The Orange County Screenwriters Association
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    Thursday, 02 February 2012 10:51

    Colin Firth in Devil's Knot

    Written by

    More good news for board member Mark Sevi.  Reprinted from About.Com ~ Larry

    colin firthParadise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills (1996), Paradise Lost 2: Revelations (2000), Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory (2011), and West of Memphis (2012) - these documentaries have all delved into the story of the prosecution, conviction, fight for freedom, and subsequent release of Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Miskelly Jr. Known as the West Memphis Three, Echols, Baldwin and Miskelly were convicted of murdering three eight year old boys in Arkansas in 1993 and spent almost 20 years in jail for crimes they did not commit.

    Recently released due to lack of DNA evidence (as well as other newly discovered evidence), Echols, Baldwin and Miskelly's stories have been well chronicled in the four documentaries. However, their journey from incarceration to freedom isn't done being told. A feature film, Devil's Knot, is in the works with Reese Witherspoon attached to star and Deadline reporting Colin Firth has just joined the project.

    Atom Egoyan will direct the film which is based on the book Devil's Knot: The True Story of the West Memphis Three by Mara Leveritt. Witherspoon will be playing Pam Hobbs, the mother of one of the murder victims.

    Firth is set to take on the role of private investigator Ron Lax.

    Tuesday, 03 September 2013 16:49

    Reese Witherspooon in Devil's Knot

    Written by

    Finally!  I get some recognition for my work.  I wrote the original script that sold to Charlize Theron's company then Dimension Films and finally is being filmed independently with a 20-30 million dollar budget but I've consistently been left out of press releases - until now.  I couldn't think of a better actress than Reese for this.  

    Here's the article reprinted from Variety ~~  Mark Sevi

    Witherspoon Untangles Devil's Knot For Atom Egoyan

    No stranger to controversial subject matter, director Atom Egoyan stepped aboard Devil’s Knot, the dramatic interpretation of the West Memphis Three case back in August. Now he’s found the first of what promises to be a large ensemble cast: Reese Witherspoon.

    Devil’s Knot is based on reporter Mara Levitt’s 2003 book, subtitled The True Story Of The West Memphis Three. In it, she followed the tangled, prolonged murder trial of Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr, who served 17 years in prison before being released this past August. They were accused of killing three 8-year-old cub scouts found in a wooded area of Arkansas called Robin Hood Hills. While they’re now free, the judge didn’t allow them to seek compensation for the lost years.

    Witherspoon will switch into drama mode to play Pam Hobbs, the mother of one of the victims who initially thought they were guilty but as the case dragged on, came to believe they were innocent.

    With a script originated by Mark Sevi and then re-written by Scott Derrickson and Paul Harris Boardman, Egoyan plans to kick off shooting this coming summer.
    James White for Empire Online (LINK)

    NOTE:  Tough business.  I finally get press converage and the next day my credit on IMDB suddenly is gone.  My credit appears and disappears as if by magic it seems (or sneaky Hollywood gremlins) - it's back but I'm including it as part of a screencap so that it supports that I am, indeed, part of this movie.  Just in case my credit somehow "disappears" again.    Gremlins who can't share: grrrrr.

    imdb mark sevi, devil's knot

    Wednesday, 30 November 2011 11:54

    J. Edgar - Some History about his story...

    Written by

    Being a guy in my late thirties puts me in the prime demo (but almost about to fall off it) of what studios are after these days, when it comes to ticket buyers.

    But being an American history buff, bumps me in the 50 - 60 year old range (according to the studios demo for historical dramas). And the funny thing is, they're right. I was probably the only guy in the theater   with all my hair,  able to do 20 push ups  without getting dizzy. 

    Sad, but again, most "yuths" these days are too busy with other stuff than to be in a movie theater on a Sunday night and particularly watching a movie about the founder of the F.B.I. 

    Either I need a girlfriend, or divorce myself from the love of history.

    So back to the movie. The only thing I knew about John Edgar Hoover was that he was the crossdressing founder of the the F.B.I. and a big pain in the ass to most of Washington D.C., or like Nixon said in the movie:  "that little, C*#@s%^$#! "

    The movie is a miss mash of interesting points and it goes back and forth in history with the time tested and sometimes overplayed... "I'll tell you my version of the story", which it uses as a plot engine, by Hoover, now an old man, who is dictating his memoirs to an young agent.

    Of course here's the tricky part about doing a historical drama about one of the most famous closeted-gay men in America. Do you go full blown gay? Or do you cover it up and do a polish of history? Or can you do both?.

    Exactly how does a smart, by Hollywood and political standards, director like Clint Eastwood tackle this issue?  First you get an acclaimed gay screenwriter ( Dustin Lance Black - winner of the Oscar for MILK) and have him put his "sensitivities" in the script. Then you dial it back... A LOT. Historically it's pretty interesting and well-researched. This is why young people should know more about history because, Occupy Wall street, L.A. , etc, is not a new concept and when people get upset crazy things start to happen.

    Who knew over 20 bombs went off in Washington D.C. in 1920? Comunist radicals? Wow, they were a ballsy bunch... That was "their" war on terror in those days and terrorists were labeled "radicals" and they we all "homegrown".

    Seeing this travesty a young J. Edgar Hoover uses this civilian unrest to get his agenda of making a prime crime investigations unit and get it sanctioned by the government. In those days authorities couldn't hold people without  proper cause and proof and federal agents couldn't carry guns!

    But again the public's "fear" gave Hoover's able and manipulative hands ways to move legislation in his favor and "protect" the general public. He did great things like create the first crime labs and proper classification of fingerprints but he was also a vary paranoid person and his zest for keeping "personal files" on everyone in town helped him run the agency for many years.

    DiCaprio's performance is a mixed bag; he's certainly getting better but sometimes the make-up was a bit distracting (even though I'm sure it was the best money can buy). For me he didn't nail it completely but again I'm probably the only person who youtube'd Hoover's speeches after the movie.

    Armie Hammer as Clyde Tolson (Hoover's right hand man at the agency and alleged lover) was also hard for me to take in. He at times seemed like a grinning 7 foot kid that just moved around Hoover and with no real depth to the character until the last scenes. Again, I didn't read the script nor was on set so maybe the director reigned back his performance a bit. 

    Dame Judith Dench played Hoover's mother and seemed to be his real person of affection. Dench does show her disdain for gays to Hoover and lets him know about it but Edgar just tries to appease her and move on. Hoover is portraid as a stubborn, very inteligent but very insecure man who was constantly looking over his shoulder.  As he says in the movie, the only person he could trust was his mother.

    The movie goes from the origins of the Bureau, to the men selected for proper morals and attire, to the Lindenberg baby kipnapping and trial, the fight against the mob, and some funny moments of how Hoover goes to Bobby Kennedy to tell him his Brother (the president) was taped doing "the nasty" with a possible Russian spy - until the time he's asked to resign and Hoover's death.The production is first rate as Eastwood is used to delivering these days.

    All in all a good effort for a "swiping view" of the man and the F.B.I. But at the end we find out that it was all just self promotion for Hoover, who was more concerned about being a part of history than making it. His memoirs, as shown in the movie, are full of lies and his version of the stories sheds an odd light on the character of the man. Sometimes when people don't know their history, they tend to repeat the mistakes made in the past. Hoover by putting HIS story before history was trying to avoid this.

    Maybe today's young people can learn something about remembering history when in 20 years they get into bad mortagages and have to sell their hover crafts and jetpacks at a loss. We can say... didn't you see this coming...  like it happened in the late 2000's??

    History is just a revolving door of people, where the places fundamentally remain the same. If you don't believe me go to D.C. today -  it's the same buildings, the same schemes, only the faces have changed.

    And something tells me that J. Edgar would be just fine with that.

    Tuesday, 01 November 2011 00:23

    Hell On Wheels

    Written by

    hell on wheelsAMC is on a roll with hour-long dramas like "The Walking Dead," "MadMen," "Breaking Bad" and a few others.  

    "Hell On Wheels" is probably going to turn out to be another success story for them.

    Set in the timeframe of the United States just after the Civil War, the series  follows the story of  Cullen Bohannon (Anson Mount) a former Confederate soldier who is seeking revenge on the Union soldiers who murdered his wife.  We aren't given much information about this - part of the reason to continue to tune in is to find out I'd guess.  But the implication is that the death was brutal and that Cullen doesn't know everything about it so we'll discover as he discovers.

    To pursue his revenge he's heading out to work on the railroad that is currently being built toconnect East with West and features former slaves who form the working spine of this endeavor.  

    Nary a Chinese coolie to be found in this crew - they work for the other railroad also trying to connect East and West which is the direct rival of the conniving and treacherous Thomas "Doc" Durant (Colm Meaney,) a businessman and investor who is milking the government teat for subsidies and grants to build the roadway that will bring civilization to the West.

    Of course, since the government is paying him by the mile, he can't have his railroad go straight - it has to curve all over the place to assure the continued money flowing into his greedy hands.


    Other players in the drama include:

    • (rapper) Common as Elam Ferguson, a freed slave who is handy with a knife and has some anger issues.
    • Dominique McElligott as Lily Bell, whose surveyor husband is murdered by Indians.
    • A pair of Irish lads Ben Esler and Philip Burke who seek their fortunes out West.
    • Eddie Spears as Joseph Black Moon, a Native American who is baptized by -
    • Tommy Noonan, a very tall and interesting preacher who isn't afraid to drop his church right in the middle of the hooker row in camp.  Of course, he's challenged by the spitfire hooker who tells him it's a gonna be a competition to get customers each night.   Given that Noonan has played creepy bad guys so well in the past, I'd look for him to have a larger role in the dirty deeds in the camp.

    The pilot was ably written by brothers Joe and Tony Gayton and directed well by David Von Ancken.  The production values are decent and the acting top notch.

    There was a real sense that you were in a railroad camp and in the moment of the era.  I even saw dirt on Colin Meany's hands and he was in a railroad car for most of the show.  It wasn't a pretty or cleanly time; and I'm always amazed at the amount of clothing people wore back then even when sweating in 100 degree weather.   The actors looked like they were finding out just how hot it could be under those conditions - they all looked uncomfortable which added to the veracity of the camp living.

    Although the pilot wasn't as compelling as I'd have likes I am reminded that "Deadwood" wasn't either in the pilot episode but it was good enough to keep me watching every week.  And "Deadwood" got much, much better as it found its voice and Swearengen emerged as a larger-than-life presence.  The previews for the second ep of HoW showed some very interesting material so I'm definitely tuning in to see if this show can replicate the "Deadwood" paradigm.  The main issue is that I don't see a Swearengen in this and he was a huge part of why "Deadwood" worked as well as it did as the series progressed.

    "Hell On Wheels" is on Sunday nights on AMC.

    Saturday, 29 October 2011 23:00

    A SoCal Icon

    Written by

    larry Our board member, Larry Porricelli who has been in the theater business here in Southern California for more years than he probably wants to admit.  

    He's interviewed on this fantastic website by local raconteur Art Kirsch.

    Go HERE


    Monday, 07 November 2011 08:59

    Once Upon A Time / Grimm

    Written by

     jennifer morrisonThe thing is, I'd watch Jennifer Morrison ("House, M.D.") recite the phone book.  So although I wasn't that interested in "Once Upon A Time" I wanted to see what Ms Morrison was up to after her amazing turn as Dr. Allison Cameron. 

    The premise:  The characters from film and fairy tale are real.  They've been cursed by the evil queen (Lana Parrilla) and all their happy endings have been cancelled.  If this is familiar then you've probably seen the film "Enchanted," another Disney offering which was a *lot* more fun and charming and at least tried to remain consistent.

    Given this premise, I'd probably be okay with this show but the creators made things even more confusing.  Follow (if you can) - 

    • Jennifer Morrison's character is actually the 28-yr-old daughter of Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) who was married to Prince Charming in fairy-tale-land.  In order to save her from the Evil Queen's clutches, they put her into a magic tree closet (carved by Pinocchio's father, Geppetto.)  
    • logoThe newborn child (princess Jennifer) is magically transported to our world, found by the roadside, put into foster care and grows up to become a private investigator.  (Yeah, logic and consistency isn't a real strong point in any of this but it shouldn't be expected, I guess.)
    • A 10-yr-old kid (a terrific actor named Jared Gilmore) goes to find the aforementioned 28-yr-old princess-investigator so he can bring her back to save Storyland, the village/town where he was raised.  All the inhabitants are apparently miserable because they are actually fairy tale characters who don't know they are fairy tale characters and they need the princess to awaken them or break the curse or something to bring back their happy endings.  I can't wait for the porn version of this premise.
    • Of course, the kid is in therapy (with the human version of Jimminey Cricket,) because no one (including his biological mom - Jennifer Morrison) believes him and it's never explained how he knows *for certain* that any of this is true but of course it is.  
    • His teacher who helps him to go down this odd path is actually Ginnfer Goodwin - who would actually be his grandmother but she looks even younger than his mother (Jennifer Morrison.)  Of course, she doesn't know he's her grandson and for some reason the kid doesn't seem to know that he's her grandson.
    • Take a  breath now because you'll need the oxygen to continue to keep a clear head...
    • Ready?  
    • Okay - all this has all been prophesied by the evil and bizarre Rumpelstiltskin character in the fary tale land  so of course in our world he manifests as the owner of the town in the "real world" - not the wicked Queen who you would have assumed would be the owner - she's only the mayor.  So Rumple is the actual owner of the entire town and he goes 'round to "Grandma's House" (a hotel) to physically collect the rents.
    • I guess all the evil characters know who they are because they're always arching their eyebrows.  Why they know and no one else does isn't exlained and probably isn't really important.
    • And guess what else (do you care at this point - I didn't?) - the kid who goes to find the princess (Jennifer Morrison) is actually her given-up-for-adoption son.

    Huh, you say?  I can hear you now:  When you put it like that, Mark, it sounds really stupid.  

    Yeah, it does.  It is.

    I could go on but what's the point?  The storyline is a hot mess.  Nothing makes sense, follows any sort of rules, or ties together except in the most egregious, silly and dumbfoundingly aggravating once upon a time ways...

    For example, when Morrison's pubescent son shows up on her doorstep - literally - she has one moment of "oh sh*t" and that's pretty much it for the rest of the ep.  You'd think the emotional impact would mess her up and really take her off her game.  But no, she just packs the kid in a car and takes him back to his mother (the evil queen.)

    I wish they had just thought this through a bit.  It honestly isn't as bad as I would have thought because the cast is all terrific and find ways to make the horrible material work at times.  

    The main problem is, I don't care about any of these characters - at all - and can't think of a reason to follow them because none of them is reacting the way you'd expect even given the wild premise.  Television rises and falls on its characters - these are all, well, like they're from a (bad) fairy tale.

    "Once Upon A Time" airs on Sundays on ABC, a Disney affiliate.

    grimm"Grimm" is a completely different approach to a similar theme.  Grimms Fairy Tales are real (sound familiar?)  Grimms are a family, similar to the Van Helsings (who hunt vampires) but Grimms hunt a lot of different creatures.

    The main character, actor David Giuntoli - who I think must have auditioned for the role of Superman at some point in his career - is the current legacy of a long line of creature hunters.  In the opening, the Grimm aunt, who is dying from cancer, comes to her nephew to tell him he's going to be the next in line when she's gone.  

    She's got this Airstream trailer filled with weapons of mayhem - no guns though, oddly enough, just a lot of axes and knives.  Since there doesn't seem to be any reason NOT to use guns (he does when he kills one of them) it's bizarre that she doesn't.  But that's just one inconsistency here.  Back to the storyline.

    Of course, Giuntoli  doesn't know anything about this stuff (even though this is the aunt who raised him and apparently has knife cut scars everywhere on her body according to a nurse who cares for her) and he is justifiably confused by the pronouncement and the subsequent visions of ordinary people who morph into monsters.

    That's a problem because these creatures look like us and only manifest when they're put under stress.  Like the werewolf-type who is murdering and eating young women with red hoodies - get it?  Little Red Riding Hood, Big Bad Wolf...?  

    Ugh and sigh...

    David Giuntoli Yeah, there's some really dumb stuff in this but I have to say that this little piece of freak show had me jumping once or twice.  

    Truly, this is not for kids - it's pretty brutal.  The big bad wolf kidnaps a little girl - like 10-yrs-old - and hides her in a basement bedroom.  He offers her a chicken pot pie (to fatten her up.)  But this is an odd bit of implied pedophelia that is horribly squirm-inducing and one wonders, necessary?  And there's also the dismembered body parts and the violent, bloody fights to deal take the "14" rating to heart of you have young ones.

    This creeped out viloence is oddly coupled with some humorous moments that I won't spoil for you but when I say odd, I do mean odd.  How you imply that this missing little girl is about to suffer a fate beyond horrible while the main character is drinking a Heineken with one of the "good" werewolves is beyond me.  And this sensibility is pretty much beyond the powers of even the legendary producers/creators (Jim Kouf and David Greenwalt) it seems because it diffuses the tension and is inserted in a strange place in the story.  In other words, it just doesn't work because although there should be some humor in this the writers need to pick their spots a lot better.  A terrorized little girl on a clock to a horrible death is NOT that time.

    Perhaps this would have all worked better if the creators had spent a bit more time with the logicsceen from grimm behind the story.  Yeah, I know it's fantasy but fantasy still requires rules.  It's always curious to me that these legacy-type scenarios don't involve some sort of logical backstory to explain things.  Why do the Grimms have to wait for the "hunter" to die before they find their powers?  Why are there so many monsters and only one Grimm?  And why isn't there more mayhem in the world if there's only one Grimm - and given this, why would he or she assume they can any impact on the mayhem?   We need some of these fundamentals 'splained to us.

    Perhaps some of this is coming but the upshot is the characters don't seem to reacting correctly given the gaping holes in the logic of the storyline and so again, who cares?  

    "Grimm" is written by one of my heros, Jim Kouf, and it does have potential.  I'm not sure it will find the audience it's seeking because I'm not sure where they're skewing.  It's too rough for kids, not hip enough for teens, and a bit silly for adults.  Given the cinema-star good looks of the main character and the material, perhaps they're going after a young, female teen audience.  Dunno.

    I'll watch it for another few eps and see if they can find the voice they seem to be seeking. but although "Grimm" started off with a bang in the first ten minutes, the longer the storyline ran the sillier it became.  Not a good sign.

    Grimm haunts Friday nights on NBC.

    For journalists, drawing the line between professional responsibility and individual activism has always been tough. The Occupy Wall Street activity in D.C. has a brand new spokesperson - Lisa Simeone. Simeone, however, is also hired as a freelance reporter. Resource for this article: NPR host Lisa Simeone facing questions about political activism

    NPR doesn’t pay

    The representative for Occupy D.C. which has to do with Occupy Wall Street is radio reporter Lisa Simeone, press noticed recently. As reported by Simeone, she is a freelancer. That is why NPR should not care what her place is.

    “I’m a freelancer. NPR doesn’t pay me. I’m also not a news reporter. I don’t cover politics. I’ve never brought a whiff of my political activities into the work I’ve done for NPR World of Opera.

    What Lisa Simeone has done for the company

    Lisa Simeone is a long-time host and journalist for NPR affiliated radio stations. Nationwide Public Radio is a large nationwide news organization that has affiliates around the country. NPR stations and other organizations such as Public Radio International air programs on these stations. Lisa Simeone was used for two shows. These show involved “World of Opera” and “Soundprint.”

    Kicked off 'Soundpoint'

    ”Soundpoint” will air on WAMU. The producer, WDAV, has kicked out Simeone. WAMU has a strict code of ethics. It states that:

    “NPR [and WAMU] journalists may not engage in public relations work, paid or unpaid. Exceptions may be made for certain volunteer nonprofit, nonpartisan activities, such as participating in the work of a church, synagogue or other institution of worship, or a charitable organization, so long as this would not conflict with the interests of NPR [and WAMU] in reporting on activities related to that institution or organization.”

    A discussion about “World of Opera” is still taking place. NPR may no longer allow the 9-year-old program to continue

    Articles cited




    SoundPoint Radio:

    Tuesday, 04 October 2011 17:08

    Suburgatory/The New Girl/Whitney

    Written by

    suburgatory one sheetABC is determined to pwn Wednesday nights.  Check this lineup:  The Middle, Modern Family, Happy Endings and now this snappy new comedy from Warner Brothers Television.  

    Suburgatory features single parent George Altman (Jeremy Sisto) an erstwild architect who finds a box of unopened condoms in his teen daughter's possesion, freaks, and packs her up to move from NYC to the 'Burbs where he thinks she won't be subjected to bad influences.  You're kidding, right?  Can anyone really be this legtimately stupid? Besides having no clue about how sexually active teens in the suburbs are, he is lost as to how to raise said daughter Tessa (Jane Levy) during these difficult years of young adulthood.  Tell me why all adults in these shows are fundamentally clueless.  No wonder this country is in the crapper - the once smart and hip kids somehow grow up to be stupid adults.  How will we ever get ahead?

    So they move, weird neighbors, country club where the men are orange and the women are all MILFs, school, etc.  The end of the 1st act.  More to follow after commercials including the cast of broadly-drawn friends.  Including regulars Allie Grant,  Alan Tudyk and Cheryl Hines who wants to be bed Sisto.

     A lot of over-reaches and cliches but the writing is sharp at times and some of the scenes at the high school are handled very well as Tessa (Levy) is shown the ropes by perennially texting and bored and affected teen, Carly Chaikin.  Scenes of the "girls" shopping and the subsequent fallout were both funny and sweetly handled.  Tessa may act like a disapproving hipster but the writing and acting infuse her with shades that allow you to see that she's vulnerable and a bit lonely and lost.  Tough girl with a facade.    

    Sisto, the poppa, was good on the last few seasons of "Law and Order" but he's better here as asuburgatory sometimes clueless dad and bachelor on the hunt.

    I also loved seeing the talented Allie Grant who did a great turn in "Weeds" as Isabelle Hodes, the slightly overweight daughter of Elizabeth Perkins.  She's a terrific actress and although her part is a bit under-developed yet I have a feeling she's gonna rock.

    Emily Kapnek  and Patricia Breen are the veteran comedy writers/show runners who create an over-bleached and oft-times funny portrayal of the upper-middle class world Tessa has been thrown into. The main difference between this and other shows is that both Tessa and her father are both  the fish out of water and it's not so much teens against adults as the East Coast vs The West Coast.

    I enjoyed this show more than I didn't and probably will just just slam it into the entire Thursday-night lineup on my Season Pass and watch them in descending order of like:  1) Modern Family, 2) The Middle, 3) Happy Endings and 4) Suburgatory.  I'm hoping that as the writers and cast get more comfortable with the characters that it will improve.

    As mentioned, this is an ABC Wednesday night Block -O-Comedy offering.

    the new girl one sheet Dear, The New Girl - my advice: stop trying so bloody hard.  Stop trying so hard to be quirkly, and uber-hip and just let the situations more define the comedy instead of...oh hell.  All right.  It's not great but it's not bad and it's sweet at times.

    And I'm probably not gonna care that much if they fix the problems or not because although I like it, I don't like it enough to invest in it.

    Zooey Deshanel is a quirky chick who needs a place to live when her long-term boyfriend cheats on her.  She answers an ad for an apartment with three dudes who need a fourth roommate and they choose her after a meeting in the bathroom (see what I mean about trying too hard?)  She sings, she makes up her own theme songs, and she's terminally adorable.  They're various shades of male pigness and stupidity - of course - hilarity ensues.

    This show never feels effortless like say "Modern Family."  It always seems to struggle to make its comedic point and I'm not sure if it's the acting, directing or writing that isn't quite gelling - perhaps all three.  It appears as if Zooey is given her head to improv stuff and though she's talented enough as an actress, I'm not sure she is talented enough to carry a show on her very attractive back yet.  Cute - hell yes.  Funny - not always.

    The pilot was *a lot* better than the second ep which I had to watch out of sequence because my Tivo betrayed me.  Had I not watched the pilot to write this review I would have had a different opinion.  The 2nd ep is not that funny or charming or amusing or - anything close to the pilot and for some reason - probably because "Happy Endings" got picked up, Damon Wayans Jr. isn't in the second episode. Another man is (Lamorne Morris.)  Mr Morris is good but nowhere as charismatic as Wayans, Jr. and the effect was to further dilute the effort.

    Hannah Simone  So it's Zooey, the afore-mentioned Morris and a one time shot for Wayans, and the two other roommates who are Max Greenfield  and Jake M. Johnson.   All are pretty good but the sex-crazed egomaniac (Greenfield) just is too much of too much.  Dial him back from 11 and let him roam at the 7-8 range and that will help - a lot.   Johnson is good though and he's a solid foil for the quirky and perky and beef jerky Deshanel.  

    Hannah Simone plays Zooey's friend Cece; I predict huge things for her - she is stunningly beautiful and has a silky, totally natural acting presence.   When she was on the stage I couldn't look away.  More of her, please - actually just give her own show now and I'm good.

    Jake Kasdan directs and Elizabeth Meriwether creates and writes.  Fox is the channel to find it (for a while) on Tuesday nights. 

    whitney cummingsWhitney is the brainchild of comedienne Whitney Cummings who is funny and sexy.  She's been on a few Comedy Central Roasts and done a few standup specials and this is her and her TV boyfriend living large and being clever and funny.

    It's a decent show and Cummings seems at ease, natural, and to be really enjoying herself.  But if you don't like Cummings you won't like this show at all.  I do like her and it's still a tossup.  Enjoyable but I don't think I'm gonna be watching it on a regular basis.   I just don't think the show itself distinguishes itself enough to last.  It's really missing an identify, something to set it apart.  

    Funny couple share their lives.  Now what?

    I couldn't tell you for certain if the pilot was about anything important or interesting although I do vaguely remember Cummings looking hot in a nurse outfit - sex games or something...yeah.  And the BF hurts himself role playing and has to go the ER.  Or something.

    I think Cummings will find a home on TV - just not sure this is it.

    Whitney also stars Chris D'Elia and Rhea Seehorn.

    Thursdays on NBC.

    Wednesday, 28 September 2011 09:33


    Written by

    terra nova logoIt's the 22nd Century and you've just scored an orange for your illegal family. The environmentalists have lost the war and the world is choking on its own foul emissions so everyone has to wear re-breathers and live in sealed steel caves and the population police are a'knocking on the crib because you've got 2.5 kids, not the legal two and they want to know why.

    What's a parental unit to do?

    Go to TerraNova, a world 85 million years removed from 2149 in the Cretaceous Period when dinos of all stripes and hungers roamed. This form of time travel is safe, or course, because the scientists have discovered that this is an alternate timeline that doesn't affect the future? No, "like, uh, stepping on butterflies and stuff" and making a mess of the future, according to science geek and cute teen daughter Maddy Shannon (Naomi Scott) who is our apparent guide to this brave, new world of science oddities. there a dark secret the Terra Novians are hiding?  Stay tuned.

    steven lang The story spends about twenty minutes in the foul world of the present, uh past, future?...never mind - the main story's protagonists, the Shannon fam, spend only a brief time in their current reality until making the jump to the distant past where mankind, womankind and kid-kind have set   up a para-military compound to keep out the dinos that want to eat them but also where friendly brontosaurs (or something like them) eat vegetation from your hand like you were on the other side of the giraffe exhibit at Wild Animal Park.

     The Shannons have a son, teen daughter (the afore-mentioned geek) and a young daughter who doesn't always remember daddy because he was in prison before they left. Even though Jim Shannon (Jason O'Mara) was a cop in 2149, those population police have bad tempers and no sense of humor when it comes to hiding little girls in obvious places like ventilation shafts and they put him in a prison where his wife can smuggle in a cutting laser powerful enough for him to slice through bars.

    See, Mrs. Shannon (Shelley Conn) is a trauma surgeon who is in high-demand in TN and so most Christine Adams  of the family is being sent there in one of the later migrations. All Jim Shannon has to do to join them is simply break out of his maximum security prison and break into another one, with his five-year-old daughter in a back pack, (I "kid" you not - how messed up is this child gonna be - everyone is always shoving the poor thing into tight, dark places and telling her to be quiet.)

    Spoiler alert - he does all this horrendously difficult, stealthy stuff and then just hits a few guards in the chops at the portal and run/leaps into the glowing gate that will take him to TerraNova. Simple enough and really, why spend time on logic when all we really want to see is the dinos.  Let's get to it!

     So then, once in Terra Nova stuff happens, people meet "cute," and dinos attack - all standard back-to the-Cretaceous fare. Teen girls and guys are all hot , soldiers are bad-ass, and ginormous insects crawl over your arm but never sting or bite anyone for some reason.

    And teens being teens, they like, sneak out of the compound (easily) and go "skinny-sipping" at the local majestic waterfall-pond while chugging homebrew made from fruts (fruits/nuts, get it?) Of course those rascally teens do get caught between a rock and a sharp place by the razor tails of these bad-tempered carnivores but that's just the way they roll in Jurrasic Nova.  All somewhat standard and predictable  fare elevated slightly with good production values and some well-written moments.

    the shannon familyThere are several subplots to keep it (maybe) interesting including a rogue scientist son who leaves hieroglyphics on rocks near the neighborhood waterfall and a group called "The Sixers" (or is it "Sixes?" Probably - the basketball team would be fun but a bit jarring, I guess) who are also rogues who left the main compound en masse for reasons unknown as part of the Sixth Migration - hence the clever name.

    Stephen Lang plays Commander Nathaniel Taylor, a more warm and fuzzy version of the crazed commander he postured in "Avatar."  He's still a bad, buffed-out dude but he's a benign dictator this time and the first man to actually set foot on TN who then established the settlement back in the day. 

    Big time A-lister Steven Spielberg is exec producer (one of eleven, srsly!!) and the show both benefits and suffers from Mr. Spielberg's trademarked sense of drama. Everyone who talks is either cute, self-important or ponderous. Speeches are punctuated by close-ups so we know the character is saying something crucial to the plot or scene.  

    For example, in the middle of a rescue mission  steven spielbergwhere nasty, speedy carnivors are attacking and a troop of soldiers is shooting and rushing around, Jim and his wife have a heart-to-heart about parenting.  Huh?

    The last scene in the pilot has the adorable, little Shannon daughter asking her plucky parents if "it's going to fall on us." She's talking about the moon of course, which she's never seen because she's young and it was normally covered by pollution.  And I guess the school she attended didn't have DVD players or books or anything so she couldn't possibly know about it.  

    The shots are of the family gathered outside, staring up in an horribly orchestrated moment that's meant to invoke an emotional response - the master manipulator at work. You know it's Spielberg when the camera attacks and eats the actors' faces.

    I’m on the fence with TerraNova. It’s a big-time production with solid actors and lots of fun action stuff. I just wish it wasn’t so...Jurassic Spielbergy-Parky.  

    Then again, it's hard to bet against the genius of the man who redefined so much of our entertainment.

    TerraNova is on Monday nights on Fox.

    Tuesday, 27 September 2011 08:50

    PanAm / Playboy Club

    Written by

    pan am"PanAm" is one of a few new offerings that take viewers back to  a simpler time and place where kids were allowed to tour the cockpit of a jet and women wore girdles.  My main question to this would be "why?"

    The nostalgia boom engendered by the hit show "MadMen" has found its way into this oddball drama which stars Christina Ricci, Kelli Garner, Margot Robbie, Michael Mosley, Karine Vanasse, Annabelle Wallis, Dean Lowrey, and Mike Vogel.  If you notice a preponderance of female leads it's because the show basically follows four young women as they pursue what is considered the epitome of 60's femnitude (made up word) - being a PanAm Stewardess. Glamour, elegance, travel!  And yes, that is the correct term for a woman in the air at that time before if became "flight attendant."

    The eye-candy factor is decently high - all these women and dashing men are gorgeous.  I almost expected a bright shaft of light to blink off the young pilot's teeth when he smiled the first time.

    As the stewardesses fly the maiden voayage of a new PanAm international flight, the show bounces back to how the flight crew either came to the company or came to the flight.  Christina Ricci is a last-minute addition as a purser because one of the girls (Annabelle Wallis) is MIA - as is supposedly her wont - and Ricci, a bohemian living somewhere is the bowels of New York, is actually dramatically choppered in to catch the flight "I won't let flight 123 take off without a purser!" 

    Higher drama than this is hard to find - unless you're watching reruns of "The Love Boat."

    We know Ricci is a bohemian because she has the requisite young, semi-angry and bearded young man writing his manifesto on a manual typewriter in her living room.  Further evidence is his dismismissive "You dropped your silly, blue hat" to which she responds that she's seeing the world or something.  Yeah, the dialogue ain't "West Wing."  (one of the exec producers is a former "West Wing" director.  

    Some surprise is also dialed in and I won't spoil the viewing but there were a few eye-openers that might or might not keep the show on an edgier level.  Seen from a different angle and through a different lens these surprises also might sink the show - it remains to be seen what the creators and writers do with these weird little subplots.

    I did actually enjoy this show because it's mindless, the production is pretty  (there's a nicely-appointed, odd scene in Cuba as Castro's political prisoners are released and a PanAm crew is there to fly them to freedom,) the various geo-locations are swell, and the acting is solid when necessary to the storyline.  What seems like a fully-functional airplane cockpit and cockpit made it all seem very big and fat but also very tight and clean.  Also, some old-timey music gave it a neato beat - I could dance to it just fine.

    If "MadMen" is 60's sturm und drang then "PanAm" is 60's Catskills - the polar opposite- no one even smokes in this show!  Even a segement where one of the flight crew flees her wedding day is given a jokey, unreal feeling when her sister (also a stewardess) steals their father's Caddy and takes off across the well-manuicured, upper-middle class lawn so they can run away and be part of the circus - uh, flight crew. 

    The pilot did well (show, not flying guy) among audiences but whether this show will find a continuing audience remains to be seen.  It's a bit inconsistent both in tone and story-telling. And by the end of an hour I was getting a bit tired of the seemingly endless promotion of an airline that doesn't exist any more but did for many decades and did set standards that are unhappily missing today.  The actual PanAm name/logo is now owned by a railroad company after the airline went belly-up and ABC had to license the rights from them.

    "PanAm" has a Sunday slot (check your listings) and is available for review HERE if you missed the "maiden voayage."  I'm going to watch a few more eps and see how much girdle snapping I can tolerate.  Maybe the show will surprise me.

    In stark contrast to the somewhat idealistic and fluffy PanAm "The Playboy Club" is as mean as the playboy club logo Chicago streets where the original club was born.

    Eddie Cibrian (Nick Dalton) a lawyer and Playboy Club Keyholder who also comes from mob roots plays sex-tag with Laura Benanti as Bunny Mother Carol-Lynne and newly-minted bunny Amber Heard who has big ambitions to be a performer and sees the club as a stepping stone to the bright lights.

    "If You Don't Swing, Don't Ring" is the Latin phrase on the gates on the Playboy Mansion in the early 60's as Hef is just building his empire.  In the pilot about those heady, early days when sexual mores were being stood on their head, more happens in the first twenty minutes than happens in the entire hour of "Pan Am" - well, at least more dirt.  And people actually smoke in this show.

    Basically, Amber Heard is hot and everyone wants to fluff her bunny tail including some local mob boss who is overly amorous without permission.  This leads to some interesting moments as Heard's character become embroiled in a lot more than she bargained for coming from Ft. Wayne as an idealistic 20-something looking to make it big in Chi-Town.

    amber heard"Playboy Club" has a gritty, dirty feel to it no matter what's happening.  The production colors are bright enough - blues, reds and yellows in the club abound - but they seem to struggle against the eternal darkness that surrounds the men and women here.  

    Of course, the dark places are illuminated at times by (fake) Ike and Tina Turner production numbers done expertly and with as much energy as Ms Turner used to output on stage.  

    There are subplots galore including some unexpected social commentary that surprised me - and not the typical race relations that you'd expect to see in a drama about that turbulent time in America.

    Ciprian is brooding, capable, and intriguing as a defense attorney who has statehouse amibitions but will seemingly be forever tied to the mob from which he sprang.  The current mob boss' son (Troy Garity) is smooth and scary and seems to capable of causing a lot of mayhem for Ciprian.  Bunny Mother Laura Benanti is beautiful and powerful as an OB (original bunny) who is on the downside of her physcial beauty (she's still smoking hot) but the upside of her ambitions to rule the club.

    All in all, I really liked this show and put it on a Season Pass immediately - not necessarily because it's so well-written (it's fair, at times very good) but because the characters truly intrigued me.  Not sure it'll succeed like "MadMen" but it'll have a good chance if they can maintain this pace.  

    "Playboy Club" is on Monday nights on NBC. 

    Thursday, 10 November 2011 21:06

    Cambridge 2012 - Study Abroad!

    Written by

    We’re Going to Cambridge, England!
    Summer 2012

    (June 30th-August 11th)
    6 weeks!

    [Go for the classes—stay for the Olympics!]

    OCC English professor Raymond Obstfeld will be taking a group of 40 students to live on campus at the University of Cambridge, one of the world’s most prestigious universities.

    Cambridge alumni include John Milton, Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, A.A. Milne, William Wordsworth, and Sylvia Plath, as well as the more contemporary Sasha Baron Cohen (Borat), Emma Thompson, Hugh Laurie (House), and the members of Monty Python.

    Students will live at Girton College, and attend OCC courses offered by Prof. Obstfeld.  All units earned are transferable. Students who have participated in this program in the past describe it as “life-changing” and “the best time I’ve ever had.” You, too, will have the time of your life.

    Important Information:
    · Cost: approx. $7,745 .00
    (still one of the cheapest trips available!)
    · Cost includes:
    · roundtrip airfare on Virgin Airlines
    · room with daily maid service
    · breakfast and dinner
    · weekend in London with tours, theater tickets, and hotel
    · Credits are transferable
    · OCC Courses offered: Eng. 101 (Advanced Comp), Eng. 148 (British Film as Literature), Eng. 122 (Novel Workshop), Eng. 127 (Scriptwriting). Others available.

    Special Attraction:TheSummer Olympics will be held in London while we are there (40 minutes away.) 

    This is a great opportunity! LINK

    If you are interested in joining us, send an email to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

    Or you can apply online HERE

    Raymond Obstfeld is the author of over 40 published books of fiction, non-fiction and poetry as well asa dozen screenplays. His most recent works are

    On the Shoulders of Giants, a New York Times bestseller co-authored with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the suspense novel Anatomy Lesson, the forthcoming thriller Assassin’s Apprentice, and the forthcoming children’s book What Color Is My World with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. 

    $100 discount for applications and deposits received by June 30th, 2011! 


    Professor Obstfeld:  Raymond Obstfeld
    Apply Online:  HERE
    Olympics Website:  LINK

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