Monday, March 2, 2015

Gotham: Red Hood Review


Gotham has pretty much kept a good balance between being a precursor to the Batman story and a police procedural.  Sometimes it has gone a bit overboard with one or the other, but on the whole it has done well maintaining that delicate balance.  Red Hood keeps that balance again pretty well, especially with two real stories going on: the investigation of the string of robberies as well as the Fish Mooney storyline, which has a hum-dinger of a shock.  Actually,  I think Red Hood has some of the most shocking moments in Gotham's run with two big moments that leave the viewer a bit stunned.

Detectives Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) and Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue) are now looking into a series of armed robberies committed by a gang that has one member wear a red hood.  The first Red Hood has a jolly, joke-filled manner, but this doesn't sit well with Clyde Destro (Johnny Coyne), the de facto leader.  He shoots Red Hood One, Gus Floyd (Michael Goldsmith) and decides to take on the mask.

Bad move, as the gang soon starts seeing the red hood as some sort of talisman, and just as Gordon and Bullock come to Destro, they find him dying, and Red Hood Three, a nervous fellow, takes it.  Gordon finds enough clues to lead them to the third crime, and the Red Hood Gang is taken down in a firefight.  Unseen by the police, a child finds the actual red hood and slips it on, awaiting his own turn in crime.

Alfred (Sean Pertwee) is visited by an old friend, Reggie (David O'Hara).  Reggie's fallen on hard times, and Alfred and Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) welcome him to stay at Wayne Manor for a few days.  Bad move, as Reggie not only starts undermining Bruce's training but also has a hidden agenda of his own, one that puts both of them in danger (and causes Alfred to get stabbed). 

Finally, Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith) is still determined to get at the mysterious head of the prison she finds herself in.  She is informed by the director (the legendary Jeffrey Combs) that the head of the operation, a Dr. Dulmacher, is not in.  She at first refuses to speak to the director and insists on speaking to the Doctor only.  She is persuaded to have the luxury of a bath and some new clothes, but then is told she has two options: lose her eyes or lose her life.  She goes for Option Three: gouge her eye herself and stomp on it.

In two minor plots, Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova) gets some tutoring in the art of seduction by Barbara (Erin Richards), still slightly bombed out of her mind, and Oswald Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor) is struggling to keep the club going after Maroni cut off his booze supply.  He is helped by an unlikely source: Butch Gilzean (Drew Powell) who uses his connections to get the alcohol, but whom Oswald is still wary of.

I don't think Gotham has had such jaw-dropping moments in the series as much as Fish's desperate play for survival.  I had heard about it through the grapevine, but nothing really prepares you for the visceral shock of the scene.  Being network television one can show only so much, but what we did see and what was left to the imagination is still stunning.  I was absolutely shocked and stunned at what I was watching, and think Gotham pushed the envelope as far as it could.

This moment really is perhaps the most shocking of two twists that were handled on the whole well.  One doesn't have to be the sharpest tool in the shed to know that Reggie is bad news, but to its credit I didn't make the connection between Reggie and certain higher-ups until the end.  In this instance we see how well Gotham handles things visually.  Alfred's stabbing and Bruce's discovery is amazingly shot and edited. The entire final scene with Reggie and his employers is equally beautifully shot, a collection of shadows and light that tells us how nefarious they are.

The main story of the Red Hood Gang I think works very well.  The dynamics of the group are established quickly and we see glimpses into what kind of people they are. 

The performances all-around were especially good. I was hoping that Floyd would have stuck around longer, as Goldsmith did a fantastic job with his more jocular thief.  Coyne too did a wonderful job as Destro, even bringing a bit of pathos to his downtrodden criminal.  O'Hara also did well as Reggie, even if you knew that he was going to be a villain. 

I met Jeffrey Combs at a convention (on the whole a nice man, though yes, a bit scary) and it took a while to recognize him.  It's too bad he didn't turn out to be the legendary Dr. Dulmacher because you have the Re-Animator himself here.  However, he too made his Director into a calm but dangerous figure. 

The main cast is still really good in their roles.   McKenzie and Logue have formed a wonderful double-act: McKenzie's square-jawed hero to Logue's more cynical partner.  When McKenzie swipes Bullock's glasses to examine video tape, he asks Bullock if he can see the important clue.  "No, because you took my glasses," he retorts, and seeing Gordon not getting the comment and Bullock's sarcastic but accurate reply is both humorous and realistic.

