Showing posts with label television shows. Show all posts
Showing posts with label television shows. Show all posts

Monday, November 20, 2017

Stranger Things 2 (2017) Channels an Awkward Phase

Photo Credit: Netflix
In 2016, Stranger Things became easily one of the most binge-worthy, obsession-inducing shows in recent history. Building characters into tropes only to shatter them in a world mixing Stephen King mystery and Steven Spielberg adventure made every episode THE BEST THING EVER. The fanbase's love of the cast and jaw-dropping cliffhangers understandably set up its future with the impossible task to follow in its predecessor's huge footsteps. Stranger Things 2 has critics and fans talking again, but this time, it's not exactly for the best reasons.

Returning to Hawkins, Indiana, one year after a young boy Will Byers is found safe and sound following a terrifying disappearance, supernatural elements continue to burst at the seams. The Byers family and a young girl with telepathic powers, Eleven, have managed to rescue the boy out of the Upside Down, but the same can't be same about him or their small town.

While season one was so meta to the eighties, filled to the brink with easter eggs and homages, the story managed to create its own iconic imagery. Everything from the opening song to moments of Eleven and her love of Eggos and Joyce communicating through Christmas lights - to name a few- gobbled the world whole with cosplaying, memes, and artistic tributes. Balancing three different storylines and sets of characters, the full plot centered on finding out more about the Upside Down and Eleven's mysterious abilities plays out like massive quest to slay the beast and be rescued by the princess. We went along with everyone's moves, but never knew exactly what was lurking around the corner.

Now, in season two, the show's creators relaxes on subtle (or obvious) homages so much, it makes one wonder if they ran out of steam, inspiration or both. Underneath the misshapen writing, elements that made the show so successful in the first place like the loveable characters and retro worldbuilding still exists, but unfortunately, lets that unique blend of science-fiction, horror, and nostalgia slip into the void.

Netflix's self-generated hype using horror-inspired posters and the trailer featuring Michael Jackson's iconic Thriller feels misleading. The story continues to further beloved, established relationships along, but doesn't create many exciting inferences to its inspired era nor memorable moments of its own. As characters are still broken up into multiple storylines about Will, Eleven, JUSTICE FOR BARB, and the Upside Down, they all feel separate, never completely melding with each other. Downplaying an aim to recreate the first season's King/Spielberg dynamic, this return to Hawkins is much more like a visit to simple nowhere town (that could even be set in our time period) where some weird stuff's going on.

While the story is more or less a repeat of season one with more visible monsters instead of one mostly lurking in the shadows, old and new characters slightly shift ahead but still remain a little of the same. Allowing the characters to evolve a la Harry Potter at least one year at a time, the boxes they're put into gives them plenty of room to grow for future seasons.

On the upside, Hopper becomes Eleven's surrogate father, and hey, parenting a telepathic bad-ass isn't easy; Joyce finds a warm relationship with Bob ("newcomer" Sean Astin), who may be the father figure Will and Jonathan deserve. On the downside: Nancy's gungho on serving justice to Barbra through a conspiratorial journalist but is still stuck in a love triangle, so yeah Jonathan's still around; Max, a new student at school takes up the mantle as the next girl to be reluctantly welcomed into the boy's club (atypically replacing Eleven), while her abusive brother Billy won't go away for the life of us. Adding newer characters to the mix, one would hope that they are interesting and worthy of precious screentime, but mostly come across as just existing, making us wish established characters had more time to develop.

What primarily does work for Stranger Things 2 are a few characters getting more fleshed out, becoming emotional anchors to the widening threat of the Upside Down. Will, who was mostly a gooey icicle in season one, experiences heartbreaking bouts of PTSD, making his connection to the beyond far more terrifying than we imagined. Eleven, who was previously an interesting character but Carrie on crack, becomes more humanized through her backstory. And finally, Steve sheds his possessive hormonal boyfriend front to be a big brother for the boys. The entire cast's talent still offers that absolute magic with their chemistry, transforming the 'typical mystery' vibes to feel as fresh as it used to.

With the monumental success of Stranger Things last year, and the warm reception to its return this year, any follow-up would have difficult stepping out of its own extraordinary shadow. Episode-to-episode season two is a bit of a mess, but by the end, the story is tied up neatly enough to be satisfying. Transitioning out of the global hit it was yesteryear, its young, amazingly talented cast offers fine performances (awards for Noah Schnapp please), love, family, laughs, and some good beasts that simply can't be defeated in a day. Stranger Things 2 might've not been the exciting sequel it could've been, but the final results aren't the worst thing in the world. We have reality to hold up that mantelpiece, and Hawkins is still a welcome escape - even if it's just channeling an awkward phase right now.

Rating: ★★☆
Have you watched Stranger Things 2?
What did you think?

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Walking Dead 08x04 Some Guy

Gene Page / AMC
On the hunt for weapons and to take down any Savior no questions asked, the communities came together against the Sanctuary. But everything didn't go as planned. The Kingdom came across an unexpected weapon cutting King Ezekiel's unbreakable optimism down to size, while The Hilltop Colony deals with unsuspecting visitors. It's time for another recap of The Walking Dead's latest episode!

Below includes spoilers of the show and comic book. You've been warned, but hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The Walking Dead 8X02 The Damned

Jackson Lee Davis /AMC
The Walking Dead's season premiere was just the start of a long war waged against Negan. Alexandria, The Hilltop Colony and the Kingdom took their trained civilians straight to the Sanctuary to fight, upping their game with an explosive zombie hoard. As Father Gabriel finds himself stranded in a shed with Negan, the community's plans are far from over.

Below includes spoilers of the show and comic book, as well as theories of future character deaths. You've been warned, but hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Walking Dead 08x1 Mercy

The Walking Dead Season Eight Premiere AMC
Gene Page / AMC
The Walking Dead has crossed a monumental finishing line in television, hitting 100 episodes for the series so far. Mercy kicks off the starting point, not only for the next era of the series after eight compelling years, but the war holding strong between territories. Last season, a beloved character's sacrifice for the greater good catapulted the battle from Alexandria, The Hilltop and The Kingdom, all the way to the Sanctuary.

Below includes spoilers of the show and comic book, as well as theories of future character deaths. You've been warned, but hope you enjoy!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

20 Favorite Episodes of The Walking Dead

One of my all-time favorite shows The Walking Dead has hit its monumental 100th episode! For eight years, we've seen epic walker kills, learned how not to be walker bait, and witnessed beloved characters' deadly fates, surviving some of the worst a zombie apocalypse could deliver. After ranking my favorite seasons, quotes by the cast and Rick Grimes, Glenn Rhee moments, I thought it'd be a perfect time to cover myself in walker guts and go down a brutal memory lane.

In an effort to not repeat myself, some episodes are reserved for my favorite Rick-Grimes centered episodes, and there's probably a lot more I could give honorable mentions. But these are my top twenty favorites (so far). P.S. Reviews of the new season will be returning as a weekly feature on Wednesdays!

Happy 100th Episode The Walking Dead! (SPOILERS BELOW) What are your favorites? Let me know in the comments!

Friday, September 15, 2017

Old Vs New: 4 TV show Remakes Compared with the Originals

The landscape of television is always changing, and sometimes that prompts networks to bring back some old favorites to revamp. Welcoming in my first guest post writer, Katie takes a look at a few old vs new tv shows, and shares her thoughts on the contemporaries and originals. Take it away fellow Katie!

Sometimes network execs should let sleeping dogs lie. Like those holiday destinations we loved as a child and drag our own children around now; we should never return. The town looks old and forgotten and they’re serving microwave pizza and month-old chips rather than freshly fried churros and candy-floss as big as our heads.

The remake is a many faceted beast. It can find new heights and try something new and fresh and it speaks to a whole new generation. Or, like Frankenstein’s monster, it wakes up and we suddenly wish it hadn’t. Perhaps they hadn’t thought this through.

But amongst so many car-crashes, there are some returns that are worthy of the memory. What are you favorite or least favorite tv show reboots? Let us know in the comments below!

Friday, July 28, 2017

5 Favorite Moments at SDCC 2017

The geekiest weekend on the calendar known as San Diego Comic Con has come and gone. Fandom across the galaxies and comic book universes was lit as studios delivered sneak peaks for some of the most anticipated movies and tv shows. There was so much to look out for and get excited about for the next year (or more). These were my five favorite announcements from SDCC. What trailers or teasers excited you the most? Feel free to share in the comments!

Bright on Netflix

"Humans, Orcs, Elves... everybody is just trying to get along. Get ready for the world of Bright", seems to be a wild new movie ready to drop on Netflix in November.

*By the director of Suicide Squad* I'm out.
*stars Will Smith* YAAASSSSSS.

I went from mildly disinterested to LET'S DO THIS in about five seconds.

The Defenders

Four of Marvel's biggest misfits are coming together to stop a villainous sect from destroying NYC. Jessica Jones, Daredevil, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist are facing off against the sci-fi queen herself Sigourney Weaver. Sign me up! We're also finally seeing the Punisher in his full costume, sparking even more excitement for Jon Bernthal's first season as the anti-hero Frank Castle.

Stranger Things Season 2

Netflix promised the next descent into the upside down would be bigger and more bad-ass than ever before. The thrilling new trailer for season two definitely proved that. There's even more eighties nostalgia as everyone deals with opening the curiosity door. I know where I'll be this Halloween!

Thor: Ragnarok trailer

So this is what a Marvel movie on crack looks like! The Hulk and Thor duel in gladiatorial games while trying to stop Hela ( goddess of death played by queen Cate Blanchett) from destroying Asgard. Oh, and Jeff Goldblum 'cause why not.

Black Panther trailer

When the trailer above dropped a few months ago for Black Panther's solo flick, I was already stoked. At San Diego Comic Con, Marvel released a trailer with new footage which sparked an adorable, ecstatic reaction from the cast and a standing ovation from the fans in attendance. It's said to be one of the craziest best reactions for a first-reveal. I can't wait to see it eventually. February 2018 can't come soon enough!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Arrangement (2017) Season 1 Review

The Arrangement season review
When we're getting ready for summer or going on a vacation, we usually take along a trashy book to read to kick back and relax. E! channel's tabloidesque drama The Arrangement is a tv-version of those addictive pageturners, and its simple cheesiness has me hooked.

