Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Summer TV Preview: 9 New Shows to Watch

Let's face it - television has taken over. I barely have time to watch movies nowadays because I'm on a never-ending quest to catch up on the next "best new television series" (it's seriously like every single one is declared as "THE BEST"). Usually the summer time is a nice quiet time in the land of television - making it easier to catch up on films (or go outside, if that's what tickles your fancy). BUT NOT THIS YEAR. According to Entertainment Weekly, there are 75 shows airing this summer (new and continuing), which is insane. It was hard for me to narrow it down to just 9 shows, but I have to have some semblance of a life. Here are the new shows that I will be watching:

1. Friends From College (Netflix) - I usually separate out Netflix and other streaming services from prime-time and premium channels. I don't see the point of doing that anymore because watching Netflix shows has become just as prevalent as watching any other show. Friends from College is my most anticipated show of the summer. Mostly because it stars Fred Savage - and I think he's great. But also because it's about 6 friends living in NYC. No-one has been able to pull that off successfully since Friends (Happy Endings came close), but if anyone is going to do it, it's Netflix.

2. GLOW (Netflix) - If you weren't a little girl growing up in America in the late 80s/early 90s, then I'm not sure you understand the significance of GLOW. It was the greatest thing ever. It was the only show that featured all women (of different ethnicities and backgrounds - even if it was cliched and stereotyped) being strong, funny, and beautiful. It was so over-the-top ridiculous, but as a child, I LOVED it. I have very fond memories of when my cousin and I used to watch the show and then wrestle each other. This show will be pure nostalgia for me, but I'm also really happy that it stars Alison Brie, because she is super, and that Jenji Kohan is an executive producer (Weeds is still among my favorite shows ever).

3. Still Star-Crossed (ABC) - OhmyGod, so ridiculous, but I HAVE to watch it. I'm a Shakespeare junkie. And even though Romeo and Juliet is not my favorite - I'm sort of obsessed with all of the adaptations. This show is about the "aftermath" of the ending of this love story, and that is actually a fantastic idea - and something completely unexpected for Shonda Rhimes to be a part of. Her shows are having less and less of an impact for me - mostly because they get dragged out too long (Grey's Anatomy is barely watchable these days), but Scandal remains a "must-watch" - and I'm soooooo relieved that they are ending it next year. It's much better to go out on top, in my opinion. Anyway, I think this will be one of those fun summer shows that's not meant to be anything more than that.

4. The Sinner (USA) - Well now, if you told me I would be excited for a new television show starring Jessica Biel, I would never believe it. I've seen Jessica in several movies, and every single time, she is the weakest link of said movie. However, I am always open for performers finding their groove, and this looks like it could be "the one" for her. The premise is excellent - it begins with a woman at the beach with her kids who suddenly violently kills a "stranger" sitting next to them at the beach. It sets up a really cool mystery about finding out who this woman actually is, while also knowing that she is obviously guilty. I'm intrigued.

5. Ozark (Netflix) - A Jason Bateman and Jennifer Aniston sitcom has been the dream for a while now, but I'll settle for a Jason Bateman and Laura Linney Netflix drama. In the same vein as Breaking Bad (still my favorite show ever), it's a story of a man trying to provide for his family and getting mixed up in bad shit. I'm not used to Bateman in a serious role (I know he's done them, and yet nothing comes to mind), so that could be hard to get used to, but Linney is always fantastic - right up there with my favorite actresses.

6. Gypsy (Netflix) - And speaking of favorite actresses - Naomi Watts in a Netflix Drama?!? HOLY SHIT I AM SO IN. The series description reminds me of In Treatment just with a female therapist instead (and speaking of, I don't think I ever finished In Treatment, but I did like it. Something I will have to look in to...). But you know what, it doesn't even matter. I will watch anything with Naomi.

7. Will (TNT) - Again, Shakespeare junkie. I will totally watch a ridiculous summer drama about his life (described as his "younger, rowdier days"). I'm not sure that there is an audience for these type of historical biography shows - there a few of these type of shows making the rounds and I don't hear anyone talking about them (most recently with Genius - the series was on my list, but I've literally heard nothing about it, so it must not be good...right?). It's interesting that they picked a complete newcomer for the starring role of Will. That's a bit of a risk nowadays considering that most series' are now getting acclaimed, award-winning actors to star. It's exciting though. I'm rooting for him.

