Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Pushing Daisies - The Complete First Season

Written by Senora Bicho

Pushing Daisies
is latest creation of Brian Fuller whose previous credits include Wonderfalls and Dead Like Me. His newest show is original, witty, and delightful. While being an incredibly fun show to watch, it is also extremely well done and earned 12 Emmy nominations for its inaugural season.

Pushing Daisies is the story of Ned (Lee Pace), a pie-maker who has a very special power; he can bring dead people back to life. While this may seem like a blessing, there are a few catches to his ability. When he reanimates someone for longer than one minute, someone else must die, and if he touches the reanimated person for a second time they die again, this time forever. Once Ned fully understands his gift, he decides to keep it a secret and to live a life of solitude. That is, until he meets Emerson Cod (Chi McBride), a private investigator who learns Ned’s secret and talks him into using his powers to solve crimes.

One day Ned discovers that his childhood sweetheart, Charlotte "Chuck" Charles (Anna Friel), has been murdered so he goes to find out who killed her, but when the minute is up, he can’t bring himself to kill her again. He explains everything to her and she understands that she now must now live in secret. This secret is especially hard to keep from the two aunts that raised her, Vivian (Ellen Greene) and Lily (Swoosie Kurtz), agoraphobic, retired synchronized swimmers. The cast of characters also includes Olive Snook (Kristin Chenoweth), Ned’s waitress at The Pie Hole, who also happens to be madly in love with him.

Due to the writer’s strike the first season was cut short, resulting in only nine episodes. All of the details of the show are very thoughtful, from The Narrator (Jim Dale) who helps to tell the story to the distinctive visual look and camera work, all of which help bring this imaginary world to life. The picture on the DVD looks amazing; the colors are bright and beautiful. The only bonus feature is “Pie Time – Time for Pie,” an extensive interactive featurette that serves up lots of great behind-the-scenes information about the series.

Pushing Daisies is a wonderful fairy tale with charming and quirky characters. Pace is dreamily handsome. He offers a sweet innocence and vulnerability that is endearing. Friel and Chenoweth are perfect as the women yearning for Ned’s affections for very different reasons, and Green and Kurtz are terrific as the kooky sisters.

I am happy to report that the show has been renewed for a second season, which starts on October 1st, and I can’t wait. Due to the shortened first season, they will be providing enough background to capture new viewers. However, there is no reason to wait for this tasty treat when you have the opportunity to dive right in to all that Season One has to offer right now.

COOL HAND LUKE (Deluxe Edition)

Written by Hombre Divertido

An all-star cast, award winning performances, and legendary quotes. Does it get any better than this? This is the ultimate dick flick.

Based on the novel by Donn Pearce, Paul Newman plays the anti-hero sent to a workhouse after a drunken binge that included the destruction of public property (He cut the heads off of parking meters). The camp is run by a tough warden (Strother Martin), but the leader of the men is Dragline (George Kennedy in an Academy Award-winning performance). Though originally too tough for the situation, Luke (Newman) eventually wins over his bunkmates and becomes the leader, if not the deity, of the camp.

Though the film lacks continuity as it plays out more like a collection of scenes, and the music, though touted by the director in the special feature documentary, never quite gels with the situations, the all-star cast makes up for any shortcomings. Newman gives a performance full of subtle elegance, and is complimented well by Kennedy and the who’s who of character actors including: J.D. Cannon, Lou Antonio, Dennis Hopper, Wayne Rogers, Harry Dean Stanton, Clifton James, Ralph Waite, Anthony Zerbe, Joe Don Baker, and many more.

This new restored edition on DVD looks and sounds great, and includes a well-made documentary entitled “A Natural-Born World Shaker: Making of Cool Hand Luke. The documentary includes some great interviews with cast, director Stuart Rosenberg, and more. Though it lacks any behind-the-scenes footage or photos, the stories told by the cast are not only insightful but entertaining as well. Input from Newman is noticeably missing, but the stories by Kennedy on working with Newman make the viewing worth the investment of time.

The additional extras include commentary by historian and Newman biographer Eric Lax, and a theatrical trailer that might make one wonder how this film was ever sold. The trailer makes little sense, is disjointed, and certainly would have a tough time enticing anyone to see this film.

Recommendation: A must for any fan of classic films. This is some of Newman’s best work, and it cements him as one of the best actors of the generation. Spotting actors before they were stars makes the experience even more enjoyable as does repeating all the classic quotes from the film, such as "Sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand." Other then the legendary carwash scene, the film is actually surprisingly tame with little or no foul language.

There is no way this could ever be a failure to entertain.