Saturday, October 26, 2013

What else can be said? Golden Girls Lego!

That's right! One dedicated fan is currently selling these hand-made sets through their Etsy store. While sold out at the moment, the "Golden Girls" Lego set creator told The Huffington Post that he would have 100 more in stock at some point over the weekend.  
Makes me wonder if there's a market for Lucy Lego.  I'd immediately have to build a replica of the Ricardo's apartment.  Oh, to have Fred & Ethel at each other's plastic throat.  Or... will the copyright police clamp down on all this?  Food for thought, entrepreneurs!

You can read the original story in the Huffington Post - Gay Voices

Friday, October 25, 2013

Blackfish: The Dark Side of Free Willy

I used to live about a mile away from the (now closed) Marineland oceanarium in Palos Verdes California.  It opened in 1954 and had as its main attractions a pilot whale (named Bubbles) and two orcas (Orky and Corky).  The original orcas at the exhibit died, so Marineland just got two new ones and named them Orky and Corky too.  The unfortunate orca replacements lived a lot longer.  Their "home" consisted of a murky cement hole about 30 feet across.  I remember thinking it was a horrible place for such majestic, intelligent animals to live.  Even now when I think about it, I feel sick.  Other large animals at the park had terrible environments as well.  There was a walrus who had gone insane from his captivity, and found solace by lurching out of the filthy depths of his small tank suddenly so the tourists would scream.
I have not been to an animal water park in decades, just don't have the stomach for it.  But the Sea World parks continue to thrive, charging Disneyland-type ticket prices and making millions off of orcas, their star performers.  I think it's time for that to stop, and the movie "Blackfish" confirms my belief.  This documentary focuses on Tilikum, an orca captured as a calf in the wild and confined to various Sea World pools his entire life.  He's gone psycho (who wouldn't?) and has lashed out by killing some of his trainers.  The most recent was Dawn Bracheau, who was dragged under water by her ponytail and drowned.
Orcas are the top ocean predators on earth.  They are extremely intelligent and they hunt in packs.  They are the only animal that has been observed attacking and eating Great White Sharks. If you can turn a one ton eating machine into dinner, you are absolutely the top of the food chain.  And yet, there have been no recorded incidents of orcas fatally attacking humans in the wild.  They have only done so in captivity.
So why are these amazing animals kept on display in tiny habitats, performing tricks like a poodle?  It's the same reason humans have done horrible things to animals and other people throughout history: money.  Orcas make a fortune for Sea World. 
Blackfish aired on CNN on October 24th and will air again this Sunday.  If you're planning a trip to Sea World with the family anytime soon, this movie will make you reconsider.  A trip to Disneyland instead might cause less trauma to your conscience.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Walking Dead is #1: Is Your Zombie Attack Plan Ready?

Halloween is right around the corner, so it's the perfect time to reflect upon the considerable contribution the "undead" have made to TV and movie content lately. Most people would agree that it's great not to be dead.  Unless you're the cast and crew of AMC's #1 television series, The Walking Dead, in which case the deader the better.  Zombies are the premier bad guys in 2013, and no where is this more true than on The Walking Dead as it enters its 4th season. A few years back vampires were the horror hotties, and it's easy to see why.  Pin-up boy vamps on HBO's True Blood (Alexander Skarsgard, anyone?) and the Twilight franchise in the theater (Taylor Lautner, omg) have turned more than a few heads.  But the monster-du-jour that everyone is clamoring for today is less likely to be buff and more likely to be squishy.  In spite of their decaying flesh, missing eyeballs and questionable sense of fashion, Zombies are now the darlings of pop culture.
I've been thinking a lot lately about what makes The Walking Dead so attractive and popular for its TV fans. This season's premier was seen by 16.1 million viewers, which makes it the highest rated entertainment show on cable television ever.  I actually got hooked on it over the summer, and binge viewed my way through two seasons on Netflix in one week and then, to my great astonishment, found myself buying season three on iTunes, something I have never done for any show before.  Why did I become a zombie for the Zombies?  I don't even really like Zombies, to be frank.  Never have before.  They aren't very bright.  You couldn't have an ironic conversation with one at a dinner party.  They are...messy.  And most likely odiferous.
So what's the big deal, why is everyone turning cartwheels for The Walking Dead?  The characters are certainly part of the draw.  Very compelling, powerful and attractive (unlike their zombie foes).  Danai Gurira as the African American sword wielding loner is wonderful and Norman Reedus is outstanding as a scruffy red neck with a heart of gold (and a mean cross-bow).  Andrew Lincoln is the emotional center and capable leader of the surviving humans who are still hiding in a prison from the ravenous "walkers" in this season's end-of-the-world tale.  And I hope to hell they get out of their cell block set soon.  Seriously, a rocky mountain or tropical island change of venue is long overdue.


Plenty of other shows have terrific characters, so that only partially explains why TWD has gone straight to the top of the ratings pile.  I think there is a more cultural, perhaps sinister explanation for its popularity.  We are living in uncertain times.  Terrorism, school shootings, unemployment, government's a jungle out there.  I think people enjoy watching The Walking Dead because its post apocalyptic picture of America is the only thing WORSE than turning on the news and hearing that the U.S. middle class has gone belly up. In real life your 401K has shrunk to the size of a pine nut and you don't have to worry about retirement anymore because you'll be working until you're 90 just to survive.  But at least you don't have to fight off smelly walkers everyday and you can still buy pumpkin ice cream at Trader Joe's for a comfort food fix.  The folks on The Walking Dead eat cold beans out of a can on a good day.
The Walking Dead is on AMC on Sundays at 9pm.  You can catch up on past episodes with cable Demand or Netflix.  And if you really want to impress your Walking Dead loving friends this Halloween, download one of the half dozen zombie apps for Apple or Android which will instantly convert a photo of YOU into a lurching, drooling, lovable zombie of your own. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

HBO Tonight: "Life According to Sam" -- and Yours May Never Be the Same Again...

Once again HBO brings us something sublime and wonderful; tonight it's the premiere of an irresistible documentary entitled Life According to Sam, from Oscar and Emmy-winning producers Sean and Andrea Nix Fine.  Who is Sam?  Sam is Sam Berns, 16 years old (he turns 17 this Oct. 23rd, in fact), a brilliant, funny, delightful, energetic teenager who just happens to have been born with progeria, the unusual disorder that causes youngsters to age rapidly and for which there is currently no cure.

You've probably seen documentaries on TLC or Discovery about kids with progeria; several have been made about this incredible syndrome.  I have long been fascinated by progeria; I first read about it, I'm sure, in the National Enquirer years ago.  That disreputable but crowd-pleasing publication regularly featured stories on progeria-affected children, and though the magazine was only trying to sell papers, what it also did was help bring the stories of these extraordinary children to light at a time when almost no one had heard about the condition.  I was immediately taken with their unique and I've always thought almost magical appearance; they looked to me like super-evolved humans of the future, with their wizened features and hairless domes.  But they're not that; they're only children laboring under early-onset physical maladies of the type many of us will eventually succumb to -- strokes, vascular issues -- only it will takes us decades to get there, and they start out that way.

Life According to Sam is also very much about Sam's parents Scott and Leslie, both doctors, who have taken their love for their own son and their concern for other children with progeria and worked to make a difference -- a real life-changing difference -- in their lives.  We get to see how Leslie has turned progeria research into her medical specialty and come up with tangible results.  We also get to meet other children with progeria who along with Sam are taking part in the medical trials which are part of the arduous process.  Lest you think that this research could only benefit the admittedly small number -- probably less than 150 -- of children currently diagnosed with progeria, the aging process that is overtaking their bodies is the same one, though eight to tens times faster for them, that we all are facing.  Discoveries for these kids might end up helping us all in some way.

You will want to visit the HBO website for Life According to Sam for more information about Sam, his family and the work they are doing; click here. Be sure also to visit the filmmakers' own website about the film for much more background info.  Wikipedia has a fairly concise explanation of progeria here.  People had a profile on Sam ten years ago which you can read here.  Katie Couric had Sam and his parents on her show last week in anticipation of tonight's premiere; you can watch the interview segments here.  Click here for a nice write-up on the special from the Boston NPR station; much of the progeria research is being undertaken at Boston's Children's Hospital.  In addition to those documentaries on TLC, three years ago Barbara Walters did a segment for ABC News entitled 7 Going on 70; watch a little promo for it here and there are links to the full report also.  7 Going on 70 featured young Hayley Okines who has written a book about her life; more information on it here.

I think you're going to become fascinated by progeria after you watch Life According to Sam.  I know you're going to fall in love with Sam Berns.

Life According to Sam premieres on HBO tonight at 9pm, with frequent encores throughout the next several weeks, on HBO On Demand and their online HBO Go service.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The CW Network Fall 2013 -- Odds Bodkins! Smells Like Teen Spirit, All Right...

Though a couple of these premiered on CW last week, better to let the dust settle on the other networks, and settle it has.  FYI, ABC has already lost the much-touted Tuesday night 10pm series Lucky 7 and CBS pulled the plug on their Monday night We Are Men, to be replaced by the returning Mike and Molly which had been on the bench for mid-season.

