The Way, Way Back opens on the miserable face of Liam James as 14-year-old Duncan, sitting in the way, way back seat of a vintage woodie Buick station wagon. Driving this aging monster is Trent (Steve Corell), his mom’s boyfriend. His mom is Pam, (Toni Collette) and his possible future step-sister filling the middle seat with all her teen-age horribleness is Steph (Zoe Levin). They are on their way to Trent’s beach house to spend the summer.Continue reading “The Way, Way Back is Way, Way Good”
This Veronica Mars movie sneak peak was released at the recent San Diego Comic Con (SDCC). In case you aren’t aware of the back story, the money for this movie was raised in a Kickstarter project. The funding goal was raised in almost seconds (just a slight exaggeration). The Kickstarter project raised millions beyond its goal. It is one of the biggest fan-driven fund raising events to date and the start of a new trend in how movies get made.
Fans will get their movie in 2014.
If you missed Veronica Mars when it was a TV series years ago, it’s available via streaming services, and it’s worth watching. She’s a high school girl who helps out in her dad’s detective agency. I know, high school kids – I’m so beyond that – but it’s a good show.
There is some fan insanity going on in San Diego this weekend. Here are some interesting tweets about some of my favorite shows and stars from the event.
From the SyFy show Defiance cast member Jaime Murray. Jaime Murry is also in another favorite show of mine, Warehouse 13.
— Jaime Murray (@MsJaimeMurray) July 19, 2013
Jaime Murray posted lots of pics. Check her Twitter feed for a lot more, like this one referencing Warehouse 13. You may be able to find one similar to this of her giving her co-star Joanne Kelly a smooch, something we have yet to see on Warehouse 13.
— Jaime Murray (@MsJaimeMurray) July 20, 2013
Here’s one from Lost Girl star Ksenia Solo, who puts a lot of photos on Instagram.
From a fan of The Hunger Games.
Here’s what the fans camped out all night to see.
— Catching Fire (@TheHungerGames) July 19, 2013
A lot of happy fans got to stand beside their favorites.
— Jessica Courtemanche (@CourtemancheJ) July 20, 2013
Here’s a video of a session with Orphan Black cast members. Since this video is long, I’ll end with it.
— Orphan Black (@OrphanBlack) July 20, 2013
Do a Twitter search on #SDCC for thousands more tweets like these.
The 2013 Emmy Nominations were announced. The noms I most care about were in the Outstanding Lead Actress category. Here are the nominees.
- Vera Farmiga as Norma Bates in Bates Motel
- Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
- Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison in Homeland
- Robin Wright as Claire Underwood in House of Cards
- Elisabeth Moss as Peggy Olson in Mad Men
- Connie Britton as Rayna James in Nashville
- Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope in Scandal
What a great list. I love all these actresses and all these performances and all these shows.
Well, I can’t stand Mad Men. I lived through the 50s once – I don’t need to suffer all that patriarchy again. But I loved Elizabeth Moss in Top of the Lake so I’m happy she was nominated for that, too.
Claire Danes, Connie Britton, Kerry Washington – I lurve them to bits. And a big Hurrah for Kerry Washington for letting herself be filmed with wet hair in the shower with Tony Goldwin and for being the first African American woman nominated in this category in years. I hope she wins.
But, really TV academy people, Emmy nomination people, where the hell is Tatiana Maslany from Orphan Black? She really should be on that list. She doesn’t have to win, but cripes, she should have been nominated.
She really should.
Like REALLY should.
Are you happy with the Emmy nominations? What’s your particular favorite category of nominees?
If you’d like to see a complete list of all the women nominated in every category, check out Looking at the 2013 Emmy Nominated Women at Women and Hollywood.
I remember the speech Jennifer Beals gave in Break a Leg about how a woman has to be both beautiful and as good as Meryl Streep to make it in the movies. (You can catch the speech at the 8:29 minute mark in this video.) It is generally accepted in American culture that Meryl Streep is the greatest actress since the origin of the human race. We don’t even have to discuss it – we’ve seen her prove it time after time.Continue reading “The Force that is Tatiana Maslany in Orphan Black”
Moneyball (2011) and Trouble with the Curve (2012) are two baseball stories that are at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of theme. Yet both are good movies. Since both are out on DVD now, it seemed like a good idea to review them together.
The earlier film Moneyball takes the stance that technology can solve any problem, even the problem of who to draft for a baseball team.
Moneyball stars Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Jonah Hill plays a geek who uses a computer and stats to decide who a team should draft. Brad Pitt trusts him to know who to pick and the film is about how they convince other people in their organization that using this new technological technique to predict baseball greatness will work. Philip Seymour Hoffman is the coach.
Moneyball is based on a true story about the Oakland Athletics in 2002. Since Oakland proved their point with an amazing team, many other baseball organizations have learned to rely on technology to predict the best picks.
You don’t have to like baseball to like Moneyball. It’s a great underdog story and certainly has good actors. It earned 6 Oscar nominations including ones for Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill. I particularly love the geeky part of this film, since I’m pretty much the elder geek of the interwebs.
Trouble with the Curve
Trouble with the Curve, on the other hand, is the anti-technology baseball story. It comes at draft picks from an experience-can’t-be-beat point of view. Clint Eastwood represents the experience, of course. He’s a talent scout named Gus who is going blind. He can still pick ’em better than any computer based on his years around baseball.
Amy Adams is Eastwood’s daughter in this film. She brings the theme of father-daughter relationships into the story, which gives both Eastwood and Adams some nice opportunities to dig in and show their chops. Justin Timberlake plays another talent scout.
Amy Adams. Justin Timberlake. You know what happens when boy meets girl. That. Adams and Timberlake are particularly effective at telling this ages-old tale in the condensed form it takes when mixed into the larger story about Gus and his draft picks. Two stories in one, it’s a bargain.
The final important character is John Goodman, who is a lifelong friend of Gus’s and is backing him in his picks against the guys who want to do it with technology. There are a few interesting plot twists along the way, especially involving Amy Adams character, but I’ll let you enjoy them as they are revealed in the movie. I will share one spoiler. Amy Adams sings in this movie – and not very well. For a fabulous singer, she must have really had to work at sounding like a normal person singing.
Have you seen either of these baseball stories? What did you think of them?
Some of the best stories you’ll find anywhere are now playing on your computer on a YouTube channel called WIGS. WIGS offers original series, short films, and documentaries, all starring female leads.
There are numerous offerings on WIGS. Some films are one episode, some 3, some 12, some with more than one season. All feature well-known female leads such as America Ferrera, Virginia Madsen, Maura Tierney, Julia Stiles, Jennifer Beals, Troian Bellasario, Anna Paquin, and more. The many male actors who populate these tales are well-known, too, but the purpose of the films is to feature the women. The documentaries feature women.
I’ll mention my favorite series. I hope you’ll explore them all, because they are all good.
Lauren is a drama about rape in the military. It stars Troian Bellasario as Lauren, the soldier who is raped. Jennifer Beals is Major Stone, the officer to whom Lauren turns for justice.
If you’ve paid attention to the headlines recently, you know justice for crimes of sexual assault does not automatically happen in military culture. Lauren is not an easy series. It’s tense and full of unfairness that makes you want to scream.
Here is episode one.
There were 3 original episodes in Lauren. It was so well-received and so important a topic that 12 more episodes were shot as a second season. The story doesn’t end at the end of season 2. I’m hoping there will be a season 3 to bring closure to the story.
Jennifer Beals and Troian Bellasario are fabulous together in Lauren. There’s great chemistry and tension between the two, as you can see in the first episode.
Blue features Julia Stiles as a single mom who supplements her income as a call girl. There were 12 episodes in season 1. Season 2 had 26 episodes. There is room for a season 3 in the story, which was unresolved at the end of season 2. Blue may end up being a full blown movie. Here is the first episode.
Julia Stiles is remarkable in this role. Blue is so complex and has so much to hide (and so much to lose) that it’s fascinating to watch her life open up a little more to the viewer in each episode.
Julia Stiles wrote and directed a series of her own on WIGS, called Paloma, which features Grace Gummer. Yeah, it’s that kind of woman-power.
Ruth and Erica
Ruth and Erica features Maura Tierney and Lois Smith. Tierney is trying to get her parents out of the family home and into a facility where they can care for her father (Phillip Baker Hall) who has Alzheimer’s disease.
There are 13 episodes. Here is the first.
Ruth and Erica is told and acted and shot with great tenderness and love. The scenes between Lois Smith and Phillip Baker Hall as the loving old couple dealing with Alzheimer’s are beautiful and tender and heartbreaking. The two of them are exquisite together. I’d love Ruth and Erica for this couple alone, but Maura Tierney has her own storyline independent of her parents’ drama that is intriguing as well.
