Recap: Last Tango in Halifax S1, E4

This is Caroline and Gillian’s episode. It’s the rainy evening when Alan (Derek Jacobi) and Celia (Anne Reid) are trapped in the spooky hall they scouted as a wedding location. Gillian (Nicola Walker) is outside with firemen who responded to her flaming Land Rover. She returns to the house, anxious because her dad isn’t home yet and isn’t answering his phone.

Paul (Sacha Dhawan), in all his bloody, beat-up glory on her couch, asks how the fire started. She says they don’t know, but he says someone torched it.

Anne Reid and Derek Jacobi in Last Tango in Halifax
Anne Reid and Derek Jacobi

In the old hall, Celia and Alan found candles, food, a deck of cards and a bed. They are on the bed, still wearing their coats. They sing and talk to the creaking noises that might be a ghost. Alan is having chest pains, which he hides from Celia. Alan says, “Do you think anyone’s realized that we’re missing?”

Indeed, pretty much everyone will know they are missing before long. Gillian calls John (Tony Gardner)  looking for the two tardy lovers. John gives the phone to Caroline (Sarah Lancashire), who takes note of the fact that John has Gillian’s number and she has his while talking to Gillian about calling her mother. Celia doesn’t answer her phone either.

Gillian mentions that her dad doesn’t have his heart pills and shows her worry, which gets through to Caroline.

Celia flushes a noisy toilet in the old hall, while Alan stands guard with candles and a guide book to the age of this ancient structure they’re stuck in. Drafts and noisy spook them a bit.

Josh Bolt as Raff
Josh Bolt as Raff

Gillian calls her son Raff (Josh Bolt) looking for Alan. Robbie (Dean Andrews) offers his usual trash talk about Gillian and Raff actually stands up for her. Raff offers to go to the farm and to help find his grandad.

Caroline sets off for the police station, as the fears about the missing parents have infected her too.

The fearful spookiness of the hall is making Celia angry and she’s talking about suing. They climb back into the big bed as candles move around and doors open themselves.

Alan's sidekicks
Alan’s sidekicks

Raff and Robbie reach the farm. A couple of Alan’s friends show up, mainly for comic relief. At least they notice Paul sitting on the couch, which is more than Robbie and Raff have mentioned yet.

Nina Sosanya as Kate
Nina Sosanya as Kate

In the car, Caroline is on the phone with Kate (Nina Sosanya), who brings up Caroline’s suggestion that they go away for the weekend. Kate is looking at a web site about Barcelona and is ready to book a getaway. Caroline says, “Can we talk about it later?” When she reaches the police station, the two old buddies of Alan’s are still about, still bringing the comic relief. Robbie explains that police cameras will tell them where the car was last seen. Gillian suggests they all go home.

Caroline goes with them to the farm. Caroline points at Paul on the couch, asks who he is. Robbie and Raff explain that he’s Paul, an idiot, who was beat up because he’s “not popular.”

Robbie follows Gillian into the kitchen and they finally have the conversation they’ve needed to have for days about what she’s doing with Paul. She says, “It’s been 10 years, do you seriously think I haven’t slept with other people?” He stumbles around and finally admits that all his lashing out was because he likes Gillian himself, a fact obvious to everyone but Gillian all this time. He basically apologizes and she says she appreciates it.

A phone call informs them the car was seen driving on Godley Lane. There’s a discussion about what’s on that road. Nobody knows why they are there, until Paul says, “You can get married at South Whatever Hall.” (I still can’t get the name.) They realize then that Alan and Celia were there looking for a wedding venue.

Cops arrive outside the hall where Alan and Celia are now sleeping peacefully. The cops find the empty car parked there but don’t think to look inside the hall because the manager of the place tells them the Hall was closed all day.

John, home with his boys, talks about not wanting to get a divorce. The younger son gets quite upset over the idea of a divorce.

Sarah Lancashire
Sarah Lancashire as Caroline

Caroline and Gillian are cleaning up the kitchen at the farm, washing dishes. They talk. Really talk. They talk about Raff, Paul, John, themselves. Caroline isn’t holding it together very well and welcomes the offer of brandy with enthusiasm.  They are starting to care about each other. If two women ever needed a friend, it’s these two. Happy as I am that Alan and Celia found each other, I’m even happier to see these two connect – they both desperately need someone to talk with.

