Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Not Just a Quantum Leap

Television Review: Journeyman

It is not often that I would take the time to review a TV show, but today I feel it is important for me to get the word out. NBC strikes again and decides not to pick up the option for another great TV show thus alienating their viewers. I do my best to review movies (and DVDs to come soon), but TV seems like a harder medium to review as my opinion can change from episode to episode and I hate to come off as wishy-washy. That said, with Journeyman's fate apparently sealed, I felt the time for a Lindy-rant had come.

Let me start with the premise. I have been flip with friends in describing it as Quantum Leap meets Early Edition, but it really is so much more than that. This show is about a man, Dan Vassar (Kevin McKidd) who is ripped from the present and sent back "attached" to an individual in the past. The catch is that he has little idea who he is there to help and has no control over when he will jump home or back to the past once again. He has a wife, Katie (Gretchen Egolf), a son, Zach (Charles Henry Wyson) and a good job as a newspaper reporter in San Francisco (and yes folks, this one really seems to be shot in SF, not like the random location shots a Women's Murder Club will give you, so you remember they are supposed to be in San Francisco.

The similarities with past "time traveling shows" are recognizable; Dan has a guide in Livia (Moon Bloodgood) like Sam had Al in Quantum Leap and Dan can use his newspaper resources to research the people he is helping as Gary had the entire newspaper from the future as his resource in Early Edition. As with the other shows, Dan is jumping back and forth to right some wrong and prevent bad things from becoming a reality. There are the same Space-Time-Continuum questions and concerns as with any show - if you change the past, how will it affect your future - but there seems to be a higher-power pulling the strings who prevents a negative aftermath.

This show actually gives us consequences to Dan's actions - things being changed negatively as he tries to serve his own agenda instead of that of the Powers-That-Be. He has made changes that caused his son to become his daughter, and having a psycho child-abuser come into his home, shoot him and take his wife captive. His present-day life continues while he is hopping through time and has jumped at the most inopportune moments – while walking through the farmer’s market with his young son, while getting randy with his wife, and while on an airplane which is mid-flight.

This show twist and turns when you least expect it and keeps us riveted and tuning in weekly. Journeyman is an enjoyable escape - one that provides the accessibility of a cop show/drama while giving us the continuing mystery of Heroes or Lost. They have assembled a quality cast (mostly TV alums from shows like Rome, Roswell and Day Break) who pulls you in and makes you care about what happens to these characters. McKidd’s (and Dan’s) rugged exterior and soft and emotional interior help make this character relatable and the acting believable.

Don’t let this show be cast aside by an impatient Programming department! NBC sends me countless viewer surveys about Heroes and advertising – why not ask me about a show who needs the help? They moved Law & Order: Criminal Intent to USA Network to make room on their lineup (FYI: Against their own ratings juggernaut, ER). Why not move this to USA or Sci-Fi? You own them, these networks don’t have nearly the same amount of original programming, and having those channels get additional traffic, doesn’t hurt your bottom line one bit!

NBC continues to air shows like ER (13 seasons since it's debut) when the show hasn't been good since Mark Greene died. Enough said.

So SAVE JOURNEYMAN! Sign the petition, send the network boxes of Rice-a-Roni, and help us get our beloved show back on the air!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Deflower Power

Movie Review: Superbad


I have to start out this review with a minor disclaimer – I am a woman. Being a female watching this movie means that there are probably some jokes I missed – but for those of you out there who were adolescent males and a little geeky, you will laugh your ass off at this movie even more than I did.

This flick is one long and loving script dedicated to the male anatomy. Don’t get me wrong, it should be honored, but this is one hysterical way to give the appendage screen time without ever showing a live one (it is depicted in other ways). Breasts are so often honored I feel it was about time that a movie reflected how much of a man’s life, and decisions, are driven by their other brains.

Judd Apatow is my new hero. This man can do just about anything these days and it will be a success (as long as it isn’t made for the small screen). While only a producer this time around, he understands what is funny and therefore lets Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg run away with this script (including giving the 2 main characters their own names as an homage to themselves).

Best friends, super-nerds and high school seniors Seth (Jonah Hill) and Evan (Michael Cera) set out on a mission to get rid of their virginity before heading off to different colleges. Clearly having learned about sexual escapades from TV and movies, they dedicate one night to do the deed by getting a couple of chicks drunk at a party and nail 'em. Sorry guys, this ain't Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

In order to get themselves an invite to the cool kids’ party, they promise to provide the alcohol, enter Fogell (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), a fellow geek who just happens to have recently procured a fake ID. In his infinite wisdom, he chooses the moniker McLovin (no first name) and hilarity ensues.

