TV Review: 'Gotham"

'Gotham' Is No Place for Nice Guys

...From the series premiere, it looks like Gotham fits somewhere between Burton’s and Nolan’s creations, not quite as stylized as the former, but not quite as contemporary as the latter. It’s dark—even the daytime scenes feel overcast—and the streets feature little retro touches, like checkered cabs. The striking visuals make clear that Gotham really is about the city first and foremost. While the first episode mostly follows Gordon, it does so to explore the city’s institutions (legal and illegal), how they overlap with each other, how each vies for control.

The institutions are premised on the individuals they affect as well as those who wield power. And, like most first episodes, this one offers a quick overview of the series’ players. Gotham feels like a fully populated town, almost akin to The Simpsons’ Springfield. Batman fans will recognize a few of the names, like Oswald Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor), Ivy Pepper (Clare Foley), and Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith). Since it’s too early in the Batman timeline for them to give in wholly to their villainous tendencies, right now they’re just townsfolk, however eccentric...

Click through to read the full review at PopMatters.

Bustle TV Coverage: 9/8/2014 to 9/21/2014

I was about to interview the creator of the WGN America series Manhattan. He told me about writing strong female characters, the crazy parties that happened in Los Alamos, and what might be in store for a second season (since the show isn't just about the bomb). 

I also...

...loved Donal Logue's Bullock in Gotham so much, I traced the other Bullocks from movies and TV. 

...explored the charms of Reid Scott, who plays Dan Egan on Veep.

...speculated about the chances for renewal for You're the Worst and Married, and about whether the move to Sunday would be good or bad for Brooklyn Nine-Nine (illustrated with a lot of amazing Andy Samberg faces).

...found out who created the Miss America pageant, and what the winner gets.

Photo Credit: WGN


Bustle: 8/25/2014 to 9/7/2014

Boardwalk Empire returns tonight for its last season!

For Bustle, I wrote an appreciation of Sally Wheet, Patricia Arquette's character. Between Boardwalk Empire and Boyhood, Arquette is having a heck of a year.


I also...

...wrote about how Frozen is the highest-grossing movie by a female (co-)director. It's sitting at No. 5 right now, and the next woman is at No. 74.

...explained what the whole Stand Up to Cancer thing was (and why it's worthy).

...became really jealous about Caroline Gruosi-Scheufele's job as creative director of Chopard jewelry.

...opined that we still have a long wait before Sherlock and True Detective return.

...wrote about the time that the director of Factory Girl called Brittany Murphy's husband "a con artist and a bad man."

Image: Macall Pollay



Bustle TV Coverage: 8/11/2014 to 8/24/2014

Recently, on Bustle, I...

...wondered what's next for Anna Paquin after True Blood.

...opined that I want a BFF like Tina Majorino.

...contemplated the complexities of making a historical show with entirely fictional characters, like Manhattan.

...rejoiced that Miss J is no longer fired from America's Next Top Model.

...told the fashionable cord-cutters how to watch America's Next Top Model online.

...then explained to the unfashionable Project Runway fans who YouTube fashion icon Bethany Mota is.

Photo courtesy of HBO.




DVD Review: 'Transcendence'

In Transcendence, Evelyn Caster (Rebecca Hall) is introduced as the classic mad scientist, someone who moves forward with experimental technology without stopping to consider the consequences. Of course, she has a good reason to do so: love. Her husband, the brilliant scientist Will Caster (Johnny Depp), was making breakthroughs in the field of self-aware artificial intelligence when an anti-A.I. group, Revolutionary Independence from Technology (R.I.F.T.), assassinates him with radioactive poisoning. Since it’s such a villainously slow death, Evelyn has enough time to copy his brain activity and upload his “consciousness” into the A.I. supercomputer he created. Friend and fellow scientist Max (Paul Bettany) has reservations about copying Will’s consciousness and hooking it up to the world’s network of computers, but Evelyn considers it a sound scientific plan, since a digital husband is better than no husband at all.

Similarly, on paper, Transcendence seems like it should be good idea. It’s an original sci-fi concept, not based on a pre-existing franchise property. Wally Pfister, longtime director of photography for Christopher Nolan, chose it as his directorial debut. (In one of the wan bonus features, someone calls Pfister a veteran with the passion and energy of a first-timer.) The cast also features members of the Christopher Nolan Repertory Company, including Morgan Freeman and Cillian Murphy. With all of these factors in place, it wouldn’t seem unreasonable to expect a movie on the level of Nolan’s Inception. But, like Dr. Caster’s experiments, Transcendence is much smarter in theory than it is in practice.

Not that the movie should be blamed for trying. Many recent films have focused on Transcendence‘s two main themes: the practical applications of self-aware artificial intelligence, and humanity’s relationship to it. Just a few months before the film’s release, for example, Spike Jonze‘s Her covered similar ground. But while Her focused in an emotional, one-on-one human interaction, Transcendence‘s view is more macro, centered on the power of A.I. that has access to the world’s accumulated knowledge in a plugged-in society. Or was it more of a political view, telling the story of the struggle between the people who barrel forward with new technology too quickly versus the people who rally against it entirely? Or is it about whether or not humans can form a romantic relationship with A.I. created from the exact neural pathways of someone they once loved? And, if scientists can create A.I. from the exact neural pathways of a living human, what makes that A.I. different from the original? In short: What makes us human, and can it be copied or created?

These are big questions, and Transcendence tries to tackle all of them without ever really getting a bead on any of them...

Click through to read the full review at PopMatters.

DVD Review: Disney's 'Ichabod and Mr. Toad' and 'Fun and Fancy Free'

...It would have been neat if the Blu-ray gave viewers a choice to either watch the movies as two distinct features in their original forms, or as a series of shorts that could be accessed separately and watched in any order. Yet if you want to go from “Sleepy Hollow” to “Bongo”, you have to stop Ichabod and Mr. Toad, head to the top menu, select Fun and Fancy Free, select play from that menu, and fast-forward through the overlong introductory material with Jiminey Cricket.

Format nitpicking aside—and I realize it is a lot to ask Disney to slice-and-dice its beloved feature films—this Blu-Ray two-movie collection has charm to spare. For the most part, the shorts are some of Disney’s strongest, and taken as a whole they offer a variety of animation styles, characters and tones...

Click through to see the full review at PopMatters.

DVD Review: 'Need for Speed'

'Need for Speed' Is About the Thrill of the Ride, Not the Script

...In other words, this is a car movie, one made for people who love cars, and for people who love other car movies. Enthusiasts get to gawk at Marshall’s Ford Mustang GT500 and other exotic cars, like a Lamborghini Sesto Elemento or a Koenigsegg Agera R.

These cars are treated (and shot) with a lot of love. Director Scott Waugh, in his commentary with Paul, mentions that he favors practical effects over CGI, and you can tell; the cars have heft and weight to them, and the most interesting visuals in the film are done in the service of the driving scenes. The cars are also the subject of most of the Blu-ray’s features, which do everything from break down the biggest stunts to analyze the different rumbles that each car makes.

But besides just lavishing attention on the cars, Waugh loves placing them in the context of other, classic driving movies, from Bullitt to American Graffiti. In the commentary, Waugh and Paul point out many of these references (and, yes, video game Easter eggs, too), down to the tiniest background details. (A stunt coordinator and son of a stunt coordinator, Waugh also likes to give shout-outs to all of the stunt drivers and their previous films.) When Bullitt is playing in the background of a drive-in theater during one of the opening scenes of the film, Waugh mentions that he was afraid the movie would come across as a period film, since he puts in so many references to the ‘60s and ‘70s...

Click through to read the full review at PopMatters.