Review: Season 3 of Blue from WIGS

Season 3 of Blue from WIGS went online on Friday. It’s on Hulu, not on YouTube. It’s also available on WatchWIGS.com. While still free, even on Hulu, it has a different feel from the first two seasons.

Blue poster © WIGSCO, LLC
Blue poster © WIGSCO, LLC

The story and Blue as a character aren’t different. Blue’s still the same mysterious and guarded mom/escort she was in the first two seasons. It’s the shift to Hulu that’s different.

In seasons 1 and 2, which are still available on YouTube, the episodes were each a single scene of 6 or 8 minutes. The four new episodes of season 3 are longer, each one would basically fill an hour long drama on a regular TV channel. There are a whole helluva lot of ads, also like regular TV. Fox happens to own Hulu, and the longer episodes feel more expensively produced and more corporate. Like they might show up on Fox.

The non-corporate, non-establishment and daring experimental nature of the entire WIGS project and library of films was a big draw for me. Each series was about women, each series was quickly made on a limited budget. Each series had women in the lead who were well-known and who were willing to take part in an experimental and innovative idea to try to find a way to use new media to get more stories about women out into the world. I really loved that aspect of WIGS. In July of last year, I wrote my original impressions of WIGS in WIGS: Web Series Extraordinaire.

Do Watch Blue

The edgy experimental feeling may be gone, but don’t let that stop you from watching season 3 of Blue. Julia Stiles is as good as ever as the mom who has a secret life as a call girl. Uriah Shelton still does a great job as her teenaged son, Josh. Blue still struggles with her past, her mother (a marvelous Kathleen Quinlan), her mysterious former lover, step-father and nemesis Olsen (James Morrison), her co-workers at her day job as an accountant. The series is still directed by Rodrigo García.

In Series 3, Blue’s apartment is filled with Blue’s moocher of a sister Lara (Jane O’Hara – who is Julia Stiles actual sister) and Lara’s girlfriend Satya, played by the golden-voiced Alexz Johnson. In the midst of this crowding, there are complications with Josh’s girlfriend (Brooklyn Lowe) and Blue falls for one of her clients, played by Eric Stoltz. We peer more deeply into Blue and several other characters develop more depth as well.

There’s some evolution in the writing in season 3 of Blue. The man Blue was somewhat attracted to in season 2 disappeared. We meet several new characters and some of the characters important in the first two seasons only make brief appearances. One thing was so illogical it was hard to understand: in a two bedroom apartment with guests taking over Josh’s bedroom, why does Blue need to leave her bedroom, too? Both Josh and Blue end up sleeping on the fold out couch.

Nevertheless, Blue remains great storytelling with a fascinating central character. I miss that sense of adventure that the short episodes of WIGS on YouTube gave me – that sense that I was part of something that could move stories about women ahead in the public consciousness. I miss the sense that by supporting WIGS, I was supporting films about women.

The enthusiastic support from me and many others like me got noticed, because Hulu showed an interest, which means big corporate dollars are interested in these stories about women. Hurrah, it worked. But dang, I miss the excitement of how it began.

Check out Paloma, too

Also out with a new episode last week is the WIGS series Paloma. Paloma stars Grace Gummer and was written and directed by Julia Stiles.

Addendum

Seems I was wrong about the two bedrooms:

Reelz Channel Announces Dates for Bomb Girls Movie

Bomb Girls: Facing the Enemy will premier in the U.S. on the Reelz Channel on Memorial Day, May 26. The Canadian drama about women working in a munitions factory during World War II began as a TV series. The two hour movie Bomb Girls: Facing the Enemy is the completion of the tale.

