I missed the first hour of the production last night, but I was able to watch two thirds of NBC’s much hyped “The Sound of Music Live!” starring Carrie Underwood as Maria Von Trapp.
I’ll be honest. I was KINDA hoping for a train wreck, with the whole live angle. In that I was, alas, disappointed. Here’s a list of a few of my thoughts on the most stand-out good and bad aspects of the production.
1. Carrie Underwood. Gotta start with our star. I have no hate for Carrie Underwood, and her voice is very good. There were certain songs I thought she sounded better on than others, but overall, musically she handled herself well. HOWEVER. Girl cannot act, God bless her. And musical theater is just that…THEATER. You have to be able to act, not just sing. Underwood’s acting ranged from awkward to bad to painfully bad.
2. The pros. Audra McDonald, Laura Benanti and Christian Borle (as Mother Abbess, Elsa Schraeder and Herr Dettweiler respectively) kept this thing afloat, and were easily the best parts of the show. Everybody on the webs is talking about McDonald’s home run version of “Climb Every Mountain,” a song which, in the movie, is actually one of my least favorites. But I concur. Thanks to McDonald’s epic chops, I loved it here. And Benanti was really delightful. I liked her on Matthew Perry’s short-lived show, but I hadn’t seen her in any musical production, which I know is what she’s known for. She was charming and delightful and sounded great.
3. Stephen Moyer. A mixed bag. His performance was ernest and tough, but his singing was only so-so. He didn’t sound bad, but his voice is not as strong as a lot of the people he was singing with. And his accent seemed kind of all over the place. But he does get credit for trying to be romantic with the bowl of vanilla pudding that was Carrie Underwood.
4. The children. Overall, they held their own, given the pressure of the live televised event. I’ve been reading a lot of praise for the young actress who played Liesel, but I unfortunately missed her big moment of “16 Going on 17.” She seemed very natural though, which is the best thing that can be said about most of the children’s performances.
5. The actual production. Not great. I know it was MEANT to look like a stage production, so a certain amount of flatness to the sets was purposeful, but the way it was lit, shot and staged made it feel like a bad sitcom or a soap opera. So it was kind of an unsettling overall impression. And there was some background noise, a buzzing of some sort, that was sort of problematic in the quieter moments.
6. No audience. I think this was a mistake. It would have warmed everything up and sold even more the “live staged performance” vibe they were going for. And some natural reactions to the jokes and the more impressive vocal performances would have been nice.
7. The costumes. Benanti looked great. The rest were fine, except for Underwood. Yikes. The braids and the dirndl? WTF. They would have been better served taking a page from the movie here, and kept her wardrobe very simple. No need for her to look like the offspring of a Swedish milkmaid and the St. Pauli girl.
I think it was an interesting idea, and it definitely got people talking. I don’t know that it was successful artistically, with the exception of the players who already had musical theater/Broadway backgrounds, but maybe that’s a lesson for the next time a network attempts something like this.
I hate that “mid-season finale” stuff. Basically, the season isn’t over…you’re just giving yourself an excuse to wait longer before coming back after the holidays. But I digress…if you didn’t watch, look out for spoilers.
How I felt when the Governor, true to form, decided he wanted to get his new group to take over the prison…
When he captured Herschel and Michonne and trotted them out, hog-tied, to use as leverage…
When Rick tried to talk the Governor down…
…And then the Governor retaliated by CHOPPING HERSCHEL’S HEAD OFF WITH A SWORD!
He massacred Santa Claus in front of everyone, at which point the shit, not surprisingly, hit the fan. The two sides erupted in a no-holds-barred anything-goes shit fest.
But at least the Governor finally got killed.
But THEN Rick goes looking for his kids, and he only finds Carl. They find Judith’s car seat, but it’s just filled with blood!
Okay…did they kill the baby? Because if they killed the baby, that is some fucked up shit, y’all. I guess we’ll have to wait and see when the “mid-season premiere” happens in February.
Boardwalk Empire’s finale was tonight, and I’m about to go off, so if you haven’t seen it, duck and cover. There are spoilers ahead.
WHAT THE FUCK.
I cannot believe it. The best character on that show is gone. Just…just…what the goddamn hell, HBO? How could you kill Richard Harrow?!
