Monday, February 23, 2015

8th (Mostly) Annual My Thoughts As I Had Them During The Oscars

For all but one of the last nine years I have been basically live tweeting the Oscars through my blog (even before Twitter existed!), but now, I actually do live tweet the Oscars and post the results here afterwards in this segment we call

MY THOUGHTS AS I HAD THEM DURING THE OSCARS!

You can follow along on Twitter during the Oscars next year with the hashtag (#MTAIHTDTO) or you can just wait a day and read them here.

So, with no further ado, the 8th (Mostly) Annual My Thoughts As I Had Them During the Oscars!





































































































 


 
















































































































































Until Next Time, There you have it!  My thoughts as I had them during the Oscars!  We'll do it again next year!  In case you missed it, make sure to check out my Top Ten Films of 2014 here!





Sunday, February 22, 2015

TOP TEN FILMS OF 2014

The one time of year I can be reasonably counted on to make some sort of post, it is Oscar Sunday!

The weather is miserable (I'm wearing my Game of Thrones shirt proudly proclaiming that Winter Is Coming as we are expecting some sleet and ice over night.  I am very aware that much of the country is very aware of winter as it has already announced its presence, no need for any further warnings), but the movies this year have been grand.  Without further ado, here is my Top Ten from the last year in preparation for those hoping to take home Oscar Gold tonight.

As always, we will be counting down:

10.

THE IMITATION GAME

Lead by a masterful acting performance (although there were a couple even better ones as well), this is a heartbreaking story about a terrible injustice done to a man who deserved much better.  The worst part of course is that while Alan Turing was eventually pardoned after being convicted due to his homosexuality, over 40,000 other males were persecuted for the same crime and deserve the same recognition of the wrong done to them.

This film does a great job of telling the story of the code breaking that led to the Allies winning World War II as well as the early work on what would become computers by one of the most gifted minds of all time, alongside the backdrop of the horror of the disservice that the UK did to someone who should have been among their greatest heroes.

9.

THE BOOK OF LIFE

Guillermo del Toro is becoming a feature in my Top Tens, and although he only produced this film, his influence is clear.  This is a fantastic fable about love, family, and discovering who you are in relation to those who came before you.  I also love the message against violence as this film actively works against the myth of redemptive violence that so often persuades our culture, often especially in children's movies (although this is not the only one working against that, to some degree so did Big Hero 6 as well as my choice for Best Animated Feature still to come in this Top Ten).  It is a crime that this film didn't get recognition as a nominee for Best Animated Feature, but it places in my Top Ten.  Hopefully that serves as some consolation.

8.

BIRDMAN

A weird, haunting, and yet beautiful treatise on artistry, especially amongst self doubt. Open to interpretation, the story is quite interesting, but the outstanding all percussion score, which is probably my second favorite score of the year (following only the also percussion heavy Whiplash), and the long takes, reminiscent of a few scenes in Scorsese's Goodfellas who unsurprisingly gets mentioned by name as well as in the cinematic homage, both successfully bring you fully into the film, forcing you to experience it and therefore deal with the film as it seeks answers to the situations it presents.

7.

THE LEGO MOVIE

 In what can quite easily be considered as the 2nd best Batman movie ever made, Christopher Miller and Phil Lord (who also brought us the Jump Street films as well as the first Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs) continued their streak of taking films that shouldn't really be very good and turning them into something way better than you ever imagined that they could be.  Like Big Hero 6 (which will most likely win for Best Animated Feature) and Book of Life (which like this film are somehow mysteriously absent from the nominations), The Lego Movie doesn't ultimately view violence as the answer to the problem at hand.  In fact, The Lego Movie literally suggests that creativity, friendship, and seeing the best in others is the best way to deal with our problems.  The world might be a much better place if we took that lesson to heart.  Most importantly, this film gives us the ever important reminder that EVERYTHING IS AWESOME!

6.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER



When this movie came out, it was immediately the best film Marvel had put out yet, and that was saying something.  It also catapulted itself into the conversation for the best Comic Book movie ever made.  It made me want a Black Widow solo movie more than anything.  But I loved it because it perfectly utilized Cap to both represent what this country should be and criticize what we too often are.  Sebastian Stan as the Winter Soldier and Anthony Mackie as Falcon also gave us two fantastic characters that could one day take up Cap's shield and continue to help lead the struggle to have the United States strive harder to become a true and shining example of freedom.

5.

