Screen Junkies » Reviews http://www.screenjunkies.com Movie Reviews & TV Show Reviews Wed, 26 Nov 2014 19:27:26 +0000 en hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.3.1 The Film Cult Presents: Death Becomes Her http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/the-film-cult-presents-death-becomes-her/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/the-film-cult-presents-death-becomes-her/#comments Fri, 21 Mar 2014 17:03:48 +0000 Philip Harris http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=260424 “Now a warning!?” Obviously Meryl Streep is a genius. Within my lifetime I think she may break Katharine Hepburn’s record for most best actress Oscars. The Great Kate has four,...

The post The Film Cult Presents: Death Becomes Her appeared first on Screen Junkies.

]]>
“Now a warning!?”

Obviously Meryl Streep is a genius. Within my lifetime I think she may break Katharine Hepburn’s record for most best actress Oscars. The Great Kate has four, her first in 1934 and her last in 1982. Poor Meryl only has three, her first in 1979 and her most recent in 2011 for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher. If only Meryl had been nominated for her consummate portrayal of Madeline Ashton in Death Becomes Her. If only the Academy had realized her true artistic acuity. Then again, they didn’t nominate her for her work in She Devil, so I guess it makes sense they’d overlook Death Becomes Her.

Death Becomes Her is not a great movie. It may not even be a good movie. Still, it’s pretty freakin’ awesome. With only a 43% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, it remains one of those strange, one-off films by cinema greats that becomes a cult to its most ardent fans. With material so wacky and a plot line that sort of dissipates half way through, it’s the star power of Meryl, Goldie Hawn, and Bruce Willis, along with some amazing, if not a tad dated, special effects that make this movie a gem.

The premise is simple: a love triangle complicated by a pink potion that reinstates a person’s optimum beauty and renders the drinker immortal. Streep, Hawn, and Willis are the love triangle, and their chemistry throughout the movie is not only believable but hilarious. For some reason you believe Streep and Hawn are former best friends. I can see them right now having lunch in Santa Monica, gossiping while their salads go untouched. And Willis is just attractive enough as a the dorky Dr. Menville to make him worth fighting over. When the elixir of life is thrown into the mix, all hell (and bone density) breaks loose.

This film is most famous for its special effects and one liners. When the tensions of the love triangle reach their crescendo, physical fights break out in absurdly delectable ways. And yet, there they are, happening right before your very eyes. They shoot each other through the stomach (“And I can see right through you!”) They push each other down the stairs (“You’re in the shit house now pal!”) And they bash each other in the bean with shovels (“Will you please put your head on straight so I can talk to you?”) The scene where Streep’s body adjusts back to its former glory is still believable some twenty-odd years later.

Let’s talk about cameos. I’m not sure you could call Isabella Rossellini’s role a cameo, as she’s pretty fundamental to the story. But, I just can’t believe they got her to do it. She’s the forever young Lisle Von Rhuman, living in a Gothic palace somewhere above Sunset Boulevard. She’s wears necklaces as blouses, and yes, that’s Fabio as her body guard. Her acting is so deliciously over the top that every time she appears, you just hope for more. When she reappears in the third act, stepping out of a pool completely nude, you almost cheer. Other notable cameos are Sydney Pollack as the uncredited doctor, who examines Streep’s living dead body, and the late great Alaina Reed-Hall who turns in a great performance as Hawn’s long-suffering psychologist.

Turning in another uncredited performance is Los Angeles itself. Without ever really saying it, the only way any of this seems plausible is the fact that it’s all going down in LA. Only in LA is Greta Garbo still hiding out after drinking Rossellini’s potion. Only in LA are we willing to give up everything to live forever in perfect beauty, always remembered as the stars we once were. LA is the gilded lint trap for the rest of the country, catching all the once-beautifuls and the gorgeous dreamers in its palm fronds. Here, no one notices if your skin needs a touch-up because it’s starting to crack and reveal the dead gray beneath. Everyone is too busy hustling their own dream to notice the dead bodies in the back of the church or the car being pushed over Mulholland Drive. No one will notice you shot your best friend through the stomach, for as Streep confidently declares after Willis is worried about people hearing the gunshot, “Neighbors? In twelve years in Los Angeles, have you ever seen a neighbor?”

Like I said, Death Becomes Her is not a great movie, but it’s indelible kook is irresistible. It still plays on the premium channels all the time, and everyone I know can quote it for hours (“Make some room from for my friend for Christ’s sake. But, keep your ass handy.”) And, did I mention it won an oscar for best special effects? It did, and rightly so. While maybe not a critically acclaimed classic, it’s a comedy cult classic that I, and millions of others (mostly gay men, sure) are proud to call a favorite.

The post The Film Cult Presents: Death Becomes Her appeared first on Screen Junkies.

]]>
http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/the-film-cult-presents-death-becomes-her/feed/ 0 death becomes her movie poster death becomes her isabella death-becomes-her
The Film Cult Presents: The Wicker Man http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/the-wicker-man/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/the-wicker-man/#comments Fri, 28 Feb 2014 19:12:46 +0000 Philip Harris http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=259753 Oh, to go back to the days when naked people sang songs in circles on the solstice.

The post The Film Cult Presents: The Wicker Man appeared first on Screen Junkies.

]]>
WARNING! SPOILERS AHEAD!

 

Let’s get the bad part out of the way. Nicolas Cage and the great Ellen Burstyn remade The Wicker Man in 2006 to devastating results. While the original holds a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the half-baked, pathetic remake maintains a strong 15% rating. If you ask me, that’s about fourteen percentages too generous. Let’s pretend it doesn’t exist. OK, great.

The Wicker Man is shrouded in mystery. Different versions of the film have floated around for years, the holy grail of which being an apparently 102-minute version that’s been lost for decades. A 99-minute director’s cut is the version upon which I base this review and the current standard. Perhaps one day we’ll all get to see the original 102-minute version. Then again, maybe one day we’ll all meet on Summerisle and have an orgy in the park. Sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself.

The plot is simple and like any great story can be summed up in one sentence: A virgin police officer named Sergeant Howie travels to an island called Summerisle, populated by pagans, to investigate the kidnapping of a girl called Rowan. Weird ish goes down from the jump-off, when first no one on the island claims to have heard of Rowan, yet she has a mom, an empty grave, and a desk at the schoolhouse. Then, after being offended by all kinds of awesomely debauched pagan stuff—the aforementioned orgy in the park, the girl who must put a frog in her mouth, the umbilical cord on the tree—Sergeant Howie discovers a ritual human sacrifice is set to take place on May Day in order to bring back the island’s failed crops. After he’s presumably left the island, he dons a customary costume for the big day and (surprise!) it’s actually he who will burn in the wicker man on May Day.

Pagan Parade - The Wicker Man

This movie works for several reasons. The first is that it’s so straightforward. The viewer wonders, “No, this can’t be happening. Wait a tick, it is happening!” And then it happens. Bam! Roll credits. Its natural progression comes from writer Anthony Schaffer using as his source material the 1890 anthropological study by James Frazer called The Golden Bough. The annotated 1922 edition is worth picking up on Amazon. Within its hundreds of pages, Mr. Frazer describes the pagan rituals of tribes and communities from all over the planet, making his seminal work a grab-bag for weird human behavior. The point is, the rituals in The Wicker Man are real. Much like The Godfather is a compendium of mafia lore and stories, The Wicker Man is a smorgasbord of pagan fun. Oh, to go back to the days when people sang songs in circles on the solstice.

The post The Film Cult Presents: The Wicker Man appeared first on Screen Junkies.

]]>
http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/the-wicker-man/feed/ 0 The Wicker Man
American Horror Story: The Season Two Finale And Beyond http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/american-horror-story-the-season-two-finale-and-beyond/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/american-horror-story-the-season-two-finale-and-beyond/#comments Wed, 23 Jan 2013 21:11:56 +0000 Sabrina Cognata http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=253078 What's in store for AHS season three....

The post American Horror Story: The Season Two Finale And Beyond appeared first on Screen Junkies.

]]>
Last week, American Horror Story co-creator Ryan Murphy held a killer screening of the final episode of season two of his hit FX show. This was accompanied by a Q&A session to pick the show runner’s brain. Topics ranged from violence in film and television, the ending of season two, what’s in store for season three, and the feature length horror film he’s got in the works.

Murphy had previously stated that the finale would unfold as a documentary interview, highlighting Lana’s life after breaking free from the Asylum. He also hinted you should keep tissues handy, as the episode will likely have you reaching for them. He wasn’t kidding. The season two finale episode entitled “Madness Ends” does an excellent job of bringing closure to the various storylines, while also bringing a sense of justice for the viewers. It’s clear this season’s characters had a very clear journey to undergo, one that weighed heavier on the actors as it dealt with the unwavering strength of the human spirit and hope for the future.

There was a clear shift in Asylum, one that isolated the characters and became less about the house as an entity and more about it in terms of a tool to oppress the sick, unfortunate and insane. Instead of holding the souls of the dead hostage, this season the house jailed the spirit of the living, giving it an interesting and refreshing spin.

However, don’t start hoping that season three will return a storyline similar to that of season one. Murphy explained that season three will continue to be self contained, but this time take us through not only various time periods, but also cities. He also confirmed that fan favorites Jessica Lange, Sarah Paulson and Evan Peters will be returning to the show in some capacity.

When asked which actors not already associated with the show may show up in season three, Murphy remained tight lipped. However, he hinted that the already respectable list of actors associated with AHS will become even more elite because it seems a list of former Oscar winners indicated interest in working on the show next season. This is all due to Lange, whom Murphy calls an uncredited producer on season three, as she’s been recruiting people she would like to work with on the show.

Murphy went on to say we shouldn’t expect to see Jessica Lange in anymore makeupless frumpy frocks because next season she’ll be donning the most elegant designer gowns, calling her character a “glamour cat.” Which can only be highlighted by the fact that next season will be extremely “female-centric” adding that the iconic monster won’t be faceless this time around; she’ll be a woman.

Season three will also return to the Romeo & Juliet love story, a la Violet and Tate, that was a real fan favorite in season one. Additionally adding that season three will be much more lighthearted and fun in comparison to the dark and foreboding nature of Asylum. Still, this isn’t all Murphy has in the works when it comes to horror. He’s currently working on a feature length horror film set to begin filming in the spring based on his childhood affection for the movie The Town That Dreaded Sundown. He’ll be working with Paranormal Activity producer Jason Blum, and Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, the director responsible for some of the most iconic American Horror Story episodes including “Spilt Milk,” “I Am Anne Frank (Part II),” and the season two finale “Madness Ends.” He also added that Gomez-Rejon will take part in all parts of season three, as he’s been hired to direct every third episode, as well as serve as a producer throughout the entire season.

Murphy, who’s recently become a parent, also talked about the levels of violence in the American Horror Story franchise explaining that the Sandy Hook shootings really resonated with him. He also pointed out that a key part in season one was a school shooting, which was carefully filmed and unfolded within the story in a responsible manner. However, the storytelling remains at the forefront of Murphy’s vision adding, “I do feel that if you’re going to tell a story with a gun, take a step back and think about it.”

