Thursday, November 27, 2014

Let us give thanks...

"I have decided to scalp you and burn your village to the ground."

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Birthday Boy: Leonardo DiCaprio

Leonardo DiCaprio celebrates his 40th birthday today. And even though he's been a bunch of movies for which he has garnered lots prizes and Academy Award nominations, he will ALWAYS be Jack Dawson to me. He can cover himself up in presidential old-age make-up, make-up a fake identity or two or three, and have a lot of dead wives... but he'll still be that fresh-faced artist from Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin who saved a girl in every way a person could've been saved. So basically, happy birthday Leo and oh, draw me like one of your French girls.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Looking Forward To...

Release: October 31, 2014
Distributor: Radius-TWC
Director: Alexandre Aja
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Juno Temple, Max Minghella, David Morse, Joe Anderson, James Remar, and Heather Graham

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Kalinda Goes, NPH Hosts

Today was a busy pop culture day wasn't it? Stand-alone streaming service from HBO! Every Friends episode available on Netflix next year! Superhero films through the year 2020! Yet none of those made the cut for me tweeting about them. These two news report did though...

Yup, everyone's favorite leather-bound in-house investigator is leaving The Good Wife filling me with much sadness. Apparently Archie Panjabi recently signed a talent deal with 20th Century TV and will be headlining a drama pilot for them so at least we won't be without her talents for long. I, however, can still mourn the end of Kalinda and contemplate why the show's first breakout character and Emmy-winning role has been so wasted the past few seasons. Severing her ties to Alicia in the third season hurt, but it was the abusive husband storyline in the fourth season that seemed like the point of no return for the character as the writers then decided to stop any character development at all for her perhaps out of making the same mistake again. For the best drama in broadcast TV the past few years, it's the rare blind spot for them and I truly hope that at least with the end in sight they're able to craft an ending as brilliant as the character was in the first season. At the very least, they could have her share a scene with the Alicia, which apparently hasn't happened since season 4!

And finally, Neil Patrick Harris is finally hosting the Oscars! He'll emcee the upcoming telecast and it really is about damn time. I knew that as soon as How I Met Your Mother ended, it wouldn't take long for him to get asked and for him to accept. Apparently, they first asked Julia-Louis Dreyfus (which would've been fantastic also), but she turned them down. So instead, Harris will be just one Grammy hosting duty away from claiming the EGOT of hosting as he has already hosted the Tony Awards (to much critical acclaim) numerous times as well as the Emmy Awards. Mind you, he just won the Tony for headlining Hedwig and the Angry Inch (I saw him in it and LOVED it) *and* in the midst of a book tour to promote his autobiography. Where the hell does he find the time? It will be interesting that he'll be hosting the Oscars with his latest film, Gone Girl, already one of the front-runners for the award.

Looking Forward To...

Release: October 17, 2014
Distributor: Fox Searchlight
Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Starring: Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Zach Galifianakis, Andrea Riseborough, Merritt Wever, Amy Ryan, Naomi Watts, Lindsay Duncan, and Edward Norton

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Pilot Thoughts: The Flash and Jane the Virgin

When I decided that I was done with Supernatural after last season, I was relieved to have at least one broadcast channel that I didn't have to mind. Well, the CW had their own plans because they brought me right back in with a couple of new shows featuring strong lead actors...

The Flash is CW banking on the success of their other current DC comic book hero show Arrow, but it's this very reason why I was first hesitant to check it out. I only mildly liked the Arrow pilot and only managed to see a handful of episodes before stopping (though it apparently got much better) and the people who created the show are the same as the ones working on The Flash. Fortunately, the show is less Batman in tone like Arrow and more like Spider-Man (films) i.e. more fun and even a little cheesy. Grant Gustin as Barry Allen is practically playing Peter Parker as a CSI with his own Mary Jane and dead relatives. He's the best part of the pilot for me, easily selling the comedic and dramatic moments he's given and to skillfully balance the science nerd and hero in-the-making personas. The origin story and the world building was substantial, but easy-to-follow for a newcomer like me (even one who doesn't watch Arrow). The cast is okay to good with Tom Cavanaugh and Jesse L. Martin as the standouts as Barry two father figures while his real father, played by 90s Flash actor John Wesley Shipp is in jail. Some of the dialogue was awkward and corny (that roof pep talk with the Green Arrow was cringe-worthy), but at least the special effects were spot-on. Good first outing!

Grade: B
Willingess to continue:
I like this pilot more than Arrow's pilot so I think I'll stick around if only to find out what the deal is with that newspaper from the future!

Jane the Virgin is a show that feels like it shouldn't be on the CW with all of its supernatural/fantasy/comic book shows and yet it is and I hope for its success more than any new show of the season, because we need more shows like this. It revolves around 23-yo Jane Villanueva, played by the revelatory Gina Rodriguez, who has been raised to value her virginity above all else, and who in the pilot gets accidentally inseminated causing her to become pregnant. The concept is the "stuff of telenovelas" as the show states, but the overwhelming charm of the writing and the acting transcends the ridiculousness of it all. In that way, it reminded me of Ugly Betty which was also adapted from a telenovela and also led by a strong actress. This show, however, already feels more grounded even with all of the twists and turns the pilot takes. It's not perfect and there are some characters that definitely need work (the cheating wife, the mega-star father), but the show did well to perfectly cast its lead and I'm loving the fun sudsiness of it all already.

Grade: A-
Willingness to continue:
Uh, yes. I mean I watched Ugly Betty to its bitter end so what do you think?

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Pilot Thoughts: A to Z and Gracepoint

These next two pilots I thought were quite good, but both seem to be anchored by expectations of certain older shows. You'll see what I mean...

A to Z was my most anticipated comedy of the fall mostly because I adore the two leads played by Cristin Milioti and Ben Feldman, who I loved before in other TV shows, and also because the concept intrigued the romantic in me. As Katey Segal says in voiceover narration the two "will date for 8 months, 3 weeks, 5 days and 1 hour. This television program is the comprehensive account of their relationship, from A to Z." It's all very high-concept and twee, but the chemistry between Feldman and Milioti is palpalble and is definitely the best of the new fall shows of its ilk. The problem of course is the comparison to How I Met Your Mother which was another high-concept comedy about finding love which ended in a whimper (and featured Milioti) down to the use of flashbacks, voice narration, and non-linear storytelling. And yet people seem to forget how amazing Mother was early on and if this show can tap into that to fill the sitcom void, I'm all for it. Plus the pilot episode had quite a lot of great moments such as the quick social media montage where we saw their relationship suddenly bloom to that wonderful flashback to the first time they laid eyes on one another to that kickass cameo from Lea Thompson. Yes, this show is way too precious, but I'm the right Gollum for it.

Grade: B/B+
Willingess to continue:
I'll watch it for 8 months, 3 weeks, 5 days and 1 hour... and more if the show is willing.

It's difficult to figure out how to review Gracepoint, especially for someone like me who saw and loved Broadchurch. It's even trickier with the pilot specifically because as far as I can tell, other than very minor details, most of the story beats and character work is a direct copy of the BBC America show. David Tennant reprises his Broadchurch role except now he has a passable American accent and a seemingly bored disposition while the terrific Anna Gunn, like the rest of the cast, has the uneviable task of putting their own spin on characters already fully realized elsewhere. So yes, the Gracepoint pilot was good because the Broadchurch pilot they "adapted" was good. Perhaps this show just isn't for us Broadchurch viewers at least until they diverge more from the original story. Even during this first episode, I felt my attention waning a few times at the sameness of it all.

Grade: B-
Willingness to continue:
Maybe, I'm not sure. It's certain the end will be different (it has to be!), but will the journey to get there just feel too much of the same?

Monday, October 6, 2014

Pilot Thoughts: Selfie and Manhattan Love Story

I've noticed that I've been talking about the new shows this fall in pairs even though I didn't mean to do so consciously. In any case, last week's double premiere of ABC sitcoms about men-women relationships made it easy to pair them together. And thus...

I wanted more than anything to fall head over heels in love with the unfortunately titled Selfie mostly due to my love of John Cho and Doctor Who's Karen Gillan. The bad news is that didn't happen, but the good news is the show is actually not as bad as its self-aware trying-too-hard-to-be-hip title. The show is loosely based on My Fair Lady with Gillan playing Eliza, a self-centered social-media obsessed swan who used to be an ugly duckling. She seeks the help of Henry (Cho) to rebuild her image and mild hilarity ensues. Recognizing that is only been one episode, Eliza as a character isn't working at the moment. She's too much of a lame caricature and the fact that Gillan isn't able to use her regular Scottish accent isn't helping matters. I'm hopeful though that her character can evolve (and I can get used to her new accent eventually). The call outs to the various social media trends are also a bit much, but perhaps they'll tone it down in future episodes the way black-ish did with race. The saving grace of the show is the chemistry between Gillan and Cho as well as both of them delivering in the charm department, which is no easy for her saddled with such a work-in-progress character.