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY

The Winter Soldier's reign as unquestionably the best Marvel movie of all time didn't last very long.  I have to admit, when I heard Marvel was making this movie, I was sure that the magic of the Marvel Cinematic Universe was about to be dead.  How could anyone make a movie with a talking racoon and a giant tree who can basically only say its own name (like a Pokemon) be any good?


I shouldn't have doubted.  From its opening scene, Guardians of the Galaxy reminded us how much fun comic books are, and how much fun comic book movies can and should be.  It also told an epic, fantastic story, and perfectly introduced the cosmic side to the comic universe that Marvel has been so ably building since Iron Man.  It also sported my third favorite soundtrack of the year in Awesome Mix Vol. 1.

4.

GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL





There are a few filmmakers whose films I will always be interested in seeing.  Wes Anderson might top that list.  He has a distinctive visual style that aids immensely in the stories he has to tell, and he has done it again with Grand Budapest Hotel.  Filled with the offbeat characters that he is known for, the story manages to equally surprise and delight throughout the film.  And, as always with Anderson, it looks magnificent.  Like The Royal Tennenbaums, Grand Budapest Hotel hits perfectly on all the right notes throughout the film.  Moonrise Kingdom is still my favorite Anderson film, but this is certainly in the conversation for which of his movies is the next best.

3.

BOYHOOD

An amazing piece of film-making from Richard Linkletter (who also wrote and directed A Waking Life which is one of my all-time favorite films that also subverts the common way film-making is done), this film tells a story of 12 years and was filmed over that same amount of time, chronicling one young boy's life from when he was 6 until he is 18.  Attempting to discover who you are amidst the travails of childhood, this is a film with a universal story told in a unique way.  We might never get a film told in this way again due to the constraints and inherent dangers of taking over 12 years to make one movie, but if this is the only time something like this is accomplished or perhaps even attempted, at least it resulted in a fantastic film.

2.

SELMA

I honestly don't know how the hell this didn't garner Ava DuVernay a Best Director nomination as it was, in my opinion, the best directing job of the year.  And David Oyelowo became MLK Jr.  His performance was dead on.  The only performance that was even in the same league was Eddie Redmayne's as Stephen Hawking.  That's the only actor that has any claim at beating Oyelowo, but I think Oyelowo's performance is more impressive because of how omnipresent the real MLK is in our minds.  The fact that he isn't nominated for this performance is criminal.

When we look beyond the egregious snubs in nominations, we are left with an unbelievable film.  It is a movie that reminds us of a horrendous past not that far gone that unfortunately also reminds us of our present.  As this film aired in our theaters, the same scenes were playing out in some of our cities, and the same condemnations given in the film by the racist people in power towards the courageous acts of King and those beside him are the ones we hear today against those who stand up for black lives and demand some accountability from a system that inherently treats minorities in a disparaging manner.  It is a powerful film made perhaps more powerful because of the reminder that the past is not truly in the past just yet.

1.

INTERSTELLAR


Not only was this my favorite film of the last year, it is one of my favorite films of all time.  It provokes excellent questions about destiny, freewill, and the purpose of humanity.  It looks amazing, contains outstanding acting (continuing the trend of Matthew McConaughey's transformation into an incredible actor), raises profound questions, and also thrills the audience with a tight, fantastic story.  Reminding me in many ways of another of my favorite films of all time, Contact, Interstellar was not only a fantastic film, but has also worked to further science, as the blackhole of the film has helped scientists to visualize blackholes in a new way and learn even more about them.  That's pretty impressive.


Until Next Time, In a year where half of the Oscar Best Picture nominees made my Top Ten (which is about the best we can hope for), the absence of Interstellar among those nominees is another glaring omission in a year full of them (joining the snubs against Selma, Lego Movie, and Book of Life).  But on the plus side, Neil Patrick Harris should be an epic host!  Follow along on Twitter for My Thoughts As I Had Them During The Oscars (#MTAIHTDTO) or tomorrow on Fat Train when I post the tweets in my 8th Annual My Thoughts As I Had Them During The Oscars Post.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Doctor Who Re-Watch - The First Doctor 1963-1966

 Last year we celebrated the 50th anniversary and 800th episode of Doctor Who.  This year, I have decided to watch the entirity of the show in order from the beginning.  Although I have seen (as much as you can see the episodes, since currently 97 of them are missing) nearly every episode of Doctor Who, I had never watched them in the order they were first shown in.  I just finished with all three plus seasons of the First Doctor.




We start out with William Hartnell in the role of the Doctor.  In the very first story he basically kidnaps two school teachers who burst in on him and his granddaughter (who happen to be aliens from another planet and time).
Grandfather and I don't come from Earth.  Oh, it's ages since we've seen our planet.  It's quite like Earth, but at night the sky is a burned orange, and the leaves on the trees are bright silver.  -  Susan (The Sensorites)

Ian and Barbara (the school teachers, both from Coal Hill School, which is where current companion Clara also teaches) and Susan (the Doctor's granddaughter) are the first companions we meet in the show and travel with the Doctor throughout the first season into the second.

As I rewatch these episodes in order, I will go through and point out some of the interesting things throughout each Doctor's runs.

best story:

The Romans 



For me, this was a hard decision.  There were so many stories I love from the first Doctor's era.  I ultimately chose to go with The Romans because I felt that it was the best of the historicals, a genre that basically only occurred in seasons of the First Doctor.  The historicals were stories that took place in the past, and apart from the Doctor, his ship, and his companions, featured no science fiction elements.  All of the historicals are, in my opinion, great stories, but this one is my favorite (and we have the whole thing, unlike many of the historicals which are either all missing or are missing episodes).  This was the first episode that intentionally attempted out and out farcical humor, and it completely succeeded.  At the same time, there were some harrowing and dark moments in Ian's storyline, and the four episode story wove them together masterfully.  This is a great example of early Doctor Who and a ton of fun to watch!

worst story:

The Web Planet

This one was not at all hard for me to choose.  This was the only story that I actively dislike from the first Doctor's run.  While others may complain about The Sensorites and The Gunslingers, I found many admirable qualities in those stories.  I can't say the same about The Web Planet.  A nonsensical story with the most ridiculously cheesy aliens a show about cheesy aliens has ever had, The Web Planet borders on un-watchability.  The sound that the giant ant aliens (Zarbi) make reminds me of a car alarm going off relentlessly for hours at a time.  And the butterfly/bee aliens fight them by yelling the name of the Zarbi in a high-pitched tone for no discernible reason (ZAAAAAAAAR-BI!).  The Doctor's ring gains magical powers, never seen or heard of again, and at six episodes long, the story drags on much longer than it probably needs to.  I wouldn't hate you if you skipped over this story on your watch of the First Doctor.



best TARDIS crew:

Ian, Barbara, and Vicki


This might be a bit of a controversial opinion, but this is when I think that the show really began to work.  Susan is one of my favorite characters conceptually, but I don't think the writers really knew what they were doing with her, so too often she became the damsel in distress, limited to screaming for Ian or her grandfather to save her.  The moments when she actually did something (the reason I love the Sensorites is that Susan actually has something to do!), she shined, but the writers couldn't seem to make it work until they replaced her with Vicki.  Vicki was often what Susan should have been.


Let me get this straight.  A thing that looks like a Police Box, standing in a junkyard, it can move anywhere in time and space? - Ian (An Unearthly Child)

The Doctor's curious, that means we stay.  -  Barbara (The Space Museum)

Why have I got to keep pretending I'm a boy?  Why can't I be a girl again!? - Vicki (The Crusades)

best companion departure:

Susan

Although Ian and Barbara's was probably more emotional of an exit for me (as I've said, I don't think Susan was properly utilized in the show), I still have to go with the first companion departure here.  I'm sure it was a shock for first time audiences to realize that these people wouldn't travel with the Doctor for the duration of the show (but there would be much larger shocks to come!).  Susan's departure led to one of the best moments of the show, as an emotional Doctor made the decision to allow his granddaughter to have a life outside of the constant traveling in the TARDIS (which for the duration of the First Doctor had no way for the Doctor to know where they would end up each time they dematerialized, the travels, from the Doctor's perspective at least, were completely random).

During all the years I've been taking care of you, you in return have been taking care of me. You are still my grandchild and always will be. But now, you're a woman too. I want you to belong somewhere, to have roots of your own. With David you will be able to find those roots and live normally like any woman should do. Believe me, my dear, your future lies with David and not with a silly old buffer like me. One day, I shall come back. Yes, I shall come back. Until then, there must be no regrets, no tears, no anxieties. Just go forward in all your beliefs and prove to me that I am not mistaken in mine. Goodbye, Susan. Goodbye, my dear. - The Doctor (Dalek Invasion of Earth).

most surprising moment:

companion deaths/the doctor regenerates

I have to split this one, because I think the most surprising moment for modern watchers (especially those who have primarily only watched since the regeneration of the series in 2005) is the death of two companions in The Daleks' Master Plan (and yes, I totally consider Sara Kingdom a companion).

















