Review: Luke Cage

Sweet Christmas but Luke Cage is good. This Marvel comic book come to life is dramatic theater and thrilling action. It’s populated with thoughtful goodness and evil greed. It’s a love song to Harlem, black history, and black lives matter. There are some spoilers ahead, so beware. Continue reading “Review: Luke Cage”

Brain Dump: State of Affairs, Ghostbusters, After the Wedding, Five Days

It’s a brain dump day. Random stuff falls from my head in bits and pieces.

State of Affairs

Courtney B. Vance and Alfre Woodard in State of Affairs
Courtney B. Vance and Alfre Woodard in State of Affairs

Why do men married to powerful women always get portrayed in the media as whiney, needy irritations? A powerful man probably didn’t get where he is without a good spouse behind him. Why should a powerful woman get where she is without a good spouse behind her? Enough with this whiney-husband-of-a-woman-in-power trope. Come on State of Affairs, you can do better.

Ghostbusters

Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones, Kate McKinnon, Melissa McCarthy
Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones, Kate McKinnon, Melissa McCarthy

All female Ghostbusters. Yes! To the men who had the nerve to say that this ruins Ghostbusters for them, I say, “Sod off, you dozy pillocks!” Oops, I’ve been watching too many British dramas.

After the Wedding

Sidse Babett Knudsen and Mads Mikkelsen in After the Wedding
Sidse Babett Knudsen and Mads Mikkelsen in After the Wedding

I watched After the Wedding on Netflix. The original title is Efter brylluppet. I enjoyed it very much. It’s an interesting plot and well acted. The film is in a mix of Danish, Swedish, Hindi and English. Part of it takes place in India, part in Denmark. The main character is played by Mads Mikkelsen, but I decided to watch it because of the wonderful Sidse Babett Knudsen. If you enjoy foreign films, you may like this one. It was nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year in 2007.

Five Days

Posters for 2 seasons of Five Days

Thanks to A Celtic-Dragon’s Blog for turning me on to Five Days. This British mystery series, written by Gwyneth Hughes, had a season in 2007 and another in 2010. Each series is 5 separate days from a police case. There are wonderful actors: Penelope Wilton, David Oyelowo, Janet McTeer, Hugh Bonneville, Suranne Jones, Anne Reid, Nina Sosanya and many others. I didn’t find anywhere that you can stream it, but Five Days, series 1 is available from Amazon on DVD.

Brain Dump: Stalker, State of Affairs, Madam Secretary, The Fosters, Switched at Birth

A brain dump is little bits of this and that. Excess baggage from my brain. If you have thoughts on anything I mention, please feel free to dump your brain in the comments.

Stalker

Maggie Q in Stalker
Maggie Q in Stalker

I’m happy to see that Stalker continues to mix it up between male and female stalkers and male and female victims. Beth Davis (Maggie Q) is finally going to open up about her own stalker and her own past. This aspect of the show gives Maggie Q a chance to show off some expanded acting skills, too.

State of Affairs and Madam Secretary

Katherine Heigl in State of Affairs and Téa Leoni in Madam Secretary
Katherine Heigl in State of Affairs and Téa Leoni in Madam Secretary

Wow! These two women – Charleston Tucker (Katherine Heigl) and Elizabeth McCord (Téa Leoni) – can work miracles. They can do anything that needs doing anywhere in the world. What I’m saying is the plot lines in these shows are a little grandiose. Come on writers, you know plausibility is a virtue in a plot. However, I’m loving the characters. I’m still waiting for Alfre Woodard to get her name dropped during the promos, but I’m happy her role puts her in so many scenes.

What I’m liking about the female characters in Stalker, State of Affairs and Madam Secretary is that they are strong and powerful, but also completely female.

The Fosters Christmas Special

Sherri Saum as Lena Adams in The Fosters
Sherri Saum as Lena Adams in The Fosters

The Fosters Christmas special is available early if you watch using the ABC Family app instead of waiting for the show to air on network TV. I have to say it made a complete mess of me because I cried all the way through. I cried because Lena (Sherri Saum) and Stef (Teri Polo) were fighting, I cried about the wonderful way that Lena talked to Jude (Hayden Byerly) about being a half sibling. I cried when Stef got so mad at her mom (Annie Potts). I cried when Stef’s mom gave the kids college money for Christmas. All that crying made me very happy. Everything about The Fosters makes me happy. “Thank you for the tears I’ve cried.”

Switched at Birth Christmas Special

Katie Leclerc and Vanessa Marano in Switched at Birth
Katie Leclerc and Vanessa Marano in Switched at Birth

This show is also available early using the ABC Family app.

Switched at Birth pulled a Christmas miracle switch. Bay (Vanessa Marano) and Daphne (Katie Leclerc) were switched back to their right parents. Everything was different and wrong and a mess, but Bay and Daphne knew it. Of course, they switch it back to being with the wrong parents. A tired plot, but I love this show. Switching characters gives everyone a chance to make their persona completely different, which is entertaining for me. It reminds me that these people are acting.

No matter how much we love a character, it’s good to be reminded that the person playing the character is acting. Oh shit! That means Jennifer Beals isn’t really Bette Porter and Anna Silk isn’t really Bo Dennis. Damn!

Brain Dump: Elementary, The Fall, State of Affairs

Short thoughts on lots of unrelated media. That’s a brain dump.

Elementary

Lucy Liu looks great but does Dr. Joan Watson dress like this?
Lucy Liu looks great but does Dr. Joan Watson dress like this?

In Elementary, I like Watson (Lucy Liu) being off in her own place with a hunky guy in her bed. I’m not sure I like the flirty little outfits she’s taken to wearing. The clothes aren’t quite serious enough. Maybe the whole clothing makeover and hunky guy in the bed routine have to do with the fact that Watson is so pissed off with Sherlock (Jonny Lee Miller). Think she’ll ever forgive him for running off to London for 8 months?

The Fall

The Fall stars Gillian Anderson
The Fall stars Gillian Anderson

Season 2 of The Fall is now showing in the UK. Netflix announced that it will stream season 2 for North American audiences beginning January 16, 2015. Thank you, Netflix for making the trip over the pond so speedy! This cerebral series stars Gillian Anderson and Jamie Dornan. Here’s the official blurb about the new season.

Following Season 1’s gripping cliff-hanger and despite Gibson and Spector never actually meeting on screen, the chemistry between the two characters was electric and the escalating rivalry became the lynchpin of the first season and left the audience crying out for more. This critically-acclaimed series picks up immediately from where series one left off, with Gibson in pursuit of Spector. A personal link from Spector’s past opens up some clues for Gibson but provokes Spector in a way that threatens to jeopardize the whole investigation. Gibson is forced to take ever greater risks but the closer she comes to capturing him, the more Spector trespasses into her private world, delighting in taunting and provoking her. As the net gradually tightens around him he becomes psychologically ever more dangerous and destructive.

I’m planning to review season 2 after it’s been on Netflix for a few days and people have had time to watch it.

State of Affairs

Katherine Heigl and Alfre Woodard in State of Affairs
Katherine Heigl and Alfre Woodard in State of Affairs

State of Affairs has me all worked up and I haven’t seen the first episode yet. Why am I worked up? Because the ads show Katherine Heigl and Alfre Woodard working together, but when the ad is over the only name that gets mentioned is Katherine Heigl.

What is Alfre Woodard – invisible? Alfre Woodard has 106 acting credits listed on IMDB, compared with Katherine Heigl’s 40. Woodard has a ton more acting awards than Heigl has.

But let’s only mention the pretty blonde lady in the ads, okay? That seems really fair.

Just the other day I saw an interesting article at Business Insider saying the way Firefly was promoted basically ruined the show’s chances for success. It’s Amazing How Badly Fox Screwed Up Joss Whedon’s ‘Firefly.’ I hope State of Affairs isn’t doing the same thing.

Aggravation aside, I will be watching when State of Affairs begins tonight. Fingers crossed that the show is better than the promos for the show.

Alfre Woodard photo by Johnson C. Smith University

Upcoming TV Series with Female Leads

New TV series in the works with women in the lead or co-lead roles look very good. Some start as soon as summer, some are scheduled for fall.

Starting in June on TNT is Murder in the First, which stars Teye Diggs and Kathleen Robertson. Kathleen Robertson may not continue throughout the series as lead, because she’s only in 7 of the 9 episodes that comprise the first season, but it’s worth checking out. Murder in the First is a Steven Bochco production. Bochco has a long string of successful police dramas behind him, including NYPD Blue, Hill Street Blues, and LA Law.

Also coming to TNT, but not until fall or possibly 2015 is the new Jennifer Beals supernatural medical drama Proof. Proof also stars Matthew Modine and Joe Morton. The series is produced by Kyra Sedgwick. Of everything that’s coming, and a lot of it looks really good, I’m very excited about seeing Jennifer Beals back on my TV every week.

Jennifer seems excited about working with Matthew Modine.

TNT announced casting Julia Stiles in a legal drama called Guilt by Association but I haven’t seen any follow up news about the pilot being picked up.

Red Band Society

Red Band Society is a remake of a Spanish series. Octavia Spencer leads the cast of this tale about teenagers living in a pediatric wing of a hospital. It will be on Fox.

Taraji P Hanson

Fox also scheduled Empire starring Taraji P. Hanson and Terrance Howard. This series is about a family who runs a hip hop empire. The music is supposed to be excellent, if you’re a hip hop fan. The show is by Lee Daniels and features many well-known African American actors including Gabourey Sidibe.

Another new show with a woman of color in the lead is Shonda Rhimes new drama, How to Get Away with Murder. Viola Davis will star in this legal thriller as a criminal defense professor who gets tangled up in a murder plot. Anything Shonda Rhimes does is going to make a big impression. This one should be a hit for ABC for sure.

State of Affairs

NBC brings us State of Affairs starring Katherine Heigl as a CIA Agent who reports to the U.S. President. The President is Alfre Woodard, who is one of my all-time favorites. These two should be fabulous together.

Anna Friel

Another political drama on NBC is Odyssey. It stars Anna Friel as a soldier. Odyssey is described as a sprawling international conspiracy that ties together three very different characters – a female soldier, a corporate lawyer and a young political activist. The other two characters in this threesome are played by Peter Facinelli and Jake Robinson.

TV is where women are making a mark these days, and these upcoming shows are part of that trend. Do any of these shows look especially interesting to you? What are you planning to watch? Did I miss anything new with a female lead?

A Personal Manifesto

A couple of decades ago I realized everything in my life up to that point had been determined by men. I can hear my friend Denise shouting, “It’s the patriarchy, stupid!” That’s not it – at least not completely. The patriarchy is still with us. But inside my head, things have changed.

Let’s start with ancient history. I grew up when the movies were westerns with Roy Rogers or Gene Autry. Or they were war movies with Aldo Ray and Montgomery Clift. Stories were about men. Books were about men. In college, I majored in English and I read dozens of books by dead white men. Men were supposed to rule the world and women were supposed to let them. I lived with a man who controlled and manipulated everything about my life. And I let him.

Then I stopped letting him.

After that, I wanted to think some new thoughts. I wanted to learn about feminism, which had passed me by. I wanted to read books by women, I wanted to see movies about women, hear songs sung by women, and see TV shows about women.

I’m not saying I started hating men. I like men. I have a son who is the finest man you could ever know. It wasn’t about men. It was about women, about finding the feminine, about understanding the female heart and mind, about finding the essence of what it is to be a woman.

The first thing I did was start reading books by women: Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Edwidge Danicatt, Margaret Atwood, Sara Paretsky, Amy Tan, Mary McCarthy, Annie Proulx, Leslie Marmon Silko, Jeanette Winterson, Sandra Cisneros, Dana Stabenow, Rita Mae Brown, Zora Neale Hurston, Joan Didion, Gloria Steinem, Diana Galbaldon, Nora Roberts, Elizabeth Berg, Janet Evanovich, Sarah Waters, Rita Dove. I didn’t care if it was great literature or a speed-readable romance as long as it was by a woman.

No more war movies, no more westerns, no more guys coming of age (girls coming of age are acceptable), no more buddy films about guys. I became attached to films like “The Secret of Roan Inish” and “Practical Magic” and “Thelma and Louise” and “How to Make an American Quilt” that told stories about women. I decided what to go see based on who the female star was – the male star didn’t matter. Did it have Meryl Streep, Susan Sarandon, Queen Latifa, Sandra Bullock, Meg Ryan, Julie Christie, Angela Bassett, Shirley MacLaine, Holly Hunter, Halle Berry, Alfre Woodard, Julia Roberts? I was there.

I started to get a bit picky, a little more demanding. The woman had to really be there. Be a person who added to the film. If “The Fugitive” advertised Sela Ward and she got offed in the beginning so all we could do was watch the hero run around, I was pissed.

Television had some women to offer. There was Mary Tyler Moore. Carol Burnett. There were shows with a lot of male characters and a few memorable female characters. “China Beach” had both Dana Delany and Marg Helgenberger. “Northern Exposure” had Janine Turner and several other interesting women. “The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd” was all Blair Brown. “Cagney and Lacey” – Woohaw! “Any Day Now” with Annie Potts and Lorraine Toussaint – double woohaw! The four fabulous women on “Sisters” – a quadruple woohaw.

In the last couple of years some really good female led TV has come along. “Saving Grace,” “The Closer,” “In Plain Sight,” “Hawthorne,” “The Good Wife,” “Weeds.” I’m loving it.

And, there was “The L Word.” A show that was practically all women. I so, so loved it. I thought I loved it because I liked Jennifer Beals. I watched every old Jennifer Beals movie that I’d missed over the years. I found dancers, cops, crooks, a naive housewife, a madam, a psychic, a blind wise woman, singers, liars, the bride of Frankenstein and a whole lot of other people, but I didn’t find Jennifer Beals. I only found characters. That’s when I realized the thing that really attracted me was the character of Bette Porter on “The L Word.”

Bette Porter. A strong woman who stands up for herself. She’s not perfect, but she’s powerful and inspiring and a leader. She seems very real there inside the TV.  She’s who I’ve been looking for in all the books, in all the movies, in all the TV shows. She’s in the courageous politicians I look up to. She’s in the tech savvy leaders I admire like the founders of BlogHer. She’s in the organizers for charity and the women who fight against injustice. She’s in the writers who tell stories that change the world. She’s in my daughter, who’s raising a kid with no help from the father. She’s in my granddaughters, who don’t take shit from anybody.

Real women I know have courage and strength and power. Maybe even I do. I’ve been trying to figure that one out for about 20 years. I could be close to an answer.

[Reprinted from Two decades of women on First 50 Words.  This post was first written in August 2010. I decided to repost it here as well because it’s relevant to why I started this blog.]