4 for the 4th: a rainy-day binge list

image: siliconrepublic.com

image: siliconrepublic.com

For those of you who are in the sunshine, happy 4th!  May you enjoy every moment of your fair/carnival/bbq/illicit fireworks-shooting-off-ness!  For those of us here in the rain?  Happy Binge Of July Weekend!  Here’s a list of stuff you can sink your eyeballs into, at least ’til the fireworks happen (either on TV or after the rain…)

Yeah, I could go with easy riffs like Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead and/or Orange Is The New Black.  But you’re already cool like that.  So here are four binge-worthy series that you may not have gotten a chance to get to yet.

1) Hannibal: if you’re a horror lover — or a fan of beautifully crafted visuals — you should be watching this.  Yes, this series will be ending with this season (at least on NBC…she said hopefully.  Hello, Hulu?)  But the story of Hannibal Lecter and his nemesis/BFF Will Graham is riveting stuff.  It’s gory, yes.  But watch this series now, and earn the right to be smug years from now when everyone bemoans the end of this visual masterpiece. [On Demand, Hulu]

2) Powers: a great comic, and an intriguing TV show.  Mash-up Men In Black, Heroes and Law & Order, and you’ve got the makings of a cool story.  Based on the excellent comic book series, Powers is about the Powers Division, a group of police officers whose job it is to keep power-enhanced humans in check.  There are “Heroes” (the good guys, or so their PR reps tell it) and “Powers” (bad guys, or indifferent ones), and Detective Christian Walker walks (yeah) the fine line between the two, as he used to be a Hero named Diamond before he lost his abilities.  [Playstation only, though the first episode is free to all on the Playstation website]

3) Grace and Frankie: like the Golden Girls?  Who doesn’t?  G&F follow two don’t-you-dare-ask-year-olds as they navigate their suddenly single status.  Why suddenly single?  Their husbands came out as gay.  And in love with each other.  As Grace and Frankie, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin are a hoot, and have a great Odd Couple chemistry.  As their former husbands, Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston seem a bit too adorable, but as the season rolls on things settle in and feel a bit more real.  Come for Fonda tripping on peyote tea, stay for the excellent performances that lift up what could have been a cookie-cutter sitcom. [Netflix]

4) The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: they alive, dammit!  It’s a miracle!  The theme song will be your summer earworm, and rightly so.  This story about “Mole Woman” Kimmy — kidnapped at 14 and forced to spend 15 years in a bunker with three other women — gets off the ground slowly (feel free to skip to episode 4 after the pilot, and then go back later for 2 & 3) but finds its feet in the hilarious episode 6.  Two words: Pinot Noir.  [Netflix]

Honorable Mentions: a few summer series that are gearing up.  [On Demand, but the first eps are free on Google Play]

* Scream: Not as good as the original movie, but what is?  Expect heads in hot-tubs, riffs on why TV can’t do slasher horror, and plenty of set-ups for the rest of the season. (bonus points for the cool soundtrack) [MTV]

* Zoo: a book that punked out at the end, but could be saved by a series format (read: TV could play out an ending that felt rushed in the book). Zoo brings Day of the Animals to the 21st Century. The first ep is intriguing, with just enough gravitas (and destruction) for me to give a look at episode 2 next week. [CBS]

* The Crimson Field: A cross between M*A*S*H and Call The Midwife, this series about WWI medics give you medical drama and a period piece.  Win! [PBS]

* The Jim Gaffigan Show: a great stand-up comic gets a show that mirrors his life.  Sound familiar?  That’s because this set-up usually works (see: Seinfeld, Louie). It works here.  Plus, Michael Ian Black! [TV Land]

Baltimore Screening Pass-palooza: Southpaw!

southpaw onesheetI’ve heard good things about this Jake Gyllenhaal boxing flick.  And as I loved Fuqua’s Training Day — not to mention Sutter’s Sons of Anarchy — I’m so down for Southpaw.  Here’s the 411:

From acclaimed director Antoine Fuqua (TRAINING DAY) and screenwriters Kurt Sutter (“Sons of Anarchy”) and Richard Wenk (THE MECHANIC), SOUTHPAW tells the riveting story of Billy “The Great” Hope, reigning Light Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the World (Academy Award® nominee Jake Gyllenhaal). Billy Hope seemingly has it all with an impressive career, a beautiful and loving wife (Rachel McAdams), an adorable daughter (Oona Laurence) and a lavish lifestyle. When tragedy strikes and his lifelong manager and friend (Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson) leaves him behind, Hope hits rock bottom and turns to an unlikely savior at a run-down local gym: Tick Willis (Academy Award® winner Forest Whitaker), a retired fighter and trainer to the city’s toughest amateur boxers. With his future riding on Tick’s guidance and tenacity, Billy enters the hardest battle of his life as he struggles with redemption and to win back the trust of those he loves.

And peep the trailer:

So, ready to step into the ring?  Right this way… Read more of this post

Extinction asks; what if zombies can adapt?

extinction onesheetA good rule for survival in the zombie apocalypse; get to a place where it’s freezing cold, wait ’til the zombies freeze solid.  But what if that doesn’t happen?  Welcome to Extinction.  [Note: this film was originally titled Welcome to Harmony.] And I’m intrigued.

After a virus turns people into zombies, a small group of survivors seek refuge in a snow-covered town, believing the virus and all of its monstrous creations had died out. But they only discover the infected had adapted to the environment change, for the worse.

Extinction is scheduled to hit theaters in Spain on August 14th, and hopefully it’ll hit the states before/around Halloween.  Peep the trailer.  Are you ready for freeze-resistant zombies?

Baltimore Screening Pass-palooza: Pixels!

pixels onesheetOkay you gamers.  Ready for some real-world pixel action?  Maybe not, but how about some movie-theater pixel action?  Because I’ve got passes for the Baltimore area screening of Pixels!

