Weekly Web Series Review: 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.

  

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Sunday Reading: Aaron Sorkin, Woody in Rome and a great summer drink

Aaron Sorkin is back on TV, and you can catch “The Newsroom” premiere tonight on HBO. Will Harris was able to preview the first four episodes, and fans of Sorkin won’t be disappointed with this new series. Jeff Daniels is one of the best actors in the business and he has a great supporting cast to help him deliver Sorkin’s signature dialogue.

Meanwhile, if you haven’t been watching Louie C.K., you can check out the fabulous season 2 of “Louie” which is now out on DVD and Blu-ray.

Nothing impressed our movie critics much this week. “Brave” was a bit of a disappointment, while “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” had a hard time living up to its romantic comedy billing. Meanwhile, Woody Allen moves from Paris to Rome with his latest effort, and the result isn’t all that bad. Woody has become a caricature of himself, but at least he’s picking great locations for his movies.

For our car review this week we had the 2012 BMW 335i Sedan. Yes – it proved to be a badass vehicle. We were in San Diego this week driving the new Hyundai Veloster Turbo so check back this week for our driving impressions.

Finally, try the simple Cliquet for the perfect summer drink.

  

The Light from the TV Shows: HBO’s “The Newsroom” is unabashedly Sorkin-esque…which is a good thing

It’s arguably the laziest possible comparison to suggest that Aaron Sorkin’s new HBO series, “The Newsroom,” comes across like “Sports Night” and “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” fused with “The West Wing.”

With that said, however, it’s also hard to deny the inherent accuracy of such a statement, given that it’s a series that takes place behind the scenes of a television program, except rather than sports or comedy, the predominant thrust of the program is politics. Plus, it’s full of bombastic speeches, rapid patter, romantic comedy, and – oh, yes – more than a few walk-and-talks.

In a nutshell, “The Newsroom” is about as Sorkin-esque as anyone could possibly hope for his return to television to be. This, of course, opens a whole other can of worms…but we’ll get to that.

“The Newsroom” begins by introducing newsman Will McAvoy, played by Jeff Daniels, as he sits on a political discussion panel in a college auditorium, and although it’s basically a blind introduction which offers us nothing about his career, we can already tell from his responses that whatever talents he once had as a newsman have been supplanted by a desire to play it safe. It’s also a bit of a given that, in short order, he’s going to give an answer that causes him to break out of his rut, but it’s a testament to Sorkin’s writing and directing that, when it does finally happen, it still manages to feel pretty damned inspirational.

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Sunday Reading: Gifts, Prometheus and lots of TV

Father’s Day is just a week away, so this week we focused quite a bit on our Father’s Day Gift Guide. It’s one of the easier holidays to shop for as we mostly consider stuff we like as well, so there’s plenty of booze and gear, and Matt Byrd gave us his 10 best video games for dad. Of course there’s plenty more going on, so here’s some good stuff from the past week:

- In his review of “Prometheus,” David Medsker called it “the most gorgeous space monster movie you’ve ever seen” and he also gave it 3.5 stars.

- Meanwhile, “The Avengers” has had an incredible run at the box office. Read our review if you haven’t seen it yet.

- In the TV world, “Game of Thrones” wrapped up its second season on HBO. Read about the last episode in Nate Kreichman’s blog and you can catch up on all of our reviews and cast interviews on our new Game of Thrones Fan Hub. As this show is ending, “True Blood” returns for a new season which we hope is better than the last one . . .

- We also have to admit we have a thing for Callie Thorne (see her below). You’ll remember her as McNulty’s ex-wife in “The Wire,” but she really caught our attention as one of Hank Moody’s casual hookups in Season 4 of “Californication.” Now she stars in “Necessary Roughness” and Will Harris got to speak with her and other cast members as they start season two.

- We traveled to Nashville to test drive the all-new Nissan Altima, which should be a real winner in its category, and we also reviewed the 2013 Chevy Malibu Eco. This week we’ll be heading out to Utah to drive the new Ford Mustang on a track!

- In a much more serious article, Mike Furci gives some great advice on how to avoid cardiovascular disease.

- In a new playlist feature, Fitz & the Tantrums drummer John Wicks’ lists his favorite songs of the moment.

- Ever have a Corpse Reviver #2? Check out Bob Westal’s latest Drink of the Week selection.

Callie Thorne in “Necessary Roughness”

  

The Light from the TV Shows: “Game of Thrones” begins anew (and so does “The Killing”)

As we enter into the final quarter of the traditional broadcast TV season, where many of the mid-season entries are already beginning to wrap up their runs (“Alcatraz,” for example, aired its two-hour finale on Monday) and most of the series that kicked off way back in the fall are in that depressing twilight period just prior to their last run of new episodes before season’s end, many of your favorite premium cable programs are taking advantage of the semi-lull by coming back with a vengeance.

This past Sunday, of course, AMC brought us the return of “Mad Men,” which you probably already knew, since it managed to pull in 3.5 million viewers, a none-too-shabby increase of 21 percent over the series’ previous season premiere. This Sunday, the network has another series coming back, though it’s probably safe to presume that the numbers won’t be nearly as impressive for this one. But, look, if your excuse for not liking “The Killing” is that they didn’t resolve Rosie Larsen’s murder by the end of the season, go peddle your wares somewhere else, because I’m tired of hearing people whine about that. So what if it hasn’t been resolved yet? A show’s allowed to keep its viewers in suspense, isn’t it? If you didn’t like it because you thought it was boring, that’s one thing. If you’re really complaining because the producers promised “a very, very satisfying ending to Season 1” and reneged on that promise, though, I say that you may be well within your rights to be frustrated, but don’t say, “Ugh, they lied, therefore the show sucks,” because that’s just lame.

I do think AMC must be resigned to the return of “The Killing” being slaughtered both by the critics and in the ratings, however, since even though it’s coming back this Sunday night at 8 PM for a two-hour season premiere, the homepage of the network’s press resource center is still busy trumpeting last week’s return of “Mad Men.” For my part, while I do think the series dragged quite a bit in places and reached the point of ridiculousness with how many times Sarah Linden bailed on her planned departure (if I was Ray McDeere, I probably would’ve broken off my engagement to Sarah somewhere around Episode 1.3), I was perpetually gripped whenever Michelle Forbes and Brent Sexton were portraying parental grief, and I am steadfast in my disagreement with anyone who says that Episode 1.11 (“Missing”) was an unnecessary detour away from the case, because that may have been my favorite episode since the pilot. If you didn’t like that episode, you probably also watched “Twin Peaks” and complained about how they spent too much time focusing on Audrey Horne when they could’ve been figuring out who killed Laura Palmer…and I’m here to tell you that you can never spend too much time focusing on Audrey Horne.

Quick sidebar: if you didn’t watch “Twin Peaks,” this is Audrey Horne:

This concludes your moment of Sherilyn Fenn zen. We now return to our regularly scheduled column…provided we can all get our concentration back.

Oh, right, now I remember where I was…

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