Archive for the 'Television' Category
Boardwalk Empire quietly aired on HBO for the last five years, and the final season recently wrapped up. This was an interesting series because it had the pedigree of an all-out hit. It had Steve Buscemi in the lead with lavish productions values, a fantastic period setting, and a pilot directed by Martin Scorsese. Strangely, it never reached commercial mass appeal. It seemed to always be overshadowed by other series like Game of Thrones or whatever else HBO happened to be airing. Boardwalk Empire was always the bridesmaid on the progamming block. That was too bad, because it deserved better. It was a great series.
The story was about prohibition-era gangsters, their battle for control of the bootleg liquor industry, and the rise of organized crime in the United States. While it is ostensibly fiction, there are a lot of historical characters populating the series like Al Capone, Lucky Luciano, and many others. Buscemi’s character, Nucky Thompson, was based on real-life gangster Enoch Johnson. They chose to fictionalize him so they could do whatever they wanted with his storyline, and not have to stick too rigidly to historical fact.
The numerous characters wove a fantastic tapestry of stories stretching over the course of the roaring 20s. The characters all effected one another, not always directly, but each player had a part that could influence events in everyone’s lives. It doesn’t quite get to The Wire’s level of interconnectedness, but it certainly does a good job, anyway. The characters are absolutely fascinating, from the lead played by Buscemi, to Michael Shannon’s rage-proned prohibition agent Nelson Van Alden, to Kelly MacDonald as Nucky’s wife, to Michael William’s Chalky White, to disfigured Richard Harrow, played by John Huston. There are many more characters than this, and they all electrify the screen.
The Other Woman
The Other Woman is the epitome of shitty Hollywood film-making. It features a braindead plot about a high-powered New York City lawyer, played by Cameron Diaz, who never actually has to do any work. She is unwittingly having an affair with a married man. She is “the other woman.” When the wife, played by Leslie Mann, finds out, she immediately gloms onto Diaz, and forces the two of them to become friends. They bond over their mutual hatred for the husband. Obviously, this would never happen. The movie tries to force insipid, unfunny buddy comedy down the audience’s throat. I guess you could equate watching this movie to being waterboarded. Anyway, the two women hook up with a third woman who is also unwittingly sleeping with the husband. The three of them team up to humiliate him. They eventually get revenge, and the movie takes a sudden and bizarre turn into gross-out/violence humor when the husband walks through two plate glass windows and gets soaked in blood. As an aside, what the fuck happened to Cameron Diaz’s face? It looks like an old catcher’s mitt in this movie. I wish I had a score lower than Shitty on this blog, because that’s what I would give this train wreck.
Broadchurch Season 1
Broadchurch is a 2013 British TV series about a murder investigation in a small town. The series was so successful that it managed to snag a second season, even though it was originally meant to just be a mini-series. An 11-year-old boy is found dead on the beach in an idyllic coastal town. Police show up to investigate, but the lead investigator, played by David Tennant, has a black mark on his record, being unable to close a previous case due to a scandal. The media shows up, as well, making the investigation much harder to conduct. There are several central characters populating the small town, each of whom has some kind of secret they are protecting. The point of Broadchurch wasn’t really the murder investigation. It was how the investigation turned up all the town’s dirty secrets, and turned citizens against one another. It featured some brilliant writing at times, the case was riveting, and the performances from Tennant, and his co-lead Olivia Colman, were fantastic. This is a great series, and a great deviation from the usual procedural crap that plagues TV these days.
Justified Season 5
Justified is nothing if not consistent. It consistently provides some of the best stories on TV. Once again, we journey to Harlan county, although this time with the first detour to Florida since the first episode. Raylan goes head to head with the Crowe clan. The Crowes are the dumbest, most bumbling group of redneck criminals of all time. Despite their idiocy, they manage to pose a significant threat to the good people of Harlan. Raylan does his usual shtick of talking tough and quick-drawing on bad guys. He’s a fairly straight-forward character, it’s true, but you know exactly what you’re getting with him. The person you can never be quite sure about is Boyd. Once again Boyd weaves his way in and out of the lives of the other various characters in Harlan county. This season sees him travel as far North as Detroit and as far South as Mexico on his quest to become a drug kingpin. Boyd probably kills more people this season than in any previous. Despite him being a despicable criminal, he has so much damn charisma, it’s impossible not to root for him. The biggest surprise this season was that Boyd’s relationship with Ava became the driving force behind the story. The fifth season of Justified continues full-steam ahead, bringing awesome, complex tales week after week. The best part, as always, remains the lively cast of characters.
Louie Season 3
I’m not sure what sort of glowing praise I could write about this series that hasn’t already been written. Louis C.K. remains at the top of his game in the third season of the show that he writes, directs, edits, and stars. That’s a lot of heavy lifting for one person. But with near total creative control, he manages to stick to his vision resolutely. It pays off nearly every single time. Each episode is funny, insightful, and somehow tragic all at once. He experiments more with long form storytelling this season than in the previous two. He features a long arc in which Louie is recruited to shoot a pilot to show if he has the right stuff to replace David Letterman. This late night “mini-series” was by far the highlight of the season, and David Lynch was a treat as the “mentor” (if you can call him that). Louie continues to grow, continues to take risks, and continues to pay off in spades. It is one of the best comedies on TV.
The Fall 2014 television season is upon us. And that means we’re inundated with the worst the networks have to offer. Each year brings us new series; a few will be great, but most will be unwatchable trash. There’s far too many horrible series out there for me to review them all. So, I’ve decided to watch the three pilots that had the most promotional advertising of this season and review them. Please note, my reviews are not necessarily what I think of the entire series, but simply my thoughts on the pilot episode.
Holy shit on a stick, Batman! Gotham is Fox’s attempt at cashing in on the tiresome superhero craze that plagues the world. Last year, I complained that doing an Avengers show without the Avengers was an idiotic idea. Gotham is more of the same, as it is a Batman show without Batman. It’s a prequel to the adventures of the caped crusader. And, guess what? It sucks. Nobody gives a fuck about the origins of all these villains. What’s the point? None of them are ever going to die, because they wouldn’t live to face the dark knight. So, there is no tension whatsoever. This is combined with a cheap series of sets that look like they came from the 90s, plus an entire backdrop of CGI just for an extra layer of shit. The writers are trying to make this into long-form series by positing the idea that Bruce Wayne’s parents were killed in a conspiracy, rather than a random mugging. I think they are going to be stretching a thin idea too far. There is no way they can keep this going for multiple seasons and make it good. Not that the first episode was good either. It was a huge hunk of gouda, a slice of the stinkiest cheese imaginable. Everyone chews scenery, bringing in over the top performances which also belong in the 90s. Continue reading ‘It’s Pilot Season – 2014′
Breaking Bad is heralded as one of the greatest TV series of all time. I recently finished my first watch of the show on Netflix, and I have to admit, it was pretty fantastic. There are very few other shows that have such complex stories and deep characters, and are able to consistently deliver riveting television episode after episode. I’ll admit I was pretty obsessed with the show while I was watching it. I purposefully waited until the show was over to watch it, because I knew I would want to marathon it. Seeing every episode in such a short amount of time allowed me to view the character and story arcs as they naturally developed. Night after night, I couldn’t wait to see what kind of nefarious scheme Heisenberg had cooked up. And time after time, the show delivered things in fresh and satisfying ways. Watching the series, I knew why people were saying it was one of the best shows of all time. It had great acting, dark humor, complicated storylines, and it never pulled any punches. Nevertheless, it wasn’t a perfect series. Despite the writers’ best efforts, the show faltered in its final season and left a series finale that didn’t deliver what it should have.