Here’s the story from the studio:

In Pixels, when intergalactic aliens misinterpret video-feeds of classic arcade games as a declaration of war against them, they attack the Earth, using the games as models for their various assaults.  President Will Cooper (Kevin James) has to call on his childhood best friend, ’80s video game champion Sam Brenner (Adam Sandler), now a home theater installer, to lead a team of old-school arcaders (Peter Dinklage and Josh Gad) to defeat the aliens and save the planet.  Joining them is Lt. Col. Violet Van Patten (Michelle Monaghan), a specialist supplying the arcaders with unique weapons to fight the aliens.

Am I the only one who saw Dinklage as an 80s throwback and decided this movie needed to be in front of my eyeballs?  Thought so.  Here’s the deal… Read more of this post

What/Why/How Review: Magic Mike XXL

Magic Mike XXL onesheetSometimes all you wanna know is “what is this?”, “why should I see it?” and “how did you like it?” So? Here’s the dish on Magic Mike XXL!

Nutshell: If you’re reading this review?  You know you wanna see it.  And yes, it delivers. It’s not cin-e-mah, but who cares?  Gorgeous choreography and a game cast equal a fun, definitely Rated-R romp. Grade: A-

What: The sequel to Magic Mike (paging Captain Obvious), Magic Mike XXL is exactly what you’d expect from the title; bigger, brasher and definitely bawdier.  They heard the “needz moar dances stuff!!1!!” cries from ladies who saw the first film, and they give it to you.  The Kings of Tampa — with Mike (Channing Tatum) coming back to the fold after three years away — head to Myrtle Beach to participate in a stripper convention.  Seriously.  To paraphrase Jada Pinkett Smith’s character in this film, I hope you ladies are on birth control, because tonight’s gonna be serious.

Why: Because dancing!  Oh who am I kidding; folks who want to see this film are in it for the sexy.  And these guys are definitely sexy.  And they’re definitely up for throwing it in ladies faces…and I mean that literally.  But it’s all in good fun, and everyone in MMXXL is up for the goodtimes.  Also, the choreography is absolutely incredible.  Plus, the soundtrack is bonkers in the best way possible.  And who knew that Matt Bomer has such a lovely voice?  (Note: not all the songs in MMXXL are on this soundtrack; a finale number uses a very popular NIN song…  I’ve said too much.)

And then there’s the supporting cast, including Jada Pinkett Smith as Rome, an A-list DJ/club owner that has some serious swagger, along with some of the best lines in the film. (BTW, her character was written for a male actor, but she blew director Gregory Jacobs & Channing Tatum away.) Amber Heard as Zoe, a young woman who catches Mike’s eye.  Andie MacDowell plays Zoe’s mother Nancy, a woman who’s not afraid to be herself.  Michael Strahan as a stripper named Augustus, doing stuff you’ll never see on Live with Kelly and Michael.  Elizabeth Banks as Paris, a DJ who runs the stripper convention.  And one of my favorite comedians, Gabriel Iglesias as Tobias, who takes over for Matthew McConaughey (who bowed out due to scheduling conflicts) as the Kings’ DJ.  Boom.

How: What did I think?  What do you think?  It was a hoot, from start to finish. The women at the convention/clubs swarm over men like a wave of horny zombies.  The choreography is on-fuckin’-point (can’t emphasize enough how well done these scenes are.  Bravo, Alison Faulk and Teresa Espinosa, for your brilliant work.)

Yes, the dancing is hot.  But the funny, rude, believable bromance between the Kings is the real treat.  Another treat?  The obvious, in-your-face feminism in this film.  The ladies here are doing what they wanna do, be it making it rain, heading out to find themselves, praising other women, or just kicking back and drinking wine while sizing up the considerable…talent across the table from them.  Yeah, it’s definitely men who bring the sizzle in MMXXL, but don’t miss the grrl power in here too.

Movie Review — Terminator: Genisys

Genisys Onesheet Arnold

I’m not sure whether to applaud or scratch my head at this newest entry in the Terminator mythos.  On the one hand, I love the 21st Century revamping.  Look; people have cell phones!  Tablets!  On the other hand, all the previous time-traveling/time-warps have left Genisys with a patchwork timeline that it has to scramble to connect to a coherent storyline.  It succeeds on a basic level, but viewers who long for the deeper pull of the original will leave the theater disappointed. Grade: B-

The Terminator films know how to show you a good time.  (Okay, maybe not Salvation.  But we’re all allowed a screw-up.)  Fun special effects, a time-travel mythology that doesn’t shy away from the problems it may cause, and even a touch of romance.  And let’s not forget “I’ll be back“!  But years after the original and it’s excellent sequel, the mythology is starting to trip up on its own particular string theory.  With so many connections, cross-connections, timeline revisits, Terminator Genisys has it’s work cut out for it trying to keep everything straight.  But it wisely decides to jettison Rise of the Machines and Salvation, instead focusing on Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese. Read more of this post

Baltimore Screening Pass-palooza: The Gallows!

the gallows onesheetI’ve seen the trailer for this fright flick up on the big screen, and it looks like a lot of fun.  I’m kinda done with the shakycam thing, but this film’s “high school theater is haunted” story tugs at my high school Thespian-member superstitions.  And I’m digging the excellent “Smells Like Teen Spirit” cover (by Think Up Anger & Malia J) they use in the trailer.  So I’m in.  Are you?

Here’s the 411:

Twenty years after an accident during a small town high school play results in death, students at the school resurrect the failed stage production in a misguided attempt to honor the anniversary of the tragedy – but ultimately find out that some things are better left alone.

Peep the trailer:

Ready for a scare?  Read on… Read more of this post

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