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Archive | August, 2013

The Great Gatsby Review

31 Aug

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Baz Luhrmann is both the best person and the worst person to direct a remake of The Great Gatsby, a masterpiece in American literature that is still endlessly taught, analyzed, and debated upon today. His films revel in the grandiose, bringing the viewer into a spectacle wrought with flashy cinematography, costumes, and music. This film is no exception. It’s absolutely gorgeous to look at; the party scenes are a flurry of color, costumes, and hip hop music, and it lends itself to the delightful high the viewer experiences.

Of course, the extravagance of the setting restricts the wonderful cast, transforming their characters into caricatures of themselves. I guess it’s kind of the point, but the story is as much about the characters as it is the setting, and I would’ve liked to see much more complexity and backstory. For example, what makes Gatsby who he is? Sure, there’s a quick summary of his life thrown in there, but that’s about it. All the nuances of the characters are hidden amongst their lavish exteriors, and a movie should take us deeper than the surface.

The actors do their best, and the worst for most of these actors is still better than much of what we see in other cinema or television. Leonardo DiCaprio can do no wrong, and he, for the most part, nails the role of the despairing, hopeful, yet phony young businessman and lover. Maguire’s performance is one-note, but his relationship with Gatsby is one of the better aspects of the film. Mulligan is good as the final link in a love triangle, but she really doesn’t get to do much more than be exactly that. Edgerton is fun to watch, coming off as a cartoonish villain that fits right into this world. Isla Fisher and Jason Clarke are miscast, leaving small marks on the film as a whole. Ultimately, though, this is far from their best work, and that’s mostly a fault of the script.

The film, at an extremely long 2 hours and 23 minutes (a whole 30 minutes could’ve been shaved off), ends up feeling empty, not really serving any purpose other than to entertain. Movies that are fun for fun’s sake usually are fun, sometimes laughingly so, but The Great Gatsby is fun for Luhrmann’s sake. The plot is muddled and the film drags on, eventually winding itself down to a resolution that should have been earned, but isn’t.

Grade: C+

Other thoughts:

-The music choice is interesting, but I actually really like the decision to blast Jay-Z, Beyonce, and co. during the party scenes. It’s unique, and it draws a parallel between the extravagance of the time to hip hop in today’s world.

-The final sequence of scenes is really well done, in my opinion, but everything beforehand just doesn’t really serve as a good bridge into the climax.

-I found the narrating annoying, not because Maguire is a bad narrator, but because it feels shoehorned into the movie. It’s completely unnecessary, and I really don’t need to be told what’s happening on the screen every 5 minutes.

-Some scenes really click, like the one where Gatsby meets Daisy or Gatsby and Buchanan’s confrontation.

-Man, the symbolism is really heavy-handed here, isn’t it? Look, that light he’s reaching out to represents Daisy, but when he has Daisy, the outside world isn’t beautiful anymore because Daisy’s beautiful!

-This movie is gorgeous.

Credit to Village Roadshow Pictures and The Great Gatsby for all pictures. I own nothing.

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The Bridge “Vendetta” Review (1×08)

29 Aug

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“You’re contaminating the crime scene!”

One of the most appealing aspects of this show, aside from the location, is the all-encompassing, mysterious, political agenda-seeking aura of “The Beast”, the killer that, before tonight, had not been revealed. Putting a face to the name is an interesting choice, especially with four episodes remaining in the season. Of course, that’s not to say I’m not intrigued or appreciative; too many shows rely on their penultimate and final episodes to bring out the big guns, and I’m looking forward to see how The Bridge handles this situation.

Personally, I’m mixed on the actual reveal. Here, we have a sudden and complete reversal of the thematic essence of the show, instead tailoring the killer’s motives toward personal reasons. I like how several characters play a part in the creation of this murderer, strengthening the interconnectedness of those involved. However, I feel as if a chunk has been taken out of the show’s attempt at world-building. Sure, it’s never really about the mystery, but the mystery’s absolutely necessary. It propels the plot, affecting the characters and highlighting their places in this world in relation to the murder. Of course, the ends can always justify the means. We’ll have to see.

In terms of other storylines, Linder’s haunted by Galvan’s face during his dreams involving a Latina in a bikini giving him milk (that sounds strange when I write it). We don’t really know much about him yet, but we do know his actions are weighing on his mind. It will be incredibly interesting to see how, and if, Galvan, Linder, and Tate all interact. They should put them all at a dinner table or something.

