Shawn Ryan's cop drama is network TV's best midseason show
Part of me wonders if The Powers That Be on FOX's "The Chicago Code" wouldn't just as soon get predominantly negative reviews for their midseason drama.
This isn't going to be one of those "Do critics really matter?" reviews, because the answer to that question is, "Of course critics matter, our voices are clearly the most importantest in all the world and we should remain gainfully employed whether we work on the Internet or on those paper things you can still get in some cities." Duh.
But as much as Shawn Ryan may have enjoyed reading kindly reviews for FX's "Terriers" -- It made my Top 5 for 2010 and dozens upon dozens of other Top 10 lists -- those reviews didn't exactly bring in the sort of audiences that would get the show a second season on Tulsa Public Access, much less on FX. We miss you, "Terriers."
And as much as FOX probably appreciated that the last time the network premiered a new drama on Mondays at 9 p.m. after "House," some critics -- myself included -- called it the best new network pilot of the fall, not only did it not turn "Lone Star" into a hit, it didn't get "Lone Star" past two episodes. In theory, we miss you, "Lone Star," though with only two episodes as a sample size, it's hard to miss you all that much.
So maybe FOX and Shawn Ryan would appreciate a little reverse psychology? Maybe this would be a perfect opportunity to cover up my true enthusiasms for "The Chicago Code" to write a harsh, negative review. It might make me feel guilty and disingenuous, but I also can't help but feel that all of the vitriol I spewed about "Harry's Law" was responsible for making it NBC's first semi-hit in months, either directly or karmically.
Let's give this a try:
"The Chicago Code" is pretty much like every cop show out there. The writing isn't at all distinctive and the use of Windy City locations doesn't help produce any sort of flavor for the series, which could pretty much be set anywhere. The performances are all forgettable, especially Delroy Lindo, who most certainly isn't one of the most charismatic small screen villains in some time. I'm definitely not clamoring to see additional episodes of "The Chicago Code," because it definitely isn't the best midseason show you'll see on network TV. Definitely.
Got that, casual TV viewers? This elitist critic says that "Chicago Code" really isn't the kind of show you'll like, or at least that's the view from my jade tower (ivory is so 1995). I'm ever-so-sorry if hearing that makes you suspect it might be exactly the sort of show that you'd love and I'm ever-so-sad that I'm just one man and there's nothing I can do to prevent you from individually tuning in and drawing your own conclusions. If you've gotta tune in and check it out yourself, you've gotta do it.
Now I'll kindly ask those anti-critic casual viewers not to click through for more extended thoughts on "Chicago Code."
Dan and Alan review 'The Chicago Code' and answer a pile of reader mail
We're back, Boys & Girls!
Time for the triumphant (or semi-triumphant) return of The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast.
After a one-week hiatus while I was standing in line in the snow at the Sundance Film Festival, the podcast is back, albeit with a somewhat odd podcast this week. With no new premieres, we pushed "The Chicago Code" up a week and reviewed that. It's stuck in a sandwich made up of things we missed last week and a solid 30 minutes of listener mail.
Next week? LOTS of premieres, plus the "Friday Night Lights" series finale to discuss.
But for this week?
Two-week catchup (including Sundance, Charlie Sheen and recent awards shows) - 00:01:20 - 00:20:00
"Chicago Code" - 00:20:00 - 00:29:00
Listener Mail (with spoilers), including:
Shows that hit peaks in later seasons - 00:31:00 - 00:36:25
Shows that damaged themselves with unresolved finales - 00:36:30 - 00:44:45
Importance of International Value - 00:45:00 - 00:47:40
Character Deaths - 00:47:40 - 00:55:55
Will Ferrell coming to "The Office" - 00:56:00 - 01:04:00
And here's the podcast...
Who will take home the Actors? Follow along at home...
Click through for the full live-blog of the 2011 Screen Actors Guild Awards...
Director and star discuss their polarizing Sundance premiere
Wednesday (Jan. 26) was a good day for the team behind "I Melt With You." Just hours before the film's world premiere, "I Melt With You" was acquired for distribution by Magnolia Pictures, allowing for that most precious of Sundance Film Festival moments: a public screening without any concern for the business side of things.
"I Melt With You" had already premiered for critics and industry types two days before and the initial reviews for the drama, which focuses on a group of four college friends whose annual hedonistic reunion becomes increasingly dark and violent, were decidedly polarized.
