Category Archives: deadwood

Jack the Giant Slayer

Jack the Giant Slayer ~ Fairy tales are hot in Hollywood right now. Whether it’s the two Snow White flicks last year, Hansel and Gretel with guns a few weeks back, or the hit TV series “Grimm” and “Once Upon a Time,” or even the Fables comic books – fairy tales are big business. Now it’s Jack’s turn.

This weekend, The Bride and I saw Jack the Giant Slayer at the fabulously remodeled AMC Marlton 8 Theatre, and it wasn’t just the great reclining lounger seats that made for a great movie experience – the flick was pretty good too. The big budget CGI send up of the ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ story had adventure, horror, romance, and even comedy. I might go so far as to say it reminded me a bit of The Princess Bride. Now let me be clear, it’s no Princess Bride, but it had all the hallmarks.

Bryan Singer’s take on ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ is filled with CGI giants all in need of serious dental care and repair, and a fabulous cast of character actors. Ian McShane from “Deadwood” is excellent as the King, and Ewan McGregor as the protagonist who’s not the hero of this story is terrific. However, the leads are only adequate and the actors behind the CGI giants are pretty much unrecognizable. This doesn’t stop the flick from being enjoyable, despite the story’s simplicity and predictability. There are surprises, and that helps.

This is a great popcorn flick, moves quickly, never bores, and was the perfect film to test out a terrific new theater. Thumbs up all around.

HBO Digitals

I love HBO Go, absolutely love it. Since I installed it in my iPhone, I have watched the entire runs of “Big Love,” “Deadwood,” and “Oz,” all awesome television in their own right. Recently, while exploring HBO Go, I found a section hidden off in the Comedy category called HBO Digitals. These are mini-shows, could-have-beens I guess. There are four, and they are really something special. I would almost want to watch these mini-series than some of the real stuff that does make it to ‘real’ TV.

“Garfunkel and Oates”

If you’ve seen this terrific musical comedy duo, you know what to expect. I love them. They are sly and funny, and even better in their own three to five minute mini-episodes. The episodes are more or less frameworks for their songs, but still, damn funny. Oh, and sooo not work or family safe.


“The Boring Life of Jacqueline”

The opening episode is a test in cringe – how long will you hold out? Yes, when they say boring, they mean boooring. It is almost like a dare gone too far, or a staring contest. If you get past the first episode, it’s worth it. The show does kick in eventually and becomes a rather disturbing picture of a lonely but pitiful, and suicidal sociopath. Jaclyn Jonet plays an out of work actress obsessed with the building maintenance man. Don’t let the description or first episode scare you off, this is wonderful and subtle brilliance from Mike White, and deserves a spot on HBO’s regular line-up.

“Brody Stevens: Enjoy It”

This one is about BS, a comedian, manic depressive, compulsive Twitterer, performance artist, stalker, baseball player, and god knows what else. You might know him from “Chelsea Lately,” or the Hangover movies. I don’t really know what this program is about, besides Brody Stevens wrecking his life, even after a half-dozen episodes, and I like that about it. He’s abrasive, specializes again in cringe humor, has animation, and always surprises. Co-produced, co-written, and co-starring Zach Galifianakis. It’s fun, not for everyone, but fun.

“Single Long”

At first this seemed like a failed hipster/slacker sitcom about a dating site, but eventually it turns into a sweet love story between two reluctant friends. Like “Jacqueline,” it takes a while to kick in, but it’s well worth it. The show is fully saved by the charisma of spunky Sarra Jahedi. I just can’t get enough of her. All great finds on the iPhone with HBO Go.

Luck

I’ll watch any drama on HBO. There is simply a level of quality that is always present. And it doesn’t matter what a given television series is about, there is always amazing writing, direction, and performance, always.

My mother-in-law notoriously dislikes science fiction, fantasy, and horror. That genre stuff just turns her off. It’s too ‘creepy’ to use her word. Yet last summer she was sucked into the fantasy world of George R.R. Martin’s “A Game of Thrones.” She even watched several episodes one right after the other to catch up. That is the magic of HBO drama. It doesn’t matter what it’s about, it matters how it’s done, and the quality and care with which it is done.

That brings us to “Luck.” I really couldn’t care less about horse racing. It does less for me than genre television does for the mom-in-law, but the HBO drama rule pulled me in. The sneak peek of the pilot back in December hooked me and made me wait with baited breath for the series debut a few weeks back. This show is fabulous.

The HBO drama rule is not all it has going for it though. Oh there is a slight “Sopranos” vibe going on, but that’s not the kicker. What drives this show is the acting. You’ve got some heavy hitters here with Dustin Hoffman, Nick Nolte, and Dennis Farina, as well as an ensemble of some of the best character actors around. Most notable are Kevin Dunn, Richard Kind, and one of my faves, from the much missed “Dirt,” Ian Hart.

The series, created by writer David Milch who also worked on the network’s terrific and also missed “Deadwood,” follows the events and characters tied to a particular race track, and it’s all done with class and in the slick style of executive producer Michael Mann. These two allow the big three actors to be as big as they want on the small screen and it’s a good thing – all are at their best here.

There are only nine episodes in this first season, and with the fourth coming this Sunday, there’s plenty of time to catch up. This is yet another HBO show you should not miss.

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Just a reminder, The Virtual Book Tour for THE HUNGRY HEART STORIES is featured today at Shelley Szajner’s blog with an interview with the author Fran Metzman, and continues tomorrow on Becca Butcher’s blog. Don’t miss it!

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Bunraku

Bunraku ~ I saw this a few days back and I’m still not sure what I thought of it. It’s hard to describe. The word that is the title is Japanese and refers to a 400 year old type of theater that makes use of puppets, shadows and origami. It does in fact describe the way this movie is filmed. If I had to give it a shot, I would call Bunraku a samurai gangster western musical morality play. It is shot mostly on a soundstage and many of the sets and miniatures are paper. If nothing else, it’s impressive.

The story of a cowboy without a gun and a samurai without a sword who face off against an evil warlord and his gang of assassins takes place in a future where there are no guns, and the world has returned to the way of the sword. Josh Hartnett does his best Tim Olyphant impression from “Deadwood” as the cowboy, with Demi Moore making brief appearances as a madam, and Woody Harrelson plays a wounded hero turned bartender with a penchant for making pop-up books with forgotten (or perhaps stolen) comic book themes. Ron Perlman is the evil warlord, and Kevin McKidd (from two of my favorite shows that never should have been canceled – “Rome” and “Journeyman”) deftly dances through and steals the entire movie from the rest of the cast as the lead assassin, Killer Number Two.

In closing, Bunraku is at its core a morality play, and a samurai film in the old tradition. It’s also very stylish and has to be seen to be believed. I recommend it with a precaution. Be prepared to be weirded out, and blown away.

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