Tag Archives: Cate K.

Can FOX’s ‘Almost Human’ Be Saved? – “Prayer Circle” post

By Cate K. (Cate hails from DiC’s early days and it’s so great to have her paying us a visit as a guest contributor again.)

 

m & k 2
High female viewership for this show. I have no idea why. (photo via FOX)

 

Amidst the excitement of last night’s Oscar ceremony, there’s something you should keep in mind today – and it isn’t the post-Oscar frock-analysis (though Brittani’s rundown is very good indeed). A fascinating new FOX show is having its season finale, and there’s a scary chance it could be the last (as in very last) one.

 

dorian
Please tell me again, sir.

 

I’m talking about Almost Human, a show that debuted with much fanfare last fall. Like buddy-cop shows of yore (i.e. Starsky and Hutch), it’s a two-good-guys-getting-bad-guys show, with a PTSD-suffering cop (Karl Urban) being paired by his no-nonsense boss (Lili Taylor) with a touchy-feely robot (Michael Ealy).  Taking place in 2048, the program has familiar contemporary elements, what with its tap-swipe-pinch technologies and real science storylines. It also has bonafide sci-fi cred, what with Lost creator/Star Trek rebooter J.J. Abrams and writer/producer Joel Wyman behind production.

 

john jpg
Eomer/Bones/Dredd? Yes. And no.

 

However, there’s no reason to switch off if you don’t know the work of Abrams or Wyman; Almost Human is a smart, entertaining mix of high-tech crime and low-tech humanity, and you certainly don’t have to be a hardcore sci-fi fan to enjoy it. Urban’s Kennex is angry and deeply damaged, inside and out; Ealy’s Dorian is curious and childlike. They’re a beguiling pair. Because FOX has mysteriously aired the episodes out of order, there have been some inconsistencies in terms of character and story development, but this hasn’t detracted from our interest in the pair or in how their relationship will develop. With shades of Bladerunner, Frankenstein, and even The Odd Couple, Almost Human is a program whose episodes can (and should) be watched and re-watched; you’ll always find something new to contemplate, especially when it comes to mulling the relationship between Kennex and Dorian.

 

d & j look
These two.

 

True, there have been complaints that Almost Human possesses, at times, the mentality of an after-school special, with the tin-eared dialogue to match (“This is gonna be good!”) –but consider, if you will, its broader appeal. My (senior) mother, for instance, loves the show as much as an eighteen-year-old. This isn’t a show that’s being solely written for teenaged technophiles – it’s being written for a wide demographic who understand and appreciate the subtleties and intricacies of human relationships. There is a humanity at work in Almost Human, along with some wry truths about the nature of relating. That silly dialogue (which my mother characterized as “a young guy being really exciting about his work – what’s wrong with that?”) is balanced by the more nuanced work between its leads, with much of it being improvised. (If you’ve ever wondered if robots have genitals… hmmm.) The bond between the damaged cop Kennex and his fascinating almost-human partner is at once mysterious, hilarious, testy and touching. Sometimes we see ourselves in the cynicism and hurt of the man, sometimes in the wonder and wide-eyed naivete of the machine – but always there is that magic kernel of hope that manifests itself so beautifully through the chemistry Urban and Ealy share.

 

kennex and dorian
On the case.

 

It doesn’t hurt that the leads of Almost Human are also nice to look at, but that isn’t to say universal appeal gets left in the cold. After I’d introduced a friend of mine to Almost Human last month, he echoed something I’ve read across various websites, that Karl Urban is a guy’s-guy, that he isn’t the smooth-young-pretty-boy that gets pushed out and madly promoted in pop culture, that he “plays the kinds of guys I know.” (His macho-leaning acting CV doesn’t hurt either.) Michael Ealy is an equally beautiful man; I feel like he should’ve been in Wings Of Desire, so heavenly is he. The actor has a wonderfully gentle bearing, and he’s so childlike at times, it comes as a shock when his Dorian is pointing a gun at someone, even if it’s the bad guys. The two actors are keenly aware of of each others’ tics, and excel at balancing exposition with emotion. It’s rare to find that combination on regular-cable television.