Which makes sense because realistically, American Horror Story is less about monsters and murders, and more about taking viewers on a journey about how the human spirit reacts to the savagery of daily life, both imagined and real.

The post American Horror Story: The Season Two Finale And Beyond appeared first on Screen Junkies.

]]>
http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/american-horror-story-the-season-two-finale-and-beyond/feed/ 0
Review: Breaking Bad Season 4 Premiere http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-breaking-bad-season-4-premiere/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-breaking-bad-season-4-premiere/#comments Tue, 12 Jul 2011 19:32:52 +0000 Col. Longshanks http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=219863 The show gets darker, if you can even fathom such a thought.

The post Review: Breaking Bad Season 4 Premiere appeared first on Screen Junkies.

]]>
The premiere of Breaking Bad picks up right where the last season left off.  Telling you that Walter and Jesse are still alive doesn’t spoil anything that you shouldn’t have already assumed.  I won’t get into any more specifics, as I’m sure you’re reading this review through the slits in your fingers, excited to know what’s in store without really finding out.  All I’ll tell you is sh*t gets real.

Get Up To Speed With Extended 'Breaking Bad' Trailer

Breaking Bad has always pushed the limits of television.  Not just with its explicit content, but also its unconventional storytelling and portrayal of its characters.  The show makes us sympathize with a meth-dealing murderer.  Though this is in no small part due to Bryan Cranston’s brilliant performance as Walter White, we should instinctually despise this guy.  When he was suffering from cancer, we could somehow justify his actions.  He was only cooking for a short period of time in order to accrue enough money to provide for his family when he’s gone.  Then he was in the game so deep that he couldn’t get out without fatal repercussions.  Now Walter has become the man he used to outwit or evade.  He’s only doing these vile things for himself now, and it’s turning him into a person we won’t soon recognize, or possibly even like anymore.

Likability is the key issue that the Breaking Bad writers will wrestle with in the fourth season of the show.  How far can they push these characters and stories to the edge until the audience starts getting shaky about the view?  Don’t get me wrong; I love the dark elements of the show.  Last season’s finale was phenomenal.  But it was definitely the beginning of the end.  Jesse’s execution of Gale shifted the tides.  Gale didn’t gun down a child, or threaten his boss’s life.  He simply needed to die so that Walt could live.  Walt ordered his first hit.  Jesse might feel the regret of his actions, but Walt can chalk it up to a necessary business decision.  It seems as if Walt now accepts what he has become.  He’s going forward embracing the advantages and plights of a meth kingpin.  This means we’re in for even darker territory than previously treaded, and not just for Walt, but for all of the characters.  I hope you’ve built up your tolerance.

 

The post Review: Breaking Bad Season 4 Premiere appeared first on Screen Junkies.

]]>
http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-breaking-bad-season-4-premiere/feed/ 5
Review: FX’s Louie Season 2 http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-fxs-louie-season-2/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-fxs-louie-season-2/#comments Wed, 22 Jun 2011 16:00:04 +0000 Reza F. http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=217237 Every bit as good (if not better) than the “Louie” we were introduced to a year ago.

The post Review: FX’s Louie Season 2 appeared first on Screen Junkies.

]]>
The first season of “Louie” gave us a new style of television comedy to look forward to each week. It was dark, blunt, and funny as hell. Episodes were dramatic and depressing at one moment — making us feel like nothing less than shit — then raunchy and hilarious the next, completely reversing our expectations and daring us to predict what might happen next.

And the real beauty of the show? Each episode was a standalone story, allowing creator Louis C.K. to craft these bipolar vignettes one by one, free from constrictive storylines or character obligations.

That’s partly why the show’s second season — set to premiere this week — is every bit as good (if not better) than the “Louie” we were introduced to a year ago. It can be about anything or anyone, offering up new characters and plotlines at will to be warped and analyzed and skewered by C.K.’s discerning comedic style. And it does. In the first episode alone, we jump from kids to death to family to neighbors and back to kids again. It would almost be too much if the whole thing wasn’t anchored firmly in place by C.K.’s never-ending stream of outsider analysis. He’s a tour guide on a trip through the realest portions of life, pointing out the absurdities and the contradictions and the shitty-ness around us that we all know so well but can’t quite vocalize.

Of course, that’s not for everyone. C.K. is just as stark and realistic as ever, maybe even more so, and all that talk of fading dreams and aging bodies can be a real downer. But that’s the point. Life can suck, the world can suck, and there’s not a whole lot you can do about it except savor the things that don’t suck and deal (preferably through laughter) with the things that do. It’s a shitty, messy, crap-fuck world, but goddamn if there aren’t a few spots of sunshine hidden under it all, and goddamn if Louis C.K. isn’t the man to show them to you.

The post Review: FX’s Louie Season 2 appeared first on Screen Junkies.

]]>
http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-fxs-louie-season-2/feed/ 0
Review: FX’s Wilfred http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-fxs-wilfred/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-fxs-wilfred/#comments Tue, 21 Jun 2011 18:34:58 +0000 Reza F. http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=217102 “Wilfred” is off to a rough start.

The post Review: FX’s Wilfred appeared first on Screen Junkies.

]]>
“Wilfred” takes aim at a subject seldom explored on cable television: Depression and existential ennui among America’s young, educated middle class. It’s an ambitious undertaking, a relevant topic, and an issue that’s plenty ripe for comedy. Unfortunately, “Wilfred” is off to a rough start, failing to deliver laughs or emotional depth, while offering a protagonist who’s simply too helpless to care about.

Man In Dog Suit Not Embarrassed To Be Seen With Elijah Wood

Interestingly enough, the first five minutes of the show are just about perfect. We meet Ryan (Elijah Wood), an anxious young man in a crisp suit who moves purposefully through his empty suburban home as he prepares to kill himself. He fails, of course, and the next day — through bleary eyes and a haze of self-disappointment — meets his hot young neighbor (Fiona Gubelmann) and her man-in-a-dog-suit (James Gann). Except to her, and to everyone else, it’s just a dog. A dog named Wilfred.

So there’s the story; Ryan sees a dog as a man. And they talk to one another. And Wilfred starts offering Ryan advice on how to live his life to the fullest. And Ryan begrudgingly accepts that advice, gradually breaking out of his straight-laced shell and learning to live for himself instead of others.

7 photosFiona Gubelmann

But what is Wilfred, exactly? A hallucination? A startling manifestation of Ryan’s apparent disconnect from the world around him? Hard to say, because there’s no real attempt to explain this development. Which is fine. We don’t need to know what Wilfred is; we’re content to assume he’s simply a byproduct of Ryan’s ongoing psychological ordeal — a coping mechanism, if you will. Or something.

In any case, he’s an asshole. As a dog, Wilfred appears to be just an ordinary mutt. As a man, he’s a gruff, pot-smoking slacker with no regard for rules, personal property, or social convention. He’s the perfect counterpoint to Ryan, who we learn was driven to suicide after years of passionless commitment to the pre-ordained yuppie lifestyle he never wanted, but couldn’t find the courage to reject.

So, yes, as you may have assumed by now, it’s essentially Fight Club, except Tyler Durden is a guy in a dog suit. The two basic elements are there: A down-on-life conformist seeking escape and a rough-and-ready rebel seeking little more than thrills. Which could make for great television, except for two major issues.

First, Ryan is frustratingly meek. He’s the Ben Stiller nice-guy archetype multiplied by a hundred — a scared protagonist who stutters and stumbles and shits his pants while people walk all over him. It’s supposed to be funny, but it’s not. It’s annoying, and it sabotages any chance the audience might have had at relating to this character.

Secondly, the show is predictable. The first three episodes all follow the same basic plot structure, and that structure isn’t particularly interesting. “Wilfred” seems likely to meander, skipping from misadventure to misadventure while offering no real character development or story advancement, save for a few pre-determined milestones, which the viewer can instantly see on the horizon.

That said, I’m not willing to write off “Wilfred” completely. It has potential, if only in its core subject matter: The gradual rebirth of a jaded young man who just can’t take it anymore. That’s good stuff. That’s something people want to watch, but only if they care about the protagonist. Nobody cares about a guy who can’t even form a sentence without wringing his hands and shuffling his feet.

“Wilfred” premieres June 23 on FX.

The post Review: FX’s Wilfred appeared first on Screen Junkies.

]]>
http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-fxs-wilfred/feed/ 0
DVD Review: Rocko’s Modern Life http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/dvd-review-rockos-modern-life/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/dvd-review-rockos-modern-life/#comments Fri, 17 Jun 2011 17:34:20 +0000 Joseph Gibson http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=216666 The Nickelodeon cartoon about a soft-spoken wallaby and his wacky friends

The post DVD Review: Rocko’s Modern Life appeared first on Screen Junkies.

]]>
If you were born some time between the years 1985 and 1992, there’s a good chance that you remember “Rocko’s Modern Life,” the Nickelodeon cartoon about a soft-spoken wallaby and his wacky friends – Heffer, a fat cow, and Filburt, a nerdy turtle (nurdle?). And of course, Rocko’s non-verbal dog Spunky.

As with a lot of classic Nicktoons, fans have been clamoring for a complete season box set of “Rocko’s Modern Life” for a while now, with many turning to illegal bootlegs and downloads for their “Rocko” fix. Well, not anymore, since the people at Shout! Factory have put together a nifty season 1 box set for you to display on your shelf next to your Complete Works of Shakespeare and Moby-Dick.

And the show is pretty much as you remember it, except for maybe the copious amounts of adult innuendo that you won’t believe slipped by you as a kid (the “Chokey Chicken”? Seriously?).

On a technical level, the picture quality is amazing, looking even better and more vibrant than I remember it looking on TV as a kid – maybe because there was no such thing as HDTV then.

Now, for the bad news: There are no extra features. Like, at all. Not even a trailer for season 2. No audio commentaries, no making-of docs, no retrospective featurettes, no Leonard Maltin apologizing to parents for the set’s adult content. Nothing. Still, if you’re a fan of Rocko and would rather have a physical DVD than have to rely on Netflix, this is a cheap no-brainer. One more thing: I’m not enough of a “Rocko” expert to notice this myself, but according to Shout! Factory, some of these episodes contain editing out of adult content, since the materials came from sources edited for broadcast on Nickelodeon. I’m not sure what the exact nature of these edits are, especially since the show is plenty racy as it is. Still, it’s something to think about.

Over all, I think “Rocko’s Modern Life: Season One” would make a good purchase or gift for the Rocko fan in your life.

The post DVD Review: Rocko’s Modern Life appeared first on Screen Junkies.

]]>
http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/dvd-review-rockos-modern-life/feed/ 1
Review: TNT’s Falling Skies http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-tnts-falling-skies/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-tnts-falling-skies/#comments Mon, 13 Jun 2011 18:53:09 +0000 Fred Topel http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=215866 A hardcore opening leads us into a promising new alien series.

