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!


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Act One (A few words about the play)

          Movies, TV Shows and live theater by now you know I love them all so when one comes along and features a story about showbiz you can count on me to see it. That brings me to the PBS airing of Live from Lincoln Center’s performance of Act One. When I Wikipedia the synapsis I was intrigued by the story about playwright Moss Hart and how he broke into the business that is The Theater. 

       The show was on Broadway in spring of 2014 and received 5 Tony Nominations. One was for featured actor and one of my favorite people to watch (since discovering him on Wings) Tony Shalhoub. Mr. Shalhoub actually played a handful of roles including the narrator/playwright as an adult, his own father and real life producer, writer, George S Kaufman. Each character was as different as the last and a joy to watch (Between the quick costume changes and crazy blocking it’s a wonder he made it through the show each night). Santino Fontana played Moss Hart as a young man whose love for theater started when his Aunt Kate gave him a retelling of each play she saw. Fontana (who I learned afterwards is the voice of Prince Hans of Frozen) was excellent running up and down stairs, moving through different doorways and sparring with Shalhoub.

       Speaking of those stairs the show won a Tony for its outstanding scenic design by Beowulf  Boritt  and after seeing the set I know why. How do I write a description about a stage with many well made parts? First there were the layers, rooms on top of rooms. A revolving portion with sections including two home sets and a theatrical office. And those stairs, how the actors didn’t get confused as to which room they were supposed to be in at any given time and didn’t literally break a leg I’ll never know.

   Directed and written (from Moss Harts autobiography) by James Lapine, the production also starred Andrea Martin as Aunt Kate/Beatrice Kaufman/Frieda Fishbein, Mimi Lieber as Moss Hart’s mother, Will LeBow as Jed Harris/Augustus Piton/Alexander Woollcott/Slimowitz and the rest of the cast were amazing to watch.

    Until this play the only thing I knew about Moss Hart was as the writer of the play You Can’t Take it with You but now I feel like a know so much more and appreciate what I have learned by watching Act One, a wonderful, sweet play about a playwright and what it takes to make your dreams come true.

Monday, October 26, 2015

(First encounter with) The Martian

Even though at times it would be difficult The Martian makes the idea of being the only human on an entire planet look like paradise to someone who is not a fan of people and crowds.

Mark Watney played by Matt Damon is a botanist who gets left behind when his commander and fellow astronauts have to quickly abandon Mars. Now completely isolated from the rest of the universe he must find a way back to Earth. He works with what he knows about the planet and the objects they brought with them to develop new techniques to survive. Some of the things he has to do are disgusting and unusual and I know I wouldn’t have been able to do what he did, but it is amazing to watch.

Directed by Ridley Scott the film itself is beautiful to watch. From beginning to end the viewer is taken on a dangerous trip. When Mark goes outside we see just how desolate the planet is and at times become frighten for his life. When he has to travel cross the taren there is nothing but sand and empty space. Back on Earth we watch and hold our breathes as NASA scrambles to help their lost man.

Without giving anything away there is a scene near the end that is like a stunning ribbon dance among the stars.

Although he is alone most of the time Matt Damon isn’t the only actor in this movie. Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Donald Glover, Benedict Wong, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Michael Pena and Kate Mara also star and the Screenplay was written by Drew Goddard based on the book by Andy Weir.

After seeing what life on Mars might be like I don't think I want to live there but if they ever find a way to get there quicker it seems like a good place to visit and I would love to be a "space pirate"

Much like the 1995 film Apollo 13, The Martian is an epic and heroic sci-fi adventure (with specks of humor) for all.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

True life flash fiction-An Occurrence at Dippikill

There was a long cabin camp in the middle of a popular mountain range in Northern New York. A beautiful place surrounded by a forest full of wildlife. It was 30 years ago this past summer when the head of the company my father worked for decided to take those who worked for him and their families on a trip as a thank you for good work. I was 5 or 6 and my memory is a little iffy but when my parents, older sister and I got to the cabin you knew you were someplace special. All the beds were upstairs and there was a large kitchen and living space down. During the day the men would chop wood and the term “spaghetti arms “was born. It was yelled by spectators at the men who couldn’t quite spilt straight or missed the logs all together. At night there was a bonfire, it was at this time that the younger me discovered the beauty of fire the way the smell stayed on your clothes as you went to bed and how if you set the end of a poking stick on fire and quickly blew it out you could write your name with the smoke in the night sky. All were having a great time, that is until later that night when suddenly my dad and a couple of his fellow co-workers came running out of the woods. The story goes they took a couple of canoes to a nearby river to do some fishing, well you know when a group of men fish they also drink and lost track of time. Unexpectedly they heard a noise in the darkness a “Woo Woo” sound. These men lived and worked in a city and this was not a sound they ever heard. They jumped out of the boats as quickly as possible and ran for their lives. They were wet, cold and out of breathe when they returned with no idea about what they left back in the dark woods.

