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Who Wants to Be a Superhero? (2006)
Second Season Looks Almost as Cheesy/Fabulous as First
Like a lot of reality shows that I intend to stay far away from, Who Wants to Be a Superhero sucked me in like a Hoover last season. At times, it was like watching a horrific scene, trying not to look. At others, it was genuinely sweet, and had an admittedly good message.
After watching Feedback cry and hearing about Major Victory's history as a stripper in almost every episode last year, I didn't think I could stomach another season.
And again, I was wrong.
It's hard not to be drawn to this show, simply for the curiosity of watching grown people act serious in sparkly capes and tights. Add in the ridiculous challenges and Stan Lee's deep analysis of their every move, and you've got attention-grabbing TV.
You got to get a load of Mr. Mitzvah and The Parthenon and...Well, all of them. It's kind of endearing to watch these guys so earnestly vie for first place while chasing imaginary bad guys and saving planted characters around the city.
I can't think of what would make this show better, but if the finale is as sweet as last season's, it'll be worth following this one.
The Closer: Dumb Luck (2007)
A Nice Blend of Humor and Continuing Story lines
For me, The Closer is one of the better offerings on cable TV. This episode, while not my favorite thus far, demonstrates the slick writing and ease of transition that a lot of series don't attempt to do.
Unlike the Law & Order series or many of the other detective crime shows, there's a consistent storyline to follow, for those who watch week after week, but fresh cases that don't require a lot of exposition. I appreciate this approach, since a LOT of shows beat the viewer over the head with minutiae while trying to get the plot moving.
The realism of the show may be questionable at times, but that point can be forgiven since the humorous and clever twists make the show worthwhile.
Saving Grace: Pilot (2007)
Pilot is a good start, but has a long way to go....
After months and months of endless promos on TNT, "Saving Grace has finally debuted. I've been interested in seeing the show, since it stars one of my favorite actresses, Holly Hunter.
Here's the thing that makes me nuts about pilot episodes of shows and casting major actors in them: There's always a ton of exposition thinly disguised in not-so-clever dialog, and the actor, not matter how great they are, can hardly live up to all of the expectations.
Holly Hunter plays a "Bad girl" cop.("She drinks! She smokes! She sleeps around! She doesn't believe in God!") After a drunken car wreck, a tobacco-chawing angel appears and tells her that it's her last chance for redemption. Between swigs and flings with a fellow officer, she's trying to solve a missing child case.
The thing is, this show has potential. Unlike a lot of the formulaic shows on TV, this one appears to have a different angle that could take the character and the show on interesting paths. I know pilot episodes always have a lot of "es'plainin'" to do, so maybe the rest of this season will be more realistic.
Absolute Must-See Movie
Regardless of how you feel about Michael Moore, his politics, or how he crafts his documentaries, you absolutely must see this movie.
Being someone who hasn't had health insurance for over five years now, I was almost dreading this movie. Now that I've seen it, I feel compelled to tell everyone I know to plunk down the 7 or 8 bucks to see it. It's compelling, disturbing, bi-partisan, sometimes funny, and completely necessary to identifying what we need to make our country a better place to live.
Michael Moore seems to be the only filmmaker who has the vision to, not only point out what's wrong with the picture, but make reasonable suggestions as to how to fix it. Unlike some of his previous movies, he skewers anyone who has had a hand in the way our health care system works (or doesn't), and that means parties on both sides of the political aisle.
The greatest amount of attention recently has been focused on his trip to Gitmo with a boatload of 9/11 rescue workers, and the federal investigation that inevitably followed. I have to say that it is one of the most compelling segments of the film, especially since it follows a slew of stories from Canada, England and France, detailing how great their socialized health care programs are.
There's a lot more to say, but please just go see this movie. It's too important to ignore. Even if you don't agree with Michael Moore's style, it's a subject that will be debated for many years to come.
I hate to admit it, but Charm School is one of my guilty pleasures, and I can't get enough! I was a closet devotee of the original Flavor of Love shows, in that "watching an impending train wreck" sort of way, but this one takes the cake. How could one seriously think they could reprogram a bunch of foul-mouthed girls willing to fight at the drop of a hat? At first glance, I thought it was a great joke. Throw a gaggle of girls who've historically not been the best of friends into the same show, and expect them to come out of the series with manners? Oh please.