The post Review: TNT’s Falling Skies appeared first on Screen Junkies.

]]>
TNT’s alien invasion show “Falling Skies” is like Independence Day on the ground. Only it’s much cooler than Independence Day so maybe it’s War of the Worlds: The Series. It’s all about the remaining humans banding together to fight extraterrestrials months after the aliens have decimated our planet.

The opening is so hardcore. Children narrate the backstory over school kid drawings of aliens wiping out the army, blasting an EMP, catching kids and harnessing them with spinal implants to be drones. Hell, the kids talk about how all their parents died! So this ain’t about whoopin’ E.T.’s ass. It’s about damn, we just need to make it through.

Tom (Noah Wyle) is second in command to Weaver (Will Patton), but Tom’s the star. His son Ben has been harnessed, but he’s got two other kids with him. He used to be a history professor so he puts all the sci-fi into historical context. At this point they already have terminology and signals to mobilize and organize missions.

Aliens Terrorize Noah Wyle And Stephen Webber

My favorite part of these survival stories is always: Where do we find supplies when everything is gone? Well, “Falling Skies” has got that. The supermarkets are already picked over, so they have to go out of the way and find warehouses, and even those are half-raided. They do eat a cupcake in one scene. I don’t know how that stayed fresh. It wasn’t Hostess, and it’s spent 9 lonely months in the bakery section.

The social aspect is really interesting too. With episodic television they have time to really explore how much the characters’ lives have changed. Anne (Moon Bloodgood) used to be a pediatrician. Now she’s the medic in the field. Tom used to tell his teenage son he couldn’t ride his bike at night. Now he gives him ammo for the road. Even the kids reminisce about what life used to be. They’d rather be in school than fighting aliens (so be careful what you wish for, kids).

The new makeshift military is in conflict with the “civilians.” It’s funny because the military was wiped out so these soldiers were also civilians. They take the perspective that the civilians are a burden in this battle, but of course the civilians are all we’re fighting for. What do we win if we eliminate our society in the process? That will be fascinating week to week. Tom has historical context to analyze that conflict too. There also seem to be other human factions to cause problems for the survivors.

Of course it’s an action show and the battles so far are cool. It’s more one on one, or one on two fights with the aliens. That’s better because if they did a whole CGI army of aliens it would just look cheap. I’m sure they’ll get there at some point but the intimate scuffles are good. The burnt out streets look like the future war in The Terminator.

The aliens resemble lizard octopi. They look impressive, obviously CGI and maybe some practical ones, but they’re definitely mean aliens. And when they bring one down, you kind of feel for the dying alien with a close-up on his gasping face. But don’t be killing us and taking our children, dudes.

I’m into “Falling Skies.” I don’t necessarily care that it’s aliens, but I don’t mind. They’re the monsters, but it’s the shambles of society and how we put it back together that have me hooked.

The post Review: TNT’s Falling Skies appeared first on Screen Junkies.

]]>
http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-tnts-falling-skies/feed/ 0
Review: ‘Teen Wolf’ http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-teen-wolf/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-teen-wolf/#comments Fri, 03 Jun 2011 23:53:49 +0000 Fred Topel http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=214737 Unfortunately, this “Teen Wolf” is just a typical slick MTV show with no character.

The post Review: ‘Teen Wolf’ appeared first on Screen Junkies.

]]>
I loved Teen Wolf as a kid and even played werewolf with my little buddies. I’m fine with the idea of a serious reboot in name only. I’m not so nostalgic I can’t enjoy that drama. Unfortunately, this “Teen Wolf” is just a typical slick MTV show with no character.

I almost thought it would cold open with the wolf out in the mirror, but no it was just a fake out and a silly intro of Stiles (Dylan O’Brien). They want to go find a dead body? That’s something high schoolers do? That’s when Scott McCall (Tyler Posey) gets bitten by a wolf, so it’s a totally ordinary rehash of The Wolf Man.

I don’t see why they had to lose the whole family history. That would be even more interesting in a drama. A wolf bite is just random and you lose the generational relationship where he could learn from or repeat his father’s mistakes. I think this Scott has a single mom, because that’s more relatable to today’s broken homes. The case of the body keeps coming up and sounds stupid like teen CSI.


Well groomed kids walk around school looking at hot cars, ignore lame teachers and talk about fashion. The background soundtrack of “TRL” hits makes it sound like an MTV vehicle, which is all it is. At least a house party looks like a long lost episode of “The Grind.” They even drop references to changing a song on your iPod. It’s very forced to sound like it’s in touch with the youth culture who have these crazy devices that distract them from driving. I know I’m no longer attuned to how teenagers talk, but I know bad writing. It only gets worse when Scott starts describing his wolf symptoms.

The powers are the same only now his super hearing picks up distant cell phones. Oh, and when a whistle hurts his ears, it’s a coach’s whistle. Okay folks, the reason the dog whistle hurt Michael J. Fox’s ears was to demonstrate he could hear nonhuman frequencies. The coach’s whistle just causes discomfort. There’s nothing creative or dramatic about that. Scott throws furniture around when he gets angry, so this truly is no more interesting than puberty and dealing with body changes.

I don’t mind changing the sport to lacrosse. I grew up in a lacrosse town so I know it’s a big deal. The show seems defensive about it though. They keep trying to tell you how cool lacrosse is. Visually, it’s not as striking to see Scott catch lacrosse balls as it was to see Fox dribble and dunk. If they eventually have wolf Scott with fur sticking out of a lacrosse uniform, that will be awesome. The wolf himself looks like you’d expect a TV makeup job to look. Cable TV, not network level makeup like “Buffy.”


The characters are so stupid. There’s the hyper pepped up coach, the sensitive hottie Allison Argent (Crystal Reed), the juiced up jock. The introduction of wolf hunters only promises more clichéd subplots. This Scott works in an animal clinic. Come on, guys. Those aren’t creative developments. It’s not ironic that he works with animals and then he becomes one. Or maybe it would be if it was important to his personality, but it’s just a job they inserted into his character profile on the screenplay template.

This show is so stupid. Maybe it’s trying to cram too much into a pilot, but I won’t watch any more to find out. I’m pretty confident this is the artistic direction of MTV’s “Teen Wolf.”

“Teen Wolf” premieres June 5 at 11.

The post Review: ‘Teen Wolf’ appeared first on Screen Junkies.

]]>
http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-teen-wolf/feed/ 8 Teen-Wolf-MTV teen_wolf_michael_j_fox
Review: TNT’s Franklin & Bash http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-tnts-franklin-bash/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-tnts-franklin-bash/#comments Tue, 17 May 2011 23:31:01 +0000 Fred Topel http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=212570 It seems like this is the outrageous, but not too highbrow, courtroom drama “The Defenders” wanted to be.

The post Review: TNT’s Franklin & Bash appeared first on Screen Junkies.

]]>
I figure the factor that decides whether or not you like a lawyer show is whether you like the actor playing the lawyer. Spader and Shatner made “Boston Legal,” and I liked Marx Paul Gosselaar on “Raising the Bar.” Gosselaar was my way into TNT’s latest courtroom drama “Franklin & Bash” (he’s Bash).

The pilot works really hard in the introduction to drop as many references as it can to illustrate what wild cards Jared Franklin (Breckin Meyer) and Peter Bash are. They talk about Van Damme marathons, hitting on Marisa Tomei, Ali/Frasier and even The Notebook. Their home office is adorned with movie posters, all Sony movies which is the only explanation why S.W.A.T. is in the running. I can buy Zombieland, even Blue Thunder, but S.W.A.T.?

Don’t worry about that pop culture overload. It pays off later. The courtroom antics start big and get deeper too. The boys have a mattress model (Mircea Monroe) strip to her bra in court to prove that her video billboard is a distraction to drivers on the road. It works because even the court reporter was too distracted to take down testimony. That’s how they roll, but later you’ll see they have hearts too.

6 photosMircea Monroe

The big firm Infeld and Daniels hires Franklin & Bash to bring their wild card to their stodgy old firm. Infeld’s (Malcolm McDowell) nephew Damien Karp (Reed Diamond) is like the crusty old dean who’ll always be thwarted by young punks Franklin and Bash. Karp’s blatant anger at a press conference is entertaining because it’s so not going to help him or his clients. He’ll be ripe for a legal pantsing every week.

Franklin and Bash shake things up right away. They tear down a wall to turn their individual offices into one, because they’re a team, man. They bring their kooky paralegals on board. Agoraphobic techno-perv Pindar (Kumal Nanjiani) will get old, so hopefully they don’t overplay that. Franklin and Bash will go so far as to stage a fistfight at a press conference to distract from the scandal, and they do.

Now that we like the lawyers, it’s time to make the cases interesting. Bash represents a dominatrix accused of prostitution. He turns the case into a sympathetic heartbreak. You really believe that the professional dominatrix thought her client loved her. In the second episode, the case begins as a joke about an ugly duckling fired from a fashion magazine. By the end it becomes about the daddy issues of the publisher’s daughter. I’m sold. They’ve got a hook and they’ve got heart.

For now, there are hints that Bash takes to the corporate life a little too well and Franklin keeps it real. Franklin has turned down work at his dad’s firm though, so he’s overcompensating. Their pop culture knowledge constantly works to their advantage. Bash can quote The Breakfast Club to trap a witness. It seems like this is the outrageous, but not too highbrow, courtroom drama “The Defenders” wanted to be.

The post Review: TNT’s Franklin & Bash appeared first on Screen Junkies.

]]>
http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-tnts-franklin-bash/feed/ 2
NBFF Review: Bobby Fischer Against The World http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/nbff-review-bobby-fischer-against-the-world/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/nbff-review-bobby-fischer-against-the-world/#comments Mon, 02 May 2011 16:59:35 +0000 Fred Topel http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=209966 A documentary about how the famous chess player almost blew his championship to Russian champ Boris Sassky in 1972 by playing neurotic games.

The post NBFF Review: Bobby Fischer Against The World appeared first on Screen Junkies.

]]>
This is the movie where Bobby Fischer has to fight his new girlfriend’s seven evil exes. They’re all chess experts so he works his way from the dude in the park to the final tournament with the timers. Wait, that’s my script for Bobby Fischer VERSUS the World. Nobody take that.

Bobby Fischer AGAINST the World is the documentary about how the famous chess player almost blew his championship to Russian champ Boris Sassky in 1972 by playing neurotic games. Actually, I like mine better. Seriously, don’t take that.

Director Liz Garbus has interviews with chess experts and people close to Fischer, plus names like Henry Kissinger for the political perspective, Malcolm Gladwell to quantify it and Dick Cavett for the entertainment aspect. There are enough clips from Fischer’s limited appearances to balance the perspective, but it’s still all secondhand.

Garbus assumes we know how to play chess so she doesn’t go over the rules. A few times she illustrates a series of moves, with the help of experts explaining. The meat of the story is Fischer’s shenanigans. He holds out for more prize money, he hides out for days if any press or fan tries to talk to him, shows up late and complains about the cameras.

