Sep. 24th, 2016

shadowkat: (Tv shows)
Finished watching the new television series This is Us (which premiered on Tuesday night) and McGyver (which premiered on Thursday night.)

1. MacGyver -- it should be noted that I never quite got sucked into the original version (which aired between 1985-1992), oh I watched it off and on, but not regularly. With that caveat? I did not like the new version at all and rather missed the old version. The old version, while episodic in character and at times rather dull plot and acting wise, had charm and was a bit innovative in places. You learned stuff and it was a quirky adventure procedural. Also Dean Anderson coined stoic dead-pan humor.

The new version? Doesn't have any of that. Well, except for maybe the action. MacGyver and his team work for a covert agency, DXS, that not even the CIA knows about. They solve domestic and international high risk cases that require a specific skill set. MacGyver, at 26, has served in the military defusing bombs, gotten a degree from MIT and aced a few science contests. With him is an top level computer expert/analyst, and a sharp-shooter who keeps him safe. Unfortunately in an attempt to acquire a tube of something or other, things go awry, the top level computer analyst gets killed, MacGyver shot, and the tube taken. Turns out the tube is a biological weapon. The analyst who MacGyver was in love with (or so we're told in a few sexy flashbacks and some brooding looks) faked her death and stole the weapon to sell it or for some other cause, it's not all that clear.
They break a hot female computer hacker out of prison (because apparently there aren't any other qualified computer analysts out there) to locate the weapon. In the midst of all of this, MacGyver does a few cool things with science, but nothing you haven't seen before a million times on a million other television series. (The problem is since MacGyver aired in the 1980s, we've had CSI, NCSI, Law and Order, Hawaii 5-0 reboot, and various other procedurals who like to go into graphic detail in similar fashion. Not to mention various superhero and spy thrillers. And they did it a heck of a lot better than MacGyver is doing it.)

Instead of building the characters, like Lethal Weapon did, we're thrust into the action from the get-go. And unfortunately, they haven't cast this well. The only interesting and charismatic actor in the series is George Eds (last seen on CSI), which is saying something. Lucas Till who plays McGyver is boyishly pretty, but no Richard Dean Anderson who originated the role. Katy Sparikadis, who plays the femme fatal, is model stiff. I kept wishing they'd just kill her off, but alas they didn't - it's not a spoiler, the whole thing was rather predictable. She shows little emotion throughout. And the bad girl with a heart of gold hacker is a television cliche.

Throughout the episode, I kept thinking there are so many things you could have done to make this interesting, you stupid writers. For one? Flip the genders. Make either MacGyver or George Eds characters female, and the femme fatal hacker, a cute guy. Or have MacGyver be older, not a young kid, and the sharp-shooter the kid keeping him alive. Maybe, have MacGyver be the one they sprung from prison not the hacker, and introduce him halfway through.

Also, ditch the whole covert agency bit. Been there done that. It would have been more interesting if MacGyver had been an agent for hire that they wanted to work for them, but couldn't get - which I thought from various previews was the direction they were going. Unfortunately not. The first fifteen minutes of the episode felt like a replay of the first fifteen minutes of the Arnold Schwarzenegger spy thriller True Lies, except that was better done.

But alas this mess is what we got. Cancelled from the DVR. I'll be surprised if it survives more than five episodes.

2. This is Us -- this is a surprisingly controversial series with the television critics. They either love it to pieces or really hate it. There doesn't appear to be any in between. People either love this show or hate this show. Mind-boggling. So glad, I'm not a professional television, film or book critic - dodged that bullet.

For the record? I loved it. I found it funny and touching in places. I laughed throughout, and related to the characters. Also the narrative format worked for me and felt rather unique and innovative.

The story is told more from an emotional perspective than an informational one, and is more "character" driven than "plot" driven. If you are anal about nitty gritty details, plot oriented and not a fan of character emotional arcs or navel gazing, this show is not for you -- it will most likely drive you crazy. If however, you love emotional character arcs, navel gazing, philosophizing, and are more character oriented than plot oriented, you'll adore it. Then again maybe not. I don't really know at this point. I hated GIRLS - found it unwatchable, which is a character-oriented series. I just depised the characters - who reminded me far too much of a few people I knew and despised in real life. So there's that. When comes right down to it? I never really know for certain why certain things appeal to people and other's don't, but hey it's fun to try and figure it out, right?

Anyhow...this series reminded me a little of Friday Night Lights, Parenthood, and Brothers and Sisters in how it was told. There are four inter-locking stories, or rather four key points of view.
We don't find out until the very end -- what the connection between the four points is. But it works and tracks throughout. Also the connection does a nice job of subtly reflecting on various themes.
Such as how people are related to each other or connected. How life has a tendency to circle back on itself. How acts of kindness pull us through. And how time has little relevance in the scheme of things - what we wore in the 70s or 80s, hair styles, clothes, current sort of similar today. Only the technology has truly changed.

