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Herc’s Popular Pricing Pantry
The Blu-ray versions of four of Woody Allen’s best and funniest movies are (this week only) available in a bundle for just $31.49!!
$7.88 Per Blu Movie!!
The “Annie Hall” Blu-ray sells separately for $16.43!!
The “Sleeper” Blu-ray sells separately for $16.43!!
The “Hannah and Her Sisters” Blu-ray sells separately for $15.49!!
The “Manhattan” Blu-ray sells separately for $10.99!!
New This Week
One could argue (I suppose) that “House of Cards” isn’t really a TV series. I would argue that it’s not only a TV series, it’s easily one of the best TV series of 2013. David Fincher produced and directed a lot of it from teleplays by the guy who wrote “Ides of March.” Kate Mara, as a tiny newsgirl in heat, is impossibly sexy; I’m suspect movie producers now consider “Dragon Tattoo” sister Rooney Mara a backup if Kate isn’t available. The superb Kevin Spacey gets away with tearing down that fourth wall – and then some – as the scheming House majority whip Francis Underwood. Corey Stoll is fantastic as the bad Pennsylvania congressman Spacey’s character gets to whip. And don’t get me started on the sheer yummitude of Sandrine Holt, Constance Zimmer and Kristen Connelly as they help service this remarkable series about serving the needs of the many and the few.
An engrossing, fast-paced and flawed new hourlong depicting the backstage drama at a hugely popular and profitable cable news network, “The Newsroom” comes to us from Aaron Sorkin, who earlier explored the people who mount live telecasts in ABC’s “Sports Night” and NBC’s “Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip.”
“The Newsroom” is better than its promos let on. I confess I found myself consuming all of the first four hours hungrily, one after another, keen to see where it would take its characters next.
For those just joining us, Sorkin also masterminded Emmy magnet “The West Wing” and scripted some of the finest entertainments ever to grace cinemas, among them “A Few Good Men,” “The American President,” “Charlie Wilson’s War,” “The Social Network” and “Moneyball.”
Those troubled by the (considerable) shortcomings of 2006’s similar “Studio 60” probably needn’t fret; Sorkin creates a far more convincing environment for his fake news show than he did for his fake sketch show. And in terms of watchability, “Newsroom” leans closer to “West Wing” than “Studio 60.”
With its love triangle and patina of endless crisis management, “Newsroom” manifests a worthy update of James L. Brooks’ Oscar-nominated 1987 big-screen dramedy “Broadcast News.” Its opening rant recalls Sidney Lumet’s 1976 TV-news dramedy “Network.”
But mostly, “Newsroom” is very much another Sorkin TV brainchild. “Sports Night” and “Studio 60” fans will quickly recognize a budding romance growing betwixt a pair of new coworkers and simmering almost-romance endured by veterans long obsessed with each other but kept separate by circumstance. And of course there’s no lack of Sorkin’s singular smart-people banter throughout.
Jeff Daniels (“Good Night, and Good Luck,” “State of Play”) plays a Tea Party-loathing Republican anchorman named Will McAvoy, Emily Mortimer (“Our Idiot Brother,” “Hugo”) his long-ago love and new executive producer, Sam Waterston (“The Killing Fields,” “Law & Order”) his longtime boss, Alison Pill (“In Treatment,” “Scott Pilgrim,” “To Rome With Love”) his new associate producer, and Dev Patel (“Slumdog Millionaire,” “The Last Airbender”) his show’s blogger.
Olivia Munn (“The Daily Show,” “Perfect Couples”) joins the cast in the second hour as a hot girl with two doctorates in economics – at least one of them from Duke University -- and an adjunct professorship at Columbia. Jane Fonda (“Georgia Rules”) joins the fray as Waterston’s boss in episode three. Hope Davis (“In Treatment,” “Mildred Pierce”) arrives in episode four as a professional gossip who garners McAvoy’s attention at a party.
Following a lengthy pre-credits teaser set three weeks earlier, the bulk of the “Newsroom” pilot takes place on April 20, 2010, the day we all learned of the BP oil disaster. The second episode is set three days later. The third episode telescopes out over a period of six months and ends with the Nov. 2, 2010 election that handed the U.S. House of Representatives back to the GOP. The fourth episode starts on New Year’s Eve and ends Jan. 8, 2011.
The barely-period-drama format allows characters to react to real events instead of the newsmaker facsimiles and surrogates we grew used to seeing on “Sports Night,” “The West Wing” and the “Law & Order” shows. This may be a lift from “Mad Men,” another Sunday cable hourlong that likes to carefully weave historical events into its storytelling, but it’s an agreeable lift.
It’s not, however, all good news for “The Newsroom.” As entertaining as I find the series so far, the writing does a little too often feel rushed and lazy. The first scene in the pilot features a pretty college girl asking what makes the United States the greatest country in the world. It’s ultimately a set up that allows anchorman McAvoy to explode (uncharacteristically, we’re assured) into an angry torrent of facts – facts demonstrating that our nation is likely not the greatest – but if you think about it for two seconds, it’s hard to believe even the stupidest of college girls would be motivated enough to stand in line to voice such a lame query. (It’s more like something a highly coached 7-year-old might ask, but I guess even McAvoy’s not a big enough jerk to tell a second-grader “I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about.”)
In a later episode, the series’ fortyish executive producer accidentally misdirects a highly sensitive email to hundreds of fellow employees. Given the character’s reputation for professionalism and journalistic smarts, this inability to properly direct email comes off as ginned-up nonsense. Would she have been more careful had the email mentioned the name of a confidential source?
Just as bad, Sorkin has given McKay’s blogger an unfortunate, inexplicable and unconvincing obsession with Bigfoot.
And four episodes in, neither Mortimer, Pill, Munn nor any of the series’ other actresses are called upon to indulge pay-cable nudity.
In sum, “The Newsroom” is messy and nakedness-free but its problems aren’t big enough to keep me from anticipating eagerly the rest of its first season.
... For all the clumsy and/or self-righteous moments that pepper the first four episodes of "The Newsroom," Sorkin is a talented enough craftsman that the show is often compulsively watchable even when it's being aggravating. TV news is a much better setting for Sorkin's skill set, and this debate, than a sketch comedy show was. When we see extended glimpses of Will's show, it's believable in a way that the "Studio 60" show-within-a-show never was. And it's fun to watch actors as gifted as Daniels, Mortimer and Waterston banter in that familiar, rat-a-tat Sorkin fashion. The extra-long pilot episode, which climaxes in a long segment depicting Will's first newscast about the oil spill, has rough edges but is on the whole evocative of Sorkin's better TV work. (It's the later episodes where the show really begins to fray.).…
... a dramatically inert, infuriating mess … All I can do is what any other educated citizen of this great nation would do: Change the channel.
... At its best, and that doesn’t come into full view until the third and fourth episodes, “The Newsroom” has a wit, sophistication and manic energy that recalls James L. Brooks’s classic movie “Broadcast News.” But at its worst, the show chokes on its own sanctimony. …
... "The Newsroom" is, essentially, "The West Wing" by way of "Broadcast News." It's not necessarily a bad idea, although clearing one extremely high bar is difficult enough, never mind two. For the first hour, the show seems promising, especially for Sorkin fans. After that, things go into a baffling free-fall in which plot exists almost solely to support the political and cultural points Sorkin wants to make, often in non sequitur monologues. …
... kind of a mess, but one you can't really look away from. … Oddly enough, if you don't think too much about the actual words coming out of their mouths, several cast members deliver superb performances, beginning with Daniels, whose character bears a resemblance to former MSNBC and Current TV personality Keith Olbermann. It's not entirely plausible that after years of playing it safe, participating in a panel discussion about current events would trigger a sudden growth spurt in Will's nether regions. But, from that point on, Daniels is great at being insufferable.
... The Oscar-winning screenwriter (“The Social Network”) is also given to didacticism, but what helps make the lecturing palatable is that Sorkin’s not above a pratfall, a double-take, or a goofy interlude to keep the rhythms from bogging down in all that pontificating. …
With plenty of junk on TV, it's understandable that viewers will want to embrace HBO's "The Newsroom" from writer Aaron Sorkin ("The West Wing," "The Social Network"). It's smarter than most of what's out there, and Mr. Sorkin makes sure viewers know it, with statistic-filled monologues. "The Newsroom" moves fast and can be entertaining at times. But compared to many of TV's most-respected programs -- "Breaking Bad," "Homeland," "Game of Thrones," "The Good Wife" -- "The Newsroom" feels musty and out of touch. ... "The Newsroom" is not the worst thing on TV; it's just a disappointment when you consider the source. The show is unconvincing even as it offers a lot for viewers to chew on if they're in the mood to think. …
... fails to meet the high expectations that greet it, save one: It is crammed with incessant gibber-jabber. …
... The Sorkinish good and bad are so tightly entwined in The Newsroom, even the best surgeon could never separate them. On my TV scale, what works about the show outweighs what doesn't, but others will read the results differently. …
... exhilarating, exasperating and often sensationally entertaining … There's no question The Newsroom is eye-rollingly full of itself. But it's also recklessly full of wit, passion, anger and humor — and timely purpose. When's the last time you saw all that wrapped up in a single TV show? The West Wing, maybe?
... presents viewers with two options: Lament how the series doesn't match the lofty crests of Sorkin's finest work, or admire the show's ambitions and embrace of serious ideas, and grudgingly roll with its uneven tides.…
... love or hate his soapboxing, the man can write. And what might be the most alluring part of The Newsroom is that it’s clear Sorkin wants the show to be enormous, filled with characters of all stripes and able to take on innumerable storylines as it looks at journalism, politics, romance, the workplace and America itself. Whether you go along on that ride with him has everything to do with whether you like his style. Because -- cue the orchestra and step onto the soapbox -- Sorkin is always true to himself and doesn’t try to cover his tendencies or be embarrassed by them.…
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