The story of a temperamental genius can be interesting. If Fischer’s not there when the tournament starts, I’d say why bother starting the clock at all? I guess the reason is because he’s probably just psyching out Sassky, which he was. It’s explained that the official rule is to start on time no matter what. Hey, I learned that a chess match can consist of dozens of games, so it’s not just one face off.

I still don’t understand how chess masters see the game, anticipate several moves ahead and execute different strategies. Towards the end, Garbus shows us the math of all the permutations on the board, but not the art of chess. You don’t feel Garbus’s passion for chess or for Fischer. It’s just a document.

Some interview subjects suggest that the chess mind led Fischer to real paranoia, and there’s evidence to support that. I didn’t know about his anti-American comments on 9/11, and then he got conspiratorial and anti-Semitic. So what’s the point of all this, just to prove Bobby Fischer was crazy? He was important during the Cold War but then became a hatemonger?

Some say the tragedy is that Fischer only left a brief sample of his work behind, when he could have had a career full of beautiful chess matches. Text at the end says his bout with Spassky led to a chess boom. SHOW THAT! That’s the social significance. How did this make people care about chess?

I would cast Nicolas Cage in a Hollywood biopic of Bobby Fischer. He could pose like Fischer did in those news reels and then totally freak out. Then get Robert Duvall to play the bearded old Fischer at the end.

The post NBFF Review: Bobby Fischer Against The World appeared first on Screen Junkies.

]]>
http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/nbff-review-bobby-fischer-against-the-world/feed/ 0
ActionFest Review: Tomorrow When The War Began http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/actionfest-review-tomorrow-when-the-war-began/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/actionfest-review-tomorrow-when-the-war-began/#comments Sun, 17 Apr 2011 23:19:59 +0000 Fred Topel http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=207462 See what happens when you keep delaying the Red Dawn remake? Australia went and made their own.

The post ActionFest Review: Tomorrow When The War Began appeared first on Screen Junkies.

]]>

See what happens when you keep delaying the Red Dawn remake? Australia went and made their own. Based on the John Marsden book, the directorial debut of screenwriter Stuart Beattie is modest, but at least it’s done. I saw it at ActionFest and it’s already opened in Oz.

When seven teenagers go on a weekend camping trip, they come back to find their neighborhood invaded by a (vaguely Asian) army. Their parents have been rounded up and taken prisoner, so it’s up to the kids to defend their home.

There’s Ellie (Caitlin Stasey) the leader of the camping trip, Robyn (Ashleigh Cummings) the young good girl, Homer (Deniz Akdeniz) the showoff, Fiona (Phoebe Tonkin) the insecure beauty, Kevin (Lincoln Lewis) the coward, Lee (Chris Pang) the quiet one and poor Corrie (Rachel Hurd-Wood) the one who has so little character she just asks questions when they need exposition.

Telling the story from the teens’ point of view is one way to moderate the action and it makes narrative sense. You see a jet battle only as it flies overhead and you hardly see any soldiers. There’s one really extended chase sequence in a truck with dune buggies and the finale at a bridge is explosive.

They’re learning on the go, grabbing a gun off a downed invader, making an inventory list. They keep making careless mistakes like falling asleep on watch or turning off their walkie talkies so they can’t hear that the enemy is approaching. They also solve all their relationships through battle. Kevin steps up, Homer takes it seriously, Robyn loses her innocence. And man, oh man, wait until you see the character transition Corrie makes. Yeah, I’m being sarcastic.

They probably had a lot of book to cram into a movie, but every time I’ve found a movie adaptation narratively unsound, it’s come straight from the books: Harry Potter, Da Vinci Code. Only movies like The Notebook actually enhance their source material with the power of cinema. The first film is probably only a calling card to let them make the rest of the books, and those will be the real movies.

The post ActionFest Review: Tomorrow When The War Began appeared first on Screen Junkies.

]]>
http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/actionfest-review-tomorrow-when-the-war-began/feed/ 0 936full-tomorrow,-when-the-war-began-screenshot
Review: ‘Game Of Thrones’ http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-game-of-thrones/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-game-of-thrones/#comments Thu, 14 Apr 2011 21:04:41 +0000 Reza F. http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=207125 Fantasy nerds rejoice: Your show has arrived.

The post Review: ‘Game Of Thrones’ appeared first on Screen Junkies.

]]>

Fantasy nerds rejoice: Your show has arrived.

Brutal, bloody, and raw, HBO’s “Game of Thrones” captures the unrelenting grit of an age defined by the sword’s edge and a genre re-popularized by Tolkien’s big-screen revival. This is medieval fantasy done right, from the characters to the conflicts to the vast, exotic landscapes that house the ambitious production.

A faithful adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s bestselling book series, the show introduces viewers to a world ruled by warring noblemen and held together by tenuous diplomatic ties among families and tribes. We meet the House Stark, rulers of the distant northlands, the House Baratheon, royal keepers of the throne, and the House Lannister, a clan tied to the royal family by marriage. On the outskirts lie the members of the House Targaryen, an exiled dynasty expelled from the throne by the Baratheons. The Targaryens want their throne back, the Baratheons and the Starks will mess some fools up to make sure that doesn’t happen, and the Lannisters are… hard to read. On top of that you’ve got a group of badass nomadic horse people, some shady druidic natives, and whatever else may happen to lurk outside the kingdom walls.

Make no mistake: The story is big and the characters are many. Unless you’re watching the show with a pen and paper, furiously taking note of every name and battle and alliance that the characters casually name-drop, you’re not going to catch everything the first time around. But that’s hardly a bad thing. It just indicates how deep the story runs, and how much potential it has to envelop viewers in its complexity. Keep in mind the show is based on an ongoing seven-part novel series. “Epic” hardly begins to describe this story.

Fortunately, “Game of Thrones” boasts capable writers, a slew of talented actors, and cinematography that paints this enormous world in a vivid light accessible to anyone willing to lend their attention. What’s more, there’s just enough humor and sex to break the story’s dark exterior from time to time, providing viewers with brief glimpses at the lighter side of a tale dominated by dramatic overtones and morbid intrigue.

No doubt, “Game of Thrones” is a welcome addition to the genre, and a worthwhile pursuit for fantasy buffs and newcomers alike. Just don’t forget your notebook.

The post Review: ‘Game Of Thrones’ appeared first on Screen Junkies.

]]>
http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-game-of-thrones/feed/ 1 game-of-thrones-still
Review: Showtime’s ‘Gigolos’ http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-showtimes-gigolos/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-showtimes-gigolos/#comments Thu, 07 Apr 2011 19:30:09 +0000 Reza F. http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=205929 The show goes wrong in its attempt to look and feel like every other mediocre reality series out there.

The post Review: Showtime’s ‘Gigolos’ appeared first on Screen Junkies.

]]>

As most people are aware, the reality TV machine turns out a lot of crap. As most people are about to find out, “Gigolos” is no exception.

Showtime’s latest attempt to establish its footing in the reality genre, the new series follows a group of dapper male escorts on their sexual adventures in and around Las Vegas. To the network’s credit, the idea does carry a certain intrigue. It’s always interesting, after all, to peer into a world that few people will ever see or experience. All the better if it happens to be a world where sex is had for money.

Where the show goes wrong, however, is in its attempt to look and feel like every other mediocre reality series out there. Given the nature of its subject matter, “Gigolos” could have been a real eye-opener — a bold look into a business that exists outside the bounds of most people’s moral inclinations. Instead, any actual reality is hidden beneath layers of scripted dialogue, forced character interactions, and an overwhelming sense that what we’re seeing here is nothing like what happens in real life. The conversations are awkward and rife with cheap devices meant to further the plot of each episode. The gigolos themselves, as captivating as their lifestyles may be, are rendered boring and two-dimensional once passed through the reality machine, and any edginess they may have displayed is tossed out in favor of the predictable, pseudo-emotional garbage that makes for a good testimonial. The whole thing feels less like a documentary and more like a Tila Tequila spinoff where she gets a job as a call girl. Then again, people freaking loved “A Shot At Love,” so maybe Showtime is on to something.

Well, duh. The network’s executives are clearly aiming to recreate what’s popular. Why make something original when you can make something that’s proven to generate cash? It’s just too bad they chose a subject that actually could have been something worth watching.

The post Review: Showtime’s ‘Gigolos’ appeared first on Screen Junkies.

]]>
http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-showtimes-gigolos/feed/ 0 gigolos
Review: House ‘The Dig’ http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-house-the-dig/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-house-the-dig/#comments Wed, 06 Apr 2011 21:33:28 +0000 Fred Topel http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=205715 This is it, folks. The “House” episode Thirteen fans have been waiting for.

The post Review: House ‘The Dig’ appeared first on Screen Junkies.

]]>

This is it, folks. The “House” episode Thirteen fans have been waiting for. I’ll be vague so I don’t spoil it but you know from the TV spots that Thirteen is back and House finds her getting out of prison. I’m loving the bangs Olivia Wilde is rocking now.

House takes Thirteen on a road trip while the rest of the team solves a case at the hospital. Honestly, they could have taken one episode off from the medical formula for a dramatic plot of the magnitude of Thirteen’s return, but they still do both. If you’re wondering about House’s new wife, she’s mentioned in an offhanded remark, so that might not be such a permanent fixture.

It turns out an entire year has gone by since Thirteen left, and it would be House’s one year anniversary of dating Cuddy. TV time usually slows down but in this case September to April in our time actually accelerates us into the future of “House” time. Unless the season began six months in the past in which case we’re caught up to the present.

What I’m getting at is there’s a whole year of Thirteen’s story to catch up. House fills in the year and even addresses her willingness to be named a number. Thirteen creates new secrets while they’re on the road, so there’s a lot to uncover. You might wish for a little more humor in their banter. It’s just Thirteen protests and House presses, but look at it this way: they’re not sugar coating it.

House recaps his relationship with Cuddy to fill Thirteen in too. It is a real testament to the show that we love the characters so much that it’s compelling to see them go over information we already know. House’s hobby gives them something to bond over on the road, and introduces another fun House quirk and a funny western spoof.

Without House, the medical case has to compensate to keep it interesting. They throw everything at this case to try to sell it. Even with environmental factors, secrets and emotion, it’s still a medical case without House. He calls in a few times but it’s really the team on their own.

A large part of the team’s story deals with Taub and Foreman. Foreman gets really jealous of Taub’s game with the ladies. It’s funny, if a bit surprising how much focus it gets. Cuddy and Wilson are not in the episode at all.

The last thing I’ll say about “The Dig” which I think “House” fans will appreciate is this: in both of the stories, on the road with Thirteen and in the hospital with the patient, the first thing they think it is, is not what it turns out to be. Sorry for the spoiler, but it turns out the first theory is not correct and they have to revise their theory as new information comes out.

“House” is back Monday, April 11.

The post Review: House ‘The Dig’ appeared first on Screen Junkies.