What I didn't expect was true moments of breakthrough for a few of the girls, especially Becky, AKA Buckwild, and a few of the others.
It's hilarious and genuinely entertaining. Mo'Nique is a riot, and the characters on this show make it well worth the watch!
The Sopranos: Made in America (2007)
Unexpected, But Ultimately Satisfying.
The news this morning is bubbling over with reports of irritated fans that feel last night's finale was highway robbery. I, for one, couldn't be more OK with the ending. For the last week or so, I've scoured the bulletin boards for spoilers, hoping to brace myself for the end, and no matter how plausible each scenario seemed to be, none of them were ideal. From apocalyptic visions of Tony's entire family being taken out to a surprise claim of paternity from Junior, to Tony being sent to prison, none of these endings would have been satiating.
So, I may be alone in this, but I am comfortable with the ending of the show. Nothing is wrapped up in a neat package by the show's end, but if it were, there would be little room for future movies or specials, and it wouldn't be true to the nature of the show. If David Chase and the show's creators decided to go against their original goal of making The Sopranos as realistic as possible, devotees would be angry. The realism is what defined the show as being heads and tails above the rest.
The thing that did crack me up about most of the show were the moments where David Chase clearly intended to build up the viewers' worry of something drastic about to happen. Particularly with the final scene, and the intentional drawing of attention to other patrons who could whack the whole family, it was an artfully crafted moment of uncertainty.
I also think David Chase did what he set out to do: present a finale that no one expected. Almost all of the predictions called for major violence and death. One of them said that we'd see Sil flat-lining in the hospital. Another suggested the A.J. would try to blow himself up in the swimming pool. Aside from the true prediction that Phil Leotardo would be shot at a gas station, there was little violence or death, and that was unexpected.
In the end, I'm satisfied with the finale, and would have been a lot less pleased if everyone had died or all the ends were tied. Life isn't neat and tidy. So why should America's most realistic mob show be?
The Sopranos: The Blue Comet (2007)
Hold Your Breath. Here It Comes...
Blue Comet is definitely one of those episodes that had me holding my breath. Of course, we're probably all expecting violence and bloodshed, but no amount of bracing for it can take away from the great direction and writing in this one. If you've been wise enough to not read any of the speculative comments on Sopranos bulletin boards, you'll be taken aback by a lot of the action in this installment.
******** SPOILERS ********* The Hobby Shop scene, despite the fact that I was half-expecting it, was more poetic than I anticipated. There have been scores of killings on this show, but I don't remember one with such an appropriate touch. THe trains derailing, the close-up of the toy woman with her hand over her mouth in shock, and the overhead shot of Bobby splayed across the shattered display were perfectly appropriate for the one LCN member with the most heart.
I LOVED the scene with Dr. Melfi reading up on psychoanalysis of criminals. At every highlighted word, we're lead to remember all of the things Tony has said and done over the years. SLICK. And her consultation appointment with Tony? FIERCE.
Like most of the episodes over the years, I know I missed a LOT of details in this installment, so I'm anxious to watch this one again.
The Sopranos: The Second Coming (2007)
The Pot's About to Boil Over
Tonight episode dealt primarily with A.J.'s increasingly somber mood and the worsening relationship between Tony and the NY guys. Tony's in deep, deep trouble with Phil Leotardo, so much so that even Little Carmine tries to intervene.
It's an interesting episode, full of drama, and even a jarring, violent altercation (or "alteration," as Little Carmine calls it). This episode really blurs the line between Tony's humanity and his animalistic responses. One minute, he's saving A.J. from himself, the next, he's avenging a slight towards Meadow. In my opinion, this is probably James Gandolfini's finest work so far on The Sopranos.
Now, if only the next two weeks could fly by a little faster!
The Sopranos: Kennedy and Heidi (2007)
Whatta ya gonna do?
OK, this first part is for those of you who haven't seen it: One of those episodes that you CANNOT miss. Don't miss the first fifteen minutes. There are reasons why HBO only gives short, vague synopsis for each episode. Do yourself a favor and don't read any spoilers about this one. Seriously.
We've all been looking for something to happen to CM, but I certainly wasn't expecting what happened tonight. It's ironic to me that this installment comes the week after Christopher shot J.T. without much reason to do so.
