Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Big C (Season 1)


Who said having cancer can't be funny?  For 1 and a half seasons so far, this Showtime dramedy has proven it can be funny, poignant, amazing, heartfelt, and life-altering.  Showtime has certainly done right yet again (Weeds, Dexter, Nurse Jackie).  The network has again showed its courage and tackled a subject matter that I do not think any other network, cable or otherwise, would be brave enough to show in such a humorous and absolutely brilliant light.  And someone chose the most perfect actors for this most perfect show.

Lets face it, Laura Linney can do no wrong.  The woman is a beacon in even the dullest of movies (Man of the Year) and always puts in a performance that shines brighter than the sun itself and let me tell you, she puts the sun to shame in The Big C.  This show focuses on Cathy Jamison (Linney), a teacher and suburban mom living in Minneapolis who has been diagnosed with Stage 4 Melanoma and has been told that she is dying.  For the entire season, Cathy decides to live life to the fullest, all the while putting up with the very unique people around her.  There is her 14-year old son Adam, her very environmentally conscious brother Sean, and her neighbor Marlene.  Cathy has also taken one of her summer school students under her wing.  Andrea the world can kiss my ass Jackson is portrayed by Precious herself, Gabourey Sidibe.  Then there's her husband Paul, played by the incomparable Oliver Platt.

Laura Linney plays every part with such comic grace and dramatic style.  I mean seriously, someone would have to be able to do all of those things playing the part of a dying woman and still making life funny.  She has already won a Golden Globe this year and I see many more awards in her future.  Also ditto for Oliver Platt, John Benjamin Hickey (Cathy's brother Sean), and Gabourey Sidibe, who followed a head-turning, multi-award winnning, Oscar nominated introduction into the entertainment industry (Precious) with a perfect comedic turn in what is sure to be a long running cable series.  So, I urge you to watch season one of The Big C, but I do highly recommend a big box of klennex for that season finale.  There is one scene that is a big T, for tearjerker.

Thank you and see you at the next blog.

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Rite

4 STARS - Anthony Hopkins

1 STAR - the actual movie

Bottom line, this movie was mediocre at best.  It's slow, drab and not scary (as most scary movies these days are not really scary anymore).  There is a climax toward the end of course but it is probably the most exciting thing to see.

I read some reviews of the The Rite after I watched it (which I rarely ever do) just to see what others thought.  It was all pretty much the same across the board.

Even though Sir Anthony Hopkins is billed as the star of this movie, the story focuses on Michael Kovak (Colin O'Donoghue), a young seminary student who has lost his way.  Right at the moment he is deciding to quit his studies, Michael is persuaded by one his teachers to pursue classes on being an exorcist in Rome.  So he travels to Italy for a two-month stay and after a few class meetings, he is still not convinced until he meets Father Lucas Trevant (Hopkins) and witnesses an actual exorcism, which Father Trevant tells the young Kovak, takes many sessions.

The exorcism sessions could have been a little more intense for entertainment purposes, however, this is based on actual events so producers were probably sticking to the accounts.  Anthony Hopkins provides the only real exciting moments in the film and puts much gusto in his very chilling, head-turning performance.  Colin O'Donoghue just doesn't do much at all.  He just kind of loafs about the entire movie, providing very little intensity and even less gusto.  I am sure that I expected a lot because of the great Anthony Hopkins being in it.  He was most excellent but you definitely have the rite to miss this one.

Thank you and see you at the next blog.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Lincoln Lawyer


MOVIE:  To be decided

This movie is a bit of a head scratcher.  I honestly do not how to pinpoint an exact review of what I exactly think.  The movie is good, not great though.  A lawyer (Matthew McConaughey) defends a rich man who may or may not have assaulted a prostitute. Yawn.  Been done before and before and before and so on.  Yes, this guy practices law from the back seat of an old black Lincoln Town Car.  Still, not enough of a twist for me.  Even the major twist of the movie is revealed in the freaking trailer.

On the other hand, powerhouse performances with an even more powerful cast.

Along with McC, Marisa Tomei, Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), Frances Fisher, Ryan Phillipe, John Leguizamo, Josh Lucas. and the great William H. Macy.  There's even a cameo by country music star Trace Adkins that is awesome.

