Browsing Tag

hugh laurie


For the last two months, I’ve been binge-watching several shows and they all happened to be British series…until Kimmy Schmidt returned for her second season last Friday on Netflix. Here are some overall thoughts on these shows’ entire seasons.

Des Willie, The Ink Factory/AMC

Des Willie, The Ink Factory/AMC

The Night Manager (starts April 19 on AMC)

Based on John le Carré’s novel of the same name, this 6-episode thriller stars Tom Hiddleston as the titular hotel manager and Hugh Laurie as arms dealer Richard Roper, whom the manager is determined to take down with the help of a spy played by Broadchurch‘s Olivia Coleman.

The pilot is very good, and sets up the reason for Jonathan Pine, the manager, wanting revenge. The second ep lags a bit when Angela the spy is convincing Jonathan to work with her, then he spends time creating his legend to go undercover and gain Roper’s trust. Once he’s in, the suspense ratchets back up.

As expected, the acting is top-notch. It’s entertaining to see Laurie play a full-on villain so effortlessly, but maybe Roper’s just an extreme version of Dr. House, who was not a nice guy, either. Coleman is always welcome on my TV screen, and here she’s as tough as ever despite her character being pregnant (the pregnancy was real).

Hiddleston deftly handles Jonathan’s arc from regular guy to hesitant spy to someone who shouldn’t be messed with. And his fans should have lots to discuss when they get an eyeful of him. I’ll just leave it at that.

One of the most commendable aspects of the series is that there are no bimbos, even when showcasing rich businessmen and their arm candy. The women are more substantial than how they first appear.

I’d never seen Elizabeth Debicki before her performance as Roper’s lover Jed, but standing at almost six foot three, she’s a towering presence. Jed and Jonathan were responsible for Mr. PCN and me screaming at the TV because they do some dumb things, but for the most part, the story and direction are solid.

Nerd verdict: Tense Night




Grantchester season 2 (PBS, Sunday nights)

This series, based on the novels by James Runcie, is as cozy as a warm blanket on a rainy day. Most of its charm comes from James Norton’s portrayal of vicar Sidney Chambers, a charismatic do-gooder who reveals rougher edges this season. His friendship with DI Geordie (Robson Green) is strained due to a disagreement on a case that serves as the seasonal arc, though the two also solve standalone mysteries each episode.

Sidney becomes more interesting as more colors are shown, but I found some of Geordie’s actions troubling, especially in the second ep when he allows torture of a suspect. I thought the friendship should’ve been more strained, because I couldn’t imagine Sidney continuing to hang out with a man he saw being cruel.

Al Weaver as Leonard and Tessa Peake-Jones as the housekeeper, Mrs. Maguire, continue to delight as they get their own personal arcs. Morven Christie, however, has less to do this season as Sidney’s childhood friend Amanda.

Though now married, Amanda continues to visit Sidney but she isn’t well integrated into the storylines. It’s as if the producers were contractually obligated to include the actress in a minimum number of scenes per episode, but they weren’t required to give her anything to do. The season finale will probably make most fans cheer, but I didn’t think it was a good idea.

Nerd verdict: Bucolic Grantchester 



Happy Valley season 2 (Netflix)

As much as I adore James Norton in Grantchester, I loathe his character in Happy Valley, and that’s a testament to the actor’s talent. He sports a closed-shaved head this season as rapist/murderer Tommy Lee Royce, the polar opposite of Sidney Chambers. Tommy seduces/brainwashes a vulnerable woman to help him get back at police sergeant Catherine Cawood for what she did to him last season.

The woman, Frances, is played by Shirley Henderson, perhaps best known as Moaning Myrtle from the Harry Potter movies. She may look harmless but she insidiously causes emotional damage in Catherine’s relationship with her grandson.

What makes Catherine a riveting character is that she’s surprising. There were moments when I expected her to explode in anger—heck, I probably would have—but she instead proceeds with kindness or uses an approach that’s more effective with a suspect than intimidation tactics. She’s very good at her job, and so is Sarah Lancashire, who plays her.

Also returning is Charlie Murphy as Ann Gallagher, now a rookie cop while still dealing with the aftermath of last season’s events. Ann is smart and more resilient than people expect, and Murphy is wonderful to watch, but when Ann develops an interest in a much older man with no clear redeeming qualities, my heart sank. Ann could do so much better.

Nerd verdict: Gripping Valley




Doctor Thorne

Downton Abbey‘s Julian Fellowes adapted Anthony Trollope’s novel into this series starring Tom Hollander as a 19th-century country doctor raising his niece Mary alone after her father—Thorne’s brother—dies. (Mary was conceived during an affair and her mother, married to a man other than Thorne’s brother, was forced to abandon her.)

Mary and her childhood friend Frank are in love, but Mary is destitute and Frank’s mother forbids him to marry her. His family desperately needs money to save their estate, so Frank’s mother wants him to hook up with an older American heiress instead. Complications ensue, but since there are only 3 episodes, plotlines are resolved quickly. The story is predictable, but the journey is entertaining and the ending is satisfying.

Just like how James Norton makes me adore him in one series and detest him in another, Tom Hollander is nasty in The Night Manager but sympathetic here as the wise doctor. You won’t find guys like Norton and Hollander (and Hiddleston) always playing the same character the way some actors do.

