Monday, December 19, 2016

SHOOTER on USA - ABSOLUTELY SATISFYING ENTERTAINMENT



We live in an interesting world. For those familiar with the life quotes of the Chinese philosopher Confucius you will recall that as a curse he stated the following: "May you live in interesting times." Well, if you are alive in 2016 you are living in interesting times. We also live in a world that provides a wide variety of entertainment options. Having spent an entire life working in media in one area or another I find myself linking arms with an ever widening group of program options that are wildly dissimilar from one another.

Hence, my two favorite new shows this season are The Crown on Netflix and Shooter on USA. Lethal Weapon on Fox would rank in third place, but only because Clayne Crawford may very well be the best American actor working today. Lethal Weapon is silly, ridiculous and mostly fun, but it will not be memorable. Crawford though easily could have played Bobby Lee Swagger in USA's Shooter. As I said, my two favorite new shows are The Crown and Shooter. My tastes are diverse, but good content is good content. This would be no different than saying you love Beethoven's symphonies and much of classic rock.

The Crown is an elegant, well-written, intriguing look at the life of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. A separate review will be done for this series which is a don't miss, but Shooter is also well-written and intriguing, although no one would label it as elegant. What Shooter does have is a non-stop nervous romp of what's next and the what's next comes just about every three to four minutes in this series. There are times when I'm so nervous I end up fast-forwarding a bit to make sure the world is alright. I squirm on the couch through much of the one-hour.

Shooter is based on the Stephen Hunter best-selling 2007 book, Point of Impact. It was adapted for the big screen a few years back with Mark Wahlberg in the lead role, but the television version has already proven to be far superior to the feature film. Admittedly, creatively you can do much more with an 11 episode series (the series on USA was picked up today for a second season) than you can with a two hour film format, but that is besides the point. This series forces the viewer to pay attention. There are motives for everything in this series and you have to sit still since you have no idea what is around the corner. Bad guys are everywhere and our hero, Bobby Lee Swagger (yes, that's his last name and boy does he have it) is one of the good guys.

Some terrific performances are embedded in the weekly series with some standout work coming from Ryan Phillippe as Bobby Lee; and Omar Epps as the corrupt former Marine who is currently working for the Secret Service. Why are members of the Secret Service, the military and CIA all trying to set up former top sniper Bobby Lee Swagger? Beyond Epps, look for a solid turn by Tom Sizemore as the crooked CIA operative. Eddie McClintock is another high end corrupt government official and Cynthia Addai-Robinson plays an FBI agent who at least for the moment is attempting to assist Bobby Lee Swagger as he hides in plain sight dodging his would be assassins. These bad guys have set up Swagger as the assassin of the President of the Ukraine, even though what they really wanted was to set up Swagger to take out the U.S. President. His original would-be assassin missed both the President and Swagger. Swagger hasn't taken out either of the world leaders, but the world at-large believes he is the bad guy.

Swagger is the good guy. He was welcomed home as a hero after taking out 390 terrorists in the Middle East. He is an American Sniper who now has to find a place in society that doesn't involve sniper work. Our Swagger is smart, savvy, quick and clever. Additionally, he is unselfish and he does everything for family and country.  How do you not love Bobby Lee Swagger? By the way, he looks like Ryan Phillippe.

The suspense in this series is intense and satisfying and I can't wait until Tuesday night since I have to know what happens next. If you haven't committed to watching this show get a kick-start with the pilot which is currently On Demand. By the way, the pilot is the weakest episode. This show gets better with each passing episode.

The old NBC tag of must watch TV applies to this USA original. Shooter is must watch TV!

Copyright The Flaming Nose 2016


Sunday, December 18, 2016

Vincente Minnelli takes on Lucy & Desi with "The Long, Long Trailer"















Many thanks to Michaela and the Love Letters to Old Hollywood blog for giving us the opportunity to write a little about the charming 1953 comedy The Long, Long Trailer as a part of the Vincente Minnelli Blogathon taking place this weekend.  Be sure to visit her site and all the other terrific entries in this event!















For a TV blog like The Flaming Nose, writing about Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz is second nature.  Especially for somebody who's a Baby Boomer, the ubiquitous presence of I Love Lucy on the TV set for the past 60 years is a given.  We grew up with Lucy and Ricky Ricardo and certainly spent our childhoods -- at least I did -- watching each episode countless times and never tiring of a single one.  















To place The Long, Long Trailer in its proper time-frame, the series I Love Lucy started on network TV in the fall of 1951.  That same year writer Clinton Twiss published a novel called The Long, Long Trailer about the comic misadventures of a couple who buy a huge travel trailer. (You can read the novel here.)  Three years after Lucy's debut, MGM -- the studio where both Ball and Arnaz starred and co-starred in many films years before their TV super success -- tapped acclaimed director Vincente Minnelli to helm the lavish Technicolor comedy.  
















Minnelli, skilled in directing all genres, had the genius and nuance necessary to translate the enormous TV appeal of Lucy and Desi to the big screen, and without losing the sense that you were still watching the Ricardos even though in The Long, Long Trailer their names are Tacy and Nicky.  Viewers who had fallen in love with Lucy's antics in I Love Lucy wouldn't be disappointed with this super-sized version of their favorite and seeing the Lucy/Ricky duo in glorious Technicolor was a big plus.  















Really, The Long, Long Trailer is all about watching Lucy and Desi go through their well-known and loved paces.  Nicky is not far from Ricky as he is overwhelmed by Tacy's enthusiasm at the idea of trailer life even as he's intimidated by the sheer enormity of the beast he's about to have tethered to the back of their car.  There's a recurring comic riff about the intricate process necessary to brake the trailer to a stop, as well as the to-be-expected and hilarious problems parking and merely driving the 40-foot monstrosity over the picturesque scenery in the movie.  
















There is considerable comedy in these sequences but also some genuine tension that goes along with it. It's not only plenty difficult maneuvering that huge trailer but also not so easy getting along with a brand-new spouse in extremely close quarters.  In that sense this is much more than I Love Lucy writ large, it's a fully-developed storyline that fleshes out the characters and takes them through some heartache as well. (In terms of funny, watch for great Desi vs. the shower scene, Lucy cooking, falling in mud -- all the classic stuff!)















One of the genuine pleasures in The Long, Long Trailer is the snazzy mid-century American style seen to great advantage in the lovely color photography.  Truly scrumptious! Also delightful is the cadre of character actors who are seen throughout the film, including Marjorie Main, Keenan Wynn, Madge Blake, Herb Vigran and many more.  This is a real time machine of visual delights.  















And it's absolutely watchable, especially so for fans of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz but also just as an example of a full-blown Hollywood Grade A comedy, and that's a special commodity.  Even sans the I Love Lucy studio audience laughter (which you might miss a little during the slapstick moments), The Long, Long Trailer clearly delivers all the inherent humor.  The presence of Vincente Minnelli made the movie more than it would have been under a lesser director -- more well-rounded, more human, more touching.  



















You can watch The Long, Long Trailer here online.  

Thanks again to Love Letters to Old Hollywood for bringing the Vincente Minnelli Blogathon to life!  
























































And for a hilarious parody of the sequence in the film when Lucy and Desi sing "Breezin' Along with the Breeze" you are guaranteed to enjoy this from the Punchy Players: