August: Osage County is Full of Promise (Updated)

August: Osage County is the most promising movie, story, cast, whatever, to come along in a very long time. It’s a family drama with many strong women called together by a family crisis at their childhood home in Oklahoma. It’s based on a Pulitzer Prize winning play by Tracy Letts. Letts also wrote the screen play for the film, which debuted this week at TIFF, although it isn’t scheduled to be released in U.S. theaters until December 2013.

Take a look at the trailer.

What a cast! Meryl Streep is the family matriarch, Violet, who suffers from mouth cancer. Sam Shepard plays her husband – an Oklahoma poet who quotes T.S. Eliot. This couple have three daughters played by Julia Roberts, Juliette Lewis and Julianne Nicholson. Roberts is married to Ewan McGregor. They have a daughter played by Abigail Breslin. The sister played by Juliette Lewis arrives with a man in tow, played by Dermot Mulroney. The Julianne Nicholson character lives near her mother, something that probably makes her an expert on the family dysfunction in a way the two other daughters haven’t experienced. Other characters include Violet’s sister (Margo Martindale), her husband (Chris Cooper) and their son (Benedict Cumberbatch).

If that list of names isn’t enough to get your attention, the producer is George Clooney.

august: osage country poster

Early reviews coming out of TIFF are favorable. Julia Roberts in particular is attracting attention for her performance. It must be an intimidating proposition to try to stand out in a cast like this one, but Julia Roberts has apparently achieved that.

Abigail Breslin – if my math is right – is about 17 now. We’ve been watching her grow since Signs in 2002. She’s been in Raising Helen, Little Miss Sunshine, My Sister’s Keeper and much more. In every part she’s had, she’s demonstrated brilliant talent. Now she’s nearly “all growed up” and will be playing adult parts in the future. This may be the last time we see her as a teen or as someone’s daughter still under the parental wing.

August: Osage County is obviously complete or it couldn’t be playing in Toronto at a film festival. Yet we have to wait until December to see it. This means it will be released with prime Oscar nomination timing. The last thing we see in a year always has a better chance of getting the Oscar votes than something that comes out early in the year. Wouldn’t it be fun to see Julia Roberts get an Oscar nomination out of this one? Or how about a movie by a female writer and full of fabulous female characters getting a nomination as best picture? Now, that would be pretty damn wonderful.

UPDATE: A second trailer for the film is out now.

Enough Said Looks Good

The romantic comedy Enough Said coming to theaters on September 20 looks good. It stars the late James Gandolfini and Julia Louis-Dreyfus who get romantically involved as a couple of empty nesters. Look at some of the cast members.

Enough Said
Nicole Holofcener, James Gandolfini and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Catherine Keener, Toni Collette and Tracey Fairaway and Julia Louis-Dreyfus from “Enough Said”

The film was directed by Nicole Holofcener. It’s one of the last performances of James Gandolfini, who plays a loveable teddy bear of a guy in this film.

Enjoy the trailer for the upcoming Enough Said. Do you agree that it looks like one you want to see? I’m going!

Images and video courtesy Fox Searchlight

Recommended: Last Tango in Halifax

Last Tango in Halifax is a 2012 British series which started on PBS last night. There are only 6 episodes in season 1, so get organized fast to watch this one. Last Tango in Halifax is all kinds of love stories, chiefly one between Celia and Alan, played by Anne Reid and Derek Jacobi.

Anne Reid and Derek Jacobi
Anne Reid and Derek Jacobi

Here’s the basic setup. Celia and Alan were in love as teens. Through a series of mishaps, they failed to get together. Each married someone else. Fifty years later these two tech savvy elders find each other on Facebook and get together, with plenty of twists and surprises along the way. Reid and Jacobi are absolutely lovely together. It’s so wonderful to see a love story between people in this age group. I suspect that dwelling in the first bloom of love is going to make these two elders act as foolish as teenagers before this story is told.

Sarah Lancashire plays Celia’s daughter, Caroline. In the opening scenes we see her take back her philandering husband (Tony Gardner). She doesn’t show much enthusiasm for his return, and neither do their two sons, but back he is. Later, we realize she’s been filling in the time during his absence with a female teacher in the school where she’s headmistress. The teacher, Kate, played by Nina Sosanya, is dumped without ceremony because, “John is back.” The indications in the opening episode are that John’s stay back at home may be limited, and Caroline may not be fully finished with Kate. So, another kind of love story.

Alan’s daughter, Gillian, is played by Nicola Walker. When we first meet her she’s worrying over her son’s devotion to his Uncle and their penchant for dangerous motorcycle sports. There’s a lot of backstory involved in the relationship with the uncle and her late husband’s death that Gillian has to face with her son in the first episode. Gillian works in a grocery store, and we learn via her sale of a package of cigarettes that she’s sexually involved with a younger bad boy character played by Sacha Dhawan. It isn’t clear from the first episode if this can be called another love story or is more about loneliness and sex.

