Archive for the ‘TV’ Category

mrs maisel season 2

Episode 1: Simone
Midge is working at B. Altman and planning more standup appearances, when she takes an unexpected trip with her father, Abe. Susie takes something of an unexpected trip to the Rockaways. With time to think Midge mulls her future with Joel. What happens on the trip? What is Midge’s decision about Joel?
Viewers sometimes have to suspend reality during sci-fi movies or shows, but viewers shouldn’t have to suspend reality in a comedy, but viewers will. I’m sure the writer did this to grab viewers’ attention, and it works, but it’s not necessary. Some of the scenes seem forced , and some of the dr drama is definitely forced. The saving grace is the episode that it is funny, very funny.

The cast is fantastic, comedic timing cannot be taught, and this cast’s timing is superb. Rachel Broshnahan is perfect as the fast talking, quick witted Midge. The drama didn’t seem as authentic in this episode as in the first year, but I will give her time. Alex Bornstein from Family Guy plays Midge’s street smart agent perfectly. Tony Shaloub is also perfect as Abe, Midge’s perpetually cranky father, Abe. These three carry the show and are very funny. Marin Hinkle handles her expanded role as Midge’s mother Rose well.

The direction seems visually flashier and more daring, maybe they have more of a budget in year 2 than they did in year 1.

Episode 2: Midway To Mid-town
Abe gets comfortable in his new surroundings, up to a point. Midge gets her first big paying gig, but keeps getting bumped in the order by male comedians, what does Midge do when she gets her chance? Joel takes control of his dad’s garment district business. He likes the feeling of power so much, he tries to exercise some control over Midge. How does she react?

The writing in this episode is inconsistent. It shows one woman emancipating herself and another woman whose dreams are slowly being crushed. It also seems that the writers are trying to soften Joel’s rough edges, make him less of a jerk. The jury is still out on that. This episode has more drama with some comedy, but it’s also less forced and more natural than the first episode.

Episode 3: The Punishment Room
Midge gets promoted to the coat room at B. Altman, and agrees to plan a friend’s wedding reception. Rose audits some art classes and gets in trouble with the professor. Joel tries to get a loan for his parents and goes on a treasure hunt.

The writing is funny, the performances are good, but there are specific things about the writing that trouble me. The stereotypical Italian family is no funnier now than it was in the 50’s. Also every comedian has a filter, they all know when to turn it off and on, also there are still two types of women, one who has to walk on eggshells and get their husbands to bail them out of trouble. Also Midge is asked by her agent to do something that a male comedian would never have to do. Also there are some tied sitcom tropes. Overall, still a good show.

Episode 4: We’re Going To The Catskills
Midge and her parents go to the Catskills for a month on vacation. People are talking about Midge and Joel’s separation. Joel is lonely, Abe is drunk. Rose is determined to get Midge something, Susie is determined to get Midge something different.

This episode is more of a serious episode. Again, not really sure what this season is trying to say about women, but a couple of things concerned me.

Episode 5: Midnight At The Concord
Joel’s parents show up at the Catskills, and Abe can’t spend another year with Joel’s dad, Moishe. Susie is still hanging around the Catskills, pretending to be a plumber. Midge hears something that makes her want to go back to New York City, but how will she get there?

I found out what’s bugging me about this season, it’s one thing to write as if the show is set in the 50’s, but they shouldn’t use the same plot devices as writers use in the 1950’s. The writers also use rom com plot devices, which is a bad sign. The show is still funny including an extremely funny exchange between Kevin Pollack and Tony Shalhoub, but the writers must avoid the pitfalls of easy answers, and pat situations. I predicted the ending of this episode, that’s not a good sign.

Episode 6: Let’s Face The Music and Dance
Abe is alternately angry, happy, and angry again as events unfold around him. Susie is suddenly the most popular person at the Catskills resort. Rose suddenly becomes close to her daughter in law Astrid (Justine Lupe) to find out more about her son Noah’s (Will Brill) profession.

Kevin Pollack and Tony Shaloub are again very funny in this episode. Justine Lupe is also very funny but she plays into a negative stereotype about women’s ability to keep secrets, The writers made Susie excessively harsh in this episode for no apparent reason. And the writers insist on following this silly rom com path for the show that only makes the show more predictable.