Katarina joined the TARDIS crew after Vicki decided to stay behind and become a part of history (The Myth Makers).  As a Trojan servant, Katarina was completely unequipped to understand what she had become a part of by joining the Doctor and Steven.  She viewed the Doctor as a god (to be fair, so did most of the Greeks in The Myth Makers, who mistook the Doctor for Zeus) taking her to the Place of Perfection (or the afterlife, sometimes referred to as the Promised Land?  Is this a clue that the episodes of The Daleks' Master Plan have been found, Mr. Moffat?).  The difficulties of writing for a character who was so out of time (she didn't even know what a key was) caused the writers to decide to write her off.  They did so quite dramatically.  Taken prisoner in a ship by a stowaway, Katarina either accidentally hit the airlock button jettisoning herself and her captor or sacrificed herself in order to keep the kidnapper from using her to stop the Doctor, Steven, and Bret from working against the Daleks.



 
However, Katarina was not the only companion to die in this story.  After Katarina's death, Sara Kingdom, a space agent, gets caught up with our heroes, The Doctor and Steven, and although she thinks they are traitors at first, she quickly realizes that they are working to stop her boss, the master of the solar system, who is working with the Daleks to take over the universe.  Sara ends up joining the TARDIS crew and even travels throughout space and time before the Daleks are finally defeated.  (Although Sara is only in this one story, she has multiple trips inside the TARDIS and is in more episodes than many that are considered companions, so for me, she unquestionably deserves the title).  Once the Doctor, Steven, and Sara Kingdom foil the Daleks, they are left with the doomsday device the Daleks had been attempting to use.  Sara refuses to leave the Doctor to deal with it alone, and that leads to her undoing.  Whereas the Doctor's physiology allows him to face exposure to the ravages of the Time Bomb, Sara is not so lucky.  She ages to death in just seconds, another casualty to the master plan of the Daleks that the Doctor thankfully thwarted, though at great cost.

As dangerous as traveling with the Doctor can sometimes be, very few companions have actually met their end while with the Doctor.  Two, however, did in season 3, and we have known ever since that your safety while adventuring in the TARDIS is not guarenteed.

However, I think for the audiences watching the show originally, especially in a time before spoilerific media coverage and things like Twitter, the most shocking moment was yet to come.  For the original audiences, there only was one Doctor.  Now, we're quite used to the convention that Time Lords have the ability to regenerate, but the original audiences had no idea that such a thing was possible, much less that it was about to happen.  Ben and Polly watched as the Doctor we had grown to love over the last three plus years slowly changed into someone completely alien from the sometimes grumpy, always arrogant, but still loving grandfather that had won the hearts of everyone who had watched the show.

misc thoughts:

Change had already been a large part of Doctor Who before the Doctor himself changed.  The fact that the producers were able to navigate the first few changes in companions plays a big part in why this show is still on today (with a few years off in between!).  Replacing Susan with Vicki and then Ian and Barbara with Steven, the show nailed the first companion changes.  Replacing Vicki would prove to be more difficult (as we would quickly go through Katarina and Sara Kingdom before spending some time with Dodo, which was the most disappointing companion entrance and exit in show history in my opinion*), but the fact that the show succeeded with the first replacements meant that it could do so again (and would before the First Doctor's time came to an end as Ben and Polly proved to be excellent companions both in their short time with the First Doctor and the rest of their time with the 2nd).

That is the dematerializing control, and that, over yonder, is the horizontal hold. Up there is the scanner; those are the doors; that is a chair with a panda on it. Sheer poetry, dear boy! Now please stop bothering me. - The Doctor (The Time Meddler).

Season 3 is probably my favorite of the First Doctor's seasons, despite the fact that so much of it is missing.  We owe the fans of the show a lot as we are still able to experience the show on some level due to the audio of every episode having been recorded by enterprising fans early on in the show's run before there were such a thing as VCRs, and the work of fans in using telesnaps and promotional photos as well as photoshop and CGI to piece together reconstructions of the missing episode.  The Loose Cannon reconstructions are incredibly watchable and serve as an enjoyable way to experience the episodes that we can't currently actually see.  Although I'm holding out hope that more of these missing episodes will be (or maybe have been) found and will be made available soon.


Until Next Time, I am already into my re-watch of the 2nd Doctor's run (which is going to include my first time seeing the recently recovered 2nd episode of The Underwater Menace!).  As soon as I get to the 3rd Doctor, I'll fill you in with my thoughts of Patrick Troughton and the 2nd Doctor!

