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.


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: 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 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