Thursday, August 30, 2012

Joss Whedon Raises S.H.I.E.L.D


              Avengers fans rejoice.  Joss Whedon, the man behind Avengers, Firefly, and Buffy is now attached to a show which follows the story of S.H.I.E.L.D. a secret spy and military organization in the Marvel Comics universe.  Featured in the majority of recent Marvel films and led by Nick Fury, S.H.I.E.L.D. could either be a great show from a master of stories (Don't believe me, please watch Avengers again, or marathon through Whedon's Firefly).
           The idea of a show about S.H.I.E.L.D. does raise a few questions.  In the past movies, it has just been the organization behind the scenes, supporting the action of superheroes.  It's difficult to imagine S.H.I.E.L.D. without its heroes.  Also, it's much loved character Agent Coulson died in Avengers.  A show without him would be a lesser show.

              I may have my doubts, but I am certainly still very interested in another Whedon production, especially one in the darker tales of the secret government organization.  Check out a cut opening scene in Avengers that reveals some of this darker side here.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Luna Lovegood's Letter to Hogwarts

Luna Lovegood (Evanna Lynch)

              I'm a sucker for a random Harry Potter fact, if only to keep the magic alive.  Today's fact features Evanna Lynch, the Irish actress who played the much loved Luna Lovegood in several of the Potter films.  Evanna was a fan of the series long before being cast in the films. (Her cats were named Crookshanks, Dumbledore, and Luna after all).  Supposedly, she wrote letters to J.K. Rowling while she was a kid telling her how much she'd love to be in one of the films though she doubted she'd ever get to while living in the small town of Termonfeckin.  J.K. Rowling wrote her back, telling her not to be to hard on Termonfeckin, which after all was a gloriously strange name.  Rowling told her that she too was from a small town.
              It turns out small towns may be magic.  Evanna went on to score a prime role in the series.  I think I just like her all the more for being a true, unashamed Harry Potter fan while being in some of the movies. 

Covert Affairs

Covert Affairs

         The great thing about a USA show is the lack of commitment it typically requires.  You can watch a random episode in teh middle of the thrid season and still follow the story for the most part.  Then again, this also makes me very non-committal to most USA shows.
         Last night, I caught the new episode of Covert Affairs, a series about Annie Walker (Piper Perabo), a CIA operative in D.C. and her friend and colleague Auggie (Christopher Gorham).  To be honest, I hadn't ever seen a full episode of the show before.  I had passed it over, believing it to be a cheap imitation of the truly stellar spy show Alias starring Jennifer Gardner.  However, I gave the episode a chance (what else was I do to watch during the Summer T.T. drought?)  It turns out Covert Affairs, at least the epeisode, is a very entertaining, fast paced show.  The episode followed Annie as she traveled to Cuba to spy on her fake boyfriend who has developed very real feelings for her.  The question of the night turned out to be how she felt about him.  It made for an emotional and engaging story.  No, Covert Affairs is not Alias.  It lacks J.J. Abram's touch of mythology and characters.  Still, from the episode I saw, I may start watching the show from the beginning, filing it under light and breexy escapism, with a dash of spy fun.  Watch it on USA Tuesdays at ten to relax and be entertained.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Mindy Project: "Kind of Funny"

The Mindy Project

            I've said it before, but I really do think comedy pilots are usually rough and unfunny.  They try and often fail to get the tone, feel , and pacing of their funny moments while also actually telling a story and introducing characters.  The Mindy Project didn't do much to change my opinion of a comedy pilot.  However, I will absolutely give the show a chance, knowing that sometimes it takes a few episodes for a comedy to really grow into itself (Looking at you New Girl.  I love you now, but at first, you were rough).
          The Mindy Project has promise.  Created by and starring Mindy Kaling of The Office as a doctor whose warped romantic-comedy ideas make her terrible at love, the show has the potential to become a quirky and sweet cousin to New Girl.  However, the first episode was a little embarrassing for Mindy at times.  She was kind of funny, but really shallow and embarrassing, except for one redeeming moment where she forgets herself and actually does her job as a doctor.  Considering that no other character really was focused on in the show, it's difficult to know how the show is going to play out if it stays around.  Two men, Danny and Jeremy, seem poised to perhaps play rival love interests and though neither was incredibly engaging, the "everyman" Danny may connect to the audience better.  All in all, I wasn't that invested in her and didn't really feel like it had the sharp bite or heart I want from comedy.  I do think Mindy Kaling has charm and wit to spare, if she can just apply it to her show.

          With a whole crop of old favorites in the comedy arena, The Mindy Project is up against tough competition.  I will not judge it entirely off of a pilot episode, but will give it a chance.  However, to quote Mindy, if it's only "kind of funny," I may not stick around.  Watch the pilot on Hulu now or when it comes out Sept. 25.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

5 Points to Watching Copper


          I wanted to like Copper when I finally got to watching the first episode of the BBC America crime show that takes place in Five Points New York during the mid-19th century.  I didn't expect to like it as much as I did, but then again, Copper is more like a character show first, and then a crime show, and finally a period piece.  Freshness and story-archs are really important to me, which is why I often avoid typical television crime shows.  Copper isn't typical.  It follows Irish cop Kevin Cocoran (Tom Weston-Jones), a tough and gritty cop in a tough and gritty New York filled with warring men and cultures.  If I had to name the reasons I will continue to give Copper a chance, I could whittle it down to five points:

1.  It has a Gangs of New York vibe, with more attention to details and the inner-workings of a system of corruption.  This gives it the ability to explore the broader notions of culture and identity Irish, African American, cop, English, and American cultures living together while also studying morality and humanity in its fascinating and unique characters.
Gangs of New York

2.  Crimes are solved without modern forensic science.  In the first episode, when a young girl is murdered a man is still able to calculate the exact weapon used and the exact height of the man who used it.  It will be unique to see a crime show without DNA samples.

Ato Essandoh as Doctor Freeman in Copper

3.  Everyone's moral compass on the show is different.  Rights, wrongs, and motivations are shady and gray, making for nuanced characters with flaws and virtues.   There are certainly clear villains, but the heroes are a little murkier.  I love a show that shows how dangerous moral ambiguity can really be.

4.  Justice may be served, but it will be bloodier, longer, and dirtier than most shows.  In the pilot episode, a disgusting criminal uses his money and influence to blame another man for his crimes, but from the promo,  it looks as though the payoff may be even sweeter.  In real life, life isn't always fair and justice isn't always swift.  I appreciate a show that acknowledges that.
Kevin Cocoron (Jones) in Copper

5.  The lead, Kevin Cocoron, has just enough mystery and swagger to make a very compelling and charismatic main character.  He's a cop willing to fight in the darkest corners, shoot before warning, and take out men twice his size with brass knuckles.  A war vet with a dead daughter and missing wife, Cocoron carries the story as an imperfect man living in a far from perfect city.

Cocoron and Crew

         Copper is off to a great start. As long as the rest of the season is as compelling as the first episode, it will be one crime show I won't want to miss.  Watch in Sundays at 10:00 on BBC America.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Maleficent: Scary Good or Just Scary

Angelina Jolie as Maleficent

           Childhood fears never really go away.  Especially the stuff of nightmares.  When I was really young, Sleeping Beauty's evil witch Maleficent appeared as the villain in an especially scary dream.  I woke up right before she killed me.  That's not the kind of thing you handle well as a six year old.  From then on, I'd only watch the scenes in Sleeping Beauty with the fairies and their magical dress and cake battle.  I'd refuse to watch the terrifying witch and would force my sister to fast forward while I shut my eyes in fear.
        I may have to get over my fear by 2014, when Angelina Jolie takes on the role of the horned witch in a live-action version also featuring Elle Fanning and Angelina's own daughter as a younger version of Princess Aurora.  Supposedly created as a  Wicked-like tale, Maleficent tells the story from Maleficent's perspective.  It's been a long time since my nightmare.  I may just be brave enough to see Jolie take on a beautiful and otherworldly role she seems born to play.  If not, I'll just have my sister fast forward to the cake and dresses.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Suburgatory: The Burb's got Bite

Jane Levy in Subrgatory

           You know the shows networks sandwich between shows you like?  The one's you watch just to speed up the time before the show you really want to watch comes on.  What happens when that show suddenly becomes the show you want to watch?  Suburgatory started out as a show I very casually watched only until Modern Family came on.  I sort of dismissed it as television's cousin to Easy A, complete with its own snarky redhead way ahead of her suburban life.  However, the show grew on me, with it's insane characters and increasingly funny stories.   The always hilarious yet totally underrated Cheryl Hines plays a kind yet ridiculous neighbor to the city loving Tessa (Jane Levy) and her father George (Jeremy Sisto).
        Tessa narrates the stories of the burbs with a lot of bite, becoming a more nuanced and interesting character as the show progresses.  For all her humor and fierceness, she's got a soft side living amongst the strange citizens of the fictional Chatswin.  The new season is sure to be interesting, especially with the coupling of Tessa and George and the return of Tessa's long gone mom (Malin Akerman).  I will be watching, and this season, it won't just be because I'm too lazy to go do something else.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Doctor Arrives

Matt Smith as The Doctor

                   Finally, BBC America has announced the release date of the seventh season of the cult hit Doctor Who, after what felt like a million specials and fake outs. Whovians gather round your T.V.s (or tellies if you are feeling particularly British) on September 1 for the return of everyone's favorite British time traveler.  This season is sure to be huge, with The Doctor's companions Rory and Amy (tragically?) leaving the show.  If the season is anything like the last two, it will be equal parts goofy and epic, with a dash of sad to make it even more fantastic.