Ali Liebert as Betty and Jodi Balfour as Gladys in Bomb Girls: Facing the Enemy
Ali Liebert as Betty and Jodi Balfour as Gladys in Bomb Girls: Facing the Enemy

The film is set in 1943 as the Battle for the Atlantic rages and the demand for bombs from the women working at Victory Munitions is at its highest. The press release from Reelz Channel explains:

Under constant pressure to turn out more bombs, as well as work on a new secret sonar line, the women of Victory Munitions band together in a tight bond of support and friendship. But when a disturbing menace appears in the form of a saboteur among the factory workers, Gladys Witham (Jodi Balfour), a fiery young woman from privilege, is covertly recruited by Allied Intelligence to find the traitor, forcing her to spy on her best friends, co-workers and fellow agents and call into question everyone and everything she trusts. Bomb Girls: Facing the Enemy also stars Oscar(R)-nominee and Golden Globe(R)-winner Meg Tilly as Lorna Corbett, Charlotte Hegele as Kate Andrews, Ali Liebert as Betty McRae, Anastasia Phillips as Vera Burr, Antonio Cupo as Marco Moretti, Peter Outerbridge as Bob Corbett, Michael Seater as Ivan Buchinsky, Jamie Elman as Jakob Berman, and Catherine Berube as Helen Buchinsky.

The press release didn’t mention Tahmoh Penikett, but I’m sure he’s going to be in the cast of the movie since he’s the fellow from Allied Intelligence who recruits Gladys.

Vera and Lorna working together
Anastasia Phillips as Vera and Meg Tilly as Lorna in Bomb Girls

Sundays are for watching Bomb Girls on Reelz

Set your DVRs, people. Reelz will run the original TV series in full as well. Announced times for that are:

  • Sunday, April 13: Season 1- episodes 1-3 starting at 11am ET
  • Sunday, April 20: Season 1- episodes 4-6 starting at 11am ET
  • Sunday, April 27: Season 2- episodes 1-3 starting at 11am ET
  • Sunday, May 4: Season 2- episodes 4-6 starting at 11am ET
  • Sunday, May 11: Season 2- episodes 7-9 starting at 11am ET
  • Sunday, May 18: Season 2- episodes 10-12 starting at 11am ET
  • Saturday, May 24: Season 1- all six episodes air back to back starting at 11am ET
  • Sunday, May 25: Season 2- episodes 1-6 air back to back starting at 11am ET
  • Monday, May 26: Season 2- episodes 7-12 air back to back starting at 3pm ET

5 Reasons to Love Scott & Bailey

Scott & Bailey is a British detective series from iTV. It’s run for 5 seasons. It makes its way across the pond to American TV on PBS. Some local PBS stations may have episodes you can watch right now, but it depends on your locality. You’ll also find every episode available on YouTube.

There are so many things about Scott & Bailey that I really enjoyed, a list seems in order.

1. The Main Characters are Women

Suranne Jones is DC Rachel Bailey, Lesley Sharp is DC Janet Scott, and their boss is Amelia Bullmore as DCI Gill Murray. There are a lot of men in the police department and in the women’s lives, but the police procedural stories which form the bulk of the drama are the cases that Scott and Bailey take the lead on.

Scott & Bailey
Scott & Bailey

Janet Scott, Rachel Bailey, and Gill Murray are real women. Smart, tough, dedicated and thoroughly flawed. Scott and Bailey are great friends and understand each other very well.

In the flaw department, Bailey excels completely, to the dismay of her co-workers and to the detriment of her personal relationships. She makes up for it by being a brilliant detective. She has an older sister who helped raise her, a younger brother just out of prison, and a horrifyingly awful mom. Alison, the older sister, is played by Sally Lindsay who is also one of the writers on the series.

Scott is a bit older, with a husband, teen aged daughters, and a mom who is around a lot. She’s unflappable and efficient, but does manage to have a few issues of interest going on in her personal life.

DCI Gill Murray
DCI Gill Murray

Bailey calls the boss “Godzilla” but she’s one of the best bosses I’ve seen. Like Scott & Bailey, Gill Murray is a brilliant detective. She’s also capable of leading a large team of investigators straight in to a confusing morass of information and bringing them out with an answer.

2. The Writers!

The series was written mainly by Sally Wainwright and Diane Taylor. You may know other shows that Sally Wainwright has done, especially Last Tango in Halifax. Diane Taylor also acted as producer and police consultant on the series. Other writing credits go to Sally Lindsay, Suranne Jones, Amelia Bullmore and Nicole Taylor.

Nobody had to remind these writers to write “strong female characters.” They couldn’t do it any other way. They’ve created some of the most interesting women on television.

