Sunday, September 30, 2012

Mark Williams: Best Fictional Dad Ever

Mark Willaims: Best Fictional Dad Ever

           I would just like to take a moment to point out how awesome Mark Williams is, or at least, how awesome the characters that he plays are.  Mr. Mark Williams recently appeared on Doctor Who, playing Rory Williams' (aka The Last Centurian, also known as the most awesome person ever) father.  Harry Potter fans, however, know him as the patriarch of everyone's favorite ginger family, the Weasleys.  Playing Mr. Arthur Weasley, he was in fact the father of my number two favorite ginger, second only to my actual mother.  How can anyone not love the father of Ron Weasley?  Because Mark Williams plays the dad of two of my favorite characters, he deserves his own Best Fictional Dad Ever mug, mouse pad, and commorative key chain.  After all, he has time traveled in a TARDIS and used a magic wand.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Doctor Who and the Weepy Weeping Angels

The Ponds

             I wasn't prepared.  I thought I was, but I was so horrendously wrong.  Tonight's Doctor Who Episode, entitled The Angels Take Manhattan sent me into a full out ugly cry.  My fellow Whovian little brother and I hugged, as all Who-lovers should, mourning the bittersweet end to the story of Rory Williams and Amelia Pond.  It is the nature of Doctor Who to reinvent and regenerate.  It's what has made the show last so long.  However, it doesn't make it any easier.  On a one to David Tennant's departure, this was absolutely  a ten.  (If you get that joke, you have excellent taste in British T.V. We should be friends.)

          The episode started out in the shady 1920's, where weeping angels, ancient creatures who send people back in time and feed off of life energy have taken over Manhattan, pose as statues of babies, mothers, and even the Statue of Liberty. If you look away, if you blink, you will be sent back in time. Everyone's favorite time travel The Doctor must try to rescue all of New York and prevent his companions Rory and Amy from dying in the process.  A mysterious book written by the always fabulous River Song guides their journey through flickering rooms and dark tunnels with terrifying moving statues.  The Doctor however, refuses to look at the last page, the spoiler, the end.  He doesn't do well with endings, and so he rips it out.  Stories, at least the best ones however, need an end.

         When a horrible truth is discovered-that Rory will be taken by the angels, dying alone and away from Amy-Amy like always refuses to let that stand.  She and Rory create a time paradox, sacrificing and saving all of New York in the process.  Just when it seems as though everyone will be fine, and no true end will come, an angel takes Rory back in time. His name appears in stone, on a tombstone in the present day.   Amelia Pond, the brave and fierce woman that she is, must say goodbye to The Doctor and River to join Rory, and live out their days together in a time altered world, a world the Doctor can never visit.  The Doctor, her raggedy man who gave her promises of adventure when she was a child and made good on them when Amy grew up, is forced to say goodbye.  Amelia Pond blinks and is gone, her name appearing on a present-day tombstone.

         Amy leaves one last goodbye to her Doctor in the last page of the mysterious book written by River Melody Song.  The man who hates goodbyes and endings, the man who ripped out the last page of the book, must find the page and find a way to say goodbye, just as he always has.  He loves like a human, but he is not one.  He lives on, loved and remembered by the Ponds, just as we will love and remember them.

          Oh, what a beautiful, sad, tragic, happy ending.  I'm beyond thrilled Amy and Rory spent their lives together, and didn't have a truly devastating end like Donna Noble (who forgot everything about her adventures), but I'm having trouble like The Doctor has trouble saying goodbye to the Ponds.  Oh, weeping angels.  Why are you so terrifying and awesome?  All you do is make everyone incredibly weepy?  I'm left sad over The Doctor, River, Rory's Father, all of them losing Rory and Amy.  I know the show will move on and be wonderful in a new and fantastical way, but for now, I'm going to be sad.  After all, to quote another Weeping Angel survivor, "Sad is happy for deep people."  (If you get that reference, you are my favorite person ever.)

Friday, September 28, 2012

If You Only Watch 3 Tim Burton Movies...

Tim Burton and his Creations

           My sister and I both had a nature/nurture twin moment where we both admitted how sweet and cute Frankenweenie,  Tim Burton's new film about a boy who brings his beloved dog back to life, looks.  When my sister admitted to not seeing  Tim Burton's classic film, I was a little horrified. I shirked by duties as a movie-suggester/convincer.  I promised to make good on my failure by listing the most important Burton films.  I'm not a rabid fan of all of his movies.  Alice and Wonderland was more strange than good to me, as was Dark Shadows.  Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is another just alright film.  I do like Sleepy Hollow, but I wouldn't put it in my top three.  My favorites have more heart, like Frankenweenie seems to have.  If forces to choose the three Burton films I like the best, I'd list:

Big Fish

3.  Big Fish
      Starring Ewan McGregor as a spinner of great tales and giant adventures, this film achieved the perfect balance of fantastical and real.  It's focus on the fractured relationship between a father and son made the film stick with me.  Not many people list it as one of their favorites.  Even I had forgotten about it for a while, but the more I think about it, the more I want to watch it again.

