Reality Bites: Toughest Place To Be A Taxi Driver

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No air conditioning? What could go wrong?
There are a million reality shows on the naked television. We're going to watch them all, one at a time.

In my lengthy and casualty-ridden campaign to avoid Bravo programming, I decided to check out a channel not often known for frivolous time wastage, namely, Al Jazeera America.

And wouldn't you know it, the program I finally ended up with was actually re-aired from the BBC. Toughest Place to Be A Taxi Driver is part of that network's (surprise) "Toughest Place to be a..." series, in which seasoned British professionals are thrust into unfamiliar environments in an attempt to do their job, kind of like when Michael Phelps hosted Saturday Night Live.

Previous episodes sent coal miners to Mongolia and midwives to Liberia (presumably pre-Ebola outbreak). The Episode I Watched, on the other hand, sent one of London's vaunted cab drivers to Mumbai, India.


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8 Unconventional Vampire Films That Don't Suck

Categories: Film and TV

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Photo by JoshBerglund19
After suffering through so many awful vampire movies over the years, I wish I could've taken them all out with one of these.
As a lifelong horror movie fan, I've grown to dread most vampire films. How can such a venerable and classic film monster be so off-putting to me? Most vampire films just seem to suck, and not just in the cool, neck-bitey way. I guess that I see a particularly common lack of originality in most vampire movies, as most of the modern ones seem to just rip off Anne Rice or go the pseudo-super hero route like the Blade movies. Very rarely are vampires even portrayed as scary anymore, they're more often black vinyl clad immortals with complicated sex lives and super powers.

A lot of people like those types of vampire movies, so to each their own. I've tended to enjoy ones that break from the mold in one way or another, and bring something new and interesting to the mythology. Sure, the old style, cape and coffin vampires are fun, but it's difficult to really take them seriously anymore. It's just such an old fashioned image, and has been done to death. Yes, I like Hammer horror films, and the old Universal monster movies, but they don't generally scare me, they've become somewhat quaint over the many decades since their releases.

While this is not a comprehensive list, here are a few vampire films I really like for one reason or another.

8. "The Hunger" - 1983

OK, The Hunger is not a "great" film, but it's definitely heavy on atmosphere and was a break from the typical, caped Dracula mold. The film has a great beginning that used footage of Bauhaus playing their iconic song "Bela Lugosi's Dead," and it's no wonder that so many goths I've known love this movie. Despite having more than a few flaws, "The Hunger" also has David Bowie, Susan Sarandon, and Catherine Deneuve, not to mention an odd take on the idea of immortality and everlasting youth, making it a memorable entry into the vampire genre.

7. "Martin" - 1976

This is one of George Romero's '70s era films that's not as well known as his zombie masterpieces, but it's a very good unconventional vampire movie. John Amplas plays Martin, a young man who may or may not be a real vampire. Whatever he is, Martin has problems, because he has visions from the distant past that indicate he's an old world vampire. Then again, these may be fabrications of his own mind - it's never entirely clear. After a train ride in which Martin drugs and kills a woman by slashing her wrist with a razor and then drinking the blood, he is taken in by an old relative who believes Martin is a real nosferatu. The film never lets on whether Martin is a supernatural being or a mentally deranged killer, but that is part of why the movie is so interesting. I'd rank Martin as one of Romero's best films, it's certainly worth a look.

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Reviews For The Easily Distracted:
The Drop

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Title: The Drop

Is This Set In Boston Like Every Other Dennis Lehane Story? No, Brooklyn. Maybe Gandolfini couldn't do a Southie accent.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: Three-and-a-half Members Only jackets out of five.


Brief Plot Synopsis: Good-natured bartender finds a dog, a girl, and a heap of trouble, sort of in that order.

Tagline: None. Expect them to get a lot of mileage out of "James Gandolfini's final film appearance."

Better Tagline: "And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive ... look, a puppy!"

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Reality Bites: Fat Guys In The Woods

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"Just show us how to build a fire, Point Break."
There are a million reality shows on the naked television. We're going to watch them all, one at a time.

Until now, it never occurred to me to review any of the shows on the Weather Channel for "Reality Bites." Not because it was necessarily lacking in the category (I'm still somewhat bummed I never got to check out Lifeguard! Southern California), but because I was afraid of outing myself as that least cool of misanthropes: the weather nerd.

I had an unhealthy obsession with TWC in my teen years that I can't rightly explain. I lived in central Texas, which isn't a particularly exciting area, climate-wise, but there was something hypnotic about that national radar loop, the Local on the 8s, and Marny Stanier. More than that, I think it was the awesome destructive power of weather on display that kept me hooked, even before I moved to Houston and had the "privilege" of riding out my first hurricane.

Luckily, the other night I came across Fat Guys in the Woods, which is only related to weather in that most primal sense: it'll kill you stone dead if you can't handle yourself. This is -- I guess -- especially true if you're overweight.


