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The Factory John Cusack, Jennifer Carpenter, Mae Whitman, Ksenia Solo, Dallas Roberts, Sonya Walger, Maxim Roy, Mageina Tovah, Michael Trevino

The Factory: when his daughter is taken by a kidnapper who has successfully evaded him for years the clock is ticking faster than ever for a Buffalo detective. Featuring Cusack, and a similar type of story, you may expect something like The Frozen Ground; or a movie like Insomnia, Se7en, Mystic River etc… Unfortunately, this isn’t in the same ball park. The story’s horribly clunky, and the clues/pointers are even worse – in particular a ridiculously bumbling angle about fertility and infertility which would stick out in any dialogue. The film (and detective) flounder from missed clue to missed clue before it throws up a preposterous ending – complete with flashbacks for those at the back not paying attention. The title of the film makes no sense until the last 2 minutes of the movie – which is also distracting. Character-wise you’ve got the clichéd married-to-the-job detective, rookie sidekick, and a kidnapper that should have been demented and scary (Buffalo Bill style), but was played like a comedy redneck character. Despite a promising synopsis and Cusack in the lead is not much more than a bottom of the barrel, bargain bin, by-the-numbers, straight-to-DVD, B-movie with an A-List star and some TV actors (minor characters from Dexter, Good Wife, Arrested Development).

Score: 2/10

The Good Wife Eli Gold Peter Florrick Alicia Florrick Diane Lockhart Will Gardiner Carey Agos Kalinda Sharma Julianna Margulies, Archie Panjabi, Josh Charles, Christine Baranski, Matt Czuchry, Alan Cumming, Zach Grenier, Matthew Goode, Chris Noth, Titus Welliver, Scott Porter, Michael Ealy, Jill Flint, Monica Raymund, Anna Camp, Michael J. Fox, Carrie Preston, Dallas Roberts, Gary Cole, Dylan Baker

After five series’ (and renewed for a sixth) this show is obviously a big hit in the ‘States, but The Good Wife (TGW) in an unsung hero of the UK TV schedules – big props to Channel 4 and More4 for giving it a punt, and sticking with it. As a late-20s guy that loves Action & B-movies, It’s not the type of show I thought I’d like, but here’s a bunch of reasons that will hopefully convince you to give this a spin!

The Good Wife Alicia Florrick Hot Sexy - Julianna Margulies, Archie Panjabi, Josh Charles, Christine Baranski, Matt Czuchry, Alan Cumming, Zach Grenier, Matthew Goode, Chris Noth, Titus Welliver, Scott Porter, Michael Ealy, Jill Flint, Monica Raymund, Anna Camp, Michael J. Fox, Carrie Preston, Dallas Roberts, Gary Cole, Dylan Baker  The Women: unlike 99% of other TV shows the main character is a strong, powerful, hard-working mother (don’t run away!). She’s written well, brilliantly acted, fleshed out, and what’s more – she’s surrounded by other equally capable ladies – Diane, Kalinda, and dozens of other minor, characters. It’s a sad time when around 50% of all movies fail the ridiculously simple ‘Bechdel Test’ – and ½ that pass do so by the skin of their teeth – but TGW puts women front and centre, making it a refreshing change.

The Tech: I work in IT and the tech in TGW never fails to amuse and impress, not just the kind of gadgets they use day-to-day – but the way in which cutting edge technology is often the centerpiece of a story arc, or the focus of a case. There are entire episodes based on Bitcoin, search algorithms, NSA surveillance, Reddit (Scabbit), Silk Road, drone murders, leaked documents, Anonymous, ISPs turning over IP addresses, memes, video game murders, and a recurring Google-esque client – ChumHum. You watch it and think “WTF TGW, this exact case was in the news last week!?!?” It’s easily the most tech-savvy show on the planet.

The Good Wife Peter Florrick Alicia Florrick Will Gardiner - Julianna Margulies, Archie Panjabi, Josh Charles, Christine Baranski, Matt Czuchry, Alan Cumming, Zach Grenier, Matthew Goode, Chris Noth, Titus Welliver, Scott Porter, Michael Ealy, Jill Flint, Monica Raymund, Anna Camp, Michael J. Fox, Carrie Preston, Dallas Roberts, Gary Cole, Dylan BakerMajor characters: Although Alicia is the eponymous Good Wife, there are around ten recurring characters that come in and out of the spotlight throughout the seasons. Kalinda Sharma, Will Gardner, Peter Florirck, Eli Gold, Diane Lockhart, Cary Agos, and to a lesser extent, the kids and grandparents. All of these enjoy a good share of screentime, character-building and season-spanning story arcs, that bring some much-appreciated depth to the cast – making them way more than “The husband”, “The Boss”, “The Competition”.

