Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Good, the Bad and the New of TV: The Bad

Unfortunately, there are so many hours in a day to watch all these shows. Plus summer is a bust because there are new shows and episodes in the summer too. So some show have to go. Some are sad to say good-bye to but others I am glad to kick the habit of.
  • CSI:Miami - It just got too much at the start of the season. Sure, it has more action, but that is not why the CSI series is so popular. Whatever the heart of the series was, its gone. Emily Proctor looks tired and overworked. This could be a story-line plot behind it but I'm not seeing it. Plus, I get tired of other people making mockery of David Caruso's sunglasses-yeaah routine. It's now the cultural shorthand for absurd and self-delusional. I don't need to see the real thing week in and week out. In one episode last season, he entered a hostage situation with a vest and holding those sunglasses. I'm sorry if people are offended thinking I am making fun of albinism and photophobia. That could explain why Horatio Caine is unable to tan and why he needs those glasses in a hostage situation.  
  • The Amazing Race - After watching so many races, ironically, it is the fatigue that killing this for me. 
  • How I Met Your Mother - The series is at the same point for me when I stopped watching Friends. Although both were still popular at this point, the uniqueness of the series was lost. It seems to repeat itself. Story-lines and characters become predictable. What ever it was that made it endearing is gone. It is as if the writers were just aiming for the quick and sure-fire laughs. The guys have been acting out for so long that they stopped being quirky and become annoyingly juvenile. Someone should also put those kids listening to the story out of their misery. At the beginning of the series, their dad's story made him look like he was being wise, relate-able and that he was passing them wisdom. By now, he looks like a douche to them. My suggestion? Do a pivot by ending Ted's story, show who the mother is (and add a new character) and begin Barney's by bringing in his kids. This is a more interesting angle than figuring out who Ted ends up marrying.
  • NCIS - I can't stop thinking that Mark Harmon is the luckiest guy on TV. He is totally into the character that it makes you forget the various major parts he played in other series. Kudos for the series writers not tipping a hat to any of them. But again, it feels like it's stuck in plot-of-the-week rut. The series needs to evolve. Then again, it may just be biding time. It is the top of the charts, though. But that could be just the fans tuning in hoping for something good. 

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

The Good, the Bad and the New of TV: The New

This season, it seems like there are a lot of new shows. I waited for a few episodes to pass by before saying anything. I feel like not talking about shows that don't make it because it will be another Love Bites all over again. So frustrating. Here are the new shows I am watching in no particular order.
  • Person of Interest - Jesus with a gun. Jesus kicks butt. The saviour saveth the damned and the guilty alike. He is the right arm of god and while the other guy used to think he was. I could go on and on but I'll spare you the more cornier taglines. Whatever the reason is, people love watching Jim Caveziel save people; either all at once or one at a time. And the creepy guy from Lost is back in the shadows pushing buttons, just where we like him to be. It got creepier last week because he crossed into the area of the consequences of changing fate. 
  • Whitney - The first episode was a bit too loud, both in terms of music and characters but it got better. It pushed the wrong buttons initially with me but by the third episode, its found a solid footing to build on. Definitely this year's quirky-sexy sitcom in the tradition of Friends and How I Met Your Mother. For once, it is not set in New York but in Chicago. But since most of it is on set, you won't notice the difference. This situations that the characters find themselves in are both unsettling and funny. One to watch. 
  • The New Girl - Zooey Deschanel's shtick is cute in movies and the directors usually tame it within the context of the story and with editing and directing limits. It works great that way. I'm not sure it should be unleashed to its full force weekly. Partly, the problem is her co-stars. I'm sorry, but you have to bring your A game to go up against Zooey and her energy. Every week. Right now they are just two-dimensional, over-sized adolescents. Not in a funny way. While she is alive and quirky, the other characters seems bland and often cartoony. It has gotten a pick-up but I think unless things change, this could be a single season series.
  • 2 Broke Girls - Kat Dennings is in her element as a smart-mouthed waitress (the other type being the waitress with the heart of gold) who takes in the privileged daughter of a rich embezzler. Her father's assets are frozen so all that she has left is what hers. Which is just her wits (and often lack of). They both want to open a bakery and are saving up for it. It is a nice mix of street-smart humor and fish-out-water situations. Strangely enough, there are depths to the main character that are revealed regularly and makes the series stand above others. 
  • Unforgettable - Think of Psyche without the humor. Falls into the "crime solving with a super power" category. Poppy Montgomery is Carrie Wells, a detective with the ability to remember details from any day of her life. Although not the center of the series, it does act as a key feature. She is drafted by he ex-boyfriend to help him in difficult cases. The nice thing about this series is that it has several running themes: the leads past relationship and their near flirtations, a long-running arc about Carrie's search for the person who killed her sister and Carrie's relationship with her mother, who is suffering from Alzheimer's. I just can't get it out of my head how similar Carrie is to Olivia from Fringe. 
  • Prime Suspect - Gritty cop series with a less than cordial squad room. I think they were aiming for House with guns. At the center is a unlikeable but efficient detective, who solves the difficult cases. Constantly with a chip on her shoulder, she gets what she wants at almost no thought to others.
  • Terra Nova - Family-centric drama set in the pre-historic times of Earth. It's great that they spend more time on the family drama than the whole adventure aspect. Haven't seen much yet. But good actors, quality scripts and a strong storyline will make this a one to savor. 
  • Hart of Dixie - Medical student Zoe Hart is forced to move Alabama and do General Practice for a year by her professor when he points out her terrible soft skills (bedside manners, interviewing skills). She is about to give up when finds out that the practice she has inherited is from her real father and decides to stay. Full of typical fish-out-of-water scenarios, this soft-focus series on life in the South has it's charms but is still feeling about its ways. At first more Doc Holywood than anything else, then taking a lesson-of-the-week format, it needs to bring those long story arcs into the forefront to make it stand out.
There'll be more on each series as the season progresses.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