*Dodo unceremoniously runs into the TARDIS believing it to be a real police box and is completely unconcerned by its true nature.  Then for her exit, she is hypnotized by the evil robot WOTAN and after being cured by the Doctor heads to the country to recuperate.  We never see her again.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Fall Pilot Reviews 2014: Jane the Virgin and Marry Me

With two more shows premiering this week, we're coming close to the end.  This week we take a look at the new telenovela inspired Jane the Virgin and the Happy Endings inspired sitcom Marry Me.





JANE THE VIRGIN (CW, premiered 13 Oct 14, airs Mon 9/8c, available on Hulu)

Definitely a show I wouldn't have watched if I weren't doing this project, but it was a surprisingly funny and engaging show.  I'm a little hesitant on how long the original conceit can carry the show, and if the show continues to rely on ridiculous happenstance common to the telenovela, I will probably ultimately lose interest, but the mistake of accidentally inseminating the sworn virgin was pretty original and led to some genuinely funny moments in the pilot at least.  Overall, a lot of the "surprise" moments in the pilot were a little telegraphed, in that I could see them coming long before they actually occurred in the show, but the humor, writing, and acting were all strong enough to overcome the predictableness of the plot.  And really, the show was flat funny.  I enjoyed it and laughed many times.  Isn't that what television is supposed to be about?

86%

Interesting fact:  While I'm not typically a fan of narration, I didn't mind the omniscient narrator in this show.  In fact, it reminded me of Pushing Daisies, which is never a bad comparison.  The narrator is a voice over professional who has often done voice over work for sports and also has a part in the Grand Theft Auto video game series.


MARRY ME (NBC, premiered 14 Oct 14, airs Tues 9/8c, available on Hulu)

Absolutely hilarious.  Casey Wilson (formally of Saturday Night Live and Penny on Happy Endings) and Ken Marino (Vinnie Van Low on Veronica Mars and Ron Donald on Party Down) are a great comedic combination.  They play off of each other perfectly.  It seems to have a strong supporting cast as well, although they don't have as much to do in the pilot as they hopefully will as the series progresses.  Great banter and realistic, if hilarious, situations led to a rapid pace that went by way faster than the 30 minutes (less not counting commercials of course) run time should have.  I absolutely recommend this show, which gives NBC three very strong new comedies.  Let's add one more, get rid of Biggest Loser, and turn Thursday night back into Must See TV!

98%

Interesting fact:  As I alluded to in the opening, this series has a lot in common with the recent cult hit Happy Endings.  Not only is the main character, played by Casey Wilson, an alum of that series, but this show is also created by the same person who created Happy Endings (and who married Casey Wilson in real life!)

Until Next Time, we have reached the end of these for a couple of weeks as we wait for the next new show to make its fall premiere.  Of course, if any network people want to send me a screener of any of the pilots yet to debut, I will gladly get up my review a little early!


Friday, October 10, 2014

Fall Pilot Reviews 2014: The Flash, Mulaney, and Cristela

We're getting close to the end.  There are a couple more pilots next week (Jane the Virgin on Mon and Marry Me on Tues), a couple in late Oct (Constantine on the 24th and The McCarthys on the 30th), and then one more in November (State of Affairs on Nov 17th).

So, the posts will not be as frequent as they have been, but I promise to at least finish out the fall reviews.  If there is a lot of requests for this to continue, I might do the same in the winter and spring.  You (the readers) will have to let me know that you want me to continue though!

But now, lets hit the three latest releases:


THE FLASH (CW, premiered Tues. 7 Oct 14, airs on Tues 8/7c, available on Hulu)

For the most part, I hate voice over narration.  The times I can stand it are on series such as Arrested Development and more recently A to Z where you have an unexplained omniscient narrator.  But I almost always hate when a character provides narration.  I view it the same way that I view breaking the 4th wall.  It takes me out of the world of the show.  Plus, narration is often weak storytelling.  If you have to tell me what's going on with a voice over, that is work you aren't doing in the television show.  The Flash opened up with the titular character doing a voice over narration.  I began to get worried.  Then the show started and my worries dissipated.  An even better pilot than Arrow (the show this spun off from), The Flash was pretty close to perfect throughout.  The nods to the larger superhero world of which Flash is a part (POSSIBLE SPOILERS -  but there were references to Gorilla Grodd and more importantly Hal Jordan/Green Lantern with Ferris Air to go along with the reveal of Reverse Flash right off the bat) were awesome easter eggs without overwhelming the plot (ahem, Gotham), and with The Flash, those easter eggs have every chance of actually paying off.  From the comic side of things, it kind of feels like this version of Barry Allan owes a lot to Wally West and Bart Allen, as this Flash is younger and a little less serious then I view Barry, but the actor playing him wins you over pretty quickly.  The episode ended with a little more narration from Barry, and hopefully the show loses that convention for opening and closing quickly, because everything else was great.