Aspiring, struggling actress Megan Morrison (Christine Evangelista) auditions for a lead role in a Jason-Bourne-esque action flick starring opposite A-List hunk Kyle West (Josh Henderson). Their sizzling chemistry-at-first-sight inspires his team to present a $10 million marriage contract, which includes West's close ties to his self-help guru Terence Anderson (Michael Vartan) and his Institute of the Higher Mind. Acting more like a Big Brother cult than a competent health-based center, the new couple is quickly challenged by IHM's control and the minutiae of living in the public eye.

E! channel touting their original series as similar to Fifty Shades of Grey might not be the right foot to start off with, especially for those who don't like the E.L. James' novels or films. The two general premises have a lot of common both in the worst and best way. For the former, The Arrangement features a general contract, the tacky dialogue, and silly side-plots. For the latter, it has luxurious production design and the actors do the best with what they're given.

Thankfully unlike Fifty Shades's Ana and Christian, this duo has a lot of issues to deal with, and none of them come close to abusive behavior passed off as "BDSM" or inner goddesses. Problems from Morrison's disturbing past comes back to haunt the contract's "morality clause" as she tries to navigate this crazier side of Hollywood, while West struggles with superficiality versus authenticity as a person and an actor. Standing in the middle of their relationship is IHM, which she doesn't fully trust, and ultimately creates the creepy suspense around this fantastical 'romance' and the cult-like organization West is fully involved in.

Most of us know Hollywood isn't perfect because scandals slip through the cracks all the time. One of the series's biggest sources of highly-theorized inspiration was  Katie Holme's marriage to Tom Cruise and the influence of Scientology which led to its demise. The show coyly cashes in not on how actors market and brand themselves but which all-seeing, all-knowing Powers That Be wield its power over Tinseltown. With humor (intentional or otherwise), a flair for drama, and suspense, it takes what we think we know of the entertainment industry - feuds, deals falling apart, scandals created for publicity or to cover up other juicier scandals, Scientology - and leaves us wondering what actually goes on behind the scenes.

A big reason why this show works is its leading lady Christine Evangelista, who makes a compelling performance in every episode. Realistically, her character is too easily influenced to just sign her life away because West is good in the sheets and they like each other. Her career needs a serious upgrade and she has the talent to go far, so when the opportunity presents itself (aka the money and hot guy), it seems like a good deal. Quickly, Morrison has to adjust to the convenience her new life has brought her - travel, wardrobe, a new boyfriend - and face the sacrifices she's made for a lack of privacy, freedom, and the convenience IHM affords. This wild ride makes her question if her future is worth the expense of autonomy. Morrison's feisty, independent, and personable as hell; and Evangelista can act circles around the cheesy dialogue thrown at her. Both the actress and character are destined for stardom, and it's strange that her acting chops exceed what this show can be and also fits this particular bill. Henderson's West isn't given as much to do, but over time you can see why they were cast and make a convincing duo.

The Arrangement aims to be meta, and for the most part works, even if it's exceptionally corny and indulges in what we see through the grapevine online or at grocery stores. Evangelista and Henderson's chemistry is playful and fun, while the Institute's unethical operation delivers unexpected twists. If one would be looking to enjoy a show that doesn't take itself too seriously, sign on up for The Arrangement. It's a sweet deal.

Rating: ★★☆
Have you watched The Arrangement?

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Star Trek: Discovery Trailer Reaction

Unlike the trailer reactions usually reserved for movies, CBS dropped a new teaser for the highly anticipated Star Trek spin-off that I just couldn't want to tap my keys about.

Set ten years before Kirk and Spock embarked on adventures across the galaxies, Trekkers will join Michelle Yeoh and Sonequa Martin-Green aboard Star Trek: Discovery this fall. Even a Vulcan would get the feels for this trailer. Here it is in full!

This sneak peak comes swiftly after a series of grueling announcements from networks cleaning house and canceling television shows. Studios are now trying to entice viewers with fresh content to fill the void of long-gone favorites. No doubt about it, this trailer has gotten me really excited for fall.

Discovery is a prequel to the initial Star Trek series, but the similar camaraderie between the Starfleet crew permeates across time and space. Longtime Captain Philippa Georgiou (Yeoh) gives First Officer Michael Burnham (Green) an opportunity helm U.S.S. Discovery when they're entangled with the Klingon Empire. They're faced with the tough decisions of how to maintain their humanity, keep the peace, or engage in an unwanted war.

The first of my feels, or probably all of them, are struck with seeing two women command the starship alongside the other eclectic personalities on the bridge. More cast members include Jason Isaacs (Harry Potter), Rainn Wilson (The Office), and Anthony Rapp (Rent),  Not that the series hasn't had a female captain before, but who gets tired of seeing women helping other women succeed? Star Trek has always centered on the human (and non-human) condition first, and adventures set against space second. Fascinating issues will likely arise between the different species, and how they co-exist.