I found the show oddly comforting in places. It is amongst the few series this season that felt kind.
The people in it were "kind" to one another, and compassionate. The focus was on how to be kind. The humor was not cruel, but absurd. And I think I've grown tired of lackadaisical cruelty or thoughtless cruelty. Our society has become oddly thoughtless - we seem to rip one another apart without thinking about the consequences. Or so I've noticed. It's the age of Donald Trump or the Trumpism -- where people lob insults at each other. This series felt more...mindful somehow and seemed to comment on that tendency, yet in an indirect way.
mild spoilers )

At any rate, I loved it. So I gave it a season pass. It's a nice replacement for Parenthood, which I'd missed.

Sigh, upstairs neighbors who think they are musicians can't figure out that it is after midnight and time to stop playing music.
shadowkat: (warrior emma)
So, after a week dominated by men, I'm considering joining the Women's Alliance at my church. There is, or so, I'm becoming predominately aware, a pernicious misogyny underlying our culture. I keep trying to ignore it, but it will not go away. It underlies the ads, the casual conversations in offices and subways, live journal, facebook, twitter and other social media posts and chatter, television shows, movies, novels, news items, comedy routines...and of course the never-ending US Presidential Election. Where on one side we have the poster child for patriarchal male dominance, chauvinism and sexism, and on the other the poster child for feminism and women's rights from the 1960s to now.

This week alone, I heard or overheard the following:

Two guys at work referring to a woman they didn't like or understand, who had long blond hair, spoke rapidly and was strong, as a "girl". I retorted, no, a girl has pigtails and is about so high. She's a woman. I don't like conflict, but occasionally something will irritate me enough for me to make a response.

After facilitating a meeting of male engineers determining the best approach of replacing a major railroad bridge, I was waiting for an elevator. Three men, one a co-worker, were discussing politics. One of the men was about to curse, but refrained, because there was a lady present. I rolled my eyes. And my co-worker stated, she's an adult and can handle it.

The novel I'm currently reading keeps repeating the phrase "don't cry like a little girl" - as an insult.

Meanwhile on the phone, a young female project manager, in her 30s, so not that young, and a licensed engineer is ranting about how the male project managers treat her as if she's their secretary and knows nothing.

In the Rolling Stone article about Hillary Clinton - the reporter states:
Read more... )
shadowkat: (Tv shows)
1. THIS is a fun little site. It's called Pottermore. You can choose your patronous, your wand, your house, etc. I ended up with Neblung Cat (patronous), Ravenclaw, 13 3/4 Applewood Phoenix wand, and Pudewukie house for North America.

2. Just finished watching the season premiere of Big Bang Theory and Designated Survivor. In case you haven't figured it out by now, I've decided to sample as many of the new television shows as humanly possible without being a professional television critic who is paid to watch these things and has an inordinate amount of time to do so. In short, it will not be all 137 shows...more like 20-30, if that. Mainly because the shows I was watching I've either gotten tired of or were recently canceled.

* Big Bang Theory - still works and makes me laugh, even though it's into its 10th Season. It's managed somehow to stay fresh by evolving the characters and their relationships with each other, while not quite changing the central set-up. In other words the nerdy geeky boys and gals have grown up, gotten married and one is about to have kids. In this week's episode we got to meet Leonard and Penny's parents/family who are portrayed by comedy vets: Kathy Segal, Keith Carradine, Judd Hirsch, Christine Baranski, and for Sheldon, Laurie Metcalf. Also Penny's brother is played by 30 Rock vet - the sort of dumb aid, with the blond hair, named Kenny. Here he's a meth dealer/maker who just got out of prison.

* Designated Survivor - this is starring Keifer Sutherland (Secretary of HUD who becomes the President), Maggie Q (FBI Agent), Kal Penn (speechwriter) and Natasha McElhone (Sutherland's lawyer wife).

The set up is - Tom Kirkland the current Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, aka HUD, has been asked to be the Designated Survivor during the State of the Union address. During the State of the Union, a cabinet member is selected to hold up in a bunker in an undisclosed location in case something horrible happens and we need a President to run the country. Because you know, everyone in line of succession is in the Capital. Prior to being asked to be designated survivor, Kirkland was asked by the Chief of Staff to step down from HUD, mainly because the somewhat conservative president didn't like Kirkland's views on Housing. And was thinking about the next election. As a consolation prize, the President was giving Kirkland an ambassador post in Montreal. Which of course wasn't going to sit well with the family, because you know, moving again.

But as luck would have it, things change on a dime. Someone blows up the Capital and everyone inside.
No one knows who.

Maggie Q plays a lead FBI agent on the case, Agent Wells, who figures out that this is just the beginning. She's clearly lost someone in the disaster or believes she has.