8. I'm Sorry (truTV) - First, what the fuck is truTV? I've never heard of it. Second, Andrea Savage is hilarious, so I love that she is starring in a new show. And Third, I really, really, really would love to see Tom Everett Scott hit it big. He's such a great actor, and proved that he can carry a movie with That Thing You Do!, but then his career never really took off - instead he was cast in bit parts here and there (most recently in La La Land, in which I don't even think he had more than 3 lines in the whole thing). I doubt this is the project that is going to get him acclaim (again it's on a network that I've never even heard of), but maybe if it's good, people will take more notice of him.

9. Marvel's The Defenders (Netflix) - This could go either way, really. If it's anything like season one of Daredevil or Jessica Jones, then I will be really happy. Season two of Daredevil was horrible (mostly because of Elektra - seriously, fuck her), Luke Cage killed off their best character waaaaaay too soon without having a solid replacement, and Iron Fist was really boring. I will happily watch this series though, and wish for the best.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

3 Thoughts on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

1. As a sequel - It's a challenge to make a sequel to a film like Guardians of the Galaxy. There was something about the film that just works and it's hard to pinpoint exactly what that was. The first one was filled with snappy dialogue, fun action sequences, lovable characters, and a strong villain. But the biggest difference for me, compared to other superhero films, is that I wanted to watch it over and over again. And I didn't get sick of it. I'm happy to say that this sequel is just as good, and that I look forward to watching it again. It felt like a true sequel to the story, a natural progression of events. My only complaint is that there are too many characters. Don't get me wrong, I love them all (even Gamora grew on me), but with so many of them taking up screen-time, we lose focus on Star-Lord. It would be more acceptable if the screen-time was focused on another one of the original "Guardians", other than Baby Groot. I loved Groot in the first one, and Baby Groot was even *more* adorable, but it was really overdone (clearly fan-service). Plus, with the additional focus on Yondu and Nebula, and newcomers Mantis, Ego, and Ayesha, there was little-to-no room on character development. Yet, even with that being my only complaint, I still love every.single.character. 

2. Within the MCU - With this sequel, I can confidently say that the Guardians are my favorite superheros within the MCU (the new Spider-Man could change that). It's the only sequel that I like just as much as the first (while I did like Winter Soldier better than the first one, but I'm not a big fan of Captain America - and Civil War was really an Avengers movie, anyway). I am absolutely dreading the merging of these characters with The Avengers. WHYYYYY?! I don't care if they are all part of the same universe, it just feels so different. It's just so unnecessary. I thought that we would get a hint of how it was all going to come together during the after credits scenes - I mean, there were 5 OF THEM - one of them could have at least had a point. I just know that I'm going to hate it, so I am going to focus all of my energy being excited for Volume 3 instead.

3. Among an audience - Unfortunately, I saw this movie with a very disrespectful and annoying crowd of people. It's so devastating that movie theater etiquette has been shunned and these obnoxious, rude, self-absorbed people have taken over. I used to love going to the movies, but now, I barely go. Instead, I wait for films to be released for home viewing via streaming services or blu-ray. When I do go to the theater, it's usually for a big movie, such as this - and it's usually with these big movies that the crowd is the worst. We arrived for this movie super early (as I always do), but due to an inefficient theater staff, I almost missed the trailers while waiting in line at the concession stand Luckily, the person I was with got the perfect seats while I was waiting. Then, as the trailers played, the group behind us talked through every trailer. LOUDLY. One of them, LOUDLY, complained about "ANOTHER SPIDER-MAN" movie ('re at a Marvel movie. That's what they do). Then, the young girl behind me started kicking my seat. Instead of causing an argument (I tend to be non-confrontational), we decided to move from our perfect seats. We could still hear the group - who continued to talk through the movie - but, no-one else seemed bothered. Because EVERYONE was chit-chatting. The entire audience made overtly obnoxious "AWWWW" noises every single time Baby Groot did something cute, and loud (almost fake) laughing noises at every single joke. I'm not exaggerating - every single joke. And the movie is joke after joke, so it was distracting. You want to hear an audience enjoy comedy, but this felt more like people trying to feel superior (like HAHA I GET THAT JOKE). This experience, honestly, makes me never want to see a movie in a theater ever again. And that is heartbreaking.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. Miss Sloane - Everyone bow down to Jessica Chastain for this powerhouse performance. It's shocking that she wasn't nominated for an Oscar. I would argue that it's because the movie under-performed and was underwhelming, yet, Meryl Streep was nominated for Florence Foster Jenkins and, really, how many people watched that? Emma Stone was my favorite female performance of last year (I have yet to see Jackie, though), but Chastain is so stunning in this role that even Stone is like 10 notches below her level. Like I said though, the movie is just okay. It reminded me a lot of Thank You for Smoking simply because it's about a lobbyist of a controversial issue, but it's not nearly as fun. In fact, it's a little tedious to sit through. From the commercials that I saw, it gave no indication that this story was about fighting for stricter gun laws (although, I didn't see the trailer). I think we are meant to be surprised by the twists and turns, but I found most of them either obvious or inconsequential (meaning I didn't really care). I did appreciate the Newsroom reunion between Alison Pill and Sam Waterston.

2. Knight of Cups - Oh my God, this is just downright painful. Terrence Malick has a unique (albeit very beautiful) knack for telling a story in the slowest way possible. This didn't even feel like a Malick film, though. It felt like a parody of one. The narration is insufferable. The acting is wooden - which says a lot considering the talent. Bale is probably my favorite working actor of his generation (based purely on skill and dedication to his roles), but he is so bland and boring in this. The only part of this movie that brought me joy was that they got Kelly Cutrone for the photo shoot scene. That woman is hilariously straight-forward. I was waiting for her to turn to the camera and say "this movie is bullshit".

3. Florence Foster Jenkins- While I think Meryl Streep did a fantastic job with this role, I don't think it's an Oscar nomination worthy performance. Also, it's a cute movie, but the fact that it's based on a real-life person kind of makes me want to throw up. It's feeding into this disgusting epidemic that rich people can do whatever they fucking want - literally. This rich woman wants to sing Opera at one of the most prestigious concert halls - Carnegie Hall - so she does. Does she have talent? NOPE. But she's rich and she wants to. Everyone just tip-toes around her, feeding her narcissism *just* because she has money. It kind of reminds of that time when that wealthy real-estate mogul turned reality star wanted to be President of the United States just *because*. I mean, imagine if everyone just went along with it and allowed that to happen?!? All joking aside, I feel like this movie is just a gigantic metaphor for the current political climate - it even addresses how some of the "press" was in on the secret, but went along with it because it gave them access to high society. Then, the reporter from the NY Post was supposed to be seen as a villain because he insists on reporting the truth. It's all eerily familiar, and lately I have depended deeply on movies/TV to keep me distracted from the shitty catastrophe that is the presidency and this movie just reminded me of why I need this distraction.

4. Moonlight - So, I don't necessarily agree that this is the best movie from last year. I'm not sure it's even among my top 10 (pretty sure it will be like 12 or 13 when all is said and done), however, it is a beautiful, moving, and powerful story. And Mahershala Ali is wonderful. Back in January, I watched The 4400 (it's a sci-fi show from 2004) and Ali is one of the many cast members, but one of the few that stood out. I didn't even make the connection that he was the same actor that is now getting all this attention and praise (for this, and also Luke Cage). I like that the story is told in 3 parts in a "slice of life" type of way so a lot of it felt unfinished, which can be frustrating for some, but I think the point is focused on these life-changing/defining moments that occur. I do think that the first part is the strongest, while the second part is the weakest - causing the third part to feel a bit disconnected. I didn't really see a strong connection between Chiron and Kevin in the second part, and I realize that's part of the point (toxic masculinity and all that), but it just felt more like a sexual curiosity than a romantic longing. Although, I do feel like I might pick up more on the "longing" part if I watched it a second time (perhaps). Also, I've seen this poster a million times, especially towards awards season, and I never realized it was 3 different faces! LOL. Genius.

5. Denial - It blows my mind that there are actually people in this world who believe that the Holocaust didn't happen (they are even worse than the people who believe that the Earth is flat). I didn't hear much about this movie, but I saw the trailer and it looked powerful. Based on a true story, one that I'm not familiar with, but extremely relevant in today's world. There seem to be a lot of people in this world who want to believe in conspiracy theories and willingly submit themselves to falsehoods all for the sake of....actually, I'm not sure. Entertainment? Attention? It doesn't really matter. To me, most of these people are hateful, ignorant, and dangerous. Weisz portrays a Holocaust historian who is taken to court for refusing to debate a Holocaust denier - causing him to accuse her of libel and slander because she declares "I don't debate fact". It seems that often people claim "freedom of speech" when one wants to spew hatred and lies, but she never denies him his right to speech. It's clear he has no case, but the fascinating thing is that she has to prove that the Holocaust happened (apparently in Europe, the burden of proof lies with the accused...interesting.). Aside from Rachel Weisz's performance, the movie is disappointing. I think it could have gone a lot deeper than it did; instead just focusing on the court case. They could have explained better why they didn't want to have Holocaust survivors as witnesses. They briefly explain it as not wanting to subject them to such hatred, but if the survivors are asking to tell their stories - it seems wrong to me to deny them of this experience. I recently watched the harrowing documentary The Last Days, which is about survivors from Hungary telling their stories, and the thing that struck me the most is the need that they have to tell their stories as a way of healing and closure. Of course, not everyone wants to tell their story, my grandfather was held in a concentration camp (as a Jewish-American POW - even though he was born in Germany. It's complicated), and he NEVER wanted to talk about it. Anyway, back to my point, if they just let them speak, the case would have been easily closed.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

3 Thoughts on The Circle

*Contains spoilers*

1. What's the point, exactly? - I honestly have no idea. I keep thinking about the movie; thinking that maybe I missed something. Maybe it's not dumb, maybe it's just so intelligent that it went right over my head??? Because, to me, it felt like it was trying to be intelligent, and almost condescending, but it's not. If it were made in the 90s, then some of the ideas would be downright scary. But now? Everything the movie tells us about technology And all of it has been done before - from The Truman Show, to every conspiracy "the government is watching you" movie (there are literally dozens, but I'll choose Conspiracy Theory for this example), to reality TV shows like The Real World. Yes, all of these examples are from the 90s because that's when this movie felt like it took place. I was waiting for this movie to tell me something new, to have a point. It doesn't. Yes, constant surveillance could prevent crimes and yes, constant surveillance could also cause catastrophic events. That's not new information - that's just information. And it's the reason that it's such a controversial issue. The "big" scene in which her friend is killed by civilians trying to film him and "capture" him, was just about the most obvious scene in the movie. Was that supposed to be a lesson? Because I think we already learned that in real life with Princess Diana.

2. Forgotten plots or poor editing? - There are so many little interesting points to the film that are just suddenly dropped. It's almost jarring. The biggest example is with Mae's friend - the person that helps her secure this seemingly wonderful job, but more important health insurance for her ill father (now, THIS would have been a timely storyline to pursue, but it's dropped). This friend is one of the higher-ups in the company, and inexplicably lets Mae into a restricted area (something that happens way too often - oh hey new girl come see this cool restricted stuff!). She is obviously caught (um bc there are cameras everywhere duh...and this is the reason the entire end of the movie DOES NOT WORK), but when Mae is confronted and admits that she had been in the restricted area - the plot is dropped. Her friend should have been fired - wouldn't that have caused a more dramatic effect??? Instead the next time we see Mae's friend, she is looking pale and ill from working too hard (are we just to assume that maybe they are overworking her on purpose as a punishment? That would at least make it better) and then suddenly she is back home resting in Scotland. Um...ok...what's the point? Also, are we really supposed to believe that Mae, this "nobody" girl, is the catalyst for this gigantic corporation to consider making The Circle mandatory? I thought that maybe "the bad guys" had planned it to make it look like she came up with it (planting the idea in her head) so that the "public" wouldn't fear it as much, but that's never really clear. Anyway, those are just 2 examples of plot-points gone awry, but the movie is filled with at least 5 more.

3. Can Emma Watson act? - I'm certainly not convinced by this movie. She was awful in the Harry Potter movies (to be fair, so was everyone), but she was young. This is a big "adult" role for her; No-one else in the movie really has much to do, so it all falls squarely on her shoulders and she is terrible. She is adorable, I'll give her that. However, she is not able to convey any king of emotional resonance. Tom Hanks is featured waaaay too much in the trailer considering he is a very minor role (important, yes, but barely in it). And this was a terrible role for such a strong up-and-comer actor like John Boyega. He barely had any lines (or personality). I think this is due to the terrible editing as mentioned above, but I feel like this is a crucial movie for him (to get his name out there aside from the Star Wars universe) and it's almost embarrassingly bad. The "saviors" of the film (acting-wise) were Karen Gillan and Bill Paxton. Gillan's been good and bad in the past, but she excels here. Every scene she was in, my eyes were glued to the scene. I wish her plot wasn't edited so terribly, but that's not on her. Did the creators purposely downplay the fact that Paxton is in this (and that it's his last film role)? I had NO IDEA. And I understand why. He plays Watson's father, who suffers from MS, and it is deeply sad to watch. Obviously, the role, itself, is sad, but it's also devastating to be reminded of Paxton's endless talent. I think he always got credited as the "everyman" character in big-budget action movies, but I will remember him most for his more complicated, emotional roles - like Big Love. He will be missed.