RSS Feed

Archive for the ‘Seasonal Retrospective’ Category

Fringe Season One Review

Posted by television On September - 21 - 2009

fringeFringe Season One
Created by J.J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci
Warner Brothers.

By Miles Baker

Never judge a show based on seeing five minutes of it. I did that with Buffy the Vampire Slayer and ended up regretting it eight years later. The same thing happened with Friday Night Lights, but the time period was shorter. With Fringe, I watched half a scene when the first episode aired thought, “well, that seems contrived” and left it that. After watching all 21 episodes of season one, I actually wasn’t all that wrong, but there is a lot of merit to this show.

When I break it down into individual elements, this is a good show: I like the genre, I like how it handles the genre, I like the characters, I like the gender mix, I like the use of humour. But when I add it all up there’s something missing — inspiration, or some spark of originality. Fringe is a competently executed show, but it has nothing you haven’t seen somewhere else, particularly X-Files. Read the rest of this entry »

Seasonal Retrospective:True Blood, Season One

Posted by television On February - 24 - 2009
Love at first... Bite. Yeah, we went there. The Southern Emo Pair get down to business in True Blood. Image courtesy of HBO.

Love at first... Bite. Yeah, we went there. The Southern Emo Pair get down to business in True Blood. Image courtesy of HBO.

By Jayvibha Vaidya 

*Spoiler alert — Anna Paquin is called cute once more. Bits and pieces of show revealed, too.*

She’s a cute blonde and he’s a dark mysterious stranger that happens to be a vampire. No, it’s not that ass-kicking vampire slayer this time around. She’s hung up her stake and cheerleading outfit in Sunnydale, California. Our current Adorable Miss is a resident of Bon Temps, Louisiana. Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) is a resident waitress, loyal granddaughter, and conveniently, an attractive mind-reader. Burdened by the unwanted thoughts of others, she finds relief in a mysterious stranger who’s the strong, silent type. Literally. She can’t hear his thoughts.

From Alan Ball, the creator of critically acclaimed Six Feet Under and based on the books by author Charlaine Harris, True Blood follows the moment when Sookie Stackhouse, (Golden Globe-winner Paquin, The Piano, X-Men) meets Bill Compton, (Brit Stephen Moyer, Lilies, The Starter Wife) an outed vampire who arrives in Bon Temps just as the small Louisiana town is plagued with a wave of suspicious murders.

Surrounding this ill-fated couple is an amazing smorgasbord of character profiles. They’re all deeply damaged, holding on to their secrets and insecurities for dear life. Sookie’s elder brother Jason (Austrailian Ryan Kwanten, Home and Away, Summerland) is a classic all-around fuck-up, and the first to be implicated in the series of murders, with evidence that he has coincidentally slept with each victim previous to their deaths. His quest for carnal satisfaction mixed with homoerotic undertones makes for a complex and ambiguous character that is a pleasure to  watch.

Another intriguing character is Sam Merlotte (Sam Trammell, Going to California, Judging Amy), a bar-owner and all-around decent guy who is deeply in love with Sookie. But like most mortals, this poor bastard is no match for a vampire. Tara (Rutina Wesley, How She Move, Numb3rs), Sookie’s foul-mouthed, prickly best friend, juggles her drunken mother and perpetual loneliness while watching out for Sookie, the only person she trusts. Lafayette, played brilliantly by Nelsan Ellis (The Inside, Veronica Mars, The Soloist), is the openly gay, openly awesome cook at the restaurant who seems to know what everyone’s vice happens to be.

You might ask who our adorable Sookie can trust with so many of her Louisianian friends and family being in their own dumps? Enter Grandmother Adele (Lois Smith, ER, Hollywoodland). Strong, stable, and wiser than anyone in Bon Temps. That is of course until poor Sookie comes home one day to find the bloodied body splayed on the kitchen floor.

Like all conventional vampire stories, this show deals with death, life, sex, and power, and includes the appropriate amount of humour, violence, and romance. This is all the while poking fun at the legends of vampires and the damsel in distress, shifting perceptions and setting aside convention. Through the use of traditional mythology, this show comments on social injustices, sexuality, power, and human (or vampire) rights while retaining, you know, the entertaining factor.

The sweltering heat, the twang of Southern dialect, the strong code of respect and hospitality all give life to a world you can taste and smell. It draws you in then surprises you, while forcing you to ask questions about love — not just about who you love, but how you love.

True Blood returns for its second season to HBO, summer 2009.

MONDOFilm’s Greatest Disappointments of 2008

Posted by film On January - 16 - 2009

By Leo K. Moncel and Shane McNeil

In this thrilling reversal of year-end-list-glee, Shane McNeil and I sound off on movies we wanted to like, but couldn’t, good stuff that was supposed to happen, but didn’t, and general dickery in the film world. It’s gripetime.

