Category: TV (Page 52 of 87)

Arrow -- "The Man Under the Hood" -- Image AR219b_0107b -- Pictured: Stephen Amell as The Arrow -- Photo: Diyah Pera/The CW -- © 2014 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved. Copyright, The CW, LLC All Rights Reserved

‘Arrow’ Review: Get Your Binge On

The benefit of writing this Arrow review is that I did it after binge-watching Arrow on Netflix for a few weeks. Some sort of diabolical plot is, most likely, spinning out of control in Star(ling) City. Now, when I say binge-watching, I don’t mean hours on end, straight through. I don’t have that luxury. Picture my TV binge occurring when my husband is out of town and the kids are in bed. So maybe not bingeing, just watching exclusively. Whatevs.

Arrow is a TV series based on the Green Arrow comic books set in the DC Comics universe, the same universe where Batman and Superman live. In fact, Oliver Queen, a.k.a. Green Arrow, became one of the recurring characters on Smallville, which starred Superman as a young man. However Stephen Amell and his abs (Private Practice) play Ollie now, not Smallville’s Justin Hartley (Revenge).

I know very little about Green Arrow, so watching the TV series holds more surprises for me than more schooled comic book fans. (I’m looking at you, Mike Brown.) I have no idea, for instance, if what happened to him on that island is taken verbatim from the comic books or if the TV writers are improvising a bit. I’m guessing some of the other characters were inspired by comic book characters, but only time will tell.

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I am thoroughly enjoying Arrow. The series fills the hole in my heart left by Smallville. In fact, I believe the Queen manor is the same mansion that stood in for the Luthor residence on Smallville. I half expect sexy Lexy to walk into the drawing room with a tumbler of bourbon in his hand.

Arrow uses the winning formula of Smallville, which combines a hot lead male, soapy drama and plenty of action. Also like Smallville, the cast is made up of nearly unknown actors, but who are able to play up the melodrama while keeping their characters grounded.

Oliver was missing for five years, stuck on a scary, violent island, which is where he learned his amazing archery and combat skills. Using flashbacks that dovetail with an episode’s current story is an effective, and efficient, way of telling his backstory. Not only does it give us his personal history, but the flashbacks are enticing breadcrumbs, leading us down a path to explain the mystery behind Ollie’s personal vendetta against the corporate criminals of Starling City.

For anyone who finds Oliver Queen’s transformation from womanizing frat boy to noble champion hard to believe, let me say I’ve seen it happen with my own two peepers. Someone very close to me was once spending far too much time playing poker and drinking his rent, which resulted in a bottom basement GPA. Then came a trip to Alaska, a month of unemployment and tent camping in the harsh outdoors. The man who came home from Alaska was not the boy to whom we had waved good-bye. Granted, he didn’t don a hood, carve his abs and become a bow-slinging vigilante, but his entire approach to life, education and employment had changed. Perhaps Oliver Queen’s story isn’t quite so far-fetched.

The look of the show is dark and industrial. Plenty of design sins are hidden in the shadows, I’m sure, but the look works for Green Arrow’s story. Limited budgets sometimes bring out the most creativity in producers.

I’m anxious to see where this show is heading. I would very much like Diggle have more of his own storyline, rather than performing exposition almost exclusively. I’m enjoying the cast, as well, however I wish very much that Willa Holland, who plays Ollie’s sister, wouldn’t speak through her back teeth quite so much; it’s cute at first, but quickly becomes off-putting. And while there’s a whole Interwebz of folks who live for Ollicity, I would like to see Oliver with a woman who can match him. Stephen Amell (Oliver) and Katy Cassidy (Laurel) have great chemistry. Let’s put them back together, shall we?

What do you think of Arrow? Post in the comments below.

Derek Review / Netflix

‘Derek’ Review – Ricky Gervais

Derek review is in order, because the British comedy-drama is now available to the American audience. Let the Fremdscham begin!

The series is helmed by Ricky Gervais, the world’s reigning President of Horribly Uncomfortable Situations. It is set in a nursing care facility and, like Gervais’s most famous program, The Office, filmed mockmentary style. No one does the “act as though this is truly your life and cameras are invading it” better than Brit actors. Speaking directly to the camera or flicking glances toward it as if the viewer were there, in person, to witness the events taking place heightens the awkward feeling of intruding on something that should never have been seen.

What makes this show slightly different, however, is its sheer humanity. The focus isn’t on the comedy, although that is a strong component, but the people’s lives and dreams and how they get through by in a world that marginalizes them.

The title character, played by Gervais, is a man doing a job he enjoys. He never mentions exactly what his qualifications or skill sets may be to work in the facility; instead, he talks about how much he loves people and wants to help them. He’s socially graceless, naïve, is complete with tics and unconscious gestures, and although it seems his relatability is low, his inner desires—to be accepted, to be appreciated, to be treated well—strike a chord.

True sympathy for the characters is plain when you run the gamut of emotions during the show: from embarrassment so strong you can’t watch the screen to welling up with tears because of a poignant soliloquy touting the merit of the importance of being kind.