Star Trek: Discovery's first season will be told in fifteen episodes. Showrunner Bryan Fuller said that each episode is a chapter, within each chapter will be a beginning, middle, and end.” The writing team has sturdy experience with the Trek universe so far, with a myriad of credits from Alex Kurtzman (Star Trek: Into Darkness) to Nicholas Meyer (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country).

What we know of the plot is that it's set in the Prime universe, closer to the original 1966 series instead of the Kelvin timeline for the recent movies starring Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto. The appearance of Klingons have completely changed, not to mention that the production incorporates a lot of J.J. Abram's use of lens flare. Though Fuller's creation certainly has the technology to produce a budget-friendly production with impressive special effects, some fans might struggle to connect the dots of inspiration this tale is drawing from.

Details coming to light such as the starship's slick design, those iconic uniforms, and a new alien species which can sense death, hint that we're definitely in for an original expedition in a familiar era. With the story in mind and a unique cast of characters, it'll be fascinating to see what events link this prequel to the William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy starring game changer we know and love.

The first episode will premiere on CBS with all subsequent episodes becoming available on the channel's exclusive streaming service All Access. It will also be accompanied by a post-show called Talking Trek.

Are you guys ready to go boldly where Discovery voyages? What do you think?

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Starting a New Chapter with Once Upon A Time

When Once Upon A Time premiered on ABC in 2011, it was such an enchanting show. There was nothing like it on television, and for the near future, there's not to be a similar adventurous experience again. As news soars in about the future of the series, the seventh season will whole start a new chapter.

The first season was one of my all-time favorites of any show ever. Its heroine Emma Swan is compelled by the son she gave up for adoption to enter a secluded town called Storybrooke. Henry believes everyone is a fairytale character, and don’t know it because a curse has been placed on them by his adoptive mother Regina Mills. He compels Swan to believe that she was destined to save the town and break the curse keeping them in the dark.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Jennifer Morrison Bids Farewell to Once Upon A Time

Jennifer Morrison leaving Once Upon A Time
Photo Credit: ABC / Once Upon A Time
It's hard to imagine a show without its lead character but that's exactly what ONCERs have to face. After a long-awaited musical episode leading to Emma Swan and Captain Hook's wedding, actress Jennifer Morrison confirmed the worst: she's not returning to Once Upon A Time after season six.

The actress shared the announcement on her official instagram.
As I reached the end of my 6 year contract on ONCE UPON A TIME, I was faced with a significant decision. ABC, Eddy Kitsis, and Adam Horowitz very generously invited me to continue as a series regular. After very careful consideration, I have decided that creatively and personally, it is time for me to move on. Emma Swan is one my favorite characters that I have ever played. My 6 years on ONCE UPON A TIME has changed my life in the most beautiful ways.
This news comes after a turbulent season for the series. Unlike other shows on the ABC network which were given an official renewal or axe in early March, Once Upon A Time struggled to save itself,. Ratings continued to drop, leaving Storybrooke fans to wonder if the show had any magic left in it keep going. Morrison's announcement comes after an official renewal for a seventh season.

Now, I'm not even the most devout fan, but sometimes I wondered if it would've been good for the series to quit while it's ahead. Too many creative issues couldn't have fixed the past and mistakes continued to linger in every new episode. I often go back to season one and feel like there was so much potential left on the cutting room floor. Most of the time, it was the cast that kept me interested more so than the writing or worldbuilding. It remained one of the most optimistic and hopeful shows on tv. As the yellow brick road has come to an end, Morrison exiting the show isn't all that surprising.

Morrison has promised that she will be be back for at least one more episode of the show, so that at least guarantees the start of season seven to handle Swan's departure or explain her whereabouts. Her exit puts the rest of the cast in a bit of a pickle and leaves us to wonder about fan favorites. Actor Robert Carlyle, who played Rumpelstiltskin, was the second most outspoken star to say he was hesitant to sign on again. Word has it that the rest of the cast such as Lana Parilla, Ginnifer Goodwin, and Josh Dallas haven't renewed either. Colin O’Donoghue's contract, who plays Swan's husband Captain Hook, still has another year left.

Show creators Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis have been toiling with the idea of a reboot, taking the show in another direction with a new narrative. In what could be the series finale airing Sunday, May 14th, the two-hour final battle between Emma Swan and the Black Fairy comes to a head.

Swan's arc on the show is still something to be cherished. She was a lost girl who grew into a powerful woman deciding her fate alongside a loving family and believing in happy beginnings. But what will Once Upon A Time be without Emma Swan? I hate to say it, but a probably a whole new show, and one that fans will struggle to get on board with.


What do you think of Jennifer Morrison's exit?
Has Once Upon A Time's ship finally sailed?

Monday, April 24, 2017

Series Review: Bates Motel

Bates Motel review
Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho tells the twisted story of Norman Bates; a young man living at a desolate inn who kills a troubled hotel guest, but there’s much more to him than meets the eye. If you ever wanted to know more about the complicated loner and his overbearing mother, Bates Motel accomplishes what only a few have conquered before: re-imagine a classic horror film into a classic horror television show.

