Archive for September, 2010

MOVIE: The Town (2010)

September 30, 2010

I went into this film expecting it to blow me away.  After all, Gone Baby Gone completely knocked my socks off back in 2007.  It was, in fact, the movie that finally made me stop rolling my eyes at Ben Affleck after years and years (and yeeeears!) of rolling my eyes at Ben Affleck.  And now he’s back to direct another film set in Boston, a town I adore and one I know he knows inside and out?  Bring it on.  I am IN.  Between 2007 and 2010, I’m sure he’s learned a gazillion new things about filmmaking, and I was definitely eager to find out what they were.

Alas, it seems that what Affleck learned in his time away from the rear-end of a camera was that thoughtful, creative movies don’t make money; movies that blow a lot of shit up do.  Another one lost to the tired traditions of Hollywood blockbusters?  I won’t write him off just yet, but I will confess to being extremely disappointed.

The Town is set in Charlestown, a neighborhood of Boston.  It opens by telling us Charlestown is the “bank robbery capital” of America, with the trade being somewhat of a local tradition, passed down from generation to generation.

Cut to the film’s first robbery scene, where a group of men wearing Skeletor masks burst into a local bank, waving guns around and yelling about the time — you know, just like you’ve seen bank robbers do a million times in movies and TV shows.  They get one of the bank employees, a pretty young woman named Claire (Rebecca Hall, who reminds me of Molly Ringwald, for some reason) to open the safe and, at the last minute, one of the robbers grabs her and drags her out with them as a hostage.  They manage to escape, keeping Claire blindfolded the whole time, and once they get away, they let her go on a local beach, telling her to walk forward, keeping her blindfold on, until her toes hit the water.

Back to safety, we learn the robbers are best friends going way back, led by Doug McCrae (Affleck), the brains of the operation, and energized by the frenetic, almost ADD-like behavior of Doug’s like-a-brotha’ friend James Coughlin (a fantastic, almost unrecognizable Jeremy Renner).

James is a bit on the loose cannon side — he’s the one who took Claire hostage on a whim, something Doug wasn’t too pleased about.  He’s aggressive, impulsive, and hard to reason with.  Doug, on the other hand, plans carefully, ponders heartfully, and is about to get a taste of a life he never even knew he wanted.

Worried Claire might’ve seen something she could use to identify them, Doug decides to stage what the movie biz calls a “meet cute.”  He follows her around until she’s heads into a laundromat and then sort of “accidentally” introduces himself to her, asking if she has any quarters for the machines.  Thoroughly charmed by him, Claire ends up agreeing to go out with him for coffee.  Before he knows it, Doug’s in love, getting his first real bite of what “normal” life is like, and greatly wanting more.

And here’s where the movie goes from good to glarrrrbbbbghargh! (<– industry term).

This film had so many great things going for it:  an incredible cast, a setting with loads of personality all its own, a strong story backbone, and characters that were truly intriguing:  Doug, the conflicted smart guy with the troubled past; Doug’s father (Chris Cooper), who is in prison for robbery himself and clearly has a complicated relationship with his son; Doug’s friend James, trouble heading for disaster; and Claire, who’s about to find out her boyfriend is the same guy who put a bag over her head and stuffed her into a van.

At first, it looked like all these elements were going to come together absolutely brilliantly into a movie that looked closely at intricately built relationships, weighty family histories, and the pressures of background and tradition.  But all of a sudden, the movie inexplicably dropped most of these more interesting elements and devolved into standard bank robber stuff, turning away from the more “thoughty” parts of the story and instead diving head-first into a series of shoot-outs, car chases, the works.

We never even see Doug’s father again — that entire scene felt like a throwaway to me — and other things that seemed to be major plot elements didn’t make much sense either (like James’s tattoo — he’s so careful before a robbery he scrubs his skin down to remove any old cells that might leave behind DNA, but neither he nor Doug  think to cover up his extremely unique neck tattoo?  Baloney.).  Frankly, even the relationship drama between Claire and Doug ends up taking a pretty boringly all-too-familiar route.   Absolutely everything about the story ends up being completely predictable, with nary an original bone to be had.  Major disappointment.

