Sunday, April 10, 2016

In defense of Fear the Walking Dead

       I read a lot of bad reviews last summer about the first 6 episodes of Fear the Walking Dead and although (and unfortually) I don’t work for AMC,  Mr. Kirkman or Mr. Gimple or either Walking Dead series I need to fight and give a pro-side to watching this, not just another spin-off show.

         Yes I agree the first season was slow BUT it HAD to be unlike its parent show we didn’t wake up with a main character and then thrown into an already established new world of zombies and daily life and death situations. On another sunny day in L.A. this new gang (of characters) had to learn the rules of the game (I know I would have to do the same). What was happening? Why were the dead walking? Who was in charge? How to defend themselves and If the situation could be stopped? Enter Madison Clark (Kim Dickens) Travis Manawa, her boyfriend (Cliff Curtis) Nick Clark, her son (Frank Dillane) Alicia Clark, her daughter (Aylicia Debnam-Carey) Chris Manawa, Travis’ son (Lorenzo James Henrie), Daniel Salazar (Ruben Blades), Ofelia Salazar, his daughter (Mercedes Mason) and my favorite Strand (Colman Domingo), three families and one drifter (compared to a group of strangers) makes for a whole new dynamic in the way the story is told.  This allows FTWD to be its own thing, it has no comic book guidelines so no 2 months in advance announcement about an actor to play a certain character then when the episode finally airs there being disappointment. 

          This time we the viewer see the story from the beginning. I’m sure while watching season after season of The Walking Dead we all have our ideas about how this world wide situation began and because of elements seen on the pervious series some thoughts could have been about government action. Fear the Walking Dead appeals to and answers some of those questions, the government going too far and what it means to work together and fight back. Although we still don’t know what has caused the dead to walk through the streets of the city I enjoyed watching the characters figure out that the dead are helpless and that they only way to stop each one is to aim for the head and kill it (not an easy thing to do but after the 1st one it gets easier, or does it).  Also it is nice to know that there are other good groups of people out there on the other side of the country living and surviving this cruel world we have all become a part of and love. Yes the characters and the situations they find themselves in are new and whenever a new series begins there is a period of adjustment and introduction. It is in the hands of the viewer to give any new show a chance and some time for said show to grow into its own (especially a spin-off). Think of it this way it is the child (as oppose to sibling show like CSIs) of TWD a teen who what to be nothing like its parents.

To sum up because of the passion some have for The Walking Dead there will always be “haters” of its spin-off and to them I say get over it and give Fear the Walking Dead another chance and let’s get to know these characters a little better before we can truly judge them.


Sunday, March 6, 2016

A last look inside Downton Abby (Series Spoilers)

A British series about a well to do English family and the servants who worked for them. During the first half of the 1st season I admit I wasn’t yet interested in the story but I continued to watch and became a fan the show..

The Family-
          There was matriarch Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham played by Maggie Smith a lady of means and power with a good soul, the patriarch and her son Robert Crawley Earl of Grantham played by Hugh Bonneville, who in the beginning was unmovable in his way a running things but realized as time moved forward change was a good thing so along with his American wife and heart of the show Cora Crawley Countess of Grantham played by Elizabeth McGovern and their three daughters, Lady Sybil Crawley played by Jessica Brown Finlay a out spoken women who died early on in the series while giving birth, Lady Mary Crawley played by Michelle Dockery the eldest who had to marry but grew to love Matthew Crawley played by Dan Stevens to keep Downton in the family, unfortunitly he was killed in a car accident as Mary gave birth to a son George (but at least Downton would stay in the family)  as keeper of the family legacy she become a important part of keeping up appearances, even talking her mother-in-law Isobel Crawley played by Penelope Wilton to stay to become a good friend of the dowager countess and a person anyone could lean on and finally there was poor Lady Edith Crawley played by Laura Carmichael who had a tough love life but with a magazine she inherited from the father of her daughter Marigold she will hopefully finally find happiness.

