Friday, April 18, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Rake, season 1 (2014) ***

TV-14, 13 43-min. episodes
Developers: Peter Duncan (also creator for original Australian TV series), Peter Tolan

Directors: Sam Raimi, Scott Winant, Jon Avnet, Cherie Nowlan, Adam Davidson, Amy Heckerling, Adam Arkin, Rosemary Rodriguez, Roxanne Dawson, Jeffery Walker, Paul A. Edwards

Writers: Peter Duncan, Peter Tolan, Richard Roxburgh (creator for original Australian TV series), Charles Waterstreet (creator for original Australian TV series), Allison Abner, Sara Goodman, Kit Boss, Kevin J. Hynes, Sam Catlin

Starring: Greg Kinnear, John Ortiz, Miranda Otto, Necar Zadegan, Bojana Novakovic, Tara Summers, David Harbour, Ian Colletti, Omar J. Dorsey, Kim Hawthorne

Guest starring: Peter Stromare, Bill Smitrovich, Damon Gupton, Jeffrey Nordling, Anne Gee Byrd, Alexandra Breckinridge, Catherine Dent, Tony Hawk, Cedric Yarbrough, Elizabeth Ho, Jama Williamson, Lisa Pelican, Denis O’Hare, Bill Cobbs, Ayelet Zurer, Bess Armstrong, Michael Bofshever, Bruce Thomas, Chelsey Crisp, David Gautreaux, Mary Kay Place, Trisha LaFache, Anthony Anderson, Michael Ironside, Kelly Frye, Kate Burton, Marco Sanchez, Peter Jacobson, Dorian Missick, Pamela Adlon, Rob Moran, Kim Estes, Alix Angelis, Philip Baker Hall, Kris Angelis, Mark Moses, Melora Walters, Michelle Krusiec, River Alexander, Michelle Bernard, Thomas Crawford, Michelle Forbes, Rick Overton

Now, the title says “season 1”, but unfortunately I fear the fate is sealed on “Rake”. There will be no season 2. This is not because it wasn’t any good. It’s simply because nobody watched it. It’s based off a hit television series in Australia of the same name. Fox never really seemed too committed to this American remake, however. A lawyer show with some big name movie stars and directors attached to it, “Rake” should’ve been given a major fall launch with high expectations. Instead it was relegated to a midseason replacement series that launched just a couple weeks before the Olympics and was forced to compete against that NBC juggernaut while most regular series were playing repeats. Then, when the ratings tanked upon launch, it was moved to the throwaway timeslot (except for the success of “Grimm”) of Fridays. Later, it was moved again for its death knell on Saturday nights, and it’s still unclear as to whether its final episode even aired at all.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—The Clash: The Last Gang in Town (2013) ***½

NR, 7 min.
Director/Writer: Fred Armisen
Starring: Fred Armisen, Paul Simonon, Mick Jones

Last week I reviewed a new short mockumentary featuring Fred Armisen reprising his fake punk rocker Ian Rubbish from Saturday Night Live. The film, titled “The Sexiest Elbows in Rock”, featured the frontman from the band Split as the owner of the titular body parts. It’s a fun send up of the rockumentary format with many real rockers participating for authenticity. “The Clash: The Last Gang in Town” is another fake rock documentary by Armisen in which his Ian Rubbish interviews two of the members of the iconic punk band The Clash. It’s been nominated for a Webby Award.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life (2013) ***½

NR, 38 min.
Director: Malcolm Clarke
Writers: Malcolm Clarke, Carl Freed
Featuring: Aliza Sommer-Herz

The Best Documentary Short Oscar-winner for 2014 saved me from going 0-3 in the short categories of the Oscar pool this year. That movie was “The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life”. I don’t really know why I picked it. Perhaps I connected with its subtitle. Perhaps I just thought the Oscar voters couldn’t resist giving an award to a movie about a sweet elderly woman. I didn’t even know if she was sweet. I just assumed because—like all the films of the shorts categories—I hadn’t seen it; nor had most people who didn’t meet the strict voting criterion of the Academy rules on such films.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—The Grandmaster (2013) ***

PG-13, 130 min.
Director: Kar Wai Wong
Writers: Kar Wai Wong, Jingzhi Zou, Haofeng Xu
Starring: Tony Chui Wai Leong, Ziyi Zhang, Qingxiang Wang, Jin Zhang, Hye-kyo Song

“The Grandmaster” tells the true-life tale of Ip Man, a master martial artist who came out of the final era of feudal China from a Southern clan. He held a challenge against a Northern successor to become the country’s Grandmaster when World War II got in the way. The invasion of China by Japan led to the end of the old Empire and the end of the martial arts clans. Ip Man continued to practice and teach martial arts in the new age. He most famous disciple was Bruce Lee.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay (2013) ***½

NR, 88 min.
Director: Molly Bernstein
Narrator: Dick Cavett
Featuring: Ricky Jay

I haven’t really been fascinated by magic since I was a kid. I remember being extremely fascinated as a child, however. It seems anytime there was a magic special on TV, I was sitting in front of it. That was when the networks used to put things like magic specials on TV. I’m not sure just what it was that disinterested me in magic. I think it was the discovery that it truly was a trick. I think I wanted magic to be real. Once I knew it wasn’t, I looked for magic in different places.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Draft Day / *** (PG-13)

Sonny Weaver, Jr.: Kevin Costner
Ali: Jennifer Garner
Coach Penn: Denis Leary
Anthony Molina: Frank Langella
Vontae Mack: Chadwick Boseman
Chris Crawford: Sean Combs
Bo Callahan: Josh Pence
Tom Michaels: Patrick St. Esprit
Earl Jennings: Terry Crews
Ray Jennings: Arian Foster
Barb Weaver: Ellen Burstyn

Summit Entertainment presents a film directed by Ivan Reitman. Written by Scott Rothman & Rajiv Joseph. Running time: 109 min. Rated PG-13 (for brief strong language and sexual references).

Oh man, do I love football! I just can’t get enough of it. I wasn’t always this way. As a kid, I remember watching my father and his zeal for the game. He brainwashed us. We watched the New York Football Giants every Sunday in the fall. He plastered our walls with posters. The Super Bowl was a family event every year. He taped games and watched them over again. It’s the only reason he knew how to work the VCR.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—12 Years a Slave (2013) ****

R, 134 min.
Director: Steve McQueen
Writers: John Ridley, Solomon Northup (memoir)
Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong’o, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Adepero Oduye, Sarah Paulson, Brad Pitt, Michael K. Williams, J.D. Evermore, Paul Giamatti, Christopher Berry, Scoot McNairy, Taran Killam, Tony Bentley, Liza J. Bennett, Scott M. Jefferson, Alfre Woodard,  Garrett Dillahunt

“12 Years a Slave” won the Oscar for Best Picture of 2013. It’s a worthy film. It isn’t your average slave film, although I’m not sure there really have been enough films about that dark time in our country’s history that any could be considered average. It tells the true story of Solomon Northup, who was a free man who was kidnapped in Washington D.C. and sold into slavery, where he remained in service for twelve years before he could finally find someone to contact his family in the North to confirm his free status.