Sure, Tony has had reasons to be irritated with Chris, but making him asphyxiate on his own blood? Oh, and I loved the bit with Paulie being mad over the low attendance at Nucci's wake. Even after the teary-eyed speech about how he may not have treated Chris well, Paulie can find a reason to feel slighted, and by a dead guy, no less.
Great episode. I can't wait for next week!
The Sopranos: Walk Like a Man (2007)
Loaded With Questions, But Satisfying
This week's installment of The Sopranos returns to some of the relationship issues left open between Tony, Paulie, and Christopher. Carefully crafting the tension from three of the most recent episodes, we're beginning to see where this is going, as we head into the final four episodes.
Remember last week when I said something about not seeing enough of A.J.'s story lines in the past to care where it's going now? Well, scratch that. When Blanca dumped A.J. last week, there wasn't a whole lot of previous detail as to why he would be so emotionally involved with her, therefore, I wasn't too concerned with the direction of the story. This week, however, we realize that it isn't the breakup or the relationship that was so important, but how Tony directs A.J. in an attempt to cure his breakup blues.
Overall, it's a good episode, though I think/hope that this is just a warm up for the final four.
The Sopranos: Chasing It (2007)
Chasing Lots of Things....
For the last few weeks, the focus has been on people Tony may have cause to do away with (i.e., Christopher, Bobby, Paulie, etc.) because of their character flaws, as Tony sees them. This week, the focus is on Tony's weaknesses.
Gambling is the theme this week, and it couldn't be a more timely episode airing. Just a few days ago, A&E aired the episode where Tony and Dr. Melfi discuss the time Tony watched his father, Johnny, lop off Mr. Satriale's pinkie finger over a gambling debt. Johnny then told Tony to never start gambling, and that it leads to trouble. Fast forward, and we see Tony betting thousands of dollars on horses, football games, and roulette.
I'm not sure what enlightening thing I have to say about that point, but I guess it explains my rating on this episode. So far, we've been party to a lot of tension and climactic events, but this one really doesn't have many moments that left me holding my breath. There's even another scene with Dr. Melfi telling Tony that if he doesn't follow her psychiatric protocol, she'll have to drop him as a patient. Haven't we heard that one about ninety times before? There's a small sub-story with Vito Jr. acting out, but I'm not sure that I care a whole lot about where it's going. A.J.'s relationship takes an interesting turn, but A.J.'s story lines have made such jerks and bumps over the last season or so that I'm left not caring what happens to him.
This seems to be the "slop" episode so far. The Sopranos has been praised for it's tight storytelling and intricate threads, but this installment is pretty forgettable. Let's hope next week's episode is more satisfying.
The Sopranos: Remember When (2007)
"Remember When" is the Lowest Form of Conversation
Another tension-filled, angst-ridden episode, with lots of meat on it's bones. Tony and Paulie go on a road trip to lay low while the Feds look into the sudden discovery of a corpse. (They show most of that in the previews, so I don't think that's much of a spoiler.)
I know the characters on this show are not supposed to be likable, nice guys, but I can't help thinking that I'm really going to miss Tony Sirico/Paulie after this show's over. Paulie is certainly flawed, as this episode overly illustrates, but there's a sadness about him that makes him more human.
The actual driving scenes with Tony and Paulie reminded me a lot of the opening sequence of "Cheyanne Social Club," and I think you may agree after watching this installment.
**** SPOILERS ****** The obvious build-up to Tony's conflicted feelings about Paulie were almost too much to bear. I could almost hear David Chase snickering to himself during the boat scenes, knowing that loyal Sopranos fans would draw parallels to Big Pussy's demise, even before Paulie's flashbacks.
The Paulie storyline is yet another thread in the complicated web of Sopranos conspiracy theories. Is Paulie going to head Tony off at the pass? Will Tony hang in with Paulie, or pull an "Adrianna," and have one of the other guys do Paulie in? I have a feeling that all of the complications are going to make for an overstuffed finale, like most shows do.
In other news....Doc, one of the contenders for the NY crew boss role, is gunned down by Phil's people. There's a brief but telling scene with Doc and Phil at dinner together, where Doc insists on taking a bite from Phil's plate. It's small, but well-communicated.
Junior starts up a poker game at the institution, and becomes friends with one of the other inmates. The one thing I have to say about this facet of tonight's storytelling is that, up to this point, all of the scenes with Junior could've been filmed in a nursing home. There were very few indications that the others were mentally ill or incarcerated for committing crimes. So, this episode did better demonstrate that point. Otherwise, I could've done without it. There's so much to wrap up with a lot of characters on the show, that devoting so much time to another, new character seems wasteful.
