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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.

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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?

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Review: BoJack Horseman Season 3

bojack s3 poster
via iMDB

BoJack Horseman (Season 3) (2016)

Netflix / TVMA

Animation / Comedy / Drama

Starring: Will Arnett, Amy Sedaris, Alison Brie

Creator: Raphael Bob-Waksberg


I was already in love with Netflix’s BoJack Horseman after its first two seasons, but lo and behold, the show’s third season made me love the show even more.  I didn’t think it was possible.  The show manages to stay fresh while delivering its trademark dark and dry humor.  It’s a show that’s brutally honest and bend over backwards hilarious.  It also isn’t afraid to get real…super real.  (You already got a taste of this towards the latter half of season two) Show creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg has a true bona-fide hit on his hand and it doesn’t look like it’s going to be slowing down any time soon.

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via Webthieunhi

This season we have the post-Secretariat aftermath that BoJack (Will Arnett) has to maneuver himself through.  If you’ve been keeping track, the show has pretty much taken us through the gauntlet of what it’s like to be an actor in Hollywood.  The show’s first season portrayed the trials and tribulations of being an old washed-up actor while season two dove head first into the world of filming a movie.  This season, we get to watch as BoJack deals with press junkets, award shows, and the brunt of execs who want to throw script after script at him because he’s made it big with Secretariat.  In true BoJack fashion, he seems to be handling everything well (relatively, of course) but then things take a turn for the worse as friendships get tested and tried.  Remember when I said this show isn’t afraid to get real?  Yeah…this show gets pretty sobering in the later episodes.  BoJack might have approached his lowest point yet.  That says something, especially considering the fact that last season he was caught in a yacht with a teenage girl on prom night.  Just watch season two to see for yourself…

All your favorite characters, both big and small, make it back for season three.  BoJack’s feline agent, Princess Carolyn (Amy Sedaris), is facing some hard times with her new agency and she starts to question herself as well as others.  She even finds new love.  Diane (Alison Brie), one of BoJack’s best friends, is helping him with his social media outlets, among other things.  Her and Mr. Peanutbutter’s (Paul F. Tompkins) relationship is tested once again as they continue to work out the kinks in their estranged marriage.  Finally, everyone’s favorite lazy roommate Todd (Aaron Paul) is…well, not so lazy this season.  He still has his fair share of wacky off-the-walls adventures, but the main portion of the season focuses on his new tech start-up, which focuses on giving woman a “safe place” in the cab industry.  Although it soon starts to evolve into some crazy directions.

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There aren’t too many new characters introduced this season, besides BoJack’s publicist Ana Spanikopita, voiced by Angela Bassett.  Bassett does a great job with the character, who has to put up with BoJack’s crazy shenanigans and bloated persona.  Instead, this season mainly focuses on the character we already know and love and develops them even deeper, giving us some much appreciated backstory in the way of flashbacks.  It felt like I knew the characters even more by the end.  There’s a whole episode that’s totally devoted to each character’s backstory, which happens to be one of the best episodes of the season.

I was constantly amazed by the fresh ideas that were brought to the table over and over again this season.  The same familiar humor is still abundant and healthy, but we get some cleverly written episodes that demonstrate the show’s prowess.  There’s an episode that rewinds time back to the year 2007.  Not only do we get to see all the characters and where they were at during this time, but it’s also chock full of 2007 references.  Everything from the music to the billboards.  I was laughing out loud for the entire episode.  On the other hand, we got an episode in similar vein to the silent films of the Golden Era of Hollywood.  BoJack takes a trip under the sea for an underwater film festival, but things go south as he has to care for a newborn seahorse.  He’s unable to speak (because he’s underwater), which makes for an episode devoid of conversation but full of heart and hilarity.  Despite the lack of words, it might have been the most well-written episode of the season.

