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Monday, July 7, 2014

The Television Equivalent of Radiohead's "The Bends"

A week ago Sunday, HBO premiered their strange, post-apocalyptic show The Leftovers. I read the review in last week's Entertainment Weekly after I watched the premiere, so to be a little different, I thought I would watch a second episode to see if the way I felt about the show would change. Unfortunately for HBO, it didn't. I'm sorry to say, I think the show is not bleak enough to be interesting, but bleak enough to be depressing. Not something I think HBO was striving for.

Instead of taking 2% of the population, they should've taken all of Justin Theroux's shirts.

Did I not like the show because it wasn't Lost 2.0? I mean, HBO hasn't been shy about advertising the fact that Damon Lindelof, one of Lost's co-creators, was one-half of the team creating The Leftovers. That's quite a pedigree. Even more so for me, since I am a huge fan of Lost. Here's how much of a fan: when I heard that a friend of mine had watched Lost from beginning to end on Netflix, multiple times actually, I was jealous and decided immediately to do this myself. It took me about a month. Sometimes, I'd watch more than one episode in a day. Lost is one of those perfect shows that grabs the audience from the very first episode and makes us anxious to see more. Obviously, opening with a plane crashing on a beach is an eye-catcher. And with The Leftovers, the creators might have thought that they had another eye-catching opening scene by showing a mother losing her baby to the rapture (which may not be the rapture, since there's no real proof that it was the rapture besides 2% of the world's population disappearing, and not all of those that disappeared were the greatest people, I mean, they took Gary Busey & someone who hit their kids for goodness sake), but they panned away when the baby actually disappeared. We didn't get to see a single person disappear with our very own eyes. How could they not show this??

But this woman now without a baby is not one of the main characters in the show. Instead, the show focuses on Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux) and his family. Kevin is the chief of police of the small town of Mapleton and if I had to guess, the crime rate has at least doubled since the disappearances. None of Kevin's family disappeared a year ago, but his family was psychically and physically destroyed just the same.

Sounds interesting, right? On paper it does. In the trailer, it does. But in real life, when you're watching it, it's a little bit like torture. Like maybe you were having a really good weekend, but then Sunday night comes around and that new show by the creator of Lost comes on and how exciting and now I've watched it and wow, now I'm wondering why I bother doing anything anymore ever. My husband likes to say that Radiohead's album The Bends is beautifully crafted music that makes you want to kill yourself, even if you weren't depressed before you started listening to it. Maybe The Leftovers is the television equivalent of The Bends, except, without the beautifully crafted part.

I think I understand the problem with the show. If it was the rapture, then that means that the ones left behind have to have major flaws, right? Yes. Of course they do. But that doesn't mean they're all bad, does it? To the writers of this show, it almost seems like they decided that all the characters do have to be centrally bad. But what they didn't do was make them bad in a way that makes these characters interesting. Like making them all versions of Walter White, Don Draper or most of the characters on Game of Thrones. Instead of making their characters obviously bad, they made them Purgatory level bad, which left them all bland and generally uninteresting.

Except when Justin Theroux has his shirt off. But that was only the one brief time in two episodes.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Loyalty Buried Under a Dusty Road

When I walked out of the movie theater this past Saturday, after seeing The Rover, I felt numb. Or maybe exhausted. At first, I thought I hadn't liked the film, but later, I realized I'd liked it a lot. So much so, that I thought I could see it again. But I'm strange. Sometimes beyond strange, so don't plan on buying two sets of movie tickets just yet.

The film looks, feels, and nearly smells like George Miller's The Road Warrior, which is kind of coincidental since the cover of this week's Entertainment Weekly features the reboot of the Mad Max franchise, starring Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron. The new Mad Max may prove to be thought-provoking (we won't know until next summer, when the film debuts), but The Rover threatens to alter the way we think about the end of the world. Like the novel The Road, and its film adaptation, there are artists, like writer-director David Michod, who can imagine a world after ours that none of us would want to live in. But we can indulge in it for two hours. Let it scare us. Make us happy to crawl into clean sheets at night and eat fresh food three times a day.

The film opens by telling us that it has been ten years since a global economic collapse. Guy Pearce plays an Australian man who doesn't seem to have anything to live for--except for his car. He leaves it parked outside of a bar where it's stolen by three men who've obviously just committed some kind of heist. The brother of one of the criminals has been left behind, left for dead, even though they know he was still alive when they left him. The criminals crash their car and steal Guy Pearce's car. For the rest of the film, we watch Guy Pearce do everything he has to do to get his car back.

To be honest, I didn't think the reason the car meant so much to him was going to be revealed. But it is. And it's this revelation that stayed with me for hours after seeing the film.

Robert Pattinson plays the criminal brother that had been left for dead. Guy Pearce kidnaps Robert Pattinson to help locate his brother and the stolen car. It's this strange relationship, between two people who should have no loyalty for each other, that encompasses the theme of the film.

