Friday, May 16, 2008

some movies!

Maybe I should be tracking my movies here too! We Netflix. Last night we finished up The Long Way Round, which was described as a sort of Motorcycle Diaries of the Hollywood set. Well, sorta, but not - Motorcycle Diaries is not a documentary, but a movie based on the trip Che Guevara and a buddy take around South America in the 1950s before he developed his political aspirations - I believe we see him actually in the process of developing this attitude because of what he encounters on the trip. In contrast, The Long Way Round is about 2 guys with plenty of money (actors Ewan MacGregor and Charley Boorman) who decide to ride from London to New York - eastbound - on motorcycles. They manage to get lots of freebies/sponsors, and they even have a crew and an office for several weeks to manage the details. In spite of that, it was an enjoyable "ride" - of the 7 episodes, most were spent on the Asian continent trying to get those big ol' motorcycles across non-existent roads and fast moving rivers. They do encounter real obstacles that even money won't overcome, only their own physical and mental abilities - and they manage. 4 stars.

The Hollywood writers' strike ended a while back, and we had 3 episodes of Grey's Anatomy to catch up on, and did. Of course, I'm excited to see McDreamy is still thinking of Meredith, so we will have that conflict continue. If he ever truly gives up on her (or she on him) the magic could be sucked out of the series - well, they'll have to find other magic I guess. It didn't kill ER to lose George McClooney, although they did prolong it by having his love (the nurse) continue on with his kids for a while. But then they developed other relationships in it - Grey's hasn't quite got the same size of Important Cast (yet?).

Also, because of the writers' strike, Apple/iTunes gave us 2 free video downloads, so I downloaded the pilot episode of New Amsterdam. I did it for 2 reasons - I located it via an online forum touting the good looks of the hero (can't recall his name) but I wanted to see it based on the storyline: hero arrives in New York in the 18th-century (or 17th?), is given immortality until he finds his one true love, and now it's Contemporary, he's a cop and we take it from there (oh yeah, his One True Love shows up right away but she's like Kryptonite so he dies when she's there - eeek - but when she leaves, he's alive again - I think maybe he got shot and wouldn't have died except she was there - well, I'm not sure now.....).

This is almost word-for-word the plot of Peter Hamill's Forever, a book I read last year that I really liked! Of course, most of the book follows the hero from his birth in Ireland to his journey to New York and the early history of New York. Hamill is known for his knowledge of history and especially of New York, so it makes it very interesting. In the book, he is given immortality with one caveat - he cannot leave the island of Manhattan. And he is not a policeman. He creates a corporation that handily helps him avoid "existing" - no social security number or other identification for himself personally, but his money and existence is all in his corporation. Every couple of decades or so he sorta disappears and re-creates himself to avoid anyone noticing he doesn't grow older.

On surfing the net for info about this show, I learned that the creator of the series is saying he Had No Idea that the book Forever even existed, and that he completely made up his idea. WHAT???? WTF?? Who is he kidding? I guess Hamill is just laughing it off, from what I've read - maybe it's not worth the hassle or money to try to sue for an idea. Some of the comments on one blog even suggest "there are no new ideas" - uh, DUH, how many "came to New York in the 18th-century and became immortal" books/movies/tv shows are there? One. ok, now there's 2 but even though the creator doesn't realize it, somehow he had to have gotten the idea from Forever - maybe someone else read it or even just a review and mentioned it to him. It's way too coincidental. OK, 2 things are different - the Forever hero got his immortality from an African/Caribbean person, and New Amsterdam from a Native American, and the cop thing.

Ok, now my review. PD liked it. I liked it ok but I was annoyed at some things:
(1) the number of times he HINTS at his loooong past - like being familiar with people and styles of the past, and such. Uh, won't he give himself away?? And bringing in an old girlfriend (now elderly and with dementia) who painted his likeness in a mural... hmmm.... (oh, in episode 2, a Big Secret is revealed! duh, maybe if he'd stop hinting!)
(2) if his One True Love is also his kryptonite, uh, how's he ever gonna meet her?
(3) the New Cute female partner - too new, too cute - I dunno, she bothered me

However, I do realize that sometimes shows get better, so I just spent our next free credit on episode 2 and will give it another shot. When we rented Northern Exposure, after Season 1 I was thinking - we liked this?? - but after Season 2 I was hooked again and really loved it. So maybe New Amsterdam will grow on me too, but that guy needs to stop hinting about his past, ok?

We had 2 documentaries in a row about kids - one was Spellbound, following 8 kids to the National Spelling Bee; the other was Mad Hot Ballroom, following 2 or was it 3 inner-city schools with ballroom dancing programs to the dancing finals. Both with a similar theme - watching kids tackle a project and do well, and how that enriches their lives. Of course, since both were competition-based, we see the agony of defeat as well. Spellbound was not based (solely) on disadvantaged kids, and Ballroom was. Another thing about Spellbound was that it is a very individual thing, no team work, so the kids are isolated. Misspell one word - bam, you are out. Ballroom was definitely team-oriented - after the dancing couples were chosen for each school, each couple had one dance style and were given points, but the prize went to the team - so if your Merengue couple wasn't as good but your Tango couple was the tops, your team could still win.

I think I was rooting more for the Ballroom kids than the Spelling kids - but I do know that every kid needs to find his strength and reach for a goal, and those Spelling kids were just as motivated and had the same opportunity to find self-esteem. However, there was a lot more Stage Parenting in Spelling, I'm afraid - and not just because of their backgrounds. I cringed to see the kid who had to spell several thousand words every day with his father, for instance. And ultimately, in Spellbound, only 1 kid wins, so you go in knowing the odds are not good. We both agreed the movies were pretty good, and we were spellbound a little by both. But we also agreed the violin kids (based on the woman teaching violin to inner-city kids) movie was better - after all, there was no competition amongst the kids - they played together and they put on a concert. Can't recall the title - based on a true story, but it was a movie with some famous actress.... there goes my memory again.

Before that, we watched the TV series Firefly and its movie Serenity. We both really liked Firefly a lot - too bad Fox didn't, and cancelled. PD liked the movie more than I did. Although it did wrap up a lot of loose ends from the series, I felt like it was too much about River, and it was "grittier" than Firefly, something I didn't like, a change in focus I guess that sorta bothered me. 5 stars from me for the tv series, and maybe 4 for the movie.

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