Leo K. Moncel’s Three Biggest Disappointments of 2008

1. Passchendaele (Dir: Paul Gross)

Mud is the real star of WWI.

Mud: the real star of WWI.

Paul Gross did a fine job directing. He even pulled off playing (less than?) half his age surprisingly convincingly. The dialogue edged on trite but respected the voice of the times. So why was this my first great disappointment of 2008? Because I was expecting to see a war movie.

Understand, I don’t think I have ever complained that a movie I was watching was not war-y enough. It’s just that this picture was packaged and presented as a war movie and not a prairie romance set against the First World War. But even putting my expectations aside, I found that the prairie romance component of the story (1 hr 20 or so of the 2 hr running time) was not as well executed as the war part. The romance plot sags at times, and the lead female character’s greatest challenge is overcome with a montage sequence.

I suspect Gross was thinking that with a split prairie romance/brutal war flick, he’d have a larger potential audience and thus stand a better chance recovering his (unprecedented in Canuck cinema) 20 million dollar budget, the lion’s share of which went into staging the war. Since he has a good sense of the aesthetics for it, somebody should give Paul Gross 50 million bucks to do a war-only flick. Oh yeah, and tell him to write a climax he really believes while he’s at it.

2. Quantum of Solace (Dir: Marc Forster)

Should’ve been more. It should’ve been more like Casino Royale than Casino Royale was: simple, dark, and grounded in physical reality. Remember the scene in Royale where the two bodyguards are right outside Bond’s hotel room door with assault rifles? That was an incredibly simple set-up, but it was expertly handled, and it was almost as heart-pounding as the stake-outs in No Country for Old Men. Compare that with any action sequence in Quantum, and tell me Quantum didn’t taste stale.

Complicated is not the same as complex, and a movie is not superior because it includes more locations.

3. Synecdoche, New York (Dir: Charlie Kaufman)

George: We watch people reading. Jerry: We watch people <i>reading?</i>

George: We watch people reading. Jerry: We watch people <em>reading?</em>

I love Charlie Kaufman. He’s one of my all-time favourite creative people (there’s a list, it only has five names on it.) But this film confirmed what I have suspected for some time – Kaufman’s brilliance lies in his creative freedom, and he functions best with a firm hand to rein in his impulses and give shape to the brilliant material he produces.

Charlie Kaufman as a director is directionless. The sum of my complaint against Synecdoche is that it has nowhere to go after the first 40 minutes. The story runs dry of events to play out, and the cast are left stranded pedaling stationary bicycles – moving but not progressing. Philip Seymour Hoffman is trying his damnedest to make this interesting, but his character is missing the very first thing actors demand – a motivation.

Shane McNeil’s Three Biggest Disappointments of 2008

1. Steve Carrell

OK, Mr. Scott. We get it. You’re on one of the most watched and funniest TV shows on the air right now, and, unlike when you did Little Miss Sunshine (probably your best turn on the big screen), you no longer need the money from the film industry. If that’s the case, please stop inundating us with your terrible role choices.

Seriously, this has gone on too long. The 40 Year Old Virgin did give you some license to cash in but not so much that we should have been made to sit through the horror-show that was Get Smart. Especially after you inflicted Evan Almighty and Dan in Real Life on us last year.

You’re capable of so much better, and we’ve done nothing to deserve this.

2. Where’s Harry?

Harry Potter and the Greedy Studio Execs

Harry Potter and the Greedy Studio Execs

We were left without the sixth installment of the Harry Potter series this year, despite all reports having dictated that it was ready to go. The blame for this one goes almost exclusively on the shoulders of Warner Bros. Entertainment Weekly even had to re-jig fall preview issues after the studio wussed on us.

The reasoning behind the move, by all accounts, was to boost its opening box office take by launching it on what’s now the prime release date: the May long weekend. Really? Really, Warner? The millions and millions of our dollars you grossed from The Dark Knight wasn’t enough this year? You had to move something a lot of kids and adults were looking forward to just so you could push The Half Blood Prince’s box office totals from a puny $300-400 million into the $500-million stratosphere? You cut us real deep on this one, and you know what the worst part of it is?

Your strategy is going to work perfectly, and HP6 will be 2009’s top grosser.

3. The TIFF backlash

So, remember when TIFF opened this year, and the papers called it the ‘festival of the elite‘ and wrote all these smear campaigns about how it was irrelevant? The local and national media came out, guns a-blazin’, and railed on the festival for no longer being audience friendly, for being too expensive, and for having a weak crop of films.

The year's best... documentary?!

The year's best... documentary?!

Let’s dissect this one for a minute, shall we? Yeah, the $40 Visa Screening Room charge kinda blew, but did you really miss anything that special by not going? Burn After Reading, Blindness, and Che all disappointed and bombed upon getting released, anyway. The way I see it, the only people this hurt were the ones who were only going to see Brad Pitt. Let the fest milk them a bit, I think it’s their right.

Most of the films that screened at the Visa Room also got screenings the Ryerson Theatre or some other small one, and the stars often showed up at those, too. I’ll grant that the whole AMC procedure was a pain, but once you got inside, weren’t you glad you weren’t in the Cumberland? I was.

Oh, and as for the crop of weak films? Look at your Oscar predictions and the year-end Top 10’s. Slumdog Millionaire, The Wrestler, Rachel Getting Married, Waltz with Bashir, JCVD, Happy Go-Lucky. What do they all have in common? You know the answer, and so do I.

MONDOFilm’s Top Articles of 2008

Posted by film On January - 9 - 2009

By Leo K. Moncel

Well, well.  Right now, I’m sitting back in a rocking chair in front of the fireplace, puffing my pipe and sipping my cognac with the spaniel lying at my feet, while the Missus has the cat purring on her lap.  And I’m reminiscing about the wide-eyed lad I was when first I was handed the keys to the film section, before the grey hair settled in and before I grew these whiskers (the Missus keeps insisting I trim them!).

It doesn’t feel like it, but it’s now been over a month and a half since I’ve been shepherd to MONDO’s film section.  In the true spirit of pettiness, I thought it would be a chuckle to compose a 2008 ‘favourite articles’ list using only content submitted to me, personally — that is, treat the year as if it began on November 18th.  Thankfully, the Missus brought me back to my senses at the last minute.  I suppose there’s a lesson to be learned here: if you’re tying a fishing lure and your slippers fall down a well, son, you’d best get back to work!  Here are some MONDOmoments that sparkled for me, in chronological order:

1) Alex B. Huls — I’d accuse you of just disliking Juno for the sake of being contrary if you hadn’t argued it so well.

2) MONDO’s thinklab gathered to discuss the future of film.  The ensuing debate in the comments section is also erudite.

3) An article on the lesser known works of Woody Allen.  Arrive armed at your next dinner party!

4) Four thumbs down from Rachel West and Madeleine Sims-Fewer for (not all that much) Sex and the City.

5) Jess Skinner, I may disagree with your opinions, but I will defend your right to cut The Dark Knight to ribbons.

6) Sorry, Paul Gross, but Young People Fucking was the big buzz (is that innuendo?) Canadian film of the year.  Though, even with “fucking” in the name, it was too square for MONDO.

7) I’m not ashamed to have participated in the two-part Batman villain suggestion article.  I just wish Christopher Nolan would give me a call.

8) Wasn’t it nice to hear from Miles that our prejudices about The Spirit were correct?

So there you have it, folks.  Heckuva collection for this kick at the can.  I’ll keep taking your witty, earnest, or scathing submissions if my health holds up (cough, cough.) Let’s you and me knock aught-niner clear out of the ballpark.

MONDOvideogames’ Best Articles of 2008

Posted by videogames On January - 9 - 2009

By Diana Poulsen

2008 was another big year for videogames, and like 2007, we had too many great games to even mention (which is why I am glad I had a bunch of new writers to help me play all of these games! Thank you!).

We played the creative, enduring open-ended platformer LittleBigPlanet; a new expansion for World of Warcraft; terrifying tactic dismemberment in Dead Space; witnessed the return of the iconic Solid Snake in Metal Gear Solid 4; Wii Fit got us off our asses and attempted to convince us that exercise could be fun; we finally got to whip a lightsaber around in the Wii version of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed; once again we have annoying neighbours and digital friends while trying to having the most eccentric house in Animal Crossing City Folk; encountered Resistance 2 and Gears of War 2, and Bioshock for the PS3, and I could go on forever. Honestly, it was a busy gaming year, with something for everyone.

2009 is shaping up to be an equally exciting year, but sometimes, in order to move forward, it is good to look back. Afterall, some of these great games might be on sale!

And to help you sift through the pixels, I’ve decided to look back at my favourite MONDOvideogame articles in chronological order:

The Top 10 Most Anticipated Games of 2008 - Alexander B. Huls

Huls made outstanding predictions for 2008. He only mis-stepped on the pushed-back and at-one-point-rumoured-to-be-cancelled Ghostbusters: The Videogame. Developers, please – I ain’t afraid of no ghosts!

Looking back at Harvest MoonAlice Moran

Moran gave us an in-depth history of the overlooked Harvest Moon series, which — unbelievably – makes farming addictively fun. Nintendo seems to succeed in turning absurd, bizarre, and occasionally mundane ideas into great gaming. On top of that, probably the only time I’ll ever get to take a wife and the second time I’ll get a have a pet chicken is in playing this game. This time, Spotty the Rooster won’t go the slaughterhouse.

Playstation’s Qore Magazine: Future or Failure? - Miles Baker

Baker’s scathing review of Qore magazine not only made me want check it out (in the same way I’ll see a bad movie to see if it’s actually terrible, or taste a friend’s meal to see if it’s turned), but also forced Sony representatives to come out of the woodwork and respond.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed Reviewed - James Wisteard

Wisteard reviewed the Wii version of The Force Unleashed and proved that, yes, waving a lightsaber around is a dream come true, but is also very tiring and often ridiculous. Yes, it was something of a disappointment, but still got all of us back in touch with our inner Star Wars nerd.

Things to do when your MMO is downDiana Poulsen

(Perhaps it is bad form to include myself, but it was a joy to write this article.) I wrote about what to do when your MMO is down and how to get yourself back into RL (real life). Afterall, I’m sure I’m not the only person addicted to MMOs, and while writing it, I actually did have an intervention…

Happy New Year!

Great Gaming to All and to All a Late Night!

I’m Don Draper, Bitch! Mad Men Reviewed

Posted by television On November - 18 - 2008

Welcome to a slightly new television section dealing exclusively with seasons past: The Seasonal Retrospective. Here you’ll find anything and everything from any station we have access to. We are particularly in love with the BBC and CBC and maybe a little bit of CBS when they’re funny and never Fox because we find them kind of repulsive. We’d be into Al Jazeera too, but they don’t typically run endearing sitcoms with well-rounded narratives.

____________________________

So Close To Postal: The Men of Said Mad Variety - Image courtesy of AMC, 2008

So Close To Postal: The Men of Said Mad Variety

Seasonal Retrospective: Mad Men, Season Two

By Jayvibha Vaidya

It’s always nice after several dull years on the dating scene to suddenly, and quite unexpectedly, meet someone who truly fascinates you. Discovering Mad Men is a bit like that. Not only is it visually stunning — the smoke-filled rooms, the dapper suits, the body-hugging dresses — it also possesses some of the most interesting, brilliant, and flawed characters currently gracing the tube.

Mad Men revolves around an enigmatic lead, Don Draper (Jon Hamm of The Sarah Silverman Show, Gilmore Girls). The show witnesses his climb to the top tier of an advertising agency in the 1960s when cocktail hour was at ten in the morning and bedding the clientele often followed the first handshake. Scraping under this shiny edifice reveals Dick Whitman, a shattered man fleeing from his past and losing control of his seemingly picture-perfect marriage, with his sanity soon to follow. Surrounding him are equally flawed, yet resilient characters, making this series consistently intense and intriguing.

Other characters like boozer Roger Sterling (John Slattery), closet-case Salvatore Romano (Bryan Batt), and the requisite homophobe Ken Cosgrove (Aaron Staton). There’s also Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser), who harbours as much interest in the approval of his superiors as he does his shotgun.

The Women and Men (both nuts, we suspect) - Image courtesy Vanity Fair, 2008

The Women and Men (both nuts, we suspect)

The female characters are equally as compelling. Complex, damaged, and attempting the perennial break from the heavy social confines that the era had to offer. One of the first scenes of the show is the confident, curvy hips of Joan Holloway (Christina Hendricks) sashaying through the offices of Sterling Cooper explaining the way of the office, and the world, to wide-eyed Peggy Olson (Elizabeth Moss). The line, “Of course, if you really make the right moves, you’ll be out in the country and won’t have to work at all,” not only sums up the mentality of the times, but also the tension between the two characters, mirroring and opposing each other’s sentiments. The bottom line is, as always, to feel valued and noticed in the world of men.

Don Draper’s blonde, Barbie-doll wife Betty starts to slowly unravel in the second season upon the discovery of Don’s infidelity. One particularly memorable scene shows her character, armed with an indiscretion of her own as revenge, calmly eating a cold piece of chicken in a dark kitchen in contemplation. One can’t help but shiver at the things people to do each other when they’ve been so scorned.

Early sixties America was in the throes of rampant civil rights violations, the rise of feminism, and had a new, young president who offered hope and change. Mad Men takes us into a microcosm of that world and shows us the lives of the people who were affected by these changes. The dichotomy of subtlety and blatant stereotypes are at once repulsive and compelling. This is excellent television. A perfect date goes from two hours to six before you know it, and these characters catch your attention and have you asking when you can see them next.

TAG CLOUD

Sponsors

MONDO is a non-profit, weekly, Toronto-based, online magazine that focuses on arts, culture, and humour. We’re interested in art of all kinds (music, theatre, visual art, film, comics, and video games) and the pop culture that we inhabit.The copyright on all MONDO magazine content belongs to the author. If you would like to pay them for more content, please do. To contact MONDO please email us at editor@mondomagazine.net

Twitter