Category Archives: mad men

The Americans

FX has been hyping this new series for a while. Quite honestly I was getting tired of seeing ads for it during this past season of “Sons of Anarchy,” but I guess the saturation effect worked. I did DVR the pilot and I did watch it.

At first glance “The Americans” appears to be a Reagan era Cold War drama about Soviet sleeper agents, designed to cash in as some sort of hybrid of both “Mad Men” and “Homeland,” but it’s just a little bit more. As a survivor of the period, I can tell you the music is time correct, and I have to say the opening sequence using Fleetwood Mac’s “Tusk” is just short of amazing. Serious props to writer and creator Joe Weisberg and director Gavin O’Connor.

The problem is my interest plummeted after that opening sequence. The characters were not engaging, and neither was the acting. Maybe if they had stuck with the slick MTV vibe of the opening, or washed us more in the nostalgia of the 1980s, this could have been good…

Notably, it was nice to see Richard (John-Boy Walton) on TV again, but even his brief presence couldn’t save this. Of course there’s always the possibility that FX could retool or fix this, but it might be too little, too late.

In Time

In Time ~ This is one of those types of science fiction concept flicks that would have been right at home on a double bill with other 1970s era movies like Rollerball, The Omega Man, Logan’s Run, and Planet of the Apes. The concept is the draw point. Here in In Time, the idea is a world where time is currency. Similar to the aforementioned Logan’s Run, one has a limited lifespan, 25 in this case, but more time can be earned or stolen, and some people can live for centuries.

This is a lot more clever than it at first appears to be. Much fun is had in dialogue with time measurements in place of monetary amounts. Many of the characters are named after famous watchmakers. Fun.

Justin Timberlake deftly plays Will Salas, who loses his mother to time limit and also is given over a century by a stranger in the space of a day. The stranger also imparts over a century to him before expiring himself. On the run from perennial baddie Cillian Murphy as a Timekeeper (that’s futurespeak for cop) for the stranger’s murder, Will ends up on the run with Amanda Seyfried as a hostage. She’s the daughter of a rich socialite, played by Vincent Kartheiser, Pete Campbell of “Mad Men.” This is where In Time spins into current day thriller as opposed to retro-sci-fi.

In Time was written by producer and director Andrew Niccol who’s had similar flicks under his belt like Gattaca, The Truman Show, and S1m0ne. It’s as if he’s got one foot in the day after tomorrow scifi vibe. He also wrote the story that The Terminal was based on and produced a handful as well. I’ll be looking for his name in the future based on In Time. There’s more to this flick than seems at first glance, worth a look.

The Adjustment Bureau

The Adjustment Bureau ~ This is one of those movies that I really wish I didn’t know the premise of before I started watching it. The on-screen electricity between Matt Damon and Emily Blunt at the beginning of this flick is marred by knowing that their relationship is doomed. It made me sad that the bulk of the movie would be about them trying to get together and stay together while others pull them apart – when what I really wanted to see was them together and watching their romance bloom. Perhaps it’s something we can see when and if they are paired in another film, because they have chemistry, and it is sadly wasted here in this non-romance.

Now that is not to say this is a bad movie, it’s not, it just doesn’t play well with the abilities of the actors. Damon is good, Blunt is good, but they could have been great. The movie is scifi, not romance, and it’s based on the classic scifi story “Adjustment Team” by the late Philip K. Dick. The premise is that our lives are predetermined by Fate, and maintained by agents of Fate. If we veer off course, these agents step in and make sure all goes to plan. Damon and Blunt are not meant to be together – and it rolls from there, hilarity ensues, and the action begins.

Again, it’s no romance, more like another Bourne movie with a supernatural edge, but it’s good. John Slattery from “Mad Men” does a suitable imitation of that role as the leader of the ‘adjustment team.’ I also like team member Anthony Mackie, and it took me a while to figure out where I know him from. He’s been in the background of a million different things, nothing major, but I think he’s someone to watch.

All in all, it’s not a bad scifi flick, even though it quickly disintegrates into an action flick. Defnitely worth a watch, worth a rental or a pay-per-view. Good premise, good acting, and you just can’t beat Dick. Behave. You know what I mean. And watch out for the men in hats.

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New Season Fail?

