29 September 2012

Last Resort

Pilot: Fantastic show! The best new show of the season thus far! Congrats ABC! High production value, tight script, ricochetting tension and a commanding leading actor in Andre Braugher who manages to make you want to believe him yet can't help feeling he knows more than he is telling. Simple story with enough mystery to keep you engaged and questioning why, why, why?? and tight action sequences that keep you at the edge of your seats, with some twists and turns that makes you wonder "WTF?!". Enough story telling to bounce back and forth between submarine, DC, home, island, etc. but that's not saying the pilot does not have it owns gaps and plot holes. However, they are small and easier to overlook what with the frantic pacing and twisting political intrigue. Scott Speedman was surprising competent and less teeny boppy-ish since his days on "Felicity"; Patrick Stewart is an interesting character and I can see him being the Ben to Braugher's Jack; Daisy Betts...well still undecided about her; nice to see Dichen Lachman ("Dollhouse) on telly again, but Autumn Reeser not so much, although the latter's has a rather interesting plot line. Definitely going to chase this to the end, unless it veers off to slow and plodding or absurd. I can accept preposterous like "24" just based on the scenario that this Pilot presented, but please do not stray into ridiculousness! I don't know how this can last more than 1 season and if it does please don't drag out any conspiracies. Also, I fear it may be filled with too many filler episodes on a network channel. Let's see how it goes! Navy boys should really enjoy this! But when I crossed the equator it sure was not only "La Bamba" and dancing! hahahah

Episode 2, "Blue on Blue": Very good 2nd outing, but same thing, if this continues for 20 episodes, then it's gonna get slow. I am intrigued by the DC subplot involving Autumn Reeser, but Jessy Schram's scenes are a tad derivative. Andre Braugher is gunning for a lead actor nom, and is Robert Patrick for a supporting actor. Scott Speedman's acting has really improved since his "Felicity" and "Underworld" days. I hope Dichen Lachmann gets more things to do rather than just spouting island lore to a lonely SEAL.

Episode 3, "Eight Bells": A relative filler episode. At least the COB is now out and thrown into the mix to give more dynamics within the submarine. The action scene is well choreographed, tense and gripping. Andre Braugher is fascinating to watch as Patrick Stewart chews the scenes. I'm curious as to what is the main plot purpose of Dichen Lachman (and the SEAL guy) in the show. She's a good actress and it's interesting...but what's her deal?!? The DC political intrigue needs to pick up pace. Good lord, Scott Speedman better not forget his wife. The hostage crisis bit was actually well done. I can't imagine the PTSD that will result from it!

Episode 4, "Voluntold": A realistic filler episode into the possible psyche of persons in such a scenario. I like how the role of "The Terrorists" seemed to topsy turvy within the Americans. Stewart's COB is possibly the most complex, interesting character in the show. Which side will he fall on eventually? Speedman's wife, ?Christine, has an interesting interlude, but she seemed shoehorned into the episode just cos she was signed on as series regular. My prediction about PTSD last episode came true, but it was a bit awkward and out of the blue. Too many plot lines dangling, they need to start streamlining all the narrative threads: NAVY SEALS, SEAL guy and Dichen, Christine, DC politics, Sub politics, US politics, French woman, Julian dude, minerals in the ground, etc etc. At least the girls in DC seemed to be linking up.

Episode 5, "Skeleton Crew": A good Grace-centric episode which served to develop the characters of some of the supporting cast. Good to know that the producers are developing the outside world realistically and not focusing solely on the United States. DC is still getting interesting, and Kylie and Christine would be an interesting combi. How many seasons can this show last?

Episode 6, "Another Fine Navy Day": Oh, so this is how they intend to prolong the drama on the island. I must say, it is rather entertaining. At least I am piqued to keep on watching it. But, why is it always a mole? I hope they jigged it up a bit and not have it as a crew member. Now, the King and Hopper storyline is getting intriguing. I do miss the political conspiracy bit though. Dichen Lachmann is so wasted in this show.

Note (18 Nov 2012): Sad news. ABC has cancelled the series. It was very well acted, especially by Andre Braugher. The concept may have been more suited as a mini-series on a cable network. Perhaps, they will still have a chance to try for mini-series nom. Pity. I do hope they get to end it properly.

Update: It's a pity the chances for noms for Andre Braugher and Robert Patrick just dropped. At least it frees up Dichen Lachmann who is so grossly under-utilised.

Update (19 Dec 2012): Now that the show has cancelled, I kind of lost momentum to follow it. Some of the episodes were a bit dull, but the Pakistani hijack episode was brilliant: tense and exciting. The follow-up was a slow, measured political game that quietly highlights the more insidious political turmoil churning in the background. And Singapore's Chin Han makes an appearance. Our local boy is sure going places. So far the show is going towards its endgame, and it seems to be speeding up with the looming deadline. I am now just in it too see how Shawn Ryan wraps it all up. The premise is really intriguing, but as said weeks earlier, this show is better as a mini-series, rather than a long form network series. It should had balance the island military drama with more political conspiracy. I do hope the series finale wraps it all up nicely.

Update (22 Jan 2012): After a long winter hiatus, the plots have clearly sped up for the two new episodes since this is now a limited engagement. Non essential plot lines are hastily wrapped up and the coup d'tat is pushed up forward straight to the face. Nonetheless, it is still very exciting to see them race towards the endgame. Hopefully Dichen Lachman can get a new pilot ASAP.

Series Finale: An obviously rushed job that tied up most of the loose threads. Nonetheless, the creators/producers/writers did a great job, sadly the  full potential of this series could not have been fully realised. But a good run anyways.

28 September 2012

Elementary

Pilot: Conflicted about this CBS show.  The cast is strong and has good chemistry and it is a refreshing new take/spin on the usual Sherlock formula, however, comparison with BBC's "Sherlock" is inevitable and for a fan of the latter, "Elementary" appears a weaker cousin. Elementary has the potential to be engaging but it runs the risk of becoming yet another procedural ala "The Mentalist" or "Lie to Me". Its strongest suit is its cast. Johnny Lee Miller portrays Holmes more maniac but with a heart; Lucy Liu's Watson is more of an equal to Holmes here as an investigation, but her role is written with a tad too much gender bias. Interestingly, a sly shout-out to "Sherlock"'s creator Steven Moffat in the way Holmes addresses Watson. Aidan Quinn is always a great addition to any show (RIP "Prime Suspect"), but sadly the other supporting casts are stereotypical and superfluous. The direction by Michael Cuesta (from "Homeland", and also an executive producer here) and script by Robert Doherty (another EP) set the tone, palette and future direction for the series. Sean Callery's score (of "Homeland" and "24" previously) was appropriate and heightens the tension of key scenes. Never really a fan of straight-up procedurals, but will hang on in for a few more episodes to see how this turn out. Note to self: try not to compare with "Sherlock".
Episode 2, "While You Were Sleeping": The quality of the show is maintained. However, it suffers from a formulaic, procedural plot with a twist any seasoned viewer/reader could see a mile away. The highlight of the show is still the chemistry between Lucy Liu and Johnny Lee Miller. Liu's Watson is also a refreshing change from the usual sidekick and she can hold herself competently against Miller's Sherlock. While the rest of NYC police is depicted as simpletons, Aidan Quinn at least has some sense and gravitas. What is the overarching plot of this show? When are they introducing "Moriarty" or his equivalent?

Episode 3, "Child Predator": This show is getting formulaic. Just like any procedurals. Even the "twist" ending is expected. The chemistry between Holmes and Watson is developing but at a glacial speed. There need to be an overarching plot/mythology to engage the audience for the long run, e.g "Red John" or "Miniature Killer", etc...so, where is Moriarty? And guess what? I said the same thing last episode. That's not to say it is not watchable, but it is mainly thanks to the leads and Aidan Quinn for selling it.

Episode 4, "The Rat Race": The best thing this show has going for it is the chemistry between Johnny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu, their scenes together are usually the highlight of the episodes. In particular, the scenes that do not involve the case of the week. Miller's Holmes is also slowly changing to someone less foreign and esoteric, and slightly more relatable (a bit different from Cumberbatch's Sherlock). Just through the sweeps to see if I would stay on with this show regularly.

Episode 5, "Lesser Evils": Boring, straightforward case and of course with a slight twist at the end. Interesting to find out a bit more about Watson, and I hope do hope we get to see more of her past and Anika Noni Rose. Similarly, it is the chemistry between Watson and Holmes that makes this interesting.  Hopefully, this relationship will never turn romantic.

Episode 6, "Flight Risk": Lots of red herrings here. At least makes the show more interesting, and more Holmes-ish. A vain attempt to try for character development initially, which paid some dividends in the end. Good acting by Miller for the last scene.

Episode 7, "One Way to Get Off": Last episode of the Sweeps season, and I think I will continue on watching this for a bit. Holmes and Watsons have an interesting dynamic but they are building it rather slowly. The case-of-the-week and procedural style is really beginning to drag it down. More character development for the 3 leads will be much appreciated.

27 September 2012

Premium Rush

Interesting premise but even at only about 90mins, the movie still felt too long. The onscreen timer was both a boon and bane. It gave some sort of structure to the movie, but also it made the premise unbelievable. How to get from point A to point B, with event X, Y and Z happening, within the time frame as presented by show. Joseph Gordon-Levitt has charisma and he together with the always reliable Michael Shannon are the saving grace of the show. That and the quite good directing; David Koepp definitely captured the rush and adrenaline of messenger riders through the hectic streets of NYC. Particularly the climatic scene in the Third Act. Also, good play on the Wile E. Coyote analogy: good guy vs. bad guy, but who really is the good guy, and who the bad guy. Unfortunately, not as meta as that because the plot was too bloated with padding, but that was a sad necessity since the main plot was too simple. Simple and unbelievable, and hence, quite a number of loop holes in the logic and, as aforementioned, the time sequences. Fitting indie music and tech/CGI integration. In the end, "Phone Booth" did the single-location/premise much better, and "24" did the real-time schtick better. Stay for the credits.

The Mindy Project

Pilot: One of the few new sitcoms that actually has potential. This FOX vehicle starring Mindy Kaling has a good cast that are not aggravating but actually interesting, funny and charismatic. And it is always nice to see Anna Camp back on TV! Of cos, practically, the depiction of an OBGYN is far from reality, but that's not what we are looking for in escapism television. The pilot moved along smoothly, although some scenes seemed a bit clunky, but hopefully it will all smoothen out in the future. Some laughters but nothing big or really love out loud yet except for the opening sequence. The potential love triangle is set in place with two likable douchebags (Chris Messina and Ed Weeks). This show really does has potential.

Episode 2: Funny show. Smart with genuinely good chuckles. No annoying laugh tracks. Anna Camp was grossly underused (but her scene was a highlight). Ed Weeks was the weakest link here this week. All round outstanding ensemble. But the B and C-plots did not tie in neatly.

Episode 3: Started off the episode a bit disjointed, but tied up rather nicely in the end. Still rather short of laughs, but the word to describe the show thus far is "sweet". It's like a slow-burn rom-com for TV. The romantic entangles are starting to show, and I am a bit apprehensive as to how it should go. So far, it's watchable but still not appointment basis.

Episode 4: Still not very funny. A lot of sniggering kind of laughters but nothing laugh out loud except for one last laugh near the end. Anna Camp needs to do more, rather than just the straight friend to Mindy over the phone. It may be better if they have more interactions with the whole cast rather than disparate story lines. Danny and Jeremy has a good bromance that can be further developed.

Episode 5: Unfortunately, not that funny still. Some "heh" and some "ha", but nothing loud and boisterous. Generally more uncomfortable than funny. Poor Anna Camp needs to jump camp. Will continue watching with the hope of it improving.

