COMING SOON...

COMING SOON...

THE HOT ROCK, CINDERELLA LIBERTY, ART SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL and DISTANT VOICES STILL LIVES

Thursday, January 10, 2013

AN APOLOGY

To all the regular readers of Digital Views online I'd like to offer a heartfelt apology. You'll notice that there hasn't been an update since the last part of November here online. While the reviews have continued to appear in The Decatur Daily Democrat, updates have not been found here. A drastic combination of events has caused that to happen, the biggest of which was being ill for about the past six weeks. I'm not sure if it was this flu that's going around or what but it caused plenty of coughing, sore throat and exhaustion. As an example one day I wrote a review to send to the newspaper and had to lay down afterwards because that simple task wore me out! I'm glad to say that I'm feeling much better now and hope to have this blog current for 2013. Thanks for sticking with me here and for letting others know that Digital Views exists. It's a grass roots effort to get the words out and it seems to be working when I look at the stats. Thanks once again and feel free to register to get updated faster.

DREDD: JUDGE, JURY AND EXECUTIONER

It seems that comics have become the mainstay in films these days. With the success of the film adaptations of Marvel characters and Batman, more comic book characters are making their way to the screen. Fans of the British comic 2000 A.D. are well acquainted with Judge Dredd. Not the one we saw years ago with Sylvester Stallone (not bad but no, not like the comic), but the comic character. Dredd is the quintessential tough guy. He takes no guff and deals out justice with extreme prejudice. So that makes him perfect for a new film, this time just known as DREDD.

In the future most of the world is a desolate wasteland. Only 2 cities remain the main one of which is Mega-City One. It is a city filled with people and that means plenty of crime. Crime is so rampant in fact that they've tossed aside the old ways of doing things and now have just one authority in this world: judges. Judges fit everything into one tight package: police officer, judge and executioner. There is no need for a trial, if you break the law the judge will arrest and sentence you on the spot. If you do something as extreme as murder, your execution will take place on the streets with clean up to follow.

One of the most extreme members of this police force is Judge Dredd (Karl Urban). He also happens to be the most effective officer they have. His day today will be different though as he's been assigned a special task: take a new recruit who barely passed the admissions test but has something special about her, telepathy, and rate her performance. If she's effective, she's in but if she fails, she's gone. Dredd meets up with new Judge Anderson (Olivia Thrilby) and off they go.

The film goes for the usual here with the gruff old timer giving the newbie a difficult time. Their first case results in a chase involving a group of drug users racing through town. While Dredd kills a few of these criminals, the rest escape into one of the skyscraper type neighborhoods.

The deaths of the criminals who escaped in a skyscraper type neighborhood leads the Judges to that building.  It turns out to be run by Ma-Ma (Lena Headey), one of the most vicious criminals and drug lords in Mega City One. Ma-Ma is in the process of promoting a new drug to the streets called Slo-mo, a drug that when taken makes the user experience the world in slow motion. When she learns that the Judges have entered the building, she immediately has it shut down and locked up tight and then offers a huge reward for the first person to bring both Judges to her.

This forces the Dredd and Anderson to work their way up the floors of the building in search of Ma-Ma before anyone can collect that reward. And along the way the body count rises as every criminal in the building, and there are plenty of them, tries to collect. Unfortunately for them they have yet to realize how resourceful and deadly Dredd truly is. To put it mildly, Dredd makes Dirty Harry look like a kindergarten cop.

Those of you who recall the review I wrote for a film called THE RAID might think this sounds vaguely familiar and in part it is. Both films have law enforcement officials trapped in a skyscraper filled with criminals out to collect a bounty on their heads. But this one does have a number of differences. While THE RAID had a tad more realism in how its heroes found a way to survive, DREDD has the title character who is the supreme tough guy. Dredd doesn't think twice about shooting someone, he just does it. Anderson also is a plus as her telepathic abilities help them to find out more about just where they're going when they question a captive drug dealer.

If you're an action fan you'll love this movie, the same for fans of the comic. Gone are the humorous touches found in the last version of Dredd, replaced by a performance that is more in line with the comic book. Urban does a fantastic job here, never once feeling the need to remove the classic helmet Dredd wears to show off his smile, grimace or anything else. This is what Dredd should look like and how he should be played. Thrilby does a nice job as well showing her frustration at being judged by someone who clearly has no use for her only to later be the sidekick that he needs.

The movie is filled to the brim with movie violence. Don't rent this one not having a clue about that. Just like the comic, the movie is filled with splatter moments and the blood gushes freely here. It's not a film for the squeamish. But for movie fans, comic fans and Dredd fans, you'll enjoy this movie much more than the Stallone version.

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TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE: OUR HEROES GROW OLD



Can Clint Eastwood actually make a bad movie? I'm beginning to think it's impossible. I went back to check out the list of movies he's starred in over the past several decades and while I found one or two that weren't my taste and maybe one other that was just different I couldn't actually find one I would say was terrible. Remarkably at 82 his record remains intact with the new release TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE.

Here Eastwood plays Gus, a baseball scout for the Atlanta Braves. Gus is getting older and beginning to have problems with his eyesight, something he needs to do his job. The franchise is looking for smarter ways to decide who to sign and Gus is in competition with Phillip (Matthew Lillard) and his computer stats style of knowing which players to sign.

Running along side this story is that of Gus' daughter Mickey (Amy Adams), a top notch lawyer who is on the fast track to partnership. If Mickey can win the latest case she's in charge of then she's almost guaranteed a partnership at the firm. But things with Gus will find these two crossing paths that are not well traveled between father and daughter.

The two have issues with one another that stem back from years before. When Gus' friend Pete (John Goodman) begins to think Gus might have a problem, he calls on Mickey to help him out and to make sure Gus is all right. While Gus doesn't want this so called babysitter with him on his latest trip to scout out a hot prospect, Mickey goes anyway hoping that perhaps she can get some answers to the questions she's had most of her life about her father.

Eastwood's Gus is a cantankerous sort who is unwilling to admit that there is something wrong. He does have the occasional moment when he lets down his guard to his daughter but he's determined to be on his own and do things his way like he always has. Adam's Mickey is just as stubborn as her father and attempts to give him plenty of opportunities to open up but those moments don't seem to be happening. How they resolve these problems that have developed over years on a three day road trip makes for interesting viewing and touches the heart as well.

Included in this mix is Justin Timberlake as Johnny, an ex-ball player that Gus signed up years before but whose career has changed over the years. Having thrown out his arm, he's now a talent scout as well. He still gets along great with Gus and as the days go by begins to develop some feelings for Mickey as well.

While the movie is centered around the world of baseball make no mistake, it's not baseball that is the film's focus. This film is about the lives of two people who should be connected from the start but whose lives have taken them down different paths away from one another. While they both should find comfort and ease with one another their lives offer little of either. It is this path that they've gone down for years that has driven them apart and has left them with emotional scars that they won't easily repair.

