Friday, October 24, 2014
First things first! I love Patrick Wilson. I've loved him in almost every thing I've seen him since Angels in America and Hard Candy. He is a phenomenal actor and he's also drop dead gorgeous. Having him as the lead in this movie absolutely is understandable. He's able to sell the ridiculousness of this story. He's able to maintain your attention. He can be quite charming even when he's being miserable.
However, Wilson is almost too good. I suppose the fact that his character has substance abuse problems is meant to be his inhibiting factor, but I don't buy Wilson in this role. Given how handsome he is and how much acting talent he and his character have, I don't buy that he would be in this position at his age with no prospects.
I know that there are very good-looking and very talented people who don't get work and who are passed over everyday. Most of those people are minorities and less tall, dark, chiseled white guys. With the over-abundance of television, broadcast, cable and Internet, it seems as if someone who wanted to be an actor could find work. Whether it's Hemlock Grove or Sharknado or some random commercial, you'd think you could find something.
Writer-director Joe Carnahan does very little to flesh out that aspect of Kevin's life. There's narration from Kevin that hammers how much of a loser he is all around, but there's never the case made of why if he truly wants to be an actor, he isn't in something or doing more. His substance abuse problems don't seem to have that much of a grip on him. He seems very much in control, just unlucky.
What also isn't fleshed out is Kevin's relationship with Candace, played by Brooklyn Decker. Kevin spends the whole movie or a lot of it pining or obsessing over Candace, yet I'm never really sure why. Yes, she's beautiful, but all we see of her are the moment he meets her and the moment she dumps him. Both moments are quite traumatic, and without showing anything else, it's a head-scratcher why based on those two moments, which don't put her in the best of light, he would be so hung up on her or care so much.
These problems can be ignored thanks to some comedic performances that can have you laugh it off. It starts with David Hasselhoff playing a version of himself that's pretty hilarious. His presence is rather fitting being that aside from Baywatch, he's also well-known for his TV series Knight Rider in which he played a guy who spent most of the time behind the wheel of a black car. It's fitting because the protagonist here spends most of the time behind the wheel of a black car.
The crowning achievement is Chris Pine who plays Roger Karos. Pine worked with Carnahan before in Smokin' Aces (2006), but Pine is probably best known for his role in JJ Abrams' Star Trek (2009). Roger Karos though has got to be Pine's craziest persona to date. Eccentric and weird only begin to describe Karos. His introduction is one of the most audacious introductions of the year with his ass-cheeks and cock being the first thing you see of him. It does set up the debauchery to come.
Yet, Wilson does carry this film. With his role in films like Barry Munday (2010) and the recent Space Station 76 (2014), and TV shows like Girls, he's more than proven he can do comedy. Carnahan certainly gives him standout moments to prove it here, so for that it's one to watch. From a car navigation gag to one with a club bouncer, Wilson is great.
It's unfortunate that the ending didn't end on a gag but instead on a sweet, romantic note that I'm not sure the movie earned.
Three Stars out of Five.
Rated R for language, sexual content and nudity.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 35 mins.
|Hamza Souidek (left) and Abdelhakim Rachi|
in a scene from "Horses of God (Les Chevaux de Dieu)"
The screenplay by Jamal Belmahi covers ten years of the boys' time. It pivots around four key dates in that decade. July 1994 was the time of the World Cup. July 1999 was the death of the King of Morocco. September 2001 was the Al Qaeda attack in the United States, and November 2002 was when the boys began their descent toward martyrdom.
Abdelhakim Rachi plays the older version of Yachine, the protagonist here, the one boy of the four who this story centers. The first time we see him is playing soccer on a dirt field near Sidi Moumen. In his pocket is a picture of a Russian goalie whom he idolizes.
When he gets into trouble on the field, his older brother Hamid, played by Abdelilah Rachid, comes to his defense. Hamid's weapon of choice is a chain that he wraps around his arm. Hamid is tough. He struts around like a little gangster. He's arrested in 1999 where he's converted to Islam, much like Malcolm X.
Hamza Souidek plays Nabil, the best friend of Yachine. He works in a tiny garage for a mechanic. He too likes soccer. Ahmed El Idrissi Amrani plays Fouad, the brother of the girl with whom Yachine is in love.
When it comes to how Yachine, Hamid, Nabil and Fouad could become suicide bombers, a lot of it starts with the economy. An early scene sees the boys sitting around talking about the difficulty of finding a job. Throughout the film, we never see these boys going to school. It's doubtful that any of these boys are literate.
