Marissa Quenqua

Staff Writer

Six Feet Under is her favorite TV show, with The L Word and Sex and the City coming in second and third, respectively. Always up for discovering a new favorite, she also enjoys True BloodNurse Jackie, and Mad Men. Marissa has a background in writing, editing, and cinema studies.



Nurse Jackie: Season 3 Review

Oh, Jackie. Our beloved anti-hero. So lovely to see you again. Season 3 picks up with Jackie (Edie Falco) sequestered in her bathroom, having just been confronted by her husband (Dominic Fumusa) and best friend Dr. O’Hara (Eve Best) for her pill popping ways. They’ve discovered a list of hidden pharmacy charges,  and it seems Jackie will finally have to come clean, so to speak. Yet again Jackie finds her way out of the situation by hurriedly throwing  all of the house toiletries into a sack, and dumping them at her husband’s feet while “Don’t rain on my Parade” plays in the background.

Feb
27
2012
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All Things Fall Apart Review

What opens as a drama between two brothers, shy, uncoordinated Sean (Cedric Sanders) and football prodigy Deon (50 Cent), the toast of his small town and primed for the NFL, changes course when Deon’s health takes him out of the limelight. Will he ever play again? Who is he, especially with the backdrop of a grim economy, if he can’t play the game?

Deon, played by rapper and the film’s co-writer 50 cent is larger than life at the beginning of the film. His mother Bee (Lynn Whitfield) owns a bar and watches his college games on the TV screens. Her son is a small town celebrity, while Sean excels in school but strikes out with the ladies. Nothing seems out of reach or difficult for Deon, soft spoken but powerful on the field and off.

Feb
27
2012
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5 Star Day Review

On the morning of his birthday Jake Gibson (Cam Gigandet) wakes up to what his horoscope predicts will be the perfect “5 Star Day.” Jake soon learns that his birthday is anything but, with one thing after another in his life falling apart at his feet, starting with being fired from his job and shortly after catching his girlfriend cheating on him in their shared apartment .  This sets Jake off on a mission to prove astrology’s illegitimacy; he plans to find others who share his exact birthday, date, time, year, and place, (his three Zodiac Twins) to see if they, too have had such a reversal of fortune.

Feb
26
2012
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Beautiful Boy Review

Beautiful Boy is a nightmare, as it tells the story of a suburban couple on the verge of divorce, only to have that already tenuous happiness shattered by an unimaginable tragedy. The film starts showing the awkwardness of the day to day as a result of the possible separation, with the husband Bill quietly looking at new apartments listings on his computer at work, and Kate, (Maria Bello) intent upon booking a Summer vacation she hopes will bring her family back together. 

They live in a beautiful suburban neighborhood in a lovely modern home and every morning the father leaves for work while Kate works in the garden. Their eighteen year old son, Sammy, is away at school attending his first semester of college, along with their neighbor’s daughter, who is the same age as Sammy. One evening, Sammy calls his parents to say good night, he sounds slightly sad but not too out of the ordinary. The camera cuts between Sammy’s parents and Sammy’s face, distraught, tears in his eyes. He nonchalantly says goodbye to his father and then starts talking to his mother about snowflakes always having six sides.  She interprets his sadness as normal college adjustment. They hang up.

Oct
15
2011
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Life is Beautiful Review

Life is Beautiful is a wondrous, multifaceted experience. At the opening of the film, we meet Guido, brilliantly portrayed by writer/director/star Roberto Benigni, a Jewish waiter living in 1930’s Tuscany. You immediately fall in love with Guido’s childlike humor and slapstick antics, reminiscent of comic legends like Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. Guido then meets and falls instantly in love with Dora (Benigni’s wife in real-life, Nicoletta Braschi)  a pretty schoolteacher who he hilariously keeps bumping into (literally) on the streets of Italy. He exclaims “Buongiorno Princepessa!” (Good morning, Princess!) every time he sees Dora, and becomes more and more intent upon winning her heart.

