Sunday, June 30, 2013

Dog Days of Summer? Not quite.

Not too many years ago, tv viewers were stuck with re-runs they didn't like so much during the regular season, but all that has changed. Networks and cable channels, as well as premium channels, offer summer seasons with some shows that seem far fresher than than the best episode of most regular season shows. Here are a few examples of current summer fare.

1. UNDER THE DOME, CBS, is based on a Stephen King tome, which it makes it perfect for an extended series. While I am not too high on King as a writer, I do respect his imagination, and I love two films based on his novels. One is the super-charged Brian de Palma classic CARRIE which mixes teen angst with explosive telekinetic powers, which are mild compared to the performances of Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie. The other is the icily creepy THE SHINING, which manages to enthrall and repel the viewer. Based on the first episode, UNDER THE DOME wants to be both. A giant clear dome has dropped on a small town in rural Maine, slicing cows in half and causing the locals to act even nuttier than usual. The atmosphere and performances are consistently involving and sometimes surprising.

2. CROSSING LINES, NBC, concerns an international investigation team that pursues nefarious criminals across borders, which is much easier these days in the new Europe.  In the opening episode, an intriguing group of dedicated men and women pursued a crafty serial killer who just happens to have diplomatic immunity and kills his prey in exactly the same way in country after country. The dialogue was fast and witty, and the suspense ramped up to several strong climaxes.

3. PERCEPTION, TNT, is in its second season and stars Eric McCormack (WILL AND GRACE) as a brilliant neuropsychiatrist and college professor who is assigned to tricky FBI cases. To make it more interesting, Dr. Daniel Pierce has a long history of paranoid schizophrenia, which he controls WHEN he remembers his meds. McCormack is terrific as Pierce switching from engaging prof to Sherlock Holmes to illusionist.

AND...If you are interested in political movies, NO, the Chilean Oscar Nominated Film, is available on cable, Netflix, et al. It's based on the 1988 overthrow of dictator Augusto Pinochet by a free election. An impossible goal is accomplished partially through a modern ad campaign called "NO," which uses positive attitudes, happy songs and slogans, and bright rainbow colors, instead of images of Pinochet's many crimes against humanity. Gael Garcia Bernal, one of our finest international actors, portrays a savvy ad man who finds moral direction for himself as well as for Chile. The film uses actual historical footage and matches it with grainy, seemingly unprofessional home photography for a cinema verite feel.

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