Archive for the ‘Paul Gross’ Category

MOVIE: Passchendaele (2008)

November 25, 2009

As with Harry Connick Jr. from yesterday’s review of New in Town, it probably goes without saying that I’m an absolutely ridiculous fan of Paul Gross.   Due South to start with, of course, and then Slings & Arrows to do me in completely.  And even though I couldn’t get into Eastwick this season on TV, it wasn’t because of him.  I love this man.  I love him.  I love him.  I love him.  If he asked me to get down on my knees and kiss his feet, I would do it and love it and only feel the tiniest bit like a schmuck later.

And that’s why, when I heard he’d made a WWI movie that had been released in Canada to fairly respectable reviews, I couldn’t wait to see it.  I tried to wait, I failed.  They kept not releasing it here in the U.S. and I kept wanting them to and they kept not, so I finally caved and made an end-run around the problem.  I will make it up to the problem just as soon as the problem lets me, though, I swear.

Now let me tell you how absolutely gut-wrenching it’s going to be for me to write the rest of this review.  Because, oh GOD, my gut is wrenched that I have to do this.  Monkey wrenched, in fact.  Socket wrenched.  Because this film, which was written, directed, and stars Paul Gross, is pretty unbearably awful.   And you know what the problem is?  The problem is, it’s just exactly as self-indulgent as a film written, directed, and starring the same guy sounds like it would be.  Goddamn it.  Ow, my guts, I hate you.

Let me ‘splain.

As the story opens, Gross’s character (Michael Dunne), is in Europe fighting in a battle in which he finds himself face-to-face with a German soldier who couldn’t possibly be older than about 17.  Despite the fact the kid had surrendered, Dunne makes the decision to kill him, and before he even has a chance to process that, he’s blown up by a grenade.

He wakes up back in Canada in a hospital where he’s being tended to by a pretty nurse named Sarah Mann (the wonderful Caroline Dhavernas, who some of you might recognize from the series Wonderfalls).  Of course, he falls in love with her, and she with him.  After he’s recovered, he takes a job in town as a recruiter, ostensibly because he’s a hero, but everybody knows it’s actually because of a diagnosis of shell-shock — something they all translate internally as “cowardice.”

Long story short, Sarah’s younger brother, who has terrible asthma, decides he wants to enlist and go fight, and he gets someone to forge his paperwork for him so he can head off to war.  Madly in love with his sister, Michael feels he has no choice but to follow her brother back into battle so he can protect him.  And, of course, madly in love with Michael and terrified for her brother, Sarah feels she has no choice but to join the two of them as a nurse on the battlefront.  So, the next thing we know, we’re all of us back in Europe with stuff exploding over our heads and a whole heck of a lot of misery and awfulness.

Now, quick — the things this movie does well:

I liked that so much of the movie was set in Canada instead of in battle, focusing more on some of the emotional complexities the war had both on returning soldiers and the men who were not allowed to fight in the first place.  I knew the movie was going to have to move back to the actual war at some point (because the title refers to the Battle of Passchendaele in Belgium in 1917, which you can read more about here), but I enjoyed the way this movie gives us a little time to get some insight on the many emotional elements of war for men, as well as, to a lesser degree, the politics of recruitment.

I also really liked the actual battle scenes themselves — in Passchendaele, Michael and his platoon find themselves forced to dig into trenches, as was typical during WWI.  Only, it had been pouring down rain for months and their trenches end up being more like swampy swimming pools than holes.  Shots of these men and boys literally waist-deep in mud brought home the horror of trench warfare in a way no other movie I’ve seen about that really has.  My god.  No wonder so many WWI soldiers died of diseases instead of bullets.  I can’t even imagine what that must have been like.  I get cranky when it rains here in Seattle and I’ve forgotten my umbrella.  At least I can still keep my socks (and matches) dry.

But now, and I hate this part, I really do, but here’s what this movie does really, really badly:  ALMOST EVERYTHING ELSE.

