Saturday, May 29, 2010

TV Review: Royal Pains -- Season 2 Premiere: "Spasticity"

Own Season One

In the words of Divya (Reshma Shetty), “the cold war’s still raging” between the brothers after Hank (Mark Feuerstein) and Evan (Paulo Costanzo) find that HankMed’s entire savings have been swindled by their untrustworthy father, following Evan’s judgmental lapse to trust the man who helped bring them into the world.

And while checks are bouncing and Hank avoids Divya’s calls as well as his appointment to take care of the family situation as the second season of Royal Pains begins, soon the “Robin Hood of Medicine” is back in full swing, reminding America why he’s become our knight in a shiny white coat (when that is, he’s not wearing Hamptons beach apparel).

As a concierge doctor to the rich and an on-call physician to everyone else including his mysteriously ill landlord Boris (Campbell Scott), Hank finds himself up to his neck in work revolving around one unusually accident prone infomercial spokesperson who seems to have a different ailment every time Divya’s phone rings.

With Marcia Gay Harden making the life of Dr. Jill Casey (Jill Flint) miserable at the local hospital thanks to the young woman’s insistence to put the comfort and needs of patients before the tantrums and paychecks of spoiled surgeons, Jill is all too eager to become even more professionally entangled by HankMed despite her romantically rocky relationship with the leading man.

In a pleasant prescription of sunny fun and feverish medical drama complete with some of the most bizarre cases you’ll find on that side of New York, Royal Pains tricks you into assuming it’s all business as usual until-- much like in the outlandish emergencies Hank is able to instantly piece together-- the series produces a side effect we weren’t expecting at all in one killer of an ending sure to lead to USA Network addiction this summer. Luckily, however, there’s a cure for what ails you and HankMed’s got it in spades.

Text ©2010, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I viewed an online screener of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.

TV Review: Burn Notice -- Season 4 Premiere: "Friends and Enemies"

Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan) may be a captured spy at the start of the fourth season of Matt Nix’s wildly inventive Mission Impossible meets MacGyver series Burn Notice, but the one thing we know about Westen by now is that he’s not going to stay captured for long.

Temporarily brought into custody at what the outside world may assume is a document processing plant that truly doubles as a secret holding center for VIPs (very important prisoners), Westen is persuaded to work alongside the agency that burned him by the mysterious and charismatic Vaughn (Robert Wisdom) who assures Westen that the government has plenty of use for burned spies since people without direct ties can cross lines that those on the paper trail cannot.

And soon enough, the two begin going after an illegal weapons salesman, which we realize is just step one in what Vaughn describes as “a new kind of problem” for our national security that will consume Michael in this summer’s return to USA Network’s hit series.

Finding himself drawn into another more urgent battle by Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar) and Sam (Bruce Campbell) who are in over their heads protecting a lawyer from Miami’s toughest biker gang who’ve gotten the greenlight to end their client’s life, Sam reassures their pal that although their reunion for their captured friend is brief, “this whole business here needs a little Michael Westen” before arming him to the teeth in a high speed pursuit.

Deftly balancing adventure with the building plot concerning Westen’s fate now that he’s begun putting the pieces together regarding who burned him and why, the season gets off to an action packed start with the same trademark tongue-in-cheek narration about Fiona infiltrating a group running on “testosterone and motor oil” that we’ve come to appreciate whenever the temperatures rise and Nix’s series once again takes to the airwaves.

Text ©2010, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I viewed an online screener of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.

Comedy DVD Review: David Cross -- Bigger and Blackerer (2010)

Now Available to Own

From dubbing Mormonism “the Scientology of its day” to walking us through what it's like to buy batteries when you're tripping, there's a lot to enjoy in David Cross's new DVD Bigger and Blackerer that was shot over the course of two shows in his hometown of Boston, Massachusetts.

And though it's an uneven hour since David Cross is inventive to a fault given a few staged gimmicks concerning a fan who shows up to sign his own jokes that falls flat, he's nonetheless a likable comic who finds inspiration in everything from the SkyMall catalog to a badly written postcard about date rape, thereby making you admire the mind behind the musings all the more.

To put it another way, Cross is one of those comedians with whom you find yourself agreeing rather than falling out of your chair laughing over which makes his appeal both universal as the type of “funny sidekick” you wish was in your group yet it's likewise limiting since his cleverness often gets the best of him in odd segues when he simply gets distracted or says, “well that bit's kind of gone.”

Admirably with Cross, you can see the wheels turning in his mind while he delivers, taking in what the audience is finding funny and then structuring a line to suit whether it's asking them why they're laughing before the punchline – a common occurrence on these DVDs we discover – or in an extra feature, oddly standing up for Dane Cook when he realizes a female audience member is a fan.