And the Role of Finnick Goes to...

Sam Claflin

          If you've been following the casting scoop for the much-loved Finnick Odair, you knew he was a contender, but now it's official.  Sam Claflin (Snow White and the Huntsman) will play Finnick in Catching Fire, the sure to be a hit sequel to The Hunger Games.
              I'm not sure how I feel about it yet.  Calflin was alright as a preacher in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, but in Snow White, he was a sort of bland character without the charisma a role like Finnick requires.  That could simply be because he wasn't the main character (the Huntsman)  I'll just have to reserve judgement until the movie comes out.  Sadly, I'll have to wait a while, seeing as Katniss and crew doesn't hit theaters until November 2013.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Peter Pan: The Story That Never Grew Up

Peter and the Starcatchers

          Gary Ross, the director of the wildly popular first installment of The Hunger Games is set to tackle another beloved children's tale, though with a twist.  Ross is attached to Peter and the Starcatchers, a prequel to J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan. Based on a series of books that were also turned into a play, the movie about the adventures of the orphan Peter is planned for 2013. While I admit Disney's cartoon version of Peter Pan is not my favorite film, I love the live action versions, Finding Neverland, and Syfy's recent miniseries Neverland.  The story of a boy who never grows up refuses to die. Hunger Games fans may be disappointed Ross won't be back to direct Catching Fire, but perhaps  they can find comfort in a new spin on an old favorite.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Machine Gun Preacher

Machine Gun Preacher

        The Machine Gun Preacher isn't a perfect movie.  Then again, neither is Sam Childers, the gun wielding former criminal turned Christian who fights for the children of war ravaged Sudan.  Gerard Butler takes on the role of Sam, depicting the fight of a man desperate to protect children from kidnappings, murder, and terror.  Sam struggles in his faith and in the desperate hopelessness that surrounds the war zone, only to be reminded of the call to continue through until the end.
      The movie is based on the real life story of Sam Childers, and is quite a remarkable and almost unbelievable tale.  Considering that a huge portion of the audience for a movie like The Machine Gun Preacher is presumably Christian, the movie could have toned down the language in the first 30 minutes of the film.  The film earns its R rating with violence as well, though I'd argue that the violence depicts truth and is necessary in telling the story honestly.  My other minor complaint is in the editing, which was sometimes choppy and fast paced.  Even so, the story of a broken man fighting to love and protect others is not lost in the movie.
         Sam makes huge mistakes sometimes and raises humanitarian and moral questions based on some of his more radical actions.  Still, I say it raises awareness, provokes thought, and calls the audience to action through its heartbreaking depictions of suffering and hope.  Just like flawed men, flawed movies can be used for great things.

Harry Potter and the Burger and Fries

           Because I am a fan of slightly odd Harry Potter facts, I thought I'd share this one.  Mathew Lewis (Neville Longbottom), has said that when he went to audition for Harry Potter, it was taking forever.  His mother was almost able to tempt the very young Matthew away from the audition with the sweet sweet promise of McDonald's.  He resisted, showing the kind of bravery and strength required from a Longbottom.  Needless to say, cheeseburgers didn't get in the way of Hogwarts.  He made a wonderful Neville, stealing the spotlight in the last Harry Potter film.  I just hope his mom rewarded him with a Happy Meal.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Odd Life Of Timothy Green

        The Odd Life of Timothy Green is exactly that.  It is odd.  Just because it is an odd story doesn't mean it wasn't a good movie.  Being a little strange means being a little original, and in a world of remakes and sequels, fresh ideas are worth exploring.  The movie follows Cindy and Jim Green (Jennifer Gardner, Joel Edgerton), a couple who finally give up on their dreams of having a child, burying their wishes for a kid in a box in their backyard.
         The movie then asks its audience to suspend disbelief.  Timothy appears in their garden, a freshly minted child for Cindy and Jim, full of the quirks and attributes they haphazardly wished for in a child.  The parents could have never predicted the challenges and joys of their wish, but Timothy, played by CJ Adams with such bigger saucers eyes that show his bigger saucer of a heart, is so good and sincere.  The three become a family, mistakes and all.
         The movie is not perfect, with occasional slow moments and an ending that is terribly sad if you think on it too long, but as a whole it was as pleasant as the beautiful Fall weather is depicted.  I was left grateful to be reminded that children do not have to be good at everything, or really even anything, to be special and good at what matters-good at life.  He sees more beauty in trying things than in succeeding.   Timothy gives and loves with abandon, forgiving himself and others when mistakes are made and sacrificing even when it isn't easy.  While I may not watch the film over and over again, I appreciate the story's impact and message.  Being odd is extraordinary, just take it from the Timothy.