Episode 7: Look She Made A Hat
Midge visit an art gallery with Benjamin (Zachery Levi) a friend from the summer resort Midge visited. The artist Declan Howell (Rufus Sewell) seems more interested in Midge then selling a painting to Benjamin. Susie has a proposal for her family. What is it? Joel is drinking to forget the one year anniversary of their breakup. Midge has a secret to reveal at Yom Kippur dinner, what is it?

The writing from last year seemed to challenge the conventional wisdom regarding women, but this season seems to want to fit the women into conventional gender roles. The writers really try to shoehorn Midge into a traditional female role instead of making her a trailblazer, like they seemed to be in the first season. That is disappointing. The episode still manages to be funny, at the Yom Kippur dinner where no one atones for anyone. Justine Lupe continues to be funny as Astrid, the converted Gentile, who wants to be more Jewish than the Jews, Tony Shaloub and Kevin Pollack shine again. This episode features no standup, for the first time in the almost two years, and that was a shortcoming of this episode.

Episode 8: Someday
Midge goes on her first tour with Susie, and forgets something major going on at the same time. Midge asks Abe to come to a show of hers, but he’s too busy listening to Ethan’s records to respond. Joel warns Susie, while Susie and Midge are on the road. Midge finally returns home to find her house a mess.

The writers start this episode with a standup routine, which rectified the issue from the last episode. The writers are making Midge more responsible and less entitled, which is good. The late 1950’s references are cool, but they go too far with one. The issue with this episode is that the writers continue to reinforce traditional gender roles, with Joel providing the chivalry in this episode. The show takes place in the late 50’s, but this used to be a show about a woman trying to find her footing after her husband left her. It doesn’t seem to be about that anymore.

Episode 9: Vote For Kennedy, Vote For Kennedy
Susie tries to get Midge booked for an arthritis telethon, but she might get bumped by an old rival, Sophie Lennon. (Jane Lynch) Abe is bored at his dream job, and the frustration boils over at the university. Joel is increasingly frustrated by all the problems in his dad’s garment factory. Benjamin seems impressed by Midge’s standup.

There’s a lot of stress under the surface of this episode, even between unlikely characters. I like that they try to be true to the period, for example, the character of Shy Baldwin. I don’t know that the denouement of this episode made sense, but the stand-up comedy was funny.

Episode 10: Alone
Abe’s got a few decisions to make. Rose goes to see the tea leaf reading lady. Joel makes a decision about his future. Sophie Lennon makes Susie an offer. Shy Baldwin makes Midge an offer.

This is a good final episode, filled with cliffhangers, and questions that need to be answered. All the main characters are moving in different directions than they started the season. The ending is serious and realistic and I like it.

My Impressions of Season 2:
I like this show, I really do, but it seemed like the writing took a step backwards this year, last year it seemed like this show was about a woman trying to make her way alone, and that was interesting. This season, up until the last episode, it was about something completely different. In a very real way men played a much larger, more dominating role than I ever imagined would happen after season 1. The writers seemed to infantilize  Miidge at some point, but they also took Midge out of her comfort zone at other times, which was both interesting and necessary. The ending of the last episode was actually gratifying to me, except for one aspect of it that I would change, but other than that, I was pleasently surprised by the risks that episode took.

The acting is amazing Rachel Broshnahan was meant to play the role of the sometimes coddled, but always tough as nails Midge Maisel. It’s difficult to find an actress who can perform both comically and dramatically, but Broshnaan does both flawlessly. Alex Borenstein is very funny as Midge’s fast-talking, street smart manager, Susie. Tony Shaloub is fantastic as Midge’s mostly laconic father Abe. Shaloub is another actor who can play a seious schene and a funny scene with equal aplomb.Marine Hinkle did a good job, plaing Midg’s mom, Rose, but I wish she got to show off the sharper edges the writers gave her in the first episode. Michael Zengen does a good job as Midge’s husband Joel, he benefits from the fact that the writers try furiously to rehabilitate.

The direction starts of with a bang with exotic locals and visual effects, then settles down to normal storytelling, Jeff Bezos can’t be blowing his money on tv shows, he has a divorce settlement to pay. There was nothing nooteworthy about the direction after the first few episodes.

The Marvellous Mrs Maisel: Still A-maise-ing in Year 2.