Put simply, the number one flaw of this movie is that it just tries WAY too hard.  Gross obviously feels extremely passionate and proud about Canada’s involvement in WWI, and he’s also obviously seen just about every brilliant war movie ever made.  He knows that brilliant, powerful war stories involve things like imagery, motivational speeches, love that may or may not be totally doomed, and the shock of the violence the Everyman is forced to take part in just to survive.

But in trying to incorporate every one of those elements into his own film, he just couldn’t pull it off.  He didn’t seem to understand what makes each of those elements truly powerful — the emotions behind them, the meaning behind them.  His imagery, for example, focused heavily on the concept of martyrdom (Jesus on the cross, especially) and birds, especially birds of prey.  But there wasn’t any actual MEANING to those images.  The martyrs were not martyrs.  And the  birds — the birds made no real sense at all.  It was like he thought “imagery” simply means repetition of a visual.  But the visuals have to be representative of something; they can’t just hang out and be all, hey, it’s me again, hi.  Know what I mean?

And the speeches, oh man.  They were just painfully vacuous, I’m sorry, Paul.  Delivered with such poignant tone, and yet without any actual power whatsoever.    I’m not even going to talk about the total lack of chemistry between Gross and Dhavernas, either.  It just crushed me.  It seriously did.  It was that painful to watch.  If only he’d cast me instead.  Seriously.  That would’ve been some third-year P-Chem, let me tell you.

In any case, are just SO many things about this movie that do not work.  It struck me as disastrously amateurish and was ultimately completely without impact.  There were some good ideas in there, but Gross needed to pass his script along to a pro when he was done with it and get some better thinkers involved.  As it stands, it seemed like the kind of script I would’ve written in high school, when I tried to make all my writing sound “deep,” without any real comprehension of what “deep” truly was.

Lordy.  This is what I get for pirating a video.  And now I have to buy it when it comes out just to assuage my guilt.  Damn.  I am so not thankful for that.  (But hey, to all my American readers:  Happy Thanksgiving!)

[Netflix me | Buy me]

Genre:  War, Drama
Cast:  Paul Gross, Caroline Dhavernas, Adam Harrington, Joe Dinicol, Michael Greyeyes


Fall TV Week Three, Part 2 — Duck and Cover!

September 23, 2009

Wednesday, 9/23

jamestupperMercy (NBC) – 8pm.  The ads for this show make it look absolutely unbearably awful.  Plus, stop claiming to be the only show about nurses, you morons, or I’m sending Nurse Jackie over to kick your ass.  I strongly suspect the title of this series is going to be the rallying cry of everyone who watches it.  Then again, JAMES TUPPER, people.  It’s not like I can just NOT tune in.

garyunmarriedSit-coms (not watching): The New Adventures of Old Christine (CBS) – 8pm, Gary Unmarried (CBS) – 8:30pm, Cougar Town (ABC) – 9:30pm, Modern Family (ABC) – 9pm.   Of these four, the only one I’m even remotely intrigued by is Modern Family, which is a mockumentary-style sit-com about an American family being filmed for a Dutch reality show.  But I’ll wait for you guys to tell me if it’s any good first — don’t leave me hangin’.   As for Cougar Town, my plan for that one is to Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal it into disexistence.  If I can’t see it, it can’t see me.  Annnnd POOF.

criminalmindsCrime shows (watching due to irrational inability to quit even when quitting is the only logical move): Criminal Minds (CBS) – 9pm, Law & Order: SVU (NBC) – 9pm, CSI:New York (CBS) – 10pm.  I still really enjoy Criminal Minds, even though it has gotten sort of repetitive.  Stop me if you’ve heard this profile before:   age 20-40, white male, issues with mom, works full-time and appears normal to the neighbors, has a dungeon in his basement.  I just described the “unsub” from 95% of the episodes from last season, I swear.  Nevertheless, I have a mondo crush on Joe Mantegna and that goes a long way towards keeping me engaged.

Law & Order: SVU, I would argue, has sucked almost unbearably for at least the last two seasons, if not longer. I need to let it go and for some reason find myself unable to.  Here’s hoping it frees me like ER finally did, but doesn’t take nearly as long to get around to it.

Lastly, CSI: New York is the only one of the three CSI series I tune into with any degree of regularity anymore.  The original series has been too hit-or-miss for about the last three years and Lawrence Fishburne is not doing it any favors (not his fault, I would argue — the conceit of his addition to the team was just really lame and unbelievable and I haven’t gotten past that yet).  CSI:NY got a lot better in its second season, so if you bailed after its awful first, it might be worth checking it out again.  It’s got some good characters and some annoying ones, but Gary Sinise is a steady helmsman, and, of course, I still love Melina Kanakaredes from her days on Due South and always, always will.

paulgrossEastwick (ABC) – 10pm.  The ads for this show make it look absolutely unbearably awful.   Hey, deja vu!  I’m not crazy about two out of the three actresses running this machine, and the third one I’m only not not-crazy about because I have no idea who she is.  That probably bodes significantly less than well.  Then again, PAUL GROSS.  Curses!  Somebody in charge of casting all the terrible shows this year certainly has my number.

Thursday, 9/24

flashforwardFlash Forward (ABC) – 8pm.  This time-bending sci-fi show centers on a bizarre incident that causes all of mankind to black out for two minutes, during which time they each get a glimpse of themselves six months in the future.  It’s obviously been inspired by Lost, which was reason enough at first for me NOT to want to tune in.  I changed my mind, though, when I read two things about this show.  The first is that we’ll get to the “future” by the end of the first season — no holding over what’s in the metaphoric hatch for a ridiculously long time.   The second is that the series creators have already mapped out the full five years of the show.  This gives me hope it will have neither the constant frustrations nor the time-killing flailings of Lost.  As for the physics that make my brain hurt, I’m always happy to sign up for more pain.  Especially with Joseph Fiennes and Courtney B. Vance at the helm.

Grey’s Anatomy (ABC) – 9pm.  Confession time:  D-O-N-E.

csiCSI (CBS) – 9pm.  As I said above, this series is not really doing it for me any more.  Too many favorite characters gone, too many weird restructurings of the rest of the staff in the lab, too many repetitive storylines.  I’ll probably watch, but not with regularity.  Fishburne, get out while you still can!  (By the way, if you get the chance to see the CSI exhibit that is touring various science museums in the U.S. right now, go!  It’s totally fun!)

mentalistThe Mentalist (CBS) – 10pm.  I watched the first two or three episodes of this one last year and wasn’t impressed enough to want to make space for it in my weekly schedule.   I’ve since heard that it got pretty good there towards the end, but I’m probably too far behind at this point to ever get caught up.   Love Simon Baker, but can’t help thinking whenever I watch this show that I’d rather be watching Psych.

Friday, 9/25

Law & Order (NBC) – 8pm.  Nope.

Ghost Whisperer (CBS) – 8pm.  Nope.

dollhouseDollhouse (Fox) – 9pm.  Yep.  Though it took me almost the entire first season to warm up to this Joss Whedon show, by the end, I was thoroughly hooked.  When it finally broke free of the “prostitute conceit of the week” stories and really delved into the background stuff, it got incredibly engrossing.  Plus, this season adds a dash of Jamie Bamber to the mix; I love that little bunny!  Dear Fox:  Try not to frak this one up, okay?

mediumMedium (CBS) – 9pm (new network!).  I’m beyond grateful that CBS rescued this series when NBC gave it the boot last summer.  It may not be brilliant, but it’s thoughtful and well-acted, and that goes a long way in my book.  Glad to have it back, and so soon too (last year we had to wait until January for it).  Major crush on Jake Weber, of course.  That probably goes without saying at this point.

Numb3rs (CBS) – 10pm.  Still love it, in no small part because of the Biscuit.

Sunday, 9/27

I won’t be watching any of these, but here’s what’s back Sunday (I do watch Dexter, but have to wait for DVD on that one).

Amazing Race (CBS) – 8pm.  Too stressful.

Dexter (Showtime) – 9pm.  Too expensive.

Family Guy (Fox) – 9pm.  Too cartoonish.