THE GOOD WIFE Dylan Barker Colin Sweeney Julianna Margulies, Archie Panjabi, Josh Charles, Christine Baranski, Matt Czuchry, Alan Cumming, Zach Grenier, Matthew Goode, Chris Noth, Titus Welliver, Scott Porter, Michael Ealy, Jill Flint, Monica Raymund, Anna Camp, Michael J. Fox, Carrie Preston, Dallas Roberts, Gary Cole, Dylan BakerMinor and recurring, characters: arguably the show’s best feature is the ability to craft great minor characters with very little time. David Lee (Family Law!!) is one of the best lawyers on TV; Colin Sweeney is deliciously creepy; quirky lawyer Elisabeth Tasioni, politically incorrect Senior Partner Howard Lyman, the ever-scheming Louis Canning (Michael J Fox), promiscuous brother Owen, morally sound Clark Hayden, those are just off the top of my head. These characters – and many more – are so good that you cross your fingers every episode, hoping they re-appear and you get enough time to have a proper catch up with them.

The Judges: interestingly, the show has a small roster of regular judges, each with their own personality, leniency threshold, quirks, and history with Lockhart/Gardner. You find yourself thinking “un-ohhh, this is the strict Judge” or “Yeeess, this one fancies Alicia”, or “Is that in your opinion?” Technically another bunch of minor recurring characters, but they’re definitely worthy of their own spot on the list.

The Good Wife Judge Charles Abernathy Dennis O'Hare - Julianna Margulies, Archie Panjabi, Josh Charles, Christine Baranski, Matt Czuchry, Alan Cumming, Zach Grenier, Matthew Goode, Chris Noth, Titus Welliver, Scott Porter, Michael Ealy, Jill Flint, Monica Raymund, Anna Camp, Michael J. Fox, Carrie Preston, Dallas Roberts, Gary Cole, Dylan Baker

The main reason that all of these characters are awesome is that the casting for the show is phenomenal. I can’t think of a single actor who you could say was totally mis-cast. Re-inventing actors so inseparable from their big roles – Chandler Bing, Ugly Betty, Marty McFly – making them work alongside relatively unknown / under-rated actors. Someone somewhere has outstanding vision – like a Tarantino of the TV Sphere – making something special out of people with fairly unremarkable careers. It’s a true anomaly of TV. The guest appearances are also often surprising: Eddie Izzard, Method Man, Anna Champ, Sarah Silverman… it feels like everyone is lining up to appear in the show.

The Good Wife Judge George Kluger Jeffrey Tambor - Julianna Margulies, Archie Panjabi, Josh Charles, Christine Baranski, Matt Czuchry, Alan Cumming, Zach Grenier, Matthew Goode, Chris Noth, Titus Welliver, Scott Porter, Michael Ealy, Jill Flint, Monica Raymund, Anna Camp, Michael J. Fox, Carrie Preston, Dallas Roberts, Gary Cole, Dylan Baker  The Law: probably the most important aspect of a legal program – and not that I’m a qualified lawyer or anything – but it’s one of the few shows when the law is complex, believable, but still completely accessible (usually through some ‘approach the bench’ exposition). The show’s also not obsessed with Lockhart Gardner winning every case, and you sometimes see the flipside when they have to knowingly defend a guilty party… There’s so much fiery courtroom drama that you’ll soon find yourself walking around shouting phrases like Objection! Sustained! Over-ruled! Leading the witness your honour!! STRIKE THAT!! RECUSE YOURSELF!!!