A lot happened in this episode that I could write about, but I’m not going to, because I’m too upset. Richard was one of the main reasons I still watched that show. Will I keep watching next season? Yeah, probably. But not with the same level of interest.
I’m glad Richard got a brief, sweet taste of happiness and family life that he’d been seeking for as long as we’ve known him. I’m glad that he found a genuinely good woman who loved him. But I had a bad feeling, as soon as he sought Nucky out, as soon as he asked for Jimmy’s body, that there would be the devil to pay. And then when he said goodbye to everyone at the train station, the bad feeling started to get worse. And then when he botched the shooting…my heart just ached for him. It was basically the worst possible outcome for him. Narcisse is still alive, Chalky’s now got a vendetta only a father who’s lost his little girl can have, and Richard, who for all his bad-assery is a protector of the innocent and good, has just shot a young girl through the head. I knew in that moment he wasn’t coming out of it alive, and that was even before he got shot himself.
So just…fuck you, Boardwalk Empire. Fuck you and your murder and your mayhem and your plot twists. Was it really so much to ask that Richard could just lead a sweet, quiet, happy life with Julia and Tommy?
Of course it was.
Me, right now, thinking about Richard:
Me, right now, thinking about HBO and the showrunners of Boardwalk Empire:
That’s right…I’ve reached Nelson Van Alden level rage, guys.
Covert Affairs wrapped up its fall season on USA last night. The CIA drama, starring Piper Perabo, started up over the summer, took a break when the network premieres began in the fall, and then came back for a final batch of episodes to finish off this most recent storyline. It’ll return next summer with new episodes.
If you’re watching but you’re not caught up, beware…spoilers ahead.
I’ve been watching CA since the beginning. I like Piper Perabo and I think Christopher Gorham is kind of adorable. (I remember when I first saw him on CA and I was like, “When did the cute kid from “Popular” get so ripped and awesome?!”) Plus, there were Peter Gallagher’s eyebrows.
The show has always been a lot of fun, but like most USA shows, despite the ostensibly serious subject matter of CIA spy craft, it was still kinda fluffy. I would have called it “lighter entertainment.” It was television dessert, not the main course. But gradually, somewhere in the third season, something shifted. That was the season with the storyline where Annie fell in love with her asset, a man who was eventually killed by another agent, played by Sarah Clarke, prompting Annie to follow her to Russia to get revenge. The intensity ramped up a LOT. And the show started to get really exciting and suspenseful…and sad.
And then the writers kicked the personal stakes up another notch, at last bringing Annie and Auggie together, a pairing that had been hinted at almost since the beginning of the show. Putting together your leads is always a risky proposition, but Annie and Auggie are both great characters with amazing chemistry, and I felt like the show put the time in, and the results unfolded nicely. There was some great fan service romance, but because Annie and Auggie were both still in the CIA, their relationship was bound to be complicated, so things never got boring.
When this season rolled around, Henry Wilcox (played by the masterful Gregory Itzin) re-emerged as the big bad, and boy did he sink his teeth into it. Wilcox became the driving force of the season—the only unequivocally BAD character in a season where everyone, Annie, Auggie, Joan, Arthur and the newly introduced Calder Michaels, all did things that made us question their intentions towards their jobs and each other. I loved it. On a spy show, the worst thing you can do is telegraph the intentions of your characters. Yes, we know Annie is our protagonist, and basically always “good,” but I don’t want to know her endgame all the time, and I like seeing that a guy like Henry Wilcox can push her to use some questionable tactics.
Perabo turned in a slick performance this season, as Annie “went dark,” (both in spy terms and with her hair), living off the grid and tracking Wilcox while almost everyone else thinks she’s dead. But the entire supporting cast was also amazing. Kari Matchett continues to make Joan both steely and vulnerable, and I’ve never seen anything more bad-ass than a calm pregnant lady gunning down a would-be assassin in her own kitchen. Gallagher’s Arthur got put through the ringer, losing his son and his job due to Wilcox’s machinations. He also put up a great fight, managing to survive as well, and welcoming his new son with Joan in this season’s finale. Hill Harper’s Calder Michaels was also a welcome addition. I truly wasn’t sure which side he was on for a long time, and I give credit to Harper and the writers for creating a character who was so ambitious and aggressive that he wasn’t likeable or predictable, even though he ended up saving the day on more than one occasion.