Corpse Bride

2.  Corpse Bride
        I love the music.  I love the motion capture.  I love Johnny Depp as the timid and sweet groom in this Victorian age movie about his unlikely friendship between a lovely departed bride.  A story where the dead are much more colorful than the living, the movie ultimately reveals the sacrificial nature of love.  It's visually and thematically gorgeous.  While many people are bigger fans of The Nightmare Before Christmas, I'm really not.  I'd choose Corpse Bride any day.

Edward Scissorhands

1.  Edward Scissorhands
       This movie is simply beautiful.  Equally tragic, lovely, and inevitable, the story of a strange man with scissors for hands it the ultimate outsider story.   He wants so badly to live and love and be loved in the ordinary world, but Edward is simply too extraordinary. If I listen to the theme from the movie, I get a little emotional.    Johnny Depp has played many beloved roles, but this is my favorite.  It is a Tim Burton film at its finest.

It's Elementary

Joan Watson and Sherlock Holmes: Elementary

          CBS's new hour long drama Elementary has all the elements of good television.  Starring Jonny Lee Miller as a modern Sherlock Holmes who uses his genius to solve crimes and Lucy Liu as Joan Watson, his sobriety partner, Elementary places the two character in present day New York.  The series premiered Thursday, with a good (not great) episode.  Miller played Holmes with an interesting mix of neurosis and charisma.  His chemistry with Lucy Liu was intriguing.  When he interrupts Watson at an Opera, refusing to be quiet until she acknowledges him, I saw a flash of the unique potential friendship/codependency.
              That was just it though.  I saw potential.  The actual mystery wasn't very interesting.  It never invested me in the crime or the characters like BBC's truly masterful modern spin on Sherlock's tales entitled quite simply Sherlock  and starring Benedict Cumberbatch as the title character.  I really like Sherlock's stories, and really want to like Elementary.  If however, the crimes grow too...well, CBS procedural, I may not stick around.  The premiere did tantalize a backstory about something going terribly wrong in London, causing Sherlock to relocate and spiral into addiction.  If the show delves into that very interesting backstory and raids from the classic Sherlock mysteries and character, I will absolutely watch it, enjoying it as a different spin on a truly mysterious and wonderful man.  For now, Sherlock is still my favorite version, but I'm willing to cheat on it.  That is, if Miller gets a better scarf.  Seriously.  What do you call that pattern?  Rainbow plaid?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Epic Life Music

Music to give you chills.

         Typically, I've reserved this blog for movies and shows.  I discuss soundtracks sometimes, but beyond that haven't really divulged my passion for music.  Because this blog is at its core a geek-out over awesome entertainment, I am going to venture out a little into musical entertainment.  Music to me is all about telling a story, and makes regular life far more epic and dramatic.  With that in mind, I'm okay with sharing a playlist of songs that make my life feel a little bigger and broader-songs that tell a story.  After all, movies and shows would be way less powerful without music.  In fact, in an ideal world, I'd love to be the music supervisor for a show or even for commercials.  Here is this weeks playlist of storytelling songs.  Enjoy!

1.  Midnight City by M83

          I love the shouting synths from this song.  It's been featured in a few commercials so it may sound familiar.

2.  Outro by M83
         Oh my gosh.  This song is beautiful, and epic.  The beginning is synth, the middle is near silent, and the end is sheer crescendoing perfection.  This song is my go to right now.

3.  Blackwind by Patrick Watson
       I am a fan of Patrick Watson.  His songs are small and large, intimate and immediate.  This song is one of his more recent ones.  It's perfect for driving through Fall roads with dreamy thoughts.

4.  Dark Parts by Perfume Genius
        Man I am a serious fan of piano.  This song is sad, strange, lovely, and mysterious.  I dig it.

5.  Normal Song by Perfume Genius
       This song is sad and sweet, with a simple guitar and quivering voice.  I LOVE it.

6.  Radioactive by Imagine Dragons
      This song has swag.  It oozes cool and will force you to want to break out your craziest (and perhaps non-existent) dance moves.  I am loving all of Imagine Dragons songs.  Check out It's Time, Demons, and On Top of the World too.

7.Down in the Valley by The Head and the Heart
       The Head and the Heart is a band you've go to check out.  Their music is folksy in the best possible way.

