King & Maxwell: Not quite buying it.

King & MaxwellHas anyone else been watching TNT’s new procedural King & Maxwell, based on David Baldacci’s novels about disgraced Secret Service agents turned private investigators? I’ve been watching it faithfully, and enjoying it well enough, but it’s not quite working for me as well as I’d hoped. I think my main issue is in the dynamic between the two main characters. They have clearly set this up to be a “will they/won’t they” situation, but so far, at least, this is feeling contrived rather than earned to me. I’m not sure whether the issue is with the writing or the chemistry between the actors – or probably a combination of the two – but I feel like we’re being told that there is romantic and sexual tension between King and Maxwell rather than actually seeing it. It’s like the show is saying “Oh, you all know how this goes when there’s a procedural with male/female leads, so just assume that’s what we’re doing,” but the audience doesn’t know the characters well enough to really feel that they are authentically drawn to each other.

Funnily enough, I thought this tension was done better in the first book, even though there were only a few hints of them being interested in each other – the characters were interesting enough and drawn well enough that it seemed obvious to the reader why they might come together in the future. So this has made me want to read more of the series to find out if and when that happens and to compare it to how things progress on the show.

Anyone else? Am I just crazy?

Under the Dome: Pilot Thoughts & Open Discussion Thread

Under the DomeI’m getting ready for a trip, so I won’t have time for the full pilot review I’d planned, but I know several of you were looking forward to watching and discussing Under the Dome, so I wanted to at least provide a place for that. (And this is a good time to mention that things will be light around here for the rest of the week because of my travel schedule, as well.) So. SPOILERS BELOW AND IN THE COMMENTS, both for the pilot episode and for the novel.

I think I liked the episode, but honestly, I’m not quite sure yet. I knew some things would be different from the book, of course, but it was more different than I expected, or maybe different in different ways, so I spent much of the episode distracting myself by saying “Wait, what?” every thirty seconds. A few particular character things stood out: Julia’s married! And we’re supposed to think Barbie killed her husband, though I’m sure that story will end up being not quite what it appears. Angie’s alive! And therefore Junior’s story is very different. Rusty is outside the Dome, which made me sad because he was one of my favorite characters in the book. Basically everyone has some differences, and several characters are amalgams of multiple book characters, but those three changes stood out the most to me.

And in more general changes – first of all, in the show, people can’t hear through the Dome, which will make some of the logistics much different and also affects the general tone. On the one hand, it makes Chester’s Mill’s isolation more complete, but on the other, it decreases the eerie “so close but so far” atmosphere. And it’s also notable that religion seems to be entirely missing as an issue in the show. The radio station is now indie rock, even! That certainly simplifies town politics, and avoids a million “CBS hates Christians!” articles, but it will be interesting to see if and with what they replace the religious imagery that runs throughout the novel.

Trying to put all the book comparisons aside for a moment, though, I did think that the first episode of Under the Dome was well-paced and entertaining, and I’m curious to see where they go with it. What did you all think? And do you want to have weekly discussion posts for this one?

Longmire Returns: “Unquiet Mind”

LongmireLongmire is one of those quiet shows that I don’t really talk or read about that much, but over its first season I came to really love it, and I was delighted to get it back for a second season this week. (I was going to try to review the first novel in time for this premiere, but someone else has had my city library’s copy for a while, so you’ll get that review whenever I get my hands on the book.) I’ve seen some viewers say they didn’t like this premiere much, because it just sort of meandered along as the show has been doing, or because they want Katee Sackhoff’s Vic to do more. But I liked it! Did you like it?

Specifically, I liked “Unquiet Mind” because I thought it did a very good job of illustrating the fact that Walt Longmire isn’t just a one-dimensional lawman of few words. He’s got a lot going on psychologically beneath the surface, and his ordeal in this episode was a good way to remind viewers of this (and show new viewers what’s going on). It will be interesting to see if and how the various themes brought up in his ramblings and hallucinations will be important in the rest of the season. I’m particularly curious to see what’s going on with his daughter.