I gave this installment an eight because, while I loved the tension and the depth of character in this one, I felt duped. The more character development, as far as Paulie is concerned, was good, but such a grandiose gesture shouldn't end on such a weak note. So Tony's annoyed. So what? He's always annoyed. If Paulie does end up on his way out, he deserves a grand exit. I dunno....
I liked what Tony said about "Remember When," and I think it applies to this show as a whole. Too much backtracking and exposition makes the show stale. It shouldn't be applied so liberally in these last few episodes. If we need to figure out who whacked who and when, we'll go back and look at the DVDs. ***** End of Spoiler*****
Watching the last few episodes, you can almost hear the clicking of the roller-coaster car as it reaches the tallest peak. I just wish that the ride wouldn't come to a screeching stop.
The Sopranos: Stage 5 (2007)
Everything I Love and Hate About The Sopranos
The latest installment of the final eight Sopranos episodes will certainly not disappoint if you want shock, surprise, and a little quicker pace.
There are many things I love about this show, but one of the things that drives me nuts is when important details are hardly mentioned or mumbled so quickly you miss them the first time. There's a lot of that in this episode. Without spoiling too much of what went down this week, I'll tell you that it's important to pay attention to the different players in the action. Even the little players you've only seen once or twice. I, for one, will be watching this again in the next couple of days, with the closed captioning on.
We all know Christopher and Little Carmine were working on "Cleaver" with Christopher's AA buddy/screen writing slave, J.T., and we finally see that project come to fruition. This project also acts as a easel for the display of Christopher's subconscious feelings towards Tony, and not without notice from others.
We get a very surprising update on Johnny Sack, but I won't spoil that for you. It's better viewed without hints.
The final scene feels like a great, tense foreshadowing of things to come, and almost seems like one of the HBO commercials for the show. The music, the symbolic gesture, and the expressions on key players' faces all let you know that the show and it's creators are in Stage Five of the Sopranos series grieving process.
The X Files: All Things (2000)
I Really Liked This Epiisode, Despite Many Reasons Not to
Up until last night, I would have sworn that I had watched every last episode of The X-Files. I thought I knew every last bit of trivia, all the funny lines, and all of the critically important shifts Scully and Mulder's characters had taken.
LAst night, All Things was on the SciFi channel, and it was almost like I was watching an entirely different series. Suddenly, the forever stoic, consistently skeptical Scully was a home-wrecker, and shaky about her faith in science. Maybe this is the pivotal episode that started all the "I believe in extreme possibilities" rants from Scully later in the series. Maybe this is the one point that I missed over the years, when I watched the episodes out of chronological order, and couldn't understand how Scully began taking over Mulder's mission for herself.
At any rate, let's go over the reasons why I shouldn't like this episode. One, Scully, through a weird twist of happenstance, finds that the man she once had an affair with is in the hospital with serious heart problems, and his daughter makes it blatantly obvious that she blames Scully for the emotional devastation the affair caused the family.
For as far back as I can remember Scully has always been the one with the high moral barometer in any situation, so it's a little difficult to digest that she would be so judgmental of, say, Skinner in Avatar.
Two, Scully learns that this man has spent the last ten years of his life living in D.C., in order to be near her again. How could she have not known about this before? She's an FBI agent, for crying out loud. She has access to all kinds of information an just about anyone she chooses, but she never figures this out before? And he never tried to contact her before? A little unbelievable.
Three, at one point, Scully finds herself wandering into a Buddist Temple, and having a big vision of her personal choices and circumstances. Now, remember, this is Scully, who's trademark is a golden cross pendant became a big symbol for her over the years. And God only knows how many times she's talked about her faith in miracles and Catholic mythology. So how can she so easily drop a lifelong faith in Christianity to suddenly be in awe of Taoist mysticism? This leads to the fourth point...Scully, after having this big epiphany, brings in a mystic healer to help her former boyfriend, and then tells him that this ritual may have saved his life. Wh-wh-what?? Seriously? Our Scully???? But now that I've explained why I shouldn't like this episode, I need to explain why I liked it so much.
