Monday, October 31, 2011

November: Must See Movies and Movies to Skip

November starts with a chill at the movie theatre.  I am glad I live in the northeast and the weather has been bad because I have no desire to head to the movies this weekend.  The rest of the month looks incredible, and there are a lot of great films that are will be coming out.

November 4th: Stealing with Ben Stiller or Christmas in November with an unnecessary third film in a series?  I pick catch up on small indie films.

Tower Heist has an interesting cast with Eddie Murphy, Ben Stiller, Matthew Broderick, and Gabby Sidibe, but the fact that this has Ben Stiller counts me out right away.  A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas is just a pointless installment in this series.  The first film was not that great, but it has a fun feel that did not make much money, nor did it require any other films.  I want to see Like Crazy, a story of young love.  Like Crazy was released in limited release last week, but will be coming to the Boston area this week.

Skip: The new releases, and catch up on October films you missed

November 11th: A Bio-Pic by Clint Eastwood, an indie from directing master Lars Von Trier, a big budget film for November film, or another crappy Adam Sandler film?  The Answer seems too simple

 J. Edgar is going to actually be released on November 9th and with Clint Eastwood directing, and a great cast including Leonardo DiCaprio, Judi Dench, and Armie Hammer I am sold.  I do feel as though Leo is cheating on his man Marty Scorssese, and I don't love bio-pics, but I am pretty excited about this film. (9th), Big budget films in November always feel like the bridesmaids of the summer action films.  Immortals seems like a film that just could not make it in the summer and is always the bridesmaid, and never the bride.  Jack and Jill looks like the work Sandler film ever, and this includes Little Nicky.  Lars Von Trier's Melancholia looks intriguing, and the trailer makes me more and more curious.

See it: J. Edgar and Melancholia (Melancholia if you like obscure indie films)
Skip it: Jack and Jill-Immortals Why would you waste your money?

November 18th  Vampires, Penguins, and Clooney...I'll give you a hint at one I will never get sick of!

There is one film with terrible acting, and a terrible plot about a girl who wants to give herself up to a man who can take her "life." Who wouldn't want to Twilight Breaking Dawn Part 1?  That would be me.  This book and film series is infuriating and was made for 12 year old girls.  I have not seen the first Happy Feet, but I have heard good things.  I think Happy Feet Two looks cute and is a great choice for families.  The Descendants is one of my potential picks of the month.  I love Alexander Payne; he has made some of my favorite films: Election, About Schmidt and Sideways.  This film looks great and I am excited to see Clooney in a different role.

See it: The Descendants....Happy Feet Two (for the kids)
Skip it: Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 1...if you want to avoid a terrible film

November 23rd

Hugo, The Muppets, A Dangerous Method, My Week with Marilyn, Arthur Christmas, The Artist

I have nothing bad to say about this week.  I think Arthur Christmas looks a little weak, but this is one of the best, if not the best week for films throughout the entire year.  I am going to be spending a lot of money during this week.  The Artist and The Muppets are at the top of my list.  The Artist is my second pick of the month.

See it All!!

Pick of the Month: The Artist and The Descendants
Close Behind: The Muppets and J. Edgar

I am excited for November, this year has been bleak, but I think this month could finally bring a smile to the face of myself and many other avid movie fans.

What's Your Favorite Scary Movie?....Happy Halloween!

The lines uttered by the ghostface killer in the Scream series (1996-2011) have now become infamous.    In an ominous voice the killer asking their future victim "What's your favorite scary movie?"  Halloween is a time for everyone to an enjoy a good scare.  I know not everyone likes scary movies, they are not my favorite genre, but you can always beat the genre by watching my other favorite type of film within this genre, the horror spoof (done well).  Here is my advice on what to watch, well, basically my favorite scary movies or thrillers.

Rear Window (1954) Psycho helped put a larger number of audiences in the POV of the killer, but Rear Window is my favorite Hitchock thriller, there is something about watching a man who watches as his neighbor commits crimes and he is helpless to stop him.  The music is haunting, and I jump out of my chair when Grace Kelly is over in the apartment of the neighbor across the way. 


Michael Myers 003.jpgHalloween (1978) John Carpenter's masterpiece this film about a boy who killed his oldest sister in 1963, and then comes back years later to finish off his other sister is scary good.  This film solidified Jamie Lee Curtis as the scream queen.  The killer Michael Myers move so slow as he attacks his victim, and this spray painted white William Shatner mask is beyond creepy.

Alien (1979) I did not see this movie until they re-released it for its 25th anniversary while I was in college.  I remember sitting in the dark theater waiting for Sigourney Weaver and the rest of space crew to get attacked by the alien that got onto their ship.  In the darkness of the small multiplex I cringed and almost screamed.  This is one of the scariest films I ever seen.

The Silence of the Lambs (1991) Jonothan Demme brought to life one of the best and scariest villains in this film.  Anthony Hopkins, Hannibal Lector has this deceiving charm on the level of Norman Bates; he has manners and does not fling his feces at Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster), but be careful because he may eat your face off.

The last films do more to show the irony of the genre, and some of them even mix in the scares with the irony. These are great films or a great series because they have a balance of comedic timing.

Scary Movie (2000) Do not let the title fool you, this movie is not scary.  The Wayans brothers did a great job spoofing many 90s horror films (and other 90s movies like The Usual Suspects).  Scream came out in 1996 and did a great of pointing out the irony of the genre mixed with terror.  While the Wayans brothers would cite most horror films as a product of white society, and the Wayans put a twist to this genre and point out how stupid white people are in these films, and how silly this genre can be.
Movie Trivia: Shaun of the Dead amazing fun weird cool walk 2009072511422743

Shaun of the Dead (2004) I love a good zombie movie, but this film does an even better job spoofing this genre.  The team of Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg combine to portray our main character attempting to escape his mundane life; he does the same thing day in and day out and acts like a zombie with his routine.  Then of course when he tries to break this routine he has to battle zombies themselves, brilliant!

and...of  course the film that inspired the title of this post....