 

m & k
Chemistry offscreen – chemistry onscreen.

 

Another reason Almost Human rocks: Lili Taylor. Far from being a tiny-voiced bimbo in a low-cut shirt, flipping hair and batting eyelashes, her Maldonado is a no-bullshit woman with soft spots for damaged people and moral quandaries. It’s nice to see a female in such a position of power on television, and to be presented as smart, savvy, relatable, conflicted… you know, human.

 

lili jpg
Tha Boss.

 

The one complaint I have about Almost Human is its budding quasi-romance between Urban’s character and that of Minka Kelly‘s. Aside from Urban and Kelly having gallingly little onscreen chemistry, the supposed connection between their characters feels contrived. Kelly’s character, Valerie –a so-called “chrome” who is genetically modified –is flat and wholly unengaging, a thinly-written pretty-girl part. Even in recent episodes (in which her past is hinted at), it’s hard to muster anything beyond indifference. Kelly’s is the conventional-female-TV-role to Taylor’s unconventional one, and her scenes with Urban’s Kennex are totally lacking the frisson they so desperately need if we’re to buy them getting it on at some stage.

 

cheers
Cheers… NO CHEMISTRY.

 

That is to imply there will be a “some stage,” because frankly, there may not. That would be a terrible pity, because Almost Human is just coming into its own now, at the end of its first season, pregnant with references to a mysterious Wall, half-remembered tragedies, over-ambitious scientists, and a vast criminal subculture, all elements that would add meaty dimension to its zesty, mostly-solid base. I’ve already blogged about its feminist subtext, and I’d like to see that teased out too. I’ll enjoy tonight’s finale, keeping fingers and toes we see Almost Human back in the autumn.

 

yeaaaah
Should Almost Human be renewed?

 

The Almost Human season finale airs tonight at 8pm ET on FOX.

U2 resumes 360 Tour – Bono’s back is BACK!

U2, returning to the stage in Italia!

It was with great subtlety and delicacy that U2 quietly returned to the world stage tonight.

Well, not quite.

The Irish super-band re-launched their bombastic 360 Tour earlier tonight in Turin, Italy, to the whoops and hollers of 50,000+ onlookers. Their earlier North American leg, that was set to run through June and July, had to be canceled earlier this year, owing to Bono’s entirely crap back. They’ve since been re-scheduled for summer 2011, while the band continues their original European dates. Possible concerts in Australia are anticipated for the end of this year.

Typical Bono Behavior...

Signor Bono was back in “fighting form” true to his word, sporting a less-ink-infested more natural ‘do and ugly stylin’ new sunnies. Hard to tell if he’s adjusted his stage-spaz antics, but as you can tell from the photos, Theatrical Emoting is very much still in place (duh), with he and the band blitzing their way through a couple new tunes (including one written for the Glastonbury date they had to pull out of back in June), and another excellent slow number called “North Star” (which may or may not be on some possible-we-don’t-really-know-don’t-ask-us-well-it’s-actually-four-oh-maybe-not-album).

Larry seems to have a "Snippy the Giraffe"-face. Do you blame him? Heh.

Tunes from last year’s No Line On the Horizon included “Magnificent” and “I Know I’ll Go Crazy (If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight)” while old chestnuts like “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “One” were performed along with aughties audience faves “Vertigo” and “City of Blinding Lights”.  Nineties awesomeness “Miss Sarajevo” and “Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me Kill Me” were performed also, and The Edge was serenaded with “Happy Birthday” for Sunday, when the guitarist will be blowing out 49 candles.

The “claw” stage was, as ever, a gorgeous mix of colors and effects, with the cone-like wrap-around video screen acting as a kind of weird visual filter that squirts the wrong way -that is (you dirty lot), it portrays images with all kinds of textures, not pretty but rather rough, skewed, distorted, imperfect. U2: Makin’ You Think Since 1980 – while blowing your eardrums/eyeballs/heart out, or, alternately, irritating you to little bits and pieces and making you shout rude things whenever you see wraparound shades. Either way, I think a strong reaction’s probably the point, and always has been.