There isn't a bad piece of acting in this entire film. Adams does a great job as Mickey, trying to solve the problems that she's built up over the years. Timberlake has grown on me over the past few years showing that he can be a dynamite actor given the chance. The surprising thing for me in this film was Eastwood though. Always teased about a monotone delivery and for his use of silence more than speaking, the character of Gus is given plenty of life in Eastwood's performance here. One sequence involving him visiting his wife's grave was particularly touching and totally different than anything I've ever seen him do before.

When this film came out I wasn't sure that I actually wanted to see it. I held off on it even when it came out on DVD but thought finally why not. I'm glad I did. This was one of the most enjoyable dramas I've seen in some time. It also proves that while Eastwood is getting older, he's also still one of the best movie stars around today.

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HOUSE OF LIES SEASON ONE: AMAZING WRITING



I really wanted to hate this series. Honestly I did. Within seconds of the shows credits hitting the screen there it was, the first of many nude scenes. I've always felt that the inclusion of extreme nudity or language was the first sign of a poorly made show/special trying to aim for the lowest common denominator right out of the chute. There are even web sites dedicated to counting the seconds it takes for a made for cable series/special to include a nude scene. For once my theory was wrong. While I wanted to not like this series I found myself compelled to continue watching episode after episode and wondering what happened when season one ended.

HOUSE OF LIES is about Marty Kaan (Don Cheadle), a fast talking, fast thinking management consultant and his team. What do management consultants do? Watch and see as periodically everything on screen freezes with the exception of Marty who then talks to you, the viewer, to explain something going on. What a management consultant does is one of those times. Basically it boils down to telling the client what they want to hear, stroking their egos, taking what they want and filtering it through the company and then giving it right back to them while charging them for doing nothing more than telling them what they wanted to hear from the start. In essence they do little but get paid tremendous salaries for doing so.

Marty's team is a well oiled machine with each person knowing their job and doing it well. Second in command and possibly being groomed to take Marty's place one day is Jeanne Van Der Hooven (Kristin Bell), a smart young woman who knows how to put everything together to present to the client. She still has some rough edges yet and as the show begins is one of the few people with a tad left of her scruples but that could change at any time. Next is Clyde Oberholt (Ben Schwartz), a smooth talker who can put together a power point package like no one else. Last in line is Doug Guggenheim (Josh Lawson) the team geek. Lawson can gather information faster than anyone and assemble it in whatever form you need, making good numbers look bad and bad look good.

Marty and his team fly out from their main office throughout the week to meet with clients trying to find new ways to improve their companies, to filter through ideas they have to see if they might work and to bill those clients as much and as often as possible. At the same time there is competition from other management consultants, the worst of which is ranked above the company Marty works for and whose top consultant is Marty's ex-wife Monica Talbot (Dawn Olivieri). That would be bad enough but Monica also happens to be a tad insane and a cut throat competitor. To make it even more complicated, Monica and Marty occasionally still find themselves in bed together from the series opening sequence through several episodes.

If that wasn't enough story to hold your interest then put into play one more thing that is slowly making Marty insane, his home life. There you'll find Marty's son Roscoe (Donis Leonard Jr.), a cross dressing junior high student who's in the midst of discovering himself. Helping Marty raise his son is Marty's father and ex-psychiatrist Jeremiah (Glynn Turman), a man who doesn't hold back what's on his mind but who loves his son deeply.

Each episode finds the team trying to take on the problems of a different company and each challenge has them finding new ways to deal with the problems that come up in doing so. Some involve things as simple as the competitor arriving at the same time to dealing with a racist CEO who won't give Marty the time of day. A thread that runs through the whole season revolves around the CFO of a company that Marty and his team take on in the first episode and who he accidentally embarrasses when his wife has sex with Marty's date in the ladies room. The same character in trying to exact revenge convinces his bosses that buying out the company Marty works for would be to their advantage. The prospect of losing his job and his team's as well becomes one of the central focus points of nearly each episode.

There you have it, a rather lengthy description of what the basics of the show involve. So what makes it worth watching? Narrowing that down to one thing is impossible and to break it down to two is difficult but I'll try. First and foremost is the writing. This show has some of the most crisp dialogue I've ever seen. Not a word is wasted and the back and forth patter between characters as well as the revealing dialogues are amazing to listen to. Sure there are plenty of expletives uttered but between them coming out fast and furious and the amount of sexual activity on screen it becomes little more than background noise. The words used here are formed so well that it almost comes off like a song instead of just talking. There is a flow and pacing that makes each sentence something to listen to.

The second thing that stands out here is the acting. Cheadle has always been a favorite of mine doing some great work in the past. He shines here as Marty displaying not just the smooth talking conman of a consultant but offering up the unhappy and slowly unhinging person beneath that false face. The title of the show doesn't just sum up what their business is all about, it's a reference to the home life that Marty has, the place where he hopes he can be the best father and son possible but where he inevitably fails. Is there a possibility that Marty can turn his life around and be what he wants at home and still be successful at work? That's the main question posed from episode one to the last.

The supporting actors are just as amazing. Each one has their own quirks that they bring to the story and to the team. Best of all is Bell who shows that while her character may be one of the few with a conscious she's also falling into the same cesspool that her fellow co-workers seem to excel in. While she has the skills to possibly be the next Marty Kaan, does she really want to become that?

If you are easily offended then this series is not at all something you should watch. The scenes of sexually active characters starts seconds in the opening show and filters through each episode, some graphic and others not quite so. The language is always filled with expletives and the F bomb is dropped more than any ammo used in all world wars combined. If you can get past that though you'll find a series that is incredibly well written, acting that is the top of the heap and so interesting that you'll find yourself skipping the credits and cueing up the next episode as the one you're watching ends. The only problem here is waiting till season two comes out to see what happens next.

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LOOPER: ALTERING TIME

"Time travel has not yet been invented but 30 years from now, it will have been." Thus begins the movie LOOPER, a science fiction action film that takes on time travel in a different way than most. The movie starts just a few years from now and people from the future have become involved in the present. With no way for future gangsters to dispose of people they send them back in time to be killed and disposed of. The people in our time who do this job are known as loopers.

Loopers wait at a designated area and time. When the intended shows up, they shoot them, wrap them up and then take the body to a burning disposal unit. They are paid well to do the job and down the line must eventually kill their own future self with a higher paid out at that time.

Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is one of the best loopers. He follows instructions and never looks back, making plans to one day travel to France when he retires. His friend Seth (Paul Dano) isn't quite as well groomed for the job. Seth shows up at Joe's house one night on the run. It turns out that his latest victim was his future self and he let him escape. Now the gatmen (those armed with revolvers instead of the blunderbuss that Loopers use) are tracking him down to eliminate both him and his future self.