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It’s not often that we get TV shows that consistently nail it out of the park every single episode.  With its third season, BoJack Horseman truly makes the mark.  It’s brilliant up and down the board.  There’s lighthearted episodes mixed with some sobering episodes, all with a heavy dose of clever and relevant humor.  The writing this season is top-notch and almost all the characters elevate in terms of development.  This season’s finale is both sad and optimistic for BoJack, who goes through a whole arsenal of emotions of the course of the season.  It only got me hopeful for what is next in the already confirmed fourth season.  You know your killing it when your fourth season gets green-lit before the premiere even airs.

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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.

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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.

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Review: Daredevil Season 2

daredevil s2 posterDaredevil (Season 2) (2016)

Netflix / TVMA

Action / Crime / Drama

Starring: Charlie Cox, Jon Bernthal, Deborah Ann Woll

Creator: Drew Goddard


Morality seems to be a hot button topic in superhero movies and TV these days.  This weekend was the debut of Batman v Superman, which focuses heavily on the actions of Superman and whether they are warranted or not.  We also have the impending release of Captain America: Civil War, which looks to put the Avengers in check for their destruction that they construct around them.  The intentions are always good behind a superhero’s actions, but you have to consider the innocent that get caught in the crossfire.  A different type of morality is at the center of Marvel and Netflix’s second season of Daredevil.  This time we have another strong season that raises the question as to whether killing is warranted or not.  It’s not the most original idea, but the season shines nonetheless with a strong story and amazing cinematography.

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via Slate

Charlie Cox reprises his role as Matt Murdock, a lawyer by day and the devil of Hell’s Kitchen by night.  The other two employees of Nelson & Murdock and good friends of Matt are Foggy Nelson and Karen Page, played once again by Elden Henson and Deborah Ann Woll respectively.  The group dynamic between the three is tested this season, unlike last season.  Last season there was tension here and there but this season we have a heightened sense of mistrust and stress, thanks in part to one of the biggest cases they have ever had as a law firm.  This big case involves Frank Castle, also known as the Punisher.

The Punisher, played brilliantly by Jon Bernthal, is a cold-blooded vigilante that isn’t afraid to take the law into his own hands…by any means necessary.  He’s a killer, with the mindset that taking the bad guys off the street for good is much better than Daredevil’s methods of putting them in jail.  After things go bad for Castle, he is put on trial for his actions.  New York and Hell’s Kitchen are tired of this vigilantism that has been taking over the city.  The public wants him out of the picture, as well as Daredevil.  Morality is a key idea that is brought up time and time again as the season goes on.  The Punisher’s character is kind of boring at the beginning of the season, but he starts to become a more multi-faceted character when we start to learn about his true motives and how he got to be the person that he is.  Even though he’s dirty in his ways, he started to become a lot more likable as time went on.  His relationship with Karen is fascinating as well and makes for some tense moments.

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via Digital Trends

One new character that was consistently interesting throughout the season was Elektra, played by newcomer Elodie Yung.  As an old love interest of Murdock’s she comes back into his life and literally flips things head over heels for Murdock.  She’s equal parts elusive, sexy, and fiery, making her one of my favorite characters this season.  She also tests Murdock’s ability to balance his normal work life and vigilante life, another big theme this season.  Between the massive court case and a gang of sinister thugs posing a threat to Hell’s Kitchen, Murdock really has his work cut out for him.

One of the things that hurts the season a bit is the lack of a strong villain.  The show’s debut season had The Kingpin, who was a fantastic and dynamic villain that proved to be a true menace.  Unfortunately, we don’t get a villain like the Kingpin this season.  The first half of the season makes it seem like the Punisher is the real enemy, but then the focus switches to the people that murdered the Punisher’s family.  Then there’s a mythical group that comes into play as well.  As the season drove towards the end, it started to become confusing as to which group of bad guys posed the biggest threat.  The last couple of episodes were pretty strong with a huge dose of intensity, but I never really understood who was the primary target of Murdock.