the Scream series (1996-2011)  I love the Scream series.  The duo of Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson have created 4 films know themselves and this genre better than anyone can imagine.  Scream focuses on the "rules" and talked ironically about horror films and how deaths occurred.  Still people even knowing the genre did not last long.  Scream 2 used the rule of sequels and talk more about the hilarity of having a sequel and in one scene how rare it was for sequels to be better than the original.  In Scream 3 the rules are out!  The rule of trilogies is that things go crazy, and kind of start to fall apart.  Within Scream 3 the series did start to fall a part, but were the creators smart enough to realize this?  I think yes.  Cut to ten years later with Scream 4.  Who would have thought this film would continue the legacy of the genre, but it did!  Scream 4 used a combination of tradition and the evolution of horror films within the last 10 years.  The film also used the evolution of technology as well.  I am so inspired by this series.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Master of the Thriller: Alfred Hitchcock

Download Alfred Hitchcock Wallpaper WallpaperOn Friday I went to see the film Martha Marcy May Marlene.  While sitting in the theatre my stomach started feeling as though it were in knots from tension.  I was scared.  The movie does a great job creating a suspenseful build up.  I love suspense, there is nothing like a film thats uses and underlying amount of tension to make the audience squirm.With Halloween tomorrow being tomorrow and seeing everyone out in costumes last night, I started to think about what scares me.  The first thing on my list would be clowns, they are frightening.  Stephen King's It which aired on ABC IN 1990 has alway been one of the scariest things I have ever seen, mainly because of clowns.

After thinking about It, or well trying not think It, I thought about what scares me most, and what I enjoy most within the horror/thriller genre.  I always spend more time throughout the month of October watching scary movies.  There are two types of films that I always go to watch during this month, more suspenseful thrillers, and films that display the irony of the genre.  I have never been someone who liked the obvious scary films like Nightmare on Elm Street or Friday the 13th.  Jason and Freddy Krueger are great marketing tools, and the numerous sequels have ruined the scare factor. Within the last decade horror films have moved towards the gross out scare tactics and torture horror.  With the Saw series and films like Hostel I have never been scared.  The only I ever averted my eyes during Hostel was because something was gross not scary.  Within the recent years suspense has been lacking in this genre.

The master of suspense has and always will be Alfred Hitchcock.  Hitchcock's films have alway held me on the edge of my seat.  My favorite Hitchcock thriller is Rear Window (1954).  The film centers around a wheelchair bound L.B. 'Jeff' Jeffries played by Jimmy Stewart who while confined to his New York City apartment thinks he sees his neighbor across the street kill his wife.  I love how Hitchcock uses the limited perspective of L.B. to allow the audience to enhance their vantage point.

Rear Window is a wonderful film, and follows some of the standards within the thriller genre.  This eternal question of "Will they get caught?" and the thinking "Don't go in there."  With a thriller it's all about the pacing.  Hitchcock played by the rules but broke them all the time an inspired a whole generation of directors to further their own intrigue and initiative within this genre.  Hitchcock was so brilliant he helped further an entire branch of the horror genre.

The most famous of Hitchcock's films was the thriller Psycho (1960).  This film is seen as the birth of "slasher film."  The infamous shower seen where Janet Leigh is stabbed to death is one of the most famous scenes in the history of cinema.  Looking at the slasher genre today films have certainly evolved and made the premise much more silly or unrealistic.  In Psycho, Norman Bates stated "We all go a little mad sometimes."  There is something so ingenious about this character.  Bates quiet and charming demeanor is almost to reassuring.  Hitchock was smart enough within this film to leave the romance behind.  Their is more focus on sex and violence within this film.  The shower scene is seen as one of themost frightening scenes, and his use of a sex symbol and the shower put men and women into and interesting point of view. The main fear was that anything could happen to you any time, even while you were doing something as simple as taking a shower.

I could talk about Hitchcock for an entire book, and his films like Rear Window, Vertigo, Psycho, The Birds, Rope, etc. are all examples of how this man made some of the most brilliant thrillers ever.  Hitchcock has inspired generations of film makers throughout the genre.  Hitchcock and his thrillers are some of my favorite films of all time.  Scream killing Drew Barrymore was an homage to Psycho.  Hitchcock killed off the big star in the first 45 minutes.  Janet Leigh was a major player and this was the beginning of the shape of this genre.   It's all about the thrill and how his inspiration pushed the boundaries for the audience to become more involved in the story. This man was a genius storyteller, and  deserves to be celebrated more.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Martha Marcy May Marlene is a Thrilling Name that will be Hard to Forget

Martha Marcy May Marlene (4 out of 5 stars)
Directed and Written by: Sean Durkin
Starring: Elizabeth Olsen, Hugh Dancy, Sarah Paulsen, and John Hawkes


This haunting tale starts with Martha with a group of people at a farm in upstate New York.  During the morning Martha (Elizabeth Olsen) runs away to town and ends up calling her sister to come pick her up from, well she does not know where.  Martha has disappeared for two years ends up living with a cult.  Martha's sister (Sarah Paulsen) comes to get her and bring her to her quiet home away from New York City in Connecticut.  As Martha attempts to get past her experiences with the cult the film flashes back between her time in the cult and her attempt to rehab at her sister's.

First time writer director Sean Durkin uses tight screen shots to create an emotionally wrought film. Martha's emotionally disturbed nature haunts her in so many ways.  The leader of the cult Patrick played by the brilliantly subtle John Hawkes acts a father figure and a disturbed Charles Manson like character.  Patrick tells Martha "You don't look like a Martha, you look like a Marcy May."  

Durkin does a phenomenal job of never allowing the viewer to fully be aware of Martha's actions or who she is at a given time. The question he poses throughout the film is are we watch Martha or Marcy May.  Durkin staggers the story through the editing and only allows us to see pieces of Elizabeth's time in the cult and time in recovery.  There is strength in the way he tells this story that makes it one of the most compelling thrillers in years.

