By Chauncey Telese
Hello everyone and I know I sound like a total flake at this point but I didn’t submit a “True Blood” recap and review Monday but I actually wanted to extend it to include “Weeds” which I felt bad about omitting from my last piece.
Three episodes into its seventh season and I realized that, while it’s occasionally funny, it has ceased to really compel me to write a full column on it. In a perfect world I’d have a better way to stay up to date but I don’t tweet and I don’t have a podcast so, oh well.
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In my defense there was no way I was going to give you guys a piece on “Harry Potter” because I never got on the train to Hogwarts when I was a kid so I had no reason to gush about the final chapter so this is technically an alternative to that. I will admit the movies were well-made (I saw the first two for book reports at Arroyo Seco and saw the sixth one for this site) and the kids never embarrassed themselves by being dragged out of a bar or having a tape surface online or other scandals that rock child stars (at least here in the States) so kudos to them and I hope they all have bright futures.
Anyways, in order to justify having a Friday piece on “True Blood,” I’m including a recap of the seventh and final season premiere of “Rescue Me” as well as some movies I’ve seen but neglected to write about. From now on though, I’ll treat “Weeds” as something I mention in passing in a weekly rundown and just have Mondays be about “True Blood” and “Breaking Bad,” which has its fourth season premiere on Sunday. So, now that we got the garbage out of the way, let’s look at the week that was.
I’m not just saying this because there is nothing on and we all know my boredom with baseball (though because I watch ESPN chronically, so I sort of have a pulse on what’s going on) but I am compelled by our Women’s World Cup squad and not just Hope Solo (though her spectacular play and personality have helped) or Abby Wambach’s ability to head the ball in on call (especially during the Brazil game) but the entire team. I have no doubt they’ll beat Japan and because of them and the fact that there is no NBA for roughly a year I am going to start following Premiere League Soccer this summer and fall, because from what I’ve seen, its an awesome product. As Jeff Winger would say “As a fashionable male, I follow soccer.” Speaking of which, here’s the other reason why I held out until today, despite having a deep well of material, is that Emmy nominations just came out, so let me start with the negative aspects of this year’s ballot because I like ending on a high note.
As much as I like “Modern Family” and “Glee,” I will be the first to say that they didn’t deserve the nominations they received, at least not all of them. I don’t think that the entire male cast deserved to be in the Best Supporting category, ditto Chris Colfer for “Glee.” As good as Colfer was, Kurt Hummel became a walking PSA instead of just being funny, and when the moment struck poignant like he was last year. In fact this category had the biggest omissions because Danny Pudi or Donald Glover were not nominated for their brilliant work on “Community” and Nick Offerman, who plays Ron Swanson on “Parks and Recreation,” was also omitted.
Also, “Community,” “Sons of Anarchy,” “Eastbound and Down” and “The Walking Dead” were shut out entirely and with the exception of Joan Cusak, “Shameless” was pretty much ignored (Emmy Rossum deserved some love). They also didn’t give “Parks and Recreation” any love in the writing categories (yet thought that “Episodes” deserved to be there), gave way too much love to “The Big Bang Theory” (seriously Johnny Galecki is better then Joel McHale?), have Kelly MacDonald in the supporting category when her character on “Boardwalk Empire” is the female lead, denied Denis O’Hare for his stellar work on “True Blood” and didn’t even give Toni Collette one last nomination for “The United States of Tara.” Oh well, they weren’t completely incompetent in fact they did a lot of good things too.
“Justified” got a lot of love with nominations for Timothy Olyphant, Jeremy Davies and Margo Martindale. “Game of Thrones” got in for Best Drama, and while “Parks and Recreation” got screwed in a lot of categories it is up for Best Comedy and Amy Poehler got in for the second year in a row as Best Actress. Also, they showed some love for the final season of “Friday Night Lights” and even gave Louis CK an acting and writing nomination for “Louie,” so they aren’t totally living under a rock.
