Saturday, September 29, 2007

Opening Night: The Kingdom

Tonight, my cousin and I went to see The Kingdom, despite its 1 star review in the Gazette and its 49% rating on I had been wanting to see this movie since I found out it existed. At first, it was only because of Jennifer Garner. Then, I discovered the plot and figured it might be interesting.

And it was! It was not too pro-American, although most of the action was from their point of view. It was not pro-Arab either, but a good balance of the two. In other words, it showed parts from both sides of the story. From military (and other) culture to the facts of life to the response and way of dealing with violence... This movie really delved into the essence of the message and raw emotion that each side is working with. This is not a documentary. It was not a deep dive. But it was an accurate (as far as I know) pictorial of what would happen in that sort of situation.

The score was awesome. Heart wrenching at time, which just enough drama to set the mood without being cheesy. I usually sit through the credits, but this time, the music kept me in my seat.

The comic relief was great. The boobies were, of course, great. And I really loved the character of Al Ghazi. Not only was it well developed, he was sympathetic and served as an intermediary to both sides, progressively becomes more helpful as he learned that the Americans weren't that bad, and that they really did want to help.

The last scenes cemented the deal for me. It turned a good action flick with a political background to a great movie that makes you think. The final sentence makes you wonder what the reaction would be if Fleury said what he did at THAT point. There was definitely some despair and maybe even disbelief in the eyes of Leavitt.

And as for the spoiler (that's right, I'm not telling!), it just makes you wonder not only what the motivation is for that sentiment, but if we are closer than we think... That, and the fact that Fleury and Al Ghazi got so close... Al Ghazi made the Americans realize that Arabs weren't all bad either... And the understanding between both characters, especially Fleury's visit at the end, brings hope for the future, even if it's just a movie.

It would be great if everyone could get along so well.

Of course, the movie had its share of gore, blood, guts and violence. Oh, and sweat too. Definitely not a flick for the squeamish. It also leaves us wondering how human beings can harm other humans in such gross fashion. How is it even possible? And I'm glad that the extremist view was not portrayed as the predominant view, but rather as an internal problem as well. No sane person, religious or otherwise, would blow him or herself up. Let alone take children and other innocents along. And saying it's in God's name, to me, is just a disgrace. And THAT has nothing to do with religion... or with The Kingdom for that matter.

I think this movie will do really well, especially in Canada. US viewers might have a bit of a harder time with some concepts or come out with a message and/or impression that is different than what I believe the directors,writers and producers had intended.

Overall, I give it 3.5 to 4 stars, or 89%. I recommend it to anyone who is over 13 (gotcha!), interested in some action, some politics, some history, and a lot of post-film thinking.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Fall Premieres: Thursday

Today's lineup showed CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (CBS, CTV) at 9 pm followed by Big Shots (ABC) at 10.

CSI, a veteran in the field, was sure to have a solid set of viewers... especially after last season's cliffhanger. What happens to Sara Sidle? Will they catch the miniature killer and get any info out of her?

This episode answers those questions but doesn't go much further than that. Again, I believe this episode should have been the season finale, as part of a multiple-hour finale. But then, the lack of suspense might have deterred some of this season's viewers, who, in the US, would likely choose Grey's Anatomy over CSI. Here in Canada, CTV carries both shows and CSI played at 8 pm.

Still, we are reminded that Sara is a fighter throughout the episode, a quality that is likely foreshadowing for a future episode. That and the Grissom/Sara relationship being out in the open.

What I didn't like about the episode was the constant use of flashbacks. I understand that it's a stylistic decision, but I would have done it differently. Using a flashback or two to remind new and old viewers of last year's developments is valid and even valuable. But when the trend continued for the whole hour... it was very confusing. It took a few for us to realize that this was stuff that we had NOT seen before, things that had happened in the past, but in OUR present. Add flashback memories of Sara to the mix and it's just a little overwhelming.

Still... CSI is CSI, but while this episode had some forensics geekyness, it was mostly a drama, full of potent emotions.

Next up was Big Shots. I was really looking forward to this show because of Michael Vartan, from ALIAS. Also, the premise was interesting, and I tend to like guy shows more than girly shows. Desperate Housewives and Sex and the City? Count me out. But Big Shots was catchy. Sure it had that communal feel, but these guys' lives were just really thrilling. Like daydreams. Everyone wants to be there, male or female, and there's a character that matches everyone's goals. This first show had relatively little set up, but then again, most people understood that the premise was 4 big shots (including one big shot-to-be) and their trials and tribulations.

However, even those who hadn't seen the trailers were not confused. Quick and easy, the show used supers (that's lower screen text for you newbies) to tell us in 2 frames (each) who the main characters were.

The glamour is appealing in a Gilmore Girls sort of way. You know it's there, but it's not overbearing or overwhelming.

And the story line so far is charming, funny, witty and just a little bit quirky. So it's occasionally cheesy. At least the writers and actors are aware of it, and they use that knowledge to their advantage, immediately countering the cheesy moments with comic relief.

Verdict? CSI = same old, same old... but there's no reason to stop watching it because it still kicks ass... and is better than anything else playing in that time slot. The premiere gets a yes.
Big Shots = YES, absolutely, I want more. It's not as OMG as Heroes or House, but it leaves you longing for the next chapter in the same way you really need to know what Britney Spears is going to do next.

Tomorrow, no premieres for me, so I hope this was an enjoyable week! I'll be back with a Pushing Daisies recap next week, so...

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Fall Premieres: Wednesday

This is a short one, guys (and gals!)