The other main subplot involves Charlotte, a character I really just have no interest in. I hope they start distancing her from Ray, which I think is already set in motion; I want to see her character become her own self, and more fleshed out. Then I can be invested.

Some unifying themes across this episode are ones of escape and influence. Marco can’t escape from his realization at the end, and he’s trapped between the influence of his family and the influence of his job. Linder can’t escape from Galvan or his influence. Charlotte wants to escape, but is trapped by the influence of men in her life.

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All in all, it’s an uneven episode of The Bridge, but it’s generally compelling and it sets a new path for the show to take.

Grade: B

Other thoughts:

-The conversation between Gus and Sonya is a nice, quiet moment, and also reflects the themes of escape and influence. She can’t escape from her disorder, and she’s unable to fully grasp her true situation, however much of an influence it has on her.

-Wow, you can slice open someone’s neck, stand behind them, lay them down, and not get blood on your clothes? Nice!

-The opening scene was fun.

Credit to FX and The Bridge for all pictures. I own nothing.

Emmys Dream Ballot+Predictions-Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

29 Aug

Welcome to my coverage of the 2013 Primetime Emmys. As it’s only a month away, I’ve decided to start a series in which I offer up my dream ballot for each major category. Then, I’ll look at the actual Emmy ballot and offer a “Who should win?” and a “Who Will Win?” for each. I hope you enjoy! Today, we’ll be looking at….

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES

Dream Ballot

Nick-Offerman-of-Parks-and-Recreation_gallery_primary  NICK OFFERMAN, “Parks and Recreation”

It blows my mind why the Emmy voters would overlook such a fantastic character as Ron Swanson. He had a great year of food poisoning, wood-working, and wedding attending, and his relationship with Lucy Lawless’ character was unexpectedly sweet. He’s one of the best characters on television.

mikewhite3_small-f132f8391e4e2a1ddced6175f92b91954bcc74cd-s6-c30  MIKE WHITE, “Enlightened”

First of all, this is one of my favorite shows of all time, even though it only spanned a woefully short two seasons. White is also the creator of the series, but he’s also an amazing actor. His character is awkward, heartbreaking,, and complex, and he and Molly Shannon created one of the best, most beautiful TV romances you’ll ever see.

new-girl-schmidt  MAX GREENFIELD, “New Girl”

I probably would’ve given this slot to Jake Johnson, but he submitted for the “lead actor” category. Greenfield is great, though, conveying a hilarious outer demeanor and spewing a ton of hilarious quotes. However, he took it a step further this year as the show explored more of his past, in particular a young relationship that was funny and endearing.

girls_adam_8a.jpg.CROP.multipart2-medium  ADAM DRIVER, “Girls”

His character, and the show, are extremely polarizing amongst both fans and detractors. However, that’s because his performance is so fantastic. He did some amazing work at the end of the season, inspiring hatred, adoration, and discussion galore on the Internet, and his character arc was one of the most interesting on TV last year.

stefon-wedding-veil  BILL HADER, “Saturday Night Live”

While SNL hasn’t been consistently good in a while, Hader’s been the anchor of the cast. His farewell season ended with a bang, as the fan-favorite Stefon married Seth Meyers in an amazing segment that involved Anderson Cooper and all of Stefon’s club friends. He’ll be missed, for sure.

nup-155435-0604-jpg  RAINN WILSON/JOHN KRASINSKI, “The Office”

I know I’m cheating a bit here, but I just had to give them both credit. Krasinski has never been nominated for his work, which I find appalling, and Wilson hasn’t been nominated in a while. They both did fantastic work in this final season, especially near the end of the show’s run, and they deserve recognition for it. Jim-Pam was still the heart of the show, and you also can’t imagine the show without Dwight Schrute.

Who Should Win?

I’d narrow it down to Offerman and White, but I don’t know who I’d pick.

Others considered: Adam Pally, Damon Wayans, Jr., Ty Burrell, Will Arnett (Arrested Development), Tony Hale (Veep), Matt Walsh, Jack McBrayer, Donald Glover, Danny Pudi, DJ Qualls, Luke Wilson, Simon Templeman, Chris Pratt, James Van Der Beek, Jason Gann, Jim Rash, Jeffrey Tambor

And on to the real nominations…

Ty Burrell-Modern Family

Adam Driver-Girls

Jesse Tyler Ferguson-Modern Family

Bill Hader-Saturday Night Live

Tony Hale-Veep

Ed O’Neill-Modern Family

Who should win?

Driver

Who will win?

Burrell

Analysis: Driver undoubtedly delivers the most complex, layered performance here, but I think it’s a safe bet that the Emmy voters will give the award to one of their Modern Family darlings; in this case, it’s Burrell.

Credit to NBC, HBO, FOX, New Girl, The Office, Enlightened, Parks and Recreation, Saturday Night Live, and Girls for all pictures. I own nothing.

Emmys Dream Ballot+Predictions-Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

28 Aug

It’s Emmy season again! Welcome to my coverage of the 2013 Primetime Emmys. As it’s only a month away, I’ve decided to start a series in which I offer up my dream ballot for each major category (I’m only focusing on certain nomination fields, but I might lump some of the technical and writing/directing categories into one big post later on). Then, I’ll look at the actual Emmy ballot and offer a “Who should win?” and a “Who Will Win?” for each. I hope you enjoy! Today, we’ll be looking at….

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES

Dream Ballot

Jenna-Fischer-of-The-Office_gallery_primaryJENNA FISCHER, “The Office”

This was not Jenna Fischer’s best year on The Office, but it was a fantastic year. I’ll let that sink in for a bit. She’s been consistently wonderful, but astonishingly, she’s only been nominated once. In an up and down final season, she anchored a dramatic storyline that could make you roll your eyes in annoyance or burst into tears. No matter which it was, she was the glue holding the show together all the way to the end.

Jane-Krakowski-of-30-Rock_gallery_primary  JANE KRAKOWSKI, “30 Rock”

Although she wasn’t nominated last year, the swan song of 30 Rock was enough to bring her back into the fold. She did some fantastic work in the final few episodes of the series; constantly hilarious, constantly surprising, and constantly Jenna Maroney. I will always miss you, Rural Juror.

happy-endings-20120403040230005  ELISHA CUTHBERT, “Happy Endings”

Oh, Happy Endings. I miss you so much. I really hate that this was neither renewed nor picked up for a fourth season, but I’m thankful that the series was able to highlight Cuthbert’s comedic range. Alex grew into one of my favorite television characters, and she portrayed the awkwardness of her character in an excellent way.

anna-chlumsky-veep-emmys  ANNA CHLUMSKY, “Veep”

Amy is a sarcastic, hilarious character that I can never get enough of. Veep is the funniest show on TV when it comes to reaction shots, and Chlumsky is the queen of reaction shots. Every word that comes out of her mouth and every facial expression she makes is top notch comedy.

Aubrey-Plaza-of-Parks-and-Recreation_gallery_primary  AUBREY PLAZA, “Parks and Recreation”

Plaza has done some fantastic work with April, even while Amy Poehler gets all the recognition (don’t get me wrong, she deserves it all). Her twisted mind leads to hilarious lines, and the season really showcased all aspects of her character.

EDEN SHER  EDEN SHER, “The Middle”

I’ll admit, I’m not a big fan of the show. However, I’ve watched enough episodes to know that Eden Sher is fantastic. She’s over the top, but doesn’t exude a sense of buffoonery at all. Her work is simultaneously heartbreaking, hilarious, and lovable, and she has an easy spot in the nominations.

 

 

 

WHO SHOULD WIN? Honestly, I don’t know. This is one of those categories where I’d be fine with any of them winning.

OTHERS CONSIDERED: Mayim Bialik, Judy Greer, Alison Brie, Gillian Jacobs, Julie Bowen, Zosia Mamet, Allison Williams, Eliza Coupe, Ellie Kemper, Cheryl Hines, Jessica Walter (Archer and Arrested Development), Kate McKinnon, Cobie Smulders, Alyson Hanigan, Hannah Simone, Merritt Wever

On to the real nominations…

Mayim Bialik, “The Big Bang Theory”

Julie Bowen, “Modern Family”

Anna Chlumsky, “Veep”

Jane Krakowski, “30 Rock”

Jane Lynch, “Glee”

Sofia Vergara, “Modern Family”

Merritt Wever, “Nurse Jackie”

Who Should Win?

Krakowski

Who Will Win?

Bowen

Analysis: Krakowski deserves it for the excellent work in the later parts of the final season, hilarious throughout and heartbreaking near the end. I don’t think the Emmy voters will break the Julie Bowen monopoly and honor Krakowski one final time, although I wouldn’t be surprised if they did so. Right behind her is Bialik.

Credit to NBC, ABC, HBO, Veep, The Middle, Parks and Recreation, The Office, 30 Rock, and Happy Endings for all pictures. I own nothing.

The Newsroom “Red Team III” Review (2×07)

27 Aug

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The Newsroom is a show that, in the first season, I simultaneously loved and hated. It was just so absurdly bad that I couldn’t help but feel entertained. However, I must admit, Red Team III is the first episode of the show I unequivocally love. Season 2 has rescued a sinking ship, and this episode is the best of the series.

Why is that? Well, first of all, there are actual stakes. There is actual tension. There is actual character development, and it doesn’t feel contrived. There are certainly plot contrivances, but I’ll get to that later. What this episode does so well is bring every character together as a team, which is something the show should’ve done right off the bat. Each character shares the guilt, the blame, and the repercussions from the Genoa mess, which, by the way, is the best storyline this show has produced. It’s a more unifying, serial storyline that allows for more investment in the show. Anyway, the actors do great work in this episode portraying a group of people steadily spiraling down as things keep piling up and piling up. The shouting match in the conference room is a thing of beauty.

The episode is structured around several deposition scenes, something Sorkin likes to incorporate into his writing. He’s always great at doing that, and this episode is no exception. These scenes are just as riveting as the main plot, and it’s a nice back and forth that he has going, both in terms of the dialogue in these scenes and the cuts between deposition-main plot.

Now, as for the plot contrivances, I was annoyed at the whole shot clock fiasco at first, but I’ve come to realize that it doesn’t take too much away from the plot. It just barely works, and it paves the way for a great scene in the elevator between Mac and Jerry. One scene I really don’t like, though, is that whole parking garage meeting. It feels shoehorned in in a way that scenes in previous, worse episodes have been guilty of. Finally, I also have a few problems with the final scene. The whole resignation non-acceptance stuff is a bit too easy, and while I did love the smash cut to black, it didn’t work for me as a whole.

Ultimately, though, this is a fantastic episode of The Newsroom, and I’m looking forward to the final two.

Grade: A-

Other thoughts:

-Jane Fonda is a delight. The whole Daniel Craig discussion was hilarious.

-Man, I hate Jerry Dantana. I know it’s kind of the point, but man, is he unlikeable or what?

-I get that the crew feels a bit shell shocked after the whole screw up, but the implication that they would have done Benghazi “right” if they weren’t focused on Genoa? Yeah, no.

-Once again, we have Sorkin and his “women in need of some (insert topic) advice” with Mac (insert “sports”). However, I felt that he handled her character better as the episode went on, and in this season in general. It wasn’t too much of a problem here.

Credit to HBO and The Newsroom for all pictures. I own nothing.

Dexter “Make Your Own Kind of Music” Review (8×08)

27 Aug

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“……

………

……….she’s my mom!”

What irritates me the most about this final season is that there are absolutely no stakes. The introduction of Evelyn Vogel seems intriguing on the surface, but when you look closer, you realize that the writers have put absolutely no thought into her character. Take this episode, for example. Vogel’s never seen her son’s body, her son used to leave her stuff just like the Brain Surgeon does (HINT HINT!), and oh, her son’s also a psychopath. I think most people would put two and two together, and not get five.

It’s not just her character, though. The writers have zero interest in creating a compelling world around the titular character, and not even an actor like Michael C. Hall can hold this show up for long. Even Deb, that one supposed thorn in Dexter’s side, is off screwing around with Quinn and Elway and whatnot. I mean, like, did the whole attempted drowning scenario just vanish off the face of the Earth? Jennifer Carpenter’s a more than capable actress, writers. Just look at the first few episodes of the season.

Anyway, in this episode, we had the whole Oliver Saxon plot, one in which I was constantly shaking my head in confusion and laughing my head off. Why is this even important? I don’t really care who he killed or that he’s Vogel’s son. Oh, and the way Dexter conveniently finds the dude is hilarious. Zach, in his “cutting my head open”-defying ways, is able to somehow leave some evidence that Dexter finds, who then magically throws it into his crazy computer-megatron face scanner, and voilà! It’s Ryan Gosling!

This season has been really terrible about introducing new characters, then focusing on them more than the supposed main characters. We’re in a final season, folks. Are the writers setting up a Harrison-Saxon showdown or something? That would actually be hilarious. Speaking of, I really don’t get why we have to be constantly barraged with the whole “LET’S MOVE TO ARGENTINA, BABY!” stuff, as it’s becoming increasingly obvious that that won’t happen. This Hannah-Dexter relationship is getting tiresome, the actors have no chemistry, and the writers are staring straight ahead, focusing solely on Dexter. In eight years, he’s been constantly elevated above the rest of the cast, facing absolutely NO consequences in which he’s been blamed (does he even care about Rita now?). That was fine for a while, but once again, FINAL SEASON=ENDGAME.

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I appreciate the fact that the episode was trying to bring everything together to set the wheels in motion for the endgame. However, the endgame was introduced a few seasons ago, then took a break, and is now suddenly being re-introduced in the final 3 episodes of the season. I liked the way the season started off, but it’s taken several turns for the worst. Dexter should be exploring the moral complexities of its titular character, delving into his relationships with and influence on the people around him. He should be facing consequences for his actions, either through legal action or conflict within his family. Instead, we get Harrison and his pancakes.

Grade: C

Other Thoughts:

-Kenny Johnson’s amazing, but he’s introduced here as yet another idiot cop. Yeah, a blood spatter analyst makes enough to buy houses for random people.

-Yvonne Strahovski wore a pink dress.

-Masuka’s daughter? Yeah, I don’t know what she’s doing here, either.

-Deb lets Hannah stay with her and eats her food because why?

-What about the Maria LaGuerta Memorial Bench? No one’s sitting on it!

Credit to Showtime and Dexter for all pictures. I own nothing.

Breaking Bad “Confessions” Review (5×11)

26 Aug

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“Why don’t you just kill yourself, Walt?”

Walter White is a despicable person. He’s cheated, lied, and manipulated his way to the top, and in order to keep his position, he has to do so to a greater extent. In fact, he’s not just lying now; he’s manipulating the truth. In the wonderfully directed confession scene, some of what he says is actually what has transpired. However, it’s also an absolutely brilliant act of fiction. It’s the only way to get Hank to back down, and we feel the wrenching effects of the message in Dean Norris’ face. Strangely fitting, isn’t it, that Walt exudes the most power through a TV screen? He’s become a caricature of himself, the Heisenberg persona permeating every single aspect of his life. The dinner scene beforehand shows us, however, that Hank will never forgive Walter. Unlike last week, he pushes Skyler away right off the bat. He’s only hell-bent on taking Walt down, but he has one flaw: he’s smart.

It’s a strange thing to say, I know, but consider Walt’s personality for a second. He’s cold, calculating, and manipulative in ways that Hank has never anticipated. In fact, he was able to outsmart Gus Fring, the previous cold, calculating, and manipulative mastermind. He should be able to outsmart Hank, and he does. Now, what Walt doesn’t expect, though, is unpredictability. This comes in the form of Jesse Pinkman. He has no friends, no family, and no restraints, and it’s a dangerous situation for Walt because Jesse just doesn’t care. Walt realizes this, though, but he deals with it in the same manner he would for someone like Skyler. He hugs Jesse, trying to strengthen that father-son bond he wants to believe is still existent, much like he hugged Skyler back in “Live Free or Die.” However, Jesse breaks down because he just can’t take it anymore; we can see he wants to acquiesce to Walt, but it’s much too difficult.

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Then comes the explosion. All that pent-up anger, fear, and sadness manifests itself in a beautiful, yet frightening, sequence of events in which Jesse beats up and threatens Saul, realizes Walt’s role in the ricin poisoning, and rushes to Walt’s house to douse it in gasoline. It’s an abrupt ending, but that’s kind of the point.

Grade: A

Other thoughts:

-The cold open is interesting to analyze. We have Todd exaggerating the details of the train robbery, then leaving a message for Walt. I find it interesting how in the same episode Jesse completely turns on Walt, Todd’s still sucking up to him. He’s like the former Jesse.

-I also liked the tarantula that appears later on, especially given that Todd leaves the murder part out of his story.

-I loved the shot of Walt racing to the car wash all in a panic, then composing himself outside of the door. It’s, once again, some great direction by the crew.

-Walt and Flynn’s scene is, once again, a prime example of Walt continuing to use his family to hold over Hank and Marie’s heads. Of course, the dinner scene reflects the failure of that plan.

-The dinner scene is wonderful. I love the juxtaposition of the cheery exterior, complete with Trent and his guacamole-making ways, with the tension at the table. It’s a fantastically-acted scene.

-Saul just standing in the background of Jesse and Walt’s desert scene was amazing.

-The episode really made me nervous for the characters. I’d imagine the next few episodes will once again have that “anyone can go down” mentality. It’s going to be a ride.

-I hope Walt Jr. wasn’t home at the end.

Credit to AMC and Breaking Bad for all pictures. I own nothing.

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