Archive for the 'Television' Category
What do you get when you cross Ocean’s 11 with The Bourne Identity? A steaming pile of shit, that’s what. This 2011 movie was written by Lem Dobbs whose previous work included such gems as Dark City. It’s directed by Steven Soderbergh who filmed the aforementioned Ocean’s movies. Haywire is about a beautiful female spy (is there any other kind?) who gets betrayed on a mission and has to go on the run. 90% of the screentime is dedicated to Mallory (played by Gina Carano) avoiding capture by spies or police. At times she must outwit them, and other times she must beat the crap out of people. This is exactly what happens in all the Bourne movies. The espionage angle and the fights are portrayed realistically, just like in the Bourne movies. However, unlike the Bourne movies, this movie eschews madcap pacing necessary to build tension and keep viewers interested. Haywire insists on being slow and methodical, even during chase scenes. Mallory doesn’t seem particularly in a hurry even though everyone wants to kill her. For example, after she kills the man who was supposed to assassinate her, she takes a shower, does her makeup, and makes a phone call before vacating the premesis.
Carano, a former martial artist turned actor, is headlining in her first major motion picture. Her acting, as expected, is just as good as any former martial artist turned actor: shitty. You could easily replace her with Chuck Norris or Steven Seagal, and get the same caliber of wooden line delivery. The only difference is that Carano has a pair of tits, so I suppose that makes her better than those other guys. Soderbergh does a terrible job directing. Clearly, he wishes he had been a movie director in the 1970s. All the framings, the zoom-ins and zoom-outs, random use of black and white, and weird lens filters scream 1970s. Hey, guess what, Soderbergh? We aren’t living in the 1970s. Get over it. You can’t make a Bourne movie and film it like an Ocean’s movie. It just doesn’t work.
Haywire happens to have a pretty good cast, including Awesomely Shitty favorite Michael F. Assbender, Channing “C-Tates” Tatum, Ewan McGregor, Bill Paxton, Antonio Banderas, and Michael Douglas. Sadly, the good actors (Douglas and Banderas) get the least amount of screen time possible. The majority of the film is taken up by the people who suck at acting, namely Carano and C-Tates. Lastly, the story is goddamn retarded. The double-cross against Mallory makes no sense. If the bad guys hadn’t involved her in the first place, their plan would have totally worked. Let’s not forget how Mallory, who is a fucking spy, has a bad case of verbal diarrhea, spilling the entire events of the movie to a hostage who looks like the poor man’s version of James McAvoy. Why did she do that? It is a narrative device, obviously, but they could have just as easily told the story through a flashback, and not made Mallory look so stupid. All in all, this movie sucks ass. The lethargic pacing, the crappy acting, the faux-70s directing, and the fact that Soderbergh just can’t handle the material all make this movie a big ole turd.
Louie Season 2
The second season of Louie continues the harsh, honest, and hilarious look at the titular comedian’s life. After watching two seasons of the show, I realize that it doesn’t really conform to the typical narrative structure you see anywhere else. It is mostly a series of vignettes in the life of Louis C.K. If anything, you could say it is a bunch of disconnected short stories that can be pretty horrifying, but Louis somehow manages to extract humor from them. Although the first season was amazing, I think the second season was consistently better. Every episode was memorable, or at least had memorable parts. The two highlights for me were the episode where Louis meets comedian Dane Cook and they talk about Cook having been accused of stealing Louis’ jokes, and the hour-long episode where Louis inadvertently takes a duckling to Afghanistan while performing a few USO shows for the troops. Incredibly, the show manages to be extremely high quality with Louis taking on acting, writing, directing, producing, and editing duties. If he isn’t a one-man production team, then I don’t know what is. Season 2 continues the greatness of the first, and is highly recommended.
J.J. Abrams is the king of producing entertaining pilot episodes. From the incredibly awesome like Fringe to the good but flawed Alias to the hilariously terrible like Lost, he knows how to put together a first episode. Abrams, however, as a hands-off producer, isn’t the driving force behind this series. That title belongs to Jonathan Nolan, brother of famous film director Christopher Nolan. Jonathan is no slouch in the writing department. He wrote a short story which became the film Memento, and he was co-writer on The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises. Of course, when I started Person of Interest, I didn’t know any of this, I just started it, expecting another shitty, by the numbers cop procedural.
Surprisingly, this series offers much more than that. Let’s start with the bad stuff. Yes, the show has a case-of-the-week format. Yes, there are a lot of filler episodes. And yes, it airs on network TV which is usually not a good thing. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk about the good stuff.