When there's next to nothing left in the world, what becomes most precious?

This isn't a feel-good movie. But then again, we don't go to art museums to eat ice cream, do we?

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Aliens, Angels and One Killer Virus

I've been a tiny bit silent on the blog front this month and for that, I apologize. My mother died over a year ago, and despite my being estranged from her for the last twelve years, I've been going through a whirlwind of emotions I never anticipated.

On a happy note: even though I haven't been able to drag myself to my computer to write about all of the new apocalyptic & post-apocalyptic entertainment that has been popping up left and right this month, I have indulged in it. So if you're interested, here's my take on Edge of Tomorrow, The Last Ship,and Dominion.

If you haven't seen Edge of Tomorrow, see it. See it this weekend. See it on the biggest screen you have available in your town. This is a fantastic movie. Truly. This is the reason why Tom Cruise has been a movie star for all of my adult life. Not only is he a terrific actor, but he picks great projects. But this film is the cream of his crop. It's inventive, funny, edge-of-your-seat exciting, heart-breaking AND it contains a female character that is so bad ass, I wish I was her. Plus, Edge of Tomorrow doesn't indulge in a single cliche. And it had multiple opportunities to do so. Many. And it didn't.

If you've been sleeping in a cave for the last month and have no idea what Edge of Tomorrow is about, here's the main idea: an alien race has taken over most of continental Europe. Tom Cruise plays William Cage, a military publicist who gets dropped into a WWII Normandy-style invasion with catastrophic human casualties. Before dying, he kills a rare alien whose blood has transferred to him an ability to travel back in time, to the morning before the invasion occurs. For the majority of the film, Cage relives this single day over and over again to try and save the human race from its alien invaders. Emily Blunt plays Sergeant Rita Vrataski, the poster girl for the human army. She used to have Cage's time travel ability until she received a blood transfusion. Together, they try and figure out a way to defeat a seemingly undefeatable enemy.

Emily Blunt as "Sergeant Rita Vrataski." BAD ASS.
After seeing Edge of Tomorrow, I walked out of the theater thinking it was going to end up being the highest grossing film of all time. So far it's only grossed $300 million worldwide, so my prediction seems way off base. Considering the less than stellar movies gracing theaters at the moment, I'm a bit perplexed as to why EOT hasn't made more money. I have some theories, none of which have to do with the movie itself, so I'm going to keep them to myself.

If the world ending at the hands of angels is more your cup of tea than aliens, then check out SyFy's Dominion. The show premiered June 19th on the SyFy channel, but if you missed it, you can catch it here:

Dominion is a sequel to the 2010 film Legion which starred Paul Bettany, set 25 years after the film left off. Las Vegas is the setting of Dominion, which they ridiculously call "Vega," a world where few humans have survived a continual war being raged upon them by angels. The humans seem to be divided into three classes: soldiers, royalty and vagrants. The human's protector is the Archangel Michael, with Tom Wisdom taking over Paul Bettany's role.
Tom Wisdom as "Archangel Michael." Not quite so bad ass.
For me, Tom Wisdom doesn't quite have the "it" factor that Paul Bettany has. If he did, maybe I would be tempted to tune in for more episodes. As it stands now, I won't be wasting another minute on this show. So much time was spent laying the groundwork for this post-Apocalyptic world that the show's creators failed to develop their characters enough for viewers to care about their plights. Big fail.

If the world ending via a pandemic virus is your favorite apocalyptic choice, then TNT may have premiered the perfect show for you: The Last Ship, starring Eric Dane and Rhona Mitra. The show debuted June 22nd, but if you missed it, you can see it here:

Eric Dane plays Tom Chandler, the commanding officer of the the naval ship, the USS Nathan James, a vessel of 217 people. While Tom's ship has been on a multi-month weapons testing mission in the artic, with absolute radio silence, fifty percent of the world's population has been destroyed by a virus. When Tom believes his mission is over and breaks radio silence, he learns that the CDC virologist on board his ship, played by Rhona Mitra, has been conducting the "real" mission -- to gather samples of the virus for research.

Eric Dane as "Tom Chandler" in The Last Ship. Swoon.
I'm a huge Grey's Anatomy fan, and that show hasn't been the same since Eric Dane left. In The Last Ship, Eric Dane plays a man who could be Mark Sloan's upstanding brother. In the first episode, after learning that his family is safe and uninfected, he sacrifices his personal desire to reunite with his family for a chance to save the human race.

I loved Rhona Mitra when she was on The Practice, but her character in The Last Ship comes across too cold and humorless to make her one of the 217 humans left uninfected in the world. Hopefully, she winds up being one of those characters that grow on you, like Dr. Gregory House.