As much I was pulled in by Durkin's work, I was equally mesmerized by the talent of Elizabeth Olsen.  Olsen was amazing in this role; she went from helpless victim, to this dark follower in a mater of seconds.  Olsen had an edge and yet she is beyond helpless as she runs away and tries to hide away from the cult.  Olsen is the star and carries out the emotional aftermath of of the cult so well.  Throughout the last scenes of the film, we do not know how emotionally disturbed Martha has become.  Is Martha's emotionally disturbed nature playing tricks on her mind?  Olsen's brilliant performance never allows the audience to know or understand whether she is is still trapped in the the world of the cult.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

I'm Coming Out to say that Movies about Coming Out as LGBT just don't make the Grade, while TV gets a solid B+

Happy Coming Out Month!  I realized the other day while I was in Salem that I had not honored this month yet. This month is a great time, many colleges, and now high schools are starting to celebrate this month in order to help students feel supported in their environment. As the Trevor Project works towards ending bullying, more people need in educational establishments need to celebrate this month.  There is no no slowing down the amount LGBT suicides due to bullying, and more and more people need to realize that we need to allies to younger LGBT populations as they start their process of coming out.

With more people coming out at younger ages, people need to reach out to people who work with younger people on a daily basis.  I think the high school is a great place for this.  There are numerous other events that high schools celebrate, why not celebrate this?  Easier said than done.  I think the key to the actual process in support.  Coming out is not just a quick process, it takes time.  When someone is LGBT they potentially have to come out in every new environment they become a part of.  This brings up a lot of dangerous emotions: fear anxiety, helplessness.  This also raises a lot of questions: Will I be accepted? Can I get this job?  Will I be mocked by others?  The list of emotions and questions can go on and on.

The media can be a powerful tool to both help and hurt the way specific groups are represented.  In this case telling someone's coming out story can be powerful!  Films, television shows, and other mediums can be an incredible way to help people know that "It gets better."  There are other people out that look like, talk like, and have the same experiences so that the viewer can see them self. The media has this power because people want to see themselves in a television show, or in movie.  People talk about identifying with characters from books and movies all the time.  The better and more diverse representations help people to see that coming out is different for everyone.

While looking at films that have covered the topic of coming out there was not much out their for mainstream audiences.  I was trying to think of films that covered the subject matter where one of the main characters of the film (a protagonist) had a major story arc where they came out of the closet.  I could not think of a film from a major film company that has focused on this issue.  While looking around the internet most of the films I found came from smaller film production companies that produce only only LGBT films.

Latter Days (2003)The only film that has a bigger audience, and focuses on coming is the film Latter Days (2003).  Latter Days is about a group of Mormons who come to Los Angeles to do their mission work.  One of the missionaries Aaron is in the closet, and he ends up becoming acquainted with his openly gay neighbor Christian.  Christian bets his friends he can seduce one of the missionaries, but tale as old as time boy meets boy and they start to fall for one another.  The film talks about Aaron's coming out process with his family, but the main focus of the film is the love story.  Aaron's coming out story is also very specific because of his faith.  I think this film does a good job handling the intersection of religion and sexual orientation more so than the actual coming out process.  This film was privately financed and distributed by TLA films which is a smaller company that distributes mostly LGBT films that do not make it the major cineplexes.

Since the coming out process is an actual process showing this in a traditional film that is not a documentary is difficult because there is only potentially about a two hour window to explain every detail of the persons story.  Television has done a much better job handling the coming out process.  The major reason is because television shows have numerous episodes (hopefully) within numerous seasons (again hopefully) where the creator, writers, directors, and producers can help tell different stories.

I can think of so many different amazing coming out stories that help span a wide array of different experiences in television.  Ellen opened up the celluloid closet door in 1997 when in her television show Ellen her character came out of the closet.  This announcement in the television show also was Ellen's announcement to world that she was actually a lesbian.  After this happened we experienced Ellen coming out to the different people in her life from her family to her friends to her co-workers and experienced what Ellen went through throughout this process.

One of the most entertaining and heartfelt coming out portrayals was in Will & Grace when its Thanksgiving and we find out that Jack, the most of openly gay character on the show has not come out to his mother.  This show did a good job of showing that even the most proud people have a hard time coming out to their parents, and not wanting to disappoint the person they respect most.  Not only was this episode hilarious, but it focused on emotional issues and provided Will & Grace with one of its best episodes in its entire eight seasons.

Ugly Betty creator Silvio Horta addressed Justin (Betty's nephew) sexuality in the last season of the show.  Horta explained that his sexual orientation was not explored earlier because he was a only around 10 when the show started.  Just met a boy in high school and had his first kiss on the show with him.  The show tackled the another experience being gay, a teenager, and Latino.  Ugly Betty also dealt with Mark's coming out to his mother in the first season.  Mark's mother turned her back on him, and the episode showed that this happens as well.  Mark had the support of Betty's family, and his best friend Amanda.  This was one of the best shows at tackling LGBT issues.

The list of television shows that have tackled poignant coming out stories is long.  Glee, has told Kurt's story and done an excellent job with the issues of coming out and dealing with bullies. Last year the reincarnation of 90210 developed a story line for one of their main characters Teddy.  Teddy did not fit the mold of the typical  gay male that many people often see in movies or television.  Teddy was this an athlete, and broke stereotypes that people have about what "a gay man should be" or look like.  I am not an avid viewer of this show but I did watch the different clips online about Teddy's coming out, and the show handled this story line so well.  90210 did not reinvent the wheel, but it put a new face to gay male and the struggles different has while coming out. think the media, specifically television and film have a powerful influence, and telling good stories about different coming out experiences is important. The key to this is access.  Most of the television shows I have listed were on either ABC, NBC, FOX, or the CW, which are the major broadcast networks.  If you even have basic cable you can see these shows.  There is LOGO (a network owned by MTV) which is an LGBT channel, but no everyone can afford to have this network.  The programming on the network is not the greatest either (but that is another story).  There are also more honest and real portrayals happening on different non basic cable networks, but without money to pay for these networks this limits the amount of people who can see these shows.  Showtime and HBO have done an excellent job telling coming out stories on shows like Six Feet Under and Shameless, but you have to have money to watch them.

 At the end of the day there is much more out there, but access is important.  Younger people need to know that they are not alone, and see that there are stories out there, and in the end they can have someone to look up to as they come out.  They need more people like Dan Savage in the media who is an out successful gay man (not an actor) who fights for a cause.  I am proud to have grown up in a time when I actually have watched movies and seen TV shows where I see myself in the characters, unlike people who came before me.  We need to continue to push the boundaries, do more and help people through their coming out process.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Weekend Provides an Intimate look that makes the Viewer feel like a an Intruder into their a Good Way!

