Archive | September 2012

Spotlight On…Justin Kirk

In honor of the Weeds series finale and the upcoming official premiere of Animal Practice, I thought I’d do a rundown of just how long I have been…pretty obsessed with one Mr. Justin Kirk. I know there are some fellow aficionados out there (especially if you’ve seen HBO’s Angels in America) but I just worry that some people are being exposed to him as a leading man for the first time with Animal Practice and are not giving him a second thought because he is involved with a show that has…that premise.

Jack & Jill

My first exposure to Justin came during a period of time when I literally watched everything that came on The WB. No joke. Ergo, I watched Jack & Jill, and honestly, sometimes I feel like the only person that watched it on the entire planet. But YouTube views prove me wrong. The show definitely thought it was clever with its name play (Amanda Peet as Jacqueline/”Jack” and Ivan Sergei as David Jillefsky/”Jill”). The show also starred Jaime Pressly, Sarah Paulson, and Simon Rex. Justin Kirk played Barto (short for Bartholomew) Zane, a med student who ends up with Jaime Pressly’s character. Besides a trio of wonky names, not much else stands out about the show: a typical will they/won’t they until they finally do, that was probably a little too grown-up for The WB audience. And I imagine that I found it a lot more endearing in the fifth grade than I would now. I’m probably biased at this point, but Justin was definitely a highlight of the show.

Angels in America

After Jack & Jill was cancelled, Justin moved on to bigger and better things as Prior Walter in Angels in America. I loved the mini-series as a whole, but Justin’s performance made it an all-out obsession for me. As AIDS-afflicted Prior, he’s forced to navigate the defection of his boyfriend as well as coping with his illness. The mini-series was marketed with the bigger names in mind (Al Pacino, Meryl Streep, Emma Thompson) but I am still more struck by the performances of Justin, Patrick Wilson, Ben Shenkman, and Mary-Louise Parker. When I got my first iPod, I named it Prior…thereby cementing my obsession with the character.

Weeds

Perhaps most people know him as Andy Botwin from Weeds; clearly I have been reflecting on Andy quite a lot as the show came to a close. Did Weeds reach a creative high point that it has slowly descended from in its latter run? Yes, definitely. I am not ashamed to admit that if not for Andy Botwin I would have said sayonara to the show a long, long time ago. But I felt an attachment to the character that kept me coming back. In fact, I remember when Weeds initially started, I left the initial episodes saying “meh” and cut it early. But when I realized Justin Kirk had officially joined the cast in episode four, I reupped my commitment and stayed for the long haul. My main takeaways are that Justin was very, very good on the show and is the very reason the show remained grounded for so long (that along with his interactions with Mary-Louise Parker) and that my attachment to Andy caused me a lot of grief. I don’t want to dwell on it, because Andy as a character hurts my heart a bit, but I am still glad that Justin gets to move on.

Modern Family

I didn’t want to ignore the fact that he is now Mitchell’s boss on Modern Family, even though he has only appeared in three episodes. Luckily (?) instead of being relegated to sometimes appearing on Modern Family, he has the new gig at Animal Practice.

As I have said before, I have misgivings about Animal Practice. I mean, who wouldn’t? But I just peeked at his filmography and he seems to have a lot of upcoming projects… so I think he’s alright, regardless of whether Animal Practice becomes a long-term job or just a momentary detour.

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Fall 2012: ABC’s Last Resort

If it has Shawn Ryan’s name on it, you are at least guaranteed a fresh perspective and a fresh story right out of the gate. And Last Resort is definitely fresh; with its nuclear missile-equipped submarine, surprising premise, and cast of familiar faces, the show offers a truly unique viewing experience.

It starts with a wounded group of Marines in a lifeboat; cue their rescuers surfacing on top of the lifeboat with a submarine, the Colorado. The crew of the Colorado isn’t getting much info from these guys, and we get a few scenes of the crew interacting with each other so as to establish their characters. There’s Captain Chaplin, Andre Braugher, who’s great. The crew seems to, for the most part, respect Chaplin and his decisions. There’s the XO Kendal, Scott Speedman, also surprisingly good. I don’t want to knock him, but Scott Speedman does not scream military to me and therefore wouldn’t be a first choice sight unseen, but it works. We get a sort-of side story with the women on the crew and potential harassment, but that is sidelined compared to Lt. Shepard’s story, who happens to have an influential Admiral for a father (Bruce Davison).  Suddenly, Chaplin gets an order to fire missiles at Pakistan, although it comes from an Antarctica station designed to send out orders if D.C. command is wiped out. It appears that the US is fine and Chaplin questions the orders. Then the show really ups the ante: The US fires on the Colorado, blames it on Pakistan, and an actual strike is started on Pakistan. In an attempt to clear their name and prove the government coverup, the crew takes over a nearby island. Now they have to deal with their country, the local thugs, and mutinous crew members like Robert Patrick’s Master Chief character, Prosser. Oh, and they also fired at missile toward D.C. to avert their own destruction. The missile was designed to miss land, but just barely.

The best word to describe Last Resort is ambitious. By the end of the episode I found myself thinking, I have no idea what an entire season (or multiple seasons) of this show would look like in execution. And this can be a good or bad thing. This show could be unlike anything we have seen on television. Or just like other shows that leave you questioning their long-term viability, it may run its course far too soon and leave us with a rehash of Shonda Rhimes’ failed Off the Map series.

Final Thoughts

  • The names on their uniforms really help. It seems like a lot of names are thrown around a long with the new characters so being able to see the names helped me keep some people straight from the first few minutes.
  • I found it surprising that Chaplin and Kendal questioned their orders to the extent they did. It is impossible to know how you would react if the day ever came that you had to “press the button,” so to speak, but the training that you go through must leave you with little doubt that when you are asked, you do not hesitate.
  • I also found it interesting that unlike most fictional stories where a country is made-up, Pakistan is used and the US fires nuclear missiles to incapacitate the country.
  • I did not need to see a missile coming toward Washington D.C. Between this and Homeland, I am going to develop a complex about going into the city.
  • Among the cast we have Dichen Lachman (Dollhouse, Being Human), Omid Abtahi (from Homeland, among many other credits), and Jessy Schram, who will forever be known as the annoying girl who dated Logan on Veronica Mars.

Cloud Atlas: A Film, A Novel, A Vehicle for Ben Whishaw

If we believe that humanity may transcend tooth & claw, if we believe divers races & creeds can share this world as peaceably as the orphans share their candlenut tree, if we believe leaders must be just, violence muzzled, power accountable & the riches of the Earth & its Oceans shared equitably, such a world will come to pass. I am not deceived. It is the hardest of worlds to make real…A life spent shaping a world I want [my son] Jackson to inherit, not one I fear Jackson shall inherit, this strikes me as a life worth the living.

Cloud Atlas, with the combination of huge buzz and Ben Whishaw, was a significant discovery for me; the novel speaks to me on a level that most books cannot, it reached into my own soul and displayed my beliefs on the page. I was not in Toronto yesterday and did not see the film (which is unfortunate since October 26th is too far away) but the generous five minute trailer is enough to make me believe the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run, Perfume) have really translated the core material into a complex, compelling cinematic narrative. In a surprising move, the Wachowskis even talked about the process of getting the film made.

The Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer introduce their five minute trailer:


The trailer itself, massive in scope…

The author, David Mitchell, approves of the script and believes the film could be better than the novel. How rare is that for an author to say? This post mainly serves as a sounding board for my indescribable excitement over the project and its subject matter (and its stars). Ben Whishaw has a tendency to choose projects that simultaneously challenge me intellectually and depress me thoroughly. Ben’s star is ascending, and I hope he finally gets on America’s radar with this and November’s Skyfall. But enough gushing, how about some images/quotes from the novel?

“Dreamt I stood in a china shop so crowded from floor to far-off ceiling with shelves of porcelain antiquities etc. that moving a muscle would cause several to fall and smash to bits. Exactly what happened, but instead of a crashing noise, an august chord rang out, half-cello, half-celeste, D major (?), held for four beats…Deliberately now, smashed a figurine of an ox for the next note, then a milkmaid, then Saturday’s child — orgy of shrapnel filled the air, divine harmonies my head.”

“Working nights on Cloud Atlas Sextet until I drop, quite literally, no other way to get off to sleep. My head is a Roman candle of invention. Lifetime’s music, arriving all at once. Boundaries between noise and sound are conventions, I see now…One may transcend any convention, if only one can first conceive of doing so.”

“At hour five we man our tellers around the Hub, ready for the elevator to bring the new day’s first consumers. For the following nineteen hours we greet diners, input orders, tray food, vend drinks, upstock condiments, wipe tables, and bin garbage.”

