Here's a quick rundown of dvds I've watched this summer while cycling away on the elliptical trainer. My requirements: a good movie for the trainer is not talky or slow and is not depressing. If it's talky I can't hear it very well and it makes me sluggish. If it's depressing I want to turn off both the movie and the exercise machine.
- Hill Street Blues: A cop show from the early 80s which I loved back then. This summer, I was happily nostalgic listening to the excellent theme song but then shocked by how dated the pilot seemed: slow and stiff, "for the stage" acting. I stuck it out through the first season, though, and the series improved (or I got used to it). The ensemble work was great. I wanted to punch out Fay Furillo (an extremely annoying actress, Barbara Bosson, who was married to producer Stephen Bochco). I loved Mick Belker (Bruce Weitz) best. Veronica Hamel was gorgeous, but so cold.
- Rome: This HBO series almost lost me in the pilot, full of long names and little snatches of complicated backstory; I got hooked suddenly halfway through the second episode and now I'm finding it thrilling. I never studied Roman history, makes me wonder how much of this is true. Good costumes and scenery, if you like that. A lot of slashing and naked women, if you like that.
- House, M.D.: Hugh Laurie's baby blues make up for a lot, but this show has a format as predictable as Lassie (my dad used to call out at 22.5 minutes after the hour: "Is Lassie saving Timmie yet?"). House doesn't want the case; something happens to change his mind; they can't figure out what the problem is; the patient gets worse; they try something which is wrong and the patient almost dies; House knocks a ball against a wall for a while, figures out the actual problem, and they save the patient. Plus, he's so mean!
- The Sopranos: Lives up to the hype. I thought I wouldn't be able to stand so many people getting their brains blown out but so far (I'm at the end of the first season) James Gandolfini makes it all worthwhile. My grandmother was EXACTLY like Livia Soprano (Nancy Marchand) except she wasn't connected so she couldn't have people knocked off. But she would have if she could have.
- Zed put three old Israeli movies in the queue. Passover Fever was an awful "disfunctional family makes up, and there's a bouquet of flowers which inches its way across the lawn accompanied by whimsical music, and at the end snow magically falls as people turn their faces towards the heavens in awe" kind of movie; Hill Halfon Doesn't Answer was a MASH-like farce about reserve soldiers in the desert - without any bloodshed and with a feel-good ending; Ushpizin was a very good, if strange, exploration of faith and fate, the first movie made by the ultra-orthodox with actual ultra-orthodox actors.
- Prime Suspect: There are at least five of these mysteries starring Helen Mirren and they are all wonderful. I wish there were more of them. Very dark, but completely absorbing.
- Lost: Does NOT live up to the hype. One trumped-up mystery after another. People constantly rushing through the jungle with worried looks on their faces and eerie sounds just made me feel manipulated. Yawn.
- Once and Again: Oh, YAWN! Gorgeous, well-to-do suburbanites with minuscule problems examined in detail once and again and over and over again. I could not care less.
- 3rd Rock from the Sun: John Lithgow and French Stewart made me laugh so hard I almost fell off the trainer. It's only a half hour (that's 22 minutes without commercials) and watching two in a row is a bit cloying, but this is grand escapism.
- The Singing Detective: Absolutely ghastly. I should have known just from the title. Run the other way.
Got some recommendations for me?