]]>
http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-house-the-dig/feed/ 0 house-dig
Review: AMC’s The Killing http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-amcs-the-killing/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-amcs-the-killing/#comments Tue, 29 Mar 2011 17:38:47 +0000 Reza F. http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=204233 Has a whole mess of potential which, if adapted correctly, could make it something unique and worth coming back to.

The post Review: AMC’s The Killing appeared first on Screen Junkies.

]]>

The official poster for “The Killing” is a black and white image of a teenage girl, embossed with blood-red letters that ask “Who Killed Rosie Larsen?” It’s the kind of thing you’d see outside a shopping mall theatre in mid-October – creepy in the most generic way possible, almost to the point where ‘creepy’ is just a product you buy off the shelf every now and then when you’re feeling adventurous. And that’s unfortunate, because “The Killing” isn’t really what you’d call generic at all. It’s darker than that, more intense, and much more subtle than a poster with blood-font might suggest. What that poster represents, however, is what this show could become. “The Killing” has the makings of something new and intriguing, but there’s a lingering sense that the whole production could get real damn cheesy real damn fast.

If that does happen, it won’t be on account of the show’s two protagonists. Sara Linden and Steven Holder, detectives assigned to investigate the murder of loca high school student Rosie Larsen, are one of the more satisfying cop duos to emerge from television in recent years. They’re flawed and reserved. They communicate with one another in short, terse phrases, never mincing words or overstating emotions. When we meet them, they’re strangers working together for the first time, but we immediately see a tentative bond begin to form. Watching them converse, reason, deduce things, just feels right. You could chalk it up to good chemistry, but it’s also a sign that the writing behind these two has a distinct rhythm the audience will come to know and respect.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of the show’s other primary characters. The parents of the murdered girl, Stan and Mitch Larsen, come to mind. Important as they are, the roles are overacted and predictable. If detectives Linden and Holder represent something new and exciting, then the Larsens are like a couple of supporting characters on an episode of “CSI: Miami.” You want them to go away, but they keep coming back and crying or having a breakdown or some other ridiculous thing, which really gets in the way of the whole “solving the mystery” objective. They’re everything you thought you might avoid by watching a long-form murder mystery instead of a 30-minute crime procedural. Less screen time for both of them, or at least less over-dramatized screen time, would be a real plus for the show.

Same goes for the third branch of this murder mystery tree: The seemingly-innocent political candidate and his posse of fast-talking election insiders. Right off the bat, problems arise with this prong of the story. First, there’s no explanation as to why this character is getting any attention. The show is supposed to switch between the three main storylines with ease – police, parents, politician – giving the audience a few more clues to mull over in each scenario. The politician, however, seems completely out of place until an all-too-convenient plot twist throws him into the midst of the investigation. It’s like the writers pulled the tarp off too early, accidentally revealing that this guy is hiding something by involving him before he ever needed to be involved. Add to that the fact that he’s a composite of every Hollywood political stereotype in the book, and you’ve got yourself an all-around lame character with obvious motivations who really doesn’t bring much to the table on his own. Hopefully his storyline will be interesting enough to prop him up, otherwise he and his cronies are going to prove to be a real drag on the show.

That said, “The Killing” has a whole mess of potential which, if adapted correctly, could make it something unique and worth coming back to. Fortunately, the show’s two greatest strengths are its most important aspects: The mystery and the cops assigned to solve it. If the show sticks to its core elements, it could represent an exciting new take on the genre. However, if it tries too hard to be something we’ve seen before, something overly-emotional that relies on tears and the same tired character molds to keep people watching, then it’s bound to fall apart before it ever gets moving. Which would suck, because that poster really makes me want to know who killed Rosie Larsen.

The post Review: AMC’s The Killing appeared first on Screen Junkies.

]]>
http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-amcs-the-killing/feed/ 4 amc_the-killing-550×366
Review: CBS’s Chaos http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-cbss-chaos/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-cbss-chaos/#comments Mon, 28 Mar 2011 23:28:20 +0000 Fred Topel http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=204096 It's trying so hard it's sad.

The post Review: CBS’s Chaos appeared first on Screen Junkies.

]]>

CBS is known for their serious crime dramas and franchises. Three “CSI”s solve murders, “Without a Trace” finds people, “NCIS” defuses bombs or something, I don’t know. They should stick to what they’re good at. Their attempt at a wacky CIA caper does not work at all. “Chaos” is the wacky take on all the government intrigue clichés. It’s so stupid, it makes USA’s “Covert Affairs” look like “Alias.”

Rick Martinez (Freddie Rodriguez) checks in to the CIA for his first day at work. Immediately he’s flagged on the watch list and security takes him down and confiscates his fluids (soup he brought for lunch.) Get it? Because Homeland Security makes mistakes.

He interviews with Higgins (Kurtwood Smith) of the Clandestine Administration and Oversight Services department (CAOS). Higgins tells him the position he’s been hired for has been cut. Martinez blubbers about how he’s always dreamed of being an agent and took all the tests. That gives Higgins the idea to make him a mole in the Office of Disruptive Services and report their offenses to him.

The ODS is full of one-note characters too. Casey Malick (Tim Blake Nelson) is the straight man, if only because he seems like he actually knows what he’s doing as an agent. The skills he demonstrates at the end of the episode might count as a joke, because they’re uncharacteristically badass for a suit sitting at a desk, but it still fits the realms of a standard CIA agent. Michael Dorset (Eric Close) seems to be the exposition guy explaining everything to Martinez, and Billy Collins (James Murray) is the Scottish wild card. He calls Martinez “muy caliente” and does Sean Connery impressions.

The ODS is onto Martinez though so they quickly turn the tables, but they also win him (and the audience presumably) over to their side. So maybe Higgins is the real villain, which would make sense considering they cast Kurtwood Smith. Also, Fay (Carmen Ejogo) seduces Martinez, but he blows it and now she doesn’t like him anymore so he’ll spend the whole series getting back to first base.

There are some big stunts and they are played so stupid it wastes the stuntmen’s talents. Martinez rolls out of a car and quivers as another car stops short of him.  They actually go out in the field to some desert and jungle locations. Whatever production value that adds is ruined by slapstick and bug eating.

Every character bumbles or lacks common sense. Higgins intercepts a cell phone and thinks a call from the owner’s mother is code for espionage. Kick ass martial arts are still played for “laughs,” because you’d never expect that guy to know how to fight! They’re just trying so hard it’s sad.

The post Review: CBS’s Chaos appeared first on Screen Junkies.

]]>
http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-cbss-chaos/feed/ 0 CHAOS
Review: Breaking In http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-breaking-in/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-breaking-in/#comments Mon, 28 Mar 2011 18:54:12 +0000 Fred Topel http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=204001 The biggest surprise of the spring crop of midseason shows. I didn’t expect to like it, but it’s actually a lot of fun.

The post Review: Breaking In appeared first on Screen Junkies.

]]>

Breaking In” was the biggest surprise of the spring crop of midseason shows. I didn’t expect to like it, but it’s actually a lot of fun. Also, I watched it after “Traffic Light” so the bar had been significantly lowered.

Cameron (Bret Harrison) makes a cash exchange on the USC campus, providing a teacher’s password for a student who needs to hack his way to an A. It turns out the classmate was a mole for Oz (Christian Slater). Oz shows up in Cameron’s dorm to force him to work for his high tech security company.

This is act one and there’s already a lot of fun non sequitur humor. The teacher’s password is a joke. Flashbacks show Oz’s heists and tell an entire story in one shot. The vibe of the show is Oceans 11-y with the geek references of “Family Guy.” Sometimes it tries too hard but it’s so fast that at least 50% of it is funny.

When Cameron gets to the office, he meets the wacky cast of characters. Cash (Alphonso McAuley) is a prankster who never lets up. His catch phrase is “Boom goes the dynamite” and it could get old, but it also seems to get funnier the more often he says it.

Josh (Trevor Moore) is paranoid about Cameron stealing his jobs. It seems annoying at first because Josh is really reaching for things to be worried about. It totally pays off though when Josh is the cause of the show’s biggest twist.

Melanie (Odette Yustman) is just one of the guys except she’s totally hot. She has a boyfriend, Dutch (Michael Rosenbaum) who’s intense and in your face, but actually does sweet thoughtful things for Melanie so he’s not a D-bag. My favorite is Creepy Carol (Jennifer Irwin), who hovers around Cameron reminding him to get a cake for the birthday party. Adorable.

The whole crew is totally nonchalant about all the high tech hacking and heisting. The technology is ridiculous because it’s just supposed to be fun. There’s a tracking device in a Goober, a US drive that creates a backdoor to the system and a really cool toy to circumvent a laser grid. It’s Roger Moore era Bond.

Oz is the ultimate Christian Slater character. It’s like J.D. from Heathers grew up. He’s into anarchy and condones his employees causing trouble. He’s got cool memorabilia like Captain Kirk’s chair because he’s a man of exquisite tastes. It’s that smooth talking slicked back cool guy from the ‘80s (and ‘90s if you count Kuffs, which I do.)

There are so many schemes in the pilot, I wonder if they’re going to keep up this momentum each week. It’s a really quick half hour so it works as a standalone short. If it works every week, that’ll be a refreshing caper on TV. If it peters out, then the complete first season DVD will be short and inexpensive.

The post Review: Breaking In appeared first on Screen Junkies.

]]>
http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-breaking-in/feed/ 1 Breaking-In-6-550×365
Review: The United States Of Tara Season 3 Premiere http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-the-united-states-of-tara-season-3-premiere/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-the-united-states-of-tara-season-3-premiere/#comments Mon, 28 Mar 2011 16:55:47 +0000 Fred Topel http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=203937 Gets off to a cool start as it addresses last year’s revelation that Tara had a brother.

The post Review: The United States Of Tara Season 3 Premiere appeared first on Screen Junkies.

]]>

Season three of “The United States of Tara” gets off to a cool start as it addresses last year’s revelation that Tara had a brother. Her “Buck” personality goes looking for Bryce like The Terminator.

By now Charmaine (Rosemarie DeWitt) is fully pregnant. Poor Neil (Patton Oswalt) just humiliates himself trying to do right by her. She won’t marry him but they come to a good resolution at the end of the episode.

It seems like the main plot of season three will be Tara going back to college to finish up her degree. She gets the idea and even goes to Dr. Hattaras (Eddie Izzard) to add his psych class. I assume Hattaras will be a witty character later on, but he only gets hints in his one scene this episode.

This brings up the juiciest drama of the show. Max (John Corbett) isn’t thrilled with his wife going back to college. It’s not just because her alters could come out at any time. He’s used to that. It’s that college was a traumatic low point in his and Tara’s lives. Corbett gets two solid dramatic scenes to talk about his fears sincerely.

The script is by series creator Diablo Cody and it feels especially sarcastic. Charmaine’s reprimand of Kate’s (Brie Larson) drinking and Max’s admonition of Marshall’s (Kier Gilchris) replay of the humiliation video seem designed more for TV than for parenting/authority. Tara’s procrastination montage for writing her first paper is lame, and Charmaine’s pregnancy emergency through the sprinklers too.