No education and no employment make the boys ripe for manipulation and indoctrination. Basically, it makes them easy recruits. It's not until after 2001 that Muslim fundamentalists and possible agents of Al Qaeda start to convert young men there. A lot of the rhetoric involves using the poverty of the boys and pitting them against the wealthy, stoking a class war as much as a religious one.
There's also a bubbling sexual frustration between the boys that help to stoke things as well. Aside from Yachine's fascination with Fouad's sister, there isn't much attempt at heterosexuality. Yet, there is constant threats and partial expressions of homosexuality. It seems like a prison situation where they're trapped in this shantytown, practically cut off from women.
Yachine's attempt to be with Fouad's sister is always blocked in some way. This doesn't sway Yachine from wanting to be with women, but we do see boys who are swayed. Nabil, for example, gets raped by another boy when he was younger, while others watch. His mechanic boss even kisses him and attempts rape too. This perhaps affects Nabil's sexuality, causing some confusion, but Belmahi's script doesn't deeply explore that.
What's more troubling is that the central conflict comes down between Yachine and his brother Hamid. Through a misfortune of events, Hamid is able to bring Yachine into the Mosque and lead him into the hands of terrorists. By the end, it's Hamid who is then trying to talk Yachine out of the terrorists' hands, and there's no dramatic explanation as to why. I don't think it's as if Hamid didn't know into what he was walking himself and his brother.
For Hamid, it's logical and rational for him not to want to commit a suicide bombing, but he seems totally indoctrinated. Why he suddenly snaps out of what is clearly brainwashing is never established. He just turns. It makes the final conflict a little hollow, if totally warranted.
Four Stars out of Five.
Not Rated but recommended for mature audiences.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 57 mins.
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
|John Cho and Karen Gillan in "Selfie"|
Selfie is a modern-day remake of the play Pygmalion, which was famously made into a film My Fair Lady (1964). At the same time, the show seeks to satirize social media. The term "selfie" is a term born out of social media, which refers to a picture that one takes of him or herself, usually with a smart phone, for the express purpose of sharing it online.
All of this sounds contrived and rather much like the lamest of gimmicks. However, the actors make it work. They sell the Hell out of it and charm the viewers so acutely. Karen Gillan stars as Eliza Dooley, the best sales representative at a pharmaceuticals company who is the best because she's focused a lot on her beauty, so much as she's become extremely superficial.
John Cho stars as Henry, a marketing and advertising executive at the same company who specializes in re-branding campaigns. When things start to go wrong for Eliza and she realizes that her Facebook friends aren't really her real friends and her obsession with social media has made her quite anti-social, she asks Henry to help "re-brand" her.
Henry's tasks include trying to make Eliza more empathetic and aware of the people around her, as well as their feelings. He wants to make her less self-involved, less focused on her smart phone and more mild-mannered. Along with that comes a desire for Eliza to be less sexual and less superficial.
Yet, Henry isn't perfect. He is very conservative, old-fashioned and all about work and no play. He's an example of Eliza's pendulum swinging totally the other way and staying there. The trick of the series is getting him to loosen up and move a little bit toward Eliza's way of thinking. Both of them have to make unlikely friendships.
Along the way, head writer Emily Kapnek and her team have created some great gags and hilarious characters that keep me coming back aside from the two great leads. At the top of which is David Harewood (Homeland) who plays Sam Saperstein, Eliza and Henry's boss at the company.
There have been several sitcoms recently that have utilized the weird or odd, African-American or black guy who is the boss of whatever work environment. FOX did it twice with Enlisted and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Harewood's Saperstein lies somewhere in between Keith David and Andre Braugher. He also seems to have a quasi-lustful interest toward Henry. Saperstein kisses Henry in the pilot and then in Episode 3 gets incredibly close to Henry, complimenting his smell.
There's so many great gags like playing Lady Gaga's Bad Romance on an ukelele, a picture of a breast-feeding baby and a flash mob of one. All of it has endeared me and made me an instant fan of the show.
|Analeigh Tipton and Jake McDorman|
in "Manhattan Love Story"
Analeigh Tipton stars as Dana, a girl who is very much an Ally McBeal-type, except she's way dumber. It's almost offensive how dumb she is. Ally McBeal had her distractions and she was certainly clumsy, but she was never as stupid as this girl. Arguably, Ally McBeal was pathetic but not as pathetic as the girl here.
Jake McDorman co-stars as Peter, a basic horn-dog who at almost every turn proves that he doesn't give a damn about this girl. He could and would move on to the next girl without giving Dana a second thought or if he did, not much of one. At the end of the pilot episode, he does something romantic, but it's almost out of guilt. Yet, by the next episode, he's onto the next girl.
