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Archive | November, 2013

The MPAA is at it again, this time with “The Wolf of Wall Street” and “Charlie Countryman”

29 Nov

Film-Wolf of Wall StreetContinuing its trend of limiting the vision of various directors and producers, the MPAA is at it again, forcing several films–The Wolf of Wall Street and Charlie Countryman–to cut scenes of people doing things that everyone does at some point: having sex. Oh, the horror! Won’t you think about the kids?! I mean, sure, we can show a bunch of people getting their heads blown off, but show a nipple? Burn it all down!

This has been a persistent problem over the years, and sadly, we’re a culture that shies away from the apparent stigma that comes with being an adult; you know, I’d say most adults don’t encounter a triple-ax wielding monster in dark alleys at night, but DO have sex. Right now, we’re worried about shielding our kids’ eyes from naked bodies, and then we’re slapping a flimsy “I’m protecting them!” excuse on our blatant transgressions. Look, I’m not adopting a “They’re going to see it eventually” attitude; that’s the last thing I want. I just implore us to be realistic about these things.

Anyway, in the case of Scorsese’s new epic The Wolf of Wall Street, some of the film’s “abundant, explicit sex” had to be cut to receive an R rating, bringing the film’s running length down to 179 minutes from its original length of 654 minutes. At least 200 of those minutes featured Jonah Hill dancing naked on top of Leonardo DiCaprio’s facial hair while Kyle Chandler smirked off to the side.

In Charlie Countryman‘s case, Evan Rachel Wood took to Twitter to rant about the MPAA’s deletion of a scene in which Shia Labeouf performed oral sex on her; no word yet on Michael Bay’s interpretation of that scene, which probably involves big robots and explosions. As for Wood’s Twitter rant, even given the site’s 140-character limit, her epic diatribe against the MPAA spanned nearly ten tweets and didn’t lose its impact. Sincere kudos to her; head to https://twitter.com/evanrachelwood to see the whole thing.

Of course, sadly, our films will continue to acquiesce to the demands of the MPAA, and eventually, we’ll see NC-17 ratings on kids movies for depicting two cartoon dogs licking each other. Or something like that.

Credit to Red Granite Pictures and The Wolf of Wall Street for all pictures. I own nothing.

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Nikita “Dead or Alive” Live Blog/Review (4×02)

29 Nov

Dead or AliveAfter last week’s thrilling premiere, I’m really excited for the follow up. Check back in at 9/8 Central for a live blog. All times central.

8:02-It’s nice to see the gang back together again.

8:04-Well, that whole doubles plot is a bit too easy, isn’t it? While I do love Melinda Clarke and the work she’s doing as Amanda, I can’t help but lament the fact that Roan was killed off way back when; his vendetta would feel more human (kind of ironic, isn’t it?) than Amanda’s. I just don’t feel very invested in the whole Nikita connection, as great as their dynamic is.

8:12-So it looks like we’re drawing the Owen/Sam-Alex parallels now: two people with trust issues, both with another identity that’s slowly fusing into what they want it to be as their confidence increases. I like the idea; hopefully it’ll help integrate Owen/Sam into the proceedings, much like Alex was last week.

8:13-Nice focus on the evil mouth there.

8:16-I get that this is the type of person Nikita is, but I can’t help but feel a bit annoyed at her whole “Who else is going to get hurt because of me?” attitude. This is something she should’ve come to terms with a while ago and put forth all of her being into saving them, not worrying about them. They’ve proved they can handle themselves.

8:19-HUGE gun there. Love it.

8:24-Nice to see Sonya out here in the field, too.

8:27-I hope this whole “It’s bigger than Nikita” plot doesn’t become too convoluted; the last thing a short season needs is some huge conspiracy. What this should be about is a deeply personal story about Nikita, NOT about the Shop.

8:32-And here lies Nikita’s flaw: she’s all talk when it comes to her friends; she’s an inherently individual person. She realizes that leaving will hurt her friends, so she puts up a facade, trying to make herself believe that doing everything herself IS better. That’s why her excuse to Michael is “You didn’t get hurt!”

8:40-Nice, some Amanda-Alex and Amanda-Nikita phone calls.

8:49-So it seems like they’re sending Nikita down some type of redemption storyline, which isn’t a bad idea. She’s had to sacrifice her morals myriad times over the years, and she’s now even more conflicted. It’s great that Michael understands the shit Nikita’s gone through and still does what needs to be done.

8:54-“I forgot how much I need you guys.” I think she’s still trying to convince herself that going off by herself was NOT a good idea, now that she’s back.

8:57-“I’m done fighting for us.” This is a very sensible decision by Michael, yet it’s heartbreaking to watch Nikita’s own personality and sense of righteousness bring about the downfall of the relationship. She just shouldn’t be going through all this, even though at the same time you could say she kind of deserves it. That’s the essential conflict of this whole series; it’s the whole duality motif of spy vs. person, much like the doppelgangers tonight.

9:00-Yeah, not too ecstatic about this Birkoff reveal. I hope the writers surprise me somehow, because this isn’t needed if it’ll lead to a bit of wheel-spinning.

GRADE: B

FINAL THOUGHTS: As expected, this is a step down from the premiere and its explosiveness. Still, there’s lots of stuff to like here: the Owen/Sam-Alex dynamic, the Nikita-Michael dynamic, and the Nikita-Amanda dynamic. The show’s really strengthened the characters here, and hopefully the next episodes deliver; it looks like Alex is being set up, which is an interesting storyline to take. As for Birkoff, time will tell. Four more.

Credit to The CW and Nikita for all pictures. I own nothing.

Person of Interest “The Devil’s Share” Review (3×10)

27 Nov

6de7a18eba614ecece1012edb060d395The fallout of a character’s death isn’t something easy to handle, but Person of Interest deals with Carter’s in a creative, moving, and flat out brilliant way that serves as a thrilling capper to a wonderful half season.

It would be fairly simple to descend into the overly melodramatic, but the show instead opts to use its stylistic flair and its intimate knowledge of each character to evoke an even stronger sense of loss. For example, the opening credits are missing here, instead having the fantastic, mood setting montage of Johnny Cash’s “Hurt” (fantastic song choice, by the way) cut to a black screen for a few seconds. Much like the lack of a “Stay tuned for scenes from our next episode” last week, the show is paying homage to its fallen character.

As for the intimate knowledge, the episode is structured around a series of flashbacks that delineate how exactly various characters used to deal with loss compared to how they do it now. They each strove for something greater, but they couldn’t shake the doubts burrowed in their minds. The flashbacks provide insight into the pasts of each person while drawing myriad parallels between them, unifying them under the presence of Carter. In fact, usually the person sitting across from them would be a Carter-type figure, helping set them straight and attempting to connect on a deeper level; the difference here is that Carter would actually succeed, and this is a very clever way of conveying that sense of loss.

That sense of loss permeates the present day as well; instead of focusing on Carter’s funeral, we get to see how each character is affected by it, none more so than Reese. It’s a striking change to see him so unhinged and raw, and he’s a very different man than he was in that flashback. Yet, it’s completely realistic; sometimes we forget that Reese is a human being with real feelings, and Caviezel does a marvelous job of portraying a man essentially killing himself over his partner’s death, willing to do anything it takes to serve cold, hard justice. I like that he slips up and ends up trying to shoot Quinn; although the gun doesn’t go off, it reminds us just how far Reese is willing to go, and it’s, quite frankly, an inherently human decision.

Of course, it isn’t just Reese that’s affected. Every other character wears some type of metaphorical mask, attempting to cover up the grief, guilt, and frustration that each is feeling. However, they’re still able to make sensible decisions; Shaw and Finch realize how useful Root is and the necessity to put aside their differences, so they do so. They’re not going to lose someone else.

Oh, and how awesome is Root in this episode? Really. Freaking. Awesome. Kinda hot, too, according to Shaw.

At the end, Fusco gets his moral victory by electing to arrest Simmons instead of killing him. It’s a thrilling moment because even now, he’s paying his respects to Carter by honoring her wishes. In fact, that fight scene draws parallels to Reese’s fistfight with Simmons, and both men had similar attitudes toward killing: some people deserve it. It’s a very interesting aspect to explore, and that’s only strengthened by Elias’s final lines. He respects Carter and he values civilized actions, and Simmons deserves what’s coming to him; Elias won’t get his hands dirty, but sometimes, justice needs to be swift and permanent. People are going to die, but that doesn’t mean it’s the end all be all for a person’s legacy; Carter’s character was all about how she affected others, and we continue to see her live on today. She’s not going away anytime soon.

GRADE: A

OTHER THOUGHTS:

-Fusco’s face when Root’s telling him everything she knows about him. Hilarious.

-“Tall, dark, and deranged.”

-“He lost a lot of blood. I’m gonna steal some more from Manhattan General.”

-Powerful acting from everyone tonight. They conveyed so much through just their facial expressions.

-I have to say, I was at first inclined to write a review that went like this: HOLY SHIT THIS WAS AWESOME. I MEAN, YOU HAD REESE JUST ACTING BADASS AND DISPATCHING A BUNCH OF BAD GUYS, AND THEN ROOT WITH HER TWO GUNS JUST BLASTING IT UP, AND AN AWESOME FISTFIGHT, AND THEN OH MAN ELIAS THIS EPISODE IS PERFECT.

Credit to CBS and Person of Interest for all pictures. I own nothing.

New Girl “Thanksgiving III” Review (3×10)

26 Nov

1e367419f3b3446ec40f01e1ca7052afHoliday episodes are outlets for full ensemble antics; they’re easy ways to get the whole gang together, celebrating a day and modeling around it. As for this particular episode, it’s a sweet, funny way to close out the 2013 year for New Girl (I have no idea why there isn’t a Christmas episode this year).

Several of the criticisms of this season have been valid; for example, the Nick-Jess relationship can become a bit too saccharine at times, and the Winston character is usually relegated to the C-plots. However, this episode strikes a nice balance between character and funny. I think the show’s certainly self-aware about the Winston stuff; there are a few more lines about him not getting a say in anything and the loss of the opportunity to make the craziest mugs, man. It’s good that the show is finally starting to remedy that; last week, Winston related with a stranger, and this week, he relates with someone he knows. He normally isn’t able to find much validation from others, and we’re hopefully moving in the right direction.

As for Nick and Jess, I’ve seen growth. There’s a part of Nick that is still surprised that he even has a relationship, so understandably, he overcompensates–catching a dead fish and having a “real” Thanksgiving–because he never wants it to end. The other part of him is more grounded–he tells Jess he doesn’t want her to patronize him, for example. This relationship hasn’t just turned him into a carbon copy of Jess; if it had, it wouldn’t have worked out.

However, I do feel like Coach is taking on a bit too many of Schmidt’s characteristics, one of them being his confidence. It’s nice to see Schmidt start to move on, but I don’t want a similar wooing plot in the future from Coach; still, I’m happy Cece’s getting more screen time.

All in all, it’s an entertaining episode that, while its plot is very meandering, is an effective way to celebrate Thanksgiving with the New Girl folk.

GRADE: B+

OTHER THOUGHTS:

-Delirious Jess is a delight. “I’m out of the office ’til Friday, for immediate assistance, please call Deb at extension A.C. Slater.”

-“Head first? Why?!”

-“My tolerance for alcohol has gotten really low. I drank 3 beers and I got all giggly and tired, and I didn’t want a fourth. I think I’m losing it; last night I had a dream I was brushing a horse.” So many gems from Jake Johnson tonight.

-“We walked all the way to Oregon?” “That explains the cramp…”

-Real men are on the bottom. Nothing purple grows in nature. George Washington hunted and milked his cats.

Credit to New Girl and FOX for all pictures. I own nothing.