It's beautifully directed, there are great, deep moments of clarity for Scully, that probably had never really been explored before, and, despite my personal love of the fact that she is the moralist of the show, it makes Scully seem more human.
There were some moments in the show that made me think I was watching Six Feet Under, and maybe that tone drew me into this installment. Yes, there's liberal use of music, and there's the recurring theme of one of the characters chasing someone who seems to be leading them to a place of significance. However, I do think it adds to the story, rather than being distracting. I'm not a huge fan of Scully or Mulder's voiceovers in episodes, but this one is short, and more to the point.
(For those who aren't familiar with X-Files and Gillian Anderson history, there was a HUGE following for Anderson after she recorded an erotic poem underscored by some electronica artist, and I think a lot of the episodes that used Scully in voice-over banked on that end of the fan spectrum.) Sure, it's not typical X-Files, and there are a lot of moments that are hard for X-Files junkies to buy into, but it's a nice diversion from some of the other installments that had become so predictable that you could set your watch for whenever certain moments would happen.
The Electric Grandmother (1982)
A Memorable, If Eerie Kid's Movie
Like most Ray Bradbury adaptations (Something Wicked This Way Comes), this story isn't perfectly wrapped up in a bow, but it is memorable and the performances are worth watching.
I have always been fascinated with this film, mainly because of the visuals and the tender performances by Maureen Stapleton and Edward Herrmann.
Sure it's flawed, and some folks may be creeped out by the subject matter, but I guess I just didn't see it that way. Sometimes children get tired of the same, fluffy, perfect kiddie fare, and this one fits the bill, for a story with a few dark tinges around the edge.
You May Disagree, But I Love This Movie
After reading some of the previous comments made about this film, I feel compelled to add my own.
I've never read the Ray Bradbury novel, though this movie did make me want to read more of his work. So what if it's not entirely true to the book? How many supernatural-themed stories adapted for film actually were true to the story in pre-CGI days? At any rate, I love this movie because it was spooky without being scary, and for a kid's movie, that was perfect for me. I'll never forget how creepy Jonathan Price was in this film. I loved the effects and the moody art direction.
It's dark without being too dark for kids, which I'm pretty sure is what Disney and most parents would want.
Most Haunted (2002)
This is one of those shows that deserves it's own drinking game. Every time the host shrieks or cries, take a drink. Every time Derek says "Slaughter", take a drink. Every time they say that a place isn't haunted, drink a whole fifth of Everclear.
Where does one begin to unravel how stupid this show is? Yes, they go to interesting places. Yes, the UK is filled with spooky places to investigate, but it's amazing that EVERY site they travel to is chock full o' ghosts.
Yvette Fielding is about as scientifically minded as a carnival barker at the freakshow. She flips out as soon as the light are off, and every bump or cobweb is a sign that someone is trying to contact her.
Derek Accora is ridiculously cheesy, especially when he goes into trances that supposedly lead to him "channeling" an evil spirit. And his "spirit guide" Sam, Derek's imaginary friend whom he thanks profusely throughout the show always manages to give him half-correct clues that lead them to another room where Yvette will nearly pee her pants.
Be sure to take a drink whenever the disclaimer at the bottom of the screen suggests that there's no proof to back up whatever Derek says. It happens often, so you'll probably be toasted after one full episode.
Ghost Hunters (2004)
The Best of the "Let's Catch Us a Ghost!" Shows
In the Reality TV category, there are two primary shows dedicated to searching for evidence of hauntings: Ghost Hunters and Most Haunted. Anyone who's watched Most Haunted will testify to their usual antics: screaming a lot, claiming that every little noise or piece of floating dust is evidence of a spirit, a cheesy psychic with a penchant for melodramatics, and total absence of anything remotely scientific.
Ghost Hunters is the polar opposite. Grant, Jason, and their crew don't look to prove a haunting, but to debunk it, with interesting results. There's very little screaming or crying involved, and their adventures have taken them to many of the spooky places we've all wondered about.
If you've never watched the show, I highly recommend the following episodes: - The first Eastern State Penitentiary investigation - The St. Augustine Lighthouse show - Both investigations into the Stanley Hotel - The Mansfield Reformatory - The Waverly Hills Sanitorium - The Queen Mary There are others to watch, but I can't remember all the names.
