Thursday, January 31, 2013


I just got finished watching the pilot for the new FX series Mr. and Mrs. Smith 2: Russian Edition, and I have to say that the show's creators need to watch The Carrie Diaries, because there's nothing worse than having to hear Fleetwood Mac's "Tusk" not once, but twice, during two supposed action-packed sequences.  Really, the 80s offered so much more interesting music than that tune.  Basically, I checked out this show for the music, and hopeful for the notion that Felicity (Keri Russell) would make a kick-ass action heroine (when she wasn't getting knocked up and making pies).  Here she's already got a couple of kids and she makes brownies.  Yawn.

Really, the show opens like an 80s version of Alias, with Russell seducing some Department of Justice blabbermouth, terrible wig and leather strapless dress included.  She gets him off while he blabs, and blabs, and blabs.  Since the ads for this show have been so ubiquitous, we know she's a Russian spy, and so is this other guy with really bad hair and pursed Russian lips (Philip).  Some mission to kidnap a defector goes south, and they wind up stashing the guy in their trunk while they lead the ideal suburban life.  Except it's not so ideal, because Felicity/Elizabeth is a loyalist, whereas he likes the perks of American life--such as soft serve ice cream and going to the mall.  Oh and they have adorable patriotic kids, and we have to watch scenes where they sit around together being a family.  I suppose we are meant to be impressed by how good they are at faking it, although Philip clearly has drunk the American Kool-aid (Oh Yeah)!

Turns out, just like in Mr. and Mrs. Smith, that the hubby is the softie, who really loves his "wife" and want to defect and live happily ever after, to protect their family.  Unfortunately, she cannot get excited about him in his family mode--he has to start killing people to get her hot.  I am not kidding you.

All those dreams are put into jeopardy when the new neighbor (with his own nuclear family) turns out to be an FBI counter-intelligence expert who thinks there's something a little off about Philip.  Did I forget to mention that the defector in the trunk happened to rape Felicity/Elizabeth while she was training to be a KGB agent?  And THAT motive turns Philip from a "let's defect too" supporter to a "let's kill all guys who look at my women funny" kind of guy, which turns Felicity/Elizabeth on.  Then we have to watch them have sex in their car like a couple of horny high schoolers.  The best part is that some of this "action" happens while Phil Collins sings "In the Air Tonight" like an ode to Miami Vice, but not nearly as good.  Michael Mann did not direct this show, no siree.

I think that this particular promo image sums things up.  We can expect Felicity/Elizabeth to get sexy every so often, because that's how women gather intelligence or spy, OBVIOUSLY, and the majority of the show to be about men calling the shots and touching her face, now, and in the past, because she's so damn pretty.  Do I sound like I am simultaneously disappointed and annoyed by this giant cliche of a show?  Yes, I am.

Don't waste your time with this piece of sh**, and watch Ashes to Ashes instead.  This British show has a hard-nosed female cop, with a kid, and it has the best 80s music from that period, PERIOD.  This spin-off of the Brit show Life on Mars has a couple of the same character actors (Philip Glenister), but the truly amazing Keeley Hawes in the lead role puts a retro-cool show like The Americans to shame.  Or watch Continuum on Syfy instead.  Trust me on this one.

Ps. What is it with the Russians being the bad guys again, like the only thing to do these days is to bring back the cold war?  In the last month, I've watched Salt, an episode of Elementary, and this show, and the Russians are back, and they are BAD.  Huh?!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

What to Watch Winter 2013 edition

The new fall shows came and went more or less with a whimper.  I am not watching a single new show that premiered in the fall (well, unless you count American Horror Story: Asylum as "new," but I'll discuss that one later...)

Some of the winter debuts seem more promising.  Such as Law & Order: Special Victorian Unit on BBC America.  Oops, I mean Ripper Street.  I loathe Downton Abbey.  But I love British police procedurals, and BBC has a ton of pretty creative shows.  For instance, I loved The Fades.

If you have not seen that series, then you are truly missing out. Of course, once you fall for its charms, you'll be hungry for more, and then denied because the Brits canceled it after one season.  Yep, Planet Bunheads.

So, back to BBC's SVU show, Ripper Street.  The premiere episode plays a little with motion picture history, as it foregrounds the fact that almost every technological advancement was/is driven by pornography.  This sordid milieu allows the show's women to be almost entirely prostitutes or "models," which got my eyes rolling.  The detective work is performed by a bunch of guys in snappy period attire (see above), and if it's anything like that Gangs of NY wannabe show, Copper, I'll be losing interest fast.  The other issue is that BBC America, like IFC, does not come in High-Def for us, so, as my partner succinctly stated, "it's like watching the radio."  Yeah, we're spoiled.

