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Tag Archive: Damian Lewis


Quentin Tarentino‘s next film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, has so many reasons to give it your attention, where do we begin?  As heavily advertised, the “retired director” is back as writer and director on his ninth film, and every one of his films gains critical and popular acclaim–from Reservoir Dogs to The Hateful Eight, they’re all notable for Tarentino’s unique brash and violent style.  Emphasize that style element because he tends to hit the right mark when searching out throwback vibes for his fans, whether via Pam Grier and Samuel L. Jackson in the 1970s in Jackie Brown or reaching back through time with 1950s nostalgia with John Travolta and Uma Thurman in a retro diner in Pulp Fiction.  So where will Tarentino turn for a film set in 1969?  Something violent in an era of unique style.  So the “Manson family” murders, of course.

The biggest risk for Tarentino (beyond being seen as exploiting a murder still in the national consciousness 50 years later) is casting some major actors, and some not-so-major actors, as actors from the past.  The easier question to answer may be “Who isn’t in this movie?”  In the leading role is Leonardo DiCaprio as a fictional character based on Burt Reynolds.  Brad Pitt co-stars as a character based on Reynolds’ long-time stuntman, Hal Needham.  Margot Robbie plays actress and Manson family victim Sharon Tate, who was married to Roman Polanski and pregnant at the time of her murder.  Dakota Fanning plays Squeaky Fromme, Bruce Dern plays the rancher that allowed the Mansons to reside on his land where they are believed to have planned the murders, and Lena Dunham plays another Manson family member.  Al Pacino plays a Hollywood agent, and from the Tarentino acting troupe, look for bit appearances by regulars Kurt Russell, Tim Roth, and Michael Madsen.  As a sad footnote, this will be the last film appearance of Luke Perry, who portrays real-life TV Western star Wayne Maunder, who died just this past November.

But the real challenge is casting Steve McQueen, Bruce Lee, Connie Stevens, and Mama Cass Elliot in the film–highly-recognizable icons.  Those roles go to Homeland and Life’s Damian Lewis as McQueen, Empire and Inhumans’ Mike Moh as Lee, Dreama Walker (Gran Torino) as Stevens, and Rachel Redleaf as Cass.  We only get a brief look at Redleaf and longer view of Moh as Lee (with a decent vocal impersonation) in the first trailer for the film–Lee had been working on a film with Sharon Tate.  Tarentino also invited in a league of children of well-known actors for his film, like Andie MacDowell’s daughter Margaret Qualley (IO), Bruce Willis and Demi Moore’s daughter Rumer Willis (Hawaii Five-O), Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke’s daughter Maya Hawke (Stranger Things), Kevin Smith’s daughter Harley Quinn Smith (Supergirl), Clifton Collins, Jr. (Star Trek 2009) grandson of Western actor Pedro Gonzalez-Gonzalez, and one more relative, Tarentino’s wife, Daniella Pick (Pick Up, Exit).  

Along with real-world characters, Tarentino pulled in some familiar actors from the late 1960s and 1970s, including Nicholas Hammond, known for role as Peter Parker in TV’s The Amazing Spider-Man, a regular face from the 1970s and 1980s: Martin Kove (The Karate Kid), and Brenda Vaccaro (Airport ’77, Capricorn One).  And even frequent TV guest star Spencer Garrett is a ringer for any number of Disney film stars from the 1960s (and he’s the son of actress Kathleen Nolan (Magnum, p.i., The Incredible Hulk)).  There are many more familiar actors in this one, including James Marsden (X-Men), Emile Hirsch (Into the Wild), Lorenza Izzo (The House With a Clock in Its Walls), Sydney Sweeney (The Handmaid’s Tale), and Buffy the Vampire Slayer favorite Danny Strong.  (With so many extras listed as Playboy Bunnies, it’s probably fair to expect a cameo from someone playing Hugh Hefner, too).

In case you missed it, here is the first trailer for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood:

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Matt Smith as 11th Doctor

BBC announced yesterday that Matt Smith’s last episode as the 11th Doctor on Doctor Who, the oldest series on television, will be this year’s Christmas episode to air on Christmas Eve.  He’ll also appear in the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who episode this fall.  For those of us who never would have given Doctor Who a try but for Matt Smith, he will be sorely missed.  Without Matt Smith’s energetic and brilliant performances, we wouldn’t have seen how awesome David Tennant was as the 10th Doctor, met Christopher Eccleston’s 9th Doctor and his long-running companion Rose, or checked out the numerous audio books, or even peeked at those earlier “other” Doctors.

