Archive for the ‘Drama’ Category

The Crown: Season 2 (trailer)

August 16, 2017

The magnificent Netflix British television series, The Crown continues into the 1960’s with the reign of Elizabeth II. Watch the trailer on YouTube.

Read Reel Charlie’s review of The Crown: Season 1.

Transparent: Season 3 (take 2)

August 15, 2017

Click on the image below to read Reel Charlie’s updated review of the splendorous Amazon Prime original series Transparent.

Prison Break: Event Series

August 9, 2017

A lot has changed in the twelve years since Prison Break premiered on Fox in 2005. American television kept climbing until the best industry people take time to create phenomenal series truly elevating the medium to an art form. Which makes it more and more difficult for me to watch mediocrity. I loved the escapist comfort food of Prison Break back in the day. The series took me out of my world and allowed me to spend time… well if truth be told, I spent time fantasizing about a threesome with Dominic Purcell and Wentworth Miller. Fast-forward 12 years. Dominic Purcell is still broodingly masculine. Wentworth Miller got a little closer to my reality by coming out of the closet. And my taste in television got a lot more sophisticated thanks to the dearth of outstanding choices from streaming services, premium cable channels and even a few broadcast shows. Too bad the new incarnation of Prison Break just doesn’t hold my attention. Dominic and Wentworth are still sexy as all hell. But I need my eye candy with a sophisticated plot and outstanding writing. Golden Age of Television: you’ve spoiled me for the pretty boys. 2.5 out of 5. Next.

Transparent: Season 2 (take 2)

August 8, 2017

Reel Charlie continues a second look at Maura Pfefferman and family in Amazon Prime’s exquisite Transparent. Click on the image below for an updated review of Transparent: Season 2.

Big Little Lies

August 8, 2017

HBO’s limited series, Big Little Lies based on the Liane Moriarty book packs a powerhouse of acting punch to the already crowded room of outstanding American television series. I have to say I was hesitant about wrapping myself up in a world so similar to the one I live in. Think of me being the male librarian background character who sees Shailene Woodley’s Jane on a semi-regular basis – Jane being the only character who doesn’t buy her books online. But wow, what a surprise this series ended up being. Reese Witherspoon acted crazy good as Madeline, Nicole Kidman continued showing off massive talent as Celeste, Laura Dern nailed a razor-sharp performance as Renata, and Zoe Kravitz floated as easy, breezy Bonnie. There’s been lots of talk this year about a woman’s gaze in television and film. Not sure if Big Little Lies falls into that category? The book was written by a woman, and the cast and stories are all female-centric. But the direction is Jean-Marc Vallée (Dallas Buyers Club) with screenplay by David E. Kelly. So it’s definitely not a female gaze. In the end, the mix makes for some very juicy, sophisticated story telling. I loved it. 4 out of 5 for Big Little Lies.

The Last Tycoon

August 3, 2017

After enjoying the pilot of Amazon Prime’s The Last Tycoon based on the unfinished novel from F. Scott Fitzgerald, I looked forward to the season one drop. Watched the first two episodes over the weekend. I certainly didn’t hate it. But the overall show felt dull to me. All the pieces were in place –  good actors, great period costumes and sets, a suspenseful, workable plot. In the end, I just didn’t care much about where the story headed or what happened to the characters. I wanted to love The Last Tycoon because I want to see Matt Bomer break some ceilings. I give this just under a 3 out of 5.

Ozark

August 1, 2017

Laura Linney and Jason Bateman star as married couple Wendy and Marty Byrd in Netflix’s new creepy crime drama, Ozark. There’s now a solid sub-genre of crime drama where an otherwise ordinary person or family gets involved in high crime. I’m not talking white-collar crime. I’m talking kill people and dissolve them in acid crime. Ozark definitely follows this trend as a child of Breaking Bad. And that’s not a bad thing. Especially when the acting is top-notch and the location shoot is beautifully eerie. There are of course the many plot thrusters which have to be ignored, such as people not hearing gun shots from close range, police not being called when someone destroys a hotel room, or FBI agents drinking on the job. But if you can suspend your belief for an hour at a time, you’ll be rewarded with a scary and exciting first season of life in rural Midwest. Yes, there’s a few scenes that are disgusting. But it’s fun and worth the watch if you can stand the violence. 4 out of 5.

