Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Review of the epic movie day

So after the epic movie day that was yesterday, I thought I would do a briefly review what I watched without hopefully including any spoilers.

    First up I saw State of Play which I would definitely recommend and has made me want to watch the BBC original. A friend that I saw it with and who had seen the original version said that the two were not really all that similar but was impressed with the new version. The reason for the lack of similarities is probably due to the differences in our political system and this new version was tackling issues that are prevalent to what is occurring at this moment in history regarding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Other subplots also grounded in this moment in time, an example being that the newspaper that Russell Crowe’s character works for is suffering financially; this is definitely evident amongst print journalism in this economic downturn that we are currently in. The resentment that his character feels toward blogger Rachel McAdams is one that I am sure is also representative of old school journalists versus the instant writing of someone online.

    Next up was Star Trek which I thought was a fantastic and fun film. I would consider myself a little biased as I am such a huge JJ Abrams fan and, as I am not a Star Trek fan I wasn’t worried about changes that he might make to the Trek lineage and mythology. However the big group that I saw it with, which included smatterings of Abrams and Star Trek fans all, seemed to concur that it was an excellent film and the general buzz afterwards was very positive. There were nods to other Abrams related creations and some familiar faces from his other projects, I won’t say who or what so not to spoil but it was an all round super experience. The cast were great and the action was well paced and well executed. I was also impressed at how many Star Trek references I got considering how I have never seen an episode and demonstrates just how far these references have stretched down in to pop culture.

    The final film of the day was Wolverine, which after watching two such fantastic films felt like a bit of a let down. The performances were all pretty solid although it felt a bit like one of those films where all the best bits were in the trailer. It was good to see Taylor Kitsch in a different role; however as the film was central to Wolverine the other mutant characters felt at times to be a bit rushed and under used. I would say it is still worth a watch, especially if you are a fan of the series however don’t go in expecting it to be as good as the first two X-Men movies.

    So that rounds up my slight deviation away from a television, although as noted yesterday there are elements of television with all three. Something odd that made me think of TV whilst the trailers were on was that the Terminator Salvation trailer had in bold writing ‘This Season’ which made me think that it sounded like a television phrase rather than the usual movie related ‘This Summer’ one. Not sure whether this was just me that made the link to TV but it definitely stood out to me as an odd phrase on a film trailer.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

The return of Jeffster and a movie marathon with a TV vibe

Firstly, the finale of Chuck was most definitely awesome, I don’t want to say too much on the matter in case I spoil it for you but that really was a terrific hour of television and I’m looking forward to seeing it again. So much action, romance, comedy and drama all squeezed in, and to see the ‘To be continued’ title card at the end just makes me hope that it does continue and that all the hard work from the cast, crew and fans does pay off in a third season. I’m guessing we will find out the fate of Chuck next week, just gonna keep everything crossed until then. I also loved the return of Jeffster, hence the two videos and the end of this post.

    I’m having a bit of a movie marathon today, how is this relevant in a television blog? Well two of the films are adapted from TV programmes and the third film has had a cartoon series on television. I’m watching State of Play, Star Trek and Wolverine. I’m most excited about Star Trek, I’ve been lucky enough to get tickets to a preview show and I am a huge JJ Abrams fan, from the trailer this film looks like it will be pretty special. The early buzz seems to be pretty good as well so hopefully it will live up to these expectations. There is a nice smattering of TV stars in both Star Trek and Wolverine; Friday Night Lights’ Taylor Kitsch and my favourite hobbit turned rock star Dominic Monaghan in Wolverine, and Zachary Quinto as Spock in Star Trek. Original Spock Leonard Nimoy will also be staring in the season finale of Fringe which I also have high hopes for, it also sounded like him on the video tape at the end of last weeks episode which was pretty cool.

    Now I have to confess that I have seen neither the original State of Play nor Star Trek so I don’t have the original television versions to compare against, I’m not sure if it is necessarily a good thing to go in with a fresh pair of eyes but at least I won’t be disappointed if they aren’t as good as the original versions and I won’t get annoyed with elements that have been changed for these most recent versions. So tomorrow I will hopefully have some very positive things to say about all three films, until then I leave you with Jeffster times by two:

Monday, 27 April 2009

Save Chuck with a sandwich

    So in an attempt to be more productive I have decided to try and blog every day this week as some programmes are having their finales this week; the most important one for me being the Chuck which will also hopefully not be the final ever episode.

    Yes I have become a little ‘Save Chuck’ obsessed over the past few weeks but so have many as all the campaigns across the internet on fansites, facebook and twitter. I personally have not participated in a ‘save a show’ campaign prior to this one mainly because I have either come to a show after it has had premature cancellation (ie Arrested Development which I only started watching last year) or because I haven’t really been that invested in a programme to participate. However with Chuck I felt compelled to do something however small to join this internet campaign that has been gathering speed over the past few weeks because this show is too good to end up on a ‘cancelled too soon’ list on Entertainment Weekly or Television Without Pity.

    Whoever came up with the ‘finale and footlong’ Subway idea is pretty super, to demonstrate support for the show by giving money to one of the featured advertisers is such a good way to show why this is a financially profitable programme. Money is obviously (and unfortunately) the main reason why a show will get the green light or whether is will be cancelled and this campaign is talking through dollars rather than the usual bombarding the studio with show related merchandise (although there is also the sending of nerd sweets to NBC that has been occurring for ‘Save Chuck’ campaigns but nothing speaks loader than money for a corporation).

    This campaign got a kick start in the UK at a convention in Birmingham yesterday that both Zachary Levi (Chuck) and Adam Badwin (Casey) were at, when Levi led hundreds of fans to the nearest Subway for everyone to purchase a footlong (I’m guessing the Subway workers were super happy with that- though Levi did help behind the counter to get through the onslaught of customers). Here is an excellent video of the event:


 So go and buy a footlong, I will be.



Tuesday, 21 April 2009

The Times '50 Best US Television Shows' and why lists like this seem out of touch

So last week The Times printed a list of their top 50 US television shows in recent years. They were broad in the term ‘recent years’ which allowed programmes that have subsequently finished such as Six Feet Under and Sex and the City to appear. The motivation behind this article seemed to be to demonstrate that US television is where the quality lies rather than from the UK, and that it is imported TV that is allowing television to be taken seriously again. Now there are several issues that I have with this sentiment one being that the imports from abroad have been consistently good for at least 10 years if not longer (Friends and ER did start 15 years ago after all, with other shows such as Twin Peaks and Hill Street Blues going back even further). It may be that with tools such as the internet, DVDs and cheaper multi channel packages that these have become more accessible to an overseas market but I believe that the sentiment that this is something more recent is incorrect.

The notion of how ‘worthy’ television is and whether it can be taken seriously is another which jars with me. Yes there are now hours of reality television and in a multi channel era there is always going to be much more on television that might be considered to be trash (however one persons trash is another persons treasure, for example I love the channel E! for escapist fun and at no point do I believe it to be something serious). I would just suggest that this list would be better suited as one to demonstrate that yes there are good shows that are coming out of the US but that this is not a new thing and it shouldn’t necessarily be coming from an angle which suggests cultural elitism.   

Another point is, is that the programmes that are exported tend to be the most popular and well produced ones, not shows such as ‘The Cougar’ or other reality titles such as ‘Axe Men’ and ‘Tool Academy’. So of course the television that we get from abroad is going to seem of a much higher quality as some of the ‘crap’ is going to have been filtered out. Although if you watch The Soup with Joel McHale he will watch all the ‘bad’ reality shows for you and show you the best bits (I highly recommend this show).

The people involved in making these quality shows that are exported is another area that should be considered; like the films that come out of Hollywood, it is not only the efforts of American talent that makes these but are generally made up of an international body, television is just like this with many non-Americans in leading roles in your favourite shows.

You should check the list out for yourselves and see if you agree with their choices, I myself do not agree with quite a few points and disagree with some omissions including The Daily Show and Fringe (especially as Dollhouse is on the list when it hasn’t even aired in the UK yet), I’m happy that they have shown both Chuck and Friday Night Lights love but like any list like this there is always going to be arguments as to why certain things should be higher than others. I guess the point of a list like this is to promote discussion and debate which it has definitely prompted with me, as you can tell from this entry.


Find the list here:



Something completely random

So whilst I was looking for stuff regarding an other post that I am writing, I stumbled upon this on YouTube and thought it was brilliant, it demonstrates that Michael Emerson can make anything creepy:

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Character resurrection

So to tie loosely into the Easter weekend I have decided to look at 5 shows that have characters that have been resurrected. Also, a warning that there will be spoilers within for Lost, Alias, 24, Heroes and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, so you have been warned:


  1. Buffy Summers (Buffy the Vampire Slayer): this girl has died several times, ranging from a few minutes to several months. When she first dies this brings about the calling of another slayer, which first gave us the somewhat annoying Kendra and then the super Faith so it isn’t all bad when your main character dies for a few minutes. However she will let you know through song how unhappy she was about being dragged out of ‘heaven’ when she died for real and had to climb out of her own grave. As Buffy is a show about demons and the undead there are many others that have been resurrected but none so spectacularly than Buffy herself.
  2. Jack Bauer (24): Jack has technically died more times than I can remember from the time they faked his death at the end of season 4 to the countless other times that he has been tortured to death with his torturer having to resurrect him. Although the case of Tony Almeida returning this season after ‘dieing’ in season 5 is a little more unexpected, it seems a little ridiculous but even though 24 is a show that is meant to be close to reality it is expected that there will be some crazy plot twists like this one. I’m not sure how much I buy it but then again I have only seen the very start of this season so I need to watch the rest before I can properly judge this plot point.
  3. Michael Vaughn (Alias): In the opening episode of season 5, Vaughn was gunned down in front of his pregnant fiancĂ©, super spy Sydney Bristow. He wasn’t shot once but suffered a hail of bullets to the chest. Vaughn died, there was a funereal and Sydney mourned the father of her unborn child. Now this being Alias I was always a little suspicious of whether he was dead as they had a habit of ‘killing’ people and then bring them back due to the ‘doubling’ technology that existed in the world of the show. These suspicions proved to be correct when Vaughn returned soon after the birth of his daughter and the whole thing had been an elaborate ruse that Sydney and her father had been part of. This made fans very happy as there had been an internet campaign to save Vaughn after rumours starting flying that he was being ousted due to personal issues.
  4. Everyone in Heroes: It would seem at one time or another that everyone in Heroes has either died or come very close to death. Obviously Claire has the ability to die and come back so it is never a surprise with her, the same can be said about Peter and Sylar who have both at points had her power. The surprise moments in Heroes are when characters are not resurrected rather than when they are. The most surprising was in season 2 when Adam Munroe who also had the power of regeneration had his power stolen by Arthur Petrelli thus killing him, I kept expecting him to come back but unfortunately this was a point when Heroes surprised me. It is hard to trust a show that often resurrects its characters; this is definitely an issue I have with this show especially when with the powers they have so many of them seem invincible. Alternatively, they will resurrect someone through the soap opera classic of another sibling, in the case of Heroes: the Ali Larter triplets, the third of which we are sure to see before the season is out.
  5. John Locke (Lost): At the end of last season we learnt that it was Locke who was dead in the coffin but in true Lost style all was not as it seemed. We saw this season that it was Ben who killed Locke, staging it as suicide and stressed the importance to Jack that Locke must accompany them on the plane back to the island. On return to the island Locke is no longer in the coffin and appears to be living and breathing. This weeks episode appears to have a resurrection theme or the reverse as the title ‘Dead is Dead’ appears to suggest, nicely timed for Easter. Lost as we know has a habit of also having the dead appear to the living and it is still unclear as to the living status of characters such as Christian Shephard and Claire. A key theme in Lost is about resurrection and resolution; this is best highlighted by Charlie who was resurrected from death in season 1 and then sacrificed himself in season 3.