Oct
12
2011
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Prohibition Review

Prohibition by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick is a three part documentary mini-series that provides a rare and interesting look at the causes, history, and effects that prohibition had on the United States of America. We begin with Episode One, "A Nation of Drunkards", which explores the seeds of the early prohibition movement, backed largely not by conservatives as one might originally believe, but women whose family lives had suffered the abuses of alcohol. They fought to abolish alcohol because their husbands had become consumed by it, lost money over it, became violent, or even died from excessive drinking. An early pioneer of prohibition, Carrie Nation, went into saloons armed with rocks and hatchets, and proceeded to smash them to the ground. Nation was jailed numerous times for these acts, but did not stop “destroying” saloons. This early look depicts an America who started its day with whiskey, and drank alcoholic beverages throughout the day.

Oct
11
2011
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Prime 9: MLB Heroics Review

This is an entertaining series that has something to offer even the most lapsed baseball fan. Its countdown format is both exciting and accessible, each episode counting down the 9 greatest plays of all time in each category: greatest home runs, unbreakable feats, hitting seasons, best world series, all star moments, comebacks, pitching seasons, regular season catches and plays at the plate. The DVD is complete with live-action footage of each game as well as interviews with some of the players and coaches themselves.

Why nine? Like narrator Doug Jeffers says, that’s baseball: nine players, nine innings. The first episode, the nine greatest home runs of all time begins with actual footage of Reggie Jackson’s famous third home run in the ’77 World Series. He announces, though, that this home run didn’t make the prime nine, even though it has become part of baseball history.   Not even Barry Bonds, the reigning home run record holder, made this list. The narrator explains that each home run was evaluated based on the situation, the outcome, the dramatic implications of the blast, and its’ place in baseball history.  This quickly gives the impression that Prime 9’s “best of” countdowns are well thought out and chosen with the utmost pride and purpose. It’s sure to bring back memories and incite heated debate among die hards as well as dazzle and educate newcomers. Jeffers asks at the end of every episode: “That’s our prime nine, what’s yours?”

Jun
29
2011

Rookie Blue: The Complete First Season Review

You can smell a rookie like you can smell fresh paint. That’s what Police Academy grad Andie McNally (Missy Peregrym) is told by her training officer her first day on the job. The quote originated with her father, a cop now retired from the force.  Rookie Blue follows a group of police academy grads from first day on. The group, Fifteen Division, is supposed to have the most promising rookies in their classes, fresh faced and ready for anything, but learn very quickly that there’s nothing that can prepare you for life on the street.

We meet the group in the first episode at a bar celebrating their graduation from the academy. Each rookie is handcuffed by an officer, pushed on the bar, and told to get out of the handcuffs “any way they know how.” This is an effective plot device in that depending on how each rookie tries to free themselves from the handcuffs, we can discern something about their personality. Main character Andy McNally plays by the rules, first wiggling her arms to the front, and trying to pick the lock, something she utilizes later on in the series. Privileged and crafty Gail Peck is the winner of the contest, using her wiles and name dropping skills to convince an officer to free her with a key. None of the male officers are able to free themselves, Epstein (Gregory Smith) provides comic relief, Diaz (Travis Milne) spends the entire time fiddling with a fork, and Traci Nash (Enuka Okuma) is tough and never complains.

Jun
22
2011
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True Blood: The Complete Third Season Review

I’ve never been into vampires. I don’t read fantasy books. I wasn’t part of the Buffy craze. I’ve never read Twilight nor have I seen any of the films. Anyone who knows me, however, knows that I’m a huge Alan Ball fan, who created True Blood as well as Six Feet Under and American Beauty. I believe what Alan does best is to depict the complexities and nuances of human relationships, and, perhaps more importantly, our relationship and perception of ourselves; how we fit into the society we live in, what’s expected of us, and what we’re capable of.  

May
31
2011
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Clover Review

In the deep South, African-American single father Gaten (Ernie Hudson) and his ten year old daughter Clover (Zelda Harris) form a tight knit family, where they own an orchard. Gaten is recently widowed when he marries Sara Kate (Elizabeth McGovern) a white woman. His family is less than happy about this development, but when tragedy strikes and Clover is placed in Sara Kate’s care, everyone is forced to put their differences aside.

There’s nothing wrong with the premise of this film, it sets up a core conflict and the resolution is heartening. A cameo by Loretta Devine (Waiting to Exhale) as Gaten’s sister Everline serves to spice things up. However, weakness in writing leave the viewer to notice other things, like how the film is highly stylized in an early nineties fashion, how Sara Kate spends far too much time yelling “Gaten! Gaten! Gaten” while collapsing on the bed, in front of the mirror, or outside the house while Gaten the specter hangs idly by.

Apr
02
2011
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Blue Murder Review

Blue Murder, although stylized in a similar fashion to such crime dramas as Law and Order, The Closer, and NYPD Blue, comes off comedic and lacks the grittiness of most of its contemporaries. In the first episode, Detective Janine Lewis (Caroline Quentin) is shown proudly bounding down the hall in an oversized sweater to tell her colleagues that she has been promoted to Chief Inspector. She then gets a bottle of champagne to celebrate, and drives home to surprise her husband, who is unfortunately in bed with another woman. She’s pregnant with her husband’s child as well at this point, a surprise.

Apr
01
2011
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William S. Burroughs: A Man Within Review

William S. Burroughs: A Man Within provides a rare and intimate look at one of the most influential artists of our time. Burroughs was called the “godfather of the beat generation.” His controversial and daring works in reference to drug use and queer experience were among the first of their kind. This documentary features interviews with his closest friends and colleagues: Patti Smith, Allen Ginsburg and Norman Mailer, among others. The film shows how Burroughs’ influence can be felt throughout many artistic genres; he inspired countless musicians, visual artists and filmmakers like David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Sonic Youth, U2, Andy Warhol, Blondie, Nirvana, Gus Van Sant, and John Waters. Norman Mailer has said of Burroughs: “[He is] the only American writer who may conceivably be possessed by genius.”

Mar
27
2011
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The Tillman Story Review

Amir Bar-Lev's The Tillman Story is an eye-opening and steadfastly enraging documentary about promising athlete Pat Tillman, who gave up a multi-million dollar contract with the Arizona Cardinals after 9/11 to serve in the military. Tillman was killed in Afghanistan at the age of 27, but the events leading up to and surrounding his death were subject to major media cover up from all sides.

Five weeks after Tillman’s death, the military announces an addendum to their original story. Pat was still a hero, but they claim they had just discovered that he was killed by a stray bullet in “the fog of war.” The story just unfolds from there, that the military chose to portray the incident this way and knew it was friendly fire all along. Pat’s family begins to question this five-week gap in information, but are given evasive and unsatisfactory answers by the military which serves as the catalyst for their quest.

Feb
12
2011
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The Chronicles of Narnia Review

This BBC version of the timeless classic anthology The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis would be really entertaining to me if it were a 6-12 year old in 1990.It mixes 2D animation with live action, animal characters in beaver and fawn costumes, and an over-the-top, fantastically theatrical evil White Witch (Barbara Kellrman) who you’d swear was Angelica Huston at first glance. It’s like a cross between 1998’s dramatic TV miniseries Merlin starring Sam Neill and Helena Bonham Carter and Zoobilee Zoo.

In the first installment which most of us are familiar with, “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” Precocious youngster Lucy and her siblings Edmund, Peterand Susan are sent to live in a countryside mansion during war time. The house is owned by the sage-like kook Professor Digory Kirk (Michael Aldridge) who welcomes them with whimsy and a wink.While exploring their new house, Lucy stumbles upon an old wardrobe, and discovers that through it lies the magical land of Narnia, under the icy spell of the White Witch, who makes it “always winter, and never Christmas.”

Dec
12
2010
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Dollhouse: The Complete Second Season Review

The premise of Dollhouse is intriguing. It’s a sci-fi futuristic dystopian adventure reminiscent of Blade Runner, where programmed “Dolls” are made to interact with wealthy clients and then have their memories “wiped” by the programmers of the Dollhouse. The dolls are programmed to be everything from docile submissive girlfriend types, to calculated assassins. At the center of this world is Echo (Eliza Dushku) a doll who begins to remember her various “assignments” and lives. Her mind becomes jumbled and she is thus a threat to the programmers and everyone around her.

