Monthly Archives: June 2013

Nichols

 

CNN’s Rachel Nichols interviewed the Miami Heat’s LeBron James and then had this nauseating exchange with Brooke Baldwin:

Nichols:  “Brooke, I love that idea, that the most powerful, talented basketball player in the world is just like the rest of us.  That the first time you leave home, you get your shaky little wings out, you kind of test out the world and it teaches you new things …. It is good to be LeBron James right now.  And it turns out he’s just like the rest of us.  Who knew you could say that about LeBron?

Baldwin:  “Just like the rest of us.’  Listen to you, Rachel Nichols.

No thanks, Brooke.  Next time I see Nichols coming, I will get out my shaky little wings and fly away.

 

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Trial

Attorney Don West, right, exchanges phone numbers with new sweetheart, Rachel Jeantel

 

“You don’t think that ‘creepy-ass cracker’ is a racial comment?” —  lawyer Don West to witness Rachel Jeantel at the George Zimmerman trial.

Can’t be racial; it’s what I think every time I find a broken Ritz in the box.

 

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For a computer geek, Ed Snowden is certainly living a glamorous life.  Pole-dancing girlfriends, international intrigue, globe-hopping spies ….

 

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No matter where you come down on the same-sex marriage ruling by the Supreme Court, there is at least one positive side effect.  Next time you encounter some pompous ass who considers himself (or herself) superior because of a ring on a finger, just ask, “Is your spouse a man or a woman?”  I’m guessing they won’t like that.

 

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Be Afraid.  Be Naked and Afraid.

Red Eye’s Greg Gutfeld watched Naked and Afraid and expressed disappointment that Discovery Channel “kept showing [the male’s] ass.”  It’s true.  They did keep showing the male’s ass.  In fairness, here is a picture of the female survivalist’s ass.

 

Shelton

 

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Fall1

 

In crime dramas the hero, often a cop, is usually the main attraction:  Sherlock Holmes, Inspector Morse, Hercule Poirot.  Occasionally, the bigger draw is a colorful villain:  Hannibal Lecter, or Gordon Gekko.  What’s rare and remarkable about BBC’s The Fall is that the hero and villain are equally riveting.

Gillian Anderson plays Stella Gibson, a seasoned detective recruited by Belfast police to track down an apparent serial killer.  (Yes, The Fall is yet another serial-killer procedural, but it’s much better than most.)  Stella and the killer have at least one similarity:  a cool detachment from most of the people they deal with.  Gibson has little use for convention, especially the male-centric sexual politics at Belfast police headquarters.

 

Fall2

 

She affects scant interest in anything so retro as traditional family life, and when her hotel tryst with a stud cop accidentally becomes part of an investigation, she pounces on a nosy male colleague:  “That’s what really bothers you, isn’t it – the one-night stand?  ‘Man fucks woman’: Subject ‘man,’ verb ‘fucks,’ object ‘woman.’  That’s OK.  ‘Woman fucks man’: ‘Woman’ subject, ‘man’ object.  That’s not so comfortable for you, is it?”

On the surface, Paul Spector (Jamie Dornan) is much more conventional than Stella.  A professional grief counselor, he is also a devoted father of two young children and a loving husband.  Paul puts a premium on people – unless the people happen to be sexy, professional females who live alone and who attract his attention.  Says Stella:  “The media loves to divide women into virgins and vamps, angels or whores.”  That’s Paul’s philosophy, as well.  He wouldn’t dream of harming his wife or daughter.  But single, bar-hopping women?  Fair game.

 

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Series creator Allan Cubitt deftly juxtaposes each episode (season two airs in 2014) between ice-queen Stella and “family man” Paul.  Stella’s workplace challenges are topical and provoking, and Paul’s nocturnal campaigns of terror are genuinely chilling.  

As Stella narrates her theory of the killer’s modus operandi, we watch as Paul indulges his dark fantasies, whether stalking a future victim or placing his latest kill (Laura Donnelly, below right) into a tub for a postmortem bath.  And we realize that when Stella and Paul eventually cross paths, the result will be delicious.     Grade:  A-

 

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CreatorAllan Cubitt   Cast:  Gillian Anderson, Jamie Dornan, Sarah Beattie, John Lynch, Niamh McGrady, Siobhan McSweeney, Michael McElhatton, Ian McElhinney, Laura Donnelly, Aisling Franciosi   Premiere:  2013

 

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                                         Watch the Trailer  (click here)

 

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 by Agatha Christie

Clouds

 

Agatha Christie, queen of mystery, on race relations circa 1935:

“It was one of those enchanted evenings when every word and confidence exchanged seemed to reveal a bond of sympathy and shared tastes. … They disliked loud voices, noisy restaurants and negroes.”