It's not often you find a comedian joking he's going to do a benefit for another comic in an act of support in the midst of his own DVD but again, it illustrates Cross's true nature as a man concerned with something other than his own ego that comes right through in his most successful sequences when he analyzes the comedy goldmine of religion and politics.

And although he confesses that he isn't above airplane jokes since they're the ones viewers will be wishing for once he hits religion, honestly – and not just because I agreed with Cross – he could've done an entire set on the hypocrisy of religion or confounding bible facts since his takes on it were so unusually fresh.

In fact, he's a better religious comic than he is a political one, giving Bill Maher quite a run for his money on the Religulous subject that stands as the best segment contained in his entire act of routinely solid bits that again, we were smiling and cheering about mentally far more often than we were ready to bust a gut as Cross might say.

Aside from another staged audience gag that doesn't quite work, you're going to want to explore the disc's extra features to see an even funnier finale in the form of a long, hilarious and highly involved anecdote that illustrates his brilliance as a writer and observer of nature along with his unexpected rise to the defense of Dane Cook.

Text ©2010, Film Intuition, LLC;
All Rights Reserved.
Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Music DVD Review: I Need That Record! The Death (Or Possible Survival) of the Independent Record Store

Now Available to Own

Once “MP3” replaced “sex” as the term most searched for on the world wide web, the music industry knew that they were in trouble. And though the Napster years may indeed be over, the iTunes years keep on growing, much to the chagrin of CD sellers everywhere let alone independent record store owners.

Yet is the click-record-distribute option of MP3 really to blame for the downfall of the independent record store or is it a combination of several factors?

Filmmaker Brendan Toller decides to investigate in his entertaining, hip and freshly edited title I Need That Record! The Death (Or Possible Survival of the Independent Record Store). In investigating why roughly three thousand stores have closed shop during the past ten years, he points a whimsical finger at the main culprits including Big Box Stores like Best Buy or Wal-Mart that can sell a CD at ridiculously low prices in the hopes of guaranteeing a sale on bigger ticket items as well as the record industry itself which took a darker spin in the 1980s when MBAs took over the executive positions and music lovers were pushed out of the decision making business.

However more than just whining about “the man,” Toller is an insightful filmmaker who offers us a succinct yet fascinating history about the way that music and money has always overlapped from the old payola scandals with DJ Alan Freed up through the commercialization of radio via the Telecommunications Act which finds Clear Channel owning 1 in every 10 stations that play the same music 73% of the time.

Additionally, in arguing for the need to create a profitable business model so that independent community oriented stores could stay in business and compete with CD prices, Toller looks at some of the contradictions in marketing wherein an unknown Amy Winehouse album sells at an impossibly low introductory rate until it goes up roughly ten dollars when she becomes in demand.

Filled with Catch 22s and passionate people, the film is imbued with some unexpected bursts of animation both literally and in the colorful personalities of those interviewed. Moreover, it's the type of work that not only celebrates the local stores that help foster friendships, bands and in some cases save lives but also makes the viewer take a little responsibility in reexamining their downfall from radio to record to CD to MP3.

Rightfully it argues the importance of the stores in catering to an under-served niche of music savvy collectors as radio listenership is at a 27 year low in celebrating diversity and opening one's heart, mind and ears to music they may otherwise miss in a world of Top 50 pop music that fails to foster unique tastes. Likewise, the film is certain to cater not only to its built in audience of indie stores still with open doors but music aficionados and audiophiles as well.

Due to its brisk 77 minute running time, Toller is unable to offer an authoritative historical analysis on the many issues introduced and we wish he would've gotten much more on film from music historians or scholarly sources instead of just “man on the scene” interviews. While the DVD is bursting with hours of bonus interviews in the special features section, overall the great thing about the documentary as mentioned is it invites you to do more research on your own and consider just how much you value the choices you're able to make at independent stores verses the ease of Big Box stores or Clear Channel radio.

Text ©2010, Film Intuition, LLC;
All Rights Reserved.
Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.

Music DVD Review: The Rolling Stones -- Rare and Unseen

Now Available to Own

In the words of former Rolling Stones member Bill Wyman – dubbed “the historian of the band” since he's the one who remembers dates and places – it was much nicer to perform for audiences as they aged since initially they just wanted to see the Stones and then as time went on, they wanted to listen to the music.

However, the folks from MVD Visual's Rare and Unseen Collection are hoping that after more than four decades of Rolling Stones fever, fans will still want to see more of Mick, Keith and the rest of the guys in this alternatively fascinating yet at times haphazardly pieced together sixty-four minute work.

Without the benefit of going in chronological order or establishing the type of place-markers of date and location that no doubt Wyman or others could've assisted with, this collection of rare footage simply moves in far too many directions at once. Therefore, unless you are an amateur historian of the band and know all of its present and past members, it can get pretty confusing pretty quickly as we wonder who is talking or where they are in the timeline of the albums, the singles, or the many evolutions of the band.

