Thursday, April 5, 2012


Awake stars Jason Isaacs (Peter Pan, The West Wing, Harry Potter) as Detective Michael Britten, a man who is in a car accident with his wife and son. And from there his life takes an interesting twist. He keeps waking up to two different realities, one in which it's his son, Rex (Dylan Minnette, Lost, Saving Grace, Let Me In), who's died, in the other it's his wife, Hannah (Lauren Allen, All My Children, The 4400, Dirt). He has a different partner in each, a different counselor, and he works a different case. Information from one becomes relevant in the other and he has to walk a fine line, using the information while having to (not) explain how he came by it.

First, let me say that you shouldn't have difficulty following which world is which if you pay attention; aside from the different people and cases, there are visual cues, most notably a different color pallet for each reality. It shouldn't take long for you to be able to easily recognize which reality you're in at any given moment.

Now, for the show, itself. Each episode covers four different angles; two different cases, how Hannah is dealing with the loss of their son and Rex's dealing with the loss of his mother, interspersed with Britten's visits to his counselors. None of it is easy, not for Rex, not for Hannah, and certainly not for Britten, who has to help his loved ones deal with a loss he doesn't truly feel. So far he only speaks of this dichotomy to his psychologists, one of whom is fascinated by the way he has come up with a dream world, the other feeling that he is spinning out of control. And in a way he is even as, in another way, the two realities help him keep his own world(s) together. The acting is wonderful, the scripts are great, the characters are deep and realistic, changing as they come to terms with what is happening in their lives, and the cases are interesting. Some of the things Britten does is likely not truly legal, but that is something that's easily overlooked, especially if you're a veteran of police procedurals. Through it all, it remains difficult to tell which of the realities, if either, are real, keeping at least one mystery for the viewer to puzzle over.

Awake airs on NBC Wednesdays at 10, or you can watch online at or

Monday, June 27, 2011

Green Lantern

Today’s review is for a movie that’s been out for just over a week, now, Green Lantern.  It’s based on the DC Comics character of the same name.  It stars Ryan Reynolds (Buried, The Nines) as Hal Jordan and Blake Lively (Gossip Girl, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants) as Carol Ferris, Hal’s love interest.  Peter Sarsgaard (In the Electric Mist, The Skeleton Key) plays Hector Hammond, the mad scientist who throws his lot in with the big bad, Parallax (voiced by Clancy Brown; Carnival, Highlander).  And Mark Strong (Robin Hood, Sunshine) is Sinestro, head of the Green Lantern Corps.
Reynolds is in his element as the conflicted hero who always has a witty comeback until he’s overwhelmed by the situation and Lively is charming as the woman who wants to stay away from the man who frustrates and angers her, even though she can’t.  Sarsgaard also does a good job, with somewhat cliché and cheesy dialogue.  The movie starts out well, giving us a detailed enough introduction to Hal that we know his character and know what he will do even if he doesn’t.  Above all, the movie looks excellent.  The effects are very realistic (in context) and everything looks like it came straight out of the comic book.
And therein lies a large part of the problem.  What works in comic books doesn’t always translate well on screen, coming across as cheesy and unbelievable.  This is at many points true here, especially when it comes to the ring’s physical effects.  There are many places when it is used more subtly and to greater effect, such as when one of the Green Lanterns use his ring to fly.
The other problem is one that many comic book movies seem to run into, a problem of too much in too short a time.  Most of the titles out there have been around for so long that there is a great deal of history behind them, too much so to put into a single movie.  Because of this, the movie seems rushed, somewhat forced and stilted.  It doesn’t help that the scenes are somehow disjointed; for all that they go to telling the same story, there seems to be no through-line to connect them.  In one scene, the camera cuts back and forth between Hal’s trying to figure out how the ring and lantern work, and Hammond’s autopsy of the alien Green Lantern.  While Hal’s scene is realistic and Hammond’s is important to tell the story, neither one needs to be in the movie and the cutting back and forth adds to the disjointed feel.  The director, Martin Campbell, is responsible for Casino Royale, as well as both Zorro movies.  His successes there do not translate well here.
Green Lantern is, in my opinion, not a complete waste of time.  It is a fun and beautiful movie, perhaps best saved for DVD and a night of mindless entertainment at home.

Saturday, June 25, 2011


My first review is made for purely selfish reasons.  The show is called Endgame, a Canadian offering, filmed and set in Vancouver, BC.  The show has been slated for cancellation, but there is a strong push to save it, an effort I’ve joined.  I’d hate to see this show go away, so I’ll review in an effort to drum up support.
Endgame stars Shawn Doyle (Big Love, Frequency) as Arkady Balagan, a Russian Grand Master and former chess champion.  In the first episode we discover that, while in Vancouver, his fiancée was killed just outside their hotel.  Because of this, Arkady has developed agoraphobia and cannot leave the hotel without experiencing severe panic attacks.  In order to pay his bills, he starts taking on cases to solve.  Because he can’t leave the hotel he gets help from a number of people.  Pippa Venturi (Melanie Papalia; Postal, Painkiller Jane), Arkady’s sister-in-law; Sam Besht (Torrance Coombs; Heartland, the Tudors), a chess enthusiast and grad student; Danni (Katharine Isabelle; Insomnia, Ginger Snaps), a bartender at the hotel and Alcina Albeniz (Carmen Aguirre; The Santa Claus II, Tin Man), a hotel housekeeper.  Trying to stymie him at every turn is Hugo Lum (Patrick Gallagher; Glee, Night at the Museum) the hotel’s lead detective.
At first glance, this is just one more entrant in the amateur detective genre.  There are a few things that make this a little different, however, all of which go back to the writing.  The characters are entertaining and not always at Arkady’s beck-and-call.  The humor is dry and biting, Arkady is arrogant and self-centered (and is called on it more than once), his phobia is consistent, never disappearing when it’s convenient.  And, having to rely on others to investigate for him, evidence is, sometimes, missed.
What truly separates Endgame from other shows of its type, though, is how Arkady solves the crimes.  He uses the same techniques that made him a chess champion; imagining victims, perpetrators and witnesses in various situations to test his theories and always moving two or three steps ahead of everyone else.  We get to watch this, seeing his imagined conversations with victims, seeing the different scenarios he plays out in his mind in an attempt to get to the truth, always with that biting sense of humor.  And always, in the background, are the effects of his fiancée’s murder on Arkady and Pippa.
Endgame is a well-written, well-directed show that deserves a second chance.  I highly encourage you to search it out and start watching.  And, if you like it as much as I do, go to and sign the petition.