On CW, Tuesday nights lead off with The Originals, a spin-off from the net's successful The Vampire Diaries.  It's set in New Orleans, does not have high-school kids, has vampires and werewolves and vampire/werewolf babies and a built-in fan base. The Originals has already received an order for additional scripts and this one looks like it's a perfect example of the CW knowing its audience.  Interestingly, though ABC's Marvel Agents of Shield was a huge hit right out of the box there has been a drop which would seem to leave things looking even better for The Originals.  The series stars Brit Joseph Morgan (The Immortals, The Vampire Diaries, Doc Martin, Master and Commander), Daniel Gillies (The Vampire Diaries, Saving Hope, Into the West, True Blood, Spider-Man 2), Claire Holt (The Vampire Diaries, Pretty Little Liars, H2O: Just Add Water, the Australian mermaid series), Phoebe Tonkin (The Vampire Diaries, H2O: Just Add Water, The Secret Circle, Bait), Charles Michael Davis (The Vampire Diaries, Switched at Birth, Grey's Anatomy), Daniella Pineda (Homeland, Hey Girl, Men of a Certain Age, Inside Amy Schumer, The Vampire Diaries), Leah Pipes (Glee, The Vampire Diaries, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles), and Danielle Campbell (Prison Break, Drop Dead Diva).  The Originals airs Tuesday nights at 8pm on the CW, starting October 8th.

Wednesdays at 9pm CW offers up The Tomorrow People, based on a British series of the same name and centered around the precarious existence of teenagers with inherited superpowers and the folks who want to exploit them for their own nefarious ends.  Telekinesis, Teleportation and Telepathy -- Oh my!  These kids aren't just human, they're superhuman, and that's the problem.  Viewed as a threat by a secret military offshoot named Ultra, the Tomorrow teens are literally running for their lives.  The Tomorrow People stars Robbie Amell (real-life cousin to CW's Arrow star Stephen Amell, Alcatraz, Revenge, 1600 Penn, True Jackson, VP), Luke Mitchell (heart throb from the Australian serial drama Home and Away, H2O: Just Add Water), Peyton List (Mad Men, Charlie's Angels, Smallville, 90210, FlashForward, Big Shots, Windfall), Aaron Yoo (The Bedford Diaries, Disturbia, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, Gamer), Mark Pellegrino (Revolution, Dexter, Supernatural, Being Human, The Closer, Lost) and Madeleine Mantock (Brit med series Casualty).  Do we think this is something anybody other than a disgruntled teenager might want to watch?  Probably not.  (You will love this terrific review from Tim Goodman of The Hollywood Reporter -- hilarious.)  But don't let that stop you!  The Tomorrow People airs Wednesdays at 9pm on the CW, starting October 9th.

Even crabby teens may not want to tune into the CW's new take on medieval history with Reign, a melodrama detailing the romantic troubles of Scottish royal Mary Stuart and the manboys in tights who love her.  Turning the court of France into something resembling the halls of a posh high school on Renaissance dress-up day may not in fact be much of a stretch, but evidently (according to the buzz) Reign goes even beyond the CW's usual pandering to their demographic. Nobody expects an AP History class here, and if it perhaps sparks a real interest in a young person to read more about the actual history it would be a great thing, but it seems unlikely that will happen here.

The cast is gorgeous, though, pretty much a CW requirement:  Australian actress Adelaide Kane (Teen Wolf, Donner Pass, Power Ranger R.P.M.) is the ravishing young Mary Stuart, Canadian actress Megan Follows (Anne of Green Gables, World Without End, I Am Number Four, Heartland) is Queen Catherine of France, Toby Regbo (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows) is a handsome French prince, Torrance Coombs (The Tudors, Heartland, Endgame) is a troublesome illegitimate prince, Canadian Alan Van Sprang (The Tudors, The Immortals, ReGenesis, Being Erica) is King Henry, and others to fill out the codpieces and bodices as the gender requires.  We forgot to mention that Nostradamus -- he of the mysterious quatrains -- makes appearances in Reign, only he's not a decrepit hoary soothsayer but a swarthy hunk played by Canadian actor Rossif Sutherland (E.R.). Tim Goodman from The Hollywood Reporter has supplied another cogently hilarious review of Reign here, as has Robert Biancho writing for USA Today here.  On the other hand, E Entertainment thought it was terrific.  If you are so far out of the demo range that you feel like you were actually there in the 16th Century, then methinks Reign won't be your cup of mead.  Reign airs Thursday on the CW at 9pm, premiering Thursday, October 17th.

More on the Fall Season as we review some of the new offerings and keep up with cancellations such as the two so far that we mentioned in the opening paragraph.  More to come, no doubt.

No matter what, there is a plethora of new shows available for viewing, certainly something for everyone and then some, so don't waste your time with something you don't care for.  You will find your true TV love!