I sat down with "I Melt With You" helmer Mark Pellington star Jeremy Piven just minutes after the Magnolia deal was announced and hours before the premiere. Before we began filming, Pellington asked my name and, matching it in his head to my critique, he declared, "We should begin by having you read your review out-loud."
It could have set the stage for a tense interview, but as I discussed with Pellington and Piven, there are countless movies that come and go without producing any reaction of any kind, that don't give you anything to digest afterwards, that don't generate passions of any sort. "I Melt With You" is not that sort of disposable film and whether I loved it or hated it, I had things to say about it, a conversation that continued with Pellington long after the interview ended.
Check out the interview and read my review and then, when Magnolia releases "I Melt With You," you can draw your own conclusions.
Brief reviews of a Colombian drama and a Midnight movie
PARK CITY - I had a rough penultimate day at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.
Due to interviews for "I Melt With You," I lost a morning of possible screening. I did have a fine chat with director Mark Pellington and co-star Jeremy Piven, a conversation that didn't make me like the movie any more, but which made me appreciate that even a movie you strongly dislike is still more interesting to talk about than one you're ambivalent toward. That interview will post in the next day or two.
Then, as the afternoon came to a close, I was glued to my Slingbox for two hours of "American Idol" auditions from Milwaukee.
Because of those interruptions to my own schedule and some spotty Sundance scheduling. I was only able to see two movies on Wednesday (Jan. 26) and I can't say that I especially liked either one.
In the afternoon, I saw Carlos Moreno's Colombian dramegoredy (drama+allegory+comedy) "All Your Dead Ones" (which reads far better in its original Spanish as "Todos Tus Muertos"), an entry in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition.
In the evening, I caught Calvin Lee Reeder's "The Oregonian," which is part of the Park City at Midnight program.
I really don't have enough energy for full reviews of either, so I'm splitting the difference and doing partial reviews of each.
Life stinks for Eva Green and Ewan McGregor in this speculative drama
PARK CITY - True speculative fiction usually starts with a "What if...?" question and the measure of the story's quality isn't necessarily in the quality of the question, so much as the commitment to answering the question in a way that feels literally, or at least emotionally, honest.
Written by Kim Fupz Aakeson and directed by David Mackenzie, the Sundance premiere "Perfect Sense" starts with what could be interpreted as a profoundly silly question.
"What," the movie asks, "would happen if all around the world, people suddenly and inexplicably started losing their sense of smell?"
It almost sounds like a joke, doesn't it? It's like somebody set out to do a parody of José Saramago's "Blindess," which would be a pointless effort, since Fernando Meirelles' 2008 adaptation of "Blindness" already played out like a parody of "Blindness."
Despite a thuddingly bad title -- What, "Senseless" and "Insensitive" were too on-the-nose? -- "Perfect Sense" makes an honest and often worthy attempt to do right by the story of how humanity-in-microcosm would handle a threat to our very senses. It's not quite a parable and it's not quite a realistic roadmap, but "Perfect Sense" is definitely a movie that takes its premise seriously and asks viewers to engage in its questions.
Full review of "Perfect Sense" after the break...
If you like pretty actors complaining and doing drugs, Mark Pellington's got a movie for you
PARK CITY - Mark Pellington isn't just a good music video director. He's one of the very best practitioners the medium has to offer.
A resume that includes "Jeremy," "One," "Rooster" and more will always make Pellington a stylist worthy of attention, even if his cinematic efforts have declined from 1999's "Arlington Road" to 2002's "The Mothman Prophesies" to 2008's truly awful "Henry Poole Is Here."
Pellington's latest feature, the Sundance premiere "I Melt With You," is a return to his music video roots. "I Met With You" has a terrific soundtrack of New Wave, punk and '80s hits and almost every song is given full video treatment, played for their full duration and at a volume that often supersedes any dialogue in the scene.
Unfortunately, they're all the exact same music video. "I Melt With You" is over two hours of cocaine-snorting, pill-popping, alcohol-swilling middle-age crisis montages, punctuated periodically with The Whining of the Dispossessed Upper-Middle Class White Male. Some horrible things happen that cause the whining to increase and the excess to go from hedonism to self-destruction, but as beautifully photographed as the entire movie is, the monotony sets in early and only becomes worse as the days passing on-screen begin to feel like days passing in your theater seat.
