Category Archives: showtime

Clear History

Clear History ~ I stumbled onto this movie blind and with caution. Blind because I didn’t know anything about it other than it starred Larry David and Jon Hamm. With caution because HBO movies, with very little exception, have been very bad to me in the past. Whether it’s The Girl, Behind the Candelabra, or Phil Spector, it hasn’t been all that pleasant. In the case of Clear History, this might be a new beginning.

The story is one of bad judgment and revenge, starring and co-written by Larry David, with all the style and idiosyncrasies of “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” What a surprise. Larry David, at first in stealth mode looking very Unabomber-like, plays a man who jumps ship on a billion dollar electric car idea, then lives as a hermit under an assumed name after the world thinks of him as a total idiot. While he’s hiding out in Martha’s Vineyard a decade later his boss comes to live. With his new life at stake, LD plans his revenge.

Larry David is at his finest here. Michael Keaton is a surprise here, he’s funny and even uses his Beetlejuice voice to good effect for the first time in decades. Liev Schreiber is good too, even though he’s uncredited because of his contract with rival network Showtime. This is also the first time I have enjoyed Danny McBride in anything.

Clear History is a very good, very funny movie, recommended, especially if you’re a “Curb” fan. Keep it up, HBO.

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Random Tater Pic of the Day #112

Prometheus

Prometheus ~ First things first, get any notion out of your head that this flick has anything to do with the Alien series. It may, but waiting for those bits that connect it, or even expecting them, will lessen your enjoyment of this otherwise fairly good scifi horror. It’s Ridley Scott, it’s terror in space, but Alien it is not.

Motivated by ancient cave drawings, a space mission in the future travels to a distant planet described in those drawings. The assumption is this is where to find the origin of man, our creators, who the scientists in charge call The Engineers. Yes, it’s vague, and attempts are made to explain it along the way, but in the end it gets us to the planet, and starts the action moving.

The Prometheus and its crew land on the planet, explore an abandoned complex full of dead Engineers and one by one get picked off by various horrors from within and without in Alien-like suspense. Ghosts, monsters, mystery goo, infections, its all here. There is also the obligatory robot we don’t know whether to trust or not. Paranoia is the name of the game, and Scott does it well.

Now for the cringeworthy spoiler alert and reason you might not want to see this flick. After being quite suddenly impregnated, Noomi Rapace (from the original, and superior, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), playing a character named Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (yeah, I couldn’t get the Doctor Who reference out of my head either), gives herself an abortion. It is every bit as horrifying, and more so, as it sounds. Definitely one of the hardest things for me to watch in a movie in quite some time. Consider yourself warned.

There’s a terrific ensemble cast including Charlize Theron, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Wong, Guy Pearce, and the always terrific Idris Elba. Can that man do no wrong? There’s also Sean Harris, who played the assassin Micheletto, the best thing about Showtime’s “The Borgias.” He is equally as good at scene stealing here too.

Worth seeing, but with several provisos, you have been warned.

Family Band: The Cowsills Story

Family Band: The Cowsills Story ~ I would wager most of the folks reading this have zero idea who the Cowsills are, and I also think those that do know, only know the footnote.

The Cowsills did “Hair,” the title track from the Broadway show, the theme to “Love American Style,” and oh yeah, they were the inspiration for the Partridge Family – literally the real thing. Again, just a footnote. That’s pretty much all I knew as well until I watched this great documentary on Showtime.

The doc, done through interviews with the Cowsills, and their contemporaries, as well as footage of the time, tells the tale of the family band’s meteoric rise and eventual fall into oblivion. There’s a tragic side in the form of the manipulative and abusive father. It doesn’t end well, probably why you don’t remember them, but you should.

House of Cards

I’m about a month late to the party on this one, but there’s still time for the rest of us. This fabulous Netflix exclusive TV series starring Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright, and Kate Mara, is probably the best thing I’ve seen outside of pay cable in a while. And that’s probably the coolest thing about it – it’s not cable at all – it’s only available on Netflix. Welcome to the future.

“House of Cards” is based on the book(s) by Michael Dobbs, and the BBC miniseries that followed by Andrew Davies. Originally set in British Parliament, show developer and producer Beau Willimon adapted the concept to Washington DC and the US Capitol for American viewers. Spacey is an ambitious Congressman manipulating his way to the top with almost demonic precision and sly fourth wall breaking asides to the viewers at home. There are Emmy caliber performances by all involved, but I wonder if it will be eligible for the Emmys?

Netflix, observing viewing habits and trying to keep ahead or at least abreast of cutting edge technology, has gone into the entertainment business, creating their own shows. Seeing that many folks will watch an entire series at once, sometimes a season at a time – a practice called ‘stripping,’ Netflix created shows meant to adapt to that. In that spirit, the entire first season of “House of Cards” was released all at once on February 1st.

The compelling characters, I tense stories, and terrific performances will keep you coming back episode after episode. It also has the likes of David Fincher, James Foley, and Joel Schumacher in the director’s chair.  This is a series worthy of HBO, Showtime, or AMC, yeah, it’s that good. I highly recommend it. I just don’t know what I’ll be doing until season two comes out…

Paul Williams Still Alive

Paul Williams Still Alive ~ I saw this great little documentary on Showtime one night when I couldn’t get to sleep, and I’m glad I did. I remember Paul Williams. He was everywhere in the 1970s on TV and movies. I knew he was a singer, and more importantly, a songwriter. A serious songwriter. If you listened to the radio in the early seventies, you heard dozens of Paul Williams songs. In a way, he was the seventies.