The Servants-

         Let me begin with Tom Branson, the chauffer played by Allen Leech who had a mind all his own and would quickly fall in love with Sybil and eventually become part of the family as he raised their daughter Sibby, Mr.(John) Bates played by Brendan Coyle who was the personal valet to Robert and spent some time in prison for a crime he didn’t commit he would marry fellow Downton servant Anna played Joanne Froggatt she was Mary’s personal lady’s maid and each other’s confidant, Mr. (Charles)Carson played by Jim Carter who was head butler and in charge of the entire household and mostly knew everything happening around him he fell in love with and married Mrs. Hughes played by Phyllis Logan who was the head housekeeper and in charge of the female servants, Mr. Thomas Barrow played by Rob James-Collier the “villain” of our story who desperately wanted to be head butler and with fellow servant Sarah O’Brian (Siobhan Finneran),early in the series did everything he could to destroy Bates and Carson while being a homosexual at a time period when it was illegal, Mrs. Patmore played by Lesley Nicol head cook and heart and cheerleader to all the servants but especially to her assistant Daisy played by Sophie McShera who married a fellow servant with whom she did not love but felt obligated to him as he (and other) household members went off to fight in the war, he died never knowing the truth but she befriended his father and helped him with his farm for the rest of the series, an all-around good girl who wants to and will be more than just a servant.

And to all I didn’t mention I didn’t forget you there was 6 seasons and too many who have come through and gone out the doors of this beautiful home.       

       Thank you Julian Fellowes for creating a magnificent little soapy series. Downton Abby you taught me a lot about a certain way of life in England in the early 20th century and for that I will be grateful. I will miss but never forget all of the wonderful characters, even when they made me laugh, mad or sad I loved each one. So for one last time I dress in my finest for dinner and allow the servants to join in as I raise a glass of fine champagne to those we have lost and those we just met.

You are all now and will forever be a part of my family.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

A bright light on the film Spotlight

         Due to its story material I didn’t feel the need to see this movie, although the only times I have entered a church have been for weddings and my baptism, I knew Spotlight would be a hard film to watch but it has been nominated for 6 Oscars and has already won a handful of awards, including SAG for best ensemble and the Independent Spirit award, so I ripped off the Band-Aid and gave it a chance.
           Written by Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy and directed by McCarthy, Spotlight takes place in 2001 and is the true story of The Boston Globe reporters who discovered and weren’t afraid to write about the decades long sex abuse cover-up turned scandal of the catholic church. Mark Ruffalo as Mike Rezendes, Rachel McAdams as Sacha Pfeiffer, Michael Keaton as Walter “Robbie” Robinson, John Slattery as Ben Bradlee Jr. and Stanley Tucci as Mitchell Garabedian are the men and woman who found the evidence and talked to the now adults who were survivors of priest who committed the sex crimes. Yes it was hard to watch and listen to but The Globe and those involved in the making of this film, even 15 years later, knew it was an important issue.
             As small film McCarthy allows the actors to use every inch of their talent to tell the story. Spotlight is a character driven film where the words are the central part of the tale. In other words NO explosions or car chases are necessary. The look of The Globe’s offices was messy and raw like you would imagine at such a time. Although a fictional take on what happened when Ruffalo and McAdams did their one on one interviews you truly felt for the victims as if you were watching a documentary.
          All in all an excellent movie about finding the truth and not backing down when it needs to be told (one can only wish there were more reporters like them). If you haven’t check out Spotlight for yourself.

Friday, January 29, 2016

The Revenant-A crazy good walk through the woods

               Ladies, gentlemen and fellow film lovers it’s that time of year again-Oscar season! Even with the #OscarSoWhite controversy I will be watching and enjoying the night as I do every year. Also as I do each year I try and watch as many of the nominees as possible (the more the best pictures nominees there are the harder this is) but I knew I had to see the film with the most nominations and this time around that movie is The Revenant.

