Shades Of Words

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Lucifer: Devilish Detective Show

Let me begin by being upfront about this – FOX’s new show “Lucifer’ is nothing but  guilty pleasure entertainment. Its average though stylish TV that often rises above the mundane due to its sharp script and brilliant casting. The show is based on DC comics by the same name that I am completely unfamiliar with, so I did not have any preconceived notions on what to expect before I watched the show.

The premise is intriguing. Lucifer (Tom Ellis), the fallen angel, rebels against his given life as the devil, and comes to earth to find himself. This infuriates his father, God and he sends Amenadiel(D.B Woodside), his brother angel to bring him back to hell. This existential journey that Lucifer undertakes on earth forms the long arch of the show. The more day-to-day existence of Lucifer is tied in running his very hip LA bar with the help of his personal demon, Maze and helping Detective Chloe Decker(Lauren German) of LAPD solve murders with his powers. Mortals love to confide in him and spill their secrets. I love fantasy fiction and murder mysteries so this show is the perfect poison for me. The Pilot introduces the main cast of characters and sets up the team of the crime fighting duo. The initial few episodes seem light as the focus is on introducing key players . The murders of the week are mostly meh. I personally enjoy the aspects that focus on Lucifer’s self discovery – his conversations with Dr. Linda Martin ( his therapist, yes you read that right, its LA – even the Devil has a therapist) and his brother Amenadiel are always revealing. Ofcourse, every good story needs a good villain and we get one in the form of Malcom, a corrupt cop who has been brought back to the dead with the express purpose of killing Lucifer and sending him back to hell.

The show finds strong footing in the middle of the season with “Favorite Son”,Wingman” and “A Priest Walks into the Bar”. All of these are heavily focused on the theological and fantastical aspect of the show. These are the episodes one connects the most with Lucifer’s dilemma of being forced into a role that he did not want, of always living in his father’s shadow. There is a lot of potential for the show to grow as it explores themes of humanity and redemption.

Tom Ellis ( of Miranda fame) brings a whole of swagger and depth to the character of Lucifer. He literally lights up the screen with his good looks and charm. He is also get some of the best lines on the show – both witty and emotional which he delivers flawlessly. There are moments when Lucifer’s smugness can be borderline annoying, and that’s where the character of Chloe Decker (played brilliantly by Lauren German) grounds the script. The thing that I like about German’s performance is that even with her supermodel looks she is able to pull off this intelligent, focused and homely single mom role with such sincerity. Her acting seems effortless. It’s fairly obvious that Chloe is the eventual romantic pairing for Lucifer but what’s really amazing is that there is no angst and will-they-won’t-they drama that drives viewer crazy. Their friendship and admiration for each other is established early on and there is no need for cryptic dialogues and hints. Affections are expressed honestly and maturely. One of the big things that we are all waiting for is when will Chloe realize that Lucifer is the devil. Again, Lucifer being the devil is no big secret. He keeps telling everyone about it and often shows his true form – but most people have trouble accepting it. This is another refreshing take on how Lucifer is presented to the viewers.

The music on the show is wonderful – it forms a big part of creating the atmosphere. The first few episodes were heavy with songs referring to the “Devil” which was honestly an overkill, but they maintained a good mix of jazz with classic rock and roll. Ellis also sings a couple soundtracks, the most famous one being his performance of Nina Simone’s Sinnerman in “Favorite Son”. You can find the list of songs here here

Let’s be clear – there is a lot of good TV out there. This is not the best. But it’s really entertaining, fun and the full of super hot people :). It’s not a waste of your time.


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Loved: Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries

Courtesy: ABC

This Australian period drama is an example of perfect escapist television. It has great production quality, good acting and mostly engaging script.
The show is set in 1929 -10 years after the end of the Great War. The tone of the show is light and funny. The shadow of the war is subtle and adds to the dark corners of the show. No character passing through this world is left untouched by it. Feminism, gay rights and religion are also touched upon frequently – the show clearly leaning towards the liberal left. Almost all episodes pass the Bechdel test. The mysteries themselves are a hit and miss, though Season 2 has stronger plot lines.
Our incorrigible heroine is The Honorable Miss Phryne Fisher, Lady Detective. A single wealthy lady determined to pursue her passion for solving mysteries with a formidable team of domestic help and companions. Every good detective needs a little inside help from the police. DI Jack Robinson is Phryne’s friend, confidante and potential romantic interest.
Essie Davis does a pitch perfect job of portraying Phryne Fisher. She brings sass, style and intelligence to the role. She does look much older than the 29-something Miss Fisher of the books, on which the TV show is based, but I think that brings more credibility and gravitas to her character. Nathan Page does a fantastic job of an exasperated yet amused police inspector who works hard to keep Miss Fisher off his cases. His character, like Miss Fisher’s, is extremely modern for his time, and their mutual respect for each other contributes greatly in the actual solving of crimes. It’s also a relief to have a police inspector who is actually as intelligent as the main private eye. He is not a blundering idiot and adds valuable insight to the ‘detecting’ process.
The costumes of the show deserve a special mention as they help build the essence of the characters (also give Downton Abby a series run for the money!). Phryne has the silk and chiffon gowns, the fur hats and coats, which are just like her – flamboyant, stylish and fun. DI Robinson and Constable Collins possess the respectable working man brown suits and hats. Dorothy, Phryne’s companion and lady-in-waiting, has the chaste Catholic girl clothes of long skirts and oversized cardigans.
The show was cancelled after Season2 but due to the ruckus created by its loyal fans, it was brought back. Season 3 returns in 2015 – I will be waiting for it.


2014 – The Year of the TV

2014, was my Year of the TV. A new baby at home and a DVR service courtesy DirecTV meant that I could relax my exhausted mind with endless TV shows and movies. New parents often tell me that when you have a child, you never get to watch a movie again. In our case, watching TV was the only mode of relaxation that involved the least effort and the maximum returns when the baby was asleep.

The whole year is a blur and it’s hard to remember what all drivel I sat through, but a few things stand out – because there were really good or really bad. As 2014 comes to a close, over the next 1 month I am going to reviews on everything I liked, loved or hated.

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I am not the kind of person who has “favorite actors” or even be a “fan” of something except for maybe LOTR and The X-files. I either like certain people’s work or admire certain stories, style of storytelling or directing. However, when I saw the BBC’s contemporary “Sherlock” starring Benedict Cumberbatch ( yes, his real name!) , I have to admit I was completely and utterly Cumberbatched. I have never been so taken in by an actor’s skills. Cumberbatch is a brilliant actor of probably incredible intelligence. Everything from the body language of the character he is playing, to the subtle expressions of his face and his eyes, and the delivery of dialogues is just absolutely perfect. I have literally paused and rewinded certain scenes to watch his razor sharp acting.
Every actor has a breakthrough role that puts him on the map of global cinema, and Sherlock is Benedict Cumberbatch’s. Impressed by his work, I decided to see what other things that he has been in. Apparently he has been, in his own words UK’s  “next big thing” for almost 10 years. He has done a lot of stage work which for me are straight away signs of being a credible and reliable actor. He has played supporting roles in some very popular movies like Amazing Grace and Atonement. That was surprising, cause I had watched Atonement and I did not recall him til I remembered the character of the creepy pedophile. I had erased his memory because I was so disturbed by his character, again an indicator of what an exceptional actor he is. He is also carved a niche for himself in playing prodigious cerebral people – he starred in the docudrama “Hawking” and “Van Gogh”. In his interviews, he definitely displays the aptitude to play such characters. The only reason for me to do this post is to basically broadcast and promote the work of such a good actor. There aren’t that many out there.

If one is interested in his work and the following website is pretty comprehensive –
I am going to do a short review on some of his work that I have had the chance to watch.

Sherlock – I have probably read all of the Sherlock Holmes stories, once and maybe few, several times. I would definitely consider myself
a Purist, so I was initially, extremely apprehensive of this modern version of Sherlock Holmes. Honestly, I was not prepared or even
inclined to like it. But its Steven Moffat’s and Mark Gatiss’s love for Conan Doyle’s detective and their off the charts writing which really makes Sherlock one of the best shows on television right now. The modernization is so natural that after the first 15 minutes you don’t even notice it.