What immediately pulled me in about this documentary was that the narrator seems to think that as well. As a matter of fact, his perspective and sense of time and space were mine. That commonality made this doc somehow more personal.

By the time the documentarian is actually accepted by Paul Williams, I was hooked and in for the whole ride. Really I would have watched anything at this point, but man, what a treat that it was really good. Writer/director Stephen Kessler is that good, I would have watched a doc about squid if that’s what it became.

The actual doc subject however is Paul Williams. The thing is, this isn’t just a bio of an amazing songwriter, singer, and pop culture icon – it’s also a tale of his fall and redemption. At the time if this doc, Williams was not only on tour, but also twenty years sober and a licensed drug rehab counselor. And it’s also the story of the friendship between the filmmaker and his subject.

Whether you watch it as a Paul Williams fan, as a time capsule of the 1970s, or just as a darned good documentary, Paul Williams Still Alive is definitely worth watching. Check it out.

Homeland

I’m a latecomer to this show. I tried watching it during its first season and just couldn’t get into it. My mom-in-law was enjoying it, so I gave it another shot, this time, getting through two episodes, and not digging it because I found t too predictable.

Then Emmy time came around just before the start of the second season of “Homeland.” The show was a big winner, and I had friends who were surprised I wasn’t watching, saying it was right in my television wheelhouse. I relented, and watched the whole first season streaming in about a week.

I was wrong. It’s really only predictable for about four episodes, after that I was irrevocably hooked. The second season has been as just as good as the first, something I wasn’t sure it could keep up.

There are problems however. The first was something I thought only I was seeing, but as a recent “Saturday Night Live” sketch brought to light, Claire Danes’ overacting and crazy unblinking eyes when having an anxiety attack skate the thin line between reality and over the top almost to the point of laughing out loud. Her crazy face jumps the shark every time she makes it.

Brody’s daughter is the current equivalent of the daughter in “24,” where you have to ask, why do we care? It’s subplot just for the sake of subplot, rather than efficient storytelling. These last two points make me wonder if we’ll get a third season despite how amazing everything else on the show is.

Time will tell. Despite what I’ve said, I’m glued to my TV every Sunday night.

How CBS Is Ruining Big Brother

Since the first season of “Big Brother” viewers in the United States have not really been watching the real “Big Brother.” American audiences were not receptive, read as low ratings, to the format that had been so successful everywhere else in the world, so US producers made up their own rules. It’s become a unique entity, and that’s not even getting into oddities like US censorship, editing, and limited viewing or prerecorded broadcasts. “Big Brother” US is its own thing, and it’s killing it.

I could get into how incestuous it’s become. The only excitement seems to come from having old houseguests return, or having them transplant from and to other CBS reality TV programs. New viewers tend to be turned off by all of this internal continuity faster than a newbie reading an X-Men comic.

There is also the censorship issue. If CBS doesn’t want you to see something, and it doesn’t happen in the seemingly regulated Showtime late night hours, or you’re not subscribed to the paid feed (and even then sometimes), you’re just not going to see it. Like the rumors of houseguest Chima threatening to take a dump on the bed – the real ratings-getters never make the grade.

The most infuriating way CBS is ruining “Big Brother” is with their Big Brother Network email subscription service. They apparently don’t understand the simply concepts of subject lines, and most importantly, spoilers. I tend to watch my television on DVR, hours, sometimes days later than the original broadcast. More times than I want to admit, I have gotten an email from the BBN with “So-And-So Evicted” in the subject heading. Wtf??

You better straighten up, CBS, I don’t know how much longer I’ll be hanging around the Big Brother House.

What I Liked in 2011

Rather than go whole hog and do a best and worst of blog entry this year, and besides I’m already a week or so late for that anyway, I’m going to be tardy and lazy, and just do lists. Sorry, but I’m burnt, that’s all you get this year. Here are the lists, bests, favorites, take your pick…

Movies – in no particular order – Hugo, Ra.One, Captain America: The First Avenger, Super 8, Midnight in Paris, Attack the Block, Thor, The Help, Source Code, and Bunraku.

Television – also in no particular order – “Hell on Wheels,” “Game of Thrones,” “Boardwalk Empire,” “Treme,” “Doctor Who,” “Mad Men,” “Dexter,” “The Hour,” “Shameless,” “Castle,” “Chuck” “Louie,” “Sons of Anarchy” and “The Walking Dead.” And yes, I know that’s more than ten choices. Deal with it.

With the birthday gift of a Nook late in the year I have started to read again so I wanted to give a shout out to a few books as well. I liked A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin, Horns by Joe Hill, Supergods by Grant Morrison, Kraken by China Mieville, and Reamde by Neal Stephenson.

I didn’t really listen to much new music this year. I bought a lot of stuff from “Glee,” and new albums by Kate Bush, William Shatner, Adam Warrock and Robyn, as well as soundtracks to Ra.One, X-Men First Class, and “Treme” spent a lot of time on my iPod.

Comics – T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents by Nick Spencer, Aquaman by Geoff Johns, Secret Avengers by Warren Ellis, Frankenstein Agent of SHADE, Action Comics by Paul Cornell, and the new Defenders series from Matt Fraction are all up high in my opinion.

And, in short, that’s what I liked in 2011…

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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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