Tag Archives: Season 1

Review: Luke Cage Season 1

luke-cage-s1-posterLuke Cage (Season 1) (2016)

Netflix / TVMA

Action / Crime / Drama

Starring: Mike Colter, Simone Missick, Theo Rossi

Creator: Cheo Hodari Coker


He just wanted to be left alone, but the city needed a hero.  That’s one of the things I love about Netflix’s host of Marvel TV shows.  The featured superheroes, or vigilantes as some might say, never revel in the spotlight that is thrust on them.  They never bask in the glow of praise (or hate) that gets thrown their way.  They just do what they feel is necessary.  They get the job down because it’s the right thing to do.  Luke Cage, the star of Marvels’ Luke Cage, was just the neighborhood guy, hanging out at Pop’s barber shop in Harlem.  However, after his name gets tarnished he needs to fight to clear his name and save his neighborhood.

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via gamers.vg

Some superheroes wear capes; others wear hoodies full of bullet holes.  The one thing that Luke Cage absolutely nails, among other things, is its titular hero.  We got a taste of Mike Colter’s Luke Cage in Netflix’s other series Jessica Jones, but this time around he’s front and center.  He’s an ex-con who literally just wants to be left alone.  He’s the neighborhood guy that everybody loves.  He also has superhuman strength and durability, which comes in handy more times than not.  The show doesn’t waste any time in showing you that Luke’s bulletproof.  I was going to count how many hoodies he lost because of bullet holes…but I quickly lost count.  Colter brings a toughness to the role that I really like.  He also does a good job at portraying a man who has a lot of demons, demons he wrestles with all season.  Luke’s a complex character, one that ever so relatable.  As a white male, I would be lying to you if I told you that I related to Luke Cage, but there is a massive demographic of young black males that will quickly identify with Luke’s character, especially in light of the events in current society.  This isn’t by accident either.

Another aspect that show creator Cheo Hodari Coker nails is the story, full of great supporting characters as well as villains.  Like all of Marvel’s Netflix shows, the story stays grounded in Harlem, a city full of gangbanging and corruption.  One of the neighborhoods’ biggest players is Cornell Stokes (Mahershala Ali) who goes by the name of ‘Cottonmouth.’  I absolutely adored Ali’s performance as the classy gangster hungry for power.  Nothing made me giddier than the show’s iconic scene that has Cottonmouth demonstrating his power in front of a portrait of late rapper Biggie Smalls.  It’s a great example of the show’s fantastic cinematography.  Cottonmouth’s not the only player in Harlem though.  There’s also councilwoman Mariah Dillard (Alfre Woodard) and Herman “Shades” Alvarez (Theo Rossi).  Both give great performances, along with some other villains that I won’t mention in fear of spoilers.

luke-cage-s1-2
via News Times

But who’s on Luke Cage’s side?  At first, Luke’s relationship with Harlem detective Misty Knight (Simone Missick) is a rough, but the two slowly warm up to each other as the season moves on.  They both are in search of justice and want to make sure that it’s found, no matter the cost.  It’s also refreshing to see Rosario Dawson get substantial screen time as Claire Temple, a good friend of Luke’s.  We have seen Dawson in both Daredevil and Jessica Jones as Claire, but only in smaller, more supportive roles.  This time she’s a prime part of the story, helping Luke find answers and seek justice in any way that she can.  She has experience tending to heroes like Daredevil and Jessica Jones, which makes her a qualified sidekick on Luke’s quest for vengeance.

The first couple of episodes chug along at a slower pace, but the story quickly picks up at a faster and more thrilling pace.  Although the main focus is Luke’s quest to avenge Pop’s (Frankie Faison) death, we also see bit and pieces of Luke’s past as an ex-con and how he became the superhuman that he is now.  I think these bits of backstory are neatly framed within the context of the story and they never feel too egregious.  They also play a big part in developing the characters and their motivations in the story.  Even though I enjoyed the show’s story a great deal, it was still lacking a thing that all good stories need: conflict, which might seem silly when you see Luke Cage fighting his way through gangsters and taking bullets like hunting target.  “Of course there’s conflict, what are you talking about!?”  Sure, there’s a surface level conflict, but I never felt like Luke was ever in real danger at any point during the course of the season.  There’s clever ways that the plot tries to build roadblocks in Luke’s mission, but I always knew in the back of my head that Luke was going to be just fine.  That’s the problem when you have a character that is, literally, bulletproof.  There were, of course, an abundance of thrills but these thrills were the byproduct of well-choreographed fight scenes and action moments…never the byproduct of conflict.

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via Digital Trends

Let’s circle back to a positive aspect of my time with Luke Cage and that is the show’s production and style.  Everything from the imagery to the show’s amazing soundtrack play a big role in putting you in the city streets of Harlem.  I already mentioned it previously, but the scene including Biggie’s portrait is a perfect example of the show really embracing Harlem’s culture.  There’s also the soundtrack, which is heavily influenced by old-school rap.  It even boils down to the show’s episode titles, all of which are references to the classic rap duo Gang Starr.  The show’s creators really understood the culture and setting that they were working with and hit a hole-in-one in terms of Harlem’s look and feel.  It did a great job at placing you in the beating heart of Harlem’s neighborhood.

If I had to rank Marvel’s Netflix shows as of right now, I would probably put Luke Cage above Jessica Jones but below Daredevil.  Regardless of its place among its sister shows, Luke Cage still excels on its own.  There’s a few blemishes, specifically with the conflict for a near-invincible vigilante, but the story delivers a wonderful cast of characters placed in the beautifully painted depiction of Harlem.  Ever since I saw Mike Colter’s Luke Cage in Jessica Jones I knew I wanted a full-on show devoted to the character, and Luke Cage delivers and succeeds in its mission.  But seriously, Luke really needs to buy some higher-grade hoodies.  Don’t they sell bullet-proof hoodies?

luke-cage-s1-score

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Review: Love Season 1

love season 1
via Melty

Love (Season 1) (2016)

Netflix / TVMA

Comedy / Romance

Starring: Gillian Jacobs, Paul Rust, Claudia O’Doherty

Creators: Judd Apatow, Lesley Arfin, Paul Rust


Your telling me there’s another show about love?  Another show about the trials and tribulations that relationships bring with them?  I guess it’s not that surprising when you think about it.  The topic of love is a subject that has been tackled time and time again.  It’s certainly not an original theme.  Teaming up with Netflix, Judd Apatow has put out a new comedic show about the journey of love, appropriately titled Love.  So far nothing about this show sounds original…but Apatow finds another angle that makes the show a little refreshing.

love s1 1
via Beauty Slides

Love is the story of two star-crossed lovers who seem like the unlikely couple at the onset.  Mickey, played by Gillian Jacobs, is a rambunctious and loud girl who works for a radio show.  She’s an alcoholic and a sex addict who has her fair share of boy problems.  On the other hand, we have the timid and geeky Gus, played by Paul Rust, who works as a tutor at a big name television studio.  The two couldn’t be any more different but after a chance acquaintance at a gas station convenience store, the two being the long road to love.

Topics like first dates, ex-lovers, awkward parties, and sex are all covered over the course of the ten-episode series.  As I’ve mentioned before, there is nothing original about Love’s subject matter, not even the name.  Series creator Judd Apatow, the guy behind other hit comedies like Bridesmaids, Knocked Up, and Girls, manages to change things up and gives the concept of love a different perspective.  Mickey and Gus have different views on the subject of love and their outlooks on the crazy rollercoaster of romance are what make the series interesting and different from the rest.  Don’t get me wrong, there were definitely moments where I was like, “okay, this has been done before,” but the show managed to stay fresh a lot more than I initially thought.

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The first half of the season acts as a character study, examining Mickey and Gus and the type of people that they are.  These kinds of episodes happen a lot over the course of the season.  There’s even an episode that revolves around the two’s days at work and the kind of madness surrounding their respective workplaces.  Weird creepy bosses and dramatic Hollywood actresses, you know, normal fare.  Admittedly the show gets off to a slow start but begins to pick up when the two start to get into a more serious relationship.  As things intensify between the two, things get a lot more interesting.  The last couple of episodes were not only full of hilarious situations, but serious drama as well.  I wasn’t expecting the show to get as serious as it got…but there’s an interesting story to tell behind Love’s comedic exterior.

Judd Apatow has put out a show that gives a funny view of love, but also a sobering one.  Love isn’t perfect in its execution but it’s a fun show with some really likable characters.  I haven’t even mentioned Mickey’s roommate Bertie (Claudia O’Doherty) who was actually one of my favorite parts of the show.  The show gives us a stunningly accurate depiction of love, one that is instantly relatable to anyone who has had a bout with love.  Love is a fun little show, one that I was not expecting to enjoy.  The show has already been renewed for another season, so we’ll see where Apatow goes with this comedy.  Also, how many times have I said “love” during this review.  It almost sounds silly at this point.  Love love love.  By the way…..love.  Okay, I’m done now.

love s1 score

Review: Fuller House Season 1

fuller house poster
via Ruck Makers

Fuller House (Season 1) (2016)

Netflix / NR

Comedy / Family

Starring: Candace Cameron Bure, Jodie Sweetin, Andrea Barber

Producer: Kelly Sandefur


Oh Mylanta! That’s what the internet shouted upon the announcement that the original cast of 90’s sitcom Full House would be reprising their roles in the new Netflix comedy Fuller House.  The sitcom, which cemented itself as a cultural mainstay, holds a special place in a lot of 90’s kids hearts, so when the reboot was announced (with the original cast), I was pretty excited to return to everybody’s favorite San Francisco townhouse.

fuller house 1
via Pop Shifter

Let’s first break down the cast.  Almost everyone from the original makes it on to the show, including Danny (Bob Saget), Joey (Dave Coulier), Jesse (John Stamos), Becky (Lori Loughlin), D.J. Tanner (Candace Cameron Bure), Stephanie (Jodie Sweetin), Kimmy (Andrea Barber), and even Steve Hale (Scott Weinger).  Notice how the Olsen twins aren’t present on the billing?  Yep, unfortunately these two were the only main cast members to not make an appearance.  (Don’t worry, the show does a pretty good job of reminding you about that.)  There’s also some new additions in terms of the kids.  D.J. Tanner’s kids, Jackson and Max, are played by Michael Campion and Elias Harger (a big ball of energy) respectively.  Twins Dashiell and Fox Messitt play D.J.’s youngest, Tommy Fuller Jr.  Finally, the other primary character we see is Kimmy’s daughter Ramona, played (pretty well) by Soni Bringas.

If you’re from the outside looking in, you would probably expect that Danny, Joey, and Jessie would be present throughout the entirety of the series, but that doesn’t hold true.  Instead, Fuller House centers around the story of D.J., Stephanie, and Kimmy who end up inheriting the house from Danny who, along with the older crew, are moving out and doing their own things.  (Don’t worry, the likes of Danny, Joey, Jesse, and Becky make sprinkled appearances here and there!) The majority of the story focuses on that fact that the girls are now older, living more adult lives.  Relationships, parenting, and other adult things tend to be the new focus.  Also…a lot more boob and sex jokes, furthering the show from its predecessor’s squeaky clean image.

fuller house 2
via IB Times

Longtime and fervent fans of Full House should find bundles of things to love about Fuller House.  The show’s producers and directors did a pretty bang-up job of recreating the look and feel of the original series.  The interior of the house (albeit some minor changes) looks like a carbon copy of the house we have come to love and the actors fit right back into their characters with ease.  The new theme song, sung by Carly Rae Jepson, is pretty amazing and the show provides a good bit of flashbacks to the original.  Not an episode went by without some reference to the old show.  It made Fuller House fun to watch.

However, if you take away the nostalgia and present the show as it is…there isn’t that much there unfortunately.  The show leans a little too heavily on the nostalgia factor, sacrificing good writing in the process.  A lot of the humor is a little too on-the-nose for my tastes.  A good bit of the jokes fell flat as well.  There were some genuinely funny moments (D.J. Tanner and her plumber, the whole SF Giants episode) but a lot of the humor just wasn’t working for me.  There’s also a love triangle that develops between D.J. and two other guys that has its moments, but just comes off as cheesy and predictable in the end.  I’m not going to spoil the final episode, but let’s just say I predicted it from a couple of miles away.  It wasn’t the payoff that I was expecting.

fuller house 3
via Hypable

I enjoyed my time with Fuller House best when I just forgot about the parts that make it an average sitcom and instead enjoyed the heavy doses of nostalgia that it shovels at viewers.  I’m willing to bet that most people who will watch the show are coming for the nostalgia, so it should bode pretty well with fans.  However, if you take off the nostalgia-goggles and view the final product as a whole, it’s a show that has some issues.  Did I enjoy Fuller House?  Sure, for the most part.  Is it a good comedy?  No way, Jose! (Okay, maybe that’s a little harsh…but it’s not good) To no surprise, the show was just renewed today for a second season, so this gives them another chance to right their wrongs and put out a second season better than the first.

fuller house score
Fuller House

Review: Master of None (Season 1)

master of none s1 poster
via 7Stream TV

Master of None (Season 1) (2015)

Netflix / TVMA

Comedy

Starring: Aziz Ansari, Noel Wells, Lena Waithe

Creators: Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang


Netflix has been killing it with their exclusives…it’s actually quite surprising.  Every show (not all of them, but most of them) has been great and different from what you find on traditional TV.  This time, it’s comedian Aziz Ansari’s turn to throw his hat in the ring with his newest comedy Master of None, exclusive to Netflix.

master of none s1 1
via TV Show Stream

The show was meant to be a personal project, helping bring him and his parents closer among other things, and it instantly shows.  The show is deeply personal, but super relatable at the same time.  Master of None covers a lot of ground and you just can’t help but laugh at the source material…because they pretty much nail the wide variety of topics with honest hilarity.

Dev (Aziz Ansari) is a thirty-something actor living in the jungle that is New York City.  We get a glimpse at the maturing actor as he takes on things like jobs, relationships, parents, and sexual offenders on the subway.  Yeah, life’s hard for a man who still hasn’t quite reached peak maturity.  That’s what the show is about.  It’s about a man’s growth through the different events and obstacles that life throws at him.  As I mentioned before, the show is painfully funny but isn’t afraid to take it down to a more serious note at times.  The show is quick to poke fun at life’s hilarious scenarios…but it’s honest as well.  I’m not quite sure if this show is based off any aspects of Ansari’s life, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was.

master of none s1 2
via TV Show Stream

There is an overarching story that strings the ten episodes together, which primarily focuses on Dev’s relationship with Rachel (Noel Wells), a tour manager who he initially meets at a bar under some drunk circumstances.  We’re quickly introduced to their relationship in the show’s first episode, simply titled “Plan B,” where they…well you can probably piece the rest together…it’s pretty amusing.  What makes Master of None so appealing however is the fact that every episode could stand on its own two feet.  Each episode has a central topic, with topics ranging from immigrant parents to feminism to stereotypes on TV.  The episodes also benefit from some witty writing, with Ansari taking a good portion of the writing credits as well.  “Mornings” is probably one of the strongest episodes in the mix, aside from the finale, dealing with the joys and tribulations of your significant other moving in to your place.

The acting might be the one thing about the show that rubbed me the wrong way at certain points.  Eric Wareheim and Lena Waithe play Arnold and Denise respectively, two of Dev’s best friends.  There’s also some guest appearances from H. Jon Benjamin and Busta Rhymes, who was a pretty cool addition to the show.  For the most part everybody did a good job with their roles, but the acting seemed a little to forced and on the nose at times.  This wasn’t super prevalent but when it did rear its head, I couldn’t tell if the forced acting was part of the character’s personality or if it was the actor.

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via TV Show Stream

Master of None might be some of Azis Ansari’s best work yet.  It’s a charmingly funny show that pretty much nails the random parts of life that a New Yorker has to come in contact with.  The show has been getting critical praise as well, including a Golden Globe nomination and a win at the Critic’s Choice Awards for best Comedy show.  Give the show a try and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.  You’ll be laughing at how true and accurate the show is with its subject matter.

master of none s1 score

Between Pilot Impressions

Imagine that you are 21 years old or younger.  You’ve lived long enough to gain a lot of knowledge, but you still have a lot of learning to do.  You are not necessarily the wisest person on the planet.  Your parents have always been there for you, teaching you the many ways of life.  Now let’s imagine that all of a sudden your parents start bleeding from their mouth and then tumble to the ground, knocking at death’s door.  Yes, this might be a graphic thing to think about, but it’s the brutal reality of Netflix’s newest drama Between, which chronicles the story of a small town that is under attack by a strange disease that only affects people 22 years or older.

