Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Looking Forward To...

Guardians of the Galaxy
Release: August 1, 2014
Distributor: Buena Vista
Director: James Gunn
Starring: Chris Pratt, Karen Gillan, Bradley Cooper, John C. Reilly, Dave Bautista, Lee Pace, Zoe Saldana, Djimon Hounsou, Vin Diesel, Benicio Del Toro, and Glenn Close

I think I would categorize myself as a Marvel fanboy at least in terms of appreciating what Marvel has done to craft this shared cinematic universe. And while their first big risk in The Avengers paid off handsomely, everyone (including myself) agrees that Guardians of the Galaxy, finally opening this weekend, will be their biggest test yet in continuing this multi-billion dollar franchise. The film features characters such as a gun-toting, talking raccoon and a character that's essentially just a tall tree and while the general audience has been conditioned to accepting these sort of characters in Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, it's always still a sticky proposition (see John Carter).

Luckily, the marketing has been top notch from the gorgeous and cheeky teaser poster (above) to the earwormy and irreverent trailers which do a great job in not only introducing us to the characters, but also to the general tone of the film. Plus it seems some have already embraced the film and its characters as highlighted by the following impressive fan-made posters culled by Poster Posse (Phase 1, Phase 2):

Credits (l-r): Doaly, Sharm Murugian, Matt Needle

Monday, July 28, 2014

Marvel Should Love Lucy

Comic-Con, the annual gathering of the geek world, happened over the weekend and due to some personal stuff I haven't been able to really pay attention to alot of it. Granted it looked like there really weren't any super mind-blowing news. In fact, the huge DC and Marvel panels' biggest news were the new Wonder Woman looking like Xena and Guardians of the Galaxy's sequel already being green-lighted. Marvel's panel was the one I paid attention to all weekend since the last time the Avengers cast got together, it was a nirvana-esque experience for me but with Joss Whedon not in attendance and no big reveals (Josh Brolin as Thanos? We all knew that already!), something was lacking.

That something BTW was the inevitable (I thought) announcement of a Black Widow movie starring this weekend's box office champ Scarlett Johansson. This tweet of mine from Saturday morning pretty much summed up my feelings:

If box office is the key concern for why Marvel still hasn't green-lighted a female-led film (blatantly ignoring the recent successes of Hunger Games, Maleficent, and Frozen of course), then the fact that this R-rated original film, whose main character happens to be a woman, making more than $42 million should have eradicated their doubts. Not to mention that Marvel still has the #1 film in America with Captain America: The Winter Soldier with Johansson as Black Widow pretty much as the co-lead. But oh maybe it's already in the pipeline as one of the many untitled Marvel films already slated on the schedule the next five years and they may have wanted to announce it when Johansson would be available in person (Johansson was a Comic-Con no-show due to her pregnancy). Or not and Marvel is stupid. It's their shared universe, but it would be in their best interest to lock down Johansson since she's having quite the year starting all the way back to last September with Don Jon and then Her followed up by Captain America, Under the Skin, and now Lucy. Can't wait to see more from her, Black Widow movie or something else.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Do you want to look at 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.

Even though I hadn't yet seen Jonathan Glazer's previous films, I still knew to prepare myself for a different kind of movie watching experience with Under the Skin. The film itself is elusive and alien like its "protagonist," a seductive alien wearing a Scarlett Johannson meat suit. Short in dialogue and exposition, the film and the character leave lots of room for the audience to fill in the blanks. To make up for that, we are treated to the dark, dangerous beauty of Scotland and Johansson's alien lensed thoughtfully by Glazer and cinematographer Daniel Landin.

The three sequences where Johansson leads the unsuspecting men to the black void that engulfs them are my favorites in the film as it nicely encapsulates the films themes of isolation and desire. And apart from a very early scene where Johansson is standing in a white void with a dead woman, those scenes are quite set apart from the rest of the film aesthetically speaking.

With that said, as easily as I could've picked my favorite shot from those sequences, I ended up choosing something else entirely. It's an image towards the very end of the film after the alien is forced to take off her damaged Johansson meat suit and it just stares at her former face:

We're of course not privy to its thoughts at that moment, but it all still feels very melancholic and human, the completely opposite of how the film begins. Plus I just thought the alien's dark silhouette against the dark beauty of nature is a striking image.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

My Emmy Ballot: TV Series

So this is it. Tomorrow Mindy Kaling (of course) and Carson Daly (he's still around?) will be announcing the Emmy Awards bright and early. I've become so used to feeling disappointed with their nominations that it's no wonder I take the exercise of picking my own so seriously. With that said, there's ALWAYS hope up until they actually announce the nominations so best of luck to your and my favorites! Onwards to my ballot for best TV series...