8.  The New Mumford and Sons CD.
      I just got it, and have listened to it a few times.  While I'm not as excited about it as with their first album, I think it will grow on me until I love it.

         Enjoy the music!  I hope it gives you stories!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Once Upon an Addiction

             The first season of Once Upon a Time came out on Netflix recently.  I had tried to watch the show last year when it debuted, but didn't fully invest.  I made a huge mistake, though I'm partly grateful for it now.  Watching the series in mini-marathon form is rewarding, mainly because all of the twists and cliff-hangers aren't as painful when the next episode is a button press away.  Like the Mad-Hatter himself, I've been sprinting through the season, getting ready for season 2 this Sunday.  If you haven't been watching it, you are missing out on old-school storytelling with a modern twist.  Even the most evil character has depth and a back story worthy of Lost itself.  In fact, in a very weird way, the fairy tale flashbacks, mythology, and mystery make me think of Lost more than any other show, which is a high compliment in my books.
          Characters like Snow White, Rumpelstiltskin, Prince Charming, and even Jiminy Cricket  are revitalized and changed on the show, which follows the idea that the evil queen cursed all fairy tale characters, sending them to the worst place imaginable: earth!  The curse must be broken, and the characters must remember their true identity, or be trapped in a strange and frozen purgatory with no happy ending.  The actress playing the evil queen deserves props, mainly for portraying the caricature queen in fairyland and  the cool and calculating mayor in the modern world.
              Watch the show, become a fan.  It certainly has won me over.  I've even put off watching new Fall shows to finish off the season.  I am three episodes away from a very interesting and sure to be epic conclusion to the first chapter.  Look out for the second this Sunday at 8:00.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

My Most Anticipated Film of 2012

Anne Hathaway in Les Miserables

          Les Miserables is easily one of my favorite stories of all time.  The musical is all the more profound.  When I heard that the director of The King's Speech was heading the musical movie adaptation, I grew excited.  The first trailer, featuring the battered Anne Hathaway beautifully crying and singing through "I Dreamed I Dream", I became more excited about the film than I am about The Hobbit.  The story is so epic in scope yet intimate in human heart and details.
           What I am most excited about is how Les Mes was filmed.  Apparently, instead of recording in a studio and then pantomiming singing, the actors and actresses actually sang for each shot with tiny earphones playing their music into their ears.  While the actors still got to play with voice and performance, they were able to adapt and react to the story, making it all the more authentic and like the real stage play, only more intimate.   I am really excited about the live singing, which makes it remarkably ground breaking and different than other film musicals.  Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe, and a plethora of other players can cut their acting and singing chops with authenticity and truth.  I am beyond inspired and excited about the results.  Check out the behind the scene feature on live singing here.  In the clip, Eddie Redmayne (Marius) expresses  what live singing accomplishes.  It achieves fragility, forcing the listener to hear the music anew.  Anne Hathaway argues that it would have been selfish to sing a tragic song the pretty way.  I agree with them both.  All I know is, it is easily the movie I am most excited about this year.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Spicy Kick Off of Fall Television

           Fall is here!  That means crinkling leaves, pumpkins and spice, oh, and a flood of new television after the summer tv drought. I don't have time for a million shows, contrary to networks' beliefs.  When Fall premieres come, and a deluge of new and old television shows come back, I am am forced to prioritize and whittle down, sometimes relegating certain shows to my Netflix Que.  I may not be into football, so its the closest thing I have to drafting for my fantasy league.  If forced to pick new and old shows I will actually watch (almost) on their schedule, I could whittle it down to:


          Community, Suburgatory, New Girl, HIMYM, Happy Endings, Modern Family....and maybe The Middle and Parks and Recreation are in my priority shows. Community and Happy Ending will probably duke it out for MVP, though New Girl and Happy Endings share a time zone, which may spur on a rivalry.  If you've noticed, my comedies don't really include anything new.  I may give The Mindy Project more of a chance, or check out Ben and Kate, but really, I have enough comedy for now, and the new stuff just doesn't seem that promising.  I may also watch bits of the last season of The Office, just for nostalgia sake.  The Big Bang Theory is a very tentative maybe.  I like it, but honestly, I didn't follow the last season.  It is suffering from over-exposure and needs to hit the showers for a bit.  I perhaps will give Matthew Perry's Go On a shot as well.  Time (quite literally because I don't have the time for all the shows I want to watch) will tell.


            Doctor Who, Copper, Parenthood, The Vampire  Diaries, Revenge, Once Upon a Time, and  Grey's Anatomy are high up on my drama priorities, though Grey's could go either way.  As for new shows I will give a chance, I am very interested in Elementary, mainly because I am a sucker for Sherlock and am willing to give the new version a chance, partly to stave off the Sherlock starvation. (No new episodes until sometime next year!!!)  Nashville sounds like it may be soapy good or cheesy bad.  I'll give it a try, but it may turn into last year's Smash ( A show that I lost interest in my episode 2). Because I will miss Lost always (said in the voice of Snape) and because the concept of a technology-less civilization is fascinating,  I will give Revolution a chance to show what its got as well.  Last Resort has promise to be a heady story if Revolution fails.  The premiere episode of Revolution was enough to draw me in though.  I actually sort of wish more dramas with promise were coming out.  Arrow and Beauty and the Beast could go either way, but I'm honestly not sure I will give either a chance.

           I am sure I am forgetting shows or missing shows, but all and all, this season should be spiced with drama and comedy of all kinds of flavors and variety.  For a comprehensive list of the Fall 2012 tv schedule, go here.  Happy coach potatoing!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Hobbit Debuts a New Trailer

Martin Freeman as Bilbo in The Hobbit

                Have you seen the new trailer for the first of the three Hobbit movies?  If you have yet to stumble across it, watch it here.  The trailer shows off the lighter side of the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit world, reminding me of Gimli and Legolas rivalry humor.  My initial reaction to the preview was absolute relief in how awesome I think Martin Freeman will be as Bilbo.  I cannot think of a more perfect actor to play the ultimate everyman, or in this case every-Hobbit.  When Bilbo laughs at Gollum in the caves, I was all the more assured that Freeman will carry the films, which is important, considering there are three films in the works.  Speaking of Gollum, the riddle scene, which Hobbit fans know is how Bilbo gains THE RING (yes that ring), looks like it is going to be stellar.  Basically, the trailer is exciting for any fan of Peter Jackson or Tolkien.  I certainly am ready to go back to Middle Earth this December.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Once Upon a Commitment

           Last year, when Once Upon a Time premiered, I did not expect the huge success that followed it.  So many shows with fantasy elements become cult hits but don't really attract mainstream attention. They eventually die off, relegated to the DVD shelf of loyal nerds and show lovers.   Even Lost lost more of its mainstream followers as it delved deeper into its own inverted mythology.
         How then, did a show about a once sleepy town full of fairy tale characters and creatures who have forgotten their true identities carve a secure place in Sunday night television?  I think there is more than one argument/explanation.  First, Once Upon a Time is an abc show, meaning it is in sync with Disney.  Thus, Disney's most beloved interpretations of fairy tale characters (from Mulan to Sleeping Beauty) can be used and honored.  Second, I think the show has gained success because Sunday nights, and any night really, is really void of (mostly) family friendly television that doesn't involve annoying talking sponges and mediocre teens trying to be famous.  Once Upon a Time fills that void with a show that unites parents and (somewhat older) kids together for more traditional storytelling.

       I do understand the draw of Once Upon a Time, though I remember thinking it had a bit of cheese when I watched a few episodes. As a big fan of shows like Merlin though, I think I can handle a little cheese if it has some substance and meat behind it.  Once season 1 is now available on Instant Netflix.  I may give it a chance before the new season premieres September 30.  I refuse to be a hipster who won't commit to a good show just because people actually (egad!!!) like it.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Movie Rave: Adam

              When I first saw an trailer for the 2009 film Adam, I was intrigued.  Telling the story of a unique love story between the hyper intelligent, socially unique Adam (Hugh Dancy) and the sweet and smart Beth (Rose Burn), the film is disarming and charming.  It breaks the mold of romance, showing what it means to make sacrifices and choices to change for the better.  I finally saw the film a year ago, I was impressed with how well Hugh Dancy played a young man with Aspergers Syndrome and by how natural the relationship between Adam and Beth played out.  I won't spoil the ending, which does make you think more than the average love story.  If you like off-beat films with heart and soul to spare, check out Adam on dvd and fall for the genuine sweetness of Adam and Beth's story.

Movie Rave:The Constant Gardener

             There are some movies that stick with you, no matter how many years since you've seen them.  I recently started hankering to re-watch one such movie. The Constant Gardener, a film starring Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz as a  married couple who get caught up in a corrupt pharmaceutical company scandal in Africa, haunts you long after you watch it.  Without spoiling the movie, I can tell you that Weisz character dies very early on, causing Fiennes's character Justin to manically uncover the mysterious circumstances surrounding her death.  With stunning visuals and a truly horrifying and compelling story, the film feels very real, which makes the big reveal all the scarier and more potent.  If you are in the mood for and engrossing, intelligent, and thought-provoking film, check out the 2005 movie.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Donald Glover: Renaissance Man

Donald Glover

           In either the worst or best news for a Community fan, Donald Glover has a new show in the tentative works.  Glover plays the nerdy jock and one half of the dream team Troy and Abed. on NBC's beloved Community.  A bit of a renaissance man, Donald Glover not only plays Troy, but he also raps under the moniker Childish Gambinio and is a rising comedian.  Before starring in Community, Glover wrote for 30 Rock. He has a huge smattering of talents to add to a show. Many of his projects display his goofy geek vibe.   Zooey Deschanel has the whole "adorkable" thing.   Couldn't he have success as a "geekfy" or "goofky?" on his show?  Scratch that.  Let's stop being lazy and combining words to create buzz.  It's lazy buzz. It's "bazzy."

