Weekly Web Series Review: Blue

Julia Stiles in Blue

Julia Stiles stars as the title character in “Blue,” a new web series produced by the YouTube channel Wigs, which is described as “a digital channel producing high-end, original, scripted dramatic series and short films about the lives of women.” “Blue” certainly fits this bill, as it has high, network-standard production values and explores the life of Francine, aka Blue (Stiles), a single mother who works in an office and moonlights as a prostitute. We are introduced to her in the middle of serving a client, Cooper (David Harbour), who turns out to be an old acquaintance from high school. Cooper has more than a simple professional interest in her, and there is speculation that he might be the father of her 13-year-old son, Josh (Uriah Shelton).

Josh is a precocious, A-student who is beginning to be curious about sex and who is too smart not to know that his mother is hiding something about herself from him, though he is not yet sure what. He befriends Cooper, seeming to need a father figure in his life to complement the good relationships he has with his mother and his grandmother, Jessica (Kathleen Quinlan), a sexy older woman prone to over-sharing about her love life. Meanwhile, beginning in the third episode, Blue has an oddly mentor-like relationship with her office co-worker, Lavinia (Sarah Paulson), who looks up to her, thinking Blue really has her life together. Lavinia seeks Blue’s advice about her relationship with her ex-husband, Walter (so far unseen), who seems to be using her for financial support due to his ailing health.

The series is created, written and directed by Rodrigo Garcia, who is known for his work on feature films like “Mother and Child” and last year’s “Albert Nobbs,” as well as television series such as HBO’s “The Sopranos” and “Six Feet Under,” the latter of which has a similarly soap opera feel to it. The first season runs 12 episodes, each around eight minutes long, which means the entire first season is roughly the length of a relatively short feature film, and each episode is basically a single long scene, or two shorter, connected ones. Some of these work better than others; while Blue and Josh have great chemistry and really good dialogue in the second episode, and a subplot involving Josh’s troubles at school in the tenth and eleventh episodes is especially interesting, I have to admit I have very little interest in the relationship between Blue and Lavinia. Paulson is a very good actor, but her character is sort of weak and whiny, and it remains to be seen if her subplot will garner more interest. On the other hand, the first season ends with an intriguing development involving an older man from Blue’s past, and fans of soapy drama will definitely want to tune in for new episodes once they become available.

Julia Stiles in Blue backside view


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Blu Tuesday: Superpowers, Hungry Wolves and More

It’s been a while since I’ve had this many new releases to choose from, but it looks like things are beginning to really pick up as we head into summer, which is great news. Though I didn’t have time to check out all of the week’s Blu-rays, it goes without saying that you shouldn’t limit yourself to the ones featured below. Criterion’s release of “Being John Malkovich” would be an excellent addition to any cinephile’s collection, while Western fans will probably enjoy the first season of the AMC drama “Hell on Wheels.”


With the exception of “The Blair Witch Project” and “Cloverfield,” the whole found-footage craze has generally failed to impress me as a viable storytelling device, usually because most of the movies in the subgenre are plagued by terrible scripts and bad acting. But director Josh Trank’s debut feature doesn’t run into any of those problems, and it’s exactly because the script and acting are so good that he’s able to utilize the low-budget gimmick to his benefit, delivering a fresh take on found-footage and superhero movies in the process. Additionally, the idea to tell the superhero origin story from the villain’s point of view is pretty ingenious, particularly because his fall from grace is a lot more complex than the typical hero’s tale. Though the format does yield a few nagging questions – like, for instance, why anyone would still bother recording any of this after all hell has broken loose – the cameras are integrated so cleverly into the story that it helps the movie a lot more than it hurts it.

Blu-ray Highlight: I didn’t receive a copy in time for review, but I’m curious to check out the proposed director’s cut to see if any cool stuff was left on the cutting room floor.

“The Grey”

The trailers for Joe Carnahan’s survival thriller may have promised one thing (namely, a showdown between Liam Neeson and a big bad wolf) and delivered something else entirely, but it’s still a solid adventure film with plenty of action. Though you pretty much know how it’s going to end as soon as the first few guys succumb to the deadly triumvirate of the punishing weather, dangerous terrain and hungry predators, Carnahan manages to hold your interest by taking the time to develop his characters, humanizing them beyond simple wolf fodder. Neeson and character actor Frank Grillo, in particular, deliver some really strong performances, with the latter even managing to outshine his co-star. “The Grey” can get a bit too philosophical at times when you’d rather just watch Neeson punch a wolf in the face, but while that would have certainly delivered the kind of instant adrenaline rush we all expected, it’s the bleak realism of the movie that stays with you long after it’s finished.

Blu-ray Highlight: Though Joe Carnahan has a tendency to be a bit of a tool when it comes to talking about his movies, the director’s commentary with editors Roger Barton and Jason Hellmann is nonetheless an engaging discussion about making the film that covers a range of topics like the cast, special effects and shooting in the Arctic.

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