Fall TV Week 1, Wednesday!

September 23, 2015

Tuesday recap!

muppetsThe only Tuesday n00b I’ve had a chance to see so far was The Muppets, and I have a few things to say about it. (Surprise!)

First of all, I enjoyed it more than I was expecting to. Moving it from the set of the old variety show over to the set of a late night talk show worked well for me, in that it maintains a little room for the variety elements we so loved as kids, but also modernizes it pretty smoothly. There were some great lines, too — they got some sharp writers.  Bodes well.

However.  While this mattered not at all to me as a little girl, because what the heck did I know, it was harder for me to ignore last night that The Muppets is sorely, SORELY lacking in strong female role models.

Miss Piggy gets worse every year; she’s a textbook narcissist, right down to the deep, painful insecurities fueling her irrational mood swings, rage, and self-absorption. And who else do we have?  Janice?  Janice is cool, obviously, but she’s not too bright, and she barely gets any lines anyway.

So here’s my question: why can’t they modernize Miss Piggy while they’re at it?  They’re bringing the rest of the characters into 2015 — heck, Fozzie’s in an interspecies relationship, for pity’s sake. Why can’t Miss Piggy be older, wiser, more comfortable with herself?  Wouldn’t that actually make her more interesting?  Wouldn’t that open up more room for good storytelling?  I think it would. I bet I’m not alone in that.

Also, for the record, Kermit is a big dumb jerk who doesn’t deserve a girlfriend in the first place.  Yeah, yeah, I know: #notallfrogs. Still: THAT FROG.  I have it out for that frog.

Coming up tonight!


rosewoodRosewood – Fox – USA Today described this one as “pathologically dumb,” and, well, I figure they would know, since that’s sort of their specialty (ba dum CHING!). The story’s about a pathologist named Beaumont Rosewood (formerly an instructor at Hogwarts, obviously) who teams up with Miami PD to solve crimes.  Pluses:  both the stars of this series are people of color (Morris Chestnut and Jaina Lee Ortiz), and it was created by a guy who used to write for Psych, which was one of my favorite crime comedies of all time. Still, the trailer sure makes it look like it’s gonna be the same ol’ co-ed crime drama.  I set the DVR, but I won’t be in a hurry to watch this one.

The Mysteries of LauraThe Mysteries of Laura – NBC – I wanted to like this one, because I love Debra Messing, not to mention Josh “Ol’ Crinkly Eyes” Lucas, but I kind of hit the wall on the goofiness after a few episodes.  This is another series I will probably slurp up at some point when I’m stuck at home recovering from the flu or something, but until then, it’s low on my list of priorities.

The Middle – ABC – Sit-com, don’t watch.

survivorSurvivor – CBS – I haven’t watched this in ages, but on a related note, I watched that series The Island this summer (hosted by Bear Grylls), and I really enjoyed it.  Similar concept, in that it’s a group of guys (all guys for this one) dropped on an island together with little to work with, but there’s no competition, which made for a really interesting dynamic.  Because, of course, competition cropped up anyway, despite the obvious benefits of their working together.  I would love to see another season, this time with all women. As a side note, about 3 episodes in, I realized the bazillion plastic water bottles they were using weren’t things they’d brought with them — they were all over the island, washed up from the ocean trash heap.  Sobering.  Wait, what were we talking about? Oh yeah, Survivor. I’m sure it’s fine. Jeff Probst was also a BotW once, by the way!


The Goldbergs – ABC – Sit-com, don’t watch.


Modern Family – ABC – Sit-com, WATCH!  Still love this show, even though that little girl is like the most annoying little girl of all time.

Empire – Fox – Terrence Howard is an abusive bully; I’m not interested in looking at his face.

svuLaw & Order: SVU – NBC –  I like that the main character of this show is a strong woman who has her shit together both at home and at the office. How refreshing!  But when you “rip from the headlines” stories about real women being victimized and then gussy them up to increase their capacity to entertain, and you do it over and over, it’s hard for me not to think “exploitation” at every other turn. At the same time, there’s something to be said for a show not afraid to talk about the things this show has sometimes talked about, and if there’s one point this series has worked hard to make, it’s that it’s never the victim’s fault.  I appreciate that.  I don’t watch this series regularly, but I dip in periodically.  I’ll probably stick with that approach.


black-ish – ABC – Sit-com, don’t watch.


nashvilleNashville – ABC – Oh hey, this is still on. Should I be watching this?  (I bet that’s word-for-word what I said last year about this series.)

