Tag Archive: Drama


Review: Fringe

TV-14, Fox, Season 1 and 2 available on DVD, Season 3 premiered September 23 2010.

Created by J.J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci. Starring: Anna Torv, John Noble, Joshua Jackson, Lance Reddick.

FRINGE is a mind numbing, time bending and thrilling new television show from J.J. Abrams the creator of Lost and Alias. His involvement alone, made me want to check this show out.  However, I only got round to it recently and as soon as I did I was hooked in. I’ve caught up on Season 1 and 2 (all 45 episodes), to make it just in time for the Season 3 premiere on September 23 2010. There were Losties so now I guess there are Fringies!

The show follows the exploits of special agent Olivia Dunham (newcomer Anna Torv who is a real find here), Mad Scientist Walter Bishop, (John Noble who brings a fantastic blend of tongue in cheek humor to the show) and his son, Jack of all trades, Peter Bishop, (played solidly by Joshua Jackson).

This team is part of an FBI “Fringe” Division based in Boston Massachusetts under the supervision of Homeland Security. The team uses unorthodox “Fringe” science and FBI investigative techniques to investigate a series of unexplained, often ghastly occurrences that are happening all over the world.

This show is like a hybrid of The X Files and The Twilight Zone–which I say as a compliment since both shows are classics of the 80s and 90s respectively.

While Fringe has a very definite overall plot which unravels slowly as each episode plays out, what is convenient about this show, is that you do not necessarily have to follow every single episode in sequence in order to know what is going on and enjoy it. Each episode starts with a specific mystery and ends with them solving it. My recommendation of course would be to stick with it through to the end as there are plenty of twists and turns here thus far to keep you on the edge of your seat.

I have to mention, that what kept me watching this show the most is the beautiful Australian actress Anna Torv, who plays the lead role. This is her first major feature and not only does she illuminate the screen–she owns it. I’ll be keeping my eye on her for the duration of Fringe and beyond.

In the meantime, I’m just happy to get my weekly dosage of Fringe. A show that although is not a fully satisfying replacement for Lost just yet–is still thoroughly original and entertaining nevertheless. 4/5 stars.

Review: Glee

TV-PG. Fox. Season 1, 22 episodes. Season 2 release date: September 21 2010.

Created by and written by Ryan Murphey. Cast: Dianna Agron, Chris Colfer, Jessalyn Gilsig, Jane Lynch, Jamya Mays, Kevin Mchale, Lea Michele, Cory Monteith, Matthew Morrison, Amber Riley, Mark Salling, Jenna Ushkowitz.

Glee is a musical comedy-drama that focuses on a high school show choir , (a modern day glee club) called “New Directions”, at the fictional Mckinley High School in Lima, Ohio.  The show just completed it’s first season, with season 2 starting off again on September 21st 2010.

Now this is one of those shows that honestly I would never have had much interest in watching. I like music, but a bunch of guys singing and prancing about is not necessarily how I entertain myself. That said, I kept reading rave reviews about this show and then saw it piling up on award nominations and finally going on to win the Golden Globe for Best New Television Series.

So this got me really curious, but I still held out. In the meantime, Glee’s popularity continued to escalate with its ratings  and viewership almost doubling.

Finally, I just had to see what all the hype was and honestly I am glad I did. I will not say that this show is the greatest thing on TV by any stretch of the imagination, but what I will say is it is pure feel good entertainment.

The story centers around Will Shuester (Matthew Morrison), a spanish teacher who takes over as the glee club coach with hopes to restore it back to it’s former glory. There are 12 main characters in the show, all of which have their own story lines. The stand outs are Rachel Berry (Lea Michele),  the snooty but talented star of the glee club, Finn Hudson (Cory Monteith), the star quarterback who risks alienation from his school mates to join the glee club and Kurt Hummel (Chris Colfer), who plays a gay male soprano with flare.  All the other characters do a fine job, but these are the ones who I felt the most invested in and who really got underneath their characters skin.

And then of course there is Sue Sylvester, (played by the hilarious Jane Lynch), who won a well deserved Golden Globe for her supporting role as the coach of the “Cheerio’s” cheerleading squad and arch-nemesis to the glee club. She plays her role with so much relish, it’s just fun to watch.

While the show has it’s comical moments, I will admit that this is a truly heart warming show, where you find yourself really rooting for the underdogs to succeed. The show is also good at surprising you; one moment there is a corny and predictable scene and you think you know where it is heading, but then it goes a completely different direction.

The other thing that makes this show a real hit is of course its musical numbers. It is no surprise that the creators spent months of research looking for the best performers at broadway to cast this show.  There is some incredible talent from all involved but again the stand outs for me were Matthew Morrison and Lea Michele.

So many covers are done such as Rolling Stones “You Can’t Always Get What you Want”, Queens “Bohemian Rhapsody”, Van Halens “Jump” and even a whole episode dedicated to Madonna and Lady Gaga. The numbers are performed with flare and are very entertaining to watch.

Yes sometimes the acting is cheesy, but there are times when it is also very good and even intense. Besides, the show succeeds in the best way possible: it warms your heart and makes you want to sing and dance. Anyone who has a problem with that, is just a party pooper. 4/5 stars.

Movie Review: The Switch

PG-13, Mirimax Films, 101 Minutes.

Directed by Josh Gordon, Will Speck. Cast: Jason Bateman, Jennifer Aniston, Jeff Goldblum, Juliette Lewis, Patrick Wilson.

The Switch is not what it seems. The trailer makes it look like another romantic comedy. But truthfully this film is not that funny at all.  It’s more of an adult dramedy and overall is slow and has several plot faults. That said, there is still something here that makes it watchable.

The premise is a simple one: Wally (Jason Bateman) and Kassie (Jennifer Aniston) are platonic best friends. Worried about her age she announces that she is going to have a baby through a sperm donor. Wally objects as he has always secretly been in love with her, but he doesn’t have the courage to say it.  Patrick Wilson plays the sperm donor, who is a married man at the time of the donation.  At a party celebrating this occasion, Wally gets hammered and in a drunken haze, he switches his own sperm with the original. Kassie then gets a job out of state and moves away and neither of them really stay in touch much.

Cue 7 years later. Kassie moves back to New York with her 6 year old son Sebastian (played by the adorable Thomas Robinson) in tow, who just so happens to exhibit the same mannerisms as Wallie, because he is in fact his son. The sperm donor comes back into Kassie’s life too, who happens to no longer be married.

What happens next is quite predictable, but even so I found myself willing to continue watching and was even pleasantly moved by a few scenes.

This is ultimately Jason Bateman’s film, who offers a subtle and touching performance. The moments where he bonds with his son and how he handles his own insecurities are very real and something you can actually relate to. I have nothing against Jennifer Anistion (who I loved in Friends) , its just she keeps being typecast  in the same role, and i’ve grown tired of it.

The film is given an extra boost by supporting roles from Jeff Goldblum and Juliette Lewis (both brilliant and underrated actors in my opinion), as Wally’s and Kassie’s respective best friends, who have some of the films best lines.

If you want laughs then I don’t recommend The Switch, but if you DO want to see Jason Bateman in top form and watch a sweet and touching movie made for adults, then this is worth the trip to the cinema. 2/5 stars.

MY TOP DRAMA FILMS

Seriously, when you actually sit down to make a list like this, you start to realize how many amazing movies there are out there. You feel guilty that you’re gonna miss something out! Well, I think i’ve done my best on this one. Feel free to shout out any obvious misses on my part.  Here is my list of best dramas:

1. Shawshank Redemption (1994)

2. Dead Poets Society (1989)

3. The Truman Show (1998)

4. Good Will Hunting (1997)

5. Into The Wild (2008)

6. One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest (1975)

7. Magnolia (1999)

8. Rain Man (1988)

9. The Breakfast Club (1984)

10. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless mind (2004)

11. Dead Man Walking (1995)

12. American History X (1998)

13. Trainspotting (1996)

14. Mystic River (2003)

15. Philadelphia (1993)

16. Forrest Gump (1994)

17. Chasing Amy (1997)

18. Scent of a Women (1992)

19. Half Nelson (2007)

20. Big Fish (2003)

PG-13, 148 minutes

Warner Bros. Director: Christopher Nolan, Cast: Leonardo Dicaprio, Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, Ken Watanabe, Cillian Murphy and Marion Cotillard.

Inception is a mind bending roller-coaster of a movie that reminded me of the groundbreaking special effects and originality of The Matrix when it was first released in 1999. I won’t say that this is a better film but I will say that is a far more complex and intelligent one for sure.

A review after just one viewing of this film probably does not do it justice as this is a film that deserves to be watched over and over. What is clear is this: Leonardo Dicaprio plays Dom Cobb a thief-for-hire who has the ability to enter peoples minds and extract information from them while they are sleeping.  The opening sequence gives us a taste of this form of dream invasion and is a thrilling spectacle, yet it is just the tip of the iceberg for what is about to come.

