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2014 Fall TV Preview: Tuesday

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And now for part 2…

Jo Ch and Karen Gillam.

Jo Ch and Karen Gillam.

Selfie (ABC) — The ad for this horribly named show is Karen Gillan, airbrushed into unrecognizable territory, and half of John Cho’s face. While it may not be racist to only show half of John Cho’s face, it is stupid. This sucks too because those two scifi supporting actors could be doing something good. They were in Guardians of the Galaxy and the new Star Treks, respectively, as Nebula and Sulu.
Verdict: It’s got no chance. No chance in hell.

Utopia (Fox) — it is the reality tv version of the Pauly Shore movie Bio-Dome. Reality tv is the dumb version of things, so this is the dumb version of one of the dumbest movies of all-time. Why couldn’t Fox do a reality show of In The Army Now?
Verdict: While I will never watch it, this may fall into the adage of being stupid. Stupid as a fox! (Homer Simpson)

Manhattan Love Story (ABC) — I have not seen any ads for this, so it will probably be pretty good and have no viewers.
Verdict: Canceled before the end of season one.

NCIS: New Orleans (CBS) — While I do not watch NCIS, I did catch the episode that functioned as the pilot for this show. And I immediately could tell it was just that because it broke free from the formula that NCIS uses to structure its episodes. America does not need another damn NCIS, but I do love Scott Bakula.
Verdict: CBS & their crime procedurals are unstoppable, even when they are terrible. Get ready for this taking up space on their schedule for years.

The Flash (The C.W.) — Why do they always have to change the costume? If people will tune into a show based on a comic book character the costume does not need to be as black as possible. Flash gets the Daredevil treatment and I do not approve. This will be an expensive show to run, with so many special effects in each episode.
Verdict: This probably has the same run as whatever “Arrow” will have.

Chicago Fire (NBC) — because the creator of Law and Order, Dick Wolf, wants to make NYPD Blue, but for firefighters.
Verdict: Prime time soaps can last a long time, or they can burn out after a season or two. Boom!

2014 Fall TV Preview: Monday

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I am compelled to write this after seeing one too many advertisements for a terrible upcoming tv show. They cry out to be mocked, thus let the (pre)judgment commence.

Gotham (Fox) — Watch as Fox puts out the show that they hastily altered after listening to Fatman on Batman, one of Kevin Smith’s podcasts. Seriously, the show was not going to have Bruce Wayne, but just focus on young Jim Gordon. Then Kevin Smith and Paul Dini come along and two months later, huzzah, it will show young Bruce Wayne and he will go to school with the future criminals. I understand that if Fox admitted what they had done that they would owe Dini and Smith a lot of money, but that fails to make their lies more truthful.
Verdict: I will not watch this show for a few years, and if it looks good enough I will catch up.

Forever

Forever (ABC) — Who says you only live once? Unfortunately for Mr. Fantastic—Ioan Gruffudd—I doubt this show will live even one full season. The premise for the show is promising—a 200 year old man searches for the key to unlock the curse of his immortality.
Verdict: I will plan to watch the show to give it a shot, maybe even DVR it, but never watch it. And then it will be quickly canceled because of people like me.

Scorpion (CBS) — 4 nerds and one 30 year old hot mom help the government solve crimes. I love the coded language in Entertainment Weekly’s description, “the show works hard to transcend conventional procedural trappings.”
Verdict: Do, or do not, there is no try. Avoid this one.

Jane the Virgin (CW) — Just read the name of the show.
Verdict: If the name were not enough for you, here is the premise, “a rule-bound Latina student who’s accidentally inseminated…” And done.
Note: Nice to see a non-white lead actress…and since the CW has very low standards, this might not actually get canceled immediately. Might not.

State of Affairs (NBC) — Katherine Heigl plays Scandal/Homeland lady.
Verdict: Nope. And since it is on NBC no-one else will watch it either. Lasts one season.

NCIS: Los Angeles (CBS) — This is still on the air, and a hit, despite no-one in the entire country admitting to have seen it. Must be old people falling asleep and Nielsen counting them.
Verdict: This will be on until O’Donnell or LL Cool J gets another movie

Faust

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****½

Murder! Murder! Murder!

The archangel and Mephisto, wagering on the fate of humanity, Faust from 1926.

The archangel and Mephisto, wagering on the fate of humanity, Faust from 1926.

I was fortunate enough to watch the 116 minute version restored in 1997 instead of the often seen 85 minute version. Regardless, this is based on the play by Johann Wolfgang Goethe; the silent movie is adapted by F.W. Murnau. Normally the screenwriters get the majority of the credit for adapting a play or novel, but in the silent movie era the screenwriters were just credited with the “titles”, a term for the cards indicating what was said. Murnau is often regarded as the master of German Expressionism and is one of the three best silent film directors ever. While not his most famous work, Faust ranks up there with his most famous movie, Nosferatu. 