Weekend (4 out 5 stars)
Directed and Written by: Andrew Haigh
Starring: Tom Cullen and Chris New

Russell (Tom Cullen) goes to his friends dinner party one night and after is asked to do something with his friends, but he declines claiming he has to get to work early in the morning.  Russell goes to a gay bar instead of going home in part because he does not feel comfortable letting his straight friends into this part of his world.  While at the bar Russell eyes Glen (Chris New) from across the bar follows him into the bathroom looks down at him as he pees, but while at the bar is rebuffed by him.  Soon we see Russell being kissed by this other guy.  Soon after its morning and Russell is making coffee, and as he opens the door to Glen.

Director and Writer Andrew Haigh does a brilliant job constructing a three dimensional story about two gay men who meet fall in "like" and spend the weekend together.  Haigh's screenplay is strong and self assured; he knows his characters well, and his dialogue is realistic.  Haigh worked on the editorial teams of the films Black Hawk Down and Gladiator so this intimate film style is different from those films, and I almost felt as though I was an intruder during some of the most intimate moments of some one's relationship.  Haigh uses a gritty realistic handheld camera to tell the story of these two men, and it works to shape and capture the every emotion, every gesture, every glance, and its powerful.  

Cullen and New had their big screen debut in this film and they were both incredibly charismatic.  Their delivery of dialogue was not forced or seem disingenuous like many other actors do in roles like these.  I do not know either actor's sexual orientation, but they were both incredibly convincing while they fell deeper and deeper in "like" with one another.  There is so much intimacy truth and honesty in the paradoxes of being a gay male revealed in this film that have never been shown in film.

This film is not just the same old gay film it has layers and goes deeper into not only the sexual relationship, but the actual relationship between these two people.  There is the cliche that Glen is moving away for two years, which adds a tragic and maybe too much of a predictable twist, but there is so much strength in the screenplay it does not matter.  I have seen a lot of gay films and wrote about them too.  Many of them end tragically because someone is beaten to death or has AIDS or HIV.  There are so few films that are both well written and have good direction like this one.  This is simply a story about two men who are gay and date for the weekend.

I hope Haigh realizes he has talent within this genre and could help propel gay cinema to higher levels.  Although like Glen said in the movie "the problem is no one straight will see it, only the gays will come out."  The sad part is this film will never reach the commercial market to be enough of a success, but with good word of mouth I think this could be one of the best gay films i have ever seen.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Travels with Kevin Part 2: A Trip to Salem with some Hocus Pocus

Last night was a relaxing night filled with laundry and watching TV.  I needed a night in doing nothing after an incredibly stressful week.  I was glad that my friend Patrick suggested a trip to Salem today.  I needed a day away from Boston and a day away from the chaos of the city.  Salem, Massachusetts is known to many people as home of the famous witch trials during the 1600s.  During the month of October Salem is a huge tourist destination because of the connection with the witch trials, and there being a lot of spooky themed events within the city.  I knew the Salem would be busy, so there was no escaping the chaos, but I did get to have a nice adventure into the suburbs.

While in Salem the lines to do a lot of the events prevented me from getting to experience a lot of the spookier themed things, but I did get to take a trolley ride around the city.  The trolley ride was interesting because it focused on the different aspects of Salem's history beyond the witches.  Salem was home to Nathaniel Hawthorne author of "The Scarlet Letter."  While on the tour I found out that Hawthorne wrote the book because his ancestor was the presiding judge at the trial of all the witches and he wrote that book to shine a light how wrong the witch trials were.  Salem was at one point the sixth highest grossing city in the country.  This was during the Revolutionary War when Boston and New York's ports were closed so shipping went through Salem's port.  Salem was also used as a place to station troops during World War II to look out for German U-Boats, and has one the few remaining airplane hangers.

While on the tour we saw a house that was used in the filming of one of my favorite campy films Hocus Pocus (1993).  The film was about three witches who are cursed and come back to try and live forever.  I love this film it was one of the movies that just reminds me of my childhood. Better Midler was one of my favorite women to watch in movies (it was a sign), and I loved her singing and just being this fun villain. I saw Hocus Pocus twice when I was kid.  The time I remember most was with my grandparents when we ate ice cream from Friendly's before the movie, popcorn and candy during the movie, and we had to have dinner after so we ate Pizza Hut after the movie.  I have never puked more in my life!

The film brings back memories, but also makes me think about my own view of Salem as a town.  When I was younger I had this perception of the town as being all about witches and this incredibly haunted place.  Now based on the tour there are some places that are "haunted" but movies don't always paint a clear picture.

While Salem is filled with numerous historical aspects other than the witch trials the main draw is still the scary.  The town is filled with people in witches hats, Halloween costumes, going on ghost tours, going in haunted houses, and taking on numerous scary events.  Our tour guide did a good job of highlighting the different bits of history, but the town and tourists are drawn to one of the smallest aspects of the town's history.  This is a beautiful town filled with a rich and diverse history, but in order to make money or bring  in the masses from America and around the world people tend to focus on the witches.  I think its interesting when a town gets a reputation for something specific they get pigeon holed into that niche. I love that Salem has the opportunity to flourish and bring in people because of one piece of history that makes it one of America's "spookiest" towns, but there are so many other aspects of its history that people do not know about or don't care about which prevents us from learning about the the town on a deeper level. People do not look at history on a deeper level they see what they and focus on that one aspect.

I hate to say I am guilty of associating this town a film about witches, but as I was strolling around town all I could think about was Jinx the talking cat, a young Thora Birch kidnapped, and Better Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimi singing "I Put a Spell on You."  I am glad I learned more about Salem than the witches today.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Worst TV Seasons! (Comedy Edition)

I have been re-watching my favorite one of my favorite television shows of all time, Gilmore Girls, for the seventh time (or more).  I am an avid TV watcher and I have a lot of TV seasons on DVD.  When I go to watch certain shows there are always seasons I dread getting through.    With my favorite shows I can easily pick out the worst seasons.  I can pick out the worst with other shows I watch too, but I think being a popular culture fanatic its better when you can recognize the worst in your favorite.

