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CATFIGHT SQUARE OFF Sandra Oh, Anne Heche, Alicia Silverstone, Amy Hill, Myra Lucretia Taylor, Ariel Kavoussi, Damian Young, Stephen Gevedon, Giullian Yao Gioiello, Dylan Baker, Onur Tuk

Catfight: after losing touch in college former friends – a struggling artist and a trophy wife – become bitter rivals, and find their lives changing dramatically at the hands of each other. This is an interesting film in that it’s the type of movie that doesn’t really get made anymore. It feels like something from the early 2000s: quirky and eccentric “Woody Allen style” New York caricatures coming together in a semi-absurd plot that could have come from someone like Todd Solondz or Larry David. It’s also refreshing in that you don’t often get to see female actors in this age bracket lead a movie. Both Sandra Oh and Anne Heche get to chance to showcase their fine acting chops – playing irritating characters, but making the most of the comedy in the script through their respective stereotypes. The film’s performances complement Tukel’s unique directorial voice and style, although his ability to craft and capture so many deadpan scenes, wry cameos, and absurd lines is what shines the brightest – this absolutely smashed through the six-laugh test.  Where the movie fell down for me was that it took a lot of swipes in the background at American culture, the U.S. government, foreign wars, inequality, topical Television shows, etc… This felt like easy – even lazy – targets for a film with this much promise and talent, and distracted from the central rivalry. The three prolonged ‘slobber-knocker’ fights also push the film momentarily from comedy & satire into a cartoonish farce: the hits are too big, with ‘wooshing’ & ‘crunching’ sound effects that become ridiculous, and the sequences feel much longer than they needed to be – although the film is called Catfight…. Catfight feels genuinely refreshing – coming through in an time where the majority of movies feel more like ‘safe investments’ designed by committee, that actively avoid taking any risks. This feels unique, original, fresh, and although it doesn’t land every punch, it’s is more than funny enough to remain entertaining for the duration.

Score: 7/10

CATFIGHT ALICIA Sandra Oh, Anne Heche, Alicia Silverstone, Amy Hill, Myra Lucretia Taylor, Ariel Kavoussi, Damian Young, Stephen Gevedon, Giullian Yao Gioiello, Dylan Baker, Onur Tukel

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 Good Wife (Season 3): following on directly from Season 2, we follow Alicia and her law firm Lockhart/Gardner through another bout of legal battles. I don’t know how they do it but the cases from each episode are unbelievably up to date – superinjunctions / killer computer gamers / internet money / pharmaceutical lawsuits… The central characters and a handful of smaller roles remain consistent and are continually developed, within story arcs that are still both intense and engaging. Season three goes further in exploring and pushing the dynamics between these characters too, and with acting this good, it simply makes for brilliant viewing. New characters and stories are drafted in as late as the penultimate episode, which does leave the finale a bit too open-ended for me, but it’s still a major cliffhanger. Alicia remains superb; Will shines in the first half, but fades out in the second; Diane is dynamite; Carry and Eli get more meaty roles; and even Chris Noth kicks it up to the next level. Although it’s not dominating, there’s an emphasis on silly stories and comedy characters to broaden the show’s appeal in this season: anything involving the kids is usually ridiculous and unnecessary; the tangent featuring cheese & food lobbying is beyond stupid, not to mention unfunny; also, characters like Will’s sisters feel like they’ve been plopped in the wrong show – these elements do nothing but bring down the highbrow tone and detract from the drama – what’s worse is that there’s more than enough entertainment in the established characters played by Alan Cumming, Zach Grenier, Michael J Fox,  and Dylan Baker – to mention a few. As far as quality TV goes, The Good Wife doesn’t have much competition at the moment, and with the exception of a one poorly judged side-story and a few stupid minor characters this show hits more home runs than Barry Bonds. Phenomenally well-written, well-balanced, well-acted, well-directed, funny, dramatic, twisty, unpredictable, confrontation, love, lust, and it’s all believable… I can’t recommend this show enough, but do yourself a favour and start from the very beginning.

Score: 9/10

Also, a big shout out to the people at The Good Wife fan forum who brought me a load of traffic last year! Cheers.

Matador: a struggling salesman and troubled hitman meet in a bar… no it’s not a joke! First thing’s first, Brosnan absolutely owns this film as an alcoholic, borderline psychopathic, burn-out, jaded, lonely, vulgar assassin with homosexual undertones, including a wicked tache and fashion sense. He is nothing short of pure entertainment, with great comedy timing and black comedy vibe, effortlessly creating an unforgettable character. Greg Kinnear’s also rock solid, and plays the straight-laced guy perfectly – because there’s only two mains they’re both fleshed out well. There’s a great off-kilter tone throughout and it harks back to the classic screwballs – which keeps the film interesting. Visually, it’s delightful with lots of bright colours, tourist-friendly cinematography and some unique direction. There’s a few great songs masterfully inserted too. Of all the decent things that Broz has ever done, this is the one film that put him up for a Golden Globe – make sure you see why! Bottom line, it’s a well-made, very funny, black screwball comedy with two great characters at the centre.

Score: 8.5/10