3. The Guest Stars

It may take more than one episode to solve a crime, which means a major guest star may be around for several episodes. Kevin Doyle, Mr. Molesley from Downton Abbey, is there for several episodes while he’s under investigation for a series of crimes. Josh Bolt, Raff from Last Tango in Halifax, was on one episode with a wild head of hair and a bad attitude.

A troubled daughter
A troubled daughter

Joe Bevan’s (George Costigan) nasty crimes took several episodes to investigate. Costigan made his character so creepy. It was masterfully done. (If you’ve seen Sally Wainwright’s drama Happy Valley, you can see Costigan in a much different role.) Helping the police with that investigation was his troubled and abused daughter Helen, played by Nicola Walker, who also worked on Last Tango in Halifax.

4. The British Style of Policing

A police procedural is such a common genre, but the British do it in their own way and it’s a refreshing change from American shows like Castle or Bones. Not that I don’t enjoy Castle and Bones or any other American police procedural like Rizzoli and Isles. But the style of inquiry, the method of interrogation, the lack of guns, and the calm attitude of the police toward the people under investigation is a window into how it can be done with less violence.

5. Great Performances

The acting is top notch from everyone in the series. There are many characters I haven’t mentioned who are played to perfection. The lead characters are excellently acted, completely real and believable. The show has an all-round outstanding cast. Nicholas Gleaves is terrific as DC Andy Roper, Tony Pitts is fabulous as Janet Scott’s husband, Liam Boyle is excellent as Rachel Bailey’s brother, Sean Maguire does a wonderful turn as Rachel’s mistreated love interest.

You might enjoy watching a few short promos and trailers for some of the shows and seasons. It will give you a glimpse of the characters in action. If you have seen the series, I’d love to hear your reactions to it in the comments.

Promo for season 1

A Season 3 Promo

Review: Unhook the Stars

Unhook the Stars is from 1996, and it’s a gem. I completely recommend it to you.

Unhook the Stars poster
Unhook the Stars poster

The film features Gena Rowlands as Mildred, the widowed mother of two adult children and the neighbor of Monica (Marisa Tomei) and her son J.J. (Jake Lloyd). When the film begins, Mildred is a buttoned down suburban housewife with a well-ordered life in spite of her two imperfect offspring.

Monica is a mess. Her life is a mess, her marriage is a mess, and she’s a mess of a mother. Mildred ends up babysitting for young J.J. and comes to regard him as her best friend.

Jake Lloyd and Gena Rowlands in Unhook the Stars
Jake Lloyd and Gena Rowlands in Unhook the Stars

Mildred’s daughter Annie (Moira Kelly) is an angsty mess herself, caught in the midst of a rebellion to separate herself from her mother. Mildred’s son Ethan (David Sherrill) is Mr. Success and mom’s clear favorite child.

Monica and J.J. have an effect on Mildred’s life in her empty nest of a suburban home. One effect Monica has on her it to take her out drinking where Mildred meets a truck driver named Tommy, played by Gérard Depardieu.

Unhook the Stars is a character study – a portrait of Mildred. Mildred is beautifully written and played to perfection by Gena Rowlands. Mildred is so clearly drawn and her evolution through her relationship with her children, her neighbors, and her potential suitor in the form of Tommy is masterfully done. I loved the story about how a woman comes into her own, finally, after what she thought for years was her real life as a wife and mother ends. It’s a tale of reinvention.

To a lesser degree, the film is also a portrait of Monica. Marisa Tomei just kicks ass in this part as a disorganized, inept, boozy mom and wife.

The film is a bit of a family affair. Rowlands’ son Nick Cassavetes co-wrote and directed the indie production.

I’m old enough to have reinvented myself a couple of times, and it is pure joy to watch Gena Rowlands go through a similar process in this film.

Image Credits: Unhook the Stars ©1996 Miramax Films.

Killing Off the Good Guys on Scandal and Lost Girl

On Scandal, Cyrus Beene (Jeff Perry) had one good thing: his husband James (Dan Bucatinsky). James represented love, conscience, family. Cyrus is ruthless and corrupt and capable of any betrayal or nefarious power grab. James still believes in justice and good.

Cyrus and James
Cyrus and James

Cyrus’s corruption finally leads to a situation that gets James killed.

On Lost Girl, Bo Dennis (Anna Silk) has one pure relationship: her sidekick Kenzi (Ksenia Solo). Kenzi is the sister she never had, the friend she relies on, the person she loves without reservation.

No words needed
Kenzi hugs Bo

A crisis prompts Kenzi to sacrifice herself to save the world. Like Buffy diving into a ball of light, Kenzi steps into the light and is taken. On BtVS, Buffy was retrieved from the netherworld by her friends. Will Kenzi be? As in BtVS, there is supposed to be a way to do this in the sci-fi world of Lost Girl.

There’s no hope for getting James back on Scandal. This drama is about real life, not science fiction, and when people die they are just gone.

On Scandal, Cyrus may come through his loss a better man. If I were Shonda Rhimes, I would write this in a way that Cyrus develops a moral compass as a result of losing James. It would certainly cause a lot of drama in the White House if Cyrus developed a conscience. After James’ murder, Olivia Pope herself (Kerry Washington) was even talking about her desire for at least one good person, one person in a white hat, in the morass of evil portrayed on Scandal.

On Lost Girl, I don’t see a way that the writers can use the loss of Kenzi to create character evolution in Bo or any other character. Kenzi is integral to everything Bo does. I cannot imagine how Bo can even continue to be Bo without Kenzi. It’s like Batman without Robin, Sherlock Holmes without Dr. Watson, Don Quixote without Sancho Panza, Buffy without Willow.

Because of that, I think Lost Girl will write Kenzi back into the story somehow. But here’s my problem. When they announced the cast returning for season 5, Ksenia Solo was not listed. This announcement makes me nervous.

Lost Girl played with the fans throughout all of season 4 using red herrings and secrecy. Is the absence of Ksenia Solo’s name in the returning cast another game, another secret, another mystery? If so, does that mean she will be back and they just want to keep it secret to drive us crazy? They certainly enjoyed driving us crazy for all of season 4. Then there’s the very important fact that no one from the show – not even Ksenia Solo herself – has said a word about Kenzi in season 5.

We usually know when people are really leaving. We know K.C. Collins really left Lost Girl. We know Sandra Oh is leaving Grey’s Anatomy. Announcements get made. There’s no official announcement about Ksenia Solo and Lost Girl parting ways.

Do you think Kenzi will be back?

A Quick Note on The Good Wife

I wrote this post before last night’s episode of The Good Wife, which took me completely by surprise and will be all over the news today. If you have any comments about how they handled Josh Charles leaving the cast of The Good Wife, feel free to include them in this discussion.

Here are a couple of articles in The Hollywood Reporter to fill you in with details on The Good Wife.

The Josh Charles story is a little different from Dan Bucatinsky leaving Scandal and Ksenia Solo possibly being done with Lost Girl because he was one of the lead characters, not a supporting character.

Watch This Film: They Wore Pink

Here’s a Friday treat to start your weekend off right. Watch an entire short film.

The short film They Wore Pink is from Canadian writer and director Terry Miles. He’s the writer/director responsible for A Night for Dying Tigers and Cinemanovels.

The two stars of this short film were also in Miles’ other films: Lauren Lee Smith and Tygh Runyan.

I love the slow way Terry Miles tells a story. Even in a nine minute movie, he manages to hold on to things and unpeel them in unique ways.

If you want to see how masterful Miles is at writing, directing and even editing be sure to watch A Night for Dying Tigers. It’s beautifully told – complicated, intricate, and detailed – and the editing choices in it are something I’ve never seen anywhere else.

This short film is a microcosm of his talents.

Here is the complete film.

On Twitter, Terry Miles is @tkmiles, Lauren Lee Smith is @L_L_S and Tygh Runyan is @RunyanTygh.

Brain Dump from a Teeming TV Filled Mind

Random thoughts and observations on this and that as seen on my teevee.

The Walking Dead

Did you see the episode of The Walking Dead called “The Grove?” Brighton Sharbino and Kyla Kenedy as the two young girls were fantastic. Brighton, in particular, was 100% convincing. Very impressed to see such outstanding acting from two young actors.