Thoughts on The Muppets?  Scream Queens (haven’t seen it yet; looking forward to watching it later today)?  SVU?  The Pope?  Hit the comments!

Fall TV Week 1, Tuesday: Scream Queens and The Muppets (Alas, Not As One)

September 22, 2015

Update on Monday:

I watched Life in Pieces and Blind Spot last night, and have good things to say about both, with some caveats (minor spoilers below, but nothing that should wreck your experience if you haven’t watched yet):

lifeinpiecesLife in Pieces was, frankly, pure joy to me until the final story, when the cheese hammer dropped. After 3 stories about sex and vaginas that look like the Predator, I was really looking forward to watching Dianne Wiest and James Brolin also make out and joke about genitalia, because there is, frankly, no one I want to hear vagina jokes from more than I want to hear vagina jokes from Dianne Wiest.

Instead, their segment was all about death and appreciating life while it lasts and zzzz. Old people, my god.  Noble attempt, but we’re going to need to let The Wiest run free if this is going to be sustainable in the long run for me.

blindspotBlind Spot surprised me by not being too awful, though I can see we’re headed for kissing between Agent Stubble and Former SEAL Tattoo Chick, and that’s just annoying me already. She’s a former Navy SEAL, we learn fairly soon into the pilot (we all knew some variant of that was coming, though, right?), and she’s a friggin’ bad-ass, legit.  She does not need to take comfort in the strength of Agent Stubble, which is the vulnerability dynamic being set up in the pilot.  She needs to be his extraordinarily capable and competent partner in crime fighting and that’s it. DO ME ONE FAVOR, BLIND SPOT. JUST ONE. NO KISSING.

Not a lot coming up tonight, but here’s what we’ve got:


screamqueensScream Queens – Fox – Stars Jamie Lee Curtis, which is all I needed to know to sign on (p.s. it could hardly be called Scream Queens without her).  I actually got pretty sucked into the MTV series based on Scream this summer (RIP Wes Craven, by the way) and though it ended up being sort of sloppy and unfocused, it was still pretty entertaining.  This has a shot at being a lot tighter, if only because Ryan Murphy (Nip/Tuck) is at the helm (that also means it’s bound to be freaky, by the way, but I’m cool with freaky).  Some of the reviews I’ve read so far have focused on the Emma Roberts sorority girl character and how hard it’s going to be to stick with a story that puts such a Mean Girl at the helm.  But we’ll see.  Usually the Mean Girls in horror movies get their comeuppance if you can just stick it out long enough.  I might be able to do that.  God, I love Jamie Lee Curtis’ hair.

ncisNCIS – CBS – Whichever one of you who said you aren’t in the AARP so you don’t watch this one (was that you, Toohey?): You be quiet.  I still love the original, and I will until Gibbs and Ducky are in the grave.  Speaking of David McCallum, by the way, I’m seeing Man from U.N.C.L.E. tomorrow; will report back!

muppetsThe Muppets – ABC – I DON’T KNOW. I DON’T KNOW. I FEEL WEIRD.  THAT’S ALL.  I saw a review of this that was titled, “Sex, Drugs, and The Muppets” and it just made me feel really confused. Except for the part where it would explain SO MUCH about the Swedish Chef, I guess.  I’m going into this one with trepidation.


Fresh Off the Boat – ABC – I don’t watch this, but I hear it’s good. Sit-com.


NCIS: New Orleans – CBS – Wait. Wait, seriously? This made it to season 2 and Forever didn’t? God, Network television. You jerks.


limitlessLimitless – CBS – I haven’t seen the movie this was based on, starring ex-BotW Bradley Cooper (who I hear will have a recurring role in the series as well, by the way), and it was partly because the plot didn’t intrigue me.  I’m going to give the show a try, mostly because I have the hots for Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and Hill Harper (who doesn’t?), but it just sounds so familiar, gimmick-wise.  It’s about a guy who figures out a drug makes him into a soooooper genius, which he then puts to good use solving crimes.  Why would you do that? Why wouldn’t you go cure cancer or climate change or poverty or something?  How come the sooooooper geniuses always end up fighting crime?  I guess they’re not really all that smart, is what I’m getting at.