Even at 50, he's still giving it to the fans.

Still, judging from the oodles of breathlessly-typed Italian comments across various sites (followed by a slew of “!!”s), I think it’s fair to say things went okay (maybe?), though it should be noted, the frenzy of excitement around the re-launch of the tour would put any degree of criticism straight into the bin anyway. This past week found hundreds of people camping outside the Stadio Olimpico, recording rehearsals and trying to get a glimpse of their impish idols.  (Oh, and if you need proof as to why you don’t want to marry or date a rock star, go here.)

Oh, Bono.

The next few weeks will see the band in Germany, Finland, Greece, Turkey and Portugal, among others, before returning to Italy to wrap up their European jaunt on October 8th. Let’s hope that German engineering holds out.

Naomi Campbell Is Being Inconvenienced

Naomi Campbell--being INCONVENIENCED in Court

Supermodel Naomi Campbell was called to testify at the World Crime Tribunal yesterday in the Hague.

Arriving late and looking annoyed (if a bit nervous too), Campbell took the stand to recount an evening in 1997 when she was allegedly given so-called “blood diamonds” by then-Liberian President Charles Taylor.

According to the LA Times:

Prosecutors say the gems offer proof that Taylor engaged in the trade of illegally mined “conflict diamonds” to help arm rebels in neighboring Sierra Leone’s decade-long civil war. Thousands of civilians were killed or mutilated during the fighting. Taylor stands accused of crimes against humanity before a tribunal in The Hague.

Blood Diamond...

Taylor was arrested in Nigeria in 2006. His crimes -including those he willingly funded -would make your head spin. Murder, torture, maiming, rape, enslavement, the conscription of child soldiers… these are just some of the things people in Liberia and Sierra Leone have to live with, thanks to Mr. Taylor. The sight of people missing hands, arms, legs, and feet, begging in the streets, is still common. Many can’t work, and thus, can’t support themselves or their families. Others struggle with addictions, mental illness, and a plethora of physical diseases.

Back in 1997, Naomi was attending a charity event in Pretoria, South Africa with then-President Nelson Mandela. She says she was awakened later in the night by men who delivered a pouch of what she termed “very small, very dirty stones” and had no idea who they were from. She claims to have given them away to Jeremy Ratcliffe, who was then connected with Mandela’s charity, but the charity denies they ever received them (and, natch: a pouch of diamonds was recovered in his safe by police today).

Naomi testified she had no idea who gave her the stones (and didn’t ask), though Mia Farrow, also present that night, told her they were most certainly from Charles Taylor. Mia will be testifying later on in the trial, and her version of events could be a bit different.

The supermodel, who has, in the past, supported Nelson Mandela, was a very reluctant witness. Her testimony wasn’t voluntary; Ms. Mondo-Diva was handed a subpoena.

What struck me most about hearing this story was Naomi’s opening line to the Court: “I was made to be here. So obviously, I’m just, like, wanting to get this over with and get on with my life. This is a big inconvenience for me.” Really? Having no hands or arms (or feet, or legs) is an inconvenience, actually.

One of Charles Taylor's MANY victims...and NAOMI's "inconvenienced"??

I wish Naomi well and I understand her fears around the safety of her family in testifying, but I wish she’d stop pretending she cares for Africa. She admitted in her testimony that she hadn’t even heard of Liberia when she met its President and (allegedly) accepted gifts from him. Um, wow.

The fashion world got a whole lot uglier for me yesterday. But in case it’s important to you, All The Rage reports that Naomi wore “a cream-colored knit ensemble from Azzadine Alaia’s spring-summer collection.”  It is, I understand, the basic look for all smug supermodels who are inconvenienced by being forced to Do The  Right Thing.