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patrick melrose

Episode 1:  Bad News

Patrick Melrose (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a British addict who learns of his father David’s (Hugo Weaving) death.  Patrick tries to give up heroin, in honor of his dad’s passing, does he succeed?  He also tries to date his girlfriend’s friend Maryanne. (Allison Williams)  How does that go?

What to say of this character and show?  I didn’t sympathize with Patrick, I didn’t pity him, I didn’t laugh at his many travails, because they were of his own making. Patrick is a trust fund baby, who spends his money like water to feed his vices, and he thinks he’s fine.  Then there’s the excuse lurking around. The action that will excuse Patrick’s neediness and behavior,  I know exactly how this is going to end, and I don’t think it’s worth going through five hours just to find out  what happens to a thoroughly despicable character.  Benedict Cumberbatch is fine, it is fun to see him play a creep, but it’s as if he’s doing a one man show and not getting much help from the rest of the cast. The episode is a slog, to see such self-destructive behavior over and over again, is difficult to say the least.

The visual direction is good, as in there are interesting shots from many different angles, but the pacing is very slow, an hour takes forever in this show

Episode 2:  Never Mind

Patrick recalls a trip to Lacoste France in 1967, where something horrific happened to him.

So, now the audience sees what drove Patrick Melrose to his self-destructive excesses.  Many people go through horribly painful  events in their lives, not all of them turn into addicts and fewer still want to kill themselves with an overdose.  These books and this show is glorying drug use by making  it all seem like one big party, other than the withdrawal symptoms, and they become redundant too. Other than good performances from Benedict Cumberbatch and Hugo Weaving, this wouldn’t even be worth watching the story of addiction has been told many times, so what can be added, I don’t know.

Episode 3:  Some Hope

In 1990 Patrick attends a party thrown by Bridget (Holliday Granger)  a woman he first met at the family home in France Bridget is now a countess, and has invited everyone to the party, from Patrick’s friend and fellow addict Johnny Hall (Prasanna Puwanarajah) to Princess Margaret. (Harriet Walter) Patrick makes an important admission to Johnny at the party.

There is a major tonal shift in this episode, there are still flashbacks to remind the viewer of Patrick’s trauma, but it’s also a blistering satire of the idle rich, until the viewer realizes that Patrick is one of the idle rich, that makes the satire a little less effective.  Still the tonal shift is a welcome change. The only issue I have with this episode is that Bridget looks the same 23 years after Patrick first met her.  The makeup people should have aged her a little.  The camera continues to shoot this film from interesting angles.

 

Episode 4:  Mother’s Milk:

Patrick goes to the South of France to visit his mother in 2003.  He is married now with two young boys, but he still has vices, but does he indulge them?

Patrick is married and has two kids, he could concentrate on them, he could make then the center of his world, he could forget about his past, and concentrate on his future.  In other words, he could be an adult, but does he do that, or does he continue to live a Peter Pan life where he doesn’t want to grow up and face his responsibilities if being a husband and father?  Parts of this episode is funny, but it’s also frustrating to watch.

Episode 5: At Last

In 2005, Patrick must come to terms with his mother’s death, while continuing to self-medicate with alcohol.

At last, this show is over.  The viewer finally sees some consequences of Patrick’s behavior, but even the consequences are clichés , and he never quite seems to understand how his behavior affects other people.  The visual direction continues to be stellar.  But the story is never quite realistic enough to be gripping.  Finally, the flashbacks on this episode are confusing, it is never clear when it’s 2005, and when it’s before 2005.

Impressions of Patrick Melrose

The acting by Benedict Cumberbatch and Hugo Weaving is excellent, and that’s why I kept watching.  But in the end, the story glorifies drug and alcohol abuse.  In the age of rampant opioid addiction, that is a dangerous viewpoint to present.  Patrick has a built in excuse for his excesses, and the consequences of his actions are only briefly mentioned and off he goes again, living his carefree, consequence free lifestyle. When Patrick actually hits rock bottom, it’s so short in duration, that it doesn’t have an impact.

Cumberbatch is good, despite playing a not very likable character, either as needy addict or devil-may care alcoholic, he is kind of a cad.  His character seems to think life owes him something instead of making the most of a very advantageous position. The problem with playing an amoral person is that the audience will never root for Patrick to succeed, because his goals are out of whack.  So it may be a fine performance by Cumberbatch, but the character is pretty despicable.