I have to say McC is destined to play a lawyer.  He has had some good movies in the past (Dazed and Confused, We Are Marshall, Frailty) but the one that stands out, for me anyway, will always be A Time to Kill.  Now there was a stellar, magnificent law movie and he was terrific in that as he was in The Lincoln Lawyer.  However, unlike A Time to Kill, The Lincoln Lawyer just doesn't have the juices flowing when it comes to plot.  When I find myself facebooking rather than watching, then I am just not interested.  Which is a shame because this was a great group that were put together.  There was just no umf in the movie at all.  Now, I say put all of these people in a great, who-dun-it mystery with an action packed climax then you got yourself a movie.

Thank you and see you at the next blog.

True Grit (2010)


Damn fine movie. Damn fine.

I knew from seeing the trailer that I was going to love this movie.  And the trailer was correct. This is one of the most mesmerizing and engrossing movies I have seen this century so far (along with Avatar).  That also makes True Grit one of the best remakes ever to be made.  Kudos and cheer to Joel and Ethan Coen.  Also, I think every actor in this movie, starring, supporting, hell even just the cameos and extras, were incredible.  True Grit was nominated for 10 Academy Awards and did not win one.  Seriously?  I mean, granted I have yet to see The Kings Speech, but I cannot fathom that it is better than this movie.

Jeff Bridges's performance (nominated and lost to Speech's Colin Firth) was literally mind-blowing in John Wayne's role from the 1969 original.  For a moment, on the subject of the original, it also was a great movie.  However, a huge thanks for the casting of Hailee Steinfeld (nominated) as platinum-tongued Mattie Ross.  It really took me several times before I could finish the original one because, and I am sorry to say, Kim Darby was annoying and did not portray tom-boy Mattie Ross as well as Steinfeld has..  She was so much more likable and her voice did not pierce my eardrums.  Although, I have always loved the Mattie Ross character and they keep her the same with every detail in this movie.  If she were living today, she would definitely be a lawyer, and a damn fine one too.  Anyone who can argue like that and know latin, should be in the courtroom.  Matt Damon of course, portrays LeBoeuf without a hitch.  He was able to transform that boyish exterior into a gruff Texas lawman, which was surprising to me.  I always thought he was too cutesie for a western but he also did well in All the Pretty Horses.  Josh Brolin as Tom Chaney was definitely one of those small, but very pivotal roles. 

Any fan of the original knows the story.  Mattie Ross is a fourteen year old girl who, after hearing about the murder of her father, hires drunken U.S. Marshall Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges), who is made of "true grit" as she hears, to find the murderer (Tom Chaney). LeBoeuf is a Texas Ranger who accompanies them on the journey.  Lets face it, Bridges and Steinfeld are the reasons to watch this film.  Oh, and of course, as with any good western, the scenery.  As bad as she needs him in her life to help her find her father's killer, he needs her just the same, even more.  You would never think that such a hard nosed bastard would mesh so well with such a little opinionated smart ass.

Thank you and see you at the next blog.

CST's Top Television Programs Thus Far - Part 2

7. THE X-FILES (FOX 1993-2002)

Even to this day, if you want to break the television boredom, pop in a DVD or go onto Netflix and watch this groundbreaking series that introduced the world to Mulder (a true believer) and Scully (the skeptic).  Some episodes were funny, some were very dramatic, some were creepy, and others were down right frightening.  At the time, there were episodes that were even banned from television (Home).  For most of the nine seasons (and 2 blockbuster motion pictures), writer/creator Chris Carter spawned some of the most interesting characters and intriguing story lines ever.  As much action and weirdness that went on, I can remember an episode (Season 3, Quagmire) when Mulder and Scully had a conversation for nearly the entire episode and it was brilliant, humorous, and smart. That is some brave and stellar writing.

This has to be, and I know there are millions who would agree with me, one of the best shows cancelled WAYYYYYYYY too soon.  I discovered it on accident when I typed in dysfunctional families in Netflix and Arrested Development was one of the programs that popped up.  The best one-liners you will ever hear of any comedy on television with one if not the best cast ever assembled.  These people have a dynamic so intense that you really think they could be a real Bluth family. The Bluth family seriously put the fun in dysfunction. 

9.  LAW & ORDER: SVU (NBC 1999 -   )
Twelve years and 272 episodes later and this is still one of the highest rated shows on television and is also the only show on this list still on the air.  Also, it has kept the same cast for 250 of those episodes.  These are facts that are rare, but exceptional in the world of the long running television drama.  However, Christopher Meloni (Detective Elliot Stabler) has left the show in the 2011 season finale.  There has hardly been an episode that followed the generic cop show formula.  SVU follows only the formula of shock and awe.  There is nothing here but stellar acting by a stellar cast with story lines that are sometimes surprising to be seen on network television. 