I was surprised to discover Stefani Martini has only one prior credit on IMDb before playing Mary. She has talent and a graceful screen presence; I bet she’ll rack up more credits soon.

It’s dismaying to see Alison Brie play American heiress Miss Dunstable, a woman considered a homely spinster. The actress is 33 but looks like someone in her late 20s and she’s attractive. At least Miss Dunstable is confident and sharp witted, and Brie seems to have enjoyed playing the character quite a bit.

Nerd verdict: Predictable but enjoyable Thorne




Unbreakable Kimmy Shmidt season 2 (Netflix)

Instead of being all stressed about taxes last Friday, I was squealing with joy because new episodes of Kimmy Schmidt became available. Of course I watched all 13 eps in one day.

Season 2 is even quirkier, with non-sequitur jokes coming fast and furious. You might have to do much rewinding to catch them all. Not all the jokes landed, but when they did, I laughed loud and long.

The good things:

Kimmy is finally dealing with her bunker experience. The process is very funny, but her breakthroughs do have emotional truths.

Titus has a new boyfriend named Mikey and the two are really sweet together, despite Titus’s efforts to sabotage the relationship because he fears happiness.

Tina Fey has a prominent role as a drunk lady who meets Kimmy and ends up making a difference in Kimmy’s life. This role is much funnier than Fey’s Marcia Clark-like character from last season.

One episode features several songs that sound like popular songs but aren’t, so that producers can avoid pesky copyright issues. So we get Dusk Mountie singing “Brother Baptist” instead of Night Ranger’s “Sister Christian,” and “I’m Convinced I Can Swim” in place of “I Believe I Can Fly.”

Titus sings more this season, and his voice is astounding.

The bad:

Dong is back, and still not speaking in anything close to a Vietnamese accent. It just sounds like some generic Asian accent. Imagine someone using a vague European accent to play an Italian character. Hey, as long as the accent comes from somewhere on the continent, that’s good enough. Don’t bother getting specific or anything. And when Dong speaks Vietnamese? Forget about it. I couldn’t understand a word and had to read the subtitles. Why is it so hard to do some research and represent Vietnamese people accurately?

At one point, Titus does a one-man show in yellow face. I might have to write a whole other post to address that and Scarlett Johansson playing Japanese in Ghost in the Shell.

Carol Kane’s subplot involving Lilian fighting gentrification of her neighborhood is not funny. i can’t get behind her rejecting recycling and thinking graffiti is good. I guess that makes me one of the hipsters Lillian dislikes.

Nerd verdict: Still funny, still flawed


Reaction to HOUSE Series Finale (SPOILERS)

Throughout most of the episode, I was reading a magazine, checking my Twitter account, and watching videos of my baby niece learning how to roll over because all the navel gazing happening on TV was sooo boring and making me twitchy. It was nice to see Kal Penn and Sela Ward and Jennifer Morrison return to the show as Kutner, Stacy, and Cameron, respectively, to talk to House as figments of his imagination while he considered killing himself, but even their appearances and a raging fire couldn’t add much dramatic tension to his internal conflict. It was about the same ol’ issues he’d been struggling with all along—Is life worth living? Will he ever be happy? Can he find true love? Blah, blah, blah. Twenty minutes in, I was shouting at the TV, “Do something!”

Finally, House did get up, but when the building collapsed and exploded, I didn’t feel anything. As Wilson said in his eulogy, it was a selfish death. House had more than enough time to save himself but waited until it was too late. Shrug. And I’m saying this as a former super fan of the show and current fan of Hugh Laurie’s.

So I thought, “That’s that. I didn’t expect a happy ending, anyway.” But when Foreman said the coroner confirmed the identity of the charred body in the building, I thought, “It’d be so easy for House to switch his records with his former patient’s.” Which is what happened, and House appeared quite alive on Wilson’s front stoop.

Finally, we got to see the two in leather and stubble, riding off into the sunset on badass motorcycles. (This was funny in its midlife-crisisness, but Wilson is at his endlife so he’s allowed.) At that moment, I suddenly realized I did care what happened to House, but more for Wilson’s sake, because I didn’t want him to end up being so angry and alone. It’s nice to know Wilson will have his best friend by his side in his last days, and perhaps House will learn to stand on his own after all when his crutch is gone.

What did you think? How did you want the series to end? Did you miss Cuddy?

Photo: Byron Cohen/FOX


Crumbling HOUSE

*Spoilers about House season finale ahead*

Second warning, if you haven’t watched last night’s episode, stop reading now. If you have seen it, read on and discuss!

Last week I was shocked when I heard Lisa Edelstein would not be back as Dr. Cuddy for House‘s season 8 (read the announcement here) but after watching last night’s finale, I’m thinking she’ll be better off. Dr. House (Hugh Laurie) has been an ass for many years now, but in the beginning it was fun. He was a kind of wish-fulfillment character—we wish we could be that blunt and live life on our own terms.

But during the past couple of seasons, he has become much more cruel and destructive, sometimes just for sport instead of for the good of a patient. The harm he caused, though, was mostly to himself so I put up with it. When he drove his car into Cuddy’s living room last night to break up a small dinner party, he stopped being just a petulant man in arrested emotional development. He became a psychotic person who attempted, at the very least, vehicular manslaughter. House is one sick jerk who didn’t just get thrown back to square one when Cuddy broke up with him (as she should have), he’s become a character I no longer like, and not in a love-to-hate way. Edelstein’s news indicates Cuddy will finally leave House behind next year, something I’ll probably do, too.

What did you think of the finale?


Capsule Reviews of Monday Night TV

Whoa, the fall TV season slammed into our living rooms so hard last night, my DVR almost exploded. Didn’t get to watch everything I recorded but managed to get through the season premieres of House and Chuck and the pilots of The Event and Hawaii Five-O (I reviewed Lone Star last week here). It’s now 3:30 and my contacts are plastered to my eyeballs so I’ll just jot down some quick impressions and hit the sack. There will be SPOILERS!

First, the returnees.


So they got the House-and-Cuddy sex out of the way right off the bat, picking up in the same scene that ended last season’s finale. I couldn’t help but think, “Oh, man, you guys are caked in blood and dirt and sweat. Shouldn’t you shower first? Y’all must smell!”

I’ve never been completely on board with this relationship but it was nice to see them happy before the doubts started settling in. When House gave Cuddy reasons for why their relationship wouldn’t work, I agreed with him. He is an asshole and he hasn’t changed (we don’t want him to!). I didn’t like how Cuddy told House she loves him and then freaked out when he didn’t say it back, right after saying she didn’t want to badger him into moving too fast by going public with their relationship. If you can’t say “I love you” just for the sake of saying it, without expectations, you shouldn’t say it at all. It shouldn’t be used to make the other person feel obligated. Talk about badgering.

Elsewhere, I knew Thirteen had planted the envelope for the team to find and that she wasn’t really going to Rome. She was too cool when the others told her they’d read her letter to House. I didn’t expect Chase to bluntly asked her for sex—when did he get such cojones?—and kinda like it that her whereabouts are now a mystery. Of course, in real life, Olivia Wilde is off making Cowboys & Aliens with Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig. Lucky girl.

Nerd verdict: Happy House, but this wasn’t a great House


I’ve always enjoyed this show but now that Linda Hamilton, one of my cinematic action heroes, has joined the cast as Chuck’s mom, I tuned in with even more fangirliness. And I wasn’t disappointed. During a scene reminiscent of one in T2 when she’s sitting at a table being interrogated by a bunch of guys, I thought, “Don’t they know who they’re dealing with? Their butts are gonna get kicked!” And sure enough, that’s what happened. Nobody puts Hamilton in the corner.

Dolph Lundgren makes an appearance as the main baddie and has some fun telling Casey (Adam Baldwin) “I must break you,” a line he made famous as Ivan Drago in Rocky IV. Another ’80s movie reference was made when Harry Dean Stanton shows up to repo the car Chuck (Zachary Levi) and Morgan (Joshua Gomez) use on their non-CIA missions. It’s a nice touch to have Stanton in the role because he, of course, was the original Repo Man.

Other changes: The Buy More has been rebuilt but this time it’s a spy center completely staffed by spies, with General Beckman (Bonita Friedericy) as the manager. Ellie is pregnant, but I don’t really care because I’ve never gelled to Sarah Lancaster as Chuck’s sister. I’d be fine if her character as eliminated, which I was hoping for when Ellie was shipped to the Congo last season. Alas, she came back.

The big change is that Chuck and Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski) are a full-on, lovey-dovey couple, sexting during missions. Unlike Cuddy and House’s, this relationship has a chance at succeeding because Chuck and Sarah are not as dysfunctional and neither one is the other’s boss.

Nerd verdict: Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to watch Chuck

Hawaii Five-0

I used to watch the original series but don’t have strong enough memories to make this a comparison. Regardless, I thought the pilot fell flat, though it’s not an outright disaster. Alex O’Loughlin, as Steve McGarrett, sounds so much like Nicolas Cage both in voice and line delivery, I couldn’t help chuckling even during intense scenes. Seriously, close your eyes next time you watch—you’d swear you were watching a Cage movie. I don’t know why CBS keeps throwing shows at this guy.

Scott Caan made the strongest impression as Danno because his character was the most fleshed out. Daniel Dae Kim as Chin Ho Kelly hasn’t been given much to do yet, and Grace Park is unconvincing as a tough cop-in-training. She looks like she weighs a buck minus a dime so when she punches a guy, I feared more for her hand than his face. It was also ridiculous how she went undercover as a poor illegal Chinese girl who works two jobs, one being a hotel maid. C’mon—she has blond highlights in her hair and they don’t come cheap! If you’re thinking maybe her hair was sun-bleached, no, it is not possible for an Asian to go blond naturally.

Speaking of Asians, what the hell kind of accent was guest star Will Yun Lee doing? He sounds like a villain from a ’70s chopsocky movie, the kind that’s badly dubbed and is hammier than the main course on Easter Sunday. Yes, his character is supposed to have a Chinese accent but Lee’s was so cartoonish, I thought at first he was doing a parody a la Kentucky Fried Movie.

You know a show is not living up to its potential when it squanders a guest-starring turn by James Marsters aka Spike from my beloved Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Marsters is a dynamic actor but even he couldn’t liven up the proceedings here.

Nerd verdict: Hawaii Zer-0

The Event

After so many title cards designating when things were happening, I lost track of where the baseline was. I wasn’t sure if something was occurring 23 minutes earlier or now or thirteen months earlier. But I was intrigued.

From what I can understand of the plot, Leila Buchanan (Sarah Roemer) was abducted and probably being used as leverage by bad guys who want her father (Scott Patterson) to crash an airplane into a compound where the president of the United States (Blair Underwood) is about to make a speech, accompanied by a mysterious prisoner, Sophia (Laura Innes), from a Gitmo-like facility. When the plane disappears into some kind of vortex, Sophia implies she knows what happened. I wasn’t happy to see a twist that’s so Lost-like but I’ll give it a chance to surprise me.

Nerd verdict: Event not momentous but has potential to improve

What did you watch last night? See anything you liked? Excited the fall TV season has officially begun?


Best & Worst of Emmys 2010

Getty Images

Despite knowing that award shows have a tendency to be long and tedious, I was looking forward to this year’s Emmys because I liked many of the nominees. But after a rousing opening number with Jimmy Fallon leading the Glee kids, Jon Hamm, Tina Fey and others in singing and dancing to Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run (see it here), the energy level dipped considerably.

I was happy about some of the results—Jane Lynch’s win for Glee, Modern Family for best comedy series, Archie Panjabi’s upset victory for best supporting actress in a drama series for The Good Wife—and unhappy about others: Hugh Laurie’s loss for the fifth time. Did voters not see last season’s premiere when he was in the psychiatric hospital, and the finale when he advised the woman to have her leg amputated so she wouldn’t have chronic pain like he does?

For a complete list of winners, click here. Keep reading for my thoughts on the highlights and lowlights of the evening.

Best sport: George Clooney participating in a skit about a clueless network executive trying to improve on Modern Family for next season. Julie Bowen and Sofia Vergara both liked the idea of their characters falling in love with Clooney after their TV husbands are killed off. Then Eric Stonestreet and Jesse Tyler Ferguson revealed they wouldn’t mind having Clooney in a threesome with Mitch and Cam, to which Clooney said, “I’ve got to get a film.”

Classiest act: Clooney again. When he won the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award, he gave an eloquent speech that I couldn’t have agreed with more. An excerpt:

We live in such strange times where bad behavior sucks up all the attention in the press and the people who really need the spotlight—the Haitians, the Sudanese, people in the Gulf Coast on the five-year anniversary [of Katrina], people in Pakistan—they can’t get any…

Now the truth is, look, when a disaster happens, everybody wants to help…The hard part is, seven months later, five years later when we’re on to a new story…we fail at that, most of the time. I fail at that.

So here’s hoping that some very bright person, right here in the room or at home watching, can help find a way to keep the spotlight burning on these heartbreaking situations that continue to be heartbreaking long after the cameras go away.

Clooney for president! Then maybe he can ban talentless idiots from getting press for having sex tapes.

Biggest regret: Seeing Kim Kardashian and Kate Gosselin on my TV. I’ve made it a mission in life to not watch/see/read anything that involves these two (see previous rant about people who shouldn’t be famous) and have avoided exposure up until tonight. But they popped up on the red carpet and did intros with Fallon. My brain felt so infected, I wanted an injection of antibiotics.

Best booty shakin’: Jon Hamm. His goofy dancing with Betty White as his coach made me like him more when I thought that wasn’t possible. Tina Fey told Entertainment Weekly‘s Michael Ausiello that Hamm will be back for 30 Rock‘s live episode this fall and I can’t wait to see what his character Drew will do with his hooks for hands.

Funniest reason for rooting for a nominee: Ricky Gervais wanting Bucky Gunts to win for directing the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games opening ceremony simply because “I didn’t know you could say [Bucky Gunts] on television.” Then Gunts actually won! Hilarious.

Winner most in danger of losing job: Erin Levy, co-winner of best drama series writing with Matthew Weiner for Mad Men. Levy said she’d previously been Weiner’s assistant before getting the opportunity to write for the show. Last year’s co-winner with Weiner, Kater Gordon, said the same thing then lost her job two months later.

Most inept fact checker: The person responsible for spelling Julia Ormond’s name Julia OrmAnd when she won the best miniseries supporting actress award for Temple Grandin. It’s Ormond’s first Emmy; it would’ve been nice for her to see her name spelled correctly on screen if she wants to watch that moment later.

Now on to best and worst of the fashion…

You’d think the celebs were attending a funeral based on the predominance of black and midnight blue dresses. Eva Longoria Parker, Julie Bowen, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Edie Falco, Lea Michele and Heidi Klum were just a few wearing this dark hue on a sunny August day, making me sweat just looking at them.

Among this sea of somberness, it was easy for me to pick my favorite dress:

Photo: Jay L. Clendenin/L.A. Times

Keri Russell looks pretty, summery, cool and comfortable. Her dress is vintage Jean Louis Scherrer; extra credit to Russell for having bought it herself from an L.A. vintage shop.

Check out the slide show below for my thoughts on other fashion choices…

[cincopa 10733533]

What did you think of the show? How did you like Fallon as host? Most memorable moments for you?


Monday Night Madness

Photo: Mike Yarish/Fox

OK, I probably talk about Hugh Laurie a little too much around here but I love how, one night after the television academy denied him an Emmy, he showed them up with a brilliant performance in the season 6 House premiere that’s probably one of his best in the show’s history. In your face, TV Academy! Awesomeness is the best revenge.

This episode, which takes place solely in the Mayfield Psychiatric Hospital, was so good, I didn’t miss House’s team or Cuddy, not even when House got it on with Franka Potente. My favorite things:

  • Tony-winner Lin-Manuel Miranda as House’s rapping roommie, Alvie. His energy was so infectious, I could see why he didn’t want to take his meds if they dampened it. Too bad we won’t get to see more of him.
  • That rap Alvie did with House!
  • House being constantly outwitted by Dr. Nolan (a formidable Andre Braugher). It’s nice to see House humbled and not always getting away with his abusive behavior.
  • The quiet grace Franka Potente brought to Lydia. Quite a difference from the kinetic Lola in Tom Tykwer’s film.
  • Megan Dodds as the unflappable Dr. Beasley. Fun fact: She and Laurie both recurred on the British series Spooks aka MI-5, he as a blowsy bureaucrat and she as a CIA agent.

After House, I switched over to ABC’s Castle to catch one of my favorite mystery authors, Michael Connelly, in a cameo. Sometimes non-actors can give really stiff line readings but I think Connelly did a nice job, with a touch of his trademark dryness that amuses me. It was fun to hear Harry Bosch getting a shout-out.

I also recorded Heroes but haven’t had time to watch it yet. It’s been infected by major suckage in recent seasons but I don’t know why I haven’t given up on it yet. Watching the premiere ep might decide it for me.

I love this time of year when new network series premiere, old favorites come back and my DVR is full. It’s been woefully empty all summer, when I stop watching TV due to all the reality trash.

What did you think of this mold-breaking House episode? What else are you watching or looking forward to this season? Which mystery author would you like to see on Castle next? Vote below!

[polldaddy poll=2028042]


Movie Review: Jane Campion's BRIGHT STAR

Before I get to my review, I want to mention something funny that happened on my way into the Variety screening of Bright Star. There was a red carpet premiere taking place at the same multiplex where the screening was held but I had no intention of stopping to gape. Sometimes I just get annoyed at all the security and photogs who get in my way.

hughBut then I saw Hugh Laurie. I just stumbled upon Dr. House on a random Thursday evening! Most of you probably know I’m a huge fan of his and there he was, a cane’s length away from me. He was sporting a cropped do which he’d said helps him look like a mental patient (I disagree). Turned out the event was for House‘s season 6 premiere (airing next Monday, 9/21) and once I peeled my eyes off Laurie and looked down the line, I saw Lisa Edelstein, Jesse Spencer, Olivia Wilde and Robert Sean Leonard walking the carpet, too. I guess this time, the paps are forgiven.


OK, on to the review.

f&K kissingJane Campion has created a gorgeous piece of art. Bright Star (limited U.S. release today) is about the romance between the poet John Keats (Ben Whishaw) and his muse Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish), the spirited girl next door who is good at fashion and sewing. At first, she has no interest in poems and he thinks fashion is frivolous. But once she reads his Endymion, she asks him to teach her how to appreciate poetry. Soon, a passionate love blooms between them, rudely cut short by his death at 25.

curtainsIn this age of 3D movies with overblown budgets, director/writer Campion has created something almost magical—a full-bodied, 2D movie with a $13-million budget that seems to stimulate all five senses. In a scene where Fanny lies on her bed with the wind blowing seductively through her curtains, you can almost feel the coolness on your skin. You can smell the flowers in her garden, watch the brightly colored butterflies flitting about in her room (as part of her butterfly farm), taste the soup Keats slurps gingerly to soothe a cough and hear the wonderful a capella singing and violin playing which occur often in the Brawne household.

As Fanny, Cornish is definitely the bright star of this movie. Looking like a cross between younger versions of Nicole Kidman and Charlize Theron, she shines with intelligence, wit and spunk. In the last five minutes of the film, she’s devastating. She’s been on the cusp of stardom with significant turns in Elizabeth: The Golden Age and Stop-Loss; I hope this role pushes her over the edge.

Whishaw does solid work as Keats and generates chemistry with Cornish that’s more playful than sizzling. I thought he looked a little too old in the movie to play Keats from 23-25 years old (perhaps because of facial scruff) but when he showed up afterwards to do Q & A, he looked about 12.


Schneider as Brown


Schneider as himself

As Keats’s best friend, Charles Brown, Paul Schneider is practically unrecognizable with facial hair, ample girth and Scottish brogue. Though I’ve seen this character actor (and so have you) in lots of roles like Ryan Gosling’s brother in Lars and the Real Girl and the guy Amy Poehler has a crush on in Parks and Recreation, I didn’t know it was him until he showed up for the Q & A, clean-shaven and speaking in his native American accent. Then my reaction was “Oh, it’s that guy!” His transformation is quite impressive.

There are a few factors which might deter some moviegoers from seeing this movie: lack of big stars, period piece, poetry being a main topic. Let me emphatically say there’s no need to worry. I’m practically illiterate when it comes to poetry, always hitting a mental block whenever I try reading it (Campion said in the Q & A she had the same problem when she was younger). But this movie still made me swoon because the actors are very good at conveying the feeling behind the words. All you have to do is let the beauty wash over you.

Nerd verdict: A Bright Star indeed to start off Oscar season


Chat with Hugh Laurie This Wednesday

hugh eating cuff

I’m not going to name names but there are some regulars here who are crazy about Hugh Laurie. OK, fine, I’m one of them.

This Wednesday, August 26, Laurie is doing a live online chat with the Los Angeles Times, who’s inviting you all to join in with your questions and comments. The chat is happening at 3 p.m. PDT/6 p.m. EDT. For more information, go here.

See you there?  (UPDATE: The chat was fun! For a transcript, click here and hit “replay.”)


The Nerdy Hot 10 List

Maxim released its annual Hot 100 List today, focusing on women with exceptional beauty and bodacious bods. (House‘s Olivia Wilde got the top spot.)

Looking at some of the names, I thought the chosen women are indeed gorgeous but physical perfection is only one way to judge hotness. Year in and year out, the same people seem to end up on these lists.

So I decided to release my own Nerdy Hot 10 List, with male celebs who are sexy not because of their ripped bodies (though some might have them), but because of something a little imperfect, goofy, or nerdy about them. So here’s my list, in no particular order, and the reasons why these guys made the cut.

1. Colin Firth. Firth is the epitome of the awkward man who always gets tongue-tied around a pretty girl. But that awkwardness is what makes him so endearing, as evidenced by the hilarious scene in Love Actually when he publicly proclaims his love in halting, butchered Portuguese to the object of his affection. And remember those dreadful reindeer sweaters he sported in the Bridget Jones movies? He’s hot for having the courage and good humor to wear them.


2. Hugh Laurie. He often appears slovenly and unshaven on House and behaves like an ass. But then you hear him play piano, sing a funny ditty on a talk show or give a humorous, humble acceptance speech for an award and all is forgiven.


3. Paul Rudd. He’s most famous for doing bawdy comedies as part of the Judd Apatow gang; his blue eyes and boyish charm allow him to get away with all the mischief. But he can also do Shakespeare (I saw him do Twelfth Night in a Lincoln Center production), write scripts, sing, produce and all these hidden talents add up to one sexy guy.


4. Robert Downey Jr. The first time I saw him was in The Pick-Up Artist, where he played a pretty geeky guy trying to hit on Molly Ringwald. What a difference twenty years make. Despite all his legal troubles and drug abuse, he’s somehow managed to salvage his quick wit, intelligence and ultra-sized talent. You may be well aware of his acting prowess but have you ever heard him sing? Forget about it. He’s got a voice that can melt inhibitions.


5. James McAvoy. He may not be the tallest, most muscular or dashing man but oh, is he romantic. Check out those intense blue eyes. When he looks at his leading actresses in movies like Starter for 10 and Atonement, he really looks at them, as if they’re the most exquisite creatures he’s ever seen. And we the audience can almost feel him gazing right through the screen into our own eyes.


6. Jon Hamm. I tried watching one episode of Mad Men and Hamm did nothing for me as Don Draper, though he was certainly groomed and dressed well. Then I saw him on 30 Rock as Tina Fey’s hapless boyfriend and developed a crush immediately. Hamm was ridiculously funny as the guy who was so beautiful, no one would tell him the truth about anything. He played tennis atrociously but thought he was awesome, rode a motorcycle like a drunk but thought he was cool and was clueless about the correct usage of the word “ironic.” I think Fey is a comedy genius and for Hamm to keep pace with her is sizzling hot.


7. James Franco. He’s not that interesting as Harry Osborn in the Spider-Man movies but when he’s goofy, like in Pineapple Express and videos, he gets my sexy stamp. Plus, he gets extra points for being a nerdy academic, with an English degree from UCLA and working towards graduate degrees in creative writing and film at Columbia and NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, respectively.

bret mckenzie

8. Bret McKenzie. As half of Flight of the Conchords, he doesn’t have much luck in his career or with the ladies on the show. But he, along with Jemaine Clement, makes me laugh hard with brilliant, kooky songs and their hilarious, clever lyrics. I don’t get starstruck much but if I ever meet him, I’d be completely tongue-tied and that’s a true sign of hotness in my book.


9. Daniel Craig. Yeah, he beefed up for Bond and looks great in a tux but before that, he played a scrappy drug dealer in Layer Cake, a murderer in Infamous and an unsympathetic Ted Hughes in Sylvia. His face isn’t conventionally pretty, with rough features that look like he’s been in a few brawls, but I’ll take him over the typical Calvin Klein model any day.


10. Brad Pitt. I swear he’s not on this list for the obvious reasons because, frankly, I find him rather bland when he plays heroes and pretty boys on screen. But he rocks my socks when he plays crazy like in Twelve Monkeys or a doofus like in Burn After Reading. A funny man who also happens to look like Pitt? Smokin’.

What do you think? Who else should be on the list? To see who’s on my Nerdy Hot 10 List—Female Edition, click here. (UPDATE: Check out my new 2010 Nerdy Hot List here.)

Subscribe to Pop Culture Nerd by Email


HOUSE Finale–Major Spoilers!

If you haven’t seen it, do NOT read any further! Skip down to the next article!

housecuddyNo, no, no, I can’t believe what happened. I feel manipulated and not in a good way. I can’t believe that in 2009, the producers would drag out the old Dallas stunt and foist it on us. OK, technically, House had a hallucination instead of a dream and he didn’t imagine an entire season, just one episode. Still.

The irony is, I didn’t really care if Cuddy and House got together or not. I like their banter and their strength as individuals and feared their coming together would destroy them. But, hey, the producers hyped their hook-up for months and when it finally happened, it was pretty hot.

And now, we find out House hallucinated the whole business because he’s so high on Vicodin, which is maddening because it’s unimaginative, not because the sex didn’t happen. I would’ve been fine if producers never went down that road. Now, I just feel scammed by a cheap bait and switch.

The ending also didn’t make sense to me. If it’s the drugs that are causing the hallucinations, why did House check into a psychiatric hospital? Don’t they give patients more drugs in such places? Wouldn’t rehab be better since it seems he just needs to clean up to stop seeing dead people?

Speaking of which, it was nice to see Kal Penn again, albeit briefly. I really liked Kutner and when I saw him, I realized how much his death still affected me.

And poor Carl Reiner. Looks like House will soon be able to hallucinate his character, Eugene, too. I thought he was only supposed to be an annoying patient so when the reveal of pancreatic cancer happened, it landed a small punch in my gut (luckily, not a pot belly) and Reiner’s reaction to the news was heart-tugging.

In happier news, Chase and Cameron finally got married after a lot of back and forth about her dead husband’s sperm. And she looked gorgeous. The dress, hair, makeup, jewelry—perfection.

Oh, don’t ask me about the case of the week. Compared to everything else that happened, it really was the least important thing.

How do you feel about this episode? Shocked? Wowed? Confused? Relieved?


SAG Awards — Funniest & Lamest Moments, Plus Fashion!

Though I got to vote for these awards, the show kinda bored me. Out of the 15 categories, I’d voted for 9 of the winners. If you just want a list, click here. If you want to hear about the funny and weird moments, read on.

I’m handing out my Nerdies for the following categories (I know it’s a nerdy name for an “award” but that’s the point):


Best Oh-No-She-Didn’t Moment: Tina Fey’s acceptance speech for female actor in a comedy series. She said someday her daughter Alice will be old enough to watch 30 Rock on the Internet and ask, “What do you mean you don’t get residuals for this?” Fey then said, “Take care of me when I’m old and broke!” She’s referring, of course, to the current bitter discourse between actors and producers who don’t want to pay residuals for Internet usage. She was able to land a punch while still being funny and that’s why she’s cleaning up on the awards circuit.

Most Likely to Owe Tina Fey a Residual Check: When accepting the TV drama ensemble award for Mad Men, Jon Hamm thanked their “dozens of viewers” and got a laugh. Fey said the exact same thing when her series won the best comedy Emmy in 2007. Even recycled, Fey’s lines are funny.

Most Likely to Make You Feel Like a Slacker: 7-year-old Aaron Hart, who won an Actor as part of Mad Men‘s cast. At seven years old, I think I was still putting my clothes on backwards.


Funniest Unintentional Transition: John Krasinski and Amy Poehler doing an amusing melodramatic bit (Krasinski: “I swear to God, if you keep pushing me away, next time I will not come back!” Poehler: “Fine, leave and take your broken dreams with you!”) before reading the nominees for Outstanding Female Actor in a Drama Series. Cut to a clip of Sally Field from Brothers & Sisters, doing the exact same kind of over-the-top acting they were parodying! Plus, she won!

Hottest Male I Saw All Night: Was it wrong of me to think, “Yowza!” when I saw a clip of a young, shirtless Paul Newman in the In Memorium montage? I knew I was supposed to be all sad and reverential (and I was) but dang, he was smokin’! 

Most Unsung Heroes: Brian and Susan, crafts services people thanked by Hugh Laurie for making “the finest cheesy eggs this side of the Rio Grande.” Forget agents and publicists—I second Laurie’s notion that without cheesy eggs in the morning, an actor cannot do his job! By the way, I love, love, love that Laurie won. My friends were saying, “Jon Hamm” and I was all, “Uh-uh, Hugh rules.” 


Best Person to Teach Speech-Giving Classes: Meryl Streep, who was exuberant, funny, classy, heartfelt, and eloquent without having to resort to lists and sheets of paper. Plus, though she didn’t expect to win (saying she didn’t even buy a dress and showing her pants as proof), there was no hyperventilating involved. Are you taking notes, Kate? 

Most in Need of Streep’s Speech-Giving Classes: Jane Krakowski, who accepted the outstanding comedy ensemble award on behalf of the 30 Rock cast and should never be allowed to again. She said though she’d previously won as part of the Ally McBeal cast, this cast was “a thousand times heavier.” I’m assuming she was referring to the skinny women in the McBeal cast and their rumored weight issues but the remark was lame and absolutely unnecessary. Her “joke” was the “heaviest” dud of the evening. 

america2Most Unfortunate Name Confusion: America Ferrera, in her dull-colored Vera Wang with an inexplicable black tulle sash across her bodice that made her look like she was trying to be Miss America. The tulle also snaked around her back to give her a huge goiter there. As usual, her hair and make-up were flawless but she definitely needs a different stylist.

dev-patel1Most Improved from the Golden Globes: Freida Pinto. In her flowing lavender gown and upswept hair, she looks like a beautiful princess who’s never been anywhere near a slum. This is a much better look than the weirdly bunched chartreuse bag she wore to the Globes.

Best Dressed (Male): Dev Patel, in his cool and sharp retro tux that made me think of Sammy Davis Jr.

Actress Christina Applegate arrives at the 15th Annual Screen AcBest Dressed (Female): Christina Applegate. I loved how bold she was with this look—the color, the jewelry, the hair and make-up, it’s all good. She looked like no one else there.

What were the best and weirdest moments for you? Who did you think looked great and who was in need of a makeover? Post in the comments!


Exclusive Backstage Look at the BAFTA/LA Awards–Part One

Here I go again with another exclusive behind-the-scenes look at a star-studded event that wasn’t televised. I did some Googling and am confident that this detailed write-up isn’t published anywhere else. Other media outlets may have been present and spoken with the stars on the red carpet but no one has a backstage report like this one (there’s even a description of the dinner menu!) from one of my sources. The writer also took all the photos so they’re exclusive as well. Since the account is rather comprehensive, I’ll publish this in two parts. Read on for fun anecdotes about Hugh Laurie, Don Cheadle, Sean Penn and Tilda Swinton!


Although all of the ingredients for a glamorous Hollywood awards show were present (celebrities, the “Academy”, awards and such), Thursday night’s British Academy of Film & Television’s Los Angeles annual awards show was everything but typical. Held at the Hyatt Century Plaza Hotel on November 6, 2008, the annual awards show had only three awards and was not televised.

Beginning with a modest red carpet, pre-reception and a VIP after-party, the star-studded event honored director Stephen Frears and actors Don Cheadle, Tilda Swinton and Sean Penn. Each award was preceded by back-to-back presenters (including Annette Bening, Jack Black, and Patricia Clarkson) and tributes.

As guests arrived on the secondary ballroom level, they were segregated into two groups: celebrities and non-celebrities. The non-celebrities were to attend a silent auction and pre-reception while the celebrities were escorted to the red carpet. If there was a theme to the event, it would be “arriving sans partner.” Bening came sans Warren Beatty, performer Gavin Rossdale arrived without Gwen Stefani, Sean Penn was without on-again, off-again spouse Robin Wright Penn, and presenter Ben Affleck arrived without wife Jennifer Garner.

bening-swintonCelebrities were escorted off the carpet into a small room where candid photos were taken. This was where celebrities caught up with each other. Swinton chatted with Bening, and Penn greeted me saying, “It is SO good to see you again.” (I had just seen Penn a couple of weeks before at another event.) Here was also an opportunity for a quick drink prior to entering the show.

hugh-bafta-croppedSeveral exchanges were observed. A fan requested a photo with presenter Hugh Laurie. Ever the gentleman, Laurie agreed, holding a bottle of beer. After the photo was snapped, Laurie said, “Great, this is my beer-lushing endorsement photo.”

Penn’s assistant for the evening offered Penn another drink.

“I need another drink, but I don’t think the BAFT/LA people would want me to have another one,” replied Penn, pronouncing the organization’s name “Baftalah.”

As honorees Penn, Swinton, and Frears were escorted to the main ballroom, guests started pouring in. About twenty minutes later, Affleck, Cheadle and presenter Eddie Izzard were seen being wrangled as a group to exit the press area and go directly to the show.

At 8 p.m., a salad was served, followed by an entree of Chicken Wellington wrapped in puff pastry and ending with lemon white chocolate sponge cake. Plenty of wine and spirits were provided.

The first award was presented to Frears. There were protesters outside who were upset over the passing of Proposition 8 (they were probably drawn to the event because Penn plays Harvey Milk in the upcoming movie) so I was distracted and stepped out to see what was going on. Unfortunately, when I came back in, Cheadle’s award had been presented and I’d missed most of his acceptance speech. What I did hear was characteristically humble. (Later, a fan followed himbafta2-1 into the restroom, requesting a photo, and Cheadle obliged.) After Cheadle’s award, the audience was treated to a special acoustic performance by Rossdale singing two songs: “Love Remains the Same” and “Forever May You Run.”

The third award of the night went to Tilda Swinton, who was honored with the Britannia Award for British Artist of the Year. The presenters were Angelica Huston and Hugh Laurie, who shared anecdotes.

bafta6“I haven’t seen any of Swinton’s films,” joked Laurie. “Actually, when I was twenty, I requested her to work on a student performance project with me. I was enraptured by her luminous and alabaster beauty.”

Overwhelmed, Swinton accepted the award and shared that it has only been recently that she has basked in the awards spotlight.

“The only thing I’ve won prior to these types of acting awards was a raffle at the age of twelve. I won Pagan Man aftershave that I re-gifted,” said Swinton.


Check back tomorrow for Part Two, which includes a gushing tribute to Sean Penn.