The disease is on a rampage, taking out the town like a wildfire.  The elderly, and maybe not so elderly, are dropping like flies and town officials have no clue what to do.  Under some consideration, the government comes in and puts the town under a ten mile radius quarantine.  No one is allowed in and no one is allowed out.  The youth of the small town of Pretty Lake are left to fend for themselves within the confines of the city fences.  What a nightmare this turns out to be.

via Takes on Tech
via Takes on Tech

The only notable member of the cast is probably Jennette McCurdy of Nickelodeon fame who plays the pregnant Wiley.  If you thought the situation was tough enough, imagine having to deal with a baby through it all.  The only other cast member that I sort of grew a liking to was Jack Murray, who plays a prisoner that looks more like a pretty boy than a convict.  During the pilot we see him deal with other convicts in the penitentiary.  He’s an intriguing character and I want to see what he has actually done to get himself in his position in the first place.

The biggest thing that brings the pilot down is the actor’s god-awful acting.  Not even Jennette McCurdy can provide an interesting character.  Everybody has a stone face throughout the episode and no one seems to give a damn about what is happening around them.  Character’s parents die and it looks like they could care less.  What we get is a crowd of emotionless one-dimensional teen stereotypes that do a wonderful job of making you strongly dislike them.  I’m not going to lie, there were definitely some times where I was hoping that the mysterious disease would take out some of the teen characters as well.  The acting is only going to bring the show down, which leaves the premise and the story as the only things that can salvage the disaster.

via TV.com
via TV.com

The disease serves as the integral backbone for the story.  What is it and why is it only affecting the older crowd?  It’s a disease that seems rather unlikely in this day and age, but I will be interested to learn some answers about this mysterious plague.  I am also going to be interested in the role that the government plays in ruling the town.  They seem to have a tight grip on the town’s activities and I assume that there control is going to only get tighter.  This will most likely drive some of the characters to lead a rebellion, with the ambitious goal of taking their town back and gaining freedom.  I only say it is ambitious because of team of young tweens will most likely stand no chance against a force of highly trained officers, unless the show delivers some ham-fisted excuse for their success.

Netflix as of late has been delivering a lot of hot shows, but this is a show that they will probably want to sweep under the rug and forget about.  Unless some drastic changes are made, the show is only going to get worse.  The actors need to shape up and actually pretend like they are in the middle of what should be a life-shattering crisis for them.  Let’s not kid ourselves though, this gang of tweens is going to stand no chance, and neither is this series.

via 411 Mania
via 411 Mania

Review: The Walking Dead: The Complete First Season

via Fone Arena
via Fone Arena

The Walking Dead: The Complete First Season (2012)

PS4 / Rated M

Adventure

Publisher: Telltale Games

Developer: Telltale Games


Thanks to recent success, Telltale Games has become a household name among gaming fans.  They are now a well-oiled machine that is putting out their now famous brand of adventure games, with a focus on storytelling, at breakneck speeds.  Contrary to what you might assume, most of these games are actually pretty good.  The game that put Telltale on the map and started their second wind was their episodic adaptation of The Walking Dead.  It was a game that was highly regarded among critics and fans alike, garnering a massive following.

What made this game special for people was two things.  First, the two main characters that you follow through the story were extremely well done.  Lee Everett is a good man that has another side to him.  We first see him being hauled away to the slammer due to a mishap in his relationship.  On the way to prison, the police car runs into a zombie on the road and they are propelled into the nearby grass.  The action begins.  Lee manages to escape the site, only to stumble upon a house that seems to have another soul in hiding.  Cue the introduction of Clementine, a rather young and shy little girl that has been hiding away in her house for a while now.  Her parents are gone and she would not have survived if Lee did not stumble upon her house.

via Games N More
via Games N More

Telltale does an amazing job from the get go of making you really care about the two characters.  Lee is faced with a big challenge in helping Clementine with finding her parents, as well as survival.  Clementine should not be painted as a deadweight, but instead as a lightbulb for Lee.  Lee has some trouble coming to grips with the morality of some of the decisions that he has made in his life, and Clementine acts as a moral compass from that point forward.  The two grow quickly attached to each other just as fast as the player gets attached to them.  The scenes involving the two lead characters were by far some of the best scenes from the whole series.

The other thing that really makes the game special is Telltale’s style of adventure game that they instituted with this release.  When the game came out, gone was the format of the traditional adventure game and in with Telltale’s new format of quick time events and heavy decision making.  There is a greater emphasis on story this time around and every dialogue option that you choose in the game has an effect on how things play out, whether big or small.  They do not give you a whole lot of time to make these decisions either.  I often found myself making impulse choices and saying things I did not mean to say.  That might be frustrating to some, but it only makes complete sense.  With the world in shambles due to the zombie outbreak and its people facing immense danger every day, there are going to be a lot of impulse decisions being made.

via Pure Xbox
via Pure Xbox

Each episode of the five episode season has a set of tough decisions that you have to make, and boy do these decisions live up to their name.  Some hit you right in the face in terms of toughness, but others do not seem like they make a big difference at the time, but they end up influencing the story in ways you could not imagine.  There is a moment towards the halfway mark on the season that was tough to swallow for a lot of reasons.  I am not going to spoil anything, but anybody who has played the game should already know what I’m talking about.  What happened was out of my realm of control, and it made me feel helpless.  The game gives you a chance to react, and I acted impulsively, and maybe a little irrationally, when faced with the decision of dealing with a character.  I have never felt that kind of feeling before in a game, and it was great and infuriating at the same time.

via What Culture
via What Culture

The supporting cast of characters that you tag along with during Lee’s journey with Clementine all bring a lot to the table in terms of greatness.  The game was almost flawless in getting me to somewhat care about all the characters that it gave me.  The last two episodes of the season after things are shaken up in the middle leave players with, in my opinion, some of the weaker links when it comes to characters, which made the decisions I had to make a little easier to stomach.