I hate to say it, but other than the “Wonder Woman” pilot from David E. Kelley that NBC did not buy, I haven’t really seen anything from this newest TV season that has impressed me, nothing.

I love Zooey Dechandel, so I checked out her sitcom, “New Girl,” on Fox. First I was curious what someone like her who has been so successful in movies would want with television. I mean, this had to either be a great show, or a lot of money, right? Well, it turns out it might just be money. She’s fun and hilarious, but her three male co-stars were unwatchable. The problem – there’s three of them and just one of her. Awful.

Also on Fox, I tried the much anticipated “X-Factor” from Simon Cowell, and again, I was unimpressed. For someone who wanted to make a show that wasn’t like “American Idol,” it sure seemed a lot like “American Idol,” and not in a good way. Here’s hoping that Simon, along with Paula Abdul, return to “AI” next season. It will be better for everyone.

As long as we’re beating dead horses, the show I most was interested in this new season was “Terra Nova,” which at first glance kinda looked like an American version of “Primeval.” If only it was. I’d take another rip-off of a mediocre British scifi series over this dreck any day. Where were the freaking dinosaurs? Damn tease.

Look, don’t show dinosaurs in your thirty-second previews of the show for the last four months and not put any damn dinosaurs in the pilot for over an hour. To quote Millhouse in one of my favorite “Simpsons” episodes – When are they gonna get to the fireworks factory?”

There were other series that were disappointments. “Unforgettable,” “A Gifted Man” and “Person of Interest” all had intriguing concepts, and quickly displayed with second episodes that they were all three simply formula shows. I don’t think we will ever see any progress on the main plot that got us hooked on the show, but will just be case of the week series. Damn shame too.

I was even disappointed by “Homeland.” It reeked of predictability for me. Again, a fine concept that just didn’t do it for me on the screen. Wow. When the pay cable shows aren’t good, you know it’s a bad season.

“Pan Am” was a pilot that has to be seen to be believed, so if you didn’t catch it, check OnDemand and see it. Not just for the now anorexic Christina Ricci, you need to see this decidedly confused show. First it’s kinda “Mad Men,” then it wants to be a comedy, then it’s an Airport movie and finally at the end it’s a spy thriller. See it while it lasts, it could be the quirky fun hit of the bunch, so bad, it’s good.

The only show I thought had promise, was canceled before I actually got to see it, which shows you just how on the mark I am with these things. Like “Pan Am,” it’s a period piece, same time frame, but this one’s deadly serious. “The Playboy Club” is/was about a mob murder in, you guessed it, a Playboy club. It had much promise, but, unfortunately, dead on arrival.



It looks like we’ll have new replacement shows coming up quickly as I think many of these are headed to the same fate as “The Playboy Club.” Hmmm… maybe NBC should take another look at “Wonder Woman”…

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X-Men First Class

After the fiasco that was the third X-Men film, appropriately called The Last Stand, I really wanted nothing to do with seeing another X-film. Even my seeing the Wolverine movie was at great protest even though I quite enjoyed parts of it. However, the teasers and previews for X-Men First Class were just too enticing, what with the concept of a period piece matched with a reboot of the series, as well as an exploration of the relationship between the young Xavier and Magneto. I was in, for better or for worse.  

The beginning is a bit disturbing, replaying the opening of the first X-Men flick with young Erik Lehnsherr being pulled from his parents at a Nazi concentration camp and his magnetic power beginning to manifest against a metal gate between them. Things become much worse after that, as Kevin Bacon playing the sinister Sebastian Shaw of the Hellfire Club, shows a bit of his background as a Nazi scientist who tortures the boy to gain his secrets.

In parallel, we see the pampered young Charles Xavier gain a new sister and mutant confidant in Raven Darkholme, later to be known as Mystique. It goes on like that, with Charles finding success (except it seems picking up women in bars) and Erik hunting down Nazi war criminals, until their paths cross in the real plot of the movie.

Between the Second World War and now (now being 1962) Sebastian Shaw has changed his Nazi name and formed (or joined, it’s not clear, but he is its leader) the Hellfire Club, and they plan to manipulate the US and Russia into a nuclear war that will destroy the human race and make everyone mutants – the next step in evolution. CIA agent (yeah, I know, it’s a bizarre departure from her role in the comics) Moira MacTaggert suspects this and recruits Xavier to help the government.