First, the premise is great. A computer genius named Harold Finch (played by Michael Emerson) created “The Machine” for the U.S. government in the paranoia following 9/11. The Machine is an omnipresent monitoring device the government uses to eavesdrop on everyone via security cameras, email, telephones, GPS, etc. If it finds what it perceives to be a terrorist threat, it passes that information to the government. If some piece of information is considered irrelevant, it ignores it. Finch realized that the irrelevant stuff often led to crimes and/or murders that he had no way of stopping. He eventually teams up with a disavowed CIA agent named John Reese (played by Jim Caviezel) and the two of them try to stop the “irrelevant” crimes.
Second, the show kicks ass. Solving crimes doesn’t involve a bunch of CSI-style bullshit lab work. No, it typically features Reese following bad guys and then confronting bad guys. In order to solve crimes, he usually commits way more crimes including armed robbery, arson, kidnapping, assault, and murder. Of course, he is doing all this stuff to bad guys, but it is fun to watch him deal vigilante justice and cause way more destruction and mayhem than if he had just ignored the irrelevant crime in the first place. Anytime Reese throws down with someone, the show is plenty exciting.
Third, the writing is great. Despite having a case-of-the-week format, there are several story threads that run continuously throughout the episodes. Every character has a compelling back story, which is teased to the audience through flashbacks throughout the season. By the end of the season you know more about Reese, Finch, The Machine, and the two main antagonists, but you certainly don’t know everything. There are plenty of mysteries left to be unraveled. The show can also be surprising, as when Reese and Finch set out to stop a crime, they don’t know if the person The Machine has given them is going to be the perpetrator or the victim. A couple of times, the person they are protecting turns out to be the bad guy. It keeps the show more fresh and varied, and offers up a good deal of entertainment.
The acting is kind of a mixed bag. Caviezel plays his character as a stoic, monotone warrior who would rather kick your ass than mince words. At first this seems to be a drawback, but as the character becomes more fleshed out, you get a sense of why he became that way, and it ultimately works in his favor. Emerson is consistently good as the nerdy and paranoid Finch, and manages to be dramatic and comedic in all the right places. Kevin Chapman, who plays a crooked cop (Fusco), is also consistently good. Even guest stars like Enrico Colantoni (Elias) can bring in pretty great performances. The major weak link in the acting is Taraji Henson (Carter), who plays a sassy cop who is hot on Reese’s trail. The material is beyond her capabilities, and she is completely unbelievable as a police detective. Any time she’s on-screen with someone else, she’s upstaged. She doesn’t have the acting chops to successfully pull off this role. I’ve never cared for her. She was annoying on Boston Legal, and she’s just as annoying here.
My biggest complaint of TV in general is that seasons are too long. With a 22 episode order, and maybe 11-12 episodes worth of ideas, the writers are stuck shoe-horning in 9 or 10 shitty episodes every year. If the networks followed cable’s example, and did 13 episode seasons, the writing of all their series would be much better. With Person of Interest, it becomes obvious which episodes are meant to move the story along and which are written as afterthoughts because they needed to fill an order for a specific number of episodes. The filler episodes are generally weak, and easily skippable. The important episodes, though, are a blast, totally engrossing, and definitely worth watching.
Sure, Person of Interest isn’t revolutionary. It’s not meant to be. But it is a step above the typical procedural dreck that plagues network TV. If you are in the mood for something a little different, with a cool premise, fun action, and good writing, then you should check this one out.
Louie Season 1
Comedian Louis C.K. has the funniest show currently airing on TV, aptly titled Louie. You have probably never heard of it. Instead, you spend most of your time watching Two and a Half Men and The Big Bang Theory, and laughing your ass off because you think recycled shit is hilarious. Guess what, dumbass? You need to change the channel to FX and watch Louie. The show is an honest look at the daily life of a single-dad living in New York City who happens to be a comedian and an enthusiastic masturbator. No joke is considered off-limits. In the first episode Louie is accompanying his daughters on a field trip, and the bus breaks down in Harlem. Solution? Put all the black kids next to the windows to ensure the safety of the bus. With all kinds of jokes about race, sex, religion, inadequacy, aging, parenting, and more, there is nothing that Louie won’t touch. His brand of humor can often times be like the British version of The Office. Some situations can be laugh out loud funny, but other situations can just be relentlessly cruel and awkward. At times, the show can be soul-crushing. But no matter what, in every episode, you are always guaranteed to see something completely original and well worth your time.