Pertwee I think is the main character in Red Hood, and the struggle he has between what he is and used to be is handled so well by both script and actor.  The rapport he and Mazouz have is another highlight of Red Hood.  I'm glad Gotham is adding this storyline here, though the payoff better be worth it.

JPS gives us new insight into Mooney.  She's always been a bit camp in her take on the role, which I know bothers people.  However, here at least she is able to drop the mask somewhat to show that even she, a woman who holds herself to be gritty and tough, is herself creeped out by the dismembering of living people.  For once the bravado she puts forth meets something that leaves even her momentarily disoriented.

It is unfortunate that both RLT and Richard's Barbara (as much as she is disliked) are given smaller roles to play this week.  They did it well (though again I question Barbara's sanity in letting Selina and Ivy Pepper crash at her place no questions asked) but one hopes that they were there to throw us a few tidbits about future storylines.  I also wonder how clumsy the GCPD is to allow an important piece of evidence like the actual red hood to be picked up by some random kid (though I figure it had to be done for foreshadowing).

The overall crime investigation worked very well (though I wish we could keep crimes going beyond one a week) and proved interesting to follow between the criminals and the detectives.  We even get a few moments of comedy in the beginning, as the gang puzzles over Floyd's new costume.  "Should we all have gotten red hoods?" one asks.

On the whole, this was a particularly strong Gotham episode, with really jaw-dropping moments and a strong case to investigate.  Red Hood gives new meaning to the title Masque of the Red Death...  


Next Episode: Everyone Has A Cobblepot

He Has Been And Always Shall Be Our Friend


I was never a Trekker or Trekkie.  I have seen but a handful of Star Trek episodes, knowing of the mythos only through the movies.

I was on a retreat this past weekend, and it was only on Saturday when arriving home did I learn of the death of Leonard Nimoy.  I think that we should remember his work beyond Mr. Spock, though that role is beyond iconic.  I remember him from his hosting duties on In Search Of... and his role in A Woman Called Golda.

However, for better or worse Nimoy will always be Spock.  Perhaps he was displeased in being so linked to one character, perhaps he came to reconcile himself to that fate.  For myself, I think Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is the Citizen Kane of Star Trek films.  It is the standard to which all other Star Trek films are measured. I understand Nimoy returned for the sequel on condition that Spock die.  Whatever the reasons, Nimoy's final scenes in Wrath of Khan (both his disabling of Dr. McCoy and his farewell to his very human Captain Kirk) remain some of the best work connected to the Star Trek franchise.  It is a loss to his fans, to Trekkers/Trekkies, and to those of us who admire and respect good solid acting.

Live Long And Prosper.


Saturday, February 28, 2015

Sherlock All Poison Pellets


While The Five Orange Pipz doesn't stay within Canon of the original Five Orange Pips (and let's be honest, Elementary isn't trying to stay within Canon but instead uses Canon as a starting point), it does go into the characters a little more.  However, while The Five Orange Pipz has a case in it, I wasn't particularly overwhelmed with it, thinking things got solved a bit fast.

Two men are killed in separate locations but there are ties between them.  Victim One: Theodore Fordham was the lawyer for Victim Two: Elias Openshaw.  Openshaw had owned a toy company that produced Pipz, toy beads that contained GHB, a bit like a drug that caused overdoses in nine children with four dead.  Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) wants to keep the two investigations separate, her hostility to her former partner still raw.  One of the victim's parents, Gabe Coleman (Zak Orth), at first denies then confesses to the crimes.  Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller), however, will not believe his confession.  On the contrary, he says.  Holmes knows Gabe didn't do it.

To find out more about this case, Holmes and his protégé Kitty (Olivia Lovibond) go see Assistant District Attorney Angela White (Sonya Walger) (and as a side note, last I saw her was in The Librarian: Quest for the Spear...thought her name sounded familiar).  She is an ambitious ADA aiming for a Congressional run, and with Openshaw's death her biggest case can be closed.  Openshaw you see had disappeared before being brought to trial, and while White didn't get Openshaw she did keep the case going.  Kitty, seeing the rapport between Holmes and Watson, soon begins sabotaging the interview with White, leading her to abruptly end the interview. 