This series was resolved at the end of 13 episodes, so I don’t think another season is in the works for it. It would be wonderful if someone would write another series for Lois Smith and Phillip Baker Hall with a story to tell that was about elders living life fully.
Susanna features Maggie Grace and Anna Paquin. The two play sisters. Anna Paquin is a new mother with postpartum depression. She is scary-wonderful in this role. She had me holding my breath during most of her early scenes. Maggie Grace is the sister who gets called in to help when things get impossible.
Here’s episode 1 of 12.
I’ve been watching Anna Paquin perform marvels on a screen ever since The Piano so I wasn’t that surprised by her wonderful performance. However, I’d never heard of Maggie Grace (I’ve never watched Lost or Californication or Taken – unbelievable, right?). Seeing Maggie Grace was an education. She’s really gifted and does some revelatory things with her part as Susanna.
A second season for this story is a must have. I don’t think one has been announced yet, however. Come on, WIGS, bring it.
Why WIGS is among my favorites
It’s all about the women. The women are the center and the source of all the interestingness.
WIGS has men, too. Unlike shows that are all about the men, where the women are just cardboard cutouts by the man’s side, the men in WIGS are developed characters. This kind of equality makes for a better set of stories. We need millions more stories like these just to catch up with all the stories about complex, real men.
It’s about life. Real life. It isn’t about explosions or saving the world by killing great swaths of people without ever thinking about the consequences. It’s about the way real people live.
Have you watched any of the WIGS web series? What were your favorites?
Gillian Anderson and Jamie Dornan in “The Fall.” Image via BBC Two.
I’m a mystery fan. Aside from the highbrow stuff I read for my book clubs, I almost always pick a mystery for my personal reading. Watching The Fall is like reading a good mystery.
The Fall is a BBC Two production, available on Netflix. It was first broadcast on BBC Two in May of 2013. The two leading characters are played by Gillian Anderson from The X Files and Jamie Dornan from Fifty Shades of Grey. Anderson is Stella Gibson, a police detective on the hunt for Dornan as serial killer Paul Spector.
Here’s the BBC Two trailer.
It’s a large cast with a number of excellent actors, including Archie Panjabi who plays a motorcycle riding medical examiner. Season 1 has 5 episodes. We know who the killer is from the beginning, but Gibson only gets a glimpse into who it is by the end of episode 5. Season 2 is coming in 2014.
It’s the Pacing
Pacing is the key to this series and the reason it feels like reading a good book as much as it does like watching a TV show.
Everything is revealed in meticulous unhurried detail. The killer’s hunt for prey, his crimes, his attention to detail and his slow slide into carelessness as the pressure builds while the police come closer are all given to us in logical slivers and slices. Jamie Dornan is superb as a loving dad who is hides his killing from his family and co-workers. He comes off as a completely nice guy who is absolutely beyond suspicion to those who think they know him.
Netflix released this trailer for the series.
Gillian Anderson stuns as a Detective Superintendent who gives orders to a whole raft of men of lesser rank. She plays her part with stoic brilliance. Occasional glimpses into her thinking or emotions both reveal and conceal. She’s strong and wields her power quietly but emphatically. If Gibson catches Spector in season 2, I hope there will be additional killers for this Detective to hunt, because Stella Gibson is a strong character, and Anderson makes the most of her. I want more.
Of Similar Minds
The detective and the killer are of very similar minds. They think in the same way, they problem solve in the same way. They are both smart and intuitive. The only difference is that they take these qualities in themselves and use them in different ways – one character for good, the other for evil. In the Netflix trailer above, we see Gibson staring into space as she quietly and brilliantly gets inside the mind of the killer and paints a profile of his needs.
We see the psychological similarities between cop and murderer as the story of the hunt for victims and the hunt for the killer unfold side by side in parallel sequences and mirrored actions. I love the way this story is told. It makes you ponder the thin line between good and evil.
Gillian Anderson is in her 40s now and more beautiful than ever. As Stella Gibson, she dresses in gorgeous suits and attractive silk blouses. Detective Gibson isn’t above unbuttoning the blouse a bit to attract attention if it will help her solve the crime. You can enjoy The Fall just for the gorgeous, even if you don’t like mystery stories.
If you don’t have Netflix, you may be able to catch some episodes of this series on the BBC iPlayer. (They aren’t always available there.)
Have you seen The Fall? What did you think of it.
This movie is hilarious, profane, packed with purposely clumsy action stunts. Add in two top notch actresses who bring the full power of their multi-talented punch to every scene. That’s The Heat, starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy.