Julianna Margulies, Archie Panjabi, Josh Charles, Christine Baranski, Matt Czuchry, Alan Cumming, Zach Grenier, Matthew Goode, Chris Noth, Titus Welliver, Scott Porter, Michael Ealy, Jill Flint, Monica Raymund, Anna Camp, Michael J. Fox, Carrie Preston, Dallas Roberts, Gary Cole, Dylan BakerThe dynamics: it’s baffling that a show with such a super-broad appeal, and so many angles, still works this well. Ultimately, it appears to have been pitched at more senior viewers (median viewer age is 61 years old, and rising), yet it’s very tech-savvy and has a lot of explicitly gay/bisexual characters. It’s supposed to be about a lawyer, but that’s not even ½ of the runtime as family and politics feature heavily. It flips between serious drama, social commentary, and contemporary comedy so easily that it must be enviable to other show writers. You can watch the show as booth case-of-the-week, or appreciate the larger stories that bridge episodes and seasons. On paper it would look committee’d to death – a show that really shouldn’t work – but it’s a true anomaly.

The Good Wife Kalinda Sharma and Blake Calamar Parking Lot Baseball Bat Stand Off Fight Fashion Boots Jacket - Julianna Margulies, Archie Panjabi, Josh Charles, Christine Baranski, Matt Czuchry, Alan Cumming, Zach Grenier, Matthew Goode, Chris Noth, Titus Welliver, Scott Porter, Michael Ealy, Jill Flint, Monica Raymund, Anna Camp, Michael J. Fox, Carrie Preston, Dallas Roberts, Gary Cole, Dylan Baker

 

it’s just a shame that the title is so bad. “The Good Wife” – bleurgh! It instantly repels most male viewers (probably wimin’ too); it’s just so frustratingly vague that anyone flicking through the TV Schedules could be forgiven for not giving it a second look. It could be a show about housewifery, it could be a melodramatic soap opera, hell – it could even be a softcore Movies For Men / Cinemax / Bravo style show.

 TL; DR? Short Version: this is a peach of a show, and you should be watching it.

The Grey (AKA Wolf Punch): a suicidal wolf-sniper must lead a group of plane crash survivors back to safety when they ditch near a wolf den in Alaska. The biggest shock to me was Neeson‘s star appeal; it was the busiest screening I’ve seen in a long time – and the poster for this is just a close-up of his coupon. While there’s no other A-list actors, they’ve all been around the block and are a solid bunch of hands. The film has surprisingly artistic sensibilities; in particular the opening character building with voiceover, and overall focus / investment on the group, their dynamics, (& latterly the scenery) – instead of fighting wolves every 20 seconds.  The plane crash is overwhelming, there’s couple of solid jumps, the CGI wolves look great, the gore is pretty visual, and overall the continuous threat of attack keeps you guessing. The only real downside is that there’s not a whole lot of wolf-punching to be had, and when it happens the frenetic action cam makes a mess of it all. As for the final scene, I still can’t tell if it is the bravest, dumbest, or most disappointing in memory – definitely a bold move. Neeson gets his token action line ‘let’s sharpen a big stick and ram it up this wolf’s ass’…  as well a several emotional runs through the poem below, oh, and Taglet looks identical to Half Life’s Dr Freeman. The Grey isn’t the action-packed wolf-punching cheese-fest that you walk in expecting; instead it’s a tense, character driven well-made survival thriller; this will be a nice surprise to some, but a disappointment to others.

Score: 7/10

Once more into the fray.
Into the last good fight I’ll ever know.
Live or die on this day.
Live or die on this day.


The Good Wife (Season 2): looks at a housewife-turned-lawyer whose husband is jailed after a sex scandal. The structure of this show is great – each episode is a stand alone court case, however there are always several stories playing out in the background spanning large parts of the series. Instead of focusing just on the court cases (could become boring territory) this does well to juggle courtroom, political, and family storylines. What makes it stand out is that it feels very current – we see politicians/investigators utilising twitter, youtube, foursquare and memes; the cases  also mirror characters & events from recent high-profile headlines. Some other plus points are the brilliant writing, great casting, stunningly acted (other than Chris Noth), has too many great characters to mention, is believabile, and with Ridley & Tony Scott watching over the production you can’t really ask for more from a TV show. There are a couple of slow episodes, and one ridiculous one (Chavez), but other than those this series is TV Gold, that draws you right in to the stories – you punch the air in pivotal courtroom moments and invest in the central characters. At 23 episodes long this could have dragged, but it’s the 7 day wait between them feels like an eternity.

Score: 9/10

[Would recommend starting at season 1 – which is also great]