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via Yahoo

Just like the previous season, Daredevil continues to have some of the grittiest and heart-pulsing fights that we have seen.  Last season’s “hallway fight” took the internet by storm and we get a couple more “hallway fight” scenes this season, paying homage to the original in a way that will surely please fans.  The fights are well cut and put together, graceful with a touch of style.  They were always super fun to watch and they never became boring or too thin.

There’s a lot of powerful moments in this season of Daredevil that will please fans all around.  When it comes down to the thick of it, I liked the first season just a tad more than this season, but both seasons are special in their own way.  The second season has a nice share of callbacks to the first season while taking the show in a new direction.  The season suffers a little from a sluggish start and a lack of a clear villain, but don’t let that sway you from watching the latest iteration from one of Netflix’s best shows.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Review: Breaking Bad Season 4

via Meet in the Lobby
via Meet in the Lobby

Breaking Bad (Season 4) (2011)

AMC / TVMA

Crime / Drama / Thriller

Starring: Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn

Creator: Vince Gilligan


With season four of Breaking Bad, we’re starting to see a changed Walter White.  He has had numerous close calls, successes, and hardships that have grown to shape the person he is by the credits of the season’s finale.  We have a much different Walt than the one we had back in the show’s first season…and boy have we come along way.  Season four has probably been my favorite season of Breaking Bad so far…and I still have the final season to get through.

via Pop Screen
via Pop Screen

I should probably start off by talking about the one blemish in an almost perfect season.  The previous season had a great ending with some tense episodes leading up to the finale, which included a pivotal moment for Jesse (Aaron Paul).  Because of the season’s finale, the beginning portion of season four was a bit slow, tying up loose ends that were not taken care of in the previous season.  These first couple of episodes were absolutely necessary to the story, but they would have fit better in a longer season three.  I know things like this are not really possible, but they should have thought about that going into the third season.

It’s around episode four when season four of Breaking Bad technically begins and it keeps rolling all the way till the finale.  Things pick up quickly as Hank (Dean Norris) starts a brand new investigation after the wake of his big accident.  The “blue” just can’t leave his mind and he starts to look into the events that took place at the end of season three.  He believes that Gus (Giancarlo Esposito), the supposed charitable owner of the Los Pollos chain of restaurants, is the brain behind the operation.  As one would expect, this makes way for a lot of problems.  Walt (Bryan Cranston) has to desperately pick up any crumbs that he might have left.  The same goes with Gus, who noticeably looks a lot more concerned as time goes on.  That isn’t normal for the guy that always maintained a somewhat unbreakable facade.

via AMC TV Blog
via AMC TV Blog

Skylar (Anna Gunn) also plays a big role this season when she starts to dip her toes full force into the mess that Walt has gotten himself into.  She begins to take over the operation of a local car wash, the fuel to their money laundering schemes.  Out of nowhere however comes her old boss, who presents her with more problems that could potentially lead to trouble down the road with Walt’s operation.  Because of this, she has to cover her tracks as well.  With all of these people covering their tracks, it’s only a matter of time before someone forgets a crumb.  As one would expect, the finale was the end of the road for one important character and it was a spectacular end.  They went out with a sort of comedic bang…in a messed up sort of way.

What made this season stand out the most however was the stockpile of great moments that kept flying in left and right.  Walt had some touching moments with Walt Jr. (RJ Mitte), Mike (Jonathan Banks) and Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) continued to have great scenes, the flashback to Gus’s older days was fascinating to watch, and Jesse had an amazing monologue at his group therapy session.  Let’s also not forget Walt’s powerful speech about how “he’s the guy that knocks people off.”  It was a chilling chain of words that left even Skylar speechless.

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This brings up the point of Walt’s changed persona.  So far, Walt has been levelheaded and cautious, always aiming to please.  He was always careful to get on everybody’s good side.  With season four, Walt takes a turn down to the dark side.  His speech to Skylar was just a starting point.  The act of killing someone starts to not faze him as much as it used to.  He starts to pack heat in order to protect himself.  He frequently gives the bird to the cameras that are scattered throughout the meth lab.  He even brings a bomb into a children’s hospital.  How evil do you have to be to bring a bomb into a place full of children?  Even Jesse realizes that’s a certain level of messed up.

Walt’s taking a journey down a dark road, and the fact that season four ended with little to no loose ties makes the prospect of the final season even more enticing.  What decisions is Walt going to make in the future.  How is he going to alienate his family who he is growing detached from more and more?  What is Jesse going to do in all of this madness?  He seems to be the wild card at the moment.  Say what you will about the slow nature of the season’s beginning or perhaps the comical ending, but season four felt like a complete package full of tense and memorable moments.  How come I have the feeling that there’s going to be exponentially more great moments in the final season?

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Review: Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp

via Geek
via Geek

Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp (2015)

Netflix / TVMA

Comedy

Starring: Marguerite Moreau, Zak Orth, Paul Rudd

Creators: Michael Showalter, David Wain


I have never been to your typical summer camp before, not once.  I’ve always entertained the idea here and there but it never seemed to appealing to me.  Spending my entire summer in the wilderness away from it all might have been a little daunting in thought.  If summer camp is anything like Camp Firewood, I might have been missing out.  Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp takes us back to Camp Firewood on the first day of summer camp, reintroducing us to some of the classic characters from the 2001 cult classic, as well as some newcomers.

via The Daily Beast
via The Daily Beast

If you haven’t already seen the 2001’s Wet Hot American Summer, you don’t have to bother seeing it again.  First of all, it was a bad movie.  It featured a plethora of stars that went on to make it big for themselves, but the movie doesn’t hold up to this day.  Secondly, Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp acts as an eight episode prequel to the movie, detailing the crazy mischief of day one, as opposed to the last day of camp, which was featured in the movie.

One thing that makes First Day of Camp different from its 2001 counterpart is that the show is actually hilarious…very hilarious.  Wet Hot American Summer had its moments (Paul Rudd’s amazing tantrum scene) but a large collection of the jokes just fell flat and didn’t really connect.  You could tell that they had a good time with the movie, but the ideas were not executed as well.  First Day of Camp carries the original spirit of the film in almost every way, while keeping things hilariously fresh and pretty clever.

via Alta Peli
via Alta Peli

A large amount of the camp counselors make their return, including the likes of Katie (Marguerite Moreau), JJ (Zak Orth), Andy (Paul Rudd), Coop (Michael Showalter), McKinley (Michael Ian Black), Ben (Bradley Cooper), Beth (Janeane Garofalo), Susie (Amy Poehler), Gail (Molly Shannon), Neil (Joe Lo Truglio), Victor (Ken Marino), Gary (A.D. Miles), Abby (Marisa Ryan), and Lindsey (Elizabeth Banks).  We also see the return of Jonas the cook, played by Christopher Meloni.  Yep, that’s a mouthful of a cast, but they all play an integral role in making the show a ton of fun.  Now that they’re all over ten years older, it makes it funnier to see them in a prequel series for a movie they did back in 2001.  That’s where some of the humor comes into play.  They’re all in their thirties and forties playing high school camp counselors.  It’s a ridiculous concept.

There is also a whole host of newcomers that add even more star power to an already shiny cast.  There’s Jason Schwartzman who plays Greg, one of the head counselors for Camp Firewood.  H. Jon Benjamin also makes a return, but this time in an acting role instead of his voiceover for a can of mixed vegetables.  The only thing about his character is that I’ve seen a ton of Archer, which kind of ruins his voice for me.  Every time I heard Benjamin’s Mitch talk, I kept on hearing the voice of Archer in my head.  Now that I think of it, I really want to watch a series where Archer goes to summer camp.  That needs to happen.  Finally, we also see appearances from Michael Cera, Jordan Peele, Kristin Wiig, Jon Hamm, Lake Bell, John Slattery, Michaela Watkins, Chris Pine, and Weird Al Yankovic.