Holmes can't figure this out, and neither can Watson.  Watson has issues with how hostile Kitty is, and Kitty doesn't win fans with Detective Marcus Bell (Jon Michael Hill).  However, as the case progresses, we get some twists.

First, we get a witness putting White and Openshaw together.  This can't be the case since White maintained she could never find Openshaw.  However, the witness, Mr. Azim (Shayan Shojaee) is proven correct.  The lawyer Fordham had been blackmailing White to keep the ADA's political ambitions alive but without endangering his client. 

However, she didn't kill him.  Who did?  Well, an Agent Bowden (Chris McGarry) specifically asked to be part of the Openshaw case, and as it turns out, he has a sideline...selling GHB.  The poisoned Pipz, which could be sold to users and suppliers, had been locked away, and after Openshaw's death, with the investigation moot, they would have been discarded.

I can't say that this case was particularly overwhelming.  Maybe I missed Agent Bowden but I wasn't sure where he came from.  As the episode is deleted I can't go back to rewatch it. 

However, we do have a better insight into Kitty, and I think that was one of the positives of The Five Orange Pipz.  She was very jealous of the easy rapport between Holmes and Watson, and how well they played against each other.    As Holmes makes clear, Kitty is not his partner, but his protégé. He thinks this of everyone I think, so it isn't too strange.

Miller had great moments in the episode.  "I never guess.  It's a shocking habit, destructive to the logical faculty.  We observe and then we deduce".  All versions of Holmes couldn't have put it better I think. 

The Five Orange Pipz also had good editing between the White interrogation and Kitty's observing from behind the glass, part of the investigation but also apart from it.  We got a stronger sense of who she is (a crime victim herself, but one who wants to move beyond that).  Lovibond also has great moments when she basically tells Holmes she's bored. 

I wasn't overwhelmed with this Elementary episode, but I didn't think it awful either. 


Next Episode: Just a Regular Irregular

Friday, February 27, 2015

You CAN Go Holmes Again


It's been a while since I've been to Elementary, the CBS Sherlock Holmes television show.  It's not that I haven't wanted to, but school and the Academy Awards got in the way.  Now, however, I think it is time go back a bit and see if I can get through the third season. 

When last we left Elementary, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Joan Watson had broken up, sort of.   Watson wanted a room of her own so to speak, and Holmes, finding both his partner in crime-solving and his brother Mycroft moving away, agrees to work for MI6.  Now, it's been six months since those events.

Watson (Lucy Liu) has done quite well for herself.  An investigator in her own right of some renown, she is instrumental in taking down Elana Marsh (Gina Gershon), a drug queenpin whom she and the NYPD have been investigating all this time.  Elana is not one to forget or forgive.  It just so happens that as Karen (Kate Lutz) the star witness against Elana is about to go testify, she and her bodyguard gets killed...inside a moving elevator...which had no stops.

Two months after this murder Watson is still stubbornly frustrated by both the murder investigation and Elana's escape from justice.  In fact, Elana now has a beef against Joan, accusing her of stalking (and to a point she is correct).  Captain Gregson (Aidan Quinn) suggests caution, and Detective Bell (Jon Michael Hill) helps however he can.  About the only bright spot in Joan's life is Andrew Natal (Raza Jaffrey), her neighbor's brother whom she has started a relationship with.

An odd tip from a 'Montcliffe Ekuban' triggers Joan's memory, and she goes to the brownstone, where she discovers Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller).  He's back, trying to apologize in his own way, but she wants nothing to do with him.  Neither does Captain Gregson, but he agrees to let Sherlock return as a consultant...with the proviso that Joan sign off on this.  Holmes, however, is not alone.

He has a new protégé, Kitty Winter (Ophelia Lovibond), a girl who has a chip on her shoulder and who so far isn't as shrewd or patient as Watson was.  Kitty has a barely concealed hostility to Joan, but while Sherlock isn't pleased by some of her mistakes, he believes Kitty can be molded well.  He sees himself as a mentor, a teacher, and this is what led him to panic when Joan left.

