Monday, March 23, 2009

Television Series Premiere: Kings

These days, I don't watch a lot of television as it airs. There are plenty of ways for average people like me to watch TV at their own convenience. I'm surprised I had even heard of "Kings" before it came on the air, but I tend to "hang out" on an online message board community that has a board devoted to broadcast television. Then I saw Ian McShane on "The Daily Show," where they showed a clip from "Kings." After the few words I had heard about it and the brief clip I saw, I decided to give it a try. Of course, I didn't know when it was supposed to start - I only heard today that it's already been on for two weeks.

Thanks to modern marvels (Hulu, in this case), I was able to watch the premiere episode when I was ready. That happened tonight.

It's hard to describe the setting of "Kings." It mainly takes place in the large capitol city, Shiloh, but the name of the country (realm? nation?) escapes me. Ian McShane, as Silas Benjamin, is the king of this country. However, he dresses in sleek suits, not a crown and ermine-trimmed cloak. It looks like he rules over a modern America, complete with skyscrapers, luxury cars, and cell phones. I viewed it as a sort of alternate reality - where we would be today if the world had played out differently.

As the story begins, the "home" country is at war with the neighboring realm of Gath (funny, they said that one enough that I was able to remember it). We follow the story of the Shepherd family, notably its son, David Shepherd. Shepherd is played by Chris Egan (who apparently starred in the movie Eragon, which I have no intention of ever seeing - after reading the book, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be able to write a positive review of the movie adaptation). Chris Egan startled me, but not in the way I was expecting. About every third shot of him, I noticed a keen resemblance to the late Heath Ledger - how he looked about 7 or 8 years ago. There's a part of me that finds it hard to believe that they're not in some way related.

Nostalgia aside, Egan portrays a stalwart if naive Shepherd, fighting on the front lines of the war. Without revealing too much of the story, I'll just say that events lead Shepherd away from the front lines and to the royal family in Shiloh.

I heard a rumor - one of the few things I heard before I watched the premiere - that this show was originally developed for HBO or Showtime - one of those fancy cable networks with huge production-value shows. They planned only 13 episodes for the first season, which is typical of those networks. Watching it, I certainly believe the rumors (though it was strange to see Ian McShane drinking wine instead of whiskey, and to hear him speak with a relatively clean vocabulary after seeing him in "Deadwood"). The episode was beautifully crafted, with amazing cinematography (is that what they call it for TV?) and a very strong script. I can't wait to watch the next episode.

FYI, the show airs Sunday nights on NBC if you're one of those who likes to watch shows "when they happen."

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Movie: Duplicity

The last time I saw Julia Roberts and Clive Owen in a movie together, it was in the movie Closer, which I liked enough to add to my DVD collection. They have great chemistry together. When I started seeing ads for Duplicity, I was very excited to learn that they were acting opposite each other once again.

I'm going to do my best to write this review without giving away any spoilers, but it's going to be difficult due to the nature of the movie.

Duplicity begins in Dubai about 5 years ago. Claire and Ray (Roberts and Owen, obviously) are at a party at the American Consulate celebrating the Fourth of July. They waste no time and end up in a hotel room together. Some split-screen antics ensue, and we learn that Claire has manipulated him - she takes some documents from him and leaves him alone and unconscious.

During the opening credits, we see a ridiculous scene in slow-motion, where two groups of people in business suits are standing on a tarmac near their company jets. Two men (Tom Wilkinson and Paul Giamatti) break away - one from each group - and they meet directly between the two planes, and they're clearly yelling at each other. We don't hear any sound from the scene, but we see the hilarious looks on their faces. I'm convinced that this scene alone was worth the price of the ticket - especially when Paul Giamatti tries to kick Tom Wilkinson.

This is all set up to lay the foundation for the story at hand. We soon learn that Giamatti and Wilkinson are CEOs of rival companies. That's as much as I'm going to give you about the story. Like I said, I don't want to give away any spoilers.