Disclaimer: Even though they only nominate 5-6 shows, voters are asked to pick "no more than 10" shows they "feel worthy of nomination." So I'll be picking 10, but making sure to highlight the 6 shows making up my top choices.

  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine
  • Orange is the New Black
  • Parks and Recreation
  • Shameless
  • Trophy Wife
  • Veep
  • Community
  • Enlisted
  • Girls
  • Looking

I'm hopeful that my top picks will be well-represented tomorrow especially the much-hyped Orange is the New Black and Golden Globe champ Brooklyn Nine-Nine (as well as Emmy favorite Veep). I'm praying that they also find room for Parks and Recreation once again, but they've sadly ignored it the past couple of years. And can Shameless' change of a category help it at all? Probably not with Big Bang Theory and Modern Family in the wings. Looking looks more likely actually, but I still won't hold my breath.

Alternates: How I Met Your Mother, Big Bang Theory, The Mindy Project, The Crazy Ones

  • Breaking Bad
  • Game of Thrones
  • The Good Wife
  • Hannibal
  • Mad Men
  • Orphan Black
  • Agents of SHIELD
  • The Americans
  • House of Cards
  • Masters of Sex

My only wish (other than the TV Academy realizing True Detective shouldn't even be considered in this category) is they nominate The Good Wife which frankly had its best season and that's saying a lot. Of course Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones will be nominated and I'll be very happy for them, but I'd be ecstatic to see them think outside the box: Orphan Black. Hannibal. Yes. And to everyone trying to figure out if my Agents of SHIELD pick is real... yes, yes it is. Do you really think a Joss Whedon show that pulled itself together in the second half of the season wouldn't have been on my list? If so, then you don't know me at all.

Alternates: Sleepy Hollow, Vikings, Turn, The Walking Dead

Check out my previous ballots for the acting categories:

Below is the tally of nominations I gave out to various shows (just series and acting nominations):

Hannibal - 7
Orange is the New Black - 7
Breaking Bad - 5
Brooklyn Nine-Nine - 5
Game of Thrones - 5
Veep - 5

Not surprisingly Orange is the New Black got the most with 7, but more interestingly Hannibal tied it! More below...

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

My Emmy Ballot: Leading Performances

After the very long longlists for guest and supporting categories, it was definitely much easier to narrow down the lead categories since there aren't that many people to consider in the first place. Onwards!

Disclaimer: Only performances I have seen are qualified and I'm going to honor the category the actors have chosen to submit themselves in, even when I don't agree.

Lead Actor, Comedy
Jonathan Groff, Looking
William H. Macy, Shameless
Chris Messina, The Mindy Project
Andy Samberg, Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Adam Scott, Parks and Recreation
Bradley Whitford, Trophy Wife

This category always has the fewest people to pick from for me so it's always been a challenge to fill my ballot. So I'm thankful for some new blood this season in the form of Groff, Samberg, and Whitford. I actually haven't seen much of Groff before this (Glee was the last thing) so it was refreshing to see him play such an awkward character. Samberg was the big surprise for me as I wasn't a big fan of his schtick on Saturday Night Live, but he shines in Brooklyn Nine-Nine especially his chemistry with Braugher and the rest of the ensemble. Speaking on ensembles, Whitford is supported by a kick ass one as well. Scott is a mainstay for me and I do hope he gets nominated finally while Messina and Macy really stepped it up this season. The latter especially finally found a way not to annoy me all season!

Alternates: Jim Parsons (Big Bang Theory), Joel McHale (Community), Josh Radnor (How I Met Your Mother), Michael J. Fox (Michael J. Fox Show), and Robin Williams (The Crazy Ones)

Lead Actress, Comedy
Malin Akerman, Trophy Wife
Mindy Kaling, Mindy Project
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation
Emmy Rossum, Shameless
Taylor Schilling, Orange is the New Black

I expected it to be more difficult than it actually ended up being narrowing down this list. With Fey gone, Louis-Dreyfus and Poehler hold the torch as the queens of comedy doing expectantly great jobs on their respective shows yet again. Rossum's show made the switch this year to Comedy from Drama and as silly as that is with their darkest season to date, her performance isn't any less a revelation. Kaling finally seems have gotten a handle on her character (and her show) to welcome results while TV newcomers Akerman and Schilling really surprised expectations even when they aren't the best things about their shows.

Alternates: Lena Dunham (Girls), Anna Faris (Mom), Zooey Deschanel (New Girl), Courtney Cox (Cougar Town), and Jane Levy (Suburgatory)

Lead Actor, Drama
Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
Hugh Dancy, Hannibal
Jon Hamm, Mad Men
Mads Mikkelsen, Hannibal
Matthew Rhys, The Americans
Kevin Spacey, House of Cards

No, I haven't seen True Detective. Don't ask me. Anyways, Cranston is back on my ballot for the last time for his iconic portrayal of Walter White. His last eight episodes were nothing short of brilliant. He probably doesn't need another Emmy, but it surely would be deserved. With that said, how insane is it that Hamm doesn't have an individual acting award yet for playing Don Draper? That's absolutely criminal. Of course, there's the beautifully twisted duo of Dancy and Mikkelsen whose cat and mouse games this season elevated EVERYTHING on that show. Rhys continues to prove me so very wrong with every episode when I initially thought he could've been miscast for this role while Spacey continues to effectively chew scenery in a role tailored made for him and him alone.

Alternates: Jamie Bell (Turn), Andrew Lincoln (Walking Dead), Tom Mison (Sleepy Hollow), Michael Sheen (Masters of Sex), Travil Fimmel (Vikings), and Jonny Lee Miller (Elementary)

Lead Acress, Drama
Nicole Beharie, Sleepy Hollow
Lizzy Caplan, Masters of Sex
Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife
Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black
Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men
Keri Russell, The Americans

Not to beat the drums louder, but Maslany is doing just ridiculous things on her show. I don't even see HER playing different characters any more since I just see the characters as distinct and nuanced by themselves. Moss and Margulies continue to do amazing work on their shows, the latter especially with opportunities for some great moments in adjusting to the big changes in her character's life. Russell, like Rhys, is just phenomenal. Finally, Beharie and Caplan are new doing very different things to their shows but equally as effective. Shout out to Wright below as her Claire really went through the ringer and it doesn't seem right at all I would nominate Spacey without also highlighting her.

Alternates: Robin Wright (House of Cards), Claire Danes (Homeland), Michelle Dockery (Downton Abbey), Lucy Liu (Elementary), and Emily VanCamp (Revenge)

Glad to be done with the actors! Tomorrow will be my picks for Best Comedy and Drama series and a summary of nominations (which show got the most, etc.).

Monday, July 7, 2014

My Emmy Ballot: Supporting Performances

Narrowing down the supporting categories to just six names is the most arduous task when making my Emmy ballot year in, year out. There are just SO MANY deserving actors giving phenomenal performances out there, which is why it's disappointing when the TV Academy always  manages to pick 1-2 lazy or confounding nominations to the detriment of at least two dozen more-deserving actors. Just for reference, I'm going to put in parentheses below the number of people in my personal longlist for each category so you can see just how many there were.

Disclaimer: Only performances I have seen are qualified and I'm going to honor the category the actors have chosen to submit themselves in, even when I don't agree.

Supporting Actor, Comedy (43)
Andre Braugher, Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Raúl Castillo, Looking
Reid Scott, Veep
Albert Tsai, Trophy Wife
Jeremy Allen White, Shameless
Parker Young, Enlisted

It's a testament to the strength of new shows that a majority of the names here are from freshman series. Of course, two of those have since been cancelled but that won't stop me from rightly honoring Tsai and Young, who are both adorable AND steal scenes at every opportunity. Tsai in particular has perfect comedic timing for someone so young. White really doesn't belong in the Comedy category, but he was SO affecting this season that I would've nominated him in Best Actress if he submitted himself there. Last year I praised Scott for playing a pompous jerk so well and he took it up a notch this season. Castillo provides such a stabilizing and grounded presence in his show that I dare say he's almost the heart of it. Finally Braugher is Braugher. That's all you need.

