Cal’s 5 (-1): Movie & Television Quick Hits

I know that I am a little late getting this out but it is here none the less.  A random assortment of thoughts and observations from this past week including reactions to Take Shelter, Shame, the pilot for Awake and The Walking Dead (or as one viewer put it “The Yawning Dead”.  I am one short of my normal 5 but I haven’t had time to get another review thrown together so I am sorry about that.

Awake (NBC) – The pilot episode of the new show “Awake” was an exercise in patience.  While there is some potential and solid acting there is also a formulaic plot device that could ultimately sink the show.  The story involves a man who after a car crash that involves his wife and son, is left living two lives.  In one his wife is still alive, then he goes to bed and wakes up and his son is still alive.  He has built-in reminders to keep things straight in each separate reality but which one is real and which one is the dream?  Thus the whole crux of the show, but my question is, do we have a Groundhog Day situation here?  It would be nice to know what day it is from time to time.  In both realities he is still a detective and there are clues in each reality that help him solve the crime in the other (the potential redundant plot line).  I am going to give this show a few weeks to see how it develops but why is that the powerhouse networks can’t afford better writers while networks like FX and AMC are filled with great writing.  It would be a cop-out if we find out at the ending of the series that he was the one who was dead all along but hey at least it is better than Fox’s Alcatraz!

Take Shelter (Blu-Ray) – Last night I finally had the chance to catch a much hyped 2011 indie film Take Shelter starring the great actor Michael Shannon.  It has been about 12 hours since the credits rolled and my head is still spinning a bit.  Shannon plays a man who is believed to be having a slow descension into insanity.  A history of schizophrenia with his mom committed to a mental hospital has his wife and the rest of his community believing that he is losing his marbles.  He starts rebuilding the storm shelter in his back yard to prepare for what he believes is impending doom and the tension rises with every frame.  I don’t know how Shannon was passed over for a Best Actor nod at this years Oscars because he gave a stunning performance.  Once scene in particular involves him having a fit of rage on some families during a community dinner and the transformation from calm family man to rage lunatic is great.  I don’t want to give away much more because there is a great build and story here that are best served knowing less.  This is a must see film and one of the top of 2011.  Score – 9.0/10

Shame (theater) – Steve McQueen’s latest (the director not the actor) is a tough nut to crack.  Emotionally ravaging (like Hunger) and a very heady cinema experience that deals with sexual addiction and the different ways that a traumatic experience affects people.  There is a fair amount of nudity (thus the NC-17 rating) but none of it seems erotic or intended to be erotic.  This is a very difficult film to sit through because the subject matter is fairly intense and you walk away feeling a little empty (in a good way) because there are so many ways to interpret what happened.  Strong performances from Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan help craft a great cinematic experience.  Well worth the watch if you are looking for a movie to challenge you a bit and if you won’t want something that is very uplifting.   Score – 9.5/10

The Walking Dead (AMC) – Part of me has all but checked out of The Walking Dead because of all the pointless meandering and lame story arcs, the other part of me is trying to separate out the fact that they show doesn’t seem to want to follow the great source material.  Sunday’s episode hit on a lot of things that just aren’t working for the television show vs. the comic.  Characters such as T-Dog have been relegated to “extra” roles lacking dialog and seem like more of a distraction then a pivotal character.  Glen seems to change from week to week, seemingly ok with his relationship with Maggie.  If it was going to be that easy for him, why did they bother having him make a stink about it a few weeks ago?  Pretty pointless if you ask me, much like a lot of story arcs in the tv series.  I am not even going to touch on the ninja zombie with super human strength that took out a major character.   Ugh, only 2 episodes left and then maybe I will just toss it aside, but hey its better than Alcatraz!

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