ABC Family Stitchers preview


Stitchers

Stitchers photo

Stars:

Emma Ishta (Manhatten Love Story) as Kirsten
Kyle Harris (The Carrie Diaries) as Cameron
Allison Scagliotti (Warehouse 13) as Camille
and Salli Richardson-Whitfield (Eureka) as Maggie

ABC Family has come a long way with their drama series, from “So little time” to “Kyle XY” (which I loved) “Ravenswood, “Twisted” “The Fosters” and arguably their biggest hit “Pretty Little Liars“. The network now offers us a new look into the teen drama with “Stitchers

Following the path of Kirsten, a young woman drafted into a government agency to be ‘stitched’ into the minds of the recently dead to use their memories to solve mysteries that would otherwise gone unsolved. That is the premise. Seems simple, right? Yeah, that is what I thought too.

Now, let’s get things complicated. Kirsten suffers from temporal dysplasia, a condition that can not let her have any perception of time. I don’t know if this leaves her without empathy or that she just doesn’t care, either way it will be interesting to find out.

Kirsten, as a character, leaves me a bit cold, and when your leading character does nothing to add to the show, it is bound to end up bad!

Given that “Stitchers” premieres after the CW’s iZombie and is in the same vein (sorry for the pun), the comparisons are there. For me though, iZombie is the better show. There are enough questions to keep me interested, but for how long?

Quotes:

“I’m to old to do a stint in Gitmo… I’m not”
“Trained monkey? I can work with that.”
“You can harvest the memories of the dead, but this requires a whole new set of skills”

“Stitchers” premiers on ABC Family after “Pretty Little Liars” June 2nd at 9 east.

What Lisa Marie Watched Last Night #126: The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe, Part 2 (dir by Laurie Collyer)


On Sunday night, I watched Part 2 of Lifetime’s The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe.

The Secret Life of Marilyn MonroeWhy Was I Watching It?

I was watching it because I watched Part One on Saturday and I absolutely loved it!  I wanted to see how Part Two would deal with the second half of Marilyn’s life.  Would it explore the mysteries that still surround her death?  Would the Kennedys make an appearance?  Who would come off worse — Joe DiMaggio or Arthur Miller?

What Was It About?

Part Two of The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe deals with her life after she became a star.  We watch as the increasingly fragile Marilyn marries the physically abusive Joe DiMaggio (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and the mentally abusive Arthur Miller (Stephen Bogaert).  (Seriously, neither Joe nor Arthur comes across positively in this film.)  Marilyn continues to deal with her own fears that she’ll go crazy like her mother (Susan Sarandon).  She has a brief moment of hope when she meets John F. Kennedy, though the film is deliberately vague about the details of their relationship.  Ultimately, she ends up having a breakdown and is hospitalized against her will.  By the end of the film, it seems like she’s found some hope for the future but then, we see her tossing and turning in bed and clumsily reaching for a bottle of pills…

What Worked?

Kelli Garner’s performance as Marilyn was just impressive here as it was during the first part of the film.

What Did Not Work?

Sadly, Part Two just wasn’t as good as Part One.  To a large extent, Part One worked because of the emphasis on Marilyn’s relationships with her mom (Susan Sarandon) and her adopted aunt Grace (Emily Watson).  In Part Two, those relationships were overshadowed by Marilyn’s unhappy marriages to DiMaggio and Miller.  As a result, the film lost some of its focus and it often seemed to be meandering from one unhappy scene to another until Marilyn’s final night.

Also, I was disappointed that the film was so vague in its approach to Marilyn’s relationship with the Kennedys.  Listen, everyone knows that Marilyn had an affair with both Jack and Bobby Kennedy.  The film tried to create some ambiguity about this point, never actually showing either Kennedy brother on screen and instead, just having Marilyn talk about them.  Rather unfairly, this created the impression that both affairs could have been another one of Marilyn’s delusions.  Quite frankly, Marilyn Monroe deserves better than that.