The movie, written and directed by Tony Gilroy, was exactly what it tried to be. It was clever, funny, and sexy. It had a plot twist or two, as well - again, that's all I'm going to say about that. Roberts and Owen do not disappoint. They play off each other very well - better, in fact, than they were in Closer, and I think that's because of the script and the other great actors they worked with. I loved Giamatti as the eccentric and snippy CEO Richard Garsick.

I also loved that the movie kept me guessing - I loved trying to figure out who was lying and who was bluffing and who was manipulating. With a movie about spies, I always worry that they're going to give away too much and make the whole story too obvious, but they were subtle with every reveal.

I thought the movie was fantastic. I think I might even go see it again.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Not a real update

I know I said I would write in here at least once a week, but I'm not doing a review today. I'm in the middle of three books, and once I'm finished with one of them, I'll write a review. If something comes along in the meantime, I'll totally update this thing. Chances are, the next review will be the comic book "Watchmen," since seeing the movie made me really curious about the original source material. So far, I'm liking it. Details, obviously, when I write the review.


Monday, March 9, 2009

Movie: Watchmen

I saw the movie Watchmen yesterday. I hadn't planned on seeing it at all, let alone on its opening weekend. I knew next to nothing about the story or the history of the project, except that it was originally a celebrated graphic novel (series of novels?) by Alan Moore. I knew the movie was directed by the guy who directed 300 (Zach Snyder), and I knew that the cast was mostly unknown or little-known actors.

The opportunity presented itself to see the movie, so I took it. It took me a while to form my opinion on what I had just seen. I wasn't sure coming out of it if I had even liked it at all. I wasn't blown away thinking "That was awesome!!!" upon leaving the theater. I think I may have been a bit shell-shocked. It was violent. And not just comic-book-movie-action-boom sort of violence, either. It was exaggerated violence, the worst of it shown in slow-motion. There was a lot of slow-motion. Maybe the movie wouldn't have been 3 hours long if it hadn't had so much slow-motion. I didn't like it, and I think that really clouded my opinion of the movie as a whole.

Violence aside, I think the story was fantastic. The Watchmen are heroes, but they aren't your typical caped crusaders. When the story begins, the group has disbanded. Some of them have revealed their secret identities. And one of them is murdered. You soon learn that these supposed heroes have changed the course of history serving the what they feel is the greater good. But at what cost? You begin to question whether or not they're really heroes. They want to save the world, but they're willing to do whatever it takes to get there. When the threat of nuclear war looms over the world, they find that they need to rely on the one of them with bona-fide super-powers to defend America from the Russians. That's Dr. Manhattan.

I'm not going to get into the plot now - I don't want to spoil anything. The characters are fascinating. I'm used to super heroes that can do no wrong, but these guys have questionable morals. They're not all likable, and that's part of what makes them so interesting. Rorschach is particularly interesting. He acts on his own moral compass, but it's not aligned with everyone else's - his political views are far skewed to one side, and while they may not be the same as mine (opposite, in fact), they do help to understand the character.

I also find Dr. Manhattan to be very interesting. Played by Billy Crudup, the character is almost child-like. He was once human, but due to some sort of accident, he's now practically a god. And he's blue. And naked, most of the time (yes, this movie does contain full-frontal male nudity). He can be many places at once, can be any size he wants, and seems to exist in a different plane than regular people. He doesn't really show emotions, but it's clear that he has them. Crudup pulls this off very well.

In conclusion, I liked the story, I liked the characters, but I didn't like the overdone violence. That part was just too much. But I also liked the music - they did a great job incorporating rock music from the 70s and 80s to really give you a feel for the setting, as the movie does take place in 1985. The special effects are good (if a bit exaggerated and difficult to watch in the violent parts), so I do think it's worth watching on the big screen. Just be prepared - it is 3 hours long.

Monday, March 2, 2009

A Short Update

When I started this blog, I didn't have regular internet access at home. I thought I'd be able to keep up with it, but as you can tell, it promptly fell off my radar and I've been neglecting it for months.

I hereby vow to update this blog on at least a weekly basis, possibly more often than that. I enjoy talking about what I like. I want to get back into doing that formally.

Thank you. :)