That’s always part of the show though and it’s probably only a matter of moods and tastes. There’s enough honest drama with the back to school subplot, and Neil gets a really frank confrontation of Charmaine’s dependency issues. It ends with a five way scene of all of Tara’s personalities, and a hint of cutting. Not sure if that’s been addressed before but it’s certainly a very real correlated issue that could be dealt with this year.

The post Review: The United States Of Tara Season 3 Premiere appeared first on Screen Junkies.

]]>
http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-the-united-states-of-tara-season-3-premiere/feed/ 0 UNITED STATES OF TARA (Season 3)
Review: Nurse Jackie Season 3 Premiere http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-nurse-jackie-season-3-premiere/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-nurse-jackie-season-3-premiere/#comments Sat, 26 Mar 2011 18:58:21 +0000 Fred Topel http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=203893 “Nurse Jackie” returns picking up right where it left off with Jackie in the bathroom after her husband Kevin staged an intervention.

The post Review: Nurse Jackie Season 3 Premiere appeared first on Screen Junkies.

]]>

“Nurse Jackie” returns picking up right where it left off with Jackie (Edie Falco) in the bathroom after her husband Kevin (Dominic Fumusa) staged at intervention. She confronts Kevin with reasonable explanations for all her pharmacy purchases, like addicts always have good explanations.

Jackie goes about smoothing over her whole operation, including Akalitus (Anna Deavere Smith) and O’Hara (Eve Best). O’Hara’s holding a grudge. That’ll take a few episodes to smooth over (they sent the whole season, I cheated and watched ahead.) Other major season two issues get resolved too when Kevin makes a decision about their daughters’ tuition, but tries to keep Jackie out of it.

Back at the hospital, Zoey (Merritt Wever) is adorable in her afterglow, jumping around. Her sex talk continues throughout the premiere, and the season. Zooey fans can also look forward to her pedometer antics, speed walking in place in episode four.

There are two major hospital patients in the premiere. A kid has a mirror stuck up his nose because he wanted to see his brain. Jackie finds a way to make his dream come true.

The other patient is a tragic one, the kind medical dramas thrive on. A father/son moving team comes in with the son foun buried under a pile of boxes. They actually don’t have a cure for that. It’s one of those impossible dramas filled with guilt and emotion, and Jackie is there for the father.

Another long-lasting incident happens when Kevin shows up at the hospital. Nobody knew Jackie was married and Zoey even checks Kevin’s ID. This leads to everybody finding out everybody’s secrets in a series of awkward reveals.

This is all solid “Nurse Jackie.” I love watching Jackie handle the daily grind and execute her schemes to get by in her real life. The show seems to know how we like to see the supporting cast fill the hospital with their dysfunctions and they’re giving us more of that this season.

The post Review: Nurse Jackie Season 3 Premiere appeared first on Screen Junkies.

]]>
http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-nurse-jackie-season-3-premiere/feed/ 0 nurse-jackie-season3-poster-04-thumb
Review: Breakout Kings http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-breakout-kings/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-breakout-kings/#comments Tue, 01 Mar 2011 17:29:20 +0000 Fred Topel http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=30864 If the plots remain snappy there’d be no reason to miss “Breakout Kings.”

The post Review: Breakout Kings appeared first on Screen Junkies.

]]>

It really bothers me that escaping from prison is so common that they can do a weekly TV series about it. I thought it was really rare when somebody broke out of jail. Well, if there’s going to be a priso break every week, at least they know how to find the escaped convicts.

Deputy Charlie Duchamp (Laz Alonso) assembles a dirty half dozen of convicts to use their powers for good and not evil. Since they know how escaped convicts think, for every convict they catch they each get a month off their sentence. If they try to run, they get a stiffer sentence.

Ray Zancanelli (Domenick Lombardozzi) was a dirty cop. Gunderson is an underground fighter. Philly (Nicole Steinwedell) is a former Miss Idaho and con artist with her feminine wiles. Lloyd Lowery (Jimmi Simpson) is a gambler, socially awkward but an expert in psychology. Shea (Malcolm Goodwin) was a gang banger, but his skill is really the fast talking black guy.

The first criminal is pretty vicious. Tillman (Jason Cerbone) hides under a truck Cape Fear style and beats the driver as soon as they’re clear of the gate. There’s pretty big action in the pilot. Three dudes go through a window. There’s a car chase and som fighting, and since it’s the producers (and director Brett Ratner) of “Prison Break” we can probably count on them to keep the pace every week.

The gang has chemistry right from the pilot. Lowery blackmails Philly to keep her secret when he finds out her real name. Philly sexes up to attract Tillman’s contact for info. Shea names the crew Breakout Kings. Gunderson tries to pull one over on Charlie and that’s when Charlie shows he’s in control of this group. Lowery is actually the major player on the team. His psychological skills turn a fart joke into a lead. He actually gives office assistant Julianne (Brooke Nevin) good therapeutic advice.

I don’t like Ray. He’s supposed to be the counterpoint to Charlie, but Ray is just a gruff curmudgeon. He tough talks Tillman when Tillman has the upper hand, which seems like poor judgment. Charlie even points out he blew a chance to feed Tillman false intel. Now that’s a plan I could get behind. Hothead Ray shoots first and the testosterone cliché is weak. Perhaps the counterpoint illustrates just how smart Charlie is, but I don’t think Charlie needed any help.

Except for Ray, it’s a likeable crew and their caper dialogue is very “Leverage”-esque. It probably won’t require watching every single week if they keep doing a standalone convict each week, but if the plots remain snappy there’d be no reason to miss “Breakout Kings.”

The post Review: Breakout Kings appeared first on Screen Junkies.

]]>
http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-breakout-kings/feed/ 6 breakoutkings
Review: The Chicago Code http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-the-chicago-code/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-the-chicago-code/#comments Thu, 03 Feb 2011 17:27:58 +0000 Fred Topel http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=24388 Packs a whole lot of story into its first episode. It’ll either continue at that pace, or settle into a groove based on that foundation. Either way it’s got the potential for some very compelling television.

The post Review: The Chicago Code appeared first on Screen Junkies.

]]>

The Chicago Code” packs a whole lot of story into its first episode. It’ll either continue at that pace, or settle into a groove based on that foundation. Either way it’s got the potential for some very compelling television.

Chicago PD Superintendent Teresa Colvin (Jennifer Beals) learned about city corruption as a kid watching her dad pay off thugs for protection and city officials just to do their jobs. Now that she’s in charge, she’s going after alderman Ronin Gibbons (Delroy Lindo).

On the street, Det. Wysocki (Jason Clarke) pushes his partner to drive harder in a police chase. It’s pretty good driving for a TV chase, lots of cars weaving in and out on the road. He talks the criminal Luis into pulling over, by allowing him time to propose to his girlfriend before going to jail. Wysocki dumps the partner for being a pussy, though not in as many words.

The comptroller for Fergus Construction informs Alderman Gibbons of a discrepancy. By Gibbons’ reaction, I suspect him already. When the comptroller turns up dead, I really suspect him but that would probably be too obvious. Colvin has a better plan for exposing corrupt officials, who may or may not include Gibbons, but probably include him.

She taps Wysocki to investigate crimes that suggest a link to government corruption. You can feel the trust between Coleman and Wysocki. Together, their conflicts push each other to do a better job. Apart, their respect keeps each one on the mission. They both have so much confidence, they are sure of their characters. I mean on a personal level of one’s character, not just the actors playing a character on TV.

Wysocki doesn’t like swearing, which is a good way to clean up cop talk for primetime television, but it also makes him more badass than if he dropped F bombs. A guy who’s going to beat you for swearing is scarier than a guy who swears. He knows street smart tactics for isolating his witnesses when they can’t talk in public. You do learn one of his flaws by the end of the pilot. Colvin takes out the garbage, sending a corrupt cop to a janitorial closet to get him off the street.

It’s a “pay attention” show with lots of elements to observe. Each character narrates their introduction and hosts an act of the show. Metaphors make sharp dialogue, like cleaning the city plumbing one toilet at a time. Wysocki keeps giving his new partner, Caleb Evers (Matt Lauria) different nicknames based on Fast Times at Ridgemont High because Caleb said something about Phoebe Cates. Cop car banter about top album covers or movie babes make them feel like real guys.

By the end of the first episode, it’s on. Each week Wysocki will pick which call sounds fishy and start busting heads. Colvin’s going to play the system against itself. The big story (allegedly corrupt alderman) and the little story (weekly case) are both exciting so we’re in good shape.

The post Review: The Chicago Code appeared first on Screen Junkies.

]]>
http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-the-chicago-code/feed/ 1 Chicago Code Cast
Review: Perfect Couples http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-perfect-couples/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-perfect-couples/#comments Mon, 17 Jan 2011 22:51:07 +0000 Fred Topel http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=17386 An affable TV comedy. It’s nothing new and not outrageous enough to be memorable, although it could get there.

The post Review: Perfect Couples appeared first on Screen Junkies.

]]>

“Perfect Couples” is an affable TV comedy. It’s nothing new and not outrageous enough to be memorable, although it could get there. In its initial state, it’s something you wouldn’t mind if it was on, which is better than some obnoxious shows you want to turn off. We’ll see if it distinguishes itself or just coasts on Thursday nights.

The premiere opens with three sleeping women spread out on their beds. That’s hot. Each husband/boyfriend has his own trick for slipping into bed. Rex (Hayes MacArthur) wakes Leigh (Olivia Munn) to openly communicate how hogging the bed makes him feel. Dave (Kyle Bornheimer) has a pretty sweet trick to make the dog wake Julia (Christine Woods) up. Vance (David Walton) just screams at Amy (Mary Elizabeth Ellis.)

So you see we’re dealing with three different caricatures of couples. Rex and Leigh are the lovey dovey new age self-help type. Vance and Amy are the volatile, passionate type. Dave and Julia are the reasonable type, but they have enough crazy habits so they’re not just the straight men.

The couples are likeable enough in their schtick. Munn and MacArthur calling each other “cherished partner” and bringing Vietnamese hors d’oeuvres to game night is cute. Bornheimer and Woods really seem like they love each other and they’re just amused by the shenanigans that suck them in. Ellis really sells the bipolar emotions, singing “I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” with the wrong words but double the passion, and making out with Vance within seconds on fighting.

Vance is actually a horrible person. I won’t judge Walton yet because it’s how the character is written but this is beyond the caricature of the pain in the ass we may have in our lives. Vance actually wants to crash Julia and Dave’s anniversary. That’s a sociopath. So five out of six are likeable.

The show plays with time like “How I Met Your Mother,” showing a game night feud backwards, Memento style for comedic effect. Title cards say things like “How not to spend your anniversary,” which was more obvious than “Frasier” title cards ever were. So they’re going to have to find their own format if they want the show to last.