A phone call tells them they’ve found the car, but not Alan and Celia. The police think Alan and Celia have killed themselves, to which Gillian answers, “They’re in love. They’ve never been happier.” Robbie reassures everyone about the situation and offers to go to the hall.

the farm
The farm in the morning light

Morning comes and Caroline and Gillian sit outside drinking coffee (tea?). Again, they have a meaningful conversation. This time about Gillian’s husband’s death, about how beautiful what their parents feel for each other is. Gillian talks about how much it bothers her that her mother didn’t pass on the message from Caroline’s mum. Caroline tells her that her mother was a teenager then, and it shouldn’t be held against her. Gillian’s parents were happy. Caroline’s were not. They talk about that, laugh that they might have been sisters.

Celia and Alan wake up, snuggled deep in the covers of their borrowed bed. Celia complains about being stiff but is in a hurry to get out of there. When they get downstairs there are people there who tell them that you have to dial 9 for an outside line and the door was open yesterday for a delivery. Celia wants to call home and finds out the police have been looking for them.

shared joy
Shared joy when Alan and Celia call

Caroline talks to John about how things are at home with the boys as the phone rings at the farm. It’s Celia calling to say everything is fine. Caroline runs outside with Raff to tell Gillian. There are happy hugs all round, including Gillian and Raff, who definitely needed the shared moment.

John tells his boys they can stay home from school and he heads off for the “supermarket.”

Caroline and Gillian help Paul up the stairs and into bed. This removes him from the living room, but, alas, installs him in Gillian’s bed. Gillian tells him he’ll be out on his ass sooner than he can say compound fracture if he says anything vulgar to Celia.

Alan’s first thought on getting home is for the Land Rover. They go in for tea and Alan’s pills. Gillian explains why Paul’s car is in the yard.

John’s in a coffee shop, where he gives Judith (Ronni Ancona) money for her rent. She wants to be a writer and thought he was going to be a help to her. He tells her she has to put in the work or it won’t happen. She’s mad. He’s busy trying to dump her for good.

Tea in hand, Celia still wants to sue. Caroline points out that you can’t accept the very classy venue free of charge for the wedding and sue at the same time.

In the kitchen, Alan, Gillian and Raff have a family discussion about Paul. Alan says, “You always did pick ’em.” To Raff, he says, “You can’t be stopping with Robbie.” Raff answers he doesn’t mind his mom having a boyfriend but why can’t she pick on somebody who, A, isn’t a dickhead; B, isn’t 300 years younger than she is; and C, isn’t engaged to somebody else. After this most excellent speech he exits. This gives Alan the opportunity to say he wants to go to the doctor. He makes light of his condition, but Gillian knows it’s serious. She makes him promise to call immediately.

Last Tango in Halifax
Caroline and Gillian hug

When Caroline leaves Gillian hugs her and tells her not to be depressed. Instead of going straight home, Caroline stops for coffee. She watches a happy family and smiles – some decision made, she relaxes visibly.

kissing
Stealing kisses

Alan tells Celia he’s poured her a bubble bath. She says he’s spoiling her. He gives her a kiss. He offers to have coffee ready when she gets out of the bath and heads for the kitchen, where we see him stunned by more chest pain.

Caroline arrives home where John is being cloyingly nice. He brags that he promised himself never to lie to her again, and tells her about giving money to Judith. Everyone is exhausted from being up all night, but John is invigorated by his honestly. Caroline says, “This can work. We can be civil for the boys. I’m seeing someone.” Boom! She won’t tell John who it is. John yells and rages. William comes in and John asks who Caroline could be seeing at school. William instantly realizes it’s Kate, but doesn’t tell his dad that. He’s been so angry with his dad for cheating on his mom. I hope he doesn’t transfer that anger to his mom, because I think his little brother really needs him now. John won’t take finding out about Kate well and Caroline isn’t the best at explaining herself to her children.

Whee! What did you think of this week’s developments?

Dishing About this Week’s Season Openers

All the season openers for the week have aired now. Let’s talk about how they did.

The two that I thought did the best job starting the new season off with a bang were Castle and Bones.

Stana Katic and Nathan Fillian in Castle
Stana Katic and Nathan Fillian in Castle

Castle jumped right out of the gate with action, conflict and new situations. Beckett is busy in Washington D.C. in a new job and the newly engaged couple are missing each other. Castle can’t keep from meddling in her cases and trying to keep their relationship exactly like it was before. Alexis comes home with a boyfriend in tow – a boyfriend who makes a mess in the kitchen cooking vegan steaks out of hunks of papaya. The episode was fast, fun, and gave us a glimpse into where the season is headed with Beckett in D.C. and Castle in NYC.

Yes, Bones can be formulaic. However, this week was hilarious, with Bones and Booth going undercover as a couple of Jersey shore types to solve a murder at a couples retreat. In other storylines, Angela wants to quit working at the Jeffersonian, and Sweets is having a crisis of his own about his career path. Camille has been targeted by a recurring bad guy who is messing with her identity, credit, and finances. We had a fun plot line to get us going and ongoing problems for future episodes. Perfection.

And the Others Are . . .

Connie Britton and Lennon Stella in Nashville
Connie Britton and Lennon Stella in Nashville

Much as I love Nashville, it got off to a slow start, mainly because Rayna spent the majority of the episode in a coma. Connie Britton is the soul of this show, and we simply cannot have her lying in a bed doing nothing. Juliette released a new album while pretending to be concerned about Rayna’s condition, Scarlett quit her job as a waitress at the BlueBird to go record an album on Rayna’s new record label, Gunnar might be growing up a bit, Teddy’s girlfriend is lying to him about being pregnant, and Deacon is blaming himself for every bad thing that ever happened on the face of the earth. Deacon is caught in one of the most grandiose shame spirals ever – much credit to Charles Esten for playing it so powerfully. Rayna finally woke up at the end of the episode which means I’m really looking forward to next week.

Taylor Kinney in Chicago Fire
Taylor Kinney in Chicago Fire

Chicago Fire was a bit same-old, same-old. The plot mainly revolved around Taylor Kinney’s character Severide. An arsonist is out to get Severide with personal attacks. Renée is home from Paris, pregnant and wanting Severide to be her baby daddy. Good grief, why does everyone want Severide for their baby daddy? Shay, who hasn’t managed to get pregnant yet herself, points out to Severide that the math on Renée’s due date doesn’t add up. Man, what a week Severide is having. I know Severide had high hopes for Renée – heaven knows they were sexy together – but I think being busy shooting people with a rifle on a rooftop in Person of Interest puts her in the she’s just not that into you category. The question is, what reason will the writers dream up for him to use to dump her. Arithmetic?

Speaking of Person of Interest, the dream pairing Sarah Shahi and Amy Acker didn’t have any scenes together this week. Sarah Shahi was shooting people from a rooftop and not interested in finding a baby daddy.  Amy Acker was being mysterious while having conversations with a shrink. I’m looking forward to seeing where her story arc takes us.

The Grey’s Marathon

Ellen Pompeo in Grey's Anatomy
Ellen Pompeo in Grey’s Anatomy

Grey’s Anatomy charged into its 10th season with a two-hour opener. My first thought was how cute Tina Majorino looked with her short hair. She’s my favorite of the new doctors, along with Gaius Charles, who always reminds me of Friday Night Lights, which always makes me happy. All that cute and happy screeched to a halt when Shane sent Heather to look for Richard who’s been lying electrocuted in a puddle of water ever since the end of last season. Yep, Heather steps in the water and gets electrocuted. Even Derek and his magical brain surgery skills cannot save her. The rest of the first-year interns bond over Heather’s death and their daunting assignment to tell her mother stories about what a great person she was. Tina, I’m gonna miss you.

Yang and Bailey manage to save Richard while arguing about how to do it for 2 hours.

In other parts of the Grey’s universe, Callie is hurt and angry at Arizona. They fight and cry for 2 hours. One light moment in the Callie and Arizona crisis comes when Karev advises Arizona to apologize to Callie by saying, “Sorry I’m such a slut.”