Joe gives them an assist rather than find himself on the bad end of a bullet and continues on his way. The victims keep coming back but then Joe finds himself in the same shoes as Seth. The future Joe (Bruce Willis) is now in his sites but he hesitates. That's all it takes for future Joe to make an escape and leave current Joe on the run for his life. Trying to set things straight by killing future Joe won't be easy since your current strategy is all past history to him.

Current and future Joes meet at a diner they both love to get things straight. For current Joe to survive he must kill his future self. But future Joe lets him know that things aren't what they seem. Not only will his life change for the better but someone close to him will die if he doesn't change the past. On top of that a crime boss in the future is having all the loopers disposed of from the future so he will stand unopposed. Only finding this man in the past and killing him will set things in the future right.

Both are bound and determined to get their own way. Future Joe wants to save the world and his true love. Current Joe doesn't care, he just wants to survive. But as the film progresses both men learn something about the world and about themselves.

As the gatmen try to track them both down they take two divergent paths to try and affect things. Future Joe is searching for the child who will become the future criminal mastermind. When he does he will kill him. But a part of the map he made ended in the hands of current Joe who sets out to protect the child and at the same time finish his looper contract.

The map leads him to a remote farmhouse where he finds Sara (Emily Blunt) and her son Cid (Pierce Gagnon). Could this be the threat to the world of the future? Joe doesn't know but he does know that his future self will eventually end up here with the intent to kill. And the only one Joe wants to see dead is his future self.

Don't let it fool you this isn't as complicated as it might seem. What it is is a dynamite sci-fi thriller that keeps you guessing from the start and doesn't let go until almost the last minute of the film. There are no easy answers here just as there are none in life. The story that seems simple yet becomes more complex with each passing minute is one that will hold your interest and never let go.

The acting here is amazing. Gordon-Levitt has the mannerisms of Willis down pat. He's become an actor that is bound for more amazing roles and performances and this one just adds to his list. Willis could perform this role without breaking a sweat and he does a great job here. Blunt is good as always, giving those subtle nuances a twist to make her character deeper than one would expect.

Some would say that this is nothing more than a TERMINATOR rehash without robots but they would be wrong. There is more going on with these characters than in that film. There is a deeper meaning to the lives being lived and changed here. And by the end of the film there will perhaps be just a touch of humanity worth saving.

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TOTAL RECALL: REMAKE OF RECALL

Let it be known that I was a fan of the movie TOTAL RECALL that starred Arnold Schwarzenegger back in 1990. It was a great science fiction film filled with plenty of action, top notch special effects and of course the use of cute quips by Arnold. It's still a good movie to watch and enjoyed. So count me among the surprised to find that I actually enjoyed the remake that comes out this week on DVD as much as if not more than the original.

For those who don't know here's the story: The Earth is overrun with people and only two areas that are now able to support life, one in what we know of as England run by Cohaggen and another in what was once Australia. To get from one point to the other you board "The Fall", a skyscraper size ship that passes through a tunnel from one area to the other. The folks at the Aussie end are protesting their abuse at the hands of the others and use "The Fall" as a symbol of their life of servitude. Matthius (Bill Nighy) is their rebel leader, demanding a release by the people in the English area.

Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell) works in a factory that builds robot security troops for Cohaggen. He continues to have nightmares about a escaping the police with a woman he doesn't recognize (Jessica Biel). He wakes each night beside his wife Lori (Kate Beckinsale) unable to explain his dream other than to say it felt so real. Feeling as if something is missing in his life, he sees an ad for a company called Rekall.

Going to Rekall, Doug learns that it's a vacation that takes place in the brain. Rekall injects you with drugs and implants memories into your brain that make you feel as if you've experienced the travel dream of your choice, as long as you've never actually been involved in your choice in real life. Doug chooses the life of a spy but as he begins to go through the process the machines alerts the officials that he actually was a spy. Before he can argue the point the door burst in and a security team sweeps in killing the Rekall members and attempting to capture Doug. Except that his natural instincts kick in and he takes out the entire team and escapes.

Unaware of what is going on, Doug continues to try and escape the police and get home. Once there he is comforted by Lori who suddenly turns on him and tries to kill him. While they fight she lets him know this is not the happy home he though, that they were never married and that she was sent to watch him in case he remembered anything other than the implants the government placed in his brain. Doug escapes Lori and the chase is on. With little to go on and secretive clues that he apparently left himself, Doug is trying to find out first what is going on and second where he fits into the whole scheme of things.

So what makes this version different from the original? First off the amount of action involved. This film is an adrenaline rush from start to finish. At the same time it offers enough story to carry it along as well rather than opt for non-stop gunplay and running.  Most intriguing is the fact that you wonder till very near the end if this is all really happening or if it's all a part of the Rekall experience that Doug asked for. Is he really Doug or a double agent? And what about the girl in his dreams, where does she fit in to all of what is going on? If you've seen the original you know the answer, if not then you'll keep wondering until all is revealed.

Perhaps the biggest change from this movie to the original is the setting and motivation for the action being seen. It no longer takes place on Mars and doesn't revolve around generators that create an atmosphere there. Instead it sticks to this planet and problems between two areas that represent what is left of Earth. For me that didn't ruin the film at all. And perhaps that's why it didn't feel like so much of a complete remake and more like a re-imagining instead.

Ferrell does much better in this remake than last years FRIGHT NIGHT which missed completely. He does a great job as the confused Quaid. Beckinsale and Biel do tremendous as well moving from love interests to action stars in the blink of an eye. Having done so before my guess is both will continue to do so in the future and do it well.

It's been 20 years since the original film was released so I'm certain that there is a generation out there that's never seen that film who will enjoy this one on its own merits. Fans of the original, if they allow themselves to forget that film, will find this one entertaining as well. For me its one that I know I will have no problem pulling it out and watching again; it's that good. 

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MEN IN BLACK 3: MEN IN BLACK ARE BACK!



With so many remakes and sequels being made these days it's nice to have some being made that are actually well done. More often than not these types of films are rushed into production and rarely come close to being as original or fun as the first films. Such is not the case with MEN IN BLACK 3.

Believe it or not it's been 10 years since the last film in this series. Agents K (Tommy Lee Jones) and J (Will Smith) are still cleaning up alien disasters on Earth and saving mankind even though mankind has no clue that it's going on. The head of their organization, Zed, has passed away and the memorial for him is less than, well, memorable. J still can't get K to open up. And then a crisis happens.

At the prison facility on the moon, the worst scum of outer space has broken loose. Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) has escaped. Captured and put in this prison as well as having his arm shot off by K 40 years ago, Boris wants nothing more than revenge. His plan is to escape, get back to Earth and go back in time to make sure K never gets past their original meeting.