           Though Glover is already committed to Community season 4, what does his new show development mean for the future of Community?  The show has always been a cult-following show (#sixseasonsandamovie) with an unsure future.  If Community is set to end in season 4's 13 episode run, it will at least mean we will have something to comfort us when Glover's new show comes.  If Community continues beyond this coming season, Glover can just do double duty.  He's juggled many roles before.  In a perfect world, Community will get its six seasons and a movie, and Glover's new show will actually turn out to be Troy and Abed in the Morning.  I'd move to that world!


New Girl's Secret Ingredient: Activia!!!

New Girl Season 2

            A lot is happening in season 2 of Fox's hit comedy New Girl.  Jess (Zooey Deschanel), the consummate optimist with a soft spot for glitter and Gollum, will lose her job as a teacher and be forced to try her hand in a hodgepodge of new jobs.  Schmidt (Max Greenfield) will once again be a single crazy man on the prowl.  It was also just announced that New Girl will get its probiotic yogurt on, with Jamie Lee Curtis coming in to play the divorced mom of Jess in a Thanksgiving episode.  Rob Reiner will play Jess's father in the episode that will force the split couple together.
        After a first season that grew in its hilarity and heart, I will certainly be tuning in to watch Jess and the boys this Fall.  New Girl season two premieres September 25th on Fox.  I will be watching, with or without my yogurt.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Shadow and Bones: The Next Potter?

Shadow and Bones

             Every book with a slight fantasy element has been compared to the incomparable Harry Potter.  Shadow and Bones, a new fantasy novel set in a fictionalized and magical Russia (called Ravka in the book), has drawn comparisons to Harry Potter.  After reading reviews and synopsis of the book however, I would compare it to Avatar: The Last Airbender ( the show, not the movie, just so we are clear) before I would make Potter references.  The story is set in Ravka, a magical nation that lies dangerously close to the Shadow Fold, a land where monsters dwell and devour. Its leading lady is Alina, a girl who is drawn into magic and battle when her best friend is injured.  Alina is swept into war, magic, and mystery.
       Besides having magic, there is no really connect to Harry Potter, except for the recent news that Harry Potter producer David Heyman is set to produce the films based on the Shadow and Bone series.  Hardcore Harry fans know Heyman as the thin, darkly bearded man who appears in bonus features.  If I am honest, a huge reason I am interested in reading Shadow and Bones is simply that Heyman is involved.  He had a part in one of the best movie series from one of the best books, which makes me trust his judgement and taste more than most.  Heyman's approval aside, the book does sound interesting, particularly with the fresh setting of older Russia.  Check out the book here.   I believe it's going on my reading list.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Catching Fire in Georgia

               Catching Fire, the much buzzed about sequel to The Hunger Games, invaded in the peach state today.  Georgia has played host to a number of recent films, but will only be home to The Hunger Games sequel for a little while, before shooting continues in Hawaii.  I must admit that thoughloved The Hunger Games books, I really only liked the movie.  Watching it a second time, I found myself weirdly bored and unattached, whereas when I reread the books I feel immersed in the  dystopian adventure every time.
                      It concerns me that the first film was only decent, particularly because the first book was my favorite in the series.  Slight reservations aside, I am still very interested in how the 75th Hunger Games will play out on screen, particularly with the addition of Finnick (Sam Clafin).  Hopefully Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) will be given more screen time to develop as well.  Otherwise, The Hunger Games films really do not deserve the hype surrounding them.  The books, particularly the first two, deserve all the hype they receive.  See if Catching Fire lives up to its bold name when it hits theaters Nov. 2013.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Doctor Who, Dinos, and Harry Potter

Mr. Wealey, Doctor Who, and a Dinosaur of course.