98%

Interesting Fact:  A few awesome casting decisions have been made for this show.  First, John Wesley Shipp plays Barry's father Henry.  Previously, Shipp played Barry Allen/The Flash in the short lived 1990 TV version of the hero.  Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell played brothers at the heart of the conspiracy laden action show Prison Break.  They are reunited on this show as Flash villains Captain Cold and Heat Wave respectively.  And finally, as one half of Firestorm, Robbie Amell will be appearing on the show.  Robbie is cousins with Stephen Amell, who appears on this show (as well as stars on his own) as Oliver Queen/Green Arrow.


MULANEY (FOX, premiered 5 Oct 14, airs Sun 9:30/8:30c, available on Hulu)

CRISTELA (ABC, premiered 10 Oct 14, airs Fri 8:30/7:30c, available tomorrow on Hulu)

Comedians getting their own sitcoms is a time-honored tradition and has led to some fantastic shows: The Cosby Show, Rosanne, and Seinfeld to name a few.  Both of these shows feature successful comedians.  That's where the similarities stop, however.  Mulaney definitely seems to be trying to replicate the success of Seinfeld, but fails miserably.  Apparently, Mulaney as a comedian is funny, but you certainly can't tell from the show.  The stand up scenes on the show seem out of place (and even Seinfeld realized this and got rid of those cutaways eventually) and aren't that funny, unless of course they're compared to anything else on the show.  Another similarity to Seinfeld is that the main character can't really act, but whereas Jerry clearly was the worst actor on his show when it started, he was still watchable and, most importantly, funny.  But compared to Mulaney, Jerry Seinfeld was an Oscar winner.  It's painful to watch, Mulaney is so obviously out of place as an actor.  You can't laugh when you're spending so much time cringing.  Elliot Gould and Martin Short steal every scene they're in, but unfortunately that isn't enough.  And they're clearly playing second fiddle to the young, attractive cast that we're supposed to be laughing with.  Unfortunately, Mulaney the show seems to believe that Newman deserved to be made a main cast member on Seinfeld, becuase the Newman stand in (Andre), the annoying drug dealer they for some reason know, hangs out all the time with the other characters.  It's not funny.  It's just sad.  They should put that on the poster.

Cristela seems to be taking its cue not from Seinfeld, but from Rosanne, and it actually might compare favorably to that show.  However, it recognizes something that Mulaney apparently forgot, and that is that comedies should be funny, and Cristela is unquestionably funny.  It's also surprisingly smart and rather heartwarming.  All of the cast are funny, the writing is sharp and often brings you to actually laugh out loud (as in for real, not just in a "reply to someone with lol" type of way).  And there's a few great Jerry Jones jabs, which is a great way to win me over.  The previews didn't lead me to think that I was going to enjoy Cristela as much as I did, and I worry about the Friday night slot that the show finds itself in, but I highly recommend it.  While there have been a few funny and promising sitcoms to premiere so far this year, this one might actually be the funniest.

Mulaney - 6%

Cristela - 99%

Interesting Fact:  Cristela is the first ever show that is created by, written by, produced by, and stars a Latina, as Cristela Alonzo performs all of those roles for this show. 


Until Next Time, if you're enjoying these reviews, let me know!  Leave a comment!  What's your favorite new show so far?  How have the shows improved (or the opposite!) since their pilots?  Let me know what you think!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Fall Pilot Reviews 2014: Stalker, Bad Judge, and Gracepoint

We're back with some more pilot reviews!  A surprisingly good batch as of the three I was only excited about Gracepoint.  Let's get to it!







STALKER (CBS, premiered 1 Oct 14, airs Wed 10/9c, available on demand from CBS and the CBS app)

Another procedural with a twist from CBS, this show is about the team in LA that deals with stalking.  A fairly interesting opening mystery with a couple nice twists accompanies two very capable lead actors (Maggie Q best known as Nikita in the show of the same name and Dylan McDermott best known as Bobby Donnell from The Practice).  As I was watching, I believed there were a couple intriguing mysteries that would help lift this into more arc driven territory, but they were way too many answers provided in the episode for those mysteries.  The things that were left over for later episodes weren't nearly as interesting to me.  What really recommends this series is that it is from Kevin Williamson (Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer, and, of course, Dawson's Creek), and there were quite a few good scares throughout the episode.  There aren't many shows that can provide some creepy moments on network TV, so part of me is rooting for this one.  However, it is a little too formulaic for me to probably stick with it long term since cable TV provides quite a few good horror alternatives.

