The Newsroom (Season 1): a news team bring their show back to old-school and trustworthy coverage of the stories that really matter – which proves to be a controversial decision for the network and the viewers. The first thing you have to tune in to is writer Aaron Sorkin’s unrealistic ping-pong-ping-pong rapid fire dialogue. Sorkin feels like the Tarantino of scriptwriting, everything seems to make it to the screen unedited, and you can hear him through the lines, smugly asking you: “Can you hear just how smart this show is!? Did you catch that cultural reference!? Can you keep up OK? Are you impressed? Please admire me…” The show is split into two main areas – the elite production team that are trying to bring facts and ethics back into news broadcasting, and two personal love dramas between various employees. The news stuff/cable network politics is absolutely dynamite and I could watch it all day; it’s dramatic, informative, well-researched, well-written, eye-opening, and makes for some of the best acting, speeches, and #scenes I can remember watching. The love angles on the other hand completely torpedo the show: it’s old writers writing unrealistic dialogue for youths; actors struggling to play dated neurotic caricatures; stretched out sub-Dawson’s Creek relationship arcs. I hate fingering people out, but it child over-actor Alison Pill plays the most unlikable love-interest in history – a terrible actress/character combo. To top off the stupidity, there’s a throughline of abysmal slapstick moments like people walking in to doors, falling over objects, ‘hilariously’ struggling to put trousers on, and general ACME antics that would perfectly match this song. When one of the female characters gets splashed by a passing Sex and the City tour bus playing the show’s theme song, I wanted to chew my fists off – this potentially great show is jumping sharks in season 1.
It’s ironic that a ‘highbrow’ concept about how stupid TV has become, decides to devote over half of its runtime to shitty, banal and moronic will-they/won’t-they love stories, aimed squarely at the very idiots it’s trying to scold. Worse still, this is clearly Sorkin’s idea as HBO doesn’t tend to shy away from serious, engaging, and intellectual television. More than anything else, it’s a shame that the scathing, and brutally honest critique of US mainstream culture (especially tabloid press & broadcasting) loses out to second-rate soap opera stories. I can’t remember any other TV show that is so brilliant at some things (news, drama, dialogue), and inept at others (relationships, interactions, dialogue). You’ll be fist-pumping the air one minute, then tensing up in maximum cringe mode at the next. It gives with one hand, then pisses all over both of your hands. I could watch Jeff Daniels and Sam Waterson all day – and there’s a phenomenal mini series praying to be edited out of this – but in the current form, The Newsroom is one of the most frustrating TV shows you’ll ever watch.
PFR is marking the 500th post by putting up a bunch of DVD extras this week. This guest paragraph review is from Edinburgh-based Rebecca at The Thrifty Chick; a site about books, travel, music, movies – and everything else.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: finds Judy Dench, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith and a host of others playing a group of fed up retirees whose desire to avoid becoming invisibly old in the UK leads them to Jaipur in India. The plan is to age with grace amid the splendour of a luxury campus for “the elderly and beautiful”. Perhaps unsurprisingly, however, life among the marigolds is not quite the haven of tranquility our intrepid travellers had been expecting. The hotel is crumbling to the ground, and despite his best efforts the erratic management style of owner Sonny (Dev Patel) is in all likelihood making matters worse. Given time, however, this hilariously shambolic building and its colourful surroundings find their way into the hearts of (most of) the residents. The film is a little predictable in plot and at times a touch too reliant on harvesting comedy kicks from a field of well-worn “are we really still doing this” stereotypes. It did, however, do what I thought was a stellar job of highlighting some of the more emotional aspects of growing old, and it has to be applauded for putting the spotlight on an age demographic that we see so little of in the cinema. In terms of performance, Dench and Smith stood out as did Penelope Wilton, whose portrayal of Nighy’s jealous, uptight spouse was brilliantly grating. Nighy himself turned in one of those goofily endearing performances that are fast becoming his trademark. He does it well, but it would have been good to see him play one of the other strings on his bow this time. Overall, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is lighthearted and fun, spirited and colourful. It’s laugh out loud funny but it also manages to punch above its weight in emotional terms. More than anything, it left me with a real hankering to visit India. And on that note, it’s off to Trip Advisor…
Slumdog Millionaire: modern twist on the rags to riches tale as an Indian kid from the slums lands up on a game-show. There’s a lot of stock themes throughout the film; good cop / bad cop, sensible sibling / criminal sibling, life-long obsession with girl etc. Despite this Slumdog’s an entertaining story – handling and highlighting some of the best and worst aspects of growing up in India effectively. The characters are all quite memorable and it although it gets a bit far-fetched in parts it still works pretty well. For me, the growing-up section of the film was great to watch (the child actors were fantastic), but the latter part – love story – was insipid and seemed to take forever to finish. Somehow everyone looks cross-eyed, the English-Indian accents were bizarre and I couldn’t believe I made it through an Indian film without a ridiculous dance scene – never mind. Secretly wished it would have been an ‘Unusual Suspects’ ending, and he was cheating all along… no such luck. Decent film, but don’t believe the rave reviews, or that this is the ‘real’ Mumbai. Escapism!