Maybe There Are Different Ways To Be Brave: War Horse

           If forced to name my favorite drama of 2011, I'd have to say  Steven Spielberg's WWII epic War Horse.  Whereas cynics call it heavy handed drama with a "cry here and here" story, I call it old school storytelling that accomplishes the unthinkable.  It breaks the simplified notion of enemy. 
         Set during the events of WWII, War Horse opens with a young farm boy named Albert (Jeremy Irvine) who trains and bonds with his horse Joey, teaching Joey to plow and riding with him in the hills of England.  Money on the farm is tight, forcing Albie's dad to sell the horse to a fresh British soldier (Tom Hiddleston, Loki to Avengers fans), breaking Albie's heart and setting in motion the events of the story. 
      Over the course of the movie, Joey crosses enemy lines, giving faces and stories to both sides.  He runs as a British calvary horse in a deadly attack, works as a German cart carrier for two young boys, serves as a German cart carrier, befriends a young French girl, and runs through the barbed wires on both sides of the dark trenches.  Along the way, the viewer grows attached to every person Joey encounters, making deaths and victories all the more powerful and shattering traditional ideas of friend and enemy.The most powerful scene of the film takes place when Joey is caught in the jagged barbed wire, causing a British and German man to work together to free him.  It is a simple and profound human moment that speaks to my favorite quote of the movie-"Maybe there are different ways to be brave." 
      If you have yet to see War Horse, I strongly recommend the Best Picture nominated film.  Check your cynicism at the menu screen and enjoy a wonderful story based on a book and wildly successful play.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

I'm Abed, and So Should You.

          I find it a little strange that the character I love the most, relate to the most, and laugh and cry about more than any other character on Community is the socially confused but absolutely lovable Abed (Danny Pudi).  He may have a hard time reading social cues, but he cuts to the heart of things on one of my newly minted favorite shows.  Who else can get away with deciding that an entire episode of the show be in Christmas claymation when he can't figure out the meaning of Christmas? (Spoiler-the meaning of Christmas can be found in Season 1 of Lost).  The fact that the same episode made me cry for him and cemented itself as a new Christmas favorite is another story.
       Abed relates to and understands life based on the structure and formula of beloved movies and shows, always seeing life as a giant production.  He even spends as entire episode as Batman. Even though he may be different, he is kind and giving, and is one half of the epic, gigantic fort-building, donut-eating, fake morning show-making Troy and Abed duo.
       I'll admit it, I'm proud to relate to Abed. Movies, shows and books do have a profound impact on lives. They inspire and empower.  They shake minds and rattle lives.  I also agree that we are all a part of a giant life production, even if the story isn't a structured as a 20 minute comedy or one of Abed's meta-movie that's not a movie documentaries.  Abed's ability to connect and empathize to the world through movies and shows is not a quirky curse, but rather a unique lense and worldview.  I respect it and understand it.  Straight reality is overrated anyhow.  It may be strange to say, especially if you've seen the show, but I'd rather relate to him than any of the other characters.  We could also use a little Abed. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Great, Great Expectations

Helena Bonham Carter as Miss Havisham in Great Expectations

          There are some stories worth more than one-retelling.  Charles Dicken's Great Expectations is such a tale.  In 2011, PBS aired a dark version featuring Douglas Booth as the plucky orphan Pip gifted by a mysterious benefactor and tortured by the ghostly jilted bride Miss Havisham (Gillian Anderson of The X Files).  The movie, like the story, was strange and mysterious, with just the right amount of spectral gloom and spooky atmosphere.
         Fans don't have to wait long for the next version, as Mike Newell, the director of Harry Potter and Goblet of Fire, is set to release his version in 2012.  Featuring the always wonderful Bellatrix Lestrange herself-Helena Bonham Carter-as the wicked Miss Havisham and Jeremy Irvine (War Horse) as Pip, the movie also features Ralph Fiennes (Voldemort!).  With stellar actors and a promising director, the film should do justice to the great and unique story of a boy given a mysterious gift and curse.  If you have yet to read or watch a version, rent the 2011 version, and look out for 2012's movie theater addition.  Watch the trailer for the 2012 version here,  it may just raise your expectations for it.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Fred and George: Ginger Karma

Fred and George Weasley (James and Oliver Phelps)

                James and Oliver Phelps will always be known by Harry Potter fans as Fred and George Weasley, the mischievous  twin brothers who torture poor Ron Weasley.  The death of Fred ranks up there with Harry's sacrifice as a moment that caused real, prolonged tears. The movie version of Fred's death was in some ways even worse than the book, only because Oliver truly had to pretend his REAL brother was dead.  Fans love them, solemnly swearing right along with them that they are up to no good.
         Now 26, James and Oliver auditioned when they were only fourteen.  In true Fred and George spirit, they only auditioned so they would get to miss a day of school, but ended up getting the life changing parts.  What I love the most is what they have said about dying their hair ginger.  Both of them admit to mocking friends with red hair as kids, but ginger karma caught up with them as they were forced to die their dark hair red for all of the films.  Both men are now in California pursuing acting careers outside of Harry Potter, though fans may never be able to let go of the brilliance of Fred and George, even if their hair is no longer ginger.