Cobb is hired by a japanese businessman called Saito (Ken Watanabe) to break up a rivals business empire through the use of “inception”,  a very dangerous method of implanting an idea in the mind of another rather than just stealing it. Cobb just wants to go home to his kids but he agrees to do this as his last job, so he forms a dream team: Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) his regular “Point Man”,  Ariadne (a fantastic Ellen Page) the “Architect” who can design the world within the dream and Eedie (a stand out Tom Hardy), the “Forger” who has the ability to morph into other peoples identities in the dream world. Their target is Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy, also a stand out here) , the son of the ailing energy tycoon that Saito is in conflict with.

What ensues is a breathtaking spectacle of special effects, mystery, suspense and non-stop action as they go deeper and deeper into one another’s subconscious. We see Ariadne folding a city onto itself just because she can. There’s also a fight sequence in mid air, involving Arthur and an attacker which is a direct shout out to The Matrix.

Inception can get a little hard to follow at times, but this only makes it more captivating to watch every scene as the film unfolds. To add even more complexity to the storyline, Cobb has a secret of his own concerning his beautiful and haunting wife (a chilling Marion Cotillard), who keeps showing up in his own subconscious mind while he is on the job and attempting to sabotage him. The reason why is just all part of the mystery.

Dicaprio delivers another solid performance here and is backed up by a terrific supporting cast. Michael Caine also has a small role as Cobbs father in law, but is under-used.

However, the real genius behind Inception is Christopher Nolan, who wrote the screenplay in addition to directing it. His breakthrough film, “Memento” was a head turning mystery which looks pale in comparison to the rich texture and complexity of Inception. This is a movie about the layering of dreams within dreams where you never really know what is reality and what is not and that is exactly where the film leaves you. In my opinion, this is the best movie of the year so far, hands down.  5/5 stars

Best in Television: LOST!

Season 1-6, 121 episodes, September 22 2004–May 23 2010

ABC Studios, Bad Robot Productions

Created by J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof, Carlton Cuse.  Directed by John Bender and many others.

Cast:  Matthew Fox, Evangeline Lilly, Josh Holloway, Naveen Andrews, Henry Ian Cusack, Emile De Ravin, Michael Emerson, Jorge Garcia, Daniel Dae Kim, Yunjin Kim, Dominic Monaghan, Terry O Quinn, Elizabeth Mitchell, Jeremy Davis.

Music: Michael Ciacchino

Yes, I am a huge fan of Lost, or a “Lostie” as people like to call it. To try and describe a show like this is actually a tough job. It really is. For other “Losties” out there, I know they understand. This is a show that transports you into a whole different world and gets you so involved with the characters and what is going on, you literally feel like you are there with them.

This is a show that is part drama, part mystery, part adventure, part fantasy and part Science Fiction. It involves so many different characters and so many different plot threads, you truly do get LOST. That is the fun of it. You’re always wondering what the heck is going on. But you care enough to stick with it through to the end.

That’s what  I did. For all Six Seasons of this remarkable television show. When it started in Sept 2004 it was an immediate success both with viewers and critics. Almost 16 million viewers tuned in to watch the first season and although viewership did decrease over the years, there were still 11 million viewers by Season 6’s finale.  LOST! was consistently hailed by US Critics to be one of the top 5 TV shows of the year over the duration that it was on the air. The show has won numerous awards including an Emmy Award for Best Outstanding Drama Series in 2005 and a Golden Globe for the same title in 2006.

Lost was filmed in its entirety in the beautiful backdrop of Oahu, Hawaii.

So, to describe the show itself?

Oceanic Flight 815 from Sydney to Los Angeles crashes on an unknown island. The survivors all gather together and wait for rescue, but it soon becomes apparent that nobody is coming. There are so many central characters with their own story lines that it would take too much to write it here, but I will cover the most important ones. Jack Shephard is a doctor with a penchant for “fixing things” and  is the hero of the show. The first episode begins with Jack opening his eyes on the island where they crashed. Kate (Evangeline Lilly) is a fugitive who was being transported to prison when the plane crashed. Sawyer (Josh Holloway) is a con-artist with a secret of his own, who throughout the show becomes a very popular character. There is a love triangle involving these central characters that goes back and forth for the duration of the show.