In any case, I’ve seen that plot like ten million times. The drug element may be a relatively new angle for a TV series, but the know-it-all crime solver sure ain’t, and that means this show is only going to work if the characters are incredibly interesting people.  Which: yeah, right.  Well.  We’ll see, won’t we.

Okay, that’s it for tonight. I’m going to go follow up on all your comments from yesterday, you awesome TV watching people!

Fall TV Week 1, Monday: Let the DVR Games Begin!

September 21, 2015

Here we go!  Week one!  Monday! September 21st! New and returning!  

gothamGotham — Fox — I really wanted to like this series last year, if only because it was so cool visually, but things simply did not work out for us. As much as I appreciated the inspired casting of a dude with a bonafide bird beak for a nose (the great Robin Taylor) as The Penguin, the casting of Benjamin “The Bland” McKenzie as anything is never a strong point for any series, and the story seemed unable to get its footing; it never stopped feeling like a pilot, even 5-6 episodes in. Did it get any better?  Should I revisit? Let me know if I blew it throwing this one on the discard pile?

legobbtThe Big Bang Theory — CBS — Every year I say the same thing about this one, and I will never stop until someone pays attention: laugh tracks have no place in modern television. They’re lazy, distracting, and stupid. HOWEVER, this series does now have a really rad LEGO set, which: props.

The Voice — NBC — This is some kind of show about singing, yet, befuddlingly, it appears to star Adam Levine. Explain that one to me.


lifeinpiecesLife in Pieces – CBS (new!) — Sit-com alert! Ordinarily, that’s an instant veto from me, with very, very rare exception, but this one is getting that exception, at least for a few episodes, and I’ll tell you why. Two words: Dianne Wiest. WAIT!  Four words and an ampersand: Dianne Wiest & Thomas Sadoski (from The Newsroom and my dreams).  As for the story, it’s apparently structured with four vignettes an episode, each one telling a separate story about a set of characters from the same family. That works out to about 5.5 minutes per story, which doesn’t leave much time for character or story development, especially if things don’t overlap the way they do in, say, Modern Family. And if things DO overlap the way they do in, say, Modern Family, then how is this not just, say, Modern Family? But it could work, and it would be interesting if it did.  Also: Dianne Wiest is one of the funniest women around.  AND Thomas Sadoski appears to have given up shaving, which I am all for. We’ll see how this goes.


minorityreportMinority Report – Fox (new!) – Everybody, surely, has seen the film or read the P.K. Dick story by now, so theoretically we all know about the precogs and the thought police.  This series is supposedly a sequel, with the precog squad disbanded and the cops left having to investigate crimes using only their — gasp! — wits. And, like, clues and shit.  Hey, you know what that sounds like? Every other detective show ever! Why is this called “Minority Report”? Oh, I see, because one of the precogs is all grown up and still having visions of future murders.  He teams up with a detective and then . . . we’re back to arresting people before they’ve actually committed any crimes? Is that the . . . but isn’t that bad? Didn’t we already decide that was ba . . . oh forget it. What else is on at 9pm?

scorpionScorpion – CBS – Okay, so, Minority Report it is.  (Note: I really wanted to like this show last year, but it’s too heavy on the sugar and too light on the tech, and that just doesn’t keep me going anymore these days. This is the kind of show I have a feeling I’m going to suck down the second I get the flu, though, so I’ll skip the vaccine this year and see what happens.)


Castle – ABC – I am about 300 seasons behind on this series and have no hope of ever catching up. Sorry, Nathan Fillion‘s nose.

NCIS: Los Angeles – CBS – THIS IS STILL ON. <– That’s not a question. It’s a statement of abject horror.

blindspotBlindspot – NBC (new!) – I want to be intrigued by this show, which sounds like a cross between Memento and Prison Break, but the promos are making me pretty nervous.  The story is about a young (gorgeous, skinny, white: surprise!) woman who is found naked in a duffel bag in Times Square, with no memory of who she is or how she got there. She’s covered in head-to-toe fresh tattoos, all of which are apparently clues to various crimes. That sounds kind of okay story-wise, though any time an FBI agent ends up teaming up with someone who is clearly not also an FBI agent to solve crimes, my suspension-of-disbelief capacity alarm goes off. My real concern, though, is this: a woman’s body is literally a prop in this series. A woman’s naked, gorgeous, skinny, white (surprise!) body.  It’s possible this is something that’s going to be explored in some way, and that optimism is one reason why I’m going to give it a shot. But, on the other hand, this is network television, so I recognize that optimism is probably delusional. In any case, it can’t be any worse than NCIS: Los Angeles, right? Wait, RIGHT?