Season of the Witch
Nicolas Cage’s choices in movies can be considered questionable at best. Horrifyingly shitty at worst. If you check out his IMDB page you’ll see he does 3-4 movies a year. 75% of those are guaranteed to be crap. The remaining 25% has a 50% chance of being good and 50% chance of being awful. Is that enough math for one day? Well, I’ll simplify things. Season of the Witch is absolute crap. And not campy, funny crap like The Wicker Man. It’s stinky rotten crap so putrid you shouldn’t go within 500 yards of it.
The movie offers an interesting parallel to the movie Black Death. In Black Death, Sean Bean led a group of medieval knights to a village to kill a witch responsible for the plague. It turned out she wasn’t a witch at all, the villagers sacrificed the knights to some pagan gods, and HOLY SHIT I JUST REALIZED THAT MOVIE IS A TOTAL RIP-OFF OF THE WICKER MAN! EVERYTHING HAS COME FULL CIRCLE NOW! OH MY FUCKING GOD! Ahem. In Season of the Witch, Cage and Ron Pearlman lead a group of medieval knights to a village where a witch who was responsible for the plague will be put on trial. The key difference between the two movies is that in Black Death witchcraft isn’t real, and in Season of the Witch, it is real.
The movie started off promising with Cage and Pearlman speaking in really half-assed English accents as they killed hundreds of people in literally every battle of the entire Crusades. After that, the movie takes a nosedive into boring mediocrity. Nothing exciting happens, Cage brings in a very restrained performance, the CGI is horrendous, and the story is thread-bare. In the end there is a huge battle against the forces of darkness, and of course the good guys win. Yawn.
To be honest, I wish Cage and Pearlman would have used their regular voices instead of making the movie even worse with their terrible English accents. There is no rule that says every historical movie has to feature people with English accents. That’s a bourgeoisploitation fallacy. The fact that these guys were fighting demons excludes the notion they were going for historical accuracy. Why not just let them speak normally?
As an aside, why does everyone in Game of Thrones have English accents, too? They aren’t in fucking England, and the author is from fucking New Jersey. HBO should fuck off.
Fringe Executive Producer and Showrunner J.H. Wyman said this about Season 5, “My biggest concern was telling an authentic, honest story that I could stand behind, and that I would feel I was giving the fans the love letter that I think they deserve.”
Well, if the final season was a love letter to the fans, then the final episode was a gigantic fuck you.
After watching the final moments of the show, a show I have invested years in, I couldn’t help but be furious. I wanted to smash something. Seriously. Wyman took a damn good season, a damn good series, and crushed it in a few confusing, contradictory final moments. He did two things: 1) he fucked up because he insisted on using time travel while failing to understand its logistics, and 2) he fucked up because he doesn’t give a shit.
Justified has shown a great amount of depth and progression each year it has been on the air. The first season was largely plot-driven, but managed to utilize interesting characters to its advantage. It could be slow at times, but it was never boring. The second season improved on the first in various ways. The story became more character-driven, and each person affected the plot in their own way. Nothing felt contrived or forced. The third season managed to mesh what worked in the first and second seasons, and create something unique and memorable.
Game of Thrones Season 1
I thought Season 1 of Game of Thrones was really good. I enjoyed the fighting, the nudity, and the midget. Since the rest of the internet also liked Season 1, I will end my review here. There’s not much that I can add to the collective wisdom already out there on the subject. I will pose the rhetorical question, why does Sean Bean die in every role he gets? The world may never know.
Game of Thrones Season 2
Season 2 of Game of Thrones can suck my balls. The season suffered from slow pacing, lack of fighting, really confusing plot (or lack thereof), too many characters, and not enough nudity. Even more nudity wouldn’t have made up for all of the other problems, but it would have helped. I am so sick of people talking about how awesome Game of Thrones is, because either they haven’t seen Season 2, or they just weren’t watching it at all and were on bookface the entire time.
1) Slow Pacing
There was a shitload of talking this season. Not yelling, not fighting, just talking. I do that all the time with teh Brik, so when I watch TV I want to see something more exciting than talking, unless the conversation is interesting. I have ADD and this did not hold my attention for 10 episodes. 10 hours of television, that is all this show takes for a season, and it was about 9 hours too long. They should have cut out all of the talking, or at least run it at 3x speed. Early in the season I had reason to believe that all of this talking meant something, but by episode 2 I realized it was useless filler.