Let’s see, Michelle Bachman proved that she and her husband are every bit the sound bite machines that the Palins ever were (seriously, those two families are the gift that keeps on giving). The debt ceiling mess is just that, a mess that I don’t see resolving anytime soon which makes August 2 a very interesting date to say the least. The only positives to come out of this are that it will breed a ton of comedy (both intentional and unintentional) and that the NFL will resolve their lockout by next week.
Deron Williams, Kevin Durant, Kobe and other NBA players are threatening to play overseas since the lockout is going to take about a year to resolve. Seriously, this lockout disgusts me more then the NFL because at least in football they are talking and trying to get a deal done. Bill Simmons wrote last week on Grantland all about the NBA mess so go ahead and read it so you can see how stupid this thing is.
The first poster and trailer for “The Dark Knight Rises” were released so the nerd in me is really looking forward to 2012 (seriously, if the world ends, at least we got one more Batman movie out of it, which is fine by me).
Arnold is launching his post Governator/divorce movie career with “The Last Stand” which, and I’m not even being sarcastic when I say this, sounds amazing. He plays an ex-LAPD officer who botches an operation and ends up being a sheriff at a border town where nothing happens. That is until some major criminal breaks out of prison (because that’s what all major criminals do in action movies) and the only thing standing between him and his freedom across the border is Arnold. This has potential to be truly awesome and I hope he finds some success and some redemption out of it.
Finally, I saw the trailer for Adam Sandler’s new movie “Jack and Jill” and it hurts me to say this, but until further notice, I will now refer to him as WEM or White Eddie Murphy. For those that haven’t seen it, Sandler plays Jack and his twin sister Jill which gives you an idea of how bad it’s going to be. I love Adam Sandler a lot, his movies never ceased to make me laugh, which is why it hurts to see him just not really care anymore. It is amazing to watch his SNL Best Of Special because it’s like watching a totally different person (ditto Murphy). “Billy Madison,” “Happy Gilmore,” “Big Daddy,” “The Waterboy” and “The Wedding Singer” are some of my favorite ’90s movies. Then he had kids and didn’t want to do that stuff anymore.
Unlike Eddie, Adam still makes bank no matter what he puts out there (“Just Go With It” is a prime example) and yet he almost refuses to challenge himself anymore because whenever he does (“Punch Drunk Love,” “Spanglish,” “Reign Over Me” and “Funny People”) his base doesn’t come out, which is a bummer because, while those movies weren’t all winners, he was. I hope he eventually takes another chance but I doubt it and further more he is contaminating Kevin James who was once an awesome standup but is now just the fat guy who gets hit by stuff in movies. Adam Sandler, was once the funniest guy around, now he’s like Eddie Murphy, a guy who I’ll have to tell my kids was once the funniest guy around because the evidence will cease to exist in theaters.
Alright, so that was the week that was so now let’s get to the week that is. Let’s start with “True Blood”.
“True Blood: If You Love Me Why Am I Dyin’?”
Since we last got together, Eric had his memory erased by the head of the Bon Temps wiccan chapter, Marnie; Jason was being turned into a Werepanther; Tara came back to see Sookie and got mixed up with Lafeyette, Jesus, and the Wiccans; Jessica cheated on Hoyt; Sam and Luna are getting closer and Arlene is still worried that her baby is evil. We also learned Bill was the King of Louisiana because he got Sophie-Anne killed and Andy’s V addiction is getting worse. This week continues to lay the groundwork for what season 4 is going for and can really be summed up by Sookie when she says to Pam “Oh great, now I gotta deal with witches?” That seems to be where we’re headed because Marnie seems to have released some sort of witch (didn’t catch her name) and has no recollection how she got rid of Eric. I can already tell this is going to be one of those things where the witch ends up being way more evil then the vampires could ever be and Marnie will regret releasing the genie from the bottle so to speak (assuming the witch doesn’t kill her).
I actually like this story line, I mean I should, since it’s our main thread this season, because as Bill pointed out, witches can control the dead, ergo, control vampires. This could also lead to some major PR damage that makes all the anti-vampire sentiment grow worse. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I like Sookie having to take care of Eric but am pretty sure she’ll end up falling for him because he’s not the arrogant jerk he normally is and his good qualities are no longer hidden, though he did remember what fairy blood tastes like after mauling Sookie’s fairy godmother (which was actually a pretty funny sequence). I also liked Lafeyette’s paranoia about Eric killing him, Jesus, and Tara for being at a witch’s coven and their confrontation with Pam at Fangtasia gave the episode its best line when Pam threatened “If you don’t, I will personally eat, f—, and kill all three of you.”
Pam, by the way, is getting way more to do which is more then welcome in my opinion. This episode also saw the return of our favorite werewolf, Alcide, who is buffer then ever and living with his ex-girlfriend who is getting over her v addiction and is trying to make amends with Sookie. I don’t like the fact that Sookie will probably fall for Eric and or Alcide by the end of the season before somehow she reconciles with Bill, but oh well such is life.
Now to the stuff I didn’t like. The whole Jason being used to make new werepanthers thing is getting old fast and is turning into a less comical version of the Death by Snu Snu” episode of “Futurama.” The whole thing is creepy and it is hard to remember why Jason ever fell for Crystal and her hillbilly family in the first place. I did like the campfire stories that featured a “ghost daddy” and a “ghost mama” but I wasn’t sure if it was supposed to just be exposition or comical or both. I also am not really digging the whole thing with Tommy wanting to steal Maxine’s house from her because she is sitting on a natural gas mine. I liked Tommy better when it looked like he’d be more then a thief but alas that isn’t meant to be. It seems like one of those storylines that will drag on too long and I just don’t care if Sam and Tommy become brothers, I really don’t. Now, Sam and Luna is what I’m more interested in and this episode we don’t really get much more out of them, which is a total bummer.
My favorite thing though is the stuff with Jessica and Hoyt and I hope they let Jessica go further and further down the rabbit hole. Bill and Pam give her advice on what to do with Hoyt and when she tells him the truth about cheating on him he understandably gets mad and while it wasn’t shocking, I liked how they played her glamming him so he forgets. Their facial expressions really sold the moment and I can’t help but wonder what she’ll try to glam from him next. Hopefully next week will shed some more light on the witch stuff and move away from the crap that none of us really care about. Okay now on to the other big show this week.
“Rescue Me: Mutha”
“Rescue Me” began its final season on Wednesday and, while I hated season six with a passion and feel Denis Leary owes us an apology, I am still hopeful he can capture the magic of the first three years and in bits and pieces in years four and five. At its best it does a great job of showing how screwed up people in their own way use 9/11 as a crutch to justify their downward spirals and how they try and make sense of the world they live in. The dialogue was also some of the best on TV and went to some dark places while at the same time retaining its humor. At its worst we spent too much time watching Tommy Gavin be fought over by Janet and Sheila for no real reason and other then to placate Leary’s ego. It also totally lacks a lot of continuity and pretends certain things never happened or conveniently restructures characters so we don’t notice (like Colleen all of a sudden becoming an alcoholic in season six). Also Tommy’s alcoholism got tiresome last season and really thought they beat that horse into the ground. Again, I hoped that season seven would let the show go out with a bang and while I’m not sure yet if it will its first episode didn’t really do much to encourage me but I’m still going to stick it out because I’ve been following 62 truck since 2004, so why quit now.
The season starts with Tommy now seeing Damien as a ghost (even though he’s still alive) and in his vision, sees Damien wielding a knife towards him. He is interrupted by Sheila (I don’t know why they kept her past season 3, I really don’t) and apparently her and Janet are now cool (which is bizarre considering their blood hatred of each other). Also, Janet is pregnant and a classic Gavin family confrontation ends with her being mad when he can’t promise to be normal and him being run off the hood of her car. Janet is keeping the baby and Sheila tries to make Tommy a better husband though that seems like a moot point at this juncture. Meanwhile, Teddy and Mick now run the bar and employ Colleen as well as the rest of the Gavins that are in AA so that they can be reminded why they quit drinking and even hold meetings after closing. Naturally this doesn’t sit well with Tommy but Colleen (who looks like she may be going back to her normal self but who knows) reminds him that while he got her to quit he was a lousy sponsor and a father.