Dynasty: Blake’s Trial & Homophobia and the Reincarnation of Steven Carrington

July 28, 2017

The two Steven Carringtons played by Al Corley and Jack Coleman.

The CW prepares to air a brand-new version of Dynasty this fall. It might be helpful to take a look back at this popular and troubled series before jumping into the 2017 version.

It’s incredible how my memory of the 80’s television soap continues to feel so positive. I remember my friend Pat coming over to my house and having a glass of champagne with my parents while we watched the ridiculous, over-the-top series. I remember a huge group of gay men in college converging on my friend Duane’s apartment because he had the biggest television. We howled, we screamed, we laughed together. In hindsight, I suppose any gay content was positive back then.

Watching the original Dynasty today streaming on Netflix, I am appalled at how homophobic and disgusting the plot lines were. Gay character Steven Carrington started out being gay and proud. Then he had an affair with a married woman – sleeping with her more than once, then slept with his male ex-lover Ted from NYC once, then Stephen’s father, Blake (the star of the show) went on trial for Ted’s murder. He did murder him. And Blake’s behavior towards Steven was nothing short of a bully. Blake was the perfect image of the disgusting treatment LGBT people faced during the Reagan Administration by Reagan himself (silence on AIDS) and the formation of the Religious Right. On Dynasty, fictional Steven married a woman and had a child with her. Why not make him bisexual? Such sad and revolting writing for a gay male character to endure.

There’s no way I could continue watching Dynasty today. Truth be told I fast-forwarded through episodes in Season 1 and Season 2 for a reminder of the murder trial. It’s unbelievable things were that bad for gay people in my lifetime. Yes I was an adult at the time and out. I guess we didn’t demand the respect in the media we do today. Of course things are far from perfect today, but we have a slew of LGBT characters on film and in television who do us proud.

I wrote extensively on Steven Carrington, The Two Steven Carringtons Legacy in 2015 for Reel Charlie.

For more on Blake’s disgusting behavior towards Steven later in the series, see Cora Buhlert’s blog post from 2013, Dynasty and socially acceptable homophobia.

The Dynasty reboot promises to be filled with a decidedly not confused Steven salaciously bedding a man named Sam – a nod to Heather Locklear’s Sammy Jo character. Gotta love 2017. Australian actor James Mackay plays Steven. The new Dynasty premieres October 11, 2017 on the CW after Riverdale.

The Wire on Blu-ray

July 27, 2017

Watched the first episode of The Wire on Blu-ray this weekend and I have to say the picture quality is outstanding. Well worth the investment. Or a simple loan from your local library.

Did you know you can access reviews of Blu-ray releases that rate video, audio and extras qualities to help you determine if it’s worth owning? Many remastered Blu-rays really change the way you see and hear a film or series. And with 4K right around the corner, our viewing pleasure keeps getting better and better.

Read all about The Wire on Blu-ray.

The Brother from Another Planet

July 23, 2017

John Sayles’ 1984 indie film The Brother from Another Planet blends the best elements of several genres using a science fiction overlay to tell the story of race, class, and immigration and the many ways these issues frighten the dominant culture. With now historic outdoor scenes of Harlem in the early 80’s along with many trips on the A train north to 125th Street, New York City becomes synonymous with the issues of the time. Location shooting on the streets, in crowded tenements, in dreary offices, and a neighborhood bar set the ambiance of this classic indie film. Sayles’ long-term life and work partner Maggie Renzi produced and has a small role in the film as one of the office workers. Sayles wrote, directed, and edited his fourth film using funds he received from a 1983 MacArthur Fellows award. He even has a role along with one of his regular actors David Strathairn as they play the men in black seeking the alien who escaped from his imprisoned planet. Other John Sayles’ regulars include Joe Morton in the title role playing the alien who never utters a word, Bill Cobbs as a reminiscing bar patron, and Tom Wright as another frustrated office worker. The Brother from Another Planet stands out as a snapshot of the early 80’s and an excellent example of the creativity indie films can produce. 4 out of 5.


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