A few months later I was lying in a hospital bed recovering from open heart surgery when my grandmother came for a visit. Like all who came to cheer me up she brought a present. It was a grey, fuzzy looking stuffed animal with big feet, short arms held up in the air and with two double A batteries it made a mechanical unrecognizable noise and tiny lights blinked for eyes. I named him Charlie Woo Woo, he got his very own hospital bracelet and to this day sits in my childhood room as a reminder of the trip in which my dad was chased out of the woods by an unknown creature of the night.





Friday, September 18, 2015

The Civil War: A film by Ken Burns-A review 25 years in the making

I was 10 at the time this originally aired and it would be a few years later when I turned 14 while on a school trip to Gettysburg in which I finally realized the importance of & became fascinated by The Civil War. I have waited 25 years to see this documentary series by Ken Burns and it was well worth the wait.

From day 1 (April 12th) year 1 (1861) Mr. Burns takes the viewer into the events that lead to and during this truly American war. Somehow he was able to move seamlessly from battle to battle. At times the events overlapped each other but he kept the viewer on track and without any confusion. Seeing the photos, hearing the voice overs as they quoted the actual words of a handful of those who were there is a remarkable thing to watch. To hear the events from these “voices” helped me learn about each experience and feel for all involved.

There was McClellan and Meade who commanded the Army of the Potomac (off and on) during the first three years of the war and we learned that there may have been times when they should have advance instead of retreat. There was Longstreet, Stuart, Pickett and Stonewall Jackson, Lee’s right hand guy who died of an illness at a field hospital after being shot, all Generals of Virginia, all good men by their own accords. By the final years of the war Sherman, Grant and Lee would face off on multiple crucial battles of the war. ---For me this wouldn’t be a Civil War lesson without Chamberlain
   who left his job as a professor at Bowdoin College to lead the men of The 20th Maine. I wondered how this documentary would "treat" the Battle of Gettysburg and it did not disappoint. I have loved Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain since I went on a class trip to see the movie Gettysburg and saw Jeff Daniels portrayal of him. I have been back to the battlefield 
 a couple more times  and each time is as captivating as the last. I agree with the guy who said in the episode (and I paraphrase) if I could go back to any time it would be to watch President Lincoln give The Gettysburg Address in person. I should add if the TARDIS ever appears in my backyard I know when The Doctor is taking me first. -- Ken Burns and the viewer follow these men and others including Sam Watkins, Elisha Hunt Rhodes, Mary Chestnut and President Lincoln and Davis as they lived, fought and died at Manassas, Antinum, Gettysburg, Vicksburg, Petersburg, Cold Harbor, The Wilderness and too many more to name. On April 9th 1865 Grant and Lee met one last time in the home parlor of Wilmer McLean at Appomattox Court House VA where Lee would surrender his army after four long years of fighting. Voiced by Garrison Keillor we even got to hear from Walt Wittman and Morgan Freeman brought the words of Fredrick Douglas to life, by doing so I learned new things about each man. Each episode is narrated by writer/historian David McCullough. Other historians to help us along this trip through time are Barbara J. Fields, Ed Bearss and Stephen B. Oates. We also got to hear from writer Shelby Foote (November 17, 1916-June 27, 2005) who seemed truly passionate about the war and when he spoke and gave us the history behind the story I just took it all in.

 The best thing about watching now (2015) is that with everything online I can look up what I just learned about these people & read the letters that I heard on the documentary. Letters by men who I had not known about before. For example the first episode ended with a beautiful letter written by Major Sullivan Ballou to his wife, Sarah. A week later he was killed at Manassas. If you haven't yet you should "google" him and read it for yourself.

This may be odd to “say’ but I was on the edge of my seat for the entire week, every moment of each episode was important to learn and incredible to watch.

The Civil War was bloody, horrific and one of the worst time periods in of nation’s history. The Film by Ken Burns is sad, beautiful and a great piece of art.  Even 25 years later it’s worth another look at, I know I want to watch again. In the end I wish I could learn every story of every man, woman and child who lived in the time of The Civil War

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Falling Skies 2011-2015

For five seasons during the summer months the 2ed Mass fought bravely against alien attackers known as The Espheni. This group of men, women and even children were at the front line of combat as they tried to save earth and to restore normalcy to its human inhabitants. Tom Mason (Noah Wyle, the reason I started and continued to watch) a college history professor before the war, took his three sons, Hal (Drew Roy), Ben (Connor Jessup) and Matt (Maxim Knight) and became their leader and a force to be reckon with. Mason along with Col. Weaver (Will Patton) transformed the people they found along the way into soldiers and each did what they could to fight and survive. Whether it was a group of skitters or Overlords they bled and died for each other.

Tom Mason who lost his wife, pre-series was the heart and soul of the 2ed Mass. He did his best to keep everything and everyone under control.

Hal, his oldest son, always by his side and defended his father whenever someone disagreed with Tom’s tactics.

Ben, the middle one, who went missing early on in the war only for the aliens to make him more like them by implanting spikes down his spine and forced him to work for them. Tom found him early in the first season and quickly learned that they could communicate with The Espheni through the spikes.

Matt, the youngest who just wanted to help his father and learned everything he could along the way.

Col.  Dan Weaver, was Tom’s number two go to guy. We all cried when he found his daughter only to lose her after being partly turned into a skitter.

Anne (Moon Bloodgood) who was a pediatrician before the war lost her husband and son pre-series became the 2ed Mass doctor. Fell in love and married Tom then became pregnant and gave birth to a half human half alien girl, Lexi, who had a growth spurt only to die while helping her father destroy Espheni space “headqueters”

John Pope (Colin Cunningham) who was never a team player and whose dislike of Tom would be his downfall

Maggie (Sarah Carter), kickass loner who fell for Hal

And (my favorite) Cochise (Doug Jones), a commander of the alien species known as The Volm. A separate group of aliens who are fighting the Espheni alongside the humans. A great help and friend to Tom

There were others, of course, who came and went throughout the series and all just as good as the last. Even when they were separated they found new ways to continue the fight knowing that they would be reunited and stronger then before. Falling Skies was a wonderful show with a great cast and I looked forward to it and enjoyed every moment each season. I raise my glass for one final toast and goodbye to the 2ed Mass., they were all heroes, the best of the best in humanity and we shall never forget them.  


Friday, August 7, 2015

Southpaw-A touching, satisfying (and for me unexpected) story

From Ranging Bull and Rocky to more recent Cinderella Man and The Fighter boxing movies have always pulled on the heartstrings of movie audiences (and Oscar voters). Me on the other hand prefer baseball or even golf flicks, and really aren’t ALL sports movies the same (A man or woman trying to prove his/her worth to self, loved ones and the sport). Then an actor I admire made a film in which he plays a boxer and being the person I am I had to see it.

Directed by Antoine Fuqua and Written by Kurt Sutter Southpaw is that film. The wonderful, amazing and not bad to look at Jake Gyllenhaal plays Billy Hope a successful boxer, whose name comes with its own catchphrases and is on top of his game until tragically hits his small close nit family. Now Billy must find a way to pick up the pieces and figure out how to move on with his life.

At the center of Southpaw is a story about the love and devotion between a father and his young daughter but there is a little bit more. There is love between a husband and wife, anger of a young girl who cares so much for her dad and just wants him in her life and frustration for that dad who doesn’t know how to cope and what to do next. While watching this film I didn’t expect to feel so much emotion for these characters (I was surprised when I cried). Newcomer (from broadways Mitilda) Oona Laurence plays Leila Billy’s daughter who just wants to support him during his fights. The scenes (one in particular where she is becomes so mad at him that things get physical) between Laurence and Gyllenhaal are so genuine and beautiful they put you right into the middle of the story. As for Gyllenhaal himself, well you know you are watching a good performance when the actor seems to disappear and all you can see and care about is the character (Seeing Billy still in pain from head to toe the morning after a fight helped me understand what these guys go through for their career).

In fact every scene felt raw and real. While watching the first fight scene I got a little dizzy and realized why I’m not a boxing fan. By the time the final fight came along it was as if I was watching a horror movie as I hid my eyes and watched through my fingers, there is a P.O.V shot from Billy that had me ducking (with him) behind the seat in front of me. Then there is there music, I’m sure each hip-hop song was chosen particular for the scene it accompany ( I admit I got into the rhythm of the music) and although it’s hard to hear (because the viewer rarely does and I will pay closer attention next time) I’m sure the late James Horner’s music made the film better.

The film also stars Forest Whitaker as Tick Wills a former boxing trainer turned local gym owner, Rachel McAdams as Maureen Billy’s longtime supportive wife, 50 Cent as Jordan Mains Billy’s boxing promoter and Miguel Gomez as Miguel Escobar a boxer as good as Billy. All are great and make the film the perfect piece of art that it is.

 I wasn’t expecting to like the movie but do to the director, cast and crew’s credit I really enjoyed each second of every frame, although I don’t think I will be watching another boxing film anytime soon (I’ve seen enough bloody faces) unless of course Jake Gyllenhaal makes a sequel to Southpaw.





Thursday, August 6, 2015

My love affair with Jon Stewart (as host of The Daily Show)

I became a fan of Mr. Stewart during his short lived 90s MTV talk show called...The Jon Stewart Show. In 1999 when he became host of The Daily Show, I had just started college and was a long way from home and needed some cheering up. A year later the nation knew who to turn to at our time of crisis, thus Indecision 2000 was born. Since then the show helped us get through a lot, including the most stressful times of our modern history known as The Bush Years. We laughed, we cried, we got to learn a lot about Jon like who his friends are, his gremaphobia, how he hates it when someone eats pizza with a fork and knife and loved his many bad impressions. I don't think I would have made it through without him. As a student I even saw his live act when he came to perform at SUNY Fredonia and opened his act by asking “Where the hell am I” while smoking (afterwards I added make Jon Stewart laugh to my list of goals in life) .

On a personal note…
The year was 2002 when I made the trip to NYC to see a taping of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. It was my second time in the big apple and first (and only time) to watch “live” a show I had watched every day since its premiere and I was so excited. You see it took me (someone who hates talking on the phone) a couple of tries before I was able to get a date on which I could actually attend and how I convinced my sister to come with/take me I’ll never know but when we got off the train and were surrounded by tall buildings I knew I wouldn’t want to leave.

We didn’t have to be at the studio until 5pm so we had the day to walk around and had a quick bit to eat in a nearby park before we had to get in line. It was hot for late June so standing in a line of people for an hour before the show started was not easy even when an ice cream truck stopped by. When we finally entered the studio I remember thinking how small it looked compared to on TV but the closer the production team lead us to our seats the happier I got, there was Jon’s desk and the purple couch for his guest. I’m not sure how long we waited but when the warm up guy was over there was the man himself. There was a quick Q&A with him and I don’t remember any questions but wish I could have come up with a good one at the time. When the 1st segment started so did the laughter and I didn’t stop till the closing credits (I swear there are times during the episode you can hear me laugh and during the credits there is a quick shot of the audience and I’m sure that’s me and my sister sitting along the railing) Although it was a rare episode without a correspondent we did get to see Paul Sorvino as he was promoting the Hey Arnold! Movie. When it was over I walked as slowly as I could out of the studio taking it all in and wanting to remember every minute.
It was the best day of my life so far (only one life event could be better and when it happens I’ll tell you about it)

Every segment of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart was a joy to watch from Produce Pete with Steve Carell, Even Stepvhens, Out at the Movies, Dollars and Cents, Back in Black with Lewis Black or a conversation with any of the correspondent from all over the world (mostly by green screen) or talking about Women’s issues with Kristen Schaal, African American issues with Larry Wilmore or British issues with John Oliver. In the end whether he was interviewing comedian friends or The President he always knew how to act, what questions to ask and read every book he was given. The show won’t be the same without Jon Stewart and it shouldn’t be but I will still watch. Good Night and Good Luck to him as he moves into farm life and with whatever he does next

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Why I started writing...

                                        So I don't have to talk

           Unlike my sister and father I was never much of a reader or writer growing up or during my high school years but then college came along and being someone who doesn't talk (if I had a dollar for every time someone said I should talk more I would be richer then Bill Gates) and is uncomfortable around a group of people I needed something to do to take away the loneliness and homesickness. I wasn’t able to study the subject I wanted to so I did what I have always done, watched and listened to everything and everyone around me. Taking from real life experiences, like when a friend at the time walked into the cafeteria and said “The soda machine wouldn’t take a $20” when dinner was done I went back to my room and wrote it down knowing that I would use it in a story (Never tell an invisible person your life story because they will use it as part of their fiction). I still had (have) a dream of being a Hollywood director so the first thing I wrote was a screenplay about two high school friends meeting years after they graduated and that line is in it. It took two schools, five years and about 20 roommates for me to graduate, when I did I couldn’t find a job but I kept writing. It wasn’t until I got a letter to the editor of a national magazine published in 2009 when I started calling myself a writer.
         Today I am still jobless and although I haven’t published anything since and have yet to make any money as a writer, heck only a couple of friends have read anything I’ve written, I write as much as I can. I have new ideas all the time and spent many a sleepless nights trying to place them on paper. It’s those sleepless nights that remind me that there is nothing else I want to do. I read about friends on Facebook and their daily lives and when they complain about their jobs (even the ones who have a career in what they majored in) I want to tell them that is why I can’t work in an office or do what you do. I’m not like them and well I may at times envy them I don’t want to be them.
        So for now I write for myself and my sanity. Whether it’s a screenplay, TV pilot, play, short story, poem, graphic novel, song, blog as a film/TV critic, eulogy for pet or flash fiction right here I have written it or have idea on paper as an outline. When it comes down to the reason why I write well no matter what mood I am in Glad, Mad or Sad writing makes me feel better. Finally as a senior I wrote in my high school yearbook-Years from now…Living in California acting and directing movies- I can’t act but today and everyday I still believe that making movies will happen for me even if I have to write the words for the actors to say myself.  