But just as we quickly have embraced his new companion with Jenna-Louise Coleman’s Clara (Amy Pond who?) after we thought we’d met the best companion ever, life goes on and so will the Doctor’s next incarnation as he takes the form of another actor… or actress?

So who should be the next Doctor?  Matt Smith has given us some brilliant performances.  If you aren’t a Doctor Who fan and wanted to sample some of the best of Matt Smith’s Doctor, try these:

The Eleventh Hour

The Eleventh Hour.  We meet Matt Smith’s Doctor for the first time as he must save the world in 20 minutes with a wrecked TARDIS and broken sonic screwdriver and with the help of Amy Pond–the girl who waited.

The Beast Below

The Beast Below.  The Doctor and Amy travel to a future where residents live on a spaceship called Starship UK.  We meet a future Queen and learn the terrible truth about what keeps the ship–and all its inhabitants–alive.

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If you haven’t voted yet.  Go do it.  Longer than usual voting lines are expected today.  But who knows long lines better than Comic-Con fans?  Today is your day.  You can show the others how it’s done.  And why not drag your comic book-toting friends along?  Heck, bring along a stack to read.  It’s going to be a long day.

If you’re like me, you get a bit annoyed in the weeks prior to Comic-Con with people trying to hand out tips for your first Comic-Con.  Like we can’t figure it out.  So, in return, here’s a list you can send to your non-comic book-lovin’, non-genre-lovin’, the “who the heck is Buffy the Vampire Slayer voters” you’ll be stuck with all day.  Here’s a modified advice list snatched from lists of advice for first-timers at past San Diego Comic-Cons, a list which seems to apply well to your neighbors who think they know long lines but don’t:  Continue reading

If you missed Season One of Showtime’s TV series Homeland, now is a good time to catch up, as Season 2 begins September 30, 2012.  I didn’t watch Homeland until the season wrapped, but once I started, it was really hard to walk away.  It’s nothing like anything I normally like–it’s a real-life drama, which usually I find boring and not “escapist” enough for me.  But tight writing and good actors made this one stand out.  Like Django Unchained this year, Homeland was last year’s biggest promoted new thing at Comic-Con–its banners were almost billboard sized and could be found everywhere you looked.  Why promote something that is not “genre” at Comic-Con then?  I think it goes back to the actors.

The lead is Damian Lewis, star of the short-lived but brilliant two-year series Life, where he co-starred with Sarah Shahi, who went on to star in USA Network’s successful series Fairly Legal.  Lewis is British, but you wouldn’t know it from his roles in Life or Homeland.  In Life he was a cop wrongly convicted of a crime and jailed for it, to later get off and come back to the force after winning a giant settlement against the state.  In Homeland, he is an American soldier held captive in war in the Middle East.  In captivity he converted to Islam, and when he returns to the States he is a hero, but was he “turned” to become a double agent?  We find out answers to several questions in Season One.

His co-star is the award-winning actress Claire Danes (Stardust, Terminator 3, Princess Mononoke, Shopgirl), who is brilliant as a CIA agent who is tracking a message from an informant that she believes points to Lewis’s character as a spy.  She is a mess.  She has a mental disorder that she takes medicine for and this contributes to what may be paranoia or an incredible insight into the reality of what is happening.  She uses illegal and uncommon methods to make her case, which land her out of the system and left to sign up for electric shock therapy to try to repair herself.

Then you get to the two key supporting actors.  None other than Inigo Montoya from Princess Bride, Mandy Patinkin (Alien Nation, Castle in the Sky) plays Danes’s character’s boss, who looks after her but only so far, has his own life problems by being overly devoted to his job, and commits a strange and unthinkable act toward the end of Season One.  Firefly’s own Morena Baccarin (V, Stargate SG-1, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Justice League) plays Lewis’s character’s wife, who waited for her MIA husband to return before becoming romantically involved with his best friend, leading to much of the conflict at home for Lewis’s character.