via High Snobiety
via High Snobiety

Like the 2001 movie, the plot in First Day of Camp really doesn’t matter too much.  It’s the types of mischief and crazy antics that the counselors and their campers get themselves into that give the show its charm.  There are some smaller subplots though that have relative importance.  Kevin (David Bloom), is a shy camper that enlists Coop as his mentor as he takes on bullies and finds his love.  It turns out Lindsey was part of a magazine, going undercover in Camp Firewood to dig deeper and find the true story of the camp and it’s campers.  We also have the neighboring Camp Tiger Claw full of the prissy and rich campers, led by Blake (Josh Charles).  There’s also government conspiracy that rears its head as the big looming threat over Camp Firewood.  Although this subplot had its couple of moments, it was unnecessary and didn’t really fit in well with the rest of the hijinks going on in camp.

There’s something for everybody in Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp.  It takes from its 2001 source material and continues the tradition and spirit without ever tripping up or missing a beat.  This unfortunately might leave some people who haven’t seen the 2001 movie in the dark, but it shouldn’t matter too much.  Creators Michael Showalter and David Wain had an amazing cast to work with back in 2001 and that cast only got better as time went on.  First Day of Camp is a really fresh comedy that kept me laughing all the way through.  If every day in Camp Firewood is as crazy as it’s first, it’s hard to believe that the camp stayed standing long enough to make it to its last day!

first day of camp score

Review: Bojack Horseman Season 2

via seriouslyawesome.tv
via seriouslyawesome.tv

Bojack Horseman (Season 2) (2015)

TVMA / Netflix

Animation / Comedy / Drama

Starring: Will Arnett, Amy Sedaris, Alison Brie

Creator: Raphael Bob-Waksberg


Last year when Netflix released the inaugural season of Bojack Horseman, I was pleasantly surprised at the unexpected dark humor and meta-commentary on Hollywood culture that the show provided.  What made it even more peculiar and original was the fact that the show featured a mix of human characters and human-like animals.  The main character is a horse that is a “has-been” TV show actor.  It doesn’t get more original than that.  The show gained traction and rose in popularity, giving the show a chance to shine again with a new season.  With season two, I was pleased to realize that everything that I loved about the original season makes its return once again, this time better than ever.

via Immersion Online
via Immersion Online

Things pick up right where the first season left off.  Bojack, voiced by Will Arnett, seems to have it all.  Diane (Alison Brie) finished the book detailing the actor’s life and times and it is met with success.  It’s so successful in fact that it strikes a resurgence in Bojack’s career.  Bojack’s dream project, portraying the famous racehorse Secretariat, finally comes to fruition.  With the help of studio mogul Lennie Turtletaub (J.K. Simmons) and director Kelsey Jannings (Maria Bamford), Bojack ends up landing his dream role in his dream production.  Everything seems to be going right for Bojack Horseman.

Bojack seems to be a changed horse, spewing positive vibes all over the place in the first episode.  However, this doesn’t last long as Bojack starts to slip slowly and slowly back to his old self.  This is what makes the second season so fascinating.  Bojack seems to be riding cloud nine, but he still manages to fall into a pit of negativity and pessimism.  Classic Bojack Horseman am I right?  We soon see the Bojack that we all came to love from the first season, but things take a turn for the absolute worst towards the end of the season, a turn I was not expecting.  It’s almost hard to watch Bojack make the mistakes that he makes as things come to a close.  He almost manages to bury everything that he had with a few bad decisions.  You’ll know exactly what I mean when you watch the twelfth episode, “Escape from LA.”  The last minutes of that episode…are just plain difficult to stomach.  It made me want to punch through the TV and slap Bojack because of his blatant stupidity.

via Watch Cartoon Online
via Watch Cartoon Online

Most of the show’s favorites return for the second season.  Mr. Peanutbutter (Paul F. Tompkins), Todd Chavez (Aaron Paul), Diane, and Princess Carolyn (Amy Sedaris) all make a return.  Unlike the first season, the lens broadens as we dive into some of the stories of some of the side characters, which is really refreshing.  We see a lot more of Diane and the kinds of things that she has to deal with as a female writer.  Through her adventures, the show provides a commentary on some issues that women with a voice face in our society today.  The show handles these plotlines smartly and they provide some food for thought.  We also get to see more of Princess Carolyn, which was a joy to me since she was one of my favorite characters.  She’s pretty much an exact replica of the ruthless Hollywood agents that exist in the real world, and we get to see her start a new agency with the charismatic and talkative Rutabaga Rabitowitz, voiced by Ben Schwartz.  (It’s here that I should mention that the show still manages to create some pretty clever names for its non-human characters)  A newcomer that deserves some respect and a shout out is Lisa Kudrow’s character, Wanda.  Wanda acts as the love interest for Bojack this season.  The two meet after Wanda wakes up from a twenty year coma.  You can only imagine the kinds of jokes that stem from that.  I liked her character a lot and she ended up being one of my favorite newcomers to the cast.  Finally, we get to see more of Mr. Peanutbutter and his resurgence to fame with a hilarious new game show, the brainchild of the back-to-life author J.D. Salinger, because who else?

via Hit Fix
via Hit Fix

One complaint that I have is one that you have probably heard voiced by others who have critiqued the show, and that is how the second season has handled Bojack’s roommate Todd.  Todd was a fun character who managed to get himself into some pretty bizarre situations.  Aaron Paul takes the character and runs with it, putting a lot of life into the voice of Todd.  The second season however does not give him the love that he probably deserves.  A lot of his plotlines are insignificant to the story as a whole and pale in comparison to the amount of love that characters like Princess Carolyn and Diane received.  His character becomes a little more important during the last two episodes, but the majority of his time is spent getting into some pretty dumb, albeit pretty funny, shenanigans that don’t really mean anything to the larger picture.

Bojack Horseman still retains the smart humor and sharpness from the second season while going in some pretty hilarious directions.  The portion of the season dedicated to Mr. Peanutbutter’s game show is pretty fun to watch and Diane and Sebastion St. Clair’s (Keegan-Michael Key) adventures in Cordova also provide some good laughs.  Bojack’s whole trip to New Mexico is also unexpected and pretty great as well.  It’s also fun to pick out the amount of guest voices that are featured over the course of the show, another thing that made a return from season one.  The voice cast broadens even more and there are some surprise voice performances from the likes of Paul McCartney and Daniel Radcliffe, among a treasure trove of others.

bojack season 2 4

One of the things I knocked the original show for was the seriousness of some of its plot points, a type of seriousness that makes its return again in season two.  This time however I managed to overlook this and realize that the story that Bojack Horseman tells is genuinely funny and pretty intelligent.  The show is a much stronger beast this time around and it provides us with a hilarious, and pretty accurate, scope into the fast-paced and hectic world that makes a residence in Hollywood.  Bojack Horseman is also as fresh and seaworthy as ever in today’s ocean of comedy.  It was announced this morning that the show would be receiving a third season, which makes me pretty happy.  After this second season, I only want to see more of what this show can do.

bojack season 2 score

Review: Breaking Bad Season 3

via TV Stock
via TV Stock

Breaking Bad (Season 3) (2010)

TVMA / AMC

Crime / Drama / Thriller

Starring: Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn

Creator: Vince Gilligan


Breaking Bad has come a long way since its inaugural season.  It has been a roller coaster ride of tension, chaos, and emotion.  Up to this point, Walt’s (Bryan Cranston) cancer has come and gone as a threat and he and Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) have successfully built themselves some street cred among the drug trade.  The unlikely duo have created a product so top notch that it literally drives people insane.  The road has not been all rosy and clean however, with many crazy potholes along the way.  The funny part is, with the final episode of season three it only seems like craziness just begun.