                Truth be told I wanted to see the movie but I honestly didn’t know I was going to like it as much as I did and even more then I thought I would. Written by Mark L Smith based partly on the book written by Michael Punke it’s a story about a man named Hugh Glass played by the impeccable Leonardo DiCaprio who after being attacked and severely injured by a mama grizzly bear and left for dead, he survives and begins a long journey to seek his revenge. Along the way he meets a handful of  interesting characters. Besides revenge it is a story of love and fighting because of that love is what helps one survive

                  I know I’ve said this before but I mean it the time when I say director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu brings the viewer into the story. From the moment Glass is attacked by the bear we are right in the middle of the action and can feel his pain. All I thought as I watched the scene was this is what it looks like when my dog tears apart one of his toys and takes out its stuffing for the purpose of finding and extracting the squeaker. The camera work is amazing and becomes the POV of the viewer. We see the lens fog as Glass takes what breathes he has left, blood spatter and water spots also appear. The look of the film is a beautiful sight. The cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki is some of the best I’ve seen. Seeing the harsh wintery landscape helps the viewer feel as cold as I’m sure the actors were. The rushing river, high cliffs and light through the tall trees (The trees crackle to tell me its cold) made me feel like I was trudging through the crazy and unforgiving wildness. Another truth be told I have been a fan of Leonardo DiCaprio since his first acting days on Growing Pains and enjoy everything he has been a part of. As far as the Oscars go he should have been nominated for his first film What’s Eating Gilbert Grape and Titanic (for which I have been campaigning for him to win ever since). DiCaprio is the type of actor who at times is unrecognizable in a role and this film displays his ability to do so in the best ways possible (and I’m not just referring to the beard and hair) In The Revenant DiCaprio is alone as he crawls through mud and snow and is barely able to speak for most of the two and a half hours. As an actor he is excellent in allowing the viewer to truly feel for Glass as he looks for food (from bones of large dead animals) heals his wounds (at times not easy to watch) and find ways to stay warm (I can’t tell you what he had to do for that).

An also unrecognizable Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Paul Anderson, Kristoffer Joner and Forrest Gooluck also star in this gripping and fascinating tale. It is a small cast but each actor brings the characters (fur traders in the 1830s) they have created to life with freshness and realness that any reality show (about living in the wild) can only dream of having.

When the film was over I knew why it has been nominated for 12 Oscars and other awards so far this year and you will too once you have climbed the mountains and followed the path of The Revenant 

Thursday, January 7, 2016

10 years ago today...(originally posted Jan 7 2016)

A year after Heath Ledger passed away Entertainment Weekly remembered him and I HAD to write a letter back to them, below is what I wrote to the editor and what I wrote about happened 10 years ago today...

 Sarah Donaldson
Mon 1/19/09 12:49 PM

    Even though I cried when I saw my EW I was reminded of why I truly admired Heath Ledger and love everything he was a part of. In fact he was one of just a handful of actors who I went to the movies to see. Which brings me to a day I’ll never forget, the day I went to the multiplex for a Heath Ledger mini-movie-a-thon. I walked up to the counter with money in hand and asked for two separate tickets, one for Casanova and another for Brokeback Mountain.

     Casanova was showing first so I entered the theater, with only a handful of others, found the perfect seat and waited for the lights to go down.  When it was over I had a smile on my face as I re-entered the line with my other ticket in hand.  Anyway it turned out Casanova was longer then I planned and by the time I got into the theater showing Brokeback Mountain the only seat left was in the second row!  But my eyes adjusted and by the time the credits rolled I was smiling again.  When I got back into my car the two movies seemed to become one and I felt like I had just seen a, longer then normal, movie which happen to star the always wounderful,never the same role twice Heath Ledger.

      Thank you for remembering Heath Ledger one year later.  He was one of the best and I hope we never stop talking about him. He was something special and this fan will never forget what it was like watching him on the big screen.

As you can see I still have the ticket stubs. Recently I re-read EW  #853 from December 9, 2005 an issue that featured Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal and Brokeback Mountain on the cover and the article mentions that Ledger was coming off three flops including The Four Feathers and The Order, as you can see I saw them. In the same paragraph Gyllenhaal just did The Day After Tomorrow, which I have only seen on TV.
Because of Brokeback Mountain I became a fan of Jake Gyllenhaal  and have some ticket stubs to prove it.
Yes, Gyllenhaal has been is many more and I feel guilty about not getting the chance to see them but life gets in the way.
This is how the letter appeared two weeks later. Edited but still got my point across.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens-It’s About Darn Time