Now, back to the crime.  Despite her protests Sherlock gets himself involved in solving the crime, and he is able to do so, by observing some of the details that Joan missed. Even Kitty helps out by pointing out things that don't hold up to her.  We now have the hitman and said hitman is the tie that brings Elana to justice.  As for why Holmes is back, he tells Joan, "Isn't it obvious?  I belong here, as you do?"

Enough Nemesis to Go Around has Elementary's signature balance of odd crime and character development.  What I really thought the episode did well was show in brief bits both how far Joan has grown as a detective and woman but also show that despite her own brilliance, she is not on the same level as Sherlock Holmes yet.  We saw this in how in her own bits of investigating, she put things together really quickly.  Liu also had a great scene when she finally meets Kitty (whom she at first thinks is working for Elana).  Both break out the single-sticks, and their fight is both strong and amusing. 

It's here though, that Joan realizes that Kitty isn't working for Elana but for Sherlock.

We also see how Joan's relationship with Andrew has come along, skipping straight from the first meeting to a solid romance.  For full disclosure, at this moment I've seen only three episodes, so I don't know how far the relationship will go (though I got indications of where it will ultimately end), but I'm interested to see how it comes along and how things are handled.

I thought that Holmes' return was handled extremely well.  We get a bit of wacky comedy (he's in an oxygen mask!) but we see that those around him aren't welcoming him with open arms and big smiles.  Far from it, Joan is quite clear where she stands.  "I didn't need you anymore," she tells him, quoting from the five-sentence long farewell note he left her.  Gregson for his part tells Holmes he isn't his friend, stating it was always a working relationship (though I suspect the good captain is lying, either to him or himself).  "It was a difficult time.  I was thinking of no one but myself," Holmes tells Captain Gregson. "Must have been a day that ended in 'Y'," Gregson retorts. 

Miller for his part brings something we don't see in many interpretations of Holmes: a genuine sense of vulnerability and regret.  He is fully aware that his actions have angered and upset people, and in his own clumsy but still somewhat narcissistic way he is trying to make amends and get into their good graces.  The best way of course is to show he still has great skills, and here Miller shows the intelligence of Holmes by working out a solution to the problem.  Like a lot of Elementary, the actual solution is a little grandiose, but we forgive that because these kinds of 'locked room' murders can be tricky.

We also get two good guest stars.  Gershon revels in being evil and controlling, almost always one step ahead of everyone.  Lovibond (as a side note, both the actress and character's name make me think of a Bond Girl) is appropriately standoffish as Kitty.  She is barely starting out, so I think she will grow in importance as a wedge between Holmes and Watson.  Her scenes with JLM are some of my favorites. 

Holmes is incensed that Kitty pursued unauthorized surveillance of his former partner.  When Kitty says she wants to know what Watson has that she doesn't, he replies "What she has is two years of training, two years of doing exactly what I said."  When she apologizes, he tells her, "Don't be sorry.  Be better." 

Words to live by I think.

Enough Nemesis to Go Around I think is a pretty strong start to the season.  We got a strange case, a wicked villain, and strong interplay between three characters who will be colliding throughout the season.    

Best Served Cold...


Next Episode: The Five Orange Pipz

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Oscar Goes to the Birds

Julianne Moore:
Best Actress for Still Alice
PART 1: 2015

The 87th Academy Awards went pretty much like they were expected to.  Most of the winners were predestined after the lengthy award season, with only three being a two-horse competition.  We had our share of predictable politicizing of the event (seriously, can we ever get away from rich white women lecturing the rest of us about how they aren't paid enough), and some remarkably moving moments.

Unlike other years I won't submit an alternate list merely because I haven't completed it (hence the Part 1), but I'll get around to it...eventually.  This year we had all four acting winners be first-time winners and only one was not a first-time nominee.  We also had no acting winners for the Best Picture and all four acting winners came from four different films.  We also had two films 'dominate' with four Oscars each (Birdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel) and only one other scoring more than one Oscar (Whiplash's three).  Every other film snagged only one Oscar, despite having multiple nominations. 


We Want A Raise!

Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)
Laura Dern (Wild)
Keira Knightley (The Imitation Game)
Emma Stone (Birdman)
Meryl Streep (Into the Woods)

Poor Meryl.  She can't make it on $10 million dollars. 

According to Forbes Magazine, this is her estimated earnings as of June 2014.  If IMDB is to be believed, her work in Into the Woods earned her a mere $1,500,000.  I will have a Master's (God-willing) by the end of the year, and I'm a man.  However, I don't think I will make $1,500,000 for five month's work (from rehearsals to completion).  Yet there she and J. Lo (she of the numerous financial/critical bombs and the $17,500,000 salary for the sinking American Idol) were, cheering Arquette on as the winner went all Vanessa Redgrave on us to tell us there needs to be wage equality. 

I should remind Jenny From the Block that she made $12,000,000 for Gigli.

If she were fair, she'd give that money to everyone who paid to watch her turd of a film.  NO ONE DESERVES $12,000,000 for something like Gigli...except the audience. 

The obvious question is, 'are these people crazy or merely stupid?'  ALL the top nominees get a gift bag valued at $168,000.  Again, let me remind the underpaid Streep, Lopez, and Arquette, those gift bags are more than my ANNUAL salary (currently at $19,000...and that's considering I got a raise this year).  You get some astrology sessions, Italian vacations, and a choo-choo ride through the mountains. 

I take Greyhound and Southwest when I can afford the luxury.

The little swag bag you all took home is the equivalent of about NINE BLOODY YEARS SALARY FOR ME!!!  And you still think you don't get paid ENOUGH?!

Now, in fairness to Arquette, the more I think on it the more I think she has a point.  Women are Hollywood.  It was revealed that Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams made less money than their male costars in American Hustle (no irony there).  I would argue that Arquette should take the plank from Hollywood's eye before dealing with the speck in America's.  I tweeted to her saying that "Physicians, heal thyself", to which I don't expect a reply (and realize it is grammatically incorrect, but there it is).  However, while Arquette I think is on the right track (wage disparity in the entertainment industry) she went about it the wrong way by suggesting it is a nationwide problem.

No, Patty, it's a Hollywood problem.  And don't get me started on how Hollywood is really a very racist industry.   #OscarsSoWhite...


Let It Go, Let It Go...

Robert Duvall (The Judge)
Ethan Hawke (Boyhood)
Edward Norton (Birdman)
Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher)
J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)

No surprise here, and a well-deserved Oscar for Simmons' titanic performance as the sadistic music instructor.   Here though, we saw why Neal Patrick Harris, host du jour, has been getting mixed reviews for what many people thought would be a slam-dunk. 

As part of a boring running gag about his 'predictions bag', he asked Oscar winner Octavia Spenser to watch the bag.  Spenser was game, but then came an odd moment when NPH asked Robert Duvall, who was sitting next to her, to watch her or the bag should she not be able to.  Duvall looked uninterested in going along with the gag.  At this point, NPH turned to Eddie Redmayne and asked HIM to wake Duvall up in case he dozed off...because of course, that's what all old people do.

Duvall looked like he was close to recreating a scene from Whiplash and beat the crap out of our jolly fellow.  It would have perked up the show to say the least. 


Marion Cotillard (Two Days, One Night)
Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything)
Julianne Moore (Still Alice)
Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl)
Reese Witherspoon (Wild)

Again, another sign that our beloved NPH is not infallible (unlike the Pope). 

When he made that "with her own spoon" joke, the audiences (in the theater and at home) were left scratching their heads.  "What?"  It was a frightful pun that crashed almost as bad as when he got David Oyelowo to try a joke that Oyelowo on-air made clear wasn't funny.  Oyelowo showed that he is a.) a better actor than Harris, b.) smarter than Harris, c.) a better judge of material than Harris, d.) not as eager to please as Harris, and e.) I think a better host than Harris. 

Really that whole bit with Oyelowo was bad, just flat-out bad.  Yes, the material was bad, but maybe a little rehearsing would help. 

Oh right, Best Actress.  Again, two previous winners,  two first-time nominees and Moore, the perennial bridesmaid.  Not any-Moore.  She won, she deserved to win, and I for one am so happy that an extremely talented actress finally got the recognition she deserved.

OK's a name for you: Amy Adams.    


Steve Carell (Foxcatcher)
Bradley Cooper (American Sniper)
Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game)
Michael Keaton (Birdman)
Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything)

The wrong guy won. 

The actual winner reminded me of a little boy who just heard they brought ice cream home.  The winner I think gave the fourth best (impersonation) of the nominees.  Only Michael Scott's turn as Oswald Cobblepot, Sr. I think was worse.

The winner won because he hit the Trifecta of Best Actor Oscar winners. 

He is British.
He played a real-life person.
He played a disabled person.

That is how a man wins Oscars.  I've written extensively about Oscar's fixation with biopics, and the winner I think knew this. 

The winner's name will not be spoke here.  The wounds are still too raw to see that two of the three Cs and one K were robbed by that chirping little boy.

Well, the Academy is entitled to a few mistakes.  Call this year's Best Actor winner one of their bigger ones.

Really Steve, you thought YOU'D win?


Alejandro G. Inarritu (Birdman)
Richard Linklater (Boyhood)
Bennett Miller (Foxcatcher)
Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel)
Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game)

I sometimes wonder whether the Academy members watch what they nominate.  I thought The Imitation Game was badly structured, and its Best Adapted Screenplay win puzzling.  For all the hoopla about Turing's homosexuality his sex life was practically irrelevant to the film.  So why go on about 'staying weird'?  However, here we saw two things.

Wes Anderson's style of quirk finally getting some love, as his film wins four Oscars (though I think he should have won Original Screenplay over the actual winner) and Linklater being rejected.  Boyhood had six nominations but could get only one win (which was completely expected).  I guess twelve years in the making didn't quite make it to the Academy. 


American Sniper
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
The Theory of Everything

It certainly was one for the record books.  Whiplash stunned with a Best Film Editing Oscar for two reasons.  One: Boyhood was the odds-on favorite, and two: the Best Film Editing Oscar and Best Picture usually align.   Of course, no one thought Whiplash had a snowball's chance of winning Best Picture, but this should have been a signal that the Academy had grown tired of Boyhood.  I guess after Hour 15 when the main character was learning to tie his shoe the viewer thought the critical praise was enough.

Then again, Birdman didn't get a Best Film Editing nomination, and now it becomes the first Best Picture winner to not be nominated for Film Editing since Ordinary People, thirty four years ago.  That's how often Film Editing and Picture went together. 

It really was a fight between two films: Boyhood and Birdman, which is a bit of a shame because Selma, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Whiplash, and American Sniper I think were all better.  The Imitation Game was not bad but nothing I was crazy about, and I detested The Theory of Everything.   Why these two films were the frontrunners I don't know.  I can't bring myself to watch Boyhood.  Maybe it's as good as everyone says, but seeing three hours of a boy's life seems like torture.  Birdman was well-crafted, but I thought rather weird.  It's too soon to say whether either will be up there with Casablanca or Lawrence of Arabia or will be more Around the World in 80 Days and Cavalcade, but I can't imagine people flocking to see either the way they do the first two. 

NPH shows us why #OscarsSoWhite...

As for the host himself, bless Doogie Howser.  He tried his best, but he wasn't as perky and gleefully impish as he usually is with either the Emmys or Tonys.  I think it has to do with the fact that he is a television and Broadway star, but not a major film draw.  This isn't like Ellen DeGeneres, whom people see every day.  This isn't though, as bad as Seth MacFarlane, whom we never see on television and who lived out his fantasy of doing a live-action Family Guy

I'm not going to pile on NPH for making a dress joke after Dana Perry, Best Documentary Short winner for Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1, mentions her son who committed suicide.  He just wasn't listening to the winners of these "second-tier" categories.  Instead, I figure he was backstage trying to come up with some quip with his scribes and totally ignore what was going on onstage.  As such, as she was honoring her dead child, he was focusing on mocking her wardrobe.  Here was someone discussing the very serious issue of suicide, both of veterans and her own son, and the only thing he thinks of is her rather questionable dress?

Really, Barney...

I imagine this does suggest NPH wasn't really involved in the proceedings.  He wasn't fully engaged, and this is why I think he was a bit off his game.  He tried to tell bad jokes and terrible puns which would have embarrassed a Borscht Belt comic, and he left the theater at times silent (and I figure in Robert Duvall's case, groaning). 