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Quick thoughts-Great Performances on PBS-Driving Miss Daisy

Since I can't get to Braodway I have come to really like to be able to watch some shows on this PBS series (and doing so have become a fan of opera).Last night I watched this and what I liked best was how the three actors (two of who are in their eighties) actually aged right before our eyes. I know this may sound strange but as the dates changed so did each person, the way they moved and talked it was fascinating to watch. Although the wasn't much of a stage crew or set its amazing how adding a steering wheel to a chair and a bench have you believing the actors are in a real car. Bravo to Angela Lansbury, James Earl Jones and all involved on a wonderful show. If you check PBS Online or your local PBS listings you might catch it

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Feast-best animated short oscar winner

I finally got to watch Feast a 6 minute film about a dog who loves people food. I watched it twice and can't stop thinking about it. It's old-fashioned 2d Disney animation but each minute is a hoot to watch. Any one who has a dog can truly relate to this story, like when a baby enters the picture my mom knew what would happen next. This short film is a delicious Feast for the eyes and heart of the viewer.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

On this day...

239 years ago the Continental Congress voted for independence.

152 years ago Col. Joshua L Chamberlain and The 20th Maine (with others) defended Little Round Top at Gettysburg

And 20 years ago (2 weeks after it opened) I saw my first superhero movie, as much as I am looking forward to seeing Ant-Man but it would be nice if Hollywood made more original movies. For example I (and maybe others) took a few notes on the Northern NY three week prison break-saws in ground meat, staying in unused cabins and a last ditch effort to run to Canada-sounds like a summer blockbuster to me and let’s not forget a conservative yet last week liberal leaning SCOTUS is better than anything Aaron Sorkin and Shonda Rhimes (two people I look up to) could come up with, although Will McAvoy and President Fitzgerald Grant come close.

 How many people do you know have a 20 year old movie ticket stub (and 100 more since)

Side note…


Let me start by confessing that I am in my mid 30s and have been obsessed with TV since I was a kid. We had no iPads to help pass the time in the car. So when my sister or I asked how much longer till we get to grandma’s house my parents would answer “three Fraggle Rock(s)” for 1½ hours.
I’ve been reading TVWW every day for almost as long as you’ve been around. During the Fall TV season my dvr is busy keeping me on track as I watch 40 hours a week (it’s a lot but I have to watch cable if I want to keep it)
TVWW has been a big help and-while at times I disagree-I take your suggestions (and Best Bets) to heart and give every series a chance. I tell whoever will listen about shows I discover and even started my own blog (don’t worry TVWW still has way more readers).
TV is my life and, from the TV Upfronts, to the stories behind series, to dissecting the good, bad and in-between, David Bianculli and everyone who writes for TVWW are a main source for my daily viewing

Jun 22, 2015   |  Reply

David Bianculli—TV critic

Dear Sarah -- Obviously, you're a kindred spirit. Very funny about "Fraggle Rock" -- my daughter, in her early 30s, definitely could relate. And 40 fours a week of TV viewing may sound like a lot -- but we here at TVWW clock in even more, because we have to KEEP watching the bad stuff. The pilot episodes, anyway. So consider yourself fortunate, and never feel guilty about your viewing hours, if it's good stuff you're watching. So glad to have you around...

Well at least one person listens to and understands me.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A quick take on Tomorrowland the movie

Ok I have read mixed reviews on Tomorrowland some seemed to really enjoy this marketed as a teen who discovers a wonderful future world, to tweens and teens movie, others not so much. You can add me to the like column.

Yes the film feels too long and is slow at times and some of the special effects seem to be from Walt Disney’s time instead of today but I need to give high praise to the acting, especially by the two young girls Athena played by Raffey Cassidy and Casey played by Britt Robertson.        What a concept kids acting like kids who want to and can help for a better future. George Clooney and Hugh Laurie also star.

The TV ads may have shown little and been a bit deceiving (I would had liked to have seen/spent more time in Tomorrowland) but better then giving away the end in the first scene of the trailer.

In the end Writer and Director Brad Bird and Producer Damon Lindelof shared a positive and inspiring message to the audience (seriously not all sci-fi movies/TV shows have to have a dystopian future full of fear and hate) and if I was worthy enough to be given a pin that transported me to Tomorrowland I would jump at the opportunity!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Entourage Movie-A fun summer romp

I know I say over and over that Hollywood needs to start making better and more original movies, I am so sick of remakes, sequels and remaking sequels - cut to the one exception I will make – A film based on a TV series about the “ins and outs” of Hollywood itself.  Entourage is that movie!