Edge of Tomorrow: See it, see it, see it
Dominion: Pass
The Last Ship: Definitely worth seeing at least a few episodes

If you haven't noticed, I've added a "donate" button to this blog. Yes, I know I have ads on the blog, and you'd think that would be enough to bankroll the movies, books and television shows I consume to review on here, but actually, I've only made $7 after a year's worth of ads (and Blogger won't pay me until I reach $100, if you can believe that). So, if you enjoy my take on all things apocalyptic, I would very much appreciate any donations you would be willing to bestow upon me. :-)

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Memes Are Coming! The Memes Are Coming!

After doing this blog for almost a year, I've discovered that older movies don't usually have memes that random people have created for them. Not the case for Independence Day. Enjoy!

The week of the film Independence Day:

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Pencil In "ID Forever Part I" For July 1, 2016

To coincide with the 20 year anniversary of Independence Day, 20th Century Fox is set to release the first of two Independence Day sequels on July 1, 2016, called ID Forever Part I. Will Smith will not be reprising his role, as his price tag of $50 million for the two sequels was too steep, but Bill Pullman and Jeff Goldblum will be returning (thank goodness). For more details, click here and/or here.

Jeff Goldblum as "David Levinson."

The week of the film Independence Day:

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Trailer That Wants To Whup E.T.'s Butt

In case you haven't seen it, or you have but are a bit nostalgic for it, here's the trailer for Independence Day:

The week of the film Independence Day:

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Welcome to Earth!

I unabashedly love the 1996 film Independence Day. Maybe it's because it premiered the same summer I fully bloomed into adulthood. Maybe it's because it starred Will Smith and his he-can-do-no-wrong actor persona (before After Earth put a slight tarnish on it). Maybe it's because it also starred Jeff Goldblum in his second sexiest role of all time (his first being The Fly, at least, that is, until the ear of his character, Seth Brundle, falls off). Maybe it's because it was the perfect combination of so many things: strange, sometimes cliched, and yet lovable characters, aliens, eye-popping explosions, hysterical revelations, odds that seem insurmountable but maybe not if we can just inject a bit of our good ol' American fortitude we can save the planet-gosh-darn-it, popcorn-eating, flag-waving, just-plain-fun-holiday-weekend movie.

Its Rotten Tomatoes score is 60%. The film ended up making $817 million. I'm not its only fan.

In case you haven't seen the film, alien ships descend upon the Earth's largest cities. They piggyback on to our satellite systems to coordinate something. Jeff Goldblum plays David Levinson, a brilliant MIT graduate working at a New York TV station, who stumbles across the hidden code ruining everyone's TV reception. It's a countdown and he immediately thinks the worst. He throws his father, played by Judd Hirsch, into the car and drives to the White House, where his ex-wife works. He convinces his ex, and her boss, President Whitmore, played by Bill Pullman, that they have minutes to evacuate before the eminent attack. They escape via Air Force One. The alien ships blow up the White House, downtown Los Angeles, New York, etc, proving David's theory.

A fight breaks out on Air Force One:
Julius Levinson: Oh, don't give me unprepared! You knew about this for years! What with that spaceship you found in New Mexico! What was it called... Roswell, New Mexico! And that other place...uh...Area 51, Area 51! You knew then! And you did nothing!
President Thomas Whitmore: Mr. Levinson, contrary to what you may have read in the tabloids, there is not Area 51. There is no spaceship.
Albert Nimzicki (the U.S. Secretary of Defense): Uh...excuse me, Mr. President? That's not entirely accurate.
David Levinson: What, which part?
Seriously, how can you not love this movie?

Air Force One changes course to Area 51.

At the same time, Captain Steven Hiller (Will Smith) and his fellow fighter pilots have launched an attack on the enormous spaceship hovering over Los Angeles. It turns out that the aliens have invisible force fields that are impossible to penetrate. Through some flying maneuvers that would've made Maverick jealous, Captain Hiller brings down one of the small alien fighter ships, but crashes his own plane as well. Captain Hiller opens the alien hatch, waits for the dreadlock-like tentacled alien to emerge from its cockpit, punches it in the face, and screams, "Welcome to Earth!" Ridiculous, I know, but effective. I laugh every time at this scene, no matter how many times I've seen it.

The President and his new posse arrive at Area 51. They get a tour of the facilities from its head scientist, Dr. Brackish Okun, played by Brent Spiner, who looks as though he's been locked inside Area 51 since the late 60s.

Believing they have no other option, the President orders a nuclear missile attack on the alien ship hovering over Texas, but the force field protects it from all damage. Worrying about nuclear winter, David gets falling down drunk. When his Jewish father tells him to get off the floor or he'll catch a cold, David comes up with the idea that may save the planet: download a virus into the mother ship to disable the force field long enough to attack the ships deployed all over the Earth.

Cue finger-crossing, patriotic speeches, humorless military personnel working too closely with geeky scientists--all moving full speed towards the destruction of the invading aliens for the continued proliferation of our beloved homo sapiens.

Cue my face grinning from ear-to-ear.