COMMENTS, YO. I like you guys!

Fall TV is Here! (And So Am I!)

September 15, 2015

tvset1Well, sort of, anyway. The onslaught slaughts on next Monday, but tonight brings us two early birds.  Watching either one?  Excited about anything coming up?  Hit the comments! Let’s chat! (And hello, by the way! Sorry I’ve been MIA all summer — I’ll tell you all about it later, yo.)

TONIGHT, Tuesday, September 15



bestBest Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris – NBC – 10pm. This is described as “a variety show,” which, to my mind, immediately puts it into competition with original The Muppet Show, which means: big shoes to fill. (Some bigger than others, see Sweetums, stage right).  Weirdly enough, we’re also seeing a return this year of The Muppet Show, only it’s NOT a variety show. I don’t know. It’s confusing. I like Doogie Howser, though, and it’s an 8 episode commitment, this one; I can do that. All it’ll take to keep me interested is the occasional magician, really. If it’s all musical numbers, on the other hand, I won’t make it past episode 2. Watch the song and dance, Doog, and we’ll get along just fine. Pick a card, any card!

bastardThe Bastard Executioner — FX — 1opm.  I’m not totally sure what to think of this one, which I saw described somewhere as being “like the movie Braveheart, only worse” – that, my friends, is NOT a good sign.  Throw Sons of Anarchy’s Kurt Sutter plus a 14th century setting together, and I suspect the story’s treatment of women is going to make my ladybits explode with rage a minimum of 12 minutes into the pilot.  But there’s nuthin’ else on until next week, so why the hell not.  Is where I’m going with this one.  You don’t have to come too.  I won’t make you.  I’ll report back if there’s anything worth paying attention to here.

See you next week, when the madness (otherwise known as “Supernatural is STILL ON? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?”) begins!

BOOK: So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson (2015)

May 30, 2015

ronsonJon Ronson, a British writer probably best known for his book-turned-Clooney-film The Men Who Stare at Goats, is an expert at examining human behavior ranging from the weird to the downright disturbed. His latest work, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, seems like the perfect Ronson topic: a book looking at the dumb crap people do on the Internet, followed by the mean crap people so often do in response.

Using several very famous social-media-based public shamings as examples, Ronson sets out to explore the psychology and evolution of mankind’s lust for ruining the lives of others over even the slightest of transgressions.  However, while I found the individual examples fascinating, ultimately, this book just didn’t hit the right notes for me. Ronson spends a lot of his time expressing a kind of perpetual shock over the capacity of humans for irrational rage (though I should note here that I think this “perpetual shock” sensation was heightened by the fact I was listening to him read his own words to me in audiobook format; he definitely has a flare for the dramatic as a narrator). What he doesn’t really manage to do is take a goodly-sized step back from his emotional response to really delve into the various forces at work. The ultimate effect of this was, for me, anyway, to feel like I was being relayed a whole bunch of super-juicy gossip, without much in the way of exploration of what was driving each of the relevant parties to act/react the way they were.

The case studies described range from acts of thoughtlessness or carelessness (thoughtless tweet, careless photograph) to acts of outright, intentional deceit (two lying writers).  But while I was, for the most part, happily along for the ride, there was one story where Ronson’s reaction made me realize just how much of what was truly going on he was completely missing.

Specifically, I started to notice how oblivious he was to the role gender so clearly plays in these kinds of social media fueled public shamings, as evidenced by his chapter about Adria Richards, a story I had been following with great interest in the media when it first broke in 2013. That year, Richards overheard two guys at a tech conference making inappropriate jokes  (about computer “dongles,” admittedly a term ripe for offensive jesting).  Upset by their comments, she turned around and snapped a picture of them, which she then posted on social media.

In response to the hue and cry almost instantly evoked by the photo, one of the men was fired; not long after that, so was Adria. The difference?  The man was fired for making sex jokes at a professional conference. Richards was fired because her act incurred the wrath of a huge swath of others in the tech community, who then retaliated by hammering her company’s web site until it crashed. Another difference?  The man fairly quickly got another job (ironically, at a tech organization that employs no women, he admits to Ronson).  Richards, on the other hand, as with the other women profiled in this book (including Justine Sacco of the badly-thought-out tweet and Lindsay Rice of the badly thought-out Facebook photo), was subjected to prolonged, vicious, and violent death and rape threats, and, as of the time her chapter was written, still had not been able to find another job, largely because any potential employer who plopped her name into a Google search very quickly found a mass of hatefulness and degradation and was (understandably) unnerved.