I am in the middle of my least favorite season of the Gilmore Girls, the sixth season.  At the beginning of the sixth season the famed mother daughter team Lorelai and Rory have stopped speaking.  Rory was told my by her boyfriend Logan's father that she doesn't have "it" to be a journalist and she steals a boat with Logan in the fifth season.  Rory decides to leave Yale and then the mother and daughter stop speaking.  Throughout the first eight episodes Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel rarely share the screen and thus the loses its charm.  When Lorelai and Rory finally reunite in episode nine their freakish mother daughter connection is strained for a while.  I understand why the creators Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino went down this road, but the show lost a lot throughout this entire season.  The sixth season also brought the worst character this show ever saw, April.  April was Luke's daughter.  Luke was never told April was his and when he finds out he keeps it a secret from Lorelai.  Luke also pushes Lorelai aside as he tries to get to know April on his own terms.  April was a terrible plot device that eventually broke up Luke and Lorelai, and forced a stupid and pointless break up.  I love this show but I this is one of my least favorite seasons.  The Gilmore Girls ended in season seven but the show rebounded and had a better season to close out the show.
Friends | Season 9 | Episode 9 | The One With Rachel’s Phone NumberFriends ran for ten seasons and there were some seasons that were amazing, some that were uneven, and some that were just plain not that good.  In season eight Friends rebounded and had one of its best seasons ever!  The show was on top of its game it won the Emmy for Best Comedy Series and Outstanding Lead Actress in Comedy Series for Jennifer Anniston.  The show added new depth to Joey and Rachel's pregnancy was hilarious.  The show was coming off an uneven season seven, and the six were considering walking away from the show, then season eight happened and they reconsidered.  I often wonder, should they have ended at season eight?  The true fan boy in me says "Hell NO!" and the critic in me says "Tough Call."  The season after season eight is there worst season.  In season eight Joey liked Rachel, but she rebuffed him.  Season nine rolls around and all of sudden Rachel ends up liking him.  They Joey and Rachel story was a stupid sideline, and season nine did nothing to make any Ross, Rachel, or Joey grow and they were at the forefront of a lot.  Monica and Chandler working to have a child was good, and Phoebe finally finding a steady man in Mike (Paul Rudd) was the best part.  This season was filler to get to the end and I hate to say it added nothing to this show.  Friends ended in season 10 with story lines that did not to be spread out amongst two seasons, but I still love the heartfelt last episode.

Will & Grace had a lot of uneven seasons toward the end but non worse than season six.  Apparently when a show hits season six the show starts to lose steam.  In season five Will & Grace added Grace's boyfriend and soon to be husband Leo played by Harry Connick Jr..  When shows add to their core cast the addition can either bring some fun new dynamic like with Lilith in Cheers or take away like Leo did in Will & Grace.  Leo's character was boring and bland, sure the actor is hot, but I do not get the appeal in the show.  In the sixth season the was one episode that was brilliant "Last Ex to Brooklyn" which is about Leo's ex coming to a dinner party, and she happens to be the only girl Will had ever slept with.  That was episode two of the season, and the season went down hill after that.  The show tried to save things with guest stars and gimmicks and that failed.  The season finale centered around Karen's wedding in Las Vegas was just painful.  One of the other flaws within this season was that Debra Messing was pregnant and was not featured in a lot of the episodes.  The show needed Grace to balance out the foursome, but she was sadly not in many episodes.  The show started to rebound and find its center in seasons seven and eight but it never got back to the greatness of the beginning.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Stressed Out! Movies About Stress at Work

I am having one of the most stressful weeks at work, between meetings, tasks, room inspections etc. I have had little time to do breath or catch up on other work I need to get done.  Tonight I left work at 6 pm, and have rarely had the opportunity to just breath, until now.  Time to vent and let out my emotions through the power of film.  Jobs can be stressful, there are stressful times, and when a lot of things pile up they become emotionally and physically draining.  After a long day of work yesterday and a staff meeting at 8 pm I came into my apartment put on my TV and passed out at 9:30.  I think the last time I went to bed that early was when I was 10.  I am prepping for the end of the week to have the same effect as I am trying to catch up on things I need to complete.

Most of the movies out there describe bad work environments as opposed to someone having a stressful week.  The reality behind the matter is that it's easier to depict a situation where someone hates their job completely or someone is in an extremely bad work environment.  There a lot of movies like this, and some of them are extreme like one that was released this year, Horrible Bosses.  The premise of the film is that three friends are in bad working environments with "horrible bosses" and they decide to plot and kill their bosses.  This film is not only horrible (pun intended) but the premise is just almost beyond stupid.  The backdrop of this film is that since the economy is bad none of the men can afford to lose their job, and some even enjoy their profession.  I have to say I turned the film off in the middle so I saw no redemption in the premise and did not laugh much.  Horrible Bosses appeared to have the message that if you hate your boss or they provide a bad working environment killing them is an option.  I know this film is a comedy, and the point is dark humor, but I just did not laugh.

You can say I am a film snob, but there are other films that have done this better.   Nine to Five (1980) which starred Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton, and Dabney Coleman.  In the film the three women kidnap their boss because he is a misogynist and they want to teach him a lesson about respecting women at work.  I do not think all movies need a message, but Nine to Five was a timely movie about women in the work place while Horrible Bosses is trying to justify people doing crazy things in a terrible economy.  The problem with Horrible Bosses is that it used gimmicks to be funny, and while trying to be a dark comedy it just is a dark flop.  The new modern women was entering the work force in Nine to Five and this film showed that women have as much talent and brains as men.  The film has some darkness, but the real message is that don't think the system is going to stay the same!

Films seems to tend to focus on the boss being the problem at work.  I think my boss is actually pretty great; she is helpful and lets me just rant when I need to (yes Ann you are good at that).  Movies also focus on the work environment causing the stress or  a combination of the office space and the boss.  The Devil Wears Prada (2006) focuses on how Miranda Priestly (let's be honest modeled after Anna Wintour) who is the editor of Runway the fashion magazine (again this is about Vogue) is a tyrant with her assistants.  Anne Hathaway plays Andy Sachs the girl who knows nothing about fashion who tries to make in a work environment where she does not fit.  Meryl Streep plays Miranda Priestly a nightmarish boss who demands her staff be flawless, because after all "In fashion one day you are in, and the next day you are out."  Miranda Priestly is awful, but the world of fashion contributes to the stressful work environment.  Everyone at Runway takes fashion so seriously, and if there are flaws in a fashion line, it means death!

Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada: The glacial facial expressions, ruthlessness, condescension and complete uninterest in “the details of your incompetence” would make this boss “hell on heels.” Photo: AFP / HCI think sometimes when I am at work I am afraid to make mistakes, not because it means death from my supervisor, but because I hold myself to high standard.  I think my bosses, and co-workers are often easier on me, than I am on myself.  I sometimes stress myself out too much.  I think this is a trait many people are guilty of.  I put pressure on myself to be the best.  There are of course mistakes that can be made and mistakes that I can't make in my job.  I think most of the times mistakes should be treated as a learning tool.  My supervisor has helped me to do that.  There are people who I have encountered who take things more seriously because they have someone higher to report to, and who holds them accountable for different things.  I do not want my actions to reflect poorly on my bosses, but the truth of the matter is that mistakes happen, and how its the way you act after they do that speaks to your character.  

Movies make the stress at work seem awful! Movies can also make a bad work day entertaining.  People can go to the movies and sit back and laugh at how mean Miranda Priestly and say "Boy do I have it easy" or even "Wow my boss is just like that."  Movies have so much power to make us think about things or laugh and provide great entertainment about specific situations.  I enjoy movies because they can help me put so much into perspective.  Movies make me think and help process things. Today I hit a peak level for stress because one thing set me over the edge.  I had so much on my plate and then one bad thing made it all worse.  I have to think that Scarlet O'Hara said it best "After all tomorrow is another day" and work is just work at the end of the day.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Gory Matters Here: The Walking Dead Returns

The Walking Dead Season 2
Last Fall a phenomenon hit the small screen and AMC brought to life a graphic about zombies, called The Walking Dead.  The Walking Dead followed a group of people who were attempting to escape zombie attacks and find sanctuary near and in Atlanta.  The genius behind the scenes was creator and executive producer Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile). Tonight the show kicked off the first part of second season with a 90 minute episode entitled "What Lies Ahead."

The first season of the show (only 6 episodes) ended with an explosion and the main cast on a caravan to find sanctuary.  The second season starts with our group on their drive, and they are stopped by a road block of cars.  While they get trapped by this road block a large group of "walkers" approaches the scene.  Everyone climbs under their car, but one of the young girls on the road with group Sofia is found and she is chased into the woods by the "walkers."  The episode centers around the hunt for this young girl and works to attempt to tie up the loose ends from last season.

The first episode was one of the best episodes the show has produced since the pilot.  The show was well paced and set a strong tone for the rest of season two.  The search for Sofia held a lot of emotional context. Rick Grimes (the leader of the pack) took to the rescue.  Meanwhile Dale pretended to fix a radiator so the caravan could continue, while the radiator was already fixed.  Dale's sentiments show the desperation of the cast.  Dale stated that he did not want this action to prevent survival of the many to have an impact the survival on an individual.  Dale's fear was that the group would want to move on from the search for young Sofia.  The Walking Dead is more than a show about zombies.  This show represents the ethical principles of human nature.

What does man and woman do when they are forced to deal with struggle in an extreme circumstances?  There are more television shows and movies that are using symbolic mechanisms to get their message across, and I think The Walking Dead does an amazing job of not only have truly suspenseful moments but it understands its characters and human nature.

This past summer the show fired creator and executive producer Frank Darabont.  Many of the cast, crew, and fans think that AMC has made a huge mistake.  Darabont has put his heart and soul into this show, and there is fear that without him this show will turn into a lifeless mindless, well zombie of a show.  I know that Darabont still had input into the first half of the season so I can understand why this episode was great, but I hope the show stays true to itself with their executive producer.  At the end of tonight's episode I screamed out "No!" and now I am ready for another five episodes this fall.  This is one of the most creative shows to grace television and I hope its strong start is a signal of more greatness to come.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Revenge Never Tasted So Sweet!

revenge-emily-van-camp-review-abc.jpgWhile on call last night at my job I was up until 2 am (busy night) so I was able to catch up on some television I have missed.  My boss Ann and a few other people have been telling me I have needed to watch the show Revenge on ABC. When I looked at what shows I was interested for the fall this show was not on my list.  I remember going to the movies and seeing previews for this show and laughing and thinking this is going to be a terrible show.  As I saw more previews the show looked more appealing (as a guilty pleasure), but I refused to give in.  Finally a couple of weeks ago I decided I had to make the time to see what people were talking about.  Last night I watched the first three episodes of this show back to back, and I have to say I am hooked.  I guess this was one of the good things about being on call at my job.

Revenge a is twist on the classic, "The Count of Monte Cristo" with a female character at the center, Emily Thorn (Amanda) who is out to seek revenge on the people who put her father in jail, and made Emily think her father was responsible for a terrible crime. . Emily goes back to the Hamptons for the summer rents a beach house, and her goal is to enact revenge on the different people who contributed to her father's fate, with her endgame being the Grayson family.  The Grayson family includes Victoria Grayson (Madeline Stowe) who is referred to as "Queen Victoria" because she rules the Hamptons, her husband Conrod Grayson, (Henry Czerny).  The Grayson's have two children Daniel Grayson (Joshua Bowman) the "love interest" for Emily, and Charlotte (Christa B. Allen).  The other characters include a younger Bill Gates type ally of Emily's named Nolan Ross (Gabriel Mann).  There is also a homegrown family from the Hamptons who own a small bar/restaurant which focuses on two brothers who work and own the place Jack Porter (Nick Weschler), who was Emily's (Amanda's) childhood sweetheart and Declan Porter (Connor Porter).

The show sets the stage with a bang literally one of the main characters listed above is shot and killed within the first ten minutes of the pilot.  The show starts at the end of the summer with the big party for the end of the summer.  Emily's eyes say it all.  As you watch Van Camp commit these acts of revenge on the people who took her father down she looks poised and confident, but when the murder occurs at the beginning of the pilot she looks as though she may not be as sure of what she is doing and if she did the right thing with this one murder.

