I’ve been on my annual January movie kick, trying to watch as many as I can over the next couple weeks to do a competent top 20 list before the Oscars. And there have been some high-profile TV premieres. And I haven’t done any straight reviews in a while. And … that’s all I got.
Here’s how I’ve been passing the time lately:
DO NO HARM (premieres 10 p.m. Thursday, NBC): To pull off a show about multiple personality disorder — or Dissociative Identity Disorder, in this case — you need to have an actor who can genuinely convey both sides of that person. It’s tough, especially when for that TV show to be good, those two personalities have to be on polar extremes. No one is watching a show about a guy who is nice during the day, then turns into an even nicer version of himself at night. You need conflict. As much as I like Steven Pasquale from his Rescue Me days, he isn’t the guy for this role. But it’s not like it’s all his fault. I swear one of these days I’m gonna start a website plothole.com (never mind) and just rip on TV shows and movies for either ignoring or just missing the gaping holes in their stories. And holy poop does Do No Harm have them. How about this one: Pasquale is one of the best neurosurgeons in the world, apparently, but not once — NOT ONCE — has he had some kind of emergency where he’s had to go into surgery between 8:25 p.m. and 8:25 a.m. Or this one: The stereotypical evil doctor guy who of course is always at odds with the forward-thinking Pasquale, is able to call up Pasquale’s former hospital and ask why he left, apparently getting an interesting answer. How the frigg did no one do this when he was hired in 2005??? “What was the reason he left? Because he has an evil alter ego that has done physical violence to a multitude of people and also tried to perform brain surgery without any training. Is that enough for ya, or should I go on?” And that’s only the tip of the iceberg! Throw in Phylicia Rashad as a reedunkulously naive chief of staff (guessing) and you’re batting 1.000 on the Crappy Show Checklist. Luckily, it has NBC’s implausible stinker Deception around to make it look downright believable. So why do I think I’ll watch the next episode? The visuals don’t hurt. Yeah, that’s probably it. GRADE: D+
THE FOLLOWING (9 p.m. Mondays, Fox): There are a lot of comparisons out there between The Following and Alcatraz. Both are Fox shows. Both premiered on the same day of the same week of the same midseason month. Both are killer-of-the-week procedurals masked as serials. Both debuted to high ratings. But here’s the difference. When Alcatraz premiered in 2012, people saw exactly where it was headed and steadily checked out week after week based on the ratings. Except for my brother Mark, who hate-watched it the whole way through and then would email me on Tuesday about how much it sucked. The Following actually picked up viewers in its second week. In case you’re wondering, it’s the ONLY SHOW THAT’S DONE THAT THIS SEASON!!! In today’s TV world, especially for something that was marketed as heavily as The Following was, that’s freakin’ impossible, to the point that you almost think it’s either a mistake or an anomaly. The only way something like that happens is if it has extremely positive word-of-mouth to the point that friends physically tie their friends down and force them to watch. I’m not going that far — but the show is good. Maybe a step below “really good,” but pretty good nonetheless. It steals from the Walking Dead playbook, throwing in three or four intentionally shocking moments — people with their eyes cut out, a naked woman stabbing herself in the eye, you know, the normal stuff — just for the sake of being intentionally shocking. And of course, hardened, disgraced FBI agent Kevin Bacon has … drum roll … A DRINKING PROBLEM!!! Because, you know, they all do. Let this be a lesson to all TV writers — you can’t add layers with a bottle. You’re got to work harder than that, sorry. But the villain guy is pretty good, the feel of the show really is creepy and Bacon probably should have turned to TV earlier than he did, not just as a way to recoup his fortune. Crossing a serial killer by sleeping with his wife and possibly fathering his child is a pretty good way to get yourself in trouble, and I think it will be campy fun watching Bacon get himself out of it. Even if he’ll be drunk when he’s doing it, of course. GRADE: B-
LINCOLN: When I posted on Facebook a couple weeks ago that I wasn’t interested in seeing Lincoln because I hated 2011′s The Conspirator, my buddy Big opined that’s like not seeing LA Confidential because I didn’t like Mulholland Falls. We had seen Mulholland Falls at the Colonial Park Theater in Harrisburg together, he knew I didn’t like Mulholland Falls, and he kinda had me dead to rights on the logic. Seeing as LA Confidential is one of my 100 or so favorite movies of all time, I decided if the opportunity presented itself, I’d see Lincoln. And I did. And while it’s true D-Day from Animal House/the evil coach from Wildcats is one of the five greatest That Guys ever and Daniel Day-Lewis is probably the best actor of this generation, Lincoln is a two-and-a-half-hour civics/politics history class that reminds me of every other similar Spielberg movie.That’s not to say it’s a bad movie, it’s not. Day-Lewis is worth the price of admission by himself, and if it is a history lesson, it’s certainly an entertaining one, regardless