One of the reasons I like this show so much, other than the fact that I'd be too chicken to do something like this on my own and it's much better to watch it from the comfort of my own room, is that not every episode turns up evidence. As a matter of fact, it manages to uncover what a lot of historical societies already know: that the tourist trade of many museums and supposedly haunted sites depends on manufactured ghosts. For a good example of this, watch the Queen Mary episode, and pay close attention to the supposedly "sensitive" staffer who adamantly claims to feel the presence of spirits.
There are many reasons to watch the show, but the few drawbacks include a lot of attention to Brian Harnois and his tense relations with the GH crew. Harnois talks too much, and as an avid fan I could Care less if he bothers to apologize for his shenanigans. I'd much rather see him bound and gagged in the van while everyone else conducts the investigation.
Without many frills or melodramatic voiceovers, this show achieves what Most Haunted can't - Credibility, un-manufactured chills, and a fascinating look at places some of us may never get to see for ourselves.
The X Files: Jump the Shark (2002)
Why, God, WHY?!?!
"Jump the Shark" is one of those X-Files episodes I dread, not for any horribly tense or creepy moments, but for what happens to some of my favorite characters.
While the series is one of my all-time favorites, mostly due to great characters and the occasional dead-on one-liner, it's episodes like this one that made me stop watching.
*****SPOILER**** The Lone Gunmen are killed off in this episode. Ya know, I could understand if it served some greater purpose, but their deaths on the series only made their contribution to the show more hokey than they usually were already. Buried in ARLINGTON? Sure, they die defending their country, sort of, but these guys were meant to be the comic relief of the show, not the melodramatic crux. Mulder is still missing during this point in the series, and there's no hint later in the series as to how their absence personally affects him until their ghostly, cheesy appearance in the final installment. ****End of Spoiler
It's such a wasteful ploy in a series that prides itself on teasing the audience's taste buds.
Something Important Happens...Sort Of
This episode marks the re-disappearance of Mulder after David Duchovny decided to take his toys and go home. It's also the point when I began warming up to the Doggett and Reyes characters.
You see, originally John Doggett was written as a hard-nosed, old school cop who doesn't buy any of the supernatural theories of his predecessor, Mulder. That concept clashed in a big way with Scully's original character foundation, and most of the episodes featuring these two entailed a lot of unnecessary exposition and backtracking. (I swear, if I hear one more Scully monologue about an alien virus that attacked her body, I'm going to vomit.) Reyes seemed to be a fluffy, spineless, "Sensitive" that only managed to get in the way up to this point.
BUT....With Mulder out of the way, and Scully's baby in jeopardy, Doggett and Reyes are left with no choice but to be pro-active and face the impending dangers on their own. They're actually given breathing room to flesh out their characters instincts better.
Trust me. I'm a die-hard fan of the X-Files, and initially, I felt that the latter two seasons were totally useless. However, after seeing these installments over and over again in reruns, they've found a soft spot in my heart. I almost wished that Doggett and Reyes had their own spin-off show, instead of the X-Files producers running this series aground.
It's definitely worth a look.
The Sopranos: Soprano Home Movies (2007)
The Final Season Begins With Some Surprises
Tony Soprano is back. And as usual, the premiere is filled with a lot of exposition and memory-joggers to keep viewers from losing all the story lines and plot points.
The show opens with a flashback to Tony and Johnny Sack's fateful meeting before Johnny is hauled off to prison. The emphasis here, though, is on Tony's flight from the property, and his hasty disposal of his gun. The usually careful Tony finally gives the authorities something to nibble on.
***Spoiler*** The rest of the episode is dedicated to catching up with Tony, his family, and his crew post-jail visit. He's mad at Christopher for not showing up to his welcome home party. Bobby Baccala returns a monetary gift to Uncle Junior. A.J. has a party at the Soprano Manse while his folks are away for Tony's birthday.
There is one big, surprising scene with Tony, Bobby, Carmela, and Janice at the Baccala vacation home on the U.S./Canada border. Everyone commences celebrating Tony's birthday with booze and board games, when a drunken Tony begins making snide remarks about Janice. After holding in his anger for a while, Bobby takes a swing at Tony, and a huge brawl ensues, building further on a tense relationship between Bobby and his brother-in-law/boss, who's manliness/power is now in question. It's a brutal fight between two men so desperate to hold the crew and their families together. ***End of Spoiler***
All in all, it's a good episode, but one that will probably be forgettable in the whole scheme of the show. But of course, the opening episode of a season is usually just a teaser for the action and turmoil to come, and this one leaves a lot of room for huge possibilities in the next 7 installments.