10.  REBA (The WB 2001-2007)

I know this was a show loved by many but I also realize that it may be a surprise to find Reba on a list of top television programs.  Even though it was on for 6 seasons, it's run seemed to fly by.  A family sit-com so true to form, its well, funny.  There were shows like Roseanne who did similar story lines but were considered controversial.  Reba was all in the execution.  The show dealt with some very racy and mature issues, just in the pilot episode alone, but did it with grace, style, and plenty of humor.  In the pilot episode, no, should I say, in the first 5 minutes of the pilot episode, the audience finds the Hart family in a psychiatrist's office because of an altercation with the entire family during a court proceeding.  We then learn that not only is Reba's 17-year old daughter pregnant by the quarterback of the football team but that her husband has knocked up his dental hygienist (who later in the show becomes best friends with Reba) at the same time. If that is not a family sit-com, I don't know what is. 

11. SAVING GRACE (TNT 2007-2010)

Yes, I know, another police drama.  However, Saving Grace had one major twist with several other that made for one of the most compelling dramas on television.  It was on for three very short seasons (cancelled not because of low ratings or critical acclaim, but because of high production costs).  This show was taken off way before its time to really shine.  Holly Hunter portrayed Grace Hanadarko (an award winning performance every week it was on as far as I am concerned), a detective with the major crimes division of the Oklahoma City Police department.  Grace makes every day her bitch with plenty of attitude, sex, and a lot of liquor. She's a hard living woman who brings down the unwashed of OKC with the force equal to the bomb that brought down the federal building, which is a major back story of the show and has affected each character, especially Grace who lost her sister in the bombing.  In the first episode, Grace hits a man while driving her porshe (which is named Connie) drunk one night.  When she finds the man gone, she is then visited an angel named Earl.  Earl is far from conventional.  He's got a Southern twang and spits tobacco in a bottle any chance he gets while wearing very funny t-shirts.  For 46 episodes, Earl guides, at least tries to guide Grace to do right in life since she did get a second chance but finds she is not budging from her hard hitting ways, like sleeping with her married partner.  The audience is taken into some very dark and compelling cases.  This show so deserved to keep going.  I would have loved to see how more evolved the characters would have become.  It did, though, have a final episode which will entail a few tissues.  However, I wish Earl could give this show a second chance.

Well, there is the list thus far.  If you haven't seen any of these shows, I strongly advise to relax on your next day off, go rent or Netflix a season or two and lay up on the couch with some snacks.  I am sure in a few years or so there will be another list.  There may be a Weeds on there, with a little Dexter, maybe some Brothers and Sisters and True Blood. Possibly, a little of The Simpsons there and The Closer here.

Thank you and see you at the next blog.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

CST's Top Television Programs Thus Far - Part 1

I love television.  I mean, who doesn't?  Every night and day, you can sit in front of this box and get sucked into other people's lives when yours is not going so great and all you want is an escape.  But, I have to say, do not do it too much.  Go outside and get some Vitamin D people. You can always DVR it.

It was hard to compile a list of just 10 shows, so made it 11.  However, just remember I am only 31 so there are a lot of great classic shows that I have never seen.  The oldest show on here started in 1985.  There are many shows on the premium cable shows that I never saw.  Also, these are all programs that have had ended their runs, except for two but they have been on so long, and in my opinion so great, I have to put them on the list.  There are some great shows on now but I feel I cannot write about them until they have a final episode because there have been some great ones that ended with not so great finales (Lost, The Sopranos). Finally, these are in no particular order except for number one.  It will always be my number 1!

1. SIX FEET UNDER (HBO 2001-2005)

   Simply put, a tour-de-force in acting, writing, and storytelling. Alan Ball (American Beauty, True Blood) created one of the best television families ever.  I want to watch the entire series (again) before doing an entire blog on it.  There is so much to write on this phenomenal program and the Fisher clan.

2.  FRIENDS (NBC 1994-2004)
 Love it or hate it, "Friends" was a worldwide, pop culture phenomenon.  I mean, it still is. The show is still going strong in syndication and I so very hope it stays that way.  I could not live in a world without Phoebe, Monica, Rachel, Joey, Chandler, Ross, or Smelly Cat.  This is one reason I always looked forward to "Must-see-tv" Thursdays. And the other was........

3.  ER (NBC 1994-2009)
It premiered in 1994 and right before the pilot aired, it was just another hospital drama.  This show was a juggernaut from the word go.  Intense, fast-paced story lines with a very large, even more impressive cast.
A young George Clooney has to dive into a flooded storm drain to save a boy, helicopters fall from the roof and onto doctors who also get their arms sliced off by their blades, interns are stabbed to death, rocket launchers are set off and blow up ambulances, and gun fights with machine guns are just a sample of the peril that went on for 254 episodes.