Inter-splicing photos and clips of the group alongside interviews and text bubbles here and there, while the presentation fails to make this one recommendable to anyone other than die hard fans, for those who dig the Stones, there's enough contained in the piece to fascinate you.

In a key sequence, it includes some nice contradictory moments for Mick Jagger taking one stance on an issue one moment before it cuts to a scene a few decades later (moving from black and white to color) where he decides to ignore his stance and speak up about politics, illustrating the way that the band has aged right along with its audience in terms of maturity, responsibility etc.

In the short spin we see Mick Taylor's admission that Jagger could be a bit difficult to footage from Jagger's marriage to Bianca to the differences in touring from playing “rinky dinky rinky” joints with a “big” crew of thirty guys to finally waiting until 1998 to play Russia, which had banned their performances for decades.

And throughout there's enough substance to keep you interested even if you have a hard time feeling invested in the documentary when we simply view sound free film of Mick Jagger at a Red Carpet event or spend time during a drug trial interview that doesn't make a whole lot of sense without the context.

Overall, a mixed bag of footage transferred as well as can be expected considering the age of some of the pieces included, The Rolling Stones Rare and Unseen may be worth a casual look for a die hard fan but casual ones are sure to fail to gain any real satisfaction from it after all.

Text ©2010, Film Intuition, LLC;
All Rights Reserved.
Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Q & A: Colin Michael Day Discusses Acting, Travel and "The Loneliest Road in America"

Q & A: Colin Michael Day

1) Congratulations on the completion of The Loneliest Road in America. From a viewer standpoint, it really felt like we traveled on an authentic road trip across the southwest along with the cast of characters. How long did it take to shoot the film and what was the process like? Did you all embark on a journey together and where did you guys shoot?

It took about 1 month to shoot the entire film. We started in Denver and pretty much shot in sequence in Denver, Utah, Nevada and LA. In Denver, it was just me; Chris Hayes, the actor who plays Matt; Mardana Mayginnes, the director; and Tony McGrath, the cinematographer; and then we met the rest of the crew in Nevada.

The process of filming the movie was a blast, but it was hard. We had to be detailed and thorough about the shots we wanted. We only had so much light during the day so we had to be quick and precise. We didn’t do more than 3 takes for any scene throughout the entire movie. And since all the actors were very prepared, it made it easy for the crew to do their job. Plus Mardana and Tony had been working for a long time preparing shot lists.

Since we went in so ready with the shots we wanted to do and the actors feeling confident with their lines, we avoided a lot of problems. Of course, there were some problems, because it’s bound to happen, but we didn’t have as many as expected. Basically, we were like a family while shooting; everyone got along really well. There were some disagreements and arguments, but that’s normal. Overall, we had great chemistry on location and it was a great experience.

2) I found it interesting that your director Mardana Mayginnes initially wanted you to play the role of Matt -- the wisecracking and blunt sidekick. To me, Matt and the more contemplative character you played – Jamie -- seemed like night and day. What drew you to the role of Jamie and why do you think Mardana originally saw you as Matt?

Mardana saw me as Matt because we’ve been on road trips together, and we’re partiers much like Matt’s character. I make a lot of jokes and tend to be the funny one, even though I don’t have the exact personality of Matt. But Mardana thinks I’m funny, and I’m flattered by that. And since I’m not really a depressed person or anything like that, because that’s not my personality, Mardana thought the Matt character was more me and that I would have fun playing him. At first I did think it would be a lot of fun, and Matt’s a big character in the film, he’s on screen a lot, so it would have been a good role for me.

As time went on, however, and the more I read the script, the Jamie character seemed to be more of a challenge for an actor, and I felt I could pull it off. There was more emotion, more back story. Plus, he is the main lead, you follow him throughout the whole movie and I thought that would be challenging, that was something I could do. And I thought for this movie to be a big success, I felt I could pull it off better than someone else auditioning.

3) It seems appropriate that the trip just seems to continue in the movie as it ends. Where do you think Jamie is now?

To be honest, we’ve joked about this and we think Jamie went to South America. That seems like a place he would go, to get out of the U.S. and get away. It seems like a fun place and he could meet people and hit on women. He could get away from everybody and continue his life. That’s the great thing about the ending of the film, people can guess where he went, and they can imagine where life took him. He could go anywhere, really, like Alaska or Japan. Hell, he could be hipping out in a nude colony somewhere. It’s your own opinion really as to where he ends up, but I think he went to South America.

4) Throughout the film, you guys made excellent use of music. Personally, do you have any particular favorite songs to add to your iPod or mixes when you travel?

The music credit is given to Mardana, completely. I was there through the process, but he knew what he wanted. He had a complete idea; I think he hit on the mood everywhere through the movie. I kept commenting and saying this song or that song was good, but he saw it, he heard it.