I loving the premise and the characters in this show, but like with Ringer (CW) I have to wonder how they will get the premise of the show to last and not drive fans nuts with drawing out the story too much.  I am going to continue to watch for the time being because the premise and the characters have me hooked!  The show has an added amount of camp.  Van Camp exudes this inner darkness through her sweet exterior; she has become stronger and I was nervous about her being able to carry a show on her own but she has great presence.  One of the interesting things about Emily Thorn is that you get why she wants revenge, but she is completely an anti-hero; she is doing terrible things to rectify past injustices.  I am excited to watch Emily and the "Queen Victoria" have it out.  The two look at each other on the show and they both know they hate each other, but in true Hamptons style the two fake pleasantries. Madeline Stowe plays evil and manipulative almost too well, as though it her second nature.  The rest of the cast mildly interesting, but I think as the show progresses they will flesh things out more.

Recently shows have tried too hard.  I was excited about Terra Nova, but the mainstream sci-fi genre is trying to make another Lost, and networks have not realized you have to let things happen naturally.  Revenge has a simple premise with an old school night time "soap opera" feel.  The new shows I have enjoyed most this season have had simple themes, and not tried too hard to be more than what they are.  I think this show fits within this category.  I hope they can flesh out all of the characters more, and keep going on the premise.  I know now that I am all caught up I will be watching tonight!

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Ides of March is a Smart Adeptly Made Political Thriller

The Ides of March (4 out of 5 stars)
Directed by: George Clooney (Good Night and Good Luck)
Written by: George Clooney, Grant Heslov, and Beau Willimon
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood, and George Clooney

In the fast paced world of politics the idealistic media consultant Steven Myers has thee candidate he believes should be the President competing in the Democratic Primary, Governor Mike Morris (George Clooney). The film centers around Myers idealism and belief in the political system.  At the beginning of the film Myer's character helps craft a a response for his candidate which is aimed to state that the candidate has no religious connections, but Governor Morris believes in the Constitution.

At the center of this film is more than the search for the candidacy of the Democratic Presidential nomination.  The movie is about how power and corruption within the the campaign headquarters.  Steven is "friends" with Paul Morris (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) the campaign manager for Morris.  The film centers around both Democratic candidates trying to win one of the swing states in the primary, Ohio.  Paul tells a reporter for the Times Ida (Marisa Tomei) that Morris is a lock to take Ohio because they have a meeting with one of the top powerful Democrats in Ohio.

The power dynamic is centered around Steven because of his youthful optimism he cares about the candidate, politics, and the future of his country.  Meanwhile as Steven is seen becoming too powerful for Morris, Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti) the campaign manager for Morris's opponent goes after him hoping he will join their team instead.  As the film continues scandal and intrigue keep this film on a fast paced track leading you to an end that explores how politics can bring everyone to the edge and wipe away the optimism.

Gosling does a great job in this film as he goes from this bright eyed optimist to a man struggling with the corruption and power that exist within the political arena.  Like within other films Gosling's can play the leading man so well, he has charm (wooing Evan Rachel Wood's character).  The supporting cast filled with the candidate himself George Clooney who directed, wrote, and starred in this film is also impressive.  Clooney took this character to a level beyond boredom and gave him more depth and intrigue.  Giamatti plays his role with ease.  While  Phillip Seymour Hoffman plays this mentor who knows the game, but still fights the paranoia of the game he has to play day in and day out.  

I think the strongest part of this film beyond the acting is the writing.  The film is based on Beau Willimon's play "Farragut North" which chronicles his own work on political campaigns.  Heslov, Willimon, and Clooney work well to create the backdrop of the inner workings of a campaign and the struggle the staff has to fight for their candidate and to keep their jobs.  Politics is a dirty game, and the Ides of March uses the language of Caesar to show it!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Characters Welcome...No, Characters Matter!

USA network uses the tagline "characters welcome."  This tagline adheres to the quality of the show and the unique characters they have in their television programs.  I like this tagline.  When viewers watch television shows they get used characters in "their program."  I would add another part or revise this phrase and say that characters matter.

Netflix has added a lot of episodes from the fall 2010-spring 2011 television season.  While on call at my job I have been watching a lot of movies, and catching up on television shows that I missed, namely the last season of Law & Order: Special Victim's Unit.  As I started watching this season I realized this was the last 24 episode I would watch with detective Elliot Stabler (Chris Meloni).  Law & Order Special Victim's Unit has broken the tradition that most procedural dramas have adhered to.  Most other procedural shows have had a revolving door with their lead characters, but for 12 years fans were able to tune in and watch Benson and Stabler fight crime and their sexual tension in the work place.  This new season's first episode had its first episode without Stabler.  The first episode had Stabler's partner Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) solving a crime with the other cops in the precinct and things just were not the same.  This is where the my tagline, characters matter, means something more.  I think Stabler may be back towards the end of the year, but that is only because I think this will be the last year for this show.

Jerry OrbachThe original Law & Order was guilty of trying to be able to rotate
and juggle their main characters as well, and it worked in the beginning, but when you put a character with no development or back story on the forefront of someone's television the viewer can either lose interest or walk away because there is a lack of buy-in.  Jerry Orbach's Lennie Briscoe who was named one of the best television detectives of all time by TV Guide, before his death he stepped aside from Law & Order to help establish Law & Order: Trial by Jury, but his death prevented him from continuing on.  Soon after Briscoe's sidekick Jesse L. Martin left, and the two's string of replacements never filled their shoes the same way.  The show also tried to replace female ADAs and again none ever seemed to hold a candle to Angie Harmon or Jill Hennessy (the first two).

This has happened in numerous law/cop shows like NYPD Blue, all of the CSI shows, and so on, but many of the more recent medical dramas have also been guilty of forgetting that characters matter.  The two biggest culprits of this crime are ER and Grey's Anatomy.  The difference with these two genres is that medical dramas attempt to develop newer characters better, but still fail to make us care about these newer people as well as they did with the original cast.

ER started as this hardcore gritty drama that followed doctors in an emergency room in Chicago.  To ER's credit this show did a good job of creating new characters and integrating them into the seam of television landscape.  This show understood that we care about the doctors at this hospital and even as many of our favorite characters left, this show brought new ones to fill the void.  Once most of the original characters and most of the replacement characters started to leave and the show got to its third and fourth string of replacements ER lost its groove and fell into a slump.  This show ended well, but if had ended years earlier it would have ended on top with its loyal fans still caring about the show.  I have talked to many ER fans, and there were of course people who watched every season, but numbers don't lie and this show went from from a peak of an average 24 million viewers in its sixth season to about 10 million viewers in its last season, a drop of more than 50 percent.