That said, The Town is extremely well-crafted and it’s certainly beautifully shot.  The scenes of Boston are absolutely wonderful (especially the scenes set in Fenway Park — man, that must’ve been a dream come true for Affleck).

All in all, though, this movie felt more like a made-for-TV flick than a feature film made by a man we all know can do better.

Time to get some courage, Mr. Affleck, sir.  Balls to the wall on the next one, you got me, ya chowdahead?  You can do it.  And I can wait.

[Prequeue at Netflix | View trailer]

Genre:  Thriller, Crime
Cast:  Ben Affleck, Rebecca Hall, Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Blake Lively, Slaine, Owen Burke, Titus Welliver, Pete Postlethwaite, Chris Cooper

Fall TV Part 3: Sept 27-Oct 3 – PACE YOURSELVES

September 27, 2010

Luckily, this week gives us a chance to catch our breath after last week, which was, quite frankly, a little bit bananas.  All the new stuff has to start in the SAME WEEK?  You can’t space it out a little?  Make it last?  Whatever, networks.  Band-Aid rippers, clearly.

There are only a few new shows this week, but before I get to them, let me give you the quick skinny on what I’m giving a second chance and what I’ve already booted from my schedule.

Gets a Take-Two:

Hawaii Five-0 — First episode almost killed me with its cheese. That final scene where the camera slo-mo’d Grace Park smiling and twirling in her cute li’l outfit?  Puke-aroo.  But it wasn’t terrible and I like the actors (though, Alex O’Loughlin is not terribly impressive thus far — smack them acting chops into shape, Alex, I’ve seen you do a lot better than this).  And, what’s more, I like the setting.  It’s sunny and warm there.  That’s not worth nothing when you’re heading towards winter in Seattle.

Detroit 1-8-7 — MAJOR issues with this one already, like, for example, the new homicide detective who pukes at his first dead body scene, despite the fact he’d clearly been a beat cop for years and surely had seen much worse than that.  Really?  Please to not believe your audience is so dumb thanks.  Also, what gives with the fairly solid beginning and, as a friend called it, the “Jerry Bruckheimer” ending?  Pick one, guys.  Preferably this week.

The Whole Truth — It’s not great, but it didn’t suck, either.  I watched the whole thing, unoriginal as it was.  I like Maura Tierney and her new hairdo, and while Rob Morrow seemed a little unsure of how much to play up the New York/New Jersey thing, he might settle in, mellow out.  It’s nice to see him be a bit of a goof for a change, at the very least.  But it’s going to need better storylines if it’s going to hold my attention.

Outlaw — SURPRISE!  I’ve seen the first two episodes of this one and I’m really enjoying it.  Jimmy Smits is doing a good job in his role as an ex-Supreme Court justice who has returned to the lawyer side of the bench.  And the Arizona cop vs. racially-profiled Hispanic case was timely without having the feeling of a “ripped from the headlines because we’re out of our own ideas already!” thing.  I also thought the writing was pretty sharp — good banter.   So far, best new legal show of the year, in my opinion — though admittedly, that is not saying much.

Dumped:

Blue Bloods — I watched the whole episode, and a mere three days later, I couldn’t tell you a damn thing about it.  Not a good sign.
Lone Star
— Still waiting on my DVR, which is also not a good sign.  Can’t muster requisite enthusiasm for this one’s story.
The Event
— Did not go there.
Chase
— Bored in under 8 minutes.
The Defenders
— Also bored in under 8 minutes, though I hear it got better after that so I might try again.

And now, coming up this week:

Tuesday, September 28

Returning:
The Good Wife – CBS, 9pm
Stargate Universe – SyFy, 9pm

New:
No Ordinary Family – ABC – 8pm — You know I love Michael Chiklis.  The problem is, I’m burned out on superheroes after the whole Heroes debacle.  What a disappointment.  If it ends up being the hit show of the year, though, I’ll be in for a DVD catch-up this summer.