Grade: B-
Willingness to continue:
Yes, because I love the actors and definitely see potential for growth. #selfie #badromance

The trailer for Manhattan Love Story appealed to me, because I found the concept of hearing the inner thoughts of a man and a woman as they date and start a relationship pretty intriguing. What I didn't count on where those inner thoughts being predictable and really lame. In the first scene alone our leading man played as dudebro-ingly as possible by Jake McDornan and our leading woman played as neurotically insecurely as possible by Analeigh Tipton think about big boobs and pretty purses respectively. As the episode churns on, you realize that inner thoughts should always be kept to themselves as almost every reductive thought we hear make the characters more unlikable (or stupid). I can see a version of the show where the thoughts are slightly more insightful and both characters deserve happiness (with each other), but unfortunately that's not the version of the show the pilot showed us.

Grade: C-
Willingness to continue:
Relunctantly yes, mostly because it's smack dab between two shows I'm watching at the moment, Selfie and SHIELD.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Looking Forward To...

Gone Girl
Release: October 3, 2014
Distributor: Fox
Director: David Fincher
Starring: Rosamund Pike, Ben Affleck, Carrie Coon, Patrick Fujit, Emily Ratajkowski, Boyd Holbrook, Scott McNairy, Tyler Perry, Sela Ward, Missi Pyle, Casey Wilson, and Neil Patrick Harris

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Pilot Thoughts: Black-ish and How to Get Away with Murder

Even though it was Premiere Week this past week, I actually only saw two new shows so don't think I'm putting them together now just because they happen to feature people of color as lead characters (though that isn't unimportant in the least). Let's go...

Black-ish is the first sitcom pilot I've seen this season and it looks like I started out on a good note. Dre Johnson, played slightly over-the-top by Anthony Anderson, is a marketing executive who is on the verge of a promotion and is generally high on life until he realizes that his family for all of their success have forgotten their black roots. His identity crisis and paranoia about them being black-ish is compounded by his son wanting to play field hockey and have a Bar Mitzvah and his company asking him to lead the "urban" division. He's put to the paces by his bi-racial doctor wife played by Tracee Ellis Ross and his father played by Laurence Fishburne as well as his other kids and predictably all's well that ends well as things do for sitcoms. The focus on race may have been too sledgehammer-y (or at least too broad) for a few, but it gives this show a solid base for the rest of its life. Plus it was funny (Ross and the young twins provided a lot of the laughs for me). I do hope that the show is more family comedy than work comedy because I generally found all of the latter slightly dull. Now let's all take a black break and get some white yogurt.

Grade: B
Willingness to continue: High. It has tons of potential and the family characters are great. Plus being sandwiched between two shows I already watch helps A LOT.

How to Get Away with Murder was my most anticipated show of the fall season so I'm super happy that it lived up to my already high expectations. First of all, Viola Davis as the brilliant and intimidating law professor Annalise Keating is just superb. Her role feels familiar already in the well-worn TV trope of smart and tough teacher who mentors her students in an unorthodox way (in the first episode she pits her students against one another to come up with the best defense on a case she's currently working on with four of the best to intern at her firm) and yet in Davis' hands she also feels fully fleshed out already in spite of still so many unanswered questions about her. I understand people saying she wasn't in the pilot enough, because from the first time she enters the frame to write the title of the show on the blackboard, you just never wanted her to leave and you definitely miss her when she's not on. The rest of the show though intrigued me if not in equal measure, then enough. It revolves around the young folks she's taken under her wing led by the baby-faced Wes Gibbins, adorably played by Alfred Enoch, a character you can easily root for in this dog-eat-dog world/show. In flash-forwards, we see Gibbins with three of his classmates literally trying to hide the evidence of a murder that's been committed. We get small clues in the pilot about what could've led to this dark moment in their lives (the tenuous relationships between all of the characters, the origin of the murder weapon, the identity of the victim, etc.) and I have to say I'm hooked. There's also so many other things I loved about the show such as having a gay character who is actually shown to have sex and of course seeing Liza Weil (Paris in Gilmore Girls) on my TV again. The week wait for the next new episode is murder.

Grade: A
Willingess to continue:
A murder mystery and a chance to see Viola Davis weekly? HELL TO THE YES.