All of this happens with the exception of J remembering K like nothing has changed. When he goes to work, no one there understands why he thinks K is his partner since K was killed 40 years earlier. That is until he talks to O (Emma Thompson). She realizes that time has been altered. When an attack on Earth by Boris and the rest of the group from his planet begins, J must go back in time to make sure that he doesn't have the chance to alter things thus saving not only the world by K as well.

The first thing that makes this work so well is the story. It's not a rehash of past films and gives us something new to consider. It also allows the closeness between the two partners be developed a little more. While K displays nothing, deep down you catch glimpses of his fondness for J.

The second thing that makes this movie click is the performance by Josh Brolin as the young K. Not only does his appearance almost uncannily like that of Jones, he has his mannerisms and speech patterns down to a T. At times you might find yourself thinking that this is indeed a young Tommy Lee Jones and wonder how they were actually able to go back in time to get him for this part. But the fact is it's just that great of a performance by Brolin.

Both Jones and Smith play their roles like there's been no time between the last film and this one. Jones continues to offer the most deadpan of stoic faces and Smith has the sarcastic quick wit of Agent J down like it's his normal way of behaving.

Once again the special effects are fantastic and will have you pausing the DVD to get a better glimpse of each and every alien. Some seem to look familiar and others new, but each one is original and helps to create a realistic look for the encounters they have with the agents.

More than anything this movie offers you a lot of fun. It's not as serious as the topic might sound even though any invasion of Earth by another life form from space would be quite serious. The laughs come easily and the drama that underlies the whole story, J's closeness and attachment to K, make it a complete story. If you want entertainment when renting, or buying, this week then you won't go wrong with this one. 

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FORCED TO FIGHT: STAR DESERVES MORE PRAISE



I've always been a big martial arts film fan. It started when I first saw ENTER THE DRAGON while in high school. To me that film remains the best martial arts film ever made and one of the top ten action films ever created. It was also the film that opened the door for more martial arts films that made their way into the mainstream in the 70s and increased in the 80s and 90s.

There were a number of martial arts stars during those decades that seemed to come out of nowhere and find themselves at the center of films. Billy Blanks, Don "The Dragon" Wilson, Sho Kusugi and more were front and center on the video shelves. Towards the end another star emerged as well, Gary Daniels. While his movies did well, he never seemed to get the attention he deserved. What was nice was that he did get the chance to continue on where so many just disappeared. He even got to star in some great movies such as THE EXPENDABLES. And now he returns to be the name above the title in the just released FORCED TO FIGHT.

Daniels plays Shane, an ex-mixed martial arts fighter who has retired to a more stable life with his wife and son working in a garage. Not so his brother Scotty. Still involved in the underground fight scene, Scotty owes money to the bad guy promoter Danny G (Peter Weller). Ordered to throw a fight he ignores the command and finds himself on the run from Danny and his goons. He shows up at Shane's and lets him know he's leaving for a while only to be jumped outside and beaten within an inch of his life.

Knowing what's behind this, Shane goes to talk to Danny, the man he walked away from years ago. Danny knows the potential draw that Shane has and gives him a chance to clear away Scotty's debts. All he has to do is win so many fights and the books are cleared. Shane agrees and goes into training.

But things have changed since Shane last fought. The combatants are stronger and resort to more illegal moves. The world of underground online mixed martial arts is not the high class world one sees on ESPN. These are down and dirty fights where there are no holds barred. Having been out of the fight scene altogether, Shane must first get into condition to fight. Only when Danny thinks he's ready will he do so.

The time finally comes and Shane begins to win his matches. He's developing a following and Danny sees this. That's when he tells Shane it's time to lose a few. This will help Danny when it comes to the money he makes on the gambling crowd. The bad news is that even though Danny is telling him to lose, those matches don't count towards Shane's debt since they're a loss.

With each passing day Shane falls back into old habits. He becomes more savage and brutal in his matches. That personality also falls into his home life as well as he displays fits of rage when it comes to how he deals with his wife and son. Gone is the caring father and it's been replaced by someone who's sole focus is the next match.

Eventually all things must come to a head and between the problems he faces at home and the backstabbing ways of Danny G you know it won't be pretty. It will all boil down to Shane's finding his way back to the man he was rather than the man Danny G wants to make him.

So what's good about this movie? Pretty much everything. Sure the story seems a bit familiar but adding the family and especially Shane's son to the mix gives it a tad more life. The fight sequences here feel more real than many films in this genre do and choreographed with skill that has you feeling each punch and kick. Best of all rather than just give us a fight after fight film, the movie offers more story than most and a chance for Daniels to show that he can actually act.

Daniels has dramatically improved as an actor over the years and perhaps that's why he's still making movies while so many other actors in the genre have drifted away. Many actors in martial arts films seemed like they were doing little more than reading cue cards. To be honest, even Daniels had those moments way back when he began. But acting is a learning experience and with this film it's nice to see that Daniels has spent his time wisely learning to act as well as stay in shape for the fights folks come to see in his films. He displays the changes in Shane from fatherly to maniacal in a believable fashion here and that takes some doing. Oscar material? No not really but a solid performance none the less.

Equally well done is Weller as Danny G. This is by far one of the most despicable characters to ever grace the screen. Weller handles the chore with ease making Danny seem real and dangerous without lifting a finger. By the end of the film you find yourself wanting something bad to happen to him.

For fans the best thing about FORCED TO FIGHT is that the film feels just like those movies that graced the shelves in the 80s. They always showed some martial arts post, someone leaping in the air and always entertained. This movie does exactly that giving you the action you crave and a story that fits it all together. One can only hope that Daniels continues making movies like this and gets the chance to be in some larger projects as well.

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V/H/S: OLD SCHOOL HORROR

It's hard to make a truly scary horror film these days. Nearly every aspect of the genre has been touched on at one time or another. To find something new, fresh and scary is almost impossible. And yet some directors have accomplished this. Some have simply gone back to recreate old scares or make sequels to other famous ones. And then there are those that remember what it was like to go to a video store, to see those clamshell or oversized boxes on the shelf with creepy images and titles. Some of those film makers have come together and unleashed a tribute of sort to those days called V/H/S.

The film is comprised of several stories with a connecting story that is perhaps the weakest of them all. A group of trouble makers is hired to steal a VHS tape from a house they've been told is safe. Don't let the first minutes of this movie stop you from going on. It's nothing more than showing what idiots these guys are. When they get to the house they find a dead body in a chair upstairs sitting in front of a TV with nothing more than snow showing. Around the TV stand are a number of tapes. While several members go looking for a special tape, one stays behind to start going through these. As he watches, we're allowed to see what is on the tapes as well.

The first story is one of my favorites. It shows three friends on a mission to help the geekiest one lose his virginity. They've rigged his glasses up with tiny cameras so he can capture the entire night on tape. At the local bar they hook up with two drunken girls but only one of these two goes back to their hotel with them. Also going back with them is a strange girl who keeps telling the geek "I like you". What happens when they get back must be seen rather than described and offers one of the real scary moments in the film.

Another story follows a young couple traveling across country and filming as they go. Without noticing it appears someone is following them. When they awake to find someone in their motel room the horror is revealed.

A third story has a group of friends going out for a picnic in the woods. Once there they tell the story of a group of friends that was murdered in those very same woods. Of course as with all these stories one has a camera and for some reason a glitch keeps distorting the picture. Each time it does a strange and horrifying figure appears.

A fourth story involves a young woman who is chatting online to a friend found elsewhere. Their conversations have them talking back and forth and as is often the case, never realizing what is going on around them. When some scary figures turn up behind the girl as she talks, we get a chill as we wait to find out what happens.

The final set piece involves a group of friends out and about sent to a house in the country. When they arrive they first find no one but after checking out the house they discover a secret ceremony going on in the attic. But just who is being killed and who needs saved isn't apparent from the start.

Rounding out these stories is the main one with the search for the mysterious VHS tape going on. While each film here falls into the category of lost footage tapes, not all are truly scary and the connecting device falls short of being done as well as the separate stories. The first time I watched this I was honestly a bit bored and waiting for something to happen. The second time I enjoyed it more and took a bit more time to watch what was happening. As I said once you get past the first portion of the film it picks up speed.

The one thing that did damage to this film was the hype surrounding it. Before it was released word was hitting the internet that this film was the scariest thing seen in years. Fan film fest were heaping praise on it and several of the directors involved had done some great films that came out prior to this one leaving expectations high. Each segment was done by a different director which would explain the look of each tape being different. Unfortunately each director did not live up to expectations.

But there are enough scares here to keep you awake and enough memorable moments that might cause you to lose sleep if you think about them too much. You can't hold the look of the film against it since this is supposed to be a lost then found video and even taking that into consideration it does have a nice look to it for the most part. Horror fans will want to make sure and give this one a watch. Others might get a few good goose bumps from it. 

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HOPE SPRINGS: LOVE AFTER 60

To begin with the title of the film HOPE SPRINGS is not a location. Rather it is about the hope that after years of marriage love and emotion can return. It's what the film is about. While some will watch and assume as the discussions involved talk about sex, that isn't what's at the core of the film.

Kay (Meryl Streep) and Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones) have been happily married for years now. But times have changed. Anniversary gifts are now just shared items they need for the house. Arnold hasn't slept in the same bed with Kay for years now starting from a back injury he suffered long ago. This is a couple that has a daily routine where Arnold wakes, gets ready and goes to work with Kay making sure his day starts off with the same breakfast every morning and a peck on the cheek. But that's not enough for Kay.

Kay longs for the affection and intimacy that the couples shared all those years ago. Determined to do something about it, she seeks out marriage counseling books at the local book store and comes across one written by Dr. Feld (Steve Carell). Digging deeper she finds his website online and then makes reservations for her and Arnold who of course refuses to go seeing it as a waste of money. Kay gives him two options: join her at the airport or stay home alone.

Fearing he might lose her, Arnold shows up begrudgingly. They arrive on a remote small town in Maine where their week long couples retreat is to take place. Arnold is the crotchety type who complains about the costs of everything, insisting all the while that they have no reason to be here.

As their sessions begin Dr. Feld talks to them about what the problem seems to be. Carell plays the role straight and doesn't resort to what some would expect of him. Feld cares about the people he treats and allows them to bring out the questions and answers that are plaguing their marriage. Where the obvious questions about their sex lives are discussed, you can tell by the direction he leads the couple in his questions and what he discusses with them it's not sex he wants them to dig deeper into. It's intimacy. It's the small caress that Arnold might brush across Kay's cheek or a kiss on the lips. But these topics don't come out at the first session, instead taking time each day they are there.

One of the best things here is that the story unwinds and we discover that it's not all Arnold's fault that things have changed. One would think that was the case with the attitude he has toward the whole process and with some of the answers he provides. What we have here is a couple in every sense of the word where both share equally in the changes that have overtaken their lives. And the only way to save this marriage is for both to become an active part in that marriage once again.

This movie isn't the dry film that it might sound like from what I've written so far. It's filled with lots of humor and out right affection seen in the characters offered. These seem like real people you and I know in real life, people that have a deep rooted love for one another yet have somehow lost touch. You care about both characters and watch hoping that they find the solution they need.

Long time readers will know I've never been a big Meryl Streep fan but here she does a tremendous job, offering not just great readings of her lines but displaying subtle touches like body movement and longing glances that open up her character. I've always found her performances much better in roles like these than grandiose characters she has played in the past. Jones is amazing to watch. He has the grizzled old coot character down pat and if that were all he displayed here I would say his performance was mailed in. But as the film progresses you see that there is a weakness inside of him that blooms and allows his affections to finally show in this character. Since neither of these characters is in your face, my guess is both performances will be ignored come Oscar time.

As I near the age that these two people are in the midst of, the movie made me look back at my own life and will do the same for anyone in their 40s on. Young viewers might want to look at it and realize what they can expect down the line unless they pay close attention. In any event this movie was a delight, offering insight into what is truly important in the lives and love of people. It touches on many levels and it is definitely a movie worth watching. 

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THE WORDS: TRUTH OR FICTION

These days it seems that the majority of movies being made include spectacular explosions set at a breathtaking pace or movies that are so in tune with the art crowd that no one gets them nor wants to. But every now and then a movie comes along that makes you think, makes you care and makes you wonder what if.

THE WORDS is a story within a story within a story. That may sound complicated at first but as it unfolds you find it's not really. Dennis Quaid stars as Clay Hammond, an author at a reading for his biggest best seller. With audience in rapt attention, Hammond begins to tell his story.

The story revolves around Rory Jansen (Bradley Cooper), a struggling author who is deeply in love with the girl of his dreams Dora (ZoĆ« Saldana).  In New York struggling to get by things are tough but they manage living on love as much as their meager incomes. Unable to find a publisher for his novel, Rory takes a job at a publishing house to help make ends meet. Eventually he and Dora marry and spend their honeymoon in Paris, the home of great authors of the past.

While in Paris Rory comes across an old briefcase in a used goods store he admires and Dora buys it for him. When they return home he looks at it closer to find a story inside unlike any he's ever read. This is great writing. Unable to anchor his own thoughts to paper, Rory rewrites the piece he found on his laptop. When Dora reads this story, she's brought to tears and encourages him to submit it to a publisher. Rory's initial predicament is then should he do it or not? It's not his story even though he's change it to his style of writing. Is this the ethical thing to do?