              Episode 2 in season 7 of my favorite sci-fi show Doctor Who wasn't my absolute favorite.  Set in a spaceship that turned out to be an ark for dinosaurs, it featured the villain Solomon as a  too simply evil character who wanted to sell the dinosaurs, resorting to genocide to do it. The episode did have its shining moments, particularly when everyone's favorite time traveler spoke to his best friend and traveling buddy the sassy Scot Amy Pond.  The conversation foreshadowed Amy's coming departure from the show, perhaps even hinting to her death.
            All in all the episode was still a Doctor Who episode, so I liked it.  One beach scene in particular in the Doctor ran from pterodactyls was particularly epic and big-budget shouting.  However, after the stellar season opener which finally made me appreciate the usually ridiculous Daleks, the episode was a bit of a let down.  David Bradley (aka Mr. Filch in Harry Potter) played Solomon, and Mark Williams (aka Mr. Weasley in Harry Potter) played Rory's father.  Both characters were underused, though I did enjoy playing spot the Harry Potter star.  Next weeks episode features cowboys and cyborgs, which sounds like a rather fun hybrid.  I just hope we get to have more fun with Amy and Rory Pond before they leave the series for good.  As much as I enjoy the ridiculous stories, like dinosaurs in space, the real heart of the show beats for the relationships between The Doctor and his human friends.

One of My Favorite Shows is Parenthood??


             I have eclectic taste in shows and movies.  I enjoy slightly odd, quirky indie movies and shows as well as more mainstream entertainment.  My incredibly strong attachment to NBC's family drama Parenthood probably exists because the show is sort of a hybrid of indie and mainstream, though it is not marketed toward my generation.  Somehow Parenthood, which will return with its fourth season Sept. 12 on NBC, has hooked me.
            Starring Craig T. Nelson and Bonnie Bedelia as the older parents of the Braverman clan of Adam (Peter Kraus), Sarah (Lauren Graham), Crosby (Dax Shepard), and Julia (Erika Cristensen), the series follows the life of the Braverman kids and their respective kids, including the son of Adam, who has aspergers.  The show highlights the highs and lows of their close knit family both as a unit and as individuals.  With a simplicity and vulnerability all on its own, the show is quite simply authentic.  I have become invested in the characters, so much so that I wept when season three saw Julia lose one adopted baby only to gain a young son.  For any Gilmore Girls fans out there, know that Lauren Graham has created another unique and very different character in the fragile yet passionate Sarah.  It is a remarkable tribute to the show and to Graham's skills that I don't see a smidge of Lorelai Gilmore when I watch the show.
       Perhaps it is partly because I come from a large and close family that I have connected so much to the show.  If you aren't watching Parenthood and want a show that really develops its very human characters and relationships in a real and authentic way, check it out on dvd or Netflix Instant and then watch the new season this fall.  I know I will be watching the sometimes sweet, sometimes heartbreaking, but always endearing series.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

It's Official: Everything Connects to Harry Potter

Damian Lewis and Helen McCrory

              I can always count on IMDb to provide me with fundamentally unnecessary but weirdly addicting facts.  I can also always count on making odd connections to Harry Potter.  Today, while IMDbing Homeland, the Showtime show I've been watching, I found out that Damian Lewis, who plays the potential terrorist Brody on the critically acclaimed series is in real life married to Helen McCrory, who in turn plays none other than Draco Malfoy's mother Narcissa Malfoy in the Harry Potter films.  Mrs. Malfoy sure does like her fictional villains.
                I'm a big fan of Damian Lewis, who also plays a true war hero in Band of Brothers, portraying soldier Dick Winters with  grace and dignity.  It has honestly been strange seeing him play anything but a true hero as I've watched the CIA drama Homeland.  I just thought I'd share a random connect from Homeland, to Damian Lewis, to Harry Potter, to Band of Brothers and back again.  It is official. Harry Potter is somehow connected to EVERYTHING in pop culture and entertainment.

Downton Abbey Plays Dirty

Downton Abbey Season 3

               If you have avoided Downton Abbey thus far, I am equal parts impressed and sad for you.  The brilliant British import about the twisted lives of the wealthy Crawley family and their servants hooked me last year when I marathoned through the first and second season.  Set in the 1910's and 20's, the series capitalizes on escapism drama with a heart.  Fans don't casually watch it.  They LOVE it and make an event of it when it finally makes its way across the pond to America.  Here's my problem.  Season three debuts in Great Britain Sept. 16th.  It doesn't come to America (via PBS) until January 2012.  In the age of the internet, it is sheer stupidity to not air shows in the same time frame.  Downton should take a cue from Doctor Who, a British show which now airs on BBC America on the same approximate day as in England.  I love Downton Abbey, which makes it all the crueler that I know England has it first, and for four months.  I feel the same way about Sherlock, another British import that airs months late in America. As a British television lover, I just think it's dirty.  Check on the new trailer for season three here.  The trailer features music from the choir used on The Social Network trailers.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Revolution: Intriguing, Not Revolutionary

Revolution.  I do love the second O.

