Five Reasons Why You Should Be Watching Homeland

Attention Readers: For the Spin on Season TwoCLICK HERE!

“Hi, honey! Hi, kids! I was missing for 8 years and you thought I was dead! But guess what? I’m baaaaack.”

 

I have to admit…I came around to it reluctantly.  The premise seemed intriguingly simple enough – a CIA agent named Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) believes a recently rescued POW named Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) has been turned by Al Qaeda and begins 24/7 surveillance of his return home against the orders of the agency and against the sentimental tide of a nation that views him as a hero.  The first episode was okay…but there were hints of things that made me press on, and slowly but surely (and now, 9 episodes in, the pace is breathtaking) – I got hooked. 

I try to tell my friends and co-workers about it.  “Hey,” I say, “Are you watching that new show Homeland?  It’s like 24 meets My So-Called Life meets The Truman Show.  Yeah, it’s pretty good.”  And they look at me befuddled.  But it’s more than pretty good…it’s great.  And it’s more than just that reference-fueled sound-bite. 

Dare I say it’s a show like no other – and here are Five Reasons Why You Should Be Watching Homeland. Continue reading

Boardwalk Empire: Georgia Peaches

Goodnight, sweet Angela.

Boardwalk Empire: Complete Episode Guide 

Boardwalk Empire – Georgia Peaches

Season Two: Episode Ten

Directed by:  Jeremy Podeswa

Written by:  David Flebotte

The Spin:  It seemed like a ho-hum episode from Podeswa and Flebotte.  Everyone was doing their schtick.  Jimmy was proving to be completely ineffective, getting a lashing from his stroke-ridden pops while failing to broker a deal with Chalky to end the strike.  The impatient hotheads from New York were getting on his case and trying to open up the heroin market in light of Nucky’s Irish whiskey run flooding AC.  That saucy ADA (Julianne Nicholson) arrested that dope Eli (Shea Whigham) in hopes of getting him to squeal on Nucky concerning the disposal of a certain Hans Schroeder.  Naturally Margaret saw poor Emily’s polio as an indictment from God regarding her sinful ways, while her son – desperate for attention – decided to accuse Nucky of burning down the homestead (ah – remember that from last season?) while Nucky took him to New York to meet with Rothstein’s lawyer concerning his troublesome case.  But don’t worry, Nuck – the kid won’t tell no one.  And lastly that silly Mickey Doyle (Paul Sparks) gets caught in the middle trying to make amends with a none-too-pleased Manny (William Forsythe).  Which in all its slow-paced, period music accompanied glory led us to…. Continue reading

Elizabeth R You Free for Dinner?

Okay, Caveman, what will it be tonight? Bison steaks?

 

Would her Majesty care for a spot of tea after whuppin' Spain's Armada-Ass?

 

Go ahead and smile, Mr. Greene, I'll pour the scotch.

 
The concept is simple: You can go back in time and meet ten people (either in their prime or near their deathbed) and share one meal with them where you can ask them anything, and they have to give you honest answers. Who would it be? Who would you want to separate the myth from the fact and finally set the record straight? Whose head would you want to crawl inside and find what made them tick? Who do you admire and just want to spend some time with shooting the breeze?

The idea for this sprang from an unlikely place. To make a short story long….it all started with that damnable Netflix!

With a dearth of interesting new titles to fill my Netflix queue, I’ve relied on their recommendation algorithm to unearth previous works unbeknownst to me. Thus into my instant queue popped Elizabeth R – a 6-part BBC/Masterpiece Theater miniseries from 1971 starring Glenda Jackson in the title role. Continue reading

Boardwalk Empire: Battle of the Century

You really thought you were gonna mess with me? In my butcher shop? In Philly?