Watching Zombieland with a 13 year old

         I would never have told my little brother to watch the unedited Zombieland, even though I know he, along with his generation, has a whole zombie apocalypse survival plan.   However, when the hilarious 2009 film starring Jessie Eisenberg, Emma Stone, and Woody Allen came on television, I did my sisterly duty and made sure he was able to watch it edited.
           Needless to say, he loved the strange adventures of a random group of survivors roaming a zombie filled world.  Goofy jokes about fighting zombies, finding Twinkies, killing Bill Murray, and smashing snow globes made him a big fan.  The list of 30 rules to survive zombies was a hit.  That, and when he found out the big zombie finale was filmed in Georgia at Wild Adventures, and he was sold.
               I'm not really in to monsters and zombies like a huge portion of the population.  I don't have an zombie survival plan and have not bought chain mail used to protect shark divers as my zombie armor.  (This is a real thing people do.  Look it up, it's crazy).  That, and I'm not really into crazy violent films.  Even so I love the movie, though I've seen it probably three times before. It's Jessie Eisenberg and Emma Stone pre-huge success, but they are just as entertaining and talented.  The violence is certainly not for a young audience, but it's fake and over the top.  If for some reason you've missed it, take it from me as non-zombie believer, and my brother as a huge fan, Zombieland is a movie you want to watch (though not a place you want to be).

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Vampire Diaries: A Bite Above the Rest

            Sometimes, a tired story of vampires and love triangles, if given the right characters and creators, can be absolutely fresh and relevant.  The Vampire Diaries, a 2009 drama about a human, Elena, who attracts the attention of two Vampire brothers-bad boy Damon, and reformed Stephan, is based very loosely on a book series.  If you are thinking it sounds a lot like Twilight you'd be right, and very very wrong.  The stories and characters in Vampire Diaries absolutely shock me.  The mysteries and twists hook me every episode. It may have a love triangle, but it is about so much more than that.  It deals with deaths, sacrifice, friendships, family, and love. In short, it's actually a great and risky story.
        Just when I think a character is all good or all bad, they surprise me with a new development.  Nina Dobrev, who plays the young Elena, has a remarkable gift of humility and skill that really humanizes her character, and carries the show.  The fact that Dobrev also plays a scarier vampire look-alike name Catherine is a fun bonus.  Dobrev isn't the only one who chews up scenes.  Ian Somerhalder makes a great and snarky Damon, and Joseph Morgan's villain Klaus has quickly become one of my favorite characters.
         If you haven't watched the show, I won't spoil last Spring's season 3 finale.  All I can say though, is that every time I hear the Sigor Ros's song  I think about the truly beautiful ending sequence and get a little emotional. Season four will be all the fresher because of it.
         I was a skeptic when I first heard about another show about vampires, but truly, this show is ions above the rest, much to my doubting mind's shock.  Take a bite out of it, you may surprise yourself.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Americans: Mr. and Mrs. Smith?

Keri Russell

        Keep up with the Joneses, especially if they happen to be KGB spies during the Cold War.  The Americans, a new series slated for an early 2013 release on FX, plays with the spy world and marriage like Mr. and Mrs. Smith before it.  Starring Keri Russell, the series will explore the relationship of the married spies, who have two oblivious children but are initially only married for their cover.  With a very intriguing premise and the always lovely Russell as the lead, the show sounds promising.  I just hope she'll be free to play the actual mother on HIMYM. ( I am still holding out for that.  Think about it.  She'd be perfect).

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Joss Whedon: The Next Avengers

Joss Whedon, the Next Avenger

           Disney knows to hold on to a good thing.  Joss Whedon, the man at the helm of the billion dollar giant The Avengers, is now officially in charge of the next Avengers movie, as well as possible Marvel television shows.  Whedon not only directs but also writes for his Avengers, and manages to bring humor and heart to the series, highlighting and celebrating each Marvel hero with respect and affection.  He is the much celebrated to creator of shows like Buffy and Firefly, and has stated that he is full of ideas for the Marvel future.
        I am just glad Disney is recognizing Joss Whedon's ability to tell stories.  There's been a lot of debate over who the biggest hero and leader of The Avengers was, but I'd argue it was and is Joss Whedon.  He gave The Avengers something to actually avenge after all! (Pause for a moment of silence for Agent Coulson)  I'm relieved he'll keep leading them through their next giant blockbuster.  There isn't a man better for the job.

The Hobbit: 48 Frames No More

Peter Jackson 

        If you wanted to see every speck of Middle Earth dust, you may be out of luck.  Last April, Peter Jackson screened footage from The Hobbit in revolutionary 48 frames per second.  That is twice the normal rate of a film's FPS.   You would have thought he'd killed off Bilbo the reaction was so strong.  Viewers complained that the fantasy was taken from the film, that it was hyper-real, and that it took away the illusion of Middle Earth and replaced it with very clear images of set pieces.  Considering how beautiful the cinematography and design of The Lord of the Rings films is, such harsh criticism of the new film is surprising, but understandable.
      Warner Brothers has reacted though, saying that the film will only be released in 48 FPS in select locations only.  This is wise, considering even Jackson has said that it takes a while for the viewer to adjust to 48 frames.  No one wants the frames to distract from the content of the movie. I would love to see a sample of 48 FPS at least, just to see if the negative press was an overreaction to new innovation. As for the reactions to the  actual content of the films, the buzz was very positive.  Perhaps 48 frame will become the new norm, but for now, you'll may have to make do with a little less hyper-clarity in Middle Earth.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Katniss Does Not Approve

Would you spend thousands for these? Would Katniss?

             So, you love Hunger Games, you devoured the books, loved the movie, and swear by all things Katniss.  Great.  Does that mean you're willing to shell out $1000 dollars for a 14K gold Mockingjay pin?  I really and truly hope your answer is no.  Isn't a major theme of the book the consequences of opulence and over-the-top wealth?  Katniss and her family were starving, along with the majority of the Districts, just so the Capital could maintain Roman-like parties were they threw up just to consume more.  Somehow though, producers have absolutely missed the mark, and hope that wealthy and gullible Hunger Games fans will as well.
       Target is releasing a line of Hunger Games related trinkets in honor of dvd's August 21 release.  The line includes limited and ridiculously priced Mockingjay pins for $999 and a lithograph signed by members of the cast that will set a fan back $699.  Oh, and want to look like Katniss, snatch up a $349 replica of her jacket.    While I will give it to Target for selling less expensive items as well, I am horrified that the series would have such pricey items sold in its name.  At the same time, isn't it at least partially the fault of the consumers who purchase such overpriced hype?  Its not the first time Movie/Book tie in toys have made a killing (Yes, I am looking at you, ridiculously expensive $10 dollar chocolate frog from Harry Potter, you are expensive, but cheap compared to buying a wand or scarf).  The reality is, fans will spend money for their passions, including me.  I'm just not about to drop hundreds of dollars.  I understand that it is a business, but at the same time, as fans we need to have some self-respect and general respect for the value of a dollar.  You can spend a lot of money to look like your favorite heroine, but there is no way you'll be like her.  It's pretty hard to imagine Katniss Everdeen plunking down thousands of dollars for her own jacket and pin.  I don't know about you, but I'd rather follow her lead.   That's how I am a fan of The Hunger Games.

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Queen of Versailles VS. Reality

The Real Versailles Hall of Mirrors

           When Marie Antoinette ignored harsh realities of real life around her, she lost something she just couldn't live without. Her head.  When time share billionaire David Siegel and his thirty years younger wife Jackie set out to build the largest and most luxurious house in America, they are living in the fantasy that insane amounts of money affords.  Affluent and out of touch, the couple are dealt a dose of the real world when the economy comes crashing down on their grandiose dreams.  David's fortune crumbles, relegating Jackie's shopping sprees to bargain stores instead of luxury brands.  Their mega-palace, much like their mega-dreams, is never completed.
        It is a story of consumer greed in an age where generations are no longer allowed to think they will live better than the generation before them.  The twisted tale is documented in The Queen of Versailles, a documentary spanning the rise and fall of the family that has won rave reviews as a timely and riveting display on the nature of man and money.  Watching the trailer for the movie, I found Jackie's detached and bewildered ignorance to the world crashing around her strikingly similar to Marie Antoinette's notorious detachment.  See Jackie, in all her bedazzled and fleeting glory, here, and reflect on our society as if walking through the real Versailles hall of mirrors.

How Ted Mosby Met His Enemy

Thomas Lennon-Ted's New Enemy

           So, that awkward moment when you meet the fiance of the girl you ran off with the day of her wedding, that is totally cool to share with your children right?  Ted Mosby of How I Met Your Mother certainly thinks so.  In the season finale, he and former flame Victoria ran off together, much to the annoyance of most viewers, who already know Victoria is not actually the mother of Ted's children.  Ah, well, they have to make it last.
         The fiance of Victoria has just been cast for the new season, and the man playing Ted's new enemy is.......Thomas Lennon.  You may think you don't know the comedic actor, but you do.  He was perhaps the most memorable character in 2009's 17 Again, playing a LOTR's loving, uber-geek friend to Zac Efron's character.  He's also been in numerous shows and movies, including Reno 911, New Girl, and What to Expect When You're Expecting, though not always in a main character role.  I look forward to drama going down between him and Ted when the new season premieres this September on CBS, and if it's anything like his fight with Efron, it will include lightsabors and battle axes.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Sherlock Withdraw: Reasons to Wait

Cumberbatch and Freeman as Sherlock Holmes and John Watson

      With two, three episode seasons already completed, BBC utterly genius Sherlock leaves viewers hungry for more.  There was an almost two year gap between the first and second season.  Steven Moffat, creator of the show and current Doctor Who runner argues that each 90 minute episode is a movie, and should be treated as such.  He does not believe it our favorite boys from Baker's Street will be gone from the television for too long.  Until then, there are reasons to practice patience when suffering from Sherlock withdraw.