When Adria tried to explain to Ronson that part of what made her take and share the photo was a pervasive concern for her safety at the conference driven by the overall culture of misogyny around her, she cited a line attributed to Margaret Atwood: “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them; women are afraid that men will kill them.”  Ronson’s response, and this is where I realized just how little he actually understood about any of this, was: “People might consider that an overblown thing to say.”

Ronson seemed to be suggesting, in other words, that it was unreasonable for a woman to feel as though her safety might be in danger at a professional tech conference. Richards was clearly overreacting. It was a sort of, “Hey, lady, let’s not get all hysterical here, now.” Which whatever, sure, fine, man. I mean, it’s not like this, this, this, this, or, for the love of god, THIS has ever happened.  Sigh, argh, sigh again. Argh once more.

None of this is to suggest Ronson’s central point isn’t valid (nutshell: we shouldn’t destroy someone’s life when they make a mistake), or to suggest this isn’t a highly readable, very thought-provoking book — all these things are true.  While I confess I don’t feel too badly when people call others out on social media for saying things without thinking about their impact on others — this is still all too common in our society, this belief that what you say on social media doesn’t count, shouldn’t matter, can’t harm, and I disagree with anyone who suggests it’s better to let that stuff go by without mention when it happens — it’s obviously outrageous how far those kinds of interactions can, and often do, end up going.  Hatefulness, life-ruination, shame, outings, worse — it’s vile and inexcusable.  Ronson’s exploration toward the end of the book of the various ways we’re inventing to deal with this issue were fascinating too (examples: the European “Right to be Forgotten” law and PR companies you can hire to help bury negative content deep down in search results, though that kind of thing can certainly backfire too).

Ultimately, however, I felt frustrated Ronson seemed more interested in sharing the gossipy details than he did in truly trying to analyze the harder questions at play here, and, frankly, he just seemed utterly incapable of even recognizing the gender-related ones.  Maybe that’s an unfair criticism — can men truly comprehend the things women are still up against in modern society?  Maybe they can’t. But what they can do — and should do, I would argue — is at least try (say, by asking a follow-up question instead of merely shutting the conversation down with a response that can only have been intended to make the interviewee doubt her own perceptions).

In the face of all this, it was hard for me not to leave this book wondering how much more powerful it could’ve been in the hands of someone a little more “worldly,” shall we say — time spent on astonishment redirected, instead, to more thoughtful analysis.  That said, this is still a very important, very eye-opening book, and well worth a read (or listen) to anyone interested in social media and modern society.

Recommended (with caveats)!


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MOVIE: Maggie (2015)

May 25, 2015

maggieOne of the reasons I like zombie movies as much as I do is because I also really, really like movies about pandemics, and a lot of zombie films are essentially movies about fast-spreading viruses chewing up the globe. I like pandemic movies both because they are scary in an authentic, contemporary way, and also because they are not.

That is, of all the things I worry about in life, and I worry about a lot of things (stop nodding so emphatically, you guys), pandemics are not high on my list — not because I don’t think they’re a legitimate thing to be afraid of, but because I don’t see a lot of point to freaking out over things about which I can do very little.  Aside from kicking up the hand sanitizer use and trying to avoid crowds, when a pandemic comes to town, I’m not going to be able to do much to avoid it, so why waste energy on being chronically afraid? And so, as with horror movies about monsters I don’t really believe in, not to mention freak weather patterns involving sharks and ‘nadoes, I find stories about global epidemics terrifying in an extremely safe sort of way.

Zombie movies typically take the pandemic thing to a whole new level, starting with a massive kicking-up of the timeline of the spread of the disease. In most of the zombie-virus stories I’ve seen, the disease launches and the world is quickly overrun in a matter of days (roughly 28, if Cillian Murphy is to be believed).  While I enjoy that scenario, and have enjoyed many a zombie movie that uses it, I feel like I’ve seen it so many times now, its capacity to engage me on any sort of deeper level has waned.