I'm mostly liking Kevin Bacon's new show, The Following, especially because it stars Kevin Bacon.  That man can act.  The weight of the world is in those eyes, although we do not really need another flawed guy genius detective/agent show.  We just don't.  Still, the idea of serial killers having cult followings, especially via the internet, is pretty fascinating.  James Purefoy, though?  Milquetoast.  I do not see why anyone would follow this guy.  And I am so over the Edgar Allen Poe crap.  That part of the series is so unnecessary, as if some high school English teacher got a job as one of the writers on the show, and thought that this hackneyed connection between Poe and death was "new."  Perhaps new to Two and a Half Men watchers who get him confused with Stephen King.  Yeah, Snark.

Anyway, both of these shows are unfortunately filled with dead and victimized women, so in order to balance out these shows, there's Continuum--brought to us by the same Canadian geniuses who brought us Lost Girl.

Canada doesn't seem to have a problem with women as the stars of their procedurals, and this fact, amongst many others, would be reason enough to move there.  Rachel Nichols' "Keira" is a badass, and so far this show is wildly satisfying even though it contains that dreaded TIME TRAVEL element.  (Really, the only person who should be allowed to time travel is Dr. Who and the people on Warehouse 13).  As a synopsis, the government in 2077 has been bought out and taken over by corporations.  They have their own police force, known as protectors.  As the series begins, a group of domestic terrorists are about to be executed, and Protector Keira is on the floor guarding them.  One of them smuggles in some techno gizmo and zap, she's tossed back to 2012 with only a nifty tech skin suit as a link to the future.  The ideological ambiguity stems from the idea that corporations are bad, and the desire to change the past in order to prevent their powerful ascension is a good one.  Yet, that desire is carried out by a bunch of nasty criminal thugs, and Keira's hellbent on killing them.  Hmmm.  She has a husband and kid in the future, but she thankfully doesn't spend all her time moping over them.  Oh and the show also stars The Cigarette Smoking Man (William B. Davis) as a corporate guy from the future who Keira befriends in the past.  Pretty cool.

I always watch one show that's completely vapid and embarrassing, and I just do not care.  I watched Gossip Girl for a bit, but it was just too terrible.  Then Revenge, which also was pretty awful.  Now I'm onto The Carrie Diaries which is all about the lives of teenagers in 1984.  No, it's not a dystopian show, but it's not entirely "double plus ungood" either.  I watch the show for the soundtrack, the fashion, and the City (NY circa mid-to-late 80s).  I also subscribed to Interview magazine and dreamed about NYC then, and the sights and sounds of those times give me quite a bit of nostalgic pleasure.  We'll see how long New Order can sustain me.  One thing, though.  These kids do not talk like they are from the 80s.  Kids sound different now, and these kids sound like 2012, except for the token cool denizens of the Downtown NY scene.  We'll see how long I last.


Justified is always worth returning to, especially because Timothy Olyphant is smoking hot as Raylan Givens.  He's also great in The Crazies (2010) and The Perfect Getaway (2009), but I first spotted him as a smoking hot drug dealer in Go (1999), where he makes out with Katie Holmes to a Massive Attack song.  Yes, I am a fan of this man.  His name will always be preceded by "smoking hot" for whatever role he has.  Yet, he is often outshone by Walton Goggins, as Boyd Crowder, who thankfully has enough of his own storyline now to not steal all of Tim's scenes.  Although, each season, the incredible guest stars on the show steal plenty of scenes as well.  Margo Martindale, Mykelti Williamson, Neil McDonough, Jere Burns.  This list goes on and on.

Of course, I'm thrilled that Bunheads is back, and in the first episode, Fanny retrieves Michelle from the Nevada Hinterlands where, after macing the entire ballet school, she has been forced to survive by joining a cheesy, terrible magic act.  An act in which both of the "assistants" wear tight jumpsuits and top hats, and throw glitter confetti on the magician.  Very sad.  This television show is so damn impossibly quirky that I am expecting the axe to drop after every episode.  Amy Sherman-Palladino brings back uptight but wonderful Liza Weil (Paris from The Gilmore Girls) as the marvelous Millie.  Also, the new kids in town are simply awesome.  If you need a smile, this show and Parks and Recreation should do it for you.

Then there is American Horror Story: Asylum.  This show is the WTF show.  I utter those words repeatedly whenever I watch it.  I can only take it in small doses, since the series is so over-the-top, bat sh** nuts, week after week, that I need regular breaks.  What is NOT happening on this show???  Demon possession?  Check.  Cannibalism and genetic mutations?  Check.  Nazis and Medical Experiments?  Check.  Serial Killers and Space Aliens?  Check. Check. Check!!!  I forgot to mention homicidal Santas and evil Nuns.  This show is the very definition of excess, and that's probably a good thing, since if I took the time to actually examine the politics of this show, my head would surely explode.  I can say that about every Ryan Murphy show I've ever watched, though.  This show is the car crash you cannot peel your eyes away from, yet it simultaneously makes you never, ever want to drive.  Perhaps this is the show about which I am truly embarrassed.  Bah.  No shame.