No stranger to controversy, Gervais’s portrayal of the character managed to cause a bit of an uproar because he appears mentally disabled, and the current climate of political correctness makes laughing at him climb to another level of discomfort. However, Gervais has pointedly said that Derek is not autistic or mentally challenged.

Most of Gervais’s work is sits firmly on the comedy side of the spectrum. Derek, trying to straddle the comedy-drama divide, does a fair job of both. Not quite as laugh-out-loud funny as some of his other work (The Office; Extras), and occasionally ham-fisting the drama, the show itself is a bit uneven compared to his comedies. Unlike the aforementioned shows, this one may not have the same appeal or re-watchability factor. However, it is nice to see a comedian stretching their acting chops and doing a project that means more than just a paycheck to them.

And a show with heart, a show in which the title character looks directly at the camera and tells us, “Kindness is magic. It’s more important to be kind than clever or good-looking . . . I’m not clever or good-looking, but I am kind,” a show that has the ability to remind us not to take people for granted, is a show worth checking out.

Derek is available through Netflix streaming.

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THE AMERICANS -- "Behind the Red Door" -- Episode 6 (Airs Wednesday, April 2, 10:00 PM e/p) -- Pictured: (L-R) Matthew Rhys as Philip Jennings, Keri Russell as Elizabeth Jennings -- CR: Craig Blankenhorn/FX

Complicated Plots Make ‘The Americans’ Taut

The Americans Season 2 Review

VAGUE SPOILERS

I didn’t expect The Americans to be good.  FX, I love you, but you have terrible advertising.  Remember those commercials last year to introduce the show, you were driving by a house and then, bam, hammer and sickle!  That made The Americans seem like it was going to be light-hearted and probably awful.  But I like spies and there were so many good reviews that I was morally obligated to give it a shot.  The Americans turned out to be one of the most intelligent, taut, not-light shows on TV.

The plot is simple, a couple of KGB agents who live undercover in the Washington D.C. area in the early 1980s at the height of cold war jingoism (only a few years before Red Dawn!), pal around with their FBI agent neighbor, all while committing daring dos of espionage against the Americans, us!  They hate us!  And they want to find ways to make it easier to kill Americans!  But then they live here for a while and things get complicated.  They have children who are raised as Americans.  The Russians give them suicide missions.  They flirt with defecting.

The acting is all great.  Keri Russell as Elizabeth Jennings (aka Nadezhda) and Matthew Rhys as Phillip Jennings (aka Mischa) have a very believable, interesting relationship as co-workers who pretend to be married who are in love sometimes.  First off, they are deeply committed to their cover.  They even have children.  They also must maintain relationships with others.  Phillip is also married to a pitiful woman who works at the FBI.  Things are very complicated for Elizabeth and Richard’s relationship.

The FBI neighbor I mentioned before, Noah Emmerich, is Stan Beeman.  Emmerich is one of those actors who has been around for a long time, always solid and reliable.  But this show gives the meatiest role I have ever seen him in and he completely owns it.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen an actor so believably conflicted about violence.  The always wonderful Margot Martindale and solid Richard Thomas round out an amazing cast.

This show would be worth watching if it was only a master class in acting. But there is also an intricately plotted spy show, with ties to ’60s idealism, ’70s corruption, and ’80s consumerism.  But the bottom line for our suburban spies is, don’t get caught.

The second season begins with the Jennings looking in a mirror at some other Russian deep cover agents who experience a tragedy because of their identity. Could it happen to our heroes, the Jennings?  And while they’re thinking about that, their daughter is starting to look for her own answers. Mom and Dad both take long, under-explained absences and it seems like she might be joining a cult.

Another thing that season two is exploring, that I had kind of forgotten about, is Soviet anti-Semitism with some interesting subplots about Isreal, Russia, and realpolitik.  So the show is also thought-provoking in a fun, ’80s-compared-to-today way.  I did not want the Jennings’ to complete a couple of their missions this season.  But they did!

I can’t help but to wonder if this was a real thing that happened: Were there deep cover agents who lived in constant fear of laughing too hard at a Yakov Smirnoff joke?  I don’t care how well-trained you are, you’re eventually going to meet a Henry Higgens type who is going to blurt out, “Oh, you’re from Minsk!”  Or you’ll make a mean comment about Grape Ape or wonder aloud how anyone could drink thirty-two ounces of cherry Pepsi and be set upon as an obvious Russian.  “Only a commie would say that!”

Speaking of Grape Ape, The Americans also has a sly sense of humor without ever becoming a cartoon.  Season one had a season-long plot thread about a bug planted in Caspar Weinberger’s house, which cracked me up.  Caspar passed away, but I know he was a Bloom County fan, so without knowing much else about him, I feel like he would have approved.  Season two also had a great scene with both of Phillip’s wives alone in a room and one of them bragging on his sexual prowess that really let Keri Russell have some fun.

Anyway, The Americans, it’s really good and more fun than it might seem.  But there’s also torture and the occasional horrible massacre, so it’s for adults.

Page 52 of 87

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