This is a long-winded way of explaining to you why I was intrigued enough by the description of this movie, which takes the usual zombiebola story in a different direction, to be willing to sit down for two hours to watch a zombie flick starring Arnold Schwarzehoweveryouspellit — something I would’ve been extremely unlikely to do had it just been another World War Z- or Walking Dead-type yarn.

In Maggie, the zombie virus has spread worldwide as usual, but its incubation period has been greatly slowed down, dramatically changing the character of the pandemic.  Instead of infected people turning into the undead in hours or days, people infected with the virus have about 6-8 weeks before their hankering for human flesh becomes a serious problem.  That’s given doctors and governments a vastly expanded ability to control the spread of the disease.  Sick people are typically rounded up and quarantined before they have a chance to infect others (timely parallel to ebola here, by the way), making the virus a lot more containable.

The title character, Maggie (Breslin), is a teenage girl who had left home for the big city only to be bitten by a rogue zombie one dark night in an alley (lesson to all teenage girls: avoid big city alleys after dark, regardless of rampant viral infections). She ends up in the hospital, where a doctor calls her father (Arnold Schwarzewazzup).  Ordinarily, someone with a confirmed bite is immediately sent to quarantine, but Dad has some connections in the medical world, and he calls in all his favors so he can take Maggie home until she “turns.”

What follows is a fairly thoughtful story about a dying girl home with her family with only weeks to live and a fairly horrible future to contemplate.  Just as wrenching as her side of the tale is that of her father, who not only has to watch his daughter die, but will also likely be responsible for taking care of business, so to speak, at the end.  The family doctor gives him a syringe of the drug cocktail used to euthanize the sick in quarantine (a place of expanding, terrifying lore, also in timely parallel to ebola) but tells him the drugs result in a slow, excruciatingly painful death and not-so-subtly suggests that the compassionate thing for a father to do in that moment is to shoot his little girl in the head.

It might be hard to take that quandary seriously when the disease involves turning into a zombie, but if you look at it as a metaphor for something else — say, terminal cancer — you can see a new relevance, and a new layer, to the story being told here. That’s true not just in terms of the anguished family members watching their loved ones suffer, but also for the policies surrounding medical procedures for the terminally ill, where we still typically rely on painful interventions to the bitter end instead of what some might describe as a more humane approach.

As Maggie begins her slow descent to undeath, complete with the terror of seeing her own body parts begin to rot and a sudden, startling, and confusing urge to eat her stepmother, the agony for all involved becomes difficult to watch. Schwarzenegger (I looked it up) is surprisingly effective in this for a guy I don’t typically associate with evocative emotional storytelling, though this movie would’ve been much stronger with somebody else in that role (mostly because I found his surprising effectiveness somewhat distracting, which isn’t fair, I’ll grant you, but it’s still true).  It also could’ve used a little more time in the rewrite room, because there are several moments where the dialogue doesn’t quite work, as well as more than a few scenes I felt were more than a little clumsy.

Still, overall, I enjoyed this film and appreciated very much its approach to the genre.  I’m always a little disappointed when a movie trying to do something a bit unique doesn’t quite nail it, but the attempt was certainly admirable, relevant, and heartfelt.  Definitely recommended, especially to fans of the BBC series In the Flesh, which this movie reminded me of more than once.

[Rent at Amazon | View trailer]

Genre: Zombies, Drama
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Abigail Breslin, Joely Richardson, Mattie Liptak

Exciting Fall TV News!

May 12, 2015

teethTHE MUPPETS ARE COMING (to ABC this fall)!

Could be great, could be terrible. I’m unlikely to care either way as long as Dr. Teeth & the Electric Mayhem get a lot of screen time.

Check out the link to check out the trailer! FLOOOOOOYD!

http://slate.me/1PFknto (from Slate.com)

MOVIE: Grabbers (2012)

April 10, 2015

grabbersThis is the time of year when I’m typically at my most busy, aided this year by the fact I’m about to start pretty intensive training for a new volunteer gig on top of everything else, so please excuse the recent lack of posting. However, I just spent a week at my mom’s prepping for this spring chaos, which also means I have a whole lotta movies to tell you guys about.

Of the batch we watched on my week off, this was easily my favorite. It’s not just funny and clever, it also has a great big disgusting alien monster in it — whee! Recipe for joy in the Wood family! Plus, the solution to staying alive in this crazy yarn ended up being “get real drunk,” and who among us hasn’t wished, at least once, that that would actually help with anything whatsoever? I certainly have. I am, in fact, having a gigantic glass of wine right now, on the off-chance.

