Damian Lewis to front ‘Homeland’

Wow. How have I missed this little tidbit?! I like to keep an eye out for this sort of thing and if it slipped through my net chances are many of you won’t know of it either, so even though it’s relatively old news (late Dec 2010), I draw your attention to…

Showtime, the cable network behind numerous top quality tv shows (think Dexter, Californication, The United States of Tara), is developing a new series called HOMELAND, and in the lead role is none other than Brit hero Damian Lewis. The domestic terrorism story isn’t exactly original, but could be considered politically relevant I suppose, and nonetheless provides a lot of leeway for intrigue and excitement. Damian Lewis plays Sgt. Scott Brody, a Marine who returns to the US after over 8 years of captivity in Baghdad, Iraq and is instantly the subject of a CIA investigation suspecting that he is colluding and conspiring with his former kidnappers. Hopefully this homegrown terrorism plot won’t give in to scenes of such flagrant patriotism and the like as 24 did, but will instead be driven by the strength of it’s characters and plot lines. Knowing that Damian Lewis is generally very cautious and particular in his choice of roles gives me quite a lot of confidence that we won’t be disappointed.

Homeland will also star Mandy Patinkin (The Princess Bride), David Harewood (Blood Diamond), Laura Fraser (A Knight’s Tale) and Claire Danes (Stardust).

If, by some unfortunate fault in your upbringing, or through amnesia or whatever, you are unaware of Damian Lewis, he’s best known for his roles in Band of Brothers (nominated for a Golden Globe) and Life, although he was also terrific in The Escapist, Dreamcatcher, The Baker, and pretty much everything else he’s been in. (If you’re of an older generation, you may have been a fan of the 2002 mini-series The Forsyte Saga in which he was very convincing as the machiavellian Soames Forsyte. In fact, he particularly excels at sinister characters.)

With the track record both Showtime and Damian Lewis can boast, I have little doubt that this will be a show worth following. My only fear is that often the best shows don’t last long (see my eulogy of Terriers) – hopefully this one will get the ratings it needs to live a long, fruitful and above all, entertaining life!

Homeland still has no pilot release date but is due out in the fall this year.

127 Hours highlights what it means to be human.

As entertainment, I don’t rate 127 Hours particularly highly, the film is an exercise of endurance as much as it is a portrayal. Don’t get me wrong, it is an excellent film, but watching one man essentially procrastinate for five days before hacking off his own arm was never going to be all that enjoyable. The acting is superb and has to be, as the film rides on Franco’s performance and his creative interaction with his immediate environment, specifically a boulder, the walls of the canyon and a few scant tools he has presumably packed in anticipation of a less life threatening incident. The script is inevitably sparse, and the soundtrack isn’t all that noteworthy either.

It should do well enough at the box office partly off the back of Danny Boyle’s reputation (thanks to Slumdog, Trainspotting, The Beach etc.), and partly due to the media frenzy over the gruesome amputation Aron Ralston performs upon himself. In all honesty, it was the latter that intrigued me the most. Reports of ambulances at screenings attending to squeamish cinema goers plagued film blogs and columns during the initial days of release, and must have been a real boon from a marketing perspective, but I feel that these stories were immensely misleading (perhaps unsurprisingly as the press love to have a field day with the slightest whiff of drama). The amputation itself is much less gory and gratuitous than you may have been led to believe. There’s a fair splash of blood, but it’s not exactly an abattoir. Anyone who’s seen an episode of Dexter or a Quentin Tarantino film will undoubtably be sufficiently desensitised to watch unperturbed. I suppose it’s the realism of the situation which is really shocking, but Boyle’s direction is all just a little too stylised for that to really hit home.

Thoughts 60 seconds in to the film: is there enough product placement in this movie??
Thoughts 60 minutes in to the film: so much for the nausea inducing gore…

It might not be evident yet that I would actually recommend this film, but I would, and let me explain why. 127 Hours functions less as a taught thriller than as a study of the human condition; how beyond even the basic necessities of food and water, is the need for social interaction on some scale, be it the company of friends and family, or utter strangers. For instance, the sensation of triumph that Aron must have felt upon freeing his arm isn’t conveyed so convincingly as the angst he experienced isolated from everyone he ever cared about whilst faced with the hard truth that he may never see them again. Alone; he philosophises, musing that his entire life has led up to this moment, each of his choices another step towards his fate in the canyon; he uses his video camera to create an artificial relationship, talking to himself, talking to whoever might watch the video, rewatching a recent encounter he had with some girls on the trail; he calls out to a Raven, as if it might answer him. He strives to belay his loneliness by any means possible.

However, fascinating as the philosophising is, the true power of the film is in it’s climax, as through a haze of grit and dehydration induced blindness Aron spies three walkers. As he struggles to enunciate the word “help”, you, the viewer, is filled with tremendous tearjerking pride, confident in the knowledge that no matter who these three people are, they will help him, because such is the nature of man. They rush to his aid, and the next hikers they pass act the same way, offering water, food, anything they can. It is the spirit of solidarity that is usually only really glimpsed during the aftermath of natural disasters or similar catastrophes, the human connection that at sometime or another unites us all, and it’s a pleasure to be reminded of it through film.

It might not be the nail biting adventure story that you hoped for, and it’s hard to ignore Boyle’s distracting flashy direction, but overall 127 Hours seems to have achieved what it set out to do: it tells a compelling story, it inspires reflection and introspection, and it fills cinema screens with paying customers, and for all of this it must be applauded.

Terriers cancelled because the public majority watches shit.

Terriers, starring Donal Logue and Michael Raymond-James, was a phenomenal show that did not deserve to be cancelled. The marketing team deserved to be fired, their strategy was atrocious, but the real creators of the show definitely earned another shot. I could rant for ages about how frustrating and disappointed I am in FX’s decision, but when browsing news articles I found someone who already said it succinctly. Here’s what she said, and you can add to her list Rubicon, another terrific series that never received the exposure it needed and was hung out to dry:

(Tribute to unknown user, Nicole, because she summed it up better than I could have.)

Mon 12/06/10 2:18 PM
I’ve been checking for news over the last few days and dreading hearing this. I can’t blame the network for cancelling it I suppose (the numbers were spectacularly bad), but I DO blame them for terrible marketing which is a direct cause of the bad numbers. When you look at it from that perspective, it’s hard not to blame the network outright and be pissed that they didn’t give it a second chance with a new strategy next year, given all of the critical acclaim.
And I do think that EW could have done more to promote it – it’s clearly a show that critics love, and while other critics were going to bat for the show (Sepinwall, Mo Ryan, etc), has EW even mentioned the show other than Ken Tucker’s online recaps? I do recall seeing a nickel-sized blurb at the bottom right corner of the Bullseye on the last page of a recent print issue, but c’mon.
Sadly though, this is mostly just a reflection of the plague of bad taste. As long as the majority likes crap, that’s what we’re going to get. And the majority has proven again and again that crap is their favorite thing ever. Tons of my own friends have never seen Arrested Development or Freaks and Geeks or Terriers and yet will discuss the intricacies of Dancing with the Stars or American Idol or the freaking Kardashians for hours. Welcome to the underserved minority, people with discerning taste. It’s pretty lonely.

For people who didn’t see the show, it was not to do with dogs or dog racing. It was named Terriers because the two main characters, private investigators who stumble upon a dangerous conspiracy, were tenacious and hot-tempered. It was probably the best show on TV (after Dexter) until it was cancelled. I blame the public. Yes. You.