Sigh.  My other complaint with Death in the Clouds is that, once again, Christie’s plot hinges on the failure of people to recognize, at close quarters, someone they really ought to recognize.  Otherwise, Clouds is solid Agatha:  intricately plotted, clever red herrings and, of course, the peerless Hercule Poirot.

 

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Lopez

 

Jennifer Lopez got the 2,500th star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.  This is a major honor.  Here are a few of Jennifer’s fellow luminaries who are memorialized on the walk:

Big Bird, Constance Binney, Rodney Bingenheimer, Leeza Gibbons, Godzilla, Horace Heidt, Shotgun Tom Kelly, Howie Mandel, Wink Martindale, Winnie the Pooh … and too many other giants of arts and entertainment to mention in this space.

 

Heidt

Horace Heidt

 

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Pirro1

 

Fox’s Judge Jeanine Pirro, outraged over the story of Orlando Shaw, an idiot who fathered 22 children with 14 women, called for chemical castration of Shaw-like deadbeat dads.

I have another solution:  Any deadbeat dad in the grip of sexual arousal could simply look at Judge Jeanine.  End of problem.

 

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President Obama, faltering in the polls after more revelations about government spying, is basically saying to the public, “Trust me.”

Uh … no thanks.  You have to earn trust, you don’t automatically get it.  This condescending, professor-lecturing-students attitude that Obama affects when he’s in trouble has got to go.

 

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We won’t be hearing from George Zimmer on Men’s Wearhouse commercials anymore.  I guarantee it.

 

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Jake Tapper had a question on Wednesday:  “Why are so many mediocre movies getting sequels now?”  Here’s an answer:  Because Hollywood serves two markets these days — unsophisticated teenagers, and foreign audiences where subtitles don’t cut it, but car chases do.

 

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by Charles Graeber

Nurse2

 

Apparently, there are more things to worry about than your health when you enter a hospital – including serial-killing nurses and butt-covering administrators.  Graeber’s book chronicles the “career” of Charles Cullen, a male nurse whom authorities believe might have murdered hundreds of patients over a 16-year period beginning in the late 1980s.  Cullen’s spree finally ended when another nurse, a single mother and Cullen’s co-worker, agreed to be wired and record her conversations with “good nurse” Cullen, who outwardly seemed a conscientious, if peculiar, caregiver.

I’m not sure why, but Good Nurse didn’t absorb me the way other true-crime books have, possibly because the soft-spoken Cullen is not particularly interesting; he lacks the killer charisma of a Ted Bundy, Gary Gilmore, or Paul Bernardo.  Or maybe Graeber simply fails to shed enough light on his monstrous subject.

 

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Cards1

 

After viewing two or three episodes of the political drama House of Cards, I had doubts about the lasting appeal of Netflix’s ballyhooed, glossy new series.  Too much “inside baseball,” I thought.  Too much chatter about primaries, redistricting, the congressional pecking order, and that sort of thing.  I wanted more emphasis on human relationships.  Unfortunately, the other problem with the show seemed to be the humans, each of whom was so unpleasant, so motivated by sheer self-interest, that it didn’t seem likely that any of them were capable of human relationships — not decent ones, at least.

OK, so I’ll admit it:  I suppose I wanted The West Wing.

 

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But midway through the 13-episode series, a funny thing happened on the way to the Senate:  The incessant political jargon began to fade into background noise, and the bed-hopping, glad-handing, back-stabbing characters stopped annoying me and began to resonate.  They got interesting.  Really interesting.  And this was several episodes before House of Cards morphs into a full-bore thriller.  It still wasn’t The West Wing, but then it wasn’t trying to be; Cards is the darker side of politics.

There is a famous scene in West Wing in which President Bartlet, reeling with grief after the death of his beloved secretary, Mrs. Landingham, walks alone into a church and rails against the Almighty.  In Cards, there is also a scene in which the protagonist, feeling the slings and arrows of his own (largely self-induced) outrageous fortune, walks alone into a church.  But whereas Bartlet appealed to God in his hour of despair, Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) gives one skeptical glance toward the church ceiling before announcing to the audience (us):  “There is no solace above or below; only us — small, solitary, striving, battling one another.  I pray to myself, for myself.”

 

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That’s Underwood, for you, and that’s the difference between West Wing and House of Cards. They both take place in Washington, and they both have top-notch writing and acting.  But that’s about it.  The West Wing strove to make us feel good about our democracy, and often succeeded.  House of Cards preaches too, but its message is:  Watch Your Back.

Underwood certainly watches his.  Spacey’s portrayal of southern Democrat Underwood, lying and manipulating his way into greater and greater power, might be television’s most charming, oily villain since J.R. Ewing.  Also likely to show up on best acting ballots are Robin Wright, as Underwood’s icy “power wife” Claire, and, if there is any justice in the awards world, Corey Stoll as a young congressman who makes the mistake of letting emotion cloud his judgment.

 

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When Cards falters, it’s usually due to a few “yeah, right” moments involving the dance between politicians, the media, and the public (is it likely that that unsightly water tower, the “Peachoid,” would create such a fuss?).  But that’s nit-picking.  Netflix, tapping the talents of director David Fincher, Spacey (also a producer), writer Beau Willimon and a stellar supporting cast, has crafted a dark but absorbing gem.    Grade:  A-

 

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Cast:  Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright, Kate Mara, Corey Stoll, Michael Kelly, Kristen Connolly, Sakina Jaffrey, Michael Gill  Release: 2013

 

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Watch the Trailer  (click here)

 

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Judge2

 

Got to love The Huffington Post’s comments area, because sometimes you just feel the need to mess with people:

 

ChadHead

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d

 

 

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I keep reading that we are living in “the golden age of television.”  That’s only half true.  I’d say we live in “the age of television.”  Now that there are 10,000 channels and 987,000 shows, there is of course more great TV than ever — and more crap TV, as well.

 

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Whistleblower Edward Snowden as a smiling schoolboy

 

The Ed Snowden hullaballoo (that’s Ed’s high school mug, above) reminds us that there is not just one, but two groups of Americans that are relegated to second-class citizenship:  high school dropouts, and smokers. 

After all, we never read about non-smoking college graduates committing crimes … do we?

 

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WCCO

 

My local news channel has been weirding me out.  WCCO has a husband-wife anchor team, Frank and Amelia, but lately the station has been dispatching Frank (above left) on overnight road trips with the weatherman (above right).  The two men then issue reports from resorts and other vacation hot spots as Amelia listens passively back at the anchor desk.

Said the weather dude:  “Amelia, don’t get jealous, but at 10 o’clock I’m gonna take your husband to the Stardust Drive-In.  We’re gonna have a good time there.”

 

*****

 

Annoying Terms that Need to Go:

“indie darling” — sounds like something Eva Gabor might say to Harrison Ford

“an unapologetically raunchy film” — just once, I would love to read about an “apologetically raunchy film” (see this week’s Entertainment Weekly, page 7)

“oftentimes” — what’s a synonym for “often”?  How about “frequently”?  Would you ever say, “frequently times”?  Of course not.  Just say “often,” dammit.

 

*****

 

Tray

 

Star of the Week

The humble ice cube (pictured above).  It’s one of the few things in life that you can make for free, and it rarely disappoints.

 

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Eyes

 

Here’s Looking at You, Kid

 

They are watching you.

They’re not watching me, because I don’t own or use a cell phone.  I suppose they could be monitoring grouchyeditor.com, but if that were the case, we probably would have noticed something peculiar b

 

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Conspiracy theorists like Jesse Ventura must be having an “I told you so” week, what with all of the breaking news about government snooping into our phone records, e-mails, and hair appointments.  President Obama says he “welcomes the debate” over all of these sneaky programs, but if that was the case, why didn’t he begin the debate before the spying was leaked?

Meanwhile, Jesse is back, and Jesse is mad as hell.  He is suing the widow of Chris Kyle, whom Jesse feels defamed him in a book, and he is angry at New York’s Michael Bloomberg for comments the mayor made about medical marijuana.

 

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“Mayor Bloomberg can kiss my ass.” — Ventura on Joy Behar’s show

 

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Bill O’Reilly heard about the defamation lawsuit and took an interest in Jesse’s manhood:

“I feel that if he [Ventura] really wants to be a man, he drops the case.  If he really wants to be a man, you know?”

No word on what the Nanny Mayor thinks about all of this.

 

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In yet more girlie-man news, Michael Douglas announced that cunnilingus gave him cancer.  So, I guess now we know why Michael chose to explore the gay lifestyle in his recent role as Liberace.

 

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Grove1

 

Hemlock Grove, an original Netflix series, is one weird-ass creative splash, and I loved every minute of it.  Let me rephrase that:  Hemlock Grove, an original Netflix series, is an acquired taste and a bit of a disappointment.

Sigh.  I hate reviewing shows like this one.

The plot:  Based on a novel by Brian McGreevy, Grove tells the tale of two high school boys, one a werewolf and the other a … something, who team up to hunt down a “vargulf,” a renegade lycanthrope (werewolf) that is killing young girls in the titular burg, which is located somewhere in Pennsylvania.  During the course of the Hardy Boys from Hell investigation, we meet strange townsfolk and strange, to put it mildly, relatives of the two boys (Bill Skarsgard and Landon Liboiron).

 

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What I Liked:

1)  The 13-episode series has a great look.  It was filmed in Ontario but reeks of rust-belt America … except when it doesn’t, such as the presence of a glass skyscraper, the “White Tower,” that looms incongruously over everything else in the otherwise smallish town.

2)  Some of the performances are a hoot.  Famke Janssen, as the mother of one of the intrepid boy heroes, overacts in a role that cries out for overacting.  As Olivia Godfrey, Janssen slinks, drinks, and purrs like an aristocratic Morticia Addams, manipulating everyone in her orbit with an accent that sounds part British and part, oh, I don’t know — Transylvanian?  Also mugging shamelessly is wild-eyed Joel de la Fuente as the town’s resident mad scientist.

3)  The plot keeps you guessing.  One problem with monster mythology is that it often leaves the screenwriter with two unappealing options:  Bore the audience by explaining everything (e.g., lycanthropes, upirs, and vargulfs), or leave the weirdness unexplained and risk putting the viewer into a head-scratching funk.  Hemlock Grove leaves a lot unexplained, which is sometimes frustrating, but more often just a tease.

 

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4)  There are lots of random, what-the-hell moments.  The female representative of law and order is not the usual cop or FBI agent; she hails from Fish & Wildlife Services, of all places.  And then there is that ominous skyscraper, home of biotech shenanigans as it towers over the high school, a country store, and beer joints, looking as out of place as a nuclear reactor in Mayberry.

 

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What You Might Not Like:

If you go into Hemlock Grove expecting logic, you won’t make it past episode two.  Perhaps all of the supernatural mumbo jumbo is better explained in McGreevy’s novel, but for series viewing, I advise switching off one segment of your brain and just soaking it all in.  Or not.  I hate reviewing shows like this one.     Grade:  B

 

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Cast:  Famke Janssen, Lili Taylor, Bill Skarsgard, Landon Liboiron, Penelope Mitchell, Freya Tingley, Dougray Scott, Joel de la Fuente, Aaron Douglas, Nicole Boivin, Kandyse McClure, Emily Piggford, Kaniehtiio Horn  Premiere:  2013

 

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Watch Trailer and Clip  (click here)

 

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by George R. R. Martin

Thrones

                                                                

I don’t poke my nose into fantasy literature very often but, when I do, it’s generally a positive experience.  J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books are enchanting, and T. H. White’s The Once and Future King gobsmacked me with its brilliant take on the legend of King Arthur.

George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones isn’t quite in the same league as Potter and King, but I admire Martin’s ambition.  Creating a huge cast of characters and detailed description (too detailed at times; must we learn the name, lineage, and attire of every knight, peasant, and maiden in the story?), Martin unveils “Westeros,” a mythical land bearing a strong resemblance to medieval England, and one in which warring clans battle for control of its Seven Kingdoms.  It’s a (mostly) believable world, but it never really captivated me the way the Potter series did, and it lacks the charm of The Once and Future King.  It is not, however, short on graphic sex and violence.

Thrones is a long book, the first in a planned series of seven volumes.  This might be one of those rare instances where you are better off watching the TV version on HBO, rather than investing weeks, or months, of your life on this massive written opus.

 

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