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.

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?