Nov
20
2010
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Wild Grass Review

Wild Grass rotates on the axis of one incident, a woman is mugged and loses her wallet. A married man in his fifties finds the wallet in a parking lot and becomes obsessed with knowing/finding her. This hyper-focused, detailed style aims to reveal the extraordinary hidden beneath the ordinary or the mundane, and as a result reminded me of Agnes Varda’s film Cleo 5 a 7 (Cleo 5 to 7). This film focuses on two hours in the life of Cleo, a young actress who is afraid to receive the results of a test from her doctor’s office. We follow Cleo around in minute detail, shopping, observing, eating. This intimate style reveals more about Cleo’s mental state as she goes about her day, doing nothing in  particular.

Nov
18
2010
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The Rocky Horror Picture Show (35th Anniversary Edition) Review

The Rocky Horror Picture Show experience elicits a strong reaction from most audience members. If you love it, you will always love it, transported for a few hours to an alternate universe where any and all kinks, quirks, and jerks are not only welcome, they’re celebrated. Thirty plus years after its initial and disappointing release, theaters across the country still play this film at midnight. Fans still don their best Brad, Janet, or Dr. Frank n Furter, toast and rice in tow to sing and shout along with the film. New generations of teenagers and college students discover Rocky every year, with live simultaneous stage/film productions being put on all over the world. If you hate it, you probably won’t ever come to appreciate it, confused why anyone would go so bat shit crazy over this bizarre movie.

Nov
05
2010
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The Mentalist: The Complete Second Season Review

In The Mentalist, Patrick Jane (Simon Baker) is a psychic turned private investigator who uses his unique talents to help the California Bureau of Investigation (CBI) solve cases. It’s kind of like The Closer meets True Blood, at least the telepathic bit. Jane is cocksure, has little regard for police protocol, and loves to keep the police force a tad in the dark before blowing the whole case open. It’s so nice to see Robin Tunney again as Senior Agent Teresa Lisbon, most noted for her role as teen witch Sarah Bailey in 1996’s The Craft. This time around Tunney has no paranormal abilities to speak of, and has a kind of love/hate relationship with Jane. She is annoyed by his antics, but cannot deny his spot-on predictions.

Oct
28
2010
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Afterschool Review

Afterschool takes a disturbing look inside the lives of young prep school students, using their obsession and envelopment with the internet as a device to show their isolation from one another. Rob, brilliantly portrayed by Ezra Miller, is totally enthralled with looking at clips on Youtube. He then accidentally witnesses/films the death of two of his fellow students, female twins who overdose in the hallway. 

Rob looks up random videos all day on his computer, whether it be a video of a woman lying beside her giggling sextuplets, the execution of Saddam Hussein, or violent pornography where an off-screen male voice taunts young women verbally before firmly gripping them around the neck.

Oct
10
2010
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Two Tickets to Paradise Review

This film should be entitled: Two Tickets to Snoozeville. I hate to be so harsh, especially since this film enabled me to totally nerd out for a minute to enjoy D.B Sweeney and Moira Kelly reunited. They first caught my attention as odd-couple pairs figure skaters Kate Moseley and Doug Dorsey in 1992’s The Cutting Edge. Ice queen Olympics skater Kate can’t seem to keep a partner. Her extensive entourage has run through a roster of names all to no avail before taking a chance on wild card and former hockey player Doug Dorsey, whose eye injury in 1988 has kept him out of the game. The two immediately hate one another, constantly bicker and complain, eventually go to the Olympics, and ultimately, fall in love. All the while mastering a nearly impossible Russian figure skating move that’s a cross between a death spiral and just plain swinging Kate around by both ankles like a baseball bat before her letting go. In any event, if I am reminiscing about The Cutting Edge while watching this film that’s never a good sign.

Sep
28
2010
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