest moment. Another is the big confrontation he has with his wife about him being a Muslim. It's amazing to see Morena Baccarin do more dramatically, but I fear she'll end up dead sooner rather than later. But the best scene is the end with father and daughter burying the Koran. It's these quiet moments, like Carrie's smile, that make this show really work.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Pilot Thoughts: 666 Park Avenue

There's a couple of reasons why it's taken me more than three days to do a write-up on 666 Park Avenue. One of them is just the sheer number of shows on that day. I didn't finish watching them all until Tuesday night! The other reason is because I have very mixed feelings with the pilot episode and just not much to say about it. The concept itself is pretty cool sounding. A supernatural luxury apartment building messes up with the lives of its unsuspecting tenants in the usual soul-selling-dead-people-resurrecting-trapped-in-a-wall-human-sacrifice-obsessive-stalking kind of ways. Oh and its owned by Terry O'Quinn and Vanessa Williams who play the mysterious married couple Gavin and Olivia Doran. They are the best part of the pilot episode and the show loses its spark whenever it strays from these two scenery-chewing characters. Rachael Taylor and Dave Annable, who play a young couple who is hired to manage this place, suffice to say are much less interesting though her burgeoning obsession with the history of building does provide some intriguing shades to the show and her character. My main concern though is the lack of scares. Perhaps it's just because I've watched way too many other supernatural/fantasy/horror stuff that I've just been so desensitized, but the show is seriously lacking in that respect. Of course, I get it. It's an ABC show. I'm not expecting American Horror-Walking Dead type of gore and frights. But maybe I was just a little bit. B-

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Looking Forward To...


The Paperboy
Release: October 5, 2012
Distributor: Millenium Entertainment
Director:  Lee Daniels
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Matthew McConaughey, John Cusack, David Oyelowo, Macy Gray, and Zac Efron

Monday, October 1, 2012

Small Roles, Big Performances: Johnny Simmons

This post is part of Ruth's "Small Roles, Big Performances" in which participants are asked to feature an actor who has given a big and memorable performance in a small role.

Ruth gave everyone a month to pick the actor and the role, to possibly re-watch the films, and then finally to write a post on it. Of course, since it's me, I waffled up to the very last minute about which actor/performance to talk about. So it was not until last night I actually picked someone and by that time I really didn't have time to re-watch the film, etc.

With that said, I want to begin by asking a question: Do you know who Johnny Simmons is? If you answered no, then you'll probably be in the majority. In any case, he's a young up-and-comer actor who has been working since 2006 and has only really appeared in a handful of Hollywood films and never as the lead. Most recently, he currently plays the character "Brad" in Stephen Chbosky's delightful The Perks of Being a Wallflower where not shockingly (to me) he makes the most of his very little screentime and dialogue. Many more people might know him as "Young Neil" in one of my favorite films from a couple years ago Scott Pilgrim vs. the World where he again did good work as part of a talented and young ensemble. He also appeared in The Conspirator as the little seen, but narratively important character John Surratt. As you can see, he is definitely living up to the whole "small roles, big performances" ideal.

But the role I would like to briefly talk about for this blogathon is the first of his I had seen which is that of Ryan Brewer in the film The Greatest. The film revolves around a girl (Carey Mulligan) who gets tangled up in the lives of one family who is grieving the recent death of their eldest boy (Aaron Johnson) after she tells them that she is carrying his baby. Simmons plays the younger brother of the deceased sibling whose shadow he still has to live under even after death. For me, Simmons impressed me by infusing his character a sense of loss and grieving that felt more real to me than any of the other characters. This, of course, is saying a lot since along with Mulligan, Simmons had to also share screens with veteran actors Susan Sarandon and Pierce Brosman who played his distraught parents.

One scene in particular stood out in the film and it was when Ryan finally tells his support group how he felt about his brother's death. It's the emotional climax in the film for me wherein the thread of his character's substance abuse, self-loathing, strained relationship with his parents, and guilt regarding his brother's death are all elegantly pulled together in one affective speech. Of course screenwriter (and director) Shana Feste should get some credit for writing the words, but Simmons really does the heavy lifting by delivering them in such a raw and honest way.

Overall, Johnny Simmons delivers a poignant and sincere performance that to this day I was glad to have called out back in the summer of 2010 as one of the best performances of the year so far. I'm quite looking forward to following his career as it grows and hopefully flourishes.