“Then Old Georgie sunk his crookit spoon thru the Hawi Man’s sockets, yay, an’ dug out the soul, drippin’ in smeary brain, an’ crunched it, yay, it cracked ‘tween his horsey teeth.”

“A man in a dark suit sat there. He had tubed himself a coffee and watched me watching him across the dinery. He spoke, finally. ‘Good morning, Sonmi-451. I hope you’re feeling better today than Seer Rhee.'”…He, Mr. Chang, had a message for me, Sonmi-451, from his own seer. This message was in fact a choice.”

“Beyond the Indian hamlet, upon a forlorn strand, I happened on a trail of recent footprints. Through rotting kelp, sea cocoa-nuts & bamboo, the tracks led me to their maker, a White man, his trowzers & Pea-jacket rolled up, sporting a kempt beard & an outsized Beaver, shoveling & sifting the cindery sand with a teaspoon so intently that he noticed me only after I had hailed him from ten yards away.”

“I watched clouds awobbly from the floor o’ that kayak. Souls cross ages like clouds cross skies, an’ tho’ a cloud’s shape nor hue nor size don’t stay the same, it’s still a cloud an’ so is a soul. Who can say where the cloud’s blowed from or who the soul’ll be ‘morrow? Only Sonmi the east an’ the west an’ the compass an’ the atlas, yay, only the atlas o’ clouds.”

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Fall 2012: NBC’s Revolution

After what seems like a never-ending bout of Lost-imitators that fail to garner the same amount of obsessive followers (FlashForward, Terra Nova, The Event), NBC is trying the formula yet again with Revolution. I can imagine the gimmick sounded good in the pitching room, and with J.J. Abrams attached, it sounds even better. But for me, it really boils down to whether I can get invested in the mythology the show is trying to promote.

The pilot opens with an introduction to the family, Tim Guinee (who is that guy that has literally been in everything) and Elizabeth Mitchell, parents to Charlie and Danny. Tim Guinee (Benjamin Matheson) makes a frantic call to his brother Miles (Billy Burke), warning him of what is soon to happen — the power is out, technology is going kaput. We let anarchy and nature take over for fifteen years and return to the cast, sans Elizabeth Mitchell, who supposedly died “out there.” But now we have grown-up Charlie and Danny, a blonde woman named Maggie who seems to be in the unwelcome position of new mommy, and Aaron (Zak Orth, who you probably know if you watch a lot of David Wain-related things) as the local former techie millionaire.

The militia rides into town, led by Giancarlo Esposito, looking for Ben and Miles. In the aftermath, Ben is dead, Danny captured, and Charlie, Maggie, and Aaron are on the road to Chicago to find Miles. The militia leader (of the Republic of Monroe), Monroe himself, believes that the Matheson Brothers know why the power went out and maybe how to turn it back on. This is given further credence by a mysterious necklace Ben gives to Charlie before he dies.

This show, and pilot in particular, definitely have reason to be on the boastful side: executive producers include J.J. Abrams, and Bryan Burk, the pilot was directed by Jon Favreau, and the creator/writer is Eric Kripke. Unfortunately, it strikes me as a not fully formed world/not fully realized. When shows like Firefly exist, where a whole new world was created right out of the gate, it is sometimes frustrating to see a show struggle to remake the world in their image. A lot has gone wrong in fifteen years and I cannot decide if I think it happened too quickly, or just not in the right ways. Maybe the show will become a bit more steady with its new world order a few episodes in.

A few thoughts:

  • No body, murky explanation: how long before we stumble upon Elizabeth Mitchell somewhere, “out there”?
  • I was really impressed with Billy Burke in this; among many unknowns, his acting provides a stabilizing maturity to his scenes.
  • Surprisingly, I didn’t catch many telltale signs I was watching something from the Supernatural creator. Except the necklace bit; even Jensen Ackles’ seemingly innocuous necklace turned out to be more than it seemed a few seasons in.
  • The use of a downed plane almost seemed like it begged me to make a Lost connection, so I guess it served its purpose. Aaron claims to know where the medical kit is located on board. When asked why, I thought for sure the answer would be something like, “I watched this show before the blackout…”
  • On FlashFoward, the new world icebreaker became “so, what did you see in your flash forward?” Apparently on Revolution it’s “What did you do before the blackout?”
  • There is a nice reveal by the end of the pilot. Probably not so surprising if you recognize David Lyons before I did. It was the second to last scene before epiphany: “isn’t that the guy from The Cape?!” #sixseasonsandamovie