The Best (and Last) of the Bs

Cover imageIn common movie parlance, B stands for B, not A. The B movie could be made cheaply (“on a shoestring”), feature a cast of up-and-comers (Lee Marvin, Dennis Hopper), actors who’d found their niche (Randolph Scott, John Payne), character actors (Riot in Cell Block 11), or actors whose glory days were behind them (Van Heflin). Because of a tight script and competent behind-the-scenes personnel, B-movies could exceed expectations and even become classics. A prime example of this is Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), directed by low-budget master Don Siegel, produced by big-time Hollywood veteran Walter Wanger. B movies can have an edge major studio productions lack. Had they been large-scale studio films they might have been censored under the restrictions imposed by the Production Code until they were shadows of their former selves. The B movie was also termed a “programmer,” i.e., a small-scale production that could run as a matinee feature or part of a double bill with another B film plus cartoons and newsreels.

B movies have a heritage that goes back to the ’30s. Examples include the Three Cover imageMesquiteers western series, some of which starred the young John Wayne. “Poverty Row” studios like Monogram and Producers Releasing Corporation churned out innumerable B films in various genres, sometimes hitting a home run with the likes of PRC‘s Detour (1945).

It’s convenient, of course, to plot trends by decade, but it’s rarely true. The best and last of the Bs extended from the ’50s into the ’60s. Slowly TV took over as prime purveyor of film entertainment, helped when color became common by the end of the decade. Why go to the theater for a modest western when a modest western was on the tube every night? Double features and matinees were also on their way out. The “beach” movies petered out well before decade’s end. They were B movies to be sure, but hardly art or “good” except for the now iconic pop stars and groups who showed up to serenade the surfers, motorcycle men and molls, beach bums and assorted older actors and actresses generally slumming as crackpots or square adults.

The quality B movies released between 1951 and 1962 that are held in Chester County Library’s Multimedia Department are:

Cover imageFixed Bayonets (1951) — Gene Evans’ Sergeant Rock (!) doesn’t care if Corporal Denno (Richard Basehart) uses one or six bullets to kill a Commie, just do it!

The Prowler (1951) — Webb Garwood (Van Heflin) ingratiates himself with Susan Gilvray (Evelyn Keyes) after she complains about a peeping-tom. Adultery leads to murder and a slag heap.

When Worlds Collide (1951) — A star christened Bellus approaches the solar system and threatens life on earth. A rocket is constructed to transport a selected few to safety on Bellus’s orbiting planet, Zyra.

The Thing from Another World (1951) — A flying saucer crashes in the arctic. The Air Cover imageForce men who find it also discover its pilot, a very tall humanoid, frozen in a block of ice. Too late do they realize that an electric blanket has thawed out the less than benevolent visitor from space. “Keep watching the skies!” urges reporter Scotty.

Kansas City Confidential (1952) — A flower delivery man (John Payne) is set up to take the fall for a bank robbery in this intricately plotted heist film.

The Narrow Margin (1952) — Tough as nails police detective (Charles McGraw) escorts to a trial via train a prime witness who’s targeted for murder. Surprise ending.

Invaders from Mars (1953) — “Moo-tants! What would they want here?” is the anguished question Dr. Pat Blake (Helena Carter) asks the astronomer (Arthur Franz). But is it all a young boy’s dream?

It Came from Outer Space (1953) — Crash landing their spacecraft in the American Southwest (typical ’50s environment), aliens try to keep humans at bay while fixing their spacecraft. Richard Carlson helps them finish their task and tells teacher Barbara Rush they’ll return when the time is right.

Cover image99 River Street (1953) — John Payne again, this time as a one-time boxer turned cabbie framed for his shifty wife’s murder. With help from the underrated Evelyn Keyes (The Prowler), he proves his innocence and takes down the criminals.

Split Second (1953) — Murderous convict Sam Hurley (Stephen McNally) and his wounded companion take hostages in a Nevada ghost town the day before a scheduled atomic blast.

War of the Worlds (1953) — Although H. G. Wells’ classic adventure is updated to 1953 Los Angeles, it’s a decent rendering of the novel.

Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) — The last of the now iconic Universal monsters Cover imagemakes his auspicious debut (he/it appeared in two other ’50s films) in the Amazon, where in a classic scene the creature parallels from underwater Julie Adams swimming above. Once again, it’s a beauty and the beast fable.

Riot in Cell Block 11 (1954) — Character actor all-stars in Don Siegel’s docudrama. Psychopathic Crazy Mike Carney (Leo Gordon) was actually incarcerated before becoming an actor and writer.