Once again, I am not going to spoil anything in terms of story, but the finale takes what’s left of your heart strings and rips them out with ferocity.  The game twists and turns and plays with your emotions, leaving you tired by the end.  The final moments of the game, where it’s just Lee and Clementine together, make for some tear-worthy moments.  I am not one to cry during any form of entertainment, but I have talked to people who have.  It’s a rough portion to play through, and it wraps everything up in a hard but satisfying way.

via Giant Bomb
via Giant Bomb

The complete edition comes with the DLC that was released with the game called 400 Days.  It tells the story of a wide variety of other people in the form of short playable chapters.  I thought it was a nice little break from the main story, but given how quickly the game runs through the stories, I found it hard to get attached to these characters like I did in the main offering.  The decisions that they gave you in these chapters did not have the same effect as a result.  The special episode ended in head-scratch worthy fashion, with a confrontation that I was not expecting.  Overall, 400 Days gives players a fun little experience in the world of The Walking Dead, but it is not necessary.

The Walking Dead does a ton of great things that were sometimes tainted by some technical problems.  There was a lot of hitching and sometimes the game chugged along in terms of performance.  These are minor quibbles on a masterpiece of a game, but it’s a game that is not going to win any awards in the technical categories.  This might not be your traditional adventure game, but it was a milestone for Telltale, setting a foundation for their future in the game industry.  The Walking Dead was a game that tried a lot of new things, telling an amazing story.  If you were ever on the fence, make time to play through this gem of a game.

the walking dead s1 score

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Review: Grace and Frankie Season 1

via Pop XD
via Pop XD

Grace and Frankie Season 1 (2015)

Netflix / TVMA

Comedy

Starring: Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Sam Waterston

Creators: Marta Kauffman, Howard J. Morris


Who does not like a fun comedy about the process of getting a divorce?  Television comedy has told many stories about divorce, but what about a twist on the classic formula?  What if there were two couples, where the husbands left their wives to pursue their love for each other?  Let’s also throw in the fact that these couples are both in their seventies.  It is a weird plot, but it is the premise behind the wholly original new Netflix comedy Grace and Frankie.

Creator’s Marta Kauffman (Friends) and Howard J. Morris (According to Jim) have managed to tell a new story about two rivals, Grace (Jane Fonda) and Frankie (Lily Tomlin), and their respective husbands Robert (Martin Sheen) and Sol (Sam Waterston).  Robert and Sol’s love for each other, which they have been hiding for twenty years as business partners, causes a lot of grief and distress among Grace and Frankie.  It is a story that makes sense to tell, especially in the current societal climate.

via Post Crescent
via Post Crescent

What’s interesting about the show is how the two seventy-somethings cope with their new lives as single women.  Let’s just say that it’s a hard life for a single senior citizen.  There are not too many options out there.  They start out in denial and stress, and then move slowly on to boredom and trying to start new lives and relationships as they question things like “invisibility.”

There are some genuinely funny moments that come from Fonda and Tomlin’s characters, but the comedy starts to run dry, pretty quickly.  Laughs were few and far between as the comedy seemed to try too hard.  The jokes are lacking freshness and they are pretty much as old as the characters themselves.  There as a scene in the first episode where the two take peyote while sitting on a beach.  We then watch the two actresses crawl around and make fools of themselves trying to act super high.  It was a good sign as to where the comedy was going to go.

via Channel Guide Mag Blog
via Channel Guide Mag Blog

Fonda and Tomlin have had better roles in the past, but it was the supporting cast that impressed me the most.  We have Grace and Robert’s two kids, played by June Diane Raphael and Brooklyn Decker, and Frankie and Sol’s, played by Baron Vaughn and Ethan Embry.  They manage to bring a little variety to the show, and offered breaks from the sometimes boring moments featuring the two leads.  There were some subplots involving the kids, but these stories were glossed over in favor of the main divorce story at hand.  It would have been nice to see a little more from them.

I also want to mention the ending, which I found to be subpar.  You can classify it as a cliffhanger, which in my opinion is not going to end well for a series like this.  You would think that a show like this would naturally end with the wedding of Robert and Sol, bringing closure to the series, but this was not the direction that we were taken in.  I do not want to spoil anything, but you can read what I mean below.  A cliffhanger is not going to work for a series like this, because I do not think that the story can last and keep things fresh for a another whole season.  They show started to empty the well and overstay its welcome towards the end, which does not lend well to a second season.  Not to mention, the series has already been receiving mixed reviews, which leaves the shows future up in the air.  I would have liked closure this season.

via Revista Pixel
via Revista Pixel

I have to admire the originality of a show like Grace and Frankie.  There really is not a show like this out there, and it had a lot of potential from the get-go.  Things were not handled well and the series fell flat of success, especially when you compare it to some of the other hit shows that Netflix has been putting out lately.  This just did not seem like a show that fit with Netflix.  I would have liked to see a lot more from the two funny actresses, but this was not their best display.

Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin in the Netflix Original Series "Grace and Frankie". Photo by Melissa Moseley for Netflix.Ê

****SPOILERS BELOW****

Throughout the whole season, we see Frankie and her husband Sol going back and forth with each other.  They file for a divorce, and everything seems over between the two, but they kept managing to get closer to each other, whether it was the unexpected visits or the traditions like watching the spelling bee.  The second to last episode shows the two moving the family out of their house, which lets in a flood of memories for the delicate and emotional Sol.  The episode then ends with Frankie and Sol sleeping with each other once again, in their own house.