In addition to the romantic love stories and second chances that sprinkle Last Tango in Halifax, family love and parent and child relationships are explored. All kinds of love stories. I don’t know about you, but I firmly believe that the only good stories are stories about love – what ever kind of love that might be.  It doesn’t matter if it’s romantic love, family love, friendship or even love for a pet. Maybe that’s why I recommended this series about love so enthusiastically.

PBS doesn’t put their videos on YouTube where it’s easy to pick them up to display here. But if you go to the PBS page for Last Tango in Halifax you can watch a couple of videos from episode one. Once the season is over, all the episodes will be available on pbs.org/tango.

All images ©BBC.

Orphan Black explores the question of who owns a woman’s body

Tatiana Maslany recently gave an interview to TV Guide. They were talking to her about her upcoming role as Aziz Ansari’s love interest on Parks and Recreation, but the conversation quickly turned to Orphan Black and clones.

In the final episode of season one on Orphan Black, the clone Cosima, a scientist, does some binary decoding and discovers a patent is listed in the DNA of the clones. They are the “property” of Neolution.

Tatiana Maslany as the clones
Tatiana Maslany as the clones

TV Guide asked about that.

At the end of Season 1, we learned that the clones are actually trademarked, so will the question of freedom be a running theme in Season 2?

Tatiana Maslany: It resonates differently for each of them. There’s something about that idea of ownership over your body that I feel is quite resonant to women. It’s so interesting that it’s in the context of clones, but it’s all women dealing with this idea of, “Do I own my body? Is my body mine? Who am I if I don’t own my body? Who am I if somebody else has decided all this stuff?” I think Sarah is a fiercely rebellious person, so anybody putting her in a box is when she’ll lose her sh–. Cosima is fascinated with this concept because of the science of it and because of the way that she can break things down and understand them better. Alison bought into it. It’s cool that they all deal with it very differently.

In the current political climate in the United States, where right wing activists are pushing bills through state legislatures that take away women’s rights to govern their own bodies, this is a particularly interesting topic for a TV show to take on. I cannot wait to see how the issue is dealt with in the fictional world of Orphan Black.

The value of science fiction

The value of science fiction is that it lets us take a look at issues and talk about them in a place away from an emotionally fraught reality.

On the SyFy channel, Continuum is doing something similar to Orphan Black, but on a different topic. Season 1 of Continuum describes the premise best. (It gets lost in the action a bit in season 2.) Here’s the premise. The show opens in a world 65 years in the future. There is no illusion of government left, there is only the corporation. THE corporation. The corporation rules the world for its own good.

Several people from this world get sent back in time, including the series star Rachel Nichols. She plays Kiera Cameron, a cop in the future who falls into a role as a cop here in our time. She is desperate to get back to her own time and her family. Many of the people who traveled back in time a part of an organization called Liberate which is trying to prevent the corporation from rising to power. Kiera wants to prevent this because she thinks it will change the future and her chances of being reunited with her family will be lost. It’s an Occupy movement story, a 99% story, using time travel as the vehicle.

These are two important issues. Do you find that thinking about things like this in relation to a fictional world like Orphan Black or Continuum has an effect on how you feel about such issues in the real world?

Images ©BBC America.

Ray Donovan is a Wow!

I’ve never liked Jon Voight. I don’t have a good reason, he’s just never done anything for me. Of course I’ve seen him in a lot of things – there’s no avoiding the man. But, wow, he found the vehicle of a lifetime in Ray Donovan on Showtime. He is so perfectly Mickey Donovan – his walk, his tone of voice, his expressions, his questionable sincerity – his entire being is flawless in this part.

I, who would never see anything simply because Jon Voight was it in, am telling you to see this if you can because of Jon Voight. If you don’t have Showtime, file it away as a must watch on Netflix or Amazon or Hulu or someplace like that in the future.

The series is currently nearing the end of season 1. Here’s the trailer.

Voight aside, the entire cast is exceptionally good at creating the gritty and steamy world of Ray Donovan.

The title character Ray is played by Liev Schreiber. He’s an Olivia Pope from Scandal fixer sort of guy, except he uses violence more than cunning to do his job. Ray takes care of the illegal and misguided antics of the rich folks in L.A. while Olivia is keeping D.C. running smoothly.

Liev Schreiber
Liev Schreiber as Ray Donovan

Ray is a family man, as his father Mickey is attempting to be on his return from 20 years in prison. But Ray keeps his family in the dark about his less than admirable work life. This is a source of conflict with his wife (ably played by Paula Malcomson) and his two kids (played by Kerris Dorsey and Devon Bagby). Ray is close to his brothers, Terry (Eddie Marsan) and Bunchy (Dash Mihok). As the story gets underway, Ray learns that he has a African-American half-brother, who serves to help push the plot line involving Mickey’s devotion to black women and their asses. (Mickey definitely knows what twerking is.) The half brother, played by Pooch Hall – a boxer in real life –  has been hanging around the boxing gym Terry runs. Terry and Bunchy both knew about the relationship for years, a fact that does not sit well with Ray.