Grey's Anatomy is another show that is following in the foot steps of ER.  Grey's is currently in its eighth  season, and the show has lost only three of its original cast members, TR Knight, Isaiah Washington, and Katherine Heigl (two of the actors were seen as divas and caused lots of drama.)  The show has also tried out other characters (which failed) and did a spin off with Kate Walsh's character.  Grey's could potentially be at an impetus at the end of this season with Patrick Dempsey and Ellen Pompeo (the narrator of the show) wanting to leave.  What does a show do when the main characters including the voice of the show want to leave?  Shondra Rimes who created the show foresaw this and created another character with last name Grey at the end of the third season, Lexie, Meredith's half sister.  I have stopped watching this show, but I have to say this show was created and meant to center around Meredith.  The show centered around Lexie will not be the same show.

If Grey's continues I think this show will fall victim to the thing that has happened to numerous television
 shows in the past, they will flatline.  Grey's Anatomy is already starting do badly in the ratings and without the heart of the show there i think this show will flounder.  So what's the answer?  I say pull the plug (pun intended).  Grey's costs a lot of money, and why not end this show on top rather than have it drag along half ass for another year or two.  When shows last far beyond their prime even the most faithful viewers feel the tired with the writing and characters.  The answer is, characters matter.  When shows try and move on and think character do not they often lose ratings, thus making them less profitable.  I myself do not look at shows as just about ratings, but many producers do, and they let their shows go.  I hope Rimes does the smart thing and either entices Pompeo and Dempsey to stay for one more season and end the show, or if they do decide to leave that she ends the show all together.  i realize I am wishing the cancellation of a show, but I am also putting the value and worth in the characters that drive and entertain viewers above everything.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Dawn of the Dead: Zombies on the Rise!

My friend Kevin texted me tonight with the plan to make cupcakes.  With his love of Whole Foods (sarcasm) he was not able to get the supplies for the cupcakes.  I have to ask what store does not have funfetti cupcake mix.  In the end the two of us ended eating store bought cupcakes, taking a walk to Best Buy and cursing at them for lying about their store hours (Best Buy is a terrible store), and watching another thriller Dawn of the Dead (2004).

Dawn of the Dead is of course a re-make of George A. Romero's 1978 film with the same title. Romero's vision of a world haunted by the living dead aka zombies started in 1968 with Night of the Living Dead.  Ten years later came one of the best cult classics of all time, and this left an indelible mark on the horror genre.  I like the original and the re-make of this film they both highlight a world with no where to turn as society destroys itself.

 Zombies are all the rage these days.  The Walking Dead is a hit television series, the highest rated show on AMC. The Walking Dead takes this genre and on a weekly basis gave a raw and dark portrayal of zombies in a way no television show ever has done.  The creator of this show, Frank Darabont (no long the a  producer) took this subject matter to the small screen for the first time from a graphic novel and produced six episodes that were some of the best television in 2010. The Walking Dead returns with another 6 episodes starting on October 16th, and will have another six episodes air starting February 12th (how romantic).

There are also a number of films that cover the genre in an ironic way, like Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Zombieland (2009). Shaun of the Dead tells the story of a young bloke trying to get his life together and win his ex-girlfriend back, but has to deal with a zombie apocalypse too.  The wonderful director Edgar Wright directed this film and wrote it with star Simon Peg and made zombies hilarious.  Zombieland chronicles the adventure of Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) as he tries to avoid zombies, but also gives the audience helpful tips on how to survive a zombie attack.  With Bill Murray playing himself as a cameo in this film, this zombie movie also bring the laughs and creates a fresh look at combatting the living dead.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Rosemary's Baby starts the Thrilling Month of October

October is the month of pumpkin flavored food, apple picking with cider doughnuts, Sam Addam's Octoberfest, and of course the month that contains Halloween.  I loved Halloween for several reasons: getting dressed up in costumes has always been fun for me, as a kid who wouldn't love free candy, and getting Halloween is full of good scares!  I am not a big fan of scary movies, in fact I think they are my least favorite genre of film.  Scary movies are often silly, and poorly written.  When it comes to being scared I enjoy a good thriller above the typical type of slasher film or one of the gross torture scary films.

Roman Polanski (Chinatown, The Pianist) wrote and directed Rosemary's Baby (1968)  a smart thriller that goes beyond traditional standards.  Rosemary (Mia Farrow) and Guy  (Jon Casavetes) Woodhouse  who move into an apartment and they encounter their peculiar neighbors The Castevets (played by Ruth Gordon and Sydey Blackmer).  Rosemary and her husband are trying to have a baby; she becomes pregnant and their neighbors step into the picture and interfere with this process in an atypical way.

Without giving too much of the plot away this film is far and away one of the best psychological thrillers I have ever seen.  Mia Farrow plays Rosemary with vulnerability and genuine fear  Farrow's performance was so nuanced I am shocked she did not earn an Oscar nomination for Best Actress.  The film only received two Oscar nominations one for Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium, and one for Best Supporting Actress for Ruth Gordon, which she won.  This was a film ahead of its time and it provided such an interesting dark twist on the concept of evil.

I remember the first time I watched this movie, I was sitting on the edge of my seat and this fast paced film raced to the end with Rosemary walking down the hallway and into the Castevets apartment.  The genius of this film was brought to life by two men the talented director, Roman Polanski and producer Robert Evans.  Polanski was genius behind the scenes and his shots of New York City along with the up close shots he uses on Farrow to feel her emotional angst.  Evans pushed this film to be made and pushed for Farrow to be the lead player, and boy did he know his stuff.  Farrow's waifish looks help characterize the gaunt nature of Rosemary much better than a Jane Fonda ever could have.

In an era of challenging the establishment this film uses the concept of the thriller to tell the story of control.  Scary movies rarely have a deeper point of view, but this film so adeptly uses its dark tones to keep the audience on their toes in a different way.  This film does not try to hard, nor does it take on the gimmicks of the genre.  The simplistic nature of the story makes this one of the best thrillers of all time.