So the actors alone–familiar in several ways to genre fans–are enough to give Homeland a try.  Once you do, you will probably get hooked, too.  And if you don’t believe me, trust Jonathan Frakes, who recently commented that he and his wife get excited about each episode of the series.

Here is a brief trailer for Season Two of Homeland, released by Showtime (the original version was pulled by Showtime from YouTube for some reason):

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

When she last left us at the end of last season’s finale of the USA Network TV series Fairly Legal, Sarah Shahi’s character Kate Reed shouted defiantly “I’ll be back!” challenging the network to not renew for another season.  Luckily for all of us, she was right, as the series continues Friday, March 16.

Fairly Legal was a great series all season long last year, and here are 5 reasons why you should catch up on episodes online or on demand and get ready for the season two premiere:

(1) Sarah Shahi.  So many actors and actresses get boring over the course of a weekly TV series.  Likely the brutal production schedules wear people down, especially for leading roles such as the one Shahi plays as lawyer Kate Reed where Shahi is in pretty much every minute of production.  This often makes it to the screen.  Not so for Sarah Shahi.  She is like a bottle of pure energy.  She has an infectious smile and sells the role as a put-upon, modern lawyer trying to juggle professional duties and private life in the modern world.  If you want to see Shahi in another great series, check out the two seasons of Life, co-starring the brilliant Homeland star Damian Lewis.

(2) Gerald McRaney.  Not since he starred in Simon & Simon has McRaney played such a likeable character as his decidedly unlikeable Judge David Nicastro. McRaney drove Kate relentlessly through the first season not for the sake of keeping Kate in line, but to bring out her best.  McRaney’s Judge is very real–practical in his needs and not the textbook black and white executioner type that appears in so many legal dramas.

(3) Good writing.  Kate Reed is probably the most realistic depiction of a working lawyer that has ever appeared on a TV legal drama.  Unlike district attorneys Jack McCoy and Ben Stone from the original Law and Order, who, to be sure, were characters that all lawyers aspire to, Kate doesn’t deliver perfect advice her first time out.  She does not come off as polished.  She deals with hostile conditions.  She has to be both juggler, policeman, and fire fighter.  And that means prioritizing, and like most lawyers she over-commits her time, resulting in the need to make quick decisions.  Kate illustrates that the number one of job of any lawyer is problem solving, and like most real lawyers, she doesn’t spend the day arguing in court, but instead trying to settle disputes, attempting always to reach the coveted “win-win.”

(4) San Francisco.  Let’s face it, San Francisco is one of the most beautiful cities to film a TV series.  Over the years countless stories have been filmed there, including Bullitt, Streets of San Francisco, Dirty Harry, Monk, Sneakers, Star Trek IV, Vertigo, and So I Married an Axe Murderer, and the bustling but sunny and vibrant downtown with iconic filming locations make San Francisco come off as not a big city full of dangers, but a place you can see Kate making her mark.

(5) Supporting cast.  If you are a fan of the reboot Battlestar Galactica, you will remember actor Michael Trucco, who plays Kate’s on again-off again husband on Fairly Legal.  He plays the typical lawyer you’d see in any other legal drama, which, in contrast to Kate, allows us to see how exceptional her skills really are.  Baron Vaughn’s character Leonardo Prince is Kate’s also-put-upon assistant.  He is hilarious as a legal assistant who behind the scenes is a big pop culture junkie, and over the course of the first season showed that Kate, even as chaotic as she seems, may very well be a good mentor.

So what’s the series all about?  Kate Reed’s father died, living his law firm to Kate and his second wife, Lauren, played icily by Virginia Williams.  Kate decided not to be a traditional lawyer, but instead be a mediator–here a lawyer hired by two parties to a dispute to resolve their differences, much like a dual agent.  Kate and Lauren barely tolerate each other, and Lauren actually fires Kate from the firm at the end of season one.  Once Kate takes a case she is fiercely passionate and is willing to tear up her own personal life to get to a happy result for her disputing clients.  In one superbly crafted scene last season, Kate encounters a bicyclist and a taxi driver in an altercation.  Although she is a mere bystander, she bends the world to fit her logic, practically strong-arming both of them to resolve their differences and move along.  And she lives on a boat.