 

How I Met Your Mother “Bedtime Stories” Review (9×11)

25 Nov

mos1Listen-I like creativity as much as the next guy, but when it’s nothing more than a gimmick, it really won’t fly. We’re halfway through the final season, and for the life of me I can’t find a reason, why do we need this episode, when it’s nothing more than bold?

I get that sometimes they need to just let loose and have fun, but the stories themselves do nothing to stun. They should sometimes break free from the confines of serialization, but not when all we get is broad characterization. We don’t need to see Barney or Robin or Ted acting like they used to act; especially after eight damn seasons, that’s a cold, hard fact.

Kudos to the writers, though, it wasn’t an easy task; on the surface, it was entertaining, and I guess that’s all you can really ask. I do like the fact that they poke fun at the theme itself; it helps it feel less gimmicky and not like dust on a shelf. Although really, Marshall? What the hell are you doing? The season may or may not be in decline, but when you decide to walk to Farhampton, it’s quite frankly, asinine. I hate the distance between Marshall and the gang; he needs to be there for the show to go out with a bang. Anyway, this episode is really hard to grade; I’ll just give it a question mark and finish the rhymes I made.

GRADE: ? (GRADE AS A CREATIVE PIECE OF WORK: B, GRADE FOR EFFORT: A, GRADE AS A PIECE OF TELEVISION: C)

OTHER THOUGHTS:

-James Van Der Beek guest stars.

-The actors’ rhyming techniques seem to be out of sync quite a bit, which both adds and detracts from the episode’s improv-esque feel and cohesiveness.

Credit to CBS and How I Met Your Mother for all pictures. I own nothing.

Homeland “One Last Time” Review (3×09)

25 Nov

Homeland-One-Last-TimeLet’s get this out of the way first; much of what goes on in this episode plot-wise is absolutely ludicrous; Saul’s Iran master plan, for one, as well as everything involving Brody’s ridiculously quick recovery, Alain Bernard, and the like. Of course, like I mentioned before, sometimes you just have to put that aside for a bit.

Character-wise, this is a fantastic episode. The acting, as always, is impeccable, and Danes and Lewis convey the tension and desperation of two people clinging to each other out of necessity. Lewis in particular goes through a wide range of emotions in a short amount of time, but we’re still allowed to see the detrimental effects the heroin has caused. In addition, his first scene with Carrie is a highlight.

Although I’m still frustrated with Carrie’s continual playing of the victim card and her penchant for not giving a damn about orders, it still paves the way for a great Dana-Brody scene that is miles better than any other Dana offerings in a while. It reminds me of those fantastic season 1 scenes in which her character isn’t bogged down with extraneous storylines and idiotic boyfriends. Here, when she asks Brody to write down what he wants her to say, you can see the conflict in his eyes; he obviously knows she’s not serious about it, but she’s one of two people that he sees as truly understanding, and he wishes everything were as easy as writing a script. It explains in part why he doesn’t ask to see Jess and Chris–although seriously, Brody? Not even one mention?

Elsewhere, we’re at least seeing Saul’s plan come fully into focus, as implausible as it is. Patinkin’s always greatest when bouncing off of Danes, and this week does a nice job of tying Saul, Brody, and Carrie together while propelling the endgame even farther forward. Saul has a similar control over Brody as he does Carrie; he can always get them to do something “one last time”, and we’ll see how Brody’s turns out. Here’s hoping the last fourth of the season ends the season on a good note.

GRADE: B+

OTHER THOUGHTS

-Not much Quinn this week. Hopefully he doesn’t get pushed aside in favor of Brody’s increased presence; in fact, the show should play off that dynamic a bit more.

-I like to think Dana’s friend just abandoned her there.

-I’m just grateful the show gave some scenes a chance to breathe here. So far this season, it’s either been mind-numbingly slow or way too quick, and I’m happy for the change of pace amidst the forward momentum; an example of this is Carrie and Brody’s first scene.