If you have been living under a rock for the past 10 years let me sum up the plot of both show and movie. Vincent Chase is an actor living in LA (in the same house) with his two best friends and older brother, he has an agent and a PR person each helping him (in their own way) as he makes movies, money and growing fame.

The movie Written and Directed by Doug Ellin and Produced by Mark Wahlberg, picks up a few months after the show ended and the boys don’t miss a beat. There is Vince played by Adrian Grenier, our Hollywood crush and star still at the top of his game and in the middle of yet another sexy party (on a yacht) when he meets up again with his entourage. He is in the middle of deciding what project to do next when he calls Ari Gold ( I want an Ari) played by the magnificent Jeremy Piven, his ex-agent now head of the studio who already has the perfect movie lined up for him, there’s a catch Vince wants to direct and that's all I can say. It sounds like a simple plot and it is but the movie isn’t about the sex, silliness and macho whatever that some would want you to believe. It’s really a story about these five guys who would do anything for each other.

There is Eric “E” Murphy played by Kevin Connelly, who if Vince is the heart of the group E is the soul. He started as Vince’s friend, turned manager and now producer. A character who has had his share of love interest but with his on again, off again girlfriend Sloan played by Emmanuelle Chrqui about to have his baby he has a few personal choices to make. There is “Turtle”  played by Jerry Ferrara who stayed out of showbiz but is always there to drive Vince wherever he needed to be. No longer the chubby other friend living on Vince’s dime Turtle has made it big, “not telling anyone how much money he has made”, in the tequila business and now allows his friends to sleep on his “couch”. And where would Vince be without his brother Johnny Drama played by Kevin Dillon. Drama’s career has had its ups and downs and so Vince gives him a part, "only four scenes," in his new film but Johnny’s personal and professional drama never ends.

Entourage is and has always been a story about friendship and those who are some of the most important people in our lives (including they relationship between Ari and his ex- assistant, yes even Lloyd played by Rex Lee has return for the film and watching them is just as wonderful as before). Yes there are a lot of cameos in the movie but there were a lot in the show too, in fact some of the cameos (like Bob Saget and Andrew Dice Clay) are those who appeared (more than once) in the series and after all that is what happens in LA you drive around and the next thing you know so and so is parked at the stop light next to you (so I’ve heard)

The movie also stars Billy Bob Thorton, Haley Joel Osment, Alan Dale, Perry Reeves back as Ari's "long and suffering" wife, Debi Mazar back as Shauna and Constance Zimmer back as Dana.

In the end like the show did Entourage moves at a fast pace and the (almost) two hours go by quick. It has everything that a celebrity watcher like myself wants in a movie about movies (The viewer even gets a quick peak at the film within the film and like with Aquaman and Medellin I want to see Vincent Chase’s directorial debut “Hyde”) and from the opening credits that included the original TV show theme music and font style to the happy Hollywood ending I smiled, laughed and enjoyed getting to spend some (more) time with Vince and his Entourage.

Friday, May 29, 2015

GREEN DAY and The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

The year was 1994. My parents, my sister and I packed up the car with our camping supplies and started on our way to Saugerties, NY.  I was all of 14 and was about to have the craziest weekend of my life (so far). Woodstock ’94 was happening and my family was right in the thick of it. It’s been over 20 years and I can’t remember everything but I do recall that we set up our tent and sleeping bags on the side of a hill, my older sister going off on her own late into the night, being covered in mud from head to toe (thank goodness for those ponchos) and most importantly watching Green Day perform live! You could say that the chance to see this amazing and very entertaining band was the entire reason I went.
         I forgot which of the “Two More Days of Peace and Music” it was but the stage was a close walk from our home away from home. We got to it as early as possible to get the best view we could, it was early enough that the pervious band playing reggae music were still on the stage.  The crowd grew and grew, I don’t know when, who or why it started but all of a sudden all those who had gathered were chanting Green Day! Green Day! Green Day! Green Day! Green Day! (Looking back on it I feel sorry for the guys on stage, I mean they were a good band in their own right) but the fans came to see Billie Joe Armstrong, Tre Cool and Mike Drint and they did not let us down.

          I don’t remember their set list (I’m sure all their hits from Dookie were part of the concert) but what happened while they were preforming was insane and became the best concert I have ever attended.