Season three begins with the fallout of the airplane disaster that was teased heavily in the previous season.  Things have gone south with Walt and Skylar’s (Anna Gunn) relationship as he is forced to move out on his own.  This is a sad moment for Walt, who ended up getting farther away from his family instead of getting closer to them, but it also opens up the opportunity for increased meth production.

via Fan Pop
via Fan Pop

After watching the show’s second season, I started to believe that Walt and Jesse’s production had reached a new high.  They were making tons of product that was netting them a fair share of money.  Their little side project had finally taken off.  Season three makes the duo’s little operation seem like child’s play.  The two now have their own professional-grade lab hidden away in some laundry facility, provided to them by the stoic kingpin Gus (Giancarlo Esposito), who happens to be one of the best actors on the show.  He kills it with every episode that he is featured in.  (On a side note: Jonathan Banks, who plays the beat cop turned hitman and PI Mike, gets a lot of love this season, especially in the final episode.  He’s a bad-ass and quickly became another one of my favorite characters from the series.)

via Fan Pop
via Fan Pop

The season has a lot of highs and lows for both Walt and Jesse, but more specifically Jesse.  Jesse is going through the twelve step program for rehab, which means a ton of improvement from his drug junkie days from previous seasons.  His relationship with Walt still manages to be all over the place and his character dips a little bit towards the end of the season.  The lasting image that the season gives us of Jesse in the final episode is not only special and really moving, but also a good summation of Jesse’s character in general.  We find out that he might just be the thorn in Walt’s side after all, after all this time.

via Fan Pop
via Fan Pop

Another thing that we see is the effect that Walt has on his family and friends.  This has been true of previous seasons, but he is only getting himself deeper and deeper into a mess that will be hard for him to dig his way out of.  Walt’s relationship gets a little better with Sklyar as communication between the two deepens. (This might sound vague but I am trying to keep this as spoiler free as possible)  Hank (Dean Norris) also gets caught in Walt’s mess when the cartel decides to attempt to take him out of the picture.  This situation leads to a fantastic seventh episode which gives us a satisfying jolt to a season that takes some time to ramp up in intensity, which is one of the few complaints I have with the season as a whole.

Things only get crazier as the episodes start to become much more intense towards the end of the season.  “Fly,” season three’s tenth episode polarizes a lot of people in terms of its place among the other episodes in the season.  It manages to give us a look at the dynamic relationship of Walt and Jesse, while managing to take the story nowhere.  It’s a fun bottle episode that at times felt like a filler episode.  I liked it, but many question its place in the show.

via Deo Veritas
via Deo Veritas

Finally the last two episodes, “Half Measure” and “Full Measure,” are by far the strongest episodes of season three.  Some consider “Half Measure” the real season finale, with “Full Measure” providing the set up for season four, which is an interesting and valid point to make.  Things wrap up and come to a satisfying close in the twelfth episode, capping off another hell of season.  “Full Measure,” the season finale, gives us a peek at how insane things are going to get with Walt and Gus, as well as the future of their drug business.  The episode had a metric-ton of great moments, including the tense final thirty seconds of the season.  I mean, who did not do a quiet fist bump to themselves whenever Walt took one step ahead of everybody else by rattling off the address of his assistant Gale to a dumbstruck Mike and Victor.  It was an amazing moment, among many others.

I feel like I am going to end this review like my previous two reviews of the previous seasons by saying, “well, things are only going to get crazier.”  The truth behind this statement is real.  This is one of the few series that only gets better with time.  Some of the slower episodes in the beginning and in the middle of the season put the third season below the first two in my opinion, but that does not make it any less amazing.  The final couple of episodes, as well as the intensity of the seventh episode, make this season a truly memorable one.  Now, I am just going to sit back and see where the next two seasons take me.  Breaking Bad…what a show.

breaking bad s3 score

Review: The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe

via Movie Newz
via Movie Newz

The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe (2015)

Lifetime / TVMA

Biography / Drama

Starring: Kelli Garner, Susan Sarandon, Emily Watson

Director: Laurie Collyer


At this point, the wild and tragic life of cultural and sexual icon Marilyn Monroe has been explored by everyone and their father.  Their almost a dime a dozen.  Books have been written and documentaries have been made, picking apart almost every aspect of her short and troubled life.  What makes it all fascinating is the amount of info that she was able to keep away from the media for the longest time.  It is what makes these documentaries riveting.  Lifetime’s The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe is yet another biopic about the dark secrets that Monroe managed to keep to herself.  It manages to keep itself fresh, albeit some problems.

The two-part made-for-TV movie tells the story of Monroe within the sometimes awkward frame of a psychotherapy session.  Monroe, played by Kelli Garner, talks through the many different aspects of her life that eventually lead to her tragic end.  Dr. DeShields (Jack Noseworthy) is earnest in learning about her life story, but at times this leads to some awkward writing which at times seemed clunky.  It was meant to drive the different parts of the documentary.

via Movie Newz
via Movie Newz

One of the things that provides the backbone for the biopic is Monroe’s mother and her mental issues.  Gladys, played by Susan Sarandon, is painted as a troubled woman with a dark story.  The movie sets this as the prime reason for Monroe’s troubled childhood.  She was an orphan for most of her childhood life and it is assumed that some of her own mental issues where a direct contribution from her mother.  In between bouts with her mom, her main caregiver was her aunt Grace McKee (Emily Watson) who raised her to be the model and actress that she slowly began to morph into, much to her real mother’s dismay.

kinopoisk.ru
via kinopoisk.ru

The first part of the biopic depicts Monroe’s childhood and the second part really starts to tell the tale of Monroe’s downward spiral thanks to her problems with men and drugs.  We see a lot of her relationship with retired Yankee Joe DiMaggio (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and the problems that arose from the marriage.  We also see the relationship with playwright Arthur Miller (Stephan Bogaert) that also had its fair share of problems, including Monroe’s miscarriage.  Towards the end, we have a brief look at Monroe’s affair with President Kennedy, which I would have loved to seen explored more.  All of these things, along with her zealous use of prescription drugs, eventually leads to her death, which was a result of an overdose of barbiturates.  The movie ends in ambiguous fashion, showing Monroe take some pills before going to bed.  We are treated to one of the documentaries most touching scenes between Monroe and her mother on a beach, right around the time when Monroe was really starting to get noticed.  It’s what the young starlet always wanted, but the depressing scene makes us realize that you have to be careful about what you wish for.

via Mondo Moda
via Mondo Moda

In terms of Garner’s performance as the iconic figure, there are some things that could have been done better.  First off, she looked more like Kelli Garner than Marilyn Monroe herself.  I realize that finding an actress that matches the look of Monroe is quite a feat, but she did not always seem like the right fit.  With enough make up, she looked fine, but there were some points where I noticed she did not look quite right.  She also does an okay job at mimicking the actresses’ iconic voice, but at points Garner’s portrayal of the voice was almost overdone and exaggerated.  Monroe was always typecast as the “dumb blonde” (see her movies like Gentleman Prefer Blondes and How to Marry a Millionaire) and Garner is bubbly and flirtatious, but to an extreme at different parts of the feature.

Although Garner’s performance could have been better, I really enjoyed the performances brought on by the supporting cast.  Emily Watson and Susan Sarandon did a wonderful job of playing Monroe’s closest family.  Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who played Joe DiMaggio, turned out to be one of my favorite characters from the feature.  The second part of the documentary really focuses on his dynamic character, a man jealous of Monroe’s fame.  He goes through a lot of emotions but ends up becoming the good guy by the end, one of the few people that was always there for the actress.

via Movie Newz
via Movie Newz

The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe does not give us any new bits of information about Marilyn Monroe’s life, but it manages to keep things fresh with a story told through a different lenses.  I would not consider it a grade-a look at the troubled star’s life, marred by Garner’s portrayal of Monroe, but she does a serviceable job of telling one of the most intriguing, and maybe depressing, stories about the types of problems that come with living life in the lights of Hollywood.

secret life of monroe score