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Monday Mornings (2013)
Such a Shame....
David E. Kelley and Alfred Molina should be worth watching, considering their past triumphs, but this pilot was dismal. The overall effect of the show is dark and depressing, with medical professionals stressed from the demands of their job, stressed from the demands of justifying their decisions and actions, stressed from dealing with patients' family members and loved ones, stressed from dealing with the quiet desperation of their own lives. And then they get called in front of their professional peers and raked over the coals.
I understand the current climate in the US calls for accountability in all walks of professional life, but this series seems to equate accountability with humiliation, brow-beating, and punishment. At the very end of this first episode, Ving tells us that this work environment is designed to make better doctors; the formula pushed by the chief of staff, Molina, seems designed to break down doctors, their egos, their risk-taking, their thinking outside the box to try daring new approaches, and instead to mind-whip them into standardized conformity, as if medicine (or any profession) is an either/or endeavor. In reality, work environments like that make me make more mistakes rather than fewer!
Additionally, none of the characters is interesting yet, and they are all very cliché: the overly-pretty married doctor who has "feelings" for a tortured surgeon who seems to be trying to fight his attraction and emotional dependence upon her; the non-fluent Asian neurosurgeon who's a cross between Christina Yang and Gregory House in the intellect and personality departments; the pushy busy-body surgeon who's into curing everybody else's patients (did we ever see her with one of her own???); and a couple of others whose pregnant gazes we watched, but who didn't actually do or say anything in this episode. Is the scruffy, unshaven surgeon, Ty, supposed to be the "star" of the ensemble? He looks like he should be sweeping up the OR rather than probing inside anybody's head...
Instead of the solid, fatherly chief of staff Richard from Grey's Anatomy, pushing everyone to be better, giving them opportunities to challenge themselves and grow, while nurturing their strengths, or Cuddy's chief of staff character, deftly coming up with strategies to work with staff foibles and genius for the benefit of the hospital and patients, we have Molina's character, barking at his doctors and harping on their short-comings or failures in a very negative, tyrannical, destructive way. I would not want to be a patient in that toxic atmosphere, much less try to work there! This show needs a lot of improvement. I'll give it one more viewing before it goes off my viewing list....
The Ides of March (2011)
First of all, put George Clooney, Ryan Gosling, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Paul Giamatti in one film, and it will be worth watching, no matter how lame the story is.
The main problem with the story for me is that the scenario written for Molly isn't believable. The authors spend the first third of the movie convincing us how mature beyond her 20 years this girl is, street savvy enough to sleep with a sitting governor-presidential candidate and one of his campaign managers, yet afraid to ask Mommy or Daddy for $900? She comes from wealth; I'm sure she spent more than that amount on her prom dress or the smart suit for all her upscale interviews with the power brokers surrounding her well-connected dad. Shoot, I'd be surprised if she doesn't have a couple of credit cards with at least that amount on 'em. Would you send your daughter off without emergency funds? But, okay, let that pass for the moment.
The next problem I have with how they wrote her character is that when Stephen tells her she made a mistake and that means she forfeits the right to stay in the game, she folds. This smart, savvy, mature-beyond-her-years young woman folds. I think, especially in today's world, she'd realize immediately that SHE holds all the cards. She IS the game at this point. She can call any shot she wants. Yet, the writers have her yield and metaphorically slink away. I think a smart, savvy young woman in her position when strong-armed by Stephen-the-underling would have called his bluff.
That would have upped the ante. What would Stephen do then? How far would he have gone in his negotiations with Clooney? Would Stephen have joined forces with Molly? By dismissing the girl's potential with sexist nonchalance, the writers missed a golden opportunity to update and make much more complex the rest of the story. When she makes "a mistake" she's supposed to go home and quit playing the game; when Stephen makes "a mistake" it's written into the story that he finds a way to capitalize on it and come out on top. Seriously? Aren't we ready as a society to move beyond that tired context? So, enjoy the acting and actors in this film, but lament the storyline and demand better in the future.
The Eagle (2011)
I really liked it
I couldn't watch the gore and "realism" in Gladiator, so I was very happy to see that this Roamn action flick, with plenty of death, was filmed in such a way that I knew how bad the slaughter was without having to cover my eyes through it. The casting was excellent, and I was pleased to see how much serious gravitas Channing Tatum commands. I could believe him as a leader of men, including the old, cynical, suspicious ones. Give me a hard man with strong character and I'll watch him any day! Good story, though as others pointed out, predictable. I thought the writers did a good job of moving the slow middle along, without adding gratuitous fight scenes to keep male audiences' attention. I did wonder about portraying the Seal people more like American Indians, but I really don't know much about Druids or other early peoples in Britain at the time of Hadrian, so perhaps it's accurate. I've watched the film 5 times so far, and will continue watching it every time I catch it on cable. I'll probably end up buying it.