Meanwhile, in the only firehouse-related storyline, Black Shawn gets some pretty decent advice from Franco about asking Colleen to marry him. Franco tells him what we already know in that he wants to ask her which is why he went to the house playboy in some last ditch effort to get talked out of it. The proposal is also very cute but I didn’t like Colleen all of a sudden pounding shots and passing out in the back either. It just seemed like a reason to have Tommy tempted into drinking and seeing his father, Jimmy, and his brother. I did like him spitting the drink out and opening fire on the bar with Teddy’s shotgun but we’ve sort of been there done that so I don’t know. Other then that not a whole lot of what I like about the show mainly the banter amongst the crew. There was a debate as to which show was more racist “Jersey Shore” or “Flava of Love” but not a whole lot else. I will keep plugging on “Rescue Me” and will even do a special awards column once the show concludes so I can celebrate the good and poke fun at the bad one last time.
Moving away from TV let’s get to three movies that will not even come close to making as much as “Harry Potter” will in one day but still deserve a look. First let’s start with “Beginners” (I was going to go for the cheap pun but decided I’m slightly better then that).
“Beginners”: A Touching Slice of Life Drama
One of the things I love about movies is that you can tell a lot about a person by the kinds of movies they make or a specific movie that they make. I like knowing that a particular movie really meant a lot to the person making it and it almost feels like they are channeling their feelings about a certain event, emotion, or experience. Here Mike Mills does just that with “Beginners,” which is based on his own life experiences and what he gives us is the most emotional movie of the year and one that sees the humor and beauty that exists in life.
“Beginners” tells the dual stories of Oliver (an outstanding Ewan McGregor) a graphic artist that experiences two life-changing events. The first is his mother’s death and his father Hal’s (an excellent Christopher Plummer) announcement that the whole time he and Oliver’s mother were married, he was gay. That is followed up by the death of his father four years later after he gets lung cancer and after that, Oliver meets an aspiring French actress named Anna (Melanie Laurent from “Inglorious Basterds”).
The film jumps around between Oliver helping his dad through cancer as well as watching his dad find real love for the first time with Andy (who is Oliver’s age and is played by a subtle Goran Visinjic) and his budding relationship with Anna. Oliver and Hal never really got along when Oliver was young because Hal was never home and we are also shown what life was like when Oliver was with his eccentric mother. I liked that it showed where Oliver learned all of his little personality quirks over time and as Hal gets sicker and sicker, it is heartbreaking just how close the two end up getting. Oliver is taken aback by just how happy he sees his father is and how reborn he is even when he knows he’s facing death. That is not to say it is a somber affair because there is some humor peppered in like when Hal calls Oliver at three in the morning to ask what house music was or about Hal’s personal ad that he puts in the paper.
On the other side with Oliver and Anna, Oliver meets Anna at a costume party and she can’t talk because she has laryngitis but through her notepad, they end up having a real intimate conversation even before they exchange names. She is as troubled as he is and it is very sweet how their relationship builds and builds and equally sad when it nearly falls apart. I also loved how Oliver would tell us about the year 2003 or 2007 and all of his mannerisms and ultimately how he deals with these two major developments in his life without ever falling apart by the emotional weight of either.
The one character other then Oliver that goes through both stories is Hal’s Jack Russell terrier Arthur, who speaks to Oliver through subtitles and provides some great comic relief.
This isn’t a movie for everybody, but I personally loved it because not only does it feel like a very personal story, but it balances the humor with the drama realistically. The acting is tremendous, the relationships are well-developed, and the writing is incredible. This won’t get a lot of attention but when it hits shelves (or you find it at the Arclight or something) I suggest you give it a look.
Our next movie is a fantasy from legend Woody Allen
“Midnight in Paris”: A Fun Time Traveling Adventure Through the City of Lights
It is amazing that even at his advanced age, Woody Allen still manages to bang out a movie every year. Some are good (“Match Point”) and some awful (“Scoop”), when he’s on he’s on, but when he’s off, he’s really off. Luckily his latest outing shows that he is still capable of being the legend most perceive him to be. In fact this may be his best work in a decade or more and one that I think does two things. It simultaneously reminds us Owen Wilson can really act when he wants to and just how beautiful Paris is (we forget that because it is occupied by the French). The opening shots of the movie do for Paris what “Manhattan” does for New York. Each shot is framed to show Paris’s many sights throughout the day and night.
Our story is about Gil (Owen Wilson), who is a successful screenwriter who longs to move to Paris with his fiancé Inez (Rachel McAdams) and write his great novel about a guy that works in a memorabilia shop. Inez gets annoyed hearing how he’d love to live in Paris during the 1920s and his nostalgia. She feels that he should embrace the present and just be happy. Gil (because his character is essentially the Woody Allen part) is jealous and neurotic when Inez invites her friend Paul (a pseudointellectual played brilliantly by Michael Sheen) to take them on a tour of Paris’s many sights and try to show up the tour guides with his own knowledge on every subject ever.
Gil takes a walk down the streets of Paris and all of a sudden is stopped by an old car and meets F. Scott Fitzgerald (Tom Hiddleston of “Thor”) and Zelda Fitzgerald (Alison Pill). At first, Gil thinks it’s a joke, but he realizes that he’s somehow gone back to the 1920s. He is soon introduced to Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll) and Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates) and they want to read his novel. He leaves to go get it and finds himself back in 2010. He thinks it’s a dream but sure enough the next night it happens again, and when he gives Stein his novel, he meets Adrianna (Marion Cotillard) a young girl who is dating Picasso. She takes a liking to Gil, but Gil is conflicted because, after all, in 2010 there is still Inez. Only as he keeps traveling back and forth through time he realizes that he and Inez aren’t really a good match because she doesn’t really have a lot in common with Gil and she thinks he’s going nuts. Meanwhile, Gil is considering staying but he realizes that while he may think 1920s Paris was the city’s Golden Age, Adrianna feels differently and Gil realizes the truth about nostalgia which, as Paul points out, is just a way to not confront your unhappiness with the present.
I loved this movie and think it’s probably the best one I’ve seen all year. Owen Wilson really outdoes himself here. Ditto everyone he meets in the 1920s (I don’t want to spoil all of the cameos) especially Hemingway who is both the brilliant writer we know him to be and the badass of his legend. He was the funniest person in the movie and gets a lot of its best moments. Cotillard also creates a wonderful character that is full of as much sadness as Gil is and it is pleasant watching them fall for each other. The only real gripe I have is that Rachel McAdams isn’t really the right fit for Inez because she’s supposed to get more and more shrewish as time goes on but she never quite hits that note. Michael Sheen is great playing a complete pompous ass and, as I said earlier the movie, is just gorgeous to look at. Not since “Ratatouille” (and I’m not being condescending) has a movie really done the lights of Paris justice (recently that is).
Allen is on his game here and creates a comedy with a really meaningful message that hit home because I’m guilty of doing exactly what Gil does. In fact we all do to a degree, and what’s funny is that I hate when people do it. It’s weird, I get mad when people say that movies stopped being good in the 80s yet still see movies and say that about every other aspect of pop culture. I pull that same crap with ’90s Nickelodeon and other ’90s stuff but we all forget, until shows like “Mad Men” or “Boardwalk Empire” remind us that while those eras weren’t without their charm, we have so much more then they did and they’d kill for the internet, the medical advances, and technology that we have. This movie oozes whimsy; check it out whenever you can, its worth your time (unlike “The Zookeeper”).
Our last movie is a documentary and one that came with a Q&A session, so that should be a nice little bonus for you right?