So there are my suggestions for the shows with the best resurrection plots, I’m sure I’ve missed some so if any one has any other suggestions feel free to add them in the comments below.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Top 10 ER moments

This Thursday the ER will be seeing its last patient and I thought as a tribute I would select my top 10 moments from the last 15 years (in no particular order):



  1. The pilot episode: I credit this as the cause for my interest in television as I saw it when it first aired when I was 12 and was so blown a way by what a TV show could do that I realised that film was not the only medium that could be impressive in both scale and quality.
  2. ‘Hell and High Water’: this season 2 epic that showcased George Clooney as ER’s tour de force still holds up to the test of time, I watched it a few weeks ago and it is still as tense and nail biting as when it first aired.
  3. ‘All in the Family’: in season 6 when Carter and Lucy were stabbed this was the episode that immediately followed this event. From the opening of Dr Weaver finding them injured, to the heartbreaking scenes in which Romano and Corday could not save Lucy this episode had me crying from start to finish and still does almost ten years later
  4. ‘On the Beach’: or ‘the one where Mark Greene dies and I cry buckets’. Like the above episode this one had me balling, I still can’t hear the Israel Kamamawiwo’ole version of ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’ without getting misty eyed.
  5. ‘Chaos Theory’: the season 9 opener was a little ridiculous (hospital quarantined due to potential small pox outbreak) but it produced one of the most shocking moments when Dr Romano got a little too close to a helicopter blade and was a genuine ‘holy shit’ moment. It is unfortunate that this moment kinda ruined his character and led to his future demise via another helicopter accident.
  6. ‘Ambush’: the live episode. It is incredible that for a show like ER that this episode was shot live twice for both the east and west coast of the U.S. and that there were no major screw ups. It demonstrates both the hard work and the way that this show wanted to set the bar high and beat it.
  7. Episodes outside the ER: so this isn’t one moment so I’m cheating a little but when they step outside Chicago several excellent episodes have been created which are both politically charged (in the Congo) and ones which regard more personal family matters (road trips with Doug Ross and Mark Greene and one with Abby and Carter).
  8. ‘You set the tone’: words that show that this is a teaching hospital, the importance of having a mentor and showing that there have been several cycles of growth. These words were first uttered in the pilot by Dr Morgenstern (William H. Macy) to Dr. Greene after Carol’s suicide attempt. Greene passed them on to Carter as he finished his final shift, and then Carter did the same to Morris demonstrating the evolution of character from student to teacher.
  9. Guest appearances: yes another cheat but there have been so many good ones I could probably do a top 10 on these alone. Favourites include Ewan McGregor as a guy holding up a convenience store that Carol is in, Ray Liotta as an alcoholic in liver failure, Don Cheadle as a surgical student with Parkinson’s disease, Forrest Whitaker as a disgruntled and vengeful patient, Shawn Hatosy as someone with a hard to diagnose mental condition, James Cromwell as the priest with Lupus and special mention to guest director Quentin Tarantino. I’m sure I have missed many other excellent examples but those are the ones that spring to mind first.
  10.  ‘Love’s Labor Lost’: so I have already mentioned some devastating episodes that revolve around the doctors, but this wins the prize for most shattering patient story with the death of a woman in labour. The whole episode is gut wrenching and deserves all the plaudits it was given, including 5 Emmy awards.


So, I’m sure there are many more moments and episodes that could be added to the list and it was pretty hard going through 15 years worth of material to pick just 10. I’m gonna be sad when it is all over on Thursday as it is a truly brilliant series which influenced how I view TV. Also if there is ever anything vaguely medical in my real life I always think of ER (not sure if this is actually a good thing) but it has definitely made me understand the physical human condition a little whilst keeping me highly entertained. It is also because of ER that I started watching Friends, when in season 1 George Clooney and Noah Wyle guest starred in the episode ‘The one with two parts’.


I will leave you with a clip from the pilot episode introducing a very young Carter: