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Entries in TV at the Movies (33)


Mad Men @ the Movies: Charlton Heston Starkers and "A Star is Born"

In "Mad Men @ the Movies" we look at the best show on television through the lens of its movie-loving ways. Obviously there are spoilers.

5.3 "Tea Leaves"
In the third episode of the season Betty Draper Francis (January Jones) returns and there's more of her to love to hate! She's been packing on the pounds. At first there's a thyroid scare but it turns out Betty is just depressed and fat. The episode ends with Betty helping herself to a second ice cream sundae (to the tune of The Sound of Music's "I Am Sixteen"). Why not? 

One of the themes of the new season is aging and the rise of youth culture is evident. Betty is referred to as middle-aged by her doctor. Don, previously an icon of cool, is now 'so square he's got corners' to both his younger wife (she's 20, he's 40) and the young teenagers he meets at a Rolling Stones concert (he's there with Harry Crane on business). When the teens hear that the men are in advertising they instantly think of Bewitched. "You're Derwood and He's Mr. Cravitz."

Later after smoking a joint Harry is trying to impress the teens with celebrity stories. 

Charlton Heston and Esther Blodgett after the jump

Click to read more ...


Mad Men at the Movies: Gillian Hills and 'Zou Bisou Bisou'

It's been so long since the best series on television was airing (17 months!) that this new version of The Film Experience has never seen an episode of "Mad Men at the Movies". Last night the miserable sexy funny smart complex men and women of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce returned to take us all back to the sixties once again. In this series we document the show's love affair with the cinema. Don Draper (Jon Hamm) is a movie buff and references tend to be sprinkled in for vintage flavor, character detailing and thematic resonance. Unfortunately this two hour premiere had no movie references. Damn!

5.1 "A Little Kiss, Part 1"
5.2 "A Little Kiss, Part 2"
The episode opened oddly with none of the familiar characters and a confrontation between African American picketers and immature men at an ad agency (not SCDP). By the time the episode ended, a small plot detail in the middle brought it all full circle with the unfamiliar site of the SCDP lobby filled with black applicants applying for jobs.Between the sobering bookends we were treated to a very strong premiere full of humor and potential for the season ahead. The talking point beyond the closing scene was surely the "zou bisou bisou" scene where Don's new wife Megan sang to him seductively in front of all his friends at a surprise birthday party. But the single most brilliant scene involved Joan (the great Christina Hendricks) bringing her baby to the office for a visit. We're talking perfect character farce  The choreography of the scene was so brilliant they should teach it film school... er television school... since it practically defines what this particular medium can do. Very little of what was going on emotionally and inside the character's head was actually spoken but if you've been following all the characters for years all their child-rearing issues and past romances and conflicts just made the scene hilarious and nimbly so. Perfection. A

Megan performing "Zou Bisou Bisou". 

Slate has the translated lyrics and some theories about why this song.

The hit song was originally sung by Gillian Hills who was also an actress. In 1966, the year this new season takes place, Gillian was on screens as "The Brunette" in Michelangelo Antonioni's classic Blow-Up (highly recommended) which is about a fashion photographer who believes he's accidentally photographed a murder. Blow-Up wasn't the only classic to feature her. She also has a role in A Clockwork Orange

Jane Birkin and Gillian Hills in BLOW UP (1966)

Mad Links
Flavorwire a pop culture guide to 1966 when the season takes place
AMC Janie Bryant on the costume designs for Season 5
Technabob Mad Men as an 8 bit game
IndieWire beginnings: each season's opening scene
Pajiba 10 of January Jones' bitch faces to celebrate the show's return 
NPR Eleanor Clift remembers what it was like to be in secretarial shoes as a typist in the 60s 


Review: Hunger Games 

This review was originally published in my column at Towleroad. Congratulations to Towleroad for winning Outstanding Blog at the GLAAD Awards

"The Hunger Games," now in their 74th year, began as a way to punish an uprising against the government. The totalitarian regime of Panem (in what remains of the former United States) maintains total control over the outlying districts. Each of the 12 districts is required to send forth two "tributes" annually, a boy and a girl between the ages of 12 to 18 chosen by lottery. They are shipped to the Capital where they are paraded about and then shipped off to die for the amusement of the masses. Everyone in the nation watches. There are no alternatives in this dystopia. Only one adolescent will live bringing supposed honor (and maybe food?) to their starving district... or so claims the capital. What honor there is in forcing teenagers to kill each other is not a question the Capitol asks itself.

