The House


Outsourced

Outsourced, in which a Seattle call center manager named Todd (Josh Hamilton) is fired and then dispatched to India as a consultant to train his own replacement, is a wonderful surprise. At first it threatens to be just another fish-out-of-water story. The film's director, John Jeffcoat, and his co-writer, George Wing, hit expected marks, from the moment when a street urchin swipes the hero's cellphone to the bit where Todd learns why Indians don't eat with their left hand to the scene where Todd realizes that his sharpest employee, an outspoken young woman named Asha (Ayesha Dharker), is gorgeous and has a crush on him. Gratifyingly, though, the filmmakers treat Todd's story as a springboard for a smart look at the effect of cultural difference on work, friendship and love, and the global economy's impact on national and personal identity.

To read the review, click here.

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TAGS: Ayesha Dharker, John Jeffcoat, josh hamilton, new york times, outsourced


Torchwood

Torchwood dips into its Doctor Who back story ("Army of Ghosts", "Doomsday") in this sorry mess involving Cybermen, bathetic love, a pterodactyl, and a hapless pizza delivery girl. Redeeming qualities are few, but we can always hold out hope that the pterodactyl was mortally wounded and won't return.

As "Ghost Machine" showcased Owen (Burn Gorman), "Cyberwoman" belongs to Ianto (Gareth David-Lloyd), which proves to be the episode's undoing. Gorman's visible terror and barely contained rage stand in stark contrast to David-Lloyd's adolescent bleating and blubbering. Ianto is written here as a resentful and rather stupid adolescent, and David-Lloyd's over-the-top performance does nothing to convince us he's not.

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TAGS: Burn Gorman, Caroline Chikezie, chris chibnall, cyberwoman, gareth david-lloyd, Kai Owen, naoko mori, recap, Togo Igawa, torchwood


Albums We Dissed This Month

Albums We Dissed This Month

Here are some notable September releases that fell through the cracks for one reason or another:

Hard-Fi, Once Upon a Time in the West. The British foursome delivers another collection of reliable, durable, political, and economical pop-rock ditties with their sophomore set. The cover boasts big block lettering that reads "No Cover Art" while the booklet folds open to display three panels where the band's "Second Album Photoshoot" should go. Cheeky. Highlights include the strings and choir-filled "Watch Me Fall Apart" and the stomping "We Need Love."

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TAGS: about a son, ani difranco, clare and the reasons, hard-fi, kurt cobain, magnet


Doctor Who

It's difficult to discuss Doctor Who's penultimate Season Three installment, "The Sound of Drums", without also talking about the events of the episode that follow it. It (ideally) leaves the viewer slack-jawed and mumbling stuff like, "Well, I'm gonna have to see what happens next week." Regardless, I'll attempt to do my best to pretend I've never seen the season finale and discuss these events in a broader picture.

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TAGS: david tennant, doctor who, Freema Agyeman, John Barrowman, john simm, recap, the sound of drums


Mad Men

Mad Men salutes a man who I consider one of the three biggest influences on the series, the great Billy Wilder (the troika is rounded out by Cheever and Updike), with what could be the series' bleakest and most depressing episode. At the very least, it's the episode most heavily saturated by the casual misogyny that makes The Apartment, Wilder's magnum opus, as chilling as it is ultimately uplifting. But even Wilder couldn't avoid occasionally succumbing to the temptation to overclose (though not necessarily in The Apartment), as TWoP's ever-astute Sars and our equally illustrious host put it, and "The Long Weekend", while largely excellent, unfortunately crosses that line a little more than usual.

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TAGS: long weekend, mad men, recap


New Scent-sation: Part Ew

Just when you thought it couldn't get worse, here comes Mariah with her titties out, all breathless and moaning. The campaign goes something like, "An ethereal presence. Captivating like a song." And apparently the potent pheromone ingredients in M by Mariah Carey are only activated when you apply them to your décolleté…while masturbating…in Heaven:

I haven't smelled the stuff yet (my requests for samples were flatly denied), but something tells me M by Mariah Carey is not the start of the singer's fragrance industry domination. All of this has got me fiending for a simpler time…

New Scent-sation: Part Ew

This blog entry was originally published on Slant Magazine on the date above.

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TAGS: debbie gibson, electric youth, letters from camp, mariah carey


The Kingdom

The Kingdom is a two-faced liar. It promotes the idea of bloody American exceptionalism in the same breath that it sings We Are the World. Just like those CNN reports that show U.S. soldiers high-fiving Iraqi kids while giving out candy, it uses sentimental music and editorial sleight of hand to insist that whatever our servicepeople and intelligence agents do Over There, they do it with love.

Peter Berg's procedural about FBI agents investigating a terrorist bombing at a US compound in Saudi Arabia generates most of its suspense from the effort to discern "good" Saudis from "bad" ones; and from the question of whether the Americans will come out of this adventure in one piece—all others be damned. This is that same old song of empire and paternalistic love-at-gunpoint that made John Wayne tip his green beret. But Wayne didn't live to see the kind of filmmaking that Berg practices. In the style of Traffic, Black Hawk Down, United 93 and Saving Private Ryan, The Kingdom uses chaotic visuals to enforce a sense of absolute realism that is more insidious here than any state-commissioned propaganda.

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TAGS: ashraf barhoum, chris cooper, jamie foxx, jason bateman, Jennifer Garner, mauro fiore, the kingdom


House of Games

It surely isn't lost on David Mamet that the title of his 1987 debut feature, House of Games, doubles as a three-word summation of his career. From stage to screen, the playwright and filmmaker's tales are rife with hustlers, tricksters and sleight-of-hand artists. Mamet's characters tend to fall into one of two camps: the taken and the takers. Some of the latter are fairly marginal in the greater scheme of things: in House of Games, Joe Mantegna's mind-twister Mike and his partners in deception aren't really a threat to anyone but their marks. Other Mamet takers are more menacing because they represent larger institutions: the mob in Things Change, the blandly ruthless executive branch of the U.S. government in Spartan.

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TAGS: alec baldwin, david mamet, elle macpherson, house of games, Joe Mantegna, lilia scala, mike nussbaum, Ricky Jay, the criterion collection


On the Circuit: Redacted

Redacted

From its opening image (wherein a tried-and-true "Based on actual events" crawl is slowly blacked out to reveal the film's title), Redacted revels in a mixed, often muddled sense of humor and horror. Those who sense a touch of the late-night sketch comic in Brian De Palma's latest are not far off from the point—Redacted is as much about media infiltration of the senses as it is about documenting (by fictionalizing) the 2006 rape of a teenage Iraqi girl (Zahara Al Zubaidi), and the subsequent murder of herself and her family by several members of the US military. For a Western populace reported to receive the majority of its information via a steady diet of televisual punditry-cum-burlesque, it is somehow perversely appropriate that Redacted represents the basest elements of our nature via a coarse Chris Farley clone (Kel O'Neill). But the joke is not just on us; nor, risking reductive semantics, is it just on them.

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TAGS: brian de palma, kel o'neill, new york film festival, patrick carroll, redacted, Rob Devaney, zahara al zubaidi


HeroesThe first season of NBC's zeitgeist-seizing sci-fi hit Heroes made its name by ending with a bang. Virtually every episode concluded with a mind-bending cliffhanger or twist, redeeming the dullest hour and leaving even casual fans eagerly anticipating the next one. This tactic built the series' reputation as the "anti-Lost." Where the latter seemed to look further and further inwards, adding layers to its mystery without actually solving anything, Heroes satisfied its viewers week-to-week with answers, consistent excitement and twists that paid off. NBC's series confounded its champions, however, by ending on a cataclysmically bum note. Last May's first season finale was the whimper to end all whimpers, and left many critics disgruntled. It's unfortunate, then, that Season Two began just as ponderously, doing little to allay fears that Heroes might have contracted "second season syndrome" earlier than expected.

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TAGS: adair tishler, Adrian Pasdar, Barry Shabaka Henley, cristine rose, David Anders, four months later, George Takei, greg beeman, Greg Grunberg, Hayden Panettiere, heroes, jack coleman, Masi Oka, milo ventimiglia, nicholas d'agosto, Sendhil Ramamurthy, steven tobolowsky, tim kring







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