Fairly Legal airs this spring along with the equally brilliant In Plain Sight Friday nights on USA Network.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

By Elizabeth C. Bunce

Our DVR broke this week.  I won’t go into the trauma of missing the last installment of Zen on Masterpiece Mystery, or of losing the final three (still unwatched) episodes of the now cancelled Men of a Certain Age.  The upside of this technological crisis, however, was that it spurred us to unearth old TV favorites on streaming video from Netflix and break out some DVDs.  There’s always something kind of bittersweet about that, though, especially running across old friends that were cancelled well before their prime, and in some cases even before they quite hit their stride.  And so, in memoriam, tonight borg.com will spotlight a few of our genre favorites that were cancelled too soon.

Life (2007-2009/NBC/21 episodes)
NBC’s short-lived quirky police procedural about a mild-mannered homicide detective wrongfully convicted of murdering his partner’s entire family starred English actor Damian Lewis (Assassin in Love, Showtime’s new series Homeland) and Sarah Shahi (USA’s Fairly Legal).  Its offbeat mix of gruesome murders and weird-but-lovable cast members was probably a little too offbeat for most viewers, but we loved Lewis’s Zen-meditating Charlie Crews and his efforts to fit back into his life and job after eleven years in prison and an undisclosed multimillion dollar settlement with the LAPD.  An intriguing series-long mystery plot (who really killed Crews’s partner?) might have made it more difficult for new viewers to join mid-season (although we had no trouble getting hooked after just one episode), but was thoughtfully resolved in the series finale.  Standout performances by Donal Logue and Adam Arkin only compound our sense of loss for this series.

The Riches (2007-2008/FX/19 episodes)
Before the days of Breaking Bad and Sons of Anarchy, FX broke every rule of tasteless TV in this outrageous series about a family of Travellers trying to make it as “buffers” in an upscale suburban neighborhood, after assuming the identities of a family killed in a car accident.  Starring standup comic Eddie Izzard as title character “Doug Rich,” and Minnie Driver (Phantom of the Opera), The Riches featured scams, drug abuse, murders, robbery, and a host of other illicit goings-on–and that’s just by the heroes!  Alternately appalling and hilarious, ultimately The Riches just couldn’t hold on to its early impressive ratings, and was cancelled after only 19 episodes, leaving loyal viewers without even a semblance of closure to the Riches’ compelling storyline.

Tru Calling (2003-2005/Fox/26 episodes)
Eliza Dushku’s first starring vehicle of her post-Buffy days, Tru Calling had an excellent sci-fi premise, sort of Medium meets Groundhog Day.  Medical student Tru (Dushku) gets a part-time job in the morgue and discovers that the recently deceased can ask for her help, causing her to relive their final days, in the hopes of saving their lives or solving their murders.  Co-starring The Hangover‘s Zach Galafianakis in a wonderful role as Tru’s morgue mentor, and White Collar’s and Chuck’s Matt Bomer as Tru’s love interest, Tru Calling was gearing up for great things, the mysteries surrounding Tru’s power only building, just as the series was unceremoniously axed by Fox.

Eleventh Hour (2008-2009/CBS/18 episodes)
This American adaptation of the even-shorter-lived BBC medical thriller (with Patrick Stewart) starred accomplished English actor Rufus Sewell (Zen, Knight’s Tale, Pillars of the Earth) as Dr. Jacob Hood, FBI consultant solving baffling scientific crimes.  Not an outstanding series by any standards, Eleventh Hour was nevertheless competent and entertaining, and one had the feeling that the performers were better than the material they had to work with.  I firmly believe the show could have gotten even better, but it was trapped in a dead-end timeslot (Thursdays at 10 pm) and ultimately failed to interest the CSI viewership the network hoped would bolster ratings.

The Dresden Files (2007/SyFy/12 episodes)
I’m still stinging from the cancellation of this great adaptation of Jim Butcher’s bestselling urban fantasy series. Starring the always-solid Paul Blackthorne (guest appearances in Burn Notice, Monk, Leverage, Warehouse 13, and others), the show featured excellent writing, engaging paranormal storylines, and an absolutely winning cast, but wasn’t given the same network or fan support of later SyFy hits like Warehouse 13 or Eureka. Fortunately, all twelve episodes are currently available via streaming video on Netflix.

Tomorrow, C.J. Bunce will continue the list with the rest of our list of TV series that ended too soon.