Mintz-Plasse, a novice to the movie biz, steals the show. He takes this punchline of a name and uses it to full advantage while buying beer while underage, being robbed, cruising with keystone cops and truly having the night of his very young and naïve life. Seth Rogan (Knocked Up) and Bill Hader (Saturday Night Live) do an excellent job playing a couple of bungling cops helping the boys in their coming of age story - there is something so charming about these guys and their ability to turn crazy cops into sympathetic heroes.

While I would love to expound the virtues of some of the gags in this movie, I just don’t want to ruin it for you. Let’s just say that if you are not easily offended and you enjoy laughing at penis jokes, awkward teenage boys and overall mischief, this is the movie for you this summer. As a woman, this gave me more insight into the teenage male and it explained so much about the boys I went to high school with. That’s what I call entertainment.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Do You Believe in Magic?

Movie Review: Stardust

Stardust is a surprise gem in the sea of blockbuster action flicks this summer. Never having read the graphic novel by Neil Gaiman, I went into the theatre with little expectations but with the hope that such an all-star cast would entertain me for a couple of hours. This movie was made for fans of all ages. It has magic, intrigue, sword fights, love, humor and charm.

This is the story of a little town in England called Wall – named for the wall that separates England from a mythical land. Our romantic hero, Tristan, played by Charlie Cox, is in love with the snooty wench Victoria (Sienna Miller) and promises her to retrieve a fallen star to win her hand in marriage. Tristan discovered that his mother is from this mythical land and that he can travel there without having to vest the 95-year old guardian of the wall (played wonderfully by David Kelly).

Tristan happens upon the fallen star, which turns out to be a woman named Yvaine (Claire Danes) who has broken her leg, is in a pissy mood but is in a fancy dress and has an angelic glow to her. Tristan ropes her with a magical chain and their journey begins. Little do they know, but they are being stalked by three witch sisters, headed up by Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer). They need the star’s heart in order to live forever and look hot in the process. But that’s not all; they are also being pursued by a septet of brothers (named Primus through Septimus) who are vying for the thorn by killing each other off and trying to regain the magical ruby which will earn them the title of King. Whew…I think I got it all.

If you are confused, don’t be – there is a lot going on in this movie. It really is not that complex once you are sitting in a dark theatre and have been transported to this enchanted land.

Pfeiffer’s performance is intriguing with her delectably wicked take on a witch who hates being old and wants to live forever. Robert De Niro as Captain Shakespeare takes pride in his pirate with a heart of gold role and portrays both sides with ease and an over the top glee. His character is mean and harsh on the outside, but ends up supplying some much needed aid to the road weary Tristan and Yvaine.

Cox and Danes truly steal the movie with their charm and innocent journey of compassion, love, awakening and discovery. Cox’s Tristan grows from an awkward and lovesick boy into a swash-buckling confident hero who finds his true love in a place he never expected.

This movie took the charm of The Princess Bride, combined it with the epic, sweeping landscapes of The Lord of the Rings and added a dash of adventure to come up with this engaging movie that thrilled me to watch. Take the time, and open your wallets, to enjoy this lovely movie that just keeps on giving.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Ménage à Trois

Movie Review: Rush Hour 3

Rush Hour 3 is the 3rd installment of this East meets West comedy-action flick series. Like the previous two films, this is a combination of buddy cop movie and martial arts action - it's a brilliant scheme to bring in many different viewers, but was lacking in the fire of the first installment.

We open with Chris Tucker, Detective James Carter, directing traffic in downtown LA. Immediately, your brain tries to think back to the 2nd movie and try and remember what happened to bust him down to foot patrol. However, very quickly you forget about the previous movies as Tucker starts singing and dancing to Prince in middle of the street - using his dance moves to direct the cars through the intersection. And almost predictably, he causes an accident - and laughter ensues.

Cut to Jackie Chan, Inspector Lee, who is body man to the Chinese ambassador - again, what was the plot line from the previous movies? Thus begins the problem with this sequel.

Unless you have watched (and rewatched) the previous films, odds are you don't remember all the fine plot points. I don't mind any "third" referencing the previous two, but here it seemed like they were trying to make a point by assuming the audience was made up of diehards.