The Tall Texan (1954) — With a plot similar to the same year’s A production, Garden of Evil, this film features a bow and arrow sequence that is supremely dangerous.

The Big Combo (1955) — Subtext abounds in this gangster saga. Police Lieutenant Diamond (Cornel Wilde) aims to take down the criminal empire of Mr. Brown (Richard Conte) even as he develops a craving for his moll (Jean Wallace). Significant noir features Cover imagethe compelling hitmen duo of Lee Van Cleef and Earl Holliman.

Kiss Me Deadly (1955) — The threat of nuclear holocaust is the backstory in this noir classic featuring Ralph Meeker as Mickey Spillane’s uber tough private eye Mike Hammer.  How appropriate that his assistant is named Velda?

Shack Out on 101 (1955) — Propagandistic anti-communist tract is unintentionally hilarious tale set in a beanery on the California coast where hash-slinger Cottie (Terry Moore) dreams of working behind a desk in a great, big government building while fending off the advances of short order cook Slob (Lee Marvin), who just might have invented the V-neck t-shirt.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) The first and best of the “pod” movies features Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter as Santa Mira residents who discover their hometown has been infested by alien seed pods that recreate humans as emotion-less automatons. Where can you hide in a small town where everybody knows your name and residence?

Running Target (1956) — Modern-day western features a Colorado sheriff (Arthur Franz) reluctantly leading a posse to retrieve escaped convicts dead or alive.

The Killing (1956) — One of director Stanley Kubrick’s early films is a heist saga told from different viewpoints. Needless to say, the race track robbers don’t quite succeed. Chalk up another topnotch escapade for Sterling Hayden (The Asphalt Jungle).

Slightly Scarlet (1956) — One of the few fifties noir films in color features John Payne yet Cover imageagain, this time fending off two redheaded sisters, Rhonda Fleming and Arlene Dahl, who has the best line: “Oh please call me Dor, won’t you? A frank and open door.”

The Brass Legend (1956) — Just before his stint as TV’s Wyatt Earp, Hugh O’Brian faced down outlaw Raymond Burr, so large we feel sorry for his steed.

Seven Men from Now (1956) — One-time sheriff Randolph Scott tracks the men who killed his wife during a freight office robbery. Complicating matters are a husband and wife heading west, Apaches, and a gunman. It all comes down to a showdown between Scott and Lee Marvin.

Decision at Sundown (1957) — Randolph Scott stirs up the residents of Sundown, where he intends killing John Carroll, whose affair with Scott’s wife led to her death—or did it?

Cover imageThe Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) — After a radioactive cloud envelops Scott Carey (Grant Williams) during a fishing trip, he begins shrinking. In short order he must beware of the cat and what has become for him a giant spider.

The Tall T (1957) — Taken hostage along with fellow stage traveler Maureen O’Sullivan, Randolph Scott ingratiates himself with kidnapper Richard Boone and sows dissention among Boone’s cadre comprised of Skip Homeier and Henry Silva. When Boone goes to collect the ransom and Silva follows to make sure he’ll return, Scott gets his chance to survive.

20 Million Miles to Earth (1957) — Returning from Venus, a U.S. spaceship crashes off the Italian coast. A small container holds a strange reptilian creature that proceeds to grow and terrorize the inhabitants.

The Blob (1958) — Seminal goo movie has a Cold War subtext.Cover image

Buchanan Rides Alone (1958) — Riding into the Texas-Mexico border town of Agry, Randolph Scott finds himself at odds with two feuding families and stymied in his attempt to start a ranch.

Fiend Without a Face (1958) — At a Canadian research facility, scientists inadvertently unleash swiftly-moving brains that feast on human ones. Excellent special effects.

Hell’s Five Hours (1958) — Prescient thriller features Vic Morrow as mentally deranged, hostage-taking terrorist intent on blowing up a rocket fuel plant.

It! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958) — Sometimes ranked the best science fiction B movie of the decade, this film can be seen as an inspiration for Alien and was itself triggered by The Thing from Another World (1951).

Thunder Road (1958) — Robert Mitchum had hoped Elvis would play his younger brother Cover imagein this drive-in circuit cult favorite about moonshiners.

The 4D Man (1959) — Robert Lansing invents an “electronic amplifier” that allows him to walk through solid objects and naturally visit vengeance upon his enemies.

Ride Lonesome (1959) — Bounty hunter Randolph Scott captures James Best, who warns Scott about the toll his brother Lee Van Cleef will take. Enter Karen Steele, the ingratiating gunmen Pernell Roberts and his sidekick James Coburn (his first film), and Indians. And don’t forget, Van Cleef is still out there.

Terror is a Man (aka Blood Creature, 1959) — A U.S.-Filipino co-production version of H. G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau has atmosphere in spades and the gorgeous Ms. Denmark, Greta Thyssen, as she who soothes the monster in this beauty and the beast scenario.

Comanche Station (1960) — Jefferson Cody (Randolph Scott) buys a recently captured white woman (Nancy Gates) from the Comanches but needs the help of Ben Lane (Claude Akins) and his gunslingers to make his way back to civilization. Surprise ending.

Night Tide (1961) — On leave sailor (Dennis Hopper) encounters the seashore sideshow Cover image“mermaid” Mora (Linda Lawson), who just might be the real thing. Besides the story, this is a snapshot of a California entertainment pier in the early ’60s.

Carnival of Souls (1962) — One of those movies that are probably less than meets the eye but have influenced future filmmakers.

Panic in Year Zero! (1962) — Veteran star Ray Milland acts in and directs this thoughtful apocalyptic thriller where the protagonists make sensible decisions to stay alive after a nuclear attack.

Were there any foreign language B movies in the ’50s and ’60s? Yes. The Italian “sword and sandal” mini-epics spawned by Hercules (1958) and Hercules Unchained (1959), and the late ’60s and early ’70s spaghetti westerns generated by Sergio Leone and Clint Cover imageEastwood’s “Man with No Name” trilogy (but not the classier Once Upon a Time in the West, Red Sun, and Duck, You Sucker). Also horror like Italy’s Black Sunday (1960). Japan contributed Godzilla (1954) and its kin, such as Rodan and Mothra. As for Britain’s Hammer Studios, their Gothics may have been lower budget than more mainstream films, but the use of color, sets, music and excellent acting raise them to a higher level.

Post written by Kim Holston

March Staff Picks

STAFF Picks (1)

Dragana’s Picks

billions.jpgTV Series: Billions

A great soap opera exploring the world of high finance as a separate ecosystem that rules unto itself at the cost of most everyone else. Despite a lack of likable characters, Billions is addictive and highly entertaining. Season 1 released in 2016, Season 2 in 2017, Season 3 coming soon!

Nonfiction DVD: Joan Sutherland – The Complete Bell Telephone Hour Performances, 1961-1968joan sutherland

Opera lovers will find much to enjoy in this Joan Sutherland “Live Greatest Hits” compilation that spans nearly a decade of unrivaled bel canto splendor. Sit back and enjoy this perfect voice singing arias from Tosca, Rigoletto, Norma, Ernani, la Traviata, and more!

Jamie’s Picks

in the gardenAudiobook: In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson

A fascinating true account of an American ambassador’s front row seat to Hitler’s rise that reads like a movie or novel. Offers valuable insight into not only how Hitler consolidated his power but how the American foreign service failed to stop it.

CD: The Nashville Sound by Jason Isbell and the 400 Unitnashville sound

An alt-country/rock album that has songs ranging from southern rock anthems to bittersweet duets. Favorite tracks are “Cumberland Gap” and “Molotov.” Isbell shows again that he’s an excellent songwriter.

Jessie’s Picks

unbreakable kimmyTV Series: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

A quirky, lighthearted comedy about a former cult member that moves to NYC. Her optimism and naiveté despite her time in the cult endears her to those around her and to the viewer.

Audiobook: The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolverpoisonwood

Dean Robertson does a good job narrating this audiobook and handling its various dialects and accents. Because of that the listener gets to experience the story of a missionary family in the Congo around 1960. The story is told from the perspectives of the four daughters and their mom. This is a powerful book and is one of Barbara Kingsolver’s best.

Kim’s Picks

wicker manMovie: The Wicker Man

The infamous British horror film received accolades after its first and extremely limited 1973 release and is now reckoned a veritable masterpiece.  The story:  a police inspector (Edward Woodward) travels to a remote Scottish island in search of a missing girl.  But is she really missing?  Who is Lord Summerisle (Christopher Lee) and what strange rites does he practice?  With Diane Cilento, Britt Ekland and cult fave Ingrid Pitt.

Audiobook: Charlie Chaplin: A Brief Life by Peter Ackroydcharlie chaplin

Small but mighty is this 8-disc biography of he who was once the most famous man in the world:  Chaplin, the Cockney raised in poverty whose innate talents in mime, music and acting helped create the world of the cinema.