“Beats, Rhymes, Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest”: A Compelling Look one of the Most Influential Groups in Hip Hop
I don’t know if you guys have noticed my music selections when I write these things but I like rap and hip hop. I like all kinds, from militant (“Public Enemy”), gangsta rap (“N.W.A.” Biggie, Tupac), bravado (Jay-Z), or the modern (“Eminem”) era stuff. I’m also a sucker for behind-the-music type stuff and absorb stories about musicians because it is fascinating to see how ego can kill a good thing (as well as drugs, but that isn’t the case here. In “Beats, Rhymes, and Life,” Michael Rappaport shows us why he and a slew of other people were big fans of A Tribe Called Quest, why they were so influential and why they fell apart.
For the record, I was already a fan of ATCQ before I saw the movie, but while I was a fan, I missed the boat on how big they really were. Luckily Rappaort takes us back to the beginning when Phife Dawg met Q-Tip when he was 2 years old and how they both grew up together and how much RUN DMC influenced them and inspired them to try and rhyme. Q-TIP met Ali Shaheed Mohammed in high school and Jarobi White came later. They sampled jazz beats and made as Adam from the Beastie Boys called it “party music with a conscience”. They were all about having fun and being inclusive to everybody and that’s what separated them from everybody else. There are a ton of musicians and other people who talk a great deal about that (the glaring omission was Queen Latifah, who we forget was a rapper and she was in their Native Tongues group). We are taken through their big albums “Low End Theory” and “Midnight Marauders” and the songs that made them big like “Check the Rhime,” “Can I Kick It,” “Bonita Applebaum,” “I Left My Wallet in El Segundo,” “Electric Relaxation” and “ Buggin’ Out”.
What we also learn is that Q-TIP is a hardcore perfectionist and according to their manager, had to have albums taken from him (he produced them) otherwise he’d be Axel Rose or Dr. Dre and it’d be a decade between albums. We also see how much of a music nerd Q-Tip is and how he created the beats for “Can I Kick It” which is actually pretty fascinating. Also, we see how much of a sports nerd Phife Dawg is and how Jarobi left to become a chef.
The heart of the movie centers on how the group started to deteriorate after their fourth album (which gives the movie its title) after Phife’s type 1 diabetes got worse and his annoyance with Q-Tip’s egotism hit bottom. It also shows how they went on a reunion tour in ’08 in order to help Phife with his medical bills and how the bad blood would erupt before show time. They both say how they love each other but can never really work together, which Phife’s wife remarks is quite sad and that Ali and Jarobi are stuck in the middle and can’t mediate either way, which is true. Things get even more interesting when Phife needs a kidney because his condition worsens (his wife gave him a kidney, by the way) and how that sort of helped bring them back together again for a tour in Japan. The end stuff in Japan lends a lot of optimism to the group getting back together and maybe, just maybe, recording their first album since 1998.
This was a very well-done documentary that doesn’t judge and each member gets their side of the story told, allowing us to see them as people and not just musicians. It is also cool to see all the old footage and how much fun they can still have even now like when Tip makes fun of Phife for wearing Lakers gear despite being a New York guy or them rehearsing their dance steps before going out on stage. This isn’t nearly as volatile as Metallica’s “Some Kind of Monster” but then again I didn’t think it would be. It shouldn’t matter whether you like the music this is a very compelling piece and deserves to be seen, trust me.
As I said there was a brief Q&A with Michael Rappaport and the five foot assassin himself, Phife Dawg. The highlights of that were learning that Michael wasn’t at all demystified by meeting the group and how his goal was to be as objective as he could and to not judge because he’s a person too and knows there are times where he’s no picnic either. Someone else asked Phife what he does now and he said that he recruits basketball players for a prep school in Connecticut and also has a sports show that will air on some network soon. He also said that he doesn’t want to do music anymore unless ATCQ does another album. Also he said his favorite song was “Check the Rhime” because that was his coming-out party so to speak. All in all it was a fascinating piece. Check it out when you can.
Thank you for reading and stay tuned as this Monday I will give you “True Blood” and “Breaking Bad” and Friday I will bring you more “Rescue Me” and “Captain America: The First Avenger”. For you “Breaking Bad” fans or people who want to know about it, there is a great article on Grantland written by Chuck Klosterman, so take a look.