Update (23 March 2013): Ok, I gave it many chances. Even with the revamp this show still is painful and annoying to watch. Sadly, I am done with it. It is just not that funny at all.

Update (12 Sept 2013): Watched the first episode of the second season. Started promising with a good laugh, but sadly was just so bad thereafter. Only the chemistry between Chris Messina and Mindy Kaling was enjoyable. Morgan is just as annoying, Ed Weeks is just a poor sod. Ridiculous storylines. Sadly, not even James Franco and his "gay face" could save this wreck.

26 September 2012

Partners

Pilot: The two best things about this CBS show are: Michael Urie (he of "Ugly Betty" fame) and his chemistry with David Krumholtz. But despite that and the relatively impressive pedigree, most of the jokes fell flat and barely got a chuckle. Urie is the only one fun to watch, and the two "partners" were boring. Brandon Routh is miscast and cannot act; Sophia Bush could be so much better! Hopefully, they can develop the supporting casts and venture out of the typical gay/straight stereotypes and hit the right notes that made "Will & Grace" so popular back then.

Episode 2: Slightly better outing. A few genuine smiles, but no chuckles. Too many lame jokes in between. Sophia Bush and Brandon Routh characters need more things to do. Urie is still the brightest star, it's mainly his jokes and deliveries that sold the laughs. As is his chemistry with Krumholtz. Routh is just so bland!

Episode 3: It's improving. Urie still gets the best lines and there were some stingers throughout that made me laugh out. Removing Bush and Routh from their workplace definitely improved the structure of the show, but Routh really annoys me. He's too daft to be the straight man (hah!)...but Bush definitely has improved. She and Urie has good chemistry too.

Episode 4: The verdict is in after 4 episodes. This show is watchable. Definitely not appointment TV, but the actors and writers seemed to have found their groove. Urie is funny and surely the main reason to stay on with it. Sadly, Routh is the weakest link. It will be interesting to see how they carry on the season or beyond with just these 4 casts. They may need to expand their supporting actors. Nonetheless, I can get a least one or two laughs per episode now, so will stick with it for 20-odd minutes a week.

Episode 5: Still have a few laughs. They finally found one thing to do with Routh but sadly I doubt it can be a running joke. The Superman/Clarke Kent and Lois/Louis joke is really funny (but in an inside joke). And they should really play on his himbo-ism. Louis can veer into being annoying. Although I think the relationship between Louis and Joe is quite realistic of super-close friends, and their chemistry has really developed! I really like this "I don't want to fight with you!".

Episode 6: "Claire Danes' chin quiver". Total laugh out loud moment. This show is at least maintaining its standard. Chemistry between Louis and Joe is the key here. Routh is finally more tolerable. Bush's jewelry subplot is still not working.

Note: Sad news. CBS cancelled the series. Sigh. Although it started off rough, I thought they finally understood the characters recently. At least it delivers more laughs than some of the other new sitcoms. Pity. Hope Urie gets a new show. STAT.

20 September 2012

Revolution

Pilot: This is what I hope Whedon will never come to. Pity JJ Abrams, he of the mind that gave us "Felicity", "Alias", "Lost" (the early seasons) and even sometimes "Fringe", has his name, and stamp of approval, attached to this formulaic, repetitive trope.  It is filled with good looking YA/A&F catalogue models-esque actors that can't really act (?yet) and are written stupidly annoying (sometimes annoyingly stupid). Charlie is no Felicity, Sidney Bristow (somehow her last name makes it complete) or Olivia. The handful of solid character actors are wasted, yet their screen times are possibly the best of the pilot: Giancarlo Esposito, Elizabeth Mitchell, Tim Guinee and Billy Burke. The show has potential, just like "Flashforward" had too, so let's see how it goes over another few more episodes. I do hope they re-focus the attention more on the adults rather than the teens, and also they better do some explaining regarding the new rules in this world. The conspiracy part makes sense broadly, but I fear it will just get convoluted as the show proceeds.

Episode 2, "Chained Heat": Annoyingly stupid Charlie continues to pervade the show, and just when you think her character is going to evolve she just slides back down to being stupidly annoying. Equally annoying was the further seeding of the Nate/Charlie relationship. I wonder how many more episodes to go before a love triangle develops? Maybe Nate or Danny will end up being gay/bisexual! Or Nate will be related to Nora. Speaking of which, this show is turning out to be like a RPG with main quest, side quests and side quests of side quests. Giancarlo Esposito and Elizabeth Mitchell are the only two actors/characters worth watching. Esposito's Neville is possibly the most complex character  in the show and may perhaps be a better villain then the currently one-dimensional Monroe; Mitchell's Rachel (come on, you can't possible think that they'd only hire her and make her a regular for only flashbacks right? unlike Tim Guinee...) is fascinating in the plot development area: who is she? why is she there? what does she know? The new opening narration is annoying, I hope it is not a permanent fixture and without Jon Favreau, the action sequences by Charles Beeson was too messy. Still intrigued by the A-plot and the premise, the role of the amulets/pendants and now, who is Randall?

Episode 3, "No Quarter": Boring. Horrible characterisations. Charlie's characterisation is all over the place: Danny. Save the rebels, Danny can wait. Fight, fight, fight! Risk my life for strangers. Dad is a coward! UGH! The three main leads for this episode: Charlie, Nora and Miles were so boring. And again, Charlie is so annoying!! I wish I could reach in and slap her. Twice! The absolute waste of bullets throughout this whole episode contradicts the whole philosophy unless Monroe has the magic amulet and it makes bullets (all kinds of bullets for him). And, does a Marine grade sniper have night vision? The interesting bit is actually the flashbacks. Perhaps this show may be better if it was set in the past with occasional flash forwards to whet the audience's appetite. The big reveal for this episode is so anti-climatic. Unfortunately, no Elizabeth Mitchell and minimal Giancarlo Esposito. Thankfully, we have Mark Pellegrino guesting, and Monroe is getting interesting. The only thing I am interested in is why electricity died. How is it controlled now (and I'm sure a dead iPhone batt can last 15 years, either that or they invented wireless charging)? The thing is, are the answers worth the tedious wait? I am going to wait till November sweeps and see how it goes. Or earlier.

Note (6 Nov 2012): Was away for 2 weeks and when I was back, there was no strong urge to catch-up on this series. Just reading about it online did not make me feel like I want to catch it, and now that the BIG reveal is out, it seemed kind of a let down. The show seemed to be evolving into more of a quest/mission-oriented series in restoring power ("let's look for all the pendant/amulet thingys!"), but however characterisations are so poorly done, especially Charlie, that I do not really care about any of them. Therefore, sadly, this is the first show of the season I am giving up on.

19 September 2012

To Rome with Love [Dig]

Woody Allen's ode to the eternity city of Rome is a pale comparison to his last movie, "Midnight in Paris". It is still good, but it lacked the coherence and the heart of his French piece. It seemed liked a string of farcial comedic pieces that tried too hard to pretend to be intellectual, meditating on the meaning of fame and appearance can be deceiving. Four separate story lines all dancing around those common themes, but never really conveying it clearly to the audience. Sure, there are laughters, but they feel hollow. The bright sparks of the movie were the non-Hollywood celebrities (perhaps they were celebrities too in Italy, but if they were not, then kudos to Allen for underpinning his theme even through casting!) and the scenes in Italian, in particular, opera singer Fabio Armilato and actress Alessandra Mastronardi. The usually annoying Roberto Benigni had the most interesting hook, and it seemed that the whole movie may have arose from that one single idea. Of the Hollywood stars, Ellen Page was the most refreshing with good comic timing, and it is nice to see how she have achieved and grown the days of "Hard Candy" and "Juno"; Penelope Cruz is always beautiful to watch, but her role here is nothing more than a glam-ed up "vase". Allen should not really act in his own shows, he does not seem to be able to rein in his neuroses, and he appears to be ad-libbing his lines, which then further enhances his neurotic-ness. The poorest of Allen's European postcards. But oh man, Rome sure looks inviting again!

