Monday, October 5, 2015

Birthday Girl: Kate Winslet

Just a few days ago, I saw Kate Winslet being absolutely wasted on Insurgent and it made me long to see her in great films again. Thankfully I don't have to wait long as she's currently making the publicity rounds, most recently at the New York Film Festival, for her role in Steve Jobs which many believe might be the film to get her back to Oscars' good graces. Not as if she needs it since she's still one of the best in the industry and certainly one of my favorites.

Today is actually Kate's 40th birthday and apart from Steve Jobs, I'm glad she has a couple of other films coming out. The photo above is from The Dressmaker which looks absolutely fun and gorgeous. It had its world premiere last month at the Toronto Film Festival but no word yet on when it'll be released to the general public here in America. Then there's Triple 9 which looks so outside the box to Kate's usual films that I'm probably more excited about it than the two films I've already mentioned (only slightly though). But just look at her...

These are low quality stills from the recently released trailer. And all I can say is... yes, please... more, please... give it to me now! Anyways, happy birthday Kate!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Pilot Thoughts: Blood and Oil, Quantico, Heroes Reborn

Last week I wrote about four new pilots I watched this fall. Here are three more though technically two pilots and a reboot.

Blood and Oil (ABC)

As a previous fan of Revenge and current fan of Empire and How to Get Away with Murder, my love for trashy prime-time soaps is clear. My hope was Blood and Oil would follow suit. Unfortunately its biggest sin in the pilot is just how shrug-worthy it all feels. The lead couple played by Chace Crawford and Rebecca Rittenhouse are blander than milk though I can see the show writing them this way for now to show how quickly they're corrupted by all the sex/money/murder happening in this North Dakotan oil town. But all of that sex/money/murder were just too far and few in the pilot with even Don Johnson and Amber Valletta looking bored. The one teeny tiny highlight was Scott Michael Foster playing the entitled bad boy rich kid. More him and more sex. Less everything else. C

Quantico (ABC)

This show was ABC trying to do a Shonda Rhimes show without Shonda Rhimes. It's literally a mash-up of Grey's Anatomy (hot coeds living and learning together), Scandal (amidst political and dangerous situations), and How to Get Away with Murder (plus a whodunit with a flashback structure). So on the one hand, hats off for doing all of that and still delivering a relatively fun and intriguing pilot. But then it also falls a bit under all of the weighty comparisons and expectations. The characters right now, as uniformly hot as they are, are not specially drawn out, but that's to be expected on a show with this large of an ensemble. Lead Priyanka Chopra seems more than capable though so I'll be interested in seeing what more she can do. B

Heroes Reborn (NBC)

This isn't technically a pilot, but I still wanted to chime in with my thoughts. So, I loved the original Heroes and while I agree that they went off the rails in later seasons, I was still interested in this world, these characters. With that said, I'm predisposed to like this continuation reboot. And here's the thing, this show is exactly what you expect. If you liked Heroes Original Flavor, you will like this. If you didn't, then this new show isn't for you as well. I believe they achieved a nice balance of addressing what happened in the earlier series while being free to continue with a new-ish story. I personally can't wait to spend some time with some old and new characters alike. Is it perfect? It's not at all and many of its flaws (confusing timeline, awkward dialogue) are still present but I'm a sucker for people with super powers so I'll be here every week. B

There was a brief moment last week when I considered watching the pilots for The Grinder and Grandfathered, two shows that I kept mistaking for one another all summer. Both have actually gotten mildly positive notices, but in the era of Peak TV I think I'll do myself a solid and try to limit my TV watching a bit more. In fact, I've already given up on one new show this fall: Scream Queens. I just didn't feel the need to watch another episode after its two-hour premiere episode.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Pilot Thoughts: Minority Report, Scream Queens, Muppets, Limitless

The Fall 2015 TV season just had its first week. Actually today will be its 7th day, but there are a million shows on Sundays so I'd rather post my thoughts on any of the new shows I watched this past week.

Minority Report (FOX)

It's been awhile since I've see the Minority Report film, but I never actually thought it would be resurrected as a TV show. But it has and despite all the cool futuristic fluorishes (and they ARE cool), it sadly feels a little been-there-done that. It doesn't help that FOX is essentially copying the formula that made Sleepy Hollow work in its first season. You have the awkward out-of-place guy with preternatural talents working with a strong, super capable lady cop to solve crimes. But while Sleepy Hollow had the whole cadre of supernatural things that go bump in the night at its disposal, Minority Report just feels like a police procedural but with slightly more advance technology. The cast is fine, even good, and the final scene that hints to something bigger, while predictable, was effective. The ratings for this one weren't great, but I'll keep seeing it to see if it improves. C+

Scream Queens (FOX)