Richard III (1995)
A Worthwhile Adaptation
Most versions of Shakespeare plays that attempt to bring a classic story into a more modern setting fail. This film is a rare exception.
Sir Ian McKellan plays Richard III with such dead-on artistry that it was hard to shake off the impression that he really was a power-hungry cretin with a hunch. Furthermore, Richard is usually played as either so evil the audience can't stand him, or so pitifully desperate that his plots and schemes don't seem plausible. But McKellan portrays him on the fine edge of the sword; evil enough to be repelled by his actions, but sly and funny enough to almost root for him.
Of course, part of why one begins empathizing with him is because he's surrounded but the shrill Annette Benning, who's not close to being McKellan's equal, and other characters that give the audience excuses to believe that they don't deserve to live. However, that simply adds another dimension to the story that is often ignored in varied productions of the play.
It's a slick, stylish film that sucks it's audience in, even in the most loathsome moments.
Heinous. Painful. Fraudulent.
Titus Andronicus is a controversial play. There are many Shakespeare purists who refuse to believe that Shakespeare had a hand in editing it, much less writing it. It's a violent play with lots of gore and far less of the poetic tongue that Shakespeare is noted for.
This film, despite the huge production values and amazing talents of Julie Taymor, is almost torture to watch.
Let's start with the actors. Jessica Lange? Doing classic theatre? Seriously? Even with all of her previously outstanding performances, she comes off as a little better than community theatre when faced with complex dialogue. Even worse, we're expected to believe that she and Alan Cumming could be physically attracted to one another. It's like putting Pee Wee Herman and Zsa Zsa Gabor in a sex scene. Gag.
Sure, the scenery is interesting, the artistic design and costumes are neat, but even Sir Anthony Hopkins is at a loss in this one. If you're a torture enthusiast, maybe this one is for you. If you have taste or a sense of what a Shakepeare play is supposed to be, there are plenty of other titles that would suit you better.
Almost Too Painful to Watch
There are films one watches simply because there are a lot of famous people in it. There are films we watch because the story is a classic, and we like to compare it previous versions.
If you're watching it for the former reason, you won't be at a loss for finding famous faces. If the latter reason compels you, don't bother.
This long, heinous exercise in ego masturbation is one example of how one actor can take himself too seriously. Kenneth Brannagh, a highly regarded British darling, stars as Hamlet, a role far too young for a man of KB's age to play. His over-the-top portrayal of the Prince of Denmark would probably have been perfect for a huge stage production, but seems ridiculously hammy, even in this lavish setting.
If you want a good laugh, watch Gerard Depardieu's cameo scene. Utilizing this beloved French actor in a scene that clearly displays his lack of English skills, it's hilarious to watch him him repeat over and over "Aye, my Lord" and "Yes, my Lord," especially since he obviously doesn't understand what Hamlet is saying to him.
I hate to admit this, but even Mel Gibson's Hamlet surpasses this one, if only for the fact that it's more to the point and easier for younger students of Shakespeare to comprehend.
If you want to see Shakepeare works done well, watch Ian McKellan in Richard III. Do your best to skip this film entirely, unless you want to make a drinking game of it.
The X Files: Squeeze (1993)
Another Great Actor Showcase
One of the hallmarks of The X Files series is brilliant performances by, not only the leads, but guest actors who may be overlooked in any other medium. This episode is no different.
Doug Hutchinson plays Eugene Tooms, the liver-eating freak Mulder and Scully chase after a series of gruesome deaths. His portrayal of a man desperate for sustenance is creepy and spot-on.Unfotunately for him, I'm sure, it's tough to shake the image of his yellow eyes out of your head when you're watching him in The Green Mile and other works after this show debuted, but for X-Files fans, it's a very memorable character.
***Spoiler** One of the things that I came to dread over the course of the show were episodes where Mulder or Scully were left in a dangerous and vulnerable spot with a killer in their home. This is one of the first episodes with Scully in such a scenario, and the effect is certainly tension building. Each time I watch this episode, I can't help but wish Mulder would pick up the phone sooner! But of course, that's what makes a show like this great. ***Spoiler***
High tension, suspense, a little bit of gross-out, and great performances makes this an important episode for X-Files fanatics.