He does submit the story and of course it becomes a major best seller. Rory receives accolades for the tale he's told. And then one day and old man (Jeremy Irons) follows him to the park and reveals to him that the story was his, written when he was much younger and in Paris. He then reveals the story behind the story to Rory, telling him how it came to be written and why. Wanting nothing in return he simply lets Rory know that for him it was about telling him how it came to be.

The question then becomes deeper for Rory. Should he let the world know that this man was responsible for the tale and in so doing ruin his career and possibly his marriage? Or should he continue on as if nothing every happened?

At the same time there is the story of Clay. Tempted by a young writing student named Daniella (Olivia Wilde), she wants to know what happens at the end of the story. Clay left it for those at the reading to discover when they bought the book. She has a desire to find out now and as they discuss it the thought runs through both her mind and the viewers, could Clay actually be Rory?

Very well made and plotted so that the pace of the film slowly reveals the answers to most of these questions makes this a movie worth watching. The sense of time and place are well thought out and on display here. The acting by all those involved is wonderful to see with subtle tugs here and there that make these characters believable. In lesser hands this would have been just a tear jerking melodrama with no heart. From the writing to the acting it is instead a movie that makes you feel for the characters.

Perhaps the biggest question that is dealt in this film is one that is offered during the extras on the DVD. That question is what would you do if God gave you the desire and passion to do something but you realized you didn't have the talent? I don't think there is anyone who's never questioned themselves with that one only to find they had no clear cut answer. Neither does Rory or Clay. But in watching this film you walk away wondering once more and feeling for each and every character, especially Rory. I couldn't stop thinking when it was over, what would a man with a clear cut conscience do if he felt himself forced to perform an unconscionable thing to achieve his dreams? Hopefully we will never have to know first hand. 

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DICK TRACY: CLASSIC COMIC STRIP FILM COMES TO BLU-RAY

Has it really been 22 years since DICK TRACY was came out on film? I find that stunning. It seems like only yesterday that the film came out and that this comic strip character made his way to the screen once again.

Warren Beatty directs the film and stars as the title character, a totally dedicated police detective who battles crime with every waking breath. Tracy's long time girlfriend Tess Trueheart (Glenne Headly) sticks close to Tracy's side at all times and waits patiently for the day he will finally propose to her. In the line of duty Tracy comes across a homeless young boy named The Kid (Charlie Korsomo) that he takes under his wing with the help of Tess. 

But like most crime fighters in comics it is Tracy's rogue's gallery that makes him stand out. Top of the list is Big Boy Caprice (Al Pacino), the crime boss who has control of every criminal in the city. Among these criminals you'll find the likes of Flattop (William Forsythe), Mumbles (Dustin Hoffman), Pruneface (R.G.Armstrong) and more, all appearing just like their names and identical to the way they appeared in the comic strip. Big Boy has set his sights on taking over the entire underworld of the city and accomplishes this with ease, causing problems for Tracy and his team.

In addition to taking over the underworld, Big Boy has laid claim to the town's fanciest nightclub and its star attraction, Breathless Mahoney (Madonna). No one in town can sing a torch song like Breathless and even Tracy finds himself stunned into silence when in her presence.

As any competition that goes up against Big Boy disappears, Tracy and his group find it more and more difficult to actually catch him in the act. Witnesses disappear and cement shoes are given to more than one problem that Big Boy faces, but Tracy is the die hard detective who will stop at nothing to put an end to Big Boy and his gang.

The thing about this movie is that it's not the plot that keeps you watching. It's the visualization of a comic book page come to life on the big screen. Beatty made some wise decisions when he made this film having the sets made as simply and as bright as possible even when the lighting is low. This is the four color template used in comics that we've all grown up with and it's used for perfect effect in this film.

He also made a wise decision with the make up here, choosing to make the characters appear just like they did in the comic strip as well. Flattop actually has a flat head. Pruneface has more wrinkles than a shar pei. These characters were there in the comic strip and later in the cartoons of Tracy as well. Here they come to life.

The action is violent at times but more in a comic book style than in most mobster movies seen these days. Granted some kids will find the bad guys scary looking but more for their appearance than their actions.

The one disappointing thing about the film is Beatty's choice to play Tracy as himself rather than the same makeup he gives the other actors. Tracy was noted for his hawk nose and jutting jaw line. Beatty has chosen to simply outfit himself in Tracy's bright yellow coat and hat with no altering make up at all. With the bad guys all decked out, why not Tracy as well.

The blu-ray release offers a fantastic look to this film making the colors, the centerpiece of the film, seem to pop right off the screen. Unfortunately it doesn't offer anything in the way of extras but fans of the film will just be content to finally have the chance to add it to their collection. DICK TRACY isn't just a film to rent for a night, this is one to add to your shelf to be taken down and enjoyed from time to time.


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RESDENT EVIL-RETRIBUTION: ACTION GAME COMES ALIVE



So let's be honest here. As the series of RESIDENT EVIL movies has progressed they've become less about being a real movie and more about being a visualization of the first person shooter game that began the whole thing. That was starting to show in the last film but in this current release it becomes even more apparent.

Picking up immediately where the last film left off we once more have items tossed our direction as the film lives up to it's 3-D hype with weapons tossed about and at the audience every so often to make sure you're paying attention. If you're not watching it in 3-D (I wasn't) then you just see items tossed at the camera and don't feel the need to duck every few minutes.

We learn a little more about Alice (Mila Javovich) but not much and once again she finds herself captured and unconscious. With the help of Ada Wong she escapes, arms herself and begins the carnage. A white hallway filled with zombie types soon finds itself splattered in red with dead bodies left and right. But of course Alice escapes.

Alice learns that the Umbrella Corporation is sitting back and watching the T virus run rampant across the globe, doing nothing to stop it. I always found this a little odd since most corporations' goals are to achieve wealth and power and a world over run by zombies would provide neither not to mention no fuel or sustainable food source. But that's logic talking.

Somehow Alice ends up working with her arch enemy from the series, Wesker, who sees some of the problems that have arisen. Instead of being pitted against him she is now pitted against the Red Queen, the computer that looks like a child in holographic image seen in the first film. A team sent in to help Alice is on the way but of course she stops to help a little girl who thinks Alice is her mother since a clone of Alice was with her earlier. Trust me if you watch it it makes sense. Then again the girl is a clone as well. There are tons of clones in this series.

What I've offered here is more plot than is actually seen here. Most of it is offered in bits and pieces throughout the 96 minute running time. This film isn't about plot though, it's about action and there is plenty of that here. Well action and CGI creatures that want Alice dead. Some of the main creatures from the original game show up here rendered nicely via CGI.

But that's the thing that might be the downfall of this film series. It has less and less to do with story and more and more to do with just all out action. Don't get me wrong, I love action films. But it's much more fun to see an action film based around a story. This movie feels like your sitting beside someone playing the game and watching how they do.