Soon, with Cerebro’s help, a preliminary X-Men team is formed – including Magneto, the Beast, Banshee, Darwin, Angel Salvatore, Havok and Mystique – and they go to war with the Hellfire Club. Look for a wonderful one-line cameo from Hugh Jackman as Wolverine during the recruitment sequence. The final battle between the teams has moments like the end of The Return of the King where you think it’s never going to end, but it never sinks to the lows of X-Men: The Last Stand.

There are terrific performances here. Kevin Bacon, a name I never would have considered when thinking of Sebastian Shaw, is perfectly evil and never goes over the top as he did in other such roles like in The River Wild or The Hollow Man. January Jones is also the perfect Emma Frost, and is nowhere near as wooden as she usually is in “Mad Men.” She looks the part, but frankly I was worried because I hate her work on the show so much. It is notable that she’s the only thing I dislike about “Mad Men.”

I liked this a lot, so much more than I ever would have suspected. If you told me I’d like an X-Men film, much less one about the X-Men vs. the Hellfire Club in the shadows of the Cuban Missile Crisis, I probably would have laughed at you. And I would have been wrong. Fans of the comics, fans of the movies, and you other folks too – you should check this out. First Class is the X-Men movie we have all been waiting for.

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Boardwalk Empire

HBO does it again. Do they ever make programming that is not the best out there? No, and how can someone not like a television series that film god Martin Scorsese has his hands in? He actually directed the pilot episode, the one that got this series renewed after only one airing, if that tells you anything about its quality. It was fabulous. For me, Scorsese working on the small screen is the equivalent of Leonardo da Vinci doing a comic book – lower rent yes, but the hand of a genius on a format smaller than their mind – a spectacular effect.

“Boardwalk Empire” takes place in 1920 Atlantic City and follows the exploits of Nucky Thompson as played by Steve Buscemi. Again, Buscemi is someone suited for the big screen and therefore rules the small one. It is good to see him finally in a role that matches his abilities. His character is based loosely (or closely, depending on your perspective) of Nucky Johnson who was treasurer of Atlantic City of the time, a famously generous and equally infamously corrupt personage whose work behind the scenes has become legend.

While Nucky’s name is altered to protect both the innocent and the guilty, there are other real life folks floating around “Boardwalk Empire.” Stephen Graham’s Al Capone and certainly Vincent Piazza as Lucky Luciano are notable for their appearances here, but the real real life tour de force is Michael K. Williams as African-American gangster Chalky White. You might remember him from his role as Omar in “The Wire.”

And speaking of fantastic performances, serious props go to Kelly MacDonald, Gretchen Mol and especially to Michael Pitt as Jimmy. The latter is the real star here in my opinion, and will walk from here to much bigger and better things, if that’s possible. And Michael Shannon is particularly scary as the IRS agent pursuing Thompson.

Final word, this is damn good television, right up there with other HBO alum like “The Sopranos” and the aforementioned “The Wire” as well as stuff like “Mad Men” and “Dexter.” “Boardwalk Empire” is do-not-miss television.

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Rubicon on AMC

AMC’s “Rubicon” officially starts tonight with two episodes in the rocker seat next to the hit “Mad Men,” a nice place for any new show.

Like “Mad Men,” this is both a thinking series, and a character-driven one. From what I’ve seen it might take some time to warm to its quirky cast of characters but I think in the long run it might be worth it. Check it out.

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The New Prisoner

First AMC gave us “Mad Men,” which is just brilliant, but now they are treading on hallowed ground. One of the most beloved cult TV series is “The Prisoner” starring Patrick McGoohan, and now AMC has remade it…

Coming in November…

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Emmy Noms and Predictions

Just the highlights…

Outstanding Comedy Series

30 Rock • NBC •
Entourage • HBO •
Family Guy • FOX •
Flight Of The Conchords • HBO •
How I Met Your Mother • CBS •
The Office • NBC •
Weeds • Showtime •

I’m at a handicap here, only having seen a few. I love “Entourage” but I think “Family Guy” takes this one.

Outstanding Drama Series

Big Love • HBO •
Breaking Bad • AMC •
Dexter • Showtime •
House • FOX •
Lost • ABC •
Mad Men • AMC •

Again, I love “Dexter” but “Mad Men” is simply one of the best series on television, period.