Watching a Ryan Murphy show for two hours straight has got to fall under "cruel and unjust punishment" especially with its visceral assault on your senses. Maybe I've grown out of his schtick. I loved early season Glee (and watched to the bitter, bitter end) and Popular is still an unheralded work of genius. I never got into American Horror Story and now with Scream Queens, I just think he's not for me. Does the pilot provide fun, crazy moments and cool, interesting characters? Certainly, but they're either hidden and obscured or turned up to 11 to the point of eye-rollingness. Here's the thing though, Murphy shows usually drop in level from the pilot/first season so if I wasn't into the pilot this time around, that's just an invitation to do right for me and stop watching now. I might give it one more episode, because I *am* a TV masochist sometimes. D+

The Muppets (ABC)

I've seen so many reactions from people who say that this iteration of the Muppets just seem too adult and thus it all feels off. I don't entirely disagree with them, but "too adult" is relative and I think that off feeling is on purpose. There's already that disconnect when puppets are treated as humans (which this show has established in previous editions) and this show just takes that to the next step. So in that sense, I totally dug it. Apart from the whole Muppets aspect of it, as a show, it largely reminded me of 30 Rock, which is a good thing in my book. I know the pilot was rushed to production so I have to believe everyone involved will get the right balance and flow for these beloved characters eventually. I'll stick around to see if they do. B

Limitless (CBS)

While FOX wanted its Minority Report to be Sleepy Hollow, CBS wanted Limitless to be its next Elementary (with a side of NBC's Chuck)... not to mention that all four of those shows pretty much are the same in concept. The crazy thing about Limitless though is how much I enjoyed the pilot. They deftly re-packaged the film into a TV episode that not only re-introduces the concept, but builds on the film. Plus I thought it was exciting, smart, and unexpectedly heartfelt. My biggest fear, of course, is that the pilot is not representative at all of what the show moving forward is going to be which is... a police procedural. And look, I'm not totally against them. I still very much like Elementary, but most of that is because I enjoy spending time with its characters. This show might have a fighting chance in that regard as its full of people I've loved from elsewhere namely Jennifer Carpenter, Ron Rifkin, Blair Brown. Lead actor Jake McDorman is fine and I have liked him in other shows (Greek, Shameless). My biggest hope is that they find some shading to this procedural show be it in his developing relationship with Carpenter or continuing to see his relationship with his parents/family. B+

So as you can see, with new shows this year, it's slim pickins'. Tonight, I'll be checking out two more pilots: Blood and Oil and Quantico. I don't have any high hopes for Blood and Oil only that it be as soapy and trashy as it could be. I *do* expect Quantico to be good, or at least entertaining. After that, I still have to dig into Heroes Reborn even though it's technically not a new show, I still consider it as such. The only other two new broadcast pilots I'm going to check out aren't on air until October (Supergirl, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend). Thankfully I have my hands full with my long list of returning shows, most of which have upped their game. But that's probably another post waiting to be written.

Monday, September 21, 2015

The 2015 Emmys: The Winners

Tonight's Emmy Awards were pretty great actually with diverse winners, records and streaks getting broken, and history made. The night started out strong with host Andy Samberg delivering an Ode to Having Way Too Many TV Shows to Catch Up On which I bet a lot of us felt quite sympathetic to in a deeper level (Samberg actually was pretty solid throughout the night I thought). The night ended out just as strongly as Tracy Morgan made his first live (and emotional) appearance since his accident and Veep and Game of Thrones were awarded Best Comedy and Best Drama Series respectively. In the the process, Veep halted the consecutive wins of Modern Family in the category at 5 and Game of Thrones, with a total of 12 wins, replaced The West Wing as the series to receive the most Emmys in a single year.

HBO was the night's big winner not only winning Best Comedy and Drama Series (no network has done that since 2002 when NBC's Friends and The West Wing won), but also taking home Best Limited Series with Olive Kitteridge. In total, HBO won 43 Emmy Awards including 25 from those three shows alone. It was also a huge night for women and women of color. Directing and writing in a Limited Series went to two women (Lisa Cholodenko and Jane Anderson respectively) for the aforementioned Olive Kitteridge while Jill Soloway won Best Directing in Comedy Series for the groundbreaking show Transparent (also picking up a win for Jeffrey Tambor). Meanwhile Regina King, Uzo Aduba, and Viola Davis won acting awards. For Aduba, she joins Ed Asner for having a role awarded in both Comedy and Drama. For Davis, she becomes the first (!) black actress to win for Lead Actress in a Drama Series. All of their speeches were highlights of the night, but Viola channeling Harriet Tubman would be hard to top. Speaking of great women, Allison Janney won her 7th acting Emmy tying her with... Ed Asner for the most.

