Welcome to the second of my semi-regular Content Sponge! posts where I write about the telly, films and books I have ingested lately.
I have seen the first couple of episodes and feel perhaps this was overly hyped as a great piece of television. I will let the PR folk describe the premise: “Homeland focusses on Marine Sergeant Nicholas Brody, who returns home eight years after going missing in Iraq, and Carrie Mathison, a driven (and possibly unstable) CIA officer who suspects he might be plotting an attack on America.”
The series’ creator Gideon Raff made a similar show for television in Israel. The co-developers of the US series are former 24 writers, and frankly, this is how the show feels to me–a classy 24. British actor Damien Lewis plays Brody and is excellent as always. Clair Danes is very watchable as the “Starling-esque” Mathison, but I found the premise a bit far-fetched and was never fully committed to the story for that reason. Morena Baccarin who played the chilly lead alien Anna, in the boring remake of the series V, is excellent here in the role of Jessica Brody, the wife who is trying to deal with her damaged husband. Rating – 6/10
BOSSY PANTS (2011)
I’m a Tina Fey fan and expected to be amused by her best-selling book, so (weirdly) I had an ulterior motive for reading this. Like many, I don’t believe I read enough and now I’m dealing with the feeling that the e-reading revolution is racing by without me. So I grabbed a Kindle app for my ‘phone and downloaded Bossy Pants. I figured that if I could get used to reading something light in a form that was challenging (the small screen of my ‘phone) then this would help me accept the virtual reading future.
And it did. At first, I was slightly annoyed with the screen size, font size and general non-real-bookishness of the experience, but by halfway through it felt more or less like reading an “actual” book.
If you don’t know who Fey is, she is the mind behind the movie Mean Girls (2004) and the sitcom 30 Rock among other things. Her book Bossy Pants was as funny as I thought it would be. I would have preferred a more straightforward autobiography, but Fey’s essentially guarded nature dictates the style. She tells analytical anecdotes about her childhood and adolescence, shares fascinating insights into her exalted level of show business, but her emotional life is off limits. Liz Lemon, her 30 Rock character, is a scrambled version of her younger self, on the show, she often comments on the excess and emotion of trashy reality television, which she loves. The actual Fey, however, exempts herself from the pop cultural demand for tears and confession; the tough-minded, professional creative is evident on every page. I really enjoyed this and give it an 8/10.
COMMERCIAL KINGS (2011)
If you know what “Nope! Chuck Testa” means then you probably know all you need to about Rhett and Link the self-proclaimed Commercial Kings. If this last sentence seems like gibberish, then get onto the Google, YouTube and Wikipedia and type in “Chuck Testa.”
Rhett McLaughlin and Lincoln Neal are a pair of young filmmakers who originally hail from North Carolina. If you have spent any time at all trawling the ‘net for comedy videos then you have undoubtedly come across their award-winning shorts. This series is basically what happens when viral talent tries to adapt to cable. Their stated aim is to make “legendary local commercials”. Which of course means intentional stilted acting, weird props and some dodgy selling propositions.
So the series appeals to the “so bad it’s good” crowd. But Rhett and Link don’t want to be viewed only as smug hipsters making crappy commercials; we see them strategising and trying out the products and services they will eventually make an ad for. Two businesses are featured per episode. The results can be weirdly enjoyable and at their best these commercials have a “Tim and Eric” feel without the sexual perversion.
My main nitpick about this series is Rhett, and especially Link, lack a common touch. Their clients run small businesses. They are exposed in this process, while Rhett and Link can seem above it all. At one level we are encouraged to laugh at the cat lady and the man who loves his chilli dogs. These are American eccentrics with small, strange dreams. But their dreams and their businesses mean a lot to them, so why does a slight feeling of ridicule permeate this show? Engaging but not compelling – 6/10
UNDERWORLD AWAKENING (2012)
Underworld Awakening is so titled to give the franchise a sense of renewal and to diguise the fact that this is the fourth film in the series. For the sake of accuracy and to be a little bit annoying, I have decided to reinstate the franchise’s correct numbering for this review.
The original Underworld (2003) was a pretty good re-jig of the vampire and werewolf mythologies. It wasn’t original but it served up the action and characters with enough variation and visual “jazz handery” to keep you watching. The “Kate Beckinsale is a hot vampire in a catsuit” was also a large element of the movie’s success.
Underworld 4: The Color of Money is egregiously bad. There has been a war between the Humans, the Vamps and the Lycans (werewolves) and–assuming you’re human– our side won. Vampire Selene (Beckinsale) has been kidnapped and put into deep freeze in a medical lab for a dozen years. She escapes and goes to look for her hybrid vampire/werewolf lover Michael Corvin (Scott Speedman). She finds herself in a hostile new world where she needs sanctuary and friends. Sadly, she has Gwyneth Paltrow’s knack of getting people to like her. Wherever Selene goes there is someone telling her to move on or attempting to shoot her in the head with high tech weaponry.
However, Selene is an ancient fighter who has skills the equal of the Chuck Norris Internet meme. She is never truly bested in battle because she commands the power of darkness and cutting edge visual effects. Nothing fazes her. In fact, for 95% of the movie’s length, no emotion whatsoever is allowed to disturb Beckinsale’s porcelain visage. Selene’s thoughts and feelings are secret, which is probably desirable in teenage fanboy land; practically nothing affects her emotional equilibrium.
Unfortunately this means Underworld 4: The Recashening has a hero who is difficult to give a toss about. Beckinsale’s Selene is a pouting cipher who fails to engage anyone not interested in her rather mannered sex appeal. By this, I mean she does a lot slightly unnatural posing in shots. There’s plenty of silliness like Selene placing her leg and turning her foot at a visually alluring angle while she primes grenades. If they were taking the piss this would be funny, but U4 is deadly serious about its nonsense
Underworld 4: The Sound of Kerching! is a dumb, roller-coaster ride where things just happen with neither reason nor the laws of physics coming into play. I hated every moment of this preposterous, lazy film – 2/10
Phil Jeng Kane