Monday, April 18, 2011

Shameless 5x03

Shameless official website on Channel 4
“Imagine Britain without Chatsworth Buccaneers, who come on your face for the price of a beer,” Frank Gallagher muses, while his wife Monica dreams she’s having another baby. Her family isn’t too happy about it – it’s not like she’s been a good mother to her children. Mind you, she hasn’t seen a doctor or even taken a home test. “I am most definitely with child,” she smiles, because she’s dreaming of nursery rhymes, chicken and eggs, and she has morning sickness. Even Mandy Maguire doesn’t buy it. Six tests later, they still come out negative. Norma is delighted – and secretly hopes Monica will finally come back to her – and reminds her of their time together, how she was there for her when she was desperate and depressed. Mandy helps her snap out of it, telling her, “Don’t think about the one you’re not having, think about the ones you’ve got.” The kids make her a mother’s day cake for all the ones they’ve missed, so they can start again, and she gets the message.

For his part, Paddy Maguire is planning a fortieth birthday surprise party for his love. “Great woe will descend upon anyone who blows this,” he warns his sons, “Comprendo? Decco.” Foxy Karen is freaking out, for the party will be at The Jockey (as always). Alas, when she steps out for a bit, Ian and Jamie get locked up in the cellar and all customers upstairs rob them blind of all their liquor and furniture. Not even the Maguire scare tactics help to get the pub back into shape for the party. But when Frank explains the consequences of their actions, namely that The Jockey will close for business, they all come scrambling to safe their favorite hangout. “It’s not just a pub, a place of ale, it’s a second home to most of us, first for some,” he explains, “We need that beer flowing.” So the party is back on and both Paddy and Mimi pretend they didn’t know the other knew they knew. A bit slow, this episode, and neither compelling nor hilarious. Let’s hope the season picks up soon again.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Stephen King’s It

Stephen King’s It on IMDB
If you know the novel on which this two-part made-for-tv film is based, you’ll know it’s impossible to transfer the story from one medium to another. I guess we should give Warner Bros. kudos for even trying. The result, though, is neither scary nor compelling. I imagine that if this were the first horror movie you ever saw when you were a teenager it might have been quite creepy – and you’ll be traumatized for life by that clown. “They all float down here!” The story follows a group of kids, “The Loser Club” (later re-baptized as “Lucky Seven”) during a life-changing summer in 1960 – and their reunion thirty years later. In that fateful summer in some New England smallville, all of them have frightful encounters with their worst nightmare in the form of shape-shifting Pennywise the Dancing Clown, who also appears as a werewolf, a mummy, and whatnot. Children disappear in sleepy little town of Derry, Maine, but no one seems to care or do much about it. Grownups apparently don’t notice what is going on in their town every thirty odd years. The losers’ leader, Bill is determined to avenge the death of his younger brother Georgie. When they all have shared their encounters with “It” they agree to help him. Obviously they have no idea how to go about, but the bonding experience is the heart and soul of the story.

Unable to kill the monster, they vow they will one day return to finish “It” off should it ever come back. And coming back it does, as children sing “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and disappear again thirty years later. Mike Hanlon is the only one of the Lucky Seven who remains in Derry and contacts the others; Bill Denbrough (doubtless modeled after Stephen King himself) still tells scary stories; Richie Tozier now makes a living cracking jokes as he always did; that little fat kid, Ben Hanscom, who used to build dams so well, is now a slim, successful architect; hypochondriac Eddie Kaspbrak still lives with his overbearing mother; the only girl among the Losers, Beverly Marsh, has found a man to replace her abusive father; Stan Uris, once the goody-two-shoes boy scout and now a successful businessman, rather commits suicide than face “It” again. There’s no explanation why they are still able to see that freaky Pennywise the Clown now that they’re adults, and there certainly aren’t words to explain the dramatically poor ending. Somehow the clown’s true earthly shape is that of a giant spider that feeds on humans. Mike and Eddie die, while Beverley slings silver slugs at the monster, while Bill, Richie and Ben disembowel “It” and rip it’s heart out. What a letdown. After sitting through three hours of build up, this crock o’ shyte is a real anti-climax.

There are some obvious staples of Stephen King’s usual fair in the film: the everyman smallville setting in Maine, the coming-of-age of a group of misfit adolescents over a summer in the 60s, the inexplicable terror, and so on. The scenes with the teenagers are perhaps the most interesting, while the adult actors remain stiff and unconvincing. Watching it now, the movie also suffers from its painfully out-dated effects. But what bothers your Cricket most are the blatant rip offs from J. R. R. Tolkien and H. P. Lovecraft. The giant spider in the subterranean cave, feeding on humans paralyzed in cobweb cocoons, clearly derives – however unconsciously – from The Lord of the Rings’ Cirith Ungol’s Shelob. (And if you’ve seen both movies, you’ll probably agree that Peter Jackson stole it back for his version.) The cosmological back-story about the ancient extra-terrestrial monster terrorizing New England, hunting small towns for prey, taking shapes and forms that will terrify anyone who dares looking straight into the “deadlight” of its very being so much their stupefying madness will kill them, certainly comes directly from the Cthulu Cycle, which itself in a way was inspired by Arthur Machen. Moreover, there’s no subtext, no deeper meaning, beyond the great adventure that bound the Losers’ Club in their quest to fight Evil incarnate. And we already knew that clowns are Satan’s spawn. No cheeping chirps for this one.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Benidorm 4x04