Brett Ratner, who directed all three of the films, has a very different style of making movies. He isn’t really about style and cinematography, he is about having a blast on the screen – something to entertain the audience and bring them into the party. He does his best to recreate the formula that has been successful in the past movies, but this one lacks in luster. It seems like X-Men: The Last Stand all over again.

This time around we take the party to Paris and the duo is working on bringing down the Triads, a super secret society of Chinese Crime Lords. The boys are marked for death and will do anything to stay alive. They find the one girl (French with a whole lot of cleavage) who holds the answers and then fight to protect her from the evil Triads. They go so far as to interrupt her burlesque show trying to keep her from being killed – and a musical routine breaks out.

That said – I laughed my ass off through the entire movie and so did the rest of the audience. We were laughing so much that we missed some lines – so you had to laugh quickly and turn back to listening intently almost immediately. We even found ourselves giggling long after some of the jokes because Chris Tucker is that good. Sure, he has mellowed as his paycheck has increased over the years, but how can you dislike the goofy, high-pitched antics of him played off the not-always-straight-man, Jackie Chan?

The action was great – an entire fight on the Eiffel Tower, and down the Eiffel Tower? Swords, kicks, flying furniture, breaking glass, leaps, jumps, high flying people, singing, dancing and one very tall Chinese man – this is what I call entertainment, even if most of it is predictable. It certainly isn’t movie making at its best, but it isn’t the worst “3” this summer. There are still a couple of sequels due out this year, but at least this is the last “3” – until next year, I am sure.

Thank goodness Chan and Tucker are so likeable and easy to watch.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Bourne Free

Movie Review: The Bourne Ultimatum

He's a quiet man and he is on a mission - his name is Jason Bourne. Matt Damon again steps into the shoes of the government assassin with no memory of who he is or was. This series of films has been quite the showcase for Mr. Damon as it allows him to be smart and kick ass at the same time. Based loosely on the book series by the late Robert Ludlum, Paul Greengrass has taken the helm once again to bring the man with nothing left to lose to life (Doug Liman directed the first installment, The Bourne Identity). The Bourne movies have rejuvenated the spy-genre by placing its hero firmly in the real world, with real emotions and replacing high-tech devices with wit and cunning.

Bourne is still being hunted down like a dog by the CIA. No matter how hard they have tried to kill him in the past, he has always been at least one step ahead of the g-men trying to silence their loose end from Operation Treadstone (watch the 1st two movies). This time around, Bourne has their number and isn’t going to give them an inch.

In round three, we meet the head of the black-ops program, Noah Vosen, played skillfully by David Strathairn. As we learn, Blackbriar is the cut-throat black-ops program that is Treadstone's successor or "upgrade." Pam Landy (Joan Allen), who previously was obsessed with catching Bourne, goes a little nutty and starts to question the vigor in which they are willing to take Bourne out. I’m not sure that this turn did the character any justice, however.

We do learn the origins of Jason Bourne. He has been looking for answers for 3 movies now and he finally gets them. Unfortunately, he gets more than he bargained for but at least he can have some peace.

The film moves so fast there's barely time to take a sip of your soda or a bite of popcorn for fear of missing a morsel. There are some excellent fight scenes but the best scene in the entire movie was the chase scene. For those of you thinking about car chases (Ronin still wins that contest), this one takes place on foot. It is like a well-choreographed dance, with Bourne taking the lead. The masterful back and forth between the “good guys” and the “bad guys” just reels you in and keeps you glued to your seat for the rest of the 2-hour flick. There are other chase scenes in the movie – let’s face it, this is a chase movie – but the first one is still my favorite.

I applaud Mr. Greengrass in his seemingly non-stop action between car crashes, leaping from rooftop to rooftop and crashing through windows. I am torn as to which movie of the trilogy is my favorite, but I think the 3rd movie will come in last. Depending on the day of the week, I will pick Identity over The Bourne Supremacy (let’s face it, Franka Potente’s Marie died too soon in the 2nd movie – she gave Bourne a more human and sympathetic character). But tonight, I think I side with Mr. Greengrass.

Who knows if this is truly the last chapter in the Bourne series, especially with a new book recently released by Ludlum’s close friend? If the box office receipts look good and Matt Damon is willing to return, I bet this isn’t the last we have seen of the spy who now knows too much.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Table for One

Movie Review: No Reservations


As a second helping of culinary films this summer, No Reservations does a fine job setting the stage for a decent foodie chick-flick with just the right amount of chefly ego tossed in for good measure.