Lost Girl is back, and our favorite bisexual succubus has finally made a romantic decision.  And the winner is: TEAM LAUREN!  Wooo!  Of course, this turn of events will be temporary, but who cares.  Plenty of gorgeous super-natural sex abounds on this Canadian show, and that's why one tunes in--if not for one of the most wonderfully represented female friendships on television.  Kenzi and Bo are unstoppable.  Sure, this show is goofy and hokey, but blows True Blood out of the water.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

And she's back with THE GIRL (2012)

My blog and I have been out of commission for a couple of months.  Illness, mostly.  All temporary, but when you're really sick, you just think you'll be that way forever.  Anyway, enough about that.  I'm back, and I'm pushing a film that was trashed by so many--perhaps for reasons that will become obvious.

Julian Jarrold's HBO film The Girl (2012) tells a very old, old story.  In this story, a powerful man makes a woman very famous/rich/powerful, but when she ultimately turns down his sexual advances, he punishes/rapes/kills her.  The lines of power are very clearly drawn.  His power is social, economic, authoritative; hers is sexual.  She is beholden to him, or so he thinks.  She should be grateful for what he has bestowed upon her.  Yet when she's not grateful enough, he destroys her.  This tale is a tale of sexual and gender inequality within a rape culture.  While this story is told repeatedly, in a myriad of different forms, many people lose their sh** when this story focuses on this guy:

Toby Jones as Alfred Hitchcock in The Girl
Yes, two films about Hitchcock were released last year.  The one I'm interested in discussing, and that other one starring Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren.  Now, I really like Hitchcock's films.  I love some of them, in fact.  I find it hard to pick and choose, but if I had to, I'd go with mid period Notorious (1946) and later period Marnie (1964) as two of my faves.  I also really like some of Lars Von Trier's films, and some of my favorite films in the world are by Roman Polanski.  All of these directors have made some truly stunning films--and they have treated women horribly as well, onscreen and off.  These two qualities are not mutually exclusive.

Sienna Miller as Tippi Hedren, framed by Hitchcock in The Girl
The Girl's narrative focuses on a relatively short period in Hitchcock's life and career--the time in which he discovered and worked with actress Tippi Hedren on The Birds and Marnie.  Nevertheless, those two films are important ones, and once you watch The Girl, you may never look at those films in the same way again.  I want that kind of effect from a biopic.

Certainly, the relationship between a director and his star can be deeply intimate and profound, and the film displays the mingled feelings of excitement and trepidation as Hedren begins her work with one of the world's most important and famous film directors.  In so many ways, this opportunity is a dream come true for her, one for which she IS grateful to Hitchcock.  What begins as a series of small comments and awkward moments evolves into full scale sexual harassment and sadistic abuse.  Hedren knows that her career lies in this man's hands.  He has the power to make her, and break her.  And so he does.

The scenes showing the shooting of the famous final bird attack, the one that breaks the wisecracking Melanie to the point where she is catatonic and fatally quiet, are harrowing to watch. 

The film clearly suggests that this elaborately drawn out shoot is Hitch's revenge for her spurning his advances.  These scenes are not pretty, and do not show the famous director in a flattering light.  He comes off as lecherous, petty, and spiteful.  Even the film's more sympathetic moments toward Hitchcock still render him pathetic and small.  Hitchcock's eager viewing of that scene's footage is meant to call into question our own pleasures when watching Hedren's abuse unfold.  Onscreen, the scene is thrilling; in context, it carries a slightly different edge.

This film is more interested in presenting Hedren's perspective, and the battle for power, and of wills, between her and Hitch.  Hedren's dread is palpable as she goes to work, afraid of every private meeting called between them, his every visit to her dressing room.  Yet her ego is not unaffected by her new role in the spotlight.  She accepts the role of Marnie, despite all that has happened so far.  The possibilities are too tempting.  The circumstances surrounding that film's shoot make Marnie's rape by her new husband (a marriage born from blackmail), and her attempted suicide in that film, that much more multi-layered. 

Not surprising that so many Hitchcock loving film critics (mostly men) are horrified by The Girl, and call it a travesty.  The film is one-sided, and not kind to Hitch; it focuses less on his genius and mastery, and more on the pressures women feel from those wielding power in Hollywood.

Hedren has come out for the film, and spoken for its veracity.  She has stated that while the film does not capture the fun and humor of her work with Hitchcock, it captures the tensions that existed between them--ones that deeply affected her career.  While she can laugh and say that if these things happened today, sexual harassment laws would make her "a very rich woman," I cannot help but think that there are many women working today in Hollywood who suffer similar indignities for the sake of their careers--and they are always poorer for it.