The show has even lost its cheesy opening credits sequence (always the worst thing about it). The soundtrack, which has always been good, has just gotten better, and so have the location shoots. (It used to all look like Canada, because I think it mostly was.) It’s as if the writers and creators are continually learning what’s possible and how much fun it is to play in this world of spies and secrets.
Me watching Peggy this season on Nashville, continuing to pretend she’s pregnant:
Finally, in tonight’s episode, Teddy actually wanted to GO to a doctor’s appointment with her, so Crazypants had to think fast…how was she gonna get out of this one?!
Her solution? Motherfucking pig’s blood, y’all.
When she was in the bathroom, reaching into that brown paper bag, I was like: (What’s in the bag? What’s in the goddam bag?!)
And then she pulled that pig’s blood container out, and I was was all:
Animal blood is where I draw the line, guys. Peggy just needs to go. Teddy kind of does too. He’s really not very interesting now that he’s no longer married to Rayna. Buh-bye, Conrads. Time for you to leave Nashville.
That’s all I’ve got to say about that. Peace out.
Tonight’s episode of The Walking Dead threw me for a bit of a loop, and I can’t decide if I liked it or not. This hour was, essentially, the ballad of the Governor. The whole episode was devoted to what last season’s one-eyed villain had been up to since we last saw him. We know that he has shown up at the prison from the end of last week’s episode, so the question hanging in the air was, “What’s he up to this time?”
Unfortunately, this episode didn’t really answer that. At least not definitively. What it DID do was make me feel emotionally confused, because it actually made me like the Governor…sort of.
At the top of the episode, we pick up immediately after he and his two remaining henchman have driven off, leaving the bodies of their Woodbury comrades lying beside the road. The Governor is not doing so hot. He seems lifeless, unable even to kill a single walker that approaches him in the dark. After a little while (probably not very long) he’s alone, wandering the world and growing a hobo beard. He doesn’t seem to have the will to live or fight or do anything. Well, except burn Woodbury to the ground. He does make sure to scorch that earth before he gives himself over entirely to despair. (The episode shows all of this with a sad Governor montage set to some folksy guitars.)
Just at what seems to be his lowest point, when the inertia is literally pulling him to the ground, he sees a little girl, almost like a mirage, in the window of a nearby building. He enters carefully, and this is when he discovers The Family. There is a terminally ill granddad on oxygen, a tough sister who was training to be a cop, a nurse mom and Meghan, the little girl. (The adults have names too, but I just can’t remember what they are right now.)
This family is an interesting little discovery. By virtue of the granddad being a food truck driver, and the mom being a nurse, they have basically been holed up in their little apartment since the initial walker virus outbreak. Which means they don’t know anything. They don’t know to shoot for the head, they don’t know how little civilization is actually out there now, and they don’t know that anybody who dies already has the virus and will turn. Despite himself, the Governor is pulled into helping them and, reminded of the man he was before Woodbury, i.e. the husband and more importantly, the father, he starts to regain some humanity. Of course, he scares them all badly by having to bash ol’ granddad’s head in when he dies and turns. (He tries to get them out of the room when he knows Pops has kicked it, but they don’t know what’s coming, so they don’t really feel the need to hustle, and that gives walker granddad a chance to grab for one of his daughters and try to take a bite. Without the Governor’s interference, she’d be a goner.)
But where it really got emotional was with the little girl. Unlike the children of the prison, she is not tough at all. She’s been, relatively speaking, pretty sheltered throughout this mess (a lot like the Woodbury kids were before, probably), so she still doesn’t understand at all what’s happening. She gets too scared to run or fight, but she is very sweet, and her conversation with the Governor is the first thing to really draw him out. You can actually see the pain on his face when she first tries to talk to him. She’s such a painful reminder of what he lost that at first he almost doesn’t want to engage with her, but when she asks about his eyepatch in the most innocent way possible he breaks down, and it’s all over from there. By the end of the episode he’s saving her from walkers and she’s clinging to him and it’s clear that he has renewed purpose to live and fight…but to what ultimate end?