“Oh My God!  Just like me!” Moments

Just as with Part One, there were several.  Kelli Garner humanized her iconic role to such an extent that I think everyone watching could relate to her.  I’ll just say that I’ve known my DiMaggios and my Millers and leave it at that.

Lessons Learned

Fame does not equal happiness.

In the end, Part Two was not as good as Part One but, overall, The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe was worth the 4 hours it took to watch it.  It did a great job of recreating the Hollywood of the past and Kelli Garner gave a great performance.  Since this is Lifetime that we’re talking about, I imagine both parts will be rerun frequently.  If you missed them the first time, don’t make the same mistake twice!

Embracing the Melodrama Part II #93: Boogie Nights (dir by Paul Thomas Anderson)


Boogie_nights_ver1The 1997 film Boogie Nights (which, amazingly enough, was not nominated for best picture) is a bit of an overwhelming film to review.  It’s a great film and, if you’re reading this review, you’ve probably seen Boogie Nights and you probably already know that it’s a great film.  And if you haven’t seen Boogie Nights, you really should because it’s a great film.  So, this review, in short, amounts to: Great film.

Boogie Nights takes place in the late 70s and the early 80s.  Eddie Adams (Mark Wahlberg) is a high school dropout who works as a busboy, lives with his parents, and has a really big cock.  (Indeed, one of the film’s most famous lines is, “This is a giant cock.”)  When we first meet Eddie, he’s likable and cute in a dumb sort of way.  Then he meets adult film director Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds) and becomes a star.  At first, everything is great.  Eddie changes his name to Dirk Diggler and no longer has to deal with his abusive mother (a chilling Joanna Gleason).  Jack and Amber Waves (Julianne Moore) become his new parents.  He gets a cool older brother in the form of actor Reed Rothschild (John C. Reilly, totally nailing the “People tell me that I look like Han Solo,” line).  He makes friends with other adult film actors, like the desperately unhip Buck (Don Cheadle), the free-spirited (and secretly very angry) Rollergirl (Heather Graham), and the poignantly insecure Jessie St. Vincent (Melora Walters).  He gets new admirers, like Scotty J. (Philip Seymour Hoffman).  He also gets addicted to cocaine.  And while Dirk falls from stardom, the adult film industry is taken over by gangsters like Floyd Gondolli (Philip Baker Hall) and self-styled artists like Jack Horner find themselves pushed to the side.

And you may have noticed that I mentioned a lot of actors in the paragraph above.  That’s because Boogie Nights is a true ensemble piece.  It’s full of great performances and memorable characters.  Along with everyone that I mentioned above, the cast also includes William H. Macy as cinematographer “Little Bill” Daggett.  From the minutes we first meet Little Bill, we get the feeling that he might be a little bit too uptight for pornography.  Maybe that’s because his wife — played by the inspiring sex positive feminist and veteran adult film star Nina Hartley — is constantly and publicly cheating on him.  Macy and Hartley do not have as much screen time as the rest of the cast but, ultimately, their characters are two of the most important in the film.

And then there’s Robert Ridgely, who is marvelously sleazy as the paternal but ultimately icky Col. James.  When we first meet the Colonel, he’s almost a humorous character.  But then, suddenly, there’s one chilling scene where he opens up to Jack Horner and we are forced to reconsider everything that we had previously assumed about both the Colonel and his business.

And how can we forget Luis Guzman, as a club owner who desperately wants to appear in one of Jack’s films?  Or Ricky Jay as a plain-spoken cameraman?  Or how about Thomas Jane, playing one of those tightly wound characters who you know is going to be trouble as soon as you see him?  And finally, nobody who has seen Boogie Nights will ever forget Alfred Molina, singing along to Sister Christian and running down the street, clad only in black bikini briefs and firing a shotgun.