4. ROSEANNE (ABC 1988-1997)
Again, love it or hate it, or in this case, love her or hate her, this show was a ratings powerhouse for years.  It was the story of the Conners, a midwestern, bottom of the barrel middle-class, blue collar family just trying to scrape enough change to survive life's little obstacles.  And boy, did they have obstacles.  Sometimes, this show was more drama than situation comedy but it always kept the story lines going in the right direction and was never considered cookie-cutter.  The mom spoke her mind, the dad yelled back and kids were smart asses, it was as real as life got.  It started lagging by the 6th and 7th seasons and really got weird in Season 9 with the lottery winning. However, the series finale was one if the best ever with a brilliant twist.

5.  MEDIUM (NBC 2005-2010, CBS 2010-2011)

6.  THE GOLDEN GIRLS (NBC 1985-1992)
This show has been off the air for 18 years and is still one of the most watched shows in syndication.  When it was on the Lifetime Channel (Now it is on the Hallmark Channel), even with 3 of its 4 stars now deceased, people were contacting the network asking for tickets to its tapings.  Even when it premiered in 1985, it was far ahead of its time.  In the pilot episode, there were three women, all over the age of 50 living in Miami, who have a gay house boy and talk about sex.  Even in the pilot, these women are sitting around the table discussing orgasms.  "I didn't know it made your eyes roll back in your head," explains Rose Nylund.

Let Me In


If you start watching this thinking you are about to see what is hopefully an exciting horror movie, you will be very disappointed.  That's what makes this film so interesting to me.  Yes, there is blood.  Yes, there is gore.  Yes, there is that ominous background music, but very little.  Yes, there is even a little demon child vampire at the center of it all.

"Let Me In" is about the bond between two young tortured souls who both just want a friend, a fellow kindred spirit who understands their plight.  Kodi Smit-McPhee (The Road) portrays Owen, a bullied loner living with his alcoholic mother who is in the middle of a divorce.  He retreats to the courtyard of his low-income apartment complex every night after his mother drinks herself to sleep.  Its here he sits at a picnic in the cold New Mexico winter because he would rather be in the cold than watch his mom destroy herself.  Owen soon meets Abby (Chloe Moretz, Kick-Ass), a right-off-the-bat odd 12-year old girl who has just moved in with her dad.  Even though in their first meeting one night in the courtyard, Abby wastes no time telling Owen, "we cannot be friends," they soon find their way to each other.

The two young actors are both destined for great things in their futures in the movie business.  Smit-McPhee and Moretz are both flawless in their performances.  As the viewer, you genuinely feel for both of them and that they are both in need of just some simple friendship.  Moretz especially had a difficult role.  She had to be this little girl searching for a friend, then at times, an un-aging creature of the night who has to kill.  They are joined in this film by two veterans, Richard Jenkins (The Father) and Elias Koteas (The Policeman).  Jenkins, who has one of the most distinguished, but versatile resumes I've ever seen (The Witches of Eastwick, Sea of Love, Stepbrothers, The Visitor, Eat Pray Love).  At first, the viewer would think of him as a bad guy, but he quickly brings out the compassion in anyone who watches.

"Let Me In" is very dark, but its so much more than a horror movie.  I do not see it that way at all.  Its a drama, plain and simple, but for the smarter horror fan.  So when you start it, let yourself in but be careful with those little girls who only go out at night.

Thank you and see you at the next blog.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Medium (Television Series 2005-2011)


*I do apologize for the length of this blog. This is about a show on for 7 years so there is a lot to write about.* 

"There really is an Allison DuBois. Really......."

I have been captivated with this show ever since those words graced my television screen graced right before the series premiere in 2005.  I have to say possibly one of the finest network television shows ever.  Fine acting.  Superb writing! Some of the most imaginative storytelling to be on the the small screen in years.  Genuinely creepy at times.  The DuBois family is one of the most wonderfully weird television families ever written, making the Addams Family look like the Cleavers.  Honestly, I do not personally know another fan of the show besides my dad and myself.  I so hope that people read this blog and then go onto Netflix and watch all seven seasons.  I really cannot see how anyone with half a brain could not be disappointed with this show.  I say again though, you have to possess a brain to even half-way enjoy this unbelievable program.