Then there is John Locke (Terry O Quinn) a man who was in a wheelchair before he arrived on the island, but now can walk. Due to this he believes fate brought them to the island and that they are there for a reason. Hurley (Jorge Garcia) is the overweight lovable dude who brings most of the comic relief to the show. He also won 21 million dollars using numbers that appear on a hatch that they find in season 1 and which appear throughout the rest of the show as a central mystery. There’s Claire (Emile De Raven) the pregnant teenager who falls in love with Charlie (Dominic Monaghan) the former rockstar and heroin junkie. Sayid, (Naveen Andrews) the bad-ass who used to be in the Iraqi Military and Sun (Daniel Day Kim) and Jin (Yunjin Kim) an estranged couple who find love again on the island.

With the very first episode you are hooked in with the characters and the mystery surrounding the island. The plane was ripped apart but somehow they survived. There appears to be some sort of “monster” on the island. A polar bear attacks them — on a tropical island. They discover a recording by a french lady which has been playing on a loop for 16 years. As Charlie says, you wonder: “Where are they”?

The story of the show is told in several different ways. There is the continuing story line on the island itself and all the mysteries that unfold while they are there. Then there are flashbacks which tell you the story of each character before they got to the island. By the end of Season 3, that all changes and an entirely different direction is taken in the shows storyline. I’m not going to spoil that one for you. Watch it and find out for yourself.

While the survivors are on the island they become threatened by the mysterious “Others”, a group of apparent natives who already inhabit the island.  Notable characters from the Others are Benjamin Linus (Michael Emerson) who is pitch perfect as the deliciously sly leader and Juliet (Elizabeth Mitchell), a fertility doctor who is on the island reluctantly and gets involved with both Jack and Sawyer.  There is also a man called Desmond (Henry Ian Cusack), who has been living in the hatch for 4 years, typing in numbers so as to “save the world”.

As the show propelled toward its finale I will proudly admit that I was completely obsessed. I had watched all previous seasons 3 times through to try and dissect and decipher all the various mythology and mysteries that the show had to offer.  Now there may have been some disappointment from fans that not all of the mysteries were solved. Yes, this may be true. However, all of the relevant ones were tied up and more importantly is that the show went back to the characters themselves. What resulted was the single most powerful and moving finale for a television series that I have ever watched.  I Don’t think the creators could have done a better job of wrapping everything up.

A true phenomenon was created with LOST! in 2004. Watch this series from beginning to end and you will know why.

LOST! The full collection will be released on DVD August 24 2010. 5/5 stars.

PG-13. Jaden Smith, Jackie Chan.

Firstly, being the pop culture junkie that I am, I have seen the original version from 1984 with Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita about 50 times if not more. It remains a classic and cannot and will not ever be replaced.

That said, this is a fresh and exciting new take on the Karate Kid. The film is not without flaws, yet catches your attention from the start and keeps you hooked until the climatic fight scenes at the end.

The script is very similar to the original with the main changes being that the backdrop for the movie is China.

Jaden Smith proves to be an effective leading man even at such a young age. He takes the role of “Daniel San” from Ralph Macchio and makes it his own with a mixture of smooth cool and fuzzy adorability. Having  just moved to China, he is the new kid on the block and soon enough is targeted by a group of bullies. The fight scenes are not child’s play and I honestly found it hard to watch Jaden Smith get pummeled by a 12 year old Bruce Lee psychopath.

Of course, “Mr Miyagi” is filled in by the more than  adequate Jackie Chan, who brings more depth and emotion to his character than I had expected. He comes to save “Daniel San” from a particular nasty beating and then embarks upon training the young boy in the arts of kung-fu so he can protect himself. Somehow they get away with keeping the title “The Karate Kid” by making a plug about the contradiction in the film itself.  The film is so much fun that is does not bother you anyway.

A series of intense training exercises ensue where “Daniel San” is taught the way of kung fu. While this is all happening there is a sub plot involving a romance between the young boy and a pretty chinese girl that he meets.  A particularly amusing scene involves a dance contest between them both, where they get to show off some moves. The girl ends up getting the upper hand with a somewhat suggestive dance that she does to a Lady Gaga song.

It all plods along well enough and keeps you entertained, but then the real action begins. The last 10 minutes of the film is by far the best. “Daniel San” enters the tournament to compete against his rivals and prove his strength. These fight sequences are nothing short of thrilling. We see 11 year old kids whizzing about the mat doing all kinds of extraordinary martial arts. It truly does keep you on the edge of your seat and you are rooting for “Daniel San” to kick some serious butt!

Another revamped franchise has been born as well as a rising star called Jaden Smith. You can expect “Karate Kid II” in theaters soon enough.  I know i’ll be standing in line to see it.  4/5 stars