Any similarities that The Hunger Games has to the Japanese classic Battle Royale (2000), which also features schoolchildren forced to kill each other by a totalitarian regime -- only one survivor allowed -- are, according to The Hunger Games author Suzanne Collins, entirely coincidental. Another film in this subgenre, the little seen Series 7: The Contenders (2001) also features mandatory lotteried killing for televised amusement. In short, the ideas are nothing new, just the treatment; these are topics we're obviously grappling with in popular culture in this era of televised "reality" and winner takes all capitalistic vice. The gap between the haves and have nots grows and this dystopia gives it steroids.

"The Reaping" Effie chooses tributes from District 12

When 12 year old Primrose Everdeen (Willow Shields) is named as tribute in "The Reaping" ceremony, her protective sister Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers to take her place. The district also sends Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) a sweet strong baker's son who Katniss knows a little. Will they kill or be killed? 

Click to read more ...


Review: 21 Jump Street (The Movie)

This review was originally published in my column at Towleroad

"High concept" was the hot showbiz term of the 1980s. The thinking went that if you couldn't describe your movie/tv show in one sentence, it wouldn't sell. That popular marketing wisdom stuck and High Concept itself shrank. First it devolved into This meets That, each new pitch being a mashup of preexisting hits. Today instead of one sentence pitches or previous hit fusions most new potential blockbusters are required to rely on a simple colon. It works like so… "Title of That Thing You Already Know: The Movie!"

The 1987 cast of "21 Jump Street"

This has led to all sorts of unfortunate movies based on books, games, plays and tv shows (and vice versa) many of them big hits. The danger is obvious. When you don't even have to try to make your entertainment memorable because the audience brings half the affection with them, creative laziness can often follow. But every once in awhile the audience gets lucky and Title of That Thing You Already Know: The Movie is surprisingly fun on its own terms.

Chan & Jonah in High School21 Jump Street began its life as a high concept television series...

Young-looking cops go back to high school… undercover!"

And now it's a 21 JUMP STREET: THE MOVIE (the last half of that title is silent/implied) The twist is that rather than the earnest though light-hearted procedural drama it was in its infancy when it introduced us to Johnny Depp, it's now a full fledged buddy comedy starring Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill. Continued after the jump...

Click to read more ...


Smash: "The Callback" and "Enter Joe DiMaggio"

"Let's make ourselves a Marilyn"Since so many of you seemed to be watching Smash judging on response to the pilot episode, and since its a fictional show about a possibly real musical about a very real departed movie star, I thought I'd write it up weekly. But Oscar is a needy lover and hogged all my time. Now there are so many episodes to discuss! To get caught up we'll do two doubles, so here's the first of them. 

1.2 "The Callback" 
In the second episode, we were both thrilled and shocked to find that they didn't drag out the "who will they cast as Marilyn Monroe?" drama for weeks on end. Though obviously they could and will revisit it since we're a long way from opening night. Both girls, Ivy (Megan Hilty) and Karen (Katharine McPhee) endured torturous waiting and callbacks while the power players made up their mind. Ivy it was. The best sign that the show is serious about being an actual show about the business of Broadway theater rather than a show about whatever the hell it feels like being about in any given scene (Glee... sigh) was that we actually see Julia and Tom (Debra Messing and Christian Borle) toiling away at work wondering about structure and characters and arguing about song order and even the process itself. You can't just write a musical by stringing songs together.  The worst sign for the freshman show is the insistence on Julia's adoption subplot. Isn't birthing a brand new musical enough parenting?

Jack: It's a big risk
Eileen: Nothing's Bigger Than Broadway!
Jack: I'm aware.  

Set List: Blondie's "Call Me" (McPhee), "Let Me Be Your Star" (McPhee/Hilty), "20th Century Fox Mambo (McPhee), Carrie Underwood's "Crazy Dreams" (Hilty)
Pop Culture and Movie References: vampire craze, Clash By Night, Monkey Business
Best Moment: Ivy practicing her Monroeisms "thank you ever so" 
Anjelica Awesomeness: Huston's condescension towards her ex's new blonde plaything "We've met" / "I don't think so" / [mocking her with squeaky bimbo voice] "I doooo"
Gay Gay Gay "Nothing's bigger than Broadway!" 
Curtain Call: Megan Hilty does a stunning cabaret rendition of "Crazy Dreams" to close the episode.

1.3 "Enter Joe DiMaggio"
In the third episode Karen gets invited to participate in the workshops as part of the chorus and she takes a trip home to Iowa for a babyshower. Things get more complicated when Michael (Will Chase), a rising actor, signs on as Joe DiMaggio and Tom's assistant Ellis starts feeling proprietary about the musical (his casual comment in the pilot sparked the whole thing) and steals Julia's notebook. The best thing about both of these developments is that they make Julia (Debra Messing) way more interesting as a character because she has such irrationally strong reactions to both, one being an ex-lover the other being someone she just bristles at instinctually. In fact, Messing really steps up in this episode making her own case for an Emmy run. (Julia is a surprisingly thorny and multi-faceted character by episode 3. Not at all what we were expecting after the pilot.) Emmys for everyone!