Benidorm - Series 4 on Tiger Aspect
Back in the Costa Blanca a rare thunderstorm spoils the vacation fun. Bitter biting Pauline is forced to stay with her mother as her flight has been cancelled. Everyone is crowding around the reception desk. “We are all sitting in the same boat,” Mateo exclaims in hopes of calming people down. “But it’s not a boat,” Donald retorts, “that’s my point!” “We’re all gonna die,” Madge cries hysterically, certain the storm is a terrorist attack. “It will be like seven-eleven all over again.” Oh, man, this show is hilarious! When everyone is steered to the Hawaiian function room, Janet bumps into her old flame Johnny “Neptune” Nelson. She’s all flustered. Years ago he asked her to marry him and she said no. Little Michael has a run in of his own – with a pretty little blonde from one of the other hotels nearby. For his part, Donald’s been informed after his incident in the pool that he has only three more months to live. And the afternoon’s entertainment! A heavy metal outfit fronted by trannie Lesly performing country ballads and soft rock tunes. What a charm!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Boardwalk Empire 1x12

Boardwalk Empire, A Return to Normalcy, on HBO
The last episode this season of this grand series naturally goes out in style. That murderously hypocritical evangelic Agent Nelson Van Alden resigns from the Bureau. He is addressing a group of candidates for his replacement, warning them that they will be “bribed, coerced and tempted on a daily basis.” “Bring on the dancing girls,” one of the agents jokes. Van Alden hits him in his face. His partner Agent Sebso, he says, died in the line of duty from a heart attack, and, he continues, “I will not have his memory sullied by infantile humor.” Van Alden returns to his wife and informs her they will be moving to Schenectady, where he is going to work with his uncle in the feed business. When Rose protests he is doing God’s work as prohibition agent, he asks for God’s to give him a sign to stay in Atlantic City. He returns to clean out his office. Lucy stops in to say that he made her pregnant. A sign from God if there ever was one. For his part, Nucky Thompson is nervous the Democrats are going to win the mayoral election and tells his ward bosses to do whatever it takes to win votes.

Since leaving Nucky, Margaret is staying at the house of presidential candidate Warren Harding’s mistress Nan Britton. She is baking a barmbrack cake, an Irish Halloween tradition, hiding inside it a ring, a coin and a rag to foretell the future. When she and Nan attend the All Hallows Eve service at the cemetery, Margaret spots the grave of Nucky’s wife and son. She is touched and visits Nucky to hear more about his son’s death. A beautifully moving scene ensues between the two, in which he confides about the time, seven years ago, when he was too busy being treasurer that he failed to notice his wife kept caring for their baby even after he had died days ago. Just a few weeks after burying the baby, the mother committed suicide. Nucky continues that the time with Margaret and her children were the happiest days of his life. In tears she asks him how he can do what he does, despite the kindness in his heart. “We all have to decide for ourselves how much sin we can live with,” he replies. After giving her the cold shoulder, Jimmy is trying to make amends with Angela, though she tried to run away to Paris with Mary. She admits that she and Tommy are terrified of him, because Jimmy screams in his sleep – he is having nightmares about the trenches. She was lonely when he was away, and sure he would never come back. And who has been poisoning the Commodore? He has been digesting small doses of arsenic in his food for quite some time. He has been complaining about his stomach since Christmas. The new sheriff, Halloran, asks the maid why she did it. Looking angrily at the Commodore, she says, “’Cause if I used the shotgun I’da had to clean the mess up myself.” Nucky intervenes to prevent her arrest, hands her some money and tells her to go as far away from Atlantic City as possible.

Over in New York, Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky suggest to Arnold Rothstein he cuts a deal with Nucky and get rid of the D’Alessio brothers, rather than bailing off to Scotland. John Torrio is new in Chicago, but he could reach out to Nucky to dodge the imminent World Series indictment. Pay close attention, this is historic, a deal between the most dangerous and powerful gangsters of the country – and it is not the brainchild of savvy businessman Rothstein himself, but of his henchmen Lucky and Lansky. Torrio arranges a meeting, without telling Nucky of its nature. Jimmy and Nucky arrive to find Torrio and Capone, as well as Rothstein and Lucky. Nucky and Jimmy are caught off guard and none too please. Rothstein tried to get Nucky killed and take over his illegal liquor trade. Jimmy is unsurprised Rothstein would want to bury the hatchet considering the World Series scandal. Nucky offers to quash the indictment in return for one million dollars and the location of the remaining D’Alessio brothers. Rothstein agrees to end all hostilities between them.

Nucky recognizes an opportunity, calling a press conference addressing all the media about the vicious criminal that sprung up in reaction to the Eighteenth Amendment. He informs them that the woodside massacre was an act of gang warfare committed by Hans Schroeder and the D’Alessio brothers. He compliments his brother Eli, the former sheriff, for his tireless efforts uncovering the crime. Vote Republican, he urges the audience, to keep Atlantic City safe. And God Bless America. Meanwhile, Jimmy, Capone and Richard Harrow brutally murder the D’Alessio brothers in grandiosely operatic style. Harding gets elected to the presidency, Nucky’s candidate Bader wins the ticket, Eli is reappointed as sheriff, Rothstein escapes indictment, and Margaret gets the rag from the barmbrack. She decides to give Nucky another chance. Plots and conspiracies already start brewing, though, as the newly invigorated Commodore fumes about Nucky, wishing Jimmy will take back Atlantic City, with Eli’s help.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Community 1x08

Community, Home Economics, on NBC
Annie is so very much in love with Troy – and has been since high school. So we feel her pain when he is asking her advice about dating – and she’s secretly hoping he’s thinking about asking her out. For her part, Britta feels bad about the way things ended with mirco-nippled Vaughn. Despite the fact that she told Pierce not to talk to Vaughn, Pierce is the kind of man who knows that women always say the opposite of what they really want. So he talks to Vaughn. He isn’t be able to patch things up between them, but he does get offered to play in his band. Their latest tune, “Getting rid of Britta (getting rid of the beast).” Ha! Meanwhile, Jeff is thrown out of his luxury condo, living in his car on campus. When his classmates find out and offer help, Jeff replies: “The next person to offer me charity or pity will be mentioned by name in my suicide note.” Then his car gets towed, and he has to take up Abed’s offer to crash at his dorm room. Non-stop tv and cereals, and having the “time of his life,” is getting too much for Abed. It’s great for him, he tells Britta, but he realizes it’s not doing Jeff any good. So Britta breaks into his fancy condo and steals one of his handcrafted Italian platinum-plated faucets to show him what he’s missing. Though she doesn’t believe a word she’s saying, and giving him the entirely misguided impression she’s into him, Jeff moves out of the dorm, checks into a motel and starts looking for a new apartment. Such a sweet show!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

In Treatment 3x24

In Treatment on HBO
Adele left a message earlier in the week because an hour had opened up that Paul might perhaps take advantage of so they may return to their truncated session and discuss some lingering concerns. Her awkward voice message is loaded with meaningful pauses, significant silences. And Paul certainly picks up on the fact that she called him first thing in the morning, from her private number. Apparently that makes him feel he has an advantage, because he doesn’t catch bait. Adele begins the regular session asking about Sunil. Paul interprets this as an invitation to act out his fantasy of discussing his patients with her. She is just concerned that Paul is unable to separate himself from his patients, is unable to act decisively, and is blind to the fact that Sunil is a potential threat to his surroundings. Just like Sunil, Paul is stuck debating the difference between “pushing” someone and “pushing past” someone. The moment they disagree, Paul reverts back to platitudes that she doesn’t understand the situation, doesn’t know the intricacies, and has no idea what she is talking about.

Then they are interrupted by the phone ringing, and while Adele apologizes for the interruption, Paul notices that she is several months pregnant. He gets dismissive, he feels betrayed and refuses to engage any further. He assumes that she is in a happy relationship, growing a family. But we know different: she’s alone, facing the challenge of raising a child on her own, and drawn to Paul’s fantasy of sharing their experiences as equal partners. His behavior is so childish, I can only imagine that she feels disappointed. She has been trying to encourage him to break through the paralysis, whether in his therapy or in his private life. He wants her to know what specifically she wants him to act on, believing she is offering him to live out his dream, as if they have not discussed his inability to make decision for himself over the course of the past sessions. He still believes he is developing Parkinson’s, despite a second opinion that proves otherwise, and he has no answer to Adele’s question what would have been so different if the neurologist could have told him with absolute certainty that he will or will not get the disease. Isn’t that uncertainty what every person has to deal with? Somehow Paul keeps using the “wait-and-see” attitude as an excuse not to do anything. Adele repeats that his inability or refusal to act in Sunil’s case may cause harm to Julia and her children, and wonders if this is his subconscious way of sabotaging his career. That evening Paul does call Julia, apparently to discuss Sunil’s violent fantasies with her.

Overall, Paul has hardly gotten anywhere with his patients, certainly not with Sunil, Jesse is still very volatile, perhaps only Frances is ready to face her situation. Adele pointed out that she feels Paul may be identifying too much with Sunil, a foreigner forced to migrate to America, alienated by his new environment, and fascinated by the attraction of an impossible relationship. We could add that Paul also recognizes himself in Frances, her fear of dying, her struggle to get diagnosed for breast cancer, her trauma of losing her mother, her inability to communicate with her daughter, her sense of loneliness. Even in Jesse Paul can see part of himself, the feeling of rejection and abandonment, the inability to break through paralyzing thoughts that leaves him incapacitated to establish meaningful relationship and recognize the people who love him. There’s just one more session for each of them left. I am curious how things are going to wrap up in the next four episodes.