Wednesday, September 29

New:
Law & Order: Los Angeles – NBC – 10pm — I was going to be all, “No way in hell” when it came to this one.  We need another Law & Order?  No.  No, sir, I’m pretty sure we don’t, in fact.   But then I ran into three problems:  Skeet Ulrich, Alfred Molina, and Terrence Howard.  Well, hell, NBC, if you’re gonna go all Terrence HOWARD on me . . . Damn.

Friday, October 1

Returning: Human Target – Fox – 8pm

Sunday, October 3

Returning:
American Dad
– Fox – 9:30pm
CSI:Miami – CBS, 10pm

Fall TV Part 2b: The Onslaught Continues (Thurs, 9/23 – Sun, 9/26)

September 23, 2010

Here we go with the second half of the week of TV Avalanchedom (asterisks on “Returning” shows are ones I watch either live or later on DVD):

Thursday, September 23

Returning:
*The Big Bang Theory – CBS – 8pm
*Bones – Fox – 8pm
Community – NBC – 8pm
*30 Rock – NBC – 8:30pm
*CSI – CBS – 9pm
Fringe – Fox – 9pm
*Grey’s Anatomy – ABC – 9pm
*The Office – NBC – 9pm
The Mentalist – CBS – 10pm
Private Practice – ABC – 10pm

New:
My Generation – ABC – 8pm
I’ve been seeing trailers for this series at the movie theater all summer and I have to confess, it has not warmed me to it at all.  STAY OUT OF MY MOVIE THEATER, TV SHOWS!  Is there no freedom from you?  That said, the one thing that makes this show slightly intriguing to me is the faux-documentary format (it introduces us to a group of high schoolers and then shows them to us again 10 years later to see if their predictions, dreams, etc. came true).  We’ve seen it used to great comedic effect in shows like The Office and Parks & Recreation — how about a drama?  The downside, though, is that it sounds like Thirtysomething, except it’s really more like Twentysomething, and the only thing more annoying to me than whiny 30 year-olds are whiny 20 year-olds.  Not planning to tune into this one.  Ya’ll let me know if I was misguided.

$#*! My Dad Says – CBS – 8:30pm
I was an early follower of Justin Halpern on Twitter (where he first began to tweet “shit [his] dad said”) and usually got a pretty good laugh out of 95% of his posts.  But a TV series?  I’m not sure.  I’m just not at all sure.  The upside:  William Shatner!  The downside:  William Shatner!  It all hinges on The Shat, which can be a dangerous situation for any TV show to be put in.  Can he do it?  Probably.  But this may be a one-trick pony whose trick gets pretty old fast.  We’ll see.

Outsourced – NBC – 8:30pm
Inspired by the indie film starring Josh Hamilton, this sit-com is about an American toy company exec sent overseas to train a bunch of Indian call center employees.  Fish outta water.  Been there, done that.  Pass.

Friday, September 24

Returning:
*Medium – CBS – 8pm
Smallville – The CW – 9pm
CSI: NY – CBS – 9pm
The Good Guys – Fox – 9pm
*Supernatural – The CW – 9pm

New:
Blue Bloods – CBS- 10pm
This is one of the few shows this year I’m kind of hopeful about.  I like three of its stars (Tom Selleck, Donnie Wahlberg, and Bridget Moynhan), and I’m intrigued by the idea of a cop family — cop dad, cop kids, cop everybody — as the focus of a TV series.   Don’t be too precious about this one, though, CBS.   Is my suggestion.

Sunday, September 26

Returning:
The Simpsons – Fox – 8pm
The Amazing Race – CBS – 8:30pm
Desperate Housewives – ABC – 9pm
*Dexter – Showtime – 9pm
Family Guy – Fox – 9pm
Bored to Death – HBO – 9pm

Bloomin’ — My latest piece at WWW

September 21, 2010

Published another piece at Writer, Writing, Writest this week (an online literary magazine I’m both writing for and helping to edit).  It’s called “Bloomin'” and this week’s theme was “My Summer Vacation.”