As the story opens, Irish cop Ciarán O’Shea, an alcoholic whose knowledge of booze is about to come in handy f’realz, has woken up, hungover, to find himself temporarily partnered with a young, ambitious female officer, Garda Lisa Nolan, there to serve as his temporary boss (to make matters worse) while his real boss is out of town. She’s straight-laced and judgmental — oh, joy — and he’s about to have one heckova day.

Their first case together is the strange beaching of a bunch of sea life. Something has killed a ton of seals really fast, which can’t be good.  Meanwhile, a local (likewise alcoholic) fisherman has some kind of new species stored in his bathtub — coincidence? I think not. (Let’s pretend not to notice that a species that thrives in an ocean of saltwater would not likely also thrive in a bathtub of potable. Don’t think; it can only hurt the ball club.) As the day progresses, the Garda come to discover that that something is, for lack of a better term, “a big huge grody alien octopus thingy.”  It lays many eggs, which hatch into many nasty little creatures, which in turn lead later to a scene in a bar nicely reminiscent of the 80s movie Gremlins, something that never fails to bring me great pleasure.

It doesn’t take long for our intrepid heroes to discover that the big huge alien octopus thingies do not like to eat people who have extremely high levels of alcohol in their systems (aforementioned fishermen is tasted and spat out).  Luckily, they also appear to be readily killed by firepower. The problem is, this little island Irish town doesn’t have much in the way of said firepower (at one point, they attempt to make a flame-thrower out of a Super Soaker water gun filled with gasoline — this goes about as well as expected).  They’ve got a call into the mainland for help, but, of course, a vicious storm is on its way, and the Big Guns won’t arrive until the morrow.

The solution? Get the townsfolk into the bar, and load ’em up.  The twist?  Alcoholic cop O’Shea stays sober to lead the team, whilst teetotaler Nolan gets rip-roarin’ ripped. Cue fireworks! And plenty of good old fashioned alien splatter for the kids in the audience!

It sounds ridiculous, I know, and, generally speaking, as a substance abuse research librarian, I’m not typically a huge fan of movies that make extreme binge drinking look like a good idea. Yet somehow, this movie just works and works and works. The chemistry between O’Shea and Nolan is sparkling, and the writing is sharp, witty, and polished. The monsters look extraordinarily silly, and we loved them all the more for it.

Overall, this is a pretty great installment in the B-movie monster genre, and if you’re looking for an entertaining way to kill a couple of hours, especially if you have a large bottle of booze nearby, you need look no further.

Highly, highly recommended!

[Netflix it | Buy it at Amazon]

Genre: Monsters, Comedy
Cast: Richard Coyle, Ruth Bradley, Russell Tovey, Lalor Roddy, David Pearse

New TV This Month!

March 9, 2015

tvsetIn case you missed it, a whole bunch of new shows started up last week.  Instead of posting this before they started, I decided to wait until I’d watched them all so I could actually say something useful.  If you missed any of the ones that sound good, I’ve noticed almost all of the pilots are available for free on Amazon Instant Video (and/or on the TV stations’ web sites).  I’ll update again later this month as more stuff comes out!

Sunday, March 1

battlecreekBattle Creek – CBS – 10pm. This one was developed by Vince Gilligan (creator of Breaking Bad and its new, utterly delightful spin-off, Better Call Saul) and David Shore (House), and stars Dean Winters, an actor I’ve loved since I first saw him on the HBO series Oz.  It’s a little uninspired in terms of premise: cynical, grizzled, no-nonsense detective is partnered up with a polite, manscaped, naive FBI agent (Josh Duhamel) — seen that combo more times than I can count.  But it was entertaining and clever enough I’ll definitely be sticking with it for now.

last manThe Last Man on Earth – FOX – 9pm.  I almost didn’t watch this one, because it conflicted with something else I was recording and, as you know, I’m not usually a huge sit-com fan. But, man, am I ever glad I tracked it down, because I was thoroughly charmed almost instantly.  It’s about the last man alive on Earth after a virus has wiped out the entire world, and the first episode was absolutely delightful (it opens with him about to complete a months-long road trip around the U.S. looking for survivors and for cool stuff to decorate his house with, like paintings from the Met, a couple of Academy Awards, Babe Ruth’s bat — that made me laugh so hard, because it is EXACTLY what I would have done too). Episode two got even better, though, when Kristen Schaal (The Daily Show) shows up. Not the “last woman on Earth” he was hoping for, I’m afraid, and boy, is this one gonna be fun, people.