Obviously I’m not raving about “Perfect Couples” but I like it enough to see if it gets better. Maybe I’ll watch the first season or maybe I’ll just wait to hear if other people start liking it. Of all the midseason shows I’ve watched, it’s definitely in the upper half, if not the top percentile.

The post Review: Perfect Couples appeared first on Screen Junkies.

]]>
http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-perfect-couples/feed/ 1 Perfect Couples
Review: IFC’s ‘Onion News Network’ http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-ifcs-onion-news-network/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-ifcs-onion-news-network/#comments Mon, 17 Jan 2011 19:58:42 +0000 Fred Topel http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=13551 I wasn’t necessarily looking forward to another fake news show, but “The Onion News Network” is actually really funny. This is more of a satire about the social themes portrayed in news.

The post Review: IFC’s ‘Onion News Network’ appeared first on Screen Junkies.

]]>

I wasn’t necessarily looking forward to another fake news show, but “The Onion News Network” is actually really funny. This is more of a satire about the social themes portrayed in news. Obviously, if I already have the screener, it’s not about being timely, although figures as obscure as Sarkozy and as mainstream as Kim Jong-Il do pop up.

The format is modeled after the 24 hour news networks even more than “The Daily Show.” Brooke Alvarez (Suzanne Sena) hosts “Factzone,” a “Situation Room” type hub that detours into talking heads, pundits and other facets of cable news. The Onion folks really know how to make satire work and they use all the tools of the television media to do their bidding.

In one story, Kim Jong-Il negotiates to take over the role of Batman in the next movie. They have footage of a news conference with Kim’s representative showing off a new Batdance. The “First Responders” are a panel of three talking heads in studio who debate all the sides of such a ridiculous issue, including Christian Bale’s qualifications to run North Korea.

One segment suggests that Sarah Palin would win a majority of 2012 election polls because people would vote out of a morbid curiosity to see what she’d do. Facts and figures pop up as Brooke interviews the experts, and you start to notice all the extra jokes printed in quickly displayed graphics. Freeze frame those DVRs to get all the humor.

Whether it’s profound social commentary (a later episode profiles the country’s first openly drunk politician) or just absurdity, it’s funny. A teenage murder suspect is tried not as an adult, but as a black man. It’s that Onion way of changing just one element that points out the flaw in the whole system.

A weather report on a national snow storm gives a complete fake analysis on all the trouble idiots get into in bad weather. A thorough perspective on the implications of pornography in a blizzard is much appreciated. They use all this intellect and insight to throw in some base humor. Another dirty joke commemorates the invention of the hand job as a historical event.

The fake correspondents deliver rapid fire jokes just like the 24 hour news cycle tries to pack in legitimate info. Pay attention for some good irony, like striking interns demanding more experience. Sena gives a good deadpan with the glamorous veneer of an on air spokesperson. The show even goes in depth about the superficiality of on air talent, after their Afghanistan correspondent is held hostage.

Like a real news show, they return to stories as they develop. This lets the weirder ones get meta. A celebrity stalker from the future is funny. Hiring a bodyguard from the future who quotes Tom Cruise catch phrases is brilliant.

Anything that doesn’t fit in the “Factzone” format seems to find its way into fake promos for other “ONN” shows. “Concurrence Roundtable” really finds a lot of different ways to make fun of crossfire shows by having the correspondents agree. I don’t think this will replace “The Colbert Report,” but it shows The Onion can expand into other media.

“Onion News Network” premieres Friday, January 21st at 10PM EST on IFC.

The post Review: IFC’s ‘Onion News Network’ appeared first on Screen Junkies.

]]>
http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-ifcs-onion-news-network/feed/ 2 onn
Review: Harry’s Law http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-harrys-law/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-harrys-law/#comments Mon, 17 Jan 2011 17:18:13 +0000 Fred Topel http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=17230 Everything about this pilot was lazy. They actually play “Hit the Road Jack” when Harriet gets fired from the patent office. Really?

The post Review: Harry’s Law appeared first on Screen Junkies.

]]>

Okay, I like David E. Kelley shows. “Boston Legal” was hilarious and I admired how he had them try cases way outside the realms of the legal system just so he could express his opinion on hot button topics. But a shoe store in a law office? That’s just stupid. Come on. Or maybe it’s a law office in a shoe store, but still.

Harriet Korn (Kathy Bates) is a burnt out patent lawyer. When a suicide jumper falls on her and then she gets hit by a car and lands on some mattresses in a moving truck, she decides to open a legal practice in the hood. The location she finds is a shoe store with a full inventory, and her assistant Jenna (Brittany Snow) wants to sell the shoes to finance their pro bono work.

Harry is a good character. I like Kathy Bates telling it like it is, tough talking back to a protection scam because she doesn’t need protection from them, they need her protection. Oh, she’s so rogue!

Her first case is Malcolm (Aml Ameen), the suicide jumper. He was going to kill himself because he’s on his third drug offense, so he’d go to jail and get kicked out of school. The prosecutor, Payton (Paul “Bad Guy Since The ‘80s” McCrane), keeps repeating himself two or three times. That’s Johnny Two Times from Goodfellas!

Harry also takes on an associate, Adam (Nate Corddry), the guy who hit her with his car. He represents Damien (Johnny Ray Gill), the protection scammer, after he shot someone in a Chinese laundry. Adam gets the gunshot victim’s blood on him and he’s told to get the victim’s blood tested. That’s an element of reality for hands on lawyers. It doesn’t go anywhere in this show.

Harry’s case argues the legalizing of drugs. The judge lets this go on until she basically says that what Malcolm’s on trial for shouldn’t even be a crime at all. At least on “Boston Legal,” Kelley worked his agenda into the format of a trial. This is just riffing on the vague subject of the case, drugs, when even the characters know it’s irrelevant.

Adam fast talks Damien’s plea hearing, which becomes Kelley’s rant on how society dismisses the poor. When the judge tries to get him to stick to the point of the hearing, he actually goes into, “You’re out of order, this whole court is out of order.” Maybe they’re getting all the legal clichés out of the way in the pilot.

Everything about this pilot was lazy. They actually play “Hit the Road Jack” when Harriet gets fired from the patent office. Really? The dialogue is weak. Harry calls something a “big bowl of steaming dog shut the door, Jenna.” Isn’t that clever, because you knew she was going to say shit? She actually does say asshole on NBC Prime Time.

Snow looks hot in leggy skirts, or wearing a maid apron. She makes Jenna seem sincere about the shoe thing, but the fact that they play the shoe store as serious and inspirational just makes it more ridiculous. If the rest of the show were good we could probably consider the shoe store a charming quirk, but the David E. Kelley magic is totally gone from “Harry’s Law.”

The post Review: Harry’s Law appeared first on Screen Junkies.

]]>
http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-harrys-law/feed/ 4 HARRYS-LAW-NBC-4-550×412
Review: FX’s Lights Out http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-fxs-lights-out/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-fxs-lights-out/#comments Mon, 10 Jan 2011 17:58:28 +0000 Reza F. http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=14926 “Lights Out” moves with the cautious rhythm and deft assurance of a seasoned prize fighter. A quick jab here, a body shot there, and suddenly there’s nothing but calm.

The post Review: FX’s Lights Out appeared first on Screen Junkies.

]]>

“Lights Out” is a story that moves with the cautious rhythm and deft assurance of a seasoned prize fighter. A quick jab here, a body shot there, and suddenly there’s nothing but calm as the man in red gloves steps back, surveys the scene, dances nimbly, and plots his next move. You can’t anticipate the blows, can’t know where they’ll land, but when they do they come fast and they land with power and fury and purpose. It’s not a rapid barrage — it’s a slow, steady assault. There’s no epic battle for glory here — just the gradual realization of how a man’s body breaks and where he’s left when it does.

A stern-faced Holt McCallany plays the titular Patrick “Lights” Leary. We enter the story at the moment of the hero’s demise: A grueling title fight that lays him out cold and strips him of his belt. Five years later and five years retired, he still contemplates why the fight went the way it did; why he lost when he clearly deserved the win. Through clouded flashbacks we slowly piece together the events of that night, but we never really see the complete picture. Maybe it’s still a haze to him, or maybe he can’t bear to look back in full. In any case, we know immediately that this is a man filled with regret. We see it in his eyes, in the way he moves dazedly through his forced domestic existence — cooking dinner, looking after the kids, making love to his wife. He’s happy but never quite content. He doesn’t belong here, not yet anyway, not without first taking back what he knows damn well belongs to him. There’s the motive; all he needs now is the chance to make it happen.

When he finds that chance, it’s an alarming departure from the work-hard-and-persevere mantra we’ve seen drilled into the underdog archetype over and over again. This is a comeback story, but don’t expect any Rocky montages or heart-swelling locker room pep talks. It’s all about grit here — down with the generic and up with the unexpected. In this story, redemption is a path controlled by the greedy and the corrupt. The hero is a man we admire but he’s still just a man — flawed like any other and not entirely immune to the damning vices that confront him at every turn. It makes for a tense watch. We root for the hero as he strides boldly through treacherous terrain, but we see him struggle to maintain his identity and we sense we could lose him at any minute.

Like a swift blow the head, “Lights Out” leaves us reeling under the harsh glow of those blinding overhead lights. It’s a brutal examination of the forces that make a man tick — honor, dignity, and the almighty dollar. Don’t come looking for instant gratification or dime-store inspiration; it’ll be a while before the hero sees anything resembling personal growth. Instead, roll with the punches, take one to the chin, and swing like hell when you see an opening. It’s a long trek back to the top and you’re bound to get your ass beat a couple times on the way there.

Lights Out” premieres January 11 at 10pm ET on FX.

The post Review: FX’s Lights Out appeared first on Screen Junkies.

]]>
http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-fxs-lights-out/feed/ 0 Lights-Out-Banner
Review: ‘Bob’s Burgers’ http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-bobs-burgers/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-bobs-burgers/#comments Tue, 04 Jan 2011 20:24:00 +0000 Fred Topel http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=14145 “Bob’s Burgers” won’t be the best show on Fox’s Sunday night Animation Domination, but it’s better than “American Dad” or “The Cleveland Show.”

The post Review: ‘Bob’s Burgers’ appeared first on Screen Junkies.

]]>

Bob’s Burgers” won’t be the best show on Fox’s Sunday night Animation Domination, but it’s better than “American Dad” or “The Cleveland Show.” A lot of the jokes are really obvious, but it does do things that only animation can do, so it’s not just a cartoon with the same jokes as live-action sitcoms.

Bob Belcher runs Bob’s Burgers, right in between a funeral home and an environmental group. His opening pep talk is a weak introduction to his basic family, but these intros pay off. His wife Linda interrupts him. Son Gene is more interested in making robot, laser and fart noises. Older daughter Tina has an itchy crotch and youngest daughter Louise likes to rearrange the restaurant her way.

The first few minutes is a pretty tired interpretation of the “husband forgot anniversary” plot of many sitcoms. Also, Bob tells Gene not to give samples to mourners from the funeral home, but Gene does anyway. Get through that and the show starts to get better.