Any Longmire fans out there? What did you think? If there’s interest, I’ll try to check in on the show periodically throughout the season.

The Great Gatsby is not a celebration of the American dream.

The Great GatsbyI can’t even believe I had to write that sentence, but here we are. Seriously, everyone, The Great Gatsby is NOT a celebration of the American dream and pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. It is also not a great epic love story. Or anything to be emulated. I realize this all seems obvious, but apparently, to some, it is not. This essay “Did Anyone Actually Read The Great Gatsby?” has been floating around, and it talks about not only Gatsby parties, which I knew were a thing that existed, but also teachers having students pick a “green light” to aspire toward, apparently unironically.

I’ve been mostly excited and hopeful about the new Gatsby movie, because I love the novel so much and because I think it would be theoretically possible to make a movie that captures the dual seductive/destructive elements of the narrative. And I maintained hope as the first trailers were coming out, because of course the nature of trailers meant they would focus on the glitzy atmosphere rather than the rotten core. But as we close in on opening day, I’m increasingly worried that not only will this movie not meet that hope, but that it’s not even really trying – that it is, as Zack Handlen suggested, “the story of The Great Gatsby as told by Jay Gatsby.”

Interviews with Baz Luhrmann and members of the cast – such as these I posted yesterday – haven’t done much to dispel this fear. They’re very big on the whole “American dream” idea, and while I don’t actually expect actors to have nuanced scholarly takes on the literature on which their movies are based – because really, that’s not their job – if this means that the cast got through the entire making of the movie still thinking Jay Gatsby was some kind of Great American Hero . . . that doesn’t bode well for the adaptation or direction.

Am I still looking forward to the movie? Absolutely. Let’s be frank: pretty clothes and amazing sets go a long way. I’ve even come around to the whole rationale behind the modern soundtrack. And I’m still hoping to be surprised. Maybe the marketing is just misleading! Maybe the movie does get it! I hope very much that I will be back here in a week writing about how I was totally wrong. But if not, if it really is just Fun Roaring Twenties + Self-Made Man + Tragic Love, then that’s a huge missed opportunity. Because if nothing else, I’d hope the movie would at least convince those who won’t read the (incredible) book that their “green light” inspirational pictures and unironic Gatsby-themed parties – and wedding events, for God’s sake – are a terrible idea.

Non-Spoilery Iron Man 3 Thoughts

Iron Man 3Like basically everyone else in the country, it seems, I saw Iron Man 3 this weekend, and I quite enjoyed it. I won’t say anything too specific, because a) I don’t want to spoil anyone who hasn’t seen it yet and b) I am certainly not any kind of expert. I’ve seen the previous Iron Man movies and the other Avengers-adjacent movies, but I’ve never read the comics or anything. But hey, I figure there are a lot of casual fans like me, so.

As I said, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. I thought it held together quite well as its own thing while also being obviously part of a bigger series. I generally prefer my heroes to be brilliant, emotionally tortured, and slightly jerky, so Tony Stark is right up my alley. But one of the things I most love about these movies is the evolution of Pepper Potts. I like that she can be both the love interest and doing awesome things in her own right. Her competence isn’t something she has to hide or overcome, or something that causes her to be portrayed as “not really a woman,” but rather part of why Tony loves her.

This movie also had a great supporting cast; child actor Ty Simpkins was particularly delightful in a role that could have all too easily tipped over toward “annoying.” There were plenty of fun effects and action, but they (wisely) left enough space for the quieter character elements to have their time in the spotlight. And the Christmas setting (thought slightly weird to see in a May premiere) provided a striking backdrop for a lot of the sadder or more violent scenes, even if it did make me want to watch some sort of “Christmas at Home with Tony and Pepper” TV special. Seriously, someone, get on that. It would be hilarious.