That’s as far as family love goes with Ray. He hates Mickey for reasons that haven’t been fully explained yet. He doesn’t want his father near his own family or hanging around with his brothers – both things Mickey immediately does on getting home from prison.

The series is a rich drama with lots of stories intertwining from a past full of secrets and lies as well as Ray’s present unsavory work. Worthy of special mention as supporting players are Kerris Dorsey (you may remember her from Brothers and Sisters) as the teen-aged daughter, Katherine Moennig (from The L Word) as one of Ray’s assistants, Elliott Gould as a business partner hiding secrets from the past while quietly going cuckoo, and Paula Malcomson as Ray’s wife.

A woman, Ann Biderman, is the series creator and writer. This matters to me.

Showtime will let you watch episode 1 for free. I urge you to take advantage of the offer.

All images property of Showtime.

The L Word Opening Credits (Season Six)

The idea is that you can get everything you need to know about an episode of The L Word from just the opening credits. If you know who was in an episode, you can remember what happened, right? Well, that’s my contention and I’m here to bring you the recap of final season of The L Word using nothing but the opening credits. Continue reading “The L Word Opening Credits (Season Six)”

WIGS: Diana Nyad documentary

The web series WIGS created a documentary about Diana Nyad. It seems a fitting tribute to post it today. Yesterday the 64 year old swimmer achieved her dream of swimming from Cuba to Florida. She did it in 52 hrs, 54 mins and 18.6 sec without the protection of a shark cage. She is the first person in history to accomplish this feat of endurance and determination.

Here’s to Diana Nyad!

Magic Mike: A Review

It may be old news on movie reviews here at Old Ain’t Dead for a while, because I recently came into 3 months of free HBO, Showtime, Cinemax and Encore. I’m going to have a ball catching up on things I haven’t seen for the next 3 months. The first thing I watched in this movie bonanza was Magic Mike.

Matthew McConaughey
Matthew McConaughey in Magic Mike.

Magic Mike takes place in the world of male strippers. It features Matthew McConaughey as Dallas, the organizer and promoter of a crew of male strippers. The Mike with the magic moves is played by Channing Tatum.

Alex Pettyfer plays Adam, a dissolute drifter that Mike brings into the stripping world. This introduces Mike to Adam’s sister Brooke, played by Cody Horn.

Channing Tatum
Channing Tatum in Magic Mike.

There’s a lot of naked male flesh – I’ll get to that in a minute.

First, the plot. Mike is saving his money to open a business making one-of-a-kind furniture, for which he has a real gift. He works all sorts of jobs to generate enough cash to fulfill his dream. On one of his jobs, he meets Adam, whom he befriends. I fail to see why Mike likes Adam or why he helps him – the guy is a mess and obviously trouble. It must be a reflection on Mike’s sterling character. Mike introduces Adam to his boss at the strip club (Matthew McConaughey) and gets him a big money gig as a stripper.

Mike is pining over the girl who got away, played by Olivia Munn, while also falling for Brooke, who was enabling Adam’s irresponsibility long before Mike came along and joined in the game.

We see many, many strip shows mixed in with the story of Mike and his longing to be a creative furniture maker with a nice girlfriend.

The guys strip down to bare everything but the essentials and cavort in highly sexualized ways. Young guys, perfect bodies, lots of hip grinding and thrusting and sexy sexy. Before I express an opinion about the sexy sexy, take a look at the teaser.

Naked Men

I may be really misjudging the intentions of the people who made this film, but I think it’s a comment on the double standard we have in American society about male sexuality and female sexuality. It’s like that awful host at the Oscars who pointed to every woman in the audience who bared her breasts in a role while nary a penis appears on a screen anywhere. Was he just being an ass or was he making a point about equality and the sorry double standard we live with? Magic Mike seems to be scoring points for feminism.

If this film had been about women, they would have been shamed as sluts. There would have been a public outcry. When Miley Cyrus does a sexy dance with Robin Thicke, the only person who gets vilified is Miley Cyrus. But nobody has a complaint when men bare it all, wriggle their asses, and simulate sex for a group of screaming women. In fact, when this movie first came out I saw all sorts of positive tweets about how awesome the hunky guys were and not a single complaint about bare asses.

Magic Mike is a role reversal. The person caught in a seamy sex worker’s life is a man, not a woman. The person who is desperate to make enough money to build a different life outside of sex work is a man, not a woman. Otherwise, it’s a film we’ve seen a hundred times before with women doing all the sexy, sexy. It’s a story about the objectification of the male body instead of the usual objectification of women. There is one exception to the role reversal. We don’t see the penis. No penis, no perfect analogy to what women are asked to bare in films.

Magic Mike is a fair movie, not great, but not awful. It’s full of gorgeous guys who are true eye candy. In many ways, it’s a chick flick: predictable plot, likeable protagonist, love interest, lovely to look at while you’re viewing it, but not something you’ll remember forever as great drama.

The film was released in 2012. DVDs will be available in October, and can be preordered on the magicmikemovie site.

All images ©2012 Warner Bros.