Alternates: Noel Fisher and Cameron Monaghan (Shameless), Terry Crews (Brooklyn Nine-Nine), Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation), Jim Rash (Community), Taran Killam (Saturday Night Live), Adam Driver (Girls), and Tony Hale (Veep)

Supporting Actress, Comedy (51)
Stephanie Beatriz, Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Danielle Brooks, Orange is the New Black
Anna Chlumsky, Veep
Cristin Milioti, How I Met Your Mother
Kate Mulgrew, Orange is the New Black
Chelsea Peretti, Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Like the guest actress category, it's tempting to just fill this up with actresses from Orange is the New Black, but it was easy enough to pick last year's breakout Brooks and veteran actress Mulgrew as MVPs. Another impressive duo are Beatriz and Peretti who took potentially one-dimensional characters and gave them depth without compromising how funny they are. Chlumsky as Amy in Veep is uncompromising and is a delight to watch. Finally, like or hate the final season of How I Met Your Mother, everyone agrees that Milioti was the best thing about it.

Alternates: Marcia Gay Harden and Michaela Watkins (Trophy Wife), Mayim Bialik (Big Bang Theory), Alison Brie (Community), Zosia Mamet (Girls), Kate McKinnon (Saturday Night Live), Retta (Parks and Recreation), and Samira Wiley (Orange is the New Black)

Supporting Actor, Drama (63)
George Blagden, Vikings
Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones
Jordan Gavaris, Orphan Black
Dean Norris, Breaking Bad
Dylan O'Brien, Teen Wolf
Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad

I can't even with this category. I had 63 people in my longlist so narrowing it down to just these 6 actors (and 8 honorable mentions below) was impossible. That said, you can't really ask for a better list. Norris and Paul contributed to one of TV's best shows on its final episodes with their strong, and often times heartbreaking performances. Dinklage had that momentous speech this season, but he also backed it up with a couple of truly emotional scenes in the finale. Blagden character's willingness to continually question faith gives the show its heart and he went through the hell of being crucified, figuratively and literally. Gavaris is a firecracker and a delight to watch while O'Brien had to channel his darker side last season to impressive returns. Shout out to Josh Charles below who went out with a literal bang.

Alternates: Josh Charles (The Good Wife), Norman Reedus (Walking Dead), Charles Dance (Game of Thrones), Rupert Friend and Mandy Patinkin (Homeland), Allen Leech (Downton Abbey), Vincent Kartheiser (Mad Men), and Noah Emmerich (The Americans)

Supporting Actress, Drama (46)
Christine Baranski, The Good Wife
Anna Gunn, Breaking Bad
Danai Guira, Walking Dead
Lana Parrilla, Once Upon a Time
Maisie Williams, Game of Thrones
Katheryn Winnick, Vikings

Last year, I vehemently disagreed with people who though Baranski is just coasting. It wasn't true then and it certainly wasn't true this season especially with her essentially having to face so many battles on all fronts, without her best friend. Gunn impressively displayed the five stages of grief in the final season with such humanity that you can't help but empathize. We learned a lot more about Guira's character, which helped, but truly it's her "family" scenes with Rick and Carl that I loved more. Only Parrilla can play the Evil Queen and make her the most sympathetic character in the entire show. Williams and Winnick are truly kick-ass in spite of all the obstacle's their characters go through.

Alternates: Christina Hendricks and Kiernan Shipka (Mad Men), Elizabeth Henstridge (Agents of SHIELD), Joanne Froggat (Downton Abbey), Hayden Panettiere (Nashville), Alison Wright (The Americans), Molly Parker (House of Cards), and Madeleine Stowe (Revenge)

And that was the hardest post to write so the next two, Lead Acting and Programs, should be posted slightly earlier the next couple of days than this was.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

My Emmy Ballot: Guest Performances

The Emmy nominations will be announced this upcoming Thursday. Nominations ballots were due a few weeks ago, but this is my chance to talk about those I would have picked and wish would be honored with nominations in a few days. Basically this is my wish list, not predictions.

Disclaimer: Only performances I have seen are qualified and I'm going to honor the category the actors have chosen to submit themselves in, even when I don't agree.

Guest Actor, Comedy
Jonathan Banks, Community
Christopher Meloni, Veep
Matthew Perry, Cougar Town
Prince, New Girl
Andrew Rannells, Girls
Russell Tovey, Looking

Yes, I put Prince down. He was in the show's Super Bowl episode and frankly was the highlight. Don't remember much about Perry's stint on Cougar Town, but a Chandler/Monica reunion is most welcome. Meloni as Selina's personal trainer is way funnier than I ever could've imagined while Banks easily fit the dynamics of Greendale. Rannells meanwhile makes a welcome return to Girls and gives his character some nice new shadings while Tovey is just really great to watch especially with lead actor Groff.