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Who The Hell Is New Late Late Show Host James Corden?

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Hey look, it's ... that guy.
Yesterday it was announced someone named James Corden would be replacing Craig Ferguson as host of CBS' The Late Late Show when Ferguson leaves in 2015. Corden's response was appropriately enthusiastic:

"To be asked to host such a prestigious show on America's No. 1 network is hugely exciting. I can't wait to get started, and will do my very best to make a show America will enjoy."

Meanwhile, the response of many Americans to the news was possibly less animated: James Corden? Who the hell is that? Granted, Ferguson wasn't exactly known for much on these shores aside from The Drew Carey Show when he got the gig, but Corden is even more obscure. Fear not, I'm hear to help.


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The Future's Stranger Than He Thought: Zero Theorem Director Terry Gilliam Explains What Brazil Got Wrong

Categories: Film and TV

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"I'll always be anti-authoritarian, as long as I live," says Terry Gilliam, the comic provocateur who's been taking aim at the establishment for over four decades. The only thing that changes: his targets. In Life of Brian, it was religion. In Brazil, the government. And in his latest film, The Zero Theorem, it's the biggest oppressor of all: big business. Says Gilliam, "Governments are second rate compared to corporations when it comes to power and influence on our lives."

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The Leftovers: I Will Make You Hurt

Categories: Film and TV

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It's the end of the first season of one of the strangest dramas ever put on television. I was sort of annoyed with The Leftovers for taking a week off and making me wait, but honestly the breather was probably for the best. This remains absolutely brutal television.

This week the final plans of the Guilty Remnant come to fruition, and I'm going to do my best to describe it without giving too much away. Though the group has been largely enigmatic throughout the course of the season, once we get a look behind the terrible psychological damage that the Departure did to these people you realize the awesome power of pain. Not the least of which is its desire to spread and breed.

I remember having a conversation once with a friend about the Westboro Baptist Church and their hateful, hurtful shenanigans. She asked me, "Who do they think they're going to save doing this?" And I told her, "They don't think they're going to save anyone. They don't want to save anyone. They believe the world has ended and this is Hell. They want us to know that we are living in God's wrath right now."

It's clear from the portrayal of the GR that what they feel is not remorse or loss or even grief. What they feel is rage. They are in utter rage at the world for even daring to consider that this post-Departure existence is not Hell. Every attempt to honor the Departed, to move on, or to somehow make any sense of it at all drives them to increasingly cruel reminders of the terrible day three years ago.

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Bill Hader Can Make You Cry: The SNL Star on Digging Deep in The Skeleton Twins

Categories: Film and TV

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Four years ago, comedian Bill Hader told his agent he wanted to do a drama. It took awhile. "I used to think typecasting wasn't a thing, and it totally is," Hader admits. "That's an industry feeling: 'How can I take that person seriously when I know they're capable of such weird insanity?' " But Hader doesn't look insane. For a comic, he looks almost perversely normal, with the flexible, borderline-forgettable looks of an actor who could play anything -- a handsome mortician, a strict dad, a socially awkward CEO. He just needed a shot.

His Saturday Night Live co-star Kristen Wiig also wanted to wade into darker material, so when the Sundance film The Skeleton Twins cast them as estranged siblings, Hader plunged in -- literally. The script opened with Hader's character, Milo, a depressed gay actor with the whiplash wit of Dorothy Parker, climbing into a bathtub and slicing his wrists.

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Venice Film Festival: Michael Almereyda Makes Magic With Cymbeline

Categories: Film and TV

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Cymbeline is the misunderstood schoolchild of Shakespeare's plays, the misfit who speaks up at odd times and sometimes says the wrong thing, awkward in all kinds of obvious ways. It's a special-needs play, but the beauty of it is right there in its bones, not least because in it we can see the great playwright's life -- that is to say, his career -- flashing before his eyes. A scheming queen, a heroine who disguises herself as a boy, a pair of semi-star-crossed lovers, a potion that gives the illusion of sleep -- it's all there in Cymbeline, a kind of greatest-hits scrapbook, and the play that even those who claim to love Shakespeare are least likely to defend.

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Fashionably Late: Thoughts on Project Runway Season 13

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Photos by Lifetime
A lot of fresh faces, a lot of stale design. Unlucky 13?
We're about halfway through the thirteenth season of Lifetime's Project Runway, and the formula seems to hold up, though it's certainly showing signs of wear and tear. Anchored by the overwhelming popularity of host Heidi Klum and host/mentor Tim Gunn, it's entirely probable that we'll be tuning in for as many seasons as Lifetime is willing to produce.

Designers now shop the Aldo accessories wall, and models head to the Mary Kay and Philip B. studios for makeup and hair--a far cry from the Lord & Taylors and L'Oreal Parises of the past. And after three seasons, Zac Posen still sounds like he's trying too damn hard to fill the Zippy One-Liner role Michael Kors perfected; Posen actually seems sweet, so it comes across a little forced.

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