I love movies and television.  And I love the ins and the outs of Hollywood (OK – honestly I love it mostly so I can make fun of it, but still…).  And usually when the two come together (meaning movies or TV shows ABOUT Hollywood), it rarely works.  I mean there are hits…like The Player, Sunset Boulevard, or The Bad and the Beautiful.  But, mostly there are misses.  And then there are the movies that are set in the world of Hollywood but are more about other storylines and not really entirely focused on the movie business, such as Singin’ in the Rain, Hugo, Extras (well, that’s not HOLLYWOOD, per se, since it’s set in London, but it’s still a TV show about the movie/TV industry). 

Episodes, like Extras, is a joint television presentation between Showtime and the BBC (Extraswas between HBO and the BBC).  And the cast is British/American too.  The two main characters, TV screenwriters from London who move to Hollywood to “re-do” their hit UK show there, are British (Tamsin Greig as Beverly and Stephen Mangan as Sean).  But, the “actor” who gets the part in the American version of the show is played by VERY-American actor Matt LeBlanc, best known for the iconic Joey on the iconic sitcom Friends.  Because LeBlanc is the complete opposite of the character in the British version of the show, the entire show has to be re-worked to cater to LeBlanc’s younger, more attractive character.  This, naturally, causes tension between Beverly and Sean since they know they have “sold out” for success and money. 
The writing is rapier sharp…in all the right places.  The humor is dark and sarcastic but super witty.  The “Hollywood” characters have just the right tone of dishonesty/falseness.  And the relationship between Beverly and Sean has just the right amount of homesickness, selfishness and pride.  If you know anything at all about the goings-on of Hollywood, you will love this show.  Even if you do not know about or even enjoy the “Hollywood” scene, I’m still thinking you will love it. 
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The overused word DYSFUNCTIONAL could have been coined about the Gregson family. The matriarch of this mess is Tara, who has several diverse and loony multiple personalities, including a teenage-like wild girl, a June Cleaver-esque housewife, and a MALE Vietnam Vet who smokes and drinks way too much. Her kids and husband are all very aware that this personality disorder is something their mother is afflicted with. Often, the personalities come out at the most inopportune times, causing havoc in the kids’ lives. Like I said, dysfunctional with a capital D! And, most times, I stay clear from families-in-crisis shows (like Married With Children, etc.) but this time, Tara and her antics make the show so appeal and fun. I also felt myself drawn to the kids’ plights and what their lives must be like with a mother like Tara . Their frequent frustration is believable and not overdone in anyway. But, I would have to say that Tara and her “alters” as she calls them is the reason to watch this one. Toni Collette has won raves and awards for her portrayal of Tara and I think she is key to the show’s appeal and quality. If Tara were not as believable as she is, the show would not hold together and the audience would lose interest fast. Collette’s strong acting and huge range allow this show to be a hit rather than a miss.

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Why, oh why, did I keep watching this? Maybe because I had no choice – it’s addicting…in a “bad girl” kind of way. What do I mean? Well, the main character, Jackie, is UNLIKEABLE in a rebellious, mean-spirited, devious sort of way. She is a compulsive liar when it suits her, is a drug addict, and almost has two complete different personalities…NURSE Jackie who is nice ONLY when she has to be and MOM/WIFE Jackie who is A LITTLE softer. And its hard to like either of the two Jackies. She has this close-to-idyllic family life…a loyal, hardworking husband and sweet kids…but she has a steady boyfriend and sex partner at the hospital where her NURSE alter-ego works. She pops pills on a regular basis…right before or after scolding others for even thinking of doing the same. She’s a warped, unholy mess of a woman, but somehow, she’s highly watchable. Maybe because you want to see her get caught (which she “kind-of” does at the end of season one (her hospital boyfriend (who did not even know she had kids must less was married) catches her with her husband). Maybe because the SOFT side she shows all too infrequently (a good mom, a compassionate (at times) nurse) is likeable and we cheer for GOOD Jackie to come out more often. All I know is that I really couldn’t stop watching. I think much of this has to do with Edie Falco, who, has in the past, taken unlikeable characters and made them tolerable. Even when Jackie is being bad, there always is a little humor behind her demeanor, which Falco allows the audience to glimpse. And, because of Falco, Jackie and all of her flaws becomes a watchable, interesting character that we need to keep tabs on. Considering how unlikeable Jackie is, that’s a very impressive mountain to climb.

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George Clooney plays Ryan Bingham, a paid “hatchet” man whose job is to fire people for corporate executives who don’t have the guts to do it themselves. Touted as a “transition specialist”, he spends 322 days a year flying from one city to the next while living out of a one-room rental at a place that looks like the Hampton Inn.

His goal: To achieve membership in the 1,000,000 mile club and receive the airlines club card that identifies him as only the 7th man in the world to reach this milestone.

Bingham loves his work and he truly believes he is a performing a positive service. This, however, is not an upbeat movie. It is a timely and very poignant look at getting downsized in the worst job market in decades. Director Jason Reitman has chosen to cast real people who have been recently fired for the roles of the employees that Bingham meets.

Bingham has no relationships, even with his family, and no commitments. He finds this very satisfying. So too, does the female “road warrior” Alex Goran (Vera Farmiga) he meets in a hotel bar, naturally.

His boss, played by Justin Bateman, brings in a new whiz kid Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick), who has found a way to cut expenses by firing people through videoconferencing. Kendrick is energetic, smart and likable. Bingham takes her on the road to show the hotshot how he does it, and then to attempt the changeover. Clooney is at his best in these scenes. He is smooth and warm and engaging.

We follow Bingham to Wisconsin to attend his sister’s wedding who he hasn’t seen in years. There we get another glimpse of the character’s bravado while really seeing that he is just a lonely guy.

A late scene with Alex is, thankfully, not your “Harry Met Sally” happy ending. It is also unexpected and it is in this scene that you witness the great actor Clooney has become.

Kendrick and Farmiga are good additions to the cast and this is Clooney’s best role. Academy Award nominations for sure for the movie and possibly Clooney.

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