New season US TV Shows – Part 2

So there are more than 5 shows that have intrigued me? Well truth be told, the ones I featured in part 1 were my cream of the crop, A plus picks and time will tell how soothsayer-like my pop culture sensibilities are. Sometimes I jumped onto the zeitgeist bandwagon with my boots on, and ride away for 5 or 6 seasons, or more if I am truly blessed of innovative storytelling; other times, it is as if my love for the program dooms it with an unwatchability curse and it limps through 3 or 4 episodes before dying a cruel pixallated death.


Clearly I am hoping that (a) the shows I think will be good will be as good as they look, and (b) they will be universally loved and adored such they stay on the screen forever, which in modern programming terms is more than a few weeks. I can’t say I am as invested in these second tier picks but they show promise, glimmers of original programming, and they may yet prove to be stayers that last…

CHARLIE’S ANGELS

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J2P_jP76qqI

The Angels are back folks – played by Australia’s own Rachael Taylor (who frankly needs to step up the hair growing pace if she wants to match Farrah Fawcett’s runaway locks), Minka Kelly, and Annie Ilonzah – and accompanied by a far sexier looking Bosley (Ramon Rodriguez), and just like in the old series they aim to help the victims square off with those that seek to exploit them.

MY TAKE : I really want this to be edgy, sophisticated and clever, and a great revival of what was admittedly cheesy but fun pop culture junk food, but instead I fear it could end up going the way of Beverly Hillbillies the movie, or Bewitched the movie. The one thing that may stop that happening is that Drew Barrymore is executive producing, and she was behind the two revival Charlie’s Angels movies that, while they were by no means perfect, had an uber-cool feel and look to them, and if that sensibility is brought tob this show it may rise up above some the cloying lines that found their way into the trailer i.e. when asked if they’re cops, one of them replies “No, we’re Angels”. Here’s hoping the writers can remember that good writing is still required to underpin even the cheesiest of shows.

I HATE MY TEENAGE DAUGHTER

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MvV6dHgzxhk

Two very funny ladies – My Name Is Earl’s Jaime Pressly, and Wonderfalls’ Katie Finneran (the latter being my favourite but only just) – bring this domestically-based sitcom to life. It centres on their struggles to raise their teenage daughters so they are nothing like the social misfits their mothers were at the same age; unfortunately this simply makes theie daughters just like the mean girls who tormented their mothers growing up. Epic fail, and hopefully epically funny.

 MY TAKE : The trailer at least is hilarious, thanks in no small part to the considerable comic talents of Jaime and Katie, and if they can avoid the one joke pony trap of the mothers really hate the daughters this could really work. The key will be mining the characters’ interactions for laughs, rather than just setting one “oh the teenager girls are bitches, poor moms! ha ha” joke after another which would prove tiresome and repetitive. If the sitcom can broaden it’s scope somewhat to also include some grounded real mother/daughter moments, however fleeting, it will definitely be worth watching long term.

ONCE UPON A TIME

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rga4rp4j5TY

From the producers of LOST, comes a very clever new post modern drama, where Snow White (Ginny Goodwin of Big Love) and the Evil Queen (Lana Parrilla of Swingtown) are not just fairytale characters but real people living in the deceptively sweet-looking town of Storybrooke, unaware of their true identities. Their only hope for a happy ever after ending is the arrival of Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison of House) to town, who is staggered to find out she is also in the book of fairytales.

MY TAKE : This looks almost as good as GRIMM but it won it’s way into my first picks selection by dint of a more earthy storytelling style. This series one achilles heel, and it’s minor compared to what is a breathtakingly clever idea, is the sometimes melodramatic tone to some of the scenes. I hope it manages to balance the feel good idea of these characters discovering who they truly are – nothing is more attractive, or potentially saccharine-laced sentimental than anyone being robbed of anything, having it restored to them – with some truly gritty, edge-of-the-seat drama. If it manages that precarious balancing act, I will make sure this vaults into my must see list.

UP ALL NIGHT

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5db6eixmiv0

This is billed a modern take on parenthood, starring the comedically gifted Will Arnett (Arrested Development) and Christina Applegate (Samantha Who?) as the parents in question, and Maya Rudolph as the married-to-her-career boss of Christina’s working mum who, along withy her stay-at-home hubby grapple with the thorny idea of having it all.

MY TAKE: I think this could very funny. Hilariously so. But I also worry it could tell all it’s jokes in the first episode or two, and be trapped in a very narrow storytelling arc, re-telling the same old jokes over and over till we all scream ‘yeah we get it, parenthood is hard!” Hopefully though in amongst all the jokes about baby poop, and lack of sleep, the show will actually try to grapple with the very modern idea of having it all, and if this is actually possible, or whether something needs to give. It is possible for a sitcom to be side-splittingly funny, and say something real and true, and I hope this show seizes on the opportunity.