Hugo Weaving is used to being a bad guy, he played Agent Smith in three Matrix movies.  Here he is relentlessly, one dimensionally evil , playing Patrick’s father David.  He does the best he can, despite being boxed in by the writers.  Jennifer Jason Leigh is not given much to do after the first couple of episodes.

The direction is very visually stimulating throughout, the camera is used in many different angles to give the viewer a lot of different perspectives of what is happening in each episode.  The downside of the direction is the pacing is very slaw, and when the subject matter is difficult, which is often,this show becomes difficult to watch.

Patrick Melrose:  No one comes out smelling like a rose in this show.

 

Westworld-Season-2

 

Episode 1:  Journey Into Night

Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) continues her vengeance filled rampage. Maeve (Thandie Newton) searches for her daughter.  Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) tries to help Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thomson) escape. The Man in Black (Ed Harris) is looking for what’s In the middle of the maze.

The writers go out of their way to be cryptic,  Bernard is the most cryptic of all the characters.  He has to pick a side and stick to it.  The violence is too much,  once the writers chose the season one ending, they had to go down this road a little, but they are in danger of losing the aspects of the show that make it  interesting.   The writers have turned an intriguing concept into a bloody revenge fantasy.

The acting is a mixed bag.  Thandie Newton stands out as giving the best performance, she shows grit, determination and empathy all at the same time.  Even Rachel Wood is saddled (no pun intended)  with a character that is too one dimensional.  Jeffrey Wright just looks confused and bewildered, that’s not acting, that’s a genuine response to the script.  The writers have given James Marsden nothing to do, last year, at least he was comic relief.  Tessa Thompson is just window dressing, and I like Ed Harris, but I don’t know if he’s a good guy, bad guy, anti-hero, he’s been  going to this resort for 40 years and he still doesn’t know what it’s about. The direction is unremarkable, except for the slow-motion stylized violence in the episode.

Episode 2: Reunion

Dolores recollects her earliest memories as an android, with Bernard by her side.  Maeve is fixated on finding her daughter.  The Man in Black and Dolores are looking for the same thing for different reasons, but Dolores has a lot more help in trying to find it.

This episode was slightly more interesting than the first episode, because there is a little dissention in the android ranks  Maeve is not interested in the same thing that Dolores is interested in, and tells her so.  The Man in Black is yet another cryptic character, what is he after?  Why did he wait so long to act on his fears?  Teddy is another wasted character, no development at all.

Episode 3: Virtu E Fortuna

Grace (Katja Herbers) gets attacked by an animatronic tiger.  Dolores gathers an army.  Maeve continues to look  for her daughter with Hector (Rodrigo Santoro) and Lee Sizemore (Simon Quartermain)  in tow.  Dolores asks Bernard to fix her father, whose speech patterns are faltering.

Thus episode was distressing, because Dolores continued to be one dimensional, and they took the fierceness and intelligence away from Maeve, she should be the intelligent counterpoint to Dolores’ single-minded rage.  But this episode makes Maeve a standard damsel in distress. There was a tired Native American trope that comes straight out of John Wayne or John Ford moves.  There is a slight bit of interest in why Dolores’ father’s code is so glitch, and Teddy is starting to develop, but very slowly.  But the Man in Black is nowhere to be seen in this episode, and I don’t know why his storyline was delayed.

Episode 4:  The Riddle of The Sphynx

Bernard asks Elsie (Shannon Woodward) to fix him, his memory is sputtering, but what is Bernard remembering?  William (Jimmi Simpson) is talking about a new project to James Delos (Peter Mullen) who is Delos?  The Man in Black rides west and meets someone he knows, who is it?

This is an episode without Dolores and Maeve and it’s a very interesting episode.  The interesting character is Delos, and how he’s worked into two of the storylines.  Another new character is introduced in this episode.  It is as if the writers scrapped the first three episodes entirely, and that was smart.  The first three episodes were a miasma of gore and violence.

Episode 5: Akane No Mai

Maeve and Lee enter a new world where a  geisha, and her trainee look familiar to Maeve.  Dolores makes a decision about Teddy.

