Reviews For The Easily Distracted:
Black Sea

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Title: Black Sea

Doesn't Jude Law Have Five Kids? Makes sense. Compared to that, being trapped with a bunch of stinky dudes in a Soviet-era submarine sounds positively relaxing.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: Three-and-a-half Cary Grants out of five.

Brief Plot Synopsis: Disgruntled sub captain hunts for sunken treasure, paternal redemption.

Tagline: "Brave the deep. Find the gold. Trust no one."

Better Tagline: "Scenes from a class struggle in Batumi."


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Reality Bites: Vanderbilt MDs

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Photo courtesy of USA Network
Pressed for time, doctors often find themselves forced to tear their clothes off.
There are a million reality shows on the naked television. We're going to watch them all, one at a time.

Reality shows based on the various medical professions always end up concentrating on the actual work performed. This makes sense, as doctors, nurses, and EMTs and the like have jobs that are much more compelling than most of us cube jockeys. Several seasons of Trauma: Life in the E.R. and ... Untold Stories of the E.R. provided ample proof of this, if also showing how fond people are of watching their fellow man suffer in emergency rooms.

As a result, most of these shows only touched upon the personal lives of their subjects. Enter network TV, which has been filling this gap by churning out medical melodramas for decades. Everything from St. Elsewhere to E.R. to Grey's Anatomy relies on a formula combining gripping hospital action with allegedly moving personal drama, punctuated by seasonal absurdity.

The USA Network, not known for its forays into the genre, nonetheless is trying something new with Vanderbilt MDs. Unfortunately, throwing seven medical residents into a house Real World style and juxtaposing their personal interactions with their various duties at Vanderbilt University Medical Center didn't have the desired effect of "we work hard, we play hard." More like, "Hey, doctors are pretty much as douchey as anybody else."


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Sundance: Meet Boyhood's Sad Sequel: Samuel Klemke's Time Machine

Categories: Film and TV

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Richard Linklater ended his feel-good Best Picture contender on a high. His star, eighteen-year-old would-be artist Mason, graduated high school and was ready to conquer the world. But what if Linklater had kept filming? And what if Mason wasn't an actor, but a real teenage boy?

Meet Samuel Klemke. He, too, was the creative kid in class. But Sam was even more ambitious and outgoing. In high school in the Seventies, Sam got a video camera and began recording everything himself--no Oscar-nominated director required. Starting in 1977, the year he turned nineteen, Sam's hobby became a vow: At the end of every year, he'd film a diary entry about the last twelve months. "The purpose of all of this is to stimulate growth and improvement," Sam explained. "It can capture time, time that we'll never see again." He expected to record his triumphs. He had no idea how bad his life would turn out to be.

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6 Erotic Films Probably Better Than 50 Shades of Grey Will Be

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Photo by Cory Doctorow
A sentiment I can get behind.

In 2011, the erotic romance novel 50 Shades of Grey was released, quickly becoming a global phenomenon, selling millions of copies to an audience eager for sexy thrills and, in many cases, an introduction to the world of BDSM.

I won't lie. The success of that book and its sequels creeps me out. It was developed from sexually explicit Twilight fanfic, when writer E.L. James uploaded it to various fan sites under the pen name "Snowqueen's Icedragon." There's something disturbing about realizing that there's a huge online population who enjoy masturbatory reading material based on books like Twilight and the Harry Potter series, but thanks to the Internet, that's a thing now.

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Reality Bites: Forensic Files

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Photo courtesy of Forensic Files
"The truth is out there, most likely under a black light."
There are a million reality shows on the naked television. We're going to watch them all, one at a time.

My first thought, when I sat down to take in the first episode of Forensic Files I've watched in -- well -- forever, was "This show is still on?" It seems like only yesterday I was mostly broke and watching FF in one of the first apartments I lived in here in Houston, during it's initial run on what we only now sarcastically refer to as the Learning Channel. It later spent the bulk of its life on Court TV/truTV, before it came to its current resting spot in syndication on HLN, formerly Headline News.

And I've since moved into a house, though I'm still mostly broke.