While not the most terrible film I've ever seen it doesn't leave me much hope for another film. And the ending of this one like all the rest leaves it wide open for a cataclysmic last chapter. If it happens I might watch for a $2 rental but I doubt I'd shell out the bucks to own it, even if I wanted a complete series on my shelf. 

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GAME CHANGE: REAL OR NOT?



How you view the movie GAME CHANGE will depend quite a bit on how you feel politically. There is no way around it. If you are liberal then you'll find the movie does a great job of pointing out how terrible a person Sarah Palin was. If you're a conservative you'll find that the movie is little more than a hatchet job. But if you're like I feel most people are, sort of in the middle of those two camps, you'll see both aspects of that in this film.

GAME CHANGE is about the elections of 2008 when Barak Obama came out of nowhere and used the flames of popularity to win the White House. His campaign was well run and people seemed to adore him much to the consternation of competitor John McCain (Ed Harris) and his staff. The movie shows them discussing how to take on Obama and win votes away from him and that results in a choice that felt to many like it came out of nowhere, the choice of Sarah Palin (Julianne Moore).

But it wasn't out of nowhere. As the film shows it was a savvy move to attract voters who were viewing McCain as nothing more than the same old ancient white man who runs the country. Choosing Palin was a risky choice but it got the press and the public interested. Chief strategist Steve Schmidt (Woody Harrelson) is tremendously pleased with his choice once the numbers begin coming in and it looks as if McCain might actually have a chance to win.

Up to this point the movie seems pretty even handed and displays a side of both McCain and Palin that seem like normal people who have moved on to positions of power. Neither seems evil or out to do damage and both love their country and what to do what's right. That all changes as the movie then tries to show Palin as perhaps the most stupid person on the face of the Earth.

As the strategists try to prep her for interviews and to make speeches, Palin appears to know absolutely nothing. Their depiction of her almost nears the point of where you wonder if she has the ability to even know how to tie her own shoes. Not only that but the film shows the pressure of having to perform, having to suddenly be thrust before the intense scrutiny of the press and all without the election team having done the necessary background checks they were supposed to because they thought someone else had done it.

The change in the film also shows in how they felt voters changed as well. When Palin is first announced the crowds go wild and money begins coming in to help support McCain. When she fails at several interviews suddenly the film tries to lay the blame of the fall of McCain on Palin's shoulders. This seemed a bit odd to me since I recall that campaign and how crowds continued to flock to see Palin up till the last minute and continue to do so even today.

As the film progresses we see Sarah Palin changing from the soccer mom governor of Alaska to a power hungry witch who thinks she knows more than those trying to help her. I have little doubt that there is some truth in that because the saying that power corrupts. I also believe that the pressure must have been tremendous on Palin who was suddenly thrust into the spotlight. Anyone might think they are prepared for that but the intense scrutiny that the press brought down was unlike any seen in recent times.

So how is the movie? Interesting from start to finish. It does show a lot of what goes on behind the scenes during an election, perhaps not as well as THE WAR ROOM documentary about Bill Clinton's election, but it gives viewers a look at what happens when the doors are closed off to the press. The performances are what surprised me. Ed Harris does a fantastic job as McCain making him someone that maybe more people would have voted for if he'd come off this good. Harrelson also does a great job as a man who was to be the architect behind a successful for the Presidency who sees it all fall apart.

After all the acclaim and awards Moore won for her performance here I was stunned to see how weak it truly was. I felt more like I was watching Tina Fey do her impression of Palin than I was seeing an actor perform a role. She has the voice and look down but where was that side of Palin that we didn't see before cameras? According to this film and Moore's performance there was nothing the least bit sympathetic about Palin. She comes off as naive and then a total witch with nothing in between. She's portrayed as being so incredibly stupid as to not know the simplest of things taught in junior high civics classes. Having been the daughter of a teacher, a news anchor, a mayor and a governor, I found it incredibly disingenuous for her to be displayed this way. It felt more like a cheap shot than a does of reality.

As I said from the start, your own belief system will decide how you feel about this movie. If you love Palin you'll be angry and if you hate her you'll dance in the streets. I didn't go to either extreme. I just felt like a great topic for a movie was squandered that so much more could have been made of. Then again Hollywood seems determined to portray any conservative character as evil and bad so I shouldn't have been surprised. It would be nice to see an even handed portrayal of both liberals and conservatives show up but I won't hold my breath waiting. 

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BUTTER: PLAYS IT FAR TOO SAFE

I had heard many good things about the movie BUTTER before I had the chance to see it. Critics were treating it fairly nice and word of mouth via numerous magazines said good things as well. So I went in expecting something quite different than what I got.

The world of BUTTER revolves around the annual Butter Carving Championship held at the Iowa State Fair. For the past 15 years the winner has remained Bob Pickler (Ty Burrell). Ty is a good natured man who has done an amazing job with his sculpting, his last being a full sized replica of the last supper. Bob is married to Laura (Jennifer Garner), a prim, proper and respectable leader in their community who feels that Bob's 15 years of winning may lead them to greater things like being the Governor or perhaps even one day the President. Not only is Laura a respectable member of the community, she is one that is feared as well. No one will mess with Laura or what she wants.

When the championship committee makes the decision to ask Bob to step down and let someone else win for once, Laura goes on a rampage. She views it as the world trying to take down her and her family, never once thinking that perhaps it would be encouraging for others to be involved. When Bob refuses to enter, Laura does what she considers the next best thing and enters herself in the hopes of retaining the family legacy.

But this won't be the easy win she expects. A storyline running alongside the Pickler family is that of Destiny (Yara Shahidi). A young black girl in an orphanage passed from one foster family to another, Destiny has landed with a new couple, Ethan and Julie (Rob Corrdry and Alicia Silverstone). When Destiny happens across Bob and his sculpture at an exhibition she is amazed and picks up on carving butter herself. A natural at it, she decides she wants to enter the competition as well.

Also entering the competition is Brooke (Olivia Wilde), a stripper that Bob had a fling with and who he owes $600. In an attempt to make his life worse than it already is, Brooke continues to show up at Bob's house demanding her money and finally enters the competition just to spite Laura.

So far this sounds like a decent satire of the whole competition scenario that we've had before in films. Instead we get something a little different that actually turns out to be a bit more hateful than one would expect. I mean granted when it comes to movies made about the Midwest people will always be portrayed as closed minded and redneck, the whole clinging to their guns and Bibles sort. For some reason Hollywood finds a lot of humor in that. While they continue to laugh uproariously at those sorts of things I find that it's more of an easy out and lazy comedy than anything.

This is not to say the film fails completely. At the start it truly has some funny moments. It's well made and does feature some really good performances. But then somewhere along the way it veers off and decides to get nasty and mean instead of funny. Laura goes from being an obsessed housewife with delusions of grandeur to what Hollywood thinks of right wingers. She's spouts off profanities when the mood suits her, feels she is entitled to a place of power and prestige, displays racists tendencies and will do any and everything she can to retain the family title. Her character becomes hateful and manipulative. Anyone that opposes her, including a stripper, is offered up as just and righteous.