9 : Hard Movie to Dislike But Must

Starring (Voice): Elijah Wood, John C. Reily, Christopher Plummer, Jennifer Connelly, Martin Landau
Category: Sci-Fi, Drama
9 is a post-apocolyptic movie with a twist. It's unlike most movies of the genre, where a group of people survives a global holocaust (usually nuclear) and tries to survive and rebuild. In this movie, nobody survives. At least, no humans.
It is a world where humans fought machines and the humans lost. However, the devastation was so complete that the machines themselves were nearly wiped out. What survived are small mechanical dolls that are as much alive as they are machines. They have name/numbers given to them by their Creator who is also apparently a Scientist. He made them unique in a way and obviously had plans for them although they rarely acknowledge his existence.
It is a hauntingly beautiful world. There is beauty in the stillness of post destruction, amongst the debris and carnage left behind. It is this world that the mechanical doll with the number 9 wakes up to. And it is in this world he is thrown into a quest he does not fully understand but knows he must take. 9 is driven by his sense of what is right but he is not at all righteously pretentious. That mantle is 1's. 9 is brought to 1 and discovers other dolls like him. This is after he survives an attack by a cat-like machine. In that attack, 9 is saved by 2, the first doll he encounters. The cat-machine takes 2 instead and 9 knows he must rescue 2. It is his first quest of many that becomes the thrust of the movie.
The world of 9 is very atmospheric yet keeps a unique look to it. It still looks at times like a beautiful painting. A beautiful painting of a devastated world. The action sequences in the movie are frantic and is shot with the best of them, with vista shots and pulls to show the scale and speed of the fight. I can go on and on about the visual aspects of the movie. Unfortunately, I can't do the same to the story.
Where do I begin? The stereotypical characters were uncalled for. Not for the depth of the actors involved in providing the voices. Christopher Plummer is unmistakable as 1 and Elijah is yet on another quest as 9. But beyond them, there is not much depth. Although the other dolls have their own interesting, unique characters, they need a wee bit more character development for the movie to work on a higher level. I wish the director focused less on the scenery and put more work on the characters.
The movies also hints at a potentially deep back story. The world before the apocalypse could be understood from the perspective of 9 who is constantly adapting to it as he is learning his way around.. However, the background and the way it is explained away too thoroughly leaves little to the imagination. The mystery of the world is lost to us as all questions are answered through explanations and vignettes. It deprives the story of it's mystery and scale. What could have been rich with possibilities is exposed a flat and predictable.
The strange and ambiguous ending also didn't help it's cause. I understood the role of pseudo-science and alchemy in the story to explain the existence of the dolls. But the ending and it's use to explain the survival of the world seems out of place and a bit jarring. I understood the "physical-renewal-through-spiritual renewal" angle the story was trying to push. But that need to push it instead of making it come naturally, makes the ending feels forced. In the end, the viewer is neither gifted with an uplifting ending nor does it make it clear that  a renewal is happening to the audience. I may have understood it but the fact I had to explain it to the people watching it with me is the reason why the movie didn't take off as it deserved.