The trailer was cleaned up for language a bit, and hammed up a bit, but it gives you the basic idea.
Bullock plays Ashburn, an uptight FBI agent, McCarthy is Mullins, a never-mind-the-rules Boston cop. The two get off to a rocky start when Ashburn takes the parking space Mullins had her eye on. Mullins is super mouthy and she lets Ashburn have the whole verbal barrage. Then, of course, they get assigned to work together on a case.
Everything about Melissa McCarthy is funny in this picture. They way she’s dressed, the car she drives, the foul-mouthed verbal assaults she is capable of delivering, and the incredulity she expresses over the character portrayed by Sandra Bullock. These two are an outstanding match – both are willing to go anywhere for a laugh, both are nuanced actors, and both are capable of carrying a film on their own. Together they are perfection.
Some Plot Points (Spoilers, too)
In one scene our two law officers go to Mullins grungy one-room apartment where they bond over the contents of Mullins’ refrigerator. It’s full of pistols, rifles, rocket launchers, ammo, grenades (one very important, sometimes ticking, grenade) and other gun-related paraphernalia. Ashburn makes appreciative comments about several of the deadly items stored in the fridge, and we know these two are a matched pair despite their apparent incompatibility.
Among the mayhem, the two actresses are allowed to have some quiet moments in which we glimpse what the characters are made of, where they come from, and who they care about. In between trying to catch the bad guys, they fend off men, they get drunk, and they visit Mullins’ crazed and hilarious family. Here’s the wonderful part. It isn’t just Sandra Bullock who is getting hit on by men. Melissa McCarthy is, too. And McCarthy is the one who plants a big wet one on a guy. I love that.
Mullins’ family includes Michael Rapaport as her brother and an underused Jane Curtain as her mother. Just having Jane Curtain show up in this film is a bonus: she’s one of the all-time funniest actors around. If all she did was pose as a statue it would be a plus for the film. Mullins put her brother Jason (Rapaport) into prison because he was doing/dealing drugs. He’s just out of jail and trying to behave, but the family won’t forgive her. Melissa McCarthy is brilliant at letting us see how this hurts while maintaining her tough bitch facade. Not-quite-going-straight-yet brother Jason is once again see in the company of the drug dealers our heroines are trying to lasso. Ah, plot complications.
Because of threats from the drug dealing mobsters they are trying to put in jail, the duo have to move Mullins’ whole loud-mouthed, ungrateful family and assorted girlfriends into a safe place. This maneuver includes a monstrous dog who should win an Oscar for best supporting actor for his interactions with Sandra Bullock.
They think they have the whole case wrapped up thanks to the use of the suspiciously ticking grenade, but even more bad guys show up after the grenade goes BLAM. Brother Jason gets shot but not killed. Ashburn gets stabbed in the leg – once by a bad guy and once by Mullins who is attempting to insert the knife back in the same wound so the bad guy won’t know they took it out to cut their bonds.
This being a action comedy, I don’t think I’m revealing any terrible spoilers to say that eventually all the bad guys are caught, all the wounds are under a doctor’s care, and our two heroines admit their admiration and respect for each other (sisterhood, even). With all this bonding, could we have a sequel please? The Heat 2 sounds perfect. Ready by next summer would be nice, too.
The movie was written by Katie Dippold who worked on Parks and Recreation and directed by Paul Feig, who also directed McCarthy in 2011’s Bridesmaids.
We need about a million more movies like this. Blockbuster summer fare starring two top names who are buddies fighting the bad guys. But the buddies must be women. Must be.
I just finished the last episode of season 1 of Orange is the New Black. It’s a women in prison comedy/drama. My thought as I watched the last few seconds of the stunning season conclusion was, “Please let there be 1000 more episodes of this show.” It’s that good. It’s been renewed for another 13 episodes in season 2, so that only leaves 987 that I’ll be wanting. The first season of 13 episodes runs from September to December in the story of one year in prison, so 3 seasons of equal pacing might be more realistic to expect.
Orange is the New Black is a a Netflix original, created by Jenji Kohan of Weeds. I loved Weeds and I love Orange is the New Black. Apparently I am a huge Jenji Kohan fangirl. Kohan takes characters who are flawed, vulnerable, maybe a little off, often of questionable moral inclinations and she makes me care about them. Her characters aren’t Hannibal Lector, but they aren’t Mother Teresa either. They fall somewhere in between those two extremes, in a place where most of humanity struggles to get through the day.