And while Veep and Game of Thrones finally broke through to lead their respective categories, all eyes were on Jon Hamm who thankfully broke through as well finally winning for his role as Don Draper on Mad Men (the show then received only 1 acting win in 36 nominations). Sadly, Amy Poehler didn't fare as well with her Leslie Knope Emmy-less (she still won the night and the award show will truly and surely miss her). I could go on and on about the shows and performances I think should've won like Lisa Kudrow, Elisabeth Moss, Jonathan Banks, Parks and Recreation... but it's been a long night. The show pleasantly ended earlier than many thought and so in that spirit, I'll stop and just present to you the list of winners:

Game of Thrones (HBO)
ACTOR: Jon Hamm, Mad Men (AMC)
ACTRESS: Viola Davis, How to Get Away with Murder (ABC)
SUPP. ACTOR: Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones (HBO)
SUPP. ACTRESS: Uzo Aduba, Orange is the New Black (Netflix)
DIRECTING: David Nutter, Game of Thrones (HBO)
WRITING: David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, Game of Thrones (HBO)
GUEST ACTOR: Reg E. Cathey, House of Cards (Netflix)
GUEST ACTRESS: Margo Martindale, The Americans (FX)

Veep (HBO)
ACTOR: Jeffrey Tambor, Transparent (Amazon)
ACTRESS: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep (HBO)
SUPP. ACTOR: Tony Hale, Veep (HBO)
SUPP. ACTRESS: Allison Janney, Mom (CBS)
DIRECTING: Jill Soloway, Transparent (Amazon)
WRITING: Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche, Veep (HBO)
GUEST ACTOR: Bradley Whitford, Transparent (Amazon)
GUEST ACTRESS: Joan Cusack, Shameless (Showtime)

Olive Kitteridge (HBO)
TV MOVIE: Bessie (HBO)
ACTOR: Richard Jenkins, Olive Kitteridge (HBO)
ACTRESS: Frances McDormand, Olive Kitteridge (HBO)
SUPP. ACTOR: Bill Murray, Olive Kitteridge (HBO)
SUPP. ACTRESS: Regina King, American Crime (ABC)
DIRECTING: Lisa Cholodenko, Olive Kitteridge (HBO)
WRITING: Jane Anderson, Olive Kitteridge (HBO)

In terms of predictions I made, I got 9 out of 15 and with alternates 12 out of 15 so not too terrible, but nothing to celebrate. So until next year!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Emmy Nominations and Predictions: Drama

Tonight are the Emmy Awards! Yesterday, I posted my thoughts and predictions for the comedy categories. Here are the drama ones:

Better Call Saul
Downton Abbey
Game of Thrones
House of Cards
Mad Men
Orange Is the New Black

With last year's champ Breaking Bad done and dusted, it's a great opportunity for a handful of these shows. Will Mad Men win for a fifth and final time? Will Game of Thrones, the show nominated for the most Emmy Awards with 24, break through finally? Will the new category for Orange Is the New Black mean an easier time for a win (no)? Will Better Call Saul just pick up where Breaking Bad left off? Any of these scenarios could happen so I'm at a bit of a loss, but thankfully I'm OK with any of those happening! I'm more annoyed that they still didn't find a way to honor The Americans or even the huge network hit Empire.

Prediction: Mad Men
Alternate: Game of Thrones
Should Win: Orange is the New Black
Should've Been Nominated: The Americans, The Leftovers, Empire, Agent Carter

Kyle Chandler, Bloodline
Jeff Daniels, Newsroom
Jon Hamm, Mad Men
Bob Odenkirk, Better Call Saul
Liev Schreiber, Ray Donovan
Kevin Spacey, House of Cards

Does Jeff Daniels have some blackmail-worthy information or something? I mean I haven't seen his show, but it's all still so perplexing. It IS nice seeing Chandler pop up randomly here, though again I have no opinion since I haven't seen his show. The rest of the nominees were predictable based on history and with Cranston out of the way COULD IT BE THIS YEAR FINALLY JON HAMM MIGHT WIN? That is the big question of course and I do think it'll happen with the rule change (more people voting) and the perceived slight of Hamm not winning for this particular role.

Prediction: Jon Hamm
Alternate: Kevin Spacey
Should Win: Jon Hamm
Should've Been Nominated: Cillian Murphy, Matthew Rhys, Charlie Cox, Jamie Dornan

Claire Danes, Homeland
Viola Davis, How to Get Away With Murder
Taraji P. Henson, Empire
Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black
Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men
Robin Wright, House of Cards

Tatiana Maslany! Tatiana Maslany! I was honestly shocked, pleasantly, when her name was called nomination morning. I still can't believe it. This is actually an amazing, amazing short list top-lined by Davis and Henson who should both be seen as the favorites to win. I wouldn't know who to pick between the two of them if I had a vote... so I probably would just pick Moss for her first win and final time to honor her for her fantastic Peggy Olson. I do wish this was another category that had extra slot since Keri Russell and (more unlikely) Hayley Atwell would've fit right in.

Prediction: Taraji P. Henson
Alternate: Viola Davis
Should Win: Elisabeth Moss
Should've Been Nominated: Keri Russell, Hayley Atwell, Olivia Colman, Gillian Anderson

Jonathan Banks, Better Call Saul
Ben Mendelsohn, Bloodline
Jim Carter, Downton Abbey
Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones
Alan Cumming, The Good Wife
Michael Kelly, House of Cards

These nominees are refreshingly different from last year with Dinklage and Carter as the only repeat nominees. In Carter's case, I have no earthly idea why they keep nominating him and even Dinklage didn't have much to do this season. I am very much rooting for Banks here who delivered a knockout season (and episode), but who knows? My personal list, however, would've trended a bit younger such as Matt Czuchry, Joshua Jackson, Jussie Smollett, Conrad Ricamora, Matthew Goode, Vincent Kartheiser, Jack Falahee, Allen Leech... I could go on and on.

Prediction: Jonathan Banks
Alternate: Ben Mendelsohn
Should Win: Jonathan Banks
Should've Been Nominated: Jussie Smollett, Joshua Jackson, Matt Czuchry, Conrad Ricamora

Joanne Froggatt, Downton Abbey
Lena Headey, Game of Thrones
Emilia Clarke, Game of Thrones
Christine Baranski, The Good Wife
Christina Hendricks, Mad Men
Uzo Aduba, Orange Is the New Black

Unlike the men, a lot of the nominees are repeats from last year with previously Emmy nominated Clarke and Aduba replacing Maggie Smith (finally!) and last year's winner Anna Gunn. If there was ever a free-for-all category, this is it. Literally, any one of these ladies could win. If I had to pick the most likely winners it'd have to be Hendricks for the final season of her show, Aduba for being the MVP of her show (at least in terms of general perception), and Baranski (The Good Wife has had a female acting winner 5 years in a row). The big crime here though is not awarding Lorraine Toussaint a nomination for her singular work. She would've been a shoo-in for Guest Actress, but alas a recent rule change put her here in a much more competitive/crowded field.

Prediction: Uzo Aduba
Alternate: Christine Baranski
Should Win: Lena Headey
Should've Been Nominated: Lorraine Toussaint, Samira Wiley, Ann Dowd, Charlotte Rampling

Overall, the big question of the night is how much will the Emmys decide to honor Mad Men for its final year in contention? And if the answer is no, which shows and actors will take up the baton? Game of Thrones? Better Call Saul? Orange is the New Black? Of course, there were still plenty of shows I wished were honored like The Americans, The Leftovers, and even Empire. Alas.

And just for completeness sake, here are my predictions for the Miniseries/TV Movies categories, with the exception of Best TV Movie which was given out to Bessie during last week's Creative Arts Emmy Awards:


Saturday, September 19, 2015

Emmy Nominations and Predictions: Comedy

The Emmys are tomorrow! And I still haven't talked about the nominations. Where did the summer go? So below are my thoughts and predictions for the big categories in Comedy. Tomorrow aka Emmy Day, I'll post about the Drama categories.

Modern Family
Parks & Recreation
Silicon Valley
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Modern Family has won this category five years in a row. Five. Years. In. A. Row. Last year's Orange is the New Black (now inexplicably a drama series) had all the buzz and it still didn't win so underestimate the show at your peril. With that said, the Emmys didn't even give Frasier a sixth win so I think and hope they'll finally look somewhere new and I think Amazon's Transparent will be it. People think it'll be too niche, but with its lead a lock for a win and increased visibility for transgendered issues recently, I think it's likely. Frankly I'm just happy they chose to recognize the final season of Parks and Recreation and the first season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, both of which were not a given AT ALL. Still plenty of GREAT shows were left out in the cold such as Broad City and Jane the Virgin.

Prediction: Transparent
Alternate: Veep
Should Win: Parks and Recration
Should've Been Nominated: Jane the Virgin, Broad City, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, The Comeback

Anthony Anderson, Black-ish
Louis C.K., Louie
Don Cheadle, House of Lies
Will Forte, The Last Man on Earth
Matt LeBlanc, Episodes
William H. Macy, Shameless
Jeffrey Tambor, Transparent

Even with room for 7 names, it's hilarious to me how yawn-worthy this category still is. In fact, other than Tambor, I would've nominated a whole different set of names including Thomas Middlestitch whose show was nominated for Best Comedy and Andy Samberg aka the night's host! In any case, this category is a slam-dunk for Tambor especially (and shockingly) with previous multi-winner Jim Parsons not nominated. What happened there?

Prediction: Jeffrey Tambor
Alternate: William H. Macy
Should Win: Jeffrey Tambor
Should've Been Nominated: Adam Scott, Thomas Middleditch, Chris Messina, Andy Samberg

Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie
Lisa Kudrow, The Comeback
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation
Amy Schumer, Inside Amy Schumer
Lily Tomlin, Grace and Frankie

We give the sad lineup of men an extra name and we don't do that same for this insanely stacked category? With one more slot, they could've found room for Gina Rodriguez, Ellie Kemper, Gina Rodriguez, Contance Wu, Gina Rogriguez. You get the idea. With that said, this is a really strong short list where I can see all of them winning or at least all of them trying to win against Emmy juggernaut JLD who will likely win again. If I had a vote though... it's still tough. Lisa Kudrow literally gave the best performance of the year not in just this category, but in all of acting. But how can Amy Poehler not have an Emmy for Leslie Knope? In the end, I'm sticking to the spirit of the award i.e. best performance of the year and it's hands down Kudrow (Rodriguez would've given her competition for my vote though were she nominated).

Prediction: Julia Louis-Dreyfus
Alternate: Amy Schumer
Should Win: Lisa Kudrow
Should've Been Nominated: Gina Rodriguez, Ellie Kemper, Constance Wu, Ilana Glazer

Andre Braugher, Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Adam Driver, Girls
Keegan-Michael Key, Key & Peele
Ty Burrell, Modern Family
Tituss Burgess, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Tony Hale, Veep

This mirrors last year's nominees with Key and Burgess replacing Fred Armisen and Jesse Tyler Ferguson (for the better in my opinion). Last year, Burrell won even though I thought previous year's winner Hale had it in the bag. Those two could easily just keep passing this award between each other for years to come, but I'm rooting for Braugher or Burgess who are both just such scene-stealers on their respective shows in such different, but still delightful ways. That said if anyone watched TV at all the past year, then it would've been a no-brainer to give Jamie Camil (Jane the Virgin) a nomination.

Prediction: Tony Hale
Alternate: Ty Burrell
Should Win: Andre Braugher
Should've Been Nominated: Jaime Camil, Nick Offerman, Noel Fisher, Hugh Laurie

Mayim Bialik, The Big Bang Theory
Niecy Nash, Getting On
Julie Bowen, Modern Family
Allison Janney, Mom
Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live
Gaby Hoffmann, Transparent
Jane Krakowski, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Anna Chlumsky, Veep

No offense to any of these ladies (I love most of them), but 8 slots is overkill. With that said, we did get fun inclusions because of it like Nash and Hoffman. Also, welcome back Jane Krakowski, maybe this time the Emmys will actually give you a trophy. Or not since who can defeat Emmy favorite and last year's winner Allison Janney? No one, that's who. I have a long list of should've been nominated including Melora Hardin from Transparent and pretty much every female supporting actor in Jane the Virgin and Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

Prediction: Allison Janney
Alternate: Julie Bowen
Should Win: Kate McKinnon
Should've Been Nominated: Melora Hardin, Yael Grobas, Andrea Navedo, Chelsea Peretti

In the end, I wish there were more love for a few shows like Jane the Virgin, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and Broad City. But the Modern Family's stranglehold seems to be lessening and Parsons' non-nomination at least shows some kind of movement from the norm. And as unlikely as they may be to win, I'm all about Lisa Kudrow and Parks and Recreation. Tomorrow the drama categories!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Summer TV Review

With all this talk about Peak TV this summer, you would think there would be tons of original shows to watch and obsessed over the past few months. Oh wait, there were! With the fall TV season already starting up, I just wanted to take a few moments to celebrate the great TV I saw this past summer starting with my favorite...

1. Sense8 - This Netflix sci-fi series from  Andy and Lana Wachowski absolutely took a hold of me like no other show this year. The show's concept is as intriguing as it is epic. Eight individuals, strangers to one another and situated around the world, suddenly find themselves connected physically, emotionally, mentally, etc. They are able to experience what the others experience, take over each other's bodies and minds, share skills and memories, and so much more. This unique ability shared among the Sensates as they are called provides the show with many opportunities to highlight issues of identity, family, sexuality, among many others. Plus with a truly diverse and international cast and shooting locations, the scope is appropriately epic. Of course all of this would mean nothing without great characters and honestly it is impossible to pick a favorite from the main Sensates to the large supporting cast playing their loved ones. Is the show perfect? Hardly, especially with its thin and convoluted government conspiracy plot. But it's still one of the most high-reaching and highly empathetic show you'll ever find.

2. Orange is the New Black - Netflix making a second appearance already, but why not? This show was groundbreaking two years ago when it premiered and it's still breaking ground. One of my absolute favorite things about this show is its ability to get into every character, no matter how small, and see what makes them tick. Their decision to switch it up from last season and not have a central villain character shows the show's willingness to keep experimenting as well as making their "protagonist" becoming a little antagonistic and, more surprisingly, a bit more of a supporting player. But it's unavoidable with a large and talented cast, still one of the best and most diverse in TV these days.

3. Mr. Robot - USA Network is usually known for its light and casual procedurals so I initially didn't give Mr. Robot any mind. That was until all the critics couldn't stop raving about it. Since I was already a fan of lead actor Rami Malek, I gave it a shot and thank goodness I did because what I discovered was a thrilling hacker drama with more layers and twists than I dare thought was possible for a TV show. Malek, with his sharp features and wide eyes, is the perfect lead playing the brilliant, insane, socially anxious Eliot Anderson. The show, like its central character, keeps wanting to alienate, but only pulls you right into its drama. The show's technical prowess must also be commended from its truly cinematic and arresting visuals to its bombastic sound. All of it plays in perfect service to the truly fucked up world where you hardly know who is good or evil, real or imaginary, friend or foe.

4. Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp - Yeah, so Netflix is just kicking ass and taking names even more so with this most improbable show. How did they possibly decide to do a prequel to a cult film from a decade ago starring all of the original actors, most of whom have gone on to much bigger, better things? And once they did and got everything done to see it through, including getting all of the aforementioned actors to agree to appear on the show, how did they actually make it as good as it was? To get into specifics would be moot, but creators and writers David Wain and Michael Showalter truly captured the wacky spirit of their film and adapted it well to TV. And huge kudos to the all of the actors being back as it really wouldn't have been the same without all of them participating in this very weird, very funny show.

5. Hannibal - The fact that this show lasted on NBC for three seasons seems just as improbable with its dark and grotesque subject matter coupled with its tragically low ratings. But thankfully Bryan Fuller and company were able to have relatively free rein to tell their masterful tale of Hannibal Lecter and the people he consumed, both literally and figuratively. Granted this season, I think they went a little too out there even for my taste, but the fact that they went to those crazy places is one of the things I loved and will miss about the show. Shout out to Mads Mikkelsen, Hugh Dancy, Gillian Anderson, and everyone else on the cast for what they did and were able to do.

Quick thoughts on other shows...

- Yes, this summer there was a show about humans called Mr. Robot and a show about robots called Humans. Multitudes. Anyways, this "robots have feelings too" show was really quite good with some aces acting.

American Ninja Warrior - Still one of the best competitive reality shows to watch over summer. Compelling (and attractive) cast of characters doing something only few of us can attempt to do.

So You Think You Can Dance - The Street vs. Stage format change was super annoying enough to make me think for a moment about not watching this season, but the immense talent, which never left, convinced me to stick around.

Teen Wolf/Scream - Lumping both of these together, because they're both on MTV and gave me my requisite "hot teens in immortal danger" and "hot teens dying a lot" storylines I apparently crave.

Face Off - Yes, another reality show, but this one is so good. They do cool special effects makeup! And the contestants actually help each other! And the judges know what they're talking about! What a concept.

Unreal - And finally, I only saw the pilot of this show before it suddenly became unavailable to watch, but that one episode showed me exactly why so many people became quite obsessed with it this summer. Hope to see more of it when it's available to watch again.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Creative Arts Emmy Awards Guest Acting Winners

The Creative Arts Emmy Awards were given out last night. Game of Thrones picked up the most hardware with 8 trophies followed by American Horror Story: Freakshow with 5 and Bessie with 4. For a complete list of winners, click here.

What I did want to talk about were the four Guest Acting categories which, like every year, are the only acting categories given out at the Creative Arts Emmy ceremony. I wished I had posted my predictions prior to the ceremony, but I only would've gotten 1 of 4 anyways. Onwards...

  • Mel Brooks, The Comedians
  • Louis C.K., Saturday Night Live
  • Paul Giamatti, Inside Amy Schumer
  • Bill Hader, Saturday Night Live
  • Jon Hamm, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
  • Bradley Whitford, Transparent - WINNER

Was very happy to see Whitford get the nomination and the win. If I had been voting, that would've been an easy vote for an actor with a tricky role. He was also the only acting win of the night that I predicted as I think the Emmys will embrace Transparent wholeheartedly during the big night. With that said, I know I wasn't the only one wishing Hamm had won for his kooky cult leader character just so he'd have an Emmy since he's clearly not winning one for Mad Men (or is he?).

As for the rest of the nominees, they're fine if a bit shrug-worthy. Among my personal picks were Ki Hong Lee from Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Zachary Quinto for his stint in Girls. Or anyone and everyone from Parks & Recreation, but that's a common refrain from me.

  • Pamela Adlon, Louie
  • Elizabeth Banks, Modern Family
  • Christine Baranski, Big Bang Theory
  • Joan Cusack, Shameless - WINNER
  • Tina Fey, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

I have so much love for most of these actresses and yet other than Baranski, who is just so good in this role (what role isn't she good in?), none of them made my own personal shortlist which included no-brainers like Rhea Perlman for The Mindy Project, Kyra Sedgwick for Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and Kathryn Hahn for Parks & Recreation.

With that said, I'm totally fine for Cusack's win. With the constant question of her show being a comedy or her role being a guest role, hilarious this year her character did fit the bill for both. Plus it's a first Emmy to a longtime working actor who's always a treat to watch. From the nominees, I probably would've given my vote to Baranski. As for my prediction as to how the Emmys would've gone, I would've bet on Fey or Banks.

  • F. Murray Abraham, Homeland
  • Alan Alda, The Blacklist
  • Beau Bridges, Masters of Sex
  • Reg E. Cathey, House of Cards - WINNER
  • Michael J. Fox, The Good Wife
  • Pablo Schreiber, Orange Is the New Black

Schreiber's inclusion was a bit of a surprise during nomination morning, but the others were less shocking. I wasn't even disappointed in them since I do think they're all good, but for most of them I would've picked other actors from their shows for example Corey Stoll for Homeland, David Hyde Pierce for The Good Wife, and Larsd Mikkelsen for House of Cards.

Mikkelsen especially really chewed scenery toe-to-toe with Spacey so Cathey's nomination and win is a head-scratcher for me in a season where he barely did anything (ditto Bridges whose win last season I championed). From this list of nominees, I would've personally picked and predicted Fox to win since shockingly to me he has yet to win for a juicy and complex role in a show that's rich with acting Emmy wins.

  • Khandi Alexander, Scandal
  • Rachel Brosnahan, House of Cards
  • Allison Janney, Masters of Sex
  • Margo Martindale, The Americans - WINNER
  • Diana Rigg, Game of Thrones
  • Cicely Tyson, How to Get Away With Murder

My love for Martindale and The Americans is clear and I think it's great that the show got some kind of Emmy recognition, but Martindale did nothing special this past season at least not compared to someone like Tyson who I thought was the slam-dunk winner. Even on the same show, Lois Smith was the only who truly delivered an award-winning guest performance last year.

Other people I was rooting for to get nominations were Julianne Nicholson for Masters of Sex (should've won!), Linda Lavin for The Good Wife, and Courtney Love (damn right!) for Empire.

In any case, now all eyes are on the Big Night next week. Do any of the Creative Arts Emmy wins mean anything for it? Should Mad Men fans worry their show went 0 for 4? Will the 3 wins for Transparent mean it'll be the first show to unseat Modern Family for Best Comedy Series? Unfortunately, there's no direct correlation between early technical wins and winning the big prizes, so we'll all just have to wait and see.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Witness me...

This post is part of Nathaniel's "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" series in which the participants must post a single image from a movie he or she deems as the "best shot" for any particular reason.

Mad Max: Fury Road currently sits on top as my favorite film not just from this summer, but for the entire year. Unfortunately, I've only seen it once back when it came out thus making it even more of a challenge for me to talk about why I loved it so much. It's also tricky, because I honestly loved everything about it and the worst things I could say after I saw the film were that a) it wasn't longer and b) why a sequel wasn't already in the works. But that's getting ahead of everything and speaks to my TV-minded brain wherein I want to spend more time in this world, with these characters which George Miller so deftly painted.

Certainly I, along with many others, connected with the film's feminist storyline and characters, unfortunately rare in similar action films. So when picking a favorite shot from the film, I could've easily picked any numerous shots of Furiosa, the Wives, or the Vuvalini not to mention all of the moments between Max and Furiosa treating each other as equals (probably my favorite aspect of the film if I'm being honest). Their nighttime shooting scene is just beautifully rendered and was a close runner-up for my best shot.

But I decided to focus on the grand spectacle that Miller created in that vast, unforgiving, and beautiful desert wasteland. The film is unapologetically violent, chaotic, and loud and it's no more evident than during the final and epic battle when Furiosa and Max lead their group back to the Citadel and have to go up against Immortan Joe's army. The battle itself is fierce, anarchic, and messy with lots and lots of moving parts. But Miller shot it all with such specificity, thought, and harmony that rather than getting lost amidst the action, the audience is transported right into it. It's a fascinating and tricky balance that the film achieves. With all of that said, my pick of favorite shot from the film is the great explosion of the People's Eater's fuel truck as Max swings across the screen in a pole.

Best Shot

It's a highly unoriginal choice as it's one of the shots from the first trailer that people immediately loved, but I would be lying if I said I wasn't looking out for this moment in the film when I saw it in theaters. When it happened, towards the end of their battle, I was not disappointed. Just look at that explosion, supposedly a real one and not CGI, with its sheer power and fiery tendrils. This shot represents so much of what I love about the film visually from how visceral it is to how it's so thoughtfully framed. For example, the shot is made all of the more memorable by Max hilariously appearing on the foreground witnessing it all as he swings on his pole disappearing off screen on to the next action sequence. Mad Max: Fury Road is, excuse the lame pun, furious in all of the best way, but at its core it's also a grand spectacle in the smartest, most engaging way. I very much look forward to finally buying the film and then re-watching it many times.

Friday, August 28, 2015

End-Of-Year: Top 15 Films of 2014

Well this is a bit (a lot) embarrassing. After six whole months since starting my top movies list of 2014, I'm finally getting around to posting my Top 15. An important caveat as you peruse this stupidly belated list is that I haven't added to this list since the end of February which means the many 2014 films I've seen since then (about 28) aren't in here. I could easily include them as I see fit, but since I already posted the first part of my list a few months ago, my OCD-ness disallows me to do that. So without further a due (haha, shut up):

15. Nightcrawler -
First-time director Gilroy really delivered with this intense neo-noir film headlined by Gyllenhaal who truly put forth one of the best performances of the year with his ambitiously one-tracked mind creep of a character. LA night scenes have never felt so unnerving.

14. The Theory of Everything - What gave this love story its hook were the extraordinary real-life characters that both Redmayne and Jones brilliantly played and I totally bought into it all... the performances, the heartfelt journey, the answers to the universe. It's a biopic that really went for the stars and beyond.

13. Captain America: The Winter Soldier - I enjoyed the first film a lot and obviously loved The Avengers so me putting this film this high isn't a surprise. Still, this particular team really outdid themselves with a game-changer of a plot, creative action sequences, and more importantly, characters people actually give a damn about.

12. Selma - I saw this months ago and just thinking about the film now is still giving me all of the emotions. Ava DuVernay's masterpiece is an instant classic with a superb leading man turn from Oyelowo. The subject matter of the film is both timely and timeless and I'm still so impressed by how deftly and affectingly/effectively it was told.

11. Edge of Tomorrow - I'm saddened more people didn't see this in theaters, because this was THE action film of the year for me with Blunt surprisingly making a wonderful action heroine. Cruise was fine, even very good, and his unique blend of charms and offputtingness was perfect for this character that kept dying, dying, dying. But good golly if the entire film was just Blunt kicking alien ass, it would still be in my Top 15... probably higher.

10. Whiplash - This movie was a visual and auditory treat. It's smartly edited and specifically shot in complete service to the intensity happening on screen. Simmons as the overbearing instructor was a joy to watch albeit scary as hell while Teller really got into this role of super dedicated student. By the end, I was just as exhausted (in a good way).

9. How to Train Your Dragon 2 - Was I the only one that couldn't stop crying for a good portion of the film, because wow it was embarrassing? With that said, I *loved* the first film and this was a fantastic sequel expanding the world and the characters to both expected and unexpected ways. It's also a gorgeous film which wears its heart on its sleeve.

8. Lilting - The emotional gut punch I felt after the disarmingly heartfelt first scene was just a harbinger to the myriad of emotions that were to come. On the one end, it's a super lovely tale of a man trying to bond with his dead lover's mother-in-law. On the other end, OMGOD THIS MOVIE IS TOO DAMN DEPRESSING. The three leads of Whishaw, Cheng, and Leung were absolutely tremendous.

7. Guardians of the Galaxy - Fun. Fun. Fun. Sometimes movies can just be fun and that's good enough. Thankfully this Marvel flick had that in spades and more. I've always loved the whole "found family" trope and when it's a family that contains a talking raccoon and a tree, I'm all in. There really was much to love about the film--the colorful cinematography, the effortless humor, the kickass score/soundtrack. But in the end, it was just too damn fun to not fall in love with.

6. The Grand Budapest Hotel - I like and admire Anderson and his films more often than unabashedly love them, but there was just something about this film that hit the right chord with me. It was like Anderson's aesthetics finally made sense, not only to me, but also to these specific characters and settings. It's also redundant at this point to talk about how wonderful all the performances were, because they were especially career-best stuff from Fiennes which is saying a lot.

5. Locke - If I had to label a film that was the biggest shock for me, it would be this. I had NO IDEA what the film was about going into it. And even afterwards, if you had told me I would love a film that consisted of just ONE character talking on the phone while driving somewhere, I would think you nuts and yet... I was hooked from the first to the last scenes. The deceptively simple script did some of the heavy lifting as well, but it really rested on the shoulders of the one-man VIP that was Hardy.

4. The Guest - This film was barely on my radar until I saw a photo of Downton Abbey's newly fit and muscled Dan Stevens coming out of the shower wearing just a towel. That was all I needed to see the film! Stevens plays the hot/charming/deadly/scary titular character to perfection. Thankfully the rest of the film was fantastic as well. Others have compared it to Shaun of the Dead and Cabin in the Woods in that all of them took the horror genre and flipped it on its head and I completely agree.

3. Boyhood - Linklater's masterpiece, following a family of four for 12 years of their lives, is a must-watch. The technical achievement of filming the same actors in a 12-year span is impressive enough, but the film is really so much more than that. It's about self-discovery, growing up, the meaning of family, the power of love, and just simultaneously epic and intimate. It's life. Everyone rocked it, but Arquette's my MVP.

2. Gone Girl - When a film has all the right ingredients, it's hard not to create something special. This film had a riveting story from a popular and acclaimed book, a talented ensemble headlined by an actress on the rise in a juicy role (bonus: all the female actors were specially great), and a director perfectly suited to put it all together. This dark and twisty tale is so stylishly and deftly made, that you could hardly believe what has transpired by the final (and brilliant) shot.

1. Pride - My favorite film of 2014 is also my favorite gay film of the year. The story of the Miner's Strike across the pond back in the 80s is relatively well-known already, but see how the gay rights movement overlapped it was something new for me. The film then had a minefield of cliche storylines... closeted gay boy finding himself, conservative town learning acceptance... that they somehow overcame. Perhaps it was how grounded it all felt especially with real-life people in the mix. Overall, it was uplifting, inspirational, informative, heartfelt, joyous, and just plain wonderful.

And that's it! That's it! I'm done with 2014. Shout out to these handful of films that probably would've made my Top 35 if I had seen them much earlier: The Drop, Camp X-Ray, A Most Violent Year, In Your Eyes, and Two Days, One Night.

More year-end film posts:
- 2014 Film Winners
- Films ranked #16-35