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Comedy Series

30 Rock • NBC • Alec Baldwin, as Jack Donaghy
Flight Of The Conchords • HBO • Jemaine Clement, as Jemaine
Monk • USA • Tony Shalhoub, as Adrian Monk
The Big Bang Theory • CBS • Jim Parsons, as Sheldon Cooper
The Office • NBC • Steve Carell, as Michael Scott
Two And A Half Men • CBS • Charlie Sheen, as Charlie Harper

Geeks stick together. Go, Sheldon.

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Drama Series

Breaking Bad • AMC • Bryan Cranston, as Walter White
Dexter • Showtime • Michael C. Hall, as Dexter Morgan
House • FOX • Hugh Laurie, as Dr. Gregory House
In Treatment • HBO • Gabriel Byrne, as Paul
Mad Men • AMC • Jon Hamm, as Don Draper
The Mentalist • CBS • Simon Baker, as Patrick Jane

Tough one, but again, “Mad Men” takes it.

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Comedy Series

30 Rock • NBC • Tina Fey, as Liz Lemon
Samantha Who? • ABC • Christina Applegate, as Samantha Newly
The New Adventures Of Old Christine • CBS • Julia Louis-Dreyfus, as Christine
The Sarah Silverman Program • Comedy Central • Sarah Silverman, as Sarah Silverman
United States Of Tara • Showtime • Toni Collette, as Tara Gregson
Weeds • Showtime • Mary-Louise Parker, as Nancy Botwin

Anyone who’s seen “United States of Tara” knows that Toni Collette blows the competition away.

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Drama Series

Brothers & Sisters • ABC • Sally Field, as Nora Walker
Damages • FX Networks • Glenn Close, as Patty Hewes
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit • NBC • Mariska Hargitay, as Detective Olivia Benson
Mad Men • AMC • Elisabeth Moss, as Peggy Olson
Saving Grace • TNT • Holly Hunter, as Grace Hanadarko
The Closer • TNT • Kyra Sedgwick, as Brenda Leigh Johnson

Peggy from “Mad Men” obviously.

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Miniseries Or A Movie

Accidental Friendship • Hallmark Channel • Chandra Wilson, as Yvonne
Coco Chanel • Lifetime • Shirley MacLaine, as Coco Chanel
Grey Gardens • HBO • Drew Barrymore, as Little Edie
Grey Gardens • HBO • Jessica Lange, as Big Edie
Prayers For Bobby • Lifetime • Sigourney Weaver, as Mary Griffith

One of the two actresses from Grey Gardens, which will take several awards this season. Yeah, it’s just that good.

Outstanding Reality – Competition Program

American Idol • FOX •
Dancing With The Stars • ABC •
Project Runway • Bravo •
The Amazing Race • CBS •
Top Chef • Bravo •

I love me some “Idol” and “Race” but for pure entertainment value (both intentional and unintentional), I gotta go with “Runway.”

Outstanding Reality Program

Antiques Roadshow • PBS •
Dirty Jobs • Discovery Channel •
Dog Whisperer • NGC •
Intervention • A&E •
Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List • Bravo •
MythBusters • Discovery Channel •

Just give it to Kathy.

Outstanding Variety, Music Or Comedy Series

Late Show With David Letterman • CBS •
Real Time With Bill Maher • HBO •
Saturday Night Live • NBC •
The Colbert Report • Comedy Central •
The Daily Show With Jon Stewart • Comedy Central •

Ahem. That’s right, folks – Stewart, Colbert and Maher are not news, it’s at best comedy opinion – not news. That said, “SNL” will get the Emmy.

Outstanding Variety, Music Or Comedy Special

Chris Rock – Kill The Messenger • HBO •
Kathy Griffin: She’ll Cut A Bitch • Bravo •
Ricky Gervais: Out Of England — The Stand-Up Special • HBO •
The Kennedy Center Honors • CBS •
Will Ferrell: You’re Welcome America. A Final Night With George W. Bush • HBO •

Chris Rock deserves it, but just to get even for my comments in the last category, Will Ferrell will get it, because America hates Bush, but loves laughing at him.

My favorite nomination? Justin Timberlake for original composition… of “Motherlover.” Love it.

For a full rundown of this year’s Emmy nominations, click here.

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