The movie changes along with the character of Laura Pickler. It changes from a movie that has some great humor in it to one that seems more determined to ridicule those the writer doesn't agree with instead. In those attempts to ridicule we see displayed some of the laziest writing around resorting to stereotypes better left to online memes rather than a feature film.

One odd thing about those in Hollywood. Anyone who has actually lived in the Midwest always talks about how much they loved their childhood, yet they always seem to find it necessary to insult or ridicule where they came from. And for those who have never visited let alone lived in the Midwest, they always feel they know exactly what it's like to live there. Unfortunately with rare exceptions, they almost never get it right. This holds true in BUTTER.

A great example appears in outtakes that roll during the final credits. Ethan and Destiny have a scene where they're sitting in his car and she tells him she's afraid of going in to enter the competition. He begins to tell her that there are worse things that could happen than just entering. Things like piranhas learning to walk and entering the building at the same time to attack. These are things he says to break down her fear and give her the courage to enter. It's a nice scene and in the movie plays well. But in the outtakes one of the scenarios that Destiny offers up is "It could be worse; it could be a Republican fund raiser". Gee, isn't that a subtle display of where the thoughts of this writer lay.

The potential for a great movie was there. Instead it resorted to the cheap laughs it had that are actually not funny unless you hate Republicans. If so, you will love this movie. If you're a bit more open minded and think there are good and bad people on both sides of the coin, then this movie will offer a few laughs and then toss them all aside to gain political points with Hollywood.

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GIRLS: ...WITH LITTLE TO OFFER

I've always approached shows on cable networks with a sense of caution. For some reason it seems that most of the critics in the world fall all over themselves to discuss how wonderful each and every program on cable networks like HBO and SHOWTIME are cutting edge and worth watching. For the most part the one thing these shows have in common that is missing from network shows is the inclusion of sex and nudity. When the cable networks started original programming that seemed to be their biggest concern. Unfortunately that hasn't changed all that much.

I've never understood why that was all it took to make a show a hit. Surely this world is not so shallow that a few naked bodies are all it takes to make a hit series? Then again look at the offerings we've had. THE SOPRANOS, BOARDWALK EMPIRE, DEADWOOD and more have all offered some great story telling but at the same time felt the need to go after that base person tuning in by offering enough T&A to keep them watching. Would the shows have been as good if they didn't include it? I think so. It's too bad that these networks don't want to take the chance to find out. Which brings us to GIRLS.

Critically praised and already garnering Emmy nominations, GIRLS is the story of Hannah Horvath (Lena Dunham, the shows creator/writer/sometime director), a woman in her early 20s out of college for 2 years whose parents in the opening of the series tell her that they've decided to cut her off. They will no longer pay her bills while she finds out what it is in life she wants. Instead they expect her to get a job like everyone else. Of course Hannah doesn't take this well and blames them for all of her problems expecting them to finance her until she decides what to do or until she gets her book of essays published. Their response? Too bad, get that job.

The series, while focusing on Hannah, includes her three best friends as well. Marnie (Allison Williams) is Hannah's best friend and roommate. Her long time boyfriend also spends most of his time there and is oblivious to the fact that Marnie isn't quite so sure she wants to stay with him. He adores her, dotes on her, does everything he can for her and yet she feels there is something missing. Marnie works at an art gallery, something you would think nearly everyone living in New York does since most New York set shows have at least one person with this job description.

Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) is a friend to both girls. What she does exactly I wasn't quite sure, but it's enough that she can pay rent and live fairly well. As the series begins she's something the rest of her friends are not which is a virgin. Shoshanna isn't sexually active which the rest of these girls are almost all the time.

Lastly we come to Jessa (Jemima Kirke), the free spirit who roams the world where ever she wants to go without a care in the world. Jessa is the Bohemian of the bunch, not caring what anyone thinks of her or her lifestyle. Jessa smokes even though she thinks she's pregnant, considers an abortion without thinking about it and dresses in outfits that only someone on either coast would find normal.

So what do these girls talk about, what predicaments do they find themselves in? First off they need to work. Hannah has the most problem finding a job. It seems she lacks the skills necessary to find employment in the big apple. Even Jessa finds a job baby sitting two young girls.

The other big focus in their lives seems to be sex. One would think in an enlightened world where the sexual revolution changed the way women were observed that they would hold the upper hand at all times. Instead these women crave sex and constantly seek it out. The bad thing is that in all their choices for partners only one seems to actually care about the other and he's the one who could get dumped any moment. Men in this series rarely care about the women they have sex with and act as if it's just something to be expected. It shows a lot of what the writers of this show think about men. Then again what does it say about women when their only interest in men is sex?

A huge number of reviews for this show have compared it to SEX AND THE CITY because of the fact that there are 4 friends who live in New York and who seem interested in sex. That's about the only way they compare. Where as SEX AND THE CITY displayed successful career women living out the fantasy lives that seemed prevalent at the time, GIRLS offers the grittier side of the same coin, showing a world where women struggle to make rent and instead of wealthy, handsome men find themselves in bed with whoever can make it there. Not meant as an insult but the women in this series are also more realistic than in SATC. No glamour girls here but rather women that you see every day.

I've noticed another common comment in nearly every review written about this series. The word "quirky" comes up in almost every one I've read. I guess the easiest way to gather an audience is to do something "quirky" and off the wall and you can stick critics into your back pocket. Then again perhaps "quirky" is a lazy way for writers to appear to be in touch with their subject matter and not appear to be unhip.

So with all that said do I really hate this series? Actually not quite. I mean it does seem more interested in playing to two simple crowds: those who watch for the vicarious thrill of seeing people having sex on TV and those who think they are so hip and in the know that this series reflects the lives of most everyone living in New York. I belong to neither group so the series isn't a must see on my radar. Occasionally it did offer a few laughs but those were few and far between. It also showed some heart in the fears and struggles of these characters, one scene in particular after Hannah has quit a job and found her "boyfriend" took her seriously when she said she wanted to break up. But this is not a show that I would set a DVR to record or rush home to watch an episode of.

It is nice to see the world as seen through real life eyes rather than the rose colored glasses everyone wants to use when depicting life in New York, lives filled with glamour and paparazzi everywhere rather than the low rent apartments and pasty white boyfriends. For people who love shows that reflect a more realistic approach to the world you'll probably enjoy this series. I tend to watch shows that give me the opportunity to get away from that world rather than roll around in it. I think most of us have enough problems in our day to day lives that we don't quite find someone else going through problems as entertainment. But as long as you know what you're going into before watching that first episode, perhaps you'll find this one you'll like but then again maybe not.

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