             A world where i-phones, computers, and cars suddenly stop working, never to flash on again is a scary notion for technology-dependents of 2012.  Revolution, a show from J.J. Abrams, capitalizes on this fear.  The pilot episode, directed by Iron Man's Jon Favreau and currently available on hulu, sets up a dystopian tale where all technology is wiped out in a single moment.  It then flashes fifteen or so years later, to a future that more closely resemble's the distant past.  Cars and planes lie dormant as militia and tribes fight and settle in the aftermath of the technological apocalypse.
               In one small farming settlement, Charlie loses her father when he is killed by the militia for secrets he has about the cause of the blackout.  Charlie's brother is taken by them, forcing her to find her long lost soldier Uncle, who has a mysterious connect to Bass, the leader of the militia.  Pilot episodes of "big story" conceptual dramas are usually intriguing.  Revolution certainly is, especially in the moments it echoes Lost (If you watch it, tell me the last moment of the show doesn't remind you of the computer down in the hatch). I liked some of the characters, especially those with questionable motives like the young soldier Nate.  However, though the premise of the show has series promise, it still didn't draw me in immediately, especially with its long traveling/camping scenes.  (Harry Potter 7 much?)
            Immediate audience connection is very important for high-concept shows.  Otherwise, they die out very very quickly.  (See Flashfoward, The Event, The River...The list of tragic ends to interesting concepts is rather bleak.) I think Revolution has a chance of being a very interesting show that lives up to its name, especially with warring militaries and civilians.  However, at least in the first episode, I was merely intrigued.  For now, that's enough to keep me watching, just to be there if the show becomes truly revolutionary.  Watch the show on hulu now, or catch it when it premieres September 17 on nbc.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Spiderman Vs. Spiderman

The Amazing Spiderman

            Superheroes are not a new trend.  The Greeks and Romans honored gods and demigods of super-human strengths long before us.  Even so, superheroes are currently dominating mainstream pop culture, escaping from the dusty comic shops and conventions and taking their place as titans of the box office.
          Ten years ago, before Iron Man crafted his suite, Thor swung his hammer, and Captain America raised his shield, Spiderman swung through the streets of New York, saving and sacrificing for its people.  Sam Raimi's Spiderman films led the way to a deluge of Marvel characters appearing on the big screen.  The first two films provided an ordinary and likable character, gave him power, and asked for him to be extraordinary.  There is no more profound line in a superhero movie than Spidermans' "With great power comes great responsibility."  The movies were special.  They were the first hero movies I really connected to.
          I think it's why I was so hesitant to watch The Amazing Spiderman, the 2012 remake starring Andrew Garfield (The Social Network).  While the third Spiderman was a dud in every sense, the first two were fantastic.  Tobey Maguire played the role perfectly.  I do think that hero fans love the hero, the character, above the actor or the version, but with the trilogy barely ten years old, could Garfield really take over the web in a way that made Spiderman a worthy reboot?
         After finally watching the movie, I cannot fully answer the question.  The Amazing Spiderman is a different film than Raimi's Spiderman, but it certainly can't avoid comparisons.  Andrew Garfield plays a cocky, sometimes downright selfish and rude Peter Parker.    The film focuses on Peter's angst over his parents' deaths and his burgeoning feelings for Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone).  I like Emma Stone as an actress, but the relationship doesn't't really resonate as much as it should have.
           In the new film,  it takes over half the film for Peter to even start to become Spiderman.  Before that, he's just a skateboarding punk kid with occasional flashes of kindness.  The villain, played by Rhys Ifans, is cartoonish as can be expected from most Marvel villains (Loki excluded).  Ifans becomes The Lizard, a creature that frankly reminds me of something that should be on a late night Science Fiction channel, not a blockbuster movie.  He just felt like a B-movie version of The Green Goblin.
          Besides a scene in which Spiderman saves a boy from a burning car by giving him his mask for "strength," there are few truly heroic moments for Spiderman.  He develops some in the film, but truthfully, I found Denis Leary's Captain Stacy to be the real hero of the movie.   So what then, can I conclude? It did have one amazing moment: Stan Lee's cameo as an oblivious librarian in the midst of battle was his best yet.  Aside from that,  if I had never seen Sam Raimi's films, I would have enjoyed The Amazing Spiderman, and perhaps future films will develop the new Spiderman to be a worthy predecessor.  Andrew Garfield is a promising actor who has the capacity to really develop the character.  However, for now, the new film lacked the message of its elder.  It was decent, but truly, the original Spiderman movies are the films that deserve the moniker Amazing.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Doctor Who, Doctor WHAT!!!!!