14 September 2012

Hope Springs [Dig]

Meryl Streep continues her trend of alternating Oscar nominating roles with Rom-Coms, but a Meryl rom-com is indefinitely better than most other actresses'. And again she has found a compatible actor to share her scenes with. Nobody does curmudgeonly grumpy old men like Tommy Lee Jones. Streep is amazing! She manages to infuse in all her characters (Oscar bait or not) with so much authenticity and nuances that she is absolutely lost in each role. Such dedication to her craft! The leads both had excellent chemistry and played well against each other. Genuine laughters and heart warming/melting scenes which were accentuated throughout with oestrogen-releasing songs and softly back lit scenes. Supporting actors are negligible and that includes Steve Carrell, the ironic straight man to two serious actors (perhaps, that's the comedy right there!). Predictable storyline, like almost all rom-coms, but saved from mediocrity by the strong leads!

Hide Yamamoto

A pleasant surprise! Cheap (relative), fresh Japanese set lunches on weekdays. The $38 chirashi set lunch came with a small sashimi salad, a bowl of chirashi don and 2 scoops of ice-cream (well, 1 grapefruit sorbet and 1 coconut ice-cream). Note: the hot tea was not free. The chirashi was a good size and came with 9 fishes, ikura and 2 tamagoyaki. The fish slices were on the thin side but were definitely fresh. At this price it's a steal! And definitely replaces the niche of affordable lunch sets that was occupied by Tetsuya but which has been sadly left vacant since Tetsuya started deteriorating after the Tsunami disaster.

Updated (15 Sept 2012): Weekend set lunch is the Teppan set but only limited to 6 orders per day, so don't be late! (lunch starts at 12pm). For $48 you get appetiser, wafu salad, beef in shabu shabu style, nabeyaki udon with lobster (which was still twitching!), and dessert. The appetiser was a cold fried fish with a a sour vinaigrette sauce and the wafu salad was sesame based with lots of finely chopped daishi. The beef was well grilled, a bit too well such that the fats were all melted out the thin slices, and the sauce is beginning to taste similar. The lobster was really fresh and sweet. The accompanying sauce did nothing much to enhance the taste. Perhaps a bit more wok-hei (锅气)would be better. The udon had a good texture and is a good accompaniment to the lobster. Dessert was similar: grapefruit and rock melon sorbet. Portion wise is just right for a lunch. And at this price, hard to argue against.

Verdict: A definite winner for set lunches! Will come and try their dinner teppanyaki one day.

7 September 2012

The Campaign [Dig]

Very low expectations = minimal (not,no) disappointment. I can honestly say that the best performance is by a non-speaking character that appeared in 2 scenes for less than 1 minute: Uggie, the dog from "The Artist". I thought the animals drew more laughter than the 2 leads, although Dylan McDermott was kinda funny in his intensiveness. The best scene was a COPS shout out. It is timely released to coincide with upcoming American elections and there were some smartly veiled slingshots at the state of politics now, but unfortunately the show appealed to the lowest denominator and any slingshots just pattered out the moment it was fired. Sight gags are plentiful, but most fall flat. Even the end credits shot was a wasted opportunity.

1 September 2012

Ted [Dig]

Not as juvenile as expected but also not as great as raved. The one missing thing throughout the show is the "spark" between the characters/cast. Cute, interesting concept, and Ted was quite amazingly animated, but Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis lacked chemistry, Wahlberg's acting opposite Ted was "stoned" (perhaps a nod to the character hinself? Heh). All these led to a climax that could have hit an emotional home run, but instead ended up flatlining. That said, the scenes with Ted himself/itself were genuinely funny. It's saying something when the funniest scenes were the one with guest stars (*spoiler* NJ and RR). Maybe there was some editing and censorship which resulted in this really-not-that-funny-and-I-dunno-why-everybody-loved-it film here. Won't surprise me.

Stephen King's Doctor Sleep

This was unexpectedly good. It was not Oscar-winning good, but it was a thoroughly entertaining horror-thriller. Kudos to writer/director...