Apart from the Moving Pictures number (which was the way Oscar opening numbers should be: short and well-crafted) and Lady Gaga's amazing Sound of Music medley (which I figure must have shocked millions into remembering she can actually sing), can anyone really remember anything good about Harris' hosting? 

Again it wasn't disastrous like James Franco/Anne Hathaway, but if he wants to come back, he might want to up his improvisation skills.   I for one believe in redemption, so I wouldn't object if NPH wanted to give it another crack.

Can't be as bad as his Predictions Gag.    

The Librarian: Quest for the Spear Review


Now that The Librarians television series has ended for the season (and in my view, gone rather fast), I think it would be nice to go back to the very beginning of our franchise.  The Librarian: Quest for the Spear is the first of three television movies that spawned a new franchise.   I think that when it first aired, no one really thought Quest for the Spear was anything other than a goofy TV movie, a lighthearted romp.  I don't think anyone either in front or behind the scenes thought it would spawn a franchise, let alone a successful television series (one that will have a Season Two, to my great delight). Otherwise, we wouldn't have had the rush and quick disposal of characters we got here.  Still, while Quest for the Spear is by no means great television, its own self-awareness, coupled with a delightfully comedic turn from Noah Wyle, sells Quest for the Spear to being much better than perhaps it should have been.

Normally, this is where I give a plot summary (which is always rather long).  However, in this case I decided to write down verbatim the back cover since I think it is a far better capsule than my own.  Don't worry though...I'll add my own thoughts too.

To be a librarian, you must master the Dewey Decimal System, ace internet research and, if you're new librarian Flynn Carsen (Noah Wyle), save the world! (Emphasis theirs). Wyle (ER) heads a sterling cast in a fun, fantastical, special effects-laden adventure that soars around the world from the Metropolitan Library to the Amazon jungle to the Himalayas.  Geeky Carsen lands a job as the Librarian, keeper of such top-secret Met treasures as Excalibur and Pandora's Box.  Then the Serpent Brotherhood, seeking world domination, steals one of three parts of the magical Spear of Destiny from the library.  Only Flynn, aided by a gorgeous bodyguard, (emphasis mine) has the knowhow to thwart their plan.  But does he know how to be a hero?  He will--even if he has to gouge, kick, punch, brave Mayan death traps and plunge off icy precipices every inch of the way! 

Young Flynn Carsen (Wyle) has been at school for many, many years.  With 22 degrees overall it looks like Flynn is a professional student, unwilling or unable to face the outside world.  His Egyptology professor (the fourth one I think), has decided to pass him and let Flynn experience 'the outside world'.  Despite being around 34 he still lives at home and his mother Margie (Olympia Dukakis) worries he'll never marry or find a job. 

Needing a job, he accepts a mysterious invitation to interview at the Metropolitan Public Library.  There are many applicants, but Flynn's Sherlock Holmes-type deductions about interviewer Charlene (Jane Curtin) impress her enough to hire him.  Flynn is obviously happy, but confused as to why something like a library requires so much security.  His mentor, Judson (Bob Newhart) informs him that this library holds a very special collection...things like the actual Ark of the Covenant and the Golden Goose.

Barely a day on the job, and Flynn is thrust into a most unlikely adventure: having to recover one of the pieces of the Spear of Destiny, the fabled lance that pierced the side of Christ and which united with the other two pieces, would leave the world vulnerable to worldwide domination.  With that, he is sent to the Amazon to find the second piece, hidden deep within a Mayan temple (which is odd since as far as I know, the Maya weren't in the deepest, darkest Peru, but I digress).  Unbeknown to him, the Serpent Brotherhood, a splinter group of scholars who want to rule rather than merely collect mythical artifacts, is pursuing the new Librarian.  Flynn, however, has a secret Guardian, Nicole Noone (Sonya Walger), who protects him from the Brotherhood...and his own ineptness.

They do get the second piece, but the Brotherhood has tracked them down.  Their head is Edward Wilde (Kyle MacLachlan), the former Librarian who faked his death and joined the Brotherhood.  Edward and his henchwoman Lana (Kelly Hu) cannot kill Flynn, for he is the only person who can speak the Language of the Birds, the common tongue to all men prior to the Tower of Babel which will lead them to the third and final piece of the Spear.  Flynn, however, won't do anything unless Nicole's life is spared, so with that done, it's off to the Himalayas and Shangri-La.

