Monthly Archive for September, 2007

Apollo 13

Apollo 13 (9/30/07) Netflix (1995 ***½) Directed by Ron Howard, starring Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, Kevin Bacon, Gary Sinise, Ed Harris and others. I was on an “astronaut kick” not so long ago, watching From the Earth to the Moon and The Right Stuff, and this was a Netflix queue continuation of that theme. It’s hard for me to believe this film is twelve years old. Based on the book Lost Moon by Jim Lovell and Jeffrey Kulger, Apollo 13 told the dramatic story of NASA’s greatest near-miss. It was an interesting film in that on the one hand it was obvious (sometimes a little too obvious) that liberties had been taken for “dramatic purposes” and at the other times it frequently made an equally-obvious effort to be true to the historical facts and technical details. Because of these “liberties,” I can’t help but wonder how the people (many of them still living) depicted in the film felt about this “re-imagining” of their lives. It looked to me that Fred Haise (played by Paxton) got the short end of the stick as far as that went. After the movie finished I watched and enjoyed the DVD’s hour-long bonus behind-the-scenes video, which included interviews with many of the participants and a comparison of the filmic and true events.

L’elisir D’amore (The Elixir of Love)

L’elisir D’amore (The Elixir of Love) (9/29/07) Opera — Madrid Theatre, Canoga Park (2007 ***¼) Directed by Dylan F. Thomas. What’s this? A night at the opera? And in Canoga Park of all places? Explanation: One of my wife’s co-workers/friends landed a role in this production and so we got dressed in our glad rags to, as they say, support the arts. I didn’t really know what I’d gotten myself into, but to my pleasant surprise I enjoyed it thoroughly. This was a fresh take on Donizetti’s The Elixir of Love set in the 1980’s at a high school. The main character Nemorino was the bungling (and not so bright) football mascot pining for the beautiful cheerleader Adina. He bought a love potion (either a beer or a wine cooler, depending your interpretation) from Dr. Dulcamara, an evil drug-dealing alchemist / substitute biochem teacher. And hilarity ensued. While the casting choices were sometimes interesting and the production had many of the hallmarks of a community theater production, I can’t really fault it for that. The music was a little forgettable (to me, anyhow), but the performances were energetic and the projected superscript translations, which had been rewritten in the language of the 1980’s, contributed much humor to the classic Italian comedy.

Bionic Woman: Series Premiere

Bionic Woman: Series Premiere (9/28/07) NBC-TV (2007 ***) Directed by Michael Dinner, written by Laeta Kalogridis, starring Michelle Ryan as Jaime Sommers. I gotta be honest: I heard this series was faltering (replacing the show runner is never a good sign) and I sadistically wanted to see if it was a total, spectacular train wreck. From the bloody carnage of the opening scene, I was pleasantly surprised. While I’m not yet sure if the show is heading in a direction I want to go, I will probably (as they say) tune in again next week. Oh, just in case you were wondering: Yes, I did religiously watch the original Lindsay Wagner series when it first aired.

Quantum Leap, Season 4

Quantum Leap, Season 4 (9/27/07) Netflix (1991-92 ***) There’s a subtle irony in that I watched the last episode of the fourth season of Quantum Leap the day after watching the premiere of NBC’s new time-traveling show, Journeyman. I really hate to give this season a lukewarm 3-star rating, but I’m going to have to. As much as I enjoyed Quantum Leap (enough to rent and watch it on DVD), many of the episodes were about as fluffy and inconsequential as any episode of The A-Team. Variety is fine and I understand that some episodes were purposely heavy and others were light. I appreciate that much of the appeal of the premise was that Sam Beckett found himself in a different situation each week, but over the course of the fourth season about 40% of the episodes seemed to have been written for an audience with a fourth-grade education, and that drove me absolutely nutty. But then, just when I was disgusted with an episode and felt like maybe I won’t be in such a hurry to rent season five, I’d watch a show that had some real heart and dramatic meat (and solid writing). That’s when the show really shined and that was what kept me coming back for more.