The Hunt for Moriarty Resumes on Elementary Tonight

ElementaryWe’re closing in on the last few episodes of the first season of Elementary – the two-hour season finale will air on May 16th – and that means it’s time to bring back the search for the Big Bad: Moriarty. Head over to Entertainment Weekly to watch an exclusive Moriarty-centric promo, and then let’s discuss: There’s no chance they’re actually going to catch Moriarty this early, is there? I mean, I almost wish they would, because I think the show is more than strong enough to stand on its own without risking making that ongoing quest into a ridiculously drawn-out thing a la Red John on The Mentalist. It would be bold to just catch Moriarty and move on, but I fear that’s not actually where that’s headed.

If you’d like a taste of where Holmes is with his search, check out this almost three-minute clip from tonight’s episode, “A Landmark Story:”

Guys & Dolls Remake with Channing Tatum & Joseph Gordon-Levitt?

Guys and DollsI’ve been wanting a Guys and Dolls remake to happen for a while, but now that Deadline is reporting that there’s actually one in the works at 20th Century Fox, I’m not quite sure how I feel about it. Nothing is definite yet, but they’re apparently looking at Channing Tatum and Joseph Gordon-Levitt for the two main roles, and while I like both of them just fine, they wouldn’t necessarily be my choices for these particular parts. Tatum, especially, seems a little young to play Nathan Detroit. (For context: Oliver Platt played the part on Broadway a few years ago.) And I’ll admit that I’ve long thought Matt Bomer would make an exceptional Sky Masterson. And a lot, of course, will depend on who is cast in the starring female roles as well. But I’ll be following this one closely regardless, if only for the great Frank Loesser music. The show, of course, is based on the short stories of Damon Runyon, which you can read in collections like Guys and Dolls and Other Writings from Penguin Classics.

Elementary: Enter Miss Hudson

ElementaryI’d been wondering if and when popular character Mrs. Hudson from the original Sherlock Holmes stories would show up on Elementary, and we got our answer this past week in “Snow Angels.” Miss Hudson popped up as an old friend of Sherlock’s, a transgender woman who had a career as a mistress and muse for powerful men, and who is an autodidact fluent in ancient Greek who has helped Sherlock on several past cases.

In this episode, she came to Sherlock because she had been discovered by her patron’s wife and thus made homeless immediately before a giant snowstorm. By the end of the episode, she was off to stay with a cousin, but Sherlock had hired her to come in and clean once a week. The original Mrs. Hudson lived at Baker Street in a downstairs apartment, and it looks like this Miss Hudson won’t be quite so constant a presence. But I like that she has some sort of domestic role with Holmes and Watson, and things are set up perfectly for her to reappear in a more central role in a case in the future.

Thoughts? Did you like this take on the character?

Pilot Thoughts: Hannibal

HannibalHannibal, based on the novels of Thomas Harris, premiered on NBC last night, and I have to admit I approached this one from sort of a weird angle: I’ve never read any of the novels or seen any of the movie versions, and I am not a horror fan in general. But I’ve liked other things by Bryan Fuller, who heads up this adaptation, and cast is great, so I wanted to give it a try. And I was delightfully surprised by how much I loved the pilot. The lead performances by Hugh Dancy and Mads Mikkelsen were completely mesmerizing, and the rest of the cast was solid as well – I’m especially looking forward to seeing more of Caroline Dhavernas.

But what really grabbed me, beyond the general fascinating twistedness of the whole concept, was the way this episode portrayed Will (Hugh Dancy)’s imagination and ways of solving crimes. All crime-solving is mental to some extent, so lots of shows deal with this, but with characters whose unique talents are so internal, like Sherlock Holmes’s or Will’s here, it can be difficult to make interesting television out of drama that is basically happening in someone’s head. I don’t want to spoil exactly how they handle it here, but it was original and a little shocking, and definitely hooked me.

And, in case anyone else was concerned, I did not at all find this as scary as I’d feared. It was gory, but not scary, at least to me. (Your mileage may vary, of course.) And the gore all served greater plot and character purposes; on the whole it didn’t feel gratuitous. The show is definitely disturbing, but so far, at least, it isn’t particularly frightening. (And trust me, that is a plus in my book.)