The only show I watched today was Bionic Woman (NBC), and while it was visually appealing, it wasn't extra ordinary. I guess that's to be expected for a remake. They assume people know the story and that they're already hooked.

I found the "twist" and set up of the female rivalry interesting, but it didn't stir any great excitement. We all know the premise. She's really strong and she can choose to use her new "powers" for good... or for evil. Well, we've already got a bad guy, so I think it's safe to say she wants to save the world.

The lead actress, Michelle Ryan, is very plain looking. And while that might be the point, there's something about her face that's lacking just enough symmetry to get by... and I find it sort of distracting. Now, that's not to say that she isn't a great actress, because she did a pretty good job! And I hope this post doesn't turn into a comment about beauty stereotypes and superficiality, because that's not at all my point. It's just that when you're focusing on the looks instead of the story... the message just doesn't get through.

Verdict? Bionic Woman needs a few more weeks before a decision can be made.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Fall Premieres: Tuesday

Today, I penciled in NCIS (CBS/Global) and House (Fox/Global). Both excellent choices, and both shows that have proven their worth.

NCIS was on before House, and what a lead in! The team was still tracking Tony and Jeanne... and La Grenouille (a word nearly no one on the show can say properly). Some hyping, exciting scenes at the beginning followed by the typical NCIS investigation procedure on a not so typical case provided some interesting, but mostly predictable twists. THE twist, was, of course, obvious because in the age of the free flow of information on the Internet, fans mostly know what real-life situations with actors and shows are and therefore, we know if someone is having contractual problems... I'm sure you all know what I'm getting at, but I'm not about to spoil the surprise!
I wanted more of Abby and Ducky, and I'm sure I'll get it next episode.

It was a nice wrap of the season finale, and I think it could have done well as a two parter... but then there wouldn't have been any suspense. We learn a lot about Shepard's character, and the show ends with a crime... which usually not the case. Too bad the main characters aren't aware it happened yet...

This episode is a must watch for NCIS fans, even if you don't plan on following through the season.

As for House, well... what can I say! The doctor is in, and even an apple a day won't keep him away. Minus Chase, Foreman and Cameroon, House seems vulnerable. But don't fear, for Cutty and Wilson are near! Too bad they're still trying to get him to change. Well, Cutty's trying to do it the good old way, which means it won't work. But Wilson is very bold and daring in his House manipulation this episode... as sign of things to come maybe?

The case is an odd one, and it seems House is just pulling at straws, mostly because of laziness. With no team, he talks to himself, random nurses and docs, and... the janitor. Cutty can't stop others - or herself - from bouncing the idea ball with House... even though she tries. Silly people who care about people! Don't they learn? House will get what he wants in the end.

And in the end, he was right AND wrong. But neither conclusion is contradictory. It's simple, really, just not at all what you'd expect.

We have to wait until the end of the show to see how House is going to threaten his new hoard of potential employees, and what a nice setup for next week!

Wilson's gag just makes the whole episode even better, and I can't wait to see how House will get him back, because you know his mini payback will totally not be good enough.


NCIS = Yes!
House = YES!!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Fall Premieres: Monday

I have another post to write between the last one and this one, but... this just can't wait. Today was the Monday Fall Premiere night. On the agenda: Chuck (NBC), Heroes (NBC/Global) and Journeyman (NBC/Global).

Today it a totally NBC night.

Chuck was highly recommended by critics, and for good reason. The show got off to a semi-slow start... the first episode as a whole was not as amazingly spy-ish as a random ALIAS episode, but that's to be expected. Still, it was a great first episode, a perfect set up for an awesome season of geekiness and spyness. Captain Awesome? amazing. Nerd squad or whatever it's called... also awesome. Buy More is the name of the "Best Buy" like store. Wasn't that used in some other movie?

Chuck is definitely on my must-watch list. And the girl is hot. The concept is sort of similar to 5th element, in that images are encoded with information. There, Mila's character, the 5th element, absorbs all of the world's information through a series of images. But the overall flow and premise of the show is different. Also, it makes me laugh. And it has that, "so true" or "I could see that happening in my life" feel to it, because the guy is an everyman.

Then, Heroes. Obviously not as amazingly jaw dropping as last year's premiere, and if you've read the comics over the summer, there's definitely extra information that made it easier to understand some stuff... But it was just as wicked as ever. The Kenshin twist is... better than great, but I don't want to abuse "awesome" and "amazing". It's also really funny :P
We meet Maya and Alejandro, learn what happens to Matt and Mohinder... and the Bennett plot is interesting... Claire still keeps her first name, but must resign to going un-noticed. Too bad her classmate and love-interest-to-be has totally noticed her. The pictures bring an interesting aspect to the whole company thing. And the twist at the end is of course, "OMG"!!!

Now, I'm watching Journeyman. It didn't get great preview reviews... It's presented in a very confusing way, with tight shots when they're not needed and wide shots that are just too wide. Cool side note... we know it's set in San Francisco... but they use the Charmed house.
The storyline has a lot of inside talk... the brothers don't get along, and it seems there's a problem with wives or girlfriends... The lead actor played in Rome, on HBO, and for a journalist... he's just too military. Rolls away from oncoming trams, rescues someone from committing suicide... It looks like he does it for a living.
I do like the premise, but the casting seems weak and the editing of the show, in terms of style... I just don't think it works. We need a little more information at the onset than they've given us.
Judging from the first 30 minutes, I might or might not continue to watch it.

Verdict: Chuck = Yes, Heroes = YES, Journeyman = eh.