76%

Interesting Fact:  The fourth episode of the show is directed by Roxann Dawson, better known to Star Trek fans as B'Elanna Torres from Voyager, who is becoming quite a respected director in television.  Recently she has also directed two episodes of what is quickly becoming the best show currently on network television, Agents of SHIELD.


BAD JUDGE (NBC, premiered 2 Oct 14, airs Thurs 9/8c, available on Hulu)

The synopsis and previews (and obvious reminder of the failed Bad Teacher from last season, even to the point where both starred Ryan Hansen as the possible love interest) did not give me high hopes for this show.  In fact, going in I fully expected to not like it.  Then, as I was watching, I found myself continually laughing and completely engrossed with the story and the characters (even though I still have a hard time imagining that Ryan Hansen - who played Dick Cassablancas on Veronica Mars and pretty boy actor Kyle Bradway on Party Down, as well as playing a fictionalized version of himself in Play it Again, Dick right now on CW Seed - as a respected psychiatrist).  The show is hilarious, the actors are all fantastic, and even with the seemingly incongruity of Ryan Hansen as someone with brains, he stole nearly every scene that he was in.  This and A to Z which follows directly after it are bringing back memories of the great comedy block NBC had on Thursday night 10 years ago.  I highly recommend both shows.

95%

Interesting Fact:  The show was created by Anne Heche of all people, but she has unquestionable comedic talent working with her on the show: Will Ferrel and Adam McKay of Anchorman fame!  I look forward to the inevitable Will Ferrel cameo on the show.


GRACEPOINT (FOX, premiered 2 Oct 14, airs Thurs 9/8c, available on Hulu)

Gracepoint is a 10 episode mini-series based on the BBC show Broadchurch (which also starred David Tennant - the 10th Doctor in Doctor Who), although apparently it will deviate somewhat in the mystery.  I didn't see Broadchurch, but it got rave reviews.  I will probably check it out at somepoint, as really good mysteries aren't something that are that common in television as we too often just get mysteries-of-the-week instead.  I'm glad, however, that I'm coming into Gracepoint somewhat unaware of what occurred on Broadchurch.  The last great mystery show on television (in my opinion) was Veronica Mars, a show that coupled mystery of the week episodes with an overarching mystery that went through the season (in the case of the first two seasons, and two half season mysteries in season three).  How To Get Away With Murder seems to be following this same plan.  Gracepoint, on the other hand seems to be working with only one mystery that will be teased throughout the ten episode season, the murder of a local twelve-year-old boy.  Everyone in the town is a possible suspect.  The acting is beyond fantastic, and the dialogue and direction are equally top-notch.  The show is dark, somewhat disturbing, and continually has you at the edge of your seat.  British television is excellent at having seasons that are mostly self-contained, and it is a good thing, I think, that US television is giving this a shot.  I'm not sure that they plan for a second season, meaning that they have a specific story to tell and it will take 10 episodes.  Hopefully more American television will begin to follow this model, or at the very least follow a similar model to HBO's True Detective, which will feature a different cast and mystery for season 2.

100%

Interesting Fact:  David Tennant does a stellar job of an American accent (while Christopher Eccleston's accent in The Leftovers leaves a little to be desired), but perhaps that shouldn't be too big of a shock.  After all, he's putting on a fake accent as the Doctor in Doctor Who as well.  David Tennant is actually Scottish, and who could imagine the Doctor with a Scottish accent!?  (Everyone, quite easily now, as current Doctor, Peter Capaldi, who is also Scottish is using his natural accent to play the Doctor.)

Until Next Time, We have our first 100!  Will anyone else reach this magical number of perfection?  You'll have to wait and see!  Coming soon are reviews of Mulaney and The Flash.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Fall Pilot Reviews 2014: Mysteries of Laura, How to Get Away with Murder, and Manhattan Love Story

I haven't forgotten you.  Here are more pilot reviews for your perusal...