American Dad (Fox) – 9:30pm.  Also too cartoonish.

Brothers and Sisters (ABC) – 10pm.  Too Sally Field.

Cold Case (CBS) – 10pm.  Too shut the hell up.

Five More ex-Boyfriends Headed for TV!

August 27, 2009

Okay, so we already knew about Paul Gross in Eastwick (ABC, Wednesday, Sept. 23), Tim DeKay in White Collar (USA, Oct.), Alex O’Loughlin in Three Rivers (CBS, Sunday, Oct. 4), Chris O’Donnell on NCIS:LA (CBS, Tuesday, Sept. 22), and Timothy Olyphant on Lawman (FX, 2010) (okay, okay, he’s not an ex-Boyfriend YET, but he will be soon enough).

BUT I just found out today that five more ex-Boyfriends will be starring or co-starring in shows coming to cable and network television this fall/winter.  Man, I might have to quit my day job just to keep the DVR from exploding.  Life is good.  (p.s. Know of any other new shows coming soon that star old Boyfriends of the Week?  Hit the comments!)

We’ve got:

James Marsters playing terrorist leader Barnabus Greeley in SyFy’s Battlestar Galactica prequel series, Caprica. (Jan. 2010)

John Hawkes playing a new character on ABC’s Lost — some kind of businessman described as “scruffy, edgy, and charismatic.”  You had me at “scruffy,” ABC. (Jan. 2010)

Chris Noth co-starring with Julianna Margulies in CBS’s The Good Wife, a series about a stay-home mom who finds herself reentering the workplace after her husband’s very public sex and political corruption scandals land him in jail.  Sounds terrible.  Sign me up.  (Tuesday, Sept. 22)

The delightfully-voiced Clancy Brown co-starring in ABC’s new lawyer drama, The Deep End, which will focus on a law firm and its fresh-faced recruits.  While I’m definitely sick (and tired) of lawyer shows, those are two adjectives I’ll likely never apply to my feelings about The Clance (which sounds like an STD but isn’t; if it were, I’d be happy to contract it, though), so clearly I’m on board. Plus, Tina Majorino!  Yay!  (TBA, Fall)

And last, but certainly NOT least,

James Tupper, humina humina, coming to NBC in Mercy, a medical drama told from the perspective of nurses and described as having “a totally unique point of view.”  You know, except for all those other shows on TV right now about nurses.  Oh really, like we care if this one’s unique.  As long as nobody tries to tidy up his hair, I’m in.  (Friday, Sept. 23)

(By the way, I was going to reduce this photo of JT a bit.  But then I decided life’s too short for cropped photos of James Tupper.  You’re welcome.)


Paul Gross to star in new ABC series Eastwick next Fall!

June 8, 2009

paul_gross_img2“Everywhere he goes, he stirs up sex. . . and trouble.”

You said it, lady.

By the way, he’s topless in this preview AND THERE IS KISSING.

You might want to make sure you’re somewhere private when you watch it in case you begin to weep shamelessly from joy.  Like I just did.

MOVIE: Friday the 13th (2009)

May 18, 2009

F13This is going to sound weird (particularly to people have made a surprise visit to mi casa and seen what passes for “housework” around here when we don’t know you’re coming) but when I’m out of town for a vacation or a conference, one of my favorite things to do on my first night in the hotel is to get out the ironing board, unpack all my clothes, and then pick out a pay-per-view movie and watch it while I iron everything I brought with me.  It’s the only time EVER that I iron ANYTHING, please note.  I never do this at home.  But I find it quite peaceful in hotels, and it always seems like a good way to kick off a conference or vacation or whatever.

Anyway, while I was in Halifax, Nova Scotia two weeks ago, the first movie I saw when I went through the PPV listing was this one, and I immediately selected it without looking any further.  Unfortunately, this was a terrible choice, not just because this movie sucks, but because in selecting it so quickly, I neglected to notice that Paul Gross’s latest film, Passchendaele, which is not available in the US, was also available.  That first night ended up being the only one where I had time for a full-length (i.e. 2+ hours) film, so I never got a chance to watch it.  And instead, oy, wasted my first night on THIS stinker.  Which I knew was going to be a stinker, but still didn’t believe it could actually be as bad as it ended up being.