This is a racially insensitive episode, and it seems like filler.  Like when Wolverine goes to Japan.  What are androids doing in ancient Japan?  It’s lazy writing, because whenever the writers run out of plot in one world,  they can create another world, and put androids in it. Furthermore, the writers brag of plagiarism, which is explaining away bad writing.

It is racially insensitive because it draws a parallel between geishas and prostitutes. The only character Dolores has empathy for is her father, which makes her rather unlikeable.

Episode 6:  Phase Space

Teddy’s back and he’s better than ever, what did Dolores do to Teddy?  The Man in Black makes a promise to someone, does he keep it?  Bernard and Elsie are trying to solve a mystery, but whose side is Bernard on, and what does he find out?  Maeve ditches Samurai world to find her daughter, is her quest finally complete?  What’s the result?

This is a slightly more interesting episode because Maeve is back on her original quest, as is The Man in Black, and there are a few plot twists in this one.  But the reveal makes the season 1  finale sort of a moot point.

Episode 7:  Les Encorches

Bernard and Elsie try to bring the system back on line.  Bernard thinks he sees an old acquaintance, but is it his imagination.  Maeve tries to save her daughter from marauding Native Americans, does the Man in Black find wat he’s looking for, or does he get what’s coming to him.  Both Dolores and Charlotte Hale are looking for the same thing.  What is it?

This is another really violent episode, the writers seem to be de-emphasizing  certain characters, while emphasizing others.  The characters and storylines that the writers are emphasizing are less interesting to me.  The humans seem to want something, and the androids seem to want something else altogether

Episode 8 Kiksuya

The Native American host  Akacheta  (Zahn McClarnon) take Maeve’s daughter. (Jasmyn Rae)  Where does he take her?  Akacheta also finds The Man In Black, what does he plan for him?  Maeve is found by Lee, and she needs help, does she provide it?

This is another filler episode much like the Japanese samurai episode, this episode focusses on Akacheta’s awakening.  Just because they give a character a backstory doesn’t make it interesting or valuable to the rest of the storyline.  The writers are making amends for giving the Native /American character a tired old Western trope in the earlier episodes, and it doesn’t  work.  The viewer can skip this episode entirely and no miss a thing.

Episode 9:  The Vanishing Point

Dolores and Teddy reach the outskirts of Valley Beyond, who is there to greet them?  Charlotte thinks she’s found a way to counteract the increasingly unpredictable hosts.  The Man in Black reminisces while recuperating. Maeve is desperate for help, who comes to visit her?  Bernard and Emily are stuck together, but where does his loyalty lie?

The audience sees a large backstory about the Man in Black, there is a twist, at the end of the backstory, but nothing is very shocking anymore with this show.  The Native Americans return to their trope, so much for their nobility in the last episode.  There is also a twist in the Dolores Teddy storyline, but are the writers only going for shock value or is there some point to all these revelations?

Episode 10: The Passenger

Everyone congregates at the Valley Beyond.  What happens there?

The ending to the finale is so confusing and headache inducing and violent that I’ve almost given up on the show, but by the time season 3 rolls around, I will probably start watching it again.  If a viewer made it through 9 episodes he or she probably just wanted to see how the season ended, and is now probably feeling as frustrated and confused as I am.

Impressions on Season 2:

This show and this season embodies everything I hate about sci-fi.  The writers establish a universe and rules  to that universe and then say “Screw it, we’re going to do what we want.’ And that is frustrating, because there are no rules or no structure, and so sometimes it feels like there is no point in watching this show.  The viewer also gets the sense that the writers are saying, whatever we screwed up this season we can fix next season.  The amount and scope of the violence is inexcusable and inescapable.

The violence in some of these episodes is unbearable, it’s almost like plot filler, whenever the writers ran out of ideas, they’d stage a gunfight.  On top of that, there were at least two whole filler episodes, one involving Japanese  culture, and one involving Native American Culture, neither had anything to do with the main storyline, so I thought it was a waste of two hours.  Most of all the writers were disparately trying to say something profound while trying to wrap the dialogue inside a riddle, and that induces frustration from the audience.

The acting was just ok, I expected better from such a stellar cast.  Evan Rachel Wood is stuck in a one-dimensional role, full of rage and violence.  She is not likeable, despite her many attempts in the show to explain her thoughts and actions.   Thandie Newton’s character  is also one-dimensional, but in a kinder, more compassionate  way and so Newton  gets to show more emotional range, she is tough and tender at the same time. Jeffrey Wright does a good job of acting confused because his character is confused about who to help and what to do.  Ed Harris also plays someone who is fixated on a goal, but as to the final outcome for the Man In Black, I wasn’t too surprised.