Christina and Owen break up again, but they keep having sex because they want to create a perfect last-time-we-ever-had-sex to remember.

Meredith has a new baby named Bailey and some further medical complication which keeps her in her bed. Her hospital room is the calm eye of the storm where everyone goes from time to time to hold the baby and have a quiet moment.

Lots of other stuff happened: Kepner decides who she actually loves this week, Karev remains a chick magnet, and lots of people need heroic medical help. Hang on, Grey’s is underway for a 10th year.

Dream Actress Pairings

The other day Sarah Shahi tweeted a pic of her and Amy Acker working together on Person of Interest.

Sarah Shahi and Amy Acker: I think that’s an interesting combination of stars. Two people that you might not ever expect to see work together and there they are, working together. Look at some of the combinations we are accustomed to seeing – Samira Wiley and Danielle Brooks, Anna Silk and Ksenia Solo, Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander, Ellen Pompeo and Sandra Oh – once we get to know the characters the choices seem inevitable. But up until the moment they were cast and the contracts were signed, all the choices were open.

It made me think about dream actress pairings.

Let’s play casting director!

If you could pair up any two actresses to star in a new movie (or TV show) who would you pick? For our movie let’s say the two are not related but instead are friends or coworkers – or lovers. They are strong, smart, and the lead actors in whatever drama we imagine for them.

My Picks

ashley judd and jennifer beals
Ashley Judd and Jennifer Beals

I’m picking Ashley Judd and Jennifer Beals. Here are my reasons.

  1. As far as I know they’ve never appeared together. Teaming up with someone new is the point.
  2. They are both in their 40s, so the movie doesn’t have to be a “let’s find true love and mate for life” kind of romantic comedy.
  3. They are both in their 40s, but that doesn’t rule out love stories if the movie needs to include that kind of story. It just shouldn’t be the only thing going on.
  4. They are both kick ass. Ashley proved she can do the action stuff in her TV series Missing. Jennifer kicked butt in her TV series Chicago Code. So if the movie is about catching bad guys, these two can handle it.
  5. They are both smart. I’d like to see a story where two leading women characters get to do something  smart and clever. If it was a political drama or courtroom drama they could be smart and savvy and make long lines of dialog sound meaningful.
  6. They are both terrific actors who are under appreciated in the awards department.
  7. I like them both and will watch anything they do.

I could go on naming combinations of actresses I’d like to see work together as lead characters, but I want to hear your ideas. Who do you think would be an interesting pair-up?

Instant Judgments on Sleepy Hollow and Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D

Here are my instant opinions about two new TV shows that deal with fantastical unreality.

I watched two episodes before I formed that judgment on Sleepy Hollow. It’s too heavy handed for my taste. I feel like they are beating me over the head with the book of Revelations – a dark and not very happy feeling. Tom Mison has a certain panache and Nicole Beharie is delightful, but the material has to be there.

Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., on the other hand, takes a light and elegant approach to its offbeat material and makes it fun. Brett Dalton is so handsome, he’s a perfect living comic book drawing. Plus, he is surrounded by Ming-Na Wen, Chloe Bennet and Elizabeth Henstridge on a regular basis. Toss in turns from Clark Gregg, Cobie Smulders or Ron Glass from Firefly and J. August Richards from Angel and you have a perfect cast.

What’s your take on these two new series?

Two interesting documentary films about equality

A couple of interesting documentaries caught my eye recently. Even though they are very different, they are both about equality.

The first, CinemAbility, is about equal treatment of the disabled. It’s about a movement to portray disabled people in film and pop culture realistically. If you read my post We Need More Young Geeky Female Role Models on TV, you know that I think media has a huge influence on culture.

Inequality for All is about the American economy and the shrinking of the middle class.

If you have seen either of these films, I’d love to hear your thoughts about them.

Recap: Last Tango in Halifax, S1 E3

Last week, Caroline (Sarah Lancashire) drove off with her two boys and Celia (Anne Reid), leaving John (Tony Gardner) standing in the middle of the road at the farm. That’s where we start up this week, with Caroline having an emotional breakdown in the car as she drives erratically away.

Caroline stops the car and gets out. Her oldest son, (Edward Ashley) follows and says he’s sorry about telling her about his dad having Judith in the house. The younger son (Louis Greatorex) follows and the three of them end up in a hug.