Because, obviously, I am delusional.  And also, I never learn.

About twenty minutes into this not-really-a-remake-not-really-a-sequel, I thought to myself, “Wow, this movie is completely tedious.”  Then I wondered if it was completely tedious because I was totally exhausted (Seattle to Halifax = many hours in travel status).  Or because it was, indeed, actually completely tedious.  By the end, I had my answer.  This movie is completely tedious because of it’s complete tediousness.  Need I say more?

I need?  Okay, here goes:  the story opens with a group of kids out camping near Camp Crystal Lake, where they are promptly picked off one by one by Baghead Jason (nice to see Baghead Jason again, I will confess — I always preferred him to Hockey Mask Jason).  One of the victim’s brothers, played by Jared Padalecki (Sam on SupeNatch), goes to the town near CCL to look for his sister.  There, he is told all kinds of ominous things by the locals about how people who disappear around there aren’t so much missing as DEAD.  Mua ha ha ha!  But instead of taking that as a clue he ought to skedaddle, he hooks up with a young lovely, and the two spend the rest of the movie being chased around by Jason (who, alas, finds a hockey mask about 45 minutes in and, after that, ceased to be of any interest to me whatsoever).

Here’s the problem in a nutshell — this movie uses every horror movie cliche ever, and if it was intended to be satirical in that manner, it failed.  You immediately know who is going to buy the farm and who will be the Final Guy/Girl, because some of the characters get naked and smoke weed, and others refuse to have sex with their boyfriend and say no when offered a joint.  Really?  We’re still making slasher movies with morality lessons tucked away in between the machete scenes?

Even worse, way, way too much of this film is spent running and running and chasing and chasing and then running and running some more.  I know that slasher movies are about slashers chasing youngsters around, trying to do them in.  But it can’t ALL be chase scenes — there needs to be SOME character development.

I know at least six people who just burst out laughing at that last sentence, by the way.  Character development?  In a SLASHER movie?  But seriously — I’d argue the original F13 actually pulls that off, and so do a number of its sequels.  If I don’t care about you — if I don’t know anything about you other than that you’re a prude who eschews the inhaling of illicit substances — why am I going to root for you to get out alive?

Answer:  I’m not.  Not even if you are totally cute, like Jared Padalecki.

To put this in terms the kids will understand:  This movie totally blows.

[Netflix me | Buy me, if you are a sucker]

Genre: Horror
Cast:  Jared Padalecki and a bunch of other good-looking kids ripe for killin’

Confidential to the Hijacking-Baby Spammers, You Know Who You Are

August 26, 2008

Dear Hijacking-Baby Spammers:

You have sent me approximately 86,001 spams over the last 48 hours that all feature the subject line, “We have hijacked your baby.”  I feel it is my duty to inform you that this attempt to infect my computer with a virus is never going to succeed.  You know why?  BECAUSE I HAVE NO BABY.

Unless by “baby” you actually mean my cat Lucky, in which case, I feel it is my duty to inform you that you can keep her, yo.  She’s cute, but she’s not THAT cute.

$50,000 for a cat?  Where do you think I live, Ancient Egypt?

Next time you want me to open your infectious file, you should try a subject line that goes a little something more like this:  “Paul Gross removes shirt, reveals self to be last actor in North America who still has chest hair!”  Now THAT’S an executable file I’m apt to take a gamble on.


The Management

If You Think There’s Nothing On, It’s Time to Get Cable, Cheapskate.

June 26, 2008

I’m hearing a lot of complaints from people lately that there’s nothing good on television at the moment. Nine times out of ten, this complaint is coming from people who don’t have cable or satellite TV, and to you people, I would like to say this: What is UP with your priorities, man?

Seriously — if I had to choose between having cable/satellite or paying my mortgage, there’d be nary a moment’s hesitation for me. I mean, what can my house do for me that alternative, cheaper forms of shelter cannot? I mean, BESIDES give me second degree chemical burns on my forearms, like it did last year?

On the other hand, you know what cable/satellite TV is doing for me lately? It’s making me LAUGH. And while, sure, you could argue that my house has also made me laugh from time to time, it’s primarily been laughter of the hysterical variety (you know, the kind that comes right before the total mental breakdown?), which isn’t nearly as fun.

If you don’t have cable/satellite, I’m afraid there’s not much I can do about your complaint except note that Farmer Wants a Wife seems to be quite popular on the CW (my condolences).

If you DO have cable or satellite, however, there are two new shows you need to give a try before you bemoan the lack of quality programming to me again. You one-out-of-ten person who does have cable and yet keeps complaining (you know who you are, you big whiner), pay attention to what’s coming next.

The first show? USA’s newest series, In Plain Sight (Sunday nights, 10pm). Now, the funny thing about this one is that when I first started to see ads for it, I found them so utterly obnoxious I swore I wouldn’t even give it a try. It’s very unlike me to dismiss a show without even watching the pilot, and that goes double for a show on the channel that graced the world with Monk and Psych, two of my summer favorites (p.s. stay tuned next week for a post about shows coming back this July, including these two).

So now’s where I’d like to pause for a moment to educate the people at USA who come up with the ad campaigns in the hopes they don’t make this same mistake next time: If you are trying to market a show to women that is about a strong woman, do not make the clips about breast implants and porn the primary focus of your commercials. Capice? Good.

Lucky for me, the week before this show began, I read a positive review of it in Entertainment Weekly that led to my begrudging concession to watch the first episode before dismissing it so readily as misogynist crap. And, wonder of wonders, it’s actually pretty good! It’s about two U.S. Marshalls who primarily do Witness Protection Program work, and the characters are great, the dialogue is sharp, and the plots so far have been pretty entertaining. So far, I’ve seen three episodes and really enjoyed all three. That’s a very good sign. You can watch full episodes of this one on the USA Network web site, by the way. Go get caught up — I’ll wait.

The second show, I never would’ve even HEARD about had it not been for my mother. So now’s where I’d like to pause for a moment to once again express my profound devotion to the best mom in the whole entire world (Hi, Mom!). Some mothers look out for their daughters by teaching them to avoid motorcycle trash (Hi, Dad!), not walk alone at night, or stay away from trans fats. My mother looks out for me by keeping an eye on the TV guide just in case a new sci-fi show starts up that has dialogue like, “It’s bad apples like you who put Mr. Hoover in a dress.” Man, I totally scored when it came to parents.

The show I’m referring to is called The Middleman, by the way, and the reason I would never have stumbled across it on my own is because it airs on the ABC Family channel (Monday nights, 10pm). My family, however, consists of a cat (who prefers watching squirrels) and a husband (who prefers watching MMORPGs), and so I just assumed this channel would have very little to offer me. But, and again I must say “wonder of wonders,” this show is actually pretty good too!

It’s based on a comic book series of the same name and is sort of like a cross between Dr. Who, Men in Black, The Avengers, and Due South (the guy playing the main character both looks a little like Paul Gross AND says things like, “Thank you kindly”) and though I will confess it’s a bit choppy in places, the dialogue is utterly hilarious, and I really like both the main characters a whole heckfire of a lot.

The Middleman is a guy whose job it is to protect the rest of the world from aliens, robots, and other nefarious characters, and as the series begins, he’s just hired himself a sarcastic sidekick, an artist/temp named Wendy Watson. Together, they wear snazzy suits and stop evildoers from doing evil. And, in the process, have made me laugh out loud at least six times an hour (which is virtually impossible unless you are the movie Overboard (“I just *cough* ate a bug”) or Zoolander (“What is this?  A center for ANTS?”)). It needs some polish, but I think the more the actors get the hang of the thing, it’s going to get even better.

So, you see? Those two plus So You Think You Can Dance and you’re COMPLAINING about there being nothing on? La la la, I can’t hear you, la la la!

Any other new shows I’m missing? Comments, yo!