The 1960 film without a doubt put the psychological- slasher genre on the map and will remain a classic for all-time. As the master of mystery Hitchcock dolls out suspense in terrifying measure, the story doesn’t explore the complex relationship between mother and son. Save for the ending where Bates’ slashing tendencies is delved into between a psychologist and the victim’s closest relatives, there’s always more to wonder about them both. The re-imagining created by Kerry Ehrin and Carlton Cuse goes much further.

Building up to the evening where Marion Crane was murdered, Bates Motel dials back the years to when Norman and Norma first acquire the famous motel in an effort to start over. After suffering psychological disturbances throughout his childhood, Mother thinks a new place is just what they need. But a different life doesn’t fix all of their problems as Norma fights off detrimental plans destined to drive traffic away from their inn, the town’s seedy underground of drugs, and even darker secrets about their family Norman couldn't ever imagine.

It’s safe to say that Norman and Norma are the hearts of the show as well as the movie.  Though Anthony Perkins’ performance in the movie is without a doubt timeless, Mother exists, intriguingly but lightly, as a literal skeleton in a closet. Except for Perkins and Hitchcock’s detail to the atmosphere, it’s very one-sided. Bringing both of these characters to life comes unforgettable performances from Freddie Highmore and Vera Farmiga who are tasked to make a disturbed duo likable, interesting, but also scary and dangerous.
Norman Bates gif
Norman and Norma’s love operates at both ends of the spectrum between sane, pure, innocent love to overbearing, dependent obsession. They need each other to live, so being protective and defensive is in their nature. But this kind of love where neither is allowed to breathe on their own comes at a very claustrophobic and harmful price. For as much as they love each other, rarely are they ever on the same page because something emotional or psychological always stains their hopes, dreams, and delusions.

The leading stars work marvelously together as well as they do apart. Highmore captures Anthony Perkin’s version in mannerisms as a natural part of the character, but also make the character his own. Norman's mind works for and against him the best and worst ways. Norma manipulates him to think defensively and commit murder. Losing chunks of time, when he's his normal self he has to catch up on what his alternative personality has done. Both Normas, in physical form and in his mind, are there to protect them in the most irrational, rational ways possible.

Highmore's not only served with making such an iconic character his own but also taking on Farmiga's personality and behavior too. After all, Norman just doesn’t operate by his own well-being. He's consumed by Mother too. As his counterpart and partner, Farmiga gives Highmore enough to work with. She spins the web carefully around Norman, sometimes acting as a black widow spider and also a martyr; her protectiveness over Norman, for the most part, is done with the best intentions but also wreaks havoc. Farmiga has several different versions of Norma under her plate, and it's fascinating to see which ones she pulls out in dealing with her son.
Norma Bates gif
The story takes the time to understand Norman’s psychological breakdown and how coping mechanisms crop up to endure hardships, and problems he suffers alongside and by Norma. Their relationship has varying levels of love, obsession, deranged, and heartbreaking.

To be a show that explores dark themes though, the series deserves and earns a firm warning for mature content. From the very first episode, viewers are on a very wild ride that will catch anyone off-guard. It did for me, but powering through the years and remaining fascinated as time went on, the show isn’t entirely gratuitous. While I think certain lines are crossed in some episodes, situations the characters find themselves in aren’t just plucked out of a hat to be as violent as possible.

However, depending on your threshold, the show touches on psychological, physical, and sexual violence either in dialogue, with depiction or alluding to specific events. Themes covered include serial killing, rape, mental illness, incest, drug use, sexual assault, taxidermy (which some might consider animal abuse), and domestic violence. While these things aren’t prevalent in every single episode, they are explored throughout and it’s ultimately up to what viewers think they can tolerate. When Highmore and Farmiga have to flip back and forth between personalities, their actions contain a lot of dry and dark humor too. So the show isn't entirely without some lighter moments, even if they are few and far between.

Impressively, the show works even if you haven’t seen the movie. Homages to the original are made in just enough detail that you think you know where the story is going, only to switch things up and keep you on your feet. The production oozes a film-noir nature in its cinematography and score and builds the atmosphere from the 1960s into the 21st century. It’s hard to imagine a show could’ve been created surrounding the events of one evening in a horror movie, but the writing for Bates Motel is mind-blowing.

From the music to infamous shower slay, and the enigmatic Bates clan, Psycho remains memorable for a lot of reasons. Though intricately linked to Hitchcock’s work, Bates Motel is one of the most honorable remakes I can remember in a long time. Once you check in, it’s nearly impossible to check out.

Rating: ★★
Have you seen Bates Motel? What did you think?

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Feud (2017) Season 1 Review

Feud series review
Photo Credit: Feud / 20th Television
Having set a precedent for award-winning and binge-worthy shows, Ryan Murphy knows what it takes to make a drama. His latest creation Feud tackles notorious rivalries throughout history. It was fitting the first one tackles Joan Crawford and Bette Davis' famously bitter showdown.

After becoming Classic Hollywood screen queens, Joan Crawford and Bette Davis aged like the rest of humanity. With younger, hipper generations growing up on television as the studio system fell apart, their careers suffered dry spells. When Crawford initiated a project of two cruel sisters harboring jealousy and secrets in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, the claws came out. On-screen and behind-the-scenes, a real showdown was ignited between the duo by the studio and publicity hounds.

Legend has it that the two hated each other. Speculation around this rivalry float in every which direction, it’s hard to tell what’s the truth or was fictionalized. Adding more misdirection following the movie's release, the stars threw shade at each other in interviews only to retract them later. Instead of resorting to catty squabbles and Real Housewives-esque drama, Feud tries to ask what was the source of their hostility and why they couldn't let their resentments go.

Drawing on second-hand biographies and heresy within the industry, this version tries to be as well-rounded as possible. Even though every episode spurred sites to fact check what was true or elaborated, Murphy does a smart thing by indulging in news pieces but focused more on Crawford and Davis’ limitations, strengths, and weaknesses. He depicts an exceptional range of ageism, sexism, the pressure and manipulation they endured from Hollywood, and publicity that threatened to put the final nails in their professional coffins.

As much as they regarded each other as enemies, Crawford and Davis were more alike than they could've recognized. Personally, they suffered insecurities wrought by rejection, always wanting to be better. In love, they married multiple times, and as mothers never recovered from scathing autobiographies their daughters published, where Hollywood's elite, former spouses and friends of the actresses would decry as trash and lies. Professionally, they had different acting approaches. They maneuvered through the studio patriarchy as best as possible; both trying to transition "past their prime" as women and performers trying to not be remembered as a laughing stock, or nothing at all.  Despite what they had in common, they struggled to see each other as allies trying to live up to the fans expectation as well as their own.

To carry Murphy’s vision, Lange and Sarandon play Crawford and Davis, respectively. As veteran performers in their own right, they’re certainly perfect picks because of their range and experience. It’s difficult to replicate their characters' talent, but they managed to portray them enough in mannerisms and attitude. Each explores self-value within and out of Hollywood. As the studio drives a wedge between them, they're left to vilify each other to protect their glory days. If they reach out, it's almost in vain to their self-preservation. In doing so, they render determination and ballsiness but also great vulnerability.

Though Feud explores both titan's struggles with a well-studied range, it also takes too long to find its groove and never quite reaches the same palpable energy displayed in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane. As a making-of feature, the attention to detail with the sets and costumes is extraordinary for the most part. Playing the role of Crawford and Davis off-screen from their Baby Jane characters is when Lange and Sarandon truly succeed. But put them in scenes recreating earlier work or Baby Jane, and their performances are bad copycats with cheap wigs and choppy line delivery. These small moments reinforcing what talents these women initially were doesn't match their brutal obscurity.

It's hard to imagine these icons created something so palpable as the real icons that it earned Oscar nominations and created a whole new genre by which other aging Tinseltown titans had to follow through with to stay alive too. By all means, Feud studies the legends we think we know, but we're still talking about the movie itself fifty-five years later not just because of the bloated rumors of what went on behind-the-scenes. No matter how relevant the blatant sexism and ageism in Hollywood, let alone society, still exists today, the talent of Crawford and Davis are undeniably brilliant, and on those recreation scenes, Feud misses the mark.

Primarily told in flashbacks within a fictional documentary, Murphy often employs other characters to reinforce his powerhouse leads. Some are needed, some are a pure distraction. Those connected to the main stars, such as Judy Davis as the spirited snake-in-the-grass Hedda Hopper and Alfred Molina as director Robert Aldrich caught in the middle, offer more direct sympathy. But when Catherine Zeta-Jones as Olivia DeHavilland and Kathy Bates as Joan Blondell, among others, intermittently pop up to offer commentary, they weakly reestablish what's already playing out. DeHavilland at least has a closer utilized friendship to Davis, while Blondell is just sorta there. As the last few episodes increasingly attempt to soften the vicious narrative created by Christina Crawford's autobiography Mommie Dearest, Davis' near identical issues aren't as greatly explored and the story starts to drop off into a heartwrenching and half-realized what-could've-been finale.

In 1962, Baby Jane revived two stars to younger generations, and fifty-five years later, Feud will re-introduce their work to even more people. It’s hard to watch the show and not want to watch the movie. That’s a very good thing. However, other than the script, and the exceptional performances, the series never quite reaches the level of palpable energy of its inspiration. Murphy's biopic of sorts intelligently swaps juicy gossip into a heartfelt catharsis, but also made me think there’s simply no way of capturing the original, and it’s okay for legends to just be that.

Rating: ☆ 
If you love Feud, you might like: 
Conversations with Joan Crawford by Roy Newquist
Mother Goddam: The Story of the Career of Bette Davis by Whitney Stine

Have you seen Feud? What did you think?

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

5 Problems Once Upon A Time Needs To Fix

When a new season of Once Upon A Time whirls around, there's promising adventures to behold. Savior Emma Swan and her charming parents and son, swash-buckling boyfriend Hook, and Evil-Queen-turned-Hero Regina face off against 'fictional characters' re-imagined for the real world. And, the series' ability to plant powerful messages of hope, courage, and love is refreshing compared to darker-themed shows.

However, there is no doubt the fandom has been struggling. As much love as there is for Once Upon A Time, the storytelling  often falls down a rabbit hole of messy writing and confusing world-building. Off-screen, the show dropped in ratings and stars like Robert Carlyle and Jennifer Morrison are considering not returning. When rumors swirled over the holiday break that the series might be canceled, it wasn't surprising to ONCERS despite what a rotten apple the news was. But as the show has taught us over the years: there is always hope - we just have to look and fight for it. Here are five ways Once Upon A Time can break its own curse.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 Year In Review: TV SHOWS

Television had many highs and lows in 2016. What show were you excited to see return? What was the worst character death? Some of these have been answered in categories for worst, favorites and best from what I watched have been compiled below. Spoilers ahead for the following shows: The X-Files, The Walking Dead, Bates Motel, Hell on Wheels, Jessica Jones, Scream Queens, Stranger Things. Hope you enjoy!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Season Review: American Horror Story Roanoke

Having been unspired by Ryan Murphy's previous series like Nip/Tuckand Glee before, American Horror Story never managed to hold my attention. The sixth season American Horror Story: Roanoke was my first full rodeo with the FX success, and what he churned out was not exactly what I expected.

Matt and Shelby Miller purchase a farmhouse nestled on the mysterious land of the famous Roanoke colony. By moving to a new place, they hope to start over and mend their broken relationship. Instead their issues are nothing compared to what haunts them when their house acts as a magnet for paranormal activity. The duo share their tale in a fictional documentary My Roanoke Nightmare which re-enacts their experiences.

Combining two genres at once, American Horror Story: Roanoke is impressively a show within a show within a show - practically like the Inception of Ryan Murphy's creations.

My Roanoke Nightmare morphs from dramatic recreations into documentary when the Millers and all of the re-enactment actors return for a reality series Return to Roanoke: Three Days in Hell. Locked together in the old abandoned house, who and what the couple previously survived comes back with a savage vengeance.

Both Roanoke installments especially engaging is what feels like two sets of casts. Andre Holland and Lily Rabe capture the hesitant confessional vibe found on most ghostly docudramas, while their re-enactment portrayals are increasingly dramatized by Sarah Paulson and Cuba Gooding Jr. When the reality tv aspect steps in, there's a satirical contrast between their performances and as celebrities/actors - (especially Paulson - give her all the awards please!) but also AHS elite like Kathy Bates, Angela Bassett, and Lady Gaga.

Even though Murphy typically utilizes great casts, his content of sex and violence can often be a veil over thin storytelling. Here the violence is gruesome but isn't an onslaught without a purpose. The documentary duplicates the melodramatic and slow-burning tone of ghostly encounters series. And, then the reality tv part is sprinkled with creative commentary about pop culture, over-the-top personalities and motives of Hollywood stars, and so much more. It helps that a lot of the gore here is hodge-podged from other familiar movies/shows like Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity, Big Brother, and Ghost Adventures. Though Roanoke uses bloodshed to keep up the action and tension, its well-balanced by the writing.

I can't adequately compare if this season fell in line with it's predecessors, but on it's own, Roanoke was right up my alley. Much to my surprise, Murphy's wild supernatural probe fares to be shocking, gruesome and entertaining. There's a lot to revisit this season for clues, horror and humor, and may even give earlier seasons another chance too.

Rating: ★★★
What did you think American Horror Story: Roanoke?
Which season should I try next?

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Season Review: Stranger Things

Netflix Stranger Things season review
Plucking similar children from The Goonies and setting them into a conspiracy within The X-Files and E.T., Netflix's series Stranger Things is out of this world.

When twelve-year-old Will Byer mysteriously vanishes, his pals try to find him by putting their D&D knowledge, walkie talkies, and bicycles to the test. As Will's mother and the chief of police start their own investigations, a mysterious girl Eleven with supernatural powers may hold the answers about weird disturbances occurring in their small town.

While the show remarkably weaves together laughs and scares into the backdrop of an eighties sci-fi quest, the cast steals the show. To start with the kids as Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) and Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) who are Will's closest friends are refreshingly natural. It's been a while since I felt performances by child actors were animated as well as complex. The boys are so buoyant and full of personality, even if their characters. With Will out of the show 90% of the time, the actor/characters' bond restores the purest connection friends share: the loyalty, hope and trust it takes to be apart of a pack.

Distinguishing one role over another is a difficult task. Every actor is an essential part of the show, but when Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven enters the scene, hold onto your eggos! She is someone of a very few words and actions speak much louder. Her character's abilities make her powerful and mystifying, and Brown brings a true humanity as a secret weapon, eliciting a fierce and tender performance.

In a true feat of meta-casting, Winona Ryder is on hand as Will's mother Joyce. Though the notable actress didn't go into an official retirement, the eighties icon 'comes back' with a striking perseverance. As a hardworking outsider of their small town, Joyce becomes increasingly unraveled and determined to find her son. Managing the difficult task of being aware how family and strangers see her desperation, Ryder acts a fine line between fragility and unshakable determination. Some critics have written her performance as hysterical, but she undoubtedly is another bad-ass mama bear whose protective nature is as fierce as it is warm and endearing. Seeing Ryder again in any capacity is pure joy, and she doesn't disappoint here.