Orange is the New Black stars Taylor Schilling as Piper Chapman. The series is based on the book Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison by Piper Kerman. Piper Kerman and her TV self Piper Chapman are blonde, pretty, perfect WASPs who should be successes in life, and who don’t expect to find themselves figuring out how to survive in a prison.
Other well-known actors appearing in the series include Jason Biggs as Larry Bloom, Piper’s fiancee. Laura Prepon is Alex Vause, Piper’s lover from a decade ago. Alex was a drug smuggler and the reason Piper is in prison all these years later. And, oh yeah, Alex is in the same prison. Kate Mulgrew is Red, an inmate who runs the kitchen in the prison. Pablo Shreiber is a corrupt and cruel guard. Michael Harney plays the prison counselor. Natasha Lyonne is one of the inmates.
This is a big cast, the names I mentioned above are ones you may recognize. I feel like I should list the name of every single cast member because every performance is outstanding. Michelle Hurst, Taryn Manning, Samira Wiley, Uzo Aduba, Laverne Cox, Dascha Polanco, Matt McGorry – I didn’t mean to start listing them, but I can’t help it. And there are more names that should be applauded. Every character in this ensemble has a story, makes a real contribution, and every actor in the ensemble produces brilliant work. The acting is true, believable, powerful and at least 85% of the reason the series is so good. The other 15% goes to great writing. My math must be a little off, because I think there should be some percentage given for directing and costuming and set design and that Regina Spektor song at the beginning of every episode. Well, okay, I’ll say that the acting is at least 50% of the reason why this series is so good.
Can you give an entire cast an Emmy for best supporting actress?
A Few Mild Spoilers
Orange is the New Black is both a comedy and a punch-in-the-gut drama. There are a few laugh out loud moments and some running gags that will make you smile. A favorite running gag was the woman who was crying on the phone next to Piper each time she made a phone call. One scene where everyone in the cafeteria stood up and started dry humping everything in sight had me rolling on the floor.
There were moments of cruelty, fear, pain, and brokenness. There were moments of insight. There were moments of love. There are thieves, drug dealers and murderers – and those are just the people in charge of running the prison. There is fornication, masterbation, revenge, overdosing, insanity, sanity, rage, delusion and denial, pragmatism and surprising beauty. Storylines include race politics, religious politics, prison politics, uses for screwdrivers, Shakespearean recitations, and good hair. In short, this series has multitudes to offer and a cast that is capable of delivering it.
Our pretty blonde WASP princess heroine is afraid of everyone at first but soon finds that the women in prison are just like her. She finds people to respect and admire, and to like, which surprises her a bit. Taylor Schilling goes all out in this part. You can be sure there’s plenty of drama and tension involving in getting from fear to admiration.
There is love and relationship drama. With sex. Within the first 30 seconds of episode 1 we see Piper having lesbian shower sex with Alex and straight bathtub sex with Larry. Seems these two super clean moments were flashbacks to happier times as Piper takes her first prison shower, which wasn’t nearly as much fun.
Flashbacks are used often to reveal more about the characters. We see into their childhoods, meet the parents (or lack of parents), see the abuse or the quest for drugs, and learn about the crimes that brought each one to the prison.
One thing I liked about the flashbacks was that the actors could look more like we normally see them. In the prison garb, with no makeup, horrible hair, and possibly awful prosthetic teeth it was a little hard to match up actors faces with the images on imdb.com for the cast. (I do have a tendency to look at cast bios and photos while watching a show.) It took me nearly all 13 episodes to figure out that Taryn Manning was the person playing the crazed Jesus-freak character. That was partly because I could never catch her character’s name and partly because she looked so crazy-scary in the role. Damn, was she good, too.
Laura Prepon never looked bad. Not once. She had blonde hair in Are you There, Chelsea?. She’s been a redhead in some shows. She has black hair here and big black glasses. Her hair never seems to be stringy or wild and she doesn’t need makeup to be stunning. Which partly explains why Piper can’t stay away from her and we have the lovers triangle of Piper, Larry, and Alex through most of season 1. Larry, so straight and normal out there waiting in the real world – Alex, so gorgeous as she offers up her very warm body right here inside the walls. What’s a girl gonna do? I cast my vote for team Alex, drug smuggler though she is. Alex seems to love Piper with a beautiful eternal flame that makes poor Larry’s conditional acceptance pretty lame by comparison. If you’ve read the book and know how this all turns out, don’t rain on my team Alex parade, okay?