Megan Hilty as Ivy Lynn as Marilyn & Will Chase as Michael Swift asJoe DiMaggio

We're noone you've ever seen
Movie stars don't live anywhere here
Except on the local drive-in screen

Set List: Bruno Mars "Grenade" (Chase), Gretchen Wilson's "Red Neck Woman" (McPhee) "Mr and Mrs Smith" 
Pop Culture and Movie References: Gone With the Wind, The Seven Year Itch, My Fair Lady, Sinatra, Siegfried & Roy
Best Moment: Julia's intense jarring switch from painful confession to Tom to bitchy showdown with Ellis
Anjelica Awesomeness: Huston's Eileen Rand is really a marvel of a character creation. She has Huston's usual dragon lady severity but there are so many exquisite playful beats that the character feels unpredictable even when she's working a repetitive "bit" like throwing drinks in her ex-husband's face. Their dinner scene together is filled with weirdly flirtatious hostility, giving off the distinct impression that they once had great sex but always enjoyed pissing the other off. "You have exquisite taste. When you weren't cheating on me it was one of the things I really enjoyed about you." 
Curtain Call
: "Mr and Mrs Smith"... I'm more and more convinced that this needs to be an actual musical on Broadway. Can this series be about a different new musical every season and put it on Broadway directly afterwards? I mean... many new musicals don't have songs as uniformly strong as the ones this show is cranking out.

LATER THIS WEEK... we'll discuss "The Cost of Art" and tonight's episode "Let's Be Bad". If you're not watching, start. Good show. You can get caught up on Hulu or iTunes. 


TV @ The Movies: "Supernatural" ♥ Nicole Kidman?

Don't misunderstand . I don't actually watch Supernatural but you know how some nights you're bone-tired and whatever is on is what you end up half-watching. (I think my TV must have been on the CW due to Ringer). I always perk up when TV shows reference movies and wonder what possessed the writers. 

Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) discussing witches

In the episode the supernatural hunting brothers are investigating mysterious murders connected to this guy Don (played by James Marsters) and his wife (played by another Buffy alum Charisma Carpenter... so it's like Spike & Cordelia got married. Ewwww!)

Dean: So the scorned wife is into the dark stuff.
Sam: And Don's just in the dark.
Dean: Hmmm. it's kind of like Bewitched. You know Don is Darren and doesn't even know it. Lot of laughs 'till you cheat on your wife.

Sam: A Bewitched reference? Really?
Dean: [Lustfully] Dude. Nicole Kidman was in the remake. Redhead. Hellooooo.


This is the first time I've ever heard the BEWITCHED (2005) referenced in a positive way anywhere in my life !!! 


TV @ the Movies: "Hoosiers" vs. "The Notebook"

I know that MTV's Teen Wolf is based on an 80s movie but it's not set in the 1980s so what to make of the bizarre opening scene of its latest episode "The Tell" in which Jackson (Colton Haynes) and Lydia (Holland Roden) visit that nostalgia-inducing endangered species, The Video Store, and have the following  ½ "80s" argument... 

Jackson: "Hoosiers" is not only the best basketball movie ever it is the best sports movie ever made. 
Lydia: No.
Jackson: It's got Gene Hackman and Dennis Hopper!
Lydia: No.
Jackson: Lydia, I swear to God you're going to like it.
Lydia: No.

[cut to: Jackson, defeated, inside the store]

Jackson: Can somebody help me find "The Notebook"? 

Haha. So, maybe this was intended it as a Men are from Mars / Women are from Venus argument but do today's teenagers (non film-fanatic variety... not you reading, obvs)  even know who Dennis Hopper and Gene Hackman are? It seems like this argument was between a 30something man and a teen girl. Or maybe Hoosiers mania still lives on in high school boys? I'm not a sports person or a high school boy so I cannot speak from authority.

Once inside the store, there are a ton of movies on view but none of them seem intentionally placed there for the camera. Lazy set dressers (kidding!). For instance, there's telltale signs of a dead body (a foot!) peaking out from behind the I Am Love row. But I highly doubt the director's were like "ooh, someone dies in that Tilda Swinton / Italian melodrama that won Best Pic at the Film Bitch Awards, so let's put the body there!".

This one on the other hand is 100% intentional.

Turns out there's an evil werewolf in the store and Jackson ends up hiding right next to a copy of Let The Right One In, the only movie with its own closeup. "The Tell" that it's intentional: It's out of sequence with the other movies sitting next to it, which begin with "S". Video stores may be on the verge of extinction but surely they still alphabetize.