Lily Tomlin in the Netflix Original Series "Grace and Frankie". Photo by Melissa Moseley for Netflix.Ê
Lily Tomlin in the Netflix Original Series “Grace and Frankie”. Photo by Melissa Moseley for Netflix.Ê

It was a little frustrating.  I was expecting closure to come in the final episode, which I was expecting to be called “The Wedding.”  Instead, we have episode thirteen, “The Vows,” which features the fallout of Frankie and Sol’s little get together.  Towards the final moments, Frankie realizes what she did was not the best for her, and she finally decided to cut Sol off from her life.  It was then Grace and Frankie walking off into the sunset, interlaced with scenes of Sol arriving back at his house with Robert, with the probable intention of breaking the news to his husband.  The credits then began to roll before Sol even entered the house.  It was unexpected and it left me more confused.  I figured we were not going to get the wedding episode that most were expecting, but I at least wanted to see Sol’s confrontation with Robert about his feelings toward Frankie.

I should not been that invested in a story like this framed by a less than average comedy, but it was an ending that rubbed me the wrong way.  Plainly, I just wanted to see more.  Cliffhangers are enticing television if they are pulled off correctly, but this was not the situation that demanded that kind of ending.

****SPOILERS ABOVE****

Review: Daredevil Season 1

via Lashoras Perdidas
via Lashoras Perdidas

Daredevil Season 1 (2015)

TVMA / Netflix

Action / Crime

Starring: Charlie Cox, Vincent D’Onofrio, Deborah Ann Woll

Creator: Drew Goddard


Netflix has been putting out some top-notch programming recently and their train does not look like it will be stopping any time soon.  Their latest offering comes in the form of a show about Marvel’s gritty superhero/vigilante Daredevil.  Daredevil, created by Drew Goddard, is an interesting breed of television, one we have not seen before.  Marvel has been killing it on the big screen, but the realm of TV has not been so nice to them.  Daredevil looks like it is going to possibly change that trend.

The show is not the PG-13 offering that most have come to expect from Marvel.  It looks like Mickey Mouse had no say in the show’s direction, which is darker and more grown up than anything we have seen from Marvel thus far.  That is what makes the show so enthralling.  With a TV-MA rating, the show has room to be itself.  It has room to tell its story that way it was meant to be told.

via Crave Online
via Crave Online

If you are not familiar with Daredevil already, the hero, played by Charlie Cox, is a blind lawyer who works at a law firm by day and fights crime by night.  An accident when he was a child caused the loss of his vision, but his other senses have been enhanced to superhuman levels.  He is often stoic and collected, but his emotion can get to him.  He has weak spots, and it is these spots that cause him to think about the man he really is.  He encounters a lot of internal struggles along the course of the show, and it is fascinating to see him fight through them.

Joining him at the law firm, Nelson and Murdock, is his partner and good friend Froggy Nelson (Elden Henson).  The two have been good friends since their days in law school.  Together, they have developed themselves into somewhat reputable lawyers with their own firm.  Assisting them is Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll), who was caught up with some trouble of her own in the very beginning.  Murdock and Nelson helped set her free, and they have made her a part of the firm.

daredevil 2

Living in Hell’s Kitchen, a gritty and crime-filled portion of New York City, is not the most pleasant experience.  The city is going through a lot of trouble, and the city is in desperate need of a hero.  This is where Daredevil gets his motivation.  He wants to save the city from the evil schemes of The Kingpin, also known as Wilson Fisk.  Fisk, played brilliantly by Vincent D’Onofrio, is a fascinating villain, fresher than any we have seen.  He’s dynamic character with a lot of working parts.  As you learn through some pretty dark flashbacks, he has had a rough up-bringing.  He wants change for the city, and he is willing to do anything to make this change happen.  He has a large influence over the city, with a bunch of the city’s police and media on his payroll.  He’s also sociably unstable.  He meets a girl, Vanessa (Ayelet Zurer), who he quickly falls deeply in love with.  It is this love that consumes him and ultimately drives some of his decisions and actions as the show goes on.

via Geek Smash
via Geek Smash

The show contains some great action sequences.  You will instantly notice that there is a lot more blood.  The show holds nothing back in terms of action with some great action sequences.  The well-choreographed fights usually involve a lot of heavy-duty ass kicking from the Daredevil, who prefers to work in the shadows.  There’s one fight in particular in episode 4 that contains a one-shot fight in a cramped hallway.  It is these kinds of spectacles that made the show so fun to watch.  Daredevil is not the only one who kicks ass however.  Daredevil spends a fair share of screen time having the fights given to him.  He is blind after all, and he is not perfect.  The show constantly addresses these instances, with a beaten up Daredevil usually reflecting about the decisions that he makes.

The show took it’s time getting to a start, but once episode 4 and 5 hit, the show really started to ramp up in intensity.  The choice to not reveal Wilson Fisk till later in the show was a risk, but it ultimately paid off in the end.  It built a sense of curiosity and suspense, as well as mystery, around the character.  I feel pretty confident in saying that he was probably one of my favorite villains that I have seen in a while.

via Digital Trends
via Digital Trends

The show’s performances from the supporting cast were all really great.  Newspaper editor Ben Urich (Vondie Curtis-Hall) plays a key role in unearthing the disastrous schemes of Fisk and almost acts as a mentor to Karen.  Another favorite character of mine was the calm and collected James Wesley (Toby Leonard Moore), the trusted right-hand man to Fisk.  I do not know exactly why I liked him so much, but he was just a very cool character.

Daredevil is a refreshing piece of television and an even more refreshing take on the superhero genre.  The Daredevil is not your traditional superhero who has to come to grips with the type of person that he is.  He lives in a world of deception, making it hard for him carry out a normal life.  Wilson Fisk was also another pivotal part of the show, but you already know my opinion of him.  It has already been announced that Daredevil will surely be coming back for a second season, but with a different team of showrunners, with the writers getting directorial duties.  I am not exactly sure what kind of direction that the show will go in the future, but I am pretty confident that it will be as intriguing as its first season.

daredevil score

Review: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Season 1)

via Digital Spy
via Digital Spy

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Season 1) (2015)

TV14 / Netflix

Comedy

Starring: Ellie Kemper, Jane Krakowski, Tituss Burgess

Creators: Robert Carlock, Tina Fey


When a series order is dropped by a major television network that usually is not a good sign.  This was the fate of Robert Carlock and Tina Fey’s new comedy Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt when they were dropped by NBC.  However, their sulking period was not long, because Netflix brought new life to the series with a full series order, as well as a second season which is in the works.  The “life after a non-existent apocalypse” comedy is surprisingly pretty strong, which makes it confusing as to why NBC would let it go.

The bright and cheery Kimmy Schmidt, played by Ellie Kemper of The Office fame, is kept in a bunker for around 15 years after being told that the apocalypse was taking place above ground.  Her and her four friends are eventually rescued in the first episode, only to realize that there was never an apocalypse in the first place.  It is the beginning of a new life for Kimmy, who wants to leave her past life as a “mole woman” behind.  She decides to move to move to the Big Apple, New York City, where she wants to start fresh.

via uinterview
via uinterview

What makes Ellie Kemper’s character of Kimmy so special is the way she lives her life.  You can basically think of her as a seventh grader stuck in a thirty year old woman’s body.  She makes a ton of references that hearken back to the days of classic MTV and portable CD players.  She takes on a lot of life’s obstacles throughout the thirteen episode season, but she somehow gets by with the help of her friends.  You can think of this show as a Boy Meets World type of situation, only instead of school’s problems, Kimmy has to deal with life’s craziness.

There is no way that Kimmy would be able to get by without the help of her new friends that she starts her new life with.  She moves into an apartment with a gay roommate Titus Andromedon (Tituss Burgess).  Titus is a loud and upbeat “star on the rise” who has big dreams of making it big in the world of art and theater.  He was by far one of my favorite characters from the series.  We also meet Kimmy’s landlord, Lillian Kaushtupper (Carol Kane), who is basically on the verge of insanity, albeit lovable at the same time.

via The Star
via The Star

One of the first things that Kimmy does to start off her new life is finding a new job.  She lands the “prestigious” job of babysitter for Jacqueline Voorhees (Jane Krakowski), who is the spouse of a millionaire with a lot of problems.  Jacqueline herself has some problems of her own, as well as her two kids.  It is a pretty messed up household, and Kimmy does her best to bring them altogether.

Among the usual cast of characters, there are some other quest appearances and cameos that give the show some star power as well.  The series begins with an interview with Matt Lauer, from NBC’s Today.  (NBC’s stamp on the product)  We also have some pretty humorous from the likes of Jon Hamm, Tina Fey, Nick Kroll, Richard Kind, and Dean Norris (of Breaking Bad fame).

via TV Insider
via TV Insider

There is one aspect of the show that probably lent itself to being dropped from a major network, and that is the abundance of stereotypes that the show contains.  Stereotypes are not usually bad if they are handled well, but Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt takes them to the point of borderline offensiveness.  The show pokes fun at things like Native American descendants passing off as white people, an undocumented Vietnamese character named Dong, and Titus, who is a gay black man, who does not know which “box to check off under ‘hate crimes.’”  Their jokes are pretty funny, but they tend to make you feel bad for laughing at them.

The show has a lot of fun, and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is probably one of the brightest and most fresh comedy on the streets today.  The characters all have their weird quirks that make them unique and really likable.  The show just has a lot of charm, and never seems to take itself seriously, despite the last couple of episodes where the “mole women” are in court going up against the preacher that held them in captivity for those fifteen years.  It is also hard not to mention the show’s theme song, which got its catchy hands stuck in my head only after the second time hearing it.  The show might be mildly offensive to some, but the jokes are not meant to be hurtful.  It is a great time, not to mention a great show to binge watch as well.

unbreakable kimmy s1 score

Review: Empire Season 1

via fanart.tv
via fanart.tv

Empire Season 1 (2015)

TV14 / Fox

Drama / Music

Starring: Terrence Howard, Taraji P. Henson, Jussie Smollett

Creators: Lee Daniels, Danny Strong


When I sat down and watched the first episode of Empire I had no clue where it was going to end up.  It could have been a surprise hit, or a complete failure; I was not sure.  It had a unique spin on the family drama sphere of television, one that chronicled the life of a family in the hip-hop music business.  If only I knew the raging wildfire that the show ended up turning into as succeeding weeks went on.

The show, which gives us a glimpse of the glamorous lifestyle of the Lyons family, proved to get bigger and bigger every single week.  Every week, they would release the numbers and they just seemed unrealistic.  How could a show do this good?  How could a show continue to receive more viewers every week, without going down in ratings?  The pilot was watched by around 9.8 million viewers and the finale clocked in at about 16.7 million viewers, without ever taking any dips or stumbles.  The show, on its quick rise to the top, ended up crushing records, including the record for highest rated season finale by a first year show, which was previously held by the Grey’s Anatomy for its first season in 2005.  The show now stands as TV’s highest rated and most popular show out there, and it’s only just begun for the crew at Empire Records.

via ibtimes.com
via ibtimes.com

Lucious Lyons (Terrence Howard), the owner of Empire Records, is the star of the show.  We find out in the first episode that he is diagnosed with the chronic illness that is ALS.  The one thing we learn throughout the show is that Lucious is not a man to go down without swinging.  He’s a fighter.  He wants to take his record company public, but in order to do that, he needs to find someone to take the throne.  His three sons, Andre (Trai Byers), Hakeem (Bryshere Y. Gray), and Jamal (Jussie Smollett), have to pretty much earn their dad’s trust and respect in order to get a piece of his empire.

We also have the character of Cookie, played by Taraji P. Henderson.  If you have not watched the show, but manage to stay up to date with pop culture discussion, you have probably already heard of Cookie’s character.  With hash tags like #ShitCookieSays, it is easy to see why Cookie was one of my favorite characters from the series.  She is the ex-husband of Lucious who was put into jail because of her and Lucious’s past in the hood.  She was sentenced to seventeen years in jail, all while Lucious built up his Empire, calling it his own.  We see in the show however, that this is not so much the case, and that Cookie has had a big part in the label’s success.  When she gains freedom from the precinct in the first episode, it is immediately care that she is not going to let Lucious have all the fun with Empire’s success.  She wants a part of it too.

via opdnewsfeed.com
via opdnewsfeed.com

The show contains all sorts of themes, including greed, power, and the flashy lifestyle that comes with the hip-hop industry.  It is these kinds of things that separate the show from other family dramas.  It made the show much more interesting to watch.  There were numerous points throughout the season where everybody seems to have their own motives in mind when carrying out their actions.  This leads to lots of juicy conflict and literal hair-pulling drama, especially in the last couple of episodes.  Cookie and Anika Calhoun (Grace Gealey), Lucious’ head of A&R, have a tense relationship and this relationship often provided us some of the best moments from the show.

There are two things that probably contribute to the massive success behind the show, and that is the show’s edgy plotlines, as well as the rich music.  The show, on top of the concepts that I mentioned before, travels to some areas where most shows would never think to go.  Lucious Lyon demonstrates his homophobic nature whenever his son Jamal comes out.  We also see his disdain for white women with Andre’s relationship with his wife Rhonda (Kaitlin Doubleday).  These two plotlines come up frequently throughout the first season and they painted Lucious Lyon in a pretty negative light.  I applaud the show for hitting these types of themes though, because the show had a lot to say about them.  I think it handled them well.  It is these kinds of themes that permeate the hip-hop industry, which is why it would make sense to tackle them in a show like Empire.  As Lucious says, “hip-hop is controversy.”

via Rolling Stone
via Rolling Stone

Rapper and producer Timbaland was the guy behind Empire’s amazing soundtrack, which includes genres like hip-hop, rap, r&b, and gospel.  If you are making a show about music, you have to make sure that you get the music nailed down right, and Empire gave us a formidable soundtrack, knocking it out of the park.  Hakeem, an up-and-coming rapper, and Jamal, the passionate r&b singer, provided some great musical hits, as well as some of the supporting cast.  The show even featured some cameo performances from the likes of Jennifer Hudson (who actually played the role of Andre’s musical therapist), Estelle, Mary J. Blige, Snoop Dogg, Rita Ora, Juicy J, as well as others.  The music was so good, that there is talks about producing a concert series featuring the show’s hit music.

As the show went on, the plot twists and deep intertwined drama started to get more and more intense.  The last four episodes where edge-of-your-seat enthralling and rattling television.  The one gripe I started to have was that some of these riveting twists and turns seemed a little cheap.  I don’t want to spoil anything, but things start to suddenly look up for Lucious by the second to last episode, completely out of the blue.  They used a convenient plot device to make the show more interesting for its second season.  This might be hard to argue with, but I wish they could have handled it with a more realistic solution.  There were a ton of other cheap and convenient plot twists that served the purpose of moving things along towards what looks to be an intense season two.

via Billboard
via Billboard

I started to get the sense that Empire realized how big it was getting.  The first couple of episodes were interesting and entertaining, but as the ratings started to skyrocket towards the sky, so did the show’s vision and scope.  You could almost see the show evolving before your eyes as it drove towards the fantastic finale.  It was a show that gripped me from the get-go, and it kept me wrangled towards the very end.  As the final credits started to role after its thirteenth and final episode of the season, I just felt myself hungry for more.  Season two cannot come sooner enough.  Empire is one of the few shows that can be considered “must watch TV.”  If you haven’t already, I would highly recommend catching up on the first season, because I can only feel that the show is going to get bigger as season two takes the stage this fall, or next spring…but hopefully next fall.

via realitywives.net
via realitywives.net

****SPOILERS BELOW****

The finale pretty much presented us with the main skeleton behind season two.  When Lucious, after realizing he does not have ALS anymore, gives the throne to Jamal, Andre and Hakeem are not too pleased.  They want to do what is considered a “hostile takeover.”  They join forced with Cookie and Anika to basically bring down Jamal and Lucious’ empire.

In the final couple of scenes, we see that Lucious’ dark past catches up to him when justice is finally done.  He is arrested for his murder of their cousin Bunkie and is sent to jail during his tribute concert.  This is bad news for Empire, the newly public company.  This only means that season two is going to be a story of revenge for Lucious.  He is going to use these recent forthcomings as fuel for his comeback.  Season two is going to be one hell of a season if the series’ creators can play the right cards.

*************************

empire season 1 score