Patricia Arquette portrays Allison DuBois, a medium and profiler who actually exists.  She is married to man named Joe, an engineer, and has three girls.   Although, their names were changed in the series.  Also, as in the show, she resides in Phoenix, Arizona and does often work with law enforcement like the Texas Rangers, as shown in the pilot.  Arquette was a brave, but smart choice as Allison.  Arquette was famous for playing trashy, criminal types (True Romance, Stigmata).  She played the soccer mom role to a T, caring for her family as any mom would but also possessed just enough raw edginess to deal with the crazed lunatics of her job.

I urge you not to go into this program and think it is some cookie cutter police drama about some soccer mom trying to put some excitement in her life.  I like to call many of the episodes deliciously demented.  "Medium" deals with some of the most violent predators, psychotic serial killers, and out right sadistic crimes ever shown on network television. The writing and story ideas are so very smart, some of the smartest I've ever seen.   They really try to make the DuBois family as real as humanly possible.  They live on top of each other in a regular 3 bedroom home.  They certainly have their share of money troubles.  Allison spends most of the show's run driving an old Volvo station wagon.  The only difference is she and her very patient husband have the ghosts of murder victims and serial killers coming in and out of their lives, often coming into their home or even possessing her body all together.  But the majority of her visions come through in her dreams, which is how every episode starts off.  I spent most of the 129 episodes feeling so sorry for Joe. He should get a medal, living in a house of 4 females, all of whom share the gift.  He and Allison have a dynamic that only a man married to a medium can have.  They get into knock down drag out fights just like real couples, except not all of the arguments are over the usual family things.  There are also many episodes where Allison wakes up with one or more of her 5 senses missing or as someone else completely through possession.  For example, in About Last Night (Season 5, episode 4), Allison is possessed by a young hispanic woman who needs her to saw off her hand from her dead body and use the fingerprint to gain access to a computer which will help solve the dead girl's murder.
Her kids are a very important part of the show, also dreaming or seeing things normally linked to a case she is working on.  However, at times it could be a totally different storyline all together.  In one episode, the youngest Marie, talks to a voice coming from the home alarm system which is of course connected to one of Allison's cases for the Phoenix District Attorney's office.  The oldest, Aerial, is featured in a groundbreaking episode (Season 6, episode 20 Time Keeps on Slipping) where she keeps losing time, so much that she sees her life way in the future as a married woman with a child of her own.  Bridgette, the precocious middle child seems to have the significant dreams.  In Season 3, episodes 1 and 2 (Four Dreams), Allison and Bridgette both dream about the same case, just in different ways.

I was personally engrossed from episode 1 to the final, which was brilliant, yet heart felt, but closed the series nicely.  Especially if you like anything supernatural or horror in nature when it comes to your movies, you will also love this show.  "Medium" can be damn creepy at times, but far from creepy in a cheesy way. Between The Twilight Zone and The Walking Dead, there was Medium.

Thank you and see you at the next blog.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon


 I am going to say right off the bat, great movie! Now, thats going against most of what my friends had to say. Right away, it is about an hour too long.  There was a little too much filler and lag in the middle for my taste but,  its Transformers so of course, I had to love it. The 3D was great but, it really didn't need to be a 3D movie. Action and special effects were superb as usual. The comedy was dead on. Shia LeBouf was definitely at his best in this one.

Early reviews had it as being too long which I do agree with for once.  There was too much filler and it did sag in the middle a bit.  Early reviewers also said that Sam Witwicky's parents were not needed. I am sorry but I have to disagree. His parents are always needed.  I think they are unbelievable in all the movies especially the mom (Julie White).  I loved the second one (Revenge of the Fallen) so much because they had a much bigger part.  Now, on the subject of Megan Fox's (MaKayla) replacement, Rose Huntington-Whiteley (Carly).  Yes, a tad bit better actress than Fox, but I have to admit, I missed MaKayla.  Despite the "so not Oscar worthy performances" of the previous movies, she is still a part of them in my eyes and I have to say, I missed her.  Also, she could have gotten dirty just a bit. I know if I slid down a skyscraper, I would have at least gotten some smudges somewhere on my person.

KUDOS! I say again, KUDOS on the new supporting cast. Frances McDormand portrayed a USDA prime rated bitch and did it with class. And yes, Patrick "McDreamy" Dempsey was deliciously bad and certainly pulled his weight in this huge summer blockbuster. John Malcovich was simply brilliant as always. His comic timing was on point at all times.

Aside with the length, the movie was great. It's thoroughly enjoyable but it's time to end the franchise. It had surpassed what it can do on the big screen. It is, dare I say, "More than meets the eye."

Thank you and see you at the next blog.