Doctor Who: The Asylum of the Daleks

               Doctor Who season seven debuted last night with a bang.  If you are a fan of quirky, fun, sad, hip, and intelligent television, you should be watching.  In the episode, entitled The Asylum of the Daleks, The Doctor, an ancient time traveler and the last of his kind, is summoned by his old enemies the Daleks.  Daleks are Doctor Who legends.  Creatures entombed in the robotic equivalent of a pepper shaker, they are all emotional hatred and destruction bent on destroying the human loving Doctor.  However, in the episode, they need The Doctor's help.  The very worst of the Daleks are kept on one planet, and though the Daleks hate to destroy their fellow warmongers, they ask The Doctor for help, sending him and his human companions Rory and Amy to shut down the shields of the Dalek prison so that it can be blown to pieces.
           I am a huge Who fan, but Daleks are not usually my favorite.  They shout exterminate a lot, and usually seem as threatening as the dinner table tool they resemble.  However, this episode made them truly ominous, giving them the power to transform humans into Daleks.   I will easily say it was my favorite episode where The Doctor battled them.  Rory and Amy, the beloved couple who have traveled space and time for the past two years with The Doctor added emotional resonance to the episode.  I was shocked when they revealed the two were getting a divorce, only to later reveal Amy was trying to let Rory go because she couldn't have children.  Fans know that mid season, the two will be leaving the show to be replaced by a new companion, but I am certainly glad they resolved their problems by episode's crazy good ending.  Amy and Rory have developed one of the most powerful relationships on television, and it would have been devastating for them to be apart.  (Even more devastating then their potential deaths!!!??)

         Speaking of the new companion, I was left screaming "WHAT!!!" at the television.  Jenna Louise-Coleman wasn't set to come in as the new companion Oswin until the Christmas episode, but Doctor Who never ceases to surprise.  In the episode, Oswin appeared on the Dalek prison, trapped in a ship for a year.  A fast talking genius with rapid fire humor, Oswin helps The Doctor and his friends navigate through Dalek territory.  When the time comes to destroy the planet, Oswin is the one to lower the shields.  However, the episode ends with the biggest shocker of all.  Oswin is revealed to be a fully changed Dalek.  She had crashed on the prison, but she had been turned.  Her whole little spacecraft is a fantasy she tells herself because the reality is to horrible.  (If you've seen Source Code, you know what I'm talking about).  Even though she is a Dalek, Oswin fights the urge to destroy, holding on to her humanity and saving them all.  Before The Doctor leaves, she asks him one thing.  "Remember me."  It was devastating and beautiful television.  Oswin certainly won't be forgotten by fans or The Doctor anytime soon.

      I can't wait to see the conclusion of Amy and Rory's story and to puzzle out how Owsin becomes human again so she can travel with The Doctor.  It was a blazing bolt of an episode.  If you aren't watching, don't worry.  There is a cure.  Watch this, then start at season 5.  The Doctor is in.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Hobbit 2: The Desolation of Smaug

The Hobbit

            Peter Jackson can do whatever he wants.  If that means he wants to create three movies out of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, then who are we to stop him?  If it means giving the second film a mouthful of a name, well, fine then.  It was recently announced that the second film will no longer be called There and Back Again, but will instead be entitled The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.  Referring to the dragon Smaug which will be placed by Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock fans rejoice), the title reveals the main focus on the second film.
        To be honest, I didn't entirely  love the new title, and I am a tiny bit unsure about three films from one book (and some of Tolkien's notes), but I really do think Jackson should be trusted.  He handled Lord of the Rings with such respect while adding his own vision to the story.  I hope he does the same in the three Hobbit films, and  I really hope that he  avoids King Kong territory. (Have you seen that movie?  The word overkill was made to describe that movie).  Look out for the first of the three Hobbit films, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in theaters Dec. 14.  The second film will be out Dec 13 of the next year, with the final film hitting theaters in the Summer of 2014.

Copper: Episode 2 Holds Up


            The second episode of a promising new show has a lot to live up to.  If it loses the momentum and spark of the first episode, it often loses it's audience.  However, BBC drama Copper's second episode more than lives up to the show's initial promise of a riveting character/cop/period piece set in New York's chaos in the 1860's.  By the end of the episode, I was grinning over the clever trick Detective Kevin Cocoran played to serve brutal justice to a slimy character.   Cocoran has charisma and danger to spare.  With a missing wife and a dead daughter, Cocoran's personality and need for his version of justice drives the show.  I for one, will be returning to the series every week to see the mysteries and conflicts of 5 Points through the eyes of it's violent, clever detective.  Watch it, and keep a very interesting new show on the air.