But it’s not just the actors who make Boogie Nights a great film.  This was Paul Thomas Anderson’s second film and, under his direction, we feel as if we’ve been thrown straight into Dirk’s exciting and ultimately dangerous world.  When the film begins, the camera almost seems to glide, capturing the excitement of having everything that you could possibly want.  But, as things go downhill for Dirk, the camerawork gets more jittery and nervous.   A sequence where Anderson cuts back and forth between Jack trying to shoot a movie on video (as opposed to his beloved film) and Dirk nearly being beaten to death in a parking lot remains one of the best sequences that Anderson has ever directed.

And then there’s the music!  Oh my God!  The music!

And the dancing!

And the singing!

I’ll be the first admit that I have no idea whether or not Boogie Nights is a realistic portrait of the adult film industry in the 70s and 80s.  But ultimately, Boogie Nights is not about porn.  It’s about a group of outsiders who form their own little family.  At the end of the film, you’re happy that they all found each other.  You know that Dirk will probably continue to have problems in the future but you’re happy for him because, no matter what happened in the past or what’s going to happen in the future, you know that he’s found a family that will always love him.

As I mentioned at the start of this appreciation, Boogie Nights was not nominated for best picture.  Titanic was named the best picture of 1997.  As I’ve said before, I loved Titanic when I was 12.  But, nearly 18 years later, Boogie Nights is definitely the better picture.

It has stood the test of time.

 

Prostitute Your Blog — For Free!


A little rant I thought the other bloggers here, and even some of our readers, might appreciate!

Trash Film Guru

So here’s one totally out of left field : a true story about — feel free to stifle a yaw right now if you must — blogging.

I’m not in the habit of talking much about blogging itself on my blog since it seems like opening the floodgates to a near-fatal self-referential loop, but I’m wondering, since I know there are other bloggers out there who read my blathering, if anything like this has ever happened to you or, if not, what you’d do in regards to such a scenario if it were to happen. For my part, I found the answer I came up with to be a very easy one indeed, but if you disagree with me, then by all means, tell me why!

Here’s the set-up : a few days back I got an email from somebody I didn’t know who claimed to be a reader of…

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Happy Birthday, Clint Eastwood!


Painting by Ryan Gajda

Painting by Ryan Gajda

Happy 85th birthday to director, actor, and jazz musician Clint Eastwood!  Here are a few Clint Eastwood inspired paintings to help you get into the birthday spirit!

Painting by Allen Glass

Painting by Allen Glass

Painting by Andrew Read

Painting by Andrew Read

Painting by Nino Vecia

Painting by Nino Vecia

Painting by Dave Walker

Painting by Dave Walker

Painting by Jim Blanchard

Painting by Jim Blanchard

Painting by Jennifer Morrison

Painting by Jennifer Morrison

Painting by Alexey Kurbatov

Painting by Alexey Kurbatov

Painting by David Dunne

Painting by David Dunne

good-morning-clint-eastwood-nop-briex

Painting by Nop Briex

Painting by Steve Payne

Painting by Steve Payne

 

 

 

What Lisa Marie Watched Last Night #125: The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe, Part I (dir by Laurie Collyer)


Earlier tonight, I watched Part One of the latest Lifetime original movie, The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe.

The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe

Why Was I Watching It?

Lifetime has been advertising The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe for about two months now.  From the first commercial, I knew that this was something that I was going to have to watch.  After all, a movie about a famous and tragic actress on the always melodramatic Lifetime network?  How could I not watch?

What Was It About?

It’s right there in the title.  The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe tells the story of how poor country girl Norma Jean Baker became the iconic Marilyn Monroe.  The first part of this two-part film dealt with Marilyn’s early years.  We watched as Marilyn (played by Kelli Garner) made her way out to Hollywood and appeared in her first few films, all the while dealing with her mentally unstable mother, Grace (Susan Sarandon).  Part One ended with Marilyn on the verge of becoming the world’s biggest star.  It was a happy ending for Marilyn but not so much for the audience because we know what’s going to happen to her during Part II.