1.  Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays Sherlock Holmes with equal parts wit and charm, is staring in Star Trek 2 possibly as the villain.  Very exciting indeed.

2.  Martin Freeman (John Watson) will be seen in the next three Hobbit films as Bilbo Baggins and Cumberbatch will be playing the dragon.  It eases the aching heart a bit, doesn't it.

3.  Steven Moffat is busy making Doctor Who fantastic, adding a new companion for The Doctor and perhaps answering the ultimate question: Doctor WHO.  If you aren't watching it, you should be, stat!

4.  We know Sherlock survived his dramatic fall after defeating Moriarty, so now it is only a matter of waiting for the certain to be brilliant reunion between Watson and Holmes. The longer the wait the better the drama.  (Think Jin and Sun in Lost).

5.  Each episode is like a movie.  We've got six movies in the past two years.  What's waiting another year for one more?  Odds are the new season will be out in 2013.

6.  Good things are worth the wait, and Sherlock may just be one of the best shows on television, period.  It is certainly my favorite of the Sherlock Holmes interpretations.

7.  Fans are used to suffering for their passions.  (Firefly fans, I see you and I'm one of you).  It gives people something to fuss about.

8.  With Moriarty out of the picture, fans get the chance to speculate on the next villain. In Moriarty, Sherlock found an opposite and an equal, who went absolutely mad.  The next villain will need to up his game to match or even surpass such a man.

     Take heart Sherlock fans, the wait will be worth it.  If you've yet to see Sherlock, you have six wonderful episodes of masterful television.  Enjoy!

The Hipster Conundrum with The Big Bang Theory

Amy and Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory

        When The Big Bang Theory debuted in 2007, it was not an immediate success.  It took years for it to build its following, but is now easily one of the biggest comedies in the country.  Based on the friendships between a pack of socially unique geeks and nerds and their neighbor Penny, the show has a clear standout  in the brilliant but ridiculous Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons).  Often playing with comedy in pop culture, geek culture, and science, the show has its lovers, and of course its haters.  Google "The Big Bang theory is..." and the first four suggestions are "not funny, terrible, stupid, and bad."  Rather harsh google.
      I enjoy The Big Bang Theory for the most part.  Is it the funniest show on television?  Certainly not, but it doesn't deserve backlash and hatred for its success.  Good for the show for reaching a broader audience.  I may miss episodes now days and not watch it like I used to when it was a little less successful, but I still enjoyed the most recent finale when the group gathered around to watch one of their own go into space.  The show has successfully added more female characters and even bravely allowed characters to change.  Sheldon's relationship with Amy Farrah Fowler (Mayim Bialik) cannot be called anything less than original and fun love story for the audience.
      With five seasons down and no end in sight, The Big Bang Theory is going strong, despite all the hipsters who don't like it because it is...horror above horrors...popular.  The new season debuts September 27.  Hipster glasses for viewing the show are optional.

HIMYM without Marshall?

Jason Segel as Marshall in HIMYM

           Jason Segel, the growing movie star best known by How I met Your Mother fans as the beloved Marshall Eriksen, said in a recent interview that he was ready for the show to reach its natural conclusion in the coming season.  This of course stirred up drama, particularly because of recent expressed interest in a ninth season after this year's eighth.  Fans of the show would certainly cry foul if Marshall, who recently had a baby with his wife Lily, were to leave the show before its end.  I wouldn't get to worried.  Segel's comments seem as though they were taken out of context to cause drama.  Surely if there is a ninth season, Segel will be back, out of respect to his lovable character and loyal fans.  For now, let's just look out for Jason Segel in the eighth, and possibly final season of HIMYM this September on CBS.

Andy Murray: Great Brit's Golden Boy

Andy Murray Celebrates Olympic Gold

          I'll admit that I have not kept up with all of the Olympics hype on NBC.  However, I was absolutely drawn in today by the gold medal match between Great Britain's Andy Murray and Switzerland's Roger Federer. I didn't want to miss a single serve. Federer, who at 30 years old is ranked the number one tennis player in the world, recently beat 25 year old Scottish Murray at 2012's Wimbledon.  Murray faced enormous pressure at Wimbledon, with the hopes of a nation long without the home-turf honor of a Wimbledon win.  Though he lost, Great Britain was ready for redemption at the London Olympics.  Thus, Murray had a lot of weight on his shoulders coming into the Olympics.
       Watching them battle it out on the courts once again today at the Olympics was riveting.  It seemed part mind game, part athletic skills as the two volleyed and  served with power and prowess. Murray, who was ranked fourth in the world, seemed like the initial underdog, especially after so recently losing to Federer.  However, he came to dominate, ultimately using control and skill to win Olympic gold. The screams of his usually stoic countrymen could not be contained.  It was a beautiful moment to watch him victoriously hug members of the audience, including one very adorable tennis fan.  I am not a crazy sports fanatic, but when I see a powerful moment in life and entertainment, I have to give it its due.  The match was a fantastic and gripping story that made for great television.  We watch the Olympics for moments like it-moments that seem bigger than individual people or even countries.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Revenge is Bittersweet

        Letting go is not in the vocabulary of Revenge's Emily Thorne, played with crocodile stares and icy looks by Everwood's Emily VanCamp.  As a child, Amanda Clark witnessed her father David Clark be wrongly accused of a heinous crime and imprisoned to protect the untouchable and elite Grayson family.  Her father ultimately dies in prison, leaving her with the drive and ambition to avenge his death by taking down everyone who put him in prison, including of course, the entire Grayson clan.
         Taking on a false identify and planting herself into the role of "Emily Thorne," a wealthy social climber of the Hamptons who sets her sights on the heir to the Grayson fortune, Daniel Grayson (Joshua Bowman), Emily is a master liar. Revenge comes as a cost though.  Emily/Amanda sacrifices a fresh start with her childhood friend Jack Porter (Nick Wechsler) for the chance to take justice into her own hands.
        The pilot episode is masterful and should be an example to all shows trying to attract an audience.  It sets up the story with equal parts suspense and emotion, and introduces the audience to the "villain" Victoria Grayson (Madeleine Stowe), the scheming matriarch of the Grayson empire.  The season was not always as engrossing as the pilot, but it still made for great television. In the new season, it would do for some of the less important and frustrating characters (I'm looking at you Charlotte Grayson) to have less screen time.  All in all, I will certainly be tuning in to watch Emily plot revenge, even if the only person she ever really ruins is herself.  That is the beauty of the show.  What makes it interesting prevents its main character's happiness.  Revenge is a true life lesson in the midst of all the fun drama.  Revenge is not so sweet after all, but the lush show certainly is.

Ruby Sparks: Imaginary Friend

Ruby Sparks 

         Most children have an imaginary friend or two growing up.  Few though, dream up a perfect person and then find that person standing right in front of them.  In Ruby Sparks, an indie movie with a lot of buzz, Calvin Fields (Paul Dano) is a young writer full of potential.  His greatest book is already long published, and he struggles in the aftermath of his success to come up with anything worth writing.  Instead, he thinks up the perfect girl, and suddenly finds this girl, Ruby (Zoe Kazan who also wrote the film) right in front of him.  She inspires him and surprises him, testing the power of the written world.  The film boasts incredibly positive reviews, most of which praise it's originality and honest and playful heart.  As it's a somewhat indie film, keep your eyes out for it in theaters or catch it on dvd.  Your imaginary friend will appreciate the love.

Copper: Not Your Grandma's Crime Show

          I get bored easily with procedural shows. I'm not saying crime shows and medicals shows aren't sometimes great television, it's just that it takes a special show with a unique premise and great characters to really keep my attention.  Even shows I used to love like House or Bones lose me when they feel repetitive.
         BBC America is banking on its new show Copper to be an original crime drama.  With easy parallels to Gangs of New York, Copper follows an Irish detective in the mid 1800's New York, with all the crime and drama that ensues during the boom of immigration.
       The trailer looks promising, and the concept of a crime show without modern technology sounds just original enough to be good. As long as the characters are well built and there is a larger story arc than a crime-a-week, I will certainly give the show a chance. The series comes out Aug 19.  See the trailer here.

Movie Rave: Children of Men

    You know you've found a good movie when you're incredibly sick and tired, but you fight off your sleep just to finish the story.  Children of Men, a movie from director Alfonso Cuaron, is such film.  Harry Potter lovers may remember Cuaron for directing Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.  He brought his own color and tone to the series, showing how to make a Potter film that wasn't dry and dull in its interpretation of the story.  His creativity translates well to Children of Men, with gritty realism mixed with the future fantasty.
    Children of Men, which stars Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, and Michael Caine, is set in 2027 in a world where there are no more children.  The last baby was born several years ago, taking with it the last hope for a better world.  By a divine miracle, one woman becomes pregnant once again.  She must be protected and taken far away, to a sanctuary.  The baby is the only hope for a world that has long been void of the voices of children.  The film questions life, death, and purpose all while asking its characters to sacrifice everything for the sake of hope.
    Both the movie and the soundtrack offer violent and visceral emotions.  The movie is a thinking man's action story if there ever was one.  Watch the 2006 film, and just try to forget it.  I saw it while sick, and I still remember it as though I watched it yesterday.