Hope you enjoy it! And while you’re there, check out some of the other work — a lot of it is super-duper great!

http://writingwriterwritest.blogspot.com/2010/09/meg-wood-bloomin.html

Fall TV Part 2a: The Onslaught Begins (Mon, 9/20 to Wed, 9/22)

September 20, 2010

The TV Avalanche is upon us!  DUCK AND COVER!

I’ll be breaking this week’s TV post into two installments — here’s Part A, which covers Mon-Wed.  Part B will come out Thursday and catch you up on the end of the week.

Also, I’m breaking shows for each night into two categories:  Returning and New.  If a returning show has an asterisk next to it, it’s one I’m planning to watch.  Other than that, I won’t take up your time by commenting on the old stuff.

Monday, September 20

Returning:
Chuck – NBC – 8pm
Dancing with the Stars – ABC – 9pm
* House – Fox – 8pm
How I Met Your Mother – CBS – 8pm
Rules of Engagement – CBS – 8:30pm
* Castle – ABC – 10pm (Lick, lick on Nathan Fillion’s nose, slurrrp!)

New:

The Event – NBC – 9pm
Okay, look, I just can’t do it.  I cannot get sucked into this show.  I know what’s going to happen to this show (boot!) and I refuse to play along.  If Joseph Fiennes couldn’t keep people watching Flash Forward, what makes NBC think Jason Ritter and Laura Innes can do any better?  I mean, they’re nice and all, but they’re not exactly big draws.  And they’re certainly not big enough to conquer the wariness people have about these long-range-plans shows.  Invest lots and lots of time and bam!, you will be rewarded with no ending whatsoever.  THANKS FOR NOTHING, NETWORKS.  Forget it.  I’m out.

If The Event thrives and becomes the talk of the nation the way Lost was at first, I’ll consider catching up on DVD this summer and launching in full-steam ahead for season two.  Otherwise, I’m just going to ignore the whole thing so I don’t get burned YET AGAIN.

Lone Star – FOX- 9pm
This series, about a con man who has meticulously constructed two different lives for himself (two different jobs, two different families, two enormous piles of lies), might be worth watching for Jon Voight and David Keith.  Plus, con stories can be fun.  But this show has the potential to go in a sappy direction (apparently, he really loves either one or both of his marks), and that could be pretty lame.  I’ll give this one a couple of episodes and reassess later.

Mike & Molly – CBS 9:30pm
Two working class Chicago singles find love at an Overeaters Anonymous meeting in this sit-com.  I’m not a big sit-com watcher and am unlikely to bother with this one, but at least it sounds like it might have some good body-positive themes to it.  Let me know if you like it and I’ll give it a shot.

Chase – NBC – 10pm
This one’s about a female U.S. Marshall in charge of a team that includes your standard tough guy, intelligence guy, weapons/tactics lady, and more.  Cole Hauser co-stars, which is why I’ll be tuning in.  I’m sure this is just going to be standard crime drama fare, and it’ll have to be extremely well-written if it’s going to hold my attention.  But if it’s snappy, smart, and creative?  I’ll sign up for the long haul.  Kind of like these teamwork shows — lots of room for different types of characters and growth.

Hawaii Five-0 – CBS – 10pm
Oh, you know I’ll be tuning in for this one.  How could I not?  If nothing else, Alex O’Loughlin, Daniel Dae Kim, and Scott Caan provide an awful lot of eye-candy.  That alone might keep my interest piqued at least for a few episodes while the show gets a bit steadier on its feet (I’ve read the pilot is a bit of a disappointment, but most pilots are, right?  All that set-up work getting in the way of the fun stuff?).  If this is good, it’ll be really fun.  The question is:  will it be GOOD?  I’m game to find out.  At least for a few weeks.

Tuesday, September 21

Returning:
The Biggest Loser – NBC – 8pm
Glee – Fox – 8pm
*NCIS – CBS – 8pm
NCIS: LA – CBS – 9pm

New:
Raising Hope – Fox – 9pm
Sit-com about a 23 year-old guy who still lives with his parents.  Looooooser.