Journeyman: Series Premiere

Journeyman: Series Premiere (9/26/07) NBC-TV (2007 ***¼) Directed by Alex Graves, written by Kevin Falls, starring Kevin McKidd. Seeing how I love time travel, I felt obligated to watch at least the first episode of this new show. I enjoyed it much more than I’d expected. While it was nominally an updated version of Quantum Leap, it also incorporated elements of the novel The Time Traveler’s Wife, which I loved. As much as I hate to commit to another TV show, I think I’m going to watch this one for awhile. I’m not sure how long it’s going to last, though. Maybe it will get lucky and build an audience.


Superbad (9/24/07) DWA Screening (2007 ***¼) Directed by Greg Mottola. I loved the balls it took writers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg to name their two main characters Seth and Evan (played well by Jonah Hill and Micheal Cera, respectively). My expectations for the film were higher than what it actually delivered, and so I was mildly disappointed. While it was set in the present day, it may as well have been set in 1976. At one point in the film (when the boys ended up going to a party they weren’t invited to), it looked like they were walking into a scene from Dazed and Confused. I wanted to like this movie more and there were some scenes and elements I really loved, but there was an awful lot of misogyny in the film: Nearly all the female characters were unlikable and none were developed. Also, ultimately I’m not sure what the movie was about. Was it about friendship or about growing up and parting ways? The ending left me confused as to Superbad‘s final message.

Disneyland / Club 33

Ella Enchanted

Ella Enchanted (9/23/07) Netflix (2004 **½) Directed by Tommy O’Haver. Anne Hathaway starred as Ella of Frell, a young woman under a magical spell of obedience who must do whatever people tell her. When her evil stepsisters learn her secret, havoc ensues. There was nothing particularly wrong with this film; it played like a bigger-budget version of a Disney Channel original movie. If you’re a girl between the ages of three and ten, this may well be the best movie ever! It did at times feel like it was blatantly ripping off Shrek, but there’s no law that the animated big green ogre has a monopoly on irreverent medieval comedies with a modern soundtrack, is there?

Weeds, Season 1

Weeds, Season 1 (9/20/07) Netflix (2005 ***¼) This Showtime original series is about a recently-widowed suburban mom played by Mary-Louise Parker who turns to dealing drugs to make ends meet. I had been intrigued by the premise since the show premiered, but since we don’t have Showtime, I waited until it floated to the top of my Netflix queue. While watching the first episode I occasionally thought “the writers are trying too hard and it shows” but the show has definitely grown on me, as have its characters. Elizabeth Perkins’ character was both despicable and appealing at the same time — not an easy feat. The show presented some interesting questions about the morality (and legality) of marijuana use and sales. Having been produced in America, however, it did often try to have its cake and eat it too in this regard, which could be a little annoying. While the audience was clearly supposed to sympathize with Nancy Botwin’s plight (How will she pay her mortgage and keep her kid in the right schools if she doesn’t sell pot?) and respect her decision “not to sell to kids,” we were also shown the flip-side of the drug industry where territorial rivalries often lead to violence and death.

Meeting of Minds: Series 1

Meeting of Minds: Series 1 (9/19/07) Teleplays (1977 ***½) Written by Steve Allen. When I saw this book (and its sequel) sitting on the shelves of Burbank’s Movie World I knew immediately I had to have it. This volume collected the scripts for the first six-episode series of Allen’s PBS show Meeting of Minds. The lofty goal of the series (of which I was a fan) was to present American and World history to a lay audience in a way that didn’t send them scurrying for the safety of Three’s Company and The Love Boat. The show proceeded from a simple premise: If you summoned the spirits of four varied personalities from beyond the curtain of death, what would they have to say to each other and to us? In the series, mostly they talked about themselves, much in the same way you’d expect from the animatrons in Disney World’s Hall of Presidents. Occasionally the historical figures would engage in debate, their ideas and the ideas of their respective times in conflict. It was at these times that the show was at its most interesting.