-Will Brody survive this? Knowing the Showtime executives, they’ll probably have him accidentally kill Javadi, go through a foot chase through the streets of Iran, then blow up an embassy or something before jumping into a river and seeing Chris at the bottom of the water.

-I said last week I wouldn’t get this up until much later, but it turns out that’s not the case! Still, next week looks to be crowded yet again, what with The Walking Dead’s midseason finale, Homeland, Masters of Sex, and Treme’s premiere.

Credit to Showtime and Homeland for all pictures. I own nothing.

Boardwalk Empire “Farewell Daddy Blues” Review (4×12)

25 Nov

Boardwalk-Empire-Farewell-Daddy-BluesBoardwalk Empire is a show about corruption and crime. When corruption and crime are present, there’s only one way out: death. And so it goes for Richard Harrow.

Still, let’s start with Nucky. He’s the kind of guy that will, at one point, manipulate Valentin Narcisse with feigned, over the top racism, identifying and latching onto that weakness and twisting the master manipulator to benefit himself. At another point, he’ll attempt to use that same type of manipulation on his family; the thing is, it won’t work. He keeps insisting that he’s doing the right thing, but for him, like for all businessmen, doing the right thing requires something in exchange. Of course, Eli can see through the bullshit; he knows he’s the one that truly cares about the family, and Nucky’s trying to manipulate that weakness. Nucky’s like the parent that buys his kid a bunch of presents to make up for a bunch of bad decisions and help him feel better about himself. He doesn’t like getting his hands dirty, and, unlike in previous seasons, he isn’t as successful at the end as he wants to be.

In fact, not really anyone ends up better off after this episode, save for maybe Al Capone. Chalky and Narcisse are the two criminal masterminds clashing over a pot of revenge, lust, and anger, and they both wind up worse off; you’d expect one of them to come out on top, but at the end of it all, they’re both beaten into the ground in their respective ways. Narcisse is forced to submit to the “white man”, the epitome of all his hatred and the very weakness Nucky exploited, and Chalky loses his daughter, forcing him to hide out and live his life in constant fear.

It’s not a very happy ending, and it’s made all the worse by Richard Harrow’s death–kudos to Jack Huston for portraying such a brilliant character over the course of the series. He’ll be missed. Harrow’s a guy that came back from the war and had nothing waiting for him; all he had was the skills he learned, and all he wanted was to somehow fit in with and function in society. He was actually able to come to terms with who he was without becoming someone like Nucky, and that just make his death hurt all the more. The worst thing is that he died having accidentally killed an innocent woman; it’s something I’m sure some of these other characters wouldn’t give a second thought to, but for Richard, he has to die with that guilt. On the surface, he may not seem much better than the rest, but he is. The problem is that it doesn’t matter in this world.

Nevertheless, that ending is in line with the themes of the show, and my, what a fantastic ending it is. In a sequence similar to the one in “Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”, Harrow dreams about the life he never had and the face he never had, but when reality kicks in, we realize he’s now waiting for the waves to roll in.

GRADE: A-

SEASON GRADE: B

OTHER THOUGHTS:

-Kudos to Jeffrey Wright and Michael Kenneth Williams for creating one of the most riveting television dynamics I’ve seen.

-Eli killing Knox is extremely satisfying; in fact, the similar “gun to the head” scenes draw parallels between Knox and Nucky; they’re both seemingly powerful people getting caught in this web of crime, and you realize how little they actually possess.

-Torrio got shot like, 50 times, and still lived.

-I know it wouldn’t really fall in line with his character at that point in his arc, but part of me really wanted to see him going on another shooting rampage…and then Van Alden pulling up in the getaway car with Richard’s family in the back, and then a tearful reunion while Van Alden glowered in the background, and then all of them driving off into the sunset while everyone else cried.

-I’m looking forward to the Van Alden-Eli dynamic, as well as more Margaret-Rothstein.

-Thanks for reading, guys. See you next year for Season 5.

Credit to HBO and Boardwalk Empire for all pictures. I own nothing.

 

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