Running Wilde – Fox – 9:30pm
Sit-com starring Will Arnett from Arrested Development, as a rich, immature playboy trying to win (or buy) the heart of his childhood sweetheart (Keri Russell).  This could be funny, if only because the cast is good, but again, I’m not much of a sit-com fan and probably won’t bother here unless reports are overwhelmingly glowing.

Detroit 1-8-7 – ABC – 10pm
Another “gritty crime drama” this time set on the streets of Detroit.  It’s got a great cast:  Michael Imperioli from The Sopranos, James McDaniel from NYPD Blue, and Aisha Hinds from True Blood, but the description on the web site kind of makes it sound like every other “gritty crime drama” ever made (also, Hinds’s character is described as “sexy, edgy, and beautiful” which has me bored already).  I’ll tune in for 2-3 episodes (my standard for trying a new series — one cannot judge a new show by its pilot alone), but please, Detroit 1-8-7, kick some ass for me, would you?  Let’s see what you can do when you’re in charge of a whole show, Cristahfah.

Wednesday, September 22

Returning:
Hell’s Kitchen – Fox – 8pm
The Middle – ABC – 8pm
*Criminal Minds – CBS – 9pm
*Law & Order: SVU – NBC – 9pm
*Modern Family – ABC – 9pm
Cougar Town – ABC – 9:30pm

Just a quick note on tonight’s returning shows:  I don’t know why I’m still watching Criminal Minds or SVU.  Don’t ask me.  I just can’t stop.  Even though they are terrible. Terrible!  TERRIBLE!  Argh.  Torment.

Modern Family, on the other hand, is an absolute DELIGHT and is the only sit-com I’m watching regularly these days.  I came into it late last season, dismissing it initially as being yet another sit-com about dysfunctional families.  But no — this show is hilarious and sweet and so, so good.  I laugh out loud all the time.  Wednesday night cannot come fast enough for me!  I need a good Dunphy chortle, and I need it ASAP!

New:
Undercovers – NBC – 8pm
This is the newest series by J.J. Abrams, which is excuse enough to tune in.  It’s about two CIA agents who get married, quit the spy game, and open a catering company instead.  But when their best pal, a fellow spy, disappears, they decide it’s time to go back to what they do best — espionage — to try to rescue him.  I love a good spy show, and I’m hoping this one qualifies — my only concern is the incredibly lame double entendre of the title, which makes me worry this may be not as sharply written as, say, Alias was.  Dorksville, USA, writers.  Don’t make that kind of schlock a habit, yes?  Fingers crossed!

Better With You – ABC – 8:30pm
Sit-com about two sisters whose lives are on very different paths — one is unmarried but in a long-term relationship, the other one is recently engaged to a guy she’s only know for seven weeks.  Hilarity ensues.  I guess?  Blah. Yawn.

The Defenders – CBS – 10pm
This lawyer drama is about two Las Vegas defense attorneys, played by Jerry O’Connell and Jim Belushi.  One is serious and focused, the other crazy about fast cars and hot ladies.  Watch them butt heads on cases!  “Hey, live a little!”  “Hey, buckle down!”  I can see where this one is headed, and so can you, but with Jim Belushi and Jerry O’Connell involved, it might be an entertaining ride at least.  I may or may not bother — I’m going to fly by the seat of my pants on this one.

The Whole Truth – ABC – 10pm
Former law school classmates turned bitter rivals, New York prosecutor Kathryn Peale and hotshot defense lawyer Jimmy Brogan square off in high-profile cases.  You just know they’re gonna fall in love.  Rob Morrow and Maura Tierney are the two draws for this one — it’s a little hard for me to picture them having any chemistry, but I do love Tierney’s new hair (post-chemotherapy).

Possibly worth a shot, but man, can’t anybody think up anything new anymore?  I feel like I’ve seen every one of this week’s premieres a hundred times already.  I sense this is going to be the Season of Yawn for network television.  Creativity gets punished on the networks (Pushing Daisies, for example) — is mediocrity really the only thing that sells anymore?  Take some risks, for pity’s sake.  I’m bored over here!

IN ANY CASE, come back here Thursday for what’s happening the rest of the week, and hitten zee comments for discussion.  *mwah*

New Boyfriend is Up!

September 17, 2010

Who is he?!  Who is he?!

Pfft, I’m not tellin’.  Go find out and then come back here for comments!

http://megwood.com

MOVIE: Prey (2006)

September 14, 2010

This movie surprised me by being fairly satisfyingly suspenseful.  It’s essentially Cujo set in the African desert:  a new stepmother (Bridget Moynahan) and her husband’s two kids find themselves stranded in a Jeep after their tour guide takes them off-road and promptly gets eaten by a lion.  The lions, having tasted the deliciousness of human blood, decide to hang out for a while and see if the Jeep’s other tasty snacks are dumb enough to venture out (spoiler: they are!).  Meanwhile, the husband/father teams up with a local hunter (not unlike the Quint character from Jaws) to try to track them down.

It’s not terribly original, of course, but it had many of the same elements that made Cujo fun for me:  a fear I could relate to (not so much with lions where I live, but certainly with other big cats, as well as, of course, the most terrifying beasts of all:  raccoons), authentic suspense, and fairly well-crafted/well-acted characters who create their own intriguing interpersonal drama when the lions are off napping or plotting.  Plus: gorgeous scenery!  And real lions!  Eep!

It’s not a brilliant film, but I definitely enjoyed watching it and would say it’s  well worth the rental fee if you like this sort of thing.  Bridget Moynahan, by the way, will be starring in a new TV show this fall called Blue Bloods (co-starring Tom Selleck and Donnie Wahlberg — veritable ex-Boyfriendapalooza).  Having seen her in this flick, I’m looking forward to seeing what more she can do.

[Netflix it | Buy it at Amazon]

Genre:  Adventure
Cast:  Peter Weller, Bridget Moynahan, Carly Schroeder, Jamie Bartlett

Fall TV 2010: Part 1 (Sept. 13-19)

September 13, 2010

Hello and welcome to this year’s edition of Meg’s Unsolicited Advice About Fall TV!

Next week is the big week of premieres, but we’ve already missed a couple of things that might’ve been worth catching (Nikita — anyone watch it?), and there are a few returning shows this week I’ve been looking forward to as well.

Check back every Monday through October for what’s coming up in the next seven days, and then post in comments after you’ve seen a show and have an opinion on it yourself!  Team effort, people.  TEAM.  There’s a ME in TEAM, so don’t let me down.

Monday, September 13

Tonight brings us two returning shows I have zero interest in.  Do with this information what you will.  I’ll be watching the latest season of Dexter on DVD, myself.

90210 – The CW – 8pm
Gossip Girl – The CW – 9pm

Tuesday, September 14

Sons of Anarchy – FX – 10pm —  Sons of Anarchy actually returned LAST week on FX and it was one HELL of an opener so I hope you caught it.  If not, definitely try to catch it online or in reruns if you can.  And if you aren’t watching this fantastic series yet (it stars BotW Charlie Hunnam), you are really missing out.  It’s gotten better with every passing year in my opinion, and last season totally blew my mind (SoA Mom Katey Segal, in particular).  Great characters, interesting social dynamics, and, as an added bonus, a frequently-topless Charlie Hunnan.  Mrrrrowl!

One Tree Hill – The CW – 8pm — This is still on?  Aren’t those kids, like, FORTY by now?

Life Unexpected – The CW – 9pm — Never watched this; unlikely to start now.

Parenthood – NBC – 10pm — I really enjoyed the first season of this series, so much so I made Dax Shepard the Boyfriend of the entire summer (ahem, well, okay, that might also have had something to do with laziness as well).  Hoping they can keep the fun going for a second season without getting too silly — it’ll be a fine line, I’m afraid.  What I found sort of refreshingly goofy in S1 has the potential to become insufferably lame in S2.  I’m staying hopeful, though.  It’s my way.

Wednesday, September 15

Returning are two reality shows that probably should have stopped returning long before now:  Survivor Nicaragua (CBS, 8pm) and America’s Next Top Model (actually returned last week, The CW, 8pm).

New is:

Hellcats – The CW – 9pm (also started last week, oops) — This one’s about a recent high school grad whose college scholarship falls through at the last minute.  Determined to get another scholarship, she joins the college’s cheerleading squad, which comes with a shot at a tuition waiver.   This is not really my thing either, I’m afraid, but if you watched and loved it, let me know!

Thursday, September 16

The Vampire Diaries – The CW – 8pm (started last week) — Skipped this one last year, and will continue to skip it this year.  Vampire overload.

Nikita – The CW – 9pm (started last week) — I was thinking about watching this show, as I’m a fan of the original film, Le Femme Nikita (Luc Besson, 1990).  I never watched the other series they did based on it, but it’s an idea that appeals to me in theory.  Missed the pilot last week myself; did you watch?  How was it?  Worth trying?

The Apprentice – NBC – 9pm.  People still want to work for Donald Trump?  The mind boggles.

Friday, September 17

Outlaw – NBC – 10pm (then moves to Wednesdays, I think).  I’m giving this series a shot ONLY because it stars ex-Boyfriend Jimmy Smits.  I’m incredibly bored with sexy lawyer law shows, though, and the web site’s description of the two female stars in this one made me want to puke (one’s “hopelessly romantic,” the other uses her sexuality to “get information” from men.  Is that what they’re calling it these days?  “Information”?  Bah dum-dum!).

I’ll give it two episodes to blow me away — if it fails, it gets the boot. The story focuses on a Supreme Court judge (Smits) who decides to quit his gig and return to private practice, finding the resultant transition a bit bumpy.   Wouldn’t it be cool if this show actually focused on the complexities of criminal law instead of on which lawyer’s shtupping whom?  Meh, I won’t hold my breath.  But I might cross my fingers.  Just a little bit.

Sunday, September 19

Boardwalk Empire – HBO – 9pm — Damn, I wish I had HBO:  Steve Buscemi in a series that kind of looks like The Sopranos set in the 1930s, brought to us by both Terrence Winter AND Martin Scorsese?  Why, that sounds positively grand.  Thank god for DVD, is all I’ve got to say.

Huge tumbling crazy avalanche worth of Fall TV coming next Monday!  Stay tuned!

MOVIE: Toxic Skies (2009)

September 12, 2010

By now, you have likely figured out that whenever movies with names like Toxic Skies start showing up in my review list, I’ve been down south to hang out with my parents, and my mom and I have rented up a big pile of silliness with which to entertain ourselves. Yep, you betcha, that’s what’s happened here, and you can expect a few more reviews like this one coming down the line shortly.  Hurrah!

Holy Moses, I love my mother.

This one we picked up for obvious reasons.  First of all, virus movies are irresistible to science geeks — at least to science geeks like us.  And even more importantly, we both have a serious thing for Ol’ Crinkly Eyes, better known to the world at large as James Tupper.  Nom nom, YUM!

Unfortunately, while this movie started off sort of intriguing, its attempt at being a bit unique (for a virus movie, anyway) eventually ended up getting in its way, culminating in a storyline about a jet fuel/governmental conspiracy that made little sense and an outbreak of the plague we mostly just found dull.

The conspiracy theory part involved the government’s attempts to get rid of nasty chemicals by putting them in jet fuel and letting airplanes burn them off high up in the skies.  Seems like a solid plan, except for the part where gravity brings the heavier-than-air fuel gases raining down on everyone below, wiping their immune systems out almost completely.

Tupper’s character, the one who brings the conspiracy to light for the doctor played by Anne Heche, says this is what explains the increases in autism, cancer, and other awful illnesses across the country over the last ten years.  And it’s why, all of a sudden, the city of Spokane, Washington, where the story is set, is suddenly dying from the plague, a disease that is completely treatable these days under normal circumstances.