I wonder which story is more famous now, that of Faust and his pact with the devil, or the story of Dracula, even if it Nosferatu is technically an unauthorized version of it. On the surface of it, Faust sounds like a more modern story than that of Dracula, since Bram Stoker’s novel was released in 1897. On the other hand Goethe released Faust in the early 19th century. But were these the original versions of these stories? Faust appears to be Goethe’s take on a German legend. On the other hand, I know that the story of Dracula dates back to the days before modern German, Russian or any other language that people now actually speak. Of course he was more famous as Vlad, the Impaler, before the name Dracula caught on.

Mephisto (Jannings) watches Faust (Ekman) with Gretchen (Horn).

Mephisto (Jannings) watches Faust (Ekman) with Gretchen (Horn).

Moving on to the movie itself there could be an entire book written to analyze it. But I will do what I can in the space that I have. The first question I have is whether or not this movie is pro G-d, or not. On the surface there is an archangel willing to put the world into the hand’s of Mephisto if one good man can be corrupted to evil. That is a terrible f’n deal. One made out of hubris and pretty much ignored at the close of the movie. The implication of which I do not truly understand. I do not know if G-d’s and the archangel’s lack of interference is an honorable thing or something pathetic. The main character shifts from Mephisto—Emil Jannings, to Faust—Gösta Ekman, and to Gretchen—Camilla Horn. It is a rare storytelling technique and it left me wondering why it was not Faust the whole time. Gretchen’s sufferings were the greatest and, I think, that Murnau wanted to use the film to highlight how ostensibly good, godfearing people can be instruments on evil in the name of G-d just easily as Faust could try to do good in the devil’s name. Even her love of Faust is as corrupt and superficial as the devil who ensnared her for Faust. Yet it is their love that admits them to Heaven. So many questions!

For me, the highlights of this film are its look and special effects. Using the technology available at the time, Murnau made magic. The devil did not seem like the stereotypes with which I am familiar. I do not know why this look did not catch on in the way that early deerstalker cap did for Sherlock Holmes.  That old Faust was played by Ekman, who played young Faust, surprised me. Thoughts like this go on and on. They are what help make this movie special. Now that you have read this review, try watching Kino Lorber’s GIFs from Faust.

Trainspotting

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The downside of coming off junk was I knew I would need to mix with my friends again in a state of full consciousness. It was awful. They reminded me so much of myself, I could hardly bear to look at them.

I had a hard time deciding what to say about this film. I remembered it being both great and disturbing. It is certainly disturbing, but as I watched was not sure if it was great or not. For a long time I have referenced it as Danny Boyle’s best film, so now I am confronted with the possibility that I was wrong. Not only wrong, but vocally so.

I remembered several aspects of this film being great: It had a wonderful cast, whose actors went off to star in many major roles themselves. There were a couple of shocking scenes.  How the film showed just how thin the lines are between life, dreams and the dream-life of drugs. Overall I recalled how this film challenged me by confronting my conception of a normal life and drug culture.

The crew from Trainspotting: Tommy (Kevin McKidd), Spud (Ewen Bremner), Begbie (Robert Carlyle), Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller), Renton (Ewan McGregor), and Lizzy (Pauline Lynch)...at least I hope that's Lizzy. © 1996 Channel Four Films, Trainspotting.

The crew from Trainspotting: Tommy (Kevin McKidd), Spud (Ewen Bremner), Begbie (Robert Carlyle), Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller), Renton (Ewan McGregor), and Lizzy (Pauline Lynch)…at least I hope that’s Lizzy. © 1996 Channel Four Films, Trainspotting.

It turns out that the cast was even more successful than I recalled. I remembered Ewan McGregor—Obi Wan Kenobi from the Star Wars prequels, Robert Carlyle—who won the Best Actor BAFTA¹ for The Full Monty, Ewen Bremmer—Mullet from Snatch, but I thought this was Rhys Ifans for some reason, and Johnny Lee Miller—star of “Elementary” but eternally Dade from Hackers to me. I never connected the confident, beautiful jail bait teenager as Kelly Macdonald, probably because of the chasm between this and her role in Gosford Park. The other shocker was Kevin McKidd as the poor bastard whose friends steal his sex tape, which gets him dumped, which leads him to finally try heroin, which has an HIV infected needle. He played Lucius Vorenus in “Rome” and is well known/wasted talent on “Grey’s Academy” as Dr. Owen Hunt.

It was so hard not to put up the sex pics with her and McGregor, but that seemed inappropriate for some reason.

Diane (Kelly Macdonald), ready for school after a night of shagging Renton. © Trainspotting, 1996 Miramax.

The two scenes were equally disturbing, but less shocking as I knew they would not have been magically edited out of the film. They still affected me more than I expected, though. As for the drugs and drug life, I am pleased to report that I am not much more familiar with them than when I was high school. Regardless, all of the characters are interesting and it is hard to root for any of them. I guess the film was ahead of its time.