MYSTERIES OF LAURA (NBC, premiered 17 Sept 14, airs Wed 8/7c, available on Hulu)

While there was a pretty good twist in the "case of the week" and I enjoyed some of the interactions between the family, there were a few things that I can't really overlook, primarily the "twist" involving her husband, with whom she is separated.  First, I saw it coming from a mile away but hoped I was wrong, because without spoiling anything, it was something that would never be allowed to occur due to conflicts of interest.  While I like Debra Messing, I'm not sure I'm totally buying the character she's playing.  It is almost a caricature of Peter Falk's Colombo, which was bothering me.  At the end of the episode, her partner refers to her as Colombo, which almost made it worse.  I think it's intentional, but it comes off as a cheap imitation and certainly not as an homage if that's what they were intending.  All in all, there's not enough here for me to invest any further time in it.  I am a little sorry I waited three weeks to actually view and review it, but at least now I know I don't have to catch up with the next two episodes!

31%

Interesting Fact:  It was really hard to accept Janina Gavankar as the annoying character she is portrayed to be in the show.  In everything else she's in, she's all kinds of awesome.  She has recently appeared as Detective Hall in Arrow, but is more awesome as Shiva, the inspiration for the trophy in The League, and shapeshifter Luna Garza in True Blood.

HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER (ABC, premiered 25 Sept 14, airs Thurs 10/9c, available on Hulu)

The mysteries presented are intriguing and original.  Honestly, these are probably the best mysteries I've seen on TV since Veronica Mars.  The show presented the two main mysteries (a murder that hasn't occurred yet and a missing girl that I have a feeling will be somehow connected to the murder that takes place three months in the future) in a very coherent way, switching between present day and three months from now.  I have to admit, the story intrigued me.  I did have a few problems with the pilot, however.  I'm not entirely sure that a lawyer would want a bunch of first year law students working on her cases.  It seems they would be far more likely to get in the way than actually help solve a case, but I'm somewhat willing to over look that.  However, what really bothered me about the pilot is that none of the characters seem to be worth rooting for.  The one "good" law student we find out, before we even get a chance to like his character, is involved in the murder.  All that being said, I'm intrigued enough for the mystery to stick around.  I just hope that at some point there is a character that I can really root for in the show.

76%

Interesting Fact:  Super annoying first year law student Asher Millstone (even his name is annoying) is played by Matt McGorry, playing way against type considering his other huge role is that of super sweet (if technically guilty of taking advantage of Diaz) guard John Bennett.  He was immediately recognizable, but it almost seemed impossible it was the same actor because the character was so different.  Pretty impressive acting, and even though I hate his character, I'm interested to see how he plays into the story since he isn't one of the murderers.


MANHATTAN LOVE STORY (ABC, premiered 30 Sept 14, airs Tues 8:30/7:30c, available on Hulu)

Right off the bat this show fell into some borderline sexist but absolutely cliched traps.  (He's deciding if he would sleep with each girl he sees!  She's deciding whether or not she would use every purse she sees!  Ha ha ha.  Men like boobs.  Girls like purses.  So original.  /sarcasm).  Nothing in the episode was remotely surprising, and the characters were so cardboard cut-out obvious, there was no real draw to make you care.  The in the head narration of the two main characters wasn't very clever, and seemed like just a way to get in some easy jokes.  The only redeeming moment was the super awkward date, but even that was weakened due to the first person narration in each of the characters' heads.  It actually took you out of what could have been an incredibly funny, if uncomfortable, scene.  Watching this really made me appreciate how unique How I Met Your Mother really was.  The characters in that show, Ted, Robin, Marshall, Lily, and Barney, were so original and at the same time so real.  It probably isn't easy to do a romantic comedy type sitcom with such an original frame to the story and such original and real characters, which is why we haven't really seen something as good as HIMYM either before or since (although I am holding out some hope for A to Z).  This show is sadly much more the norm.  Cliched characters in a tired will they or won't they storyline, where it should have been clear to everyone, including the characters themselves, that this was a bad idea right from the start.  Unfortunately, the characters aren't even remotely interesting enough for me to care enough to watch the inevitable crash of this relationship.  And I definitely am not interested in the possibility that it actually works out!

14%

Interesting Fact:  The one interesting and seemingly (although we didn't really get enough info about her to be sure) character in the show is the sister of the male half of this Manhattan love story, played by Chloe Wepper.  She doesn't even currently have a profile picture on her IMDb page, but she steals each short scene she is in the pilot.  Her resume is currently a little light (highlighted currently by her role as "Barista" in Criminal Minds), but of everyone in this show, she's the one that I might expect to have a future once this show is quickly cancelled.

Until Next Time, we are fast approaching the premiere of a couple of the shows that most excite me, Gracepoint, the ten episode miniseries staring David Tennant (aka The Doctor) reprising his role from the British version of the show only now with an American accent (which should be fun, hopefully it is better than Christopher Eccleston's in The Leftovers, they can compare them at Doctor Who conventions) and The Flash!