Ok I don’t want to give anything away as it would ruin the whole watching experience so let me begin this review with a personal background story about my love of Star Wars…
           According to the internet the #1 movie at the box office the day I was born was The Empire Strikes Back so when I was old enough my mom made me watch all three original movies and I became a fan at first screening. It seems to me that most of yours out there favorite character is Han Solo and yeah he is alright but for me it has been love at first sight (maybe even my first crush) for Luke Skywalker. 
(from high school yearbook)
                  Although only a fictional character he was the first character I ever cared about, which lets me to enjoy other beings of the fictional world including The Doctor and taught me that characters in which the viewer can feel compassion and passion for (none are more passionate then Star Wars fans) are what make for good story telling in any film or TV series. I watched each movie many times and (like with many others) quickly memorized each one by the time I was 10 or 11, even acting out scenes when no one was around. Jump to my teen years when with a new video camera and a few friends who shared the same love for the films made a mini movie which I still have on VHS (Hi Marcy, Cassie and Martha) and of course I played Luke. Jump to my early 20s when the three prequels come out, sure they weren’t as good but origin stories rarely are and if you think of them as a separate part of this wonderful world we were already a part of it makes for better viewing of each. That was past…

               Now, from the announcement by new franchise owner Disney that there would be sequels to learning that J.J. Abrams (of whom I became a fan of through Alias) would write and direct the anticipation began, there were online teasers, trailers, then posters, TV ads, many many TV interviews and a Hollywood red carpet premiere, with tickets sold out and people standing in line (and costume) weeks in advance it was time for the lights to go down and to be transferred back to that galaxy far far away…

            Not giving any plot points away I have to say that Star Wars: The Force Awakens directed by Abrams and written by him and Lawrence Kasden along with a 30+ year wait was certainly worth every minute and each frame of the Kodak film it was made on. In the first few seconds we were introduced to the main new characters and each fit into the story seamlessly, which helped me like them right away. For example I could tell from the commercials that I would like new droid BB-8 and I ended up caring for him more then I could have imagine. In fact all of the characters and the actors who played them new (Oscar Isaac as Poe, John Boyega as Finn, Daisy Ridley as Rey and Adam Driver as Kylo Ren) and old (Harrison Ford as Han Solo, Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker and Carrie Fisher as Leia) had amazing and perfect chemistry with each other thus permitting the viewer to easily flow into this new chapter. The newbies even brought a welcomed crisp freshness to the story.

Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, Gwendoline Christie, Anthony Daniels and Peter Mayhew also star.

        I trusted Mr. Abrams with this beloved tale and have to say he did not disappoint. The entire look of the film made me reminisce about the original three which allowed true continually with the story as a whole. He use old school effects like puppets and real explosions for most of the filming reminding fans of their childhood. Or course there was a beautiful score by John Williams and we all remember and love the sound of blasters, ships and those lightsabers (nothing like a good lightsaber fight to put I smile on my face). There were multiple nods towards true fans of those original three and a quick synapsis to anyone who has been living under a rock for 40 years.

        Thank you to the cast and crew for a memorable and happy movie going experience, even at 10 am on a Friday I sat with a handful of faithful fans who cheered (sometimes out loud) for our heroes. If you are already quoting the lines and re-enacting the scenes as you exit the theater (and days later) those involved with making the movie must have done something right.

For its humor, sadness, heart and of course non stop adventure go see Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Wiz Live-Another NBC take on live theater

The third time is the charm for NBC and their yearly live musical broadcast. I wasn’t sure about watching The Wiz Live, mainly because the high school versions I’ve seen haven’t been all that good but this production proved me wrong on all counts.

The cast which included Ne-Yo, Elijah Kelley, David Alan Grier, Amber Riley, Queen Latifah, Uzo Aduba, Shanice Williams, Common, Mary J. Blige, Stephanie Mills (and Cirque du Soleil) were perfect as each was on point with singing and acting.

Then there were the costumes and makeup. The details when we saw close ups of the cowardly loin (those whiskers and claws) and scarecrow (with twigs and leaves as hair) made the characters pop and come to life. Every costume was different from Witch to Witch, the colorful munchkins, the crows and poppies to the glow and green of the nightclub dancers of The Emerald City.  

All in all a fabulous trip down the yellow brick road!