In conclusion, I had nothing to worry about because this is still Danny Boyle’s finest, it just failed to live up to my memories. It just happens to turn out that Slumdog Millionaire is also his finest. At #154 on IMDb’s Top 250 list, between How to Train Your Dragon and Gone with the Wind, which sounds about right. ****

 

¹ BAFTA = The British Academy of Film and Television Arts, whose awards are considered the British Oscars. At least that’s how we here in the US consider them.

Bad Words

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****

I’m not that good at thinking things through and that’s why this plan is such crap.

Chaitanya Chopra (Rohan Chand) and Guy Trilby (Jason Bateman) from Bad Words by © Darko Ent. 2014.

Chaitanya Chopra (Rohan Chand) and Guy Trilby (Jason Bateman) from Bad Words by © Darko Ent. 2014.

The concept for this movie is that a forty year old man enters into the national spelling bee for unknown reasons. He exploits a loophole that contestants may not have passed the eighth grade and are represented by a national news gathering organization. Playing the forty year old jerk, Guy Trillby, is “Arrested Devolpment’s” Jason Bateman, who also directed the movie. Kathryn Hahn—We’re the Millers—plays his reporter accomplice, Jenny Widgeon. She wants to know why Guy is doing this and agrees to support him in order to find out for her article. Guy openly concedes that his plan is pretty crappy, but he never learned the lessons he needed to make a better one.

On the surface this movie appears to exist so that Bateman can say terrible, terribly things to children. There is that, but there is more than that. There is an interesting psychological connection between the generations. Between fathers and sons. Children and adults. This is worth a watch, even if it might be awkward to watch it with your own parents.

Lone Survivor

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****
First of all, it’s not an Arabic horse, okay? It’s an Arabian horse.

 

The main four of Lone Survivor and two Pakistanis whom they release. Mark Wahlberg (Marcus Lutrell), Zarin Rahimi, Taylor Kitsch (Michael Murphy), Nicholas Patel, Ben Foster (Matt Axelson) & Emile Hirsch (Danny Dietz), © 2013 Universal.

The main four of Lone Survivor and two Pakistanis whom they release. Mark Wahlberg (Marcus Lutrell), Zarin Rahimi, Taylor Kitsch (Michael Murphy), Nicholas Patel, Ben Foster (Matt Axelson) & Emile Hirsch (Danny Dietz), © 2013 Universal.

This was a surprisingly good movie. Despite *NOT A SPOILER ALERT* Mark Wahlberg being the only member of his four man Navy Seal team to make it out alive, the movie did not focus on him. So kudos goes to the writer/director to Peter Berg. Berg has received critical acclaim for his Friday Night Lightses, but I know him from The Kingdom, The Rundown, Hancock and King’s Ransom. I assume that the slapdash nature of the story comes from how these soldiers lived their lives. The over the top scene where a bumbling newb—played by Alexander Ludwig, whose death at the end of The Hunger Games was extremely perplexing—was just some Macho Man snapping into a Slim Jim content that he tried to deliver with poise. But that helped solidify the reality, not undermine it.

One of the two best aspects of this movie are the opening montage of how becoming a Navy Seal works—it looks like it sucks worse than Birdemic did. Everyone in Afghanistan made it through and it automatically gave each character credibility, even when they said dumbass stuff like “arabic horse”. The other best part was how the movie showed non-Taliban Afghanis. On the whole it had me at 80% of the feeling which The Hurt Locker had provided me, which is damned good.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

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***½

Here we are pal. All of sudden this doesn’t look like the brightest idea you ever had, huh?

Ava Lord (Eva Green) and Dwight McCarthy (Josh Brolin), © 2014 Miramax.

Ava Lord (Eva Green) and Dwight McCarthy (Josh Brolin), © 2014 Miramax.

Sin City was a great movie. It was innovative and a trend setter that showed George Lucas how a green screen should be used. Nine years later pretty much everyone who wanted to see this sequel has moved on. Even me. I can barely believe that since I loved the comic books. Now I could not even find my copy of A Dame to Kill For, which was my favorite of all of the Sin City books. Well, there are three stories besides the namesake. None of which are as good as the central one.

The new stories, they focus around Senator Roark—Powers Boothe, “Deadwood”, who hounded Hartigan—Bruce Willis, Die Hard— for shooting up his Roark’s degenerate, rapist son. Joseph Gordon-Levitt fits in well to this world, as does his lady luck, Julie Garner. Nobody new takes part in (Jessica Alba’s) Nancy Callahan’s story, but it is pretty much a ripoff of A Dame to Kill For. Do not try to figure out what that means, it is too meta and circular. Despite these flaws, this is still an enjoyable and exciting movie. I could list the great cast additions, but for me the star of the movie was the dame herself, Eva Green as Ava Lord. I admitted to my adoration of Eva Green in 300: Rise of an Empire and she shows off a greater acting range here. She also wears much less clothing. As a result, those who do not like Eva Green as much as I do, may not like this movie as much.

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