PAN AM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l4DHbcem_uc&feature=related

Glitzy, soap-drenched look at life in the glamorous age of air travel, the 1960s, centred on the most iconic of the airlines at the time, Pan Am, and the men and women working for it.

MY TAKE: Call it the Mad Men effect but the 1960s are awash in style and glamour, and the perfect place for a soap to explore a society waking from the somnolence of the 1950s and coming alive. If it’s clever it will try to be sudsy and special, using this decade to explore and comment on the societal changes in a decade that really gave birth to the modern era. I like my suds with a good dose of this sort of social commentary and here’s hoping the producers (ex-West Wing) remember what really made their previous show, West Wing so good, and bring it to bear here.

* Now there are others shows that could be fun like SUBURGATORY ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xGr21_8vA8A) or APARTMENT 23 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IxbiZMRt1gk), or dramatic like RINGER ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7SCaB09ER9I) but these are the shows that truly caught my attention.

For a great rundown on the full list of upcoming shows, check out this URL :

http://www.tvline.com/2011/05/fall-tv-preview-2011-new-series/

Happy viewing everyone!

Harry Potters and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

First my confession : I haven’t read the books! Yes I know start the stone throwing, vitriolic forum posts, upload videos to YouTube denouncing me, and get the rabble ready to storm the cyber battlements with poorly articulate and spelt brickbats.
All done? Feel better? Good. Now, I may not have read the books, but I have watched all the movies, and thoroughly enjoyed them. J K Rowling has created a complete, all encompassing, all absorbing world, and a protagonist in Harry who is both sympathetic and strong, with reactions to the overwhelming events that populate his life realistic and ringing true. He is a true hero, and as concerned with those he loves, as the ideals he believes in and will fight for.
In this movie, all of that comes to the fore, and it wraps up the most profitable saga in movie history with sincerity, heart, and action that leaves you breathless. But most of all, it neatly captures who Harry was, is, and who he becomes, and that life does move on beyond the epic great events of life, yes even with someone as iconic as Harry, and that it all makes much more sense when viewed in the context of all of life, and even death at one point. He is a true hero in that he truly believes in what he must do, and he finds out what the price is, doesn’t waver in paying it if it means that what he believes in, and those he loves are safeguarded.
This is exactly the ending you want for any series – it answers outstanding questions, gives the hero his defining moment and then shows you what results from that, reunites you one last time with the characters you love, and leaves you feeling sad that they will be gone, but happy that their world is intact and they are safe. I couldn’t ask for more.

Movie review: Water For Elephants and X Men : First Class

(image courtesy IMP Awards)

 

Two great movies but vastly different.

WATER FOR ELEPHANTS is a movie that surprised me completely. I had expected a love story, set in a Depression-era circus travelling across the United States, and while that is in part, largely what I saw, it was also a movie with great cruelty (both to animals and people), sociopathic behaviour (by the circus owner, August, who is emotionally very unstable, and the husband of Reese Witherspoon’s character, Marlena who rides first the horses and then the titular elephant in her act), and great sadness as some unexpectedly terrible things happen.


But overwhelmingly it is a visually lush, emotionally touching movie, that sticks to the premise, however unrealistic, that love will win out over all else. In the case of the characters of this movie, the ‘all else’ towers menacingly above their lives with everyone from Jacob (Robert Pattinson, who apart from being beautiful to look at, brings some impressive acting chops to the role) who loses his parents, his dreams, and any hope of the life he expected in quick succession, to Marlena, who lives with the mercurial and often quite cruel August, simply because he is a better alternative to the foster homes she grew up in where she felt like a nobody, to well almost all the performers and workers in the circus, all of whom love what they do, but always with a eye on the underlying instability of August’s often despotic rule. But win out, against all these obstacles, it does, even managing to rescue the life of Jacob, who, many years later in his 90s, rejoins the circus to escape his blighted existence in a nursing home.

I loved it from start to finish. A wonderful movie that draws you in, and keeps you there.

(image courtesy IMP Awards)

From the 1930s, we jumped to the 1940s for this X Men prequel, which does a brilliant job of explaining how the mutants ended up forming into two adversarial camps. Rather than being just another shallow Hollywood blockbuster, more concerned with action and impressive CGI than substantial narrative and well-developed characters, this movie managed to be both  full-on action and tell us story suffused with grey and the ambiguities of life.

From the opening scenes where Erik Lensherr (later Magneto) watches his mother die at the hands of a sadistic concentration camp doctor, and embarks on a life dedicated to protecting who is, and those who follow him from the enemies all around him (real or imagined) at all costs, contrasted beautifully with the life of privilege and learning of the man eventually known as Professor X. The movie leaps from these formative years to the 1960s during the Cuban Missile Crisis, which is re-imagined as a nifty piece of alternative history where the mutants sway the course of action, and examines how a hand picked group of mutants came to realise they were different, and how they handled it (some well, some, um, not so well). Yes it is a little bit too earnest at times, but it does a great job of establishing who is who, and why without resorting to too many action movie cliches, and leaving you feeling as if your mind was as engaged as the gee-whiz-look-at-that-explosion part of you.

  • Sunday 5 June 2011 with my friend Jason.

 

 

Movie review: Thor

(image courtesy IMP Awards)



My lord it’s been a mainstream movie fest this week!

Usually I avoid a lot of these big tentpole blockbusters, not because I am some sort of twisted movie snob preferring only movies about suffering Romanian peasants during the Depression – although that could be kind of gripping….or not – but generally because they leave you feeling so unfulfilled. I know that not every movie has to leave you imbued with a giddy feel good feeling or overflowing with hope for the future, or pondering deeply about mankind’s possibly imperilled future, but I at least like to leave feeling like I have been taken on a journey with a protagonist who learnt something anything, and who reaches a satisfactory end to their experiences, with some laughs, tears, or again anything on the way that adds some sense of substance to it all.

Those sort of blockbuster movies are rare indeed, and while Thor, starring the chest-a-licious Chris Hemsworth (he of the hot pecs!), and feisty Natalie Portman ( I hope you appreciate that I just completely objectified the man, and left the woman alone; not that it really makes me much of a feminist, just gay!), won’t win any Best Picture Oscars any time soon, it is a lot of fun, detailing the back story elegantly and with minimum expository stodginess, and sending the protagonist, the god of thunder himself, on a reasonably meaningful journey, that results in some lovely moments with the mortals he encounters, and some valuable lessons learnt.

 

It also looks amazing, from the soaring towers of Asgard, the realm from which Thor is banished, which manages to look medieval and futuristic all at once, to the good old environs of the town in New Mexico, where much of the earth-bound action takes place. It was a feast for the eyes, even when Chris Hemsworth didn’t have his shirt off (but one shirtless shot, people, really?! C’mon haven’t you seen Matthew McCannaughey in action lately!), and one of the few movies to use CGI well to set the scene and create a real sense of time and place.

The only criticism is a somewhat trite and rushed ending, but that is a minor quibble since Thor managed to get right what many of these superhero movies get quite wrong – it had a solid storyline, great characters, drama, ethical challenges, humour, and a wonderful journey for all the principal characters.

Well worth seeing.

    • Tuesday 26 April 2011 @ Event Cinemas, Sydney (with Steve x 2 and Fahmi)

 

Movie review: Tron Legacy

(image courtesy IMP Awards)

 

In my general day to day life blog, I posed the question of whether you can go back and truly enjoy movie or TV shows from your past, and by past, I mean, dim, dark childhood past?

Some shows such as Charlie’s Angels or Hart To Hart, while revealed for the frothy confections they always were, still manage to amuse and delight; others such as Lost In Space simply look ridiculously threadbare and you wonder what on earth you ever saw in them, and some, such as Tron, were watched once, and then never re-visited (it came over out in the pre video age and I hadn’t bothered to track it down on DVD) but retain a fond spot in your heart. Obviously it sits in the third camp at the moment, and while I do plan to watch it as soon as I can get my hands on a copy ofn the movie (at which point it will move into category 1 or 2; I am hoping for the former), I sat down to watch it’s much delayed sequel (Tron Legacy – saw @ Hoyts Broadway on 9 January 2011) with only a hazy recollection of it’s predecessor, something that worried me as I wondered how easily I would re-enter the world of Tron.

 

I have no idea why I let the angst in. The movie does a superb job of linking itself to the first Tron, with a minimum of expositional clunkiness, and it’s obvious that the creators of this incarnation have gone to great lengths to retain the look of the original film while still utilising the latest technology.

The new movie is visually lush and portrays  a fully realized virtual world that you immerse yourself in fully from the word go (well as soon as the movie enters The Grid, the name given to this virtual world, which has been a tyranny of perfect oppression since the last movie), and while no one would accuse the Tron Legacy of possessing a complex narrative, the story it does tell is well fleshed out for the most part (some elements of the story are rushed or seemingly thrown in at the last moment such as Tron’s belated change from bad guy to good guy) and illustrates well why the ceaseless quest for perfection as exercised by so many tyrants, is an illusory goal.

It carries you along for two hours in a rush of richly burnished graphics, fast moving storyline, and some genuinely heartfelt moments ( the end of the movie where Cora sees a sunrise for the first time, all realised with no dialogue at all, is beautiful and brings a smile to the face), and as far as my faulty memory is concerned, adds much that is good to the Tron universe.

 

 

So can you back? Not always but as Tron Legacy displays beautifully, you can most definitely go fast as light ( on a light cycle if you can!) into the future, and enjoy the ride all the way…