Alan (Derek Jacobi) arrives at the police station, where Gillian (Nicola Walker) is waiting for the release of her son Raff (Josh Bolt). Gillian asks her dad is he is angry about her mother’s trick. He says no, he has no regrets. Policeman Robbie (Dean Andrews), who is Raff’s uncle – the one who blames Gillian for his brother’s death – brings Raff out. Robbie makes a remark that Gillian ignores about Paul and they leave.

When Gillian, Alan, and Raff get home, they find John half drunk in the living room. Can’t let all that booze from the engagement party go to waste, now can he? Gillian and John chat in a  commiserating way.

Gillian goes to check on Raff. They have a brief exchange. He won’t tell her what Paul was saying about her, and she doesn’t attempt to explain her relationship with Paul.

Alan offers to drive John home in the morning. He asks him not to drink any more. He doesn’t want John throwing up in the new Lexus before Celia’s even had a chance to ride in it! John explains to Gillian about Judith. Gillian says his house is half his and doesn’t see how Caroline can throw him out. He needs to stick up for himself.

In the morning, Alan delivers John to the big house. John blusters in loud and yelling about cooking breakfast and pancakes.

Alan has a bouquet of flowers and knocks on Celia’s door. She’s still in her bathrobe but brings in him and makes him tea.

In the big house John is playing the radio loudly, tossing pans about, singing, and generally acting like he owns the place.

Celia asks Alan if he believes in God. She says she wants to get married in a church. Alan says you don’t have to believe in God to get married in church.

Caroline comes down stairs and John and Caroline conduct a screaming argument that Alan and Celia listen to gleefully. They have a giggling fit while John and Caroline yell at each other.

NIcola Walker and Sacha Dhawan
NIcola Walker and Sacha Dhawan

Gillian tries once more to get Raff to talk to her, but he won’t. She heads off to work. As she’s heading in to the grocery store, Paul comes out. He says he told Raff about the wallpaper in her bedroom and the shoes in her closet to make him believe that he really knew Gillian. She goes into the store and pulls her hair in anguish. She can’t believe she’s involved herself with a fool who would brag to her son about getting into her bed. In a very poignant moment she thumbs through the contacts in her phone, wanting to talk to someone. She looks at Raff’s name and doesn’t call. She looks at her Dad’s name and doesn’t call. Just as she gives up on talking to someone, John calls her. He goes on about how he stuck up for himself and how happy he is with his behavior at home. He thinks Gillian’s a “sweet, exotic creature.” Oh, dear.

Caroline meantime is on the phone with Kate (Nina Sosanya) who gives her very sensible advice like “divorce him and sell the house.” Caroline isn’t quite ready to face this yet, but asks Kate to come over to talk to her.

Caroline goes outside and throws a bucket of water on John. Another loud argument the whole family can hear. She says the marriage is over, dead, and redundant. He refuses to leave.

Anne Reid as Celia
Anne Reid as Celia

Alan and Celia are parked on a beautiful scenic overlook holding hands and getting acquainted by exchanging stories. Her marriage was not a happy one. She tells Alan a story about a time when she could have killed her husband but didn’t. However, she vowed to do it if she ever got another chance. Alan is sad she had to go through all that. She asks him to spend the night in her cottage – in the spare room. He grins and says, “I’d have to buy a toothbrush.”

Gillian arrives home from work and finds Raff has moved out. He won’t answer his phone but she finds him at his Uncle Robbie’s. Robbie says he thinks the boy has finally figured out what a mad bitch she is and that he can stay with him as long as he wants. Gillian’s response to this latest upset is to call John. Oh, good grief, she calls John. Her loneliness already has her up to her butt in alligators with Paul, and she calls John. They have a long heart-to-heart about affairs, parenting and John’s marriage.

While John and Gillian are on the phone, Caroline and Kate are talking in the garden.