of its validity that I don’t have the inclination to look up. In theory, it’s a great idea. Dredge up ancient history from 150 years ago that only a minute percentage of the population knows the intimate details of. Not like how we can bash Moneyball for its blatant twisting of the truth because it played out before us less than a decade ago. Who’s going to challenge the truthfulness of a ridiculous House of Representatives vote? You? You, Lt. Weinberg? Didn’t think so. It’s hard not to like the movie because everyone is just so dang likeable and fighting for the side of truth, justice and the American way. It’s a classic white hat-black hat story, with the guys wearing black hats a bunch of rich white guys vehemently defending slavery. SLAVERY!!! Maybe if this movie was played in 1869 there would have been some sympathetic characters on the side of the bad guys, but today? You might as well dress them up as devils, give them pitchforks and have them wear white hoods. When words come out of their mouths, all you do is shake your head and feel bad that it took us hundreds of years in America before we realized the whole “owning a human being” thing isn’t a very good idea. But beyond that kind of soupy, manufactured emotion, you can’t take your eyes of Lewis. He”s just masterful. You’d say this was the part he was born to play, if it wasn’t for the fact that he’s been better in, like, five movies. I’m going to be a little peeved if Tommy Lee Jones wins his Oscar, because he wasn’t nearly as good as Robert DeNiro, Philip Seymour Hoffman or Christoph Waltz. Lincoln will be in the mid-teens for my top 20 movies of the year. GRADE: B
SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK: My random takeaways from this movie, which is probably will end up my favorite movie of the year:
RANDOM: Bradley Cooper isn’t getting enough attention for best actor … I can’t believe this is the same Bradley Cooper that laid out Vince Vaughn twice … I’m pretty sure that Pat’s family is my family … As if it’s not bad enough that billions of women fall over their tongues just thinking about Bradley Cooper, now they have to see that he can tap dance? Save some for the rest of us Brad!!! … Mark Wahlberg would not have pulled off the role of Pat … Robert DeNiro > Tommy Lee Jones … Jennifer Lawrence = Jessica Chastain … Cooper = Daniel Day-Lewis … SLP > Lincoln, by far … My Cherie Amour immediately enters the list of songs I will never be able to hear without thinking of the movie it’s prominently featured in … No one will ever have that song played at their wedding again, DJs will be taking it off their possible playlists en masse … Lawrence’s “You’re bleeping killing me” line might be the most powerful, real line I’ve heard in a movie this year.
PHILLY-RELATED: Pretty sure that was Monsignor Bonner High School, or whatever it’s called now, that Pat subbed at … Pat’s jogging route at least partially overlaps the jogging route I used when I lived in the Drexel Hill area in 1997 … I’m a fan of the Llanerch Diner, even though I routinely passed it to go to the Burger King right down the road … Those guys who started crap at the Eagles game were the perfect embodiment of drunken, tailgating North Philly guys, which reminds me …
PHILLY SPORTS ONES: One of my wife’s takes: “They certainly captured why Eagles fans are douchebags” …The odds someone like Pat would get in a fight at an Eagles tailgate are something like 1-10. It’s borderline inevitable. What was he doing there? … Noticing they were keeping in line with the results of the 2008 Eagles and Phillies season in reality, I was able to tell my wife, who was visibly worried, “Don’t worry, the Eagles win that game 44-6″ … Although keeping in line with the reality of those seasons presents about 100 problematic continuity issues that I won’t bore you with … OK, just one. Tiffany says the first time she and Pat meet the Phillies beat the Dodgers 7-5 in the NLCS. That game happened on a Monday (just trust me), but they met on a Sunday. There really are about 100 other ones I could name. Don’t care. GRADE: A+
SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN: It’s really hard to make a documentary. If you can’t hook someone in the first five minutes, they’re gone and they’re never coming back. So you need to front-load that first five minutes with the most interesting part of your story, then hope people feel compelled enough to stick around for the next hour and a half. Searching for Sugar Man is a great example of that — it’s impossible not to be hooked after the first five minutes, and then to stay hooked for the next hour and 20 minutes. But the last 15 minutes, the movie breaks down. One of the other big requirements for a documentary is that the final conflict should live up to the billing you give it … but this one doesn’t. We’re almost tricked into thinking something we shouldn’t. The film crew spends an hour showing all the twists and turns in finding an obscure guitarist, including splicing in present day footage. But that’s not how it goes. He was actually found in the late 90s, has done concerts in South Africa for the last 14 years and now has his web page and Twitter account. So the film crew didn’t do jack, they just interviewed the people who did. You’re not supposed to feel duped after watching a non-Michael Moore documentary, at least not that I know of. I liked Queen of Versailles much, much better than this. GRADE: B-