Boardwalk Empire: Complete Episode Guide 

Boardwalk Empire – Battle of the Century

Season Two: Episode Nine

Directed by:  Brad Anderson

Written by:  Steve Kornacki

The Spin:  The helmer of last season’s finest hour (Belle Femme: Episode 1.9) returns to direct just a week following possibly the series’ finest hour thus far (Two Boats and a Lifeguard: Episode 2.8).  Brad Anderson crafts another tight hour full of drama on both sides of the pond.  While Nucky’s away in Ireland looking to score some whiskey for guns, Jimmy ascends to the throne awash in paranoia.  Jimmy gets Waxey Gordon to agree to take out Manny The Butcher of Philly (William Forsythe) leading to the episode’s greatest moment (hint: it involves a meat cleaver).  Meanwhile, things more momentous are transmitted subtly and with great care – witness the take out of a certain elder Irish statesman at the last-minute so Nucky’s deal can be secured.  This underhanded deal leaves Nucky with a bad taste in his mouth because Slater might be keeping secrets and all sons might like to kill their fathers.  Meanwhile, on the home front… Continue reading

J. Edgar Snoozer

Naomi Watts as Helen Gandy in J. Edgar

Clint Eastwood’s latest Oscar grab bag, J. Edgar, is proof positive of how a bad screenplay can sink even the sturdiest of ships.

Aimlessly leap-frogging around a fifty year time span covering the entire career of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover (Leonardo DiCaprio, delivering a workmanlike performance), Dustin Lance Black’s screenplay utilizes the clichéd framework of the title character dictating his memoirs.  In an attempt to cover so much 20th century history, the story touches on so many things that it ends up enlightening nothing.  Half-hearted efforts to give us glimpses into Hoover’s psyche and background (Surprise! He had a domineering mother represented by a phoned-in performance from Judi Dench) shed little light on the rumors that have always been out there.  Was he a closeted homosexual?  Probably.  Was he a cross-dresser?  Probably not.  The film tries to anchor itself around his relationships with Clyde Tolson (Arnie Hammer – almost comical in his depiction) and his long-suffering secretary Helen Gandy (played admirably by the long-suffering Naomi Watts who seems to always get these thankless supporting gigs in high-profile disappointments) – but neither are treated in any kind of sophisticated way and we’re left with surface-level treatments of these characters who obviously (in their own different ways) loved and were ruled by Hoover. Continue reading

Immortals Beloved

Tarsem goes mad Renaissance on them Greeks, yo!

The above image appears in the final moments of Tarsem “Is it okay to call you Singh now?” Singh’s operatic and opulent visual feast and “Ode to a Grecian Urn” fantasia film that is Immortals.  It’s an image a young boy conjures when he closes his eyes and imagines the Titans and the Gods duking it out in the clouds above, and it’s a magical cinematic moment you’ll wish there was more of in Immortals.  When the visionary director focuses on the visions – like an earlier scene where the beautiful Oracle Phaedra (Freida Pinto) first touches our hero Theseus (an appropriately Superman ready Henry Cavill) and is set into a literal 3D tizzy of finely crafted and overt symbolism – it’s enough to make you thank the cinematic gods for Tarsem…almost. Continue reading

Boardwalk Empire: Two Boats and a Lifeguard

Say, you wouldn't throw a guy like me over a balcony at the supper club, now would ya?

Boardwalk Empire: Complete Episode Guide 

Boardwalk Empire – Two Boats and a Lifeguard

Season Two: Episode Eight

Directed by:  Tim Van Patten

Written by:  Terence Winter

The Spin:   The latest Winter/Van Patten hour opens in purely Sopranos-esque style with Nucky’s dream.  Oh, the symbolism!  Oh, what does it all mean?  Where’s Dr. Melfi when you need her?  What transpires next is possibly the series’ finest hour.  Behold! – Nucky’s old pap bites the dust.  At last! – The Schroeder kids start callin’ ol’ Nuck “Dad.”  Look Yonder! – It’s Torrio and Rothstein (Michael Stuhlbarg) meeting up with Nucky to discuss the little problem with their underlings.  Apparently Rothstein is the 1920’s gangster version of our own modern-day Warren Buffett advising the others to wait…wait…wait…and then place the perfect bet.   And then! – After his own brush with death last week, Nucky sees all the signs and tells his enemies he’s resigning and stepping down to retire with his new “wife and kids.”  Oh, brutha, but even Nucky’s own dumb-as-dirt brother (Shea Whigham) knows that Nucky is smarter than Jimmy – he’s smarter than them all.  And we know that Nucky is bamboozling his enemies into thinking they’ve won – as you see, he’s plotting with Chalky White (Michael K. Williams) to shut down the city with a strike and arranging for Slater (Charles Cox) to take him over to Belfast and arrange a meeting…for perhaps a little arms dealing?  While pouty-lipped Jimmy is too dumb to realize his wife (Aleksa Palladino) is about to hook-up with novelist Louise, he takes out his blind frustrations by throwing the even stupider Mickey Doyle (whose laughing now, buddy?) from the balcony of Babette’s during their evening of celebration.  Continue reading