         Again I don’t know who threw the first shot but soon mud was flying everywhere on stage and off. The stage became a huge slippery mess but that did not stop people from jumping up on to it to get up close and person with the band. Security stepped in and began throwing them off, my family was so close that those being “gently” tossed off were practically landing on top of us. According to legend one or the guards miss-took Mike as one of those crazy fans and chipped one of the bassist teeth.*

It really was one great and (mostly) unforgettable weekend and for posterity I still have the muddy shoes and back when MTV cared about music they attendant and aired some of the concerts and perhaps somewhere in their vaults there is footage of a tall man with dark hair and a beard just enjoying a nice vacation with his wife and two teenaged daughters.

Congrats and cheers to Billie Joe, Tre Cool and Mike Dirnt who were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last month (Concert with other inductees Saturday at 8pm on HBO) you guys truly deserve this great honor.

*Woodstock '94 has also been referred to as Mudstock, or Mudstock '94, partly due to Green Day's performance, during which guitarist and lead vocalist Billie Joe Armstrong started a mudfight with the crowd. The situation quickly spiraled out of control, with many fans jumping onstage. This resulted in the security team mistaking bassist Mike Dirnt for a fan and tackling him, resulting in Dirnt requiring emergency orthodontia. (Wikipedia)

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Flash Fiction #5

Thank you to jay x wolf for the opening sentence

Happiness is a cold beer, an enormous burrito, and enough time to down them both before the werewolf catches up with you again. It was my big brother’s 21st birthday and we were out celebrating when the attacked happened. I woke up to find my brother unconscious with his new clothes ripped to shreds and scratches all over his back and chest, there was so much blood around my sister I didn’t know if she was dead or alive and my father was missing.
          He was still gone when we buried Layla a week later. They say when a loved one dies a piece of those they left behind dies, I didn’t know if Eli or my mother felt that way but she was my twin and I couldn’t even cry. I didn’t feel sad or angry or even relived that “she was in a better place” I just felt emptiness inside. We lived in the apartment above our mom’s jewelry shop, my brother had moved out for college two years earlier but neither one of us wanted to move out of our bedroom. When I walked up to the door this time there was her name, in green craft paper next to mine in blue, we were Layla and Kayla for 16 years and now nothing. There was a tap on my shoulder I turned to see Eli, he said that the last of the relatives were leaving and mom needed my help cleaning up the all the casserole leftovers.

One month later and my dad was still missing the cops had done all they could do and said he left on his own and the case was closed. That night there was a full moon and my mom was in her work room in the back of the shop, I was at the counter waiting on the last customer of the day when Eli came downstairs and said he was going for a walk. Three hours went by, my mom and I were in the living room watching TV. I could tell she was getting worried so I put on my shoes and long coat and went to look for him. We lived in a small town surrounded by fields of apple orchards and woods. I went to a wooded path that we always travelled as kids and didn’t have to follow it far when I saw him. He was hunched over and breathing deep shallow breathes, I slowly walked up to him and suddenly I knew what was wrong, I had seen it before. “Sis, I know you’re there please don’t come any closer.” He told me but I ignored him, took out a silver knife from the inside left pocket of the coat and continued to walk towards him. This was what I had trained for since I could walk, my siblings and I came from a long lineage of hunters. Now it was my turn to prove that I could fight any demon that I came across I didn’t know one would be my brother.
       “Kayla I’m fine please put that away, go home and tell mom I’m fine. I will be home when the sun raises.”
       “Eli, I can do this I can take care of myself, I can help you. Please.”
       He turned and I saw a look in his eyes that I had never seen before. It was a look of anger and hunger so fierce I stumble to gain my footing as he ran off quicker then I’ve ever seen him run.

The next day I got up before my mother. I was opening the shop when Eli entered, half naked and shivering he passed out into my arms. I was strong enough to drag his lifeless body to the couch in the work room, I made sure he had enough blankets and was comfortable before I went back to work. It was almost 2:00 when he awoke to find mom and me eating a late lunch. Mom stood up, placed her plate in the sink and went back to the front to open for the afternoon shoppers.
           “There is a rare steak in the fridge if you’re still hungry?’ I said half-jokingly.

He sat in the chair opposite me “I didn’t want you to find out that way.” I stood up and walked my plate to the sink he continued “I wasn’t sure at first if I was turned, all I knew was that when I woke up the day after the attack all the scars on my body had healed except for the scratch on my back left shoulder. With dad gone and Layla dead I didn’t…I didn’t want to worry you or mom. I paid attention to the cycles of the moon and as the days past and the moon was almost full I could feel myself getting stronger at the same time I slept less but was never tired. I thought about telling you but…
         “But I’m your baby sister who was sad and wasn’t strong enough to deal with the fact that her brother is a werewolf!”
           He grabbed my arm with one hand and used the other to cover my mouth “Shhh Mom can’t know, not yet, please Kayla I will tell her I just need more time.”
         “She’s been in the family business longer then us, SHE MAKES OUR WEAPONS do you really think she hasn’t already figured it out?”

We sat back down and I asked “Now what?”
        “Now I find the one who did this to me and do what I have to to make things right.”

      I stood and ran upstairs to my bedroom, took out a box from under my bed and rummaged through the assortment of weapons. I didn’t know Eli was right behind me.
 “What are you doing?”
“I am going to find the wolf who did this and kill him, it is what we do.”

He took the gun and crossbow from my hands “Take a breath. First of all I am pretty sure he is a she and I have been looking for her since the night of the attack, I know I was close last night. My senses are heighten as the wolf and last night I caught her scent it was a mixture of peppermint… peppermint and…
Just then a customer enters the shop

       He continues “That’s it!”

“I can smell the other scent now, it’s coming from downstairs.”
        We walked down to the shop and stayed in the back watching from the beaded doorway as a bridal client talked to our mother, she was holding a bouquet of lavender.

I whispered to my brother “Lavender, are you sure?”
 “I promise you on Layla’s grave that is what I smelled last night.”

 “The peppermint and lavender festival, they hold it every year in PalmVille”

“YES always in summer a couple of weeks after our apple blossom festival. We went every year as kids.
        I took out my phone to look up the dates of the festival “ I remember and every year it was held next to that large field of lavender where there was that old run down farmhouse and barn, remember the three of us would play hide and seek there when mom and dad sold jewelry.”

“Then a couple of days before the next full moon that’s where I’ll go.”

“Where we’ll go.”

 “You’re not coming with me!”

“YES I am.”

The rest of the month went by quickly. We worked in the shop and helped our mother out whenever she needed us. It was as if nothing had changed but I could hear Eli walking the halls at night unable to sleep as the night of the full moon got closer.  One night I looked up at the sky and there it was smiling down at me as if it knew what we were about to do.
         When the day came we packed a duffel bag with two flashlights, two guns, four boxes of silver bullets, my crossbow with silver tipped arrows and his sword laced with liquid silver and some snacks. We left early in the evening, before dinner and told our mom we were going to have a burger at a local food truck then to a movie and not to wait up. (Knowing her she’ll fall asleep watching late night TV waiting for us) we did grab a burger but then took a cab to PalmVille, just one town over, and walked to the farmhouse. When we got there it was just starting to get dark. I took out two flashlights and the guns, we made sure they were loaded and started towards the creepy red barn.

           The door screeched as Eli opened it. It was already too dark to see, we turned on the flashlights and without moving looked around, nothing. We entered farther and began a more elaborate search that’s when we heard the first voice. “Look who it is Elijah James Doyle and Lay….I’m sorry I mean Kayla the sister we allowed to live.” A man jumped down from the rafters. Eli pointed his gun at him “You seem to know us but we have yet to be introduced.”

“Dylan be kind to our guests” said a woman’s voice from the darkness.
 Before she came out into the light Eli knew who she was “It’s you, the bitch who did this to me!”

     I had my gun pointed at her now as she stepped into the light “Eli, we’re guests let’s not used harsh words.”

“If I knew her name I wouldn’t have too.”
 Dylan spoke next “Eli, meet my sister Sasha.”

  Sasha responded “Put you guns down.”
 “I don’t think we’ll be doing that.” I said

“Boys bring out our friend.” Three more men appear holding a weaker older man.
I saw him first “Dad?.”

“Sis put down your gun.”

      Moonlight begins to shine through the cracks in the walls. The wolves begin to change.

Eli goes after Sasha I began to shoot at everything that moved as I ran to my father. It was all over in five minutes. Sasha was dead. The other wolves were gone. I stood holding up my weaken father Dylan was face to face with Eli who was covered in Sasha’s blood.
 “You killed her, you killed our leader.”

 “I did. Now it’s your turn.” He aimed his gun.

    “You could kill me but not before I have killed everyone you love. Then again you could take your rightful place as our new Alpha by law of our pact or I kill you and your family would suffer for the rest of their lives knowing that you were a coward.”

“That’s not true, don’t listen to him.”
“Kayla, take dad and go home.”

“I will take that as a yes to my offer?”

“Eli, you can’t!”
 Eli’s teeth and claws began to show “Go now and never return or I will rip your throat out with my bare teeth.

I did as he said.
My dad retired. My mom continued making jewelry and I went to college.

Every year on our birthday I visit Layla’s grave. There was always a note or gift waiting for me. It was are our 21st today and there was a 6-pack of Genny Lite and a Taco Bell bag full of burritos. Written in the card was “You only turn 21 once, enjoy every second! Dinner is on me. P.S.  Tell mom and dad I’m getting married and I miss you all. J