"I Melt With You" is one of the worst films I've seen so far at Sundance, not as amateurish as "The Ledge," but perhaps more offensive for its fine cast and its technical professionalism.
Full review after the break...
David Carr stars in a poorly focused Gray Lady documentary
PARK CITY - Chances are that if you're the type of person willing to dedicate themselves to spending an entire year chronicling the happenings in the newsroom of the New York Times, you aren't going to turn that footage into a dire "Print is dead, long live the New Media Order" documentary.
Indeed, Andrew Rossi comes to praise The Gray Lady, not to bury her, in his new documentary "Page One: A Year Inside The New York Times." A loving 88 minute cuddle with The Paper of Record and surely the sort of puff piece The New York Times would hesitate to run itself, "Page One" makes the argument that even in a diversified world of media options, the one that gets tossed against your front door every morning and that leaves your fingers smudged with ink is still the best option available.
Extra-super-hyper-meta? Heavens yes. You've got a documentary about investigating the New York Times writers who investigate the media.
Rushed? Probably. Rossi's year embedded at the newspaper only just ended and focus and flow are not strong suits in "Page One."
Engaging, entertaining and interesting? Yes. Rossi caught the New York Times in an important year and followed some interesting characters as they investigated some interesting stories. And even if I may have joked about the film's not-especially-provocative thesis, Rossi's probably correct: We are better off living in a world that includes The New York Times than one without it.
Full review of "Page One," which is playing in Sundance's U.S. Documentary competition. after the break...
Jacob Wysocki toplines a funny and moving coming-of-age film
PARK CITY - You know what the world needs? Another quirky coming-of-age Sundance flick about a lovable outcast who comes to appreciate his own individuality with the help of an oddball authority figure.
That sounds sarcastic, doesn't it? Of all the things the world probably doesn't inherently need, another quirky coming-of-age Sundance flick about a lovable outcast who comes to appreciate his own individuality with the help of an oddball authority figure is probably fairly high on that list.
But even a genre that you think can't possibly benefit from another iteration seems more worthwhile when executed properly and Azazel Jacobs' "Terri" takes a Sundance staple and does it right.
"Terri" is an odd movie and I think it could evoke wildly different responses based on your particular sense of humor, but it made me laugh frequently and amidst the chuckles, it delivered a fair amount of sincere, sometimes painful insight into the difficulties of growing up different.
[Note: I've seen some folks call "Terri" a drama and the Sundance program lists "heart" ahead of "humor" when describing its attributes. Subjectivity is a crazy thing, I suppose...]
Full review after the break...
Kevin Clash and Elmo share the documentary spotlight
PARK CITY - Like so many kids from my generation (and generations older and younger), I was raised on "Sesame Street."
But like most people my age and older, Elmo was never a part of my direct "Sesame Street" experience. The pronoun-starved, red hug-machine we know him today didn't exist. There was a similar-looking character with a similar name, but he had a different voice, a different personality and he was such a marginal part of the series that he would generally go unmentioned, to say nothing of unfavorited.
I discussed this on Twitter a few weeks ago, but Grover was always my favorite Muppet. Several followers quickly asked why Oscar the Grouch wasn't my favorite, as if being a grouchy TV critic means that I've always identified with other grouchy things since my earliest days. As I explained at the time, there's a distinction between the Muppet I know I'm most like and the Muppet I most desire to be like. Oscar may be my sign on the Muppet Zodiac, but Grover is my Aspirational Muppet.
I've always resented Elmo for usurping Grover's rightful place in the Muppet hierarchy. Big Bird and Oscar and The Count and Bert and Ernie have mostly been immune to the Elmo explosion of the past 20-ish years, but as Elmo's star has burnt more and more brightly, Grover's star has inevitably faded. Elmo has gotten the recent feature films. Elmo got to visit "The West Wing."
And on Sunday (January 23) afternoon, the Sundance Film Festival played host to the world premiere of "Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey" a new documentary from Constance Marks, a new documentary that most certainly is *not* about Grover.
The doc, which focuses on Kevin Clash, father of Elmo's modern incarnation, received the most rapturous ovation I've witnessed this Festival. People love Elmo, but it's also pretty clear that "Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey" is a documentary that plays well to a crowd on its own.
Full review after the break...