Kirkland is thrust into the White House as the President. And he has to figure out how to make it work. I noticed Sutherland had aged, he's about my age. Give or take. I've always loved the actor - so am tuning in partly for that. But we'll see if it holds my interest. 24 didn't because I couldn't buy the premise. This premise, I actually buy better than 24. Also it hit many of my story kinks hard - reluctant leader, disaster movie, solving impossible problems, trying to find ways to handle things without resorting to violence.

But this isn't Kirkland's only problem. Turns out his teenage son is a drug dealer. And the head of the Pentagone is planning a mutiny of sorts to get Kirkland kicked out, so he can take over, because Kirkland isn't enough of a war-monger for his taste. He asks the Chief of Staff who he'd pick Kirkland or him to run the country, I'm thinking...hmmm, Kirkland, you are an asshole and will take the US into WWIII and destroy everyone.

Overall it's a fast-paced hour. Although it may want to do a bit too much, seems a little ambitious.
As if it's trying to blend West Wing, 24, and Madam President into one series. Not sure how well that will work. I'd have cut the kids from the storyline.

I will, however, continue watching for now.
shadowkat: (Tv shows)
Finished watching Pitch and The Exorcist, now chilling watching a program on the history of American Folk Music on PBS entitled The is Your Land hosted by Judy Collins and the Smothers Brothers. So far The Kingston Trio and the Highwaymen have popped up. Unfortunately it's also a pledge drive...and not really just a musical celebration.

1. The Pitch - I really wanted to like this one, but it is just one baseball flick cliche after another, complete with a twist taken out Field of Dreams amongst others. It's about a young black woman who becomes the first major league baseball player for the San Diego Padres. She's a pitcher - which is basically the top and most difficult position - and got there for her screwball curveball special.

In flashbacks we see how she got there...and the fight she has with various detractors. And how everyone is counting on her to succeed. Finally, the Catcher tells her if she wants to do this -- to do do it for herself, no one else. And what do you know, she nails it.

It's well acted and has potential, but feels rather one note and somewhat predictable. Interesting approach to start off with her in the major leagues and struggling to make it work there then to take the usual route, which is to show how she got there. I'm tempted to see where they go with it, but my gut tells me that she'll end up in a romance with the Catcher.

I like the lead. Mixed feelings about the twist, which caught me by surprise. Not crazy about the other characters ...who feel somewhat boilerplate, including the ambitious sports agent (the actress who played Jennifer Jones best friend in Alias Jennifer Jones), team manager portrayed by Mark Conseuleos (Kelly Ripa's hubby), and her buddy from the minor leagues.

So, on the fence.

2. The Exorcist -- this is a television adaptation/update of William Peter Blatty's best-selling novel and the award-winning film starring Ellen Burnstein and Max Von Sydow. The television adaptation has to a degree maintained what made the book and film so frightening, which was the feeling of impending dread.

Much like the original - the point of view is either the younger priest's or the mother, Angela, (Geena Davis in the Ellen Burnstein role). The demon's target - her teenage daughter. Also much like the original, we have the dynamic of the older priest, Father Maros (Ben Daniels) and the younger priest, Father Tomas (Alfonso Herrera), who is quite compelling in the role. Actually, the two priests pulled me in - much as they had in the original film. And I like both of the actors a great deal. The original much like this version is more about faith/hope and how we handle despair/hate and evil or deal with it when confronted with it head on then it was about the supernatural. The younger priest, Tomas is having a crisis of faith when he is called to be an "exorcist". He barely believes in God and is ambitious, an up and comer. In one scene, his sister asks if he really wants to be a priest, since he's corresponding with a young woman and had previously had a relationship with one. The older priest is tired and has almost given up, also questioning his faith, and has shut himself up in a retreat for aging and retired priests. He has lost a young boy to demonic forces in Mexico City and wonders if there is a God and a point.

I always thought Blatty's "The Exorcist" deftly tackled some of the fears that underly the Christian religion and our society. A normal upper-class family, living in an house in the city, with a demon insinuating itself within its walls.

Differences from the original -- not just Angela's young daughter appears to be affected. Her husband appears to have lost his mind, her older daughter is depressed and has retreated to her room, and Angela hears whispers in the walls. When she comes downstairs - the chairs are pulled from the table and the books are knocked from the shelves.

Meanwhile, Tomas is plagued by visions of Marcos attempting to exorcise a demon from a child and failing. It's quite horrifying and somewhat gruesome.

The protagonist here as it was in the original is The Exorcist - the priests, not the mother or the family plagued by the demon. If it is a demon.

There's a twist in the end regarding who has been taken over that took me by surprise but made sense.

I may continue with it to see where it goes, although it is rather creepy and I did spend a good portion of it with my fingers over my face. I don't really like horror that much...and have a bit of a love/hate relationship with it.
shadowkat: (Calm)
Did this to myself on Friday. Being made aware of it -- is a good thing.

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