Catherine Zeta-Jones plays Kate, a driven heralded chef who happens to be anal retentive in every way. Little Miss Sunshine's Abigail Breslin is Kate's niece, Zoe, who unexpectedly moves in after a tragedy takes her mother from her. While Kate steps away from the kitchen to figure out how the hell to care for a 9-year old, her boss brings in a sous chef to help ease the load - enter Nick (Aaron Eckhart), the exact opposite to Kate's orderly and controlling head chef. Nick likes things loose and passionate, including singing to Pavarotti in the kitchen and dancing with the quail dinner special.

Kate is an atypical movie heroine as she is grounded and content with her routines, including her empty apartment and seemingly always empty voicemail box. The addition of a child who refuses to eat Kate's gourmet feasts sends her reeling and looking for answers back in her home away from home - the restaurant kitchen. She quickly learns that you cannot always dress the plate to appease all palates and she has to learn to allow herself to eat on the floor and have pillow fights. Nick finds the recipe to soften her tough exterior and bring fun and joy into her home life with Zoe.

The journey of Kate, Zoe and even Nick was a bit predictable, but a little life was stirred into the tale with Zoe's willingness to step into the kitchen and do a little sautéing of her own. I am a sucker for most culinary movies, even the cheesy and less than stellar ones (like Simply Irresistible).

This mix of Raising Helen meets Baby Boom meets Big Night is the right mix of food, love and learning to adapt to life as it happens. I really did enjoy this movie, but it is understandable if the critics don't get it. This movie isn't flashy, it isn't Oscar-worthy, but it is real - it works as a date movie or just 100 minutes of relaxing entertainment (but maybe bring a Kleenex or two).

Friday, July 20, 2007

One Shall Stand, One Shall Fall!

Movie Review: Transformers

I loved Transformers as a kid (thanks, Hasbro), but was not a die hard fan, so any changes to the original did not really phase me...maybe I am in the minority there.

The premise was the same - vehicles, electronic devices, etc, unfold, their insides coming out, and then reassemble themselves, with speed and agility into giant robots.

This movie was thoroughly enjoyable - especially if you take it for what it is. This was a fun, action-packed movie that doesn't take itself too seriously. After all, this is a Michael Bay film and we all know what to expect when we walk into the theatre. However, this seemed to be a stronger showing for Mr. Bay this time around - but a lot of that may have been due to Steven Speilberg holding the purse strings.

The story is this - the AllSpark (the giver of life in the robot world) was lost in space after the robots divided between good and evil. Falling onto Earth (of course), a handful of these robots traveled all over the galaxy to find this device. Enter the Autobots (good) and the Decepticons (evil). The Autobots want to defend Earth and keep the Allspark from the Decepticons who want to use it to conquer planets.

Our human hero, Sam Witwicky (played skillfully by Shia LeBeouf), is seemingly an innocent bystander when his car - a rusty yellow 1976 Chevy Camaro - Bumblebee, transforms and starts to talk to him through his radio. This was good for some laughs as the car chose the right song lyrics to match what was going through Sam's head at the time. His paramour, Mikaela (Megan Fox), is sucked into the adventure and soon finds that she fits in more with Sam than with the popular clique - much to Sam's delight! The relationship was contrived and somewhat forced for my tastes – maybe this was meant to give a nugget for all the girls forced to see the movie with their men. Otherwise, the character was completely intended to give the guys a drool factor – the girl had some skin showing throughout most of the movie…it’s what they say about men – all they need is cars and women.

Our Autobot hero is Optimus Prime, and he morphs from a big rig, with red/blue flames, and speaks in a booming voice (voiced by Peter Cullen, who originated the character in the cartoon). The rest of his posse is comprised of Bumblebee (who I believe was a girl in the cartoon), Ironhide, Jazz and Ratchett. It was really hard to keep the rest of them straight during the movie, but I’m not sure it mattered.

Most of the charm of this movie is the action of the robots transforming and then fighting each other (sometimes at the very same time). Watching them convert from a car chase to a metal-on-metal death match just leaves you wanting more.

The kids in all of us (especially the boys) were the target audience for this – and that’s why it has been so successful. This was an epic battle of good versus evil with lots of fights, explosions, metal scorpions chasing after military squadrons…all very Michael Bay and all very enjoyable if you aren’t looking for Platoon meets 2001: A Space Odyssey. This was more Aliens meets The Terminator meets War of the Worlds…which is not a bad thing at all.