2) Lack of Fighting
I didn’t read the book series, but from what teh Brik told me, there are some pretty epic fight scenes in print. I never saw them on my TV. Did you?
3) Confusing Plot
I think the reason the plot was confusing was because there was so much meaningless conversation followed by so little fighting and the mysterious appearance of new characters that seemingly had no relation to any of the existing characters (see #4). Not to mention that the plots I cared about, involving Daenerys and Arya, got so little air time that it was very difficult for me to maintain interest. My confusion might have been my own fault, but instead of taking personal responsibility I choose to blame the writers.
4) Too Many Characters
Every episode some new asshole would appear and I would have to google who the fuck they were to try to figure out what was happening. If I wanted to do that, I would have just read the books first. I know there are a shit ton of characters in these books, but sometimes when you adapt for TV, you have to change things (OMFG!) to make them work better for television. Don’t punish me for being an average American who is incapable of picking up a book not printed in an extra large font.
5) Not Enough Nudity
I think if more sex scenes and nakedness had happened I wouldn’t have cared as much about #1-4. I can’t guarantee I’d rate the season highly but no one can complain about more nudity, even if it is gratuitous.
The only high point of Season 2 for me was Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister. His character had depth, humor, and enough screen time for me to give a fuck. If the entire show was just about him and they threw away the rest of the subplots I’d be happy. Or if he decapitated Joffrey, either way. I look forward to seeing Dinklage in something more deserving of his talents after he finishes his work in this series.
In conclusion, Game of Thrones can fuck off. I really loved Season 1 but I really hated Season 2, and since 2 came after 1, I am left with a bad taste in my mouth. I would not cry if this show was cancelled.
Season One Verdict: Awesome
Season Two Verdict: Shitty
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I swear to god, every time I’m scanning through the channels and come across NBC, it is invariably airing an episode of The Biggest Loser. It’s another one of those reality TV shows where someone gets eliminated every week, a clone of Survivor. Instead of featuring people losing weight from starvation on an island, it features people losing weight by exercising.
They get the biggest fatties, I’m talking about the fattest of the fat. The people your mom told you not to point at and make fun of, but you do anyway. Every time I’ve watched this show, it’s 2 painful hours of watching sweaty fatties do pushups and run on treadmills and talk about how courageous they all are for exercising. Great job, fatties. Personally, I think it seems way more courageous to eat McDonald’s and Dairy Queen and drink 64 ounce sodas every day and risk a slow, painful death by diabetes. But then again, this is an American TV show, so I guess to Americans exercise is hard and therefore courageous. Continue reading ‘The Only Show On NBC is The Biggest Loser’
Justified Season 2
The first season of Justified was really good. Definitely one of the best shows in an otherwise barren wasteland of TV mediocrity. While the pacing was a bit slow, there were great characters, an interesting story, and nice action sequences. The second season improves on all of those things. The relationships between the characters becomes the driving force behind the series, and it is a pleasure to watch. Most captivating of all is the interaction between Raylan and Boyd. They are simultaneously friends and enemies. The villain this season was particularly good, Mags Bennet (played flawlessly by Margo Martindale), the head of an Appalachian drug cartel really upped the ante in terms of amazing villains. The plot became more intricate than in the first season, as we simultaneously follow Mags, Boyd, a few other characters, and Raylan’s investigation of everyone. There was hardly a single thing wrong with this season. It was great TV at its best. It reminds me that there is still hope out there, that people can still put together good television if they try.
A movie from 2011, this film is meant to portray 14th-century England during the Bubonic Plague. Hints are dropped that this may be a film with a supernatural bend to it. Sean Bean (who probably walks around in full armor and broad sword in real life) has been charged by the Bishop to investigate a sleepy northern village which is rumored to be untouched by plague. What we learn later is that there is a witch in the town, and he has been charged with killing her. The supernatural-medieval angle seemed kind of cool to me, but that storyline went nowhere, as it turned out that witches don’t really exist. This is certainly not the best movie I have ever seen, but by far not the worst. Some of things it does well include: casting Sean Bean, taking time to make things look realistic, attention to detail, and good performances all around. What it doesn’t do well include: very bleak, very heavy-handed directing style which becomes a burden to the movie, showing shots of rats every time someone mentions “the plague”, teasing us with one battle scene only to never have another, and killing Sean Bean. Why does this dude have to die in every movie he’s in? I actually like this guy. Just once I’d like to see one of his characters survive a movie. Or does he have some kind of death wish in real life?