I’m loving what they’ve done with The Walking Dead this season: splitting everyone up and charting their journeys to find each other again. (Assuming that they will be reunited at Terminus.) It’s given them a way to let characters develop with full episodes devoted almost exclusively to just one or two characters.

Glee

Brittany and Santana kiss on Glee
Brittany and Santana kiss on Glee

What about this kiss in the episode “100” of Glee. Glee has never been about grown up sex. Yes, there have been relationships but they are immature high school kinds of things. Even the teachers have immature relationships on Glee.

But in the episode called “100” (as in the 100th episode) we see a grown up Brittany, (Heather Morris) dragged into adulthood by numbers and a failure of joy.

Brittany evolved. Who’d a thunk that?

Couple that with a sort-of-grown-up Santana (Naya Rivera). I say sort of grown up because Santana still has a mouth on her that needs to embrace tolerance and forgiveness – mature ideas she hasn’t mastered yet. Nevertheless, Brittany and Santana exchange a kiss that is the first grown up, adult looking kiss I’ve seen on Glee.

Person of Interest

A whole episode of Person of Interest was built around Root (Amy Acker). The episode was called “Root Path.” Most of the time, Root is only on the screen for a few seconds. Even then she’s the most interesting thing in the show – mysterious, powerful, illusive. You know what would make me really happy? An episode that featured only Sarah Shahi and Amy Acker together for a whole show.

Castle

Is Castle getting better this season? It seems like the writing has improved. The stories are flat out good. Last year Castle frequently put me to sleep, but there is none of that this year.

The Fosters

The crazy adjustable bed that Stef’s mom gave Stef and Lena as a wedding gift on The Fosters is keeping them apart. I say we start a Kickstarter campaign to get Stef and Lena a new bed. A nice flat one. Or, as they put it on OITNB,

The Americans

This show gets more fascinating each week with all kinds of complicated loyalty questions and emotional issues. Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys impress me in a new way in every episode. Keri Russell’s character slamming that guy’s arm over and over again with a trunk lid was really intense and surely will make her face the fact that she’s cracking. Plus Margo Martindale was back this week, which is guaranteed to make me happy.

Still ahead this week are Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal. Must dump brain before then!

What is burning in your brain from this week’s TV?

Watch This: Season 1 of Orphan Black Recapped

Orphan Black, from BBC America, put together a recap of season one to bring anyone up to date who hasn’t seen it. If you’ve heard the hype about how stunning Tatiana Maslany is in this role as several different people – often shown on the screen together – it’s all true. She is astonishing. Her performance ought to be the dictionary definition of masterful acting.

You definitely want to watch season 2. You definitely do. And if you haven’t seen season 1, go find it and catch up completely because the recap leaves out a few points.

For more about Orphan Black, see The Force That Is Tatiana Maslany.

Preview: Half of a Yellow Sun

One of the greatest living writers, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is the author of Half of a Yellow Sun, as well as Purple Hibiscus, and most recently, Americanah. If you have not read her books, I urge you to give them a reading.

Half of a Yellow Sun
Thandie Newton and Anika Noni Rose in Half of a Yellow Sun

Half of a Yellow Sun has been adapted into a movie. It’s a story set in Nigeria and stars Thandie Newton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anika Noni Rose, Joseph Mawle, and John Boyega.

Half of a Yellow Sun
Chiwetel Ejiofor in Half of a Yellow Sun

The story involves personal relationships and intersection of the personal and the political. The political story deals with the Nigerian civil war that created the Republic of Biafra between 1967 and 1970.

Here is a preview:

The film has not been released on DVD yet and isn’t available on any streaming services at this time. That gives you plenty of time to check out the books by Adichie in preparation for watching the film when it is released for home markets. The film released in the UK, Canada, and the United Arab Emirates in October 2013. The American release is set for July 2014. The film may be called Half a Yellow Sun in some areas.

In an interview with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie from AriseEntertainment, the author talks about the film Half of a Yellow Sun and the outstanding cast.

The author drops hints that Lipita Nyong’o might be connected to a future adaptation of Americanah.

As an aside, Adichie just won the US National Critics Book Prize for Americanah.

