Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Skyfall, Emily Owens and American Horror Story Asylum

If you haven't watched this yet, spoilers beware!

I give Skyfall a 10/10, but others may disagree.

Allow me to qualify my rating - I've seen many James Bond films featuring Connery, Moore, Dalton and Brosnan. Movies appeal to personal tastes, so feel free to debate.

Timothy Dalton used to be my favourite Bond until Daniel Craig took over and revamped the sagging franchise. I thought nothing could ever top Casino Royale - how wrong I am. :)

I also never imagined Sam Mendes at the helm of a 007 movie, yet here he is, delivering a blockbuster that is filled with nail-biting, inventive action sequences, as well as inspired casting, superb performances and excellent writing.

I won't dwell too much on the rooftop motorcycle chase, train crashes and shootouts. Rather, did anyone notice the locomotive scene where Bond leaps off a bulldozer into a carriage, then nonchalantly adjusts his cuff? It's prominently featured in the trailer, but I wanted to point it out because I remember reading about it in Empire magazine, and it really does embody the essence of 007 - full of physicality, but still ( a little absurdly ) mindful of his personal grooming at all times.

Bond dons a suit for almost the entirety of Skyfall, which further reinforces my observation.

What I find most enjoyable are the quieter scenes: Bond conversing with femme fatale Severine ( played by the ravishing Berenice Marlohe, whose beauty made me salivate - and I'm straight! ); Bond's art museum rendezvous with Q ( portrayed with a mischievous twinkle by an adorable Ben Whishaw ); psychopathic villain Silva's chilling confrontations with Bond and M ( Javier Bardem like you've never seen him before ); and finally, a peek into Bond's past as he travels to his childhood home in a desperate attempt to keep M safe.

The film clocks in at 2.5 hours but I never felt it. Well, my bladder needed some relief at the halfway mark, but other than that, I didn't want the fun to end.

I believe Kevin Spacey was the first choice for the role of Silva, but had to decline because of his commitment to The Bridge Project's Richard III. I do hope he'll get a second chance. He excels at playing villains. :)

And some are clamouring for Christopher Nolan to direct a Bond movie ASAP. A brilliant idea!

I'm told Craig has signed on for 2 more installments, but when he's due to retire, Michael Fassbender had better be at the top of the list of successors. I can't think of anyone else more suitable. :)

After suffering a severe drought, a decent medical TV series may be emerging. Forget about nonsensical fluff like Grey's Anatomy, Private Practice and Royal Pains - Emily Owens MD may be able to revive a dying genre in need of urgent resuscitation.

It took me 3 episodes to get into the groove. Was admittedly skeptical of the first 2 - typical young intern starting work, getting into trouble, having relationship problems, saving lives solo ( the seniors are NEVER around during a code? - what a load of crap! ).

Emily Owens isn't perfect, of course. Networks seem to think the majority of female doctors are either bimbos, sluts or bitches, and the stereotypes are in abundance here. What makes it a cut above the rest is lead actress Mamie Gummer ( Meryl Streep's daughter, note the remarkable resemblance ) - while it's true that Owens is socially awkward and seems to have way too much free time to chat up her patients, Gummer plays her with just the right balance of quirkiness and intelligence so the character never completely veers off the deep end of realism. Teeters on the edge, yes. But at least she stays there.

The supporting cast starts off a little over-eager, but settles down nicely by episode 3. Group dynamics move smoothly, and Gummer's chemistry with male co-stars Justin Hartley and Michael Rady crackles and pops. ( FYI, I'm rooting for Rady's underdog senior resident. :))

Rest assured that life-threatening scenarios are in abundance, and the interns always manage to save the day. However implausible that sounds, I'm on board for the ride thanks to Gummer and the rest of the cast. Looking forward to the rest of season 1!

Last on the list is American Horror Story Asylum, aka season 2.

Following a critically acclaimed season 1, the follow-up takes place in a mental hospital during the 1960s. Racial discrimination abounds, homosexualism is considered an illness, and psychiatric patients are subjected to various forms of abuse without clear cause or authoritative oversight.

Jessica Lange is back, this time as a deranged nun whose past includes a career in prostitution. Evan Peters also returns as an inmate convicted of brutally murdering several women, though his memories consist of alien abductions and medical experimentation. James Cromwell plays against type, portraying a perverted doctor who harbours sexual fantasies about a pretty young nun and commits heinous acts in his basement office, while Zachary Quinto impresses as one of the few sane characters around - a state-appointed psychiatrist who attempts to uncover the atrocities he suspects are being committed.

Creator Ryan Murphy's twisted mind should not be under-estimated. I love his early work ( i.e. Nip/Tuck ), and AHS Asylum is far better than season 1. Episode 2 features an exorcism scene which scared the crap out of me - no mean feat, considering my high threshold for horror. It isn't the body count or gore that gets to you, but the extreme discomfort presented in each situation that's disturbing. Trust the writers and cast to pull it off with such conviction. Truly television at its depraved best.

Closest rival at present: Dexter. :)

By the way, if you're interested in reading my review of David Foster's recent concert, it's at this link.

More next time...