So how did Moffat and Gatiss bring the famous detective into the 21st century? They retained the essence of the key characters of Sherlock, Watson and Lestrange and just transposed them in the modern landscape. So now we have advanced forensics, smart phone, internet and London black cabs. Sherlock, who himself was always a keen scientist fits in perfectly in this new era. He prefers
texting over talking and uses smartphones and internet to find information and calls his brain a hard drive. However, even with all the science technology and the wonders of forensic science, Sherlock is still the only man in the world who can put the pieces together with his remarkable powers of deduction. Then there is Watson, who in this version, like the original is a war veteran returned from Afghanistan, looking for a roommate. Watson now blogs instead of writing journals but essentially he is the same person. He tempers down Sherlock’s eccentricities and makes him more accessible to the average guy.

Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman are the perfect casting. Cumberbatch’s Sherlock is ethereal, sharp, fast and almost coldly annoying which is very close to the original. Freeman’s Watson sincere, chivalrous ( within the context of 21st Century), trustworthy and perceptive. He may not be able to make the same leaps of logic that Sherlock can ( can anybody?)  but he is able to understand people, which is able to see through Sherlock, inspite all of Sherlock’s sociopathic behavior.

This show is really worth your time.

The Last Enemy – Another British TV series, that I watched because it had Benedict Cumberbatch in it. This is a sci-fi drama, based in the near future, where the UK government is the midst of mandating an ID card programme which will record everything about you – literally everything. It will capture your financial, educational, medical history, it will track your current location, who you meet and what you do. This information will be useful in tracking “terrorist” activities. In theory the concept is not far-fetched, which kind of makes it scary. However, the series was not that impressive. The problem is not with the performances which are really good but the script which is slightly mediocre and in some places and a tad unrealistic. If you are into conspiracy theories then you may enjoy this.

To the Ends of the Earth –  Based on William Golding’s ManBooker award winning trilogy, To the Ends of the Earth, this is  story of the young aristrocat, Edmund Talbout’s journey to Australia on a former war ship. The three part series explores the interactions of various class of people in a closed trapped environment which in this case is ship in the middle of the sea., the nature of humans and Talbout’s emotional growth. The story is disturbing to say the least, in a weird tragical comical way. Its not unlike other British period dramas, heavy on character development. Cumberbatch is quite believable as the bumbling, presumptuous aristrocat and gives a bit of a funny turn. He is strongly supported by Jared Harris who plays a mean Captain Anderson. I also like the performance of Jamie Sives as the morally conflicted Summers. If you like British literary adaptations, then this may be worth your time.


Bleak House

England is blessed with such vast and large literary heritage that their moviemakers don’t have to look very far for a good story. On the downside, there  are several versions of the same classic, putting the pressure on the creative team to bring their own interpretation to the story without insulting the memory of the writer.
I have always been impressed by BBC adaptation of classics – my all time favorite being the 1995 Pride and Prejudice mini-series. The acting and the script was truly loyal to the spirit of Jane Austen’s masterpiece.
Now I have never read “Bleak House”, but the casting was enough reason to watch this 2005 production. “Bleak House” is considered to be one of Dickens’ finest work – with a large set of characters and multiple sub-plots all linked together. A satire on the slow moving judicial processes of those times, the main theme of the book is about a monumental case of “Jarndyce vs Jarndyce” and how it impacts the lives of everyone involved.
The main  protagonist of this series is Esther Summerson (Anna Maxwell), a young sensible woman, an orphan, unwanted by this world. She has been engaged by Mr. John Jarndyce (Denis Lawson) to be a companion to Ada Clare (Carey Mulligan). Ada Clare and Richard Carstone (Patrick Kennedy) are the young wards of the Jarndyce vs Jarndyce and believed to be the main beneficiary of the will.
Ada, Esther and Richard are all under the guardianship of Mr. John Jarndyce and live at “Bleak House”. Esther is the most prudent and sensible of three, Ada is the woman-child beloved by everyone for her beauty and Richard is the young and the restless man besotted with her, determined to make nothing of his own life, but pinning all his dreams and hopes on the case.
Every Dickens novel has a freeloader, and Mr. Skimpole (Nathaniel Parker) is Bleak House’s. But the resident evil is definitely Mr. Tulkinghon ( Charles Dance), who is a lawyer (isn’t that surprise!). Heartless, opportunistic and manipulative – he uses his knowledge to twist people to his will.
Another intersting character is of Mr. Guppy (Burn Gorman), an intern at the law firm, who is quite instrumental in propelling the whole story forward. He also brings in a bit of humor to this otherwise “bleak” narrative.
There is a large cast of characters – who directly or symbolically help portray everything that is wrong with the English Chancery. One character that will be noticed above the rest is that of Ms Flite (Pauline Collins) with her caged birds that she will release on the day of the judgement.
Then there is Lady Dedlock (Gillian Anderson), another minor beneficiary in the will, she is married to Sir  Leicester Dedlock (Timothy West). Haughty, arrogant she is not exactly popular, but is her demeanour a mask for the secret that she harbors?

