Review: Learning to Drive

Learning to Drive stars Patricia Clarkson as Wendy, a NYC book critic whose marriage ends abruptly. She’s always depended on her husband (Jake Weber) to do the driving. Continue reading “Review: Learning to Drive”

Review: Larry Crowne

I saw Larry Crowne back in 2011 when it was first released. I remembered enjoying it. When it showed up on Netflix I watched it again. I enjoyed it just as much the second time. Continue reading “Review: Larry Crowne”

Watch This: Trailer for Good Girls Revolt

Back when Amazon asked its Prime members to vote on new series, I gave Good Girls Revolt high marks. Since then it’s made it to the series stage. The first trailer just released. Continue reading “Watch This: Trailer for Good Girls Revolt”

Review: Confirmation, with a dash of Lemonade

I never thought I’d see Confirmation since I don’t have HBO, but Dish had a promotion going to get people to watch HBO and Showtime all weekend. The only thing I wanted to see on HBO was Kerry Washington as Anita Hill in the film Confirmation.
Continue reading “Review: Confirmation, with a dash of Lemonade”

Watch This: Trailer for Jenny’s Wedding

Jenny’s Wedding stars Katherine Heigl and Alexis Bledel as a gay couple who decide to get married. But Jenny’s (Heigl) parents don’t know she’s gay.

Now that the Supreme Court has made it possible for gay people in all 50 states to marry, I suspect we will see a lot of these types of films: coming out to the family, planning a wedding.

This version of the story has a particularly good cast, with Tom Wilkinson as Jenny’s father, Linda Emond as her mother and Grace Gummer as her sister. The film was written and directed by Mary Agnes Donoghue, who also wrote Beaches, White Oleander and Veronica Guerin.

Despite all that pedigree, the trailer looks like a highly sanitized version of a story. There isn’t much chemistry between the two women who are supposed to be in love, is there? I want to like it – women in the lead, a female writer and director. Maybe I’m coming at it from the wrong perspective. The story seems to be more about the way Jenny’s family reacts than it is about Jenny and Kitty. I’m looking for sparks in the wrong places – it’s not about two people in love, it’s about family acceptance.

The film is scheduled for a July 31 release. I’d love comments on what you thought of it after you’ve had a chance to see it on the big screen.

Review: The Homesman

The Homesman showed up recently on Netflix. I watched immediately.

The movie annoyed me. And the more I think about it, the more annoyed I become.

Spoilers ahead. Continue reading “Review: The Homesman”

Brain Dump: Short Thoughts on Movies and TV

Brain Dump_ Short Thoughts on Movies and

I’ve had many pop culture thoughts that I’ve neglected to actually write down in the last few weeks. It’s time for a brain dump.

Movies

I absolutely loved Peace, Love and Misunderstanding! This 2011 indie film was directed by Bruce Beresford. It starred Jane Fonda as an aging, free-spirited hippie and Catherine Keener as her daughter. Also featured are Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Elizabeth Olsen, Nat Wolff, Chace Crawford, Kyle MacLachlan, and Rosanna Arquette. It was filmed in the town of Woodstock, New York, where the movie is set.

It was a feel good story about family and love and acceptance. I completely recommend it. If you see it wander past in your Netflix new releases, click play.

I also loved The Immigrant, although it was not a fun romp in any way. This grim slice of reality starred Marion Cotillard, Joaquin Phoenix, and Jeremy Renner, all of whom gave outstanding performances.

The Immigrant poster

Joaquin Phoenix was particularly powerful as a man who preyed on helpless and desperate immigrant women, tricking them into prostitution for his own gain. I won’t explain the twists in the plot in this tale – there are several – except to say that it brought out some amazing acting from the 3 stars. Again, watch it if you see it in your streaming choices.

TV: The Winners

Hally Berry in Extant
Halle Berry in Extant

I haven’t given an opinion about Extant, starring Halle Berry yet. I’m enjoying this sci-fi drama about astronaut Molly Woods who returns pregnant from a 13 month mission alone in space. The sci-fi aspects of the show are a bit iffy, but the cast is giving it their all. Goran Visnjic plays her husband. Pierce Gagnon plays their son, who happens to be a robot. Grace Gummer and Camryn Manheim also have significant parts in the drama. I hope this one makes it to a second season.

Murder in the First is a a full season story arc involving one crime. It stars Teye Diggs and Kathleen Robertson as cops and Tom Felton as the billionaire murderer they struggle to convict. The characters are particularly well drawn, considering this is just the first season. Again, I hope this one makes it to a second season.

The BBC’s Lark Rise to Candleford has me hooked. I’m most of the way through the first season. There are 4 seasons. It’s a period drama with many great female characters. It’s only available on streaming services, since it’s been off the air for a while now.

Stephanie Leonidas as Irisa on Defiance
Stephanie Leonidas as Irisa on Defiance

The women of Defiance, oh my. The character Irisa on Defiance, played by Stephanie Leonidas, is becoming more and more layered. She’s taken on some kind of supernatural power – perhaps alien power would be a more accurate term. It’s given her interesting abilities and she’s attracting followers. She’s starting to remind me of the kind of strong leader that we have in Bo in Lost Girl or Buffy in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Defiance has allowed Stahma Tarr, played by Jaime Murray, to evolve into a powerful woman. Julie Benz’s character of Amanda Rosewater is turning out to be full of twists and intricacies. Julie Benz really shines in this role, in ways that are new for her.

TV: The Losers

I gave up on Under the Dome. The story makes no sense in sci-fi terms, no sense in religious terms. None of the characters really grab me. Enough.

I watched one, and only one, episode of Seed and thought it was too stupid to ever watch again. I wanted to watch it because of Amanda Brugel. Zoie Palmer likes Amanda Brugel, so I wanted to watch something with Amanda Brugel in it because – well, I like Zoie Palmer. Sorry, Zoie, this isn’t the place where I’m going to become a fan of Amanda Brugel. I’ll give her another chance some other time.

Watch This: Trailer for The Homesman

This is the International trailer for The Homesman, which will release in the U.S. in November. The film stars and is directed by Tommy Lee Jones. Others in the film are Hilary Swank, Grace Gummer, Miranda Otto, and Sonja Richter. The tale is about claim jumper and a pioneer woman, who team up to escort three insane women from Nebraska to Iowa.

Meryl Streep is also in the cast. It looks like a small part based on the trailer, and the IMDB info for the film shows her name way down at the bottom of the cast list. The reason I’m making a big deal about it is that as far as I know this is the first film that Meryl Streep has appeared in with one of her children also in the cast. Grace Gummer is Meryl Streep’s daughter. (Another daughter, Mamie Gummer, is also an actress.)

Watch This: Two More Women Led Shows Coming to TV

I keep discovering more upcoming TV series with women in leading roles. Just when I think I’ve brought them all to your attention, I find more. This is a great problem to have!

With the Madam Secretary series going into the schedule on Sunday as a lead up to The Good Wife and Shonda Rhimes new drama How to Get Away with Murder set on the Thursday (which I shall henceforth refer to as Rhimesday) night schedule, I think we can safely predict what the two biggest female-led hits will be. Don’t overlook some of the less blessed-by-scheduling offerings I’ve mentioned lately, though, because some of them look very good.

Madam Secretary

The first trailer is Madam Secretary. It looks fabulous. If it is supposed to be some kind of play off Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, that’s just fine by me, but I don’t see a lot of Hillary in the way this is played in the previews.

Téa Leoni stars as Elizabeth McCord, a former CIA analyst turned college professor who gets recruited to fill a vacant Secretary of State job. Her husband is played by Tim Daly. Bebe Neuwirth is in the cast.

Madam Secretary was created by Barbara Hall, who has written for Homeland and Judging Amy. Morgan Freeman is one of the producers. It starts in the fall on Sundays right before The Good Wife, a piece of prime TV real estate if there ever was one.

Extant

Extant stars Halle Berry as an astronaut who returns to Earth after 13 months alone in space, inexplicably pregnant. Her husband John is played by Goran Visnjic. John is a scientist who created their robotic son. The son is played by Pierce Gagnon, who despite his young age, has had a lot of roles to his credit. Camryn Manheim, Sergio Harford, and Grace Gummer also appear. Steven Spielberg is producing.

Extant begins in July. According to one account I saw of the plot, the astronaut’s “experiences in space and home lead to events that ultimately will change the course of human history.”

Extant looks very mysterious. Do you like the mysterious ones?

Tea Leoni image via CBS.com

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: