You blow my mind Banshee…see you in 2015

Banshee-S1-BD_01Banshee is in one word, bad ass.

I started watching the Cinemax original series last year when it first debuted and was hooked after the first episode. The concept — ex-con assumes the identity of the town’s new sheriff (Lucas Hood) to hide from a Ukrainian crime lord named Rabbit — sounded  intriguing, in a TV world that was growing overwhelmingly supernatural. Set in the small town of Banshee in Pennsylvania — amid Amish country and land of fictional Native American tribe, the Kinaho  — the show is what I call a mix The Sopranos, meets Six Feet Under, meets Boardwalk Empire. (A brain child of Alan Ball, I expect nothing less.) Nothing about the seemingly simple premise is what it seems. Banshee creators have managed to do in two ten-episode seasons, what many shows, sans a  few, fail to do in five or more. It keeps you  guessing and on the edge of your seat with high octane action week after week that leaves you tweeting: holy shit! Did that just happen ?!?! 

Everything about Banshee is sublime. The writing is incredible, acting superior, and its ten episode season the right mix of energy and storyline that leaves you breathless, panting for more. I can’t believe Season 2 is over already. Seems like it just started. And when I said leaves you panting, I meant it. Let’s just say, there is plenty of skin… and heat. And tweeting, yes tweeting. Banshee creators have used transmedia storytelling (a concept that’s been talked about for years by PR and marketing folks – like moi!)  to bring the world of Banshee, PA to life, which includes back story content on the show’s characters  on the show’s website (such as video and graphic novel), the main story, and real time engagement from the show’s actors on Twitter every week. Yeah, you heard that right. The  show’s creators and actors actually engage online every week with the group of fans, otherwise known as #fanshees and us girls who dig the show, #fansheegirls.  I sadly missed out on a lot of this activity this season. A busy couple of months meant my Banshee time was relegated to the weekend (and after hours when the 5yo was asleep). However, the team at Banshee and its followers do engage after the show airs and throughout the weekend, so I still got a little engagement. I fully plan to be back next season, Friday night plans be damned!

Let me stop here for a moment to wax poetic about the cast of Banshee. Everyone is great, but Antony Starr (Sheriff Hood), Ivana Milicevic (Carrie/Anna), Ulrich Thomsen (Kai), Frankie Faison (Sugar), Hoon Lee (Job) and Matt Rauch (creepy Clay Burton) take the cake. I can’t say enough about each of them. Each of these actors bring a mix of grit, emotion, and physicality that pushes everything we know of good programs to the limit, delivering beyond excellence. We believe Ivana is Carrie. We believe Starr is Hood. Their pain, and lost years, are our pain and lost years. The time Hood served, every horror he experienced behind bars, we can identify with. And Anna’s ferocity to protect her family – I don’t have to tell any mother out there anything about that because if pushed, we would not just push back but fight and fight hard – and Anna fights with every force of her ability, to protect her children and I identify with that. Its palpable. Its excruciating. Its spine tingling. And I just. can’t. get. enough.

Moments from this season I can’t seem to shake:

  • Episode 5, “The Truth About Unicorns” – this episode had to be one of the most incredible pieces of television I have ever seen (right up there with the Red Wedding on Game of Thrones). Deviating from the madness of Banshee for nearly an entire episode,  Hood and Anna are given a chance to look back and see what life may have been had he not been sent to jail fifteen years ago. A life where they make it out of the crime ridden world they both reside, and live free from Rabbit, free from fear. A world where we finally see what both of them have been thinking about since the show started: a world where he becomes a father, where fifteen years in prison is spent instead, living and laughing and loving.  The way it was shot and the editing was a huge part of what made it feel part of another world, and it underscored my believe that everything about Banshee, in front of the cameras and behind, is superbly done. And while it was meant to be dreamy, the reality check was harsh:  that which was dreamed, never was and will never be. It gave me goosebumps.
  • Emmett and the Loss of Life  – when Emmett’s wife was kicked in the stomach, which lead to her losing their child, I wept silently. To lose  someone you never met, but had high hopes for, no matter the stage of your pregnancy, weeks or months, is a pain you never get over. I also wept for the destruction it caused in Emmett, bringing years of resentment for the society he was born into but would never truly feel he belonged, bubbling to the surface. His actions led to the horribly raw death of both he and his wife. Their beautiful hearts were cut short way too soon and I don’t blame Demetrius Grosse (the actor whom portrays Emmett) from being angry about his character’s death. I would be too. And I was.
  • Kai and His Niece Sitting in a Tree, Hopefully Not K-I-S-S-I-N-G – it sure did look like they were going there. Where? Just where I said, there. And if they really are going there, I can’t. I just can’t. But the view into the whole Amish world is fascinating and the relationship between Kai and his mother is something to explore. And his niece, damn it if in all her freakishness, she isn’t turning into a bit of a Boss herself? Which leads me to Clay.
  • Creepy Clay Burton – I love Matt Rauch. He’s a great actor. And while he says very little (if anything at all), when he’s around, you know it’s not good. So the scene in the hotel room, where he is cleaning up the mess left behind by Kai’s niece’s tryst with Jason Hood? Well its a moment of creepy, but brilliant acting and directing.
  • The Son of Lucas Hood – If the son of the real Sheriff Hood came and went, whose to say the baby mamma isn’t far behind?
  • So Long Alex Longshadow – to be honest, he was a prick. Chief Benjamin Longshadow would  have been better putting his daughter Nola at the head of the tribe. She’s tough, smart, has a set of steel balls that are unlike her brother’s, and she’s gorgeous. However, Alex’s death in the finale seemed random and a bit maniacal and did spur on the return of Chayton Littlestone. And with a first name that is the same as my son’s middle (different spelling, but also Native American in origin and ancestry) he can’t be too bad. Or can he? Dude is vicious. He is bad, and more.
  • The Lives Not Lived of Lucas Hood – In the finale, Lucas’ response of “none really” to Carrie’s question “how many lives have you lived?” begs the question, what else does Hood have in his past. A past that is pre Carrie. Pre Rabbit. Pre prison. Is there a new world we are going to be introduced to now that Rabbit is dead, the secret of Dava’s father is out, and Kai out of prison? We can only guess. And wait.

How many days again until season 3? All I know is we have to wait until 2015. 2015!! Such a long time. What will we do? Oh that’s right, we will wait until the first glimpse of next season starts to circulate next year. Until then, we always have trailers from this season.

Movie review: The return of Veronica Mars

veronica_marsA long time ago, we used to be friends…

I loved the TV show Veronica Mars. Love, love, loved it. It was only on for three years (2004-2007) but during those three years I watched religiously. Whenever the show’s opening credits rolled, accompanied by the Dandy Warhol’s “We Used to Be Friends,” I’d get excited. It would  be a few years before I would be bitten by the Twilight bug,  but even then I had chosen a team for our female hero’s paramour, and that was Team Logan.  I loved Veronica and Logan together because they were the quintessential couple that shouldn’t be: he, a cool but dysfunctional  guy, thanks to his movie star turned killer father. She, the school pariah thanks to her father, the former Sherriff, having been set up by dirty cops sending his reputation and hers, into the garbage. It was everything about YA drama that I love:  hate you/love you story lines.

When I learned last year a movie was in the works after years of outcry from fans to bring back the hip, tech savvy Nancy Drew of Neptune High, I was stoked. Yes, you read that, stoked. It had been six years since the show ended and a lot of us in the VM fan universe had not been satisfied by the way the series ended: an incomplete story line and unsolved love triangle. For years  the rumor mill swirled around a possible show reprisal, followed by desperate hope for a made for TV movie. Something, anything, that would bring back Veronica, and Logan, and everyone else that made the show enjoyable, to give us just one last look in the seedy, lavish, often crime ridden world of Neptune, California.

While many of the shows stars and producers had expressed interest in doing a VM movie over the years, words are hardly enough to get a movie made. So when producer Rob Thomas put up a Kickstarter page to solicit donations, fans flocked to the site (including myself) donating whatever they could. Thomas’ $2 million goal was reached within hours, and by the end of the campaign, a record breaking $6 million had been raised proving fans would do just about anything to get a Veronica Mars  movie made. I’m glad sites like Kickstarter exist. It gives projects that may not otherwise see the light of day, a chance to be made.  Which is exactly what had been the case with VM.

I saw the movie on Saturday night. Thanks to a limited theater release, the movie also premiered on PPV, so I got to enjoy it from the comfort of my own couch.  It would have been fun to see on the big screen, but I am glad I got to curl up with my favorite blanket and save a few bucks. While I loved seeing everyone again, it did feel a bit like a  made for TV movie, and truth be told, would have been a bit bummed to have spent $12.50 on a ticket. However, I do respect what they were able to do on their limited budget and like that the movie answered some of the basic questions that many fans had been asking since the show ended, including the biggest: would Logan and Veronica ever get back together?

Sounds like reviews have been somewhat favorable. I don’t know if it was big enough of a hit to spawn a sequel or two, but it was nice to close the book on a show that was such a part  of my 29 year old heart in what I felt was a pretty satisfactory way. Could it have been better? Sure. But for $6M they did good. The chemistry was still there with Veronica and Logan, however admittedly, he was less Wily and she while still snarky, a bit more serious than catty. Maybe it was the story line – he being accused of murder and she back to dealing with some of the same a-holes that made her life miserable as a teen. But even during the show’s run, the snark combated any drama that came their way.  I did love Veronica had a chance to have her own slice of redemption against the popular girl that made her life hell back in high school. (No spoilers!) All I will say without going into details, is that every girl dreams of that moment, no matter how far they have come or cool their life is now. So from the mentions that were a flashback to the show (“our story is epic“) to the  song’s end credits (the show’s opening credits music back in the day), it was a nice walk down memory lane.

Old love for Foster the People’s new song “Coming of Age”

I’m a writer, but I’m often without words. There are some moments in time, feelings, and memories that are just too hard to describe. Moments that have left me breathless. Speechless. Utterly unable to put a string of words together. And as a lover of words, that’s hard to admit.

But music…music has that potential, and for me, has always been that one thing that has helped me to say what it is I am trying to remember, what I am trying to feel, what it is I am trying to describe. And in Foster the Peoples new video “Coming of Age,” they have managed to capture a moment in time that has always been hard for me to describe as one of my favorites: the 80s.

I loved the 80s. The music. The movies. The excess. The way the world worked and my perception of that big world while looking up at it from my childhood.  It wasn’t just a time of neon, hair bands and New Wave. It was the time of my youth. Of recording “Friday Night Videos” so I could watch the next morning. Of dreaming Jake Ryan was my boyfriend. Of friendship bracelets and parachute pants. Of The Go Go’s and Valley Girl. Of mixed tapes and Michael Jackson. Of everything about growing up I think back to fondly because it was the most simple and fun time I’ve had. The most fun that we’ve all probably had, only mine was in the 80s, while yours could have been in the the 90s or 70s, maybe even 60s. It was my childhood and I was just lucky enough to experience it through the Aqua net haze of the 80s. And this video so effortlessly summed that up by putting to music the excitement, fun, and energy of my youth.

Well done Foster the People, well done.

Kicking 2013 to the curb with DJ Earworm’s “United State of Pop 2013: Living the Fantasy”

I for one, wasn’t sad to see 2013. And I know I’m not alone.  I think the year sucked. On one had, I landed my dream job, which was pretty incredible, and met some incredible new people and traveled a bit, to places new and familiar. On the other, it well, kinda sucked. The energy was weird, the struggles, when they occurred, were big, and I just felt this black cloud looming overhead all year long. I can’t say anything nice about 2013 other than I’m glad its over.

However…

DJ Earworm, AKA Jordan Roseman, a San Francisco-based mashup artist, released his annual “United State of Pop” mashup in mid December – an ode to 2013 called “Living the Fantasy.” Featuring the top 25 songs of the year including Avicii’s “Wake Me Up,” Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive,” Lorde’s “Royals” and Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball” pretty heavily,  I think it is not only his best United States of Pop mashup yet, but one of the best pieces of music I have heard in a long, long time. He has to be a mad genius to bring together so many songs and tell a story – and pull together a video to accompany as well. I was sure he had some help there, but apparently he does that, too. See where trolling away on your Macbook can take you?

I play it daily. It makes me happy. It reminds me that while 2013 may have been a year of black clouds and twerking, there was some good tunes in it and they deserve to be celebrated. It also reminds me that ding dong, the year past is gone and 2014 has arrived with great energy and  signs it just may be a pretty damn good year.

Cool Songs in Movies (and on TV): Mariah, Mercy, a McDonald and a Matthew

I was disappointed in Oz The Great and Powerful. As far as movies go, I was left wanting more. I thought the colors were incredible, but the talent of Rachel Weisz and James Franco incredibly wasted, and Michelle Williams too soft and vapid. Mila Kunis was gorgeous, but her Wicked Witch of the West paled in comparison to Margaret Hamilton, who to this day is the only actress to portray the character beyond imagination. I said all this months back when the movie first hit theaters. You can check out my review here.

All this said, now that it has hit the Starz channel and on rotation nearly daily, I’ve had a chance to watch it again and while I still think it was capable of so much more I did discover the second go around, a gem – a song during the end credits that I may have caught had perhaps I stuck around the theater long enough the first time. But I hadn’t. I broke my golden rule. Credits = music, and assuming the score would be as much of a bore as the flick, I hightailed it out of there instead of sticking around for hidden surprises like behind the scenes outtakes, sneak peek’s at future movies and well, music. After all, the end credits were the best part of the first Twilight film; the samples from the soundtrack that accompanied the millions of names scrolling up the screen  worth the hour and a half of bad teen angst acting.

But I digress….

Back to Oz.

I had to Shazam it because I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. For a music lover with a deep appreciation for the human voice, I was stunned. The tune was glorious in the way only one accompanying a major Hollywood film would be, but it was that voice. It was familiar, but almost forgotten; its divinity  lost years ago.  It was …Mariah Carey? A non-shrieking, solid vocal performance from the diva whose music I once sang along to before she got all Honey on me? Mon dieu!

I have never heard this song until a few days ago, but have to say, I was impressed and hope there is more tricks left in MC’s bag. I sure hope so. The Emancipation of Mimi album was LONG overdue and I am anxious for another solid album.

“Almost Home” by Mariah Carey

Two other recent discoveries come from the CW’s new show, The Originals. I am a huge fan of The Vampire Diaries’ spinoff. Set in the city of New Orleans (my kindred soul mate, if a city could be one), the show focuses on the remaining members of the original vampire family – siblings Klaus, Elijah and Rebekah. The acting is solid  – both Joseph Morgan and Claire Holt incredibly talented, stealing many scenes of TVD episodes over the past few seasons – and plot line compelling, a well written new spin on the witches vs. vampires tale started over on TVD and carried deliciously over to The Originals. And…like most CW shows, the music featured in each episode is just the way I like it: indie and emo, with a tad of edge to keep it interesting.  Many of the artists featured in episodes so far I was introduced to through TVD. But so far this season a couple of favorites are singles from Mercy and Moby featured in episode 3, “Tangled Up in Blue.”

“Mercy” from Hurts

“A Case for Shame (with Cold Specks)” from Moby

I also must share a new tune discovery from one of my fun favorites Drop Dead Diva – a show which thankfully found new life after having been cancelled by its home network and producer, Lifetime.

Sometimes the emotions in a friendship are stronger than words can describe, and Shawn McDonald’s song “Through it All” was the perfect song choice for Season 5’s Episode 11, which saw best friends Jane and Stacey finding meeting in the middle after…well, you just need to watch the show because it’s too hard to explain. But it was after an “oh no she didn’t!” moment that I thought nothing could repair.

I found the version of the song they used in the episode on iTunes, but all of the videos on You Tube are a different version and trust me, the one from the show was incredible.  So, for now, a small clip will have to do. Click here and then click on the song title, “Through it All.”

And lastly, this ethereal beauty was discovered in last week’s episode of Witches of East End on Lifetime. And before you judge me, I will say the show is fabulous! I thought it would be a cross between Desperate Housewives and that tragic show about scandalous maids on Lifetime, but it’s not. It’s fabulous and wicked and I hope (fingers crossed) good enough to make it another season.

Matthew Perryman Jones’ “Canción de la Noche” caught me totally by surprise.  It was quiet, and simple, and haunting, and everything about music I love. A song that reached into my chest and squeezed tight. It’s a powerful song, telling a story that seems to be of both this world and another. Check it out, you’ll see.

That’s it for now. But I have a ton of shows to catch up on, so don’t be surprised if you see another post in the days following with more delightful discoveries. Until then download these finds, slip on your headphones, and drift slowly off to sleep.

Moview Review: The Great Gatsby

I didn’t get a chance to see The Great Gatsby when it hit theaters this past spring. I was anxious to see it. I really love Baz Luhrman’s work. It’s over the top and visually stimulating, and always good about pin-pointing a period of time with a subtle weave of modern day accessibility via score and soundtrack. Also, I am a huge F. Scott Fitzgerald fan. A few of the story nuances may have gotten tangled in that cobweb filled, lit-obsessed mind of mine, but the story is synonymous with everything I love about his work:  the decadence, idealism, and excess of the Jazz Age, coupled alongside impractical and incredibly tender and eloquent stories of youth and love that is often suffocated and tainted by the greed filled society that surrounds them. (Phew, wish I could have summed up my words like THAT in college).

I will admit, I wasn’t a fan of the 1974 film starring Robert Redford. The man is gorgeous, of course. I mean, stunning in the way J. Gatsby should be. But the film always failed to bring out the opulence of the Jazz Age, and Mia Farrow’s Daisy Buchanan always appeared dingy and flighty, not self centered or narcissistic in the way those of us who have a love/hate relationship with Fitzgerald’s Daisy imagine her to be.  Check out the original trailer below, you will see what I mean.

Stark contrast to the high energy, totally stunning, reel you in trailer from Luhrman:

Farrow’s Daisy  also wasn’t nearly as stunning as Carey Mulligan’s Daisy. I know movies have changed a lot in the past 35 years, so maybe some of the look in feel of the film and its characters were transformed in a way now, that they couldn’t be, then. But Farrow’s Daisy was always off and that ruins a movie for me…when you can’t love/hate the character the same way on the screen as you do in the book because of bad casting. (You hear me Kristen Stewart??)

People can say what they want about Leo DiCaprio, but I happen to like the actor. I think he has gotten unfairly overlooked by the Academy over the years. Some of his films have been incredible – Blood Diamond and Inception to name a few. But I feel like no one has ever really given him a fair chance since Titanic. To this I have to say come on! You gave Kate Winslet a chance to move past the film, people really should let Leo move on, too. And he didn’t look too bad. His “old sport” was a bit irritating, but they were in the book as well. There is actually a point in the movie where I am so in love with the both of them (Caprio’s Gatsy and Mulligan’s Daisy), they look that good together, that I almost forget Daisy is a self obsessed snob and he, nothing but a bootlegger.

Luhrman was careful not to forget to focus on the exquisite writing of Fitzgerald using key moments in the film to underscore the brilliance of his work by bringing the words to life on screen, including my favorite line from the book, uttered by Nick Carraway: “I was both within and without.” Poetic. Every time I read the story it gets me. Every. Single. Time.

Last but not least, I want to say a hearty well done to Jay Z for his work on the soundtrack – an effort he brought to life through collaborations with many amazing, talented artists that I happen to love including Lana Del Ray, Florence + the Machine, The xx, and Nero, to name a few. Who cares what this rambling review from the Village Voice says. It’s fabulous and I am only sorry it took me four months to discover it. I love it that much. Don’t trust me? Check out the following tracks: Lana Del Ray’s “Young and Beautiful,” Florence + the Machine’s “Over the Love,” The xx’s “Together,” Gotye’s “Hearts A Mess,” and Nero’s “Into the Past.” Of course Jack White’s cover of U2’s “Love is Blindness” — as heard in the soundtrack — is incredible. But I would have loved to have heard the two collaborate on that.

I’m not a huge Tobey Macguire fan, but he plays a pretty good clueless Nick Carraway and Isla Fisher has little screen time as Myrtle.  Joel Edgerton is a solid Tom Buchanan. I really liked him in The Odd Life of Timothy Green . He’s an actor I am going to pay a bit more attention to in the future.

All in all a film I really, really, really enjoyed and the beautiful architecture of the Jazz Age captured brilliantly in the films many, many, many marketing pieces such as the cast photo below.

“The Great Gatsby” is now out on PPV and DVD and Blu-Ray.

https://i0.wp.com/upload.luckyworld.net/diskboard/2013/08/13/0813_6175.jpg

Cool Songs in Movies – “Here it Comes” from Brit psychological thriller Trance

If  you’re looking for a cool movie, something that’s different from all the usually tired stuff that’s out there,  check out Trance. It’s on PPV this month and it’s in one word, fabulous. I rank it up there with movies I was pleasantly surprised by and can never shake. Movies like Drive, Lucky Number Slevin and Wanted. Funny I should mention that last one, Scotland’s own James McAvoy (of Wanted) is one of the stars of Trance, along with Vincent Cassel (that skeevy  instructor from Black Swan and criminal mastermind from Derailed) and Rosario Dawson.
Not sure if it was widely released in the US (the British psychological thriller film was directed by Danny Boyle and released in 2013). But I wish it was because I want more people to see it. In short, the movie is about “an art auctioneer who has become mixed up with a group of criminals partners with a hypnotherapist in order to recover a lost painting.” (Thank God for IMDB because I couldn’t summarize it in less than a paragraph).
It’s a really, really, really great movie. The plot is pretty twisted and soundtrack pretty divine. Including this great tune from Emeli Sandé & Rick Smith, “Here It Comes” heard at the end.
Enjoy and trust me, if you’re looking for a rental suggestion this weekend I give Trance an enthusiastic  two thumbs up.