Sarah Lancashire and Nina Sosanya
Sarah Lancashire and Nina Sosanya

Kate complains that Caroline’s never really asked anything about her. Caroline seems to expect sympathy with nothing in return. They talk about Michael and how he tried to blackmail Caroline. Kate talks about “the effect” Caroline has on her. Caroline tries to explain her feelings. She talks about not knowing how to be a good friend to anyone or how to have a happy relationship. She describes her early life and how unhappy her parents were. Caroline talked about how different Celia is with Alan than she was with her dad, and how different her life might have been if her mother had loved her father.

Alan and Celia are in her cottage, asleep on the couch, holding hands.

Gillian comes out of the farmhouse in the morning to find Paul, bloodied and horribly beaten in her yard. It wasn’t Raff who did it. I couldn’t understand what he said when he explained who beat him up, but apparently he’s in some sort of trouble. [Note: this part of the story is explained in addendums and a comment. Keep reading.] Someone has threatened to douse him with gasoline and set him afire. She takes him to the doctor.

Sarah Lancashire
Sarah Lancashire

Caroline is having breakfast. Celia pops in to say she and Alan are going to Halifax. She says they slept together in her double bed, which Caroline is desperate not to hear about. Celia claims they had marvelous sex. (I’m wondering if this really happened or if Celia is exaggerating the truth. All we saw was snuggling on the couch.) Caroline holds her ears.

Gillian reluctantly takes Paul back to the farm after his doctor visit. He isn’t welcome at his own home.

In William’s classroom, Caroline comes in and sends the instructor (Kate) off. She touches Kate’s shoulder in a familiar way. She sits down to watch the students while the Kate is gone. The boy in front of William writes, “Your mum is a lesbian” on his hand and shows it to William.

Judith calls John and wants money. When he doesn’t want to give it to her, she threatens to come to his house.

Derek Jacobi and Anne Reid
Derek Jacobi and Anne Reid

Alan and Celia are sitting in a church, waiting to talk to the vicar. They have a very funny argument about religion, politics, The Daily Mail and pop songs at funerals. They end up laughing. Celia mentions she wants to walk down the aisle to the strains of “The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba” by Handel. These two are so lovely together.

Celia says she hopes the vicar isn’t a woman. So, of course, the vicar is a woman who questions them about why they want to get married in a church when they haven’t been churchgoers since the 70s. They leave – the church isn’t going to work.

Alan says, “Where would you like to get wed?” and Celia says, “Somewhere classy.” South something Hall – I didn’t get the name of the hall correctly.

Raff returns home to pick up his belongings and finds Paul on the couch, all beat up. Robbie, who drove Raff home, figures out that Gillian has been involved with Paul and tells Gillian she needs to have her head examined. Gillian asks Raff to stay and tells him that she can’t chuck Paul out. Raff leaves anyway.

Alan and Celia arrive at the Hall where they are thinking about holding the wedding. There’s no one about, so they wander through rooms full of an assortment of memorabilia. Alan tells about seeing a ghost in one of the upstairs rooms. They climb spiral stairs and wander through chapels and finally find the room where he saw the ghost. Odd dolls with strange eyes populate the room. There’s a flash of lightning and the lights go out. Celia gets uncomfortable and wants to go. I’m with her – this place is spooky. They race for the exit.

They are locked in. With no reception on their phones and a storm raging outside.

At the farm there’s a flash of light and a boom. Gillian rushes outside to find her Land Rover ablaze in the rain.

All images © The BBC.

ADDENDUM: I wasn’t the only person who could not understand what Paul said about why he was beaten up. I’m seeing people show up on this blog who want to know what he said as well. If any reader could understand him and knows what happened to Paul, please fill us in with a comment. Thanks!

ANOTHER ADDENDUM: I found this on IMDB’s summary of episode 3: “Later a badly injured Paul arrives, beaten up by his girlfriend’s brothers, and she lets him move in.” So that solves the mystery of what he so poorly articulated, It also emphasizes the point, which I did not in my summary, that Gillian revealed to John that part of Paul’s unsuitableness as affair material was that he already had a girlfriend. I love how broken and troubled Gillian is, but I’m ready for her to do something smarter. Like maybe not let an already entangled dude who thinks it appropriate to brag to her teen-aged kid about banging her set up residence on her couch.

A Downton Abbey Season 4 Preview (Video)

Downton Abbey fans, I found a tiny tidbit about season 4 to help tide you over. Hope it helps with the pain of waiting.

Season 3 of Downton Abbey ended with Lady Mary Crawley giving birth to a son as his father accidentally smashed his car into a tree and died.

Season 4 doesn’t begin on PBS until January, but people in the UK can watch it starting soon. A season 4 teaser video lets us see the problems Lady Mary is having dealing with the loss of her husband and her new role as a parent.

Review: Now You See Me

Do you have fun at magic shows? Can you react to a trick with a 6-year-old’s sense of delight? If the answer is yes, you are going to really enjoy this magic show of a movie. Now You See Me is a magic act wrapped up in a heist movie and featuring a Robin Hood style plot.

Now You See Me poster
Now You See Me poster

The people who get to play with the magic of misdirection, mystery, and childlike wonderment in Now You See Me are Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Melanie Laurent, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco, Michael Caine, and Morgan Freeman.

The plot is about

  • 4 magicians who steal millions and give it to citizens who have somehow been harmed by big banks, big insurance companies, or fat cats
  • an FBI guy and a woman from Interpol who chase the four
  • a former magician who makes his living debunking magic by explaining the tricks
  • a rich guy who is sponsoring the magicians on a world wide tour

That’s all I’m going to say about the plot, because everything about this movie is unexpected and I don’t want to give you even the simplest of spoilers.

You can get the flavor from these two official trailers.

The second official trailer has some of the same material, but it’s different, too.

This movie isn’t deep. It doesn’t have haunting characters and important themes. But it sure is fun.

Delightful, in fact.

It was just released on DVD, so if you missed the theatrical release you can get it now. Have you seen it? What was your opinion of Now You See Me?

We Need More Young Geeky Female Role Models on TV

In my other life as a web educator, I spoke on a panel at WordCamp last weekend. The panel was billed this way:

Developer Diversity: The Mars/Venus Thing and WordPress
Moderator: Karen Arnold
Panelists: Suzette Franck, Alison Barrett, Daryl L. L. Houston, Virginia DeBolt, Mark Casias

The discussion was about how to get more women in tech fields, among other things.

One of my talking points whenever I get to talk about this is to bring in how pop culture affects perception. I like to bring up the acceptance of gay couples on TV, the changing acceptance of openly gay people in our everyday world, and the changing acceptance of the idea of gay marriage. I think the visibility of gay characters on TV has changed the majority attitude of society. It’s my example of what needs to happen to visibility for girls in tech.

If that worked for LGBT visibility, why wouldn’t it work for women in tech? Why wouldn’t it work for girls who are interested in science and math, but who drop the idea around middle school in favor of being popular or not viewed as geeky and weird? If they saw a lot of geeky teen girls being successful and in leadership roles in popular shows, I think it would change attitudes.

If you can get girls through middle school still owning up to their interest in science and math, they can go on to careers in those fields. But they hit middle school and nerdy girls get teased and bullied and don’t get the attention of cute boys. That could be changed to a large degree by pop culture. We need to reframe and reset the popular image of female geeks.

One of the audience members at the panel discussion pointed out the geeky women in both NCIS shows, and one on Numb3rs. That’s great, but those aren’t shows that young girls are watching. There is a geeky female character on Big Bang Theory. I think young girls probably watch this show. Am I missing any current shows?

Where we really need geeky female characters are on shows like Pretty Little Liars that millions and millions of teen and pre-teen girls are watching.

Alyson Hannigan as Willow Rosenberg
Alyson Hannigan as Willow Rosenberg

We need more characters like Tina Majorino as Mac on Veronica Mars or Alyson Hannigan as Willow on Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Miranda Cosgrove as Carly on iCarly.

A lot more characters, not just one every few years. In fact, I’ll say that every show aimed at pre-teens should feature a geeky female character – hackers, programmers, scientists, and engineers who are teen girls or young women and are leading characters in an engaging drama or comedy. Geeky girls with lots of friends, interesting adventures, and a great personality.

It would make a difference.