Even if I could get over this, the supporting characters are atrocious. They are annoying beyond belief. They're not even annoying in the way friends are in sitcoms. They're worse in that they're not funny. Episode 3 breaks the vicious cycle by introducing a character in Dana's world who is charming and nice. He's Tucker, played by Nico Evers-Swindell, the New Zealand actor who recently played Prince William in a TV movie.
The joke is that Dana can't tell if Tucker is just British or if he's gay. The problem is that the show doesn't play the joke for its maximum effectiveness. It's less of a question or a confusion than it perhaps could have been. First off, the show gives away the joke in the title. Therefore, the question or confusion over Tucker's sexuality is spoiled from the initial encounter, so it's never able to generate any laughs.
Five Stars out of Five.
Running Time: 30 mins.
Tuesdays at 8PM on ABC.
Manhattan Love Story.
One Star out of Five.
Running Time: 30 mins.
Tuesdays at 8:30PM on ABC.
|Jeff Perry and Dan Bucatinsky in "Scandal"|
If you haven't been watching Scandal in Season 4, the gay scenes in question involve Cyrus, the Chief of Staff at the White House, played by Jeff Perry, and Michael, a MBA student, played by Matthew Del Negro. Cyrus is recently widowed and vulnerable in that he's lonely. Michael is a prostitute who unbeknownst to Cyrus has been employed to entrap Cyrus in a political scandal to control or neutralize him.
If you haven't been watching How to Get Away with Murder, the gay scenes in question there involve Connor, a law student competing for the approval of his law professor, and Oliver, a computer technician who can help the law professor with an actual case. Connor seduces Oliver as well as other men boldly in order to get them to do what he wants.
If I were to criticize these scenes in these shows, I wouldn't criticize them in saying it's too much gay stuff. I would criticize them in that they're not scenes of true love on any one's part. It's instead manipulation on top of manipulation.
In Scandal in particular, the main character of Olivia Pope, played by Emmy-nominee Kerry Washington, is in a bit of a love triangle. On one side is her love of the President of the United States, President Fitzgerald or Fitz, played by Tony Goldywn. On the other side is her love for Jake, played by Scott Foley.
Both Fitz and Jake have their own agendas, but it's clear both love Olivia in their own ways. In the scenes between Cyrus and Michael. It's not about love. Michael doesn't love Cyrus. Right now, it's all about sex, and setting Cyrus up for a trap. That doesn't mean that couldn't change. HBO's Oz had two male characters who fell in love have a similar starting place.
The same could be said about Connor and Oliver on How to Get Away with Murder. The only reason I'm watching is to see if love between gay men can be what translates into a full-fleshed storyline. Scandal had that previously with Cyrus' prior relationship. It's curious to see if that can be replicated.
|Chris Carmack in "Nashville"|
There are several subplots with younger musicians. The major subplot, which is actually not sub but on par with Rayna's storyline, is Juliette Barnes, played by Hayden Panettiere. There are other younger musicians who the show follows, but the least among them is Will Lexington, played by Chris Carmack. What's notable about him is he's the show's gay character.
Unlike Rhimes, Khouri and her writers don't want to put Will in the forefront, let alone show him having sex. Purposefully, it could be because he's still in the closet and is personally trying to hide his homosexuality, but it doesn't mean he isn't having sex. The show doesn't even acknowledge real-life country artists who have come out as gay like Steve Grand, Chely Wright, Eric Himan and Matt Alber.
There are and have been so many gay musicians in other genres, but like rap music, there's almost a difference when it comes to country. Yet, the show wants to delay or draw out attacking this issue. We'll see how it goes by year's end.
Scandal: Season 4.
Three Stars out of Five.
Running Time: 1 hr.
Thursdays at 9PM on ABC.
Nashville: Season 3.
Three Stars out of Five.
Running Time: 1 hr.
Wednesdays at 10PM on ABC.
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
|Dylan McDermott and Maggie Q in "Stalker"|
Maggie Q stars as Lt. Beth Davis, the head of the Threat Assessment Unit or TAU who is hardened and sporadically rude. Dylan McDermott co-stars as Jack Larsen, a detective for nine years in the NYPD who comes to Los Angeles to be Beth's right hand in the TAU. Their cases focus specifically on incidents of stalking.
While this might seem like a limited concept, Beth announces in the pilot episode that over six million people are stalked in the United States per year. Celebrity stalking is only 10 % of all cases. One in six are women and one in nineteen are men. All of those statistics are on the rise, thanks to social media. This means there are a wealth of cases to explore here, but Williamson shoots himself in the foot by making this show an odd relative of The Following where it's just week after week of crazy or really creepy people who always escalate to deadly violence.