It turns out Bob forgets birthdays and due dates too, but the clever touch to that bit is that he forgets his own birthday too. So this isn’t the selfish sitcom dad. He’s not even reliable enough to be selfish. Then it turns out Linda’s ex-fiancé is the health inspector, and HE remembers the anniversary of the date she married Bob.

The Fox edginess comes when Louise renames the daily special “The Child Molester.” It come with candy. That’s an easy inappropriate laugh but they develop the joke to where a creepy guy actually orders the Child Molester, and the family debates which kid has to serve it to him.

A great bit of irreverence comes when they do the old Rain Man toothpick gag. Tina thinks she’s autistic, so Gene tests her by spilling toothpicks. She guesses 100. He only spilled three. Also, the health inspector asks Bob to help him pull out of a parallel space even though he’s screwing him over.

The actual plot of the episode is that the health inspector is investigating Bob for cooking human flesh. He holds up the test over his grudge for Linda. That’s a really gimmicky plot that relies on a lot of silly misunderstandings, but if they can fill the episodes with toothpick jokes, it’ll fill the time between “Simpsons” and “Family Guy” all right. I like the crotch itch jokes too, but that was a classic episode of “Beavis and Butt-Head.

The animation doesn’t do much for me. The people are oddly shaped. They hardly look like humanoids, let alone people who could procreate and have families. But they kind of resemble Far Side pictures, although those never had to move. As long as they use animation to play with timing and physics, that’s the real difference between animation and just a drawn sitcom.

The post Review: ‘Bob’s Burgers’ appeared first on Screen Junkies.

]]>
http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-bobs-burgers/feed/ 4 Bobs-Burgers
Review: ‘Californication’ Season 4 Premiere http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-californication-season-4-premiere/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-californication-season-4-premiere/#comments Wed, 29 Dec 2010 23:03:08 +0000 Fred Topel http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=13726 If some of the dedicated viewers require a preview of Hank Moody’s debaucherous new shenanigans, I provide a detailed account of the upcoming season premiere.

The post Review: ‘Californication’ Season 4 Premiere appeared first on Screen Junkies.

]]>

Spoiler alert: If you want the graphic debauchery of “Californication” season four to be a complete surprise, then don’t read this review. However, if some of the dedicated “Californication” viewers require a preview of Hank Moody’s debaucherous new shenanigans, I provide a detailed account of the upcoming season premiere.

I’ve actually lost track of “Californication.” I respect the show for being unapologetically sexual, but I found the attitude too unpleasant to subject myself too. Hank (David Duchovny) is so disinterested and aloof, no matter how clever he is I just want to tell him to stop and enjoy doing a Scientologist who vomits on a painting. But for folks who crave Hank’s attitude, season four doesn’t let up.

The season premiere picks up with Hank getting out of jail. He can’t go home to Karen (Natascha McElhone) and Marcy (Pamela Adlon) won’t let Charlie (Evan Handler) bring him home. So Hank can just roam L.A. dirty and disheveled.

First Hank and Charlie visit a bookstore where he’s been exposed, thanks to the internet, as the true author of Mia’s (Madeline Zima) book, “F***ing and Punching.” He actually meets an admirer jealous of his promiscuous lifestyle, particularly that he had a go with Mia herself.

Hank meets his lawyer Abby (Carla Gugino) and calls her a sellout in a typically clever way. His record of assault will be a problem, and by the end of the season premiere the show finally calls Hank on sleeping with a minor. It seems Gugino only has legalese and morality speeches to give in her first few episodes.

At a Hollywood meeting, Hank meets Sasha Bingham (Addison Timlin), the mega star who wants to play Mia in the movie of F***ing and Punching. She shows her breasts in the meeting to prove she’ll do nudity, and offers Hank the job to rewrite the script. So Hank can finish the script that was adapted from his own book which was stolen by Mia.

In a typically witty banter, Hank won’t tell Charlie just how many women he’s slept with, because information like that could destroy a monogamous man’s ego. However, Charlie wants to enjoy more numbers now that he’s getting divorced. Hank doesn’t exactly try to stop him.

In typical “Californication” fashion, Hank takes a meeting with Sasha where she seduces him and re-enacts the famous punch. By this point, Hank still hasn’t showered from jail and he’s still having wild experiences that he won’t enjoy. I believe it too. We see guys like that all the time. At least we get to see more Sasha.

I scanned through more episodes from this season to see what other graphic sex is in store: More Sasha in episodes 2 and 6; Charlie’s #13 riding him in episode 2, in ep. 3 Charlie’s latest conquest suggesting manscaping after a hairy blowjob, then texting while he doggie styles her, an episode 4 orgy in a film financier’s mansion and Charlie’s manscaping accident in episode 5. So a lot of Charlie.

“Californication” returns January 9th at 9PM EST on Showtime.

The post Review: ‘Californication’ Season 4 Premiere appeared first on Screen Junkies.

]]>
http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-californication-season-4-premiere/feed/ 0 californication-season4-poster-thumb
Review: IFC’s ‘Portlandia’ http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-ifcs-portlandia/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-ifcs-portlandia/#comments Tue, 28 Dec 2010 21:49:48 +0000 Fred Topel http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=13519 A series of sketches featuring Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein centering on different aspects of Portland, OR. It’s all really obvious and it feels like improv topics that were contrived to be funny, but not actually inspired.

The post Review: IFC’s ‘Portlandia’ appeared first on Screen Junkies.

]]>

I like Fred Armisen on “Saturday Night Live” and I see where he’s going with this new sketch comedy show “Portlandia.” It doesn’t quite work though and I can’t say you should spend any time watching it.

This IFC show is a series of sketches featuring Armisen and Carrie Brownstein centering on different aspects of Portland, OR. It’s all really obvious and it feels like improv topics that were contrived to be funny, but not actually inspired.

Case in point: a sketch about a hide and seek team. See, treating a childish game like a professional playoff is funny, because it’s so out of context, right? Watching it performed is not funny just because the actors take it seriously.

In a music video, Armisen proclaims that the ‘90s are still going on in Portland. If celebrating grunge culture is enough to make you laugh, then you’ll love the references to the Jim Rose Circus, hot chicks wearing glasses and sleeping until 11AM. That’s actually the best sketch in the bunch.

Armisen and Browstein ask a waitress at a restaurant ultra specific questions about the chicken they serve. You see, because in Portland they care about organic free range meat. So the waitress presents in-depth papers about the chicken they might order. I thought it was funny that Armisen said “And and and and and and and and and and and and” so many times before getting to the question, but we get it. At a certain point it’s just meat.

A sketch about Mind-Fi jokes that the next level of our technological obsession is mental. That’s not even regional. We have technology everywhere.

They do a lot of characters with wigs, like women’s bookstore owners with long hippie hair. They do that sketch twice in the first two episodes so I guess they hope those are recurring characters. If refusing to reach all the way to the shelf to get a book is funny, then there are endless possibilities.

Another sketch where Brownstein and Armisen switch genders is just uncomfortable. Not because I have any problem with gender roles. “Kids in the Hall” and “Monty Python” were always doing that. “Portlandia” just makes it so sexual and vulgar without making it funny. The joke is a safe word which the woman (Armisen) ultimately uses to stop even social interaction. That’s only funny if the situation is ridiculous, not just sexual.

Brownstein and Armisen commit to the absurdity of their sketches but the premises are just too obvious. Often they end up just yelling, like in “Put a Bird on Things” or the lost dog sketch. Since it’s filmed, the editing can create different timing than a “SNL” sketch, but it doesn’t make humor out of mediocre material.

The post Review: IFC’s ‘Portlandia’ appeared first on Screen Junkies.

]]>
http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-ifcs-portlandia/feed/ 33 portlandia
Review: Showtime’s ‘Shameless’ http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-showtimes-shameless/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-showtimes-shameless/#comments Tue, 28 Dec 2010 19:52:15 +0000 Fred Topel http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=13493 Seems like a good show, alternately hard to take yet fascinating. It’s about the Gallagher family dealing with poverty and alcoholism, but to make it salaciously entertaining, they have more wild shenanigans than depressing despair.

The post Review: Showtime’s ‘Shameless’ appeared first on Screen Junkies.

]]>

Shameless” seems like a good show, alternately hard to take yet fascinating. It’s about the Gallagher family dealing with poverty and alcoholism, but to make it salaciously entertaining, they have more wild shenanigans than depressing despair.

Frank (William H. Macy) is the showy part because he’s the alcoholic patriarch, but it seems to be Fiona’s (Emmy Rossum) show. She’s the one who gets all the chores done around the house, and that extends to gathering free bathroom supplies from her motel day job and keeping up with basic medical treatments to avoid pricey ER visits.

Every episode of the show is busy. With five kids, no activity is simple. Then add the neighbors and Fiona’s love interest Steve (Justin Chatwin). Cross talking and running around the house makes me antsy. When the episode deals with getting Frank back from Canada or scamming the social security department, “Shameless” is packed with busy energy getting all the elements into place, from making fake grandma memorabilia to kidnapping a ringer from the old folks home.

Of course it’s cable, and desperate times lead to debauchery. As high school tutor, Lip (Jeremy Allen White) gets a BJ under the table from Karen (Laura Slade Wigins). I appreciate the balls of doing that while the parents are home, especially bringing brother Ian over (Cameron Monaghan) for some servicing of his own.

Ian is gay though and I like the show’s portrayal of Lip and Ian dealing with sexuality. Lip’s insensitive at times because a teenager in this environment wouldn’t be 100% progressively thinking. He’s a good brother though and he’s not condemning Ian. Fiona’s relationships are sexy. When she and Kevin get down and dirty you won’t be disappointed with what is shown. Veronica (Shanola Hampton) does her ironing topless on a webcam, continuing to have casual conversations.

There is an interesting drama about how an outsider can deal with this family. Steve’s charity and attempts to help aren’t necessarily going to win him any points. The Gallaghers are set in their dysfunction so Steve’s not going to save them.

Three in a row was a lot to take in, but even in a single episode it’s exhausting watching these people drink so much. Frank gets slobbering drunk. He freaks out. He babbles and at the opening of episode two, he gets violent. So it goes there. But Fiona goes clubbing and parties at home. Kev lets Frank run up a bar tab. Karen’s mom Sheila (Joan Cusack) gives the kids beer. They’re all enablers.

There’s just enough humor to save it from Precious territory. It’s not laugh out loud, but the Gallagher’s dig at each other. Old ladies overdose on drugs. Flirting with an agoraphobic turns into a game of dominatrix sex toys. I don’t know why I’d voluntarily listen to Frank’s drunken ramblings. I avoid those in real life. I don’t think it’s supposed to be fun though. These are the consequences of salacious activities, so we pay the price for indulging as voyeurs.

Shameless” premieres Sunday, January 9th at 10PM EST on Showtime.

The post Review: Showtime’s ‘Shameless’ appeared first on Screen Junkies.

]]>
http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-showtimes-shameless/feed/ 1 shameless-showtime-small-550×269