The direction, which was sometimes visually engrossing, too often settled for filming vast vistas or slow motion gunfights, which are visual clichés in the Western genre. Most of all, the pacing was very slow, for a show about the future, the action moved like a bad Western.  It’s hard for different directors to have one vision, but sometimes the stories bore no resemblance to each other, and that makes it difficult for the story to have continuity.

 

steve martin martin short

The legendary stand-up comedian and writer Steve Martin and SCTV and Saturday Night Live alumnus Martin Short perform for an audience in Greenville, South Carolina.

Steve Martin and Martin Short met over 30 years ago while filming the movie the Three Amigos.  Please don’t judge their careers by that movie, it is awful.  If you want to fairly judge Steve Martin, find an old copy of his “Wild and Crazy Guy” stand-up routine, or watch the movie The Jerk or Bowfinger with Eddie Murphy, a side-splitting satire of guerilla filmmaking and big Hollywood studios.  If you want to judge Martin Short, watch old episodes of SCTV or Saturday Night Live.

This comedy show is pretty funny, the first thing to notice is the jokes have some pretty recent references.  The two do a sketch with pictures of themselves, which is hilarious only to see the hairstyles of the 60’s and 70’s. It’s amusing to see the pair try their hands at insult comedy.  Short does a few impressions, and sings, and gives insight into one of his recurring characters.  Steve Martin, shows off his musical talent, and the guy has some serious musical talent.  There was only one really unfunny sketch was one which Short did by himself which was a satire of Broadway shows, but ended up being an embarrassment to Short and diminished the show a little.

Overall, the show is very funny, and a nice showcase for these two talented performers, who get to put their many talents on display for the masses once again.

Martin and Short:  Long on Laughs.

 

Fahrenheit 451

Guy Montag (Michael B. Jordan) is a firefighter in the future in Cleveland Ohio.  In this America, firefighters don’t put out fires, they start them.  Specifically they start fires to burn books that are deemed offensive by the government.  The government allows people to read the Bible, In the Lighthouse and Moby Dick, but bans all other literature.  There is a group of people that are fighting this censorship, derisively called Eels by the government and the firefighters.  Under pressure by Captain Beatty (Michael Shannon) a young Eel named Clarisse McClellan ( Sophia Boutella) gives Beatty information on one of her fellow resistors, an old woman with a vast library.  When Montag and Beatty get to the location, the old woman burns herself and the library.  Before she burns herself, she yells the word, “Omnis !” The old lady burning herself has a profound effect on Montag.  How does he change?  What is Omnis?

This is not a faithful adaptation of the classic book by Ray Bradbury, and that is not a good thing for viewers of this film.  The central premise of the book involves people turning away from reading books, in favor of other forms of entertainment.  This premise should be more prescient today with the advent of social media, online shopping, and streaming movies, but somehow this adaptation concentrates more on style than substance.  It changes substantial plot points until almost nothing remains of the original book but the title.  This new adaptation adds a meaningless romance to the story and changes the ending to make it look like every other action movie that Hollywood churns out today.  Do yourself a favor, read the book and skip this movie, it will make Ray Bradbury happy and save you the time of comparing this version of the movie to the book.  The book is vastly better anyway.

The acting is above average, for the most part.  Michael B. Jordan is convincing as the conflicted firefighter, where does his loyalty lie, to Beatty or to his conscience? He is boxed in by a script that doesn’t allow for character or plot development Michael Shannon is once again excellent, and turns the intensity up to 11 as Beatty.  He wants to find those eels and stomp out this movement.  Once again, the character is not allowed to develop, and seems one-dimensional.  Sofia Boutella is again hired for her looks and doesn’t even get a chance to show any range in her acting skills.

The direction is more interested in making this a fast-paced glossy image of a movie rather than conveying any big ideas.  So the viewer moves from chase scene to chase scene and images projected on sides of a building.  It’s all style over substance.  The pacing is surprisingly slow for a movie that purports to be an action film.