They're not producing new ones, a fact I only realized when I hit the Info button on my remote midway through. Still, that hasn't stopped me when writing this before, and I'll be damned if I'm enduring any of The Bachelor this season.


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The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore Asks the Right Questions, But Doesn't Have Any Answers

Categories: Film and TV

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The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore's great misfortune isn't that it replaces The Colbert Report, but that it premieres after Last Week Tonight With John Oliver. The Colbert Report was sui generis, and will likely remain so, because such a series makes leviathan demands on its host: crackerjack comedic skills, superb acting chops, and the massive humility to subsume himself completely into his character. Last Week Tonight, on the other hand, is a gauntlet thrown down before every other late-night comedy show (and news program), defying them to attempt its rare combination of smart, sidesplitting and viral.

Oliver's HBO series is as good as it is because its writing staff has an entire week to write and rewrite each episode until it's dazzlingly streamlined. Dense with information, tightly choreographed, and then probably edited to shave off any woolly scruff, it boasts clean lines.

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Oscars Podcast: Can you Identify the Traits of "Oscar Bait"?

Categories: Film and TV

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American Sniper
The bicoastal film pod continues in 2015! In New York, Village Voice film editor Alan Scherstuhl, along with Voice film critic Stephanie Zacharek, connects via the magic of the Internet with LA Weekly film critic Amy Nicholson to discuss the nominations for this year's Academy Awards, announced on January 15. The trio attempt to settle once and for all what sorts of movies make the Academy salivate, while other seemingly great films go stale. As always, send barbs, jabs, claims or jokes to filmpod@villagevoice.com and follow us on the Twitter at @voicefilmclub. Read all of our movie reviews and more at HoustonPress.com/Movies.

Reviews for the Easily Distracted:
American Sniper

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Title: American Sniper

Great Sniper? Or Greatest Sniper? Great. Look up Simo Häyhä, the Finnish soldier who killed 505 Soviet soldiers in under 100 days.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: Two-and-a-half Tom Berengers out of five.

Brief Plot Synopsis: Ex-cowboy becomes SEAL sniper, is very good at it.

Tagline: "The most lethal sniper in U.S. history."

Better Tagline: "Your rifle is only a tool. It is a hard heart that kills."


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Reality Bites: Kate Plus 8

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Photo courtesy of The Learning Channel
I bet that's Jon's bloody handprint on the bowl.
There are a million reality shows on the naked television. We're going to watch them all, one at a time.

After all the tabloid unpleasantness surrounding serial breeders Jon and Kate Gosselin, they did an admirable job dropping out of the public eye. True, the first season of Kate Plus 8 (no longer with the Jon & in the title), which included appearances by Jon even as the two were going through divorce proceedings, aired in 2009, and a second season ended in 2011, but we've seen next to nothing since then.

And because all of this took place well before the debut of "Reality Bites," I naturally figured I'd dodged a bullet.

Unfortunately, my luck began to run out in 2014 when a handful of K+8 specials aired, and sure enough, my shrine to Lakshmi went into the dumpster when Season Three was announced. True. time has softened my perceptions of mom Kate somewhat (and of everything else, 2011 was four years and several hundred bottles of gin ago), so when I saw Kate Plus 8 was about to kick off again, I said, "It can't be any worse than Eaten Alive, right?"


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Girls, Season 4: Lena Dunham Doesn't Let Hannah & Co. Grow Up

Categories: Film and TV

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Photo by Craig Blankenhorn/HBO
Among many other things, Girls has always been great satire, lampooning with scolding empathy the callowness, narcissism, and insufferableness of early-to-mid twentysomethings who are privileged enough to spend their post-grad years making mistake after mistake with no serious consequences. But the HBO dramedy's fourth season, in which Hannah (Lena Dunham) leaves Brooklyn to attend the University of Iowa's famed writers' workshop, suffers a kind of repetitive-motion injury from hitting its tiny target one too many times. Despite the new setting, the show's failure to develop past its initial raison d'être of sending up youthful foibles encases it in a cast of sitcom stasis.

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