In Search of the World’s Greatest Fried Chicken

Paula Deen! Paula Deen! Get me some fried bird - stat!

We always discuss films and books and television.  There’s the occasional politicking.  Oh, and let’s not forget drinking – as in drinking games for watching political theater or your favorite cult film/TV show.  So why the heck not put The Spin on one of my all-time favorite things? 

FRIED CHICKEN. 

I’ve been in love with it ever since that day when I was about ten years-old and I tasted the home-cooked fried chicken of Mrs. Cottingham in Willingboro, NJ. 

On reruns of Seinfeld I’m often reminded by Newman that “Kenny Rogers makes a pretty mean bird,” but roasting is for suckers.  My heart and cholesterol belong to fowl of the fried persuasion.

I covet it like Daniel Plainview covets oil. 

So ladies and gentlemen…if I say I’m a fried chicken man you will agree.

And I am a man on a mission – in search of the world’s greatest fried chicken.

A few years ago, I thought I may have found it.  Continue reading

Boardwalk Empire: Peg of Old

Poor Nucky can't catch a break this season.

Boardwalk Empire: Complete Episode Guide 

Boardwalk Empire – Peg of Old

Season Two: Episode Seven

Directed by:  Allen Coulter

Written by:  Howard Korder, Steve Kornacki and Bathsheba Doran

The Spin:  For the most part, each episode of the second season thus far has been attributed to a single staff writer (many of them also producers on the show), unlike the first season where gaggles of staffers were penning stuff trying to get the cadence of the series down.  The single “author” for each episode has made the second season infinitely stronger and more direct in theme.  For episode seven, a trio of seasoned staffers worked together, giving us an hour more reminiscent of Season One.  In other words…a whole lotta shit went down, brother – and the result was hit or miss.  Director Allen Coulter held it all together, culminating in a sun-drenched scene harkening back to Episode 1.5 where Margaret succumbed to her desires.  Before this however, we witnessed a cavalcade of rebuffs and insults.  Jimmy is proving to be a weary man in charge, guided by his Lady Macbeth of a mother (Gretchen Mol) who is still knocking boots with that slimy Luciano fella.  Meanwhile, Lucy (Paz de la Huerta) presents her motherhood and sad predicament to an always willing to help Nucky.  Seeing this as an opportunity to mend things with (I mean blackmail) Van Alden (Michael Shannon), Nucky falls into a fit of bad luck – getting double-crossed by Van Alden (who seeks to appease the new lady ADA) and then shot at by one of Jimmy’s hired hands – in the hand no less.  Then there’s little Margaret… Continue reading

Keep Watching the Skies and Take Shelter

Writer/director Jeff Nichols’ Sundance hit Take Shelter is a haunting slow-burner about a man trying to weather the storms from within and without.  It exists at that rare cinematic nexus of emerging talents in front of and behind the camera.  It’s the type of small film that deserves a bigger audience than it has thus far earned.

In the lead role of Curtis, Michael Shannon (currently mayor of creep city on Boardwalk Empire) builds upon his past typecasting in films like Revolutionary Road and My Son My Son What Have Yee Done? to fully inhabit a man at wit’s end.  As his wife, Samantha, Jessica Chastain emerges from the dreamy otherworldliness of Malick’s The Tree of Life to portray a lovely down-to-earth young woman who fights with every fiber of her being to keep her family together even as she fears her husband is losing his mind.  Shannon’s unnerving physical performance and average schlub personality is the perfect foil to Chastain’s girl-next-door beauty and gumption.  Together they dance through Nichols’ quiet mind-field and let off tiny emotional explosions that could rattle the doors off a barn…or a storm cellar. Continue reading