What Worked?

The first part of The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe was everything that you could possibly want from a Lifetime movie.  The costumes, the production design, the cinematography — it was all properly opulent and wonderful to look at.

Even more importantly, Part One was anchored by three wonderful performances from three great actresses.  Susan Sarandon was heartbreaking and poignant as Marilyn’s unstable mother.  Emily Watson brought a quiet strength to the role of Marilyn’s surrogate mother, Grace.  And finally, there’s Kelli Garner in the title role.  After years of doing good work in small roles (Bully, Lars and The Real Girl), The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe finally gives Kelli Garner a chance to show what she’s capable of doing as an actress.  In part one, Garner gave a performance that both humanized an icon while also suggesting the legend that she would eventually become.

What Did Not Work?

The film’s framing device, in which Marilyn told her story to a psychologist played by Jack Noseworthy, occasionally felt a bit awkward.  Otherwise, as far as the first half of The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe was concerned, it all worked.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

Obviously, I don’t want to sit here and compare myself to Marilyn Monroe.  I’ll leave that for others to do.  However, I do have to say that there were quite a few “Oh my God!  Just like me!” moments in the first part of The Secret Life Of Marilyn Monroe.  That was one reason why the film worked so well — it took an iconic figure and humanized her to the extent that anyone viewing could relate to her.

There were many moments that I related to during part one, particularly when it came to Marilyn’s emotional vulnerability and her desire to be seen as something more than just another pretty face.  In fact, there were more than a few times that I had to look away from the screen because, often, Marilyn’s pain was my pain.

Ultimately, though, the biggest “OMG!  Just like me!” moment came at the start of the film when Marilyn spent over an hour trying on different outfits before greeting the psychologist waiting in the next room.  I’m just as obsessive, especially when it comes to picking the right clothes for a doctor’s appointment.

(Seriously, I once spent an entire day putting together the perfect outfit for seeing the allergist.)

Lessons Learned

Fame can’t buy happiness but it can come awfully close.  (Of course, I have a feeling that lesson will be invalidated once I watch the second part of The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe.)

Alan Moore’s Act Of “Providence”


The comic of the year — and perhaps of the last several — is here : Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows’ “Providence” #1!

Trash Film Guru

Providence01_regular1-600x927

Fellow comics readers — do you remember that feeling of being in on the ground floor of something not just great, but truly monumental? Folks who were around for Fantastic Four #1 and the dawn of the so-called “Marvel Age Of Comics” talk about it a lot. As do those who picked up Jack Kirby’s New Gods #1 on the newsstands (even though, technically speaking, the Fourth World mythos had already been introduced to the world in the pages of Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen). Members of my generation felt it when we grabbed book one of Frank Miller’s  The Dark Knight Returns  and, just a handful of months later, Watchmen #1 , hot off the comic store shelves in the annus mirabilis of 1986.

It’s been a long time, hasn’t it? But I promise you this much :  here,  in 2015, it’s happening again — finally…

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Neon Dream #15: Happy End – Kaze Wo Atsumete


“Kaze Wo Atsumete” by Happy End (はっぴいえんど) appears twice in Lost in Translation: once outside a karaoke room at the end of a long night, and once at the end of the credits. Since that movie was so central to how I remember the late 90s and early 2000s, I thought I might end with it too.

Here are links to the previous entries in my series. They all clearly share :???: in common. (Well, I had fun, anyway):

1. Maserati – Inventions
2. Boris – Intro
3. Tom Waits – Small Change
4. Hong Kong Express – 浪漫的夢想
5. 日本航空株式会社 ✈ Japan Airlines – Airglider
6. 식료품groceries – 슈퍼마켓Yes! We’re Open
7. 古川もとあき – One Night in Neo Kobe City (from Snatcher)
8. Aphex Twin – Flim
9. Air – Alone in Kyoto (from Lost in Translation)
10. The Album Leaf – The Outer Banks
11. Kinski – Semaphore
12. 芸能山城組 – Kaneda (from Akira)
13. 川井憲次 – Making of Cyborg (from Ghost in the Shell)
14. Blut Aus Nord – Epitome XVIII
15. Happy End – Kaze Wo Atsumete (from Lost in Translation)

Embracing the Melodrama Part II #92: Stealing Beauty (dir by Bernardo Bertolucci)


Stealing_Beauty_PosterI love Italy.

Some of that’s because I happen to be a fourth Italian.  And a lot of it is because many of my favorite filmmakers are Italian.  However, Italy is also place of which I have a lot of wonderful memories.  I spent the summer after my high school graduation in Italy and it was amazing.

Venice was full of sensual mystery (and, to be honest, some pretty obnoxious tourists as well).  Naples was dangerous and exciting.  Pompeii made me feel like I was living history.  Rome was full of handsome men and temptation.  When I walked through the Vatican, my inner Catholic girl suddenly woke up and I just had to stop and stare.  And Tuscany — oh my God, Tuscany!  That summer, as far as I was concerned, Tuscany was the most beautiful and romantic place on Earth.  I can still remember standing in the street of Florence and seeing the dome of the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore in the distance and, for a minute, I almost felt like I was in a painting.  And I actually started to get light-headed and dizzy, I was so overwhelmed by it all.

(That’s right.  Stendhal Syndrome isn’t just a Dario Argento film.)

At it’s best, the 1996 film Stealing Beauty made me think about that wonderful summer that I spent in Italy.  And, at its worse, Stealing Beauty made me happy that I made that trip with my sisters and not Lucy Harmon.

Lucy Harmon is the main character in Stealing Beauty.  Played by a young Liv Tyler, Lucy is the teenage daughter of a poet who has recently committed suicide.  Lucy is a poet herself.  Among her poems: “The dye is cast/ The dice are rolled/ I feel like shit/ you look like gold” and “I wait/ I wait so patiently/ I’m as quiet as a cup/ I hope you’ll come and rattle me/ Quick!/ Come wake me up.”  That’s right — Lucy writes the same type of crap that I used to write when I was 17 and trying to impress everyone with the depth of my mind.  The only difference is that Lucy is rich and privileged so her poetry doesn’t actually have to be any good.

Anyway, Lucy comes to Tuscany for three reasons.  First off, she wants to be sculpted by one of her mother’s friends, who lives in a villa.  Secondly, she wants to lose her virginity to an Italian boy who, years before, kissed her.  And, finally, she wants to learn the identity of her father, who she believes to be one of the residents of the villa.

The film’s great when it concentrates on the beauty of Tuscany.  It’s a beautiful film to look at and, as its best, it captures the romance of being young and having your entire life ahead of you.  In that way, the film brought back a lot of good memories and it made me want to revisit Italy.

But then, whenever I was fully content to just enjoy the sight of Tuscany, the film had to try to focus on Lucy and the other people living in the villa and … bleh.  For all of their talk about art and political posturing, they all basically came across as being a bunch of self-righteous fakes, the equivalent of the millionaire with a Che poster in his office.  In the end, there are only two adults that you end up liking.  You like writer Alex Parris (Jeremy Irons) because he’s dying and, as a result, doesn’t feel the need to try to impress anyone.  And, despite the film’s intentions, you end up liking the local fascist, Carlo Lisca (Carlo Checchi), because he doesn’t apologize for or try to rationalize his narcissism.  You like Carlo because all of the other characters dislike him.

In the role of Lucy, Liv Tyler is obviously beautiful and gives as good a performance as the script will allow.  At the same time, as a character, Lucy got on my last nerve.  Judging from what we see of her work, Lucy is not a particularly talented poet.  In fact, Lucy appears to often be an amazingly vapid person.  (Her much-commented on virginity only serves to confirm that Lucy is largely meant to be a male fantasy.)  But, at the same time, she’s rich and she’s got a famous mother and, as a result, the film seems to be telling us that it’s not important that she’s not really that interesting.