The problem with this theory is that if the jet fuel were having this effect on the entire country, as Tupper suggests, wouldn’t there be gazillions of deadly outbreaks all the time?   Or at least at roughly the same time?  And wouldn’t it be far more likely that, if the chemicals were wiping people’s immune systems out, they’d all be dying of the flu/pneumonia long before anything as obscure as the Black Death got them?

Oh, heavens to Murgatroyd, it was just kind of dumb.  I’m sure you’re catching onto that.

Nevertheless, James Tupper is one helluva good-looking fella’ and even though he’s not, unfortunately, nearly as good at acting as he is at looking delicious, I wouldn’t kick him out of bed for it.  Or for this stinker either.

I do miss Men in Trees, though.  Sigh.

[Netflix it (including Watch Now) | Buy it at Amazon]

Genre:  Disaster, Virus
Cast:  Anne Heche, James Tupper, Daniel Bacon, Barclay Hope

MOVIE: The Ghost Writer (2010)

September 12, 2010

It was kind of interesting finally seeing this film.  I had gone to the theater with my husband when it first came out in theaters (months ago) and we’d detoured into a cafe to kill some time first, where for some reason I promptly had a total meltdown.  After making a minor fool out of myself by boo-hooing for no discernible reason in public, we decided we weren’t really in the mood for a movie, bagged the plan, and headed for home.

Now that I’ve seen it, though, I think we made a mistake that night.  Because I’m pretty sure we both would’ve loved this picture and I definitely would’ve been distracted out of my funk by it immediately — sucked deeply into the story and characters, and inspired by the artistic elements of its scenes.  The end of this movie is among the best movie-endings I’ve ever seen (or not seen, more accurately, though this won’t make sense to you unless you’ve seen it yourself);  both my mom and I thought it was absolutely brilliant.  And for me to say that these days, considering who the filmmaker is, is saying quite a lot.  As you may or may not remember, I am no big fan of Roman Polanski The Man.  Roman Polanski The Artist, on the other hand, I cannot deny is a genius.  Whether or not I should let those two things interfere with each other is probably an argument for another time.

The Ghost Writer is about an ex-prime minister of England, Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan), a character clearly based at least in part on Tony Blair.  As the story opens, a writer (Ewan McGregor), known to us only as “The Ghost”  (he’s never given a name, as most ghost writers aren’t), is hired to finish Lang’s memoirs, the original drafter of which recently died in a car accident.

The Ghost ends up moving in with the family as a political scandal erupts involving Lang’s role in the kidnapping and torture of suspected terrorists overseas.  While at first, he bonds strongly with Lang’s wife, Ruth (Olivia Williams, lovely as ever), and seems to be coasting along with his work fairly smoothly, he soon begins to notice things around the Lang household don’t seem quite right.

For one thing, he begins to suspect the “accident” that killed the first ghost writer, a member of Lang’s staff and a close friend, was not actually an accident, and that suspicion only gains in traction once he finds a set of photos and notes hidden in the man’s old room.  Plus, the scandal that’s blown up all of a sudden carries with it the weight of something much greater than it seems:  the CIA, an old professor of Ruth’s, and a former minister who was fired by Lang way back when he was the PM all seem somehow involved in what’s going on.  But HOW?

I don’t want to say too much more than that because part of the thrill of this film is trying to put together the pieces of what is going on.  I will say, though, that I was surprised by how it all worked out, surprised even more by the powerful final scene, and overall extremely impressed.

I really enjoyed this one, despite the icky feeling I get whenever I think the words “Roman Polanski.”   I hate to say it, but I’m kind of looking forward to whatever he does next.

Though I also won’t mind too terribly much if whatever he does next is 5-15 in the slammer.

Bastard.

[Netflix it | Buy it at Amazon]

Genre:  Thriller, Drama
Cast:  Ewan McGregor, Jon Bernthal, Kim Cattrall, Pierce Brosnan,  James Belushi, Olivia Williams, Timothy Hutton, Tom Wilkinson