Alternates: Scott Bakula (Looking), Billy Eichner and Keegan-Michael Key (Parks and Recreation), Brad Garrett (The Crazy Ones), Mike O'Malley (Glee), and Damon Wayans Jr. (New Girl)

Guest Actress, Comedy
Uzo Aduba, Orange is the New Black
Kristen Bell, Parks and Recreation
Laverne Cox, Orange is the New Black
Taryn Manning, Orange is the New Black
Romy Rosemont, Glee
Octavia Spencer, Mom

Trust me, it was very tempting to just fill every spot with actresses from Orange is the New Black, but I kept it at three whose performances really affected me last year, Aduba and Cox primarily though Manning is probably having the most fun out of everyone. Bell playing super bitchy is a delight as is seeing Spencer as a reformed drunk. Then there's Rosemont who had the impossible task playing a grieving mother to the very real loss that the Glee family suffered last year and doing it justice (and then some).

Alternate: Madeline Brewer and Nathasha Lyonne (Orange is the New Black), Mimi Kennedy (Mom), Tatiana Maslany (Parks and Recreation), Kerry Washington (Saturday Night Live), and Linda Cardelini (New Girl)

Guest Actor, Drama
Michael Cerveris, The Good Wife
Raúl Esparza, Hannibal
Eddie Izzard, Hannibal
John Noble, Sleepy Hollow
Pedro Pascal, Game of Thrones
James Wolk, Mad Men

It was super exciting seeing Noble return to TV so soon after Fringe and he was exquisite in a small role than became so much bigger by the end. Speaking of Fringe, Cerveris joins the ranks of Broadway alums doing wonderful work in The Good Wife. Meanwhile Izzard and Esparza are doing amazing work in a show so full of incredible performances especially considering what happened to both of their characters this season. Wolk last year was a scene-stealer and backed it up this year with just one episode. Finally, Pascal is the breakout new actor on Games of Thrones for his swagger alone, but it's his scenes with Dinklage that impressed me the most. Shout out to Morse in my alternate list who went out in such a perfect way, singing and dancing.

Alternates: Dylan Baker and Nathan Lane (The Good Wife), Ben Feldman and Robert Morse (Mad Men), Michael Pitt (Hannibal), and J. August Richards (Agents of SHIELD)

Guest Actress, Drama
Gillian Anderson, Hannibal
Annaleigh Ashford, Masters of Sex
Felicia Day, Supernatural
Allison Janney, Masters of Sex
Diana Rigg, Game of Thrones
Gina Torres, Hannibal

I found this category out of all of the guest acting categories to be the most difficult to narrow down as you can see by the AWESOME names in my alternate list. That said, Anderson and Torres gave me chills whenever they were on screen this season while Rigg consistently delivered. Ashford was a refreshing presence in her show as was Day who to be honest was the best part of the season on Supernatural. But if I was in charge of all the awards, they would all go to Janney who broke my heart so many times this season as a woman who has never had an orgasm. Seriously, if she doesn't at least get nominated, I will declare war.

Alternates: Anna Chlumsky and Hettienne Park (Hannibal), Margo Martindale (The Americans), Carrie Preston (The Good Wife), Karine Vanasse (Revenge), and Julianna Nicholson and Heléne Yorke (Masters of Sex)

Friday, July 4, 2014

ATP Tennis Players Show Some Skin

Happy 4th of July! Like most years at around this time, my focus is actually on the losing side of the Revolutionary War with Wimbledon happening at the same time. It helps that this year my favorite player, Roger Federer, has bounced back nicely from last year's shock second round loss reaching the semifinals. But that's neither here nor there because I want to celebrate my freedom by ogling these recent steamy pictures of ATP players exposing themselves (including top ranked American John Isner).

On the left is Tomas Berdych posing for ESPN's Body Issue. Grand Slam champion Venus Williams is also featured in the issue. On the right is the usually naked Fabio Fognini who got in the buff this time around for British Cosmopolitan to raise awareness of cancer for Cancer Research UK.

The next images are from a photo spread in the June edition of Elle Man Mexico which includes lone American Isner (left) in the mix with three Spanish players. In his own words: "It was myself and a bunch of tanned Spaniards." The aforementioned Spanish players are Feliciano Lopez (above right), Pablo Andujar (below left), and David Ferrer (below right). Enjoy...

I watch tennis for reasons.