I would say the series is a character-led adventure with enough creepy atmospheric elements to keep their quest interesting as well as entertaining. Series creators The Duffer brothers found a magical recipe to create the hit of the summer: write characters inspired by Steven Spielberg's young-adult catalog who have big hearts and a bigger sense of wonder, and cast them in a suspenseful Stephen King-esque world. Their binge-worthy experiment oozes with scares, delights with nostalgia and provokes epic feels.

Perhaps their most impressive achievement is how the series lives as a tribute to the eighties pop culture the brothers loved growing up. Although the Duffers make a plethora of references of movies from yesteryear, their influences aren't flat and flashy. The attention to detail towards the cast, costume, set, music and cinematography feel like something straight out of the eighties instead of a one-dimensional homage. For some, the creators might've gone overboard. For someone like me who is mildly aware of iconic science-fiction and horror movies, the show balances old and new to avoid being boxed in by certain film elements it mirrors.

Stranger Things is a welcoming change from a pretty slumber summer within television, and even newly released movies. The series' eight episodes play out almost exactly as one epic vintage blockbuster and even eight individual ones. If you haven't watched it yet - curl up under some blankets. Be prepared to laugh, get scared, and believe the hype. Trust me. Friends don't lie.
Rating: ★★★
Have you watched Stranger Things? What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

15 Killer Quotes by The Walking Dead's Rick Grimes

Rick Grimes is the bad-ass leader on The Walking Dead. As a former police officer, a father, and a leader, he is willing to do anything to keep his family alive. Previously I compiled a list of my favorite quotes from the series, but I left this sheriff out. Plainly because Andrew Lincoln has delivered so many awesome, chilling, and even heartbreaking lines, it was hard to not compile and devote a list to his iconic anti-hero. As promised, here are fifteen killer quotes by the man. Think I missed a few of his best quotes? Feel free to share in the comments below!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

15 Epic Quotes from The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead Best Quotes
There's so many things I love about The Walking Dead, it was a challenge to find the best place to talking about my favorite things. For one, there are some pretty awesome quotes - some are thought-provoking, funny, or cap off a highly emotional moment.

The more I dug around each season, a ton more memorable lines popped up and were very difficult to exclude (I'm looking at you Abraham, Glenn, and Dale!). This list could've gone on forever! You might notice that one character is missing from this list, and that's Rick Grimes. There is really too many to choose from or narrow it down, so he is going to get his very own list.

I hope you enjoy this week's Walking Dead Wednesday! Feel free to share in the comments: What are your favorite quotes?

Sunday, February 14, 2016

The X-Files Revival: Home Again Review

The X-Files Revival premiere review
Coming off of the heartwarming monster-of-the-week episode Mulder and Scully Meet the Were Monster, the X-Files took a somber turn with its latest episode. Director and writer Glen Moran combined an unknown force known as the Trash Man, and a solid focus towards Scully with her mother and as a mother.

In Home Again, the agents are sent to Philadelphia to investigate a serial killer connected to the homeless. Stuck between the streets and the city laws, dozens of homeless men and women were being shuffled around the city like cattle - until the local officials are mysteriously killed by a mystery assailant who swoops in and out of a garbage truck.

Just as the case gets underway Scully is called back to Washington D.C. where her mother suffered a fatal heart attack. Left stricken at her beside, Scully tries to stay strong as her mother mysteriously calls out for her long-distant son Charlie - whom she hadn't had contact in many years. Trying to focus at the task of hand, Scully struggles with her own regrets as a mother.

For the revival, it's been an explored subject that Scully had to give her and Mulder's son up for adoption in the original series. Now that so much time has passed and they've returned to the X-Files, Scully's plagued with doubts if she made the right call. With her mom lying in a near-coma, she feels like there needs to be said between them. Scully struggles to understand her mother's outreach to her brother, who's been a distant relative to the family.

What I really liked about the fourth episode was the combination of the 'monster-of-the-week' as well as focusing on Scully. While last week's episode was definitely more light and heartwarming, this took a darker turn. The Trash-Man and his link of killings brought back the good ol' days of the XX-Files that took take something normal and twist it into something truly creepy. Tall, scarred and with a bandaged nose, he snuck into the night to twist his assailants into literal trash.

I wouldn't necessarily say this was a strong episode. Was it better than last week's or the first two episodes? I'm not quite sure. The revival itself hasn't really returned to the pace of the original series - which is not something the actors could be expected to repeat. The chemistry and emotional intelligence is still there as they return to their characters, but the episodes themselves feel a little slow-going - not bad, or terrible. But I wonder, if this one revival is the only revival we are going have, has the material been the absolute best? I can't give a definitive yes, yet. That's perhaps is the biggest quandary.

The nastiness of the Trash-Man's crimes were both scary and chilling, but it didn't necessarily mar Scully's side of the plot. Gillian Anderson hasn't had a lot to do with the revival so far since much of the episodes centered on Mulder. In regards with her dealing with her mothers' condition, she gave the sorrow and confusion we were reminded of throughout the original series. The biggest difference now is that she is deeply experiencing the turmoil and void of Williams' adoption. The void of his William's presence and Scully's struggles with her mother is what really created the emotional impact and made the episode memorable.