The MTV series Catfish: The TV Show did a better job of exploring stalking in the digital age than this show has thus far and probably ever will. That MTV series does a better job of digging into or discussing psychology or sociology, whereas this show just throws out outrageous horror set-pieces. The pilot episode opens with a scene that mimics the opening to Scream (1996), which Williamson wrote. Children being thrown in car trunks and lesbian brides being shot in the head comprise the depravity Williamson's show discharges in next episodes. It's trash.
The pilot episode though does something really egregious and does a storyline that could have been interesting, yet Williamson totally ruins it. Beth investigates a case involving Perry Whitley, played by Erik Stocklin, who gets assaulted by his roommate Eric, played by Daren Kagasoff. Eric accuses Perry of stalking him, but more specifically, Eric thinks Perry secretly recorded him having sex and then posted that sex video online.
This storyline mirrors a famous gay bullying case at Rutgers University where Tyler Clementi was secretly videotaped having sex with his boyfriend by his roommate Dharun Ravi. As a result of cyberbullying from Ravi, Clementi committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge. Here, Williamson turns it around and makes the gay student the bully. Perry is the bully, but Williamson tries to couch such criticism by saying Perry isn't gay.
Yet, to take this story of gay bullying and twist it this way is a bit offensive. It's more a waste of opportunity. Williamson had a golden opportunity to tell a gay bullying story, but instead he completely drops the ball. He doesn't just drop it. He takes a butcher knife and stabs into it, totally deflating the ball.
There are other characters played by Mariana Klaveno, Victor Rasuk and Elisbeth Rohm, but nothing this show does make me care about any of them.
One Star out of Five.
Running Time: 1 hr.
Wednesdays at 10PM on CBS.
|Monica Raymund and Jesse Spencer|
play firefighters in love in "Chicago Fire"
What is worrisome is that the character who died was Leslie Shay, played by Lauren German, and she was the only gay character or the only LGBT character on the show. With her gone, the show lost that inclusive element. It's a little less diverse, even though the cast is very wide-ranging. There's still a lack of Asian characters, but this season by its fourth episode has seen a lot of shuffling of jobs and new characters introduced, so maybe there will be a return of a gay character.
Shay was a paramedic. She wasn't technically a firefighter, which this show is mainly about. With her gone, hopefully the head writers Michael Brandt and Derek Haas will open that door and have a full-on gay firefighter, and broach that issue in a way that it's rather skirted until now.
I almost thought in Episode 3 the writers were going to do it. Kenny Johnson started to reoccur on the series last season as Tommy Welch, a firefighter at a rival firehouse. He has the opportunity to take on a female firefighter into his company, but he denies it. His behavior would lead you into thinking that he's simply a misogynist. Yet, it's so over-the-top with him that you suspect that something else is happening underneath. I started to form an opinion about it in Episode 3.
In Episode 3, titled "Just Drive the Truck," Welch and his team get into a horrible accident. The main firefighters of this show, including Matthew Casey, played by Jesse Spencer, and, Kelly Severide, played by Taylor Kinney, have to save Welch and his men. One of which is the driver of the truck, a guy named Jason Molina, played by Glenn Stanton.
Now, obviously, because Molina is hurt pretty bad, Welch is going to be upset, but his being upset gets to a point where it seemed a little too intense. It was so intense that you'd almost assume that Welch was in love with Molina, not just in the typical, firefighter-brother way but in a deep-rooted, homosexual way. By the end, it's clear that Molina has a wife and family. Welch backs off, but having him be gay would have been a good angle to go.
So far, the characters are dealing with a lot of the same issues with which they've dealt before. A firefighter deals with a physical injury that makes him not able to be a firefighter. Another firefighter deals with the death of someone close, which sends him on a downward spiral. The other firefighters deal with starting a business outside the firehouse and the difficulties with that. All these things are veritable rehashes, but the actors are so good that they all make it work, even when some are playing the same beats. However, having a gay firefighter, especially one like Welch, would have definitely shaken things up.
What helps is that the series has integrated some storylines that are diferent or innovative that keeps things refreshing. One of which is Peter Mills, played by Charlie Barnett, confronting his father's racist family. Another storyline is Casey's newest candidate being his fiancee and former paramedic Gabriella Dawson, played by Monica Raymund.
