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Review – Political Animals
Rating: 3. The critics are mostly in agreement that this is more soap opera than drama but are mixed as to whether that is a good or bad thing. All agree that Sigourney Weaver gives a great performance.
The New York Daily News says that the show “plunges into the complex relationship between politicians and the media, the corrupting dynamics of the political process” and that the “dialogue can be crisp, sharp and witty…” while the “dramas come fast, furious and sometimes soapy.”
The New York Times is impressed with Sigourney Weaver’s portrayal, calling it “subtle and believable as she channels Mrs. Clinton’s improbable biography and even some of her real-life dialogue.” They are less impressed, however, with Ciaran Hinds’ portrayal of the “make-believe version of former President Bill Clinton,” saying that he does so, “so broadly, and with such a cartoonish southern accent, that Bud barely seems qualified to be sheriff of Mayberry, let alone commander in chief.” The paper goes on to note that “it doesn’t help that the writers strain for Aaron Sorkinish wit and sometimes badly overreach.”
USA Today says that “what you’re getting is what we’ve come to expect from USA of late: an easy-to-watch light entertainment that goes down relatively painlessly but that is nowhere near as sharp or as on-point as it needs to be.” That said, the paper does note that “if you stick with the show past Sunday’s sluggish start, the plot does pick up some momentum in the second episode.”
The Hollywood Reporter says that what the show “is trying to do is take The West Wing and turn it into Dallas. And if you don’t like Dallas, that can be a real letdown… Where you expect gravitas, you get little bubbles, which makes sense on blue-skies USA. But trying to make Animals significant by calling it a “highly anticipated Limited Series Event” doesn’t automatically make it All the President’s Men.”
The Huffington Post gave the show a positive review, saying, “”Political Animals’” forthrightness about examining the costs and exhilaration of political life is refreshing. It combines the sly wit of the viral hit Texts from Hillary with the old-fashioned pleasures of a night-time soap, and it’s anchored by terrific lead performances from Weaver and Carla Gugino, who plays theHammonds’ journalistic nemesis Susan Berg.”
The Washington Post says that “At its best, “Political Animals” delves deeply into the unknowable: Why would a first lady remain with her husband after his Lewinsky-like dalliances in the Oval Office lead to permanent shame?” and that Sigourney Weaver plays the role of former First Lady Elaine Barrish Hammond with “with delicious determination.”
The Los Angeles Times notes that the show “is a family drama, more “Dallas” than “The West Wing,” a high-class, relatively naturalistic, behind-closed-doors soap opera that plays in fairly obvious yet also fairly affecting ways with the space between public face and private pain and is made highly watchable by an excellent cast that finds the human among the hokum.
TV Guide calls the show a “raunchy fusion of Aaron Sorkin and Jackie Collins, merrily ensnaring its brainy power players in outrageously soapy scenarios and displays of bad behavior…” and says that the show “is high-minded, lowdown fun, way racier than the USA norm… [and] a fabulous showcase for Sigourney Weaver…”
New York Magazine says that Weaver’s performance “isn’t enough to save a likable but mostly mediocre program.” and that the show is “a domestically oriented, C+ version of The West Wing.”
Newsday did not like the show, writing, “Political Animals” is junk. Or, to elaborate, it’s a clanking, clattering collection of collagenous clinkers — of dialogue so inept, of acting performances so preposterous, of plot points so cliched that the only question worth posing is why someone of Weaver’s stature would be caught anywhere near a turkey like this.”
Entertainment Weekly calls the show “a well-acted, entertainingly soapy drama that might not crack theClinton code definitively but still offers a fun and credible look at the complicated intersection of love, gender, and politics” and notes that “after watching the first two episodes, I found myself eager for more…”
The San Jose Mercury News says that “”Political Animals” becomes an intriguing, even occasionally humorous, family soap opera about the snake pit of national politics, the expectations of women in power and the corrosive effects of personal ambition.” The paper does point out that “not everything in “Political Animals” works. Hinds (as the president), in particular, feels wrong as a twangy-voiced, potty-mouthed narcissist who comes across like a cartoon… However, “Political Animals” makes amends by giving viewers other well-drawn characters and by whipping up an addictive batch of dark secrets and sudsy melodramatics that make for an entertaining diversion from the real-life soap opera of an election year.”
The Boston Globe calls the show “flawed but addictive” and says that “in the middle of our real-life presidential campaign, here is an entertaining summer escape.”
The Wall Street Journal says that the show “is among the most bizarre, if tasty, concoctions ever presented on mainstream television” and that “Sooner or later, every hint of real tension or emotion will be punctured by the dramatic equivalent of a whoopee cushion. The result is an often silly, lewd, crude, crazy and preposterous series that’s about as entertaining as a fat paperback on a hot beach—which is to say, impossible to look up from once you get into it. Part of the fun is never being sure whether the writers and producers intended to blow our minds quite this way or how many of the laughs come on purpose.”
Time Magazine says that “Political Animals, an inconsistent, sometimes ludicrous, but also juicily fun political soap, is about something that ultimately makes for better TV: the idea of Hillary Clinton” and that “The show is well-cast top to bottom. Weaver in particular is excellent…”
Variety says that the “conceit was to take lots of political stories with which we’re all familiar — philandering husband, suffering political wife, troubled kids of the rich and famous — and use them as a high-profile jumping-off point. Yet while Aaron Sorkin brings a similar approach to “The Newsroom,” where that show becomes a surrogate for the writer’s ideal worldview, “Political Animals” employs hostage crises involvingIran as little more than a showy backdrop for salacious family drama.” The paper goes on to note that “No one associated with “Political Animals” needs to hide under the covers, exactly, but nothing here qualifies as a game-changer, either.”
The New York Post sums it up by saying, “The actors are great, but the show isn’t.”
The Boston Herald writes, “It’s not a Comedy Central spoof, but it skews ridiculously close to one.”
The Philadelphia Daily News notes that “this is more soap opera than satire, an intermittently entertaining but not exactly subtle look at the private and public lives of one extremely colorful family.”
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says that “”Political Animals” gets bogged down in exposition throughout its 75-minute premiere … The problem is not the concept, it’s the execution.”
The San Francisco Chronicle calls “Political Animals” “an unsavory and silly miniseries… [that] can’t make up its mind whether it’s a satire on American politics, an occasional dramatic riff on the marriage and political partnership of our current secretary of state and her husband, or a third-rate soap opera in the mode of a “Dynasty” knockoff with one preposterous situation after another.” The paper goes on to note that “Weaver is convincing and even appealing in the role. She’s good enough, in fact, to make you think about how much potential Berlanti has squandered here.”
The Orlando Sentinel says that Political Animals “is trashy fun. This TV equivalent of a big beach book meanders and begs credulity. Yet a first-rate cast helps sell creator Greg Berlanti’s melodrama” and notes that “The cast has more depth than the writing.”
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Morris Levy is the producer of the HBO film, "Seduced and Abandoned" in which actor Alec Baldwin and director James Toback’s attempt to raise financing for a new film. When not busy producing movies, here's what Levy likes to watch:
Check out our interview with Levy for more insights.
Glenn Howerton plays Dennis Reynolds on FX's It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (on which he is also a writer and executive producer). For a guy that funny, you might be surprised (or not) to learn that he's also a fan of dark dramas. Here's what he likes to watch:
More insights on the actor/writer and It's Always Sunny can be found in our interview with Glenn.
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New on VOD
Here are the new VOD films for the week of December 3, 2013. Click on a movie title for more information, trailers and reviews.
The Wolverine. Rating: 4 (out of 5). Hugh Jackman is back as Wolverine, in this tale that takes him back to Japan where he is forced to face his own demons. Watch for it on VOD starting Tuesday, December 3. The WashingtonPost calls it “A refreshing summer cocktail of action-movie staples.” Reviews, video and more.
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. Rating: 3 (out of 5). Clary Fray, a seemingly normal teenage girl, learns that she is no ordinary human being. Adapted from the book of the same title by Cassandra Clare, she discovers that she is a daughter of Shadowhunters, a race of half-angel beings tasked to protect our world from demons. This film’s VOD will be released starting Tuesday, December 3rd. According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, “On the surface, Mortal Instruments is a slick teen thriller. Just overbaked and unoriginal.” Reviews, video and more.
Things Never Said. Rating: (3 out of 5). Kalindra Stepney, an aspiring poetess, is having some problems with her marriage and sparks a relationship with a new man, who inspires her to once again find her artistic voice. The film is available on VOD starting Tuesday, December 3rd. The Philadelphia Inquirer says, “The result may not be a big movie, but Things Never Said makes a big emotional impact.” On the other hand, Roger Ebert calls it a“soapy melodrama.” Reviews, video and more.
Crave. Rating: 3 (out of 5). Aiden (Josh Lawson), a crime scene photographer, haunted by the decay and violence around him, retreats into his inner dark world. When he meets Virginia, a younger woman with her own demons, Aiden becomes increasingly emboldened to live out his vigilante fantasies. Crave will be available on VOD starting Friday, December 6th. Reviews, video and more.
Smash & Grab: The Story of the Pink Panthers. Rating: 3 (out of 5). A documentary about a gang of Balkan jewel thieves known as The Pink Panthers that have stolen nearly a billion dollars worth of jewels from boutiques in the world's most opulent cities, including Geneva, Paris, London, Geneva, Dubai and Tokyo. The film delves into the gang’s incredible history and introduces the viewer to the global police forces who work furiously to stop them. Beyond the glitz of the Panthers’ incredible heists, Smash & Grab exposes dark truths about the illicit diamond trade and the world’s most ruthless mafia networks. The film will be available on VOD starting Tuesday, December 3rd. According to The Washington Post, the director “knows how to get, and hold, a viewer’s attention.” Reviews, video and more.
Jobs. Rating: 2 (out of 5). Ashton Kutcher stars as Steve Jobs in this film that tells the story of Job’s ascension from college dropout to one of the leading technological leaders of our time. The film will be available on VOD starting Tuesday, December 3rd. The San Francisco Chronicle sums up most of the reviews when it writes, , “at its best, it's a good picture, and at its worst, it's almost good.” Reviews, video and more.
The Smurfs 2. Rating: 2 (out of 5). The Smurfs are back, and this time, they are out to rescue Smurfette, who is kidnapped by the evil Gargamel. It turns out she knows a secret spell that can turn the sorcerer’s latest creation, The Naughties, into real Smurfs. The film will be available on VOD starting Tuesday, December 3rd. The Los Angeles Times calls it “a passable mediocrity.” Reviews, video and more.
Live at the Foxes Den. Bobby Kelly has it all: money, women, good looks and a good career. One night, he sings in a local lounge called “The Foxes Den,” and the owner, impressed with his vocal talent, offers him a job as the lounge’s new singer. His life is then turned upside down as he is now forced to decide whether to chase after his lifelong dream of being a singer, or to stay and keep what he has now. The film will be available on VOD starting Friday, December 6. No reviews are available as of writing. Video and more.