There, the third piece is found, and it looks like after a night of seduction, Nicole has turned traitor.  However, we find that she has been abducted and taken to the museum where Flynn last studied, where an evil ceremony uniting the three pieces of the Spear of Destiny will take place.  With only Judson to help him, Flynn Carsen, Librarian, must save the world.

My thinking is that when The Librarian: Quest for the Spear was made, no one thought anything of it.  As such, we could have a really broad manner and a rushed story zipping right by.  I don't hold that against Quest for the Spear though, for I think pretty much everyone was in on the joke.  Flynn has a flair for comedy that is unexpected.  With a youthful open face and great physical dexterity, Wyle is believable as both a bookish man and a reluctant action star.

Certainly Wyle was, and it's nice to see him play goofy and play it so well.  Flynn is openly clueless about everything except knowledge, someone who knows a lot but knows very little as well. He isn't dumb: he figured out a great deal about people by mere observation and his knowledge of minutiae.  However, he also has a generally sweet and clueless manner that makes his all the more lovable.

As he goes around the world we see that in some ways Flynn is thoroughly clueless.  "I've been cahooted," he tells Judson when he finds Nicole has disappeared along with the third piece of the Spear.  When he's asked how he knows his professor is evil, Flynn replies "He gave me an A-". Managing to say that with a straight face makes it all the more endearing.  In his discovery of the Library as the repository of mythical artifacts and in his dealings with the women his mother sets him up with.

There is no shame in saying that The Librarian was meant to be a comic adventure.  The scene in the Mayan temple where to avoid the various booby-traps, Flynn and Nicole have to waltz across the danger is highly amusing. I'd argue that the whole point of the film is to not take it seriously, to have a lighthearted romp where the lead is goofy, the villain camp, the supporting class a bit clueless.

Of particular note is Hu's Lana, who mistakes Flynn's various survivals as a sign of his great stealth and cunning, rather than mere accidents and good luck. In how she seems enamored of Flynn's 'skills' she brings more comedy, something I think Hu isn't known for.  MacLachlan has fun vamping it up to the Nth degree, but we forgive how he's over-the-top because a.) villains are suppose to be over-the-top, and b.) he isn't given much time to develop the character.

That perhaps is Quest for the Spear's greatest flaw: its rushed manner.  Everything was speeding at us that we rarely had time to pause and wonder about the Serpent Brotherhood, how Edward faked his death, how the Librarians didn't know he had faked his death, how the Brotherhood caught up to Flynn and Nicole.  They didn't have much time, granted, so it's not a killer.

The Librarian: Quest for the Spear, has a great self-awareness.  When he's told the fate of the world is in his hands, Flynn wipes a tear and says, "How...sad."  A mixture of comedy and action, where goofy and adventure balance pretty well make things light and amusing.  Being bookish has never been this much gleefully silly...


Next Librarian Movie: The Librarian: Return to King Solomon's Mines

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Down With Big Hollywood

I'm just going to rant a bit. 

I used to have a link to Big Hollywood, a website that covered entertainment with an admittedly rightist slant.

I have as of today disassociated myself from Big Hollywood because the site itself caused major headaches to my laptop.

They are a very ad-heavy site, and most recently selecting the link led me to be asked to download I think Adobe.  Well, like a fool I did so, and from that sprang adware taking over and making it impossible to do anything on my machine.

Once again I was forced to set the laptop to factory default, and once again I lost my Microsoft Office.

This is the second time this particular site has caused me problems on my machine, and now I had it. 

It's bad enough not being able to read anything there because some frightful ad pops up, but now I've had this hoopla connected with it AGAIN!

I won't have it.

As a result, Big Hollywood is permanently off this site.  I also fired off a tweet to @bighollywood to let them know I don't appreciate this.

Well, there's my rant.  I managed to get my machine working again, and as for my Microsoft Office, well, I'm not sure.  Maybe when I restart...for the tenth time.

I can say that Big Hollywood led me to "the proxy server is not responding", and nothing I did could get that working again.  I had to go to extreme measures, which I didn't want to take, but there it is.

I'll never go back there again and urge everyone to ignore it altogether.

Thank you.