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24 is Back…. and It Hasn’t Learned a Thing


After 9/11, 24 became a left winger’s idea of what a right winger might want to watch. Picture Michael Moore trying to make a show for Oliver North. Then throw in a lot of ADD.

And that hasn’t changed.

It’s 2014 and 24 is still the same show it was. Its producers, picking up some wind from Homeland’s popularity, have shoveled in Wikileaks, the white widow, drone strikes and moved the setting to London and yet it’s still exactly the same show.

Jack Bauer is a rogue. Jack Bauer is on the run. Jack Bauer is the only one who knows the next attack is coming. And no one believes Jack Bauer even though he’s been right a dozen times. And he once piloted in a nuke. And no one even recognizes him.

There’s another substitute CTU war room with its soap operas, another West Wing drama and it’s all the same stuff all over.

24 still has its moments. Only by its last season did it become so hopelessly miserable as to be completely unwatchable. But it’s thin stuff.

While shows like The Following and Blacklist are playing with the 24 formula, it has stayed the same. Why? If 24 had to come back, why not go back to what made its first season work. Jack as a human being, frantic and with something at stake. Or pick up more interesting villains.

It’s 2014. Does anyone really want forced dramatic debates about drone warfare? Or the least plausible Al Qaeda terrorists ever?

Why even bother moving the series to London if you’re going to act exactly like it’s Los Angeles? Why pretend that little drone friendly fire will outrage the Brits when you have a battalion of CIA people running around waving guns around London?

Why not, and here’s an absolutely ridiculous idea, have Jack deal with a British version of CTU? Because that would be playing with the 24 formula. And that golden formula is on its 9th season and ridiculously predictable.

Soon Jack will be believed. He’ll lead a team. Then he’ll go rogue again. Margot Al-Hazari will turn out to be the pawn of some secretive group that wants to discredit drones or that infected President Heller with a senility virus so they can take over everything. And they’ll turn out to be the pawns of someone else.

We’ve done this before. Why do we have to do it again?

You can’t blame the cast. Kiefer Sutherland gives every scene 110%. Yvonne Strahovski is unexpectedly good and working overtime in a generic role. Even William Devane is trying to take bland material to a West Wing level, even if his parliamentary speech is so bland and cliched that no one would even bother booing it.

24 Live Another Day could have worked. It could have justified its existence. All it needed to do was shake the formula up enough to make the show watchable. Stop clinging to old characters. Stop acting as if it had something important to say about drone warfare. Stop being a Bush soap and deal with life in a new decade.

And it doesn’t even try.

Why not dump Jack into London as a stranger without Chloe, the CIA, President Heller or any of the trimmings? Stuff him into an alien world and watch him try to navigate it with no support.

It wouldn’t have given fans nostalgia hits, but it might have been a show worth watching.

My Sassy Girl movie review

My Sassy Girl movie posterMy Sassy Girl is to Elisha Cuthbert what The House Bunny is to Anna Farris, a great role in a fairly bad movie that proves she can be more than Jack Bauer’s annoying daughter. My Sassy Girl though isn’t nearly as bad as you would expect it to be, primarily because Elisha Cuthbert turns what could have easily been another “magic pixie dream girl” character into a real person. Keeping up with her is an awkward Jesse Bradford as a farm boy whose big dream was going to NYU business school in order to get a job for the traditional farm company his father works for.

In that way My Sassy Girl is initially a throwback to the classic screwball comedy with the ditzy dame and the straightlaced bachelor colliding as she wrecks his life but teaches him how to have fun, and that is how the movie is being promoted, but My Sassy Girl’s biggest problem, besides the name, is that it is a remake. My Sassy Girl might have jettisoned everything of the original but the idea and that might have worked, or it might have stuck to a detailed scene by scene and line by line remake of the South Korean original. Instead however My Sassy Girl tries to awkwardly mimic some of the stylistic touches of the original and suffers from schizophrenia unable to make the transition that the original made from a more conventional comedy to a more conventional romantic comedy.

My Sassy Girl works well enough in the first two thirds fueled by Elisha Cuthbert’s brave performance, but by the time the original’s plot twist kicks in turning the movie from comedy into saccharine melodrama and transforms her Jordan from an edgy, wild and bitter person and into a classic romantic comedy heroine crying lonely tears and rejoicing when hope against hope the man she was destined to be with meets up with her again. In a movie that began with a hint of Carole Lombard, My Sassy Girl ends squarely in When Harry Met Sally territory, an uncomfortable journey that reminds us again that some conventions of Asian cinema will just not translate well, especially not when they’re translated as haphazardly as they were here.

My Sassy Girl succeeds as much as it does because Elisha Cuthbert’s Jordan feels all too real in the same way that the carefully lit and spotless New York City subways or every other character in the movie from Jesse Bradford’s ridiculously squeaky clean small town Charlie to his obligatory fat perverted best friend, do not. The reckless pain and wild anger she projects is an all too real and all too human and the emotions and behavior she displays makes her character one you are far more likely to find in New York than the usual heroes and heroines of romantic comedies who have met here on the silver screen. But when My Sassy Girl has done milking it for its comedy value, it assigns a tritely sentimental meaning to everything she has done and the journey then becomes a means to clean all that away and present her as simply another generic heroine waiting to step into the happy ending that had been waiting for her all along. It’s a perfect Hollywood ending and one that shortchanges every real human emotion in the movie in favor of manufactured yearning that magically comes true.

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