secretsSecrets and Lies – ABC -9pm.  I wanted to like this series, if only because it’s so rare a show featuring a female detective casts a woman actually old enough to be a detective (Juliette Lewis).  The problem is, that same actress is so remarkably awful in this, she’s almost laughable. And by “almost,” I mean, “utterly.”  It’s about a family man, played by Ryan Phillipe, who is out for a run one morning when he comes across the dead body of the little boy who lived across the street from him — the son of a woman he’d had an affair with years ago.  Instantly, he’s a suspect, surprise surprise.  This series is a scene-for-scene remake of an Australian show by the same name; I watched the first episode of that one last night and can already tell it’s going to be ten times better (also: surprise surprise).  Better acting, especially (though it would’ve been hard to be worse in that regard).  Deleted from the DVR and moving over to Netflix for the original instead.

Wednesday, March 4

broadchBroadchurch — BBC America — 10pm.  Back in September when I was talking to you guys about the new show Gracepoint, a few of you hadn’t seen the original BBC series it had been based on, Broadchurch.  I’m hoping you’ve sought it out by now, because it was just worlds above the American version.  Season two starts where we left off in season one, which, to be honest, I was a little disappointed by, because, whew, was that ever a bleak, bleak story. I would’ve been okay with a new crime to solve. Nevertheless, this show is so compelling, it’s worth the suffering. Looks like we’re in for some major courtroom drama this round, as Joe Miller takes the stand at his trial and announces his plea: not guilty.

cyberCSI: Cyber — CBS — 1opm.  I had a feeling this was going to be terrible, and it lived up pretty perfectly to those expectations. Did you guys know that when hackers insert malware, they make that part of the code RED so it’s super-easy for the FBI’s cyber crimes division to spot it?  That seems like kind of a dumb way to go about it to me, but, hey, what do I know? I ain’t no hacker.  Patricia Arquette stars, which is the only reason I’m going to go back for a second episode. Well, her and also two ex-Boyfriends of the Week, of course, Peter “The Biscuit” MacNicol, and James “The Dawson” Van Der Beek. I don’t expect this to make it past season 1, but we’ll see if any of these three talents (and yes, I just called Van Der Beek a “talent;” you be quiet) can do anything about how utterly ridiculous it’s been so far.

Thursday, March 5

amnericancrimeAmerican Crime — ABC — 10pm.  Developed by John Ridley (12 Years a Slave), this series is going to examine the impact of a single crime on multiple residents of a “racially divided” California town. The pilot reminded me a lot of the movie Traffic and so far, so good. Definitely will keep going on this one. Costars Felicity Huffman, Timothy Hutton, Benito Martinez, and Penelope Ann Miller.

digDig — USA — 1opm.  I was really surprised by how much I liked this one.  For a USA series, it’s surprisingly NOT totally goofy. It’s set in Jerusalem and has been described as a murder mystery with a Da Vinci Code-style conspiracy subplot, which sounds pretty fun to me.  Jason Isaacs stars as an FBI agent stationed in Israel whose investigation into the murder of a young female archeologist will reveal a complex conspiracy that goes back thousands of years. Costars Anne Heche and Richard E. Grant, and is actually filmed in Israel, too — apparently it was supposed to start last fall, but war there delayed completion.  Kind of fascinating.  Is USA finally growing up?  Let’s find out.

Friday, March 6

kimmyUnbreakable Kimmy Schmidt – Netflix.  This is the new Tina Fey project we’ve been hearing about for the last few months.  Stars Ellie Kemper as a woman trying to rebuild her life after spending 15 years in a bomb shelter as part of a cult that believed the world had ended.  Utterly charming, and a few truly hilarious moments so far (we’ve only watched the first two, but laughed out loud more than once — Rich Mom throwing the unopened bottle of water in the trash made us laugh so hard we had to pause for a second. So perfect!). It’s not perfect, but it’s fun, and I have a feeling it will improve with time.

More coming soon!

Leonard Simon Nimoy, 1931-2015

February 27, 2015

A moment of silence.

meg live long