Bleak House has all of Dickens trademarks – cold , cruel London streets, interesting and slightly larger than life characters, family secrets, a ghost story and razor-sharp wit. Andrew Davies screenplay adaptation retains all the essence and I could make this out even if I had not read the novel. Dickens just spills from each scene of the series. Though at times I felt there was a certain “Austen-ish” feel to the whole narrative – with so many women, engagements and marriages.
The cast of this production was simply brilliant. Anne Martin as Esther is likeable and believable with an extremely expressive face, Gillan Anderson was brilliant as Lady Dedlock ( I couldn’t find the the Scully in her!) – her eyes doing most of her acting,
The art direction is satisfying – the mood of the series set up by the cold and squalor of London. One thing that I found annoying was the rapid cuts to a location accompanied by this weird “whoosh” sound making one think that were watching a horror movie instead of a period drama.
The series is a commentary on the inefficient judicial system of England at the turn of the century – where people are victims of the system that is meant to serve the arsitocrats, and literally go mad or die waiting for justice – as exemplified by the story of Gridly, Carstone and Jo. The other theme of the book deals with the divisive class system in England where station is everything and how one must keep up appearances.

Verdict : Highly recommended

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Smallville – Metamorphosis & Hothead

Metamorphosis – This episode marks the “Lana in distress” and “meteor infected villains” string of episodes which become a trademark for the first few seasons of Smallville. As I re-watched this,  the first thing that I  noticed was that Clark floats in the episode. Now we have been watching this show for ten years and waiting for him to fly – not leap or jump or hop – but fly! And he did it subconsiously so early on !
So the basic plot line is fairly simple – a frustrated high school student, who is obsessed with bugs who and does a spiderman when bitten by bug infected meteor rocks. He is in love with Lana and gaining these heroic powers makes him think that he is entitled to her affections.
In this episode we see Lionel’s first appearance. Its clear that his tough love stance with Lex has only distanced Lex from him who really craves for some compassion and human connection. Lex really wants to be away from the shadow of his father and make a difference in Smallville. Its also kinda cute to watch him earn Clark’s friendship by trying to hook him up with Lana – but you begin see hints of darkness when he says things like – “Love is power”
One of the pivotal developments in this episode was Clark’s discovery his only weakness – Green Kryptonite! Its only episode 2 and things are moving quite fast in over all story arch which is the reason the show did really well it was aired.
As I watch these early episodes I am quite astounded by Tom Welling’s range of acting – he really did a good job at that time. Somewhere between season 5 & 7 , he lost his talent and looked quite bored. Don’t blame him – being at the same job can be for five years can be daunting. Before I became a hard core Clois shipper ( and that would be the first episode of season 4) , I actually enjoyed the whole Clark and Lana thing. They looked really great together. There were certain things however, about the relationship, that I did not like – Clark trying too hard, Lana smiling way too much.

Dialogs that I loved
Lex to Clark ( lovely foreshadowing) – “Saved any lives on your way over? You could make a career out of it”
Clark to Chloe – “Chloe, I can never outgrow you – except vertically!” ( What a remarkable comment on their frienship!)
Bugboy’s response to Whitney’s threat to keep away from Lana – “Sometimes you are the windshield sometimes you are the bug”
( wicked!)

Hothead – In yet another freak of the week episode, the obsessed-with-winning high school coach develops superpowers to ignite stuff by inhaling meteor smoke ( how??). Nothing worth remembering in this episode except that Clark finally gets to join the football team after a really tense argument with his father ( lovely scene acted out really well by both Welling and Schneider). The last scene where Lana and Clark scream in an empty field is heartwarming – the first indication of a friendship between them. The identity crisis that Lana felt was unrealistic and over the top – I could not find myself empathizing with her. This episode was definitely among the weaker ones of the first season