Fahrenheit 451:  Not So Hot

the cars

The telecast showcases the induction of The Cars, Dire Straits, The Moody Blues, Nina Simone, Bon Jovi and Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

As a broadcast, there were a lot of good performances.  The Cars were very good, but the fact that Ben Orr was missing was noticed by everyone, especially the members of The Cars themselves.  Elliot Easton is one of the most underrated guitarists in rock music, and he showed why again.  The tributes were outstanding, the tribute to Tom Petty was good, although the singer of the band paying tribute to Petty, seemed a bit too enthusiastic.  The tribute to Chris Cornell was even better.  The two tributes to Nina Simone were also excellent, although I liked one more than the other, and it wasn’t the one critics were raving about

Dire Straits were a disappointment by omission, but the Moody Blues were amazing, for a band whose members are that old they are in their 70’s. To see the progressive rock pioneers to play that well, was genuinely shocking to me.  They’ve been playing for over 50 years.  And I learned something watching the broadcast.  I learned who Rosetta Tharpe is, and you should learn about her too, her career blew my mind.  The only reason I know about Nina Simone is because I watched a documentary on her.  There are no documentaries on Sister Rosetta, but there should be.

Despite some great performances, the broadcast had some drawbacks. The telecast was too long, 3 hours in total, and to devote almost an hour of that time to Bon Jovi is a bit excessive. I like Bon Jovi, but just cut the speeches and keep to playing music.   Howard Stern is not funny, he uses the same crude material he always has, and it’s getting old after 30 years.  By the time Bon Jovi started playing, I didn’t care what songs they played, and they have some good songs, but the entire night had gone on for too long at that point. There are lots of people that think they don’t deserve the honor, but the combination of Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora made that band a great one.  And frankly, there aren’t that many rock bands left to induct, because everyone is trying to be on a talent show these days.  So Bon Jovi is unfortunately one of a diminishing breed, a band that plays its own instruments and sings.

Hall, Hall Rock and Roll!

jesus christ superstar live

The musical tells the story of Jesus Christ, (John Legend) from shortly before Palm Sunday to his betrayal by Judas Iscariot (Brandon Victor Dixon) and denial by Peter. (Jason Tam) Jesus was eventually handed over to Caiaphas, (Norm Lewis) Pontius Pilate, (Ben Daniels)   and finally King Herod.(Alice Cooper The people who once showered him with Hosannas, now want to crucify him.  But what is Jesus’ crime?  And will Herod find him guilty?

There were two musicals about the life of Jesus from the 1970’s, Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar.  Jesus Christ Superstar is clearly the superior musical of the two.  The songs in Jesus Christ Superstar are clearly superior songs.  The songs, written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice are still powerful and convey the passion story with great emotion and conviction.  One of the aspects of the songs that I didn’t like is the fact that it deemphasized the divinity of Jesus.  I suspect that that’s what made the songs popular in the 1970’s and now. The song “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” continues the misconception that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute, but it’s still a very well written song.  There are some songs like “What’s the Buzz” “Hosanna” and “The Last Supper”  that sound dated, but the music remained the same in this version and it still tells the story just as well as it did in 1970.The songs have to carry the story because there is very little dialogue.

John Legend stars as the titular character in the latest version of Jesus Christ Superstar, and he mostly does well, especially on the ballads where he adds touches of soul.  But Legend lacks the powerful voice necessary to carry off a song, like “The Temple” he really needed to scream in that song, but his voice is not a voice that lends itself to screaming.  Brandon Victor Dixon is very impressive as Judas, he seems to have the power to sing Judas’ songs, even though his voice falters at times.  It was a live performance.  Sarah Barelles does a decent job as Mary Magdalene, but not as good as Yvonne Elliman  Alice Cooper talks his way through his role as King Herod.

There shouldn’t be any controversy to casting a black man to play Jesus, but it is doubtless that some Christians will have a problem with this.  These Christians would seem to be more concerned with the messenger than the message.  In fact, this was a multiracial, multiethnic cast. The message of love, selflessness, fellowship and eschewing material well-being is universal, so why not have a multicultural cast embody that?  There is no better way to show the universality of these themes.

There is not much to directing this show, the staging is space, and so there’s not many elaborate set pieces to move into place.  The songs aren’t elaborately staged either, but everything goes off without a hitch.

Jesus Christ Superstar:  Can a Legend walk on water?  Almost.