So, plotwise, Stealing Beauty did not really work for me.  But the scenery was truly beautiful.

Embracing the Melodrama Part II #91: A Reason to Believe (dir by Douglas Triola)


A Reason to BelieveThroughout the late 90s, a rather obscure film from 1995 called A Reason To Believe used to show up on Cinemax fairly frequently. I was 11 when I first saw it.  At the time, I was indulging in my rebellious streak by secretly staying up past my bed time and sneaking into the living room, where I would watch whatever forbidden sordidness what being aired.  Because I didn’t want to wake anyone up, I would watch with the volume turned almost all the way down.  Hence, when I first saw A Reason To Believe, I literally had to sit less than an inch away from the TV just so I could hear the dialogue.

And I remember that, at the age of 11, A Reason To Believe really blew me away.  I thought it was one of the greatest films that I had ever seen.  The fact that the film involved college students made me feel like I was both watching a movie for adults and getting a preview of what life would be like when I was older.  All of the sex and the language made me feel like I was getting away with something while I was watching it.  At one point, there was a shot of Sharon (played by Holly Marie Combs) putting a condom on Wesley’s (Danny Quinn) erect penis and I found myself glancing over my shoulder, convinced that at any minute a responsible adult was going to enter the living room and say, “WHAT ARE YOU WATCHING!?”

So, when I recently rewatched A Reason To Believe, I did so wondering how the film would hold up now that I’m an adult.  Not surprisingly, a good deal of the film now seemed to be heavy-handed.  For every good line in the script, there was a line that was way too obvious.  Characters who were funny when I was 11 — like dorky stoner Potto (Keith Coogan) — now seemed to be annoying.  And, of course, my more experienced eyes immediately realized that Holly Marie Combs was putting that condom on a prosthetic penis.

And yet, A Reason To Believe is still fairly effective and probably deserves to be better known than it actually is.  Usually, I refuse to give extra credit for good intentions but I’m willing to make an exception for A Reason To Believe because the film deals with a subject that, now more than ever, needs to be dealt with.

Charlotte (Allison Smith) is a student at an unnamed generic university.  When her boyfriend, Wesley (Danny Quinn), has to go away for the weekend, he asks Allison not to go to Viking, an annual party thrown by his fraternity.  Charlotte promises that she won’t but then goes anyway.  At Viking, she hangs out with Wesley’s best friend, Jim (Jay Underwood).  Jim is also dating Allison’s friend, Judith (Kim Walker).  Realizing that she’s had too much to drink, Allison attempts to leave the party but instead, Jim leads her into his bedrom.  He kisses her.  She says no but Jim forces himself on her.  Repeating all the old bullshit excuses (i.e., Charlotte was flirting with him, all girls say no when they mean yes, and all the rest) Jim seems to truly believe that the sex was consensual.  Charlotte knows it was rape.

At first, Charlotte doesn’t want to face what happened.  When she finally does go to the university administration and reports what happened, the frat — including her boyfriend — comes together to protect Jim.  Charlotte’s friends — like Judith — abandon her.  Her only supporter is Linda (Georgia Emelin), an anti-fraternity campus activist who is more interested in Charlotte as a means to an end than as a human being.

A Reason To Believe held up fairly well.  Yes, it’s heavy-handed and a lot of the dialogue is too spot-on and literal.  I could have done without the scenes featuring Obba Babatunde as a bombastic professor.  However, Allison Smith and Jay Underwood both gave excellent performances in the two lead roles and the film deserves a lot of credit for not shying away from just how misogynistic the fraternity/sorority culture can truly be.  Ultimately, flaws and all, it’s a valuable, realistic, and angry portrayal of rape culture and it deserves to be seen for that reason.

It can currently be viewed on YouTube.