Veronica Mars image @TheCW. Buffy the Vampire Slayer image ©Mutant Enemy Productions

Fringe: A New Obsession

Fringe completed its 5th and final season earlier this year. There were 100 episodes in this Sci Fi drama full of parallel universes, strange beasts, and far out science – or “fringe” science – concepts. When it first came out, back in 2008, I watched a few episodes, but my attention was spotty. It was on at a bad time for me and I couldn’t give it the regular week-by-week attention it requires. I never got into it.

fringe poster
A Fox Television poster for Fringe

Why didn’t I get into it? One of its creators, J.J. Abrams, is known for some pretty popular shows. That didn’t sway me. I  originally wanted to watch because of Blair Brown. Blair Brown has been a huge favorite with me since her wonderful performance on The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd. That couldn’t keep me watching. Bottom line, I just didn’t watch it.

Five years go by, and Netflix keeps suggesting to me that I would enjoy Fringe. Netflix knows my Sci Fi habits better than I do. It’s that time of year with the summer shows are over and the fall shows haven’t started. What can you do with an empty TV night? Giving Fringe a try sounded like a good plan.

I love Fringe!

No surprise to you Fringe fans out there – I love the show. I’m only in season 2, so I have lots more watching to do, but I’ll share why I love it. If you aren’t already a fan, you might give it a try.

fringe anna torv
Anna Torv as she looks in two different universes on Fringe

This procedural drama is fronted by a woman. Anna Torv plays FBI agent Olivia Dunham. Olivia Dunham is strong, smart, brave, and a great detective. A perfect character to lead the cast. A show led by a woman who is strong and smart? Bingo.

I’m now a hopelessly devoted Anna Torv fangirl.

Binge watching turns out to be a perfect way to watch Fringe. You need to see every episode in order to make sense of the story. The fringe science builds over time to explain what’s happening, and the idea that there is a parallel universe threatening the one we live in develops episode by episode. Each episode has its own standalone FBI mystery to solve, but the plot points lead you into a larger story about parallel universes and alternate timelines.

fringe cast for season one
Fringe Cast for Season One

Going from left to right in the photo of the season one cast, the players are:

  • Lance Reddick as Phillip Broyles, Olivia’s FBI boss. He seems stern and obstructionist, but he generally believes Olivia when she comes to him with a strange story about creatures who can shape shift or have body parts that come from scorpions.
  • John Nobel as Dr. Walter Bishop, a mad scientist who’s been in a mental institution for 17 years but is responsible for most of the fringe science that’s invading the current universe. He’s brought out of the nut house to work with the FBI to figure out the mysterious goings on. Walter doesn’t always remember what he did years ago to create the startling science cases we see now. Part of Walter’s charm comes from the things he goes through to try to jog his memory. In addition to not remembering a lot of his former science experiments, Walter is hiding information deliberately, especially from his son Peter.
  • Blair Brown as Nina Sharp from Massive Dynamic, a biotech company headed by Walter Bishop’s former partner William Bell (Leonard Nimoy). Massive Dynamic may or may not be responsible for much of the chaos the FBI sets out to investigate.
  • Kirk Acevedo is Charlie Francis, Olivia’s FBI partner.
  • Anna Torv
  • Mark Valley is John Scott, another FBI agent. Olivia is in love with him but he’s killed off early in the series.
  • Joshua Jackson is Peter Bishop. He’s Walter’s son. The two have been estranged for years, so there’s a subplot of father son relationships running through each episode. Peter has a rather testy attitude toward his father’s mad science, but nevertheless helps the FBI by keeping his father focused and by being a generally handy fellow to have around.
  • Jasika Nicole is Astrid Farnsworth, an FBI scientist who becomes Walter’s lab assistant. Her part grows slowly. She has little to do early on, but she is used more and more as the series goes on.

Looking forward to the far-out science

Based on where I am in season 2, the real story about parallel universes and alternate timelines is just getting going. Season 1 was mostly build up. I’m looking forward to the rest of the story.

If this show had been canceled after season 1, it would never have had a chance to tell its real story. There was danger of that, because the show had low numbers, but it hung on. Now it has a developing cult following, including me. I’m still a little amazed that our digital lifestyle allows shows to live on and continue to grow and convert new fans.

Fringe had an active Facebook page with about a bazillion photos you might enjoy looking through.

Are you already a Fringe fanatic? Please share your reasons for loving the show.

All images ©Fox Television