I thought the episode was a great, nuanced piece of work, and Morrissey was fantastic. I have missed him on the show. But the Governor was/is a terrible man. He has done so many horrible things that I had to keep reminding myself of that while he was getting more oxygen tanks for the old man or teaching the little girl to play chess or saving them from a herd of walkers on the road. He was such a deliciously evil villain last season—I don’t WANT to sympathize with him, I want to hate him. And this episode made that very difficult. Now I don’t know what I want!
Me thinking about the Governor during tonight’s episode:
Disney revealed the first teaser trailer for Maleficent this week. The Angelina Jolie vehicle is the story of the villainess of its 1959 animated classic, Sleeping Beauty. I always found Maleficent to be the best part of Sleeping Beauty…well, her and that one scene where the two kings and the lute player get sauced in the banquet hall. (As seen here.)
Like many earlier Disney princess movies, as the “bad guy,” Maleficent has a great deal more personality and agency than the supposed heroine of the story. Aurora doesn’t really do anything in that movie but wander through the woods and sing and then prick her finger like a dummy. (Seriously…why does she do that? It was obviously sharp. I burned my hand once because I touched the iron. I thought it looked shiny…but I was like five years old. What’s Aurora’s excuse?)
Interestingly, in this particular teaser, we see a lot more of Aurora (played by the delightful Elle Fanning) than we do of Maleficent. We get glimpses of her unique horned silhouette, moving through the shadows, and only a couple of shots of her actual face. But she’s suitably eerie, and even though she only says one line in this teaser, her echoing cackle at the end is pretty evil.
I have to say, I actually like the idea of fleshing out the villain of a well known tale. It’s not completely original, of course. Gregory Maguire’s books do that, and there are other examples as well. But I’m pretty sure this is the first time Disney, a purveyor of so many children’s classics, has gone this direction. And Angelina Jolie is a perfect choice for the drama and dark beauty of a character like Maleficent. It also makes sense, because in the original film, Maleficent’s anger is blamed on her not being invited to the birth celebrations. That reasoning never seemed to warrant the curse she inflicts, so I hope that the writers of Maleficent have woven a juicy backstory for our evil fairy. This teaser seems to hint that they have.
As for the end result, this is clearly a big budget film with a lot of effects. Which usually means one of two things. Either it will be over-the-top and a lot of fun, or the story and characterization will be lost in the mess of CGI, and it will just be plain terrible. I hope it’s the former, rather than the latter!
Got to check out Thor: The Dark World this past weekend and thoroughly enjoyed it. The first Thor was something of a surprise…I did not expect to like it as much as I did. But now that I was already fully on board with Thor and Loki and their compatriots, I didn’t waste any time analyzing. I was all in from the start of Anthony Hopkins’ narration about a band of evil elves who thrive on darkness and are waiting for the mythical evil substance called the aether to reawaken them. You know…that old chestnut.
Look, we don’t go see Thor for the sensible story lines. We see Thor for the insane smashing and unique Marvel tongue-in-cheek humor…and also for Chris Hemsworth’s biceps. (At least I do.) In all the ways you want a movie like this to deliver, it did. It was fun and funny where it needed to be, and also sad in a few places. Loki returned, and as usual Tom Hiddleston did not fail to meet expectations. Thor’s merry band of friends were given less to do, but that was fine with me. I don’t find them as interesting as Loki or the modern characters.
Although…that being said, Natalie Portman, for me, was probably the weakest point in the movie. Not that she was bad. She wasn’t. It was more like…she was just okay. Jane Foster is perhaps not as dynamic of a character. She’s a scientist and she’s very smart and that seems to be her main distinguishing characteristic. A part of me watches these movies and wishes Darcy, her intern, played with spunk and dry humor by Kat Dennings, was the female lead and love interest.
The villain of the piece, one of the dark elves mentioned above called Malekith, was played by Christopher Eccleston, although I didn’t even recognize him until I saw his name in the credits. He was plenty menacing, although he didn’t have quite enough personality as a villain for my taste. He was ruthless, but not especially interesting otherwise.
Loki, on the other hand, continues to be fascinating, funny, troubled and dangerous. Hiddleston really is just the best, isn’t he? When they got to play off of each other, he and Hemsworth actually had some of the best scenes in the movie. There were some unexpected turns that I won’t reveal here that involved Loki, and honestly, I’m still not entirely sure what happened, but needless to say, it left me satisfied as a moviegoer, and curious to see where this franchise heads next.