Mary’s Picks

leap yearMovie: Leap Year

An unlikely pair travel through the Irish countryside in this fun, romantic comedy.

Audiobook: Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilberteat pray

A woman’s search to find herself after a nervous breakdown. An uplifting journey that speaks to all of us and truly opens your eyes to the beauty of life.

Stephanie’s Picks

an inconvenientNonfiction DVD: An Inconvenient Sequel

“A decade after An Inconvenient Truth brought climate change into the heart of popular culture comes the follow-up that shows just how close people are to a real energy revolution.”

CD: Love & Hate by Michael Kiwanukalove and hate

Dark, and at times, lonely and sad soul album. Standout tracks are the orchestral 10-minute opener, “Cold Little Heart,” and “Black Man in a White World.”

 

Quoted summaries from catalog.ccls.org.

February Staff Picks

STAFF Picks (1)

Dragana’s Picks

The-Circle-2017-movie-posterMovie: The Circle

“When Mae is hired to work for the world’s largest and most powerful tech and social media company, she sees it as an opportunity. As she rises through the ranks, she is encouraged by the company’s founder, Eamon Bailey, to engage in a groundbreaking experiment that pushes the boundaries of privacy, ethics and ultimately her personal freedom. Her participation in the experiment, and every decision she makes begin to affect the lives and future of her friends, family and that of humanity.”

Audiobook: The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbertsignature

“Spanning much of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the novel follows the fortunes of the extraordinary Whittaker family as led by the enterprising Henry Whittaker, a poor-born Englishman who makes a great fortune in the South American quinine trade, eventually becoming the richest man in Philadelphia. Born in 1800, Henry’s brilliant daughter, Alma (who inherits both her father’s money and his mind), ultimately becomes a botanist of considerable gifts herself.”

Jamie’s Picks

silver linings playbookMovie: Silver Linings Playbook

An offbeat romantic comedy about two individuals struggling with loss and mental health issues. Even with the somewhat heavy subject, this movie is very funny! Filmed in locations around Upper Darby and Landsdowne and includes much Eagles pride!

CD: Chris Thile – Thanks for Listeningthanks for listening

A compilation of topical songs that Thile wrote for the “Song of the Week” segment of A Prairie Home Companion. Timely lyrics paired with Thile’s complex bluegrass/pop compositions. I recommend a few listens to let it sink in!

Jessie’s Picks

mr and mrs smithMovie: Mr. & Mrs. Smith

One of the best Action/Romance movies! Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie star in this movie as rival hitmen that married without knowing the other’s true occupation. Chaos and romance occur when they find out the truth about each other.

CD: The Cranberries – Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?Everybody_else_is_doing_it_so_why_can't_we_(album_cover)

This is the debut album of The Cranberries and has the hits “Linger” and “Dreams.” The whole album is full of great songs. The celtic influences and the late, great Dolores O’Riordan’s voice make this album a must-listen. My other favorite Cranberries album is “No Need to Argue,” which includes “Zombie” and “Daffodil Lament.”

Kim’s Picks

one-eyed-jacks.64315Movie: One-Eyed Jacks

In 1880 Rio (Marlon Brando) and Dad Longworth (Karl Malden) rob a Mexican bank but are cornered on a mesa by the Rurales.  Dad takes their only horse, promising to return, but he doesn’t and Rio spends years in a hellish prison.  Vowing vengeance, he escapes and finds Dad a respectable family man and sheriff of Monterey, California.  Revenge remains on Rio’s mind, and like virtually every character in the film he dishes out and becomes a victim of lies.  Marlon Brando took over from Stanley Kubrick and others to direct this 1961 minimally-flawed western masterpiece restored for the Criterion Collection.

Audiobook: Coming to My Senses: The Making of a Counterculture Cook by Alice Waterscoming to my senses

Founder (1971) of the now iconic Chez Panisse, Waters traces her life from her youth in New Jersey to her Eureka! moment discovering French cuisine on the ground in France and dreaming of duplicating the experience back home in Berkeley, California, hotbed of the Free Speech Movement and liberal causes brought to a head by the Vietnam war.  Waters succeeded.  Her locally grown, organic products and preparation attracted a broad clientele, including such film directors as Coppola, Rossellini and Godard.  Like Julia Child’s books, Coming to My Senses creates a desire to eat and drink the French, or here, the California way.

Mary’s Picks

poldarkTV Series: Poldark

BBC drama at its best. Fall in love with great characters and breathtaking scenery of Cornwall, England.only time

CD: Enya – Only Time: The Collection

Mesmerizing music from Irish vocalist, Enya. Her first album, which includes “May It Be” from The Lord of the Rings movie.

Stephanie’s Picks

cool runnings.jpgMovie: Cool Runnings

“The comedy hit inspired by the true story of Jamaica’s first Olympic bobsled team.”

CD: Dum Dum Girls – Only in DreamsPrint

The Dum Dum Girls’ second album featuring a more polished sound than their first. Contains themes of heartbreak and loss. Tim Sendra of AllMusic writes, “Dee Dee had to change, the change was good, and it led to a fine, grown-up guitar pop record.”

Quoted summaries from catalog.ccls.org.

Jamie’s Staff Picks for December

Die HardDie_hard

Summary: “A team of terrorists has seized a building in L.A. and taken hostages. A New York cop, in town to spend Christmas with his estranged wife, is the only hope for the people held by the savage criminals.”

A must-watch movie for the holidays in my house! It’s not Christmas until the Nakatomi building has been taken over and you hear, “Now I have a machine gun. Ho, Ho, Ho.” This movie is filled with pop culture references, endlessly quotable lines, and explosions. It may be a welcome break for you from the regular heartwarming holiday fare.

 

Dark Was the Nightdark was the night

This is a compilation of new songs and covers by the best in indie rock, put together to raise money to fight AIDS. This album features amazing collaborations by artists like Feist and Ben Gibbard (of Death Cab for Cutie and Postal Service) or David Byrne (of Talking Heads) and The Dirty Projectors.

 

Tween Movies

Occasionally, we have parents who come in looking for movie recommendations for their tweens– kids who would rather not watch any more animated movies, but are too young for PG-13 films. Here is a list of some recommendations for this tough age group!

Anne of Green Gablesbringing up baby
Back to the Future
The Black Stallion
Bringing Up Baby
Casablanca
Darby O’Gill and the Little People
E.T., The Extra Terrestrial
Freaky Friday
Fly Away Home
The Goonies
Hidden Figures
Holes
Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Arkrudy
In Search of the Castaways
The Love Bug
Miracle
October Sky
The Parent Trap (1961)
The Parent Trap (1998)
Pollyanna
Princess Bride
The Princess Diaries
Roman Holiday
Rudy
The Sandlotwilly wonka
Secondhand Lions
The 7th Voyage of Sinbad
The Time Machine
Wadjda
West Side Story
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
The Wizard of Oz

Multimedia Roundup: Top Titles of 2017

Here are the most popular Multimedia titles checked out at Chester County Library and the Henrietta Hankin Branch this year!*

DVDs1
Moana
La La Land
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Sully
The Girl on the Train

Adult Books on CD
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
The Wrong Side of Goodbye by Michael Connelly
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Adult Music CDsblue-and-lonesome
25 by Adele
Blue & Lonesome by The Rolling Stones
Now That’s What I Call Music! 60
1989 by Taylor Swift
Now That’s What I Call Music! 59

eBooks
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
The Goldfinch by Donna TarttGoldfinch
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by Jack Thorne
Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

eAudiobooks
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter
You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
1984 by George Orwell

 

 

*Source: http://chescolibraries.org/news/most-popular-titles-2017

Jamie’s Staff Picks for November

Big Little Liesbig little lies

I love the fact that this is a miniseries and I am kind of hoping that they do not make a second season, as is rumored (though I’m sure I would watch anyway). Since it’s based on a book and the “first” season completely covers the material, there’s a concrete beginning, middle and end. No need to mess with something so perfect as this! The plot is enticing, and you will find yourself theorizing on the various mysteries going on amongst the children and parents of Otter Bay Elementary. The acting is fantastic; Nicole Kidman got a lot of attention for the series, but I found Reese Witherspoon’s Madeline to be the most compelling. The Monterey scenery with its beautiful bay views from these women’s luxury homes will make you want to get up and move there immediately (if only we could all afford it). The best part about this series, however, is the soundtrack and the innovative way the music is integrated into the action of the show. This was definitely one of my favorite TV shows of 2017.

The Ocean at the End of the Laneocean at the end of the lane.jpg
by Neil Gaiman

A fantastical and somewhat terrifying allegory for childhood. A small boy finds magic, wonder, and terror all contained within the country lane on which he lives. The story reminded me so much of how big a world the street that I lived on seemed as a child and the endless possibilities for adventure and discovery that my neighbors and I found there. I found myself believing that the narrator was truthful about what had happened to him, but at the same time… maybe it was just an elaborately imagined tale to cope with different things going on in his life, something that he convinced himself was real? Each scenario is somehow plausible, and the dual possibilities make the text even more interesting. I don’t think this story is extremely scary, but don’t be fooled by the fact that the protagonist is seven years old. This does not preclude him from danger, even from those who are supposed to protect him. A great tale for dark and cold winter!

Also available as an ebook and eaudiobook on OverDrive and Libby.

Jamie’s Staff Picks for September

The Graveyard Bookthe graveyard book
by Neil Gaiman
Read by Neil Gaiman

Summary: Nobody Owens is a normal boy, except that he has been raised by ghosts and other denizens of the graveyard.

I think any Harry Potter fan would really enjoy this book. Orphaned boy? Check. Mysterious prophecy? Check. Magical underworld? Check. Someone out to kill said orphaned boy? Check. My only criticism is that I think Gaiman could go into more depth with world-building in this book, and I’m hoping he’ll eventually write a sequel (or sequels?) so that he can. I enjoyed Gaiman’s narration and the voices he did for the different characters; whenever I think of the name “Nobody Owens,” I now think of it in Gaiman’s British accent. There’s also something great about listening to characters express their lines in a book in the way that the author imagined it. Definitely worth checking out no matter what age you are!

Also available as an ebook and audiobook using the Libby and OverDrive apps here.

Episodesepisodes

Summary: Husband and wife writing team Sean and Beverly can’t wait to bring their successful British television series across the pond to make it big in America. But in true Hollywood fashion, it quickly becomes a laughable, cliched sitcom starring Matt LeBlanc who not only messes with their beloved show, but rocks the foundation of their relationship. So now, even if they survive the absurdity of show business, will their marriage survive Matt LeBlanc?

Matt LeBlanc must feel pretty vindicated that this show has gotten great critical reception after his disastrous Joey spinoff. He plays a fictionalized version of himself in a timeline where he just kept going from bad project to bad project after Joey, rather than taking a break and being more selective as he did in real life. He is driven by the desire to be taken seriously, but often finds himself accepting projects for the money. This version of LeBlanc is a less lovable Joey Tribbiani, and this show in general is far more cynical than Friends ever was. It really demonstrates that LeBlanc has great comedic range, however. Joey tended toward more bombastic and expressive outbursts, while the fictional LeBlanc is far more subdued but still funny. It also helps that the show is well-written and the other cast members are great– I was a fan of Stephen Mangan and Tamsin Greig from the excellent show Green Wing, and have also really enjoyed Kathleen Rose Perkins’ character Carol. Also, like all good shows, this one knows when to exit: the last season is airing now.

Jamie’s Staff Picks for August

Veepveep

Summary: ” Former Senator Selina Meyer was a charismatic leader and a rising star in her party with her eye on the White House, then she became Vice President. VEEP follows the whirlwind day-to day existence of Vice President Meyer as she puts out political fires, juggles a busy public schedule and demanding private life, and defends the President’s interests, even as she tries to improve her dysfunctional relationship with the Chief Executive.”

A wonderfully irreverent, cringingly funny show about a power-hungry, self-absorbed politician and her bumbling staff. I was almost going to call Selina and her staff “inept,” but that doesn’t really describe it. In some ways they are surprisingly skilled, but I think they are all generally so busy trying to look good and one-up others, and get so caught up in the heart-racing insanity of running the country, that they make many, many, missteps. By the same token, though, they often find themselves bumbling their way to a win. Watching VEEP is sort of like tossing a coin to predict how these horrible people are going to come out of whatever predicament they are in. However, I think what really keeps me watching, other than the amazing performances and right-on comedic timing of this ensemble cast, is the colorful and creative insults that they throw at one another. This Office of the Vice President would be a terrible place to work if you were in it, but it’s oh-so-entertaining to watch.

If you like VEEP and are looking for something similar, we also have Armando Iannucci’s British political TV show, The Thick of It, and similarly-structured movie (which is great), In the Loop.

Southeasternsoutheastern
Jason Isbell

Jason Isbell has been quite open about his struggles with alcoholism, and this album seems to address those struggles, but not in an obviously autobiographical way. Each song tells the story of a different character, addressing different aspects of life that I think Isbell can relate to as he fights his daily battle to stay sober. If you enjoy the more alternative rock side of country music, then I highly recommend checking this album out.