When it comes to creating music lists, to be honest I create mixes from my friends’ suggestions, because I don’t go out and find stuff on my own usually. I mean, Mardana got me into Cat Powers and Kascade. But I’m really open to all types of music, I don’t keep to a certain genre. Like right now, I’m listening to the new Kascade CD that’s just come out but I don’t limit myself to just techno; I love rock n’ roll and oldies like The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Pearl Jam. The list goes on. I even like opera.

5) Your biography reveals quite an extensive background exploring the world. Out of all of the various getaway locales, what’s one memorable experience and place that sticks out?

I have to pick just one place? I could pick many, I could go on forever, because there are so many unique places I’ve seen. But if I have to pick, one of my greatest moments was when I was living in Sydney during a semester studying abroad. I have a lot of family that lives there, and as a favor to my aunt, I started coaching my cousins’ girls’ basketball team. They were horrendous, I mean, they were getting creamed by everyone they played.

My friend Jason and I decided to be their coach, and it was just such an interesting experience. While I was having a great time living there and acting, I just loved going and coaching. It was another challenge, and it was a blast to teach them basic skills and plays. We actually started winning and other teams were trying to copy our defensive and offensive strategies. To be able to do that in another country, especially one where basketball isn’t very big, it was truly unique.

I guess the reason I enjoyed it so much is because, when I travel, I love meeting people. I can go on adventures climbing mountains and hiking through towns and seeing great landscapes, but I can never get away from interacting with other people, other cultures, experiencing different personalities. I got to be part of a community outside my country, and the parents respected me for teaching their kids. That meant a lot to me because it was coming from people I never expected to get it from. It was a great feeling and an amazing experience.

6) As an actor and producer, what do you think your background as a business major and tennis player at the University of Denver has taught you to use in your field?

My business major helped me with creating the movie, or at least the business plan but it’s a different beast creating a movie over a business plan for a class. We have our own production company, so my business background helped with that but in all honesty, business didn’t help much with my acting. Tennis helped a lot, because of the competitive nature and the work ethic tennis required throughout my life. And that’s why I wanted the Jamie character, it was a challenge, and in tennis you’re challenged. You always want to compete against better players so you can improve.

Acting is hard, even though I was told I was a natural, but that doesn’t mean I was a great actor. Same as tennis, I was told I was really athletic, but that doesn’t mean I was going be a great tennis player. I had to work at tennis; I had to learn the strokes, the techniques, all the little details. The more I practiced the better I got.

There are a lot of details you have to work at in acting, too, like scripts and lines, your reactions to situations, the way you listen to other actors. The more you do it, the better you get, it’s like muscle memory. You stop thinking about it, you just do it naturally and you’re in the moment. It’s all about working at it. I keep growing, I’m always growing, and you’re always learning new things. If there is one thing I could say to actors out there, continue to act. If you love it, keep doing it.

7) I read that you’re continuing your acting studies with Elizabeth Metznick who specializes in the Meisner Technique. I’m unfamiliar with that approach. In a nutshell, what is the Meisner Technique?

It’s pretty simple when you’re doing it, but it’s complicated to explain. Basically, Meisner believed in being as natural as possible while acting. It’s an acting technique that emphasizes reacting off another person or an environment. But also as you start the process, you start learning about your emotional self. Meisner strips you of a lot of your defensive shields and opens up these emotions like sadness, anger, happiness, and makes them truthful, not fake. This is all in the first year of the process, and the second year you do all the character work, the character building. You’re adding point of view, roles, and there is a lot of improve and reaction involved.

The reason I like studying with Elizabeth is because I feel like I take one step forward, two steps back. I know that sounds weird, but it helps. Elizabeth is great, and I chose her because she calls you out on things. She wants you to see what you’re doing. She can see what you can’t, and you can’t hide from that.

Many people will get frustrated and blame their teachers, but I never get upset at the teacher. I never got mad at Elizabeth, because I always felt her comments were helpful and she guided me through this technique. Once you break through that wall, take that step, you feel great. It’s just helping me learn, because I’m always growing.

8) Since you have such a versatile resume in theatre and film as well as roles both in front of and behind the camera, professionally what do you have lined up next?

Well, I just finished another short film where I played a math genius that kind of goes crazy because he’s trying to find an equation to create a portal to an alternate universe. I’m the only actor in the film and it was a great character role. I had a blast, and I think it has a lot of potential to go somewhere.

There are a few plays coming up at Elephant Theater Company that I’ll hopefully get involved with. I’ve been talking to people about doing some web series, and it’s been exciting talking about doing those projects. Within our crew, we have about 3 scripts that we’re hoping to start pre-production on in the fall. But I’m not doing anything anytime soon, because I’ll be going to South Africa for the World Cup. All I’ve been doing recently is a lot of publicity for Loneliest Road, just trying to promote the movie.

Text ©2010, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.