The series, which is actually shot in Chicago, continues to stage great action scenes and great disaster-rescue scenes. In a way that's more organic than the way NCIS does it, the series weaves in cameos from its spin-off show better as well. The brief appearances from Sophia Bush and Brian Geraghty from Chicago P.D. have been great in that they felt totally natural and not underscored. Even Shay's replacement Sylvie, played by Kara Killmer, is integrated so seamlessly.
Five Stars out of Five.
Running Time: 1 hr.
Tuesdays at 10PM on NBC.
|Ming-Na Wen (left) and Clark Gregg|
in "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D."
In Season 1, the show only kicked off in the episode, which played after the theatrical release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Marvel Studios planned for the plot of the TV show to be affected by the plot of the movie. It was brilliant, but it dragged the show for half a season. For this second season, the show continues to use the movie as a springboard.
In the Season 2 premiere, Agent Peggy Carter, played by Hayley Atwell, leads a mission against Hydra, the evil Nazi-like organization that S.H.I.E.L.D. is trying to fight. Her mission is set in Austria 1945. She's assisted by Dugan, played by Neal McDonough, and Morita, played by Kenneth Choi. All of whom are from Captain America: The First Avenger. This Agent Carter mission serves two purposes. The first is to set up the spin-off simply called Agent Carter and the other purpose is to establish the macguffin for this season or at least for the initial run of fall episodes.
In addition to Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the plot of this show was also affected last year by the plot of the film Thor: The Dark World. The character of Thor and related characters are technically alien beings, and last year alien artifacts or alien technology were revealed to have been deposited on Earth. The artifact in question for this run of episodes is the Obelisk. The Obelisk has a lot of power. Some of it is deadly, which makes it desirable to bad guys like those from Hydra, including Dr. Daniel Whitehall, played by Reed Diamond.
Clark Gregg reprises his role as Agent Phil Coulson who since the presumed death of Nick Fury has become the director of S.H.I.E.L.D., but also since Hydra invaded S.H.I.E.L.D., Coulson hasn't had much of an organization to direct. He's spent the intervening time trying to rebuild S.H.I.E.L.D., which includes recruiting new members or agents.
Ming-Na Wen plays Agent Melinda May, his right hand and highly-trained, martial artist. Chloe Bennet plays Skye, a computer hacker-turned-field agent. Iain De Caestecker plays Leo Fitz, a brilliant researcher and inventor. Elizabeth Henstridge plays Jemma Simmons, a scientist-turned-field agent.
May is trying to keep an eye on Coulson who since his return from Tahiti has been exhibiting strange signs, possibly deleterious signs. Skye has to face her complicated relationship with Grant Ward, played by Brett Dalton. Ward went from field agent to prisoner for betraying S.H.I.E.L.D. for Hydra. Meanwhile, Fitz is suffering from brain damage as a result of an attack by Ward. He's also suffering from heart-break having Simmons gone from his life.
Among the new recruits include Antoine Triplett, played by B.J. Britt, a field agent who partners with Skye on occasion. There's also Mac, played by Henry Simmons, a mechanic who normally doesn't go out on missions. He repairs and doles out equipment and vehicles. Finally, Lance Hunter, played by Nick Blood, also joins the team as a British, former mercenary who used to work only for money.
Coulson and his agents are trying to find the Obelisk and other alien artifacts before Hydra, so Hydra can't use those artifacts to dominate or take-over the world, which is what they always want. Hydra has money, power and technology to help them combat anything, but sometimes Hydra has supernatural beings on its side. Last season, Hydra had Mike Peterson aka Deathlok. This season, it has a round robin of villains from various Marvel comics.
The first of which was Carl Creel, played by Brian Patrick Wade. Creel is in actuality the Absorbing Man from the Thor comics. In Episode 3, there was Donnie, played by Dylan Minnett. Donnie aka Blizzard is a villain or is from the rogues gallery from the Iron Man comics. In the example of Donnie, he's brainwashed by Hydra.
The show has become a very good adventure series. The action scenes are surprisingly well done. Episode 4 featured a lengthy and well-choreographed fight scene between May and a Hydra agent in disguise, which is just as good as her fight scene last season with Ward. This follows a pretty wicked car crash in the Season 2 premiere as well as some pretty cool, special effects in Episode 2 with Creel and in Episode 3 with Donnie.
The series also has fun with Adrian Pasdar who plays General Talbot. His scenes with Coulson are a delight. It's really in these scenes when head writers Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharden can really provide the witty dialogue in its most tongue-in-cheek form, but the series is fun now all around.
Five Stars out of Five.
Running Time: 1 hr.
Tuesdays at 9PM on ABC.