Images of Half of a Yellow Sun ©Slate films.

Two Stories About Love: Is Dorfman the Warmest Color?

This weekend I watched two movies about love. Both dealt with young women in search of themselves, young women in search of love, young women who had to struggle with loss and with being misunderstood.

One of the films got great reviews and won prestigious awards. One of the films was a bit of a flop.

Now, I know I’m not a film critic, or a critic of any kind. I’m just a person who has been watching movies and TV for a lot of decades. Even though one of the letters on my Myers-Briggs is a J for judging, I am not a judgmental, critical minded person. I’m easy to please where entertainment is concerned.

So when I see two films that are very alike in theme and subject matter, it makes me wonder what sets them apart. Is the quality of the acting? The skill of the director? The originality of the script? I want to come back to this, but first let me explain the two stories I’m talking about.

The two films are Blue is the Warmest Color and Dorfman in Love. If you pay attention to film news, you know that Blue is the Warmest Color is the one that got the great reviews and won awards.

Blue is the Warmest Color

Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux in Blue is the Warmest Color
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux in Blue is the Warmest Color

Blue is the Warmest Color is a French film about a young woman, Adèle, played by Adèle Exarchopoulos. It’s three hours long and covers years of Adèle’s life. She falls in love with Emma, played by Léa Seydoux. Emma is older, artistic, and out. When they meet Adèle is still in high school and not clear about her own sexuality. As the years pass, the two women live together for a while but it isn’t a successful long-term arrangement. For years after they part Adèle continues to long for Emma until she finally comes to terms with their parting and walks away from her past. There are long scenes of explicit sex.

Dorfman in Love

Sarah Rue in Dorfman in Love
Sarah Rue in Dorfman in Love

Dorfman in Love stars Sarah Rue as Deb Dorfman. She is a grown woman who lives with her dad (Elliot Gould) and works in her brother’s (Jonathan Chase) accounting firm. She has a fantasy love attachment to a friend of her brother’s played by Johann Urb. Deb takes care of everyone in her life, especially the three aforementioned men, who do not appreciate anything she does. Then she meets Cookie, played by Haaz Sleiman. With Cookie’s help, she begins to understand who she is and what her true worth is. She is able to leave her past behind. There is no sex in the film but there are a couple of straight kisses.

Who and How Do We Decide on Great?

In terms of acting, Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux both do a fantastic job. Especially Adèle Exarchopoulos, who has to age from a naive teen to a responsible adult before our eyes. But the acting in Dorfman in Love was perfectly adequate. The actors weren’t called on to do anything especially intense the way the actors in Blue is the Warmest Color were, but does that mean they didn’t act as well as the two French women in the parts they were given?

The approach of the directors in these two films was very different. Blue is the Warmest Color was full of close-ups, often focused on the two women in minute detail. Dorfman in Love took a much more expansive approach. I found the directing styles suited to the material – they certainly wouldn’t have worked in reverse – but they were perfect for the stories they were telling. One film was a serious examination of a young woman’s maturation and growth, while the other was firmly in the romantic comedy camp of maturation and growth. Is one genre more worthy of success than the other?

Does the intensity of the subject matter, the intensity of the emotion portrayed make one film better than another? Is it the seriousness of the approach vs. the comedic approach? Is it the closed-in focus of one film that makes it better than the more open look of the other – is that somehow more artistic? Does all the daring sex in one make it more weighty?

What I’m getting at here is that secret something that makes one film an international hit and topic of conversation around the globe while the other feels passed over. Somewhere there is a magical line between good and really, really good that these two films exemplify perfectly. But who decides where that magic line is? Critics? Ticket buyers? Award givers? The folks on the living room couch?

And what does that mean to someone who might love Dorfman in Love but finds Blue is the Warmest Color long and tedious? Is that person wrong or someone whose tastes don’t count?

I can’t tell you how many people have told me I should watch Breaking Bad because it’s really, really good. But I cannot bring myself to watch a story about a teacher who sells meth. And I’ve told others they should watch Friday Night Lights because it’s really, really good only to realize they won’t watch a series about football. Is there a right and wrong in this?

I’d really like to know the answers to these questions. I really would.